My reason for visiting Paracas was simple – to spend time on the water kiteboarding. A friend we met in Vietnam gave us some tips on the best kiting places in Peru but unfortunatly we were not close to any of those reccomendations. After doing a little research in Lima, I found that Paracas had good steady winds. The PeruHop bus ticket we booked also stopped in Paracas which made it very convientent.
We left Lima early for the relitivly short journey south. Driving straight would only take about 4 hours but we made several stops at interesting tourist destinations which were included in the ticket. The first stop was Cristo del Pacifico where we had an amazing view over the city of Lima before heading out into the desert. Next, we stopped on the road overlooking Pachacamac, Limas version of Machu Picchu. The bus was was high enough to see over the wall barrier so we could see the ruins without paying the $25 entrance fee. The next major stop was at an old spanish colonial house (Hacienda San Jose in Chincha), but the real excitement was underneath. Descending a narrow staircase led to a maze of tunnels under the compound. These tunnels were used to hide and keep slaves during the 17th century.
While on the drive, the guide in the bus helped us to arrange hotels in Paracas which is one of the benifits of using Peruhop. When we said we wanted to stay for 5 nights, the guide looked at us like we were crazy and asked why would we ever want to spend five nights there. I doubted our decision a little but hoped there would be good winds for our stay. The bus cliental was a bit different than most backpackers we had encountered on our trip. It seemed like most people were here for only a week or two and were not serious backpackers. There were also many more Americans on the bus then we had encountered anywhere else on our trip. The American travelers were all quite obnoxious and were the loudest people on the bus which was most prevalent in Huacachina.
In the early afternoon, we pulled into the small town of Paracas and I saw why there was concern over staying five nights – it was tiny! We got dropped off and checked into our surprisingly nice hotel, Los Frayles Residencial. Then, we explored the small town and inquired about kiteboarding. I learned that the winds usually start around 1:00pm and last until sunset. The kite beach was unfortuanatly about two miles out of town and we would have to take a taxi each day, but that was cheap compared to trying to stay at the nearby Hilton Resort. That evening, we grabbed a couple beers from the local market and relaxed on the beach watching the sun set below the far sand dunes.
Since there was not much to do in town and the wind didn’t start until after noon, we slept in and relaxed the next morning. I was antsy to check out the kite school and get out on the water so we took a taxi towards the kite beach at noon. When we arrived, there was nobody else there except for an uninterested employee behind the desk. After a couple awkward and confusing interactions with the guy, I learned he wanted me to wait for the wind to pick up a bit. About an hour later, the wind was finally strong enough for them and other people had arrived to set up gear.
I got all my equipment together including a shortie wetsuit (the water was only 16C / 60F) and waded out into the seaweed filled bay. The wind was strong off the desert dunes and in the sheltered bay there was only a small chop from the wind – perfect! After a few minutes getting used to the new gear, I was off. With the lack of big ocean waves, I had little trouble staying and going upwind even with a small board and kite. I spent most of the first day cruising and remembering how to kite since I hadn’t been on the water since Vietnam. When the sun started getting lower, I felt more conformable and started with small jumps and tricks. Too soon, the wind started tapering off and I had to head back or else I would get stuck in the middle of the bay.
It was a great first day with perfect conditions. Sara and I celebrated with a couple beers at the kite beach while watching sunset. After sunset, we inquired about getting a taxi back to town and the owner said it was probably easiest from the Hilton. We walked down the beach to the Hilton and they called a cab for us. When the cab arrived he wanted to charge us double what it cost on the way out. While we were in the cab discussing cost he started driving us into town, but was not budging on price. After he realized we weren’t going to pay his exorbitant price, he stopped and we got out, in the middle of nowhere. There were no other cars on the road and it was already dark when we started the long walk back to town. The walk was a little scary since it was so dark but other then a few people walking home from work and a scary barking dog, we had no problems getting back to town. Lesson learned – make sure we have a cheap taxi waiting for us tomorrow. Back in town, we splurged on a filing pizza and burger dinner at Miski Cafe. It was so good we went back two more times!
The next couple days on the water were similar. The wind was even strong enough to use a 10M kite which was the smallest I had ever been on. I spent the afternoons skipping across the water and jumping higher and higher. Most of the jumps I was able to land gracefully which was new for me. After watching me, the owner of the rental shop offered me to join a kite race they were holding a few hours south. After thinking about it, I opted to stay and kite on my own because I didn’t know when I would be on the water next and wanted to take full advantage of the wind.
One of the mornings, we woke early and rented a kayak to explore a different part of the bay. I was hopeful that we would see dolphins in the morning sun but that was not meant to be. While we were out on the kayak enjoying breakfast, a curious sea lion swam nearby to investigate us. We paddled past many seemingly abandoned boats completely covered in birds. As we came close they would all fly away in unison, usually before sara could capture the picture she wanted. From our vantage point, we saw many speedboats departing from the tourist dock filled to the brim going to Ballestas Islands, known as the poor man’s Galapagos. As the sun started to heat up the day, we headed back to shore to get ready for another full day of kiting.
I was thoroughly enjoying my time out on the water but anytime I got near land I had to dodge other kiters and people taking lessons. Each time I was headed towards land, it felt like the same people were blocking my path. It got quite frustrating especially on day three when even more people were out because it was the weekend (we learned Paracas is a common getaway for Lima residents). I had a few close calls where kites almost collided, but ended in no harm other then aggravation.
On the last full day in Paracas, I woke up not feeling well at all. I think I kited myself sick! The last couple days, I was feeling tired in the mornings but didn’t think anything of it. It finally got hold of me and I was out for the day. Sara took great care of me and even got takeout from Miski Cafe for our dinner. The next day, I was still feeling a little off, but healthy enough to continue our journey towards Huacachina. On the way out of town, PeruHop had an included stop at the Paracas Natural Reserve. We stopped at two viewpoints along the way with great views overlooking the desert and Pacific Ocean – it was stunning. Next stop: The Oasis of America, Huacachina.