Lima, Ica, Nazca and Arequipa
13.10.2010 - 20.10.2010
It has been a very busy week so I will limit myself to the spectacular highlights!
I took a bus from Lima along the PanAmerican highway/Pacific coast to the tiny town of Ica. There is not much to Ica besides the normal adobe huts, stray dogs, a little bit of pisco grape cultivation and desert as far as the eye can see with the exception of the Huacachina sand dunes a little over a mile out of town. I headed over to the dunes and was amazed that I felt like I was in the Sahara desert. The standard "tour" of the sand dunes is about an hour long dune buggy ride with 8 or so new friends stopping along the way to boogie board or snowboard (for the truly brave) down some of the enormous sand dunes.
Riding the buggy is like being on a crazy fast roller coaster without the rails. I was actually scared a number of times we would get to see the roll bar in action. The moment was always just over the crest of the hill when the buggy would start to slide down the incredibly steep hill before it caught some traction and barrelled down the slope. scary and thrilling all at once! Boarding was lying stomach down on a waxed up snowboard, grabbing on to the front foot strap and praying like crazy to not crash out into the sand at 20mph (or so it feels like, I have no idea, but I definitely didn´t want to crash!). Only one very experienced snowboarder in our group went down the hill upright and he only did so on the beginner slope so the rest of us didn´t even have to contemplate how whimpy we were! Last point to make on Huacachina is that this is a natural lagoon formed in the desert which forms a true desert oasis which has now been pimped out to 20 something partiers that drink and dance into the night - or so I hear.....
About an hour away by bus is the similiarly lackluster town of Nazca whose one key feature was the discovery in the early 20th century of the mysterious Nazca lines in the desert. The lines can only truly be seen by low flying plane so I hopped on board and enjoyed a look. The Nazca lines are geometric and animal shapes formed in the desert, it is estimated they were formed about 900 b.c to 40 a.d. by ancient cultures for who knows what, if any, purpose. They were formed by removing the top layer of sand/soil of the desert which exposes the white underlayer. I was surprised of the size of the shapes. some appeared to be smaller than a football field and some stretched out into the desert for miles. In addition to distinct shapes were straight lines that seemed to cross or extend out til eternity. Here is a pic that hopefully you can see of the hummingbird (its nose is pointing to the top left corner). As the desert literally receives zero to 1 inch of rain per year out here the lines have been preserved for so long. Crazy interesting.
I took a relatively painful bus about 11 hours!! from Nazca to Arequipa for my final stop in Peru. I spent the good part of one day white water rafting down a local glacier run off river (thank god for full wetsuits, booties and helmets!) and did some exploring about town. But my favorite part was an excursion to Colca Canyon. This canyon is appartely 4 times deeper than the grand canyon, although you don´t get the same money view as the deep part is pretty inaccessible and is comprised of mere dirt and grasslands vs the beautiful cut stone of the Grand Canyon. To me the canyon trip was about seeing the andes mountains in their glory and seeing some villages that are pretty much untouched by westerners. The villages in this canyon weren´t really even exposed to westerners at all until about 30 years ago. The villages still live off the land and utilize terrace farming BY HAND or by cow. The scenery was beautiful and it is such a different lifestyle I was pondering if they even have any sense of what our world is like. There are barely any cars, let alone enormous machines, computers, skyscrapers etc. I think they would go into shock if dropped into times square. Here is a pic.
An update on what I have been reading. I had to give up on The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, they just weren´t that adventuresome.... I did read the Omnivore´s Dilemma (sometimes while even have a meat filled meal!) and I have to say I really enjoyed it and really enjoyed reading it in Peru where industrial farming still has not begun. I have been through the markets and seen the chickens, head and feet on, ready for my dinner. Any they were delicious... But seriously, it is thoughtful about what we are doing with our food supply and may make me think twice about what I buy when I am home in the states. I have just stared Cutting Stone and should have an update after my many hours of upcoming travel.
Sorry for the long post. I will try to be a little more frequent on the updates... Hope all is well back home.