Published in 2008 by Simone Hoedel
A 2007 earthquake devastated Pisco, but the Region is on the Mend
Despite the devastating Pisco earthquake that ravaged Peru’s south coast in 2007, tourist services to the nearby Paracas Reserve have begun to recover.
Many hotels in Pisco and Paracas have been rebuilt, and nature tours to Islas Ballestas from the fishing village of El Chaco have been restored.
“Things in Paracas are getting better and better,” says Enrique Levano, of Mystery Peru Tours. “At this very moment, three big four and five star hotels are being built, and other new little hostels are also under construction.”
An earthquake in August 2007 devastated Pisco, a fishing port 240 km south of Lima, killing close to 600 people, and levelling most of the city’s buildings. The quake also destroyed some tourist sights and facilities in the nearby Paracas Reserve. The beloved Catedral rock structure was destroyed, and at the fishing village of Lagunilla on the southeast of the peninsula, beach side restaurants were washed away by the earthquake-generated tsunami.
“The Catedral rock formation is gone, but we still go there and show tourists photos of how it was and what is left after the earthquake,” said Levano. “Through our local guides, we explain how the earthquake happened and how we have being getting over it ever since.”
Islas Ballestas and Reserva Nacional de Paracas Tours
While the Ica region is slowly recovering, tours of Islas Ballestas and the Reserva Nacional de Paracas can still be arranged from Picso or Paracas, and are more popular than ever. Day trips tours to Paracas from Lima are also available. Minibuses also leave frequently from Pisco’s central plaza to Paracas.
Morning boat tours to Islas Ballestas leave from Playa El Chaco fishing pier, 15 km south of Pisco. On the one and a half hour boat tour, people should bring sunscreen, a hat and a windbreaker, as the cabin-less motorboats are an alfresco experience (although the bluish gas fumes from the craft’s motor make a joke of the “fresco” part).
On the way to the islands, the boat brings travelers close to view the intriguing 50 m trident design depicted on the side of the hill. The Candelabra, or Chandelier, seems to have been created in a similar way as the Nazca Lines drawings in the desert southeast of here. As with the Nazca drawings, no one seems to know what the Candelabra signifies.
Islas Ballestas is home to a wide variety of bird and marine species, including sea lions, the Humboldt penguin, Guanay cormorant, Peruvian booby, dung birds, zarcillos, and terns. Tourists can get excellent photographs of sea lions and birds on the rocky red cliffs, but it’s best to bring a telephoto lens or binoculars to really get the best views.
Reserva Nacional de Paracas
The afternoon tour of the Reserva Nacional de Paracas includes a visit to the Museo Julio C. Tello, a trip to the restored Lagunilla fishing village at the southern coast of the peninsula, as well as a short hike to coastal geological formations. Museo JC Tello is named after the Peruvian archaeologist who discovered and first investigated the ruins in 1925. The museum includes depictions of Paracas culture, textiles, and ceramics. Please note that due to damage from the earthquake, the museum is closed for renovations until 2009.
Paracas culture thrived from 750 BC to 100 AD. The Paracas Necropolis exhibit near the museum, still being excavated, is permanently closed. The site, called Wari Kayan, includes mummies in underground burial chambers and grave objects like ceramics and textiles.
The Paracas Reserve in the Paracas Peninsula, which includes 335,000 hectares of land and ocean, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1975. The Paracas Reserve protects a marine ecosystem, a tropical sub-desert, and the ruins and archaeological finds of the pre-Incan Paracas culture. The Reserve has one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, including sea lions, sole, white toyo, bonito, tramboyos, jellyfish, and dolphin.
“A year later, the rubble has been cleared away and the roads repaired as the economic foundation struggles to renew itself,” notes South Amercian Explorers in its recently updated Ica Information Packet. “With so much destruction to its infrastructure, colonial buildings, and industry, it has been a difficult road to recovery. But as the locals say, poco a poco.”