31 - PERU
Lima to Arequipa - 07/08/04 - 18/08/04
Hotel Patio - Pisco
The day we left was flipping freezing. Misty and damp all the way down the coast.
There are loads of traffic cops in Peru, we have heard a few dodgy tales so we always make sure we slow right down, but have never had any trouble. We have got in to the habit of waving and smiling as we go past. Have to remember to stop that when we get home. British cops would think me mad and probably stop me for that!
We did get stopped, thinking the worst, but ended up as everywhere else chatting for twenty minutes with bored, cold policemen.
Got to Pisco and went straight out for a few to warm up!
Were going to go on a boat trip from there to see Sea lions and birds but decided it was too damn cold to be out on the sea, so next morning headed inland across the desert to Nasca.
Ooo warm, aren't deserts great?
By the time we got to Ica it was 35 degrees, nice and toasty.
Near Ica is an oasis. A real, proper oasis, just as you'd imagine, but with a few buildings.
Sand dunes, sand dunes all around and then a lagoon with surrounding trees. Stopped for a drink, the usual chat and soak up a bit of sun.
The Pan-American through the Nasca desert is so cool. The middle of bloody nowhere and a straight, straight road you hope to somewhere. Just had to stop and stand for a while.
The Nasca Lines are on a plain about 20ks from the town of Nasca so we stopped at the mirador to take our first look. R has been wanting to come here since he read Erich von Danikens book, about aliens making the lines, when he was 14. They are quite amazing. We have looked from the mirador, taken a flight and watched the sun set over them from the top of a hill. Very mysterious, but not aliens.
As we arrived in Nasca we had been on the road for one year. It's very strange to think of how we felt a year ago. To be honest we were both desperate to travel but also wishing it away. Wishing it was done so we could go home again. I think it was the shock of actually leaving.
But here we are a year later, still wanting more. Not half as far as we thought we'd be, but it doesn't matter. We've been great places, seen cool things but the best bit is the people we've met and the friends we've made. Always will be.
To celebrate we had a night on Sours and decided to make the biggest commitment of our life so far.........to have tattoo's!
And we stuck to it. Nasca Line flowers on our forearms. Our tattooist, Renzo, had never been asked for the flower before. Lots of Hummingbirds, Monkey's, Condor's etc but never the flower. "Muy extraño" he said. Which has a few meanings - foreign, strange or what I like to think he meant - unusual. I then said I wanted mine in brown. "Like the earth.....muy mystico"
So there we sat with a shaman burning incense and Peruvian dancers performing for the tour group eating their dinner behind us, having our tattoos. Indeed it was "muy extraño".
JB arrived from Lima with his bike making a very funny noise and most relieved to make it.
He spent the next day with his bike in pieces but luckily was able to find the problem and sort it out. When ever I smell that combination of petrol and oil that means a bike engine has been pulled apart I'm transported back to Darwin! My stomach flips over and I start feeling sick........fingers crossed.
The dryness here preserves things for hundreds of years. We went out in the desert to visit a cemetery where the graves have been robbed.
The road out there was kind of interesting. It was about 10k off the main road, gravel and corrugated at first, then it turned rather sandy. Not great with our well used road tyres, but R was fab as ever and we got in and out safely. Even though I was squeaking all the time!!
Having seen all the mummies in Egypt, priests in glass coffins in Colombia and open tombs in northern Peru I still wasn't prepared for this. We walked over to the first grave and sitting up, facing me was a bleached white skeleton, wrapped in cloth with perfectly preserved braids of hair and a tapestry headband. I nearly jumped out of my skin, which is exactly what they looked like they'd done. Got used to it after a while........one looked like Alice Cooper!
Whilst we were there one of the big old American cars that lurk around Nasca appeared and took another track off in to the desert. There are loads here, they look like the kind of cars murderers always drove in Starsky & Hutch. Very big boots, good for taking bodies off down strange desert tracks to dispose of............ Maybe I was just a bit too creeped out by the cemetery!
We had a change of plan and made for Arequipa rather than Cusco, we wanted to see some more of the coast.
We left Nasca in gorgeous sunshine but within about an hour we were back to the coast and back to the cloud and cold. Not what we had hoped for!
However the road was just incredible. A true coast road. On one stretch the beach was so close it was actually taking over the road. Bit scary with our worn tyres.
Coast road to Arequipa
We stopped for a drink in the little town of Chala and met Spiderman. He was the cafe owners son, about six and fascinated with the bike. Every time we asked him his name, he pulled his mask down and said "Hombre Arachna"
The road climbed up the cliffs, down to the beach and back up the cliffs. There were no barriers and the crashing waves below looked mighty fierce.
We went through a small town where a milk tanker had taken the corner too tight, turned over and was completely mashed against the cliff wall. People everywhere and milk, slowly turning to yogurt all over the road.
We turned inland for Arequipa and across a huge plain. In the distance we could see the El Misti volcano and the mountains Chachani and Pichu-Pichu. Arequipa was in the valley below. They looked so close but we still had a hundred miles to go.
The cloud disappeared, the sun came out and we had the most beautiful evening ride in to Arequipa.
By the time we got there it was dark, we got slightly lost but eventually found ourselves in the Plaza de Armas. We've seen quiet a few Plaza de Armas by now but this one is something else and quite breathtaking as it opens out from the narrow streets. All lit up and buzzing with people.
Evening - approaching Arequipa
I'd now sussed out where we were on the map.
"Straight across the bottom of the square, take the first right you can".
"Carry on for a while...............right here I think and there should be a hostal on the left."
"What, this one?" ...........
Perfect, they had room and somewhere to park the bike. Next morning we wake up, the sun is shining and we can see a volcano from our bedroom window.
Go to the gallery for this diary