Santa Semana, Thievery and Colca Canyon

Now, where were we?

That´s right, we had just left Nazca under a hail of bullets. Indie was carrying the golden statue, but when he was hit by the taxi after trying to leap over the local woman selling tapestries, it meant that he was hurt bad. He had been a liability ever since the incident with the butter knife… but that´s a whole other blog.

From Nazca to Arequipa.

We actually left Nazca in a bus, a very plush bus with fully reclining leather seats. (I wish Indie was here, he always liked buses.)

Arequipa is a beautiful, old colonial town and when we arrived it was the start of Santa Semana, holy week, easter week, or, in the parlance of the pagans, time for chocy eggs. This is a time that is taken very seriously in the devoutely catholic South Americas. I mean, who would have guessed there were 14 stations of the cross. I had an argument with one of the very nice ladies that managed our hostal ( read: dignified, white stone, colonial house). I could have sworn there were 12 stations.

We visited a monastery that used to be a 16th Century party house for the daughters of rich Spaniards who became nuns. The nuns had slaves, visitors, artist types and booze for about 100 years until the Vatican sent over a Fire and Brimstone mother superior to clean the place up. (Script for a 16th Century fraternity movie anyone?) Very pretty though:

church 1 c3 fdg cv 

And then on to the Colca Canyon for 2 days. Again very pretty, lots of high altitude and chewing of Coca leaves and the mind boggling site of a condor in flight.

Looking at the canyon:

d uoip jkl-

hanging with the guide:

 ghgk

Those Condor things are so damn big. They are like the zoological equivalent of a B52 Bomber. They don´t really flap, they float on thermal air currents. We saw five I think, and a couple floated by, only 20 metres from the the viewing spot.

We stayed that night in a little hostal managed by little  woman of about 40 who took us on a 2 hour walk into the hills to see some pre-inca ruins. (For those in the know, she reminded me heaps of an older, Qechuan version of Madelin McMahon, she´s the short one in the background)

x 

In the town I was set upon outside a church by some local women getting drunk at 9am for Santa Semana and they cajolled me into drinking their toxic home-brewed spirit from an old 2 litre soft drink bottle, then their kids set upon me for 5 minutes (there was no help from the girls, the guide saved me in the end)

iuñl

I was also told that wearing a large eagle on your head was the height of fashion in Colca canyon, or that it was better to have a bird on the head than 2 in the bush. I can´t remember exactly:

bird

Some more pics of stuff in Colca canyon:

saf dfg y tt and fion next to a bicycle she may or may not have stolen from a child…

67y

Anyhoo. Back in Arequipa, the whole city is kind of buzzing for a week over easter. There are services every night and ceremonies in the city square. And I think it is on Holy Thursday that thousands of people throng the streets as they visit 14 churches in emmulation of the 14 stations of the cross (I know, I thought there were 12 too). So I got blessed a few times, then we went for a drink in a bar as the streets slowly filled with underage drinkers and people eating at street stalls. After a drink and on our way back to the hostal, Maryanne and I popped into one more church for a quick looking. We joined the mass of the devout and squeezed through the doors, had a squiz and when we went back outside, Maryanne realised she had been pick-pocketed. She was carrying a few Euros and here c.cards, so there was a bit of a panick. But luckily we got to spend the next day tied up in some more South American bureaucracy for an hour.

Next, fion and the amazing trek to Machu Pichu.

Love, John

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Lima, sandboarding and Nazca lines

I won´t begin by mentioning the aforementioned bag loss, as we´re just about over it. Really, we´re moving on, know that the most important things are still around etc etc.
So, to Lima. We had heard awful things about the place so we approached with the same sense of anticipation as we had Quito. Although this time it was mixed in with the major excitement of meeting up with one Mezza Twomey and one Maura Lucey. We´d organised an airport transfer (first time having my name held up at the airport – fuh-nee) and were whisked through crazy traffic to a fancy part of Lima called Miraflores. All grand Spanish colonial houses and trees. Not the Lima we´d expected. Mez was at the hostel waiting for us (met Maura at the airport) and it was hugs and beers all round. Now we were a gang!

 hostal

Next day walked down to Miraflores to check out the beach.

 beach

Plenty of surfers and we couldn´t figure out how polluted the water was from our view up on the hill. Miraflores gets covered in a full-on smoggy mist, almost looking like rain. Couldn´t figure out how polluted this was either.
We´ve all agreed that supermarkets are a fascinating place to visit while travelling. The one in Miraflores was hoooge and so bright and exciting. We hung out there a bit.
And then to central Lima, where we were sure we´d find evidence of the horribleness of this city. Alas, we found ourselves grand buildings and squares, a yummy cheap lunch and big Pisco Sours in an old 1920s hotel bar. John and I even visited a black market area to try to find our stolen goods (how sad) and even here the dodgy levels didn´t come close to, say, John´s ever-growing beard (though we did see some ´numchuckas´ for sale). Our experience of Lima was just, kinda, nice.
But onwards bound and it was amazing how quick the landscape turned all deserty heading south from Lima. We were heading to Huacachina, 4km from Ica, a tiny oasis town set around a lagoon and surrounded by massive sand dunes. Sandboarding is the thing to do. Hard friggin´work! I tried to stand up and at most went about three metres before falling on me ass. Or my face. One time i fell forwards and went face first into the sand. I have no idea what my hands were doing, but they didn´t save me.

Then we went on a dunebuggy tour. Crazy fun. Like a rollercoaster on sand.

 buggy

There were seven of us in the buggy and we raced up and down sand dunes, flinging from side to side. Plenty of involuntary squealing and oohing and aahing (not from john ed.).

buggy2 

We stopped a few times for everyone to board down big dunes. Nearly everyone went down on their bellies, and you just zoom! (we have some vids we can email but they are between 5 & 7 meg, so let us know.)
And now we are in Nazca, and today we did a flight over the lines in a tiny five-seater plane. The experience of the plane tried to eclipse that of viewing the lines. We swayed heavily left and right so that we could all see the cool designs on the desert floor. I was glad i´d skipped breakfast. We flew over a dozen or so of the designs (the whale, the monkey, the hands etc etc) plus heaps of straight lines. We´d watched a doco on the lines as we waited for our plane so our heads were filled with all the various theories.
Then in the afternoon we were escorted by a larger-than-life driver (in a very large American vehicle called a dodge) on a tour to the Cemetery de la Chauchilla, containing tombs of the ancient Nazca people. Pretty ghoulish stuff. You look down into about a dozen open tombs and there are mummies in various states of decay sitting in there. They buried their dead in the Springy-squat position (or as the guide probably more appropriately called it, an (upright) foetal position), facing towards the east in readiness for reincarnation. All pretty fascinating, if a little weird perving on dead folk. Lots of little baby mummies too. The graves have all been robbed by bandits, as there´s no security at night – even today.
And now here i am in the internet cafe, waiting for our overnight bus. I´d normally be terrified of an overnighter but we´ve booked a fancy shmancy sleeper, that apparantly allows you to lie right down. And breakfast is served. We´ll see.

Not so good bits: poor Mezzarella. In Lima she sprained her ankle bad and has been hobbling. Then in the past couple of days she´s had an upset tummy and a fluey type thing. She came on the Nazca lines flight but had a little spew (bless her, it was done in a very demure fashion) and has spent the rest of the time in bed. It´s been damn hot in Nazca which can always be a little trying, but we´ve been mostly keeping things nice!

Cuenca, Guayaquil and Peru

Well, we thought it would happen eventually. We knew it would happen. We started to think it might not happen. And why would it happen to us. Then, it did happen.

We waz robbed.

Last day in the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca. I was having breakfast in the quiet hostal where Fion and I were the only patrons. It was our last day.

Fion had gone to the net cafe 3 doors down. I was finishing my coffee and intently reading the Cuba book. I was the only person in the dining area. I had my back pack on the ground against my chair. Because it was our last day we were going to doa blog before heading off. The camera that is usually in my jeans pocket was in the bag. Fions MP3 player with all the photos that I had just the night before sorted into (slightly retentive) folders according to country and city, was also in the bag.

Four men walked into the hostal and asked at the counter about some rooms. I didn’t pay too much mind – happily reading about Cuba. One of the guys walked past my table semmingly looking for a bathrooom, then back tothe guys at the front and they left.

2 minutes later I finished my coffee and grabbed the bag to go meet fion at the net cafe. Of course, the bag was no longer there. Nor was the camera. Nor was the MP3 player. Nor were a few books. They were all in the bag you see.

The day then turned into a bureaucratic run around.

So, now we are in Peru and hanging out with Maura and Maryanne, which is very nice. Trying to apply for insurance over the net. Not very nice.

The guy didn’t even stoop, bend or stop. I’ll be buggered if I know how he grabbed the bag without a sound. I blame the Cuba book.

We are going to the black market in Lima tomorrow. We expect to find our own camera etc.

Love

John and Fion (but mostly john’s fault)

p.s. sorry about the lack of photos in this post, you can understand why.

THEY WONT TAKE OUR DIGNITY (although I do feel a little quesy after that salami today)