Peru – A land of sand and sea
Crossing into Peru was a fairly painless process, we got our passports stamped and had some time to spend the last of our coins from Ecuador before our trusty yellow truck was ready to leave. Right away we noticed a difference from Ecuador, the land seems drier and there is rubbish everywhere, but still has a unique beauty.
We stopped in the beach town of Mancora for a few hours to get lunch, change money, and wander along the very touristy streets before heading 30km out to Punta Sol. We spent 2 full days at this beach paradise, doing very little besides relaxing and swimming.
Our next destination was Huanchaco, another little surf town, but filled more with local tourists than foreigners. We had ceviche and fresh fish looking out over the beach where fishermen still use small boats made out of reeds.
From here we went to the Chan Chan ruins, supposedly the largest mud city in the world. Built before the Incas about 2000 years ago the sheer size of the place was impressive. Our guide was lovely, serenading us at times with his panpipe, and he congratulated us all on being travellers. He said that the reason we travel is because we have so many questions.
We also visited the moon temple, built during the same time as the ruins, but only found by accident in the 1980s. Sand had buried the pyramid structure, leaving much of the painted walls protected. The temple was apparently used as a place for human sacrifices, they found many decapitated skeletons and pottery showing pictures of the rituals.
That night we pitched our tents by the sea on our way to Lima. The wind picked up and when Luke went to check our tent to peg it down it was gone, blown into the sea, sleeping bags and all. Luckily a few guys helped him pull it out of the surf and our truck friends supplied us with spare blankets. I was a bit upset, but had to laugh in the end, nothing was damaged, just very wet and salty.
Lima, Peru’s capital, is a huge city with terrible traffic. Luke and I were unfortunately a bit unwell during our visit here, the tummy bug that had been plaguing our fellow travellers caught up with us. At 3 weeks into our trip we are all quite comfortable discussing the consistency and frequency of our poo, and it’s a high five for a solid one. Needless to say we were very happy to have our own room and toilet for 2 nights!
We did venture out into the city a bit, had a look at some old buildings and checked out a nice craft market.
Our last couple of days in the Peruvian desert were action packed. We drove to the beautiful oasis town of Huacachina and went out in dune buggies, which was a very fun and sometimes scary experience. They stopped at 4 different dunes for us to slide down head first on a little board, also very fun (and a little scary for me). We were then driven out to our campsite for the night where a bbq was waiting for us. It was a great night sleeping out under the stars.
In Nasca we met up with a local archaeologist who took us out to see some of the ruins of the Nasca people. He showed us an elongated skull that still had bits of hair left on it that was just laying out in the sand. There is still so much of this area that has been undiscovered due to lack of funding, but our guide feels that more study of the people who lived here could perhaps better explain the mysterious Nasca Lines. Many of the ancient graves have been robbed, and like the skull he showed us there is no one to protect them. We also visited a cemetery that had many preserved mummies.
Luke and I decided to do the 20 minute flight over the lines, which is really the only way to see them properly. There is a tower that you can climb up but to really grasp the magnitude and geometry of the lines they need to be seen from above. Some of the lines go on in a perfectly straight line for miles, and others form shapes of animals. While we were both very impressed, we were also quite sick as the tiny plane leaned from side to side to give us the best view. Worth it, but perhaps with an antiemetic first.
From here we head inland and back up to higher altitudes in the Peruvian Highlands. Not long now until we tackle the Inca Trail!