Farewell Peru: Nazca & Lake Titicaca

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February 6th 2013
Published: February 6th 2013
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After spending a few days recovering in Arequipa I embarked upon a journey that even a logistics manager would probably be proud of. For Air Europa's incompetent luggage service it was the stuff of dreams. Over 25 hours and 850 miles of bus riding in three days, plus a plane ride. It was going to be tiring!

Leaving Arequipa at 10.00pm I took a very comfortable Cruz Del Sur bus to Nazca which arrived at 7.00am the next morning. The Ultorsa & Cruz del Sur buses to be honest make the night travelling quite easy in Peru – they have lounges in the bus stations, onboard catering and entertainment and reclining chairs which are very similar to business class on a plane. I seem to be getting into quite a good routine with these – sleeping tablet, some reading and then sleep for the rest of the journey.

I awoke in Nazca and was collected by Alas Peruanas, the company I had booked my flight with over the Nazca lines. My flight was due for around mid day so I was directed to a local hotel where I could have a coffee and leave my bag before exploring. Taking a walk around the town Nazca seemed vaguely familiar to me, I think this is a result of playing a great deal of Red Dead Redemption on my PS3 before leaving the UK. The town is searingly hot, surrounded by mountains, desert, dried out river beds and the odd ruin. It feels more like a frontier town than a tourist spot. The flight however was well worth the trip and really brings home what an impressive civilisation the Paracas (500BC-400 AD) and the Nazcas (500-800 AD) were. Despite the harsh environment the Nazcas constructed a complex irrigation system using subterranean aqueducts which to this day is still used by local farmers and gives the town a surprising amount of greenery. The flight itself was bumpy to say the least, by the time we took off the desert thermals had kicked in and there was quite a breeze. To see the mysterious lines from above however is amazing. Various theories abound as to why they were built from communicating with God / Aliens to agricultural calendars to transportation. Probably my favourites were the Spider and the Spaceman – the detail in the Spider is immense and spaceman, well he just looks funny. After watching the Chile vs Peru grudge match in the hotel with some French guys I boarded the bus to Puno via Arequipa for another 15ish hours of travel.

I stayed awake for most of the bus journey from Arequipa to Puno because of the landscape. Starting in desert like conditions near Arequipa we ascended various mountain passes until the desert gave way to green hills, mountain lakes and snow capped peaks. The scenery really was impressive, although this didn't do it for the family in front of me who insisted on throwing everything non-biodegradable they could get their hands on out of the bus window. Maybe they understood the impact, maybe they didn't. Either way I thought my Spanish was probably just about of a standard now that I could explain the difference between something non-biodegradable like a bottle and something biodegradable like his fat, obnoxious Son whilst lobbing him out of the window. In the end I decided against it. The window didn't quite look big enough.

I arrived in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca in the evening just in time to enjoy a powercut. Wondering about the Plaza de Armas most of the restaurants and shops were shutting. Fortunately I found a pizza place still open with a clay oven that saved the day – apparently the cuts are a fairly regular occurrence here. The next day I took a boat trip to Islas Uros (the floating islands) with a friendly local guide Bruno who gave us all an important Peruvian elocution lesson. “Lago Titicaca is pronounced Titi CahCah no TitiCaaCaa” he said. “Here CaaCaa is very bad”. After practicing for at least 10 minutes en route just to be safe we landed and were greeted by the locals who explained why they had originally been forced to leave their land and live on the lake and also the maintenance process for keeping the islands moored and afloat, which was extensive. The islanders subsist on birds, eggs, fish and the reeds which are used to build the islands. Tourism is obviously their lifeblood and wherever possible they try to sell you quite intricate blankets, ornaments and other nick nacks. We then took a brief ride in a reed boat to another island. Unfortunately until the locals took over rowing we spent a fair amount of time going round in circles given our amateur skills and the fact it had the windage of a double decker bus....Once back ashore I made a mad dash to the station so that I could get a ticket to Copacabana in Bolivia so as to break up the journey to La Paz. This proved to be quite a relaxing ride along the shores of the lake.

Arriving in Copacabana you cant help but go through the lyrics to Barry Manilow's hit in your head. Its a nice place with friendly people, great views of the lake and a stunning church. However its certainly not the hottest spot north of Havana and music and passion don't always seem to be in fashion. After wandering around for a few hours this morning I'm leaving for the hustle and bustle of La Paz, following yet another prolonged bus journey of course....As the inbetweeners would say, at the moment I appear to be something of a bus w”*%&....

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