Lima, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Feb 18, 2007

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Monday, October 16, 2006

The Cloudy Capital (and no, it's not London this time!)

Lima, must be one of the cloudiest capitals on earth. A thick grey coastal mist descends on the capital around May and doesn't really shift until the end of November. Imagine that, 7 months of continuous cloud. We'll never complain about London's cloudy skies again!

We arrive in Lima, after a scenic coach ride, descending more than 3000m, on a journey which took around 7 hours. We get a taxi to a hostel in Miraflores, one of the best areas of the city, with large, posh houses, protected by high electric fences. We haven't really come to Lima to go sightseeing, but as we need to stop here to break up the journey to the southern coast of Peru, we've decided to make the most of it's great shopping facilities and large range of international restaurants. We found a shopping centre built into a cliff at the coast in Miraflores which looked like it was straight out of a wealthy first world city. That evening, whilst looking for somewhere to have a late night drink, Marc accidently led Patricia into a hooker bar, which she wasn't too pleased about. Acting like a right couple of alcoholics, we had headed straight to the bar and only realised the place's status, when we turned around with our drinks already in our hands.

The second night in Lima, we go out for the night in Barranco and find a street lined with door to door bars. One of the bars stuck out as being the busiest of the lot, so after checking through the window that it wasn't a hooker bar, we headed inside. The barman hands us a menu and it's a reasonable 5 soles (about 1.5 US) for a beer. But wait!, in the Peruvian public tradition of tourism protection, a local guy jumps up from his seat and runs over to tell us that there is a promotion until midnight tonight where beer costs just 1 Sol (30 US cents), and that we should make sure that the barman doesn't charge us the prices from the menu. So we thanked him, the barman looked pretty pissed off though:-) However, that was nothing compared to the pissed off he looked at about 5 minutes to midnight. The man who had helped us earlier, came back over to warn us that the offer was about to finish and also told us that he and his 7 mates were going to order 40 beers which would last them the rest of the night. We thought he was joking, but he wasn't. We don't think we've ever before seen such a pissed off barman who was just standing there on auto pilot pulling all these beers.

Thrill Seeking Around the Desert Oasis of Huacachina

After the excitement of Lima, even more excitement awaited us at the sand dunes around the desert oasis of Huacachina. As you pass miles after miles of desert along the Peruvian coast south of Lima, you suddenly come across this tiny desert town built around an oasis. This is the first time we've seen a desert oasis, and we though it was a weird sight to suddenly see Palm trees, other vegetation and a lake in an otherwise totally barren landscape.

That afternoon, we head out in a Sand Buggy Roller Coaster ride up and down the sand dunes, followed by some time spent Sand Boarding. These sand dunes were huge, probably the biggest we've ever seen and the scenery from the top of them could have been straight out of the Sahara. Given the size of the dunes, the sand boarding was quite exhilarating, but flying off the top of them in a buggy car was positively terrifying:-)

The Nasca Lines

After Huacachina, we made a very brief stop at the Nasca Line Museum before taking a luxury coach to Arequipa. The Nasca lines are figures sketched into the desert at some point in the past, which when viewed from the sky look like gigantic figures of various animals. We had the option to take a flight over the Nasca Lines, but had spoken to other travelers who said they didn't think it was worth while, so we decided to skip this tourist attraction.

Arequipa, ummm, Another Colonial City

Arequipa has three main attractions, the central square, which because it is adorned with trees and flowering plants, makes it one of the loveliest in Peru. The Ice-mummies, which we didn't visit because they force you to go on an hour's guided tour around the museum, and we thought we'd get bored stupid. Finally, there is the stunning Santa Catalina Convent, which looks like a quaint village transported straight from Andalucia in Spain. The Convent was definitely our highlight here, with it's tiny squares, narrow passages, and quaint colonial architecture.

Arequipa is where we will say good bye to mild nights and low altitude living for several weeks, as we next climb up to Cusco at 3,400 metres, followed by Lake Titicaca and Bolivia, one of the world's highest countries.
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