Although we are staying in Chincha, we are close to the ¨resort town¨of Paracas. Saturday morning we boarded the bus (after a breakfast of rolls with very strong cheese and palta, which is what they call avocado here in Peru). Our drive to Paracas took us through other parts of Chincha Alta, and Pisco, the town that shares a name with the famous grape brandy-like drink. We stopped off at a bus stop sort of thing that is right in Paracas. It had a very nice bathroom and an ATM, both are things of high value to these American travelers!!!
A guide named Juan joined us on the bus and we set off for the Paracas National Reserve. We drove all over the reserve to view rock formations (the most famous being the Cathedral - part of it fell during the earthquake but it was still incredible and impressive). We got out and walked along the shoreline at a few places, picked up shells, and tried to avoid the huge waves that occasionally took us by surprise. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate - it was overcast, misty, and a little bit chilly. The navy would not allow boats out to the Ballestas Islands, so we had to postpone our trip until Sunday.
After the reserve we stopped again at the bus stop (run by the company of one of our guides) and then had lunch at the restaurant in a nice hotel. We all started with a salad of peas, corn, and peppers in a mayonnaise sauce, served in an avocado half. Most of us had the fish dish that was served with french fries. We were given vanilla ice cream for dessert and it started to sink in that this mid-day meal is the largest of the day, and it´s usually way too much food for us!
On the way back to Chincha, we stopped in Pisco to take a stroll around the Plaza de Armas (what they call all town squares here in Peru). This was a beautiful square, but Pisco was nearly completely destroyed in the earthquake, so there were areas of nothingness where beautiful historic buildings once stood. It´s really amazing to see the level of devastation that earthquake caused all over this region.
Back at Pedro´s parents´house we had fried chicken and sweet potato fries for dinner - all of this fried food and not many veggies! I can tell you for sure that all of the adults on this trip are craving salads and veggies...
We ended our meal with a diversion dessert of a flan-like custard...the diversion was to get Carly at the table so that we could unveil her birthday cake! Happy birthday, Carly! We sang in two languages, and Edward played ¨Happy Birthday¨for her on his new Peruvian wooden flute.
On Sunday we boarded the bus (breakfast was sandwiches with a type of ham and lettuce) and headed back to Paracas for the Ballestas Islands boat tour. I am going to have to sum this up by saying it was truly unbelievable and the pictures will have to explain it. We spent a little less than two hours on the boat viewing an incredible, incredible amount of birds in migration as well as the beautiful (albeit a bit stinky - they are covered with guano) Ballestas Islands. A once in a lifetime experience for most of us. Pictures should be up in a few days when we get back to Lima, and that will help explain better.
Lunch was in a town called El Carmen, the most Afro-Peruvian town in the country. We ate at the house of a famous family, the Ballumbrosio family who are famous for their dancing and music. We dined on a delicious cold salad of broccoli, peas, carrots and ham in a lime dressing, chicken and beef dishes served with rice, potatoes, and beans, and candied sweet potatoes for dessert. YUM. After lunch the family cleared out the furniture and performed music and dances for us - they were amazing and the show was such an authentic experience here. Again, it is this type of experience that makes this trip so much more of a cultural exchange (mostly us learning about their culture) than simply a vacation.
Back at Pedro´s parents´ house we relaxed for a bit, while Norma, Amy, Janice and Pedro went to Chincha to buy a washing machine as a surprise for Nelly. It fit in a taxi for the ride home - with all four passengers! Nelly was so surprised and excited when we unveiled the gift that she cried, making most of the rest of us tear up, too. This has been an emotional trip, but so, so good. Sometime last night or early this morning they were able to hook up the washing machine and did a load of laundry...in Nelly´s typical selfless fashion, her first load in her new washer was of our clothes.
Today was spent at the school again, but the stories will have to wait for another day. There is a line waiting at the internet cafe. We´re hoping this finds you well...again, if you leave comments for your ninos we will certainly pass them on! Love to all.