Peru

Nazca - Arequipa - Canon del Colca - Cusco - Aguas Calientos - Machu Picchu - Lima - World Map

It is the 26th January 2006 and we arrive in Lima at around 10:00. The hotel that daddy had booked sent a man with a board and a minibus to collect us. The trip into Miraflores was strange with a longish drive along the coast where there appeared a great deal of earth works going on. No idea what that was all about. As we approached the city there were lots of people on the beach and a great number of surfers. I guess the sea is reasonably warm? We are staying in the Ariosto Hotel in Miraflores which is the ‘tourist’ suburb of Lima. After a little nap we rise at around 14:00 and head off for a walk around Miraflores. Just up the road from the hotel is a large classy supermarket but first we go to the bank and ATM. Daddy gets some Soles and dollars. We wander around and find a tourist market type place with some lovely stuff. We didn’t buy anything because it’s our first day but will come back when we are in Lima next time.

First thing in the morning on the 27th January daddy arranges bus tickets to Nazca. It’s a 7-8 hour journey and we will leave at around 13:30. We take taxi to the bus station at 12:30 and muddle through at check in. It really is a bit tricky not speaking any Spanish but we made it in the end. We travel with the Ormeneo bus company and in ‘Royal class’ but it is a bit grim and we don't get any sleep. We get in at 21:00 and there is the crowd of touts waiting as mentioned in the Lonely Planet. We had decided to walk to the hotel which was just a couple of blocks however, we overheard a couple mention they were going there – they were Spanish though, and jumped into the mini bus that was waiting for them. We arrive safely at the hotel and check in to a triple room. The place looks very nice and has quite a decent pool. We check in, have a drink then off to bed.

The next day we wander around Nazca which is pretty much a one horse town in the desert. It is rare for it to rain here although it did spit a bit when we were on our way to the light aircraft airport on the 29th January. We had arranged a few tours from the hotel and plan to stay here until the 31st January. Our first expedition is a fly-over of the Nazca lines. Unfortunately most of the pictures are on video so not included here.

Nazca Lines, gigantic drawings and geometric shapes in the desert soil of the Nazca desert in southern Peru, situated on the arid western flank of the Andes. Some of them are hundreds of metres long. The figures were etched in the stony, waterless Nazca plain more than 1,000 years ago by a culture that pre-dates the Inca. Lost to modern eyes until their rediscovery by a Peruvian aviator in 1927, they comprise stylized likenesses of birds, flowers, lizards, and other creatures. These are intermixed and overlaid with huge rectangles and starbursts of perfectly straight lines radiating from central points into the surrounding hills. Questions about how and why they were made defy explanation and they are one of the great mysteries of modern archaeology.

In recent years, careful scientific analysis of the Nazca Lines has replaced speculation about their original purpose. Some of the more fantastic suggestions have been discounted, including the notion that the lines were built as runways for extraterrestrial spaceships or as ground plans for gigantic textile weaving facilities. One of the early scholars of the lines, Maria Reich, developed a theory that the lines helped the ancient people to study the stars and predict the seasons, as has been suggested for the function of England's ancient stone circle, Stonehenge. However, subsequent computer analysis of the geometry of the lines has found no consistent correlation with sun or star positions.

Anthropologists have turned to the native people of the Andes in their attempts to understand the original function of the lines. The culture of some modern groups incorporates both pre-Christian and modern practices and beliefs. Some ancient rituals, such as the worship of water and mountain deities, are still practised. Today, as in ancient times, water is the key environmental resource for the survival of the local culture. The Chimú, who inhabited the region in the 1100s, constructed elaborate stone and earthen aqueducts that brought water many kilometres from the mountains and allowed farming of the fertile coastal plains. Some of the aquifers ran underground and many are still in use. Some experts on the Nazca Lines believe that they may have been made as altars and processional grounds, perhaps expressing a complex spiritual connection between daily life and the seasonal flow of underground water.

The exact relationship of the lines to natural phenomena may never be known because little evidence of human presence remains besides the lines themselves. The Lines and Geoglyphs of Nazca, and the Pamapas de Jumana, a field etching nearby, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

 

On the 30th January we visited the ancient mummies that are around 1500 years old and were found in tombs in the desert locally. Unfortunately almost all have been damaged and anything of value stolen by grave robbers over the years. The tombs are around 30 Klm outside Nazca so it was an 08:00 start again.

The desert was literally littered with bones and cotton – I think the mummies were originally wrapped in cotton. We return to the hotel at lunch time then head out around town buying a few souvenirs. We also had a few games of pool and I was the winner beating daddy at 9 ball. We pack and prepare for our trip to Arequipa leaving at 22:30. The tickets were 70 Soles each and this time we are using the Tempsa bus company. We leave the hotel at 22:00 and walk across the road to the Tempsa bus depot. The bus is new and the seats much better than with Ormeneo.

It was a much more comfortable bus journey this time and we all managed some sleep. We arrive in Arequipa on time at around 07:00 and daddy calls his friend David who comes and picks us up from the bus depot. We jump in a cab with David and head in to town and to his house. His wife’s name is Flore and they have two sons, Alexander (22 months) and Arran (2 weeks). They have put aside a room for us and also our own bathroom. We have a few cups of coffee then head off into the centre of Arequipa to have a late breakfast and a look around. We eat on a balcony in the Plaza de Armas with fantastic views of the Cathedral and plaza itself.

Top

After a snack David takes us into La Catedral then on to the Monasterio Santa Catalina which is partly open to the public and was / is a convent.

The man on the right is a shoelace salesman who wanders around the streets - he was really funny

On the 1st February we arrange our trip to the Canon del Colca which is the deepest canyon in the world. The trip is two days and one night and cost $20 for each of us. We are collected from David’s house on time at 08:00 on the 2nd February. We are in a decent transit minibus with a group of around 15 including 2 Americans, 2 Italians, 2 French and a family of Peruvians. Of course we lazy English are the only ones that don’t speak Spanish however, Carlos the guide explains everything in both languages. We climb up through a high pass 5000+ metres above sea level then down a bit again to Chivay. Mummy and daddy chew cocoa leaves to help with altitude sickness but I am fine. The symptoms are mainly a headache and difficulty breathing enough oxygen each breath. We take things slowly and are fine. We see many Alpaca and Lama and also a few Vicunas which are protected. The Lama and Alpaca are farmed for their wool and meat.

Top

The views are fantastic and we stop several times at lookout points which of course have the tourist shops, and magnificent views of the valley. The three of us have a slight headache but are fine apart from that. We arrive in Chivay for lunch and all eat in a small pizza restaurant in the main plaza. Our hotel is also here so after lunch we check in.

We rest in our room for the afternoon - it is really cold here in the Andes mountains and we have lots of layers of blankets on our beds. The next morning we leave at 05:00 and continue our tour to a lookout point along the canyon. We are hoping to see some Condors. The views along the way are breathtaking.

We have to return the way we came so after viewing the canyon at a depth of around 1500 metres (the deepest point is over 4000 metres) and being lucky enough to see several condors – a young one circling overhead – we return to Chivay for lunch. Following lunch we head back to Arequipa and arrive back at 17:00. We spend the next few days in and around Arequipa shopping for souvenirs and sending parcels home. We arrange our flight to Cusco and the hotel.

Top

We leave Arequipa at 13:00 and fly to Cusco. What fantastic views from the aeroplane windows as we fly over the mountains. We arrive in Cusco and are met at the airport by Silvia who works for a travel agent connected with the hotel. She escorts us in the minibus to the hotel and deals with the check in. Everything in Cusco is very expensive and most of the hotels are fully booked so we are happy at the Picoaga Hotel which is just off the Plaza de Armas. It is off season but even so, Cusco is very busy with tourists. The majority fly straight in to Cusco and visit Machu Picchu without seeing anywhere else in Peru. The Inca trail - a 4 to 5 day trek to Machu Picchu is closed because of the rains.

Will and Abi, a couple we met in Tahiti, advised us to stay in Aguas Calientes which is the nearest town to Machu Picchu and make our way up to the site itself on an early bus. The busses leave regularly from about 07:00 taking hundreds of tourists up the winding road to the top. If we stay in Cusco then we would not arrive at Machu Picchu until late in the morning along with the thousands of other sightseers. We spend the 11th January arranging a tour to the Sacred Valley for the 12th and train, bus, hotel, entry tickets and guide for Machu Picchu for the 14th / 15th. Silvia is a great help.

We set off 08:30 on the 12th January for our Sacred Valley tour. The weather didn't look too promising for the day with drizzle and overcast sky but luckily it improved. The first part of the tour takes us over the mountains and out of Cusco. Cusco is surrounded on three sides by mountains. At least this time we are only around 3500 metres above sea level so don’t suffer from the altitude. We are on a coach with around 20 others mainly from the US and Canada. We travel for about an hour until we reach our first destination – Pisac – which is famous for it’s Sunday market. In the old days – up until around 10 years ago – the Sunday markets were mainly only visited by local farmers where they would trade and exchange goods and harvest. In the last 10 years more and more tourists visit these markets so they have become a place for locals to sell handicrafts. The market is very colourful and there are endless items to buy. Mummy managed to restrain herself and only bought a few items. I bought a pack of Lama’s and some more finger puppets. We had an hour to wander the market.

We move on for lunch in a place called Urubamba which is really just a village that has turned in to a line of restraints for the coach loads of tourists. We have a good buffet lunch then continue on to Ollantaytambo which is an old Inca city. The views along the way are breathtaking and the weather continues to improve. By the time we arrive at Ollantaytambo it is warm and sunny.

Ollantaytambo is a fortress on a mountain and built in the traditional Inca style – no cement and up to 50 tonne carved and keyed stones that one can’t fit a fingernail between. It really is quite increasable. Mind you, this is just 600 years old and the Egyptians were doing similar 5000 years ago. However, it was an amazing place and the weather really held for us. It was hard work climbing up hundreds of steps especially when it started to get hot and sunny.

Back to the bus and the return to Cusco however, by a different route which took in a place called Chincheros. En route we stopped a few times because the views really were magnificent and unlike anything any of us had seem before.

Ollantaytambo is tourist-ville excess. A lovely little town with a famous church with amazing paintings inside. The ceiling was fabulous. Photographs were not allowed of course but here was the scene outside.

Up early for the train to Aguas Calientos which is the nearest town to Machu Picchu. Sylvia picks us up at the hotel at 05:45 to catch the 06:15 train. The train journey takes four hours. The first part is a zig-zag route out of Cusco and over the mountains. It is Valentines Day and both mummy and daddy had forgotten – well I guess the date hadn’t really clicked until Sylvia mentioned it on the bus. The train journey was fine with fantastic views along the way.

Top

We arrive in Aguas Calientos at around 10:15 are met by a lad from the hotel. The majority of passengers are on a one day visit so gather in groups outside the train station. We walk to the hotel which is a short stroll through town. We put our stuff in the room and straight away decide that we would like to stay an extra day. First we head up the hill to the hot spring pools and me and mummy take a dip while daddy takes the snaps. What an amazing place right in the middle of the jungle.

We then return to the hotel and change before finding a restaurant for some lunch. I manage to find a friendly cat - and a not-so-friendly parrot which scratched my sholder. After we eat we walk through town to the railway station to change our tickets so that we can stay here another day.

Next day, the 15th February 2006, we are up to catch the 07:00 bus. We had thought we would catch an earlier one but the cloud was low 07:00 was fine. It was just a 20 minute bus ride up the mountain on a real hairpin route. We had to climb around 400 metres to the entrance to Machu Picchu. There were very few people around so we had a quick drink and chocolate brownie before entering the ruins. And what a fabulous sight once we entered and climbed up to the old Inca lookout post. The surrounding mountains are covered in cloud so, like the few other tourists already there, we decide to sit down and rest while the sun rises and burns the cloud away. We meet a really nice Norwegian guy named Eric and the 4 of us relax and enjoy the incredible surroundings.

Top

Machu Picchu, Inca stronghold in the Andes, about 80 km (50 mi) north-west of Cuzco, Peru. Located at a high altitude on a ridge between two peaks, about 600 m (1,950 ft) above the Urubamba River, the ruined city covers about 13 sq km (5 sq mi) of terraces built around a central plaza and linked by numerous stairways. The majority of buildings are one-room stone houses (now roofless), arranged around internal courts; some larger structures were evidently used for religious purposes. All are distinguished by engineering skill and fine craftsmanship. The city was discovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham; it is not mentioned in the writings of the Spanish conquerors of Peru, and the time of its occupancy is uncertain. Bingham believed that Machu Picchu might have been the last refuge of Incas from Cuzco fleeing the Spanish invaders, but nothing is actually known of its history.

The cloud slowly burns away and the famous postcard view of Machu Picchu begins to form before us. The sun came out and we all sat there taking in the beauty of the ruins and the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. By 08:30 the cloud had lifted and we stripped down to T-shirts and basked in the sun.

Machu Picchu is a bit lower than Cusco at just 2400 metres above sea level so it was much easier for us to breathe and climbing the stairways was a lot easier although we did take things slowly just to be sure. It was still a hard climb. We had arranged a guided tour as part of our package so at around 10:15 we headed back down to the entrance to meet the guide and rest of the group that was arriving directly from Cusco. We had by this time wandered the ruins by ourselves but wanted to take the 2 hour tour for the information the guide would be able to give. We arrived at the ticket office and had a drink and sandwich while we waited to the prearranged time of 10:45. Well, the two main morning trains from Cusco had arrived in Aguas Calientos by now so there was a continual stream of busses bringing people to the site. There were literally hundreds of people of all nationalities grouping together for their tours. We met up with our guide and the rest of the party and queued to renter the site. There really were hundreds of people of all ages and nationalities. We enter the ruins again with our group of around 15 and head back up towards the lookout post. It is by this time pretty hot and also the three of us are quite tired having wandered the ruins for the previous 4 hours. The line of groups follow each other along and we have to wait as people ahead of us move along and their guide stops at strategic points to explains what is what. We have had enough. After such a lovely peaceful morning with the place practically to ourselves we decide to leave and head back down to the bus stop and back to Aguas Calientos. We did get some fantastic views earlier in the morning with the sound of the distant river and bird call in our ears.

There is a festival approaching which has the whole town of Aquas Calientos excited. The children are all playing with water pistols and balloon water bombs. I have made friends with a girl called Maria and some of the other children living around and about our hotel and we all have great fun getting wet. We throw water bombs at everyone that walks by. This is a picture of the street outside our hotel. There are no cars or any motor vehicles using the road so we are quite safe. Mummy lets me play with my friends and I even go into town with Maria delivering stuff for her mum.

We return to Cusco by train on the 16th February and meet some really nice people sharing our carriage. I do some portrait sketching of the other passengers and we also play games. When we arrive in Cusco we are met at the station by Sylvia and return to the Picoaga Hotel. She has our city tour arranged for tomorrow and gives us our details. It is quite late so we have a pizza for supper then relax in our room before bedtime.

We are off for our afternoon city tour on a coach with about 12 other people. We didn’t really ‘latch’ on to anyone in particular although there was an American family with two (15 and 12) girls and I made friends with Meili the younger girl. We visited several places including the Cathedral on the Plaza and several Inca sights. Unfortunately, most Inca sights were destroyed by the Spanish and many were built upon. The Spanish pulled down what they could and then built churches and cathedrals on to of the sacred Inca sights.

On the 19th February we return to Lima for a couple of days before moving on with our travels. We return to the Ariosta Hotel in Miraflores arriving at lunch time. In the afternoon we walk down to the sea front and I have a go on some of the amusements.

World Map

This page was last updated on: .
© 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006  Daisy, All Rights Reserved.