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Published: June 25th 2009
So we left off the story as we were leaving Lake Titicaca, with Sarah suffering from suspected altitude sickness. For a brief moment we thought it might actually be swine flu (the symptoms are similar to altitude sickness and Sarah is a massive hypochondriac) but it soon became apparent that it was in fact food poisoning. We are not sure what the culprit was but it made for a pretty torrid last 5 days in Peru.
Between bed rest and numerous toilet stops we did manage to squeeze in a couple of touristy things though. We stopped first in Arequipa, which is the second largest city in Peru and is known as the white city as it was constructed from volcanic sillar so most of the buildings are gleaming white. It sits at the foot of El Misti volcano and is an area of regular seismic activity. In fact, the earth moved for us and we sat through about 5 seconds of the cafe we were in visibly shaking, although nobody else seemed that fussed so I think it would go down as a mild one.
We took a wander around the historical centre of Arequipa. Its a very
pretty town, again focusing around a Plaza de Armas (essentially every city, town, village in Ecuador and Peru has one) that has a huge cathedral on one side and a plaza in the centre with trees, fountains, pigeons and so on. We also visited the Santa Catalina convent, a city within the city complete with its own chapel, plazas, streets etc. It is a convent that was established about 450 years ago for nuns to live in solitary confinement away from the rest of the world. There are still some nuns there today shut off in a small part of the convent, but it was opened to the public in 1970. The convent is very picturesque, with the walls painted reds and blues and it is dotted with colourful flowers.
That evening we got the night bus to Nazca. This town is most famous for the Nazca Lines, strange markings in the sand made many centuries ago by pre-Inca and Inca peoples. Nobody is quite sure what they mean, but they look good. However, as the best way to see the lines is by air in a dodgy little aeroplane that makes even the most hardy sick and Sarah
cant even deal with smooth, large planes (to date Joey has had to endure "What the hell is that noise", "oh my gosh we are actually going to crash on the houses" and "I cant see a runway we must be ditching in the rainforest" and other similar flight phobic drivel) we thought we best give that a miss.
Instead we booked on a sandboarding tour. This involved a ridiculously early start, to avoid the heat of the midday sun, starting with a 3 hour trek up first mountain terrain and then the 2,000m high sand dune called Cerro Blanco. At the top we did a few tester runs. We thought sandboarding would be just like snowboarding, we were very wrong! Essentially you have to point the board straight down the slope and lean back with all your weight on your back leg. Needless to say our first few attempts were rubbish and involved lots of hilarious wipe outs (I never knew sand could get into so many parts of your body or clothing) - we got some good film footage so will hopefully post somewhere at some point. We then took on the main slope, a 1,000m continuous
descent. We just about managed to get the hang of this sandboarding lark about 100m from the end. It was good fun trying it out but actually really tiring on the legs, particularly the front ankle, which is not so great when you have previously damaged ligaments there. To top this off it was boiling hot and we still had an hour long trek at the end to get back to our pick up.
And so ended our Peruvian leg of the trip. This may be a bit controversial but we werent all that big fans of Peru. There are some stunning sights, like Macchu Pichu, but there were a few places that werent all they were cracked up to be. Maybe the food poisoning put a dampner on things but we must admit we were glad to get on the plane to Argentina.
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