Paracas National Reserve & a Bad Day for Mango

Half the journey is getting there. We reached the Paracas National Reservation, a stretch of coastal desert that is home to some of the densest marine wildlife in South America, on our second day on the road. After driving south from our beachside campground, we crossed through Pisco, the town hit the hardest during the 2007 7.9 magnitude earthquake that centered on the Ica region. On every street at least a few lots are still piles of rubble. Many buildings and much of the infrastructure are still clearly damaged despite the international effort at reconstruction.

After taking a minor detour, we (now a we of five, joined by Katarina Horrox) found ourselves blocked from the main road into the Paracas Reservation by a strip of sandy desert. The only way across was a private road, owned by the Hilton Doubletree hotel. After being pointlessly denied passage by the guardsman on duty, we were pushed to attempt a path consisting of tire tracks barely etched into the desert in our extremely heavy ’82 Westfalia. With Cap’t Kote at the wheel and the pedal to the floor we jostled our way to within a few meters of the highway on the other side, before coming to a halting stop stuck deep in the sand. No pushing, no friendly fisherman, could get our lumbering beast out of the dunes.

Don’t take shortcuts – even when hard-ass gatekeepers at the Paracas Hilton Hotel refuse to let you use their paved road back to the highway. A few friendly fisherman tried to help us out to no avail…

Our only option was to implore the hoteljerks for help. I, for my part, stayed with the car while Andy and Katarina did their thing to convince the hotel to help us out of our jam, and was shocked when 15 minutes later a huge dune buggy pulled up alongside our van. Turns out, while the guard was unwilling to let us use the road, the manager of the Hilton was more than happy to lend us her private dune buggy to drag us out of the sand! Everyone likes to be an authority, I guess.

Do get your ass pulled out by the manager’s private dune buggy.

Mike enjoying a victory watermelon. Mongo binging on red meat diesel, bad girl! We’ll have you back on a strict diet of murky French fry oil soon.

Upon finally entering the park, I was struck by the bleakness of the landscape. The road, almost the same color as the sandy rock around it, wound through reserve before opening up on an azure bay. The deep bright blue sea looked alive in sharp contrast to the rocky landscape around it.

Finally, the road into Paracas National Reservation.

A set of small buildings are set around the bay brimming with clusters of brightly colored boats and flocks of seagulls and pelicans perched on rocks.

Boats and birds on an electric blue bay. Hard to imagine some of the world’s most plentiful marine life is here, surrounded by desolate desert.

Ah, bird shit. Vestiges of the guano era. The stuff of Inca legend, the backbone of 19th century economies, and a spark of Peru and Bolivia’s embarrassing loss to Chile in the War of the Pacific.

After some delicious cebiche & the world’s smallest free pisco sours, we made it the spectacular La Mina beach, home of the Winter Olympics Sur. 1st event: drive a van down a 45 degree incline with a steep leftward tilt. (video) 2nd-6th events: see below


Opening Ceremonies – Winter Olympics Sur 2010. Athletes stretch in preparation of grueling trials.

Elliot Whalen, in the Synchronized Stoning event

Andrew Whalen, landing a triple axle in the Dodge My Rock event.
Michael Kote’s internal monologue the Stone Toss event: why are we throwing rocks again?

Drew Straus, executing his patented Granny Toss. Needless to say, it was a show-stopper.