This reserve is on the wind-swept Peruvian coast, it is beautiful in its own way. Devoid of much vegetation it consists of sandy hills and mountains, high cliffs, coves, bays and beautiful rocky islands. There are many seabirds breeding in these cliffs and sea lions hang out on the rocks offshore, we heard them and to us it is a very familiar sound.
Some overlanders avoid this park because it has had a bad reputation, robberies of campers were reported. We decided to go for it in spite of the stories and hoped that those robberies had been isolated incidents.
Driving to Paracas you pass through the town of Pisco, made famous by the drink. Pisco (destilled wine) it is mixed with lime or lemon juice, egg-white and sweetened with cane syrup to make a ” Pisco Sour”. Lots of fishing boats lined the beach and even more were on anchor offshore. At closer look we saw, that there were hundreds of large fishing boats ( purse seiners) out there, waiting to unload. At night, they fish for anchovies and other small fish along the coast and sell it to the huge fish meal-oil processing plants that line the road to Paracas. It smells so bad it takes your breath away, we could still smell it when we were already at the park entrance.
The salmon farms in Chile and other countries, as well as other aquaculture factories are in need of this product.
But there are different fishermen along this coast too. Small one man operations, they are the dive fishermen. We talked to them and were amazed at how hard they have to work for so little,
with leaky neoprene outfits in the cold water. They pry limpets from the rocks, spear fish for octopus, collect sea cucumbers and harvest sea weed. They show up in the morning and disappear in the waves, in the afternoon they bring in their catch, clean, sort, pack it in big bags and head to town. On two different occasions we helped them get their trucks started and were rewarded with fresh seafood. The limpets made delicious ceviche, the little corvina tossed in for good measure. So we had company at our camp site, got “high fives” from them and felt secure.
Hiking the cliffs of the park was just amazing, the boobies had fledglings in their nests and were busy feeding their hungry offspring. You could sit on the edge of the cliff and watch for hours.
The fishermen had a trail down to the beach, it was steep and treacherous, I would not attempt it without my trekking poles. They on the other hand hike up and down this trail with heavy bags of their harvest barefoot – and never miss a step.
On the third day we decided to drive south through the park on the road that looked like a regular road on the map . After we passed some beautiful bays and many sand dunes the “road” disappeared and we just followed the tracks of the trucks the seaweed harvesters had made. Finally we were at wit’s end and decided to back track. We hate to backtrack and Günter kept saying “could have..should have” but really, there were 35 km of sand dunes without a road ahead of us and this was the prudent thing to do.
It was time to head up to Cusco and go to Machu Picchu, my cousins daughter and friends were on their way to Peru, backpacking and trekking, and we wanted to meet up in Cuzco.