It's been a few days since we have had a chance to grab a seat in front of a computer (probably a good thing), so I will try to fill you all in on what we have been up to in the last few days. We started our Intrepid tour of Peru on Friday. We all met in a small hotel in Miraflores (a suburb of Lima). There are 13 of us in the group, and we all get along really well. The group is a really well balanced mix of people and ages - mostly Australians, and some Poms.
The first day comprised a short walking tour of Lima, which took us to the San Francisco church and the catacombs underneath. Laura and I had already seen the catecombs during our week in Lima, so passed and instead decided to check out the church, which was closed when we visited the first time.
One thing we noticed imediatly (on attempting to make our local payment), was they hate, and will bluntly reject any US notes that are even slightly damaged. This is a real pain, as the banks and ATM's dish them out freely. The result was we got stuck with a couple of spare US notes that are very difficult to pass off to anyone. Oh well... lessons learned. I'm sure the europeans won't be as picky.
Anyway, we left Lima in the afternoon and headed south for Pisco. Pisco was recently (back in August) devostated by an earthquake, and around 600 people were killed. Unfortunatly the city is still in rouin so there is not too much to take in here (from a tourists perspective).
Pisco is the city that gives its name to Perus national drink, the Pisco Sour (as you may have read, we have enjoyed a few of these). Pisco is made out of grapes grown in the Pisco region. Its essentially a distilled wine, and varies in potency from regular wine at about 12% to a very hughly distiled alcohol at about 60-70%. Pisco sour is made with a form of Pisco that sits somewhere in the middle, and is mixed with lemon or lime juice, sugar syrip, and egg white, which is all blended together. The egg white gives it a frothy head. Its then topped with wither bitters, or more commonly cinnamon. Its rather refreshing on a warm day. Traditionally its intended as an aparatif, but is commonly drunk at any time (by us at least :))
From Pisco, we took a short bus ride down to the coast - passing a number of fish processing factories on the way (pin pointing the source of the strong fishy smell in the area). From a small coastal port we took a fast boat out to the Paracas islands. These are a set of small islands just off the coast which host heaps of bird life and sea lion colonies. On the larger of the islands was a huge candelarbra figure etched into the side of the mountain face - this was pretty impressive to see, and gave us a tast for what we could expect later in Nazca.
From the coastal port we began heading inland for Nazca. The landscape in this area is essentially barron desert. Its very arrid, and not many features except the odd tree, and mountains on either side.
We stopped in at a desert oasis on the way to Nazca for lunch. This was litterly exactly how the cartoons picture them - it's the middle of the desert, sand dunes for miles, then as you come over the top of one, you can see the other side, and instead of more sand, there is a small lake and some lush greenery with a hotel and some shops surrounding the lake.
We had the option to sand board here, but considering the head, and my previous experiences with large sand dunes I decided against it, considering we had a further 3 hours to Nazca. We didn't really feel like sitting on the bus full of sand. It would have stuck to everything considering how hot it was.
So we settled for a light lunch, a few cervasas (beers), and a walk round the oasis instead.
We headed off to Nazca after lunch. Again more desert that was only broken up as we approached Nazca, and had to start going through some small mountains. This was pretty exciting after a few hours of desert. Comming into Nazca, we stopped at a roadside tower on the Nazca plains to observe some of the famous Nazca lines. Not a great view but gave us a taste.
Our hotel in Nazca was pretty nice - air con, pool, etc. It's actually been the best so far.
Last night we headed out for a meal and a local Peruvian show, which featured some native dancing, as well as an Andean band, which was pretty great. I had the Ceveche - a Peruvian specialty of raw fish marinated in lemon/lime juice and viniger (which sort of cooks the fish on the outside, and presumably kills any nasties?). It was quite nice - would definatly have it again.
Today we took a (very small) plane (3 pasengers) to fly out over the Nazca plains to see the lines from the air. This was great, a little nerve racking at times, and neausiating, but definatly worth it. Just as we were about to head back, the lady in the front (also from our tour group) popped... projectile vomiting all over the side window and panel in front of her. The plane was definatly too small for this. The smell nearly set us off in the back seat, but we managed to hold it together and got back in one piece - although our stomachs were a little sturred up.
Tonight were waiting for the overnight bus (about 11pm) to pick us up and take us to Araquipa. This is where we will start getting into the altitude, so light meals tonight and no grog...
Anyway, looking forward to whats to come.
Love you all