When we finished our last entry on Friday 13th June we were in Lima, we had just met our new group, which consists of a driver/mechanic, a guide and seven clients. This will be until we get to the high mountains and Cusco when we will meet up with another fifteen people.
We both had a terrible night's sleep at the hotel in Lima with some major road works going on throughout the night and early morning. We hardly got any sleep and had to get up for an early start the next day so that we could meet "Carmen" our truck (apparently all the trucks are named after supermodels) and get out of Lima before the city traffic built up. This was successful and as we had experienced the night from hell we slept soundly while we were transported to our first adventure.
This was a boat trip out to the Ballasta's islands off the Peruvian coast where we we're supposed to get some extensive wildlife viewing. Our recent efforts to spot wildlife have been fairly unsuccessful and initially it seemed it was going to be the case in Peru. The guide on the boat claimed that all the sea birds and aquatic mammals had moved away as a result of a change in the sea temperature. This is apparently due to "El Niño" which is a climatic problem in South America.
We saw the islands and there were no sea birds and no sea lions so we set off to another island where luckily we did get views of seabird colonies and a couple of sea lions. Every seven years they scrape the bird droppings from these rocky islands and use them, mainly as a fertiliser. Judging by the aroma, the seven years are nearly up!
After lunch we had a drive to our next adventure which was an evening of sand boarding and riding in a 10 seater dune buggy. This was fantastic fun - plummeting and then soaring up and down huge dunes in the buggy and then throwing ourselves down them on small boards. After toasting a beautiful sunset with neat Pisco, we spent the night in sleeping bags watching the stars with no light pollution amongst the desert dunes, having a BBQ and drinking more Pisco.
The whole of our group really enjoyed this and the following morning we were driven out of the desert and given breakfast.
On Sunday we headed to Nasca where the famous line patterns in the desert are situated. These patterns are of animals, birds and people. There are several theories as to how they came to be created.
We had our first and only food shop and we separated into two cooking teams and invaded a large supermarket. We had a budget and had to produce three meals, a breakfast, lunch and evening meal. We teamed up with Herma and Scott (the Dutch / U.S. couple) and opted for a simple evening meal (one we knew we couldn't mess up) which was pasta with a homemade sauce and garlic bread. This meal went down well with most people asking for seconds.
Nigel took a flight in a Cessna, 6 seater plane to have the best possible view of the designs drawn in the desert and Helen relaxed having seen them previously during her travels.
We stayed the night at a campsite in Nasca town and chose what appeared to be a lush grass area to pitch a tent. A warning sign could have been that the pegs went into the ground really easily.
We later found out when it got dark that the reason for the good grass was a broken sprinkler system that had now turned the area into a small marsh. Luckily the tent groundsheet was up to the job and kept the water out.
On Monday we had a local guide join us and we were shown an ancient irrigation system, an earth pyramid and a cemetery with mummies.
We had a short stop at a town of olives and finished the day at a beachside resort in Puerta Inca where we camped and the second cooking group who were Lauren, Amelia and Sebastian, prepared an amazing BBQ.
Tuesday was always going to be a day of driving but also turned into a day of minor truck repairs, Nick our driver/mechanic noticed a flat tyre at breakfast and had to change the wheel. Later in the morning when he was tightening the wheel nuts one of them sheared which caused a delay while this was fixed.
Nick drove along a coastal desert highway and then turned inland finishing our days driving at about 8pm in the city of Arequipa. A very long day for Nick.
We went for dinner and Nigel tried Alpaca steak, it was very nice, very lean and similar to venison.
On Wednesday we had a free day in Arequipa and after breakfast and we had dropped off our laundry, we joined the group for the Holland v Australia World Cup football match. Smithy our Peruvian guide managed to find a restaurant/bar that had a large wide screen TV and we watched. Australia give a good account of themselves but lost 3-2 to a far more experienced Dutch team who were given a scare when they found themselves 1-2 down. With both teams represented on the truck, we made an enthusiastic group - Helen supporting Holland and Nigel siding with the Aussies.
After the football we went to a local convent called Santa Catalina Monastery that has been converted into a magnificent museum. We hired an english speaking guide who was essential to appreciate this very large complex, that still houses 15 nun's.
On Thursday we had the morning to explore and went to see "The Ice Maiden" this is the mummy of a young girl who was buried on the top of a volcano after being sacrificed by the Inca's. She was named "Juanita" by the expedition that found her. She was preserved by the snow and ice and is now very tastefully displayed along with the items that she was found with in her very own museum and still in very good condition.
When we left Arequipa we drove over a high mountain pass at over 4,500 meters before descending to our next destination at Chivay.
We stopped at the top of the pass to have some coca tea which apparently helps with adjusting to the high altitude and we also watched the final 15 minutes of the England v Uruguay game as they lost their second football match in the World Cup and crashed out of the World Cup. We'll have to find another team to support now.
On Friday we had an early start to drive to the Colca canyon which is claimed to be the deepest gorge in the world. We also got to view the Andean Condors with their 3 meter wingspan as they soared in the thermals off the cliffs. We then went for an hour's stroll along the rim of the canyon that was very useful in acclimatising to our altitude which is currently around 3,660 meters (12,000 feet). The whole group have all been feeling the effects of the altitude as you would expect, but nothing serious.
We had one more night in Chivay and had planned to go to a local observatory for some star gazing but as luck would have it our plans were dashed by some cloud cover.
We frequented what claims to be the highest Irish bar in the world (again not an Irish person in site) and watched some of the annual celebrations as the locals paraded around the town square, danced in there finest costumes and were setting fire to heaps of twigs, branches and something that smelt like manure. The celebrations went on over night and into the early hours of the next morning.
On Saturday we had a driving day and eventually after about 8 hours we arrived at Raqchi, a village where the group were divided for home stays. We had the pleasure of staying with Sonia and her family. We were fed the families meal which consisted of corn,potato,rice and chicken. In the evening we got dressed in the local costumes and all got together for an hour of cultural experience. This involved a prayer offering of coca leaves to the mountain spirits and a bit of dancing which was all very light hearted.
On Sunday morning we had breakfast with our families and were then taken to a pottery exhibition. The group were invited to make a clay pot and Nigel volunteered as he had previous experience of making an ashtray when he was at Junior school.
We had a tour of the local Inca ruins and then drove to the mountain city of Cusco.
Today is Monday 23rd June and we are in a hotel in Cusco preparing for our trek on an Inca trail which will end at the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
While we have been purchasing our last little bits of kit there have been colourful parades with bands and dancers going around the streets as this is the beginning of a major festival
Our next update will be on our return to Cusco.