Landed in Lima on the 26th of April. Very excited about being in South America, always wanted to come to Peru. It hasn't disappointed so far. Lima was nice enough, although only spent one night there before heading south to a small town on the coast called Pisco. We went there to do a bit of wildlife stuff for Jenny. There is an island just off the coast which is dubbed "the poor man's Galapagos islands", and seeing as we don't have a spare 1000 pounds to go there we settled for the 5 pound boat trip out to the Islas Ballestas. These are islands which are basically made from bird shit, and they absolutely stank, a far cry from the Galapagos. We saw loads of birds, sea lions, and there were a few penguins. All in all was a pretty good trip. Spent one night in Pisco and drank a few Pisco sours, the local drink made from White grape brandy, lime and egg white. Quite nice.
From Pisco we headed further south and a bit inland to a desert oasis called Huacachina, near Ica. This place was amazing. Basically just a tiny wee lake surrounded by palm trees, surrounded by huge sand dunes on all sides. We got pretty drunk on our first night and met up with an English couple who we ended up travelling with to Arequipa. We also did a sand boarding trip with them the next day. Sand boarding's basically the same as snow boarding but warmer and softer. We got taken off into the desert up these enormous steep sand dunes in a dune buggy. The drive to, from and between the different dunes was probably the best part of the whole trip. The driver was a lunatic. Was great fun.
The sandboarding was good as well, although we never managed to actually stand on the boards. We got taken to the top of these really steep dunes and went down on our fronts head first. Got sand everywhere, and bruises all down my elbows from clinging to the board, was well worth it though.
After this we headed much further south to Arequipa, a 12 hour overnight bus away.
Arequipa's quite a big place and there's plenty to do. It's flanked by a big volcano and mountains. On our first day here we went to a museum, our first cultural experience for a while. The musem exhibits "Juanita" who is a frozen 500 year old mummy, an inca sacrificed girl found on the volcano beside Arequipa. Actually quite interesting, even Jenny found it interesting. The frozen body was pretty creepy, perfectly preserved in the ice, with face and hair and teeth and apparently organs all still in tact. No eyes though. Spent quite a long time staring at it thinking it might move or wink at me.
We decided to do a bit of trekking into the Colca Canyon which is a 5 hour bus trip away from Arequipa. We arranged this through the hotel that we were staying at. We paid for a guide called Alain to take us there and cook for us. He was a bit strange but funny. He didn't speak very much English, so I got a chance to put my Spanish to the test. I can now have proper lengthy conversations with people which is helpful.
Colca Canyon is the 2nd deepest canyon in the world. The tour started by getting the 5 hour bus at 1.30am to the canyon. It was horrendous. The bus broke down every hour or so, and we sat while the driver fiddled about with the engine. It was freezing cold, and there was a phantom farter sitting somewhere close to us who farted every 20minutes or so....and the windows didn't open. It stank. Not a good start. When we eventually got to the canyon we had to descend down into it which was very very vry steep and took about 6 hours, the last few in the blazing heat. We did see 2 condors which was good. We went on the tour with the English couple that we had met, Sally and Peter.
Peter did not enjoy the walking. From about 2 hours into the tour until the end he spent most of his time sulking and whinging. I didn't think it was all that bad, although it was hard work. We stayed our first night at a tiny little place in at the bottom of the canyon. It was amazing. It had no electricity and we stayed in bamboo huts.
It had natural hot springs which we went in after dark and looked at the stars which was incredible. We had a go at fishing with bamboo rods, but didn't manage to catch anything.
The owner of the place had a net, so he caught fish which we ate that night. The next day we hiked up the side of the canyon and walked to an oasis where we stayed on our second night. This took about 4 hours, 4 of which Peter spent moaning. The Oasis was similar to the place we stayed on the first night, although it had a swimming pool. Was absolutely freezing though, so didn't bother with that. After another day's walking we were all feeling pretty tired. We had not slept much, given that for the 2nd days hike we had to get up at 5am. We both had blisters and our legs were very sore. When Alain told us that we were having to get up at 3am the next morning to hike out of the canyon, up about 1000m, that didn't go down to well, especially with Peter. Anyway, instead of walking we decided to pay a little extra and take mules up. Needless to say Jenny enjoyed this a lot. It was quite good fun, although surreal and scary at the same time.
The path up was so so steep and rocky, and the mules seemed to like going right to the edge of the sheer drops. It was also dark the whole way up because we set off at 3 am. The whole canyon was lit up by the full moon though which was quite cool. All in all the tour was really good.
We went out last night in Arequipa with Peter, who had finally stopped whinging by this stage, and Sally, and had a really nice meal and few Pisco Sours, before they got on the overnight bus to La Paz. We on the other hand are taking it easy and catching up on some sleep, before heading for Cusco probably tomorrow. From there we will hopefully be able to do some sort of trek up to Macchu pichu.