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Published: September 28th 2006
These Boots are Made for Walkin´
No, this blog is not an ode to Jessica Simpson, and we´re not strutting around a cowboy bar in hot pants and high heels here in Peru (well, Dom isn´t anyway!). In contrast, we´re on the authentic and at times, challenging, backpackers trail of Peru....From our first stop in Lima - a massive grey, urban sprawl of 10 million with an oppresive cloud/fog cover over the city for 80%!o(MISSING)f the year, to barren, dusty desert towns like Nazca that possibly COULD have been the set for some wild west music clip, to tropical jungles bursting with mango, avocado, papaya and other wonderful fruit varieties, to the spectacular mountain terrains of the Andes.
Peru, in one respect is an easy travel destiation - as the busses get you from A to B relatively easily, but then on the other hand, 3 weeks in a country that is only just recovering from economic and military turmoil that also encompasses so many diverse landscapes over the size of Italy and France combined - you need patience, ability to withstand a lot of long distance travel and most of all.. some bloody good shoes
Huacachina, Amazing Oasis in Peru
Jeep riding over the giant sand dunes!
- as as we´ve found - the most rewarding days have been those when we´ve gone off the beaten track and diverted from the tourist trail... Week 1
So Week 1 was a bit of an endurance test... physically, mentally and linguistically. Coming off the back of 4 weeks in the UK with friends, family and home comforts, we have to admit that a tinge of travel weariness struck us... Combined with the fact that the ´standard´ itinery for any traveler´s first week in Peru basically consists of Lima (get in, get out), Huacachina for 1-2 days, Nazca for half to 1 day (see the lines, get out of the town), an overnight bus to Arequipa for a couple of days and then another overnight bus to Cusco. However, there were some very cool highlights and some tough times, which always at the end of the day, provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction: Huacachina
- Is a tiny oasis in the middle of towering sand dunes that you can buggy ride and sand board down! Woo hoo!! Our hostel was like a mini resort, with swimming pool and sqwarking parrots crying "HOLA!" at 8am. Unfortunately, Dom came
down with a 24 hour fever, but we quickly put him back on track with a YT reconaissance mission by taxi to the near by larger town of Ica with solid spanish attempts to explain the need to visit a bank, and then a chemist for Panadol! Nevertheless, we really enjoyed Huachachina and the amazing sunsets over the most spectuar, massive sand dunes! Nazca
- Well, what can we say. Nazca is the wild, wild west. We hurtled from Huachachina to Nazca on a 4 hour bus and within minutes of descending, were at the airport for our 35min flight over the Nazca Lines - those very famous 1300 to 600 year old mysterious markings on the landscape of monkeys, birds, spiders and a spooky alien dude! The flight was a hair-raiser to say the least.. any longer and I think I seriously would have puked - but the lines were cool, if a little difficult to see. (attached pic is one of the best ones we´ve got!) Arequipa
- Arequipa is the 2nd largest city in Peru and whilst it felt like a congested, busy city there were spectacular snowcapped volcanic mountains towering
over the city..Here, we had a great chance to meet some other travelers at our hostel - some top lads from Victoria, a couple of crazy Kiwis and a cool guy from Alaska. We spent our day and a half wandering the busy streets, (believe it or not, searching for a pair of running shorts for Dom who had lost his favourite pair off our balcony in Madrid! "Quisera unas chorttas para athleticos" And I tell you, it was not an easy task... I don´t think Peruvians wear shorts!). Colca Canyon
- So this is where the endurance test really kicked in. Our trek to the Colca Canyon - at one point thought to be the deepest canyon in the world - and also home to the amazing, giant Condors - commenced at 2am, when we left our hostel in Arequipa for the bus terminal and a night bus to the Canyon. Sold as "time to sleep" we didn´t really think twice about how sensibile it was...but we learnt!
...Close your eyes and imagine sitting next to Pneumatic Drill for 5 hours, add in such ridiculous bumping that you couldn´t keep your bottom jaw attached to
Begining our 9 hour Canyon Trek
Looking fresh after the worst night bus!
your top, then add windows which would not stay shut, for the exessive bumping, then add a breeze coming in of antartic proportions... and that was our lesson!! Ouch!
Anyway, we arrived around 7am at the Canyon, both very shook up, sleep deprived, thirsty and about to take on what was possibly one of the toughest treks we´ve done on our trip. Day 1 was a solid 9 hours - 4 hours down, a 1 hour break, 2 hours up, and 2 hours flat... It was an advanced grade and minus precious sleep it made it even tougher. (we later learnt that the ground we covered is normally done in 3 days, not 2!)
But we made it.. To Oasis (very aptly named), where we spent the night in the cutest, rustic bungalows, with cracks between bamboo to an amazing view of the milky way...
Our 2nd and last day of the trek comprised of getting up at 4am for a 4 hour climb back up the Canyon.. Now I was feeling a lot better, but had to succumb to the temptations of a Mule..that is, being carried by one! And I´m soo glad I did... As
it really was something special, seeing the stars turn to sunrise behind snow capped mountains, on Mule-back, in one of the deepest Canyons in the world, in Peru, of all places!!!! It was spectacular and despite the hard slog of the previous 24 hours, is a memory that will stay with both of us forever. Week 2 Cusco
- Determined to slow the pace and catch up on sleep, we took what we promised to be the last night bus for a while to Cusco. We planned to spend over a week in Cusco, and each day we spent in there really did un-do each busy day we´d done the week before!
We were met by a lady called Sonia at the bus terminal, who presented us her B&B´s services. At 5:30am it sounded pretty damn good, so we set off to her "House of My Grandfather" and were delighted with her family run establishment which had a cosy breakfast room, outdoor coutyard home to 2 fluffy dogs, 1 cat & 2 budgees, and best of all, eximpliary clean rooms which she re-made for us with fresh linen and towels each day! The beds were sooo comfy!!!
Our Spanish School, Cuzco
Sunny mornings in the courtyard!
Anyway, Sonia and Ruben (her husband) became our surrogate family for the week, always smiling and welcoming.
Cusco is a very pretty town (formaly the Incan Capital), and despite the Spanish having razed most of the Incan history in the 16th centry - it was clean, not too busy and really quite charming.
For 5 days, Dom & I applied our brains for the first time, in a long time, and attended a Spanish Language School. And it was soo much fun! The teachers at our school were really friendly and lively and made our week of learning absolutely enjoyable. Included in our tuition fees was also a welcome dinner with the other students, a salsa class (Dom - sooo the next Ricki Martin!!) a movie night and a cooking class. So anyway, I´ve learnt how to say VERY important things like "Dom is a monkey and is mischievious" and Dom of course, things like "Yvette is pretty and smart!" 😊
After our week of classes we had a weekend chilling out, doing close to nothing! Big thanks to Rita for recommending ´Jack´s Cafe´off Plaza De Armas, which took us right back to the cafes of Paddington
and Balmain. It was a real treat and the coffee was the BEST! Week 3
So the final week in Peru comes right back to those walking boots... Our best friends!
Some may say we´re gluttons for punishment (and there were times I thought we were), as from Cusco, we set off on a 4 day/3night trek to Maccu Picchu!
Not the Inca Trail - which is expensive and well, was booked out until October anyway - but another new trek on the scene which incorproates 50km of downhill mountain biking with 2 days jungle treking, natural hot spring baths and more mosquitos than I have ever had to combat before in my life (Dom obtained a whopping 80 bites on one leg!), with then a final day at Machu Picchu.
It was a real joy, at one point on the third day when we were at a rest spot with our fellow trekers - a really lovely Italian couple, 2 cool French guys, a sweet couple from Uraguay and our two Peruvian guides - to sit back in the sun, with the jungle behind us, mountains above us and dramatic rapid river rushing by
us and chatter away in what felt like a small representation of the United Nations!
So with a combination of English (which the Italian couple spoke very well), Spanish (which the French and obviously Uraguyans spoke very well) we shared stories and laughter over the course of our 4 days. Our Peruvian guide, Hugo, was excellent in explaining the features of the natural flora and fauna and he articulated so impeccably his country´s history and tragedies over the past thousand years or so... Over the course of one dinner, he somehow managed to work his way from pre-Incan times, to the building of the Empire, to the Spanish Conquest, to the Independence movement in the 19th century, to the tales of military dictators and economic crisis of the last 50 years and finally to the present day, where he expressed some dispair about his country´s prospects... sharing quite personal stories ranging from the night before, when he´d seen a street fight and went to the nearby police station for help, but was turned away with indiferrence as the policemen were either too busy sleeping or drinking...to another of his childhood during the inflation crisis of the mid 80´s, when
Arriving at Machu Picchu
Amazing view after sunrise!
his father struggled to get food on the family´s table and moved to Lima to try their prospects in the big city, like millions of other Peruvians... Dom and I really enjoyed and appreciated our time with him. Maccu Pichu
Anyway, to get this blog to it´s natural climatic end, we´ll finish up with Machu Picchu!
We set off at around 5:30am with Pietro and Kristina from Italy, for the hour´s walk up to the ruins. One last physical challenge... and it was soo worth it!! The view of the ruins is simply breathtaking.
We did a 2 hour tour to understand as much as possible about this amazing place, which some believe was the religious capital of the Incan Empire between the 15th century and mid 16th century, before it was abandoned - possibly to hide it´s existence from the invading Spanish. But all that is up in the air, as no one really knows who lived there and what it was built for.
Then, if we hadn´t had enough walking, we decided to take another hour´s walk to the peak of WaynaPichu - the highest summit of the Machu Picchu area. It was an
extremely steep climb, but at the summit - we were on top of the world, and possibly at the top of what was one of the most intruiging ancient empires. It felt amazing!! Signing off from Peru
So Peru... an interesting country which, like so many others over history, having been colonised by a foreign country, has suffered the consequence of a lost or diluted native/indigeneous culture. The cities are big, much of the landscape is barren and at times, we felt like each city was simply a franchise of the one before - not quite Spanish and not quite Peruvian, with a big square, churches and busy streets. But thanks to our boots, with a touch of grit and determination - we´ve had some wonderful moments in a beautiful country. And Machu Picchu.... Just Magic!!
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