This past week we were supposed to have gone to Arequipa, hiked the Colca Canyon, eaten some rocoto relleno and relaxed in what is supposed to be one of Peru’s cleanest and most beautiful cities. Unfortunately, our plans were disrupted by some strikes, but we made the best of a bad situation, traded in our bus tickets and headed to Paracas, a nature reserve located on the coast of Ica and one of the country’s fastest growing attractions. You see, in Peru, when life gives you lemons, you hand them back and ask for limes.
Paracas has two main attractions, the first being Las Islas Ballestas, three small islands, maybe ten or fifteen miles off the coast, which various animals call home. You see a huge quantity of the guano birds, which produce inch upon inch of crap until some poor soul comes out and shovels away several feet of it to be used as natural fertilizer. There are also terns, pelicans, boobies, and even Humboldt Penguins. However, by far the most stunning sight is the countless number of sea lions lounging about: a couple thousand at the very least.
Number two on the “to do list” is the nature reserve. While dominated by mile after mile of sand inland and rocky cliffs along the coast, there are some truly beautiful beaches, and the dunes make for a beautiful backdrop. You can see the scattered attractions in a tour bus or a private taxi, but we decided to rent bikes – not thinking ahead of time what eight hours on a bike seat will do to a person who hasn’t been on a bike in nearly two years. We got back to our hostel sore and many hours later than we had planned, but it felt good to do something active and thoroughly exhausting.
Being on the coast in a touristy area of Peru, it’s only assumed that we ate plenty of seafood. Ceviche, fried fish, grilled fish, calamari, you name it. It was all delicious. What we hadn’t anticipated was to find a restaurant specializing in paella, one of the signature dishes of Spain. We have absolutely no experience in what paella should be, and it’s possible that a Spaniard would scoff at the Peruvian imitation, but it was damn good nonetheless. And the best part of Paracas? It’s home to another volunteer, with whom we were able to catch up and grab drinks (mine an embarrassingly tall and tri-colored concoction named after Machu Picchu).
Our original vacation was set for a week, but this included 17 hours of travel to Arequipa from Lima and 17 hours back. Paracas is just under four hours away, so we were able to spend around four days in Paracas and the rest in Miraflores. While there, we checked out a high-end chocolate shop, grabbed a burrito in Barranco, and accidentally found a third location of the chocolate museum we’d already visited once in Cuzco and once in Miraflores. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the particular chocolate dessert Menda was looking for, so we headed over to the Miraflores branch and somehow ended up walking out with a bar of dark chocolate weighing in at a kilogram. It’s probably sold for baking purposes, but who’s gonna say otherwise if we want to just eat it straight?
Parque Kennedy is the focal point of Miraflores, the neighborhood in which the volunteers usually stay when passing through Lima, and one of its many appeals is the curious quantity of cats roaming around. We had a few hours to kill one morning, so we decided to see how many photos we could take of different cats. We never got an exact count, but I think we hit somewhere between 80 and 90. Below we’ve included some of the better photos of them along with pictures from Paracas and a few from past entries that I never got around to uploading.