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Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday at Sea!

sunny

We had to get off the bus on the side of the Panamerican higthway about half an hour south of Pisco as the buses won't actually go into the town itself. In 2007 it was devastated by an earthquake and since then unemployment and poverty has risen significantly making it generally unsafe. This worked in our favour anyway because we were looking to stay in Paracas, a town south of Pisco which sits inside the coastal reserve of the same name. Our main objective was to take a boat to visit the Ballestas Islands (also part of the reserve) which were meant to be very beautiful and known by some as the poor man's Galapagos. We wanted to go on the trip the following day, as a treat for my 25th birthday.

After a spot of playing one taxi driver off against the other we got a reasonable price for ride to Paracas. Unfortunately the driver we picked was a bit annoying and tried to herd us to a hostel of his choice which we resisted and went to the one we'd intended on all along. There we found a friendly old guy who didn't try to sell us the boat trip straight away, a definite plus in our books. We got a nice room and the town itself, although perhaps a little rough around the edges had charm and we were finally by the sea again after not seeing it for quite some time.

When we went down for lunch we decided to go ahead and book the trip with the old chap and then asked him where we could go for a cheap almuerzo. He directed us to some little shacks and here we both ate our first Ceviche. We have certainly eaten our fair share since then and we both really enjoy them. It can be made with any kind of seafood, which is cooked with a healthy dose of lemon juice and then tomatoes, red onion, herbs and spices are added. It is incredibly simple and the quality does vary but when done right it is delicious. In Peru it tends to be served with a side of sweet potato whereas in Ecuador you are given junks of fried Platano which is basically a savoury banana, which I love. After lunch we walked along the small sea front but it was pretty busy being a Sunday and it wasn't exactly the prettiest of beaches. We went back to the room to relax after another night on the bus. Then in the evening we just went back to the shacks once more for a cheap dinner.

We had a bit of midnight hunt after Adam was awoken by mosquitoes biting him to death. The next hour was therefore spent trying to kill the little blighters which is always a frustrating task. Although I was now officially 25 we left the happy birthday's etc till the morning when I had to begin another hunt as Adam had hidden my pressies around the room. He'd bought me two pendants and a couple of little silver llama ornaments, which was very sweet of him. We then had to quickly get dressed and head down to reception where we joined up with a small group heading down to the dock. As we approached we saw a really big group gathered and we wandered how busy the boats were going to be, we had read that they could get overcrowded. As it turned out we were one of the first boats to set off and it was really plush speedboat. It was in no way overcrowded and there was also an English speaking guide so it was shaping up to be a good trip.

As we sped off into the ocean the guide explained that we would be slowing down in a few minutes to see a large colony of Pelicans which are indigenous to Peru and remain all year round.
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Having never seen a Pelican in real life it was really quite special and they are truly massive birds yet very graceful in flight. We then continued on to look at a symbol created on the mountain side in the shape of a candelabra.
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No one knows the origin of it but there are several different explanations, one of which is Simon Bolivar dug out the image when he arrived in Peru to end Spanish rule. After these two little detours we picked up speed and headed straight to the islands, of which there are three.
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As we neared them they almost looked like they were moving but as we drew closer it became apparent that this was because of the immense number of birds.
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Neither of us have ever seen so many birds in once place, it was truly unbelievable. These craggy rocks rising out of the ocean, which have been there for over three millon years, were absolutely teeming with life. We were witnessing a bird city with several different species living side by side. There were Pelicans, Boobies, Vultures and even little Penguins.
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The captain pulled the boat up close so we could see the birds clinging on to the rock and we were all hit with a very powerful smell. The guide then explained that this was generated by a whole lot of guano or bird poop.
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In fact every six years a few hundred men are sent to the island to gather up all of the guano which has accumulated, it is then sold as fertilizer. When this first began happening in the mid 1800's it was Peru's largest source of income.

After looking at some of the birds we turned our attention to the sea lions which everyone was happy about. Most of them were lazing about on the pebbles or had found perches on the rock which it didn't really seem big enough for all that blubber.
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The ones we got up close to looked at us with massive black eyes, a kind of forlorn expression that just made me want to hug them. Which given the chance I may not have done because they smelled pretty bad. We were navigated round to one of the other islands and the guide told us at this time of year there should be seal pups. We therefore all had our eyes peeled for the little black blobs he'd described and there were quite a lot of them.
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There was also a big bull in the water but despite his great bulk he easily cut through the choppy waves. At this point we began to veer over to a wooden structure which is used in the extraction of the guano.
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A small ladder was dangling down and a man at the back of the boat, a worker on the island, after a couple of attempts at lining the boat correctly reached out and began to climb up on to it. We all waved him off and I thought that I really didn't envy him having to work in such a smelly place with all of those flapping birds even if it was an amazing nature hotspot.
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We spent a little longer circling the islands, seeing more birds and sea lions before it was time to head back to shore. On route back we noticed that boats had slowed down and we quickly realised there was a large pod of dolphins in the water.

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With this to top it off it had definitely been a worthwhile trip and a lovely excursion for my birthday. I have never seen such an abundance of wildlife in one place, a very memorable experience. Once we were back on shore we headed back to the hotel, stopping in for a bite to eat at the shacks on the way. The rest of the day we just mooched about, generally just relaxing in the room because we had a tv and it was nice to take it easy. In the evening we went to a more expensive restaurant closer to the water. The local drink is a Pisco sour which is kind of tastes like a strong alchopop.
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Adam didn't like them that much but I thought they were ok and a nice accompaniment to the whole fish and platter full of clams we were served. All very tasty and I had definitely enjoyed a memorable birthday.
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More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 18:19 Archived in Peru Tagged round_the_world

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