Shan’s flight lands a few hours after mine at the airport, and by the time we get her bags, it’s early evening when we check in to our hotel. I’m excited to see a friendly face for the first time in three months, so there’s no stopping us from hitting up the nightlife. We end up in an area which is seriously called Calle de los Pizzas, after the numerous restaurants serving up pies during the day. By the time we get there it’s all transformed into the nightlife scene and we bar hop around until it’s way too late.
The next day we wander around Miraflores, the vibe of which I can best describe as a pretty nice city that never left the 1980s. There’s no real architectural highlights, but it’s not a dump either. Plus there are some pretty cool cultural attractions. Shan didn’t make it to Machu Picchu, but it turns out Lima has it’s own historic ruins smack in the middle of Miraflores. The ruins of Huaca Pucllana are actually at least a thousand years older than Machu Picchu, and far more easily accessible. The setting isn’t as majestic as Machu Picchu, of course, but there’s some llamas, giant guinea pigs, and very strange dogs at the end of the tour, which is worth the price of admission. After that we stop by the Inka Market, which is Lima’s version of the ubiquitous crap markets that exist seemingly anywhere tourists might go. In the afternoon we head towards the ocean shore. While it’s warm enough to walk around in t-shirts, it’s not quite beach weather, but we take the stairs down the seaside bluffs and across the coastal highway to walk around the shore. We also stop by the nearby Parque del Amor, which is mostly a terrible sculpture seemingly made out of scrap metal and some mosaics designed by somebody who, in my imagination, was trying to replicate Barcelona’s Parc Guell on his lunch break while the original was described to him via shortwave radio. At night I find a sports bar to watch the Blackhawks sadly get eliminated from the Western Conference Finals. A surprising amount of Chicagoans are in attendance. Despite Hawks-related sadness, we take it relatively easy that night as we’re planning on moving on the next morning.
I’m also a little burnt out by photography at this point so I don’t really have any good shots of this stuff.
My running joke with Shannon is that she’s the first American tourist in history to come to Peru but not make it to Machu Picchu. On the other hand, spending the entire week just in Lima doesn’t seem enticing enough, so to add some variety we head a few hours south down the Pacific Coast.
Our first real destination is the coastal town of Paracas and its two natural attractions: the Islas Ballestas, also known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos (Peru tourism board needs to work on the marketing), and the Paracas National Reserve, a rugged landscape of sandy seaside cliffs. On the way, we stop by the city of Pisco to try out some more of the namesake local liquor. I’ve been a fan of pisco sours since day 1 of the W trek, when I had a couple in Refugio Grey. Shan has only been in Peru for two days but she’s equally on board with the cocktail, and dinner in Pisco seems to be only appropriate.
Pisco is not a particularly appealing town, and even the main pedestrian drag is a little shady at night, but we finally find a promising looking chifa. Peru’s location on the Pacific has made it a natural destination for Asian immigrants over the years (so much so that in the 90s, Peru’s president Fujimori was of Japanese descent) and chifa cuisine mixes typical Chinese food with traditional Peruvian ingredients. After dinner, another bus takes us the short rest of the way to Paracas, where we check into our hotel late.
All in all, not a bad way to spend my 100th day on the road.
The next day we intend to go on the boat tour out to the islands. We’re lucky. It’s the first time in a week that the boats have been able to go out in the weather. I hadn’t really considered the possibility that the boats wouldn’t be running and I’m not sure what we would have done otherwise.
Not far off shore, a dolphin pops out of the water not 10 yards away from our boat.
There’s penguins and birds I can’t identify, and seals sunning themselves on the rocks, but perhaps my favorite aspect of the islands is the remains of the guano-gathering operations that once operated here. Nowadays, the remaining structures more or less are guano, or at least completely covered in it.
Underneath us the sea teems with red krill.
We won’t be able to get as far as the Nazca lines, but there’s a mysterious carving in a bluff that we can see from our boat. Nobody really has any definite information about who made it. There was a civilization in the area that dated back to around 200 BC, but the carving could have been made as recently as the 1700s by Spanish explorers.
Back on dry land, we head just a bit further south to the Paracas National Reserve, a stark coastal desert area with cliffs overlooking red sand beaches. It’s not a Yosemite or Torres del Paine, in that the area probably wouldn’t warrant a trip on it’s own, but since we’re already down here it’s definitely worth checking out.
On the other side of the peninsula from the red sand, there’s a few seafood restaurants serving up the catch of the day. Perhaps the highlight of my entire time in Peru comes as I watch massive pelicans line up at one of the restaurant’s back doors to be fed leftovers.
Then it’s back to the town of Paracas for dinner and pisco sours on the seafront. No one would mistake it for a luxury resort, but with the palm trees, the sand, the sea, and the sky, what’s the difference? There’s almost nobody around, anyway. And for me, it’s my farewell to the Pacific for this trip in my with the Pacific Ocean, which has been a presence since El Salvador, and which I’ve returned to in Panama and spent time sailing on in Chile.