Wind on my face, Sun in my Eyes ´n Sand in my Ears

Trip Start Jul 06, 2005
Trip End Mar 10, 2006

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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hello hello all, I know its only been a week since the last update, but its been a BIG week, what with an epic 4 day Andes trek, sand boarding, dune buggies, and the famous Nazca Lines! Last I left off I guess I was sick and about to try to drag myself 4 days through the mountains... First a few random South America observations:

1) Why, if we all have assigned seating, are you elbowing me in the head trying to scramble in front of me to get on the bus?

2) If you donīt get the answer you want from a company, just go back in twenty minutes, the answers will invariably have changed. Alternatively just talk to a different employee.

3) The bus/van/car isnīt full. Ever.

4) How can you sell the same beer in similar stores, on three corners of the same intersection, at three wildly different prices?

5) Why use a metal detector if you donīt search me after it clearly goes off several times? On that note, does the "No firearms" sticker on the metro actually make me safer?

6) I know the hamburger isnīt on the menu, but you just agreed to make one for my friend and weīre the only ones here. One customer per night? What the hell kind of rule is that?!

7) Big, scary South American border crossings huh? Itīs harder to cross into the US these days! Stamp, wander to the other side, stamp, on your way.

8) The price of anything is inversely related to how gullible you are. Why donīt people bargain? Weīve just spent days where we paid less than anyone on a trek, then on a sandboarding trip, and got a 20% discount on our "firm" room price.

9) It is VERY hard to be mad at a mule driver that has just let ALL of your stuff get soaked unnecessarily when heīs drenched to the skin, doesnīt even OWN any stuff to worry about getting wet and is smiling ear to ear. On that note...

Santa Cruz Trek - Huaraz, Peru

Despite an inauspicious start, this trek rocked!

Day 1

Sucked, basically. Set out super early, sick, and after a long, long ride into the mountains, we were dropped off on the side of the road to wait for our mules to show up. They didnīt. Sooo, we ditched all our big bags in some womanīs house for the mule drivers to load whenever they did show and set out with just our daypacks. Long story short, it started to pour, the mules were HOURS late, we decided to wait in a localīs house since the camp had no shelter without our tents. When the mules showed up every bit of our gear was somehow soaked right through despite plastic available to cover it (absolutely half-assed job done in covering the bags, the plastic was more than adequate for the job); since it was getting dark by this time we ended up camping in some horse crap covered field.

That said, we had an AWESOME group and guide. Chris (aka The Soup Killer) and Ali (aka The Bone Collector) from Paris, Jen from AUS, Marisa from Switzerland, and us along with Rony, our ever so chill guide. For the most part we laughed through the whole thing (it was that or cry). Little did we know but we were soon to be rewarded for our good spirits!

Day 2

SUNSHINE and blue skies (and not sick, although Mark was feeling rough)! Day 2 was the backbreaker - 7 hours of hiking, the first 5 climbing a long valley from 3200 to 4700 metres to cross a tiny pass, which only a couple weeks before had been buried in two metres of snow. For perspective, the altitude at that pass is way more than twice the height of Whistler Mountainīs highest peak. Skydiverīs jump from 12,000 feet, we crossed at OVER 15,000 FEET. The physical test stretched the group out over a huge part of the trail, Chris was about 20 minutes ahead of us, then Mark and I, and the last didnīt make it for about an hour after that. Each step was an effort - we were sweating to death while walking, but the second you stop its FREEZING! Just for encouragement, there was always the occasional dead horse or mule that broke a neck or ate a poisenous plant.

The views were truly mind blowing all the way up the first valley with the scenery constantly changing with the altitude, and as soon as you cross this tiny pass a new valley stretches below you: crystal blue glacial lake, massive glacier clinging to the mountain above, snow capped peaks all around and a lush greem valley floor far below. Dragged ourselves two more hours down the other side and camped in a picture perfect site, just in awe at our surroundings. Everyone was feeling rough from the altitude (camped at 4200 metres!), but there was definitely a celebratory mood that night!

Day 3

The "easy day", except we convinced our guide to take a two hour detour, mostly straight up, because weīd heard of a beautiful lake and glacier we wanted to see. The two girls didnīt feel up to it so just the four boys and the guide headed off, and despite the climb it was so worth it. We came to a spot surrounded by more than a half a dozen peaks, overlooking a perfect turqoise glacial lake and glacier. Check the video above for a panoramic view. Mark and I built the kickass Inukshuk rock sculpture you can see above on the lakes edge!

The rest of the day involved five hours of descending through the valley and unforgettable terrain - countless waterfalls, pure lakes, semi-wild horse herds, massive cliffs and ever varying vegetation - back to an altitude of 3700 to camp in yet another mindbendingly beautiful site.

Day 4

Easy day, just a three hour downhill wander out of the mountains to the tiny town where we tracked down a ride on the dirt road back to a town with a bus station. Bus ride was entertaining - the "bus" was a twelve seater van, we never had less than twenty people in it, half sleeping, drooling, carrying crops, drunk, or providing some other value-added entertainment. Then home safe and sound! The hostel let us shower and get organized even though we werenīt staying, and we were off that night to....

Huacachina - Sandboarding, Dune Buggies, and Midnight Dune Climbing

Moving quick now! We left Huaraz directly after the trek, 9 hours overnight to Lima, switched bus companies and kept going 4.5 hours to Ica and Huacachina, surrounded by MASSIVE sand dunes and endless desert. Immediately ditched our bags and set up a sandboarding/dune buggy trip. Waaaay too much fun - our driver shredded the eight seater buggy up and down the massive dunes (video above), and we stopped at a bunch of different dunes to rip down on the sand boards. Harder than snowboarding and based on my back today I guess some of the impacts were bigger than I thought! Iīm going to be picking sand out of clothes, shoes, and various orifices for weeks...

After the boarding we had a bbq at the hostel and rallied a couple of fellow travellers for a late night climb up the 200 metre sand dune behind the hostel to check out the perfectly clear night. After an (in hindsight) unsurprisingly brutal climb straight up this dune accompanied by three local stray dogs that adopted us, the night sky was simply magical. We just sat up top counting shooting starts and talking for a couple hours before recklessly racing down the dune back to town in giant leaps and bounds - took about a tenth of the amount of time it took to climb up! Off again early the next morning for...

The Nazca Lines

On a roll, we got into town, grabbed a hotel room and immediately bought a flight over the lines for this afternoon! The lines, and more so the theories about the culture behind them are fascinating. The pictures really donīt do the lines justice as the camera couldnīt pick too much up from the plane but in person it was pretty amazing. Thereīs hundreds of giant, majestic figures and patterns scraped into the desert plateau, still there because there hasnīt been any significant rain in thousands of years here. Theories range from alien landing strips through shamanic origens and scale maps of the surrounding area combined with calls to the gods for water - the mystery lies in that none of the figures can be properly viewed without being hundreds of feet in the air, which the Nazca obviously wouldnīt have had the technology for. By far the smallest plane Iīve ever been in, adding to the experience! Picks and video above. Off to Cuzco tomorrow to catch up with a couple of friends from the road and party it up for Hallowe`en and see a LOT of Inca ruins - we`re well and truly on the "gringo trail" for a bit and will be crossing paths repeatedly with lots of people we`ve met heading south for the next little bit - good and bad in that.

Iīll have to leave it there, thanks if youīre still with me! As my nana would say, Iīll love ya and leave ya. Suerte, y hasta la proxima,

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