A Travellerspoint blog

Huacachina to Chivay

Guinea pigs and alpaca madness

sunny

We woke up on the dunes to a slight amount of carnage. Lots of bodies in sleeping bags everywhere, the remains of the camp fire and a mass of bottles. There were a few sore heads which were quickly sorted by the dune buggy ride back to the oasis. Another rollercoaster ride thanks to our driver Alex, who seemed to want to go higher and faster than all the others. More laughter and screaming followed by a lovely breakfast and a quick shower before heading back on the truck, destination nazca. 

As we were camping in nazca we had to stop en route to stock up for the next cook group shop. My group decided to try to make a risotto for 19 people something we would later regret a little.

After our shop we continued the drive stopping just outside of nazca to head up the viewing tower to catch our first glimpse of the nazca lines. The view from the tower was very limited but some of us chose to take a small plane over the lines later that day and see them in all their glory.  

There were several different planes that you could take to view the lines, but ours seated six people plus the two pilots.  We were warned about motion sickness (and the safety of the planes, technically we had to sign off the tour to take the flights after some crashes a few years back). Anyway, I'm glad I took re advice and filled up on motion sickness tablets as this was one rocky ride. 

The area that the lines are drawn on is huge and there are so many lines that it's difficult at times to spot the most famous ones. For this reason, the pilots use the tip of the wing of the plane to outline the pictures, and each picture is outlined twice for both sides of the plane to be able to see and take pictures. You can imagine how rocky it was.  

The lines are amazing though. We saw loads but mainly the 10 or so biggest and most popular. Boone really knows why or how they were drawn. It's thought that they were created at some point between 200bc and 700ad, a bloody long time ago to have created these huge things that can only be appreciated from the sky. How they managed to make them so accurate and clear I have no idea. They were amazing. 

The flight took about 45 minutes after which time most of the others were pretty sick and ready to get off. It was good to get back to our campsite for a quick dip in the pool before chris cooked us the spiciest dinner I have ever eaten and then an early night.

We took a drive re next day to puerta inca for an overnight camp on the beach. No swimming here as a few years back a tourist got pulled in by the rip tide and was killed. Instead some of us took a short walk to see some nearby ruins and the boys hung back and played football, Peru vs rest of the world. 

It was around this time that some of the group went down with a sickness bug which took down half of my cook group so we were now a group of four cooking for the rest of our truck, not ideal. We made two amazing risottos, but the veggie one got contaminated by chris's spice from the previous night and the chicken and veg one got slightly burnt. It's not a good idea to cook so much rice in one pan. Annoying because before it burnt it was pretty special!

Anyway to make up for the burnt risotto jonny brought out his limited supply of Yorkshire tea. You probably can't appreciate how excited we were about the tea, but the tea and coffee here is so bad it's a fairly big deal. Anyway, we forgot the water was all salt water and ended up with the most disgusting tea ever. A sad waste if precious bags :-(

Quick campfire and mashmallows then off to bed for a nice sleep before an early start the next day and even earlier for me as I was on breakfast duty so had to prepare food for the troops.

That day was to be a long drive day to Arequipa. But jonny put together one of his famous quiz's so we managed to keep ourselves entertained.

Arequipa is a small but very pretty city, with lots of colonial buildings. First impressions were that there was a lot more money here than some of the other cities we'd visited in Peru. There were a lot of "expensive" restaurants there and lots of bars which were pretty much as expensive as back home.

We were staying in a really lovely hotel here with a great courtyard garden with a pool, we all kind of hit holiday mode and really wanted to chill out in re sunshine. That said, we did force ourselves to go for a wander around the city the following morning, taking a visit to one of the museums to see the famous ice mummy, Juanita. Juanita was sacrificed by the incas, as a gift to the gods. She was around14 years old when she was killed and mummified on the mountain. It was fascinating to hear about the rituals that they went through, but was quite brutal and hard to believe that they'd sacrifice children from their community.

We were also going to visit the famous convent but we got
Lazy and headed back for a chill out before our group dinner that night.

That night was to be the big experimental Peruvian food night. I'd got it into my head that this was where I would try cuy (guinea pig). I wanted to try it shredded in pancakes crispy duck style, but owing to a last minute restaurant change it was the whole guinea on your plate or nothing. Whole guinea it was.

If I'm completely honest it was a bit of a disappointment, the meat tasted nice, quite chicken like, but there wasnt much meat on him at all. It was mainly crispy skin. The lack of meat probably expains why half a bottle of wine had such an impact :-)

We also tried alpaca steak for the first time that night. It was soooooo nice! Like the nicest leanest steak you've had. It's kind of a cross between pork and beef in flavour, but the texture of beef. The alpaca steaks that we've had since haven't been as good but it's still my favourite odd thing I've eaten since I got here.

Afte dinner we followed group meal tradition and went out fe drinks, complete with pole dancing and some random picture taking. There were lots of things at the hotel to play in so we did!

After a late start and some sunning ourselves by the pool, we headed off the next day to make our way to chivay.

Chivay is a tiny little town which with very little to offer. It was literally only one square which had some baby alpaca shops amd many little restaurants. The ladies here had spectacular traditional dress which for me was really the only highlight for this town.

We were there for two nights as we needed to be there very early to take the drive to the colca canyon to take in the views and to hopefully see some condors.

Colic canyon is the second biggest canyon in the world, with the first being very close by. The biggest one doesn't have condors though so we were to
Make do with second best.

The drive up to the canyon was amazing and a little hairy scary at times too. The roads are really winding and narrow with a sheer drop on one side. We were also faced with a tunnel that went through the side of the canyon which was wide enough for one lane of traffic only. We had to close our eyes and hope that nothing was coming in the other direction!

The views for the top of the canyon took your breath away, it was incredible and after an hour we'd given up on the condors and accepted that the view was more than enough anyway. Just as we were heading back tithe truck (mainly because of the annoying children who were irritating everyone blowing bird whistles) the condors arrived in the very distance. They flew around at the bottom of the canyon for a long time and just as we'd Given up for the second time two of them came right up to the viewing platform for us to get a good look. They are bloody huge, 3 meter wing span and quite beautiful with "fingers" on the end of their wings. I had a small paddy at that point again over the death of my camera as I'd have got some amazing shots. Very annoying but all was forgotten when we got bak on the truck and cracked open the roof seats so that we could take the hairy roads on the top of the truck in the sun. The views were even better from up there and this quickly ended up being the highlight of my day. I love the roof seats!

We went back to the town for some very ropey street food (more deep fried rubbish, except the potato thing they do here which is like mash potato filled with meat and veg which they cut open and put chilli sauce
On - yum yum) and a wander around the markets. I've fallen in love with the baby alpaca products but I'm resisting for now. I really want some slippers and a hat. They're so soft and warm. 

When we were all done shopping we took a late afternoon trip to the thermal spas to chill out in the really hot water and get a good deep clean for the first time in ages!!

We completed our stay in
Chivay with a very disappointing group meal. We had some local dancing which was nice to see but the food was awful and we think was the cause of the worst day ever on the sick truck the next day. But that's another story. 

That's all for now, next stop raqchi for our homestay.....

Posted by selson 15:11 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Lima to huacachina

The best day in the world ever!!!

sunny

Following a ten hour drive to Lima we arrived to be faced with a ridiculous amount of traffic and more stares ad attention from the locals as we took our truck through the narrow streets. 

As we got there late we only had time to check ourselves in and have a quick shower before heading out for a bite to eat and farewell drinks for Lauren who was the only person leaving the tour. What we thought were going to be quiet drinks ended up being quite messy. This was the first time this group had the chance to actually go out together and we did it in style. Some of us chose to go local ad stick to the pisco sours all night, which is a cocktail made with the local spirit called pisco which is made from grapes. It tastes amazing but turns out to be very evil. Probably not helped by our request to have them "mas fuerte", or more strong. Hmmm my Spanish book should not have taught me how to say that. Anyway, what was a really bad bar with lots of dead things hanging from the ceiling and lots of stoners frequenting it, ended up being host for a very good night out. 

The next day was a free day which was mainly spent waking the streets of Lima feeling very sorry for ourselves. We did manage to see the changing of the guards at the palace and lots of churches etc, we had some pictures taken with the riot police and made the best of a painful day.

In the evening we had the welcome meeting for the newbies. We are now two trucks travelling together and there has been a little upset about how the old group have been split mainly driven by the fact that a lot of freaks and weirdos joined us and they aren't the best to be stuck on a truck with. My truck is all good though.

After welcome meeting we had a quick dinner then off to bed before a 4am start the next day for what turned out to be the best day of the trip so far :-)

So as I said we had an early start as it was to be a very busy day. We started by driving to pisco where we were to pick up a boat to take us to the balestas islands, or the poor mans galapagos. The boat ride was about 30 mins and we got absolutely soaked through. When we arrived at the islands, the first thing we saw was the candelabra, a huge carving in the side of a mountain. Next came the birds, I have never seen so many birds in one place in my life. Blue footed boobies, pelicans, penguins and some other unknowns. Masses of them everywhere. It was stunning. There were some fur seals and sea lions too. Lots of pictures and a bit of bird poo later and we headed back to land for a spot of lunch before making our way to huacachina, one of the places I have been looking forward to most on this trip.

Huacachina is a group of huge and I mean huge sand dunes with an oasis in the middle. It is bloody gorgeous and the dunes go on as far as the eye can see. The itinerary called for us to stay in a hostel in the oasis but the majority of the group took the alternative option which was to go sand buggying, sand boarding and sleeping on the sand under the stars.

After loading our sleeping bags onto a jeep we boarded our sand buggies and headed off to the dune. There were 9 in each buggy and I was up front, a great choice! I can only describe the buggying as like being on a rollercoaster. The sand dunes are seriously huge with almost vertical drops which we'd drive over. Much screaming and laughter, it was wicked!! After throwing us about for about 45 minutes, we pulled up at the top of a huge dune with a really steep drop. This was to be our first sand board experience. Nothing like breaking us in gently! Some people who had snow boarded before tried to go down standing up but everyone quickly realised that the best and fastest way is to go down lying on your belly.

So you basically get yourself a board and one at a time we'd position ourselves on the boards, elbows tucked in and legs akimbo. Legs apart for balance and feet in the sand if you need to put the breaks on. You then get launched from the top and Zoom down the dune at breakneck speed until you eventually come to a stop at the bottom.

We went down one at a time and then you ha to dash out of the way quickly at the bottom to avoid the next person hurtling towards you. By the time it was my turn I was so nervous. This thing was huge!! Anyway on I got and down I went. It was the most fun and you really get some speed. You totally don't want to break at all though. It's fast but it feels good!

We did five runs in total all getting higher and higher and therefore faster and faster. The last one was particularly scary. On the way to it we buggied up and over so we knew what was coming and it was a big drop. At the top you couldn't see the slope at all so there were nerves for all again. But it was brill and we all did it.

Once we were done buggying and boarding we were driven to our camp where the locals were cooking us a BBQ, we had a fire and camp loo and some tunes! It was such a lovely setting. After playing in the sand we had our feast before hitting the drink and getting our dance on. The locals also played us some local music and sang to us. For our party We had a great mix of local music and stuff from back home ad the locals really got into it too. Such an amazing atmosphere. The night ended with some burials, bundles and general stupidity before heading to our sleeping bags for a sleep under the stars. It was a perfectly clear sky, so even this was amazing. I went to bed looking at this and listening to the local guys playing guitar and having a good old sing song. The perfect end to a perfect day. 

Posted by selson 15:51 Archived in Peru Comments (4)

Punta Sal to Lima

Much sickness

sunny

After an early start on the last morning at the beach as I was on breakfast duty, we headed off again on the road towards Huanchaco.

Huanchacho is a small seaside town which seems to be famous amongst surveys. We arrived at our campsite much late than planned and owing to a bottle of coke in fridge door incident our food for the night (chicken for my fajitas) was stinking pretty bad. Another cook group had to cook and people were generally a bit fed up so we decided to upgrade. It all got a bit confusing and the room situation got messed up a bit and the next thing we know boys and girls are  mixed up and there are 4 people in a triple room. Three single
Beds pushed together with 4 unwilling singles is an interesting situation so not only was there late cooking to be done but also a lot of drinking. 2 hours down the line and we'd eaten sausage casserole and were being taught scotish country dancing by Claire our Scottish crew leader. Being swung around like that is probably not te best idea after a shed load of vodka but I can now strip the willow like a pro. Who needs salsa anyway?!

The next morning some of the boys headed out to surf and the rest of us stuck to plan and went off to see the temples
Of the sun and the moon and the  city of chan chan. Both ruins were amazing to see. I'd love to tell you more about them but the guide confused the he'll
Out of me so I'm not sure I properly understood it all. I'll google it one day. 

Back to town to replace the rotting chicken and to wander through the town. It's very cute, lots of little Market stalls and street vendors, really
Lovely little fishing boats made of reeds and lots of surfers. We shopped a lot and then began the hunt for chicken. There are no chicken shops in this town. We found a veggie market and the lady sold us some "gween bleens" and she tried to explain where to find us some meat. We eventually found a little store where we were told they'd have chicken. We were a little dubious when we walked in as there were no fridges, but the owner told us he had chicken legs. When we told him we needed enough to feed 25 he scuttled off to get his entire supply. He came back a short while later with a washing up bowl containing 7 legs of chicken complete with feet which we ten had the walk bak through town with. It was wrong. But not as wrong as trying to chop the little buggers up. I still don't have feeling in my fingers a few days later! Fajitas were scrummy but I couldn't eat the rank chicken. I still dot want to eat chicken. Bring back the witchetty grub, all is forgiven ;-)

After Huanchaco we drove to huaraz, which was pretty much a stopover on the way to Lima where this leg of the tour finishes. I signed up for the hike which took you took
Lake 69 at a glacier high up in the moutains. Apparently
The second highest mountain in the world. Annoyingly I got really sick in the night and never made it on the hike. I slept for 24 hours there and spent the next 24 feeling pretty shitty. Those who walked said it was amazing but a wake up call for inca trail as it was so hard. I'm gutted that I missed it but very glad to be feeling better. And glad I had nurse Ryan on hand to supply me with liquids, food and general niceness :) 

So that's it, I've finally caught up. We are now en route to
Lima, the capital of Peru, where we lose a couple people and gain a whole lot more. We will divide the group here into two trucks which will be weird as we kind of
All want to stay together. That said, we've got lots of good times coming up, sand boarding and sleeping rough in huacachina, inca trails and machu picchu, nazca lines and much much more!!!

Posted by selson 00:07 Archived in Peru Comments (3)

Chugchilan to punta sal

Panama hats, beach time and davina the dog

sunny

We left chugchilan by the same winding road only this time we took the first chance to crack open the roof seats on the truck. We have 8 roof seats, 4 at the front and 4 at the back. When they aren't in use we store all sorts of crap in the shelf they form. Mainly blankets and sleeping bags, but these sections of the roof flip open and then you sit on the shelf with your feet dangling in the truck. The only rule is to wear glasses in case of bugs, and preferably to keep watch for low hanging power cables. Fortunately I was having a particular geek day so was adorning my lovely specs already so up I got. So I told you we were in the moutains at high altitude so I'm sure you figured it out, but just in case, it's bloody freezing! Even with many layers and multiple blankets it's a loose term to say that this roof experience was comfortable, but it was fun. All the locals still seem shocked at us and all wave as we pass by, so there was generally lots of amazing views, some hairy edge of cliff moments, lots of waving and one horrible bus passing.
Annoyingly it started to rain so after about 45 minutes we were freezing and soaked and were begging to be let back in. I'm looking forward to the next rooftop experience, I'll pick a better weather day maybe.

Todays destination was Cuenca, extrude third largest city (which is pretty small) and quite a pretty one too. Home to Panama hats, yes they are not actually made in panama. We didn't have a lot of time here after the drive but enough time for me
To scour the streets for a charger for my camera. My Spanish now stretches that far at least. I did fail miserably though. We then all met up for a trip to the hat factory. It was pouring with rain and everyone was not up for it at all but as soon as we got in there, there was a complete hat buying frenzy. Some of us had ours made or adapted in the factory too. The women who work there are amazing. They can take any of the hats and adjust the size, the width of the rim, put a trim on it, change the band, mould them to a new shape all in minutes. We've got some pretty interesting ones floating around the truck now. I insisted I was only buying a traditional one but instead have one with a smaller rim, with a blue trim and a stripy blue band. It's so nice :-) 

After the shop we roamed the streets a little before heading back for cake and wine to celebrate Hanna, one of the crews, birthday. Some of the guys were raving about the amazing street food they'd found, one of which was pizza in an edible bread cone. I still don't get it, but apparently it was good. But we all went off to sample the goods and for $3 had the best meal of the trip eating by the side of the road with the locals who were happily feasting on chicken foot soup (nasty).

The next day was another drive day and another border crossing. As we approached the border we
Were faced with shiny new buildings very advanced for Ecuador. We got the truck through and then got off to get ourselves out of Ecuador. On arriving at the shiny new migration building we were told to go to the other building which after much walking around turns out we had already driven past and needed to drive back to. When we got there it was quite apparent how we had missed it as it was basically a shack amongst a row of shops. The man in the shack did his stuff and then we drove off through no mans land to find the entrance to Peru. We were faced with the same shiny buildings and a shack and headed straight to the shack to be accepted into the country. While we were waiting for everyone else we asked the unfriendly policeman where the loos were and we got the Spanish inquisition about what the hell we were doing in Peru. I have no idea what we were saying yes to, but eventually we were shown to the doctor who style tardis where we were clearly instructed to wee not poo. Very accommodating these peruvians.

Anyway, off we drove to the beach in punta sal. It was lovely, White sand and little huts to upgrade to if you wanted. Most of us chose to camp, pitching up on the beach so that we could wake up and literally fall into the sea. A couple people upgraded which is just as well as the facilities elsewhere were shocking. Washing your hands in cistern whilst trying to force the loo to flush is pretty grim, although much better than some of the trainspotting moments we've had along the way. 

But anyway the beach was gorgeous, lots of ghost crabs wandering around but mainly
Just us and the sea. There were lots of optional activities, but we were all loving just chilling. There was another puppy there so she got a lot of attention (and one serious telling off from Irene following some boob biting). The camp site cooked us amazing dinner of swordfish and we drank pisco sours and ate vodka jelly around a bonfire until eventually sloping off to our tents.

Sleeping to the sound of the sea was amazing and I woke the next morning to see some
Of our group already swimming around in it. After breakfast a few of us went of for a walk along the beach and saw the
Local fishermen hard at work and tried to walk off some of the food we've been over indulging on.

When we got back lunch was ready, so we ate that and then headed into the nearest town to stock up on the latest currency and to do a little shopping. Many wristbands and pairs of fake ray bans later we were back on the beach and the crew cooked us the best Thai curry ever. Camping on the beach was great, I'm looking forward to more of that later on on the trip.

Posted by selson 00:03 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

Tena to chugchilan

Life after the jungle

sunny

From the jungle we made our way south to rio verde near to the small town of banos which is famous for it's active volcano and thermal spas. We were there during a bank holiday and the town was busy with many locals visiting for the festival.

This was the first camping of the second leg of the trip and with shiny new tents and an amazing camp site come hostel it was a great start. 

After a quick lunch and setting up of tents, we were talked through the various activities on offer. We had the choice of canyoning, White water rafting, spa days, hiking or just general laziness.  Whilst I loved the canyoning I did in new zealand, I wasn't in a massive hurry to do t again, maybe later in the tour. Kind of fancied the White water rafting but at grade 5 I figured it might be a bit much for a beginner so opted for some hiking and some pampering instead.

We didn't have much time left the first day so we just hung around the camp site playing cards, paddling in the pool and maybe a little drinking. It was amends birthday so had to be done really. The camp site cooked us an amazing BBQ and we just chilled for the rest of the night.

The following day a lot f the group went off canyoning and the rest of us hung back and did some hiking around the waterfalls. My group was on cook duty that day so I was hanging around doing breaky and lunch ad getting sunburnt. In te afternoon the hiking started and it was amazing. The waterfall was huge and you could walk right behind and in front of it. I've never seen anything like it. I will post pictures when I eventually bring my dead camera back to life.

After the hike it was time to cook, pretty awful
Experience as we were sharing the smallest kitchen in the world with another tour group (who we meet up with quite regularly) so a simple bolognese took about 3 hours to cook, but was very yummy when it was finally done.

The next day again the group split with some White water rafting, some playing volleyball back at camp and the girlies heading to town for a pamper session. We were told to head out to the road and flag down a bus but were warned we might be picked up by locals who charge bus prices to take you to town. We didn't think it would actually happen but the next thing we knew we were clambering into the back of an open truck with a load of plantain and driven in to town. It was great fun and as we found out later was a much better option than the bus.

We headed straight to a spa to get us booked in for our chosen treatments. Most of is choosing to go the whole hog as it was so bloody cheap. $45 for 2.5 hours of full body massage, facial and pedicure. It was amazing and we were three to a room so was a good bonding session for us girls. To complete the girly day off we went all beautiful (if slightly oily) and shopped. A brilliant day finished off by a lovely fish supper courtesy of Allana's group  and an early night before a drive off to chugchilan the next day.

The drive to chugchilan was amazing. I haven't talked a lot yet about the scenery and landscapes here because it's jar to describe how amazing they are. Most of the time we are driving over and through mountains along winding roads with hairpin bends and landslides. In Colombia everything was lush and green and now we are inthe Andes it's more baron with snow capped mountains in the distance. Pictures don't do it justice and my rubbish description probably doesn't either. You have to see it. Everytime you look up from reading or chatting or sleeping on the truck you are faced with gorgeous views. I hope I don't start taking them for granted. 
Anyway, I got side tracked, this particular drive was amazing, the road was no wider than the truck and all of us were feeling a little bit tense for a while there but Claire did an amazing job driving down there and we lived to tell the tale.

We arrived at the bottom at our Eco lodge which was to be home for the next two nights. Some local children did some dancing for us, we were given a lovely dinner and then we hit the Turkish spa (don't ask) before heading to our little wooden apartments to sleep. I was up in the attic on a mattress on the floor but it was very cosy. For the first time I was sharing with Sarah another Brit and she gave me her life history before sleeping. I wasn't sure I'd like the shared sleeping part of this tour, but actually it's really nice because you have the best conversations when you're settling in at night. We've got a great group so I guess we've been lucky on that front.

The next day was a big day for two reasons. Firstly it was Anna's 30th birthday so it was going to be a big night and secondly we were heading out for our biggest hike so far complete with altitude.

We had to drive about 1.5 hours to the start of the hike at the top of a volcano. Some were offered the back of a truck and the rest were told we were going on a bus. It's the strangest bus I've ever seen. It was a cattle truck. Having managed to bag an "upstairs" seat those downstairs decided to entertain us with some charades for the journey. Made
More entertaining by the fact that this was happening travelling up the same winding road that we took to get into town. I think you had to be there, but one of my funniest memories of the trip sounder is of stu doing the little mermaid on the back of the truck. Hoping around with his arms pinned to his side and then the truck hitting a rock and him falling and face-planting into the bottom of the truck. Nearly as good as when Luke tried to do the worm for us in a drunken moment and cracking his chin on the floor. It's only a matter of time before we crack out the handstands and I damage my hand again.

Anyway so we drove to the top of the top of the volcano where we were to start our hike. At the top is lake quilotoa which is in the crater. It's huge and absolutely stunning. Some people opted to horse ride down from here, the quicker option but owing to my general dislike of horses (which I need to get over before we visit the gauchos in Argentina) I opted for the hike. Supposedly it was 4-6 hours and mostly downhill. Downhill my arse. We basically took the most direct route back to base up and over the mountains. The terrain was weird sandy and rocky and very slippery. Yes I stacked it a couple of times, I don't know why other people don't slip as much as me. Apparently it's all about the heels. Anyway, it was beautiful, but bloody hard work, suffering with the effects of altitude on top of the climbing and descents which it times were so steep you were almost lying down. I totally enjoyed it, but was very glad to be back at ranch. We all celebrated the successes of the day with birthday dinner and cakes followed by much red wine in the games room. By 9:30 we'd apparently already had 2 complaints mainly due to the shreaking of a certain annoying 18 year old who shall remain nameless. Anyway we carried on into the wee hours, getting our pool and ping pong on before finally admitting defeat and calling it a day. 

Another brilliant few days with lots of stupid memories to look back on. Happy times :-)

Posted by selson 16:11 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

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