Lima to Cusco via Pisco, Ica, Nasca, Colca Canyon and Arequipa
15.12.2012 - 22.12.2012 25 °C
So after meeting the tour group in Lima (there´s 7 of us including the guide) we headed for Pisco which is a 6 hour drive south and home of the Pisco Sour, my new favourite drink.
After enjoying a few said drinks with dinner the next morning we headed for the Ballestas Islands which Lonely Planet describes as the ´Poor Mans Galapogos Islands´. We got a pretty good look at some sealions, penguins and various birds. Definately doesnt compare to the Galapogos but a whole lot cheaper! Interesting fact about the islands is that over 5 years, approx 3 metres of guano (birdshit) builds up on the surface and 300 people spend 3 months scraping it all off and collecting it to be brought back to the mainland for fertiliser..surely that would have to make the list of top 10 worst jobs! The smell from the boat was bad enough, I can only imagine what its like on the islands...
After that we drove to Ica which is a small town built around an oasis in the desert called Huacachina. We hopped into a dune buggey and the driver spent the next hour doing his best to make us cry/laugh/puke up our lunch. In between ramping off dunes we stopped to do some sand boarding. Way harder then it looks but seriously good fun. I still have sand coming out of my ears!
Wasnt entirely convinced of the cleanliness of the oasis but figured it might be my only chance to swim in one so took a quick dip. You can see my head somewhere in the middle of this picture.
After Ica we drove to Nazca, a pretty much unknown city until 1939 when a small aircraft flying over the area discovered the Nazca Lines, bascially grafiti scraped into the earth up to 130meters in height. There are various images, a dog, a condor, a monkey and a spider. The best way to view them is on a flight so that’s exactly what we caught early one morning to get the best weather.
You can just about make the the shape in this picture
Our tour guide advised not to have breakfast as we were flying on a very small 6 seater plane and I was very glad of the tip as I wasn’t feeling very well towards the end of the flight. Cue the pilot to excitedly turn around and say ´Do you want to do zero gravity??´ I was at the back of the plane furiously shaking my head saying ´No way!´ however all five others were like ´Yes please!´. Damn you democracy! So praying to god that I wouldn´t throw up the pilot flew the plane up and then essentially dropped us out of the sky so were at zero gravity for a few seconds. Thankfully my stomach didn’t let me down and it was actually really cool and we asked him to do it again.
Also in Nazca is they Chauchilla Cemetry located in the middle of the desert. Grave robbers starting looting these tombs in the 1950s and since then approx 20 have been fully excavated and are on display. Even though they are essentially exposed to the elements with only a wooden shade over them they are still incredibly well preserved due to the dry climate as the picture below shows. Checkout the dreadlocks snaking around the left of the cloth..maybe the world’s first Rastafarians??
From Nazca we took our first night bus to Arequipa which I had been really curious to experience because I had heard so much about them. It was pretty much as described, very like a flight with a bus hostess and a meal served but with seats that reclined way further. I slept very well for most the 10 hours thankfully. No one else did though so I’m very glad to have inherited the bus/train/airplane sleeping gene zzzzz
Arequipa is Peru´s second largest city nicknamed the White City due to many of the buildings being built using volcanic rock which dazzles in the sun. It has a gorgeous main square and cathedral and the entire city is located in the shadow of the 5822m volcano El Misti.
Cathedral lit up at night
We went to visit Juanita, an 11 or 12 year only Incan girl who was sacrificed on top of a 6300m mountain over 500 years ago. She was discovered in 1995 after being dislodged from her tomb by the eruption of a nearby volcano. Due to the altitude she was essentially frozen and as a result is incredibly well preserved. The whole story is pretty fascinating especially when you think they had to climb a 6000m peak in sandals. No pictures were allowed but there are lots online if you Google it.
We went out dancing in a local pub/nightclub in Arequipa. A local rockband did some really good covers. Later in the night after the band had finished and the disco started, I was busting out what I thought were my best salsa moves only to be told by a local that ´you dance weird´…my ego is still recovering..
Up next was an overnight in the Colca Canyon. Hadn´t really done much reading into this area so didn´t really know what to expect. What I found was absolutely stunning views of the Andes, they really do make you feel very very tiny. Pictures really don´t do it any justice but here is a sample
We stayed in a tiny village in a gorgeous chalet type hotel.
We drove early along the top of the valley to a lookout where condors are regularly spotted surfing the thermal air coming up from the valley. I didnt really know very much about condors however i learned that they are vultures with a wing span of up to 3.2 meters ie feking big.
Hi Ho Hi Ho its off to Cusco I go. Will have just enoght time to get some last minute supplies before starting the Inca Trail..can´t wait!
Lots of love to everyone
Aoife (and her seriously dented ego)