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Day 16 – Paracas and the Ballesteros Islands to Lima

(Friday September 6th)

I haven’t gone on too long about my deteriorating health, but at this stage I was pretty certain that my cold had morphed into sinusitis – and my emergency medicine kit containing antibiotics was still in Lima. Ah well – red wine would help, except that we couldn’t open the bottle of wine that we’d brought with us because the corkscrew was also in the emergency kit!

The Ballesteros Islands

We were given a pick-up time of 7:40 am for this trip, so set the alarm for 6:30. I packed as much as we could before we left, ready for a quick getaway when we returned.

The weather was misty – where was the sun?? And it was cold.

The boat was a short bus ride away. And all the boats are fast, open motor boats - there is no roof. Each seat is provided with a life jacket, and my impression is that they are well maintained.

Tip: have a look at the weather and dress accordingly. If it’s sunny and midday, slather up with suntan lotion, sunglasses and a hat that is immune to the wind. If it’s misty and early morning, take a fleece, a windcheater, and a pair of gloves! Also, the boat goes reasonably fast until it approaches the island – so again, if you suffer from travel sickness, dose up accordingly.

First stop was on the peninsula itself, to look at a large ground carving made on a gently sloping rock face. This was younger than the Nazca lines, but made in a similar way. It was much more coarse. On the rocks below was our first colony of sea birds. (now – we are not twitchers, so don’t ask us for the names of what we saw. There was a selection of birds throughout the trip, in various shades and combinations of black, grey and white. Some had yellow beaks and feet, some didn’t. There! That’s the bird identification bit done and dusted.)

As we approached the islands we started to see seals in the water either side of us. Not just one or two, but dozens – their heads were appearing in all directions.

Then the island appeared out of the mist. And it was completely different to what I was expecting! It was honeycombed with caves and arches – quite spectacular. This was more my style – these are volcanic islands, and the rocks show all the features, with red, iron-rich igneous granites (bordering on basalts) injected with dark black basalts. Overlying (and running down) them are deposits of guano – bird poo from all those bird colonies. It’s collected every 7 years, by hand (what a job – it stinks) – but apart from that, no-one is allowed on the islands.

And there are a lot of different birds including penguins and pelicans (I recognised them!). And lots of sealions. Apparently these arrive at the start of the summer, and leave at the end. We were obviously lucky they’d arrived, as the months of August/September are early summer. The sealions calve here – and on one beach there was a dead calf, with a couple of vultures on it. I noticed the boat guide didn’t point that one out to the other passengers!

Then it was back to harbour. Rather sweetly, we were each given a small model of a seal on a piece of dead coral. I had to give it to the couple of Brits we were with, as there was no way that NZ MAF would have allowed that through!

The Bus to Lima

After another expensive sandwich in the hotel café, we lounged around for a bit, then were taken to the posh (Not!) Paracas bus station. And – disaster – the little shop for water wasn’t open! The bus was on time, and we were going VIP class again. Refreshment consisted of a jam roll (with not much jam).

We were due to arrive at Lima bus depot at 7:30 – but we encountered another Lima phenomenon – Friday Evening on top of a Peru/Uruguay world cup qualifying football match, and the annual Lima food festival. One junction was completely gridlocked for half an hour before the police came to sort things out. We arrived at the depot one and a half hours late…..

Hotel Jose Antonio (again)

Now here I’m going to have a bit of a gripe about the hotel. It’s the busiest of the hotels we’ve been in, as you’d expect in Lima, and probably the least ‘posh’. But that’s not a problem – most people only stay there for a night before travelling on. But this was the third time of staying there, so in total we were there for 5 nights. Each time I asked for a large double (i.e. not twin beds), and each time I was told that the room contained doubles. Well maybe they were suitable doubles for midgets – but not for me and my 6 foot husband! So I didn’t get my comforting cuddle to see me through my illness – we were in separate beds yet again.

But I could start taking my antibiotics to try and get rid of the sinusitis before our flight home.

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