Monday, January 7, 2013

Paracas National Reserve

Carlos is waiting, and is elated that I will go on the second tour. I have half an hour to nose around the shops, munch an empanada, and find a bathroom. The same bus is waiting, with the fat man still in his seat in the middle. This time instead of just 5 passengers, we drive up & down Hotel Row and fill every place. Good thing I hopped on early! A window near the front, like I like.
We have a guide, again an excellent one. I have not yet had a bad guide in Peru. Each one has been a great storyteller, not overdoing it, interested that you're interested. All he says he repeats in English for the three non-Spanish speakers present (me and a pair from Indonesia).
Late November is usually still flamingo season here, but this year all the flamingos left in October. A small clock came in a few days ago, and some of them are still feeding on the muddy tidal flat at the very end of the bay. The tide is out, and they are too far from the end of the permitted trail to see more than a group of pinkish dots. But we have seen flamingos!

Then it's over the neck of the penisula to the ocean coast to view the deserted coast from the top of the cliff. The land for hundreds of miles up and down the coast is barren because it never rains here. Sometimes a little mist, but even that is quickly dried by the persistent wind that prevents even cactus from getting much of a foothold. There is a little bit of life on the land, but even the insects are few and far between.
The sea, however, is teeming with fish and shellfish and the rocky coast is thick with birds come to get them. Turkey vultures catching updrafts come eye to eye with us on their way up and down.

The land is so dry there's hardly a road. Parts have been asphalted at some point, others not: in places you just make your way through the sand, staying between marker stones. When the wind comes up you can't see anything for the particles in the air, but it's calm so far today.
We come to a different-colored cliff, one full of iron, a solid rock risen up in the midst of the pale sedementary formations all around. The sea pounding this one cliff deposits red sand on the little beach just north, just a single cove of red between the blond.

We're at the tiny port of Lagunillas. There are a handful of buildings, and then twice as many cars gathered around to take the catch to town in coolers. Overlooking the boats and the inlet is a collection of restaurants where we have time for a lunch stop. It is a quarter after 2...
our guide has a deal with the best-situated of the eateries: we get a free Pisco Sour there and he says the food is very good.

I'm not terribly hungry, having had that empanada and a piece of lemon cake earlier (in anticipation of a 4-hour tour skipping lunch), but fall to the temptation of very fresh seafood. Not many meals left in this trip, after all.
I  sit with the Indonesians and a Portugese man, and wait. They take their time with our orders, and then with the food, and an even longer time with the beverages. In fact, we have to ask four times to be served. The ceviche is fine, but I have gone for the fish soup, having not yet tried it in Peru, and it's quite lame. It's like a can of Campbell's chicken-noodle, minus the chicken, and with bits of tasteless fish in it. The pisco sour, when it finally arrives 30 minutes after our arrival and after many reminders, is not even any good.
Having wasted most our break trying to have this meal, I would like to pay my bill and go for a stroll and some photographs in the last ten minutes before the bell (we really can't tarry, because the Indonesians have to catch their bus to Lima at 4, otherwise we would all just relax and go with the day as it unfolds). All I have is a 50 soles bill, and they don't have change.
So they just don't bring me my change.
I insist with the waiter, twice, who says they're working on it, and I eventually go inside to make something happen. They're just arranging silverware back there. The owner has a 20 and a 5, but owes me just 24. What, they're just waiting for some coins to walk in the door? No other customers are here; that could be a while. Finally they give me a 1-sol discount on their bad soup and worse service.
Time to get back on the bus already – no exploring this lonely spot. Next time (what next time?) I will try harder to ignore my stomach, and satisfy my eyes instead. That's never worked before, but it might some day.

Back in Pisco I have a shower and a rest (it's so tiring to sit on boats and busses all day! Seriously, you pay such intense attention to vistas you'll never see again, that a 9-hour day is exhausting.) before going out to arrange my bus back to Lima tomorrow.

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