Well my last day in Arequipa was thankfully uneventful and relaxing. Up early to catch the Liverpool vs Westham United game and then time to just troll around the city. I was glad to have a chance to see the Ice Maiden, Juanita, a young girl sacrificed to the gods and found after being buried about 500 years. Many hours of Internet later, I met up with Bob and Dee and another Brit named Robbie for dinner at a good gringo pizza before boarding our overnight bus to Nazca.
We arrived into town more than an hour earlier than expected but the town is tiny and we easily found the hotel/travel agency with whom we'd booked our ticket. They let us hang out on their couches until the kitchen opened and and after that everything was a whirlwind. They picked us up in a van, transported us to a tiny airport about 10 minutes away and then whisked us onto a tiny little five seat-er plane for our tour of the Nazca Lines. We flew for about 30 minutes while the pilot banked left and right so we would all get a good view of the different line pictures. They were amazing and made me miss the X-Files even more. The lines were so straight and pictures so perfect. Aliens are so creative ;)
We were exhilarated after the flight but then we were put a room to watch a terrible boring old BBC documentary on the lines. It was so bad it was laughable. We were dropped back at our hotel and almost immediately headed off of a tour of the nearby cemetary where grave robbers have dug and exposed multiple graves. The have a small museum there and with money from the government have tried to preserve some of the old tombs. Too many dead people staring at me for my liking. The also took us to a small pottery workshop and a small gold refinery where I got in some retail therapy.
Back to the hotel one more time where we planned our exit up the coast to Huacachina. Di and I went down the street to negotiate transport for the one and half hour journey and we were off. The taxi we found was a giant 70's pinto type car with a trunk bigger than some of the hotel rooms I've slept in on this journey of mine. When the taxi dropped us off at the hotel on a small deserted street my first thought of Huacachina was, ugh. The hotel was nice enough though but then I saw the light at the other end of the hostel. We had entered though the back. Walking out though the front door you are assaulted by the most beautiful view of a small lake surrounded by mammoth size dunes. What a difference a door makes.
We headed out to dinner at the only restaurant that seemed to be open in this little oasis. No matter, the food was excellent and the portions bigger than anything I've seen since Argentina. The guys were laughing at our Israeli waiter who apparently reeked of pot smoke but I couldn't smell anything. We're a few thousand feet lower than we were the day before so while it's wonderfully warm, my lungs don't know what to do with all the all the extra oxygen. I was all stuffed up and uncomfortable so I excused myself as quickly as I could after I finished eating to go and tuck myself into bed with a bottle Vick's vapor rub. The stuff did the trick and in the morning I felt excellent. We all headed into the main town called Ica about 4 hours away for breakfast and Internet and then to pick up supplies for an evening BBQ. The afternoon on rolled along quickly and it was finally time for our sunset dune buggy tour. Our driver was really fun and took us on a wild and crazy ride up and down the nearby dunes to a perfect place to watch the sunset. After that it was time to test our skills on the board. I went down the fist dune standing up, barely, but on the last three I was happy to lie on the board and zip down as fast as possible. What a blast!
The BBQ went off without a hitch. It was really nice to make our own food for the first time in ages. We all went to bed with a plan to meet at 6am to go up the dune to see the sunrise but everyone bailed. I was wide awake a 5:30am so I decided to go on up myself. Walking up the dune was exhausting even though I took the easiest path up. The sand is super soft so you loose one step for every two you take. But up I went following an older Canadian couple. The sunrise was worth it, without a doubt, as was running straight back down the dune. We all had breakfast together before I headed off on a little expedition to a small winery near town. I took a little shared cab there and was squished into the back next to two very large women. I had to pretty much sit on one of them for the drive to be able to shut the door. The winery was very small and old and, uh, not much of a winery. They mostly make Pisco, the big drink here in Peru. I would love to have been here during harvest time because they still juice the grapes by stomping on them.
I made it back to the hostel somewhat on time and we all headed to our next town even further up the coast. The bus driver kept pointing at us and hugging himself which we finally figured out was him telling us to keep close contact without bags and to not put them down. Pisco town was only an hour away and from there it was a short, if smelly, cab ride down to Paracas, a beautiful ocean-side town. We watched a beautiful sunset and found the secret restaurant where all the entrees are only $3 even though the prices on the menu are much more expensive. So much fish here. I'm in love. Everyone finally tried ceviche which I think they actually liked. After a great night's sleep at sea level we were up early to take a boat to see the Ballantine Islands, also called the poor man's Galapagos. After a bit of a shaky start we were off and saw these huge rocks jutting out of the ocean covered with different birds and sea lions. A quick lunch and back into Pisco just in time to catch the UEFA Champions League final match. What can I say, It was brutal. With a heavy heart I said good bye to Dee, Bob and Robbie. They were on their way up to Huaraz while I'm booking it straight to Ecuador. But not before I have one more night of cheap seafood. Ciao from Peru.