Guinea pigs and alpaca madness
20.11.2011 - 24.11.2011
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.....