SGW is pleased to have received Part Five of Allen Lai’s amazing adventures in Peru. In this part, Allen visits
Guinea Pigs, Sacsayhuaman, Cusco Cathedral, Lima, Ballestas island
After fulfilling the excitement and the expectations of Machu Picchu we drove back to Cusco. We visited a guinea pig farm along the way and tried it. Well, it certainly wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s not cheap and the locals consider it a gourmet delicacy, at least for the price. For me, it tasted a bit like roast duck. But it seems everyone has a different perspective.
We also visited also the fortress of Sacsayhuamán, one of the most amazing buildings in the world. It is believed that it was built in the 15th century. The work lasted for five centuries and more than 20,000 men extracted the stones from the nearby quarries and moved them 20 kilometers to the hill of the city of Cusco. Today, it is estimated that Sacsayhuaman retains only 40 percent of its old structure. Even so, the site has structures of up to 125 tons in weight. How the Incas built Sacsayhuaman with structures of such unlikely weight and size for the time remains a mystery.
Back at Cusco, we visited the Cusco cathedral. It has splendid altars of both Renaissance and Baroque styles and neoclassical styles. Its carved wooden pulpit and the choir stalls are magnificent works of Cusco craftsmanship. There is also an important collection of paintings from the Cusco school including works by famous painters, among which, they created a unique “Last Supper” in which the main dish is a roast guinea pig.
During the time I spent in Peru, I fell in love with this country. Like any South American country, it has its problem. Political, corruption, harsh weather, drugs, and most people, in general, live below the poverty line. The Spanish annihilated their culture and nearly their population. But they are tough people. Despite the difficulties, they, in some way, up retained their culture.
They seem to be the only country in South America that still maintain its own values, traditions, clothing, food, and religion (it’s Christianity all right, but they have added in their own element),
Tourism is down the drain, as most tourist spots and hotels are quiet. Even Machu Picchu has lost its past glory.
In the park, we saw children playing as if there’s no tomorrow, young people exercising, lovers displaying their passion openly, and old people sunbathing or just sitting on the bench watching the world go by. I can always exchange a smile with people passing by on the street. If I need to cross that narrow street, there’s always a driver who would take the trouble to stop and wave me across.
We caught a late flight back to Lima. Enjoyed a late-night dinner at Popeyes. Enough food and drink for four persons only cost us a total of US$15. We checked into the Sheraton Hotel in the old city. Then we enjoyed the night view from my balcony, the cheap beer (US$0.97), and the oxygen-rich air.
Our first impression of Paracas was the smell of the ocean. Before boarding, we were all handed a disposable poncho. My first thought was that it was to protect us from the splash from the fast-traveling boat. How wrong I was. We were getting to be so close that there was a fairly good chance that we would be showered by bird poo.
The tour was around two hours. And every minute was full of excitement, as everywhere we looked, were all kinds of birds, in all kinds of activities. Penguins, sea lions, and the landscape, with caves and jagged rock spikes. The noise of the birds at times can be deafening.
After the trip, we continue our journey to Nazca, which is a good six-hour drive away. We were lucky, our local guide immigrated to Peru from China and was able to tell us everything about Peru, not from a tourist handbook, but from a foreigner’s eyes. He told us about the political, cultural, and daily life, all from his first-hand personal experience. He was very capable, knowledgeable, and efficient. As he spoke perfect Spanish and has great connections, we learned a lot about the place and the six hours flew by before we knew it.
That night we checked into DM Hotel at Nazca. The best hotel in the area.
After a good night’s rest, we had an exciting day planned. We’re visiting Ballestas island aka “Poor man’s Galapagos”. Officially called Islas Ballestas it is the leading attraction that draws the majority of visitors to Paracas. Ideal conditions created by the Humboldt Current enable the animal inhabitants of the Ballestas and the nearby Paracas Peninsula to thrive. The cold current pulls up water from the ocean floor, bringing both lower temperatures and nutrients to the surface. These conditions create an ideal feeding zone for fish, consequently drawing larger predators. These islands are known for their many caves and arches that serve as shelter to more than 1500 species of marine birds and a large number of sea lions.
Because of the concentration of birds, and of course, bird droppings neighborhood countries had been going to war to get access to the droppings for plantation fertilizer. Now, the islands are off-limits except for people doing research. However, tourists can join tours at Paracas to get closer.
We left Lima early as it was three hours away. The views along the highway were spectacular with the Pacific Ocean on the right, and the Andes on the other side.
Photos of the birds and wildlife on Bellestas
I felt as if it should be an honour to visit Bellestas Island and witness, firsthand, the amazing concentration of birds and wildlife that exists there in peace
SGW is very grateful to Allen for his travelogue and photos. We look forward to the concluding part of his Adventures in Peru.
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