Sunday, 15 January 2012

In Paracas

Paracas is a rather small place full of tourists who all go by speedboat to nearby islands to watch penguins. I would love to watch penguins but do not see myself in an orange vest squeezed with 31 others into a boat and being sped across the water in order to watch them. Instead I take a taxi to the next town which turns out to consist of a military base, fish factories, and gasoline tanks.

On the outskirts, there are heaps of rubble on the side of the road that is facing the sea. These are remnants of the earthquake in 2007, my taxi driver informs me. Why didn't they put them on the other side of the road? I wonder. He unhappily shrugs his shoulders.

I have dinner with a young Swiss couple who are travelling around the world. The guy eats the same dish as I but it's only me who spends the night commuting between bed and toilet.
The next day, his girlfriend alerts me to three young boys who are cleaning the beach from garbage. Now, look at what they do, she says. Next to the heap of garbage, the boys dig a hole in the sand, put the garbage in and then cover it with sand.

I'm going to see an archeological site. My taxi driver, himself a descendent of Inkas, shows himself impressed by the Inkas' organising ablitities - these however do not seem to have survived: When the TV in my hotel room does not work, I inform the reception. She will send somebody up, the receptionist says. 45 minutes later nobody has shown up. I go tell her again. This time she wakes up a girl who had been sleeping in the storage room and now stands rather helplessly in front of my TV. Let's leave it to tomorrow, I suggest. I will call the guy in charge, she responds and disappears. 20 minutes later I go to check and find the girl half asleep behind the reception. The guy's not answering the phone, she says.

The Reserva Nacional de Paracas "fue creada con el fin de conservar una porción del mar y del desierto del Perú, dando protección a las diversas especies de flora y fauna silvestres que ahí viven ... Es la única área marítima protegida del Perú". I loved it (alone the desert colours!) and visited it three times during my week in Paracas.

I feel like having a tortilla de verduras but can't find it on the menu and so I ask whether they can make me one. The owner, a resolute woman in her forties, says, sure, we can do that but does not look too confident. The couple at the next table smiles in my direction and the lady explains that her buddy knows very well how to do tortillas. They politely refuse my suggestion to move to the kitchen but the lady starts to elaborate in detail how the tortilla needs to be prepared. When she is about in the middle of her explanation, the restaurant owner, who until then had listened attentively, disappears into the kitchen.

Shortly afterwards, my dish is placed in front of me. Save for a few slices of tomato, I can't detect any vegetables on the tortilla but seem to spot ham and things I can't really place. You can count yourself lucky that I'm not a vegetarian, I smile in the direction of the restaurant owner. What exactly, besides ham did you put on it? I did it how the lady had explained it, she said. Onions, potatoes, and then added a bit of everything like, yes, ham and chicken and ... How is it? she inquires, good? Acceptable, I say. She nods in agreement.

The couple behind the reception of my hotel are both sporting a T-shirt that says Manager. They are in their mid-forties, I learn. Are both of you the manager? I ask. I'm doing the administrative work, the woman says, my husband is the captain of the speed boat that goes to the Ballestas Islands. I'm doing this now for 30 years, every day, the captain says and adds, I was born in a boat. No, you were not, his wife says.

At the bus station I hear an announcement that the bus will be thirty minutes late. Are delays a regular occurence? I ask. Almost all of them are late, I'm told, one in three thousand is not. Mine departs late and arrives early.

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