Islas Ballestas, “the poor man’s Galapagos”

We tired quickly of sand dunes and desert so we headed north to Paracas, on the coast just south of Pisco. So we gained water,but it’s still desert. Our reason for coming to this town empty of anything to do except eat or buy seashell necklaces or swing on one of the 5 rusty swings in town is for the island tour.

Lonely Planet calls it the poor man’s Galapagos because
for $10 you get a 2 hour sealife tour (instead of $5000 to see the Galapagos for a few days). We could have seen the Galapagos but it would have cut our trip short, by, oh, 6.5 months. We bargained a little for the tour price (they started higher than they should have!) and joined a boat full of teenage British kids.

Poor Laura got really sick from the typical who knows what but she endured the boat tour and we saw Humboldt penguins hopping all over the place. We also saw blue footed Boobies, sea lions (and their nursery) and other birds I couldn’t identify. We saw a line on the tour just like the Nazca lines that was a cactus or an alien or a Hanukkah candle…no one really knows why or what these lines are, but they were neat.

That afternoon Laura slept while we toured the Paracas Reserve, which was basically a drive in the desert with some stops along the shore. I don’t think I’d do it again, but we saw a red sand beach and the guys swam a little while I watched kites dive for fish. The nicest thing about the whole tour was the visitor center (that didn’t seem too well visited). They had a huge conservation angle and weren’t afraid to have guilt-filled signs about not littering or eating turtle meat or harassing birds. It was wonderful. Litter is a big problem here and I haven’t really seen people NOT litter blatantly anywhere except touristy towns.

So go to the visitor center and see a sea lion skeleton and learn a little about conservation. If only they could teach this stuff more in the schools here…I get so angry watching people throw their wrappers out windows and parents catching pigeons in the plazas and letting their kids pet them (for real!). But, it takes time. Happy thoughts….penguins! They waddled all over the rocks and I wanted to hug one, but we didn’t get out of the boat (and I think that falls into the harassment category).

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