Our first stop on our Peruvian jaunt was in a small seaside town called Paracas, mostly known for the Ballestas Islands which are overflowing with birds and fur seals. This was followed by a night in Huacachina, which is a small town surrounded by sand dunes with a natural oasis in the centre.
We booked our transportation with Peru Hop, who make an effort to show you more than just the road to the towns and make stops along the way at interesting places. Our first journey began at 6:15am when we were picked up from our hotel just as we were trying to make lunch from the breakfast buffet. We hurriedly shoved random food items into our food bags and ran out to get on the bus.
On our way to Paracas we stopped twice, once to hear a story about the Peruvian god who made earthquakes by shaking his head when he got angry, and another time to visit some slaves tunnels located in an old mansion. The second stop was really surprising because I hadn’t known that there had been such a big slave trade in Peru. Our tour guide also said she would feel more familiar with the music of Africa than the music from the Andes because of the number of Afro-Peruvians in Lima history. The slave tunnels were tiny and dusty, which made learning about the slaves they kept down there to avoid paying taxes even more shocking.
When we arrived into Paracas we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves. Although there were activities to sign up for, they were all out of my budget and I’m currently trying to bring my average spend down after spending £160 on bus tickets. Our room was a cheap double room at a place where the owners didn’t speak English, and the walls were thin enough to hear people cough lightly in the room next to you. Instead of hanging around there, we wandered around the town and failed to decide on somewhere to eat dinner. Instead we ended up having ice-cream for our meal and going to bed slightly hungry.
The next morning we had booked onto the boat tour of the Ballestas Islands, so we were up early and at the meeting point. For roughly £12 the tour was great. We got to see fur seals, penguins and a huge variety of seabirds. Although we couldn’t quite understand what the guide was telling us, it didn’t seem to matter much. The last animal we saw before heading back to land was a fur seal, who fully embraced the moment and gave us a sassy pose before we left.
After the tour we had just enough time to head back to our accommodation, check out and lug our bags back to the coach for a visit to the nearby national reserve. This was also a free trip provided by Peru Hop, which was fascinating. At the edges of the reserve the desert meets the sea and we saw some beautiful cliff edges while feeling like we were surrounded by barren land.
The journey from Paracas to Huacachina was under two hours which meant we arrived in the early afternoon. Once we were checked into our hostel, Mark went out to take photos from the top of the sand dunes surrounding the town and I took a nap. Unfortunately our dorm room for the night had terrible airflow, with just one window and a fan in a really high ceiling for ventilation, so it wasn’t the nicest room to be in.
We started chatting to some guys staying in our room, who we also had dinner with and sat with afterwards while they played drinking games. It was good to chat to people who had just come up from the direction we were heading and get a better idea of what we could do with our time in South America. Going out for drinks didn’t really appeal to us so when they were ready to head out we just left them to it and went to sleep.
The next morning, after we’d eaten probably the best hostel breakfast we’ve had in Peru, we went out for a walk around the tiny town and up the sand dunes. It was really hot even first thing in the morning so walking up sand was more difficult than I was ready for. I left Mark to continue on upward and get some photos, but stopped halfway to take in the view.
Our next bus was going to be a long one, but it included a wine tour and stop to take a look at the Nazca Lines. The wine tour was a bit weird, mostly because our tour guide was pretty eccentric and didn’t know when to stop talking. We got to try some Peruvian wines which were super sweet because of the really short time they spend fermenting the grapes. Although I really wanted to take some home, I doubted the bottle would stay in one piece in my bag for the next month.
After the wine tour we got on the bus for a bit before stopping to take a look at the Nazca Lines from a random tower on the side of the road. Some people have crazy theories about the lines, but I just think they’re a big art project made by some ambitious people a few thousand years ago.
We went for dinner after that and got snacks and drinks in preparation for the long, uncomfortable overnight journey to Arequipa.