Lima – the overland journey ends
May 21, Ballestas Islands
The Ballestas Islands are in the Paracas National Reserve and are often referred to as ‘the Galapagos of Peru’ or, ‘the poor man’s Galapagos’.
The islands are a haven for wildlife and hundreds of pelicans, boobies, flamingos, sea lions and even penguins.
As we leave the port we are lucky to see a pod of dolphins feeding near the boat.
The only way to get out to the islands is a 2 hour boat tour, you can’t actually land on them.
The boat navigates around the craggy rock formations, coated in guano; which looks like dripping icing on a cake.
Sea lions bask in the sun, a colony of pelicans perch in a line along a clifftop.
Cormorants in their thousands nest on the islands and there are a few Humboldt Penguins, as well as Peruvian Booby’s – these have white feet not blue.
And just in case you’re interested – the collective name for a group of Cormorants is a gulp
Now protected, the islands were pillaged over decades for guano, bird-droppings used as a mineral rich natural fertilizer. It was one of Peru’s biggest exports up to the late 1900’s.
Today the collection of guano is controlled and limited to three months per year.
It was well worth the trip, I’ll let you know if it’s any substitute for the Galapagos!
May 21-22, Lima
After our visit to Ballestas we have 270 km to Lima and arrive late in the afternoon.
While Peru’s capital officially began life in 1535, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city on the Day of the Three Kings, settlements had been scattered through the valley since before the Incas.
The city was built on top of an existing palace and temples that belonged to the local chief who had little choice but to move on.
Today, Lima is a chaotic city with over 8.8 million people residing here. The traffic is horrendous; it’s a slow crawl through the city to our hotel.
We decided early-on in our travels that we are not really big city people and this wasn’t appealing to us.
Lima has a reputation for food, with several restaurants rating amongst the best in the world.
The districts of Miraflores and Barranco are where most are located. We didn’t make it out there, as we couldn’t face the thought of an hour, or so, in traffic.
We spent our two days in Lima exploring the historic centre and enjoying its Spanish colonial charm.
The Government Palace occupies the north side of the Plaza de Armas (or Plaza Mayor), Lima’s central square.
Back in the time of the Incas, the site had strategic and spiritual meaning, which is why the last Inca chief in Lima also lived here. Pizarro, the conqueror of the Incas, so liked the site that he kept it for the first Spanish palace, whose construction began in 1535.
Since then, Government Palace has been rebuilt numerous times; the current French-inspired mansion was constructed in the 1930s.
The changing of the guard takes place everyday at noon and is a spectacle worth watching. A marching bands belts out theatrical tunes including the theme from Rocky.
On the other three sides of the square are the Cathedral of Lima and the adjoining Archbishop’s Palace, which were originally built during the 1600s. All the structures display intricately carved wooden balconies that make the downtown cityscape so unique.
A trip underneath the Church of San Francisco to the finely preserved catacombs, is rather gruesome. It’s estimated that this is the final resting place of somewhere between 50,000 – 70,000 individuals.
We have our last tour dinner with our overland compadres at a not-so-typical Beer Hall in central Lima (not worth mentioning the place).
To our fellow Dragoman/Intrepid companions; it’s been a fun and enjoyable 21 days with you all. No doubt we will see some of you somewhere, sometime, someplace!
Our Journey has taken us from the breathtaking highs of La Paz to the colonial sights of Lima. We’ve discovered some of the most amazing and beautiful parts of Bolivia and Peru, two South American gems.
Note: Intrepid & Dragoman material has been used in posts related to the 21 day overland journey La Paz to Lima.