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Published: July 15th 2008
Our next stop after lovely Cuzco was Arequipa, another nice city and the base for trip to the Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. So the next day we were back on a bus, this time with a tour guide, on our way to the small town of Chivay which would be our base for the night. After our bus had knocked down someone’s low hanging electricity cable, we made our way to the local hot springs for a soak. We’d been advised not to take any valuables so could only watch everyone else drinking cocktails in the water as we didn’t have any money! The 2 of us then went out for alpaca steaks and decided to give the traditional dancing show a miss. It was an early start the next morning to get to the viewing platforms to see the condors soaring on the thermals up through the canyon. This was what the trip was all about the enormous birds didn’t disappoint.
Back in Arequipa we spent as afternoon at the Santa Catalina Convent, which was like a really pretty small Mediterranean village walled off from the rest of the city. About 450
nuns used to live here in total seclusion, leaving any family they had behind. There are still a few remaining nuns who live in a sectioned off area.
We left Arequipa on another overnight bus arriving in Nazca at around 5am with the sole purpose of flying over the Nazca lines. We resisted the persistent sales pitch from our taxi driver who was apparently also a pilot(!!) and waited until 7am for one of the reputable offices to open. At 9.30am we boarded our 12 seater Cessner to try and work out for ourselves if the lines were drawn by a pre-Inca civilization or little green men! None the wiser, we really enjoyed the sharp twists and turns as we flew over giant monkeys, hummingbirds and spiders amongst others.
By 11.30am we were already on another bus, this time to the bizarre Huacachina. Situated on a small lake surrounded by huge sand dunes and palm trees, tiny Huacachina was great fun and it was lovely to be able to ditch the layers and dig our summer stuff out from the depths of our bags. We had a brilliant trip dunebuggying and sandboarding down steep slopes and laughed constantly.
That night we met up with friends Claire and Jonathan again for dinner and drinking games which ended with everyone bar David (games champion…and instigator) in a complete state and with Ruth wrapped round the loo!
From Huacachina it was on to the capital Lima for our last couple of nights in Peru. Other than a trip to the black market, where you can buy everything under the sun but not that cheaply, and a whirlwind trip to the old town, we stayed in touristy Miraflores, ate out with friends and did nothing much other than relax.
And then to Ecuador and country number 17! Rather than getting one bus directly to Quito we decided to save a bit of money and spend 36 hours on 3 different buses, including the last night bus which our guide book recommends not taking due to the high number of hold ups on the route! The armed guard sitting at the front gave us at least a bit of reassurance and we made it without any problems.
We didn’t do much in Quito, mainly because we bumped into a girl we’d met in Arequipa who had been mugged at knifepoint
in the middle of the afternoon the day before! Plus it rained loads. So after a brief and fortunately safe visit we got yet another bus, this time to Tena to go white water rafting, a wedding present from Natalie. And it was so much fun, we loved it. There were plenty of rapids and in the calm bits the guides had us doing games like trying to run round the edge of the raft without falling off, although (and this will come as no surprise to you all) David had a tendency to push everyone in anyway! The guides also kept jumping into each others boats to try and let air out, so it was lucky we got to the end still in inflated rafts and not swimming! Thanks loads Nat, we had a great time.
After 3 nights in Tena (and only being charged for 2!) it was on to Baños. We didn’t have great weather so couldn’t even see the active volcano 8km away but we still liked it there. We didn’t go to a spa in the end either as they were really pricey, but it meant we had to more to spend in the
yummy cafes we found.
From Baños to Riobamba for 1 night, then a 6am bus to the start of the Devil’s Nose Train. Unfortunately, partly due to the demise of the Ecuadorian rail network, it’s become a real tourist trip and rather than sitting on the top of an old steam train, it’s now a bright red trolley bus and you sit on the roof rack! It’s a quick there and back and not very Devil’s Nose like but the scenery was still good, so thanks to Kay and Mark for that pressie.
Next stop was the city of Guayaquil, larger, hotter and nicer than Quito, although we did see a protest through the centre against the number of shootings and murders! There’s a nice promenade along the river leading to Las Peñas, a neighbourhood of colourful wooden houses and the park in front of the cathedral is crawling with massive iguanas oblivious to the crowds! We also had a good day at the Parque Historico, which has a zoo-like area as well as mock traditional houses, followed by dinner at a crab house.
And then it was on to Puerto Lopez, our last destination in Ecuador,
for the much anticipated whale watching, our pressie from Nikki and Paul - thank you so much. We had 6 relaxing days in Puerto Lopez, and 2 trips to see the whales! We did a bargain trip the first time in a boat we thought would collapse at any moment, as it turned out only one of the seats broke! But it was brilliant, we saw 4 whales in total and 2 breached really close to the boat. It was so good that 4 days later we were booked to go again, this time on a much nicer, safer boat! The whales were slower to appear but then we found one that must have jumped out of the water 20 times about 20 meters from our boat! It was amazing, and if we had charged the batteries in our camera we'd have got some briiliant shots!!!! How annoying.... don't think we'll forget it quickly though, just means we can't share the images with you.
After Puerto Lopez we headed back to Guayaquil, flew to Lima where we had to spend a night (and a fortune on airport tax) and then flew to Caracas and our penultimate country! We only
stayed in Caracas for 1 night as it's not meant to be very safe (and actually we had a walk round and there's not much to see) before getting an overnight bus to Merida where we are now. It's a nice town and we're enjoying being here but Venezuela is sooooo expensive!! We're unfortunately having to miss out on Angel Falls as we can't afford it but we're looking forward to going on a 4 day trip to Los Llanos in a couple of days. We'll fill you in on that soon.....
Only 6 weeks left to go!
Hope you're all okay.
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