Habla mas despacio, por favor!! Mi Espanol is no muy bien!
24.07.2003 - 31.07.2003 23 °C
With the TNT luck-fairy sitting on my shoulder, I arrived alone at Lima International airport at 10pm. A shuttle-bus delivered me to the Riviera Hotel amid the din of tooting horns, barking dogs and yelling taxi drivers that I soon learnt would be synonymous with Lima. The next day I set out to buy some fruit and water. Cue my first attempt at the Spanish language:
Me:Quisiera dos botellas de agua mineral, por favor. (In broken Spanish)
Shop keeper: No safe here alone. (In broken English)
Me: Two bottles of water please.
Shop keeper: You go back your hotel.
And so I run back to my hotel and buy two rather overpriced bottles of water and spend the rest of the afternoon watching the passing parade from my hotel window.
The streets of Lima
The following day I met my tour group and we set off along the Pan American Highway out through Lima and through dry and dusty townships to the coastal town of Paracas. A day trip by speedboat took us to the Ballestos Islands, home of a giant sand drawing in the shape of a candlabra and home to many seal and sea lion colonies.
We drove on to Nazca, home of the Nazca lines which are a yet-to-be-explained collection of huge drawings in the dirt on the ground. Kind of like Peru's version of crop circles. We took a flight in a tiny six-seater plane over the lines (once again checking that my travel insurance policy covered death by biplane in Peru) with a pilot whose mission in life appeared to be to make as many tourists vomit as possible. I think myself and the four boys in my plane saw more of the insides of our Lan Chile barf bags than we did any monkeys, trapezoids or condors carved into the ground below us.
My plane over the Nazca lines
On then to Araquipa, after a stop at the coastal town of Puerto Inca. After a few nights in the tent, the hotel in Araquipa was comparitive luxury. We spent about three days in Araquipa and we were lucky enough to be there for Peruvian Independence Day and the colorful festival in the town square to mark the occasion.Govindas Vegetarian Restaurant became my staple food hangout. Santa Catalina Monastery is a convent which is actually a city in itself. It has been beautifully maintained and has a strangely Mediterranean feel and the nuns have lived there for centuries despite several earthquakes.
Santa Catalina Monastery
Araquipa is the home to probably one of the most fascinating museums I've been to. The University Museum is the final resting place of 'Juanita the Ice Maiden' who is believed to have been sacrified to the Incan gods on the 6000m+ tall Ampato Mountain. She was about 11 years old when she was sacrificed about 500 years ago and in 1991 was found perfectly preserved. Scientists have scanned her and can even tell what her last meal was by the contents of her stomach. Amazing stuff.
Behind Araquipa looms El Misti, a big, dark, perfectly conical dorment volcano. For some inexplicable reason, Cath and Nic and I thought it might be fun to try and climb it. We found ourselves a guide called Nino who picked us up in a van to take us to the base camp. We didn't get very far before the back tyre flew off the van and nearly killed a woman selling fruit by the roadside. A replacement 4WD took us to basecamp which was 3400m above sea level. The volcano is 5800 ASL and we were going to climb to 4000 ASL. Now, at risk of appearing completely stupid but for the sake of authenticity, I should mention that it didn't actually occur to me that the 600m we were going to climb was the vertical distance and not the actual distance. Maths was never my strong point, but if it was I'm sure I would have thought more than twice about hiking 12km through volcanic sand at 4000m ASL. Breathless, nauseating and diarrhoea-inducing are all words that spring to mind.
Hiking up El Misti
Hiking up El Misti with Cath and Nic
Happy Birthday to me!!! From Araquipa we headed toward the Colca Canyon, circling place of some of the worlds hugest condors (wingspan of 3m). Some of my tripmates hiked in and out of the canyon, but given my knackering (and I repeat nausea and squits-inducing) experience the previous day, I went on the truck to Chivay and put myself to bed at 2pm. Happy Birthday to me. The next morning we got up early and drove to the canyon rim just in time to see the enormous birds circling in the dawn thermals. The birds are so big you can hear their wings thumping as they fly.
Markets at the Colca Canyon with a condor in the background
We camped that night in a graveyard in Sillustani. It was -8 degrees in my tent that night and probably the coldest I've ever been in my life. Whoever said that taking all your clothes off and then getting in your sleeping bag generates more body heat than sleeping in layers of clothes should be shot. It doesn't work.
Arriving in Cuzco was great, not just because we had a hotel room with walls instead of a tent with flaps, but also because it was the start of my much anticipated Inca Trail hike. Cuzco has an awesome market and Cath and I had an hilarious time trying out our bargaining skills in Spanish. We bought every chocolate bar in the local convenience store in preparation for our hike, much to the amusement of the shop keeper. That night we met our tour guide, Ephrain. He likes to be called Poncho Man and it makes perfect sense I suppose because he always wore a poncho. The next day we left for Ollantaytambo via the ruins of Sacsaywoman, the Sacred Valley and the town of Pisco, arriving in Ollantaytambo in time for a spectacular sunset. We stocked up on walking poles and raincoats sold by the locals.
Sliding at Sacsaywoman
The Sacred Valley