Monday, 25 January 2010

Isla de la Ballestas

Muster time for the boat to Isla de la Ballestas was 07-45, for an 08-00 departure. In typical South American style we left at 09-00 after so much faffing about, queue at the pier, buy a S/.1 (20pence) 'tax ticket, wait at the root of the pier to have your ticket ripped in half, wait for a life jacket, set sail, return to berth as someone hadn't put their passport number on the manifest, finally get underway! First stop was about 200 meters off-shore, as part of the 75 strong pod of Bottle-nose Dolphins put in an appearance, quite a show even if you have seen them a thousand times before. Then, 20 minutes at seriously high speed to view the Candelabra etched, no-one when, in a high sand dune. It is generally termed the Candelabra but there are a number of theories as to what it really is. If you follow this concept, it's Masonic, while others say a shrouded sign post left by pirates. Or, and the one I like best, a cactus left by indigenous Indians, as their Chief's were given to drinking vast quantities of the juice having a hallucinatory effect which gave them inspiration as to how the community should be run - Ken Kesey eat your heart out!

Finally, we hit top gear again for the 40 minutes to the islands. No landing is allowed for the tourist, the only human activity being by the 'Guano Gatherers', as they still 'crop' the islands for bird dropping as they have for centuries. Nowadays, none of this precious fertiliser is used locally, as the price is prohibitive. Instead the govenment, well aware this is arguably the best manure in the world, only sell to the highest bidder.Along with salt and fish products this (as well as tourism) is the areas highest revenue.

Now I'm sure our regular reader (sic) is sick to death of hearing how it was the last time I was here, but againit has to be said that the bird populations appear to have dwindled dramatically. I remember observing to the Captain on that last visit how black the lava looked from a distance, and he pointing out that it was in fact Cormorants. In the region of 4 million it was estimated, but a decade earlier the number had been nearer 40 million. This time, gone was that black slick, in fact the only adult Guanay Cormorants seen were a few in flight, while juveniles, still reliant on parent birds, were also thin on the ground. It seemed the same for all of the species except Humboldt's Penguin, which were everywhere and breeding seemed to be going well. As well as this being an addition to the Trip List, a single Sooty Shearwater was also seen but with no chance of a photograph.By 11-00 we were back alongside, after what was, despite the moans {observations}, an excellent trip. When we left the sky was completely covered and a cooling breeze was coming in off the sea. Now, it is like an inferno, hence me sitting here doing this, with the temperature somewhere close to 90F. Unfortunately, I have been unable to 'log on' in the hostel even though they have the Internet, so once again this is done on Note Pad to be transferred when I get down to the Cafe later. Tomorrow, I plan to move on and get withing crossing distance of the Chilean border, so that means either Arequipa or Tacna, if I stay in Peru, or maybe even get as far as Arica, we'll see!

As soon as I saw the sign I knew it would be 'home from home' - fits like a glove!

The hacienda until manana.

Candelabra, Masonic Sign, Cactus, Pirate's GPS - the choice is yours.

Ballestas Islands from a distance

Tourist boats in the sea arch.

Guanay Cormorant (adult)

Guanay Cormorant (juvenile with adult)

Guanay Cormorant (adult)

Ballestas Islands


Guano loading ramp
Ditto on the next island.

From another angle.

Peruvian Booby (adult)


Peruvian Booby (flying juvenile)

Humboldt's Penguin (adult)

Humboldt's Penguin (adult completing moult) I'm told they moult every year, the process taking up to 17 days during which time they stay ashore, so by definition don't feed.

Humboldt's Penguin (juvenile)