We awoke to meet our first local guide and take our mini-bus out to the port where we would board a boat bound for Islas Ballestas. The two hour ride out to the islands was a chilly, windy affair bouncing across two foot swells on our 20 passenger speed boat. We were anxious to see our first real "sights" and were not disappointed as we marveled at the huge candelabra shaped figure carved into the sand of the Paracas Peninsula. Further on, we arrived at the islands and were greeted by a couple of playful sea lions who somersaulted through the waves nearby. The majority of the sea lions seemed oblivious to our presence, basking on the sandy shores and arguing over who was king of the nearby rock outcroppings. We were fortunate to observe a couple of Humboldt penguins as well, hiding shyly in the shadows of the guano-covered rocks above. Thanks to Islas Ballestas, Peru is one of the world's largest exporters of guano, used as fertilizer. Some unfortunate individuals live in basic shacks on the desolate islands and have the job of scooping the tons of guano into containers for transport out.
After the islands, we returned to shore for a bus to the other side of Paracas Peninsula. Here, we visited the Paracas museum where we saw skulls baring evidence of one of the first cultures to perform head trepinations and deformations. The museum also has one mummy and a sample woven burial cloth. Though the Paracas people were most famous for their weavings, the conditions at the small museum are not suitable to protect these 1500 yr old cloths so most have been shipped to the Archaelogical Museum in Lima for proper care. In the evening, we took another 3 hour Royal Class bus ride to Nazca. We arrived at a secluded hacienda, Hostal de la Borda, draped with flowers, and complete with a swimming pool.