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Report 2008: Peru - Land of the Incas

By Paula G. Cullison from Arizona, Summer 2011

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Page 8 of 9: Islas Ballestas and La Reserva

photo by Paula G. Cullison

Islas Ballestas - Paracas

My Star Peru flight from Cusco to Lima was at 9am, so my departure was early. I developed a fondness for Cusco and its people, so I was a bit sorry to leave.

Upon arrival in Lima, I looked for the Green Taxi booth. In this way, I was guaranteed that there would be no problem. I confirmed the rate and paid. My destination was the Cruz del Sur bus station for the 1:30pm bus to Paracas. I had decided to spend a few days south of Lima in this small coastal town. To this end, I located Hotel El Mirador (on Go2Peru), a budget priced hotel with a lovely pool and within walking distance from the bus and boat stations. Although the hotel could use a coat of fresh paint, it suited my needs. The morning coffee and rolls were most enjoyable. The couple at the front desk was charming.

The main attraction is Islas Ballestas and La Reserva. The former is Peru’s mini-Galapagos and the latter reminded me of the great sand dunes of New Mexico.

I was so enthralled with the boat ride to Islas Ballestas that I went again the next day. The boat holds about 30 people and life vests were provided for all. I purchased a hat before getting on the boat ... just in case bird droppings might fall from the sky (and they did). The guide spoke both Spanish and English with a little French thrown in.

Known for the abundance of guano, the island is a valuable source on income for Peru. Only the workers are allowed on the island which is home to thousands of birds including: the Humboldt penguin, cormorants, boobies and pelicans, seagulls, as well as sea lions. One can also see dolphins and whales swimming alongside the boats. At one time the US and Britain lent a substantial sum of money to Peru, using guano as collateral. Guano continues to be a main export to Europe where it is used for fertilizer.

A side trip to La Reserva was most interesting, as this vast area of sand dunes ends at a lovely bay popular for summertime swims. The rock outcroppings (especially Cathedral Rock) form an artistic pattern against the water and sand. The hotel made arrangements for the tours. There were only three of us on the La Reserva tour.

During my stay I decided to walk along the beach until I arrived at the new luxury Paracas Hotel, which is absolutely gorgeous! I had coffee in the lounge area. It was apparent that I was the only one there, so the servants asked me to help them with their English. I had no agenda, so I obliged. I wrote some key sentences for them (e.g., Would you like another drink? Here is your check.). It was so much fun that I decided walk around the property and then have lunch in their restaurant (where I found only two other tables occupied). Word must have gotten out, because the restaurant staff also asked for help with their English.

As I enjoyed my Cerviche and Pisco Sour, I gave a few more lessons. In appreciation, the chef sent out a complimentary sampler plate of desserts. By the time I left, I was stuffed ... for sure. My guess is that most tourist groups arrive late at night, have breakfast, take the boat ride to Islas Ballestas, and leave; thus allowing them little time to enjoy the resort.

On the last day, while sitting by the pool of El Mirador, I was approached by Cesar who was doing some public relations work for the local office of tourism. He asked me some questions and then introduced me to the owner of the hotel. Cesar took a photo of us which he was going to use to promote the hotel! Remember that all of this is in Spanish, as few locals speak English.

Throughout this trip, I continued to meet people from all over the world. Waiting at the Cruz del Sur ‘station’ for the return bus to Lima was no exception. There I met a group from Argentina and a few other South Americans. Although the coach buses are very comfortable, they show terrible American films with only one audio system for the entire bus. I should have taken my noise cancelling head-set and iPod, as it was a three hour bus ride. Somehow the man across the aisle from me was able to sleep. Oh well!

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