The road to no where…
That is certainly how it feels from a coach window as I stare out across the bleak and desolate wasteland that is Peru´s West Coast. All I can see is an expanse of sand and barren rock that stretches all the way to the horizon in all directions, with the occasional hill, breaking the monotony.
Having been in Huaraz for nearly three months, it was starting to really eat away at me, that i hadnt explored much of the country. After visiting Llanganuco Lake two weeks ago, i was itching to see some more of what this hugely varied country has to offer and so with an instant approval from Luis, I loaded the backpack that had started to grow grey hair and hit the road again. I treated my Peruvian family to a meal at my fav restaurant the night before departure, where we feasted on Chicken and chips ( A nice taste of home and felt good exposing them to Western cuisine). The next day, after loading my backpack in a record time ( nearly as quick as my amigo Richard last year!), I bid my goodbyes to my family and was moved when Luci, my grandmother, gave me a small bag of sweets for the journey and I was soon laughing away as I realised just how much in common she has with my own Nanna.
I boarded my very comfortable bus at 10pm and was waved off by Alan, who accompanied me to the bus station to make sure everything went well. I call him ´ The Guvnor´ and he certainly proved it that night, especially when he went to the trouble of contacting his mother and sister, who live in Lima and asking them if they could collect me from the bus station.
After yet another sleepless night aboard one of Peru´s buses, I staggered into the bus terminal at 5am with anothe British lad and tried to work out where and how i would catch another bus to Pisco, the small town I wanted to visit that same day.
As I trawled through my Lonely Planet Guide ( Spot the Tourist!), I soon noticed a little lady with a younger girl staring at me from the doorway they had just entered. I had no idea whether they were staring at me because I was Daniel and they were Alan´s family, or whether it was because I looked half cut, sleep deprived and sporting a hairdo with a mind of its own!
They appoached me with caution and asked in broken English whether I was Daniel. I was relieved and very touched that Alan´s mother and sister had made the effort to collect me, espcially at this hour. We chatted as best we could and they kindly invited me to their small apartment in the centre of the city. Here I properly met Alan´s mother and three younger sisters, two of which speak very good English, just like the Guvnor himself! They served me breakfast and were absolutely great. I will certainly be vsiting again, when Im next in town. Sadly I couldn´t meat Alan´s Papa as he was out of town on work.
Later that afternoon, i was accompanied to a different bus station on the outskirts of the city, with Alan´s mother Maria. I gave her a big kiss on the cheek and then commenced the 3 hour journey South to the town of Pisco.
A very nice Swiss couple, made the journey pass in a breeze as we soon found ourselves passing through the coastal desert, which stretches from the foothills of the Andes all the way to the Pacific. Its certainly the biggest beach Ive ever seen and of course its great as you can always find a nice spot away from the other tourists and screaming kids, although it might be a bit if a trek to the sea.
Incidentally this barren desert is also one of the driest parts of the world and it certainly looked like it! The Peruvian desert stretches all the way down to Chile, where it joins the Atacama, a norrow, but very long desert, with some spots not having seen rain for over 50 years. A great spot for a tennis tournament I think!
Eventually we arrived in Pisco, just after dark and I made a short walk to the Central Plaza, which was teeming with people and was my home for the next two nights. I decided to stay at Belem Hostal, which was in the thick of the action and proved a great choice as i met the very friendly owner, a 26 year old guy named Nelson and his sister Lourdes, who was stunning! He soon persuaded me to take one of his tours the following day, which would take me out to Paracas National park, a small collection of islands, home to a vast array of wildlife. It has become known as the ´ Poor Mans Galapagos Islands´ and so thought it highly appropriate that I pay it and its inhabitants a fiendly visit.
After a nice meal, a few drinks with Nelson and two Canadians and a night of blissful sleep ( compared to the night before ). I woke bright and early and jumped out of bed in a Fire Sam manner. I climbed on the bus waiting for me outside my hostal and made the short drive to the small port, where we would meet our Skipper and his boat.
I soon got chatting to a young Canadian couple and ended up teaching them some Spanish. Who would have thought ey? We were the only gringos of the 18 people making up the party and it was nice being in Peruvian company. It certainly helped my Spanish develop further as I chatted away and introduced myself to almost everyone on the bus.
Soon our rickety old boat left port and started chugging its way across the 10km gap, between the main land and the islands. The journey stated very smoothly, but it soon became a little choppier as headed further out to sea. I strengthened my sea legs, by chatting away in Spanish to the Tour Guide and soon became aquainted with our Sailor. he was a weather beaten old man, but was good company and very generous as he let me steer the boat for a few minutes. I tended to use the helm, as an aid to keep me upright, as the floor was very slippery and it soon became obvious that my trainers offered no grip what so ever. In between this, I did actually manage to control the boat successfully and I felt very delighted that I had gotten everybody to the islands safely.
After handing the boat back to the safe hands of the true sailor, we spent the next hour or so circling the small collection of islands, that were haven to a vast array of wildlife. The bird life was incredible and the noise was deafening and the smell, quite discusting. Despite this it was nice hanging out with the birds, despite being pooped on twice! Managed to spot a few Sea Lions and a couple of pengiuns ´ doing the walk´. It was very funny seing it in the flesh. The highlight of the trip was on the return voyage, when we all spotted a Humpback Whale surface for air. It was certainly an awesome sight and one I am most happy I saw.