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Published: March 27th 2018
Our arrival into Arequipa at 5am marked a significant milestone for us - our last overnight bus and we won't miss them! On this particular one, we had to endure a broken speed sensor in the driver's cabin that beeped insistently for the whole night (luckily Donal had the foresight to bring earplugs so he slept grand)!!
Having just completed the Inca Trail a few days earlier, one of the first things we did on arrival into Arequipa was to sign up for the 2 day 1 night Colca Canyon trek! We will have to get the hiking boots resoled! Picked up at 3am, we drove by mini bus for three hours to our starting point. Unfortunately for us, we were one of the last to be picked up by the minibus so the four of us had to take the backseat where legroom was scarce. As you can imagine we were all in super form by the time we arrived!
On Day 1 of our trek, we descended 1,200m into the canyon. With the early morning sun beating down on us, and laden down with 2 days worth of water and our daypacks, it wasn't as easy as
Huacachina - an oasis in the desert!
Only 100 permanent residences but thousands of tourists come here for the sandboarding and sand buggy experience.
one might assume. But what it lacked in ease, it made up for in beauty.
Day 2 began at 4:30am in the darkness but after our nights sleep in what could only be described as a converted cowshed, we started our hike back up the canyon! 3 hours of hiking and a 1,200 ascent all before breakfast! The Clare team probably have easier morning training sessions! There were moments when we were tempted to take a taxi (and by taxi we mean a mule) but we persevered. At the top we probably smelled like mules!
With its elegant buildings of white volcanic stone and imposing volcanoes, Arequipa is undoubtedly one of the most scenic cities in South America. It's most famous attraction is a museum that is home to the well preserved frozen body of a twelve year old Inca girl who was killed as an offering to the Inca gods approximately 500 years ago. We learned about how the girl (known as Juanita) was sacrificed at the top of Mt. Ampata and how her naturally mummified body was discovered in an expedition in 1995. The museum gave a really interesting insight into Inca life but the terrible
The second day deepest canyon in the world.
The deepest is in Tibet and the Grand Canyon ranks 4th.
fate that befell the young girl was incomprehensible.
Continuing along the coast of Peru, our next stop was Huacachina, a desert oasis in the sand dunes of Peru. The most popular thing to do in Huacachina is a dune buggying and sand boarding tour. Girly screams could be heard for miles as our buggy driver tore around the sand dunes (Damo and Donal of course!). We didn't have a speedometer for the sand boarding this time but it was still clear to all that Mau managed to achieve faster speeds than Donal. He is determined to hone his technique on the sand dunes of west Clare once back!
After only one night in Huacachina we were on the road again, making it as far as Paracas. This small seaside town village is a blink and you miss it place but it is home to a huge natural attraction - the Paracas National Reserve. Having had a taste of the sand buggies in Huacachina, we rented two and did a sunset tour of the park one evening. The boys got confused and thought we were in training for a Grand Prix (Donal won by the way)! But in the
Smiling at the start of our Colca Canyon Hike!
.....despite the lack of legroom on the minibus!
midst of all the antics we did manage to see some of the sights including the beautiful red beach of Playa Roja and the Cathedral Rock formation.
Moving further northwards we stopping briefly at a gorgeous property named Hacienda San Jose en route to Lima. Underneath the property lie the 'Chincha Slave Tunnels' - a series of almost 20km of tunnels. The story behind the tunnels is a sad one - they were used to bring slaves from the shore at night in order to avoid paying the port taxes on the slaves.
Lima was the final stop in Peru for us all, and for Damo and Anna, it was also their departure point for home. After a whirlwind month, it was great to have some downtime and to watch Ireland win the rugby Grand Slam from the comfort of our own living room (albeit in Spanish). We didn't think going to a bar at 10am would have been such a good idea!
With only a couple of days in Lima, we have to admit we barely scratched the surface. We did wander into the Historic Centre - the regal Plaza Mayor being the architectural highlight surrounded
as it is with one magnificent building after another.
And so after three brilliant weeks we bid farewell to Damo, Anna and Peru....and said hello to Ecuador!
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