Peru is very geographically diverse . So far we have only explored a small part of the Southern region but we have seen dense green forests, beautiful rocky Pacific coastline, very large lakes, enormous deserts and dunes, deep gorges and endless flat baron planes.
These features along with the great cities and warm hospitality make it a really great place to spend some time.
The maximum stay you can obtain on the border is 183 days in a 12 month period. We were lucky enough to get this and think that we will be staying to its limit.
Cusco and Machu Picchu were fantastic and with a bit of sadness we left this region in the direction of Nazca the land of huge desert drawings on the flat planes.
Sometimes you have to to pinch yourself when visiting these places. I can clearly remember as a teenager reading books by the Swiss fantasist Erich Von Däniken, who had wacky theories regarding the creation and purpose of these lines, and now I was actually going to see them.
Maybe if we were lucky we might even see some Alien Spaceships dropping in for quick pit stop.
We will come back to the lines a little later.
The deserts large town of Nazca near the Pacific coast was the centre of the Nazca culture that existed for about 900 years declining in 800AD. The whole region is an Archaeologists dream and new structures and artifacts of this culture are constantly being revealed.
The actual town of Nazca isn't the most exciting place but its location makes it a good to visit the archaeological gems in the region. Along with our good friends Annaelle, Mauricio, Jan and Anja we stayed at Camping Wasipunko Ecolodge just outside the town. The rather eccentric lady who owns it has, over many years, filled the site with interesting collections of various items ranging from kids toys to large diesel engines and sculptures. The whole place was like a museum to recent history being guarded by two large Peacocks with terrorist tendencies.
It was good to simply relax, playing games and eating too much. There is a traditional cooking method in Peru using an earth oven called Pachamanca.
It involves heating up lots of large round stones in a fire then placing them in a pit in the ground. On top of this you load on your meat and vegetables then cover the whole area with large leaves and earth.
Four hours later its all ready to eat . We have seen this cooking method used in Chile called Curanto.
Throughout the whole of this Andean region you will hear the name "Pachamama" used all the time. "Pachamama" ( Earth Mother ) is the ancient godess of fertility and prosperity. She is also responsible for the successful harvests, flooding, climate and other natural occurrences that effect daily life.
In view of this most of the indigenous people are constantly paying their respect to Pachamama in the form of sacrificing animals or offering small gifts to her.
For example if a local has a good crop then a small proportion of it is offered up in thanks in an effort to secure the next crop. A poor crop would obviously indicate a lack of respect.
We even saw locals who having opened a bottle of beer automatically pour a small amount on to the floor as a gift . After the meal was cooked we were all invited to make an offering in the form of Coca leaves . It clearly worked as it was cooked to perfection and tasted wonderful
We visited the ancient burial site of Necropolis de Chauchilla which lies about 30Km south of the town . It was unearthed in the 1920's and due to the incredibly dry conditions the occupants and their clothing are extremely well preserved . Now I must warn you here that the following photos are a little scary, but its probably too late as you have already seen them.
Although possible to camp overnight here I didn't really fancy it.
The ancient ceremonial city of Cahuachi was a great but somewhat lonely place to spend the night. Situated many km into the desert the site is totally deserted at night.
The famous Pan American Highway ( Ruta 1S ) runs directly through Nazca and connects it with the the town of Ica which lies approximately 150km to the North.
This major highway literally cuts through the famous Nasca lines. Sadly it actually completely bisects one of the images. Apparently the road was created prior to the images discovery.
This large collection of "geoglyphs" show images of various animals such as a hummingbird, spider, fish, llama, jaguar, monkey, lizard, dog and a human as well as trees and flowers.They were created by scraping away the top layer of soil revealing a different earth below.
There are many theories as to what these lines actually mean and what purpose the had. My moneys clearly on alien interaction.
Viewing them is best from the air but failing this you can get a small glimpse of them from a viewing platform.
Now I have to say that I was in fact a little bit under whelmed by the parts we could see.
Ica is a very touristy town in the middle of the desert. Its existence relies on its natural fresh water lake at Huacachina making it a veritable oasis.
The huge dunes have become a location for desert based activities such as sand boarding buggies and even skiing on sand.
Despite being a bit tacky we did have some fun
The coastal " Paracas National Reserve" which is shown in green on the maps, isn't.
However, it was great place to go to chill out after the crazy few days in Ica It gave me the opportunity to have a go at driving over the dunes in the knowledge that Jan and Anja, in their large truck, were right behind me . Getting stuck on your own in these regions could be an big problem as you are very remote with no form of communication so travelling with the others was comforting.
Luckily we didn't get stuck but Mauricio and Annaelle did on several occasions
Parking anywhere you want miles from civilisation is simply heaven for most Overlanders.
This is an area that we will probably return to in the new year as The Dakar Rally route passes through it.
I want to finish this post with a short video created by our dear friend Mauricio. We think it sums up the essence and attraction of overlanding.
Don't forget you can see more photos and our route using the link at the top of this page Hasta luego
the last year we crossed paths with many travellers who are heading
south and for some reason we both felt that we had subconsciously been
fed some negativity about Peru. Subtle
comments like "When you get to Peru they all drive like idiots" and
"Wait until you see the bad roads and the rubbish in Peru." etc
we entered Peru from Copacabana about 5 weeks ago now and I have to say
that so far we have not experienced anything negative at all . In fact I
would be as bold to say that it is becoming a real highlight for us and
we love it here.
geographical and archaeological features are amazing. The towns are
really pleasant and the people have been very warm and friendly
there is an unacceptable amount of rubbish on some roadsides and the
some of the drivers cause you to hold your breath , but it is no worse
than Bolivia or other parts of this continent we have visited.
last post left us on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. The other
part of the lake is in Peru and this was the first area we set off to
Our first destination was the village of Llachon. The
local people here were extremely welcoming. We were constantly waved to
by the old women who work in the fields and the local children. It was
really nice to get such a warm reception .
here we booked a small local boat, captained by Freddy , to take us
visit the Uru community that live on a collection of small Islands made
from cut Totora reeds. Traditionally
these people would live on these islands only venturing to the shore to
trade with their land living cousins the Aymara . Nowadays technology and tourism have reached them and they have adapted to their new found lifestyle. Now
I could tell you it was fantastic and wonderful and the Uru people
lived an idyllic healthy life living off fresh fish and sunshine. Sadly this wasn't our complete findings and I think we both left these island a little bit shocked and saddened. Firstly
the Uru we met all looked really unhealthy. Their complexions were
really poor and all of them had swollen limbs and fingers. Sugar plays is a major part in the diet here in Peru, especially with the poorer indigenous people such as the Uru. Both
the adults and the children on the island appeared to be constantly
consuming it. The kids had huge bags of sweets and always had a mouth
full of sugar . I
can't help thinking that the increased contact and interaction with the
outside world has had a slightly negative affect on these folks . Putting
all that aside they were very accommodating and appeared pleased to see
us. One lady showed us how the raft was built and constantly
maintained and how the Totora reeds that grow in abundance on the lake
are their life blood . They eat them, build islands and shelters with
them and use them as fuel.
night we camped on the shores of the lake at Chifron Beach. Around
midnight we were woken up by two drunken locals on their motorbike. Well
after about half an hour talking to Pat ( I stayed in bed ) through
the small window in our toilet they soon gave up and left us in peace.
Not sure what they wanted but this was the first time we have been disturbed in this way. Leaving
the lake we headed in the direction of Cusco, the capital city of Peru,
stopping on the way for a night in the large canyon at Tinajani.
route to Cusco we stopped in a touristy layby and one of the girls on
the stalls had an Alpaca with her. Now don't get fooled by their cute
appearance, underneath that cuddly exterior is an angry spiteful beast. It
was here that I had a lucky escape. This vicious creature lunged for
me, but luckily I managed to leap out of the way leaving it only one
remaining option . Bite Pat.. Phew that was close .
Quinta La La became our home for the next 10 nights in Cusco. The owner
Millie was delightful and she had lovingly been storing some truck
parts for us in her living room for about the last 5 months. Cusco
town centre was really nice and we were lucky enough to meet up with
our old friends Jan and Anja and Mauricio and Annaelle again. The restaurants were great and the weight was soon piled back on .
were lucky enough to be there for Halloween . The Plaza was full of
thousands of families all dressed up. The spooky theme appeared to be
secondary , just getting out and dressing up in you favourite outfit was
the order of the day. The atmosphere was fantastic. I think we could learn a lot from these events back home.
is seen by most travellers as the gateway to one of Peru's major
archaeological gems ... Machu Picchu, which sits about 100km directly
North West . However, its nearest access point by road was actually
about 250 km from Cusco. There are several ways to get there . The first is hike for 4 days along the Inca Trail directly from Cusco.
second is to drive to the nearest point at the Hydro electric plant
near Santa Teresa , leave the vehicle and walk 15km to the remote town
of Aguas Callientes, and then either get a bus or walk to the gates of
the attraction and return the same way either the same day or stay
overnight in Aguas Callientes. And
lastly get a luxury train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Aguas
Callientes, taking in the views and a nice breakfast, then get the short
bus ride to the mountain top city. Its
at this point that I would love to say we loaded up and walked the Inca
Trail. However, we didn't, we got the train from Cusco and very nice
it was too. We did waive to several weary looking walkers as we passed
them, whilst drinking a glass of wine.
We stayed over night in a local hotel and the next day , in perfect weather, set out for the the city in the sky.
Machu Picchu was a big event for us . We have always wanted to see it
and at times along our journey to get here we felt that it was always
slightly out of reach. Now call me a softy but when we got there and
stood on the viewing area looking down at the ancient city I really felt
quite emotional. I was so proud of Pat for getting there .
Little bit of history and culture time
Picchu sits at about 2450 meters above sea level in the Eastern
Cordillera Mountain region of Southern Peru above the Urubamba river. This Inca Citadel was constructed in the mid 15 century and was a major city in the then ruling Inca Empire. This
Empire at its peak covered most of western parts of South America
spanning from Columbia and Ecuador down to the bottom of Chile. Sadly
the invasion of the Spanish saw the Inca empire rapidly diminish and
eventually die out. However, evidence of its existence is apparent over
most of the Pacific side of the continent. After
the city was abandoned it was left mostly unattended and over the next
400 years nature consumed it , completely hiding it from view.
1911 an eminent American Explorer called "Hiram Bingham " was
searching the region for the " Lost city of the Incas" when he
discovered the overgrown Machu Picchu. Believing that he had found his
goal he organised the clearing and restoration works to begin. It is however, now widely believed that the location he was looking for was in fact the nearby city of Vilcabamba. The restoration is still ongoing to this day and in 1983 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Incas were great Builders and Architects . Their love of steps is still very apparent throughout the region. However,
unlike many other ancient civilisations of this period, it would appear
that they hadn't mastered or found use for written text, so most of the
assumptions that are made about their culture and civilisation come
from preserved paintings, pottery and textiles.
The Sun played a huge part in their religion and culture and 300m above the city sits the Inti Punku or Sungate.
night we collapsed exhausted in our hotel room and the next morning
woke up wondering how to spend the day as our return train back to Cusco
wasn't until early evening.
we didn't have to wonder for too long, having received a phone call
from our friend Anja telling us that Jan had fallen ill and they needed
me to drive them back to Cusco in their truck from the Hydro electric
Plant. That afternoon I took the train to their location and we set of on the slow overnight journey back to Quinta La La. Pat however, in true team spirit, got the luxury train and had to endure nice food, fashion shows and a visit from the devil.
Thankfully over the next few days Jan made a full recovery.
We left Cusco heading for the regions of Nasca and the coast.
Don't forget you can see lots more photos and our route on the aptly named "Route and Photos" page of this blog