Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Volcanic Vitality and the Desert Oasis.

In Arequipa I refound my zest and now in Paracas as I have two hours to kill in the bus terminal its time to recap.

In the last proper 'travel' blog post we left off as I arrived in Arequipa. Arequipa is a lovely city with white buildings, the usual colonial out posts and surrounded by snow capped volcanoes. On my first proper day I took in the main city sites, the Cathedral, Santa Catalina Monastery and Juanita. Juanita is a frozen five hundred year old 13 year old girl who was sacrificed to the angry volcanic mountain god in a bid to appease him. This museum itself was rather interesting, the Cathedral a bit dull and Santa Catalina too expensive... none the less I enjoyed my city tour. In the evening I watched Peru get beaten by Chile in the football in my old haunt (a point hostel) and decided to move hostels... you can't really argue with £4 a night over £8, a bar and like minded individuals.
Taxi's in the road

Protest outside the Cathedral
After the football I had a relatively early night as it was time to get my Adrenaline fix on again. Hurtling down a Volcano on a mountain bike. Not quite the same as Whistler, a less fancy bike, equipment and certainly no ski-lifts. It took about two hours to get to the top not including stops to look at wildlife. Eventually the start point reached we headed down. Now another major difference was the terrain... very very dusty and sandy meant handling was quite a task. I crashed on a corner after I got cocky... fun none the less. Our guide hurtled down the mountain at impossible speeds. One more tumble due to sand and we finally hit the road. This became a road race of hurtling as fast as possible down the road. Not the death road mountain biking experience that one can do, but hard and enjoyable with stunning views of Arequipa and surrounding Volcanoes.
Bikes and Volcano

Pegunias (sort of a cross between a Deer and a Llama)

On top of the world

Fully Equipped & Volcano
After Biking I moved hostels, making it full. Booked my two day (lazy) trip to Colca Canyon and proceeded to mingle with the other Hostel member. Missing spicy food like crazy I headed off for Mexican and here stumbled upon a home made sauce that set my mouth on fire. I quickly acquired it (don't worry it was also for sale) and headed back to the Hostel for more hi-jinx such as 'flip cup'. However I had another relatively early night as the next day I was off to Colca, the worlds Second deepest Canyon, the deepest is also in Peru but a mission to visit. Incidently the Grand Canyon is only the worlds 3rd deepest. We set off for Chiway the town nearest the Canyon stopping every ten minutes to look at yet more Llamas, Alapacas and Pegunias.After a lecture on 'eating little due to altitude' the tour took us to a massive buffet lunch...
Lunch finished we rest in town and the hotel before being whisked off to some lovely hot hot springs. Dinner was a traditional affair complete with dancing. I made friends with the two Peruvians opposite, next to me and the Irish couple and vehemently opposed being dragged off to dance with the dancers. We went out that night but somehow in between the bus ride and the bar Lourdes lost her Camera. This had two effects - I became official Photographer for her and her friend and much rum was drank. The hotel had a curfew of 11:30 which we of course missed.

Traditional Dress and Llama
Waking up at 530 wasn't the easiest task but it happened and we promptly left for the viewpoint of the Canyon - Cruz Del Condor. On route we came across some laid back tourist traps... pose with a Llama or Have a Falcon on your head. We got to the viewpoint for the stunning views of the Canyon and the second big attraction. The Condors. These to me look like grand flying Turkeys, another opportunity to get out the flashy lens and show off/practice. We returned to Chiway for lunch before heading back to Arequipa.
A bird on my head

Lourdes with the Falcon

Condor in Flight

Some of the Colca Cre
Back in Arequipa... I met my friends, went to a bar and then a club to for 'Salsa'... this usually invovles me standing around looking bemused. It was enjoyable none the less... I went back to the hostel to watch Wales lose to France... this ended at 5am! The next day I formalised my leaving plans and had been invited to a Peruvian birthday party. I put my pictures on a memory stick so to pass on to deal with the missing camera and went to a suburb of Arequipa for the party. Despite being given beef heart, Rocoto Relleno and Pisco Jelly it was quite similar to other birthday parties. I'll talk more about food in a separate post... but the birthday party was fun and we basically just played drinking games for the whole time. Once again I returned to the Hostel to watch Rugby.

Sunday being a quiet day I ate some more weird peruvian food 'Helado Queso' which roughly translates as 'Frozen Cheese' and went to the Cinema before catching my night bus to Ica. Turns out the two English girls I went Moutain Biking with were also on this bus. In Ica we decided to head straight to Huacachina and find a hostel. Huachachina is a small town near to Ica surrounded by massive sand dunes and an Oasis. The Guide describes it as a'exotic resort'. It comprises a few restaurants and hostels. Our hostel was a nice affair complete with pool, nightclub and bbq. The main draw to Huachachina is the sand dunes, which are used for high octane activities such as dune buggying and sand boarding. However before this we tried the other regional activity.... Wine tasting. We tried everything from White to Rose and Pisco. Pisco is similar to Baijou, the guide says the closest thing is Tequila... this is crap. Baijou! Anyway it tastes ok in a cocktail but straight.... no thank you. Returning to the hostel for all you can eat and drink bbq was fun, I met probably the largest amount of consolidated English people so far... we tried the club but it was so massive and yet empty (it was monday) I gave up.
Hostel, Club and Sand Dune
The next day was spent milling around the pool in the heat, eating lunch and waiting for sand boarding. This came around, the dune buggy ride was pretty intense going over what felt like vertical drops. Sand boarding again was fun, going pretty fast at times down very steep/high dunes. I retired to Huachachina for some food, said goodbye to the English girls and went to bed for 6am start due to visiting Ballestos Islands.

Ballestos Island was nice, lots and lots of birds. I even saw some penguins and plenty of Sea Lions. I am now in Paracas, the sun is out and my bus is only an hour away before I return to Lima. Are limited photos of the end, as I have not uploaded yet and I have none of Sand Boarding... yet. But I have put the missing ones from the last blog up so in the meantime enjoy that.
Pelicans in flight


Yet More Pelicans

Sea Lions

(Photos now up everywhere)

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