So this weekend, we planned a short a trip to go to Pisco and Paracas, a nature reserve further south on the coast. We were also hoping to go to Ica to visit a couple wineries/piscarias. Thinking back on the trip, I realize I had a lot of Peruvian and life FIRSTS. Read on, amigos, or simply get the nutshell version by reading the bold points.
In the morning when we got to our stop near a park on the Panamericana highway, we watched as bus after bus after bus passed by and didn’t even stop. They didn’t have room on the big southbound buses. We thought we could just wait and hop on one, but I guess since it was a Saturday, they were full of people who caught the buses further North in central Lima. So it was the first time we waited longer than 10 minutes for a bus. Normally, you wait 1, maybe 2 minutes for a bus. In fact, we waited almost a half hour before we decided to take some action. We walked across the footbridge and decided to head NORTH to Lima to catch a southbound bus before it filled up. That proved to be an okay idea. The traffic into and from Lima was terrible, though. So we wasted another hour just getting back to the spot we stood waiting before, but this time, we were in comfortable and secured seats of our own.
Playing on the bus was the first Arnold Schwarzeneggar dubbed movie I’ve ever seen. In fact, it was also the first Arnold S. movie I’ve EVER SEEN. Am I am an American? No se ;)
About two hours into our bus ride, it sounded like we blew a tire. Andrew thought we were fine, but I knew better. Sure enough: first broken-down bus experience ever.
As my good friend Sam says, “Could be worse.” And yes, it could’ve been. The Peruvians agreed. We all filed out calmly and stood on the side of the road next to the beach waiting patiently and silently for about 20 or 25 minutes. I couldn’t believe how calm they all were. In the U.S., a broken-down bus would RUIN DAYS. But I didn’t hear a single peep about the predicament. For them, it wasn’t a predicament. Just a usual happenstance that sets their trip back only 5 Peruvian minutes. In Peru (and as I’ve heard, many other South American countries), time is no big matter. For example, the classes at the center that go from 4pm-6pm often go from 4:45pm when people show up to 6pm or 6:30 depending when people are able to leave. For Andrew and I, it also wasn’t a huge deal, but we DID have a lot that we wanted to get done, so we started wondering if we would need to take Monday as well to complete our itinerary for our trip.
Finally, a bus pulled up that had room for a handful of us. And by room, I mean standing room only. And that was fine; we set our packs at our feet and read as we rode. At the next big stop, much of the bus emptied so we were able to take a seat the rest of the way to Pisco.
In Pisco, standing in the central square, assessing our options and plan of action, we were approached by a young guy asking if we wanted to go to Paracas. It was perfect timing. WHY YES, WE DID. The guy took us to his small tourist company’s shop and we figured out our actual plan. We paid 80 soles for a taxi ride to Paracas and two tickets for the boat tour of the islands near the reserve for Sunday morning. We got some provisions, and off we went - a 15 minute taxi ride to Paracas.
Once in the small seaside town of Paracas, we connected with the same tourist company to finalize our travel plans. We decided to just go straight to the reserve that night and come back for the boat tour early in the morning. Even though it took a long time to finally get to Paracas, we knew we should just go for it and do our original plan for the trip. So the first time I spent 100 soles in one place, I bought us a taxi ride to and from the reserve. The taxi driver would take us all the way onto the reserve and to our more private destination, the beach Minas. We knew we wanted to get there in time for the sunset. The taxi driver wasn’t far, so he would pick us up in 20 minutes. And it would only take 30 minutes to get there. There were only 2 problems. One, we hadn’t eaten lunch or dinner and would need to get something to eat before we left. And two, the sun was setting ever-faster as the minutes fled. We found the nearest open restaurant and ordered ceviche (a delicious seafood dish), which we were guaranteed would be ready in 10 minutes. We could see the sun creeping closer and closer to the horizon line on the beach. UH-OH. We’re not gonna make it, are we?! As soon as we got the food, we asked for a to-go box. We only had 3 minutes to spare to meet our taxi driver. First time I ran in Peru. And it felt good. I’ve been Zombie-running at home and have been missing the exercise.
ANYWAY, back to the rush for the beach sunset. We got to the spot with our food to-go and don’t-cha-know-it, the taxi driver was late. How Peruvian. We waited 15 minutes and sadly watched the rest of the round sun disappear behind one of the cliffs. I told Andrew, “We could still see a bit of it once we get to the beach - that cliff is in the way!” Andrew wasn’t so sure it was even going to be worth 100 soles if we couldn’t witness the sight of our dreams. When the taxi driver came, we sped off, but we were pretty sure we were going to miss the entirety of the sunset. I took pictures from the car and we were able to see more of the gorgeous colors when we neared the reserve.
I noticed on the opposite side, the moon was rising. A full one. And I remembered, tonight would be the fullest moon of the year. “Well we won’t make the sunset, but at least we’ve got the moonrise,” I told Andrew. The reserve didn’t have any real paved roads - it’s all sand dunes with a line of rocks to show where you should guide your vehicle. I was thinking of all the setbacks we’ve had on our trip thus far. And I thought, these always happen for a reason. Right? Just as I was thinking that, our taxi faltered on a large hill. She sputtered and coughed and then stopped. OH GREAT, Andrew and I thought in sync. First taxi break-down. But then I relaxed. So if we’re stuck, we’re stuck. I’ve adopted a much more Peruvian attitude, you see :) Our taxi was almost out of gas. I don’t think the taxi driver realized he could go through an entire tank in one day. Oops. He got it to start again, though! Once we made it to the top of the hill, he turned off the car so he could try to get back with the gasoline he had left. So we hiked the rest of the way to our beach. Our taxi driver chivalrously took my pack. I was free to take some pretty sweet shots of the moon rising, then. We got to Minas and realized our fortune. The beach was facing EAST. So not only would we not have seen the sunset anyway, but we were in a perfect spot for the moonrise and one of the prettiest, fullest, brightest moons over the ocean. How many people in Peru were on a beach facing East watching the same thing we were? Probably only a few other lucky ones.
You see? I knew it all happened for a reason. We would also get to enjoy a most beautiful sunRISE on the ocean. First moonrise on the ocean? Check. First time camping on the beach? Check. First time being the only people on a beach? Check. It was small and cozy and perfect.
First sunrise on the ocean. INDEED.
We packed up quickly so we could be ready when our taxi driver returned - hopefully on time and this time, with gas in the car :) He WAS on time and walked all the way down to us so he could carry my pack again. We ate our provisions we bought in Pisca for breakfast - bread, bananas, and jam. We finished our breakfast near the marina in Paracas so we could hop on the boat with our tour group. As we sat there eating delightfully, I felt the tremors of my first earthquake. It wasn’t large at all, but it was enough for me to suspect it was an earthquake. Andrew wasn’t sure. But again, I thought I was right :) (And we found out later of course that I was. An earthquake happened at 7:40am about 100 kilometers from where we were.)
The boat tour proved to be an equally brilliant choice on our part. First, we saw the Candelabra lines of Paracas.My first big archeological sighting in Peru.
Then we went the the islands (or islas) Ballestas. SO GORGEOUS. Birds and penguins and sea lions on these remarkable rock structures. And it’s all protected! First South American natural reserve tour. We got some great photos too, obviously.