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Entries about chavin

Peru- Paracas

Ancient sites, deserts, pisco and beaches

Friday 17th August – Down the coast to Paracas
We drove back to the hotel and decided we just had time to have a light lunch there. We explained that we didn’t have much time to the waiter, so he brought us some lovely soup (sancochado which is beef, yucca/cassava and potato) and cold Cusco beer whilst we sat outside. Perfect timing as
the taxi collected us at 1.30.
We drove through Lima, over the major roads to the main Bus Station. Totally unlike our bus stations- we had to queue to hand/check in our luggage and get a receipt, then find the correct departure door and wait. Ours was Nazca via Pisco and Paracas. A longer wait than expected as the coach in was late, so we started half an hour later than we should have. Still, it was quite easy all in all. The coach was luxurious with footrests, free internet and
complimentary food! We set off south down the Pan-American Highway out of Lima and quickly we left the city and headed along the desert coast of Peru. It was interesting scenery of sandy hills, coast and small villages. By the time we reached Pisco town it was dusk and we arrived at Paracas in the later dusk having watched the sunset from the bus.
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The coach let us off and we had to collect our luggage by using our receipts as proof. Paracas bus station was a large open shed with a few plastic-tablecloth tables and a water bottle shop. Our taxi collected us and after a few minutes of road surprised us by turning off along a sand track (if that). Still, it turned out it was only a short cut to another road with our hotel on the left. The sweeping entrance was good and the lobby all marble and shiny. Our room was gorgeous- huge with a comfortable balcony over the swimming pools (yes, two) and Paracas Bay. We had pre-booked an evening meal at the hotel (Bahia Hacienda Paracas) as it was said to be popular and we had a wonderful sea view. Our really helpful waiter recommended some seafood, caught locally and very fresh, which turned out to be an excellent choice. A Chupe de pascado and a Lima butter bean lime salad (butter beans have been eaten for over 6000 years in Peru). He found some super local wine (Ocucaje Peru Fond de Cave Chardonnay – they have been in the wine/ pisco business since 1898 and this fruity white wine was great with the fish) to go along with it. We were persuaded to try Pisco Sour, which Steve liked, and I hated.
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Pisco is the capital of Pisco Province. It is a Quecha word meaning bird and the Spanish set up a villa close to the indigenous settlement. A vineyard there did so well that the 16th century Spanish invented a yellow/ amber brandy which is now called pisco. Chile has long tried to claim the brand, and even renamed one of its towns Pisco.
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Saturday 18th August – Paracas reserve
We woke quite early (still adjusting to the time zone, I think) and spent the early morning watching the bird life from our balcony. As it was dawn, but pleasantly warm, there were lots of birds feeding on the early fish shoals and even more so when the early fishing boats came in. I particularly enjoyed watching the pelicans with their distinctive looks and fishing techniques, as well as the large Peruvian Boobies. Steve got very interested in watching the kite surfers and decided he’d like to try kite surfer one day.
The bird life is the most abundant of land life in the area- a huge variety of birds are there- 216 species. We saw white-tufted grebes, Peruvian Pelicans, Peruvian boobies at least.
We had time before breakfast for a pleasant early morning walk along the bay (going right, towards Paracas town), then had an excellent breakfast of tamales (boiled corn and cheese in a banana leaf), before heading to the lobby to see if we could go to the Ballestas Islands. Unfortunately it was too windy (we didn’t notice in the bay, but when we later left it we could see the problem), so our guide proposed a tour of the Reserve instead. This turned out to be a better choice than the Ballestas as over the day we saw pretty much all the same animals (dolphins, guano birds, seals to name just a few). The minibus collected us and another family and set off left towards Paracas town (a very small town or a large village depending on your point of view), then slightly inland into the paracas themselves.
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Paracas is a Quecha word for sandstorm, which is what happens each year late Aug/ early Sept as the winds pick up and the skies fill with sand. The dunes in the area are a result of this phenomenon.
We stopped to buy a Reserve pass, then drove to the Red Mountain (a pre-Inca necropolis), which was opposite the Paracas Reserve Museum. The necropolis, Wari Kayan held several hundred burials in the Topara style c.100-250AD. They had associated ceramics (plain, red and white slip), food and weapon offerings. Each burial was seated and textile wrapped, facing north and looks very similar to early Nazca Culture burials. The museum started with an interesting room about how the area looked million of years ago (a rainforest before it dried out), including some fossilised landscapes. The remainder of the museum was really dedicated to the environment, both marine and land, around Paracas (including an environmental part upstairs).
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When we had finished our guide took us over the sand (literally- just like when we drove through Wadi Rum in Jordan) towards the Pacific. We came over and down a paracas to Red Beach (Playa Roja), which was a truly beautiful bay with very red sand. The island in the distance was called Pannetone Island (because it looked just like one). We spent a while here enjoying the rollers of the Pacific. Annoyingly, for Steve, he managed to break his sunglasses and it was so bright he had to wear them with 1 arm only until we got to Arequipa where he bought some fake Gucci’s to replace them in the Plaza de Armas. Then we drove back up the sand dunes and ending in an alien looking environment our guide jokingly called Mars (red, arid sand, no visible water, small rocky outcrops and NO ONE else around). He explained that the small piles of rocks (well larger than pebbles but smaller than rocks) were small hills made by people. They are called apachetas and relate to pre-Inca and Inca beliefs in the power of mountains. If you make or add to an apacheta you can have a wish or good luck (slightly different interpretations, but the general gist is the same), so of course we had to do this!
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Read the section about Inca mythology to understand the importance of rock piles. Certainly in Inca (and probably pre-Inca) times a small pile of rocks would mark your household place or huaclla (the size of which, of course, depended on whether you were a peasant farmer or an emperor!). It is understandable, given the terrain, that Andean cultures would have a thing about mountains (what with the earthquakes, volcanoes, altiplano and Andes peaks). Many sacrifices and necropoli are associated with mountains.
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The minibus took us past more sand dunes and beaches (no-one seemed to use these beaches- in Europe they would have been packed. Apparently Paracas is trying to develop itself as a seaside destination). We parked a short walk from the overhang that looked down over The Cathedral, where we were lucky enough to spot a whole school of dolphins. The Cathedral (or rather what was left of it after the natural arch was destroyed the 2007 tsunami) was covered with guano birds. It was very windy and we soon left to visit Devil Beach overhang. Our guide said this was one of the more dangerous beaches as it had a terrible undertow. We were getting rather hungry, so we headed back to our hotel for a late lunch of fresh seafood, which we ate outside with a glorious view of the bay. For wine- a recommendation from the maitre d’ was a local white; Vista Alegre Pinot from one of Peru’s largest vineyards, establish 1857. A lower alcohol wine since we had a longish journey, it was light and fruity and pleasant for lunch.
We spent the afternoon sitting on the beach chilling, before our taxi took us back to the Paracas coach station shed to catch the coach to Nazca. The same system of luggage check-in and off we set.
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Paracas Reserve
This is the only coastal / marine reserve in Peru. It is a World Heritage site of 335000 hectares (land and sea) and covers the ecosystem, geography and archaeology of the local pre-Inca Paracas and Chavin cultures. The sun shines around 18.7 °C all year and there is virtually no rainfall. Wind in general is 15 km/h but in the paracas time reaches 32 km/h.
In the sea there is abundant life -fish like bonito, toyo, anchovy, guitarfish, tramboyo, mero, corvine, chitas, lorna, silversides, pampanito, over 250 algae species, turtles, zooplankton and phytoplankton- the food chain fuel. Not to mention sea mammals Seals, sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, whales, Humboldt penguin and marine otters (seacats).
Between sea and land are crustaceans, algae and molluscs. In places there are stagnant pools where life has found a niche (mainly bullrushes (totora) which are woven into baskets).
On land the lack of rainfall makes it look very arid- animals are basically the desert fox, a few bats and reptiles (two lizard types and a gecko). The few plants that survive here are cacti and bromeliads (tillandsia).
The peninsula supported the Paracas Culture (c1200 BC – 100 BC), who perfected a water irrigation system enabling them to live in the arid area. The Peruvian archaeologist Tello excavated in area in the 1920’s at the Paracas Cavernas shaft tombs (evidence of reuse and of ritual use of the heads followed by re- interment). The Paracas culture was invaded from the north c150 AD by the Topara culture and they seem to have co-existed for some 100 years. Their interaction contributed to the development of the nearby Nazca culture. Interestingly the Pampa de Santo Domingo site (occupied from c6500BC) yielded a decorated quena (Peruvian flute)- the earliest example.
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Posted by PetersF 12:17 Archived in Peru Tagged birds desert beach peru paracas pisco inca chavin Comments (0)

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