Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Venturing Out of Lima

Paracas was this crazy adventure that a group of us decided to go on. It was our 2nd weekend out of orientation, our first weekend after classes had “for real” started and – I don’t know – maybe we wanted  to exercise our freedom.

We did plan ahead, you don’t just go into an adventure totally unprepared (plus I’m a worrywort. So of course we planned.) Anywho, we made reservations at the Kokopelli Paracas hostel and booked spots on PeruBus, left after classes got out on a Thursday and came back on Sunday sunburnt and exhausted but with plenty of memories. This is the tale of that adventure, broken into anecdotes for easier digestion.

Arriving – The Sketchy Saga

We bused into Pisco after dark (probably around 9:30-10pm) and were immediately confronted by a taxi driver offering to take us wherever we wanted to go. He agreed to take all 6 of us to Paracas so we shoved into the equivalent of a 4 passenger Subaru and were off. Please keep in mind the following: none of us knew exactly how far Pisco was from Paracas. We didn’t know what the terrain looked like because it was dark. We didn’t know what type of roads to expect. We didn’t even know exactly what the hostel looked like. Ok. Now tell me that you have complete and utter unwaivering faith in my judgement :). No? Ok probably good. Spoiler alert: we all lived. But that doesn’t change the fact that at the time we were in an unmarked taxi with a man who claimed to be a taxi driver and who we were trusting simply because we weren’t likely to find a better option. I’m sure that everyone was thinking basically the same thing “we are going against every warning ever given to us in orientation about using taxis. *insert favorite expletive here*”

The road was bumpy, the driver stopped to get gas (aka major red flag, but Fallon assured us that the fuel gauge was on E), and the way was poorly lit. (Turns out we skirted Pisco and took some cock-a-mamie back way to Paracas. The taxi ride back into Pisco on Sunday was much smoother). We finally got to the hostel and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

But our night’s adventure wasn’t over.

Ok so I’m pretty well known to be an avid animal lover. If I came with a warning it would say “WARNING: Still as obsessed with animals as she was in 3rd grade.” Anyway. I love dogs. I also know a fair amount about doggy behavior. So when we were standing outside of the hostel in the middle of the night and all of a sudden I hear loud, aggressive barking, I kicked into high gear. We all did, pushing each other through the door and hoping against all hope that if it bit one of us it wasn’t rabid. Luckily for us, he was friendly and greeted the hostel manager with a lick of the hand and friendly tail wag. Crisis averted, I proceeded to make friends with him, an action that shocked no one. This is Charlie. He’s a 2 year old mutt of some sort and mouthy, but in a puppy kind of way.

The Bear

 *side note* I do not claim to have any knowledge of the true origin of half the things I say. I just grew up hearing them. So for those of you who do not know, in this context, when I say “The Bear” I’m not referring to Baloo or Smokey. I’m referring to a headwind.

The town of Paracas is home to the Paracas Natural Reserve. It is located approximately too far to bike into the Bear from the little itty bitty town. Since the wind was too bad for tours to the Ballestas Islands to go out (this should have been our first hint), we decided to rent bikes and see the park. The bikes were dropped off, we got some vague-ish directions from the hostel and set off. The wind didn’t seem too bad at first. We rode out of town and stopped to take our first “holy crap we’re in the middle of nowhere” pictures.

You’ll notice I’m wearing flip flops. This shouldn’t shock you.

We went along the paved road for awhile and were truly introduced to the Bear. While it kept the heat off, it did nothing to prevent the sun from scorching our skin (we had heard that the sun was much stronger in Paracas, still don’t know why, but I can testify that it is definitely a bad place to run out of sunscreen) and didn’t make biking any easier. Some of my readers (family, I’m looking at you) have had the misfortune of witnessing me when I decide that all I want to do is sit down and melt into the floor- preferably in an air conditioned locale- in the middle of a bout of exercise. If you haven’t witnessed this, consider yourself lucky. It is not pretty. Luckily, my fellow travelers didn’t experience the most extreme version of it. But I was doing some major dragging. I vocalized the idea of going back multiple times especially when we didn’t immediately find the beach we were looking for. On the way to said beach though, there were some decently pretty vistas and an ICE CREAM MAN.

Catherine and Erin cooling down after climbing a hill.

Catherine and Erin cooling down after climbing a hill.

If you look on the sign, we were headed to Lagunillas Beach.

So this was all pre-beach. The beach was, admittedly, gorgeous. Was it worth the 3+ hour bike trek into the wind through sand and sun? EHHHHHHHHHH yeah, mostly.

Almost standing on the edge of the world

Almost standing on the edge of the world

Lagunilla Beach

Lagunilla Beach

These people are great <3

These people are great <3

Seagulls in flight

Seagulls in flight

We hung out for awhile here. As you can see, it was beautiful. What you can’t see (or rather feel) is the amazing breeze. We walked around the beach, then ended up sitting and just enjoying each other’s company. At this point, Erin realized that her hands were so sunburnt that they were dark red. For fear of sun poisoning, we moved into the shade of a small shack near the beach. The problem we faced was another hour-plus bike ride back in the same sun. Erin, Catherine and I decided to stay back and try to catch a taxi. This was more difficult than it seemed. First of all, we were in the middle of the fracking desert. Second of all, there was zip, zero, zilch, nada in terms of cell service, so we couldn’t call. Thirdly, the map that had had the bike rental number on it had blown away shortly after our adventure began so even if there was signal, we didn’t have a number to call. Luckily, a large white van full of tourists showed up so Catherine and I went over to learn what we could learn. We talked to the driver, explaining that we needed a taxi for 3 girls and 3 bikes but couldn’t get a call out. He said that there was signal in the next place he was driving his tourists to and that he would call a taxi for us. We thanked him profusely and went back to wait. The other 3 of our group began the bike ride back to the hostel in Paracas. Interestingly enough, the shack we were using for shade had some pretty large bones in front of it (for decoration, maybe?) Anyway, I have NO idea where they found these bones or what they are a part of, but the anatomy nerd in me was both fascinated and terrified by them. So of course I took some pictures. 😀

Erin waiting for the taxi

Erin waiting for the taxi

Our temporary refuge

Our temporary refuge

Vertebrae with my drawstring bag for size comparison

Vertebra with my drawstring bag for size comparison

Huge vertebra and some skulls, and various other bones

Huge vertebra and some skulls, and various other bones

Still amazed by the vertebrae

Still amazed by the vertebrae

Skullssss mwahaha

Skullssss mwahaha

look at that collarbone :D

If you can’t tell, I LOVE BONES. THEY ARE SO FASCINATING. Did you know that there is a tiny little divot in the top of the femur (the part that connects to your hip) called the Fovea Capitis? Well now you do and you also know that it is my favorite part of any bone in any body. Also femurs are my favorite bones, because they are crazy strong AND *bonus* can be used as clubs in times of adversity. :)
I’m getting back to the story, I promise. This black van showed up after about 30 minutes and the driver somehow managed to shove all 3 bikes into it and drive us back to the hostel. No more biking for me for awhile, needless to say.
Kokopelli: Hostel Fun
Kokopelli is gorgeous and I found that I really enjoyed hostel life, though I later found out that Kokopelli is a very high end hostel so I need to try more hostels before I decide to love them. When we arrived the first night, the room we had booked was under construction so they upgraded us to a room that slept 8 people (the room that is pictured below sleeps 14) for our first 2 nights. I was going to try to explain the dynamic, but I can’t find the words right now, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Paracas is in a desert, after all

Paracas is in a desert, after all

For my flower-loving readers

For my flower-loving readers

Restaurant/bar area

Restaurant/bar area

Reception room art

Reception room art

Pool area art

Pool area art

Beach right outside the hostel

Beach right outside the hostel

Erin taking advantage of the hammock situation

Erin taking advantage of the hammock situation

Welcome to the 21st century

Welcome to the 21st century

Art in the computer room

Art in the computer room

Yes, that is the ocean.

Yes, that is the ocean.

Sparrows in Kokopelli

Sparrows in Kokopelli

There were 2 happy hours each night so we tended to have one drink (or two) between 6-7 then wait until the 9-10 happy hour to continue the night, because we are nothing if not cheap college students. The restaurant menu consisted of exactly zero rice, and the only noticeable Peruvian item was the tequeños (kind of like mozzarella sticks but the cheese is wrapped in a fried wonton wrapper and you dip them in guacamole…. delicious). THEY HAD BACON HERE (I miss bacon, seriously I dream about it) but it was kind of expensive so I just got the burger that came with bacon and let that satisfy me.
Another interesting observation to note is that the employees at the hostel were not required to be able to speak Spanish. In fact, most spoke English better and I think that one of the employees didn’t speak Spanish at all.
On our last night at the hostel, we were invited to play Flip Cup with some of the other hostel-goers. We of course said yes and so began a night of camaraderie between Americans, Europeans and Peruvians in this little seaside town called Paracas. It was actually a lot of fun. Flip Cup didn’t last that long, it dissolved into just hanging out and talking, enjoying a drink with new friends that we will probably never see again.
Las Islas Ballestas
Translation: The Ballestas Islands. Otherwise known as the Peruvian Galapagos. (the real Galapagos are part of Ecuador) They have long been on my Peruvian Bucket List and I was beyond excited to finally get to see them. We all wore hats because some traveler reviews had warned that hats were a necessity because of the high probability of getting pooped on by the birds. Downside to the hats is that it was also really windy (we were on a speedboat on the Pacific) so we had to constantly hold our hats to our heads as is seen in the following pictures.
Catherine and I on the boat

Catherine and I on the boat

Twinning like a boss

Twinning like a boss

Also the wind blew my hair into an obnoxious tangle because I STILL HAVEN’T FOUND HAIRTIES HERE. ug. Anyway. The boat ride out to the islands was beautiful, we got to see the Candelabra which is this shape in the sand (pictures below) that some people think is related to the Nazca Lines. There is some discussion on whether it is a cactus or a candelabra, but either way it has been helping sailors find Paracas and port for a very long time. They still use it as a point of reference today. Below are some pictures of – lets be honest – water, sky, sandy coastline and the Candelabra.

IMG_0209

Candelabra

Candelabra

Candelabra

Candelabra

Leaving the Islands

Leaving the Islands

Some fun facts about the Ballestas Islands
1. POOP!!!!
2. No seriously, guano is a major Peruvian export and apparently is great fertilizer
3. They harvest guano from the Ballestas Islands every 6-7 years (it really builds up)
4. When they aren’t harvesting guano, there are people (kind of like park rangers) that are there to — wait for it, I couldn’t pass this opportunity up — guard the shit. Can you imagine having that job? Someone asks you what you do for a living and you say “Oh yeah, I guard crap. Literally”
5. I think I’m hilarious.
6. There are apparently a lot of guano poachers because the guano is pretty valuable, so crap guarding is a full time occupation.
7. There are 2 named sea lion beaches on the Islands. Paternity Beach and Maternity Beach
8. Paternity Beach is where the males go to fight for females and the females go to find mates
9. Maternity Beach is where the females go to give birth and care for their young. Also, the boat didn’t go close to Maternity Beach, whether by design or on accident, I don’t know. But I thought that it was a very respectful gesture to guarantee the safety of those sea lions in particular
10. Sea lions use their flippers to climb onto rocky outcroppings for the express purpose of sleeping.

Rachel with some sea lions

Rachel with some sea lions

Paternity Beach

Paternity Beach

Maternity Beach

Maternity Beach

Juvenile sea lion

Juvenile sea lion

Look at the baby on the left!

Look at the baby on the left!

Port for guano collecting

Port for guano collecting

Crabs

Crabs

Penguins

Penguins

My Friend the Pelican
This was a Facebook post, but I will gladly tell the story again because it appealed to my love of ornithology and HOLY CRAP I SAT NEXT TO A PELICAN. Yeah that is basically the entire story. :) Well, no. But, yeah. Some random guy caught me watching the pelicans because how often do you see such magnificent birds up close? He beckoned a pelican away from the flock with bits of food then got it to hop up on the little brick barrier. He motioned for me to sit as well and then fed the pelican as I sat literally right next to it. I tipped him a couple soles and went on my way. BUT OMG I SAT NEXT TO A PELICAN.
Countryside Beauty
As previously mentioned waaayyy in the beginning of this post, we arrived in Paracas at night. Thus we didn’t really see much of the landscape on the way down, which was a total shame. But we took an early enough bus that the countryside was visible on the ride back to Lima on that Sunday. And it was gorgeous. Granted, I am partial to landscapes containing not-buildings (yes “not-buildings” I was sick of saying countryside), but I think that you can all agree that this is beautiful.

"Love Peru"

“Love Peru”

It was amazing to finally see some of the beauty outside of Lima. The city is beautiful in it’s own right, but this type of scenery is what I truly love to see.
OK! That’s a wrap, guys!!! I’m sorry that it took so long for this blog to get posted, shout out to Kobe for being totally awesome and asking when I was going to post this and thus proving to me that he does read my blog and might actually enjoy it a little bit. At least he notices when I don’t post. Baby steps. :) There will be more posts coming soon hopefully so until then, I hope that you were satisfied with today’s journey From Lebanon to Lima. Love, Taylor <3

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