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Published: June 26th 2009
The first sunset of Peru
So it was back to the beach for the last chance for heat for a little while before heading up to altitude. Punta Sal turned out to be a bit of a party place as we met up with another Oasis truck who were heading north. The highlight of this stay was a feast where we cooked a pig on a spit and about 12 chickens as well. Delicious! Some may find this sacreligious, but I just find it funny, but there is a British Muslim girl on our truck and with my gift of the gab, I managed to convince her to try crackling from the pork!
After Punta Sal, we had a couple of solid driving days as we headed to the capital city, Lima. We managed to break up the journey with several stops at sites of Pre-Incan ruins, including the Chan-Chan ruins, the biggest mud brick city in the world, and two Moche sites, a museum and the Temple of the Sun and the Moon.
We eventually made it to Lima and after eight nights of camping, we all basked in the luxury of proper beds and bathrooms. Our first night in Lima, we headed
Punta Sal #2
Back to the beach
out for some local food, then out to Miraflores to see what the bar scene was like. We must have been early as we were some the first there, but the bonus was we could barter between bars for the best deal for drinks! Score! After some local dancing, we finished off at an English pub.
Over the next couple of days in Lima, I did a few of the touristy things like La Catedral de Lima, where the remains of Francisco Pizarro (the head Spanish conquistador) lie, and organised things for the next week or so, like snacks for the Inca Trail and gifts for the local family we stay with on Lake Titicaca.
After Lima, it was back to the touristy stuff as we headed south to Huachachina into the Isa Desert where we combined dune buggying with some sand duning before we camped in the middle of the desert with a BBQ for dinner. Mmmmm meat. Several people woke up the next morning feeling worse for wear as they tried the local Pisco libre combination. It was definitely not a good idea as the following day we headed into Nasca, where about half the group
jumped on small 4/5 person planes and flew over the Nasca lines. They are famous for being amazing accurate drawings that can only be seen from the air. The question is how and why did they do it thousands of years before man was able to fly?
The next morning, we were off to the second biggest city in Peru, Arequipa. And in complete contrast to the concrete jungle feel of Lima, Arequipa was beautiful with snow capped peaks in the background of huge cathedrals and green squares. One of the highlights here was the food on the first night. We blew the budget a bit, but a big group of us headed out and ordered something called 'The Trilogy of Meats' - fair sized pieces of steak, alpaca and ostrich. Of the three, Ostrich was the clear winner though they were all delicious.
Over the next couple of days, I explored Arequipa, which had some amazing architecture and one big attraction - Juanita. Juanita was a 14 year old girl who was sacrificed by the Incas over 500 years ago at the top of a nearby mountain. Because of the altitude and temperature, she was perfectly preserved
Punta Sal #4
Our last night there before we climb...
until being found only a matter of years ago. She still has her teeth, hair and eyebrows!
After Arequipa, we headed to a place called Chivay, which was to be a base to visit Colca Canyon, one of the only places in the world where you can see condors. We were very lucky and the morning dawned fine and we got some great shots of one of the biggest birds in the world. Before heading to Puno and Lake Titicaca, we had the best cultural experience of the trip so far. We went on what was called a 'Reality Tour', where we visited the slums, including the quarry where workers struggle to create ten blocks of stone a day and are paid 1.5 soles (roughly 50 US cents) per block. They also work 7 days a week just to get the weekly quota so they can afford to live. Then we visited a Wa Wa Wasi, which is a type of daycare centre set up for children of single mothers so they can go into the city to look for day work. Following a visit to a local cemetery, we visted a local restaurant which is set up and
Chan Chan Ruins
Over part of what was the biggest mud brick city in the world
run by local mothers to provide food for the kids and people unable to find work. Not everyone came on this tour as several people were too hungover from the night before. From my point of view, these are the people who should have been on this tour the most.
After this, it was a night in Puno before we headed out onto Lake Titicaca. First stop were the Uros Islands, which are man made islands made of reeds which have been constantly replenished over the last several hundred years. Either that or the reeds rot and they would sink. The locals still keep with local customs and traditions and were amazingly colourful, as the photos will show. Following that we headed to Amantani, our host island, where we met our host family. I was paired with Nori and we attempted to speak in our few words of Quechua and my more extensive Spanish.
It was amazing to see how they lived and we helped with preparing the meals before I went up and joined guys from our group in a game of football against the locals. It was one of the toughest things I have done as
Temple of the Sun
Amazing preserved from the Pre-Incan Moche people
the altitude was roughly 4,000m. We held our own for about an hour, and if it wasn't for a world class save from one of my crisply hit volleys, we would have won, but we finally ended up going down 2-0. The fittest of us then headed to the top of the hill to watch the sunset before our homestay dinner.
At night, we were treated to a different view of the locals as we were dressed in local outfits and went along to their nightly dance. It was great fun laughing at each other in the costumes, especially the girls, where the custom is to wear at least 5 long different coloured skirts, and at times up to 20!
So that concludes the main part of Peru. From here we head to Cusco, which will be our base for one of the highlights of South America, the Inca Trail, before we head south and jump the border into Bolivia for the highest capital in the world, Le Paz.
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