Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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BT – Paracas National Park

After the morning’s boat trip out to Islas Ballestas, Cath and I continued by car with our guide and driver to the Paracas National Park, a little further south. This is both a marine sanctuary and reserve protecting the alien desert environment that had been home to one of the early Peruvian cultures. Here there were yellow-grey sand dunes, with a bedrock not far beneath containing shell fossils (the small circle of stones in the second picture surrounds some fossils).

The desert runs alongside the coast, where erosion has created cliffs and sea stacks and other rock formations. We visited a lookout at S 13°56.2′ W 76°17′, where there used to be a sea arch known as “The Cathedral” but which collapsed in a 2007 earthquake, and a beach area at S 13°54.5′ W 76°17′.

 

Although the desert seemed barren there was birdlife aplenty on the coast. The Peruvian pelicans put in an appearance, there were diving boobies, and a turkey vulture (and I think it is a turkey vulture in flight in the fourth photo).

There was, however, only one penguin (although we actually weren’t all that far from where we’d seen the Humboldts earlier in the day)! [We did see some flamingos on our way out of the park, as tiny pink specks in the distance that even my 200mm lens couldn’t turn into anything recognisable, so there’s no photo.]

The landscape had a definite bleakness and beauty to it; it must have been an interesting experience for this cyclist.

From a hill overlooking a lookout at S 13°53.6′ W 76°18.4′ we could see across the bay to a small lagoon and a tiny peninsula surrounded by fishing boats, and when we got down to the lookout itself we could get a better view of lagoon and the eroding coast.

It was a bit of a surprise to find a tourist beach at Playa la Mina (S 13°54.7′ W 76°19.1′), bustling with people when the rest of the coastline had felt largely empty.

We probably only saw a 25 square kilometre area of the national park, but this was enough to give some sense of its vastness and emptiness. It was certainly a kind of landscape that I don’t think I’ve seen before, and the sea mists were quite eerie as they rolled over the barren cliffs and hills.

Definitely a fascinating spot.

We had a nice lunch back in the town of Paracas before starting the long drive back to Lima. We could see where the rich are building holiday condominiums right down on the coast, in stark contrast to the small structures being built on dusty plots slightly further inland on the barren hills, far from any plausible livelihood that I could identify.

And the next day we flew home, after what had been an amazing trip. Antarctica was definitely the big highlight for me; a place that I have been interested in and had dreamed about visiting for most of my life, but it was great to see a little of South America too. And I enjoyed having my next-down sister as my travelling companion; I think we were both happy with how it all worked out.

[Dateline 8 June: And now, nearly 6 months after setting off, I have finally finished all the blog entries for the Big Trip.]

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