Posts Tagged ‘water’

Pisco and Islas Ballestas

In the last few days of the trip, we took what I think was our best unplanned trip. Since we had a few extra days left from coming back from up north early, we decided to go visit Islas Ballestas, also called the “Poor Man’s Galapagos”. Not nearly as rich in wildlife as the Galapagos, it nonetheless has a very high concentration of marine birds and sea lions.

The starting point for most tours to Islas Ballestas is Pisco, which is where we headed from Lima in the afternoon to spend the night. We had the most fantastic dinner at a little restaurant there – complete with delicious local pisco sours, of course. We both ordered the chef’s special, which was a selection of their best 5 seafood dishes, and were not disappointed. We got deep-fried seafood bits, seafood paella, seafood curry, fish in spicy red sauce, and ceviche. Everything was absolutely amazing, and so fresh! If this had been our last dinner in Peru, I would have left a very happy girl.

On the drive from the hotel to the docks, we saw lots of rubble – apparently there was an earthquake in this area 2 years ago, and beyond central Pisco not much has been rebuilt. In one place, hundreds of feet of a brick fence had collapsed straight to the side, the wall fairly intact in places, but lying on the ground.

Waiting for the boat, we were lined up in pairs – just like on school trips! Do you have your buddy?? On the boat ride to the islands, we also saw the Candelabra, a shape similar to those at Nazca, made in the sand of the dunes you can see from the bay. Nobody knows who made it, or how (if at all) it may relate to Nazca or other Inca sites. We also saw plenty of birds dive-bomb-fishing (apparently some can go a dozen meters under the surface), and small groups of pelicans skimming along incredibly close to the surface of the water, not having much trouble keeping up with the boat. And we were going FAST – I would not want to fall out of that boat.

The islands themselves were unbelievable, literally teeming with all sorts of birds. Pelicans, cormorants, boobies (hee hee), seagulls, penguins. The pelicans are absolutely huge, swooping down very majestically among all the other birds. Less majestic is an interesting fact that we learned about them – they use guano (that’s bird poop) to build their nests on other islands, for which purpose they scoop it up in their beak pouches to transport. Yuck. The penguins were a whole level of cuteness above everyone else, waddling around, standing around in confused-looking huddles when surrounded by other birds.

The guano itself is collected once every 7 years, and there are even guys who live on the islands, guarding against unauthorized collection of guano. We lucked out in not getting some of that precious “mineral” on us – no small feat with clouds of birds circling above us. One island, with a gently sloping top, was fully covered with birds, so it looked completely dark from a distance.

Of course, we also saw sea lions, many of them pups, who were incredibly adorable. Sunning themselves on the rocks, a few even posed for pictures while we drifted leisurely past them.

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Lake Titicaca

After leaving Arequipa, we spent a fantastic few days along the shores of Lake Titicaca. Our drive there (6 hours) was also fantastic, since we ended up in the sleeper compartment (i.e. first class) of the bus. Holy legroom, batman!

Our lakeside visit started in Puno. What a cute little town! The first afternoon we just wandered down to the harbour, and shared a beer while watching the locals paddle around in a small pond on family-sized paddle boats. What fun! Dan even convinced me to talk to the ladies manning the souvenir stalls about yarn, which resulted in me walking away with 3 different colours of alpaca yarn. Score! Will have to keep an eye out for this in Bolivia.

The next day we had a half-day tour to the floating islands of Uros. What an amazing experience! These “islands” are literally floating, built out of the reeds for which the lake is famous, and anchored in a preferred spot. Before the rainy season, the anchors are removed and the islands are moved to a shallower spot to avoid flooding. Each island has 10-20 families living on it – if conflict arises, an island can literally be cut in half and the dissenting group can start their own island or go join another existing island.

In the afternoon, we had bought tickets for a bus ride onwards to Copacabana, just over the Bolivian border. The “bus” ended up being a little bitty micro-bus, with all of our backpacks piled on top and held in by a net. Good stuff! The crew on the trip turned out to be a great mix, with 4 australians, 2 kiwis, and a swiss guy along for the ride. Good times were had, including 3 trips across the (physical) Peru-Bolivia border since we didn´t know we had to go to two different offices to get the correct stamps in our passports. The bus driver dropped us off on the peruvian side, told us to go get our passports sorted out, and that he would meet us at the other end so we could transfer our stuff onto the bolivian minibus. No instructions were given, of course.

That evening, we ended up going to the same hotel as the whole crew, and also going out for dinner with everyone. What fun! – it´s been a while since Dan and I had been that social.

The following day, in a perverse twist on the scenario a few days previous, it was Dan who was not feeling well, so I went off on my own to explore the Isla del Sol, one of the larger island in Lake Titicaca. I ended up spending the day with the swiss and kiwi guys, and also a kiwi girl the swiss guy had met previously and whom we bumped into on the boat ride there (talk about random connections). In all, given that Dan wasn´t there, this was about the best day I could have had.

The kiwi girl was staying overnight on the island and so had hired a guide to take her along to the ruins, etc., so the 4 of us tagged along with promises to tip the guide well. Score! Just off Isla del Sol is an old ceremonial temple, currently buried under 5-10 m of water, given that the lake had risen almost 100 m since the site was originally built (glacial melting). We also saw the site where, according to Inca legend, the Sun was born (a rock in the shape of a condor, use of imagination is a must), as well as the ruins of a temple and sacrificial stone.

The rest of the afternoon was spent hiking along the ridge of the island from the north end to the south. The views were absolutely spectacular, with the startlingly blue lake on all sides, and the snowcapped mountain range (including a few 6000+m peaks) in the distance on one shore. I would almost call the scenery reminiscent of the mediterranean, at least until you remember that the lake is a balmy 10 degrees. I really felt sorry all day that Dan wasn´t able to make it, since this is something he would have absolutely loved. But I brought him back a rock and lots of pictures. 🙂

Later on that evening we ended up going to a little bar which had advertised live music. Wow, were we in for a treat! First of all, we ordered our drinks when we got there (had dinner earlier at another place), and were very surprised when the server came back not with 2, but 4 glasses. “Happy hour”, he told us happily! The grand total for the evening, with 6 delicious drinks between the two of us and a piece of cake, came out to about $13. Where else? The music was also absolutely wonderful – a peruvian band on tour, with slightly pop-y sounding south american music. I don´t know what it is about the south american music, but most of it sounds so inherently happy, that it just makes you want to get up and dance. We even bought a CD of theirs, so we have a musical reminder of our honeymoon. What a great deal.

Dan has just reminded me that it´s Thanksgiving back home today. So… happy Thanksgiving everyone! I guess we pre-celebrated by having BFC (bolivian fried chicken) yesterday!

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