Monday, 17 January 2011
Peru pt I: Lima, Hacachina, Pisco
With as much of the touristy things done in Quito as possible, it was time once more to head to the airport. This time deciding not to leave our tense finger nail marks in the upholstery of a Quito taxi cab we opted for the bus. This seemed like such a good idea the night before. Of course, that was before we awoke to torrential rain… and who knew that the Quito rush hour started at 6:00am! So as we squeezed our very wet bags and bodies on we we’re given the death stares by our fellow passengers. No amount of ‘como esta?’s was going to disguise our gringocity(?). the icing on the cake was to be told that our flight had been delayed due to bad weather… and again … then again. Our flight to Lima eventually left mid-afternoon instead of 9:00am. But people have suffered much more than that at airports so I won’t dwell upon it… right, let’s get to Lima!
We had been very helpfully informed by fellow travelers and friends that Lima is not a great place to stay longer than necessary and if es necessario then Miraflores (south of Lima city) is the place to be. Armed with this knowledge, we took a leap of faith and booked into a really nice new hostel, which was owned by a young VERY enthusiastic Peruvian, Jean Carlo. We were shown to our room which was lovely, huge squishy duvets (like clouds) and new beds… but no door! Anyhow with us moved in we asked where the black market was (for those that haven’t visited, South America is like one big black market… they’re everywhere) as at this time this little Toshiba Netbook had died big time (during a Windows™ update… coincidence?) and Tim had managed to save it once then it just decided enough was enough and gave up for good, so what Dr Tim had deduced from this was that it needed a new hard drive, now he had been learning the correct pronunciation in Spanish for “ I need a new hard drive for my broken computer, please” it goes something like… ‘es necessario comprar una disco-duro por la computadora, por favor’ thankfully the hostel owner had to take some of his fake DVD’s back to the market as they didn’t play (can you imagine?) and would take us with him to help us get a good deal and avoid getting fleeced or mugged in the process.
So, when the time came we got a crazy bus into the centre of - even crazier - Lima, as we drove by we we’re very thankful for the accommodation tips, getting out in the middle of a busy street we quickly marched through streets to get to the market… which was huge! If you ever come to Lima for a holiday, a)you crazy and b) bring an empty suitcase: fake shoes, trainers, t-shirts, watches, DVD’s,but also computers, iPods, iPads… actually anything. Such a shame my bag was already full to bursting (andmy bank account the opposite). So whizzing up and down the lanes of stores we eventually came to the computer section (computadoro section) (which itself was massive). Jean Carlo helped with the translation but what we were finding was that tourist tax was being added, so we took a back seat and let JC do the talking and bargaining and when we had a price that was good for us and shaken on Tim went in with the computer and cash. It was very funny to see the look on the sellers face when we realized he had sold to a gringo at a non-gringo price. So with the deal done, hard drive fitted into Tosh and Tim secretly happy to have time to play on the machine and make everything right once more. We left the market via the fake DVD store to get the latest American block buster in full poor quality recording.
Now the weather in Miraflores was, now how can I put it? Sh*t! We had been spoilt for so long in Ecuador with the hot sunny days, we were now having to delve down to the bottom of our rucksacks and find socks, a fuller shoe and even jumpers. In the morning I went for a run to explore our surroundings, staying far away from the not-so-nice areas and following a lovely path that runs high along the sea front, a nice place to run until a man - who looked like a Peruvian Keith Allen - decided to follow me on his bike while whistling and jeering at me until I managed to lose him (when I went off road). I would later find that running in South America is not fun as it is a free for all to the men to yell and jeer at you and in some places even give you a slap on the arse! So back to the hostel Tim is still fixing Tosh, with the help of the loveliest little
puppy who belongs to JC… sweeeeeeeeeeeeet! I manage to tear Tim away to view our surrounding such as they were we walked along the high path through the Lovers Park, watching the paragliders doing their thing of the cliffs, I
played on the monkey bars, hadn’t done that for some years and it hurts your hands don’t you know! We decided we’d had enough of the grey skies and needed to get out of Miraflores and find some sunshine before we both got S.A.D
That evening we chatted to Alex who is one of the most informative and helpful hostel staff I have ever come across, he told us where we needed to go for our next stop to the sun and even hailed us a cab in the morning and got us dropped off at the right bus station as there are a few. Really, without exception, the guy was the most friendly and helpful we’ve met in ten months of travel. With our tickets in hand we boarded our first Peru tourist bus to Ica which was surprisingly comfortable; a trouble-free journey along a rather barren (but increasingly sunny) highway. We got to Ica and jumped in a taxi to take us to Huacachina for some sand-boarding fun.
We found our hostel with relative ease - not hard as Huacachina is a small village (not even that, but you have to describe it somehow) that is built around a lagoon (two streets which don’t even completely make it around the small lake). It was very much how you might picture an oasis in the desert (only with slightly dirtier water and more souvenir stands).
Weather is typically hot by mid-morning and the many palm trees wave gently in the breeze. Here we played in the sand dunes, I sunbathed by the lagoon, Tim played with Tosh. Come late afternoon (its just too hot before) the lagoon is filled with the sound of unsilenced V8 engines roaring from minimally framed buggies.
We donned our sandy snowboard boots and boards and jumped into a sand buggy that took us at break-neck speeds through the dunes. It was so loud and fast we loved it.
Our first stop to board we were handed a candle, yes your normal white candle and told to draw on the base of the board, this done we strapped on and headed down the slopes… really s l o w l y ! You only moved a few meters and ran out of candle from the heat of the sand. We tried it again by this time I managed a turn or two before coming to an abrupt halt. Seeing the rest of our buggy-group flying down the dunes (on their belly) made my mind up to quit the snowboard and grab a sandboard which is just a plank of mdf really with Velcro, you use your candle on the base and just lie on your belly feet up and you get pushed off and go really fast, it was brilliant. Tim persevered with the snow board and managed to go a little further and a tad faster each time but it was too slow for me. Whizzing to our final sand dune to watch the sun go down was a lovely end to a super day.
Back in time for a burger from the Rock Bar, (we had been told about this place by a nice couple we met in Miraflores) Tim was in his element, it was like his play list of “ROCK” (she means METAL \m/ - TM) every song that came on brought a smile to his face and the comment, “ I love this one”. The burgers were excellent too and all named after different ROCK bands, I had the Metallica, (it came with avocado!) and I believe Tim had the Iron Maiden. Around this time we also had an email from Letty saying she was leaving Ecuador earlier than expected and did we fancy meeting up in Huaca? Mais oui!!
Huacachina is such a fun place, probably our most relaxed place in South America; when not running around dunes we kicked back at the pool or ate some of the best food we'd experienced for ages! But with things to do, places to go things to see etc, and the knowledge that we would be coming back soon to meet up with Letty we left the lagoon and headed to Paracas...
... which doesn’t have much going for it and the giant metal penguin at the sea-front did little to improve the outlook.
But it still draws many a tourist because of the nearby Islas Ballestas - known as the poor man’s Galapagos and as we had time to kill before meeting up with Letty, we thought we’d see what it was like and now we know… it’s like a poor man’s Galapagos. There are many animals but they're not quite so 'special'.
It didn’t help that it was a really early, cold, grey morning to be getting on a boat with 100’s of other people who had been buses in from neighbouring towns. There were some cool land marks,
by this I mean marks in the land that were made by the Inca’s that looked like a massive candelabra on the side of the mountain. What they lacked in quality, they madeup for with quantity... the shear numberof birds was staggering as was the cacophony... and occasioanlly the smell. We saw penguins and sea lions and so many birds, I even got poohed on, which I still don’t find remotely lucky. The weather cleared up as we got back to the hostel. As we checked emails and where to go next we got a message from Letty saying she had left Ecuador but would take a few days to reach us so this made up our minds where to go next, we would head back up to Huacachina but with enough time to go via Pisco.
So with this in mind we grabbed our bags and managed to find a collectivo heading in our general direction, we squeezed on. Tim got the big bags in and I went long, to the back with the smaller bags and the translator speak and spell so I would be able to ask where we need to get off in PIsco. Thankfully it was without too much hassle we got dropped off at our hostel. Now we knew two things about Pisco
(1) it was pretty badly shaken up in the early 1990’s by a massive earth quake and as we walked around we came across remnants of this, we would be on one street that was all new and clean with trees and benches then one road over it still had tour up roads and rubble buildings. The church was still standing but the roof and steeple was at a jaunty angle so they had built a new church hall next door. We walked around the city taking in the culture and trying not to get run over by the tuk-tuks that have some lovely graphics on them I find it very hard to believe that they are actually sponsored by Nike, my favourite was a Thunder Cat one.
(2) Pisco is the home of the Pisco Sour (though many other places make the same claim). this is a concoction of rum, lime and egg white, which don't seem like a winning combination (even for someone who doesn't hate eggs like me). Anyway we went to a nice restaurant for dinner and decided to try one, with my egg thing I thought it would be kill or cure, in my mind I was thinking it was just like an uncooked meringue…and it was, but really alcoholic, my legs went wobbly with the first sip through the straw and I didn’t throw up so a result all round.
Special Note: as a travel gift, my friend Neil bought us a travelling water-filter which has been used on many occasions during our travels (tap water being largely undrinkable to us everywhere above Argentina) but we never think to photograph it... until now. So this is Katy in our room in Pisco, making the undrinkable drinkable. Cheers Mr H!
The following day we squeezed into a dinky car, thinking we were going to get robbed as the LP bible always tells you never share your taxi with other people and as we pulled off we were joined by a young guy on the back and a businessman in the front seat, this car was the size of an old fiat, but pimped up with some beautiful upholstery and tinted windows, thankfully we didn’t get robbed and were dropped off on the road where we would catch the bus back to Ica then onto Huacachina to meet our lovely Frenchy.
Arriving back at Huacachina was nice, we booked into a different hostel with a pool and small cabin rooms for us, we had a chillax day before Letty was due to arrive so I relaxed by the pool after a lovely long run into town where I got honked and jeered at by the tuk-tuk drivers they have wolf whistle horns on their trusty steeds…good grief! Apparently I should feel flattered, I just wasn’t getting it.
Anyway we found a lovely restaurant called Bamboo, which is run by a nice Cornish lady, Beth who does fabulous food especially the Thai curries and the deserts. Delicious indeed, we spent quite a few evening there… as well as breakfasts… and lunch…
Letty arrived the following day it was so nice to see her, she had finished her kite boarding course in Santa Marianita and was ready to move on and have more fun, so we booked in for another sand boarding session that evening. We all decided to go for the sand board over the snow board combo and go for speed…it was another sunny evening when we got whizzed along, Tim had kept the helmet camera from our Canadian snowboarding days and had it strapped to his head. Letty loved the belly sand boarding as did Tim; he agreed it was much more fun with the speed.