Thursday 28 May

After an uneventful night (no ghostly apparitions or clanking chains, etc) we catch a taxi to the Ormeño bus depot. It is a different depot to the one where we bought the tickets, a little further out of town and smarter—in keeping with the luxuary express coaches. The bus is a comfortable double-decker. We are downstairs, but the large windows afford a good view even so. A film (in english) is showing on the TV screen, but the passing landscape is more captivating. It is mainly very dry, predominantly sand dunes and rocks. It is not flat though by any means. We pass settlements along the way set back from the highway at the end of dirt tracks neatly lined with spotless white marker stones. I wonder how anyone could manage to eek out a living on such arid land. Some of them might be holiday retreats, but the scenery could hardly be called beautiful. Other less smart buildings might belong to fishing communities. We pass many long barns with dilapidated cane roofs, the purpose of which I can not guess.


Paracas

We reach Pisco mid-morning and after some difficulty book an afternoon tour to the Paracas Peninsula Reserve, and a morning trip to the Ballestos Islands for the following day. The source of our problem is that most of the tour companies combine both trips into a single outing and we are too late to tag onto one of the afternoon parts. But we finally find a company that is happy to do the afternoon tour with just the four of us, and even manages to find us an excellent English-speaking guide for us at short notice.


Flamingos and Pelicans

We are taken to the edge of the reserve where we find pelicans and flamingos on the water’s edge. Fortunately for us, the flamingos have arrived early this year on their annual migration. There are also boobies diving for fish, and sand pipers, well, sand-piping I suppose.

An adequate museum gives us an interesting history of the region beginning from the first known human settlements around 7000 BC. When someone died, the people used to sit them on a cloth in the foetal position, and then wrap them and all their possessions up into a cone-shaped bundle. This would then be buried upright in the sand.


Cathedral Cave


Inside Cathedral Cave

We find more wildlife at the “cathedral”, a cave at the bottom of a tall cliff. A dead seal has been washed up on the shore, and large scavenging birds are feeding off it. Inside the cave is a thriving community of crabs of all shapes and sizes braving the waves crashing in from the open sea.

We return as the sun is casting long orange shadows across the desert. The wind has blown up during the afternoon and the sand and dust are making us uncomfortable.

We eat dinner in a restaurant just opposite the hotel. The octopus pælla is delicious, but the helping is so generous that even I can only manage half of it, much to my shame.