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Nazca Lines

From Huacachina we took a taxi back to Ica to catch a bus with Soyuz to Nazca; the tickets were 12 soles each and the ride was 3 hours. As I had missed out on seeing the Nazca lines when I was in Peru back in 2008, I was determined to now incorporate them into our trip.

We arrived in the town of Nazca at around 11am and headed of to the Inti Wuasi hostel, which we had chosen ahead of arriving. The hostel though turned out to be just ok, it is still being constructed and the place does not live up to the leaflets. However, we were tired and the location worked for us so we stayed the night.

Welcome to Nazca

Upon checking in we were offered a flight of the lines for the same day, but the price was too high for us. So after about 20 minutes of going backwards and forwards with the price we settled on $100 each with a discount on the room too.

We hurriedly got some food and were picked up within half an hour and taken to the airport. There, we paid our tickets and airport tax of 25 soles each and waited for a further half an hour to take the flight.

One thing we noticed about the airport was that there were several flight companies there, we are not sure if it would have been cheaper to go directly to the airport and haggle for a flight but as we wanted to move on the next day we took the easy route this time round.

At 1pm we boarded a small 4 seater plane. Note that prices are tier based, the smaller the aircraft the higher the price as it flies lower for better views, so always make sure you check which aircraft it will be. If you take the higher flight you will probably struggle to see the smaller lines.

Nazca lines - the whale

Nazca lines - the spider

The flight lasts for around 30 minutes and it does not matter which side you sit on as the plane does a loop around each set of lines. The plus side is everyone gets a good view, the down side is if you suffer from motion sickness it will kill you, as it did me.

Nazca lines - the hands and the tree

Nazca lines - the astronaut

In total there are 14 sets of lines to see in varying sizes, but unfortunately I only made it as far as number 5 – 6 before my motion sickness claimed me. Luckily, they are used to this and provide bags for such incidents. One thing that made it worse was the heat. We were flying at 1pm and the aircraft was very hot, so that mixed with the constant twists and turns really got the better of me!

Nazca lines - the humming bird

If you suffer badly from motion sickness it may be worth going to the viewing platforms instead. It may not be as great as you only see a set or two but at least you wont get ill.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Huacachina Oasis

From Pisco we decided to go and visit the oasis of Huacachina, located next door to Ica. We took a bus with Soyuz for 4 soles each and an hour later we arrived in the city of Ica. From the bus terminal we jumped into a taxi for 7 soles and were in Huacachina less than 10 minutes later.

We had been referred to the Salvatierra hostel and after taking a quick look we checked in for the night. We then headed out to take a look the oasis. Unfortunately, we were not overly impressed with what we saw. We knew it was going to be small, but we had not expected it to be that small!

Huacachina oasis - view from sand dunes

There is basically one road around the very small lake where most of the accommodation and restaurants can be found. From here there are literally a couple of small side roads and that’s it. The whole thing is pretty as it is surrounded by huge sand dunes, but to the say the lake area is a “summer resort” is really pushing it. Another thing that hit is how unclean the lake area is, we saw bottles floating in the water and the old changing room area is littered and smells.

Huacachina oasis

On the plus side, if you climb the dunes you get views across the desert and if you make it up to the top for sunset you can experience the sun setting over the oasis and surrounding sand dunes, which is really pretty.

Huacachina - desert around the oasis

Huacachina - sunset over sand dunes

We stayed the night as we had already paid but to be honest the whole thing can be done in a  couple of hours, including a lunch. There are 2 activities that you can do in Huacachina, sand boarding and taking a ride in a dune buggy. Again you could easily incorporate these activities as a day trip.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pisco, Ballestas Islands and Tambo Colorado

We took an overnight bus with Cruz del Sur, as they were running a promotion, from Trujillo and arrived in Pisco the next morning with no idea as to where to go. The first surprise was that the bus left us on the Pan-American outside Pisco, instead of dropping us off in town. We later learned that this apparently is the norm with every bus company.

We weren’t sure how to proceed and luckily saw a couple who were waiting for an onward bus, so I headed over to ask for advise. They were nice enough to not only tell us the prices of the taxis but to also recommend the hotel they had stayed in. Armed with the information we took a taxi and headed into town to look for somewhere to stay.

The first thing that hits you when you enter the town is how much destruction is still visible following the earthquake of 2007, where buildings once stood there are now pile of rubble or flat patches of land and roads are still obstructed with piles of bricks and building materials. Despite this you can also see how tourism is helping re-build the town as hotels seem to rise up from the rubble.

We drove around for a while and looked at a couple of places, but in the end settled on our suggestion, Hotel Residential San Jorge, as they offered the best price despite seemingly being a 3 star hotel. We were repeatedly advised not to go out at night as the town is not overly safe, and as such we headed out for a late lunch and to book a tour for the following day.

Pisco itself is not much more than a base for the nearby attractions, including the Ballestas Islands and the archaeological site of Tambo Colorado. After some negotiating we managed to book ourselves in for a morning tour of the islands followed by a private afternoon tour of Tambo Colorado, for 80 soles each. When you book the island tour you can opt to also do a tour of the Paracas National Reserve, but we decided to skip this.

At 7.30am the next day we were picked up and driven down to the town of Paracas, the launch off point for Ballestas Islands. After a quick registration and paying the 6 soles each for entry we were off by speed boat to the islands.

Before reaching the islands the tour stops at a nearby shore where the “Candelabra”, a large cactus shape is engraved in the sandy banks, similar to those of the Nazca lines. There are many theories on the origin and meaning, but the most impressive fact is that due to the extremely low annual rainfall, the shape has remained almost intact.

Paracas - Candelabra - pattern similar to Nazca Lines

As you approach the islands you start to see why they are such an attraction. There are literally thousands of birds flying around, from Peruvian pelicans to Peruvian boobies to Guano Cormorants. Everywhere you look there are clouds of birds around you. However, the islands are also home to penguins and sea lions and we were lucky enough to spot a lone endangered South American fur seal on the rocks.

Islas Ballestas - flocks of birds

Islas Ballestas - Peruvian boobies resting on rocks

Islas Ballestas - penguins

Islas Ballestas - sea lions

Islas Ballestas - South American fur seal

After our tour we were dropped off back in Pisco and grabbed a quick lunch before our next tour to Tambo Colorado.

Located 48km from Pisco, Tambo Colorado is supposedly one of the best preserved Inca sites along the coast of Peru. This is again due to the extremely low rain fall which has helped to not erode it.

Tambo Colorado - front facade overview

Tambo Colorado - view from above

Although not very big, the site is impressive due to the fact the walls have retained some of their original paint work. As you wander around from chamber to chamber you can still see the reds, oranges and whites that were once used to paint these walls.

Tambo Colorado - visible original colours

Tambo Colorado - one of the rooms with preserved coloured wall

Another impressive sight at Tambo Colorado is the women’s bath which is still almost entirely intact. You can still see where they would have heated the water and then poured it through into the bath. The original irrigation system is still very much in order.

Tambo Colorado - baths

You wont need more than an hour maximum at the site, including a quick look through the small museum, but it is worth seeing for the fact that it is still very much as it was during the Inca times.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Trujillo and Chan Chan

From Chiclayo we took a 3 and a half hour bus to the bustling city of Trujillo. Despite it’s size the centre has a town feel about it with pretty colonial buildings and a main pedestrianized road. The place felt safe both during the day and at night, and there are plenty of places to eat around the centre.

Trujillo colonial buildings on main plaza

Trujillo cathedral on main plaza

Our main reason for visiting Trujillo was the Chan Chan archaeological site and Huacas del Sol and de la Luna. We had booked ourselves in for 3 nights with the intention of seeing both, but unfortunately I was not feeling well for the first 2 days and as such we only had time for Chan Chan.

Nevertheless the Chan Chan site is very impressive as it spans across the coastline and encompasses around 28 sq km. This former city is now mainly in ruins expect for the palace which seemed to be undergoing restoration. To get to Chan Chan take a collectivo marked Huanchaco and asked to be dropped off by the entrance, the price is around 1 sol per person.

Our luck was against us when we went as the museum was closed, apparently this is the case every Monday. So we headed straight to the site. From the main road it is about a half an hour’s walk to the palace’s entrance and where you can buy your ticket. Entrance is 10 soles per person, however this is valid for 2 days and also allows you entry to the nearby sites of Huaca el Dragon or also known as Huaca el Arco and Huaca la Esmeralda as well as the museum.

Trujillo Chan Chan audience room

From the entrance you can choose to take a guide or simply follow the marked path. We opted for the latter and made our way around the beautiful site, in total we spent about 2 hours slowly walking through the various areas including; the main plaza, corridor of fish and birds, the ceremonial chamber, the audience rooms, the ceremonial well and the burial grounds.

Trujillo Chan Chan corridor of fish and birds

Trujillo Chan Chan audience room

Trujillo Chan Chan living quarters

Trujillo Chan Chan burial grounds

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Chiclayo and Sipan Archaeological Site

We originally wanted to stop for a couple of days in Mancora for a bit of beach time but, with the border crossing problems we had encountered and the fact we had already taken a detour, it left us short on time. So instead we opted to take a bus straight to Chiclayo.

We soon learned that unlike other countries we had visited, Peru does not always use main terminals for their buses, instead each company has its own office and bus terminal. As such, it is advised to always ask whereabouts in a city you might end up.

You could be excused for thinking that Chiclayo may be a bit of a run down area as you approach it. In fact, the outskirts of the town look something between half build mud shacks and industrial ventures. But as you come into Chiclayo you find the heart to be a different matter. The town is consists of pretty buildings centered around a central plaza with plenty of hotels, restaurants and shops, and surprisingly a large number of banks.

Chiclayo centre from the main plaza

Chiclayo Santa Rosa de Lima church on the main plaza

Our main reason for visiting Chiclayo was to see the archaeological site of Sipan and the respective museum in Lambayeque. Sipan was at the heart of the Moche civilisation and the site had been a treasure trove of discoveries with 12 royal tombs, including that of the famous El Señor de Sipan.

As we were short on time we booked ourselves in for an afternoon tour of the 2 sites for 25 soles each. What we didn’t realise was that for that money we actually got ourselves a private tour!

Our first stop were the ruins of Sipan, located about 40 minutes away. Here we were able to look around the 3 pyramids, which now due to weather erosion look more like giant mounts of earth, and the burial chambers in where the tombs were found. These were made up of 9 levels in total, representing a hierarchy of social status, with El Senor de Sipan being at the at the top and soldiers of importance at the bottom. There is a small museum located at the site and entry to the 2 places is 8 soles each.

Path through Sipan archaeological site

Sipan archaeological site excavated grave

After our tour of the ruins we headed back towards Chiclayo and went to the town of Lambayeque, where the Tumbes Reales museum is located. The place has been built to allow visitors to experience the finding of the tombs for themselves. The museum is distributed over 3 levels, with each level showcasing amazing gold, bronze and textile ornaments and artefacts found at the site.

Tumbes Reales el Senior de Sipan museum in Lambayeque

Unfortunately, no photography is allowed. They are so strict that all bags, cameras and phones have to be left at a luggage storage facility. Despite this strange regulation the place is truly worth a visit and you can easily spend 2 hours walking around from exhibit to mummy. The entry is 10 soles each and well worth it!

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Ecuador to Peru Border Crossing

Our border crossing should have gone a lot smoother than how it actually went, however, we had politics against us.

We decided to cross the border at the Peruvian, Tumbes area, partially because we wanted to follow the coast in Peru instead of the mountains as we had done in Ecuador, but also because all the main bus routes seemed to head that way.

After a 3 hour bus journey from Puerto Lopez we reached the very large bus terminal of Guayaquil. We had originally wanted to stop in Mancora, Peru but as we had delayed already by a couple of days in Puerto Lopez we decided to skip our beach days and head straight to Chiclayo.

We had previously looked into going with Cruz del Sur but they only went on certain days and they also seemed a little expensive. So we scoured the desks until we found a bus company called Semera, who could take us straight to Chiclayo on an overnight bus for $22 each. Perfect we thought, we could grab something to eat, freshen up and head out that same night.

However, as we paid for our tickets they alerted us that there may be a problem as the frontier was currently closed due to a political dispute. They assured us that by 5pm it should be resolved, so we bought our tickets and headed off to eat. At 5pm we returned to be told that yes they would be going and that we should return at 9pm to collect our backpacks, as they had been storing them for us.

At 9pm we came down to collect our things only to be told that the frontier was still closed. We had now spent 9 hours in the terminal. The staff explained we could change our tickets for the following night’s bus and that things should be resolved by the following lunchtime. We had nowhere booked and the prospect of hotel hunting in Guayaquil at 9pm was not appealing. Luckily, they helped us into a taxi and pointed the driver into the direction of cheap hotel.

The following day we returned in the afternoon and were luckily told that yes the bus would be going. We therefore proceeded to wait again in the terminal until our departure at 10pm.

We finally arrived at the frontier at 2.30am and I have to say this was so far the easiest crossing we have had. We simply disembarked and went into a building with 2 desks, an Ecuadorian and a Peruvian. It was literally that simple, stamp out at desk 1 and stamp in at desk 2, then back onto the bus. Life had been made even easier by the bus company who had given us the immigration forms to fill in ahead of time.

We proceeded into Peru but came to a military checkpoint a little after the frontier. We disembarked again, had our hand luggage briefly looked at and were allowed to board again. No fees, no real checks and really quite hassle free.

Just after 10am, following a 12 hour bus ride, we finally arrived at our destination: Chiclayo.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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