This post is one of a six-part series on our recent family trip to Perú. The dentist will be visited. Jorge el Curioso will be watched. Paracas will be braved. Bread will be eaten. Spanish will be spoken. Mmm, Spanish will be spoken badly. And more bread will be eaten.
After our trip to Lima in 2013 with our seven month old, Roberto and I scaled back our expectations on traveling outside the city.
I mean, I’m scared crapless just to bring the kids to the Music & Movement class cross-town at the Millhopper Library in Gainesville, so I imagined the family trip to Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, would probably be the end of me.
Read here to remind yourself what long trips (two-plus hours) with toddlers are like.
Although we had only days before sworn off any unnecessary long travel with the kids, Roberto’s cousin called one day and invited us to Paracas, a touristy coastal city approximately three and a half hours south of Lima, in a moment of serious collective amnesia. At the time, we were sailing through Lima in a taxi, bellies full of chancho, and the last song performed by Soda Stereo on their farewell concert “El Último Concierto” in 1997 “De Música Ligera”—”Of Easy Listening Music”—was playing. The kids were calm and singing along (Soda Stereo is their favorite Argentinian 1980s band). Then Roberto recalled not having been to Paracas since he was a kid.
In the midst of all the peaceful nostalgic cuteness, we said, Sure! Let’s go!
The deal was we would travel at night. The kids would sleep. We’d pull into the small town and find a hotel. The next day we’d explore the area and take a Pisco Travel boat tour of Las Islas Ballestas, these breathtakingly giant islands that rise up out of the bay and are covered in guanay cormorant, sea lions, Humboldt penguins, and so much other wildlife that the islands have been nicknamed the Peruvian Galapagos.
Sounded adventurous but doable.
Welp, here are some things we learned:
- Kids are heavy: We didn’t have car seats for the kids and had to hold them for the drive. Due to some traffic leaving Lima and a few gut-flipping moments of trying to find the best “shortcuts” through towns that were pretty much wiped out by the 2007 earthquake, a three-and-a-half-hour trip turned into a nearly five-hour trip. Roberto and I were tired. Our arms and legs numbed completely. The kids wriggled a lot, trying find a comfortable position. A shorter trip or car seats would have kept all the discomfort in the realm of par for the course in an adventure.
- Reserve your hotel room in advance: When we rolled into Paracas around 3:30 in the morning, the entire place was dark. I’m not sure what we expected to find when we got there—a four-floor Holiday Inn Express? Roberto and his cousin knocked on the doors of three hotels on Av. Paracas until a man, who told Roberto he knew everybody in town, led him to this one hotel called Hospedaje El Capricho, next to the fabulously named Hostal Refugio del Pirata. The owner came out and was able to give us two rooms for the night. Everyone slept well, minus me, because I was cold and didn’t think to grab the extra blanket on the top bunk till the sun was already shining, and drivers began honking every time they passed in front of our hotel for some reason we couldn’t divine.
- A two-hour boat ride is totally fun for a three year old but probably not so great for a one and a half year old: The boat was a good-sized speed boat that held (this is from memory) about twenty people. The sides of the boat were high enough I felt fine with the kids when we were docked. When the boat began speeding across the bay, though, and my one and a half year old began squirming like crazy and crying from fatigue and the wind, I felt more nervous. I wrapped him snuggly in a windbreaker and somehow sang him to sleep with Beatles tunes and the theme song from Curious George. The three year old loved the experience. He was squirmy, but mostly excited. He also took some pictures for us.
- If you are in Paracas for one day with toddlers, plan to do one trip or the other: The package deal we chose included a visit to the Reserva Nacional de Paracas. If we could have split the outings up over the course of two days, exploring the reserve would have been something that absolutely interested us. But, after the two-hour boat ride, with one child crying or trying to jump out of the boat half the time, we were set to eat and then get the hell out of Dodge! Next time, Reserva!
What we loved:
- The boat trip. First, we saw El Candelabro, a prehistoric geoglyph found on the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula in Pisco Bay. (I really enjoy all the paranormal explanations of its origins.) Then, the proximity we had with these towering islands, the sea lions, penguins, and clouds of shrimp that turned the water red were really some of the most impressive sights I’ve ever seen. Despite the crying and Curious George singing, the ride was definitely worth it.