The sights – and smells – of Islas Ballestas…

Our departure from Lima was at 0500, something which didn’t seem to faze the new passengers too much. In fact, I felt a little sorry for them as their growing excitement having boarded the truck for the first time was not met with the same enthusiasm by us ‘oldies’ who promptly fell asleep due to the ungodly hour. The early departure was required to avoid the heavy traffic in Lima which seems to have peak times of 0000 – 2400. Peruvian drivers also appear to have no concept of lanes despite the clear road markings. Thankfully the journey out of Lima was much nicer than the one we undertook to enter the city. After a short time we stopped at paradise, which in this instance was a petrol station that served delicious coffee, had clean working toilets with plenty of loo roll, and a nice view of the mountains to boot. We felt it necessary to warn the newbies to not get used to such luxuries.

By 1030, we had reached Paracas from where we took a speedboat out to the Ballestas Islands for a spot of bird watching. The excursion should really be entitled ‘bird smelling’ for the odour emanating from the impressive rock formations was, well, impressive. Of sorts. This guano was historically exported as fertiliser and if you are so inclined, there’s a great article here with details of the history and process.

It was great to see tiny penguins next to huge pelicans, and we were also treated to some snoozing sea lions. My favourite part was on the return journey when we watched cormorants divebombing the fish below, one after another.

The Ballestas Islands are often referred to as the ‘poor man’s Galapagos’ which seems rather harsh given the rich abundance of wildlife on show. This biodiversity is the result of two merging currents in the Pacific Ocean: the warm waters of El Niño and the cooler waters of the Humboldt (named after the Prussian naturalist Alexander von Hi Humboldt who also has a penguin named after him), which create the perfect environment for plankton and phytoplankton.

And here endeth today’s lessons. This stuff had better turn up on Pointless at some point or I’ll be fuming!

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