A very busy week

Trip Start Aug 17, 2009
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

With heavy hearts we left Mancora on a night bus to Lima. 

We only spent one night in Lima and to be fair I don't think we gave it enough time.  We got in at around lunch time and shared a taxi with an English guy we met on the bus to a hostel.  We were in an area called Miraflores which is supposedly the only safe district in Lima for backpackers.  We took a walk around and bought a few necessities and figured out where and how we were going to head to next.  We had a quiet night in the hostel, watched a movie and got chatting to two Aussie girls who were heading north all the time.  They had some good suggestions for the south of Peru.

From Lima we headed to Paracas.  It was a short trip, only about five hours which when you compare to the eighteen hour journeys weīve made is really nothing.  We found ourselves a place to stay and went for a little walk about.  It didn't take us long to walk through the whole town!!!  The place was tiny with very little to see or do.  That night though there was a kind of election rally going on.  We heard the commotion and went out for a goo.  All the people of the town, and the neighbouring towns it seemed, were all dressed in orange tshirts that had a 'vote yesī logo on them.  Men, women, children even some of the dogs were all dressed up, waving banners, banging on drums, honking horns and cheering and shouting.  We still have no idea what it was all about but I think there was some kind of upcoming election and the guy they were supposed to be voting for was making an appearance.  We didnīt hang around long enough to actually see this īMikalī guy or woman but it was a good laugh being the only white people in the crowd.  Brian wanted to get a tshirt but no joy.

The following morning we were up early for our trip to the 'Poor Manīs Galapagosī.  We stood in line at the pier with our group until our boat was ready and then off we went.  The boat was like a large speedboat, no roof or anything like that.  We did get lifejackets though.  We rode out to sea for about fifteen minutes and the islands soon came into view.  These islands house penguins, sealions, pelicans and lots of other bird life.  The boat took us in and around the islands and we were able to see all the animals really close up.  The sealions lived in little colonies in the coves and we could see some of them playing around and fishing in the sea very close to the boat.  There were bucket loads of birds too, overhead and just chilling out on the rocks.  There were a couple of people on the boat who got hit but not us.  The people of Paracas come to the islands every ten years to harvest the 'guanaī (bird droppings)  that collects on the rocks.  Apparently itīs the best fertiliser in the world.......might be a good idea to get some for the glass house projects John?.......  We had about an hour cruising around the islands and to be honest, it was more than enough time.  We had breakfast when we got back and then it was back onto a bus.

From Paracas we took a local bus to Ica.  It was only about two hours away so not too bad at all.  From Ica we took a taxi five kilometres out of the city to the oasis village of Huacachina.  Huacachina is famous for only for being an oasis in the middle of a desert and the sandboarding tours that have inevitably resulted.  There's a big lagoon and the village kinda surrounds it.  It has palm trees and on every side are these huge sand dunes stretching way up into the sky.  Very surreal when you walk around and look up to see these huge dunes behind every little house, restaurant or hostel.  We got ourselves checked into a fairly upmarket hostel (upmarket due to the fact that I found fifty soles on the bus - result!)  There was a swimming pool there so we just chilled out there for a while until it was time for our sandboarding tour.  We were pretty exhausted from the early morning start and I think all the going over the last few days.  Brian managed to go swimming with the key to our room which obviously ended up in me scouring the pool floor for a good twenty minutes until I found it.  Clown. 

With an unbelievably loud roar the two dune buggies pulled up outside our hotel.  There was a good gang of us, three Irish girls, a couple from France and Slovakia, three Aussie girls, a guy from Denmark and us.  Our driver was called Alfredo and little did we know how much of a lunatic he was.  We were in a buggy with the guy from Denmark and the three Aussie girls.  They told us that they'd been on the same tour a few days ago and had come back for more.  They had specifically requested to be in Alfredoīs buggy because of the fun theyīd had the last time.  So with a roar, off we set.  We drove up into the dunes and there the fun began.  Alfredo took off, literally....like a rocket up and down the dunes.  We had those seatbelts like the ones on rollercoasters that come over your head and clip inbetween your legs and boy did we need them.  We were bounced around like nobodyīs business as he tore around the dunes like a man possessed.  He would drive up a dune and just when youīd think he was going to stop to go over the top he would speed up and tear over the top of it.  We were airbourne a couple of times and the screams coming out of us were something else.  He dropped us off at the first dune and we got a crash course in how to sandboard.  The Aussie girls had done it already and one girl in particular was feeling very confident.  She strapped herslef in, standing and took off down the dune, two seconds later she lost her balance and was tumbling head over heels.  She took an almighty fall and her legs seemed to go over her head in completely the wrong way.  She stood up though so we all thought she was fine.  Alfredo showed us how to lie on the board and shoved us over the edge, it was great fun!!!!!  We went flying down the dune, sand blowing in your face, your eyes and going into places you never thought possible to get sand.  Brian managed to stand up a couple of times, not me, I stuck to my belly.  After seeing the way that girl had landed there was no way I was even going to try it.  She was in a bad way at the bottom of the dune, all grey in the face and not really able to walk properly and she didnīt do anymore after that.   Just sat in the buggy while we all took off down various dunes of higher and higher heights.  The last one we did was an almost vertical drop but we went for ages.  So much fun!!!!  We caught the sunset which was gorgeous.  A big ball of orange dropping out of the sky.  Brian managed to get a drive of the dune buggy too, only him eh?  He was sitting in the driver's seat and kinda winked at Alfredo, stuck it into first and took off with the Aussie girls and the guy from Denmark all hanging on for dear life.  The big smile on his face when he came back, I think heīs found his new career calling.

There was a barbque that night in the hostel with the promise of free booze for a few hours and a big feed.  We were all sitting around discussing the dayīs adventures when the lights went off.  Slowly but surely the village was converted to darkness as one by one the lights went off in every household.  It was very strange and we were all starving thinking are we or are we not going to get fed tonight.  They eventually called us and we ate by candlelight.  The craic was really good though and I think the darkness added to it.  Trying to find your way to the bathroom and back again became a bit of an adventure.

The next day we had a wee walk around the village, had a bite to eat and we were on the road again.  The guy from Denmark was heading the same way as us so he tagged along too.

Nasca was again about a three/four hour bus hour journey from Ica.  We got into the bus terminal and were met by a lady offering accommodation.  There were three of us and she offered us a good deal so away we went.  The place was grand, hot water and free internet with breakfast in the morning.  We went for a wander but to be honest Nasca didnīt really have a lot to offer.  It's all built around these infamous Nasca lines so every second shop is selling trinkets on one kind or another.  We bought some food and cooked it back in the hostel.  I was kinda humming and hawing about whether or not to do the Nasca lines flight.  It was working out pretty expensive and I just didnīt really know if it was worth it or not.  Brian had no interest whatsoever but convinced me to go.  The guy from Denmark was going too so I figured why not and signed myself up.

We were collected in the morning and brought to the airport.  There was myself and the Dane and this other German girl weīd picked up too.  Only the three of us and the pilot in this tiny little plane.  The flight was great but the lines themselves were VERY disappointing.  I think I had hyped it up in my head that these lines in the earth were going to be something unbelievable, something absolutly breathtaking and really huge.  They werenīt.  Honestly if the pilot hadnīt been there pointing them out I wouldnīt have seen anything.  I have no doubt that I would have missed them completely.  I was really disappointed.  I mean the flight itself was cool, being in such a tiny plane and I was sitting right next to the pilot so I had a great view but nah, the lines themselves were really disappointing.  The others were disappointed too, they like me, had kinda thought that they were going to see something really incredible.  Not to be!  We got back to the hostel and faffed about for the rest of the day.  We booked a bus ticket to Arequipa leaving that night at eleven so we had the whole day to kill.  Nasca is not the bustling metropolis where killing a couple of hours is easy.  Man did it drag.  We walked around for ages, sat in the park, walked around again and finally went back to the hostel, got something to eat and headed for the bus to take us to Arequipa. 

We arrived into Arequipa ridiculously early in the morning.  Got ourselves a taxi to take us into the main plaza where we were going to look around for hostels but the taxi driver knew a place so we decided to check it out.  It was clean and quiet so we took it.  Brian promptly fell asleep so I interneted and faffed about until he felt ready to face the world. 

We took a walk around Arequipa which is the second biggest city in Peru after Lima and it was really nice.  They have a gorgeous plaza in the centre of the town with streets radiating out from it.  There were loads of tourist agencies and we booked a Canyon trip with one of them leaving the next morning.  We did think about doing it ourselves but when we worked out the money side of it, it was coming out the same if not a wee bit more expensive so we went with the agency. 

They collected us the following morning at eight and afer picking up another few people we were on our way.  We drove for the whole morning stopping at various points along the way to look at views, llamas, alpacas, vicunas (they all look the same if you ask me) and other things.  We arrived into Chivay just after lunch time and it was freezing!!!!  I had left that morning wearing shorts and a tshirt.  By the time we got to Chivay I was in trousers, a hoody, a jacket and a wooly hat Iīd bought in one of the stalls during one of the stops.  We were right down in the valley of the canyon so it was pretty cold.  We went to the hot springs though that afternoon and that soon warmed me up.  The bus dropped us all there and there was a wee little stall where you could rent towels and swimsuits, shampoo etc.  Brian went up to get two towels because the hostel we were staying in had provided us with towles the size of facecloths.  The little lady quoted him two soles for one and five soles for two!!!!!  Her maths was worse than mine!!!  Brian got a good giggle out of it though.  The hot springs were amazing.  My toes tingled when I got into the water I was so cold.  Apparently the water has healing properties, I didnīt really care about that.  It was the heat I was after. 

That night we went out for dinner as part of the tour.  We were getting to know people at this stage so there was a bit of craic at the table.  The locals put on a show for us, a bit of traditional dancing and some music.  I was dragged up at one stage and so was Brian.  He had to get dressed up and everything!!!  Very funny night.  There were lots of other tours just like us at the other tables too so the place was pretty packed.  It wasnīt a late night though because we were up for five the next morning.  Our room was like an icebox that night, we could see our breath when we breathed out....no hot water either even though we were promised it from the agency.  We were up early the next morning, had a quick bite to eat and were onto the bus again.  They drove us right into the canyon and the views were incredible.  We got out at one stage and walked right along the edge to Cruz del Condor, a place where condor birds are seen.  There was one lady from Canada in our group who was absolutly petrified of heights so she didnīt enjoy that bit at all.  She was clinging to her husband with her hand up against her eye so that she couldnīt see the drop.  I donīt know how she did it.  We managed to see some condors too which was really cool.  These birds are enormous, I think their wing to wing in something like three metres long, crazy big birds.  They looked so elegant soaring on the air currents though and apparently they live to be eighty years old and keep the same partner for their whole lives.  We didnīt get a lot of time around the canyon and were soon back on the bus which took us back to Arequipa.  We were like zombies by the time we got in and it was straight to bed for the two of us.  These early mornings are a killer. 
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