From the party town of Cuzco to surviving a major earthquake...
26.07.2007 - 26.08.2007 20 °C
Im sorry it has taken me a while to update this blog, my time in Peru has had bit of everything, and sitting in front of the computer was not one of them... So i must apologize for the length of this entry, and i hope the adventure are interesting enough to keep you reading...
I got to Cuzco late on the 26th of July, after the difficult task of leaving Bolivia. My first impression of Cuzco was that it doesnt matter how many times you hear how beautiful is this city, still manages to surprise you! The first mission was trying to get tickets on the train to Machu Picchu, cause as much as i wanted to do the inca trail (or an alternative one, cause the original inca trail it is booked til the end of october!) unfortunately i cant, cause of my sinusitis problem that doesnt let me walk in high altitude, as i have find out during my treks in Bolivia. So, the train was the option, and after few hours in the queue and paying an outrageous amount of money, i got my ticket for 4days later, which it wasnt too bad, cause this particular weekend is the peruvian "fiestas patrias", or national festivity, so i had plenty of time to enjoy the multiple parties going on during the next few days... (there are quite a few pics from those days spread around the internet, if you find any let me know... what can i say, messy weekend! :D )
By monday i have recovered and managed to visit few places around the Sacred Valley, and finally tuesday got to Machu Picchu! What can i say? No words would make justice to this site, that although very much crowded, manages to keep a certain sacred feel, it is amazing!
Once back in Cuzco i met up again with Greta and Dava, my kiwi family, and together we leave behing the craziness of Cuzco nitelife and head south to Arequipa "the white city", our next stop. We got to Arequipa when the sun was beginning to rise, and the view of the Misti volcano, which overlooks the city, takes your breath away, standing at over 6000ms of altitude.
Arequipa surprised me being a gorgeous city, with quite a lot to do, and of course with lots of party going on! We were there at a particular good time, cause the first 2weeks of august are Arequipa´s foundation festivities, so lots of parades, and celebrations going on here too! Our hostel here is awesome, with a nice sunny garden, really nice people and lots of drinking games at nite! We even went to the circus one day, as a hangover remedy!
The following day i visited the museum that has the ice mummy, Juanita, that was found 10 years ago in a nearby glacier, and because of the ice was kept in perfect condition even though is 500 years old! The museum is really interesting and explains how the incas did their sacrifices to the mountains , as they believed they were gods, and had to make offering from time to time in the form of young children that were killed and buried at the top of the mountains.
Also went to visit the Santa Catalina convent, that is huge and it is like a city built within a city! if that is what convents look like, i might consider becaming a nun (yeah right!) but it wasnt just the visit to the convent that i enjoyed that day, as when you go outside right in front, the BEST chocolate shop is located. If there is any food i will always remember from this trip, that will be Arequipa´s chocolates. OH MY GOD, so good!! I think they are only comparable to peruvian cheese puffs.. which believe it or not, are incredibly tasty!! (and the best remedy for hangovers...)
Just before leaving Arequipa, I visited the Colca Canyon area, getting there in probably one of the most horrendous buses i have been so far (and there are many of those) in a journey that i will never forget, but the visit to the canyon (the second deepest in the world) and particularly the sight of the condors (the biggest birds on earth i believe) was well worth the journey! Those animals are SO beautiful! and they fly really close to people, they make it more beautiful even... When i grow up i wanna be a condor :D
And last day was time for white water rafting! i have never done it before, but certainly after trying it is not gonna be the last time! The river had category 2, 3 and one 4 rapids. Apparently the cats go from 1 to 5 , so it was pretty cool! We got REALLY wet, and it was quite cold, but so much fun! We even lost Dave overboard at some point, but managed to recover him :D
That same nite, and with the clothes still wet in a carrier bag, we left for Nasca, in a very posh bus cause we decided to treat ourselves... i must be jinxed, cause this one also broke down, and had to wait 2hs to get repaired, and afterwards the driver was speeding like hell, so we could not get any sleep fearing we would go down the Panamerican highway and into the Pacific!
Got to Nasca in the morning, which is an ugly town that happens to be the junping point to visit the Nasca Lines, those famous geroglyphics and animal figures (spider, hummingbird, monkey) made in stones that can only be seen from the air in a light airplane, and they are WELL impressive! there are several theories about how they made it thousands of years ago, including alien theories.. im not sure what to believe, but there is certainly something misterious about them...
We left Nasca the same day heading north along the coast to Ica, or more specifically Huacachina, located 4kms from Ica, and home to the biggest sand dunes i have seen in my life!! This place is very random, with a lake in the middle, and very famous for being the best place to do sandboarding (and also having a hostels that gives you weed for free :D ) We took a trip on a sand buggie, and had a go at sandboarding, which is SOOO cool! we loved it so much we rented boards the next day and tried to go solo, really good fun! (although a month later im still findind sand in my backpack...)
We left Huacachina 3days later, leaving the warm weather behind and heading north in a very dodgy bus to Pisco, jumping point to visit the Ballestas Islands (known as the poor galapagos) and the Paracas National Reserve nearby. The islands are amazing, with thousands of birds and sea lions (and lots of bird poo around that used to be expòrted for making fertilizers in Europe!)
After the visit, I said goodbye to Greta and Dave, as they were heading back to cuzco for the inca trail, and i was going up north, to Lima. It was sad to say goodbye, cause we wont be able to see each other until i got back to UK, and after all the adventures, i knew i would miss them! Ironically, we didnt think at that time that we would see each other sooner than expected...
I got to Lima late and very tired, and stayed in the posh neighbourhood of Miraflores, and believe me, after 8weeks of not being in a big city, i was overwhelmed!! Mcdonalds? KFC? shopping malls??? It is amazing how you can forget in a relatively short time the advantages of a big city :D WEnt out the following nite, with a bunch from the hostel, and had a great time, although it was hard to go clubbing with trekking boots... so not glamourous! But im getting over that now, who cares?? :D
The following day, whilst recovering from the nite before, i started planning my route for north peru, went shopping, and prepared to leave the next day, as I have been to Lima before, so no point staying any longer than a couple of days. In the afternoon, i was tired so went for a nap before dinner. It was 18.40 when i woke up thinking that someone was climbing up the top bunk, cause my bed was moving strongly. i got the head out ready to tell the person off (hey enough!) when realised that there was nobody there! the bed KEPT moving, and at that point i realised it was an earthquake. I ran to reception, cause even though im used to earthquakes (very common back home in Granada) there was something different about this one, so thought i should find one of those areas "safe for earthquakes" that are usually advertised by a sticker. By the time i got to reception, the building was shaking SO MUCH, that the option of staying inside, was not an option anymore. We all run downstairs, and when we got to the street, the ground was moving like if it would just open under your feet. It is impossible to describe the feeling, even though that still today if i close my eyes i can live it all over again. It was apparently only 2mins long, but it felt forever. Finally when i got back to the building, leaving the people crying and praying behind me, but still shaking, i began to realise how big the whole thing was. When i started seeing the news, i was petrified, the sight of Pisco, Ica, and all the other places i have been only few days before, completely devastated, was shocking. I was lucky, but there were so many people in need of help, i couldnt ignore that. I decided to volunteer, and even though bureocracy sucks, and polititians are hypocritical everywhere, i managed to join the Civil Defense Agency, and work for 2weeks in an emergency donation center set up in a public square. It was hard, worked lots, but i couldnt even feel the tiredness at the time, cause there was no time for that. I also met so many nice people, i actually have fantastic memories of my time there. People from all over the place, together with locals, that joined together, without a common language, and worked hand on hand for hours and days. We even managed to have a good time, in the middle of all the tragedy. It is so different when yo live something like this so close than when you see it in the news...
I finally left Lima on sunday the 26th, after a couple of crazy last nights out, and after seeing Greta and DAve once again, before they were leaving for Brazil. It was great to see them again! I landed in Tarapoto, in northwest Peru that night, ready to begin my time in the amazon, and ready to have time to think about all the things that happened in the previous weeks, as so far it hadnt soaked in. Life can change so much in so little time... 2mins..
x x x Miriam x x x