What a way to start our tour

Trip Start Sep 22, 2011
Trip End Aug 11, 2012

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hello friends, family and followers.
So, we are now in sunny Arequipa and settling in for our 4th night on the tour. On Saturday afternoon we moved up to the old town part of Lima, which involved another terrifying taxi ride, but we made it. The main squares are beautiful with bright yellow buildings and the presidential palace. I tried an empanada, which is basically a South American Cornish pasty, and it was awesome. It cost about 25p, so I had two. I now get them as a snack everywhere I can.
We met the tour group on Saturday afternoon in the hotel, got invited out for a Pisco Sour (strong local cocktail) and we've been getting on very well ever since. There are 25 of us on the tour altogether, which includes Claire our tour guide and Dave our driver. Oh, and there's Jack the truck, and he's definitely a truck, not a bus. There are penalties to pay for calling him a bus (usually drinking ones). The group is a good mix of people and ages. There's four German lads who are very funny (I know, Germans with a sense of humour!), plenty of Brits and Ozzies, a couple of New Zelanders, a Czech girl and one Irish girl.
The tour started properly at 6am on Sunday morning because we had a lot to fit in. First we met Jack who is a Massive yellow truck, very subtle. We then hit the road for our first stop at the Ballestas Islands. These are basically the poor man's Galapagos. We got a speed boat out to the islands and saw plenty of seals and millions of birds. Alex also got a chance to see her first penguins, so she was very happy. The guide was a big friendly looking bloke with no front teeth and spoke excellent English. We also saw the workers who harvest all the guano, nice job! There were a couple of casualties to sea sickness but we were ok. After the islands we headed for Huacachina, which is a small oasis town surrounded by massive sand dunes. Here we made use of their gorgeous pool and played a game to learn everyone's names, I've just about got them all now after 4 days. At about 4 pm we set out into the dunes in a sand buggy. The driver was excellent and scared the life out of us. Brilliant fun. We stopped off at four dunes, each getting progressively bigger in size, for some sand boarding. It was more like sand sledging as you lie on your front rather than standing, but this way you get plenty of speed and a face full of sand if you fall off. We also attempted to make a human pyramid with a sun set background, but as I was on the bottom I'm not sure as to the outcome, I just know my back hurt! We then all got together in the middle of nowhere for a campfire and BBQ. We all sat Altoona the campfire and two guys served us Pisco Sours and food all night, it was awesome. I also made friends in the only way I know how to, with beer. The German lads, Torben, Andy, Alex and Christian, all arrived late the night before so didn't get a trip to the supermarket, and so when I just handed out my beer I think they were pretty pleased. It was simple bribery for their friendship but it worked! I also made up a playlist for the speakers and Dave the driver has now classed me as the DJ. I knew an iPod full of classic tunes would come in handy one day. After many more Piscos were got out the sleeping bags and slept alfresco under the stars. This was the first time me and Alex had seen the starts of the southern hemisphere so we couldn't recognise any of the constellations. It was very strange but a good chance for the Ozzies to teach us.
The next morning we were up with the sun and food that we were high above the town below and the clouds had come in below. The scenery was beautiful. There were a few groggy heads but these few soon cleared with another dune buggy ride back to town through the freezing clouds. Best hangover cure ever!
Our plan for today was a drive up to Nazca, home of the Nazca Lines. We stopped along the way to view some of the lines for a tower by the side of the road. It was interesting but not enough to convince us to take a flight to see them properly. Instead we opted to stay at the hotel pool and drink beer. It was a tough decision. I was going to do a blog update from here but the power board blew in the evening just as I was about to use the computer. Ah well, just means this ones a long entry.
After Nazca (so we're now on Tuesday/yesterday) we had a short drive up to Puerto Inca. On the way we stopped off at a cemetry to see some very old and well presserved graves of the Nazca people. As it never rains here the bodies still had hair and in some cases skin. We then headed for the campsite, which was right on the beach. The water was freezing but it didn't stop me charging in. It stopped Alex though, big girl! The rest ofthw day was spent chilling out and exploring the ruins of an old Inca port. The evening was spent by the camp fire learning some German (non of which is repeatable here) and teaching them some of the more colourful phrases of the English language. A very cultural evening I thought.
Today has been a long driving day. We've driven for the most part down the ocean road south from Puerto Inca. This was an experience as it's very high and windy and runs right next to the ocean, as the name implies. I spent some time in the front cabin with Dave the driver. You could see a whole lot more from up there so I'm not sure if it was better or not.
Arequipa Is pretty similar to Lima old town, with a very nice main square and lot of shops. One difference is that we are now over 2500 m above sea level, which is skiing height! No wonder this beer tastes better than normal as I write this! The city is overlooked by some pretty impressive snow capped mountains and a cool typical looking volcano, which is over 5000 m high!
Tomorrow morning we are off to Colca Canyon, which is almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. We're going there to hopefully see some Condors. These are huge birds the float around the canyon on the warm swells. Hopefully there'll be some knocking around for pictures. There are also some hot spring baths and te should be good. To get there tho we travel to an altitude of over 4800 m, so I've got some coca sweets (good for altitude sickness and totally legal) incase we need them, but hopefully not.
But that's all for tomorrow. Now I'm off to my tent, for the fourth night in a row! I'm really looking forward to a bed tomorrow night in our canyon lodge.

Hope everyone is doing well. We're loving the comments too.

Paul and Alex
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MnD on

Brilliant blog. Great to read all about the fun your having and friends your making. I love Jack - at least you can say you did the tour in a Mercedes! You have struck lucky with Germans with a sense if humour but they obviously still can't find the bar .

Looks like you have also hit on a new carear already. DJ Paul - I'm so proud .

Looking forward to the next update and mire photos.

Take care. Love Mum & Dad K xxx

Mum and Dad H on

Sounds like you are having an amazing time and fitted so much into your first week! Just to make you even happier let me tell you that the A14 has been closed twice this week and the M11 once - now that is joy!!!
Indian summer here 28 degrees here! Off for fish and chips to Aldeburgh tomorrow night!!! Big hugs and much love M and D xx

Alex McMillan on

Sounds like a good start to the tour mate! The altitude and beer doing wonders for your typing! :P haha!

You'll be pleased to hear that we're probably having the nicest week of the summer here, weather wise. Though probably still nowhere near as nice as where you are if you're visiting places where it never rains!

Jealous of it all so far guys but keep the blogs coming :) xx

Wade on

We put the clocks forward tonight to mark the beginning of Summer....ha ha ha
Enjoy the sunshine you two.......it hasn't stopped raining since we got back on Tuesday.......
Keep practicing the drinking ....
Wade & Patsy

Sammy on

I love Jack!!!

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