Bus, beach bums and border

June 9, 2009 - Arequipa, Peru

 Hello again,

 Many apologies for the complete absence if updates recently; we've been on the move quite a bit recently and this is the first chance I've had to sit down to have some quality time with the Internet.

 I last left you in the small town of Baños. From there we had a 9 hour drive down the middle of the country to Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador. Many Ecuadorians consider Cuenca to be their most beautiful city, and indeed it was a very pleasant place to walk around admiring the colonial architecture and layout. We arrived in the early evening and our first sight to be greeted by as we disembarked the bus was a local pickpocket fly past following a successful raid with a policeman in hot pursuit - a reminder of the petty crime prevalent in South America. After dinner and a long and restful sleep we had a free day to wander round the city as we pleased. Cuenca's claim to fame is as the home of the Panama Hat, and has the factory and museum where you can see the production process.

 From Cuenca we crossed the border into Peru and left the mountains behind us temporarily and headed for the small coastal resort of Punta Sal. There we camped on the beach for 3 nights engaging in such stressful activities like volleyball, football and a morning fishing trip which resulted in about 40 successes and a very tasty fishcake lunch. The fishing trip also had a welcome and completely unexpected attraction in the sighting of 2 humpback whales about 100m from the boat. We left the beach with renewed tans and set out for a long drive day of 12 hours to the fishing town of Huanchaco, stopping off en route at the Lambayeque Museum. One of Peru's finest museums, it displays artefacts found at the tomb of the Lord of Sipan, one of the richest archaeological finds of the 20th Century. Arriving late in the evening in time for dinner and an early night we set out in the morning for Chan Chan, the largest mud-city in the world. Featuring ten walled citadels covering 26 square kilometres, Chan Chan once housed 30,000 people and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the afternoon, we visited the Temples of the Sun and the Moon, now restored with much of the orginial structure and artwork intact.

 After a free day relaxing in Huanchaco, we followed the coastline down to the capital Lima. Reportedly one of the world's most dangerous cities in terms of petty crime, we spent 2 free days very alert but still able to admire the Cathedral, churches, museums and catacombs that Lima has to offer. We also visited a park which holds the World record for greatest number of fountains and highest fountain in a public park, and also offered a spectacular laser show to accompany the fountains as a finale.

 The morning we left Lima was an early start as we were on a tight schedule to reach Paracas; a town which exists as a connection point out to the Ballestas Islands, known as the Poor Man's Galapagos due to the massive and varied amount of wildlife there. After a morning viewing a plethora of birdlife, plus sea lions and penguins, a small group of us went on an optional excursion round the area looking at some more sights before pulling up for the night in Pisco; a town destroyed by an earthquake in August 2007 but one which also gives its name to the cocktail the Pisco Sour. Another early start was necessary as we made our way into the desert for a quick stop in the oasis town of Huacachina. Here we had a highly exciting 2 hour excursion on the dune buggies. Seating 9 people, we were driven at high speeds across the dunes by a local guide stopping off occasionally to sandboard down some of the higher ones. From here it was a short drive to Nazca, famed for the Nazca lines. These drawings vary from birds to fish to geometric shapes and can be up to 300m long and are dotted all over the desert floor. We took a light aircraft up for a short flight so we could really appreciate this art.

 The next day we stopped off at the Chauchilla cemetery, an ancient Pre-Inca burial site where some of the graves have been excavated so we could see the well-preserved ancient mummies and artefacts. That afternoon we pulled up at Puerto Inca, another seaside resort where we spent 2 nights having some well earned relaxation time. The resort was situated 5 minutes walk from some Inca ruins, where in ages past a fishing village lay to supply fish to Cuzco in the mountains. Apparently here it was overland tradition for the staff of the resort to challenge the truck to a game of beach 5-a-side football, and since South America is so passionately devoted to the sport, the Peruvians had never lost. Until we arrived. Boasting a side with 3 ex semi-pros, we won 5-3 much to the fury of the locals who took the defeat very badly and instantly challenged us to a rematch the next day. That night there was much tension in the bar and we were told that they were even getting some friends in from the town to help with the cause. The next game proved to be a lot more physical than the first but despite this, we still won 5-2. Our driver, who had been coming to this spot for a couple of years, took great delight in winding up the locals about this, who were nowhere to be found come the evening.

 It was with a great feeling of achievement then that we left Puerto Inca and headed out to the gorgeous town of Arequipa, where I sit now, eagerly anticipating a day of exploration tomorrow. Hopefully the next update shall be a little more prompt, but until then, all my love and best wishes to those back home, and ta-ra for now.


4 Comments

Mum:
June 9, 2009
Hi there, what a wonderful time you are having and, once again, so many experiences but so different from your trip to Africa. Did it really seem wise to upset a group of locals in South America over a game of football! You are lucky you were allowed to leave. Looking forward to your next installment. Lots of love M xxxxxxxxxx
Auntie Karen:
June 9, 2009
Hi Honey
Sounds like you are having a terrific time, just spare a thought for us back home hard at work.
I hope you have hundreds of photo's to show us when you get back. I eagerly await to here what sort of food you have been eating and I am sure you have tasted a few local beverages (any of them non-alcoholic).Hope you have managed to find a few gold ingots during your visits to the ruins. Will you be coming home with a few tattoos and piercings in true Inca stylie.
Take care on the rest of your journey, hope your mum sewed some little pockets in your undies to keep your valuables safe!!!!.
Love Auntie Toots
Dawn Goss:
June 9, 2009
'Its only a game'
ann brüderli:
June 15, 2009
Have only just caught up with you......your experiences in South America sound just as wonderful and memorable as those from your trip to Africa. Have enjoyed reading about all the sights you have seen, places you have been and I've learnt lots of informative facts along the way - all very interesting.
Not sure when you finally return to the UK but carry on "having fun" and take care!
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