Monday, September 4, 2017

Biking the Paracas National Reserve

If you search for things to do in Paracas, Peru, the top two activities are seeing the Ballestas Islands via boat and biking the Paracas National Reserve. We woke up before 6am to squeeze in the second one on our last morning in Paracas thanks to our enthusiastic Airbnb host who highly recommended the trip. Although we started biking before the sun rose, we had a great ride around the hilly terrain down to the coast and back. 

Renting Bikes
We first sought out bikes in the afternoon after our boat tour of the Ballestas Islands in the morning. The first company we talked to advised us not to rent at that time due to the wind. I was pleased that the Peruvian was kind enough to pass up two customers in order to ensure that we had a good trip. We thanked him and thought we wouldn't have time to bike the following morning since we had a bus to catch at 10:30. 
Upon returning to our Airbnb, we did a little more research about the park and felt genuinely bummed to miss out. So, I ventured back out to the row of bike rental companies on a mission to find one that opened at 6am. We ended up renting from PlayaRoja who opened promptly at 6am the following morning as promised. Our bikes were 25 soles per bike for the day which seemed to be the going rate at all companies. With our two bikes and a map, we set off to conquer the short loop within the reserve. Unfortunately, one of the two bikes (the one I started on, but John kindly took) turned out to be pretty crappy. It seemed like it weighed about the same as a moped and peddling up hills took way more effort than normal. However, we didn't have any serious problems like flat tires or broken chains, so it could have been much worse.
The Short Loop
It takes about 30 minutes of road biking to get to the reserve from town. Usually you need tickets to enter the reserve (15 soles per ticket) which we had already purchased for our Ballestas Islands boat tour, however we arrived so early that no one was there to check our tickets. We were lucky to catch the sunrise right at the beginning of the loop.

The first half of the loop isn't overly exciting, though there is one stop at an area that claims to have fossils (we didn't find any). After cutting across the park, we stopped at an overlook of the coast. From there, the views only improved. Our favorite spot was Playa Roja, a beautiful beach empty at the early hour. 
Playa Roja

In total, we spent 2.5 hours in the park. With one hour of biking there and back, our trip was 3.5 hours and covered over 15 miles. Since I'm not a serious biker, this was more than enough for me. The big loop is 24 miles, not including the distance to and from the park. I would advise allotting a whole day for the big loop, though the small was well worth the trip if that's all you have time for!

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