Sunday, June 9, 2013

Museo Larco, desert camping, Isla Ballestos

This'll probably be a short post--just a quick review of the last few day's activities as I lay here in my tent, under a canopy of stars nestled between the dunes.

Yesterday, Zack and I spent the majority of the day at the Museo Larco in the Pueblo Libre neighborhood of Lima. This museum is the private collection of some super rich old guy who loved archeology (specifically Peruvian) before he croaked. Apparently, he didn't like how people were looting ancient Incan/Huari/etc sights back in the olden days, and then selling artifacts on the black market, so (in a morally questionable move) he hired his own army of archeologists (read: looters) to go around digging up everything they could find to expand his collection. Im sure Zack's blog has a better description (

All that stuff is now on display, including thousands of artifacts in glass case storage rooms. The museum boasts countless priceless artifacts: ceramic vessels, human remains, jewelry and weapons and clothing made of gold and silver, precious stones, and shells. Also tapestries and textiles, and even portraits from the time of the conquistadors. The highlight of the museum, however, was the collection if erotic Incan pottery, a room full of ceramic vessels depicting every conceivable sexual act between a man and a woman (and a man or woman and him or herself). Insightful.

This morning we woke up at the crack of dawn to make the first bus (3:45) to Paracas, 3 hours south of Lima. Turns out the travel agent messed up our reservations and we didn't have seats, so we played yhatzee in the bus station until the 7:00am bus. Arriving in Paracas, we stashed the bulk of our stuff in the bus station (shack) and began a hike to the Reserva National de la Peninsula de Paracas, a fat desert outcropping on the Pacific coast of Peru. We had planned on making the 4 hour trek to the southern tip, but before we even got to the reserve entrance, a restaurant owner in Paracas who was heading down the peninsula offered us a ride as he was driving past us (I didn't even stick out a thumb). He drove us most of the way, leaving us at his restaurant ( where we felt obliged to share another amazing ceiviche!).

We then set out on foot into the desert where we photo-safaried giant pelicans and red headed condors and played around in the dunes, racing down them on foot much like my Nicaraguan volcano boarding experience. From the top of the highest dune, I could see all the way back up to the town of Paracas where the bus left us, and across the peninsula down to the ocean. When we finally reached the sea, we found the desert fell sharply off an endless precipice into the pacific. It was here that we made our camp in the heavy winds, tents blowing nearly out of our hands. With the rain hardened sand, it was tough to pound the tent stakes into the ground without a hammer, so we ended up weighing down our tents with rocks collected from the desert. Our tents were erected by sundown and we set up our soda can stoves to make a meal of lentils and ramen. The stars are amazing.

Tomorrow we wake up at 4am to roast a can of tuna and break camp. Sunrise over the pacific, then the 4 hour return hike to the town of Paracas (unless we get lucky again!) to catch an 830 am boat to Las Islas Ballestas--also known as "the poor mans Galapagos". I'm excited to see the wide range of undisturbed wildlife (tourists are forbidden to leave the boat), the candelabra geoglyph, and some amazing natural stone arches and landforms.

Good times.

UPDATE: we survived! After waking up mad early and realizing that the sun wasn't to rise for at least another hour or so, we made coffee and broke camp in the dark. The stars had disappeared and our headlamps were running our if juice, so we largely relied on the singular backup handlight that I had brought (thanks Pop!). The trek back across the desert peninsula was a dead-reckon in the pitch dark, but we made it back without issue following my compass, the sounds of the shore to the right, and dirtbike tracks. Also, google maps.

Making it back just in time to use the restroom at the tour office and stash our gear, we joined our tour group for the boat tour of the Islas Ballestas. Hardly a "poor man's" Galapagos, this unique cluster of small islands and rock formations had a character all its own. Thousands (perhaps millions) of birds dotted every square inch of the giant volcanic rocks that jut dramatically out of the sea, just 30 mins off the coast of Paracas, Peru. Humbolt penguins, blue footed boobies, red footed turns, giant pelicans, and gulls waddel, squawk, fish, and mate on every guano covered surface; the Peruvians used to harvest and export the guano (that's poop) for fertilizer. Sea lions basked on the smaller rock formations around the larger islands. The trip back was a scavenger hunt for dolphins; we saw quite few swimming sea lions, but had no luck finding dolphins.

Tomorrow: Sandboarding in the dunes of Huacachino!

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