Published: December 30th 2006November 4th 2006
Beach of Seal Lions
8 weeks into our trip now and we´ve kind of lost track of time. The fact that the end of the trip is so far away makes you more relaxed and you allow time to pass differently. Don´t even know what day it is today...its great!
Peru - We spent a few days in the capital Lima, then went to a town called Pisco where we went out on a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands to see a sea lion and bird colony. Saw hundreds of sea lions lazing around on the rocks, sunning themselves on the beach and jumping in and out of the water. Also saw tonnes of penguins...little cute ones just standing on the the rocks watching the world go by There were pelicans everywhere, huge pelicans, flying around with fish in their mouths. As we were heading out to the islands there were dolphins swimming around the boat.
Then headed further south to a place called Huacachina. It is an oasis in the desert, surrounded by giant sand dunes. A bizarre little place, like something you´d expect to see in Arabia. The dunes are hundreds of feet high surrounding a little green palm oasis
with a lagoon in the middle. We went out in dune buggies and drove through the dunes, it was like a roller coaster ride, great fun! The dune buggies were nothing more than a huge engine, a chassis and a roll cage! They fit about eight people and the drivers are on crack or something, theyre insane, they drive those big engines so hard it sounds like the thing is screaming!! The trip goes for about 20 ks and they seem to know every inch of it like the back of their hand, sometimes you shoot over the top of a dune and if you had been 2 feet to the right or left you would have fallen over a sheer drop but instead you´re spot on. Some of the dunes are so steep that when you are going down them the buggy actually leaves the surface and you´re more or less freefalling! They have sandboards in the buggy and they stop off at the top of some of the dunes and let you sandboard down. You can´t appreciate the height of these dunes until you see the photos and see that dots on the top of the dunes are
Further on south then to a city called Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, but it has more of a small town feel to it. From Arequipa we took a 2 day trip out to Colco Canyon which is twice the size of the Grand Canyon and home to the largest eagle in the world, the giant condor. Our base was a town called Chivay and we were due to take a trek into the canyon from there but Tash got a bad headache and a bout of altitude sickness so she couldn´t trek. We were going between 4 and 5 thousand meters above sea level. Tash went for a rest and Dave went on the trek up the side of a mountain but he came back feeling really ill from the altitude. The poor man became very sick and had a night of excruciating pain but you know Dave, he suffered in silence because that´s the kind of guy he is! A real hero! Up on the trek there were pre inca burial caves which were weird, like something out of a Peter Cushing horror movie - basically just open holes in the hilll full of
human bones and skulls. We took a skull for each of you!
That evening we went to local thermal baths to relax and try to come to terms with the altitude. The water in the baths is 30 degrees and is fed in directly from a volcano. It was outdoors in the middle of the Andean mountains... It started to snow when we were in the baths....a very strange experience because the water temperature is so hot, so your body is sweating but your head is cold.
The next day we went to a viewing point for Condors and didn´t think we would see them because we had freak weather, it was cold and snowing quite a bit and the Condors come out in the heat of the morning and glide through the thermals but just as we arrived we spotted one heading towards us...he came quite close, about 12 feet us and glided back and forth. It was surreal! They are huge creatures...that one had a 7 foot wing span.
We saw another few later but just in the distance. On the bus on the way back to base we stopped for a rest and just
as we stepped out of the bus a condor was gliding above us....back and forth and each time getting close, like he was putting on a show. He came as close as 5 or 6 feet. We couldn´t believe what we were seeing. Took a little video so you can see it for yourselves.
We then spent some time in a town called Puno by Lake Titicaca. It is the highest lake in the world and twice the size of Lake Geneva. It´s up at 3,800 meters. We took a boat trip out to floating islands called Uros which are made from reeds. They are incredible. The islanders first started living on them hundreds ago when they were sick of being attacked by hostile nighbours. The idea being that as soon as anyone gives you aggressive vibes you just sail your island somewhere else! (Pity Ireland couldn´t do that 800 years ago!) The islanders travel from island to island....all made from reeds....on reed boats. They are flooded with tourists now and you are greeted with by the locals with their hand made crafts and children singing twinkle twinkle little star, but it was still very interesting to see.
From there we headed to Cusco, a beautiful city and spent about 5 days relaxing and exploring the city and its surrounds before heading to Machu Picchu. We weren´t expecting Machu Picchu to live up to its reputation but in fact it far exceeded it. It is an incredible place, really stunning and you feel like you are walking through the clouds..in fact you are. The ruins are incredible and the mountains are so beautiful. We got up there very early and before the buses of tourist arrived and it was so peaceful. Defenitly a place everyone should visit!
From there we headed back to Lima and flew up to Costa Rica. To be continued......
There are more photos below