Our time in Cusco had come to an end. We got back to our hostel Tuesday night only to double check and realise our flight to Arequipa was an hour earlier than we thought. Whoops. Alarms went off early Wednesday morning and it wasn’t long before we were at the airport. Checked in, bags loaded, the flight took an incredibly fast thirty minutes.
Arequipa airport seemed small, but we were off the plane and had our bags in no time. Now for the hard part, locating a taxi which wouldn’t rip us off. We were totally bombarded as we exited the airport, so we grabbed a drink in one of the cafes, used their wifi and booked an über. Easy. Yet still, the taxi drivers would not take no for an answer. Eventually, we just walked away and finally our über arrived and took us to our hostel. Or, where we thought our hostel was. The house number was right, but there was no signage. So, we walked up the hill for about five minutes before a lady came running after us calling my name. Turns out we were totally in the right place.
Checked in, the two young sons spoke incredibly good English and were so so lovely, helping get our room ready and offering us the TV remote and kitchen whilst we waited. The whole family was lovely. Feeling knackered, a quick nap was needed, which turned into a couple of hours and then we headed to the plaza de armas to find some food. The plaza was lovely. Not as beautiful and stunning as Cusco, but, it had its own beauty. Arequipa is known as the white city, and you could see why by the cathedral in the plaza.
Just up the road were the usual tourist haunts, so we filled our stomachs then wandered round taking in the sights for a while. We pretty much did the same on the Thursday, finding food, casually strolling round the town and visiting a pharmacy to see what ointments they could give me for my chickenpox-like bites, that just do not want to heal. We were due to leave on Friday to move on to Nasca, but they let us have the room all day, so we grabbed the camera and headed out.
Cruz Del Sur was the bus company that would take us to Nasca. We booked the tickets then explored the town some more. There were more churches, the cute little artisan markets we enjoy perusing around,little restaurants on the balcony overlooking the square. It was lovely. Hot also. Whilst we were venturing out, I decided to get my hair chopped off. Both our hair has grown way too long since we’ve been away, so for 40 Peruvian soles, I got about six inches lopped off. I felt so much lighter and cooler afterwards. The language barrier wasn’t even too difficult to overcome!
We were scheduled to get the overnight bus to Nasca, so we decided to sit in one of the balcony restaurants enjoying a drink, people watching as night fell and the cathedral lit up. The wine was totally disgusting so we shared a beer instead. There is a very definitive difference between the day and night temperatures and it got very cold, very quickly. All the more need to buy a new hat! We had booked an über to the Terropuerto Terminal and as he dropped us outside, we had no clue where to go. It’s all part of the adventure right?
Well, the bus terminal was extremely easy to navigate. We got our boarding passes, checked in our baggage and waited until 9pm to enter the boarding gate. It all seemed very similar to an airport. As we queued, a lady was telling us to get our passports out, when we showed her ours, she told us we needed to pay tax. So off I went to the booth in the middle, paid the 6 Peruvian soles and rejoined the queue. Boarding commenced and we took our seats on the top floor. No sooner had 22:15 ticked on the clock, we were served our dinner, chicken and noodles. It was tasty. Almost better than aeroplane food! Almost…
It wasn’t long after 7 that we arrived in Nasca. It was easy to get off, grab our bags and head to the exit. As we walked out, an older guy called our names and we were bundled into a taxi. For free!!! For free!!! It was about a three minute drive to our hostel. Sadly, it smelt of fish, chickens and any other sort of animals. A bit odd really. The host said check in was at 12 but he had a room with three beds in we could sleep and shower. Obviously we obliged but we ended up in our actual room. Weird. Nevertheless, sleep was needed. As comfortable as the coach was, nothing beats an actual bed.
We hadn’t booked a flight over the Nasca lines, as most people do. Sadly, the flight isn’t for those on a budget. Instead, when awoken, our trusty helpful host, told us where we could get the bus from to La Mirador, the watchtower where we could overlook some of the lines. It was an exciting prospect. The Soyuz bus terminal was just across the road from where we’d been dropped at Cruz Del Sur earlier that morning. After paying 6 soles, we were on the bus ready to go.
Twenty minutes later, we got off at La Mirador. It was literally a tower, in the middle of the desert, on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere. All we had to do was cross the road, which was easy. There were even cute little artisanal stalls underneath the tower. It was 6 soles to go up the tower, which we paid, then proceeded to climb about four storeys up. The view was amazing.
From the watchtower, we could see very clearly, the hands with nine fingers, the tree and the lizard. There are more lines out in the desert which you can see by air, but we were happy we got to see a few up close. The largest geoglyphs is more than three hundred metres long and the desert area where they’re drawn became a UNESCO heritage site in 1994. There are some which are just lines and geometric shapes, yet others take the form of animals and plants. The lines are thought to have been created between 500BC and 500AD, and they have been mostly preserved ever since then. Why? How? In the desert, the climate mainly remains stable, with minimal wind and rain. Throw in some minerals within the sand and voila, the lines have remained preserved. Pretty incredible really.
They were first properly studied in 1940 and there are many different interpretations as to why they were made. People used to think they formed part of the inca trail system. The American, Paul Kosok, who was the first person to study them properly, was joined by a German mathematician and archaeologist, Maria Reiche, and together, they believed that the geoglyphs marked the horizon where the sun rose and other celestial events occurred. There are other theories linking the lines to astronomy and possibly the biggest astronomical calendar in the world. If you ask different people what their interpretations are, you will get different answers. All I know, is that these ancient lines and shapes in the desert in Nasca, are truly spectacular, mainly due to the length of time they have been lying there, pretty much untouched.
Just a short way down the highway, about a mile, were a couple of hills that we could climb to see a few more of the lines. Near here we’re the astronaut, the dog and the whale. They weren’t as clear or as close as those by the watchtower, but you could still make out the shapes. The mayans, the incas, the Nasca people, all hold such fascinating history.
After snapping a few photos, we flagged down a bus and jumped on back to Nasca. We got off near where we got on and walked towards the main square, which was for all intents and purposes, slightly disappointing for a main square. It’s clear that people come to Nasca for one thing and one thing only, the lines. We headed back to the hostel to watch the sunset and for some sleep and then on the Sunday, we headed to the Soyuz/Peru Bus station to buy our tickets to Ica. They only cost 12 soles!
The journey only took about two and a half hours and we were dropped near the main plaza. As we exited the bus in Ica, the usual swarm of taxi drivers encroached and in the end we took a tuk tuk to our hostel, Ica Adventures. Or so we thought. The driver took us to Ica Adventures II, not that two was mentioned at any point when we showed him the address. Clearly about to get ripped off, but with no other option, we paid another 10 soles for him to take us to the actual location. Or near it. The hostel had no signage so we were pointed to it by a man gesticulating madly across the road from it.
Once we were in, to the owners house it appeared, we needed food and wanted to visit Huacachina. We were miles out of town so we started walking before flagging down a taxi. It only cost 4 soles to get to the mall so our previous tuk tuk driver properly ripped us off! Stomachs full of papa johns, we then got a tuk tuk to Huacachina for another couple of soles. This was like a desert oasis in the middle of this sandy, dusty town. There was a lake, with palm trees, surrounded by towering sand dunes, which saw people dune buggying and sand boarding. Around the outside were hostels, souvenir shops and restaurants. In hindsight, it would have been the best place to book a hostel for! Whoops!
Huacachina was beautiful. It only has a steady population of one hundred, but receives thousands of tourists each year. Some claim the mud even has healing properties. Out time in Peru was almost up. Another tuk tuk took us back to the hostel, where we repacked ready to catch the bus back to Lima. We caught the 10am Soyuz bus back to Lima on Monday and as usual, it took a few hours longer than anticipated, mainly because of the horrendous traffic as we approached the outskirts of the capital. A quick visit to KFC and the bakery for our horrendously early flight Tuesday and we were all set for our quick pit stop in Chile.
Until next time…