Peru/Chile Part 2 Nazca Arequipa

 The bus ride from Lima to Nazca seemed surprisingly quick, though it was about 7 hours.  On board the bus we watched movies, read books, slept a little and watched the countryside.  There was even an onboard Bingo Game and Tessa won a bottle of Pisco (the famous alcohol of Peru).  This is where our luggage started to expand.   Once we arrived in Nazca we found a tourist agency, ironically called Alegria Tours, and purchased tickets for the flight over the Nazca lines.  The tour company agreed to hold our bags, then took us to the airport, where we watched  a short video on the history of the Nazca lines.   At first we were reluctant to leave our bags, but we couldn’t take our heavy backpacks and suitcase with us, so contrary to what the Lonely Planet guide says, we trusted them and left our stuff. 

Some history on the Nazca Lines. 

In 1901, a Peruvian archaeologist discovered the remnants of the Nazca culture.   This culture existing from between 900 BC and 600 AD was unique from the other coastal peoples primarily by their distinctive advanced pottery, and the Nazca lines.  The Nazca lines, discovered in 1939, are a series of  drawings and lines, picturing such things as spiders, monkeys, condors, that can only be seen from the air.  They really can’t be seen at ground level, and it’s only when you get in the air that you can see how they all interconnect.  The big question, if you can only see them from the air, why did they make them when they couldn’t see them and how could they see what they were doing?  I had heard about the lines before and was really excited about seeing them, but I only thought there were 3 or 4 figures, but there are actually hundreds of drawings, made by removing the reddish desert stones, piling them up on either sides of the line, and exposing the lighter dirt/sand to show through.  

We piled into the small 6 seater plane, Tristan in front with the pilot, Dan and Tessa in the middle and I in the back.  I hadn’t stopped to think before that I could get airsick like I did last time I went up in a glider.  I just hoped the ride wasn’t going to be too rough.  It was a little.  First, it was hot.  Extremely hot in the plane.  My face was dripping sweat hot.  Second, there was a little turbulence in the late afternoon, the morning flight is supposed to be much smoother.  Third, the pilot would be flying level, then we would cross over the object, for example the whale.  He would then yell “Whale” in broken english and bank the plane sharply.  So the ride kind of went like this. 

Fly level. Turbulence.  Sweat   “Monkey!”   Bank  90 degrees.  Fly level . Turbulence .  Sweat.  “Monkey Upside down!”  Bank 90 degrees.  Sweat.  And so on.  You get the idea.  Thank goodness we took the guidebook advice and hadn’t eaten before we went!

Dan turns to me and says “Tristan is getting sick.”  His head was rolling  back and then plasters itself against the window.  A few minutes later Dan says “Tristan’s asleep.”    Same with Tessa.  So here is one of Tristan’s dreams, to go up in a small airplane and he falls asleep.  Well, Dan and I stayed awake to see the Whale, Monkey, Tree of Life, Astronaut (also called the Owl), Condor, Hummingbird,Spider and a few others.  We enjoyed it, but mercifully it ended after about 30 to 40 minutes. 

Bottom line, I’m glad we did it.  If we would have passed it up I would have felt like I missed something.  But truly, this is one instance when you could probably got as much out of it by looking at the brochure.

spaceman-nazca-2  Astronaut or Owl

whale-nazca  Whale (Upside down)

monkey-nazca  Monkey

tree-of-life-nazca1 Tree of Life

hummingbird-nazca  Hummingbird

hands-nazca Hands

condor-nazca  Condor

tristan-in-plane-nazca Tristan on the plane

After the flight, we went to get our bags and they said they would hold them for us until our bus left that evening.  Very nice.  So we walked into town, ate a late lunch, and decided how we were going to spend our time waiting for the bus.  It was 5 pm and our bus didn’t leave until ten pm.  We walked downtown to the Plaza de Armas, sat on the bench and people watched for awhile.  Everyone smiled at us.  It was  a friendly town.  They seemed very curious about the kids.  I guess they haven’t seen many American families.    As it turned dark, we headed to a cofffe shop to get an expresso and ice cream for the kids.  On the way, the kids played in a bouncy house set up off the square.  That was a nice treat for them.   Later, at the coffee shop,  a Taiwanese couple started talking to us.  They had just moved to Pennsylvania, and were on a 2 week tour of Peru.  They were going to hike the Inca Trail.  We spent the next few hours tallking to them, while Tessa sat outside talking to the coffee shop owner and playing with his dog and new kitten. Later we retrieved our bags from Alegria Tours (everything was there) and boarded our bus to Arequipa.

I thought we might go right to sleep but the bus was playing a movie, so we all stayed awake for that.  At six am the next morning we pulled into the bus station at Arequipa.  We didn’t really have an idea of a Hotel, we had a few ideas from the Lonely Planet.  There was a tourist desk there and we asked him about the hotels we were thinking of and he suggested the Posada de San Juan, near the Plaza de Armas.  It was a little more than than the one we were thinking of, but it included free transportation to the hotel, and had free computer/internet. 

The hotel was nice and let us have a very earlycheck in.  Our room was on the top floor  which ended up being a suite with a double bed and TV in one part and 3 single beds and TV in the other section.  Outside our room was a patio, and a great view of the volcano El Misti. 

tessa-reading-on-the-bus  Tessa reading on the bus

Our first priority was eating, so once we had showered, and changed clothes, we started walking around town.  After eating at a corner chicken place we found a pharmacy and bought some altitude sickness pills and some dramamine.  I was worried about getting motion sickness from how fast the bus drivers drove on the winding mountain roads, and Dan was worried about getting altitude sickness as we were headed to Colca Canyon the next day, and the passage went over 16000 feet.

 One tour we took was the Museo Santury.  This museum holds the remains of the frozen bodies of Inca children left as sacrifices on the summit of Nevado Ampato over 500 years ago. The most famous body is Juanita, as she is perfectly frozen, not a mummy, but frozen with most of her skin and all of her nails and hair. Unfortunately she was off display until May 1st, but we did get to see another little girl that was discovered in the mountains around Arequipa.  They are held in a special sealed glass freezer, which still holds pieces of ice.  It’s fascinating.  The Incas made several sacfrifices of female children to the mountain Gods.  The most beautiful girl would be chosen and the trip would take over 2 months, climbing to the top of the tall peaks.  They used no special equipment, only sandals on their feet, chewing Coca leaves on the way for altitude sickness.  What I can’t imagine is what must have gone through the minds of these young girls.  And what about her parents?  How did they feel?  Yes, it was deemed an honor, but to knowingly send your child to death?  The reason for the sacrifices?  The Incas had a premonition of something bad coming.  They thought it was from the Mountain Gods, but it really was the premonition of the Spanish coming, and wiping out their civilization.  An entire civilization.    

In addition to the sacrifices, we learned how advanced the Incas were, especially in the field of medicine.  Mothers used to save the umbilical cord from their babies birth and feed some to the child if they bacame badly sick.  Sounds like stem cell doesn’t it?   I always find it amazing the long and winding road it takes our medical science to get back to some of the natural cures that have been around for centuries!  We all left the museum deeply affected.

Later that afernoon I started feeling sick and we went back to the hotel.  I was in for the night.  The kids watched TV while Dan sat outside talking to 2 Canadian couples and an Australian woman named Diane, who had been living at the hotel for awhile.  The kids started getting hungry later,  but I couldn’t keep anything IN, so Diane took Dan and the kids on a tour through downtown.  They brought back pizza and cheesecake which they enjoyed but I couldn’t eat.  I was worried that I would be sick for the tour the next day to Colca Canyon.

Sure enough, I was.

Pictures from Lima and Mira Flores

mira-flores-2  Mira Flores

cathedral-at-plaza-de-armas Iglesia de la Merced

 

presidential-palace-in-lima  Presidential Palace

 

monostario-de-san  Monasterio de San Francisco

Peru and Chile Part 1 Lima Peru

    We returned late Saturday from our one month adventure to South America, namely Peru and Chile.  We had an amazing time.  Coming back to the heat, after having great fall weather is hard.  I for one have not gotten use to the heat yet and am very tired.  I’m finally able to update the website for our trip.  Peru and Chile had good inter net, but we forgot the device that allowed us to upload the pictures and I had to wait until we returned.  So, sit back, take some time and I will take you through an incredible journey.

It started about mid April.  It was around Easter time, and we were still enjoying Aruba, but started to look for a weather window to leave.  Walking down the dock one day, we passed a guy working on his anchor.  I asked if he was headed to Colombia and he said no, he and his wife  had just returned from Chile and Argentina.  They had been gone a month and left the boat here.  That stopped me short.  You could do that from here?  Dan and I had talked about doing a land tour from Colombia, but we had never thought about leaving from Aruba instead.  His name was Mike, from the UK and a few minutes later his wife Ineke (Australian) joined the conversation. They had a great time.  The year before they had left the boat in Curacao and toured Peru and Chile.  Their trip had started when they were hauled out in Curacao and Ineke asked Mike “You want to go somewhere?” and off they went.  I was dumbfounded.  That never even occurred to me.  We met with them again another night over sundowners and they showed us their pictures and told us of their adventures.  They had no plans when they left, they travelled on buses and went when and where they wanted to.  Their enthusiasm was so contagious. Could we really do that?  Later, when Dan and I were seriously discussing it, he asked me why I wanted to do this.  I replied “Because I want to be like Ineke.  Did you see her face light up when she talked about their trip?  How she just said one day why don’t we go somewhere?  I want to live my life like that, really living, not being afraid to say yes.  I want to be her.”

So in a very short time we had decided on Peru and Chile (originally Peru and Bolivia but it would cost over $500.00 for a visa into Bolivia), borrowed the Chile guidebook from Mike and Ineke, got our own Lonely Planet guide for Peru, and went shopping for socks. Our preparation for the trip was a departure from how we would normally prepare to go somewhere.  The old us would have had to have a plan, knew exactly where and how we were going every step of the way and would have bought all new stuff to take with us.  Instead, we made flight reservations to fly into Lima Peru, and arbitrarily picked flying back from Santiago Chile a month later.  The only other plan we made was to have a hotel waiting that first night as we would arrive at 1:30am. 

Once we made it official, we had less than a week to prepare.  The  Marina agreed to watch our boat for us, come in everyday, air her out and check the systems.  No charge.  We love the Marina! For packing, we would only take 1 backpack apiece, and 2 very small rolling suitcases (small enough so that if we were stranded somewhere, we could easily carry them).  While I started preparing the boat to be left for a month, Dan and Tristan went shopping for “comfort items”.   What they bought:

2 cheap (but nice) 24 inch rolling suitcases     Wet Wipes   earplugs (Mike’s suggestion as the movies on the  bus can get really loud)    blow up neck rolls for everyone  (really came in handy sleeping on the bus)      2 sleeping bags for us  (Again suggested by Mike and  as the bus can get very cold.  Tristan and Tessa used their polar fleece blankets from the boat)       Band Aids       Toilet Seat Covers (nice idea but outside of the hotel, most toilets in Peru didn’t have seats)      Snacks       Peanut Butter/Jelly       Journals (everyone had one)       Lots and lots of Ziplocs in all sizes    Lonely Planet Peru guide       socks       Tennis shoes for Tessa   A heavy jacket for Dan   A  heavy jacket for me    Rain Ponchos (We had no idea what the weather would be like, only that we should miss the rainy season but were headed into their fall)     New backpack for Tristan    2 small cheap daypacks   garbage bags

Everyone understood that it was important how/what they packed as they  had to carry it.  Our backpacks were filled with    A blanket/sleeping bag    wet wipes/antibacterial wipes,   toilet paper,  a towel   books to read   journal   electronics  (such as IPODs or Tristan brought his PSP and Tessa her Nintendo DS)  camera  (I carried the underwater camera and the underwater video camera and Dan carried his Canon)   Snacks  (I carried the peanut butter/jelly combo)    A total change of clothes inside a ziplock bag    earplugs  neckpillow   aspirins/band aids (the usual)   Tristan put himself solely in charge of the guidebook    The Spanish phrase book and a Spanish dictionary   a few garbage bags   A bottle of water

The two rolling suitcases held the rest of our clothes,  basically 4 underwear apiece, 1 or 2 pair of pants (Tristan and Dan had the zip off pants that turn into shorts. That worked really well)  1 pair of shorts each    4 pairs of sock each    1 pair of flip flops each 2 short sleeve shirts and 2 to 3 long sleeve shirts each

After a brief set back of the toilet being plugged and Dan having to run a new toilet hose to the outside of the boat (one part involved all of us pulling on a hose full of you know what!)  we were ready to go.

We had a short layover in Bogota Colombia, then landed in Lima Peru about 1:30 am.  After the initial excitement of actually being in Peru (I couldn’t stop saying “We’re in Peru!  We’re in Peru!”)  the first thing we noticed was the quietness.    Sure it was early in the morning, but even at the baggage claim, everyone was really quiet, the airport was quiet.  After getting our bags, and locating the driver the Hotel was nice enough to have waiting for us as a free service, we headed into the foggy night. 

Hotel San Antonio Abad was actually in Mira Flores, a short drive outside of Lima.  It was an older Hotel, built more in the style of a huge house, with a wide mahogany staircase winding up to our room on the third floor.  Our accomodations were the first of what would become typical of our trip, a triple which means 1 double and 2 single beds, and breakfast.  The room was too warm at first, luckily by morning the air conditioner had kicked in.  This was a surprise as we were expecting it to be colder.

Breakfast that morning was again typical of what we would later see.  Traditional Peruvian breakfasts consist of bread and jelly, maybe some fruit or fruit juice and coffee.  Luckily this Hotel also included eggs.  Breakfast is our kids favorite meal and this was going to be a problem going forward.  After our late meal,  Jose  our cabdriver from last night agreed to give us a tour of the city for $10.00 US total.  That was a no brainer.  Even though the city is on the Pacific Coast, air pollution is bad, due to the over 8.2 million people who live there and the heavy traffic.    Driving in Lima reminded us very much of driving in Santiago, Dominican Republic.  Cars drove everywhere, in oncoming lanes, not paying attention to traffic lights, people in the middle of the road trying to sell things.  We knew we were going to like it here!!  But in the midst of all this chaos, traffic and people, the one thing we noticed was the QUIET.  No loud horn honking, no music blasting, no one even talking loud, just quiet.  It was weird.  And it was hot.  Unexpectedly so.  We were 12 degrees below the equator, this was their fall, but it was warm.

Jose took us to the center of the city, to the Plaza de Armas.  Every Latin Country has a Plaza de Armas, sometimes more than one, and that’s where you want to be.  It’s generally in the center of the city, and is a huge open square, with park benches, lovely trees, sometimes fountains.  It’s an oasis of beauty and peace in a bustling city.  At  noon we sweated in the hot sun watching the changing of the guard at the Palacio de Gobieno, the residence of the Peruvian President.  Afterwards we walked past a few of the cathedrals and eventually took a tour at the Monasterio de San Francisco. Unfortunately, as in nearly every museum or church we toured, we couldn’t take pictures. We were never quiet sure what they were trying to protect.  Perhaps the unseemly excesses of the Church?

 The draw at the Monasterio,  in addition to the museum of religious art, and the library of antique books dating back to the 1500′s, was the catacombs.  Buried beneath the monastery are the bones of over 70,000 bodies, organized by bone types.   For example there was an open  crypt of skulls, an open crypt of leg bones and so on.  The catacombs were narrow and winding and in some places a little dark, not to mention the musty underground smell.  It’s definitely not the place for anyone who was claustrophobic.  And who was buried here?  The rich and famous.  The idea was that the closer the burial to the church, the closer to Heaven.  And how did you get this prime real estate?  Money.  Lots of it to the Catholic Church.  More on that later.

Alex, our guide was very nice and spoke good English.  He filled us in on some history of Peru and their not so friendly relation with Chile.  He had the look of what we came to know as the more indigenous Peruvian, perhaps a lineage to the Incas, darker skin, and amazing hair.  In fact, that was one of the first things we noticed about the Peruvian people.  They have thick beautiful hair, and both the men and women are equally proud of it.  The women keep theirs in long braids, while the men all have fashionable haircuts.  In our study on the Incas, we learned they really loved their hair and in fact each Inca ruler had his own unique hairstyle, a tradition carried forward over 500 years.  We also learned there had been a backlash against the darker skin Peruvians generally considered peasants, by the whiter, fair skinned mestizos (people of mixed indigenous and Spanish descent) who tend to be wealthier and hold higher positions in society.  All I can tell you is that the people of Peru are very good looking.  The indigenous women, even the ones high in the mountains, with no makeup, carrying a baby, lugging around a huge pack of things to sell, are BEAUTIFUL. Perfect teeth, perfect complexions, perfect hair.  They are obviously living right.  One Peruvian told said it is because of the Coca Leaf that most people chew for altitude sickness.  While banned in the United States, it is filled with vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and is good for altitude sickness.  It seems to be good for the teeth as  the Peruvian people, male and female, have the most beautiful, genuine smile we have ever seen. 

After the museum, we headed over to a travel agency to see about a bus to our next stop, Nazca.  The agent was very helpful and we were able to get tickets on a bus leaving at 7 am the next morning.  The plan was to leave at 7 am, arrive in Nazca around 3 pm, fly over the Nazca lines.  Instead of spending the night in Nazca, we would board an overnight bus leaving Nazca around ten pm and arriving around six thirty am in Arequipa.  The bus we would be taking was a double decker bus.  The fully reclining seats in the VIP section were full for both trips, so we would be on the upper level with seats reclining to what they referred to as the “Semi Cama” or semi bed position.  The Lonely Planet guide had horror stories of bus jackings, robberies and kidnappings on the Nazca to Arequipa overnight leg, (which of course Tristan had read about) so I was very nervous, but the ticket agent assured me those things were in the past, and this bus did not make any stops, so I felt better.  Besides, Ineke and Mike had gone the same way and they had been fine, and this was one of the top of the line busses.   On the way back to the hotel we had Jose drop us off at the boardwalk in Mira Flores.  We ate dinner on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, watching the surfers.  Dan says the coast here is very typical of a California coast, with high cliffs overlooking the beach.  It was very beautiful but we’ve seen enough beaches for awhile.  After a great meal topped off by our first Pisco Sour, we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

 mike-and-inneka1  Mike and Ineke

 

lovers-park1  Lover’s Park    Mira Flores

 

 

The exchange rate at the time was around 3.05 Peruvian Nuevo Sols to $1.00 US dollar.  Our 4 tickets from Lima to Nazca cost us around $88.00 US total and the 4 tickets on the overnight bus from Nazca to Arequipa cost  $107.00 US total.

Bad Behavior has blocked 166 access attempts in the last 7 days.