The rest of Peru.
04.08.2009 - 10.08.2009 25 °C
It´s a long one...
After our wonderful time at Machu Picchu, it was back to cuzco for the day to catch our night bus to Arequipa. Luckily, Kat and Anthony (Auzzies) cancelled there white water rafting trip and we were able to meet up for lunch. So a nice afternoon before getting on the 10 hour bus journey to Arequipa. The trip itself wasnt´so bad, but the bus was FREEZING. So we bundled up and tried to get some sleep in order to make the best of the following day in Arequipa.
Arequipa is a town, along the coast of Peru and is famous for its 360 days of sun a year! That, and we were getting lower in altitude, meaning even warmer weather! So we got off at the bus station at 6am to find that the tourist information was actually open (that never happens). An eccentric Peruvian man (Pichine) was kind enough to give us some direction, both about the Canyon tour and hostels. He of course talked up his own hostel, and said it was just like home! Sounded great to us, after having little sleep and in desperate need of a shower. So we arrived to the beautiful bright hostel and former home, and relaxed in the hammocks on the balcony before enjoying some breakfast with the other guests. We spent the rest of the day, walking around the volcanic city! The small city is surrounded by 3 large, 1 being active, volcanoes! Very beautiful, and so most buildings, including the gorgeous cathedral is made of the white volcanic rock. After searching a bit, we decided on a Colca Canyon tour that would be leaving the following morning. We then enjoyed the rest of our afternoon at the history museum (another tour in Spanish), had a beautiful dinner with piano music, and went to bed early, to get up for our 3am wake up call.
As per usual, our wake up for 3am was pointless, like most things that are on ´South American¨ time, they`re simply late. So around 4am the tour bus arrived, and with both tour and hikers alike, we made our 4 hour drive to Cruz del Condor. A lovely place where condors float high above the earth using the earths thermal heat waves to gain such heigths. Their wing span is spectacular and Sebastian was able to get some great photos! From there, the 2 day hikers (that was us) were dropped off above the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world, where we would spend 1 day hiking down, spend a night at the Oasis, and the last day hiking up! So about 4 hours, steeply downhill, in the blazing sun, we finally arrived at the first swinging bridge where we could have a quick break, before heading up hill to the small village to have lunch. We finally got a chance to sit, and enjoy the shade, while munching on delicious corn soup, rice and beef. Just a short lunch however, as we were off again, this time across, over and up, and back down the other side of the mountain to arrive at the last swinging bridge, and finally the magnificent Oasis! A beautiful setting, in the river valley with bamboo huts where we would spend the night, along with our own swimming pool, garden and dining area. We certainly wished we had more time in such a relaxing place, we even were in luck with a full moon and a stunning night sky! It couldnt have been better. Except that we knew we´d all be up again at 5am, to do the strenuous hike back up the canyon. Sure enough, our guide, Juan Carlos (more on him later), offered the ladies mules for the uphill hike. We ALL accepted! haha One, I´d never riden a mule before, and two, I`m in Peru, I have to at least ride a mule once, why not up one of the toughest hikes through a Canyon! haha So the girls got a bit of a sleep in since the mules were likely to take less time and the boys, were up at 5am to start their trek.
We were on our mules about 6am, each of which had names. Mine, was George (pronounced Horhey in Spanish), along with Philipe, Lenny, and Joanna. We had quite the laugh, since the male mules kept pushing and biting at each other to be first in line, where as Joanna, the one female, could care less and simply watched the males competing while she trotted behind. Kind of funny, and similar to perhaps...humans? haha Quite the presonalities they had, but they got us up the hill, a bit cramped but happy to have made it! Suprisingly, the guys had made it just a few minutes before we arrived! Very impressive boys! So it was off for breakfast in the village of Chivay. We then hopped back on the bus to make the drive back to Arequipa, but not before stopping at the hot pools! What a lovely way to finish off the trip, and soak our sore muscles! And finally, a yummy buffet lunch, with typical Peruvian food, and a million dishes to choose from! A tired bunch we were when we arrived back in Arequipa, so to our homey hostal in hopes of a good night sleep, but as luck would have it, our snoring roomate made sure that we awoke every hour. Grrr!
The following day we booked a night bus to Nazca, where the famous Nazca lines can be seen, but before heading off we spent our afternoon at the most intriguing monastry in Arequipa. Luckily, we got a tour guide in English for just the two of us, and got detailed explanations of the history and processes of the nuns and novices that lived, and currently live in the monastry. Exceptional, considering it was one of the richest monastries, and only the richest daughters could afford to live there, along with their servants! An incredibly interesting and still beautiful place! Then it was off on the night bus, which wasn´t so cold this time, thank god! and our early 6am arrival in Nazca.
The town of Nazca has nothing but it´s famous Nazca lines. These are drawings, or what look like drawings of animals and other symbolic figures on the desert surface. Its thought that they were used as a sort of agricultural calendar, or in other theories, extra-terrestrial formations (I`m not so sure about this one). So our options were to take an expensive and nauseating flight over them, or get a cheap bus up to the mirador (look-out). We opted for the look-out and through the thick fog and morning sun light we were able to see the tree, the lizard, and the hands. Quite the phenomenon considering they can span up to 100m wide, and still the science behind them is unknown!
We quickly did the archeology museum, before jumping on the next bus to Ica, to catch a taxi to Huacachina. More or a backpacker destination, Huacachina is completely desert and houses some of the largest sand dunes in the world! We were happy to arrive to a beautiful warm place, get a quaint hostel with pool and surrounding hammocks and just relax! Located in the middle of the sand dunes is a small, dirty lagoon that is lined by restaurants, ice cream vendors, and sandboard rental shops. Just the place we needed! We enjoyed the small town, and we´re happy to ge to bed for some much needed sleep. Unfortunately, we were kept awake by an empty bar, and techno music til 4am! Not what we were hoping for. So first thing the next morning was to find a hostal where we could actually get some sleep. We had to pay a bit more, but in the end, it was well worth it. It had an even better pool and lounging area, bar/restaurant and discounted Dune buggy tours! Perfect, so we booked our dune buggy tours for 4pm, which included a 2 hour tour of the dunes, along with some sandboarding, and sunset.
At 4pm, we all organized ourselves inside the 10 man buggy, accessorized with seat belts like you would find on a roller coaster, and started off! This dune buggy wasn`t like any other, since health and safety are a little more ´relaxed´in South America, this thing was nuts! But a great nuts! Up and down, over and around the biggest sand dunes you´ve ever seen, it felt like we were at Disney world! So much fun, and in between rollercoaster rides, we stopped for a quick slide (we decided to slide instead of sand board since its faster) down some more steep, very steep sand dunes! Such a blast!! And just in time for sunset over the multiple dunes, that felt more like somewhere in the middle east, not South America! A great way to spend a couple hours, but a shower and toothbrush were much needed after all that sand!
That evening, we had yummy pizza and pesto pasta, then it was off to bed for FINALLY a good night sleep! We had a lie in, and grabbed the next bus to Lima. About a 6 hour drive, and we would find ourselves in the mecca of it all. In all of our travels, we havent´felt much culture shock, until Lima. We´ve been so used to relaxing, or hiking in small towns, that the big, busy and bustling city of Lima hit us with a jolt! So we were happy to have a nice cozy B&B to hang out after taking a walk around Kennedy park and the main drag. We had a kitchen so could cook a yummy meal, and then it was off bright and early to catch our flight to Ecuador. Beaches here we come!!
- Side Notes*
-Juan Carlos, our guide in Colca Canyon, was such a huge Canada fan and loved Bryan Adams so much that he had a tatoo of him on his left shoulder! Crazy.
- We had possibly the best donairs ever in Arequipa at a little place called FEZ.
--Pics to come.