Paul Does Peru Part IIDecember 11, 2008
Jenny thought it would be fun for me to hop on and guest-blog to share stories from the second half of our mini-vacation in Peru. So allow me to pick up where she left off . . .
The morning after our island fauna tour, we had breakfast in El Chaco before hopping on our bus to Nasca.
We arrived in Nasca in the afternoon, and despite guidebook warnings that we would be hounded by people hocking tours and hotels, there were only a handful of people at the bus station – one of whom was holding a sign with our names on it. We had reserved a room ahead of time at the Walk On Inn, a quiet little hotel with free internet, a pool, and a cool rooftop area to read a book or have an Inca Cola. The rooms are pretty basic and the bed was fairly uncomfortable, but it was extremely convenient, as through the hotel we were able to book our flights over the Nasca lines for the next day and even buy our return bus tickets.
We had a tasty early supper, and then went to the roof to have a cold coke and watch the sunset on our first day in Nasca.
The next morning we found out our flight had been moved back a few hours, so we headed to the local Museo Antonini to learn more about the indigenous people of Peru, including the Nasca and their famous lines.
The museum was a little text heavy (it seemed like every artifact had a 1000 word essay) but had some cool info on the lines, and some interesting objects, including jewelery, fabrics and trophy skulls. Yes, trophy skulls.
Out back, in a lush-landscaped garden, they have recreated examples of a Nasca aqueduct, a scale map of all the Nasca lines, and replicas of Nasca burial chambers. On our way out to check them out, a local peacock decided he wanted to impress Jenny.
We didn’t know it then, but looking at the replica of lines was going to be far more enjoyable then our upcoming Nasca flight.
We arrived at the airport before our flight and ended up getting bumped a slot when a tour group came at the last minute. Luckily for us though, Jenny was able to pass the time recreating Nasca’s “astronaut” figure.
When it was our turn to fly, they originally wanted to split Jenny and I up. However, Jenny’s severe fear of small planes and her kung-fu grip on my arm weren’t having it, so we waited until we could go in the same plane. We met our captain and he went over the flight route – which is I think when the panic set in for Jenny. Basically, because they need to get as many people as possible up and down in those planes each day, they were going to be cramming in a lot of turns in a short timeframe.
And the flight was as stomach-churning as advertised. Jenny stopped looking after about the second figure, freezing in a graceful, statuesque pose, clutching the door handle, her eyes glued straight ahead, her sweaty palm laid like a lead brick on my leg. I turned to look at the couple behind us, and the girl had her eyes closed and her face was slowly fading into a shade of light green. A nervous sweat started drenching my clothes too, and I soon found myself counting down the minutes until it would all be over.
So to sum up. The Nasca Lines–scenery to remember, a flight to forget.
(Can’t someone start hot air balloon tours over them, or maybe charge double for a longer flight that builds in a little time for, I don’t know, . . . . turning!?)
After decompressing at our hotel for a few hours, we headed back to the bus station for our 8 hour journey to Lima. This is a good time to discuss the bus system in Peru.
A lot of travel is done by bus, leading to a plethora of service offerings from the bus companies. For our 8 hour trip to Lima, we opted for “First Class” service, which took the form of a small private room that holds about 9 seats on the first story of the bus. The regular class is upstairs. On both levels, the seat reclines wayyyyy back with tons of legroom, and there is a tv that shows fairly decent movies during your trip (During our various bus rides we got What Dreams May Come, The Devil Wears Prada, and Chocolat among others). They even served a hot meal during the trip (although Jenny was not a fan of the runny, appley goo that passed for a dessert). But perhaps the weirdest part of the trip was when they passed out Bingo cards and the whole bus took part in a game of Bingo for the grand prize – a bottle of Pisco. I was one number away from winning before some punk upstairs snatched away my victory.
Our first night in Lima was spent huddled up in a single twin bed at a nice hotel Jenny had found for us. When we found out there wasn’t any way to switch to a room for two, we switched hotels the next day. Which turned out to be wonderful, because our new hotel was an awesome colonial style building, with a HUUUGE bed (California King suckas!). We even had our own balcony.
We spent our time in Lima eating delicious dinners and getting our learn on at a museum and wandering through Jenny’s favorite cliff-side mall. We even squeezed in a couple games of bowling!
The Museo Larco was our first stop, located inside an old mansion with perfectly manicured gardens and a fantastic on site restaurant. Jenny wanted to show me all the great gold, jewelry, and pottery, and the museum didn’t disappoint. This was also the home of the erotic pottery museum that Jenny mentioned earlier. Let’s just say, not a lot has changed in the thousand or so years since those pots were made.
After that, we grabbed a taxi back to our hotel. A note here about taxi drivers in Lima. Apparently, stop signs are just a suggestion here, and drivers instead just give a toot of the horn as they speed through. Well, there are a lot of intersections in Lima and a ton of taxis, so pretty soon your driver is honking his horn every other second as you zip through streets, risking near collisions with other honking cabs. But, cabs are super cheap and every fare is negotiable – so it is worth the tradeoff I think.
That night we had a phenomenal dinner at Huaca Pucllana, a beautiful restaurant whose outdoor seating area overlooks the ruins of the same name, which are lit up at night for dramatic effect. And the food was “muy rico”
The next day Jenny and I did work at the Inca and Indian markets buying up souvenirs for all our friends and family. We saw every thing there is to buy in Peru, and found some good deals along the way. No photos of those, as some of you readers may be getting one for Christmas this year.
On my last night we had another delicious dinner, including sampling what our guide book called “the best pisco sour in Lima”. It did not disappoint. For the curious ones out there, Pisco sours are the national drink in Peru, and are made with the locally produced brandy known as pisco. They mix it with lime juice, ice and egg whites, and blend it all up into a margarita-like drink.
After dinner we snapped a few action shots by a brilliantly lit fountain in the park outside the restaurant. After that it was back to the hotel, a prolonged goodbye, and I was off to the airport for my 1:30am flight back to the States.
Overall it was a remarkable trip. The Islas Ballestas and their bounty of birds and marine mammals was the unexpected highlight of the trip, while the Nasca lines ended up losing some of their mystical attraction for me thanks to the ridiculous flight plan the tour company forces you to endure to see them.
I was struck by the intense poverty we saw along the way–surprised by the huge populations of squatter like settlements on the far outskirts of all the cities, miles from any services or source of income. At the same time, the people of Peru are definitely inventive in their repurposing of materials and in the ability to find unexpected sources of income. In those squatter communities, many of the houses had already upgraded from thatched walls to brick houses, with wooden fences and gardens. And so it goes . . .
I think my favorite moments were stumbling upon the small pockets of natural beauty throughout our trip – the oceanside park in El Chaco, the deserted cliffside dunes of the Paracas National Park, the colorful gardens of the museums in Nasca and Lima.
And as a side note, let me point out that Jenny’s spanish is bomb – she got looks of disbelief multiple times when she said she was from the States. “But your castellano is so good?!”
Yes, yes it is Jenny.