Category Archives: Peru

The Galapagos of Peru

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Inhabitants of Islas Ballestas

After almost four hours of a dusty ride across largely barren landscape that stretches south of Lima along Peru’s Pacific coast I was ready for a break and I found a perfect spot to do so. Paracas National Reserve may not be as famous as Machu Picchu or Nazca Lines but it is a very special place. For one, it’s the only marine reservation of Peru, where amazing abundance of sea life meets the country’s rugged coast. Only in a few places on earth the desert touches the ocean in such a spectacular way.

Islas Ballestas – the Ballestas Islands – are rocky outcrops just off the Paracas Peninsula. They can only be reached by boat from Paracas or Pisco (yes, as in pisco sour). And due to benevolence of the nutrient-rich Humboldt Current that washes the Peruvian coast, they are blessed with an amazing abundance of sea and bird wildlife. As the boat moves swiftly toward the islands, it becomes clear that they have no inhabitants other than sea lions, porpoises, and birds – LOTS of birds. Read the rest of this entry

One flew over the Nazca Lines

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A sleepy town of Nazca - gateway to the Lines

The Nazca Lines, those mysterious shapes scratched in the scorched surface of southern Peru’s desert, are one of the most famous UNESCO-listed destinations in the world. So what new can be said about them? Perhaps not much in a way of new facts or learning, given that fundamentally we just don’t know much about who made those impressive geoglyphs and why. All we know is that they were etched in the face of the earth between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500 by a mysterious civilization that used them for ritual, perhaps religious functions. One explanation I heard is that they were used for ritual processions asking the higher-ups for rain, which is not a surprising plea in this arid place. Or was it the aliens – a theory advanced by Erich von Däniken’s 1968 book The Chariots of Gods? You choose the version you want to believe =) But visiting the lines for everyone is a new, unforgettable experience.

The name Nazca likely comes from Quechua “nanasca,” which means “pain and suffering.” Yup, it doesn’t rain much here and that hurts, but it’s precisely what helped preserve the lines for centuries – the dry, windless climate of this spot. The lines themselves were formed by removing the top layer of reddish pebbles and exposing the lighter-colored desert surface beneath. That simple. But few people see them from the ground level since the best vintage point is from the air (hence the theories of the lines being alien landing strips or navigation markers). Read the rest of this entry