243 km. and two hours and forty minutes south of Lima on the Pan American Highway, the fishing village of Pisco is another launching point for excursions to the tiny former guano islands, Ballestas, off the Pacific coast of Peru.
You drive through vineyards to come off the Highway towards Paracas National Park and soon reach the cold Pacific with piers jutting into the deep blue waters. There are Grey Gulls, Ruddy Turnstones and flocks of Black Skimmers on the shore and near the rock pools and and further out to sea, Peruvian Boobies with the odd Nazca Booby amongst them and Brown Pelicans who are non-breeding visitors, dive bomb in search of anchovies.
The boat speeds towards the Islands and the birds seem to follow it. The etched ‘candelabra’ on the brown hillside glistens in the fierce sun and the spray from the boat drenches you. The guides words are lost in the wind. As you near the Islands, the rough sea rocks the boat and the stench of guano hits you. The nesting birds make a huge din and sea lions laze in the sun. An entire cove with a pebble beach is taken over by females for a nursery. Inca Terns with their dark bodies and pretty red beaks cover a rock face. Peruvian Pelicans breed here and Humboldt Penguins look comical among the Neotropic, Guany and Red-legged Cormorants.
As the boat bounces back towards mainland, you sit back and let the spray cool your face and think of cool beer with grilled squid and foot-tapping music of little impromptu groups on the waterfront in Pisco…