Day 4: Ballestas Islands cruise
After breakfast, we went to the harbor of Paracas, where we and about a dozen others took a large speed boat out on a cruise to see the Ballestas Islands, which is a wildlife reserve similar to the Gallapagos Islands (except that the Ballestas Islands have penguins, because it is much farther south). There were thousands of guano birds and plenty of sea lions visible as we sailed close by the coasts of the islands, with everyone snapping photos along the way. After an hour or so of observing nature, we headed back to the harbor at high speed.
A mass of sealions on one of the Ballestas Islands. The sounds and the smells were, um, unique....
For me the highlight of the day was when we first left the Bay of Paracas, and passed by the "Candelabra", which is a huge design shaped like a trident (or a candelabra) that has been carved into the cliff facing out to sea. It was put there before the Spanish explorers arrived in the region, and today no one is really sure about its meaning or purpose. Due to the fact that the remains of massive ropes were once found on part of the design's "arms", it has been suggested that it was once a tidal indicator or possibly an earthquake measuring device. Other theories include a giant pointer to some place inland, or a symbol of taboo to keep people out of a sacred area.
The Candelabra on the mountainside above the cliffs on the Bay of Paracas. Just below this photo's edge was the water's edge. Below the bottom corner of the right arm of the candelabra you can see the lightened marks of the footpaths that were caused by modern visitors hiking to see the design.
After returning to land we began the journey by car back to our hotel in Lima. Other than stopping for a nice lunch at a roadside cafe along the way, the trip was uneventful, and we said goodbye to Diana and settled back into our hotel. Aside from a momentary scare when we thought we had misplaced our airline tickets (which would have resulted in an unpleasant evening spent with the police explaining the "robbery" that caused us to lose our tickets), the remainder of the day was taken up by dinner in the hotel restaurant. We turned in early so that we could get up at 2:30am (!) to prepare for our 4am trip to the airport for the 6am flight to Cuzco.