A Travellerspoint blog

Such Great Heights - Arequipa (2300m) to Cusco (3300m)

This has been the most difficult entry to get online.... GRR!

sunny 25 °C

Arequipa - Friday 16th August

Last night we bought some lip balm from a pharmacy, but the only one they had was strawberry flavoured, which meant it had a slight red tinge to it. Anyway, Chris had got himself ready for bed and when I went to get into bed, he was sat there putting his moisturiser on with bright red lips, which had gone around his lips as he'd put so much on. He looked absolutely hilarious, like a child who had stolen his mum's bright red lipstick! Sadly he wouldn't let me take a picture so the rest of you could enjoy a laugh. Spoil sport!

On our final day in Arequipa, we had a look around a market and I got 250g of olives for about a pound.

In the afternoon we visited the cathedral and had a guided tour with a lady who had the most bent out of shape glasses I think I've ever seen in my life. In this cathedral, most of the features for example the pulpit have come from Europe. Everything she seemed to point out she'd finish off by saying and that's from Spain/France/Italy. Three main highlight of this cathedral is the 12 metre high organ, which is the highest in Peru, containing over 1200 pipes, and came all the way from Belgium. Another funny part of this tour was how a lot of things, such as the organ, are only used for special occasions like 'Christmas, Easter...... And Sundays.'

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Belgian Organ

In the afternoon we visited the town market, which was very well organized, with a section to sell each different thing, for example, a couple of aisles of fruit, another section for meat and so on. We then had a look around a colonial mansion house, which was nowhere near as ornate as one you would find in England. Afterwards, we collected our laundry, which had been washed and dried for £1.50 while we saw the sights.

We caught the 10 hour night bus to Cusco, which we'd spent an extra £2.50 on our ticket for a '180° flatbed' seat. Let's just say their definition of 180° is very different to ours as it seemed to be similar to the other night's, which was about 160°. On the plus side, there was more legroom and they were slightly wider seats.

Cusco - Saturday 17th August

We arrived in Cusco at 7am and after a short nap at the hostel, we headed out to explore Cusco. We were both suffering a bit with the altitude, Chris feeling constantly out of breath and I had a thumping headache.

We went to the Plaza de Armas, which has the cathedral and a church overlooking the square. Unfortunately, to visit any of the attractions in Cusco, you have to have a tourist ticket which covers all the attractions, which costs more than twice as much for a foreigner and at £40 each, a lot more than anything else we've paid for over here. We've decided to get a partial ticket for £20, which includes a couple of the 'unmissable' attractions. We spent about an hour trip planning in a café before hiking up a hill to a random church, which has a good view over the Plaza de Armas.

Cusco - Sunday 18th August

This morning, we still felt a bit weary from the altitude, but had to change hostels which meant a 10-15 minute walk up and down the streets of Cusco. Our next hostel is really nice, but I accidentally booked us bunk beds for the next 3 nights. Hehe!

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Bunk beds!

Today in Cusco it's graduation day and so there were loads of parades around the Plaza de Armas, with the people graduating marching round. There were very few women in these parades, and most of the men looked like they were probably in their 30s.

While sat on a bench in the square today, we became a tourist attraction as a lady asked to have her photo taken with us! We went to the market and got some lunch as well as buying some llama gloves for Chris for the Inca trail. I got a reversible llama hat like Chris' and some gloves yesterday.

Tomorrow, we're going to Saqsaywaman, some ruins at 7am as this is supposed to be the best time to visit them.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:59 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Colca Canyon

Extremes in temperatures!

all seasons in one day

Thursday 15th August

Today we got up at 2.45am ready for our excursion to Colca Canyon at 3.

The bus took about 3 hours to get to the canyon and was freezing cold, particularly the higher we climbed. Arequipa is at about 2300 m.a.s.l. and the canyon starts at about 3300 m.a.s.l. We stopped off for breakfast at half 6 and at a colonial village on the way to the mission view point, Condor Cross. Here you had an excellent view of the condors which live in the canyon. A baby condor is brown and at the age of 4 they change to black and white. They are approximately 1 metre tall and have a wingspan of 3 metres. We saw quite a few baby condors and a couple of adult ones. There are a few photos on Facebook, but they were difficult to zoom in on in the bright sunlight.

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Chris and I at Condor Cross Viewpoint

Chris was quite cold during this trip and so decided to buy himself a reversible alpaca wool hat with llamas on, ready for the Inca trail. It's a pretty awesome hat.

After Condor Cross, we headed to the hot springs and went for a swim in the thermal baths made out of rocks next to the river. These were filled with water which had come off of the volcanoes and one was far too hot to really sit in. We spent about an hour here before getting some lunch and trying some alpaca meat. Not sure this was the best example as it seemed potentially overcooked as it was very chewy and tough to eat.

We headed to the highest point at 4900m which had a great view of the surrounding volcanoes, which are still active and had steam coming out the top of them.

Finally we stopped off in the natural reserve and saw a group of llamas, vicuñas and alpacas.

We arrived back to Arequipa very tired at about 5pm.

Tomorrow is our last day in Arequipa before we get the night bus to Cusco. This time, we managed to get bed seats which go 180° flat and in a separate room to the toilets! All for an extra 10 soles (£2) for the ten hour journey!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 16:22 Archived in Peru Tagged canyon llama hat colca cold condor alpaca vicuñas Comments (1)

Arequipa! Arequipa!

Tuesday 13th August

sunny 28 °C

We arrived in Arequipa shortly after 7 am having just spent 9 and a half hours on the night bus. Despite sitting in front of the toilets, the journey was not as bad as we'd imagined as fortunately the toilets are 'suspended' during night trips, only being allowed for emergencies. (Although why you would want to use a stinky bus toilet for any other reason than absolute desperation is beyond me.) This obviously did not stop two women trying at 3.30 and insisting on having a loud conversation about how long they'd been waiting.

We caught a taxi to our hostel, which is colonial built out of stone, which basically means freezing cold on a boiling hot day to you and me. We have a temperamental electric shock shower again which went freezing cold after a minute of boiling hot when I used it, but obviously worked fine for Chris.

We headed to the Plaza de Armas, where there was a parade passing through to celebrate Arequipa day. According to our taxi driver, the fiesta is tomorrow, although there was quite a large parade there this evening as well so we will have to just wait and see tomorrow. The first parade had a really good marching band, mostly made up of 12 year old boys, who played their instruments very well, in time with each other; however at times looked like a disorganised rabble when it came to moving together.

We visited the Santa Catalina monastery, which was absolutely massive and took a good 2 hours to go around. The monastery was almost like a mini town with three 'main' roads running through the middle connecting the various different parts. There was some really interesting architecture (pics to follow on Facebook soon...) And various different styles had been used to create the buildings surrounding the numerous little squares within the monastery.

In places the monastery did seem a little repetitive, especially once you had seen the hundredth nun's room and kitchen.

Afterwards we headed back to the Plaza de Armas and visited another small church before watching the second parade, which included men and women in traditional Peruvian dress dancing in the street, throwing out vegetables to the crowd which was a bit odd.

Tomorrow we plan to explore Arequipa a little more and venture out into the suburbs.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 19:13 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Huacachina and Nasca Lines

Sunday 11th August - Monday 12th August

sunny 25 °C

Today was supposed to be a relaxing day, chilling by the pool and the lagoon; however it appears Chris and I do not know how to relax. We started off well, having a picnic by the hotel pool, but Chris wanted to walk up the sand dunes, saying people seemed to make good progress in not much time.

And so we set off up the dunes, with every step we took up, we fell half a step back down as the sand did not offer any stability. In the end it took us a good half an hour to hike up this dune, stopping for a drink along the way. By this point, the sun was shining and it was about as hot as the day was going to be. When we finally made it to the top, the view across the lagoon was stunning; however not as good as the tourist photos we had seen of the same view. We spent about half an hour at the top, and watched one man run down to the bottom in under a minute. We set off running down the dunes and it is the most fun I think we´ve ever had for free! You feel like you´re really bouncing and you do actually cover quite a distance with each jump. I would completely recommend to anyone running down your local sand dune! I wish we´d known that it was more fun to run down the dune than to board, particularly Mums as that is covered by the insurance.

As Chris got towards the bottom, he became a little too ambitious in his leaps and let out a little yelp, which alerted the Peruvian family at the bottom to turn around just in time to see him land flat on his face, doing a little roll as well. Afterwards, his face was completely covered in sand.

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Chris´ sandy face, not a beard growing!

We headed back to the hotel and went for a swim in the freezing cold pool and laid in the sun for about an hour, before deciding to walk up the sand dune again, just for the fun of running back down. It was just as difficult the second time round walking up, but once again well worth it.

Today, (Monday) we caught the bus to Nasca and headed out to see the Nasca lines. A lot of the tour operators offer flights over the lines for about $100 per person, but apart from them not having a great safety reputation, we had heard that most of the lines are too small to see from the height the plane goes to, and so we headed out to the Mirador viewing platform, which as you´ll see on facebook once I´ve downloaded the pictures is actually just a scaffolding tower in the middle of nowhere.

The lines themselves just looked like someone had driven over a muddy field with a motorbike. I was glad we had at least gone to the viewing platform, but Chris would have happily skipped them.

We caught a public bus to this platform, and planned to do the same going back; however the first bus which went past said it had no seats. The next bus was due in 20 minutes, although a French tourist bus had spare seats and offered us a lift back to Nasca. Does this count as hitchiking?

Tonight, we´re getting the bus to Arequipa at 10pm. It takes about 10 hours to get to Arequipa so here´s to hoping for a good night´s sleep. We got the last couple of seats on the bus, unsuprisingly next to the toilets. Yay..... Must book the next bus a little earlier next time!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 16:54 Archived in Peru Tagged bus sand dunes nasca huacachina nasca_lines Comments (0)

Las bodégas

Saturday 10th August

sunny 25 °C

Saturday 10th August

Today we actually took it fairly easy. We took a taxi to the pisco vineyards just outside Ica. The first vineyard, el Catador, is a small old fashioned vineyard which continues to use more traditional methods to produce the famous Peruvian drink. Although made with grapes, pisco is more of a spirit and is 44% alcohol.

We were given a private tour by a local who told us all about the pisco and how they make it in their vineyard. His English was really good, and he seemed to like being able to ask us things to help improve his English, which I think is great. We also spent about 5 minutes talking in Spanish which was brilliant and I reckon Chris enjoyed the quiet time to his own thoughts while we discussed the differences between Castellano (Spanish spoken in Spain) and South American Spanish.

After the tour, we were given about 5 samples of pisco to try. I said that I thought one was fruitier than the other and the man liked the word fruitier so much that he had me translate it into Spanish for him as an example and write it down for him. He says he's going to use that.

We headed off to the next vineyard Tacama, which is an industrial vineyard. Here we were taken on a tour which turned out to be completely in Spanish. (More daydreaming time for Chris.) After this tour, we were given a few wines to taste and another shot of pisco. There was also a dance display with a woman and a horse. The horse was actually dancing! It was so cute. I've got a video on my camera, which I'll try to upload to Facebook.

In the afternoon we booked our bus on Monday to the Nasca lines for the day and the night bus to Arequipa. Tomorrow We are spending the day at Huacachina and will spend the night in a 3 star(!!) hotel.

On a general note about our travels, today we had some washing hanging up to dry in our room, and the lovely lady who owns the hotel took it outside to dry it for us while we were out. Better still, Chris has reduced the amount of washing I will need to do in the future by losing his fleece (which a bird pooped on yesterday). This is why he's not allowed the passports....

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:42 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Las Islas ¨Ballestas aka Poor Man´s Galapagos

Friday 9th August

Just for Chris' Mum, today's bus did not look too rickety. We set off just before 7 and arrived at Paracas national park shortly after 8. We took a speedboat across to the islands, which as the sun had yet to break through, it was freezing cold in the wind.

It took about half an hour to reach the islands, known both as 'poor man's Galapagos' and more fittingly, 'los Guanos' which is Spanish for bird poo. The rock face is covered in birds and caked in bird's muck. It absolutely stank! The tour around the island lasted about an hour where we saw many different species of bird, including some penguins. There were also a few groups of sealions which were basking in the morning sun.

The tour guides on the speed boat joked that if you're shat on the hand you can expect money, and the mouth.... Keep it shut. Coincidentally, this is a photo of us on the boat, Chris volunteering his mouth wide open, and during the trip his hand was successfully targeted.

Once back on dry land, I went for a paddle in the Sea and we had a quick look around the town of Paracas, which had obviously been purpose built to serve the tourists visiting the Ballesta islands.

In the afternoon, we took a moto-taxi to Huacachina, a lagoon in the middle of the sand dunes. We sat by the lagoon for about an hour before taking a trip into the dunes in a sand buggy in order to go sand boarding. The sand buggy was similar to a roller coaster as you flew out of you seat. Sand boarding was great fun; however the board is only velcroed to your feet so you can´t really steer like you can with a snowboard. We watched the sun set over the dunes before taking a ton of sand back to our hotel.

I want to add pictures to our blog, but the internet is so slow trying to upload them to this site. I have put some on Facebook as that uploads more quickly than this site so please add me should you wish to see them. They might show on Chris' too.... I've tried to tag him in the album.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 06:22 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Ica

Thursday 8th August

Last night we went to the magical fountain show, which was a park containing approximately ten fountains which were each lit up in a slightly different way. We paid S4 each (a whole pound!) to go to the magical fountain park. In the evening there is a lights and fountain show at the main fountains. This lasted about twenty minutes and reminded us of the Disney film Fantasia.

The next day, we arrived in Ica after a 5 hour bus journey from Lima. We had 'panoramic' seats (front row to you and me) and frankly we soon wished we didn't. Coastal Peru isn't pretty. Think sparse, deserted, litter strewn towns extending for miles in all directions. Fortunately when we arrived in Ica it was hot and sunny and our hotel, located in a relatively pleasant residential area was a vast improvement on the previous establishment with a hot shower and reduced risk of electrocution. (We think a solar heated hot water tank on the roof is the source of the hour water here.)

We caught a motorbike-taxi-rickshaw into the centre, and we thought being on a bus in Lima was scary. These things actually felt as though they were lifting off the ground as we rounded the corner quickly to squeeze into a gap I had not noticed at the junction. These cost 2 soles, 50p to go anywhere in town.

The Plaza de Armas is a pleasant square, sadly ruined by the constant tooting of taxis letting you know they are there in case you weren't sure if you wanted one or not. There is an impressive looking fountain, but as it's winter here, they are currently empty. We sat in our shorts and T-shirts enjoying an ice cream, watching the world go past.

We visited the regional museum, which had examples of pottery and textiles through the ages. There is also a replica of the UNESCO world heritage site the Nasca lines. This reminded us of a school playground where someone had engraved some pictures in the dirt, let's hope they're not too genuine a replica!

We returned to the hotel and enjoyed the sunset over the sand dunes of Huacachina from the roof terrace of our hotel.

By night, it drops down to zero degrees and does not get warm until the sun comes back up the following day.

We took a rickshaw back into the centre, which felt even scarier after dark and got some dinner before heading to bed ready for our 6am start to see the penguins on las islas ballestas.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:17 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima and Miraflores

First impressions of South America

overcast 20 °C
View South America 2013 on Roaming Rolts's travel map.

Our flight landed a little before 5am and we were out of the airport and on the road to Miraflores within the hour. We arrived at our hostel shortly after 6am and were incredibly pleased when the man said our room was empty so we could have the room straightaway, not before telling us that this was because his daughter was called Zoë as well and that was why we could have the room early.

We had a nap for a couple of hours before attempting to shower. The water would not come out hot, despite it clearly being wired up to the electrics. Eventually the owner manage to fiddle with it to take the chill off but it was by no means hot or even warm. Chris tells me that if you touch the water which is dripping out of the shower rather than through the shower head, you get a little electric shock. He tried this a second time just to check!

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Electric shock shower

After showering, we caught the local bus into the centre of Lima. We had been told by the hostel not to pay more than 2 soles for the journey and so were pleased to find the bus was 1 sol, about 25p. In Lima, the buses drive with one hand on the steering wheel and the other permanently on the horn. There's no need for the gear stick as you are very unlikely to need to change from first.

During this 45 minute bus journey, we felt we had many near misses, particularly on one occasion when the local lady behind even commented on one moment when the bus next to began to move over into us. These buses are so old and bashed up that you know full well that if you were to hit another bus, it would not be a big deal to them. Bus stops do not appear to be relevant, with a conductor shouting out the door inviting people passing by to join us. Once, it actually looked like the woman had no intention of catching the bus but turned back when it was suggested to her.

We set off walking around Lima, visiting la plaza San Martin and la plaza de Armas, walking the main street between the two. Considering Lima is a capital city, it does not have many interesting buildings and is quite scruffy. Other than the constant stream of local buses running up and down the main roads outside the centre, there is no public transport across the city, other than one municipal bus line, which appears to just have 4 stops cutting right across the centre.

We visited the former train station which has been a library for the last hundred years; however most the books have since been moved. It is a very architecturally interesting building, with lovely seating on the platform. Perhaps in summer this becomes a café area?

Finally we visited a museum on the Peruvian Constitution, which included an area on torture, which Chris was quite interested in seeing.

We struggled to find the bus stop back to Miraflores, before enjoying the hour journey back during rush hour; however this driver did not seem quite as erratic.

Back at the hostel, we booked our bus tickets for Thursday, confusing the man at the hostel greatly by having the same surname. The man on the other end of the phone was also confused and afterwards, the man at the hostel asked how we had the same name. Clearly they don't get many married foreign couples staying there and in Peru you don't change your name.

In the evening we headed into Miraflores and wandered through Kennedy park, before eating in an Italian restaurant. We returned back to the hostel and fell asleep at about 9 pm.

Next morning we enjoyed the cold showers before heading to some impressive pre-Inca ruins dating back to 500 A.D. We had expected some low stone walls and a fairly small site but were pleasantly surprised to find these incredibly high walls and a huge terraced pyramid. They have been excavating the site for the last 30 years and there is still a massive area which they have yet to start on.

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Pre-Inca ruins

Afterwards we walked down to the coast and walked along the coastal path through various different parks. This area was very well maintained and I would imagine would be very popular during the summer. We walked for about 3 miles, stopping for lunch along the way. We headed back into Miraflores and had a look at the centre and parks by day.

This evening we are going to a lights and fountains show in one of the parks. Tomorrow we are catching the bus to Ica at 7.30am.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 16:38 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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