Early this morning we arrived in the port of General San Martin, just a few miles south of the city of Pisco.
Doug was not up to going on our scheduled tour today, so I gave his ticket to Elaine, one of our dinner mates. We took the ship’s tour that went to the Paracas National Reserve. It is an ecological reserve in the coastal desert. With all the green mountains we had experienced in the past few days, it was hard to believe that we could be in the middle of a desert area. The name “Paracas” means “storm of the sands” and probably refers to the windstorms that come every afternoon – the strongest in the months of July and August. It rarely rains in this area and is always very dry.
Our first stop was the interpretative site to learn about the different animal species in this area, as well as about the land itself and how diverse the area is. In Peru there are over 200 micro climates. We learned that the ocean belonging to Peru represents 0.1% of the total surface of the ocean, and provides 10% of the world’s fisheries. Sea otters are in danger of extinction. There used to be 22 million and now there are only 1 million. The numbers have decreased because of El Nino, as well as mankind. You can find sea lions, not seals, and bottle nose dolphin. There are wide variety of birds, including the Peruvian booby, similar to the booby in the Galapagos. There is also a bug called the cochinilla that is found in cactus. Its blood is used in lipsticks to give it the red color.
Our next stop was really interesting. We went to their Red Sand Beach, and the sand truly is red – more a brownish red rather than a Christmas red. The contrast was amazing, and it is the only red beach in the world. I was able to get a little stone – the type that causes the sand to become red when it is broken down by the water. The Pacific Ocean here is greenish from the plankton and is generally always cold – about 5 – 59 degrees – due to the Humboldt current. It was a stunning site. [Note to Bailey: while I think the mermaids would have liked this different colored beach, I’m not sure they would have liked the cold water – so I looked, but didn’t see a single mermaid!]
At the next stop we were able to see the Cathedral – a natural rock formation that has been eroded by the wind over time, and some of which collapsed with the last earthquake. On the rock were hundreds of Peruvian Booby – along with their guano. The odor warned us of the many birds perched here on the rocks. These are related to the Blue Footed Booby we saw in the Galapagos.
At this same stop just down about a hundred yards, there was another outlook called the Supay outlook. There was a beach at the bottom of a very high cliff – they called it a white sand beach, but having seen the best white sand beaches in FL, I can say that it was not white sand – but still pretty. From here we could see at a distance bottlenose dolphins swimming in the ocean.
While we did not see any of the condor birds (sacred birds for the Peruvians here) they come to this coast line during the sea lions’ birthing time to feed Before they had calendars, the condors’ arrival announced the beginning of the rainy season and the beginning of summer.
Our next stop was an area where you could find sea fossils in the sand. The best way to see them was to pour water over them so that they stood out. This picture shows some of the shell-like fossils along with this piece of petrified wood (click on it to enlarge it.) However, in many areas, you could easily see them without the water. Our guide had a chunk of sandstone with the fossils in it that he gave to me so I’m taking back of little of Peru with me. Behind this fossil area was what looked like a mountain of sand. It was here that in 1926 archaeologists dug out 429 well preserved mummies – found in the fetal position.
After this we went to Sumaqkay, a textile workshop and gift shop. The textiles were beautiful – and even more special seeing the looms on which they were created. The goal of this group is to preserve an ancient weaving technique as well as help the artisans in this community. Outside a Peruvian group was playing their native music – some of my favorite music. Also outside, we tasted Pisco, and it burned all the way down. I’ll take mine in a sour, please!
Before heading back to the ship we stopped to see the monument for General San Martin – the liberator of the Peruvian people from Spanish rule. From there we overlooked the town of Paracas, population about 2,000.
After getting back to the ship, we had a couple of hours before we sailed at 4:30. Doug was feeling much better so we had a late lunch. That night we went to the ship’s entertainment to see Jack Mayberry who had been on The Tonight Show over twenty times. What was not advertised was how long ago he appeared on that show! He was not all that great.
Another good day – only sorry Doug didn’t get to see Pisco. But glad he is back on the mend!