A small beach where I lived for several months in 2000/01 is the gateway for tourism to the Ballestas Islands about 17 miles off the coast of Peru. The islands are a story on their own, but this is about the beach.

Playa El Chaco was divided in two, on the left you had restaurants and some places to stay, on the right were the families of the fishermen. The dividing line was the floating wharf that served for tourist departures and fishing boats.

The floating wharf and ever present pelicans. The end of the dock rose and fell with the tides.


The monument high on the dunes – image credit AV


Playa El Chaco has a history, right in front of where I lived (the centre of this photo) was where Simon Bolivar landed to liberate Peru. There is a large monument on the dunes behind the village.

The village was very rustic, many of the houses had no roofs; they were not necessary as it never rained. The only adverse weather the region experienced were the Paracas Winds that swept across the Paracas Peninsula and over the harbour in August and September.

The beach was the playground for the kids, they’d chase and tease the pelicans with fish and swim amongst the fishing boats.

The families all worked, the men fishing, the women making and selling artifacts that represented the islands, all manner of sea lions craft from sea shells, and the kids would wend their way through the throngs of tourist and around the restaurants hopeful of making a sale, or better still enticing a tourist to the stall area on the village side of the wharf.

It was near these stall that my local bar was located. Made of bamboo it was a focal point for the locals.

Juan Luis perched in front of the bar, the artisans’ stalls can be seen in the background – image credit AV

Even five year old Juan had to work selling for his mother.

Playa El Chaco was an interesting interlude in my travels. In the morning I would get a collectivo taxi to Pisco, 21kms to the north, and work with a tourist agency. I did some planning work for them, reworked their advertising propaganda, and many times was required to accompany groups of tourists to the islands as a guide.

The afternoons were free. A leisurely cerviche lunch, with beer, a nap and a walk along the beach reflecting on life.