Off the "Gringo Trail" and back on it again...warning two references to Time Team!


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December 24th 2012
Published: December 24th 2012
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The TreeThe TreeThe Tree

Nazca Line 1
There are few real mysteries left to archaeologists anymore. Stone Henge is one, it wasn't made for or by aliens, that's just stupid, but it's real use is lost to antiquity. Sure, we (by "we" I mean actual achaeologists and hitorians, possibly Tony Robinson too, but not me or you dear reader) can have educated guesses, but that's all they are, guesses. Peru has the Nazca Lines fill the role of antiquity puzzler. These are lines, no more than 50cm wide, carved in to the surface of the desert. Some are shaped like animals or humans but most are straight lines. They are visible only from a height and are rather large. We decided against taking a flight over the desert; it's expensive, we'd had mixed reviews and the safety record of some companies is questionable. We did visit a viewing platform, which was pretty cool, but the lines don't do much, they just sit there, and you tend to get a better appreciation from TV documentaries. Plus, a lot of the mystery around the lines, isn't really mystery anymore, it's really just a few people perpetuating different theories and, in my opinion, underestimating the knowledg and skill of the civilization that made them. Anyhow, they were cool, but we got more out of the show at the observatory and from YouTube than actually viewing the lines themselves.



Luckily, however, there is an "aquaduct" here that is about 2000 years old and is still used to water the fields, and it is an amazinf feat of engineering. The water course runs underground, diverted from a mountain stream, and is kept useable due to holes bored in to the ground at regular intervals.The wonder is that the holes have to be deeper as the stream progresses as the water plane drops. The result is huge, spiral, stone pits littering the landscape. It's incredible. And to think that people still clean and use them to this day is remarkable. The town of Nazca is a bit of a nothing place and we didn't spend too long here before heading north to Huachachina.



Peru has varied geography; the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands, fertile coast and desert. Huachachina is located firmly in the middle of the band of desert. It's also, rather brilliantly, an oasis...just like in the movies or the Fry's Turkish Delight adverts from the 80's! Dune's
AquaductAquaductAquaduct

When is an aquaduct not an aquaduct?
rise to about 100m or more and roll in to the distance as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately Peruvian's haven't quite got to grips with the downsides of littering and so the dunes can, at the right time of day, resemble landfill sites. Not good I'll grant you, but hopefully they'll sort it out soon. The place is unabashedly a tourist haven; mostly gringo-backpacker-types, but also domestic sightseers. The lagoon is ringed with hostals and bars, each paying homage to 90's rock...Third Eye Blind, Pearl Jam and Oasis featured prominantly. The food is pretty standard, except for the Veggie place at La Casa de Bamboo, and overpriced, but that seems to be the case in the touristica places so you can't complain...few people do. It's a strange thing about meeting many backpackers, they'll bitch and moan about having to pay S/10 for a taxi (£2.50) and insist on getting it for S/9 but then have no qualms in paying S/20 for beer when it's worth precisely half that...and they'll not have just one...messed up priorities really. Anway, Huacachina is pretty good fun, we generally chilled out (very hot, it's in the desert afterall), went sandboarding...well face first on
Ellie Loves SunsetsEllie Loves SunsetsEllie Loves Sunsets

Huacachina Sunset
a plank of wood down a dune sort of thing, and visited a vinyard with the most dire tasting wines ever. This wine was exceptionally bad, I'd be loath to give it to someone I didn't like very much. The tasting notes should read "...somewhere between bog water, a fat person's sweating arm pit and the back end of a badger..." but the Pisco was good. Peru should stick to Pisco I say. Forget this wine malarky, the market is too crowded and the Chilean's and Argentines have got you beaten all ends up. Maybe have a cigar to celebrate with your Pisco Sours and non-alien-Nazca-Lines.



After relaxing and getting a bit drunk it was time to hit the road again. It felt like we were craming a lot in, we were before heading to Cusco, it was a pretty mad week or so. In fact our first couple of weeks in Peru seem to have been non-stop. It's a good job we crashed at the oasis for a while or we'd likely not make it back in one piece! But as it stands, we did have a break and so Paracas wasn't too bad, despite the
Pisco PressPisco PressPisco Press

Peruvia Pisco > Peruvian Wine
absolutely mental taxi driver who took us their from the Pan American Highway (the bus just drops you there). The guy didn't know where the hostel was, wouldn't listen to what we said to him, just nodded, grinned and then floored the accelerator. Overtaking into the oncoming traffic was a given. The only time his speed was appreciated was when went past the fish processing plant...what a stink! But again, we survived. Paracas is another pretty awsome place...amazing Cerviches (raw fish, lashings of lime and lemon, chili, onion and salt) for next to nothing, and a sea lion/penguin colony to rival anywhere else on the planet. It was great, even if it's overcast every morning. Sea lions are big, chilled and numerous here. The penguins are just cute, flufffy and penguiny. Since we were there so early they didn't do much, they just sort of stared at us as though we were the curiosity...I had the bizarre experience theat I was the tourist attraction, and that the boat captain had taken us out for the wildlife to have a good gawp at. Then I realised that was stupid, the Truman show wasn't real, and how the hell would penguins and
HuacachinaHuacachinaHuacachina

An oasis
sea lions pay the captain? They don't use money...unless the captain excepted fish, then it would be plausible, but that's too scary to think about. Need another fact about Paracas to refocus...hmmm...It's the capital of Peruvian kite surfing too, if you care. I don't, bloody penguins.



We did a tour of the national park too, which had a pretty interesting museum, but the park itself consisted of looking at windy beaches and rocks. There wasn't even any grass, which in my opinion is essential for a park. No swings either. Rubbish really. It did have a red beach which was pretty special and beer. Plus went consuming the beer, on the beach, a bunch of school kids who'd never seen the ocean came along and went mental. They ran in, wave came, mass screaming session, running away from the water, laughing and excitement, repeat until teachers says you're leaving. It's rare to see such unbridled joy and happiness at such a simple thing. It was humbling and charming. But the park was still rubbish. We met a Finnish/Swedish couple, Daniel and Jenny, who were doing a similar trip and Daniel happens to be a huge whisky fan which was cool. Missing whisky a bit. Bacon too. Oh and real curry, I'd kill for a Mother India's just now. I've had way too many food fantasies for it to be healthy. The food here is great, don't get me wrong, but you sometimes get to reminscing about a great breakfast at home or at Cookie and then it just descends in to a kind of mental torture. Thing is, I know for sure I'm going to be wishing for all these foods after a few months in the UK...never happy, are some people!!



We finished the mental week by taking a 8 hour bus north-east to Ayacucho. This place is well and truly off the Gringo-Trail, meaning there were few tourists, little choice for accommodation and a very different vibe to the previous places in Peru. Our hotel as decent enough, but the owner was a bit odd. We were leaving at 7.30am and asked for breakfast at 7am, he said no as it was too eary (even though the Peruvians are up with the sun). Then in the morning, he was having his breakfast when we got up! Great customer service, he didn't even
Sea LionsSea LionsSea Lions

Sloths of the sea...
look ashamed. Will need to Tripadvisor his ass! Thankfully you didn't have someone trying to sell you something every five minutes and there were few overpriced restaurants or tours. Unfortunately we appeared to be here on the one day when none of the churches or monasteries were open. No big dea you're probably thinking, but since the town has about 30, and they form the basis for visiting it was a bit inopportune to say the least. But we did get to go to the ruins of Huari which was a pre-Inca city and currently under excavation by a team from Lima, it was like watching Time Team, live, but without the rain and that git from the West Country, Phil, getting inappropriately excited about a change in the colour of the soil. Also, we tried to collect a cactus fruit but ended up with nothing but hundreds of tiny spikes in our fingers...these fruit are like angry porcpines and they didn't much fancy getting eaten. We also lost our credit card which was annoying, but luckily we have back ups, except I can't remember my pin. Foolish of me. Oh, and we tried guinea pig, which is apparently a
Penguins!Penguins!Penguins!

The best of all the marine birds.
local delicacy here in Peru, although I've yet to see anyone except a tourist eat one. They are chewy, when deep fried at least. There's little meat on them, but it tastes liks rabbit crossed with chicken and they come served whole, heads and all. I wasn't a fan, but that may possibly be the restaurant's fault as it was pretty poor, but I'll probably pass on the rodent in the future. Apparently they were used in old-school Andean medicine too. They'd be rubbed around the ill person's body and then cut open by the shaman and whatever was wrong with the guinea pig would be the diagnosis given to the person. I assume therefore that many peope were diagnosed with stab wounds to the abdomen. The Incas may have been an advanced society but they were sorely lacking in diagnostic investigation techniques. But anyway, Ayacucho was pretty good fun, great coffee and cakes too, visit if you have the chance and try and stay in a good hotel. There are few real mysteries left to archaeologists anymore. Stone Henge is one, it wasn't made for or by aliens, that's just stupid, but it's real use is lost to antiquity.
Sea LionSea LionSea Lion

Single handedly trying to bust the sloth myth
Sure, we (by "we" I mean achaeologists and hitorians) can have educated guesses, but that's all they are, guesses. Peru has the Nazca Lines fill the role of antiquity puzzler. These are lines, no more than 50cm wide, carved in to the surface of the desert. Some are shaped like animals or humans but most are straight lines. They are visible only from a height and are rather large. We decided against taking a flight over the desert; it's expensive, we'd had mixed reviews and the safety record of some companies is questionable. We did visit a viewing platform, which was pretty cool, but the lines don't do much, they just sit there, and you tend to get a better appreciation from TV documentaries. Plus, a lot of the mystery around the lines, isn't really mystery anymore, it's really just a few people perpetuating different theories and, in my opinion, underestimating the knowledg and skill of the civilization that made them. Anyhow, they were cool, but we got more out of the show at the observatory and from YouTube than actually viewing the lines themselves.



Luckily, however, there is an "aquaduct" here that is about 2000 years
Red BeachRed BeachRed Beach

Look! It's a beach, but red! Madness.
old and is still used to water the fields, and it is an amazinf feat of engineering. The water course runs underground, diverted from a mountain stream, and is kept useable due to holes bored in to the ground at regular intervals.The wonder is that the holes have to be deeper as the stream progresses as the water plane drops. The result is huge, spiral, stone pits littering the landscape. It's incredible. And to think that people still clean and use them to this day is remarkable. The town of Nazca is a bit of a nothing place and we didn't spend too long here before heading north to Huachachina.



Peru has varied geography; the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands, fertile coast and desert. Huachachina is located firmly in the middle of the band of desert. It's also, rather brilliantly, an oasis...just like in the movies or the Fry's Turkish Delight adverts from the 80's! Dune's rise to about 100m or more and roll in to the distance as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately Peruvian's haven't quite got to grips with the downsides of littering and so the dunes can, at the right time of day,
AyacuchoAyacuchoAyacucho

At least the Arch of Triumph (over the Spanish, not opening times) was open!
resemble landfill sites. Not good I'll grant you, but hopefully they'll sort it out soon. The place is unabashedly a tourist haven; mostly gringo-backpacker-types, but also domestic sightseers. The lagoon is ringed with hostals and bars, each paying homage to 90's rock...Third Eye Blind, Pearl Jam and Oasis featured prominantly. The food is pretty standard, except for the Veggie place at La Casa de Bamboo, and overpriced, but that seems to be the case in the touristica places so you can't complain...few people do. It's a strange thing about meeting many backpackers, they'll bitch and moan about having to pay S/10 for a taxi (£2.50) and insist on getting it for S/9 but then have no qualms in paying S/20 for beer when it's worth precisely half that...and they'll not have just one...messed up priorities really. Anway, Huacachina is pretty good fun, we generally chilled out (very hot, it's in the desert afterall), went sandboarding...well face first on a plank of wood down a dune sort of thing, and visited a vinyard with the most dire tasting wines ever. This wine was exceptionally bad, I'd be loath to give it to someone I didn't like very much. The tasting notes
Huari RuinsHuari RuinsHuari Ruins

I have literally no idea what this is, feel free to make up your own conclusions...it's not aliens though...
should read "...somewhere between bog water, a fat person's sweating arm pit and the back end of a badger..." but the Pisco was good. Peru should stick to Pisco I say. Forget this wine malarky, the market is too crowded and the Chilean's and Argentines have got you beaten all ends up. Maybe have a cigar to celebrate with your Pisco Sours and non-alien-Nazca-Lines.



After relaxing and getting a bit drunk it was time to hit the road again. It felt like we were craming a lot in, we were before heading to Cusco, it was a pretty mad week or so. In fact our first couple of weeks in Peru seem to have been non-stop. It's a good job we crashed at the oasis for a while or we'd likely not make it back in one piece! But as it stands, we did have a break and so Paracas wasn't too bad, despite the absolutely mental taxi driver who took us their from the Pan American Highway (the bus just drops you there). The guy didn't know where the hostel was, wouldn't listen to what we said to him, just nodded, grinned and then floored the accelerator. Overtaking into the oncoming traffic was a given. The only time his speed was appreciated was when went past the fish processing plant...what a stink! But again, we survived. Paracas is another pretty awsome place...amazing Cerviches (raw fish, lashings of lime and lemon, chili, onion and salt) for next to nothing, and a sea lion/penguin colony to rival anywhere else on the planet. It was great, even if it's overcast every morning. Sea lions are big, chilled and numerous here. The penguins are just cute, flufffy and penguiny. Since we were there so early they didn't do much, they just sort of stared at us as though we were the curiosity...I had the bizarre experience theat I was the tourist attraction, and that the boat captain had taken us out for the wildlife to have a good gawp at. Then I realised that was stupid, the Truman show wasn't real, and how the hell would penguins and sea lions pay the captain? They don't use money...unless the captain excepted fish, then it would be plausible, but that's too scary to think about. Need another fact about Paracas to refocus...hmmm...It's the capital of Peruvian kite surfing too, if you care. I don't, bloody penguins.



We did a tour of the national park too, which had a pretty interesting museum, but the park itself consisted of looking at windy beaches and rocks. There wasn't even any grass, which in my opinion is essential for a park. No swings either. Rubbish really. It did have a red beach which was pretty special and beer. Plus went consuming the beer, on the beach, a bunch of school kids who'd never seen the ocean came along and went mental. They ran in, wave came, mass screaming session, running away from the water, laughing and excitement, repeat until teachers says you're leaving. It's rare to see such unbridled joy and happiness at such a simple thing. It was humbling and charming. But the park was still rubbish. We met a Finnish/Swedish couple, Daniel and Jenny, who were doing a similar trip and Daniel happens to be a huge whisky fan which was cool. Missing whisky a bit. Bacon too. Oh and real curry, I'd kill for a Mother India's just now. I've had way too many food fantasies for it to be healthy. The food here is great, don't get me wrong, but you sometimes get to reminscing about a great breakfast at home or at Cookie and then it just descends in to a kind of mental torture. Thing is, I know for sure I'm going to be wishing for all these foods after a few months in the UK...never happy, are some people!!



We finished the mental week by taking a 8 hour bus north-east to Ayacucho. This place is well and truly off the Gringo-Trail, meaning there were few tourists, little choice for accommodation and a very different vibe to the previous places in Peru. Our hotel as decent enough, but the owner was a bit odd. We were leaving at 7.30am and asked for breakfast at 7am, he said no as it was too eary (even though the Peruvians are up with the sun). Then in the morning, he was having his breakfast when we got up! Great customer service, he didn't even look ashamed. Will need to Tripadvisor his ass! Thankfully you didn't have someone trying to sell you something every five minutes and there were few overpriced restaurants or tours. Unfortunately we appeared to be here on the one day when none of the churches or monasteries were open. No big dea you're probably thinking, but since the town has about 30, and they form the basis for visiting it was a bit inopportune to say the least. But we did get to go to the ruins of Huari which was a pre-Inca city and currently under excavation by a team from Lima, it was like watching Time Team, live, but without the rain and that git from the West Country getting inappropriately excited about a change in the colour of the soil. Also, we tried to collect a cactus fruit but ended up with nothing but hundreds of tiny spikes in our fingers...these fruit are like angry porcpines and they didn't much fancy getting eaten. We also lost our credit card which was annoying, but luckily we have back ups, except I can't remember my pin. Foolish of me. Oh, and we tried guinea pig, which is apparently a local delicacy here in Peru, although I've yet to see anyone except a tourist eat one. They are chewy, when deep fried at least. There's little meat on them, but it tastes liks rabbit crossed with chicken and they come served whole, heads and all. I wasn't a fan, but that may possibly be the restaurant's fault as it was pretty poor, but I'll probably pass on the rodent in the future. Apparently they were used in old-school Andean medicine too. They'd be rubbed around the ill person's body and then cut open by the shaman and whatever was wrong with the guinea pig would be the diagnosis given to the person. I assume therefore that many peope were diagnosed with stab wounds to the abdomen. The Incas may have been an advanced society but they were sorely lacking in diagnostic investigation techniques. But anyway, Ayacucho was pretty good fun, great coffee and cakes too, visit if you have the chance and try and stay in a good hotel.

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1st January 2013

Hello there!
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