Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Islas Ballestas, Sandboarding

Now today was something I’m more accustomed to.  We had to leave for the islands at 6:30 AM, which meant not quite enough sleep for all of us.  After an hour bus ride and an extremely hectic (AKA typical Peruvian) dock experience, we were situated on the boat for the tour.  The first things to notice were all the birds flying around the boat.  I strove to get some good shots of individual birds in flight, and I did succeed in a few cases.

The first actual main attraction was the “Candlestick figure,” which is a huge glyph in the sand on the side of a dune on the way to the islands.  I have yet to understand how something like that stays in the sand so well.  Their explanations didn’t seem quite good enough to me.  The glyph is a great mystery; there were 3 groups who could have created it.  It could potentially have been a Nazca glyph, related to the famous Nazca Lines.  However, there is controversy over this theory.  The main candle is directed exactly at the Nazca Lines, which is compelling evidence.  However, the Nazca Lines were made on flat ground instead of on the side of a dune, and they are much more shallow in the ground than this figure.  It could have also been made by the first European settlers, though I don’t recall why they would have wanted to do that.  The third option was pirate roots, since they could have used it to find this lucrative port from afar.  Very interesting.

The primary reason to go on this trip is for the islands, which have been nick-named the poor man’s Galapagos Islands.  So cool.  Far from the island the bird concentration increases, since there are so many birds who call Islas Ballestas their home.  The islands are preserved so people aren’t allowed to set foot on them.  The three main birds are the Guanay (known for its guano), Pelicans, and the Humboldt Penguins.  I got some great pictures of each of these types of birds, which I was very excited about.  As far as the best moment, I must give that to the sea lions.  These creatures earned the name “lions,” since many have a prominent mane similar to the mammal.  The boat pulled into a beautiful cove in the island, which was swarmed by hundreds of sea lions.  The summation of their calls and grunts enveloped the boat.  Being surrounded by such preserved nature to see and hear was a stellar moment that I won’t soon forget.  Here are a few highlights:

Sea Lion


Before returning to Huacachina, we stopped by the town of Paracas.  Of all the places we went on this trip, I most wanted to spend more time here.  We only had an hour to explore.  The shops were great and not very expensive, which is of course the perfect combination.  The vibe of the town was great, but the hour we were there wasn’t quite enough to take it all in. 

Back in the gorgeous oasis, we bummed out for a while before going sandboarding.  Wow, what a fun time.  The dune buggy ride is probably very similar to what’s offered in Silver Lake, Michigan, although I’ve never actually had the chance to do that ride.  It’s thrilling to speed over dunes, never knowing whether a calm dip or a gaping valley awaits you. There was a guy with us who was quite obviously high, but that did make him very enjoyable.  He would constantly yell phrases like “SCARE ME, AMIGO” or “FASTER AMIGO, FASTER.”  Yes, every time he talked to the driver he called him amigo.  After cruising around for a while, we went to a place to board down the dune.  Our friend was anxious to start, so he took off standing and didn’t make it down the hill very well.  I decided to go laying on the board face first for max speed and the thrill of head-first.  I enjoyed it a lot, sand boarding is a fun sport.  Unfortunately the second dune took the life of my beat-up camera because Samir didn’t wear the wrist strap and he dropped it in the sand.  I did bring it for that purpose just in case, but I was still hoping it would last more of my beating.  I’m going to play with it and see if I can get more of the sand out of the lens so it works again, but I’m honestly not sure if that’s an easy fix.  I nailed the third dune standing up until I biffed it hard at the bottom.  What a rush though, it’s a great sport.  I like that it doesn’t hurt to fall, although I found sand in my body for days to come.

At night we took a trip to Nazca to prepare ourselves for the lines the next morning.  I didn’t like the cost, but I knew it would be expensive because I was flying in a small aircraft for an extended period of time.  I couldn’t miss out on one of the most iconic sights of Peru even if it cost me as much as the entire Puno trip combined.  I think the companies know that too, which is always unfortunate.  

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