So yesterday was the first day of our tour and true to form we spent a lot of it on the road! Our bus to Paracas was at 12 so a few of us managed to get down to the Miraflores beach front for a little while, then we were off. I need to take a moment to sing the praises of Cruz del Sur buses here! That bus was not only the nicest bus I’ve ever been on but probably the nicest transport in general – it was like being in a first class aeroplane. With Roald Dahl’s BFG ready to watch and a hot meal with pudding on my tray, nicely reclined plus feet up on a leather footrest, I started to think the many night buses to come won’t be bad at all! We’re using that company the whole time in Peru and the first night bus is tomorrow night so hopefully I’ll be right.
Paracas was lovely – a small fisherman’s village with 3000 inhabitants so mostly just houses and a few colourful bars along the waterfront. Our hotel, Refugio de Piratos, was brilliant – highly recommend for clean rooms in a colourful and pretty building overlooking a pool surrounded by flowers and with a little bar. We were just there for one night which would have been a shame if it wasn’t for the amazing day we had ahead (today!) on our way down to Nazca.
We were up early and went on a 2 hour boat trip to the Islas Ballestas, which the locals fondly refer to as the mini Galapagos. They are basically a haven for wildlife and it was incredible seeing hundreds upon thousands of birds all on the rocks and filling the air. A real highlight for me was seeing a group of about 8 tiny little penguins waddling along in formation right at the top. They were so cute! Then as we turned a corner in our slightly precarious speedboat, the air was filled with sounds of what resembled humans shouting and gargling, but was actually the cries of a massive colony of sea lions! They are honestly a joy to see in the water and on the beach: so playful and noisy as they swim, and so peaceful and lazy as they lounge in the sun.
Once back in Paracas we had a quick turnover to get onto our private bus, as we were heading straight to a small and rural Peruvian wine and pisco distillery in Huacachina. I had been to a port distillery in Porto and expected something along those lines – how wrong I was. The method is the same as it was when they started making pisco a few hundred years ago, and the tour took us round a small and rustic kind of farmhouse area with a large sunsoaked yard where the magic happens. It was really interesting how the environment impacts the methods, for example the fermenting containers are still almost conical concrete structures because that shape would in theory allow them to be placed into the ground to save them from spilling if there was an earthquake. Then onto the best part – tasting the wines (so so sweet, wine snobs beware) and various pisco products. The most delicious by far was a crema de pisco which tasted like a sort of vanilla Baileys and uses fresh cream. They are only okay for a day or two as a result, otherwise I would have considered getting a small souvenir one. However, Fredy told us tomorrow will mostly be a pool day after the Nazca lines flight, so I teamed up with 3 others to get two bottles between us for some poolside drinks tomorrow instead – what a shame! Then a nice traditional lunch including yuka and a dried potato stew. Probably a good thing after the tasting of at least 5 different drinks in the hot sun!
Both of these activities were brilliant but for me the high point of the day is the very same reason I’m now sat writing this on the bus with sand in my shorts and everywhere else! We drove to the Huacachina desert oasis, thinking that some sandboarding was on the cards. Well, it was, but even better than that – we went right into the desert on dune buggies in order to get boarding! If you can picture the most crazy rollercoaster you’ve been on and then add a hot wind whipping your hair and the sand around you in a frenzy, plus being surrounded by incredible mountains of sand as far as the eye can see, then you have an idea of what dune buggying is like! At the top of a high dune we stopped and hopped onto our boards, on which we lay down and essentially held on for dear life after a good push. I enjoyed every moment, especially more so as it’s not anything I would have thought to do in Peru so even just to have the opportunity was fantastic! Things like this are a reminder why it’s nice to do an organized tour for at least part of a big trip like mine.
The day isn’t even over yet! We’re now heading down to Nazca, and will be stopping at a tower to hopefully catch the sunset and get a view of 2 of the world famous Nazca lines, essentially mysterious and huge ‘drawings’ and lines only visible from above. Tomorrow morning a few of us will also be taking a small private (and reportedly bumpy) flight to get the full view of them. I love all things ancient and the fact they are still unexplainable only adds to the wonder. Fredy told us some interesting theories on the bus – my favourite is that they were for dance ceremonial patterns. Nevertheless, it’s my first venture into Peru’s ancient history and certainly not the last in these weeks to come! With this packed itinerary, I think I’ve definitely earned that crema de pisco.
Side note – the WiFi isn’t great so far hence why these posts are so text heavy! I’ll try and update with more interesting images soon.