Sunday, November 21, 2004

Nov 27th,Day 9

Ballista Islands: Flying with a million wings

Ballista Islands: Flying with a million wings

check out the day 9 photo album here

Today is the penultimate day of my trip. Today iam doing Ballesta islands and tomorrow lima. I have already done part of lima. Iam going to be doing only the gold museum tomorrow’s. so pretty much this is the last interesting spot iam visiting. well iam not even sure whether this is a interesting sport. I just heard that you can see a few sea lions and birds. Iam not a big fan of sea lions, but just wanted to check out this place, as it is on the way to lima from nazca.

I joined a tour group, the guide talked to me in Ingles and in Spanish for everybody else. Had to get on a boat to ballesta islands.i saw a pelican on the port. It was little comical to see this huge bird fly.

The boat ride was rough. i started seeing a few birds as we went deeper into the sea. There was a distant land and the more closer we went i started seeing more birds, suddenly there were hundreds of birds circling in the sky. but they were undistinguishable as they were very high. when we were closer to the land i saw birds flying in group formations. It was a great sight to see 10 pelicans fly in a formation.

On the other side of the paracas peninsula there was the Candelabrum. Candelabrum is another enigmatic figure. It was located in the slope of a hill that falls to the sea, measuring 182 meters high & 74 meters wide it was yet another theory spinner. Like Nazca lines there are so many theories regarding this. The famous one being that it was used a a light house. The theory is this that the signs were much deeper before. people used to fill it with oil and light it to act as a light house for the ships. The other theory was this that it was a direction indicator to nazca lines or to some other place.

we moved on from the candelburum towards the ballesta islands. On the way i was observing the peruvian booby. The booby birds have heavy, streamlined bodies; long, pointed wings; long, wedge-shaped tails ; and short, stout legs. It was fascinating to see how they fish. i saw it climb up in the sky and then nose dive at incredible speed. It went down into the water like a rocket and came out with a fish. I was wondering how it could nosedive at incredible speed into the water without hurting itself?. I later found that they have air sacs under their skin, which cushion the impact with the water and provide buoyancy similar to the pelicans.

check out the Paracas Birds

Again i started seeing more birds when we moved closer to the ballesta islands. They were on all the rocks covered with bird droppings. They were all sitting on a mountain of wealth called guano.

Guano or the bird dropping is used as a fertilizer. Peruvian guano is supposed to be the best fertilizer.If you are saying its just bird s***.check out these links to find out How important this resource was in those time.It created lot of competition among western countries in the 19th century. Even though peru made an enormous amount of wealth during the GUANO era 1840-75, it didn't capitalize on it to build the country. Read about that here
guano wars
Failed Development

We moved on to the other side of the island. The island had land protruding out at about 30 ft high, and it was in semicircular shape. There was smog and i was not able to see clearly. When we went closer i was able to see clear. There were thousands & thousands of birds on the top. Imagine hundreds of penguins lined up on the top and looking down at you. There were all kind of birds peruvian booby, inca tern, Red-legged cormorant etc. There was life everywhere. Birds, Birds, Birds they were everywhere. I started recording on my handy cam and didn't stop for 45 mins. i recorded less than 2hours of tape for the whole 8 days till that moment.

So many beautiful peruvian booby chics,the colorful inca terns, penguins standing on the edges,Star fishes on the rocks. There was a big hill at a distance on the other side i zoomed in with my camera. The whole hill was covered with birds. I have never seen so many birds in one place. I think i would have seen more birds in that day compared to what i have seen in my whole life till then. It was not just me ,everybody in the boat was happy. There was lot of ooo’s and aaaa’s. Learnt a few Spanish words from the small girl next to me on the boat. “mira, mira, penguina” (look look penguine), ”O bonito”(o beautiful).

We moved on to the cave kind of erosion on the hills and started hearing sounds of sea lions. We kind of made some noise from the boat and the sea lions responded and a group of sea lions started swimming towards our boats. We had to go. Watched a big sea lion fight in a beach where the female sea lions take nude sun bath ;).

I didn't expected much from the trip, but after the trip i thought this is the second best place after machu picchu.

We returned to the shores after the trip. When the boat was near to the shores there was a smell, I looked down and saw that the whole water surface for almost a quarter mile was covered with oil. Some boat had leaked oil. And there where pelicans and all types of birds right on the port, swimming on the oil film. They seemed to be 2 different world, 30 mins before i was in a diff world, an animal world, filled with color, beauty and happiness where my heart was soaring high with those million wings. I was brought down to the reality of the earth at the port.

For a boat operator who lives there, all that matters is his daily bread. And being in a third world country, environment and wildlife are not that important to him. I thought to myself probably there won’t be that many birds or there won’t be any, in another 50 years here, if it is not preserved properly. I was never the environment conscious guy, but after this wonderful trip seeing the oil spill on the shore, made me think about it. I was laughing at myself, when I was in India I could have killed a few animals due to my negligence, but here iam very concerned about the wildlife at this place. Is it just a tourist mentality?? or have I lived in US so long that I have lost my third world country perspectives and have adopted to the developed nation views. Whatever the reason is, I think this world is definitely a better place with ballesta islands than without it, hope the government and tourist will be more responsible and protect this great place.

Paracas National Reserve

I was thinking ballesta islands is the only place iam going . I was surprised when my guide said iam going to paracas national reserve. I didn’t have a clue what was there. My guide that we will be going to a museum, a bird watching tower etc. Again wasn’t expecting much. The landscape became little interesting when we started going into the reserve. The landscape turned into a sandy desert. Not the pure sandy kinds of middle east. More like Arizona or grand canyon type. Walked to the tower. It was a long walk. The hills were of different color showing the mineral deposits they had yellow, brown, darkish pink. From the tower was able to see a group of Chilean flamingo’s. Flamingo’s are important to Peruvians. The colors of the Peruvian flag, red and white, occurred to General San Martin during the liberation campaign, when watching a flight of flamingo with red wings and white breast, after awaking from a siesta in the desert of Paracas.Paracas was the first place General Jose de san martin landed in peru.

Went to the museum near the tower. I was casually browsing the museums. Until my guide started explaining trepanation. Trepanation is the practice of making a hole in the skull in order to improve the brain pulsations and hence the overall well being. The Peruvians have been practicing trepanation for a very long time. Like a lot of primitive’s they believed that a crazy person is possessed by evil. And they thought making a hole in the skull would release the bad spirit. I saw a skull where after a trepanation they have covered the hole with gold and the skull grew around it.Thank god I was not born in that era.

This again brings the question why so many trepanations, where so many people crazy??.Yes. The Peruvians not only practices trepanations, they practiced head elongation. If you would have seen start trek, alien nation or any other sci-fi serials you would have definitely come across a character with an elongated head. Well it is not a thing of future, it is actually a thing of past. Our skulls could be shaped. When a baby is born the cranium is not well formed, it takes an year for it to set. During that time wooden planks are kept on the sides of the head and tied tightly. This makes the cranium take a different shape. I guess it was a fashion during that time. You beauty was not measured by how elongated your cheekbones were but how elongated your skull was. Well during this process of elongating your head, there were lot of chances for people getting affected mentally and hence so many crazy people and the need for trepanation to free the spirit. The trepenation survival rate was supposedly 40%.Which is quite good for that time period.

There were mummified heads. The nazcans used to kill there enemies, chop the head of ,clean the inside of the head and hang it in there hips as a trophy it seems. The more no of heads u hang around your body. The greater the warrior you are. I was thinking about it from a psychological warfare point of few. Imagine you are in a war and this guy comes with 5,7 skulls hanging around his body. You are already defeated psychologically.

the excavated cloth with symbols of hanging heads.

Left the museum to take a tour of the reserve. We were again passing through some beautiful desert landscapes. The tour got off the main road and started going into bumpy mud roads. in the distance i was able to see a high point where other tour buses where parked. When we went closer , i saw water on my left, the high point was the end of the peninsula and the start of the sea. on my left the scenery was gorgeous. The light yellow surface in stark contrast with the deep blue water.There was a blue haze on the ocean. I was delighted with that color play of nature. The bus stopped on the high point i came to the other side on the bus to see the landscape.

The land was a hill ending dramatically to the sea. on my left was the caves and patters formed by thousands of years of erosion. Paracas landscape at that place was more like the 12 apostle in Melbourne.

If it is apostle in Australia, it is cathedral in peru. The structure at that place could be looked as a cathedral, or a condor , or a woman seated depending on how u see it. On the open side i saw the erosion as bands of lines, it took the sea 100 years to make one band it seems. Moved on to the edge of the cliff and saw some dolphins swimming at a distance. It was a great landscape. the falling cliff, the waste expanse of deep blue water, covered with blue haze and small island in the middle of the ocean. I was going crazy with my camera. It's a different story that i overexposed my shots. Fantastic landscape, imagine it with deeper colors than what is in the pic.

We moved on to a small port near by for lunch. On the way i saw a sea gull flying high. it dropped something that it was carrying, it went down chasing to get the thing it dropped. I saw another gull doing the same thing’s was puzzled. I came to know from my guide that it's a sea gulls technique of breaking the shells. It takes the sea shells in its legs. Flies high above a rock and drops the clams. Then it comes down to eat the food inside the broken shells. Hmmm Interesting.

Lunch, i was confused wanted to have something other than chebiche, since i have been eating it for the past 3 days. so i ordered baked fish, but wasn't sure what i was going to get. so decided against it and ordered a chebiche to be on the safer side. When my lunch was served i got both the checbiche and fish. Again translation problem. They thought i ordered both the dishes and i had to eat both of them. Well they were both good. so no complaints. On the way back to the bus from the restaurant, i went to the port there was a ship that was unloading the fish and right next to the ship was 5,6 pelicans all standing there without being bothered about the fisherman’s there.

Checked the time it was around 4:00 my Bus to lima is supposed to start on 4:30 and i just came out of the restaurant’s told my guide and we rushed back to the Pisco city.i had to pack my baggage a bit.i thought iam definitely going to miss the bus. My only hope was PST, or Peru Standard Time. Like IST the peruvians have a PST , so i was expecting the bus to be late. Had to rush everything and reached the bus station at 4.40 or something. The bus was still not there. It took another 30 mins for the bus to arrive. I was Glad about the PST.

Today was a great day. My peru tour had reached a crescendo today. I got to see some of the best places and learn some great things today. I can't imagine that this place was not in my original literary. I didn't except much today but this day turned out to be the best.

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