There’s more to Peru than Machu Picchu, which has in recent years suffered from overcrowding and is in danger of “being loved to death.” So much so that new regulations have been put in place for crowd control. I headed south of Lima to explore the provinces of Pisco and Ica, which offer natural attractions and vinos excelentes. (This is the second of a three-part series on Peru.)
Birds of a feather: I slept through most of the three-hour drive down from Lima to the Paracas Peninsula, but woke up in time to see the rebuilding shantytowns of Pisco province, devastated by the 2007 earthquake, and the resort town of El Chaco, base for explorations of Las Islas Ballestas. We start seeing birds (pelicans). There will be more. Paracas, Peru.
Line in the sand: I’ve always wanted to see the Nazca lines, and they're not far from here, but I won’t get a chance. This is the lone geoglyph in the Paracas Peninsula. Its provenance is unknown but there are many theories. It’s called the Candelabra, but my guide Pedro thinks it’s meant to be the shape of a cactus. It was formed by someone(s) digging a two-foot-deep trench in the sandy rock. It could be old, or not so old; it probably pays to keep things a little mysterious.
Las Islas Ballestas are sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s Galapagos,” and indeed these tiny islands and their waters teem with wildlife, fed by the nutrient-rich Humboldt current. Besides sea lions, there are dolphins, penguins, cormorants, boobies, etc.
Put a bird on it: A nesting pair of red-footed cormorants and an Inca tern make the world beautiful. Islas Ballestas, Peru.
Shit show: They call it “white gold,” and for a while in the 19th century, guano was one of Peru’s most lucrative exports. Apparently the Brits felt it was a quality fertilizer and imported tons of the crap. It was so valuable a war was fought over it with Chile. The Ballestas islands are protected, but guano is still gathered once every eight years for market.
Ivy climbing the walls at the Hotel Paracas. Peru.
The first of what will surely be many ceviches this week. I say bring it on. Aranwa Resort, Paracas, Peru.
Despite appearing to be dry and dusty (annual rainfall is so rare it’s measured in measured in millimeters, and I noticed roadside trees actually accumulate layers of dust), the southern coastal region of Ica is said to have the country’s best wines, not to mention pisco, the national drink. In fact there’s a province here named Pisco, so that should tell you something. I'm no connoisseur, but it was all quite yummy. Now I have friends from Chile who will claim pisco as theirs, but since I’m here, we’ll go with what my new friends say. El Catano, Ica, Peru.
Happiness is when you race up the sand dunes at sunset in a buggy driven by someone who doesn't seem to know the meaning of “despacio” and he takes your camera and tells you to jump with your two new Peruvian besties, and despite your only jumping two inches off the ground and having a shoulder injury he gets this picture, which captures the day’s essence, if not the reality. Huacachina, Peru. Gracias, Ruben.
1001 Peruvian nights: A star-filled evening of Ica Malbec, grilled meats, and fireside stories, propped up by pillows in local indigenous textiles and lulled by Peruvian criolla music on the Spotify. Huacachina, Ica.
Photos © Norie Quintos