....the circle is complete....
16/07/2010 - 17/08/2010 18 °C
On my last entry we were leaving Arica (Chile) and heading back into Peru or Arequipa to be precise....So this is the most logical place to start
Arequipa is Peru´s second largest city, and in my humble opinion the most beautiful. Its white buildings against the constant blue skies are nice, but add to that a backdrop of volcano El Misti, then you have yourself a picture postcard.
Whilst walking around on our first morning in Arequipa, we were lucky enough to bump into a French couple that we had met during the tour of the Salt flats. Julian and Jessica are two experienced hikers, who on their travels have been conquering peaks across the globe. Their final summit was to be el Misti, and they invited us to join them for the easy climb!
We had a couple of days to prepare ourselves, get together some supplies and rent some equipment. Because of their experience and Jessica actually being a qualified tour guide in their native France, we did not need to pay the extravagant fees for a guide. Just the collective 250 sole fee for a jeep to drop us off and pick us up - usually this is what tourists have to pay seperately to do the climb....Suckers.....we passed a few groups on the way who seemed a bit peeved to find we were going without a guide....its not what you know, its who you know
The first part of the climb is to the base camp where you stay for the night before rising early the following morning to reach the summit and then return to the start. It was a tough trek for me and Jana (especially with the large backbacks) and we went from a slow pace, to a snails pace, to a pace that does not have a name but is on the verge of going backwards.... For the final stretch we got a little help from our fellow climbers, and they took our backpacks to lighten the load. Once at base camp we set up the tents and had a quick noodle dinner before heading to bed at 7pm for a freezing sleep.
We woke at about 4am the next morning to have a bit to eat and then start the final ascent. Sadly, not even an hour into the climb I started to feel ill. Probably the result of altitude sickness and the sweaty ham and cheese sandwich I had gobbled down for breakfast, but whatever it was, it was enough to make me to stop and go back to stay at the basecamp
I slept off the sickness and when I awoke, busied myself with making a sign for my friends newly born baby.... Julian and Jessica were slightly more rapid in getting to and from the summit. So much so that despite restarting after taking us back down to basecamp, they outpaced the group that had left camp a good 4 hours previous.
We all enjoyed a nice breakfast of cheesy mash potato, cake, crackers and biscuits, then once the tents were all packed started the descent......this was a lot easier. We had a lot of fun running down the steep stretches of black sand and have the pictures to prove it.
That night after a well deserved shower we enjoyed a celebratory pizza to toast our near accomplishments and then collapsed into a deep sleep. The following couple of days were nice and relaxing, and we visited the beautiful monastery just across the road from our hostel.
Before leaving Arequipa we were desperate to get to the Colca Canyon (twice the size of the Grand Canyon!), and as we had already spent longer here than planned we decided to book just a one day tour to the canyon. So after a nice 3hr sleep we were collected from the hostel at 2.30am to start the tour.... With this kind of tour you dont quite get to do the exploring that the incredible area deserves....however its still something that you just have to see.
The best part of the tour was the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, where if the valley is not already impressive enough you can watch the almighty condor in full glory as it soars through the valley. With a wingspan of around 3m, it is a spectacular sight and you really feel like doing an Avatar and launching onto the back of one....Obviously I did not try this, but I did however try to recreate a condor in flight.....needless to say, humans struggle at unassisted aviation, the drop was deceptive and my knee was sore for a good few days after...silly me.
The tour dropped us off back in Arequipa and after a nice bit of dinner we headed to the bus terminal to take a ride north and up to Lima. We now had our minds set on heading as far north as possible to reach the beach and rid ourselves of the cool night temperatures.
We arrived in Lima (Peru´s biggest city) the following day at 1.30pm and immediately booked a bus to Trujillo (3rd largest city) for later that same day. Before leaving we squeezed in a quick trip to the cinema and then returned to the terminal for another night on a bus. In Trujillo we found a hostel and were greeted by a friendly hairless dog.
The town was busy preparing for the country´s Independence celebrations on the 28th July. Decorations could be seen around the place, aswell as many people applying a fresh lick of paint to their property. After exploring the town in the day we booked ourselves up on a tour to the ruins of Huaca del Sol, Huaca de la Luna. These were built by the Moche civilisation, who flourished in Northern Peru from around 100 AD to 800 AD (before the incas). It was incredible to see the structures and artwork that has been preserved through time.
That night we were completing the final part of our hell-bent desire to reach the beach and boarded a bus 10hrs further north to the seaside town of Mancora Sun, sun, sun.... Arriving at 5 in the morning makes it difficult to choose a good hostel, so we stayed in a crappy one the first night but searched for a better one in the day. We struck gold in the form of Hostal Blu, and at 15 soles a night it was an absolute steal.
We stayed for two weeks in Mancora and could have easily stayed for longer. Checking out the various beaches along the coast was always fun and we found some bad but mostly good.... Our favourite stretch being Las Pocitas, nice white beaches and impressive rich peoples hotels/houses to look at..... a close second was Punta Sal where I got to have a nice cold beer and watch the sunset.
Now the sign of having a great girlfriend surely has to be when they suggest going to watch a football match...I did not hesitate to agree and off we went to see some low league football action. Despite it not being of a high level, South Americans certainly take their football seriously and police were needed to usher angered supporters away from the teams manager once a goal had been conceeded....I thought they were the better team, but my spanish is not up to the level of being able to explain this to a red faced, vein bulging fan.
On the last day, we had built up enough courage to give surfing a go. It started well, when on the the first wave, I was off the board within a couple of seconds.....then turned around to see where Jana was.... there she was hurtling towards me on the following wave.....a mouthful of sea water and tangled leg ropes prevailed... But at least it was each other that we smashed into.
After saying goodbye to our hostal owning family we caught the bus back to Lima... the start of the long return to Cusco.... Something I had been dreading, not because of the serious numb bum from the many hours sat still, but because it was closer to Jana´s return to Germany
In Lima we had a little more time to explore and walked along some of the coast, but again found ourslelves visiting the cinema, this time to see Inception. We stayed in the same hostel where Jana had previously stayed 5 months ago, amazingly some guests still remained! A good nights sleep prepared ourselves for the next installment of long bus journeys. However, we were fortunate to even catch this bus, as on the way to the terminal our taxi driver decided to come off of the motorway early and entered a large traffic queue....only to then be crunched into by a van!....We took our bags and tried our luck with another taxi. So off we sped to the terminal and whilst Jana ran in to make sure the bus didnt leave, I turned myself into a human version of the game buckaroo and piled all our bags on top and staggered in.....well we made it and a bus journey consisting of more bad films, people throwing up and the woman behind us making random off putting orgasm noises through the night followed!
Back in Cusco, just in time for our good friend Kati´s birthday, we got the chance to meet up with a couple of old friends from Yanapay. The remaining days seemed to absolutely fly by, but we filled them with some good stuff.
A walk up into the hills and a return to the nearby market town of Pisac gave some more spectacular views. (I´ll be returning once again to Pisac in my next blog!!...this time to visit the ruins up in the hills ....stay tuned)
Sadly, the worst memory of our travels had been saved until our final days together.... After a nice night out at a local bar, whilst walking home... well actually into the street of our hostel....3 guys with a metal bar jumped out of a car and grabbed us. We shouted and screamed but they pushed us both to the floor and after pulling away in the car, Jana realised they had taken her camera ....With it being dark, they had quite clearly not seen my huge, muscular, powerful body and thought they´d try their luck......but in all seriousness, as you can imagine, it was an incident that shook us both up alot. However most importantly none of us were hurt and although it was upsetting to lose Jana´s camera, luckily they did not take the contents of my bag..... her hard drive with all 6 months worth of pictures...that would have been absolutely devastating.
Our last day was spent mainly in the police station describing the events that had taken place the night before....but i think it is a testament to what an amazing time we have had together, as this bad memory now lays drowned at the bottom of the ocean with the thousands of good memories swimming above.
It was a difficult goodbye at the airport, and although we both new it was coming for a long time, it definitely did not make it any easier....the best thing though, is how confident we both are in continuing our good times together in the future and i´m so happy that our paths crossed
....it will now be the friendly faces of the children at Yanapay that keep me smiling.....oh yeah and all the incredible sights i´ll be seeing on the rest of my travels.
(Jana i miss you and cant wait to see you again)