The drive to Paracas was both fascinating and harrowing. Sean left the apartment early to pick up the rental car and we managed to find our way out of Lima with the help of the GPS (en Espanol) and Sean’s Mario Brothers style of driving. (Very necessary!) Lima’s urban sprawl is incredible and it’s not uncommon for people to commute upwards of two hours to get to work. As we got further away from the urban center of Lima the landscape started to look like we were driving on Mars. The desert mountains rise on one side of the Pan-American Highway with the Pacific on the other. We sped by farms, small communities, construction sites and road side restuarants each named after a different woman. The air was gritty from the sand and smoke.
Just as the drive started to get really boring we entered the town of Chinca and found ourselves right in the middle of a traffic jam. It’s near Chinca that the Pan-American highway narrows to one lane each way which some drivers interpret as still being a two lane road. There were cars driving on the shoulders (in both the right and wrong direction.) Cars were trying to merge, pass one another, dodge dogs and pedestrians and run traffic lights. There is nothing that Sean hates more than sitting in traffic so he decided to off-road with the GPS. We took some of the back roads through Chinca skirting some of the biggest potholes I have ever seen and circled back to the highway where the cars were starting to move again. As we passed the edge of town a policeman waved us over. Sean started to slow down.”Keep driving!” I told him. “What? Really?” he asked, but obeyed. No one followed us. I had read that on the highways in Peru the cops pull you over for no reason so you will be forced to pay them a bribe. I figured if they chased us we could play stupid tourist. We laughed at our civil disobedience then did it again a few towns later. We might be on Peru’s most wanted list.
There is very little to see on the drive from Lima to Paracas that is beautiful. Interesting, yes, but not beautiful. So when we pulled off the road into the property of the Hotel Paracas after nearly four hours in the car it was like entering an oasis of green and calm. The hotel sits on the Paracas Bay overlooking the blue water and the Paracas Nature Reserve. All the buildings are white with bamboo roofs. There are palm trees and flowers every where.
Our room wasn’t ready so we ate lunch overlooking the water: tiradito, scallops in the shell and a Coney Island hot dog of all things, for Oscar. After lunch, Oscar and I went to check on the room. The lobby was filled with families ready to start their vacations. I think we may be the only Americans here. Because we booked so last minute the only room they had left was one with two queen beds overlooking the gardens. I don’t love sharing a room with the kids (especially Oscar who wakes up so early) but it is big and light with a beachy vibe. We have a small patio. The rooms are in villas scattered around the hotel, each one reached by the many pathways that traverse the property.
We spent the whole afternoon by the pool. It’s still summer for my North American kids and all they want to do is swim. When the sun was out it was a balmy 72 degrees. There are two pools, one family pool (which is cold) and the fancier rectangle sliver of a pool lined with cabanas which is warm. The kids and Sean have been in both. I have been watching from the sidelines happy to be back in the sun, reading the New York Times, sipping a glass of white wine while taking a vacation from my vacation.