Wednesday, June 2, 2010

As we had hoped for, we got a good night's sleep. We didn't have any sun, however. We did have a bunch of plants from our garden all over the grounds, including Iceplant, Bougainvillea, African Tulip Trees, Date Palms - we had no clue these things grew (let alone thrived) in the Peruvian desert (albeit with irrigation). We got to the breakfast buffet right as it opened at 7:30, but had to rush because we had to be at dock at 7:50 for our cruise. The weather was overcast, but it wasn't too cold. We got some good seats on the boat, near the back, where we had no glass in the way. We saw the huge Candelabra carved into the sand, with tons of birds (mostly cormorants and pelicans) all around, on the shore, in the water, and in the air.

We passed some fishing vessels who had large nets out, and there were tons and tons of pelicans, plus some sea lions, taking fish out of the nets. The pelicans don't look particularly graceful when landing, but they do look very efficient at eating big fish.

While this was a ton of birds, it paled in comparison to the number of birds around the Ballestas Islands themselves - it was literally awesome. We did circles around each of the islands, turning the boat around often so that each side of the boat would get unimpeded views. There were a fair amount of Humboldt penguins, and we were excited to see them, but not as much as a group of Kiwis (or perhaps Aussies). This was apparently their 17th - and last - penguin species they had seen. We are now at 11 - Galapagos (in the Galapagos), Jackass (Cape Town), Magellanic (Falklands), Gentoo (Falklands, South Georgia, Antarctica), Rockhopper (Falklands), King (South Georgia), Macaroni (South Georgia), Chinstrap (South Georgia, Orcadas, Antarctica), Adelie (Orcadas, Antarctica), Fairy (Kangaroo Island), Humboldt (Paracas). Of the remaining six, 4 are on or around New Zealand's south island, 1 is one of New Zealand's sub-antarctic islands, and the Emperor penguins are on the Antarctic interior. Maybe we'll get to 17 one of these days.

As we left the islands to head back towards the shore, a huge group of cormorants took off as a group to go feeding - again, the numbers defy description. It's amazing that no one got hit by any bird droppings. In the water, we couldn't see any of the fish, but we did see some krill - they were much bigger than we thought they were. This isn't to say that they were big - just bigger than we thought. Just before we got back to shore, we stopped to watch some dolphins that were swimming around the bay.


We got back to shore around 10, and went back to the room to upload some pictures and back up the computer. We were hungry, so we had lunch at the trattoria, which was the only restaurant that was open at noon. We didn't have anything planned for the rest of the day, so we decided to see if we could sample all of the different piscos to see if we tell any differences. We had two different piscos, and planned to come back and try the rest later. At 2pm, we went back to the room for champagne and strawberries, which the hotel kindly provided when we told them that we were on this trip for our 10th anniversary. On the TV, we watched a dark comedy - "Balls Out: The Gary Houseman Story." It was very odd, but was entertaining.

The hotel seemed to employ about half of the city. Although there appeared to be few if any guests at the hotel, there were tons of people washing floors, re-painting walls, trimming palm trees, etc. The hotel actually seemed a little too nice, and a little too fancy, for the surrounding area. Much of the design was a little overdone to the point that is was impractical - too cute by half. For example, to get better views from the ocean bar, all of the glass doors had no frames, but this meant that any time the wind blew, the doors would let the breeze in, and sometimes the doors would just blow open. But the bar itself, especially the drinks, were quite good. We stayed there for hours, trying different piscos and finally ordering dinner. Our final notes from the day were as follows:

We were tired all day - the motion sickness patches have this as a common side effect - so after dinner, we went to sleep, around 10.