Paracas and Pisco

Paracas Travel Blog

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Birds on the Balestas Islands

Thursday - We made it up to the Cruz Del Sur bus station well ahead of schedule - so well ahead of shedule that it was shut!  It also happend to be in a red light district - think a South American King´s Cross!  Fortunately, the taxi driver let us wait in his cab for 40 minutes until the lights came-on and the bus station opened-up!  We didn´t notice straight away but there was a car of police parked near us, so there wouldn´t have been any problems - although it was a nervous wait.  We did laugh about it as soon as we walked through the gates though!

The journey south was in a very comfortable bus, although it was driven rather erratically by our UK standards, plenty of overtaking in single lane traffic in poor visibility!  We arrived safely down the coast in Paracas and got to the Hotel Mirador, where we had 3 nights booked - it was a little bit more "basic" than we had expected, but it was fine - an oasis in a desert town.

Sea Lion chilling on the rocks!
  After exploring Paracas Town itself, we headed back to the hotel.  Dinner was a vegetarian pizza (so we were assured!), although it consisted  of huge slabs of ham!   We hid the ham in napkins and popped them slyly in the bin!

Friday - We were up early (although not by our standards of yesterday!) and headed down to the harbour of Paracas for our trip to the Balestas Islands.  This trip had only been running for the last couple of weeks after a break of a month due to the destruction of the ramp that allowed people to get onto the boats.      It has been cruely and crudely dubbed "The poor man´s Gallapagos", but we preferred to call it the "The rich man´s Balestas Islands"!  It didn´t disappoint.  The huge communities of seabirds on larely barren rocks looked impressive as the islands loomed in the haze.

A windswept Jeremy and Erica on the boat!
  As we got closer, the Pellicans, Penguins, Cormorants and Gulls looked even more impressive - there was hardly any room for any more!  Probably the highlight was the groups of sea lions that lived in their own little groups, each with several smaller females and one single fat male with a big flabby neck!   They took no interest in the boats as they got to within 10 metres of some of them - in fact, we even thought one had passed-away it was so still and on its back until it´s eyes lazily opened and whiskers twitched!

The sea was fairly choppy, although only a couple of people were sick.  We arrived back at Paracas harbour having seen a dolphin hanging around a fishing boat, although it selfishly refused to hang around long enough for us to get a decent photo!!!!

Upon return to the hotel, we then went directly to Pisco and the base of Hands On Disaster Response, an agency we had heard about on the web that was directly working in the City of Pisco, which was almost 80% destroyed (although the whole of Southern Peru "only" had 500 fatalities).

Pellicans on Balestas
   We went straight to work at about 11.30am, starting by helping build a temporary shelter in a cleared-out area of an elderly woman´s former home.   That afternoon, we went to work at the Maratime and Fishing University - we were knocking down walls and clearing the rubble to the courtyard to allow bullodozers and trucks take this away and eventually allow rebuilding work to go ahead.   The officials and staff were there as well, all of them were so grateful to have us there and very welcoming and friendly, although they couldn´t speak any English, we could understand most of what they said and it was a pleasure to meet them all.

It was hard work in very hot and dirty conditions, although it was certainly safe - there was no danger of an roof or supporting walls coming down, which is what stopped us from working on the other side of the building.

Hotel Mirador pool and gardens
  Many different nationalities were working with us, many Australians, Yanks, Canadians, Irish, Germans and Dutch.   We finished after a long day of manual work and hailed a 3-wheeled taxi to take us to a "collectivo" pick-up spot by the market.  A collectivo is a ramshackled mini-bus which basically is like a taxi, although it waits to fill-up before heading to the destination marked on the front.  It cost about 25p each to get back to our hotel down the coast!      The hotel felt a whole lot more luxurious when we got back after being caked in mud and dust!

Saturday - A really hard day of work was waiting for us when we got to Pisco at 8am!  We were clearing rubble from some residential properties - it was tough work and the sun was really burning down - oh how we could have done with that fog from Lima to help keep us cool!   It was very sad to find personal effects of the people who lived in the houses (most people had been moved to the camps which contained 30,000 people).

Just back from a hard day´s work!
  Again, people walking by were really friendly and many stopped to chat and say thankyou.

We were greeted by Mark (Director of Operations)  that lunchtime to be told that we were the 100th and 101st volunteers to make it down to volunteer!  It was nice, but at the same time, it was a bit embarassing to be fussed over as many others had simply given-up their jobs to fly at their own expense to the area for no pay to work basically like labourers.        In the afternoon, we moved to a site just across from where we were in the morning.  Again, it was very hard work in the searing sun.  We finished-up there at 5.30 and headed back to the base.  For anyone interested in how things are going in Pisco, the website is www.

hodr.org .  We were both lucky to have very kind and generous friends in the workplace who gave us money as leaving presents - both of us donated this money directly to the project - we know that it is going to a really tightly-run organisation that is doing direct work with the people of Pisco - we are both really grateful for this money and so thankyou all again for this really kind gesture.

Again, we jumped into a collectivo back to Paracas, sadly there was only one seat so Erica had to perch on Jeremy´s lap - even a dog was given a seat!!  Dinner was lovely at the hotel - we learned the lesson to "eat local style", as they arent always that great at pizza or pasta!!

Sunday - Sunday is the HODR day-off (given the work that they do in the week, we couldn´t begrudge them that!!!).

More sea lions!
  We moved-on further down the coast to Nazca - the trip through Ica showed just how widespread the devastation that the earthquake brought.

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Birds on the Balestas Islands
Birds on the Balestas Islands
Sea Lion chilling on the rocks!
Sea Lion chilling on the rocks!
A windswept Jeremy and Erica on th…
A windswept Jeremy and Erica on t…
Pellicans on Balestas
Pellicans on Balestas
Hotel Mirador pool and gardens
Hotel Mirador pool and gardens
Just back from a hard day´s work!
Just back from a hard day´s work!
The Candelabra of the Paracas Cul…
The Candelabra of the "Paracas Cu…
More sea lions!
More sea lions!
Jeremy writing his journal at the …
Jeremy writing his journal at the…
The town of Paracas
The town of Paracas
The view from our hotel - it´s no…
The view from our hotel - it´s n…
Ballestas Islands
Ballestas Islands
Dolphin looking for his dinner!
Dolphin looking for his dinner!
Work starts at the Marine and Fish…
Work starts at the Marine and Fis…
One of the staff at the Marine and…
One of the staff at the Marine an…
Jeremy in the classroom.
Jeremy in the classroom.
All internal walls upstairs are de…
All internal walls upstairs are d…
Jeremy looking happy after sharing…
Jeremy looking happy after sharin…
Shifting rubble away in Pisco
Shifting rubble away in Pisco
Erica working in a chain-gang.
Erica working in a "chain-gang".
More rubble clearing in Pisco
More rubble clearing in Pisco
Erica getting stuck-in!
Erica getting stuck-in!
Paracas
photo by: Sylvie1