Less than three hours by bus from Lima, the old port town of PISCO has long been a rewarding stop en route to Nasca, Arequipa or the frontier with Chile. Along with the neighbouring town, Paracas – 12km away and previously known as El Chaco – Pisco makes a handy base for visiting the Paracas National Reserve, Ballestas Islands and the well-preserved Inca coastal outpost of Tambo Colorado. The two towns, with good facilities and plenty of tour operators, restaurants and hostels, are also decent stop-offs before heading up into the Andes: you can take roads from here to Huancavelica and Huancayo, as well as to Ayacucho and Cusco.
The region’s past has been far from uneventful. An earthquake hit in the evening of August 15, 2007, and, measuring 8.0 on the Richter Scale, devastated Pisco and the entire surrounding area – and it’s still reeling from the aftermath. Hundreds of people were killed and over 15,000 made homeless. Pisco, which remains one of the most active seismic spots on earth, is still complaining that little of the promises made for rapid redevelopment have thus far materialized.
Some 48km northeast of Pisco, and 327km south of Lima, the ruins at TAMBO COLORADO were originally a fortified administrative centre, probably built by the Chincha before being adapted and used as an Inca coastal outpost. Its position at the base of steep foothills in the Pisco river valley was perfect for controlling the flow of people and produce along the ancient road down from the Andes. You can still see dwellings, offices, storehouses and row upon row of barracks and outer walls, some of them even retaining traces of coloured paints. The rains have taken their toll, but even so this is considered one of the best-preserved adobe ruins in Peru – roofless, but otherwise virtually intact. Though in an odd way reminiscent of a fort from some low-budget Western flick, it is an adobe complex with everything noticeably in its place – autocratic by intention, oppressive in function and rather stiff in style.