Peru Numero 1

Trip Start Oct 19, 2010
Trip End Apr 15, 2011

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Sol de Ora Hospedaje

Flag of Peru  , Arequipa,
Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's been a busy first few days in Peru and thought I should get round to writing the first proper one of these – need to get into the habit otherwise it will never get done!! It feels as though we’re been here for weeks, so I’ll give you a run down of our first few days and will try to keep it brief as I know lots of you are also receiving the same stuff from George and Claire!

Claire and I arrived in Lima last Friday and met up with George, Jenni and Amy after a very hairy cab ride to the hostel. The following morning (surprisingly little jet lag, I think my body is used to chopping and changing time zones!)we headed off to explore the centre of Lima. I had quite low expectations as everything we saw on the cab ride looked pretty run down and industrial, so was pleasantly surprised with the lovely town square, and then we picked up a tour guide (who seemed really pleased to have five Gringo girls to himself for a couple of hours!) who took us around the main sites including the cathedral, catacombs and the convent. Had our first bit of Peruvian food (which has been really yummy) at a food market in the centre of town and then got a cab to another food market to find some more!!

The next day was the first of our bus journeys (a mere 5.5 hours) south to Ica and then on to Huacachina which is a small town built around a natural oasis in the middle of a massive desert. We arrived after dark so were pretty surprised to get up the next morning surrounded by massive sand dunes!! While I’m on the subject of the bus journeys, the food is HILARIOUS. We have been picking the veggie options to try to avoid Peru-tummy, and so far we’ve had plain rice and mushrooms, accompanied by a chicken salad (not your usual vegetarian option!) and the next trip we got something that we couldn’t decide was chicken or egg (not two things that you would usually confuse!). Anyway, it’s causing much amusement on the bus journeys so I’m quite looking forward to the next one to see what we’ll get.

On Monday we had an absolutely awesome day, starting with a 6am bus back north to Paracas where we did a boat tour of the Islas Ballestas, and saw thousands of sealions, as well as lots of birds and penguins. Nick and Allan – I managed to avoid getting pooed on this time which was a bonus!! On the boat trip out there we were surrounded by literally thousands of birds and big pelicans who were flying along side the boat, diving into the water and generally making it feel like you were in the middle of some kind of Jurassic Park experience. We then headed back to Huacachina and went out on a very fast and bumpy tour of the sand dunes with our driver who flew up, down and round and round until we were crying with laughter. It was brilliant We also had a go at sandboarding (on our bellies, not our feet!!) which was so much fun – hurtling head first down 100m of steep sand dune was brilliant but we were all finding bruises (and sand!) everywhere for days afterwards. I also got my first bit of sunburn - very peely nose now!

We were all pretty shattered after the busy day so managed to get quite a bit of sleep on the overnight bus from Ica to Arequipa, which is where I am now. Waking up on a bus with 50 other people wasn’t how I usually start my birthday, but the bus attendant wished me a happy birthday over the loud speaker in the morning, we had a fun game of bingo (good Spanish practise) and randomly there was cake for breakfast so I at least got a birthday cake! Arequipa (known as la Ciudad Blanca – the White City) is lovely, with another pretty main square, big cathedral and loads of nice shops and restaurants. So I had a really good birthday lunch (alpaca steaks, which were very nice, and a far cry from the guinea pig that Jenni and George tried. I don’t think any of us will be ordering them again, they were kind of like crispy guinea-pig shaped pillows containing all the organs, all the bones and not a lot of actual meat!) and we all had our first Pisco sour – about time! Had to get a very early night ahead of a 2am alarm the next morning at which point we were all herded on to another bus for a day trip to the Colca Canyon, but only after we’d been sent back to the hostel to change into appropriate footwear and clothing (apparently flip flops and shorts weren’t adequate against the overnight temperatures in the Peruvian mountains, which couldn’t have been more true). We were absolutely frozen by the time we stopped for breakfast after 3.5 hours, and I’d also had a bit of a funny turn as a result of travel sickness/ altitude sickness/ lack of sleep and actually blacked out on the bus! Not a very nice experience!! The rest of the day was great (although had another couple of funny turns), learning about the different tribes that live in and around the canyon and how they used to disfigure the skulls of the babies using wooden blocks and wrapping them tightly in cloth so that the skull was distorted and the people of the two tribes could be differentiated. Luckily nowadays they just settle for different hats! The canyon itself was stunning, covered in Inca stepped-terraces and in places double the depth of the Grand Canyon. We were hoping to see some condors flying as it’s one of very few places that you can see them in the wild, but unfortunately they didn’t grace us with their presence. Took lots of lovely photos though, and also visited the highest point around the canyon (4,910m) and discovered what it is going to be like walking at altitude (basically like a child is sitting on your chest which is a very strange sensation and not very nice – I have new sympathy for everyone with asthma).

Understandably, after getting up at 2am we were all in need of another early night (it’s not been a very rock and roll trip so far, but I think our next stop in Cusco might remedy that!) and we’ve spent today wandering around Arequipa, and also visited a local museum where the 'Ice Maiden’ Juanita is displayed. She is one of several frozen corpses of children that have been discovered in the mountains in Peru over the last 20 or so years, near-perfectly preserved in ice until a prolonged period of volcanic activity melted away the ice. The children were routinely offered as sacrifices to the Inca gods to appease them, often being selected when they were very young and being ‘trained’ for what was seen as their divine calling. The museum also has many of the offering (figurines, ceramics and textiles) that were buried with the children after they had been killed on the summit of the mountain and had been preserved in amazing condition for over 500 years. It was all really interesting, and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Arequipa!!

The Peruvian people are absolutely lovely – so friendly and so keen to have a laugh and joke around with the ‘Gringos’. All of our taxi drivers chat and joke with us despite us clearly not understanding a word they’re saying! We get loads of attention in the street and everyone is always so smiley – George is calling it ‘spreading the Gringo sunshine’ as people’s faces just light up when they see foreigners! I can’t work out if they find us amusing or just intriguing but it’s quite good fun and all seems very good natured!

Next stage of the trip takes us on another overnight bus up to Cusco to get acclimatised before the start of the Inca trail on Monday. Pretty scared about the whole thing, especially since my issues with the altitude yesterday, but everyone we’ve met has said great things about Cusco, and some of the people that the other girls met in Brazil will be there at the same time so I’m sure it will be really fun!! I’m going to try to attach some photos and also a video of the sandboarding but I’m not getting my hopes up as the internet connection leaves something to be desired (much like my attempts at Spanish!) Sorry that this has ended up being so long, will try harder to be brief next time!!

Lots of love, Kay xxx

Ps Skype ID is specialkay0211

Pps This will get posted to Facebook but if you want to get the email to your inbox let me know

Ppps I predicted that I would miss out on at least one engagement while I was away, and it happened 2 days in! Congratulations Chris and Alice!! Any other news from home anyone?
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