Back in the Land of Potatoes
08.04.2012 - 20.04.2012
Heading back into Peru has brought back many familiarities... both good and bad. For example, things are once again cheap as can be, but I had nearly forgotten how Peruvian pan flute music is about as pleasant as an inner ear operation would be were it performed with a chainsaw. But, all things considered it has certainly been more pleasant, and even some of the annoyances seem slightly endearing.
We crossed the border and immediately bused to Arequipa, a lovely little town on the west coast. We stayed for four days at the best hostel we've seen yet. Its only shortcoming was the radio station that played twenty four hours a day. It cycled between Rihanna, Maroon 5, and Bruno Mars, playing each of their hits several times every hour. You need only Youtube Bruno Mars' "Lazy Song" for you to understand the torture we went through. I'm not even sure what type of analogy would be fitting seeing as it's a thousand times more annoying than pan flute music... maybe getting your brain pulled through your auditory canal with a rusted meat hook. Aside from that, our time in Arequipa was lovely. We made a delicious Easter dinner in our hostel's kitchen, complete with chicken, gravy, and mashed 'tatoes. Through our hostel we were also able to go whitewater rafting the one day. The day we went it was absolutely pouring rain which apparently makes rivers get a little crazier, and as a result we were all fairly nervous as we pulled on our wet suits. For some inexplicable reason, the guides made us put on the most shapeless and unattractive shorts and sweaters made of canvas. So we waited wet, cold, nervous, and looking like complete idiots. But we survived my dear readers! And not only that, we did splendidly! We didn't even capsize once, nor did anyone fall out. I've always wanted to shout a hearty "man overboard!" but I wasn't too disappointed at the lack of an opportunity. It was a very invigorating experience, and there's something about outdoor sports of those kinds that are just an obscene amount of fun every single time.
As our time in Arequipa drew to a close it was decided that our group would split up for a short time. Erin and Jordyn wanted to head to the beach town of Mancora to soak up the suns rays on a white sand beach, whereas Georgia and I wanted to make several other stops before heading to the other beach town of Huanchaco. So we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways for the next week.
Our first stop was in a very tiny town (about 200 people) that goes by the name of Huacachina. You may not know that as well as being home to parts of the Amazon rainforest, beaches, and mountains, Peru also has a big desert in the middle of it. Not some shitty desert with hard clay and bunny rabbits, I'm talking about a real, sand dunes towering over your freaking head kind of desert. Now, within this desert that would suck every drop of water out of you if you gave it half a chance, there is a legitimate oasis... the kind that you would see in a Disney movie, and around this oasis there is a town named Huacachina. I must say, this was probably my favorite destination on this entire trip. It's breathtaking, and I could hardly wrap my head around its existence the majority of the time. We spent most of our time there lying in the beautiful sand until we got hot, and then jumping into the cool, clean oasis water. We even went on a dune buggy expedition one day where we catapulted through the dunes (often times at near horizontal angles) stopping at several where we would hop out, lie face down on snowboard-like slabs of wood, and went sandboarding down the dunes! Yes, I kid you not, sandboarding is a legitimate activity in the desert. I could have spent weeks there, but after four days we had to move on.
Our next destination was to a very uninteresting town called Pisco (which is also the name of a Peruvian brandy distilled from grapes). Unfortunately, 80% of the town was destroyed in a 2007 earthquake, and it was clear that the town had not fully recovered even 5 years later. What drew us here were theIslas Ballestas, a cluster of islands that have been dubbed "the poor man's Galapagos." So we woke up bright and early our first morning there after being kept up all night by what seemed to be a birthday party, and headed to the islands. It was difficult to fully enjoy the experience being completely exhausted and feeling quite grumpy, but it was still very interesting. There were thousands of birds, including Humboldt Penguins and Peruvian Boobies. Scattered amongst the rocks were also a whole bunch of sea lions (fun fact: a group of sea lions is called a raft). They were just lazing about, perched on the cliffs as if they had not a care in the world. After observing the wildlife and hearing our guide explain how the harvesting of bird poop was done, I fell asleep as we cruised back to Pisco.
We left the next day since there was nothing interesting to do in that town, going through Lima before arriving in Huanchaco (not to be confused with Huacachina). It is here that the last leg of our trip has been taking place, but Huanchaco I will save for another entry... one that will likely be my last for this trip.