Paracas National Reserve
The first time I passed through the village of El Chaco, gateway to the Paracas National Reserve, I saw way too many tourists for my taste and I was completely disgusted. I thought that it wasn’t worth the effort to visit the reserve, so I drove on toward the Cañon de los Perdidos as seen in the previous post.
After my first attempt to find the canyon, I also tried to enter the reserve from the south. As you will notice looking at the photos, I got scared of the road when I got close to the coast. Thus, I turned back to drive on to Nazca.
After my week in Nazca, visiting the ruins of ancient cultures, and flying over the superb Nazca Lines, I started to have regrets. I decided to turn back once more and to visit the Paracas Reserve. On the way back, I tried a second time to find the Cañon de los Perdidos and I succeeded in finding it. Then, I came back to El Chaco and slept there before a first visit in the reserve.
All this to-and-fro between the reserve, the Cañon de los Perdidos, and Nazca ended up costing me an additional 900 kilometres of driving. Next time I reach a place I am not sure I will like, I will visit it anyway. I will not have to turn back because of regrets...
But first, here are some photos of my first attempt at entering the reserve (right after my first attempt to reach the Cañon de los Perdidos).
Isolated in the deep desert, I don't know in what field this small business works. Around these buildings, it seems there are dozens of kilometres of sand in all direction. What are they doing? It looks like a giant greenhouse.
If I go around it on the left, it means a hundred metres off-road,
and I don't want to sink the bike in the sand.
Village of El Chaco (Paracas)
The village of El Chaco, also known as Paracas, is not very interesting in itself; a promenade facing the harbour with numerous restaurants and shops with tourist prices.
On the other hand, what is really nice is all the fishing boats anchored in the bay.
Islas Ballestas - Paracas National Reserve
Going to the islands
The boat tour is fairly long with a duration of about 2 hours; 35 min to go, 50 min exploring the islands, and 35 min to come back.
To think that one week before, I had decided not to visit the reserve. In the end, I simply loved the boat tour to the Ballestas Islands. Yes, it is packed with tourists, but it is for a good reason. The site is spectacular.
Only a few minutes after leaving the harbour, we have an opportunity to observe some dolphins. So lucky!
The geoglyph Candelabra (candleholder) is located right at the exit of the bay. It measures 100 metres in height, and 50 in width.
The origin of the glyph is still a mystery. Some say that it is linked to the Nazca Lines while another theory says that it was used as a navigational aid.
The Ballestas Islands are often nicknamed the 'poor man's Galapagos' due to the abundant fauna.
I have never seen the Galapagos, so I can't compare. However, it is true that the fauna is rich, especially the birds.
Islands packed with birds means that the soil is covered in guano (bird excrement). Of all the crazy wars in the history of humanity, a war over 'shit' is probably one of the weirdest.
In the agricultural world, people quickly discovered that guano is a very rich fertilizer. In fact, guano is roughly 30 times more effective than cow dung when used to fertilize fields. It is easy to understand why this material was worth so much, enough to prompt a war.
In 1864, Spain invaded one of the islands (then under Peruvian jurisdiction) in order to take control of the guano production. This was followed by a naval war implicating Peru, Spain and Chile. Peru took back control of the islands after several months of war, in 1866.
Nowadays, only scientists are admitted on the islands. Please note that chemical fertilizer ended guano exploitation.
Paracas National Reserve
I am back on the mainland, and I take a few days to explore the land portion of the reserve.
Like many people, I read a lot of negative comments about the reserve. Many say that it's not worth the effort and it's too developed and touristy. At the entrance, a worker provides a map and recommends driving only on the suggested itinerary. Consequently, if you follow only that route, it is true you going to be disappointed.
I carefully checked the rules on the map and on the sign at the park entrance, and nothing indicates that you can't drive to other places in the reserve. Know that I didn't go off-road, I only followed tracks used by fishermen that go about their business almost every day. The suggested route contains only about 20-30% of the route I did.
In the end, the reserve has been one of my favourite places on the entire coast of Peru. The landscapes were fantastic on the land portion as well as the marine portion.
This fisherman lives alone in a hut on top of the cliff.
When he wants to go fishing, he must use the rope to climb down the 20-30 metres cliff to get to the beach. So much work!
There are three people at the bottom of the cliff. On top, there is a small 125 cc motorbike.
I can't see the rope that helps them go up and down the cliff.
Where I am right now, nobody comes here.
A campsite a few kilometres away from the coasts.
Why not sleep on the beach? Everywhere in Peru, winds blow very hard on the coast in the afternoon and in the beginning. Hard enough to prevent installing a tent.