Last leg in Lima

Trip Start Apr 03, 2006
Trip End May 29, 2006

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

So we have made our way up the coast from Arequipa since our last update and there have been even more trials and tribulations to report. Firstly, arriving in Arequipa after a lovely flight with LAN from Cusco, Amber realises she is now without her beloved camera and subsequently all snaps of Machu Picchu... AAARRGH!!! Turns out it fell out of her rucksack at the hotel in Cusco, they found it and very kindly popped it straight in the post to Arequipa... thank god we stayed somewhere expensive! Still, only without it for 2 days whilst out at the Colca Canyon and John has his trusty camera and Amber had her video recorder so nothing lost thankfully.

Our humble abode in Arequipa was the Colonial House Inn I and it was fine and dandy, especially as we met 3 Canadians (Kelly, Bryce, Grant from Calgary) who were signed up for a 2 day round the Colca Canyon. A lazy travel day as usual although Amber tried alpaca steak for dinner and it was damn tasty (and very low in cholesterol too!). Both have developed a fascination with tomato soup too... must be a home thing.

Colca Canyon... twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, second deepest in the world.
Our guide was Raul, a lively chappie and our driver Jose. Our new pals were David and Sarah from Newport Pagnell (near Milton Keynes) who provided much banter during the tour. It was a rough old route to Chivay where we would spend the evening with lots of crazy terrain, constantly changing. It was back up high for us at the Pata Pampa pass at 4,825m with fabulous views making the time in the bus worthwhile. About an hour outside Arequipa was the Aguada Blanca National Vicuņa Reserve where we were lucky enough to see herds of these rare animals just chillin by the roadside. The road gave us the most amazing views of the four volcanoes which surround Arequipa - Misti, Chachani, Ampato and Sabancayo. Chivay is the gateway to the canyon and our lunch stop (more alpaca for Amber...mmmm!!!), then a slow 3km wander through the hillside to see some ruins and indigenous people. A rather relaxing visit to La Calera (hot springs 4km from Chivay) was indeed a highlight and well deserved as we had not taken up the luxury of a massage in Cusco post-Inca trail.

The biggest event though came during the evening - CUY!!! Yes, that would be guinea pig!! Amber, Sarah and David all stepped up to the plate and ordered cuy chacato. It arrives in its entirety, flattened by a big stone and fried. Sarahīs still had ears, they all had teeth and smatterings of fur... yes it was indeed the most traumatic experience of the whole trip. Didnīt really taste of much and no real quantity of meat to speak of (bit like chicken) so we ordered more pisco sours and ploughed on. John was even put off his chicken by our experience (photos to follow from John).

Colca Canyon - day 2
Still rather ropey from a few too many pisco sours and the cuy trauma, we headed from Chivay to Cruz del Condor to see the massive birds up close. We were lucky and there were loads of them flying around teasing the crowds, rising on the morning thermals. The Cruz del Condor is at the deepest point of the canyon and the view was fantastic. Arriving back in Arequipa, we celebrated Amberīs camera return with pisco sours and pizza accompanied by Sarah and David.

Arequipa has many churches and museums but our highlights were La recoleta (Franciscan monastery built in 1647) and the Museo Santuarios Andinos (frozen Inca mummies, especially Juanita who was so well preserved with hair, skin and clothes intact... freaky!).

Next stop... Nasca! Arriving at 0430 we negotiated a flight and rested at nearby hostel. Weather was misty so we had to wait a while but it was worth it if somewhat nauseating. Cut into the stoney desert, about 22km north of Nasca are the famous Nasca lines thought to have been etched on the Pampa Colorado sands by 3 different groups of people. We were in a small plane for about 40 mins as we flew over the attractions and it was fab (see photos).

Onwards to Huacachina, an oasis in the desert about 5km from Ica round a palm-fringed lake and amid the most amazing sand dunes, just what the doctor ordered.

Pisco was our next stop on Thursday. There are 2 parts - town and port with loads of fisheries. A quiet little place for more relaxation. Chatted with a guy called Nielton who led us to a lovely hostel and booked us on a tour to the Ballestas (last leg of travels have been very easy!!). The Ballestas Islands were our reason for being in pisco and we headed out on Friday morning to El Chaco, the beach and fishing port by paracas village to set sail by speedboat. We passed the Candelabra (another strange shape carved into the island) en route to the islands which were spectacular. Lots of eroded caves (ballesta means bow as in archery apparently?) give shelter to thousands of sea birds and loads of sea lions (plus penguins too). We saw plenty of wildlife and it was a lovely boat trip especially as the water was so calm.

So now we are in Lima in our luxury hotel with a nice suite in the San Isidro area. We have enjoyed the sauna and Jacuzzi, sampled room service and generally enjoyed being back in civilisation and we still have the weekend left. Itīs Saturday morning and we are off to explore Lima centre. Amber flies home Sunday evening (boo hoo) and John heads to Mexico so thereīs just one more update left then we are done.

Hope you have enjoyed the ride... itīs been emotional!

Amber & John. xxx
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