24 hours in Paracas, Peru

I’d heard Paracas had beautiful wildlife and landscapes and I wanted to get back to nature, but when I got off the bus from Lima there mid-afternoon, I couldn’t immediately see the attraction. Instead, I found a dusty, run down bus shelter with woven reeds for walls and a gate made from a thin plastic sheet that the station manager would move each time a bus came in. It was rustic. I could see the small beachside town in the distance and, as I didn’t have a hostel, I started making my way towards it, hoping to find one before it got dark.

I met Charlotte on my way – a friendly girl from Nottingham who’d been travelling down from Columbia on her way to Buenos Aires and eventually to Sydney to live – and together we headed down the dusty road to find Kokopelli and some dorm space. We were in luck and after booking some tours for the next day, we dumped our backpacks – such a great feeling – went in search of some food with a guy we’d met at the hostel. We found some cheap, delicious ceviche and beer and then all went to bed early, ready for the tour the next day.

I got up early and over breakfast chatted with Patrick, another hostel person and also Aussie, who’d been travelling for a few months through South America. He’d begun his travels with his girlfriend and a week in, they had both realised that they didn’t love each other the way they should, so they continued travelling on as friends. I asked whether that was working - and he said it was. They had a great friendship and he felt it would be most difficult when they got back home: unpicking the life they had made together in Melbourne. I’m always struck by how quickly people share their stories – as I do too – on the road. There’s always a story. And, as I've said before, the stories are always about love. I wished him well and met up with Charlotte to make our way down to the docks. It was such a beautiful, sunshine-filled morning and, despite the icy chill of the air coming in from the sea, I was excited to be out on the adventure again and was ready to explore.

We gathered at the docks and made our way out into the sea, watching the fishermen in their faded, but still colourful, boats coming in from their early morning haul, and, a little further out, the dolphins swimming in pairs by our boat. Such delight. After a while, our guide pointed out a huge marking on the rocks, looking somewhat like a candelabra, somewhat like a cactus. He said it was created in about 200BC, but no one was really sure if that time was right, just as no one was really sure what it depicted. How strange that something had been so significant once, or not – and now there was no telling exactly what it was. It reminded me again about our lives – these things we have within them, within our society and our communities – which seem so important now and so revered. And one day, possibly, our descendants will look upon them and wonder what exactly it is or what it meant. And that’s only if there’s something tangible to remember it by – if not, it will simply melt away as the time goes by, melt into complete nothingness. It puts things into perspective a little and reminded me of a book I once read and loved – Immortality, by Milan Kundera. These things that we will be remembered by – or not.

But we sailed on to the islands and they were as beautiful as in the photos I’d seen. Stunning rock formations, sea lions lazing in the sunshine, pelicans watching us watching them. The rocks and the sea belonged to the wildlife and to no one else. And it was glorious.

After sailing around the islands for an hour or so, we made our way back and Charlotte and I chatted about our lives back at home. She was a food stylist – a job I’d never heard of before, and how very cool – and such great company. How lucky I’ve been to meet such wonderful people on the road.

Off the boat, we went straight onto our next tour, of the Paracas national reserve – I only had one day in Paracas, so I was packing as much in as possible. Travelling through the reserve, we felt a bit like we were in space. It was desolate – a desert indeed – and completely empty of all wildlife and plants. There were miles upon miles of sandscapes and then we reached cliffs and saw the sea. Such complete beauty. 

The momentum had gathered again - it felt good to be on the road, and I had to keep going. I got back to hostel, said goodbye to Charlotte, loaded on my backpack and made my way back to the dusty bus station to get on a bus to Ica...