Helen and Paul World Tour 2005/06 travel blog

Candelabra on the way to the Ballestas Island

First sighting and whiff of the bird colony!

He's a big boy

Helen finally gets to see her penguins - even if they are...

Daddy sea lion watches over everyone

Others just chill out on the rocks

Don't mess!

A flubba jubba tries to get up the beach

We made a stop in Pisco whose name is the same as the white grape brandy drink that originates from this area although at one point in history Chile claimed that the drink originated from their country and the two countries had a little fight over this.

The town of Pisco wasn't too exciting the main reason to stop is to go to The Ballesta Island, which is often described as Peru's answer to the Galapagos Islands or at least The Lonely Planet described it as this.

We caught the 8am boat to the islands loaded with travel sickness pills on an empty stomach in case the ride was choppy.

First we passed an etching in the sand of a candelabrum - not much of a tourist attraction after you've seen the Nazca lines. It was originally thought that this candelabra was a pre-cursor to the Nazca lines but it turned out that The Freemasons made it in the 18th century, and looking at it, it didn't have the finesse of the Nazca lines.

We then arrived at the Ballesta islands which have been formed by erosion to form countless natural caves and arches, this is where the islands' name comes from the word Ballesta means 'bow' (as in archery). There are colonies of thousands of seabirds mainly peruvian boobies, which aren't the most interesting of birds; we only spotted a few penguins, which was the main reason for going. There were however thousands of sea lions as it was the middle of breeding season. They made such a noise, sort of a barking noise. It was like being a member of a film crew for a nature programme as we were able to get really close to them; some even swam around the boat. Some of the huge bulls were fighting with each other over the lovely lady lions.

When we got close to the islands we were overwhelmed with the nasty stench of guano - basically layers of sun baked, nitrogen rich seabird droppings which have been diligently deposited on the Islas Ballestas by the large resident bird colonies. In places the guano is more than 50 meters deep. The Peruvians don't view the guano as just a nasty stench though, every 7 years the locals collect this guano and sell it to us Europeans to use as fertiliser, all for a price of course.

We left Pisco that night on an overnight bus for Arequipa. Catching the bus involved waiting on the side of the Pan American highway until our bus arrived. The Pan American Highway is like a motorway in England only the driving is much more erratic, not many of the cars have headlights and to overtake they beep their horns until the slower car pulls over. So standing at the edge was slightly unnerving.

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