Our second overnight bus of the trip arrived in Lima at around 5 am. Fortunately we had been in Lima recently so we headed to back to the hostel we previously stayed at to kill some time before our next bus. We were able to get into the hostel (*walked in confidently like we still lived there*) and hung out and slept a bit in the common area until our next bus at 8 am. That second bus took a few hours and dropped us off in Pisco. After 13+ hours of travel and not a lot of sleep, we were exhausted. As soon as we stepped off the bus we were bombarded by taxi drivers and since none of us were functioning at 100% we said yes to the first guy without negotiating to keep our journey moving. About a half hour later we had finally arrived at our next destination, Paracas, a small desert beach town on the west coast of Peru.
Our hostel in Paracas was awesome with lots of open air, and we even our own private roof deck overlooking the ocean complete with rocking chairs and hammocks.
Paracas is a small town and we were only a couple blocks away from the ocean. That first afternoon and evening was spent recovering from a night of travel, stopping for coffee and lunch, relaxing on the rooftop, and then finally enjoying ceviche and fresh seafood for dinner along the waterfront. Walking around town is also where we met Alfredo, a top 5 in our list of “characters met during our trip”, a travel agent who was working his tail off to sell us one of his excursions and/or travel to neighboring cities. He went as far as sitting down with us at dinner to tell us about a great deal. Can’t knock the hustle.
After breakfast the next day we rented bikes and took off for the Reserva National de Paracas, a desert peninsula and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shortly after leaving the main highway and entering the reserve it became evident that we were truly in the full on desert. Just sand, everywhere, broken up by only a few roads. Nothing else. Truly a bizarre landscape to find yourself in after having spent the night along the ocean’s edge.
We spent the next four hours riding through the desert and along the ocean. The desert is no joke, and we must have reapplied sunscreen at least every hour. We stopped at a few beaches along the way, and took a break to eat the snacks we brought about midway through at a tiny fishing village near the water before biking back to Paracas.
We again relaxed on our rooftop that afternoon before heading to dinner. For dinner, we returned to a restaurant we had stopped by the previous night in search of ceviche. The owner told us he had no fish but would buy some for us if we came back the following day, so we did. He made some wonderful ceviche which came with the best chifles (fried plantain chips) we had on our entire trip. As a bonus, a local neighbor boy took a liking to us and shared numerous examples of his water color paintings with us throughout our meal. He especially liked Elizabeth who was able to have a full conversation with him in Spanish and really get an understanding of his creative inspirations.
Following our ceviche and art show we found another restaurant along the water for dinner. We sat down at a small place with a grill where we had seen fresh seafood being grilled the night before. Our meal included fresh fish and octopus grilled directly next to our table, as well as a few drinks to celebrate Mike getting rehired at his same company from before we left on this trip. We followed up dinner with a few celebratory cigars on our rooftop, this time for Chris’ birthday (belated by a week or so). Before long, around 12:15 am or so, our hostel host came up and politely asked us to go to bed. Whoops!
The next morning we set out for the waterfront and boarded a tour boat for a trip to the Ballestas Islands National Reserve, also known as “the poor man’s Galapagos”. The boat took us around several islands and included some historical landmarks with narration by our tour guide, and, more importantly, tons of super cool wildlife. Throughout the tour we spotted dozens of species of birds, including penguins, many crabs hanging on to the rocks at the water line, dolphins, and even some sun-bathing sea lions.
As icing on the cake, on our boat ride back we ended up passing through a pod of curious dolphins. A 10/10 day for wildlife spotting.
Back on land we headed back to our hostel to pack up our stuff. We met up with Alfredo, who we had finally come to an agreement with for one of his great deals to get us to our next destination. Bags packed and ready to roll, we showed up to our pickup location only to be told that the bus was no longer coming (presumably due to an accident). We sat on the curb for a while. After nearly an hour of Alfredo running around town, trying to find anyone who could take us to our next town, he finally found a guy with a very small car and very little trunk space. Since we didn’t really have any other options we all crammed into the car with our backpacks on our laps.
The main highway, like most of the roads we’ve been on in Peru, was a two lane road with nothing but desert on either side. We knew by this point it was common to pass in the other lane of oncoming traffic, whether you’re in a tiny car packed to the brim or a giant bus. Whoever our driver was (Alfredo’s friend?) didn’t talk at all and turned out to be a pretty aggressive driver. After what felt like a few close calls, we arrived safely to our next destination. Traveling is never dull.