Our vist to the Ballestos islands was a lot better than expected. Not much we can say about it other than we saw a LOT (i.e. millions) of birds, and seals and penguins. We had to don our anoraks so that we didn´t get pooed on, as if it was going to happen to anyone it was going to be us.
After Leaving Pisco, we headed down the coast to Ica, where we were going to base ourselves for a nght to do a wine tour. Things didn´t qute go according to plan when we got a taxi driver to take us to a cheap hostel reccommended in our guide book. When we arrived he said í don´t reccommend staying here´but we stupidly thought it was just beacuse he was tryng to get commission out of us and take us to another hostel. We realised we were wrong however when we stepped into the hostel and noticed all the prostitues hanging around and the room was like a cell with concrete walls covered in black spray paint graffti. We decided to give this one a miss and walk to another hostel that was just round the corner according to our map. As we were walking down the street towards it, lots of peruvian people started shouting at us and grabbng our arms. Of course we didn´t have a clue what they were saying to us and thought they were just trying to push us into their shops which is what normally happens. It wasn´t until a really nice girl who could speak english came over to us and explained that if we continued to go down the road we would get robbed as it was the crime area of the town. This unnerved us slightly and at this point we decided just to skip Ica and jump into a taxi straight for Huaccachina, which was our next destination anyway. We were really glad we did as we ended up stayng 3 days there. Basically an oasis in the desert surrounded by massive sand dunes and the town was really small and had a good travellers vibe. Our hostel had a pool (!) so we spent most of our time lounging by the pool as it seems to be sunny all the time. One of the things to do from Huaccachina is sand boarding which Laura has wanted to do since the start of South America and was determined to do it. Hannah and Becca on the other hand weren´t so keen but thought since they were there that they might as well give it a bash (with a little persuasion from Laura). So before they knew it they were strapped in to a very dodgy looking sand buggy and speeding away, driven by what appeared to be a mad-man whose driving was absolutely crazy. The sand buggying itself, we all agreed was more fun, although scarier in Hannah and Becca´s case (all you could hear was hannah´s high-pitch screeching throughout the ride). The sand boarding took us down some ridiculously steep dunes – the kind you walk up to and just see the edge before the drop-off. These ons we took on our bellies as it was impossible to stay standing up, even for us very experienced sand-boarders. We all had a go at standing up on the smaller ones and at least managed one dune although we managed to get sand absolutely and we were still de-sanding for days afterwards. Hannah is still finding sand in her trouser pockets now! On the way back we watched the sun-set as he drove us deeper into the desert, before a slightly hair-raising drive back down the dunes.
After 3 days of relaxation and feeling like we were on holiday again, we headed to Nasca to see the famous Nasca lines. These are 2000 year old huge drawings in the stone in the desert which were made by the Incas. No-one really knows who made them or why they are there but that´s part of the attraction. We´d arranged to meet Sophie and Majo (the dutch girls) here after they´d been and done the Inca trail in Cusco. It was so good to see them again and we spent a veyr enjoyable day by another pool, this time ina 5-star resort where we´d paid the 5 quid to get in and use the pool for the day. We tried our best to fit in but we´re not sure we pulled it off with our quick-dry towels and bikinis from primark.
There´s two ways to see the Nasca lines – a taxi which takes you to a tower where you can see 2 of the smaller designs, or pay the 40 pounds and take a flight in a tiny plane over the top, seeing about 20 of the best. Although 40 pounds was way out of our price range after much deliberation we decided we´d regret it if we didn´t and since we were here we should do it properly. So glad we did because it was really cool. There was only 4 of us in a tny plane which at first looked slightly precarious (took a while for our pilot to manage to shut the door). But apart from a little travel sickness – especially on Becca´s part, no surprises there – we didn´t have any trouble and we enjoyed the 40 minute flight spotting the different lines. Our favourites were the monkey with the huge spiral tail, the huge birds and the spider.
After saying our final farewell to our dutch friends we left them for good, adding Holland onto our list of places we´ve promised to visit, and got on our very swanky bus to Arequipa. We´re still here now as this is where we are doing our volunteer placement and where we´re going to spend the next month. We spent 3 days in a hostel n the centre of Arequipa, just to get a feel for it. We were really lucky as it´s a really beautiful city, not that we had a clue about it when we booked it. We spent the 3 days sampling the great places to eat and drnk in the centre and discovered a karaoke bar entitled ´Daddy-o´ where we were drunk enough to think we could sing for a good 2 hours, much to the locals amusement. There was a lot of mic-hogging from the Peruvians. It turns out they like their karaoke too!
On Sunday the 14th we moved into our ´flat´, which was totally not what we expected as we thought we were getting our own place. Turns out its a house shared by another 12 volunteers and it´s huge. The other volunteers all seem really nice and there´s lots of different ages and nationalities. Our first evening we had a BBQ in the garden and met all of the other housemates. Then spent the next couple of days sorting out our placement, spanish lessons and stocking up on food. It´s great having a kitchen and cooking our own meals again and Laura is particularly excited about having cereal back in her life.
There are 3 different placements you can do here – either a school, an orphanage or construction. As we were here for so long we got put in the orphanage, which we were really happy about as this is where we wanted to be, despite all the volunteers at the school trying to get us to go there as the work at the orphanage is reknowned as being very full-on. Our first day working was mainly just meeting the Tias (who are locals who work there 24/7 without getting paid) and cleaning sick off buggies and poo out of toilets. Nothing like getting thrown in at the deep end. Hannah got led off to what shje thought was a park and ended up spending half her day sat ina medical clinic with 2 of the babies who they thought had pneumonia and 2 of the non-english speaking Tias – slightly overwhelming. We got to meet the kids on the second day as we were working the afternoon shift for the rest of the week, which means the kids were back from school. We didn´t get the best introduction as the water was off and we were greeted by a 2-year-old girl who was stood in a pile of her own poo. A bit of a hectic day as the babaies were still sick so most of the Tias were in the hospital with the babies so we were put in charge of looking after the kids, who were all disrupted and playing up. It´s pretty difficult as somone has always got to watch a little boy called Juan who gets himself into a lot of mischief and has tantrums where the only way of controlling him is to tie him to a chair with a scarf.
Just to explain, the Tias are very set in their ways and conservative so we just have to go along with whatever punishment or rule they decide to enforce on the kids which is very difficult at times. We are startign to settle in now and had a good day yesterday, during which we got to paint a mural (something which Becca particularly loved) and the kids seem to be getting used to us now. There are still some communication problems which causes a lot of points and hand gestures, along with ´si, si, si´ to the Tias and in the kid´s case, ´no, no,no´, but we´re managing. Next week is going to be horrible as a couple of volunteers that have been there for a long time and can actually speak spanish are leaving, meaning that we´re in charge. It´s going to be a very challenging and rewarding 3 weeks to come!
We start our spanish lessons on Monday so hopefully that will make all the difference. This week we´ve had loads of activities arranged for us during the evenings. Last night we went to Karto-Mania. Go-karting peru style. Very old-school but a lot of fun and we survived to tell the tale which is a bit of a miracle really. This weekend we´ve got 2 nights out planned as lots of people are leaving and we´re going to introduce everyone to Daddy-o karaoke which they are very excited about (not sarcastic!). We´ll let you know how it goes.
We´re very happy here at the moment and glad we have a base for the month. We´re sure it´s going to fly by though and before we know it, it´ll onyl be 3 weeks until we see you all again. Whoooo!
Lots of love,