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Published: July 15th 2006
Well... Internet cafes are everywhere these days and we are currently in the central bus station in Arequipa awaiting our transport to Cusco. Another economico: even the locals laugh when you say you´re doing a 12 hour plus journey in one of these, but they´re bloody cheap.
Final day in Iquitos we decided to have a rum party on our balcony and three bottles later we were easily persuaded by Pamela to head onto a local club. Terrible music: rigaton or reggaeton (spelling?) really ain´t our scene and wasn´t even remotely tempted to risk the knee again. Nevertheless, by the time we made it back to the apartment we realised that we had to be at the airport in an hour - rough journey ensued.
Arrived in Lima with the intention of staying in the touristy Miraflores area. However, hostels expensive and with all the charm of a British suburb. Decided to head for Lima old town. Not the safest, but we found an old rundown colonial hotel complete with marble n chandeliers for a pittance. This place was also just off the Plaza de Armas, the most beautiful part of the city. Met up with our Peruvian pal
Anna who took us to an area specialising in ceviche and we weren´t disappointed.
Didn´t hang around long though and after a couple of days we were en-route to Huaraz close to the Cordillera Blanca - some of the most spectacular mountains and hence trekking in Souh America. This turned out to be one of our fav destinations thus far: city isn´t very picturesque, but they do have to keep rebuilding it after earthquakes; great range of bars n restaurants; wonderful chilled atmosphere; and the most amazing backdrop of white peaks imaginable. We also happened upon a great hostel (Jo´s Place) and lucked out by getting the penthouse room. Hostel full of serious climbers who were also seriously into their football and partying. England shirts continued to bring luck non-deserving of the performances... One particular night with the lads stands out as it involved a giant Jenga set, a helmet, large mallet and tequila shots. Here, I did indeed again succumb to the dancing temptation (local girl asked Ali if all English men could dance this way... and, I jest not, said "it´s so elegant, but how do you keep up") - predictably knee knackered again! Finally decided to
call it a night when the climbers started snorting tequila and squeezing limes into their eyes?! Went on a 4-day trek on the Sana Cruz trail. This was amazing, especially the second day when we traversed a mountain pass, sat on a ridge and were totally surrounded by peaks, valleys and a turquiose laguna. View to rival the caste mountains in Guilin, China. Breathtaking!
We felt it was time for some lazing on a beach and the best in Peru is Mancura, right up near the Equadorian border. A grim journey of 22 hours by 4 el cheapo buses and two taxis got us there hot n sweaty only to discover the town is without water. This place is reminiscent of an Indian beach circa 1980 and primarily a hangout for surfers and kite-surfers (it has the longest left-handed surf in the world). We found a cheap ramshackle place with huts surrounding a sandy courtyard away from the beach, the enclave surrounded by fencing and somewhat resembling an old US cavalry fort. It initially seemed extremely unfriendly with a bunch of dudes just hanging out. However, turned out that this was the afternoon following a 36 hour sesh and
hence no one was very communicative. Tried to dump stuff and rush off for the Germany/Sweden game, but were cornered by the chubby and camp (though bizarrely somewhat sinister) owner who insisted we join him and some of the less wrecked revellers in downing some beer.. Missed all the games that day and so it continued... Did make it to the beach occassionally to frazzle, eat cerviche with a cold beer and watch the preening kite surfers (apparently many of the top geezers in the world present including the Argentinian ex-worldchamp). But most of the time it was party party with a motley crew of our host´s mates n the odd long-stayer beach bum. One of the latter deserves a special mention: Peter-the-strong, from the Netherlands. An interesting name for someone who bears little resemblance to a weightlifter. He is in fact a surfer, a surfer who managed to misjudge one of Mancura's wilder waves and was sent sprawling over the reef - a misfortune that left much of the skin on his face not where it was intended. He was patched up and has totally recovered but the locals who witnessed his malady, and the way he handled it,
subsequently renamed him thus. Were forced to endure several 2-day non-stop parties, one of which included driving off to the luxury pad of some risque big-wig in the middle of the night. Finally, pretty spent, eight days later, we had to cry off and head south. This was some hostel and some mighty generous, if rogueish proprietor. Should add that he certainly wasn´t gay having been married 4 times (wives ages totalling 84) and was a mighty busy chap in that department - and his girls extremely loud..
England now out of the footie and shirts relegated to the bottom of our packs.
Another epic series of non-stop bus journies (including 2 breakdowns and some pushing from us passengers) took us from Mancura, through Lima and onto Pisco and then Ica. Close to Ica is a tiny oasis town, Huacachina at which we finally paused for breath. Stunning setting with the lake surrounded by mountainous sand dunes. However, quickly realised that we´re now definately on the gringo circuit and westerners are everywhere.
Next week or so was 2-nightly stops doing the "musts": flew over the Nazca lines in a tiny cesna (tadge disappointing though still impressive), went
down to the "white city" of Arequipa and then onto Cusco.
In Arequipa we were befriended (table by table) by an entire hole-in-the-wall pub. Just as we would go to leave another sozzled group would invite us to join them - and we certainly aren´t rude! Now totally versed in Peruvian drinking etiquette: table shares a single glass that is filled and downed by the first person who then pours any lingering froth into a "waste" recepticle, refills the glass and passes it on. It doesn´t take long to get through a tablefull of bottles. Did eventually find our guesthouse, although neither of us has much recollection....
So, we´re in Cusco; a beautiful, if terribly touristy city, and departure point for Machu Pichu. After a day of heart searching we decided to give it a miss! Why? Well, it´s prime tourist season and the site is crawling with humanity; trekking along the Inca trail is booked up for months; you are unable to use local transport to get up there and boy do they charge for what transport is available; we are really only interested in the vista - did go to Kuelap afterall, and several people have
said that this really doesn´t compare to - for example - The Cordilleras. So - humbug - we took a stand for the poor backpacker and have boycotted it. No one can doubt that after 8 weeks in Peru we really do feel that Peru is more than just Machu Pichu.
Last Peruvian destinations, as we both have itchy feet for Bolivia, will be Puno at lake Titicaca and then a night or so on Isla Taquile on the lake itself. Have to say that we really didn´t think we´d stay here this long, love the Peruvian people so much, or find it sooo hard to leave..
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