A Travellerspoint blog

Peru

Ica - Paracas - Ballestas Islands - Lima

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.


View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Christian told us yesterday that breakfast is served from 06:00; this was also confirmed by reception last night. It is a shame nobody told the restaurant. At 06:00 there are a few items of fruit, but not a lot else. I like fruit, but we do actually have American Breakfast included in the price of the room, so it is disappointing to miss out.

Carlos drives the mini bus to Paracas. We are four now, plus Miles of course. At Paracas we board a boat that is already crammed to capacity with Germans. We manage to squeeze in right at the front behind the wind shield. This turns out to be a blessing in disguise as we are out of the wind. The seat is not wide enough however and I’ve got nowhere to put my left leg.

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On the way we pass the prehistoric geoglyph called 'The Candelabra'.

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Isla Ballestas more than make up for any discomfort though. Billed as a mini-Galapagos, they certainly live up to their reputation. The rock is porous and the colourful strata are showing in many places, the cliffs are craggy and there are lots of tunnels, coves and ‘bridges’.

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The main attraction of course is the birds: boobies, shags, oyster catchers, cormorants, terns and others. Not to mention penguins, it is rather unusual to find them this far north.

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Blue Footed Boobies

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Humboldt Penguins

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Shags

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Inca Terns

The sea lions manage to get high up on the rocks – how do they do that? In one cove there are hundreds of sea lions crawling over each other on the rocky shore. We name it ‘the nursery’ and the noise is deafening, like an out-of-tune rock band. The sea is full of little sea lion heads bobbing up and down around the boats and the birds fly in formation low over the water. Colourful crabs dot the rocks.

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We get up to try and take photographs while the boat is moving and at one stage I manage to sit on a German woman’s hand. Result! (I’m not vengeful. Much.)

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Back at the Paracas Hotel we take lunch with Bobby, an English travel agent from Seattle in the US. The menu is partly in English and partly in Spanish. I am feeling adventurous and order something from the Spanish part. I can understand the word Chicken, and it has Paracas in the title so it is obviously a local dish. I am not disappointed. The chicken breast is stuffed with prunes and ham, wrapped in spinach leaves and served with a caramel sauce. It is delicious, easily the best meal so far on this journey. The hotel is another large resort with a swimming pool full of loud Norwegian women and a disgusting beach.

The return coach is not as nice as the one we came down on, but as we are only eight passengers we can spread out. Three more get on at Paracas Bus Station. Marcello is waiting in Lima to take us back to hotel La Castellana. We are concerned that Bobby’s driver is not there to collect her. Marcello makes a few phone calls, and he turns up just as we leave. I do like a happy ending. The hotel is still musty.

Both Marcello and the hotel receptionist recommend Pardo Chicken for dinner. This restaurant is just along the road, and is themed for Halloween with spiders on the waiters’ shoulders and skeletons along the wall. Halloween is big business in South as well as in North America and all the shops and restaurants have decorated their premises accordingly. Although essentially a fast food restaurant, it is quite rustic and full of large groups of local youngsters. I know we should not eat salad abroad, but I have never been one to take heed of such warnings, and yet again order Caesar Salad for starters. A meal in itself (even though we ordered one to share between two), I am full up by the time the enormous main course of ribs arrives. David’s chicken nuggets are smaller but equally tasty. With four beers we are not unhappy about the bill for £15.

Walking back to the hotel the long way round through the glitzy shopping streets, we feel perfectly safe. Despite the uncompromising security measures everywhere, the only threat I feel is from my stomach. I am beginning to wish I hadn’t had the salad. I only just make it back to the hotel before the salad says its goodbyes.

Posted by Grete Howard 05:16 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima - Ica

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.


View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We leave the hotel just after 06:00 for the short journey to the bus station. Compared with Bristol Bus Station, this is wonderful. It is much more upmarket, in fact it is more like an airport, where you check in at a desk, you are given boarding cards, and your luggage is weighed and taken from you to be loaded on to the bus separately. We have seats numbers 4 and 5, and I worry that they are not together. I also worry about a four hour cramped bus journey with my hand luggage on my lap and my knees firmly embedded in the spleen of the person sitting in front. I worry too much. The reality is that the bus is much better than any bus I have ever travelled on in the UK. The seat configuration is 1-2, and there is more leg room than the average aircraft Business Class. A leg rest comes up from underneath your seat and a foot rest from below the seat in front. There is at least 6” to spare between my knee and the seat in front. Both I and the man who occupies that seat are pleased about that, although he doesn’t know how close he came to being kebabed. The seats are comfortably wide, hot food is served (though I never figure out what it actually is), the toilets are segregated by gender, the hostess is friendly and I am very contented here.

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The passing view is what I expected from this part of Peru: favelas and dry sand dunes. Last night Lima was so much more modern than I remember from 12 years ago, I expect this is what they call progress. Today we are travelling on the Pan-American Highway along the Peruvian coast. Here and there we catch a glimpse of the cliffs and the Pacific Ocean beyond, and we get very excited about seeing a large bird soaring above. Could it be a condor? Much discussion takes place between the passengers about the bird. There are only about 8 of us sitting upstairs in the front part of the bus, all foreigners. Another two locals occupy some seats nearer the back, but I don’t think there is anybody downstairs at all. Can this pay? The fare for a four hour journey on this luxury bus is £4 each. Later, more of the large soaring birds appear, and we realise they can’t possibly be condors, they must be vultures. How disappointing.

The bus stops right by the door of our substituted hotel. Las Dunas is a large resort and has its own grand entrance for the bus to use. Most of the passengers are getting off here, all but the two Peruvians. Christian meets us, and he is also looking after two women who are not travelling together. We have some time to settle in before we are being picked up again, and once we have dumped our bags in the room and the valuables in the safe, we set about exploring the resort. It is very nice but not my taste at all. There is one thing guaranteed to put me off a hotel: piped music by the swimming pool. We are only here for one night and I don’t intend spending any time by the pool if I can help it, but this is where the rich families from Lima go for their holidays.

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The facilities are fairly impressive, with lots of sports available in or from the hotel. We opt for a Dune Buggy adventure and try to book it with the pretty young girl on the desk. Her English is marginally better than my Spanish and together we make each other understood. With her hands she motions that there are three levels of this activity: fairly flat, a little more up and down and very adventurous. We choose the latter. She is rather surprised as most people prefer the gentlest option. Not for us though, the more adventurous the better!

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The transfer to the Las Dunas Aerodrome takes five minutes; I have never stayed at a hotel with its own airport before. It’s a cool place, all cane and thatch with open sides. Free soft drinks are laid on and they show a disastrously bad video of the Nazca Lines. Maps of the various drawings are explained and presented to us by the cartographer – at a (small) charge of course. I have harboured a dream of seeing the Lines since I read Eric Von Daniken’s book some 30 years ago, and I can’t believe I’m finally here. Last time we came to Peru we missed this excursion after the flight from Iquitos was delayed 24 hours, so now that we are almost passing on our Around the World trip we decided to ‘drop by’ and overfly the Lines on our way to Santiago. The Nazca Lines are our only reason for being in Peru – I hope they are worth it.

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Several people have warned us about being airsick on the flight. The pre-departure information we received from Stuart suggests that we don’t have breakfast today. We did have something to eat this morning, partly because we forgot, partly because we are not in the least concerned about suffering from motion sickness in the air; we have both been on many flights in light aircrafts and even taken an aerobatics flight! Why should a two hour journey over the Peruvian desert be any worse than doing loop-the-loop and flying upside down over the Devon countryside?

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The aircraft holds six passengers, and I am beckoned to sit at the front. Just to reach the Nazca area is a 30 minute flight, with nothing much to see. The air in the cabin is stifling hot, but I have a draught on the right side of my body which will probably give me a stiff neck.

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Once we reach the drawings, we circle around each of them so that people on both sides of the plane can see and photograph each one. The first one is the Space Man that inspired Von Daniken to write his book.

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We see the spider, the hummingbird and the monkey, all very familiar to me from various books.

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The Parrot

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The Bird

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The Condor

I am awfully excited to be here but as the plane tilts left and then right an overwhelming feeling of nausea overcomes me. I swallow hard and try to concentrate on the representations below. Two more drawings and we are on our way back. I am not sorry to be flying on a level again, but the feeling of queasiness will not leave me. I feel a little better if I close my eyes, and I try to move my face to be in the stream of fresh air. I must look totally contorted with my head at an odd angle, my eyes shut and constantly swallowing. I feel such a let-down and disgrace that I can’t even partake in a short flight without feeling sick. How embarrassing. I decide not to mention it to anyone.

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The Spider

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Never before have I been so pleased to get out of an aircraft. I descend from the cockpit and wobble my way across the tarmac, only to be confronted by five other green faces. We all look at each other sheepishly, no-one wanting to be the first to admit that they are feeling ill. Sitting in the front, I didn’t see any of this, but the man behind me spent the entire return journey with a sick-bag on his lap, and every time we leant over to one side in the plane, he would scream and cover his face with his hands. I don’t feel quite such a fool now that I am not alone. We are told that Coca Mate tea helps with the unsettled stomach, but none of us feel any better for it. Those who had not eaten breakfast do not feel any better than those of us who did, so bang goes that theory. Maybe we will feel better by having some lunch? After a sandwich, chips and the local Serveza I feel almost normal again.

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The hotel is right on the edge of the desert, and has its own enormous dune for sand boarding. I reckon the man in the hire booth sees us coming and realises we are complete novices. I am sure there must be faster boards available. Ours hardly move at all, making it too much like hard work. David climbs right to the top of the dune; I make do with the half way mark. Even Miles doesn’t succeed – we put him on the board and push the board down the dune. It moves three inches. We give up sand boarding as a bad job and look forward to the Dune Buggy instead.

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The buggies are VW Beetles without the body work and all three of us are strapped in safely, Miles and I in the back, David in the front with the driver.

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This is more like it! The dunes are high and very steep and we go up at angles I didn’t know a car could go at. I know we have a very low level of gravity, I know the driver is an expert, but I’m still terrified! He will drive up an impossibly steep dune, and just before he reaches the top he will turn round and slide back down again. Or, he will go over the top and we can see nothing the other side as the low sun is straight in our eyes and the ground seems to literally disappear in front of us.

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My throat is sore from screaming, but I love every minute of it. At times we appear to take off, and at one stage I bounce off the seat and my bum lands on the moving wheel. Ouch! The driver, although he can’t speak a word of English, appears to get pleasure from our obvious enjoyment and drives even faster. We reach the top of a dune and the other side there is an enormous drop at a 45º angle and we have no other way to go than down. I scream ‘no’ at the top of my voice, but to no avail. We’re already sliding down at a great speed.

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What a relief to reach the bottom. This is rather exhausting, and we stop for a break to admire the view. Bad mistake. The buggy has sand in the carburettor and won’t start again. Thank goodness for mobile phones. Another buggy comes to the rescue and we swap vehicles. I can’ fasten the seat belt on this one, and I really don’t feel safe going over the biggest dunes while not strapped in. I therefore suggest (in my best Spanish) that we return to the hotel over medium grade dunes only.

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Check out David's video for a better view of the dune buggy (and pathetic sand boarding)

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The hotel offers a free internet service so we check our inbox before dinner. David receives a rather worrying message from his boss about redundancies in Service Delivery. He is assured that it does not affect his department at all. This time. Dinner is not included but there is nowhere else around here to eat so we have to dine in the hotel. Tonight they have a buffet, but as neither David nor I are particularly fond of buffets, we order from the menu. It turns out to be a good choice, not just because the food is delicious, but we later find out that the hotel charges for each item you choose from the buffet. I have never come across that before. My jumbo prawns in garlic are yummy and David also really enjoys his Fillet Mignon.

Getting undressed for the night, David notices the most enormous bruise on my thigh from where I made contact with the buggy tyre. It really is very spectacular, the best bruise I have had for a number of years. How disappointing it is in a place where it won’t show. Actually, I think I was probably very lucky it didn’t damage my trousers or puncture my skin – it could easily have been much worse. No photo (un)fortunately.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:39 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Toronto - Miami - Lima

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.


View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

At Toronto’s Terminal 3, the check-in staff do not normally weigh the luggage, only if it looks heavy. Ours obviously doesn’t. They have a strange system here: even though we have checked our cases in and been given our luggage tags, we still have to take our bags with us through Duty Free and Immigration. This is not the Canadian Immigration, but US. Only the Americans would have their own immigration in another country. Through Customs, still carrying our check-in luggage. Finally we arrive at an unassuming conveyor belt where our bags are sent to the plane. We and the hand luggage go through X-Ray. Inside there are no shops, just one small café. This is very odd and quite frustrating as we have three hours here. We have just enough Canadian money left to share a chicken wrap and an apple juice. I suppose we are technically in USA now, so we could probably use US$. I have the runs again – the chilli comes out just as hot as it went in. When we finally board, we do so by Groups as specified on the boarding cards. I suppose Americans can’t understand row numbers.

American Airlines do not serve free alcohol, so I pay for a couple for Bacardi & Cokes. They also do not serve food on a three hour flight over lunchtime, so by the time we get to Miami, I am very hungry indeed. We go for a pizza and a beer. Good, but it means we are too late to purchase any Duty Free as it has to be picked up at the gate. For the next flight between Miami and Lima, I am welded into to an exit row seat where the arms don’t lift, for five hours. It doesn’t really matter, as I sleep most of the way. I miss the dinner but at least the Bacardi & Coke is free.

At Lima airport there is a long queue for immigration. Our cases arrive amongst the last, but at least they do arrive, unlike those of the Explore Group who we see in the arrivals lounge. For Customs you have a Russian roulette button to press, deciding whether you proceed through Green or Red channel. We draw the short straw, but there is only a cursory check. Marcello is waiting with a car to take us to the hotel through the appalling traffic and some crazy driving. After several near misses I am grateful to arrive at the hotel in one piece.

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The La Castellana Hotel is in complete darkness at 23:00, and the gate is locked with barbed wire on top. Marcello tells us this area is safe, then why all these security measures and all the armed guards on the various buildings we pass? Stuart Wicks, the manager/owner of our agents here in Peru, Tucano Reps, is waiting for us in the lounge. He goes through the itinerary with us, but I feel he is really not on our wave length. The hotel in Ica has been changed, apparently to a better one. La Castillana here in Lima is a quaint, colonial place, but the room is dark and dingy with a musty smell. Even though it is late, we make time for a Bacardi & Coke before going to bed.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:42 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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