Thursday, July 2, 2009

Islas Ballestas

I'm restless and promised more blogs... so here goes.

While Jason and I visited the Nasca Lines, we stayed in a town called Paracas that has a huge nature reserve. I already posted some pictures, but our 2nd day on the trip consisted of a visit to the Ballestas Islands. We got up at 6:45ish and after getting ready slowly (thanks to me, of course), we ate a VERY rushed breakfast at our hotel. It was the first time we had scrambled eggs and toast in a while, so that was awesome. We were picked up by our tour group, and we all headed to the pier to meet our boat. There were tons of tourists waiting for various boats, and while we were waiting in line, we got attacked by pelicans (attacked is extreme- but there were a lot and they were eager to search for food). They make the WORST sound in the world, by the way. We finally got on the boat, then stopped by a Nasca Line-esque drawing of a candelabra on an island about 15 min offshore. They have no idea how the drawing got there, there is speculation that it was used for sea-travelers, or pre-Nasca Indians drew it, or maybe a Spanish explorer did (and of course, possibly aliens). It was kind of neat, but didn't compare to the vastness of all the drawings in Nasca.

We then took a 25 min ride to the Ballesta Islands themselves. They are a natural reserve where THOUSANDS of birds, penguins, and sea lions live. We definitely saw (and smelled) the birds. The Humboldt penguins were really cool- Jason was really excited for them (and it's not like there are wild penguins in Texas...). My favorite was seeing the sea lions- there had to have been around 50, and we were within a few feet of them. The boat stayed by the sea lions for at least 5 min (which doesn't sound like much), but it was really neat to just float in the water watching them hang out. We saw some crabs, starfish, and other bird species during the tour. After we got back to Paracas, we went shopping around (TONS of vendors for the tourists). I bought some jewelry and Jason got a t-shirt, and then we ate lunch. We got ceviche, salad, and chincharron (fried [select meat]). I got mixed seafood, and Jason got fish with yucca. The food was decent- I think your typical tourist place. We killed more time shopping, then we were picked up at our hotel around 2pm. We then headed to the bus station in Paracas (a building with a few benches)... while en route to the bus station we encountered a rather significant problem- the earthquake a few years ago destroyed many of the roads, and the only ones that led to the bus station were completely torn up. We ended up having to walk with all of our luggage for a little bit to get to the station (it was only like 5 min). The bus came, then parked behind a huge metal gate- apparently we were just supposed to know to get on it... whatever- but we hopped on and headed back to Lima. The TV wasn't so loud this time and we didn't win Bingo (even with our cards from the ride down). We got picked up at the bus station in Lima, taken home, and voila- it was a wonderful weekend. The Nasca Lines were cool, but I really loved seeing all the animals. And I am very thankful for that trip because it knocked me out of my "sit in the apartment all day" funk, and made me realize how much I love traveling, and thus it contributed to my trip to Arequipa/Puno/Lake Titicaca, which I probably wouldn't have done had we not gone to Paracas/Nasca. So for that, I am VERY grateful we took this trip. And it was great to spend some time together, and traveling, too. :)

Things I learned but forgot to mention: they grow lots of cactus down there, however Jason and I didn't understand why. Then at one point on the way to Nasca, our car stopped and our tour guide explained what was going on. There is a parasite that grows on the cactus, and when squished up- it produces a red dye that is as valuable as gold. Apparently in Lima, lots of stores say "we accept gold, silver, and this dye" (called Cochineal). So it was really cool to get to squish some up ourselves (no, not enough to sell).

Okay- that is actually all I can think of right now. But we definitely learned a lot of neat stuff from our tour guide. Jason, when you read this, feel free to add.

There is the blog for the day- I still need to update on Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca (my 2 favorite days, go figure)... so if anyone still reads this- hold tight, they're coming.

We're on the boat... and no, Jason would not stop singing the song.


Humboldt Penguins

Sea Lion!!!

A general view of the islands...