We arrived late into Paracas after finally escaping Lima, which seemed to sprawl for miles and miles. The scenery on the journey was terribly bland. Hilly but no trees and only the odd town and poverty hut to look at. Many people in Peru live in tiny shacks alongside cows and other cattle, and how they survive in the remote areas, where there isn´t a piece of arable land for miles, I don´t know. We had dinner on the sea front in scruffy Paracas, but the fresh sea bass was first class. Pulled out of the Pacific that very morning! The main attraction at Paracas is the Isles Ballestas, or Ballestas Islands, which is apparently the Peruvian equivalent of the Galapagos Islands. I found it to be more like Peru´s equivalent to the Farne Islands in Northumberland, only less scenic. Although there were plenty of pelicans, the odd small penguin, a few sea lions and a cormorant or 2, the scene mostly resembled a landfill site, with a load of gulls flapping around a barren and bland piece of land. Still, the speed boat journey was quite fun and the local guide, Luis, was full of sexist jokes ands the like.
We then left Paracas and drove by Pisco, which is where the earthquake fund related riots were last week, without incident and went on to visit a winery near Ica. After the short tour we got to taste the produce. The winery also produced the famous Pisco sour, which was a gorgeous shot and something to look out for. It is only made in this part of the world, much like how Champagne can only be made in that part of France.
In the early afternoon, by which time the sun was shining bright, we arrived in a beautiful desert oasis (see pic) and nearly all of us opted to take the dune buggy/sandboarding tour high into the massive sand mountains surrounding the oasis. It was an absolutely exhilarating few hours, with the buggy drivers racing up and down the hills for miles, and coming down some of them sideways. It was like being on a rollercoaster without tracks, and the view from the top was absolutely fantastic. We could just as well have been in the Sahara. We then got the sand boards out and took it in turns to slide down 3 progressively larger hills face first, which was great fun. It was a shame when we had to leave but everyone was high as a kite when we got back from the rush of it all.
It was a 2.5 journey then on from Ica to Nasca, and on this stretch the desert scenery was much better. It reminded me a lot of Death Valley in California. Our progress on the Pan American Highway was halted by a massive traffic queue in a small farming village. It was a single carriageway road and the queue appeared to stretch for miles with nothing coming in the other direction. Fortunately our personal minibus driver for the day was adventurous and decided to overtake the stationary lorries (its notable how there are almost no private cars on the mjaor highways, only busses and lorries) and investiage what was up. By this time it was 4.30pm, and once we´d got past a mass of lorries we came to the front of the queue to find a huge crowd of people around a tyre lorry and a car, wo didn´t appear to be damaged or blocking the whole of the road. The police were stopping people going through. We waited a while and our guide went off to investiage why we were waiting. It turns out they had blocked the Pan American highway at 4.30pm to reconstruct, for the benefit of accident investigators and the families, a fatal road crash that had happened a month before! Absolutely crazy. Some of the lorry drivers were enraged, and other cars attempted to drive round through the fields. It was a crazy scene but the road was finally reopened at about 5pm, and we safely got to our lovely hotel in Nasca.