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Paul does Peru… Part I

December 4, 2008

Woohoooo! Paul and I just had an awesome visit full of twists and turns and surprises… Well I guess the only real surprises were that the Nazca lines – which were supposed to be the highlight – were the definittive lowlight. And then the Islas Ballestas, the redheaded stepchlid on the itinerary were absolutely amazing.

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Swarming with thousands of birds, the islands are just a half hour speed boat ride west of the Peruvian desert coast.  Our guide was funnier than he realized: we’d putter around a rocky outcropping and he would would announce brightly, “And here are some baby penguins to keep the Peruvian boobies company!”.

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Now I’ve seen sea lions before: lazing around at the San Francisco docks.  But when our motorboat puttered up within yards of hundreds of beached beasts, I was spellbound.  “Look they are mating!”  “Look that one shows us that she is a girl!”  our guide announces, beaming.  The sea lions are fat and curious.  A dozen of them dive into the waves and swim a little closer to check us out.  They pop their heads out of the water like little swimming prairie dogs and eye us inquisitively. “Are you fish?” they ask.

The Islas Ballestas is nicknamed the poor man’s Galapagos Islands, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s not as cool as the famous wildlife sanctuary.  Granted, I’ve never been to GI but Islas Ballestas is not to be dismissed.  It gets two thumbs up for the powerfully overwhelming guano stink, the endless swirling swarms of birds overhead, the dangerously romantic rock outcroppings and the close up encounters you get with the penguins, sea lions, boobies, terns and pelicans.

We also took a hired car into the Paracas National Park.  I’ve never been in a desert like this before.  It looks like the Sahara to me: miles and miles of sand and dunes, and you would never want to be caught out here if the wind kicks up.

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Actually, when we were leaving the next day for Nazca, we drove through a sandstorm and it looked like how I picture Iraq to be.  The highway was almost invisible for all the sand.  Thank God we were in a bus and not walking to Nazca! hehe

Paul and I had an awesome afternoon  exploring the desert coast.  We would be driving for miles through up and over the dunes or across flat “fields” or cracked earth and sand and all of a sudden we would crest a dune and the sea and cliffs would come into view.

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What made the trip even more special was the fact that we were virtually alone.  We saw a couple of other hired taxis crisscrossing the desert while we were there, but we pretty much had every cliff top and beach to ourselves.  Peaceful, gorgeous afternoon.  We were so lucky to experience it!

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