Peruvian Boobies

June 6

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Essan woke me up just just before the alarm clock did its magic. I wish every morning were like this... We were all packed and ready to go by the time we were picked up to be transferred to Paracas, our last place of action. By 8 o'clock we embarked on a small boat and were taken to the Ballestas islands, home of many birds and sea lions. The rocks were inhabited by Pelicans, Cormorants and of course by countless Peruvian Boobies. What the pictures don't quite bring across is the incredible noise and overwhelming smell from all these animals. Indeed, they collect tens of thousands of tons of guano every few years. I just certainly hope they have industrial strength breathing gear when they do this...

Click on the first image to start a slide show for this day (42 pictures)
Images shown below are a small selection.
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Back on land we enjoyed the hospitality of the Hotel Paracas, which was also a 3-star hotel like Dunas where we were staying; but apparently these were different stars, as Paracas was noticeably nicer, ranging from the outdoor recreational facilities to the restaurants and of course the food. We looked at the pictures from the boat ride and enjoyed our last lunch in Peru.

The bus to Lima arrived as advertised and surprisingly on time. It was a different kind of bus this time, with one less axle and many more seats, meaning it was a bit more cramped. On the other hand the bus was completely empty - it was just an Australian couple and us - so we all got a front window seat once again. However, after a while we didn't find it all that hot because it was just that - very hot, as we were driving straight into the sun, which is very powerful around here.

At our first stop we were joined by a few more people, most notably a German couple. For the next four hours I wished I didn't understand German; the woman was so nagging it was not even funny. First her husband was the target, because supposedly he overpaid by 20 Soles, or about $7. After about half an hour of her constantly going on about this I was very tempted to just hand her a 20 Soles bill and ask her to shut up. But soon she found another target, be it the local traffic, environmental conscience, the large numbers of the poor, the air conditioning in the bus (or the lack thereof), and so on. Bottom line, Peru is a horrible place to visit and you really ought to wonder what all the tourists are doing here.

During Friday rush hour traffic we arrived in Lima. Being a big bus definitely seems to help when cutting through traffic. By the road there were entire blocks specializing in selling one type of goods - there was the furniture mile, then there was the car accessories mile (where the local version of the rice rockets could be seen), and so on. Not quite a block long, yet still quite prominent was the store specializing in large clothing: "XL / XXL - American Size Clothing", the sign said. I have no idea what they can possibly mean by that.

Despite an impressive volume of chaotic traffic we made it safely from the bus station to the airport, which is located at the opposite end of Lima. Being there six and a half hours before departure we thought we are in good shape, and had little idea of the zoo to come. First, departing ticketed passengers are separated from the rest of the people. Us, the passengers, are confined to the lower area with all the counters, while visitors get to be on the upper level, with all the shops and restaurants. This is fine, as long as you can get rid of your luggage and proceed to the food. The problem is when the airline counters are shared, and your airline isn't on for another three hours. So we waited and were the first in the Delta line that evening, closely followed by some American Sizes.

Finally, the wait was over, we got rid of our bags and could proceed to the restaurant area. We inhaled some airport food, as we didn't really care about quality, but rather just the fill level. The restaurant had a view of the gate and runway area, and was repeatedly flooded by people who wanted to see airplanes without any intentions of eating at the restaurant. And I don't mean just a few people: several dozen individuals kept storming in, and the waiters kept kicking them out. This scene was a taste of what was to come: when we left the restaurant, we found ourselves in a solid mass of humanity. It seems like Peruvians take air travel much more seriously, as for every traveler there seemed to be the whole extended family waiting behind security fences and barriers - and yelling, waving, and taking pictures. It took us a while to get to the area for the actual departing passengers, where we joined the mile long line for immigration. While Essan stood in line, I managed to stand in a different line and pay the $28/person international departure fee.

When we finally got out of reach of non-passengers, still standing in what we thought was the line for security, we didn't know about the 2nd, more serious immigration "line" ahead. It wasn't much of a line: it was about 7 lines, a room full of people rather, a big room at that, and it was hard to tell which line was moving, if any. The nerves of many were boiling, and after about one hour some people were at a point where they were about to miss their flight. Thus they walked to the front of the line, which further caused the line to stall, and more people kept advancing as they were about to miss their flight. It was a huge mess; we stood at the head of the line for about 20 minutes, being passed by people about to miss their flight.

Once the friendly immigration officer stamped our passports we could proceed to the usual X-ray security line. From here, mind you, we could get to the Delta gate, where we - not quite unexpectedly, given the pattern - were once again screened and X-rayed. The senior screener thought that I would be a good target for the apprentice to learn on, and so I was selected for the most thorough search the airport had to offer. My revenge was cruel, in a way: naturally, I was asked to remove my shoes. However, I was quite immediately asked to put them back on, probably in light that I was wearing my hiking boots for the whole day non stop.

Finally, we were on board, and the plane left about 10 minutes later. It's quite amazing - we were at the airport for 6.5 hours before departure, took maybe 40 minutes to eat dinner, and we just barely made it.

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