I woke up early this morning to the sound of Sean’s voice coming from the patio, asking the hotel staff if the boat to the Ballestas Islands was still leaving given the weather. I peeked outside. It was gray and misty. I burrowed my head deeper into my pillow: I thought we had left that weather behind in Lima. Sean was assured that the boat trip was still on and the weather would improve later in the day. Warmly dressed we went for breakfast (which for me was only coffee. I am not great on boats and didn’t dare put anything more in my stomach) then walked to the end of the hotel’s pier.
The ride to the Ballestas Islands, a rocky group of small islands which is a marine sanctuary off the coast took about 25 minutes. It was chilly but luckily the water wasn’t too choppy. On the way we passed the El Candelabro an etching that looks like a giant candlestick or trident carved into the sand dunes over 2000 years ago. It is nearly 600 feet high and can be seen from miles away. No one really knows who carved it. Was it the same people responsible for the Nasca Lines? Aliens? Ancient Mariners? It’s one of Peru’s many mysteries. Since it rains very little in this part of Peru (except aparently the morning the Hayes family wants to see some penguins) the carving hasn’t washed away or filled with sand.
Once we stated to get closer to the islands we could see sea lions diving in the water. Some were napping on the rocks and others were flinging themselves into the water to look for fish. The islands also called the Guano Islands because of the bird droppings that are collected for fertilizer are home to several bird species including the Humboldt Penguin, pelicans, the red-legged comorant (which we saw and is apparently very rare) and lots of boobies. There are so many birds on the rocks it looks like the islands are moving. At times the smell of the guano is overpowering.
We arrived back at the hotel pier cold and a little bit wet but excited (even me!) at having seen some nature. So, I insisted that we go see even MORE nature! Despite the promise made by the hotel worker, the sun had not come out so we decide to drive the short distance to the Paracas Nature Reserve. The park is huge and we only drove thought a small part of it. Bumping along on the unpaved rocky road In our rickety rental car, we felt like we were the only people…on another planet. The rust colored sand dunes rose in every direction with no one in sight. Finally, we stopped the car at a rocky beach and watched the waves crash on shore. We decided that we were at too great a risk for getting lost and wrecking the car so we turned around and headed back to the hotel for lunch.
Peruvians love their buffets! Generally, I do not love my buffets (too many people breathing on and mucking up the food I want to eat) but sometimes you have no choice. However, lucky for me, the buffet lunch at the hotel was delicious, especially the bespoke ceviche. The ceviche in Peru has been so good I don’t think I am going to be able eat it anywhere else. In the middle of lunch the sun came out so we sent the kids to throw some jackets and books on a couple of lounge chairs lest the pool area fill up while we were still at lunch (we are so American!) We spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool. I think the kids were in for three hours straight. Sean and I treated ourselves to a massage each and are now sitting on the patio having a glass of wine trying to decide what to do tomorrow!