Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pisco, Isla Ballestra, and the Sand Dunes at Huacachina - Nov 13 - 16

Pisco, Land of Liquor and Critters

Pisco, while famous for the liquor of the same name, is presently not a very interesting place. One of the main reasons is that they had a 7.9 earthquake last year, and much of the city was destroyed. Fortunately, there is still enough pisco (the liquor, not the city) left for a few million pisco sours. I´m trying my best to reduce that amount significantly as I travel through the rest of South America.

The week after I was in Pisco was to be the APEC meeting in Lima. Laura Bush was supposed to make a trip to Pisco, so from time to time I would see a strange guy in a dark suit and sunglasses (even at night) with an earphone. It was either the Secret Service, or Men in Black. I´m not sure which, but then again I´m not sure there really is much difference between the two. In any event, I felt quite safe... both from George W. and any other alien beings that might have been in town.

Pisco is also the jumping off place for Isla Ballestras. This is a ¨mini Glapagos¨ according to the tour operators. While that is typical tour hype, it is a good place for seeing (by boat) a significant sea lion and bird rookery.

The sea lions seemed to have been warned of our coming... or else they can tell time since all the tourist boats come at the same time. Several hundred came out to welcome us.

The pelicans also choose this area as a breeding ground, and there must be a million there.

Unfortunately for the pelicans, but fortunately for us, they must share these rocks with their mis-placed cousins from Antarctica... the penguins. Penguins near the equator, you ask, you must be kidding.

But nay, I´ve encountered these little guys before while diving in the Galapagos. I can hardly wait to meet their big cousins in Patagonia.

From Sea Lions to Sand Dunes... on to Huacachina

From Pisco I kept on through the desert to Huacachina, a true oasis. There is a small lake fed by underground springs, that creates this oasis among some of the highest sand dunes in the world (500 meters / 1600 feet).

There seem to be two major sports in Huacachina. One took place nightly in my hostel and involved salubrious amounts of Pisco. The hotel had a nightly BBQ for about $6, which included food and an unlimited quantity of Cuba Libres or Pisco Sours. For the backpacking kids traveling on a budget this was the equivalent of a Michelin 5 star experience, if they could remember it in the morning.
The other sport was sandboarding, like snowboarding but warmer.

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