Birds, buggys, buses and breathlessness

Trip Start May 27, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Los Andes, Arequipa

Flag of Peru  , Arequipa,
Monday, June 6, 2011

About 6 days have past since our last blog post and quite a lot has happened... so apologies, its a long one... you might want to get a coffee and get comfortable :) Or if you have a low attention span like my good self, read in parts.

Talking of coffee, those who know me (hello!) know I'm a tea drinker, a big one. Well I have now promoted myself straight to black coffee drinker, albeit with sugar. I now have the stinky breath of a geography teacher... sorry teacher friends but my first and worst experience of coffee breath was at school. I have also eaten more (read ever) apples than I would of thought possible... which offsets the unhealthy black coffee.

So we left Lima on Tuesday and made our way to Ica on a 2 hour bus journey with Cruz del Sur – it cost a princely £6 each. Buses (and the mental taxi drivers) are the main means of transport in Peru.  Cruz del Sur is the equivalent of first class travel... it mainly caters to us travellers as we're the only ones that can afford it. It offers lovely comfy seats, blankets, movies, on board meals and a big clean toilet... in fact it might be somewhat too advanced for Peru, as you'll learn later.

So after arriving in Ica (which is pretty grotty), we checked into our hotel. We chose a hotel rather than a hostel as we managed to barter down the price to $40 a night. It was a boutique hotel and had a lovely pool, they also offered complimentary Pisco Sours on arrival :) It was called Villa Jazmin, if you're interested. We can't really get too used to luxury though but it was nice to go for a swim in the blazing sunshine.

On Tuesday we went on a lovely boat ride around the Islas de Ballestas which is off the coast of Paracas. Its nicknamed 'the poor mans Galapagos' but as I've not been there I think its still better than looking at these animals in the zoo. So there. We arrived and were warned to wear a hat as there are a lot of birds overhead, if you get me. And they weren't exaggerating, I would estimate, using my autistic ability to count quickly, there were around 500,000 of the little blighters. The coolest of which were the Pelicans (huge up close), the small penguins (cute cute cute!) and best of all the Booby bird (yes, booby). These birds have the BEST mating dance, look it up on You Tube if you're curious.

There were also lots of male sea lions chilling on the rocks, mainly belching and fighting (like Saturday night on Above Bar Street). Don't know where the ladies were – doing the ironing elsewhere?

After all than animal-based excitement we lounged by the pool for the rest of the day and Skyped home. I must say I've never known so much free Wifi.. you struggle in the UK to get that anywhere except Maccy D's and Starbucks. So if you are concerned about travelling in South America and not getting online much (I was I'm ashamed to say), then no fear as its much easier than you think.

The next day, Wednesday in fact, we went sandboarding. Or, snowboarding on dunes. That's what I hoped for anyway. But in reality I may as well of been a snow virgin for all the help if gave me. Its much slower, so you have to just point straight down the mountain, sorry dune, and go for it. Falling over is a lot less painful, but you do find sand in your shoes for days. I have to say the 'teachers' weren't big on health and safety, which was evident when a girl went full pelt into a guy at the bottom of a huge dune. I didn't see it but Trev describes it as the worst accident he's seen... apparently she whacked into him, screamed and then passed out. We think she dislocated her shoulder.  Now, surprisingly, that wasn't the most dangerous part of the day, that was reserved for the buggy ride through the dunes. To paraphrase Trev again it was 'the most mental thing I've ever done'. Basically you are in a buggy with a roll cage and you're driven up, down and around the dunes at 100mph (felt like). Its like a roller coaster ride, but with no guarantees you'll get off alive. At times we left the ground and joined it again a few seconds later, sometimes you saw sky where sand should be and vice versa.

So after coming down from the adrenaline, we travelled onwards to Nasca. We took a cheaper bus this time, eg the one the locals use. Its called Perubus and was more basic, more people get on and off, including a lot of snack vendors. Which is alright by me as I am constantly in fear of not having food to eat :)

At Nasca we were met by Juan, the owner of Nasca Trails Hostel. He was absolutely lovely, fluent in English (and French. And Italian. And German. And Japanese). We got there about 11pm and were hungry, we asked about local eateries and Juan told us they would be closed. We resigned ourselves to some noodles (when travelling ALWAYS carry noodles). But 10 minutes later Juan knocked on our door with coffee, biscuits and bananas – he is officially a mega-dude. All this for £5 each a night.

So on Thursday we took the early flight over the Nasca lines. These are ancient markings in the desert made by the Incas to communicate with the gods for more rain.  "Our crops are failing Inca Gods, so we've drawn you a giant picture of a dog, a spider AND a monkey. C'mon - they’re pretty impressive and they took ages - just a bit of drizzle... pretty please?”  It didn't work and the Nasca tribe died out. I may of condensed the story a bit, but its a long blog.

We took a 6 seater Cessna to look at the markings and within 2 minutes I was feeling var var sick... I kept thinking “I've paid £60 for this flight I'm going to bloody enjoy it”... but with all the banking left and right and the air pocket drops, all I could think about was the ground. The lovely non-moving ground. So my tip to anyone about to do the Nasca Lines is take some meds if you usually get travel sick in a car/boat, as a Cessna is even worse :)

That night we took the overnight bus to Arequipa, Cruz del Sur again, so lovely reclining seats and pillows. And everything was lovely, smooth, restful and luxurious until about 12.30am when the bus went black and we suddenly stopped moving. Of course, being an insomniac, I was the only person on the first floor to witness this and the only light left was that of my iPhone. Cue me hissing to Trevor to wake up – he didn't obvs. After about 5 minutes of silence, (except the bus driver swearing en Espanol and kicking the wheel), the police turned up. It turns out this Gadget Show worthy bus is fitted with GPS and if at any time it makes an unscheduled stop, the rozzers are contacted and dispatched. So after the Police were happy we weren't in a hostage situation (Derek you can hold on to those purse strings for now) they went away and the bus driver continued swearing and kicking the bus. Eventually the bus started up and we made our way to Arequipa (still about 300km away) at around 30mph with lots of stops to cool the engine. So after a very looooooong journey, we got to the city 8 hours after schedule. But being British we complained and now have 15% off all further journeys in Peru. So every cloud...

Talking of clouds, we're currently residing above some, Arequipa is 2335m above sea level. Its part one of acclimatization. Part two being Cusco. I panicked quite a lot about altitude sickness and buying medications for it (imagine that... me being a hypochondriac). But as it turns out, I'm fine and Trevor is bit ill – my poor fiancé is trying to sleep off the feelings of grogginess and dizziness (nope, not a hangover, although apparently the symptoms of altitude sickness is a combination of a hangover and drunkenness). You basically have to wait it out until your body is used to the altitude.

Today is Sunday... we're not up to much today, mainly because I'm writing this essay and Trevor is poorly sick in bed. Also its election day – I realised this when I was woken up at 7am by police sirens, although first I had to reassure myself that the active volcano that overlooks the city, El Misti, was still "asleep". We found out the Policia were there for a political protest. If the candidate Keiko (the one with the dodgy dad) gets in power, there might be quite a lot of unrest, so that should be interesting... (read, bit nervous).

So, adios amigos. This week I'm getting Spanish lessons so that I can stop pointing at everything to communicate or worse just barking a few freshly learnt words at locals. “Toilets!?” “Bill?!” “Broken Bus?!”. That's the thing with a language you are rubbish at, you forget to say please or thank you as you are too busy trying to remember the newly learnt word. Rude.

Baa xx

Just a little footnote. Last night a swarthy looking Santa Claus was standing at the end of our street shouting. Today he's back but dressed in a yellow Santa outfit. We're not sure that he's actually real or a symptom of altitude sickness. But we've got photos (below, my friend), so he must be real.
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