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PERU | Thursday, 15 December 2011 | Views [608]

   Well,  as I seem to be pretty rubbish at keeping people up to date with what I´m up to and where I am, I thought I might give this whole blog thing a go.  First a bit of a warning; I´ve been gone a while and done a fair bit, so if you are going to read this chapter I´d strongly recommend getting a cup of tea and making yoursef comfortable first...

  It seems like a very long time ago that Amy and I left the somewhat chilly shores of Brighton for the hot and humid (and very smoggy)capital of Peru. We arrived in Lima on the 11/11/11, stayed for a day and then headed 10mins west to the suburb of Miraflores. Where central Lima is crowded, noisy and dirty, Miraflores is a surreal, Miami-like place with palm trees lining the clean cycle paths along the seafront where roller-bladers were overtaken by police on those weird two-wheeled electric scooter things which look like they should exist only on futuristic sci-fi films. Where Lima was filled with history and colonial architecture, Miraflores is modern and affluent and even the people look different.

  After a day in Miraflores we made the ´two and a half´ (four) hour bus journey down the coast to Pisco where we were not only surprised to find ourselves on the side of the Pan-American highway, 8km away from town, but also to see a woman holding up a sign with my name written on it. I had emailed one hostel the day before to find out rates and availability but had not had time to reply before leaving Lima, yet here was this woman waiting for us who then took us to the hostel.

  From Pisco we took a trip down to a town called Paracas, a recently developed tourist town somewhat lacking in tourists. From here we took a boat to the Islas Ballestas (otherwise known as the ´Poor Man´s Galapagos´). Not long after we had left land we came across a  pod of dolphins which swam around the boat for a while before we continued on to the island. There were seals and sea-lions on the beaches and singing in the caves, penguins on the rocks and more birds than one could possibly comprehend covering the rest of the island.

 On our second morning in Pisco we were woken at 9am sharp by a small earthquake which shook the room for about a minute. This was followed by lots of noise from the streets but there wasn´t any real damage- definitely an interesting way to wake up!

 We headed on south to Ica where, as everywhere else we´d been to, everything was still under construction following the 2007 earthquake, the remains of which still line the streets of all the smaller towns and villages. From Ica we headed straight to the desert oasis of Huacachina, a very surreal place where mountainous dunes surround an idyllic green lagoon lined with palm trees. Our hostel on the other hand was somewhat less than idyllic, more like a building site with a scummy pool- another of those increasingly common ´it´ll be great in a couple of years´places we´ve become all too accustomed to.

 We went for a dune-buggy ride through the dunes as well as sandboarding, which involved (aside from the standard snowboarding-like experience), hurtling down some of the larger dunes´near-vertical slopes at insane speeds. The sand-buggy ride was a definite adventure in itself with lots of steep dunes and some definite ´air time´followed by a beautiful sunset over the dunes. 

  After a chilled couple of days  in Huacachina (and some more sandboarding), we took the night bus south to Arequipa. Another beautiful colonial city with great architecture amd cobbled streets. We hung out there for a couple of days before starting the three day trek into the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world.

 Following a 3am start and a four hour bus journey, we hiked the steep 1400 meters down into the Canyon for three hours after which we reached the ´houses´where we had our first taste of alpaca meat and spent the night under what Amy has aptly named "dead animal blankets"- heavy, itchy woolen blankets that weigh so much it feels as though you are sleeping under a dead animal.

 At 5.30am we were woken up by the cockrels crowing on the roof of the hut and proceeded to trek up the other side of the canyon to a village called Tapay- a trek so steep it reduced one member of our group to tears. After a very steep downhill trek which lasted a couple of hours we eventually made it to the Oasis at the bottom of the canyon; complete with rock pool, beautiful flowers and trees, lush grass and even a makeshift volleyball net!

 At 5am five out of the 10 in our group started the 1200m hike up the canyon, followed an hour later by the rest of the group who had gone down with food poisoning and had to be carried up the steep inlcine on Mules...

 After resting in Arequipa for a couple of days we made the 10 hour journey to Cusco which ended early in the morning with our coach (the driver of which was of questionable driving ability), driving the wrong way down the road... after a couple of days enjoying the culture (and food) in Cusco as well as getting used to the altitude, we started the four day Inca Trail to Machupicchu. Our group consisted of six people, all very nice and quite similar in age and our fun (if slightly male chauvinist) guide Simba.

 We walked from ´Kilometer 82´through the Sacred Valley for a few hours before making camp. On day two the combination of steep steps and altitude made the hike to over 4000 meters the most challenging yet, but we did still manage to make it a good two hours faster than most groups; practically running down the other side of the mountain and in to camp. We finished the third day early and without much difficulty, apart from Phil who was unlucky enough to fall off the path when it gave way underneath him. Unlike the majority of the trek however, which has drops of around a hundred feet, if Phil hadn´t have grabbed a root and then my hand he would probably have fallen a couple of meters onto a tent below... pretty luck really!

 On the final day we got up at 3am and waited at a checkpoint until 5.30am and past sunrise when we were finally allowed to continue on to the Sun Gate. I´m not entirely sure where the energy came from, but we all but ran through the jungle-like mountins and up the huge steps to the Sun Gate through which the morning sunlight illuminated the near side of Machupicchu. We were the first people who made it to Machupicchu that morning so were lucky enough to have the mountaintop almost entirely to ourselves (apart from some tourists who had got the train and of course the Llamas. After a day exploring the beautiful beauldings and garden of Machupicchu we made the final trek down to the nearest town from where we took a train with clear ceiling panels (through which you could see the mountains and surrounding valley), followed by a bus back to Cusco where our Inca adventure ended.

 We rested in Cusco for a couple more days (and one fairly rough night) before heading across the boarder to Copacabana on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca....

Tags: colca canyon, earthquake, machupicchu, peru, sandboarding


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