South America. Peru.. and a little bit of Chile.

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April 30th 2012
Published: April 30th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

So arrived in Santiago after a long 13 hour flight for New Zealand, our body clock was all wrong as we had time travlled back in time arriving 4 hours before we left, so it was actually the longest day we had ever lived! Arrived in Santiago with no clue on how to get to the hostel, and this is where the language barrier proved a little difficult as most people didnt speak english and our spanish was by no means good at this point. Finally got onto the right bus, not having much of an idea which stop to get off at, or even where we were going, but thank god Rachel sat next to someone who knew the area well and spoke english. So after we were shown to our lovely hostel (which we would of had no chance in finding on our own) went to bed for around 20 hours to try and sort our body clock out which didnt exactly work as we got up to eat pizza and then went to bed again for the night. Didnt see much of Santiago at all, but did manage a night out drinking pisco sours (a very strong lemon and brandy drink) and some awful alcoholic mixes of who knows what as we just agreed to whatever the bar man said. So, we had a pretty alcohol fuelled night out in a bar sampling traditional foods and then onto a club, needless to say the hangover the next morning was beyond awful so we spent the only free day we had to explore...nursing our hangover in bed before we had to catch our next flight into Lima for one night, then onto Cusco.

Arrived in Lima with no clue where we were staying as we were only there for a total of 8 hours, but stayed in this awful hostel which our taxi driver took us too, even though we had an address for somewhere else, but in South America we have come to the conclusion that taxi men just take you where they like. Thought we were either going to get killed or catch something but we survived even though the room was like a sauna and we left early for our next flight to Cusco. Arrived in Cusco very early...around 8am to be met by Rachels parents which was lovely and got escorted in a private taxi to our LUXURY hotel, which was literally indescribable. Rachel was suffering from a cold by this point and the altitude sickness started to kick in for the both of us, so a nice hotel with a bath was well needed at this point. Spent the morning eating as much as we possible could at breakfast and then admired the hotel and room for a few hours before we all went on a tour around Cusco. We stopped at many Inca sites, and now definatley know what an inca wall looks like! We also visited the main Cathedral in the central plaza of Cusco which was beauitful and a traditional food market, full of amazing colours, so many woolen alpcha goods and masses of fresh fruit, cheeses and meats. We were all suffering badly from the alitiude sickess by this point, feeling exhausted even after walking 100m and the feeling of always being breathless however couldnt sleep for longer than 3 hours at a time however tired we were, so took the next few days extremely easily, with Rachel barely getting out of bed, and all drinking alot of Coca (a leaf which can be put into tea or eaten as sweet to reduce the symptoms.) Cusco was full of markets, which we had really missed since thailand, full of everything you can imagine...made by an alpacha in vivid colours including thousands of poncho´s which of course had to be purchased, so spent alot of time wandering down tiny narrow streets being hassled by the stall owners, which was fine as we didnt have a clue what they were saying anyway so just walked straight past them smiling and shrugging our shoulders. In the centre was a lovely plaza surrounded by historical buildings including all the Inca parts of the city which were stunning. The main reason we travelled to Cusco was of course.. Machu Picchu and had an extremely early start at 3.30am to start our journey there! As we hadnt eaten (as the food is awful here!) or slept for more than 3 hours a night for the past week our bodies were about to give up. As there had been landslides in the last week we couldnt get the direct train to Machu Picchu so got picked up by a very small mini-van for the amount of people we had, for a long 2 hrs journey with no solid road just dirt tacks, through completely stranded villages in between mountains and farming communities to Ollantaytambo, where we caught the PeruRail train. The train led us along a river through mountains and settlements to the town of Machu Picchu, with the train line running straight through the centre of the town - very safe! We then caught the bus from the town up the mountain along a very winding and tretourous road to the peak. I dont even know where to start when trying to describe Machu Picchu, but it was unbelievable as you will see from the pictures, and we still cant actually believe we have seen it. We didnt get a guide as their tour took around 4hours which was far too much for us, but think it could of been useful at some parts as we werent to sure in what we were looking at sometimes, but it was beautiful! It is amazing to think how the community settled here due to its remote location, but you can certainly see why they picked it, plus it had great astonomical value to them. We stayed up on the peak for around 2 hours as that was definatley enough time to take it all in plus it was boiling hot. We then headed down to the town to kill another 8hours as our train didnt leave until 6pm, so a very long day. Spent the day eating and looking around the market stalls which pretty much all sell the same thing and then started our long journy back to Cusco- but it was well well worth it! Finally managed to sleep that night so were feeling like we were on the road to recovery , apart from Cusco was FULL of bad italian resturants so surived off jam and bread, bad soup and pizza for a few days, if only we knew what was to come, so always felt like we were starving, even though we really werent!

Caught our first night bus to Arequipa, which was amazingly comfy! Had to be secruity checked before we boarded and then once all in our seats the police came around with a video recorder so we were all caught on camera stating our names and seat numbers, so that was strange but felt kind of safe. After a 10 hour journey in which we both slept for most of it apart from when there was no road so the bus was shaking from side to side as we were travelling through rural peru. Arrived in Arequipa nice and early at 5.30am and got into a taxi in order to take us to our hostel, which once again the language barrier proved hard as he didnt take us there, but ended up in a nice hostel with the view of Mount Misti. Arequipa was very similar to Cusco with a central plaza and the cathedral and other old buildings surrounding it but with not as many tourists. Visited the musuem of Santa Maria - where around 20 years ago inca children were found, it was belived they had been sacrifised on the mountain to the gods in which they believed would reduce natural disasters such as draught which was very prominant and life threatening. The museum housed many of the artifacts that were buried with these children and then at the end the frozen body of one of the children, who was tiny as all of them were chosen from birth and under the age of 16, but very interesting to see. Im not going to keep going on about the food, but on many occasions we went on the hunt for some really good food, all the time to be dissapointed by some god awful plate which was put in front of us, so rachel contacted her parents as they had previously been to Arequipa to find a good resturant as soon we were sure we were going to die of starvation! So finally had the address of a steak resturant which we were both very excited about, but before our juicy steak we took a tour bus around Arequipa city and surrounding countryside, and was good to see the rest of the city as either i think we would of stayed in the central plaza. We visited many churches and an alpacha farm and store and then onto a mill, was nice to see but after 4 hours it was rather tedious. But onto the steak... the best steak EVER, it came out on a sizzling hot stone so you could cook it yourself, with a baked potato and ratatouille, you have no idea how good this was, and we havent stopped talking about it since we ate it, and obviously dessert and cocktails followed!

From Arequipa we started to travel north, and from tourist information were told Camana was a nice sea side town to visit so we mistakably decided to go there. We got dropped off at the side of the road in a very busy and bustling street in which no-one at all spoke english. We were obviously the only tourists here so everyone was staring, whistling and generally making us feel very uncomfortable, from this moment we knew we wanted to leave ASAP, and the sea was nowhere in site! It was even quite a struggle trying to find a bus station so had to resort to hand movements and signals to get directions, it was of course on the side of the road in a little concrete office with plastic chairs, so booked a bus to nasca that night which left at 9.30pm. For the remaining 5 hours we paid a hostel to stay in a room as there was no way we were just going to sit onthe street, as think we would of been robbed! So, headed to the bus office at 9 pm as previously we had to turn up 30 mins before, they did look at us strangly when we turned up but as they spoke no english and we spoken no spanish we both just exchanged smiles. After waiting until 10pm and the office being shut, the women behind the desk leaving and being left with a grandma, her dog and a kitten we were rather concerned we would be sleeping on plastic chairs! 10.30 came and went and then a bus finally turned up, praying it was ours we headed for the door, to be told by an english speaking driver our bus left Arequipa at 9.30pm and would be here around midnight to 1am.. lovely! As you can imagine we had really had enough by this point so Rachel decided to sleep on the most uncomfortable chairs, while Lauren watched endless spanish idea what was happening but it was all very dramatic! Needless to say the bus did eventually turn up just after midnight, and we were finally out of Camana (never ever to return there) and on our way to Nazca!!

Arrived in Nazca at 7am, we are good with early morning travelling now, and obviously went straight to the hostel for a nap. Nazca is located in the middle of the desert so was boiling hot which was a nice change. We visited the Chuachilla cemetry, which really was in the middle fo the desert, we were stranded on the road for a while as our van broke down but another more durable one soon turned up. The Chauchilla cemetery was looted by treasure hunters, who destroyed the place completely, taking away all the treasures the mummies kept in their tombs for centuries. Grave robbers just left behind the corpses with the skulls and bones visable, as well as long human hairs, ceramic fragments and others remains scattered on the dessert surface. It is the only archaeological site in Peru, in which ancient mummies are seen in their original graves, along with ancient artifacts, dating back to 1000 AD so was an very interesting trip. After visited a ceramic shop and gold mining place which was a little boring after seeing mummies but got some culture in! The next day got up nice and early again to go to the Naza lines! Was greeted by a man who introduced himself as the pilot and looked no older than 12 yeards old so were all a bit worried then as we didnt want to die, but he turned our to be the co-pilot thank god! A tiny propeller plane which held 6 people including the pilot and co-pilot took us up over the desert to view the nazca lines which were amazing with views for hundreds of miles of the surrounding desert and moutains, but the lines itself were incredible. Sometimes they were hard to see but our co pilot would be shouting out "monkey, monkey, monkey" and then the plan would turn completely to the side so we could all get a good view, so think we saw the majority of them, and even recieved a certificate after saying we survived the ride! (got a nice slice of cake from the airport too!) After the flight then caught a bus to Ica and then onto Haucachina for some sand boarding!

So Haucachina was amazing, like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Had a really realxing time here doing nothing , reading, soaking up the sun and of course sand boarding/buggying. Had some really lovely jewellery stalls where you could see them making all the necklaces and braclets, and one man even made us a ring for free needless to say we did go back and buy some things from him. Our main activity here was sandboarding which was AMAZING, definatley one of our best activities as required zero effort for maximum fun...this is definately our new sport, just need to find some sand dunes near Malmesbury and Tetbury! Got picked up by a sand buggy and headed into the desert - a very bumpy ride going straight up and over massive sand dunes, it was like you were on a rollercoaster as you had no idea what was around the corner. We then stopped at what seemed like the biggest dune ever where the boards came out. We were told to lie on our stomachs at the peak and hold onto the foot straps tight and keep our elbows in, then we got pushed, it was such a rush going down these sand dunes as you went so fast and from the first dune we wanted to do it again and again. From there we went to bigger and bigger dunes, which to start with you would of never dreamed of going down but by the end nothing could stop us. We didnt try standing up as watched a few people and they didnt get very far and more to the point didnt want to waste a dune! We both absolutely loved it! After that we watched the sun go down on top of a dune which was stunning as miles and miles of desert were in front of us, it was beautiful and from then we fell in love with the place.

After 3 days in Haucachina (and some good food) headed north to Pisco. Not exactly what we were expecting, with once again another plaza and many bustling streets but sadly not that close to the sea . Our hostel was nice there and spent alot of time chilling out on the roof top terrace with the cats who we named Spud and Ginge, reading and taking it all in. Apart from a circus was being constrcuted next door with 3 lioness´s and a lion in a caged trailor which was horrible to see, then they got paraded around the plaza with people gathering all around them, but i guess thats normal for them but so many times we got woken up by some very loud growls. We took a tour to the ballestas islands just off of paracas which is about 10 mins bus journey away from Pisco. It is described as the ´mini Galapagos´which is a lie really but still quite interesting. Firstly caught a boat out to see many of the rock formations including the "candleabra" which is like the nasca lines but carved onto the side of a rock that has been covered in sand leaving the indentation, but they dont know its origin. After that we went onto the islands, full of millions of birds including pelicans so the smell was just awful! Also saw alot of sea lions which was cool but not as much wildlife as we were hoping for. After the island tour, had some more bread and jam and headed to the national Park, where we visited a musuem, the "cathedral" which turned out to be a rock formation and not a cathedral in the middle of the desert which we believed it would be and a red sand beach! Was very different, obviously, from any other national park we have ever visited before as it was just vast open land of desert and rock but cool to see.

Now back in Lima for the last few days, before our last flight to Argentina 😞 After trying a flew hostels with no availability we found one in Miraflores, near the sea which is nice enough for a few days and good resturants near by (which was very important to us...if you hadnt noticed we have become food obsessed! Went for a wonder around the main park and shops located in the cliff front for a few hours and then to the inka market as we were coming abit concerned we wouldnt have the chance to buy some more alpacha goods and other things we probably dont need (not sure how many woolen products two girls need!) Today we visited the zoo, saw some puma´s and condors along with many more animals and now off to pack for the next and last leg of our jounrey. Cant believe how quick our trip has gone and dont think we will ever be ready to come home but had some of the most amazing experiences of our life and will never ever forgot the places and people we have come across. (of course cant wait to see all of u!)

Lots of Love!! xxxxxxxx

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