We arrived in Paracas right on dinner time, and our guide took us all to a pizza restaurant that offered the second pizza half price for Peru Hoppers. It was actually really good pizza too! We got to know a few of our fellow Peru Hoppers sitting around us over dinner, and afterwards we decided to go for a drink at the bar of one of the hostels in town, though we had an early start so didn't stay too late.
In the morning we jumped on a speed boat that took us out to the Ballestas Islands, also known as the poor man's Galapagos. On the way we passed a petroglyph carved into the hillside on the shore known as the Candelabra. It is still to be determined if it was created by the Paracas people or sailors, as a visual aid from sea.
After about 45 minutes on the boat we arrived at the Ballestas Islands, quite interesting rocky formations sticking up out of the ocean. They are know as the poor man's Galapagos as they are absolutely teaming with birds and sea lions, which can be seen at close range for a tiny fraction of the cost of going to the Galapagos. Having been to the Galapagos only recently however, there is absolutely no comparison.
The boat takes you through some tunnel formations and weaves through the islands, where you can see Penguins, Boobies and Sea Lions among many other birds. The boat goes only metres away from the rocky formations where the sea lions are lounging around, most of which couldn't care less just like the ones on the actual Galapagos.
Like the Galapagos, the islands absolutely stink, however we would say even more so given the higher concentration over a smaller area of the wildlife. In fact, the concentration of bird poo is so great, they actually harvest it there and use it to make fertiliser.
Soon after we were making our way back to Paracas. We had some brunch with a few other Peru Hoppers before we joined the afternoon tour to the Reserva Nacional de Paracas. We were shown an area where there used to be a natural bridge but it had collapsed in a recent earthquake, then taken to the museum of the reserve, which was actually quite interesting.
The Museum included information on how the marine landscape formed and the origins of the marine life, as well as the effects of global warming on the World's oceans and the species of marine life that live in the area.
After this tour we were dropped back in Paracas while the bus and most of the other Peru Hoppers continued on their journey. It seemed not many people actually do the "Hop Off" part, but we were determined to slow down our travels so we would stay an extra 2 nights and pick up the next bus that came through.
The next day we took it really easy. We had slept in and started with a morning coffee at around midday, then stuck around for some lunch at the same café overlooking the jetty at the northern end of town.
Then we walked south of town and discovered all the fancy resort style hotels and fancy houses of Paracas, then walked back along the beachfront which left us wondering why a resort area even exists on such a stinky beachfront. At least they appeared to have nice pools. We contemplated purchasing a property that was for sale and turning it into a hostel, but the stinky beachfront thing was a bit of a deterrent.
Back in town we had pretty much exhausted all Paracas had to offer. We hung out in the hostel until it was a reasonable hour to go out for dinner, or so we thought until we discovered the restaurant we chose didn't open until 7.30 and it was only 7. So, we went back to the pizza place instead, and found Mel and Emery, the only other Hoppers that had hopped off in Paracas, so we enjoyed a nice dinner with them.
The next day the bus left Paracas in the early afternoon, so in the morning we just grabbed a coffee and had a minor meltdown when two separate ATM's in town ate 2 of our cards before joining the bus for Huacachina.