April 24, 2018 – Paracas to Nazca, Peru
After breakfast this morning, we walked a short distance through the town of Paracas to the dock where we boarded a 32 passenger boat which was an oversized speed boat for the trip to the Ballestas Islands. There were just the 10 of us on it so we were able to move around from side to side for the best views. We were barely away from the dock when we saw dolphins. There were several including a mother and her baby. The Ballestas Islands are a half dozen or so rocks jutting up from the ocean bottom. There is nothing at all growing on them. We saw boobies, cormorants and acres and acres of penguins. The top of one of the islands was a sea of penguins. We also saw sea lions. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any albatross.
We saw the Candelabra of the Andes which is huge. It was an interesting sight. Some folks think it is part of the Nazca Lines or that it points to the Nazca Lines. There are numerous theories as to its meaning. See Below.
After the boat trip, we boarded the bus for our next stop which was a visit to the Tres Generations pisco winery. They still make the pisco in the traditional manner of stomping the grapes. There is a competition each year for the best winery stomping which produces the king and queen of the festival. The sexiest male and female stompers are selected as the king and queen. This festival is held in March each year so we did not see it. After a tour and explanation of how pisco is made, we retired to a tasting room where we tasted 4 varieties of pisco with 42% to 44% alcohol content. We also tasted 4 dessert wines made with pisco. A couple of them were very near to Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua. This was on an empty stomach as lunch wasn’t until the next stop!
After boarding the bus without mishap (given that we were all slightly tipsy), we headed for the Huacachina Sand Dune. The town is an oasis in a desert of sand dunes. When we arrived, we ordered our meals and then headed out for a dune buggy ride through the dunes. All but Gerhard, Richard, Susan and I went sand boarding on the dunes. It is like snowboarding in a way. You lie on this little board and slide down the dunes. I never cared much for sledding so I passed. Besides, I didn’t want all that sand in every crevice. The dune buggy ride was great. I was seated next to Coleen, and she kept her eyes closed most of the time. I thought it was fun.
When we returned to the restaurant, our food was ready. We had another late lunch with it being 4 p.m. before we finished eating. After lunch, we headed out for Nazca. It was dark before we got here so our 1st glimpse of the lines will be tomorrow. The lines are the real reason I came on this trip so I’m excited about tomorrow when I will actually get to see them.
I did learn some more about my fellow travelers. Donna worked for a company taking orders for computer component parts. Rob manufactured the copper component of circuit boards and still does, but he subcontracts the actual work to someone else.
This is a very congenial group, and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun together.
Etched deep into a Peruvian seaside hill, the Paracas Candelabra, more colloquially known as the “Candelabra of the Andes,” is a massive geoglyph whose origin is still unknown.
Thanks to carbon dating of artifacts found near the monumental work, it has been dated back to around 200 BC, but the purpose and creators of the symbol are still unknown. The design, which takes the general form of a bulbous three-pronged fork, is etched a good 2 feet into the petrified sand of the hill and runs almost 600 feet from tip to tip.
Its description as a candelabra is a bit of a misnomer as it has never truly been thought to represent such an item. Instead a number of theories abound as to its significance. One prominent theory is that the geoglyph is meant to evoke the trident of Incan creator god Viracocha, possibly created in order to curry his favor. Another theory posits that the symbol is meant to stand in for the local Jimson weed which has hallucinogenic effects and may have held a ritual significance, the large design acting as a beacon home for people tripping on the drug. Still others believe that the etching was simply a sign meant for sailors looking for the Paracas coast.
Whatever the true nature of the ancient monument is, it continues to capture the imaginations of researchers and visitors to this day. Maybe its true value is not in the truth of its existence but in the questing it inspires.
Visitors can see the Paracas Candelabra by taking a boat trip from Paracas to Islas Ballestas (also known as 'poor man's Galapagos'). However you cannot get off the boat so have your camera ready. Boats run daily unless weather conditions are dangerous.
The Ballestas Islands are a group of small islands near the town of Paracas within the Paracas District of the Pisco Province in the Ica Region on the south coast of Peru.
Composed largely of rock formations and covering an estimated area of 0.05 square miles, these islands are an important sanctuary for marine fauna like the guanay guano bird, the blue-footed booby and the tendril. Other notable species include Humboldt penguins, fur seals and sea lions amongst other mammals.
Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored brandy produced in winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Made by distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit, it was developed by 16th century Spanish settlers as an alternative orujo, a pomace brandy that was being imported from Spain. It had the advantages of being produced from abundant domestically grown fruit and reducing the volume of alcoholic beverages transported to remote locations.
The oldest use of the word pisco to denote Peruvian aguardiente dates from 1764. There are several suggestions about the origin of the word. The beverage may have acquired its Quechua name from the Peruvian town of Pisco – once an important colonial port for the exportation of viticultural products – located on the coast of Peru in the valley of Pisco, by the river with the same name. Chilean linguist Rodolfo Lenz said that the word pisco was used all along the Pacific coast of the Americas from Arauco to Guatemala, and that the word would be of Quechua origin meaning "bird".
This claim is disputed by Chilean linguist Mario Ferreccio Podesta, who supports the former Real Academia Espanola etymology according to which pisco was originally a word for a mud container. However, the Real Academia Española later supported Lenz's theory, and underlines the Quechua origin.
Other origins for the word pisco have been explored, including a Mapudugun etymology where "pishku" has been interpreted as "something boiled in a pot," which would relate to the concept of burned wine (Spanish: vino quemado).
The term influenced the Mexican Spanish use of the slang term pisto to denote distilled spirits generally.
Huacachina is a village in southwestern Peru. It is built around a small oasis surrounded by sand dunes. It is in the Ica Province, about five kilometers from the city of Ica. The oasis is featured on the back of the 50 Nuevo Sol (Peru’s money) note. Huacachina has a permanent population of around 100 although it hosts many tens of thousands of tourists each year.
Huacachina is built around a small natural lake in the desert. Called the "Oasis of America," it serves as a resort for local families from the nearby city of Ica. It is increasingly an attraction for tourists drawn by the sport of sandboarding on sand dunes that stretch several hundred feet high. Other popular activities include dune buggy rides on buggies known locally as areneros.
According to local legends the water and mud of the area is supposed to have curative powers and both locals and tourists often bath in the waters or plaster themselves with the mud in an attempt to cure ailments such as arthritis, rheumatism, asthma and bronchitis.
Legend holds that the lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess removed her clothes to bathe, but, looking into a mirror, she saw a male hunter approaching her from behind. Startled at the intrusion, she fled the area leaving behind her mirror which turned into a lake. Other versions hold that she fled, leaving the pool of water she had been bathing in to become the lagoon. The folds of her mantle, streaming behind her as she ran, became the surrounding sand dunes. And the woman herself is rumored to still live in the oasis as a mermaid.
Water stopped seeping into the lake in the 1980s and this has now started to become a threat to the lagoon. Recently, private landowners near the oasis have installed wells, which has reduced the level of water in the oasis. To compensate for this water loss and preserve the oasis as an aesthetically pleasing destination for tourists, a group of ten businessmen devised a plan to pump water from a nearby farm into the lagoon. The actual process of artificially pumping water into the oasis began on April 2, 2015 and since then more than 2,577,971 cubic feet of water has been pumped into the lagoon raising the height of the water by as much as 10’. The governor of the region was highly appreciative of the effort. It was announced in 2016 that the Peruvian scientist Marino Morikawa, who created a nanobubble system to decontaminate lake El Cascajo, will be given the project of restoring the Huacachina lagoon.