15th July – We leave for Pisco further to the north, a town that was devastated by a powerful earthquake in 2007. It apparently has some good fish restaurants on the sea front and is the place for arranging visits to the nearby Paracas Reserve ( if you don’t have your own transport) and for boat trips to the Ballestas Islands. This small group of rocky islands are populated by large flocks of birds that make their nests on the steep cliffs, whilst colonies of seals inhabit the island’s pebble beaches during their breeding season. The islands also provide a safe refuge for species such as the Humboldt Penguin and Blue-Footed Booby.
Just before Pisco we stop at Paracas and guys immediately appear to see if we want to take a boat trip to the above islands. We find out all the details and maybe we will, but first we would like to visit the Paracas Reserve. Founded in 1975, this is Peru’s largest stretch of protected coastline, teeming with wildlife and with some of the richest seas in the world, due to the Humboldt current that extends off the coast of Peru bringing cold, nutrient-rich water. These fertile waters mean that millions of birds fill the skies of Paracas, nesting on the steep cliffs and rocky islands found along the coastline.
The name ‘Paracas’ comes from the Quecha word meaning ‘raining sand’, as the reserve is constantly battered by strong winds and sandstorms. Today however, apart from the wind, the weather is perfect with blue skies and strong sunshine. It is only 10 soles to enter the reserve and it is also possible to camp there in a designated area. Once inside the reserve, a desert road takes us past coloured dunes……
…….until we arrive at Lagunillas, with the strong, contrasting colours of beautiful Playa Roja with its reddish-brown beach and distant pink cliffs. American Oyster-Catchers, Cormorants and Band-Tailed Gulls are at the water’s edge.
Across the bay at Lagunillas, a fishing community is located and we watch men bringing in armfuls of seaweed to lay out on the beach to dry. This is in demand from all over the world for use in cosmetics, soaps and medicines.
We follow tracks across the desert to Playa La Mina, passing hundreds of gulls resting on the sands.
This playa with its white sand cove, turquoise waters and towering cliffs, is called La Mina because of an old, abandoned mine at its southern end.
The nearby Mirador de Lobos has spectacular views and huge pelicans on the cliff tops.
To reach Punta Arquillo, we have to skirt around enormous dunes beneath vast skies.
This remote landscape is wild, windy and wonderful.
The wild surf is rolling in and once again hundreds of birds are resting on the sands, whilst higher up the cliffs birds are perched on rocky ledges.
It is such a clear day that we can see the Island of Zarati in the distance.
We return to Lagunillas and take the desert road in the opposite direction to visit Playa Yumaque and Playa Supay.
‘Supay’ is a Quecha word meaning ‘devil’, and this beach was so called because of its rough waves. It also has remarkable cliffs.
Also near here is the view of the rock formation known as La Catedral which was severely damaged during the 2007 earthquake.
Photo showing La Catedral before the earthquake. La Catedral today.
We leave the reserve after having only explored the northern peninsular part but thank goodness this beautiful place is now a protected area.
Returning to the town of Paracas, we call in at Hotel Mirador where we are able to camp in their sandy yard and use a bathroom in one of the many rooms. Extremely helpful people here as always, making sure that we have everything we need. We walk into town and enjoy a fish meal in one of the restaurants overlooking the sea.
Tomorrow we will be heading into Peru’s capital city of Lima and will have to adjust to a very different type of scenery!