At quarter past nine, our guia (guide) finally motioned for us to come forward. It was our turn to board. The piloto instructed hubby and me, the only parents lugging a toddler amongst the group, to choose a seat in front. Thankfully the place we were eyeing. We certainly didn't want Luna to bathe in splashes of cold sea water at the back of the boat.
We quickly put on our life vests and plopped on our seat. The sun's rays grew fierce (A bit of pre-trip reading warned us about the roofless speedboats hence our slathering of dollops of sunscreen.), but groggy Luna managed to doze off. Our boat thrummed to life as soon as everyone piled in. It was our guia's cue to begin his lecture, which was delivered in Spanish and English. The sea was fairly calm, and the only bumps we endured were caused by slices of waves from other speedboats that overtook us.
The engine was switched off when we drifted near the El Candelabro, a 420-foot geoglyph etched into a cliff on the Paracas peninsula. Its history and purpose still unknown. Not much to discuss there obviously so we pushed on after two minutes, to the dismay of our trigger happy Spanish speaking tourmates.
It took a little over half an hour to get to Islas Ballestas. We first caught sight of sea lions lazing on the pebble beach. They seemed unmindful of our presence. Our guia even claims that a few of them sometimes swim alongside the boats. Uhm, doesn't sound safe for show off seals, don't you think?
Because the rocky islands of Islas Ballestas is protected, boats aren't allowed to dock. We merely did sightseeing from a safe distance. Besides there's too much guano spread around the islands. Guano, in case you don't know, is seabird and seal dung, and is extracted as fertilizer and ingredient for gunpowder since the 1840s. Imagine trampling on squishy excrement as part of your itinerary, not appealing ei? Prolly an affront to your senses, but this shiz is like, a gargantuan business for Peruvians.
So what attracts sea lions and different bird species to these offshore islands? The Humboldt Current (named after naturalist Alexander von Humboldt) flowing through the area pulls up nutrient-rich water from the ocean floor to the ocean's surface which brings about an ideal feeding zone for small fishes. Thereupon... (Yawn)... Beckons sea lions and sea birds that feed on them.
Did I just bore you there? Oh peaking of Humboldt, I secretly wept when I finally saw the Humboldt penguins (This crybaby moment may not be new to you if you've read what happened in Macau's Giant Panda Pavilion.). It was my first time to actually see penguins, and I'm quite proud to say that I saw them in the wild. No zoo can can beat that experience.
After two hours, we were back in Paracas' port. The trip to the so-called "poor man's Galapagos" was nothing short of amazing. Well worth the 35 soles (about $14) that we paid each. And I can hardly wait to see the real Galapagos, perhaps when I'm a poor man no more.
Round-The-World 2012, Peru Leg:
Huaca Pucllana, Lima, Peru: The Ruins And The Red Balloon
El Zaguan B&B, Lima, Peru
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