Peru–West Coast

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

– Gustave Flaubert


I took a day bus from Arequipa to Paracas, rather than the many night buses, and am very glad I did.  The South Coast of Peru is beautiful, even for someone who has been spoiled by my number one favorite, Big Sur.  So on the left were many gorgeous seascapes, enormous sand dunes hundreds of feet high, and on the right the desert sands and moonscape prevailed.

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But I encourage you to look at some much better images here:  South Coast Photos The quiet harbor town of Paracus, just south of Pisco, and a couple hundred km south of Lima, is the lauch spot for the Ballestas Islands and the Paracas National Reserve.  Here as some pics of our couple hour boat ride around the Islands.  Note that I love pelicans, and they have special meaning from when Carol and I were courting, counting them when we drove the Santa Cruz coast bus route, and talking in code on the radio about numbers of pelicans heading toward the other.  You can count them by the thousands here.

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Penguin colonies abound on the Islands, as well as seals, sea lions, cormorants, and dozens of other bird species.  Note the birds using the old guano exporting dock as a nesting ground…there was once a shitty war over control of the rich guano deposits.

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Here are real photos, especially closeups of the very cute penguins: Ballestas Island Photos

Then I went to the Paracas National Reserve, where I saw 30 million year old fossils from when this was the sea bottom, natural bridges and cliffs recently collapsed from earthquakes and erosion, more pelicans strutting around like kings, and seascapes including the red sand beaches.

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Due to time constraints, I made the hard decision to totally skip Lima (I was there for over a week on my last trip here), and went up to the busy, little city of Barranca (pop. 45,000).  I hated the incessant honking that seems endemic to Peruvian drivers, who honk when anyone slows down, gets near them, or for just about any other reason.

Visited the recently uncovered, oldest civilization in So. America dating back about 5000 years!  Previously, the city of Chavin de Huantar (900 BC) near Huaraz held that title.  Generations of people in the neighboring town grew up playing on the sand covered hills without knowing what lie below until an archeologist flew over and noted the geological inconsistency of the hills.  Caral was the main seat of government of the 18 city-states in valleys there.  Six stone pyramids were found here, along with amphitheaters, ceremonial rooms, altars, circular sunken plazas, etc. covering a huge area.  Below are some map renditions of what it is supposed to have looked like, an aerial view, and a couple of images of what’s been uncovered to this point.  Also, featured below are amazing sacrificial dolls from the era, and a sample of the rocks in twine sacks used in the foundations of the buildings to allow them to rock back and forth with the earthquakes without falling.  Note that modern-day architects use this theory to build earthquake resistant buildings today.

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image image image   image image You can check out more images of Caral, if you’re interested: Caral Ruin Images

Heading from Barranca to the highland town of Huaraz we were blocked by this huge herd of goats, but were soon amongst the highest peaks in Peru.

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I went for an amazing hike toward the glaciers around Huaraz, and here are some sample views of the mountains, cascades, glaciers, and lakes I saw, as well as my favorite rock.  I don’t have the superlatives to describe the beauty of this area, and now understand how people spend weeks hiking in this wonderland.  I was limited by the 17,000 foot high trails and lack of oxygen…my heart was truly working overtime to distribute what little oxygen I could take in!  An Israeli IDF guy on the trail made it higher than I did, but collapsed and it took many hours to get him down.


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I am writing this, and you are likely reading it, to get some of the thrill of amazing sites you may not ever see.  So if you’re not going to Huaraz soon, do take a minute to do the next best thing and see these photos:  Don’t Miss These Huaraz Shots!

After Huaraz, the winding road down the Andes was thrilling and I saw several pueblos I could have settled into if I had more time.  But the desert road north was certainly rather boring.


I did appreciate attempts at recycling taking place in Peru:


My next stop was the fishing village, cum beach and surfing town, of Huanchaco outside Trujillo.  The humidity was such a contrast to the highlands (again).  Below is the image of the reed boats still in use, an amazing parade of over 1000 people in this small town celebrating the anniversary of one school (!), and my attempt to capture the large left break at sunset (you can see some surfers still out). The surf was down while I was there, and note that there is a spot on the coast where you can catch a wave and ride for over a mile! A casually dressed woman approached me on the beach, asked where I was staying and whether I’d like company while in town.  This appeared over the line of non-sex worker behavior, and I apologetically declined the offer.

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I spent the next day in the wonderful colonial town of Trujillo (one of the best preserved when it comes to architecture) before jumping on an all night bus up the coast further.  Here’s a taste of the buildings there, though I’m sure most of you have had your fill of colonial architecture:

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I decided not to stay in the surfer beach town of Mancora in the very north of Peru, but rather jumped a bus to Guayaquil, Equador.

May all your trails be crooked, winding, dangerous, leading to the most amazing views, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you.”  – Edward Abbey

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