Entering Peru meant we'd left our newly made friends in Ecuador and it was just Emma & I left to face whatever this world threw at us. South America is a continent that doesn't get the best rap back home, but we were excited and we didn't know what to expect. Peru definitely didn't disappoint, the country has pretty much anything you could ask for; coast line, the Amazon, the Andes, cloud forest and desert. The start of our love affair with South America.
We headed into its capital to begin with and spent a few days exploring Lima, we stayed in a hostel that treated us like family and meant we instantly felt at home. They advised us on the best places to see the real Lima; the local Inka market, Love Park, an array of garden plazas and an international food road show, with all the best cooks from across South America, kept us entertained. Obviously we spent the day here, as my love for food got the better of me. We even managed to meet up with Izzy, a happy go lucky 20 something year old we had met in Ecuador. Typical of Izzy she'd missed her flight home after a visit to Machu Picchu and had to spend an extra day or two in Lima. She was mesmerised by Machu Picchu and told us stories that enticed us to visit.
Saying goodbye to Izzy and Lima, we travelled South to the desert coastal town of Paracas, a small coastal town that's main attraction was a boat trip around the Ballestas Islands, home to Humbolt penguins and a whole load of bird s*** left by the thousands of gulls that occupy the Islands. For two hours we circled the islands, watching small penguins comically make there way across the rocks and sea lions flop onto the rocks in a bid to take a rest.
Huacachina, a small community that surrounds a tiny lagoon in the desert, was next on our list. Here we took a buggy across hundreds of empty sand dunes, our driver had a death wish and an obvious need for speed in his life, so we spent about an hour being thrown around the buggy, suitably fitted with roll bars. as he drove up and down mountains of sand. It was kind of like a roller coaster ride, except you didn't actually know if you were going to topple or not each time he raced over a dune. Eventually he to a halt above a 40m naturally form sand slide, 'Aquí' he said (Spanish for here) as he passed me a sandboard. A little apprehensively, being the brave sole I am I obviously had to go before Emma to check it was ok, laying down on my board, standing was way out of my comfort zone, I took the plunge back down the natural slide on my sandboard. Sand pretty much went everywhere, not a good time to be growing a beard. I have the thumbs up to Emma and she prepared to follow. Being the lighter of the two she picked up a lot more speed, this meant her board didn't quite stop where is was meant to, she went flying past and gently slowed, not slow enough however to stop her going over the next drop of similar height all in one. Kind of like a car that hasn't had its hand break applied. Pretty funny to watch as she had no control racing down the slides. Our transport raced around the dune to pick us up and took us to another fine as we sat and watched the sun go down. Our visit was short lived before we passed through Nazca to see its famous lines and ended up in Arequipa.
Arequipa is an entrance to the Colca Canyon. The words deepest canyon, suitably placed in the Andes. Now I didn't believe in altitude sickness before I went here, but at 5000m above sea level I was forced to reconsider. Overdosed on coca sweets - an apparent remedy for altitude sickness - I just about managed to wobble around for a few days. It was all made worth it by the amazing views, from the cliffs edges we could see down into a canyon that had a free flowing river running at its bottom, not for the feint hearted as the safety precaution in Peru, across most of South America in fact, are pretty non existent. The mountain peaks surrounded us whatever way we looked. Placed in the middle of it all, with a view of a still very active smoking volcano, was a small town, still living by its native traditions, untouched by the outside world. Here local people went about their life, mainly farming, as we sat and observed their rituals. We spent the next few hours on the side of the volcano dipping in and out of its natural hot springs, a nice way to warm up, but a very cold chill as the wind blows on exit. The evening became pretty cold too, into the minuses, and 2 days was enough for me at this altitude, so we made our way back to Arequipa.
A stop off in Arequipa and we were leaving making our way to Machu Pichu. Informed by Izzy and a few other people we'd met I wasn't sure what to expect. Was it all hype? Would it be too touristy?
So after a day in the charming town of Cusco and skipping a few unneeded details, we made our way up to Machu Pichu. It did not disappoint. When I first saw the ruins I was lost for words, it actually took my breath away. A village community built on top a mountain. It's hard to put this into words. One of those must experience yourself moments.
I asked myself, How was it even possible to build this place thousands of years ago, let alone let it lay undiscovered for thousands more? You can't actually comprehend how hard it must of been until you see it. Built on top of a mountain over 3000m high, hidden from the world. We spent hours wondering up and down, in and out of the ruins. Up to its famous Sun Gate and around to its Inka bridge, the whole time peering over cliff edges. Your imagination takes over as you wander around thinking of all the stories these walls could tell if they could talk. So little is known about the place, it's a great place to just sit in silence and take it all in.
What a way to finish Peru... Onto Bolivia.