After relaxing for two and a half weeks it was time to get back to ‘daunting’ reality of travel. At this point in the story we had been traveling for 6 months and we were eager to strap on the backpacks and return to the land of the llamas. Peru. Our flight was effortless albeit an episode of me losing my phone. The plane was empty so we got to luxuriously choose our seats. In the blind panic of moving our nest over to our new property I dropped my phone on the floor. Upon take off my phone decided to go on an adventure of its own and slide back 8 rows. A blind panic ensued but the air hostess assured me that it was at the back at the plane chilling with the homies. Luckily it was there and the crisis was averted. If you ever get to fly with Latam I highly recommend it. In economy you get rather world class meal (freshly cooked salmon with an assortment of asparagus, lime and bell pepper drizzled in olive oil straight from the valleys of Sicily). We finally touched down in Lima and gathered our things.
Upon arriving we were attacked by a pack of rare animals. Taxi drivers. My friend my friend taxi taxi no problem. Fem had done her due diligence and found a rather convenient and cheap way to get to Miraflores (a touristy and well to do area of the city). We paid and hopped on the shuttle hurtling toward the big city. When you get into Lima you think to yourself my gosh it’s a tad cloudy isn’t it. When will the rain come? Well ha. Despite having a cloud hanging over it 24/7 it never rains (in fact Lima is one of the driest cities in the world – to the point where they don’t even have gutter systems along the sides of the road). That’s down to (geography teacher Ben over here) the air pressure that gently push condensation toward the sea. In return the sea says HAIBO we ain’t having any of that and forces the cool air into the warm air and kaboom you have a cloud. The cold air comes straight off the Andes while the warm comes from the current that glides past the coasts of Peru.
Anyway after arriving at our hostel we were hankering for a bite to eat. People had told us Peru had the best menu on the continent. As mentioned in our previous post, it’s the gastronomic capital of the world. We had heard ceviche was invented in this cheeky little place. Ceviche is a seafood dish made out of pickled fish, raw onion and sweet potato. Now as I write this it doesn’t sound that appetising but the secret is in how it’s pickled. Lime juice, herbs and a tad bit of chilli make this dish really pop. It’s a wonderful explosion of flavours and tastes that make you say “O MEIN GOT (for some reason this sounds best in German…). We had some in Easter Island and that was delicious but not the authentic stuff. Here is where it comes from and the place to try it. Just writing about it makes my mouth salivate.
Tummies full, we decided to figure out what there was to do in this grey old city. We were there during the Panamerican games so everything was kinda shut. Except for the local pre Incan mud pyramid. Once a boy was bmxing about doing flips and whatnot and discovered something peeking out from underneath a rock. He dug a bit and found a hidden jewel. An entire pyramid lay beneath a forlorn construction site. Archaeologists got straight on it and discovered a whole new world of wonder. To the layman it doesn’t look like much. A bit of a stick here a mud pile there but to any keen eye it probably speaks volumes. One of the aspects that did blow us away were the way in which the mud bricks were perfectly laid out. Vertically instead of horizontally. Our tour guide stated that it was built this way due to the amount of earth tremors Lima had per year (that old Pacific rim playing tricks again).
We had had enough of Lima and hightailed it out of there. It wasn’t such an appealing city, other than Miraflores and Barranco (and that could be seen in one day). Next on the list of must sees was the poor man’s Galápagos Islands. Paracas. Now at first I honestly didn’t expect much. There’s seals and seagulls. Awesome. I see that everyday in Cape Town. But Fem told me to stop being such a negative nancy and enjoy it for what it was. And so I went in with an open mind. To my surprise it was a fairly interesting place. The plethora of bird species dazzled any would be traveler. Not to mention the bird poop collection platforms that were strategically placed to capture as much of the stinky stuff as possible. Turns out seagull, penguin and cormorant poop is used in many fertilisers. Plants love the stuff!
After seeing all the seagulls, pelicans, cormorants, pigeons and doves we left feeling rather bird brained and left for the small oasis town of Huacachina. A place famous for dunes, sand and tourists. It’s a small must do town but not enough to stay for more than a day. The most crazy and adventurous thing to do is to jump on a V8 turbocharged dune buggy and ramp about. It honestly felt like we were in the Dakar rally judging by the amount of times my head almost fell off. Being in a buggy with all sorts of nationalities you’re bound to at least get one American with their trademark ‘oh my gawd’ saying. And our one didn’t disappoint. A perfect metaphor for the adventure that ensued. Being all sanded out we moved rather quickly on to Arequipa with a quick stop over at the Nazca lines.
From the perspective of a bus you would think that the lines were mere irrigation troughs for the local crops and animals. However it’s the middle of nowhere so quite difficult to comprehend why there would be any farmers here. Especially in the middle of a desert. However, if you take a flight you can see all sorts of symbols etched into the earth. Symbols that have scared the earth for well over 1000 years. Once again no one knows why they exist but one astute German archaeologists spent nearly a decade researching and uncovering who put the lines there and why they existed. Her story goes as follows: the tribe that existed in the region (a pre Incan one) believed their ancestors and gods were part the stars above and the only way to communicate with them is by drawing lines in the dirt and subsequently filling them with water. Or there’s the other theory that they were literally irrigation lines. We prefer to believe the latter.
After clambering up a rickety old watch tour to have a look (the Peruvian government had cut the lizard in half to build the pan American highway – claiming that they “hadn’t seen” the lines when they were building it…) we left for the town of Arequipa. A beautiful place drenched in colonial history. It’s one of the best regions in Peru for those who are in the hunt for good food. Its traditional gastronomy is based on the concepts of abundance, local ingredients, and flavor. The streets are full of antique shops, bookstores, and boutiques that sell anything alpaca. With all of these options in Arequipa, it’s a challenge to find yourself without anything to do.The plaza de armas is surrounded by a flurry of old churches and markets that can keep anyone entertained for hours. When we arrived the city was in the midst of a protest. The miners and local villagers weren’t to happy about the government selling off native land to American Oil companies and so the streets turned to placard wielding car hooting anti government citizens all to keen to keep their lands to themselves. Nonetheless it didn’t detract from the wonderful surroundings. We checked ourselves at a quaint little hostel called Econunay. The breakfast was average but there was a real sense of family spirit in the air. Locals and visitors alike gathered nightly to play board games, drink pisco sours and talk until the llamas came home. We spent our days exploring, listening intently to stories of old and learning to cook delecies of the city. It was wonderful and we were sad to leave.
But as everything in life, it had to eventually come to an end. Next, we headed for the centre of the Incan empire, Cusco.