Wow! What an awesome trip. Totally different than what we expected, but a trip we'll never forget. Peru is a beautiful country in it's own way and a contrast in cultures and geography. While not our favorite kind of scenery, it is lovely, especially if you like the dry desert look.
We had seven days to explore the south of Peru and since it is a lot bigger country than it looks, we had a lot of miles to cover.
We started out in Lima and headed south. We planned to stay the night in Nazca, home of the famous Nazca lines, so we started out bright and early from Lima. And the things we saw on the way were pretty amazing.
The land itself is dry and dusty. I swear, every time I washed our clothes the water almost turned to mud. *grin* Seriously. I've got pictures of the water in the tub and it's almost black, that's how dirty things are on the road.
But it is beautiful. Sculpted dunes and mountains, flat open plains. Barren pampas dotted with cactus and grass. And deserts so empty, it makes your heart ache.
After growing up in the forests of the Sierra Nevadas in California, this dusty, open land was something foreign and at times, almost frightening. We aren't used to so much open spaces and we pondered as we drove... Would Peruvians feel claustrophobic if they wandered beneath the mighty redwoods in Northern California?
Pictures are always helpful, so let me show you what we experienced through the visual medium!
This is what the majority of the Peruvian coast looks like as we traveled south. Sandy, empty and so dry the goats in the hills are giving powdered milk!
Our first stop was in the legendary Huachachina Oasis. Legend holds that the lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess was apprehended at her bath by a young hunter. She fled, leaving the pool of water she had been bathing in to become the lagoon. The folds of her mantle, streaming behind her as she ran, became the surrounding sand dunes.
And the woman herself is rumored to still live in the oasis as a mermaid. This statue is her memorial. During the season the surrounding dunes are filled with sand boarders, dune buggies and sand surfers. We saw a few boarders as we sat at the oasis and had our lunch. It was a beautiful and restful stop on our way to Nazca.
Our last stop for the day were the famous Nazca lines. We couldn't go up in a plane (not enough time to research a reputable pilot, so we'll do that next time around), but we were in time to be able to climb the tower and see what you could from the ground.
It's only three stories high, but you can get up to see a few of the famous lines. Not too well, but well enough!
The tree of life. I think it's upside down. But your guess is as good as mine. What were the ancients / aliens thinking?
This is a little easier to see, especially if you click on it to make it bigger. A guy with hands upraised. Or a guy standing on his hands. You choose.
Our next day we headed down to the tiny town of Chala, Peru. It was a night's stop on our way to Colca Canyon to see the condors. But we had a couple of stops to make. First, we drove into the Andes to see the Pampas Galeras Reserve to see the shy and endangered vicuña. But on the way we were treated to some beautiful scenery.
The sculpted mountains as we slowly headed up into the park. Amazing.
Peruvians love their wayfarer stones. Everywhere we looked we saw them. A few days later we hit the mother load, but you'll see that next week.
We didn't have to go into the park to see the vicuña. All at once, there they were. Hundreds of them. Apparently they were once so endangered there were less than 3500 left in the world. Now, due to extensive conservation efforts there are more than 350,000.
And they are so cute. Even when they are giving you the evil eye. I wonder if they can spit like camels?
And as a bonus, we were surprised to see these guanaco. 90% of these beasties live in Patagonia, Argentina, so we counted ourselves as fortunate to see these.
At first it was hard to see the difference, but guanacos are darker in the face and have less white on the body. Their tails are darker too. You can see the difference if you look at the pics.
One of the best things about traveling is discovering the unexpected. Just past Nazca is something quite amazing. Discovered in the 1920’s, Chauchilla Cemetery is a necropolis consisting of mud-brick tombs and mummified remains belonging to the Nazca people, with interments that date between 200 and 900AD.
After a member of the Nazca culture died, their body was mummified, clothed and painted, then placed in one of the mud-brick tombs that belonged to their family.
Though many of the mummies are at least 1000 years old, many still have skin and hair attached.
The incredible preservation of these bodies is due to both the carefully done mummification process and the dry (arid) environment of the Peruvian desert.
On on down the road we went until we stopped at a VERY tiny resort in the small village of Chala. It was a beautiful place right on the beach. That night we heard seals bark as they played in the surf.
We were the only ones there, EXCEPT for the wedding party that was going on that night. Until 2am. LOUDLY. Did you know that Peruvian wedding singers crooning American love songs can cause copious amounts of drinking? We do. *smile*
We woke up the next day and headed to Colca Canyon, the home of the Andean Condors. It was going to be a long drive, so we started bright and early after breakfast. The sea views were interesting.
And the road. Curvy, to say the least.
How about this for beach front property? It's got satellite! We saw dozens of these types of homes dotting the coastline.
As we headed into the mountains we skirted the outside of the town Arequipa, which we'll visit another day. This is a typical neighborhood in town. We've seen this type of construction over and over again.
On this day we traveled higher than we ever had before. We've hiked the mountains near the Matterhorn, biked through the Colorado Rockies and spent a week in Nepal. But as we drove through the twisting turning Andean mountains, we hit 16,023 feet.
And yes...you can get breathless even if you're only driving through. We nibbled on Cocoa leaves and took ibuprofen every few hours to countermand the effect of high altitude sickness. It worked and we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery we discovered.
So that was the first part of our trip. I'll share the Colca Canyon condors, our adventures on Lake Titicaca, and discovering the beauty of the Santa Catalina Monastery next week! So come on back and share the adventure with me.
Hugs to all!!!!