Our first stop after leaving Lima was El Chaco.
It is better known as Paracas but that name actually refers to the whole peninsular, not the village. As you can probably guess from the photo, tourism is its raison d’être and, although it was not my first taste of Pisco – or my last for that matter – one of the small bars along the malecón was an excellent place to sit watching the sun go down sipping a “Pisco Sour”.
Although it remains a fishing village, it is the de rigueur [sorry – seem to have a French head on today] boat tours of Islas Ballestas and the half day trip around the bald, desert Paracas reserve which is the main source of income for the locals.
We did both trips in one day – organised by our hostel – and no more expensive doing it through them than any other way. At Nuevo Sol 55 per person [£11 approx] it was a fabulous day out.
Shortly after leaving shore in our high speed boat we rounded a headland to be faced with a fabulous geoglyph – the “Candelabra”.
We were given a few theories about the origin of this amazing feature from it being constructed as a navigational tool for pirates to it being a kind of Masonic sign. Most historians date it to approx 200BC – because of the pottery remains found nearby – and believe it to be a representation of the trident [the lightening rod] of the god, Viracocha. At 595ft tall and cut 2 feet into the sandstone it is certainly an impressive sight whatever its origins.
The Islas Ballestas….
Some of the females didn’t seem to be getting along quite so well….
We stopped at the Julio C. Tello Museum which offered information about the culture of the indigenous Paracas people as well as insights into the flora and fauna. We were surprised to read that Chilean flamingos fly down from the Andes to feed here on the rich sea life and, even better, to walk out to the shore and see them….
We thoroughly enjoyed our day and would recommend it to any travellers visiting Peru. In fact, if you had your own transport it would be a great place to spend a few days. We only saw the tip of the park and, if the rest is left to nature and not often visited it is probably even more spectacular.
Our next stop was Ica, just a one and a half hour bus ride down the coast. We had decided to stay in the Ica/Huacachina area because the Lonely Planet made it sound a much better place than Nasca. Having now visited both we would have preferred to stay in Nasca or even Palpa, a small village between the two.
Our hostel was situated on the Ica/Huacachina road and we walked to the “Oasis” of Huacachina….
We first visited the Tacama vineyard ….
The Tacama vineyard is well set up for tourists…
We had gone to Ica to visit the famous Nasca Lines. Practically everyone who goes to see the Lines takes a plane ride over the site. We didn’t want to do that – mainly because of the cost for a relatively short flight. With a limited budget choices had to be made somewhere in the planning and we chose to splash out instead on Machu Picchu [well you have to!] and the Colca Canyon [Condors and all that]. More of those in separate blog posts to come.
In the meanwhile, Pablo offered to set us up with a driver for the day to see the Nazca Lines from the ground and also visit other sites of historical interest. At £30pp this seemed like a much better offer than a 1-2 hour flight [depending on where you started e.g. Lima or Nazca itself] with costs ranging from around £200pp upwards.
Our tour started at 7am and we drove through the stunning Palpa Valley….
….to the Casa Museo “Maria Reiche” – the home of the famous German mathematician and archaeologist who researched the Lines from 1940 until her death in 1998. She did much for the preservation of the lines though was unable to prevent a road going straight through part of the site.
The museum contains many of her maps and drawings of the Lines giving precise dimensions and sites….
But, these weren’t the only things she studied or the only exhibit. We also saw this mummified body of a woman – it was how people were buried by Nasca and Wari people. They were made ready for their rebirth by being placed in the embryo position before being wrapped in material and encased in a casket and then placed in a Necrópolis.
We were taken to a local potter…
Next, Los Paradones – which was where we first encountered real Pre-Incan and Incan culture in Peru. The site comprised several terraces and buildings made of adobe and stone and became an important Administrative Centre for the Incas. It was part of the route that the Incan runners took from coast to mountain with fish and seafood to make Ceviche. Our guide told us that the Nasca people first started building the site [adobe blocks]…
…. have become synonymous with Incan buildings but, as many of the Peruvian guides were very keen to tell us, Peru is much more than Inca. Its history dates back well before the Incas came and the technology used by the Incas was initially developed by cultures that were around Peru much earlier.
We were shown, from a distance, the highest sand dune in the Americas – at least that is what we were told and we have no proof otherwise. I guess it doesn’t seem that spectacular from this angle ….
The Aquaductos de Cantalloc were our last stop. The extensive network of channels…
It was quite an impressive system and, once again, constructed by the Nasca people. So , all in all, we felt we saw more of the culture and traditions of the indigenous people by seeing Nasca by land for which we have to thank our guide who’s name I am afraid to admit we have both forgotten!