I stood at the edge of the continent and took in my first views of the Pacific Ocean. The desert abuts the sea at Paracas National Reserve with dramatic cliffs, sea life, and powerful winds. I felt a true sense of accomplishment.
There have been a small handful of cycling days on this trip that I would consider easy, or comfortable. I can remember about two off the top of my head. Reaching Paracas was not one of those two days. The prevailing winds are from the north to north west along the coast and as I approached the shoreline the famous Paracas winds were directly onshore and in my face.
It was fitting. I was completely alone, walking the bike, with my head down, and going over a hill. When I reached the top I struggled to keep the bike standing in the wind before getting frustrated and dropping it on the ground. To the end I would have to work for every inch across South America. I took a second to breath and walked to the edge of the water. The first thing I thought: about time.
The ride out from the PanAm Sur ended up being 20 miles one way and took me about three hours with the headwind. This was my longest stray from my route but was well worth the effort. The scenery is starkly beautiful and the sense of place was unmistakable. I had miles of coastline to myself for the night to fully appreciate how long the ride has been. I still had a couple hundred miles more to Lima but I had made it to the ocean.
I spent the afternoon wandering further away from the access road looking for a nice campsite. I also took the opportunity to pose on an assortment of cliff tops and various spits of land.
I had been fighting a fever and the runs all day (I am guessing my gut is housing a wonderful myriad of parasites at this point) and was eager to get settled before sunset. I found a shallow cave on a cliff over the ocean where I could hear the waves breaking, and after dark, sea lions barking. I set the tent up close by in the soft dusty ground.
After dark I was outside the tent messing with my panniers I had placed in front of the carved out rock when I heard a scuff noise in the distance. I pointed my headlamp and 50 meters off I saw a moving figure. There shouldn´t be anything out here. I´m not alone.
I kept the beam fixed on the figure and jogged towards it to make sure I never lost sight. As I got close I realized it was a lone man with a large bag. He had a baseball cap down and kept his eyes shielded from my light. I think we both scared one another. I didn´t consider I came out of nowhere, rushed him, and blinded him with my light. He kept asking, “Who are you? Who are you?”
His name was Gabriel and he was from the nearby town of Pisco. He fished off the cliffs at night and hitched a ride back every night around 9pm with some other fisherman. I told him I was just camping for down below and had ridden my bike out here. I think we both were relieved we weren´t about to murder the other.
Paracas is home to the Hubolt Penguin, the Inca Tern, flamingos, Andean Condors, marine cats (never heard of these), pelicans, turkey buzzards, and the Black Ostrich. This time I only saw condors, pelicans, terns, and some other bird life. There are also these crabs that are about the size of a mans hand and can climb quickly up sheer rock. They were very interesting to watch scatter around out of the water.
I fired up the SAT phone and shared my location with my parents and girlfriend.
From Paracas I had under 200 miles to Lima along a stretch of the PanAm I had driven before. I knew I was in for heavy truck traffic, headwinds, more fevers, and less than rewarding scenery. However, for this night I was satisfied.