Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Huffing and puffing in Peru

Where were we? Oh yes, trying to leave Lima with all our belongings… Well, we finally got on the bus, only to stay on it all day due to a strike in a town we had to pass through. Strikers in Canete were against the development of a prison in their small town, which, they said, was to house all the criminals from Lima. I doubt I would be happy. So, they burnt things, including passing buses, threw stones at the windows (while the passengers were inside), and rocked them. Thankfully it was night and they had gone home by the time we were allowed through. That was a long day.
     The next day we went to las Islas Ballestas, known as the poor man’s Galapagos islands. We saw dolphins, penguins, sea lions, and thousands and thousands of birds. It was amazing, and being the poor man’s version, only cost 10 euros! That same day we moved on to Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of the desert, with sand dunes as far as the eye can see, and Julio, an 80 year old sand buggy driver who was full of life and had as much, if not more, fun as us by driving like a lunatic and flying us through the air.
     If you go to Peru, you must try the chocatejas: the typical chocolate, with pecan and dulce de leche….yum! And the best are in Ica, so when we passed through Ica, we undoubtedly stopped to buy some (as you do). And when we were there we discovered that Ica suffered a big earthquake in 2007, and all over the region, many towns are in rubble. In the main plaza there were empty spaces in every block. The line of arches suddenly stopped mid-arch. It was the first time I saw a place devastated by natural disaster and it was weird and very sad. The Cathedral was in ruins, and the people were gathered around the corner in a hall to celebrate mass. There is no money to restore and rebuild, apparently, so the ruins sit there untouched, being walked around every day.
     On our way to Arequipa we stopped at Nazca to see the famous lines. We didn’t fly, but spent the afternoon in town and got a bus out to the mirador where you climb up to see two of the images. You really do wonder, where on earth did they come from? Who made them? Why? And then you leave, with all of your questions unanswered.
     After a few days in the lovely white city of Arequipa we did a trek to the Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world (tick). We saw condors of 3 metres sail through the air, although at that distance and height, they could have been red breast robins, haha. We climbed, descended, suffered altitude sickness, sucked on coca sweets, chewed on coca leaves, and huffed and puffed our way through pure nature, amazed that people actually live out there, isolated and surrounded by walls of mountains, leaving you only with a patch of sky. Children leave this region at ten years of age to go to secondary school, working by day and studying by night. I realised that these children must be some of the ones you see working on the streets, selling sweets, cleaning shoes, washing windscreens, or, maybe later, begging or stealing. We were told afterwards when we were in Cusco that the night education is sub-standard, and so, even though these children try to learn and develop further, it’s impossible for them to get out of the vicious poverty cycle.