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Published: February 8th 2010
Taking a breakfast break at Santa Innes
I can tell you that we left the hacienda in Tarma heading to Buenos Aires, I can also tell you that as we planned it we did this journey by bus, and you may think that we are crazy, even if I tell you that it's much more exciting actually seeing the way than skipping over it by a plane. But because it may become a bit boring to describe the fantastic scenery we passed through, especially as the combination 'so beautiful' will repeat endlessly I will be short on the description of the road and try to portray to you the excitement of discoverring it.
Although there is a direct bus from Lima to Buenos Aires, we decided not to return to Lima. Instead we thought to continue to Nazca and see the lines from the air, then our plan was to head first to Santiago de Chile for a little break, before reaching tango city. We searched for a way to reach Nazca without going back to Lima and that meant heading to Huancayo, from there to Pisco or Ica, and from there another 2-3hours by bus to Nazca.
Thus, we started looking for info about flying
Santa innes in the morning
Stopping for breakfast at this remoted Andean village
above the lines and read some blogs about the experience, the more we read we got put-off by the idea of vormitting in a tiny plane and seeing the lines via a dirty screen - we decided it was going to be waste of money and gave it a miss. Instead we decided to head to Pisco and try visiting Isla de Balletas - also known as 'poor man's Galapagos' and that´s what we did. We went to Huanacayo on our last weekend at the hacienda to check the possiblities for transportation, hoping that in a big city as it is we may get a better tourist information, also we wanted to visit the Artisians Mercado to find some wool crafts at rediculously cheap prices.
Well, the tourist information wasn't brilliant but just outside it we met this guy who represented himself as a tour guide - this made me dash off and leave Liz alone in the firing line. When I heard that he was talking to the point and offering also free advice or simply answering our questions I joined him and Liz and asked him about getting to Pisco from Ayacucho - where I thought
Mud house in Santa Innes
to head to from Huancayo. He corrected me and said that Huancavelica was a better destination and from there to continue to Pisco via something that ended with Castro. The journey in that way was to be half the time. We thanked him for his kindness and time and searched for the bus terminal of Ticillas that takes the 4-5 hours ride to Huancavelica - a small touristy town on the foot of just another Andian peak.
A week later when we did the journey we were amazed with the beauty of the road - I like those winding snake roads that carve a way on the side of a mountain - similar to the tour-de-France route, anyway, as I said, it is not the actual bus trip that we did but finding it and finding the way and finding the possibilities is what makes the journey exciting because the possibilities are out there but are not marked and it is not easy to get information about them. Yet, once you get there it is absolutely stunning (and strangely, cheaper). We reached Huancavelica early evening and went on to find the bus to Pisco - nada, all buses go
Cramped in the bus
Sleepless Liz squashed in her sit - two hours to go
to Lima. After some more questioning we found the company that goes to Pisco but the bus was set to leave only at 18:00 in the day which didn´t fit our plan. We asked for another option to get to pisco in the morning but couldn´t understand the answer, at some point and after many times of questioning I thought I heard that name that ended with Castro and persued it - Castro Vereina,
OK, so it starts with Castro, never mind, that was the name the tour guide from Huancayo told us, we put together one and one and understood that we needed to get to that place in order to get to Pisco - but how do you get there?
The tourist information woman looked at us in a suspicious way when we asked her how to get to Castro but was helpful and kind enough to draw us a diagram of where the bus company to Castro was located. As all the major roads in this town were under construction at this time of the year (January) we walked through thick mud until we reached in the bus office. The ticket cost little but the price
for that was a 04:00AM departure. We left the hotel as early as 03:00AM to be sure we would make it on time - we did. About twenty minutes before departure a guy led us to the junction where a number of buses waited. Lots of people buzzed around and stands and stalls sold anything from food to arts. Needless to say we were the only Gringos there and that it caused quite a stir in the crowds. But, one question was left open - what bus shall we go on? Some people indicated one bus but the driver said it was going to Santa Anna. Then came a woman with a taxi driver and offered us to go with her since there is no bus - that was worrying, we really didn´t like the idea that we were fooled. We then asked other people if they were going to Castro and waited next to them. Meanwhile the taxi woman joined us in the line as she couldn´t find anyone to join her taxi. We waited for another twenty minutes before we saw the people who were already seated in the ´not to Castro´ bus getting off and the driver
called us to come on board. We were so relieved and climbed confidently up to the bus to get our next shock. It was a very small bus that was specially designed for the Andean people - tiny - I didn't have enough room for my knees... Yet we were happy to be seated and curious about the coming adventure.
At about five in the morning we got the first light and with it the first sight of where we were and what was around - we saw snow. At the beginning not a lot but it was closer than before. The sideways were covered with snow and so were the mountains. Surprisingly we didn´t feel very cold - maybe because we were cramped in our seats. As the journey went on we got to see perhaps the most beautiful landscape we have seen in Peru, indeed we didn´t go to Huaraz region but we have been travelling in the Andes for some time and didn´t see those crystal clear mirror face lakes lying at the foot of a mountain. For us it was exciting and the surprise of discovering it via this 4WD bus travel added more for
the thrill. During the journey the bus stoped for some passengers who knew where to get off the bus at that middle-of-nowhere. Curiously we looked outside to see the man or mother and little girl left behind, trying to spot a hut or a field or a herd of sheep, maybe some llamas. Sometimes we noticed them a mile ahead, sometimes we didn´t...
Mid-morning we arrived in Castro Vereina which sits at the threshold of the desert. The transition from Andes to desert is fascinating, it begins with colours that turn brighter and the rocky mountains turn sandy. The crystal skies turn a bit dustier and the vegetation grows slightly higher and denser, of course the snow left behind allowing warmer weather to break in. After an hour and a half wait we got into the minivan that took us down to a junction near Pisco. This is the thing that I still cannot get in Peru - why can´t they have a bus/taxi terminal. The transportation system is excellent, if you judge according to the simple fact that it connects between all inhabbited places, but the end points are poor and so difficult for the gringo (maybe it
is only me, though) to understand. After 3hours journey into and in the desert passing some more spectacular scenery on again roads similar to the famous death-road, we ended up at a junction! From middle-of-nowhere to middle-of-chaos, by a highway! Buses and private cars passed by at 100kmh whilst we hung on to our luggage, trying to get our bearings. Kindly, the minivan driver helped us to find a collectivo to get to Pisco.
About an hour later we were already heading to Ica, one hour south of Pisco. We read that the museum there has very interesting exhibits of the Pre-Inca cultures who lived in the region of Nazca valley. It was intersting and luckily short, two hours later we already headed back to Pisco to book a ticket for a small tour in Isla del Balletas and to sleep - after all we had been awaken since 02:00AM.
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