We arrived in Lima at 2am, slept and booked a couple of tickets to Nasca the very next day. In the short time we spent in Lima we were struck by the friendliness of the people and the very high quality of the food in Peru. Paritcularly in contrast to Mexico. We knew immediately we would enjoy Peru.
We arrived in Nasca about 10pm, checked into the hostel, ate and slept again. The next day it was an early 6am start (Ouch!) Nasca has an original name of Nanasca it was a word for pain due to the desert and difficulty in eaking out a living on the land here. It means "tormented" a good description for the area if you are a farmer!
We took a light aircraft over the Nasca lines and because of the early start we were rewarded with a wonderfuly clear sky. The views of the various shapes were pretty hard to see and again the photo's do not bring out the best. You'll just have to come here ( as well ) and see them for yourselves.
You'll need a bit of imagination to see the figures, but spend some time looking at the photos and you'll be rewarded.
After our flight over the lines we visited the cemetery at Chauchilla. Here there are the 1000 year old tombs of a pre-Inca race. Unfortnately they have been subjected to grave robbing during the last 100 years. Not very respectful.
On the other hand it gave us wonderful views of mummified corpses and the remaining contents of the tombs. We wouldn't have missed it for the world; we love the dead.
The grave robbers left the tombs and corpses in terrible condition, and what you can see here is an attempt to imbue the bodies with dignity, though apparently the right heads might just be on the worng bodies!
This civilisation used mummification techniques which were in some respects better than the Egyptians. Apparently the internal organs were removed from the freshly dead corpses via the vaginal and rectal passages! The bodies were then stuffed with absorbant cotton, moulded into a fetal position and dressed in some of the best quality cotton textiles found in the Americas at that time.
For once the photos are utterly brilliant and we had a very hard job deciding which to put on the page as Tony got a bit carried away and took around 60 photographs. (I worry about him, really I do - Roy).
Enjoy these macabre images, you sick puppy you......
On the way back from Chauchilla we went to see an exhibition of Inca-style pottery making. As you might imagine, this was pretty dull, however the birds in the garden of the potter were much more interesting! We rechristened the potter 'Birdman of NascaTraz'! Most of the birds were able to fly and free to leave at any time. They chose instead to spend their time in the garden 'talking' with the Birdman.
After an all night bus ride we arrived in Arequipe, from where we set off on a two day tour of the Colca Canyon. The Colca river which runs through the Canyon begins high in the Andes and drops down to the Pacific in stages. It runs between the mountain villages of Chivay to Cabanaconde.
The Colca Canyon is supposed to be the deepest in the world, about twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA. Portions of the Colca canyon are habitable, with pre-Inca terraced fields still supporting agriculture and human life.
For the record, the Grand Canyon is not a canyon at all. A canyon is formed by the movement of glaciers while the Grand Canyon was formed by the flow of a river. This makes it a Gorge. The Grand Gorge of America. It has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?
The views we experienced were absolutely breathtaking as was the lung capacity at this altitude. You really appreciate the difficulty in breathing and doing even the smallest physical activities. A game of pool in a local bar left us panting for breath. Altitude sickness is a real problem and can be eased by chewing coca leaves or drinking mate de coca (coca leaf tea).
On the second day we were taken to a location in the Canyon they call Condor Pass. Here you can watch as the condors launch themselves into the thermals and use the warm air currents to soar higher and higher with minimum effort.
The local people wear various hats to signify which tribe they are from and also thier marital status. All very colourful and enjoyable to see as were the various brightly coloured clothes they wore.
We enjoyed a local folk band playing their version of El Condor Pasa. Most people know this song from Simon and Garfunkel who popularised an arrangment of this Peruvian folk song; they made up the lyrics.
Continuing at a relentless pace, immediately following the tour to Colca Canyon we took a 12 hour train ride from Arequipe to Puno. Puno is a moderately large city on the shores of Lake Titicaca. We slept the night and it was up early the following morning for a two day tour, including 1 night stopover, of the islands of Lake Titicaca.
We were first taken to the Isle of Uros, a man-made floating island about half an hour by boat away from Puno. The people here live on a island constructed of reeds which literally floats on the surface of the lake. For transport they make boats from yet more reeds, which are surprisingly stable and able to carry as many as fifteen people at a time.
Next we went to a permanent island by the name of Tequile. The people here survive by farming the ancient terraces and by knitting. Seriously! The handicraft industry is very productive. Children are taught to knit at around six or seven years old, women spin wool even as they walk around and even the men knit!
According to our guide, upon receiving a marriage proposal the first question a girl will ask a guy is "Can you knit ?"
As you'd expect the quality of their work is fantastic with wonderful traditional designs and clothing being produced at a prolific rate. The island is self governing and the leaders of the island wear black hats and do not have to knit. At least until they are voted out of office.
Married men wear different hats to single men, and a single man with a girlfriend wears the single man's hat differently to a man without a girlfriend. The women too show their marital status by their clothing.
Lake Titicaca is at around 3800 metres altitude, the highest hill on the island peaks at just under 4000 metres. Naturally we 'took the hill'. You cannot imagine just how out of breath it's possible to get just walking up a gentle slope.
The island is very beautiful, with no cars or other motorised transport which made our overnight stay very relaxing. We stayed in a small 'cottage' made from mud bricks and plastered over with more mud. Indeed, not much more than a mud hut.
Enjoy the photos ......
Cusco was the ancient capital of the Incas. It's a magical city. Here the Incas had the administration centre of their empire. It was by all accounts even more beautiful in it's hayday than it is now. Even the conquering Spanish Conquistador was moved to say "If this place were built in the heart of Spain it would still be impressive." High praise indeed!
Althought the Spanish changed the city to suit their taste, a lot of their new buildings were built on the original Inca foudations. Naturally, it was deemed necessary to pull down a few of the more impressive Inca palaces and reuse the stone to build the various churches that adorn the city. Well, you would, wouldn't you? NOT!
The city of Cusco was laid out in the shape of a puma, with Sacsayhuaman (see below) as it's head. An alternative name for Sacsayhuaman is "Saca Huma", which means the "head of a puma".
We didn't take many photos of Cusco itself, for although it was a beautiful city, it was just too colonial for our tastes. And we were drunk a lot of the time.......
We stayed in Cusco for about 2 weeks, having a grand old time, eating, drinking and occasionally having a bop. Here we ate Cuy (Guinea Pig) for the first time. It's not very nice really, all skin and no meat. And they leave the head and paws on, allowing the vengeful guinea pig to stare at you accusingly throughout the meal!
We also hired a police sergeant for the day to act as a guide through the various ruins in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It was amazing for, although he spoke no English, we managed to understand nearly all of his explanations. His name was Abrahim and he was a really nice chap. Everywhere we went people would greet him warmly and slap him on the back, which is the traditional Peruvian greeting between friends.
We made friends with this fine sergeant, and before we left for Lima, we spent a couple of hours in a restaraunt sinking a beer with him and the local Superintendant. And got a huggy backslapping to send us on our way.
We really enjoyed our time in Cusco, there was much to do and much to see. We felt that we'd just started to make some good friends among the locals when it was time to leave.
Damn! Another place we'll just have to come back to!
First stop on our day out with Abrahim. A wonderful ruin just outside Cusco,this is the old Inca capital city.There are three different styles here as various epochs came and went. As is often the case the oldest epoch of the Inca empire used the most impressive stones, fitted together without mortar and with incredible precision.
Abrahim liked to show us a few interesting places here where he played as a boy, including the local slide which Tony just had to try out! A wonderful secret tunnel was show to us which is unknown to the regular tours and unvisited by other tourists.
The tour guides cannot resist telling you that "Sacsayhuaman" sounds like "sexy woman". In fact in the local Quechuan language it means "satisfied falcon", this name refers to the carrion-eating birds that feasted on the dead after a bloody battle in 1536, when the Spanish defeated the defending Inca forces.
Three parallel walls, built in a zig-zag pattern, were part of this defensive fortress, and correspond to the teeth of the puma.
Sacsayhuaman is noted for its irregularly-shaped, gargantuan stone blocks, one of which weighs more than 300 tons. The ones now remaining have withstood not only attempts by the Spanish to knock them down, but also more than half a millennium of earthquakes!
Built on the side of a mountain, this Inca settlement is, typically, split into zones. Agricultural represented by the wonderful terracing, urban seen here by the various housing complexes and Military which you can see from the superb fortress like structures overlooking the mountain and surrounding areas.
As usual we were treated to the usual unorthadox method of Abrahim and went a completely different way round this site and to places where you can appreciate the views awarded to the Incas, enabling them to oversee the entire region from all angles whilst mantaining a very defendable position should it become necessary.
Ollantaytambo was a very important fortified city and also in order to enable control of the roads toward the jungle. According to many historians also in order to allow protection of the capital city of Cusco.
As is common with ancient Inca towns and fortresses, water management was of paramount importance. Here the original irrigation systems are still working and can be seen through-out the complex.
The stones used in the complex were carved partially in the quarries, and taken down to the valley's bottom. The stones were transported to the upper level where the Sun Temple was to be erected using an inclined plane. However, the Spanish arrived before the building could be completed.
The site which the Incas used to develop experimental techniques for improving their agriculture. It is currently being opened to the public, and apparently you can't get there by car. If in doubt, ask a policeman! Abrahim had no concerns about taking his own car along the appalling roads, sliding around rally style to get us there.
We were rewarded by being the only people at the site.
We spent a pleasant, if exhausting, couple of days walking part of the Inca Trail to Macchu Piccu. The Inca Trail stretches for around 110 kilometres in total, so we decided not to walk the whole thing, and instead settled for the the short two day walk.
The secenery was breath-taking as the trail twisted it's way around the mountains, leading through the Sun Gate, finally to Macchu Piccu.
Macchu Piccu was built on the top of a mountain and was, luckily, never discovered by the Spanish. It is unclear how many people resided here, but current thinking is around 1200. It's likely to have provided shelter for the nobility and preists of the Inca empire and was considered to be a ceremonial city.
Macchu Piccu was only discovered in 1948, and has been extensively rennovated. It's likely that the city was bigger than it is now as there are remains of terraces further down the mountain sides.
We foolishly chose to climb Waynu Piccu, the overlooking, neighboring mountain. The view from the top was breath-taking. And so was the climb to the top!
After leaving Cusco we returned to Lima, capital city of Peru. We spent a couple of days celebrating a wonderful, now totally credible journey! Further, we celebrated Roy's birthday and made some friends amongst the local Limans(?). We were here only for a short time before our flight back to Dear Old Blighty.
We're in an aeroplane, or an airport or enduring a 12 hour transit stop in Brasil. Yes, we're on our way home. Older, wiser and happier for our travels it won't be long before we're off again.
Especially if the weather's nasty in London!
We hope you've enjoyed reading about our travels. If not, unlucky!
And so it's "Goodnight" from him, and "Goodman" from him!
Some out-takes for your enjoyment ......