Week 35 - Copacobana to Nazca

Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
Trip End Dec 19, 2008

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Where I stayed
The WalkOn Inn

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

March 28th - Copacobana

Finally...caught the boat to the fabled and elusive Isla Del Sol. The 2 hour boat ride was slow but the views were beautiful with scatterings of small islands on the huge Lake Titicaca. The waters were crystal clear and temptingly swimmable but yet again freezing cold (should bring a wetsuit with me everywhere to quell my water lust)

On reaching the island the group was met by a local guide and we were whisked off to the small local museum. Saw some artefacts from an underwater city in the area and learned that the legendary Jacques Cousteau did a lot of diving in these parts in his heyday.

Next was a slow walk through small villages along cobbled pathways. Reached the ancient ruins of the island and had a stroll through the pre-Incan rock ruins.

It was now 12.30pm and the return boat was due to leave at 3.30 on the other side of the island so me and Surekha had a long 17km walk ahead of us. The going was pretty hard (me and especially Surekha, were still weak from the cold) and steep in places (even though the tour ticket seller told us it was flat all the way). By 3.25pm we still hadn't reached the end of the island and with just a minute to go reached the top of the cliff (at the bottom was our boat). Between us and the boat back was a steep set of stairs and no time.

I ran down at breakneck speed, avoiding donkeys blocking the path (nearly vaulted over it), tired backpackers coming up the stairs, touts selling hostel beds and locals with market goods.

Reached the boat just as its second siren sounded for leaving and managed to hold it up to give Surekha time to get down here.

Exhausted we made the boat and on the way back pondered the 3 hour walk and the mystical island. I thought it was ok but to be perfectly honest nothing like what I expected. It didn't feel mystical or spiritual at all. Some of the views were impressive...but that was it really (honestly...all that effort and endless delays ending in a disappointing trip).

Back at Copacabana it was back to the heaven hotel for a slap up dinner and an early night.

I never learn...today I forgot to use sun block during the island visit (yes...even the obvious clue of 'Sun Island' wasn't enough to provoke the brain into remembering) and am now suffering or it. (damnit).

March 29th - Crossing the border into Peru

This morning it was time to leave this place as we got a small minibus to a bigger bus and then it was time to cross another border. The formalities were very easy as we just walked across after some swift passport stamps. Then walked to a road intersection just outside the border and had to wait for a couple of hours for the main bus.

The bus journey to the first major stop in Peru was pretty short and uneventful. After 6 hours reached the gorgeous city of Arequipa. As soon as I saw it I knew I'd like this place. Checked into a very central hotel and went for a delicious pizza dinner near the city plaza.

The views from the hotel rooftop were awesome as the light of the city washed over the cathedral and plaza. Managed to catch the second half of the England vs. France game and went to sleep thoroughly disappointed (but at the same time happy I got to see England play).

Tonight booked a 2 day tour of the Colca Canyon for tomorrow morning. So looking forward to watching some Condor action.

March 30th - Colca Canyon (Peru)

Today is the start of the 2 day Colca Canyon tour. The minibus picked us up at 8am filled with the usual array of people and nationalities; Israelis, Peruvians, French and German. One of the Israelis was quite a character and would come out with nuggets of random comments like 'I do love the smell of napalm in the morning' or 'women with cold feet..mmmm' (weirdo but a well funny fella).

First stop was a shop stop to stock up on Coca products (we'll be entering some high altitudes). Bought myself some coca sweets and cakes (pretty tasty).

The scenery during the long drive to our destination was spectacular; huge cliff drops, snow topped mountains (the mighty Andes range), hordes (I think that's the right term for a group of them?) of Llamas and Alpacas lazing on the streets and donkeys just about everywhere.

Saw loads of beautifully dressed indigenous women walking around or selling goods. We made quite a few stops in small villages along the way but apart from the scenic stops these were complete tourist traps; local kids carrying baby Llamas and then asking for cash for a generic cute photo, men and women with huge hawks on their shoulders (again asking for cash...but this I succumbed to and got a snap of me with a hawk on my head), children doing traditional dancing in a big circle (on would hop out of the line to get money). Nothing wrong with all this but definitely not my thing.

The main event for the evening for me was some hot spring action. After the altitude and cold this was sheer bliss (seriously hot with a capital Ho). After a swift hot shower to wash off the eggie sulphur pong the guide took us all to what was billed as live indigenous music and dancing with good grub (in reality it was 4 fellas with pipes on a small stage, a couple dancing and pretty dire food). One of the Israelis helped our appetites by pulling out a hair from his soup and complaining to the staff (I suspect it was actually one of his...I'm sure there aren't a lot of kitchen staff in Peru with medium length blond hair..genius). After a while the music and dancing kind of warmed on me but was too staged to be fully enjoyed.

Sleep was a nightmare as the icy cold hotel room (possibly -30c) froze me to the bones. With the added shock of having to get up at 5.30 for the continuation of the tour I was feeling well rough.

We made more stops at beautiful spots and then what we were all really waiting for...the Colca Canyon and its main inhabitants..the mighty, graceful condor. The canyon really was an amazing sight and the depth was huuuuuge...deeper than the Grand Canyon (vertigo time again).

The first glimpse of a condor caused a stir and stifled gasps from the group but as quick as it appeared the cheeky scamp flew off again.

So, everyone waited patiently and quietly for an encore. So when after a half hour wait another huge bird appeared there were more gasps from everyone. But this one was a pro..putting on a show of Red Arrow's proportions; Swooping, diving, dipping its wings and the finale was an overhead fly-by.

You could really sense the hugeness of it as it flew over our heads (3 metres) and with just the smallest tilt of its wings it would change direction instantly.

Satisfied and chattering about this sight we all headed back to the minibus for the long trip back to Arequipa. Six hours later and back at the very hospitable hotel I chilled out and waited for my bus departure time.

With another overnight bus journey ahead of me I headed to the bus terminal. Had a tea at the terminal cafe and we had a random conversation with the middle aged owner (she would ramble on in Spanish then in mid sentence switch to English like a flash..nearly causing my brain to overload).

March 31st - Nazca

Arrived in Nazca (the place of mysterious desert line drawings) at 5am and immediately on exiting the bus was hounded by hotel touts (the bane of my life in these here parts). They were like half stalker, half vulture with a touch of hyena in them...beasts of the desert.

After shaking off those pesky touts got a taxi and arrived at the fantastic hostel that is the Walk On Inn. Settled in and had a sleep of normality on a flat bed for a few hours.

Its so nice to be in a warm climate and just need shorts and T for everyday wearing. Had a good splash around in the hostel pool (its been awhile for this Aquarian) and then had a wander around town.

Nazca isn't the prettiest or liveliest of towns but it’s warm and has quite a few worthwhile attractions, the main one being the Nazca Lines; very old line drawings in the desert sand mostly of humanoid shapes and animals. The best way to see them is a 35 minute flight in a small plane (sigh). The plan was to book a flight tomorrow and just relax for today.

Dinner was in a restaurant above the hostel. When Surekha ordered a shellfish omelette (the warning alarms should have sounded).

April 1st - Nazca

Have decided to give up this life of travel and catch a flight straight back to good old Blighty. Pff...never in a million.

As predicted the combination of still trying to shake off a cold and eating bad shellfish caused Surekha to develop a very high fever, vomiting, diarriah, coughing...well, just about everything hurt. A swift trip to the pharmacy (never a shortage of them anywhere in Latin America) and the job of fixing her was on. In between swims and jaunts to town I popped my head in the dorm room to check on the patient.

The great hostel that this was had Wi-Fi, cable TV and a pool so in between patient checks I was kept occupied.

Sleep was easy to come by but not for long. The only unfortunate thing about this hostel is its location. It sits right opposite some form of chicken farm that breeds cocks with no sense of time, who will start cockadoodledoing at any time of night..or day. Sometimes at midnight, sometimes at 4am. It’s a mystery why they do it and as much a mystery why I didn't go round there and strangle the noisy, feathered bastards. In between the cock singing the stray dogs in the area would start with an hour of constant barking (damnit animals...let me sleep will you!).

April 2nd - Nazca

Surekha's even worse this morning with a serious fever of near 40c so I ordered a proper doctor to come in and fix her. He was a likeable old fella who'd lived and trained in Jacksonville, US. In what he was trained in I'm not sure but he checked and treated her properly with the biggest syringe I've seen in a long while. The usual antibiotics were prescribed as well.

Looks like the Nazca lines flight will have to wait for a while more.

I'm starting to think about how quickly my time in Latin America is coming to an end. I have my flight from Santiago to New Zealand booked for the 21st April and shit, is that time looming fast.

April 3rd -

Another day of not doing much although my duty as Surekha's doctor means hanging around and popping out to buy essentials (fine by me...a good excuse to chill, read, swim and sleep).

For the next week I'm going to fly over the Nazca Lines, then head swiftly to Cuzco (the Incan capital) to see if I can actually get onto the Inca Trail. If not I'll settle for an alternate hike to famous Incan ruins of Machu picchu.
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