September 1st 2019 – On the Road to Paracas
We woke up at 6am trying to quietly (not easy for me as despite my size I seem to be the loudest person in the world) pack up our belongings to wait for our Peru Hop bus to take us to our next destination, Paracas.
Paracas is a small coastal town which is the access point to the Ballestas Islands (locally known as “the poor mans Galapagos”) and sits on the edge of the Paracas national park our two major stops for our 2-day visit.
We boarded the Peru Hop bus and settled down in relative bus luxury for the 6 and a half hour journey to Paracas (you get no where in Peru fast). On the plus side, with peru hop we get a few little extras… On this trip we got a cheeky breakfast ( which was more like elevenses as by the time we got there me and Sasha had already been consuming breakfast snacks for 2 hours…), a fly by stop at the Pachacamac (feared earthquake god) temple and finally Hacienda San Jose, a famous colonial plantation which smuggled African slaves through its 17km of underground tunnels.
San Jose was a beautiful manor, and the sun came out for the second time so far this trip to allow it to be seen in its full glory. The manor now couples as a five Star hotel and after our previous hostel experiences I wouldn’t mind a night there instead! The tunnels were definitely not for the faint-hearted, not because of the fear of ghosts from the disgruntled souls of past slaves, but due to the immense amount of dust and the smell of terps which was so strong it removed your nostril hairs. However, if you can brave all this and you’re not claustrophobic its definitely worth a trip down into their gloomy depths.
Traveling with Peru Hop for our first leg of the journey was pretty great! The extra stops for cheap breakfast, the San Jose tour and just feeling like you could chill out, have a much needed nap ( especially if you’re Sasha) and not have to worry about keeping half an eye on your belongings was such a relief. We wondered before getting here if we could have saved ourselves some cash and organised our own travel between places. However, after being in Lima and experiencing the confusion of public transport; the lacking of sign posts, numerous non-legitimate modes of transport and the relative unhelpfulness of the bus drivers, we were confident that we made the right choice! My one and only complaint was the shock of the spring loaded toilet seat which tried to slap you on the arse as you stood up, but in the grand scheme of things, I can live with that.
When we arrived in Paracas we were incredibly excited to need suncream and sunglasses for the first time on our trip, for once we could actually ditch the layers and don shorts!! Blue skies all round here!
We took advantage of the rays and went for a wander. It was fairly short-lived because the quaint little place takes about 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other making it impossible to get lost even with our complete navigational ineptitude. We took a few obligatory touristy photos and then once we’d wandered the length and breadth of the place, headed back to the hostel to lounge by the pool. Paracas carried a nice, easy going vibe which both Sasha and I were ready for after surviving Lima craziness.
Our short stay was carried out at Kokopelli hostel. Both myself and Sasha were impressed with the cleanliness, helpfulness of the staff and comparative toastiness of the dorms to Dragonfly where we were freezing our toes off nightly. The hostel rooms were quaint and colourful with individual curtains for each bunk which I thought was a great idea for privacy and help sleeping, however nothing is perfect as you will see shortly….
But overall, our first half day in Paracas saw our first bit of proper sunshine and a chance to get our pasty ( well not so pasty in Sasha’s case) bodies out and was a welcome change of pace from the chaos of Lima.
Tomorrow we eagerly looked forward to our first wildlife spotting excursion of the trip, Sealions come at me!
Paracas National Park and the Poor Man’s Galapagos
Hostel life strikes again… This time in the form of a blaring DJ until 4am who due to our unfortunate location, may as well have been in our room. Now I’m a granny at the grand old age of 24 and call me old school but getting wasted on every continent is not my idea of travelling, nor (thankfully) is it Sasha’s. Apparently it was just a Friday night thing and it was unlucky that we’d got an early start at 6am to see the Ballestas Islands, however it was a little irksome at 2am and by 4 I was ready to murder the DJ with my bare hands and every consecutive dorm mate who thought it was appropriate because they were awake to waltz in and switch the light on every time they nipped back to the room ! It’s a good job I have the self control of a Buddhist monk or there would be a lot of blood on my hands after last night!
However, things could only go up from there, we had a decent breakfast where there were eggs, fruit juice and some much craved after Bananas ( I know how that sounds but we were desperately in need of some fruit after the intense carb-fest we’d had so far) and then packed up our gear to head off on our tour of the Ballestas islands.
The Ballestas Islands are part of a national park and home to thousands of birds including the Humboldt penguin, Peruvian boobies,Neotropic cormorant and Guanay birds. It is also a fabulous place to see the rotund and lazy bodies of the South American Sealions (or sea wolves as the locals like to call them) sunning themselves on the rocks. This is obviously a wildlife photographer’s dream and my original plan was to take some high definition shots on my camera for the really detailed sharp focus pictures and some on my phone to share for now … Of course my phone picks this opportune moment to throw its toys out the pram and crash spectacularly for the entire journey only to spring back to life as if nothing happened the minute we returned to the hostel. Thanks phone, you’re a real pal! It seemed to be a software failure and with no prior damage, on a phone I purchased only a few months earlier, safe to say One Plus, if you’re reading this be expecting a phonecall (on second thoughts an email because phone calls are expensive from here). Luckily the trusty camera was at hand and I got some fantastic shots pheww!
Once our boat docked we did a quick trip back to the hostel to gather our things and get ready for our second trip of the day; Paracas National Reserve. A stunning expanse of desert and coastline where me managed to get some very Instagramworthy shots of the spectacular views #nofiltersneededhere! This trip was free with the Peru Hop trip and was absolutely breathtaking!
Finally, after many a photo was taken, we hopped back on the bus to continue to the next destination on our list, Huacachina. We all excitedly anticipated our stay in the desert oasis and were eager to try our hand at sandboarding. Unfortunately, due to a recent accident causing the death of two tourists on an unlicensed dune buggy, these tours have now been banned. It’s unfortunate that the reckless behaviour of unlicensed tour guides has had to spoil everyone’s fun, but it does hit home about the dangers of booking rock bottom price tours without first doing your research! So far we’ve booked all our tours through recommendations from Peru Hop so we know we’re booking with safe, reputable companies who are paid a fair price for their work.
Things I learnt in Paracas:
1. People in hostels can be selfish little toads
2. I should probably not stay in hostels which attract said toads and have an over-aggressive party scene as being a granny that is definitely not for me.
3. Other than the toads and over-enthusiastic partying Kokolelli was a wonderful hostel, just maybe for us, not worth the lack of sleep.
4. The Ballestas islands are fantastic, and should be on anyone’s to-do list who is traveling through Paracas. But always make sure if your phone decides to die you have another medium of photo taking or a helpful friend to do so. You do NOT want to miss out on cute shots of Sealions!
5. If you want Instagram worthy shots head to the National Reserve, you can photo jump and “plandid” to your hearts desire with an epic backdrop.
6. Once again Peru Hop is so worth it, having a guide to deliver knowledge to you on what you’re doing and seeing, for your luggage to be safe while gallivanting about taking photos and to be able to charge your phone on the hideously long stretches of journey are just some of the many advantages we’ve found so far (and its only journey number 2!)