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18th August 2006 - Peru Trip - Day 10, July 13th - Paracas, Islas Ballestas, Sand Dunes to Lima

Woke up to a dreary misty day for our trip to the Islas Ballestas or locally known as the guano islands. We were taken to the small port by a minibus where largish looking speedboats were rapidly arriving, loading up, and departing full of people wearing their orange life vests.

We ended up being one of the last boats to leave, ours looked a little older than the rest, and this attracted the attention of the authorities, who poured over the boat and the captain's paperwork looking for mistakes. Luckily they didn't and we were given permission to depart.

As we got to the edge of the harbour where speed was restricted, the captain had to radio for permission to leave, but the radios didn't really work very well. He shut down the engines so that he could hear the faint reply, and after a few failed attempts to radio his intentions, started up, and left for the islands. We never did hear any reply, I think he just got fed up and left!

On the way out we saw the three pronged Candelabra, a drawing that has been etched into a hill on the shore of the mainland, but no one knows why it was drawn or when. It may be linked to the Nazca Lines further south or may be much more modern.

The Islas Ballestas are colonised by millions of birds who over years have deposited bird-poo up to as much as 50 metres deep over some parts of the islands. During the mid 19th century this became Peru's major export to Europe and the USA as fertilizer.

Nowadays modern technology has taken over in the fertilizer industry, and the birds are left to their own devices. You can still see the structures on the islands used to haul the poop onto the ships below.

We saw sea lions, pelicans, penguins, cormorants, boobies and brightly coloured crabs. The weather was iffy and very dull.

On the way back we passed many of the brightly coloured old fishing boats and were lucky enough to catch a school of dolphins in the bay.

Apparently there were not as many birds as other times in the year and it's funny how so many people come each year to see a load of bird shit on a rock!

We then drove a couple of miles to the Paracas National Reserve (Reserva Nacional de Paracas). We went to the high cliffs, where the ground seemed to be very crumbly, especially if you went close to the edge!

Half the party were convinced that they had seen a condor - take a look at the photos and let me know if it is! Maybe it's a vulture?

photos from Paracas

We then went looking for a tour company that could sort us out a trip to the sand dunes for a ride in a beach buggy and to try some sand-boarding.

We donned ski goggles and were taken on a 10 minute ride along the road to reach the dunes. Both drivers just drove flat out over the crests of the dunes, sliding and skidding around every bend. The beach buggies were surprisingly stable, and there wasn't a time were it didn't feel safe.

We then tried sandboarding, with the bindings just being glued on Velcro straps to put your feet through. It was difficult to get the bindings really tight, and before we were launched, the guides "waxed" the boards by smearing squeezy packets of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter on the bases.

Angie went first, and decided to sit on the board, she was pushed by the guide and went down the steep slope at a great rate of knots without falling off. Vanessa and Matt followed suit leaving Dre and I to try standing up.

Dre tried first and fell off about every 20 feet. Next up I managed to get about a quarter of the way down before falling off and watching my board career all the way down to the bottom (stupid straps!)

We then had to walk all the way up again in the soft sand - you'd think we could have got a ride back up? Noooo!

Matt managed to ride standing up on a gentler slope, and I managed my second trip down in one go without falling off. Yay!

Then it was back to their base via the 10 minute drive on the highway.

We then ate lunch in the posh hotel and drove back to Lima.