South American Adventure

Beaches, Deserts and Inca Dogs

  • March 20, 2008

From the border in Peru, Sebastian led us to buses down a dark alley way. As we frantically piled 16 backpacks onto the roof looking over our shoulders, a man continually screamed “HELADO, HELADO, HELADO” not 6 feet from were we were standing. Given the temperature was in excess of 35 degrees, the thought of having an ice cream (helado) running down ones arm was not very appealing. We piled into the bus and sweat was running freely, however our decision to not support the local ice cream man was reinforced when the ice cream halved in price for a local, but in the next breath told us the price was twice as much. We happily said goodbye t0 the ice cream man and drove out of Tumbes. Our next stop was to be the Peruvian Immigration office to acquire the necessary paper work to enter Peru.

Moving Day

Paper’s processed, we made our way south and were halted at a road side custom’s checkpoint, where quick talking on Sebastian’s saved us from getting all our bags from the roof for the customs officials to rummage through. During the 4 hour mini bus trip, it seemed that we were on the Peruvian Formula One Circuit as our seemingly former race car driver decided that it was ok to drive in excess of 140 km/h and overtake a bus that was overtaking another bus. By the time we reached Mancora, it was time for a change of underpants and a very very very strong drink, both very accessible. The following two days at Mancora were spent lazing beside a pool and body boarding in the ocean. Finally we have a chance to relax with a pina colada and a good book.

The next day we boarded our mini buses (with different drivers) and began our southerly journey through Peru. Our final destination today was to be Huanchaco, however it was not going to simple to get there. Firstly we endured a 2 hour drive south in the mini vans from there we transferred to a local bus and began an 8 hour journey. Once we arrived in a town called Trujilo we hailed several cabs and began the final 30 minute leg to Huanchaco. Needless to say, that when we finally arrived at our hostel, there were only two things on every bodies minds, food and sleep.

One thing to note about Peru, is the currency. It is easy to acquire the currency, but it is extremely difficult to get rid of it. We withdrew money from the bank and the banks generally supply one hundred and fifty soles notes, however, the banks do not like changing the money, and the shops, cafés and restaurants will not except it. If the note is torn or somewhat weathered in any way, it is not accepted by anybody. During the first few days of arriving in Peru, the money situation was not something that anybody in the group was going to be looking forward to.

Chan Chan Inca Carving

Morning broke over Huanchaco and we made our way to the Chan-Chan Inca Ruins. When we arrived, Jayde handed a 20 Soles note to the cab driver, whom examined the note very closely and gave it back saying that he will not accept it because it was not new and a little weathered. Needless to say, Jayde was far from impressed and proceeded to take the note back, and give him a hundred, in which he was even more unhappy about as we took all his change for the day. Chan-Chan was once a heaving city and a major hub for the Inca Civilisation.

Chan Chan Guards

As one walks through the ruins and takes the time to admire the engineering and dedication that it must have taken to construct such a complex, it is hard not to feel somewhat overwhelmed if not extremely awe struck. The external and internal walls tower above you and the cool coastal breeze flows through the streets that would have once been packed with people, taking the edge off the 40 degree plus heat from the sun. From Chan-Chan, we managed to acquire a taxi to take us on a tour of all the other archaeological sites for a very low price (half of what everybody else paid), and left for the Chan-Chan museum. The museum was great, but what was more impressive were the Inca Dogs that were laying about. Inca Dogs, or Peruvian Dogs are hairless dogs that have a standard body temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. The only hair that these dogs do have is a small tuf on their heads. The dogs were traditionally used to warm beds due to the lack of hair and the high body temperatures.

Inca Dog

From the museum, we drove to the Luna Temple, a temple used in the Inca times for human sacrifices. After a quick orientation video, we went exploring in the extremely well preserved ruins. The Incas when constructing their temples, would build a new temple on top of an old temple thus preserving any art work and constructions below. The archaeologist that are working at the temple are endeavouring to take a cross sectional view of the temples allowing tourists to see the various times in the temples history.

The next day we enjoyed the morning relaxing by the pool and the afternoon watching the Caeallosa de Paso, often referred to as the Spanish Dancing Horses. Our thoughts were never far from the thought that this night, we would be “enjoying” a night bus to Lima. We left our hostel in Huanchaco and headed to the bus station, at 10:45 pm were we boarded our beds for the next 10 hours. We all got as comfortable as we could and settled in for our first ever night bus. At 8 am the following day, our group, bleary eyed and not well rested, disembarked the bus at Lima and made our way to Miraflores, one of the posher suburb of Lima. We, well Jayde enjoyed breakfast at a restaurant where it just didn’t translate for me that “No Pan” means “No Bread”. As the third time I received my meal, it was covered in toast crumbs, I had to ask the waiter to get his boss so that I could explain that allergic to wheat is not a life style choice. Food sorted out, we returned to our favourite past time, exploring. We pounded the streets of Miraflores before getting into taxis and heading to downtown Lima. It was here that we got a chance to watch the changing of the guards at the presidential palace and view the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings. After a bite to eat at a really bad restaurant (45 minutes to drinks), it was time to try my luck at a haircut. For AUD$5.00 I managed to get exactly what I wanted, in very bad Spanish, whilst Jayde enjoyed a massage.

After a good night’s sleep, it was time to get some supplies for our journey to Pisco. In August 2007, an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the rictor scale hit 60 kms south of the town. The town was devastated with the loss of many people and also the income of tourists. The Peruvian government took a long time to send assistance as they were in denial that anything had happened as Lima only experienced a fraction of what Pisco experienced. As we made our way through town, it was obvious that this town was going to take a long time to get back on it’s feet, but the locals spirits had returned. Our hosts were extremely grateful to see us, and as we walked into the foyer we were greeted with open arms as we brought vital income for a town solely dependent on the tourist dollar. That night we went to sleep and were woken at 12:12pm by a light earthquake lasting several seconds, given that our door was rattling and the furniture was moving, it made for a very restless nights sleep. The following day we left Pisco, knowing that the locals were extremely appreciative of the vital injection that our money had given the local economy.

Desert views

We made our way south with a stop at a local pisco vineyard, where we were lucky enough to taste their local pisco’s and other alcoholic beverages. Our stomachs empty except for the alcohol that we had just consumed, we made our way to the amazing Huacachina Oasis. It was time to have some fun.

Sand bugging out!!

We threw our boards in the back and climbed aboard the sand buggies, with anticipation we strapped ourselves in to our race harness and braced for the impending excitement. We were not disappointed. Racing through the desert at 70 km/h is exciting in itself, now throw in sand dunes. Our buggies throttled up 40 metre dunes before turning just before the crest and barrelling down. After many turns and several jumps, it was time to fine a giant dune, which apparently was not to far away. We all jumped our and strapped our boards on.

Going very fast down a dune

Those not keen to stand, used the boards as boogie boards, and those keen, strapped the boards to their feet and surfed down the massive dunes. Scooting down several dunes made for a great afternoon, but it was time to move on to Nazca.

Sand Boarding down a 40m slope

We arrived into Nazca on the evening of Monday the 24th of March and explored the town. Our stomachs told us that it was definitely time to eat so we found a cheap chicken restaurant, where we experienced “ChiCha”. ChiCha is a sweet drink similar in colour to Ribena, however it is made with black corn and apparently a lot of sugar. As delicious as it was, it was time to chase some z’s in anticipation for the next day. We awoke the next morning and the conditions were perfect, clear skies and no wind. We made our way to the airport camera’s in hand. Today we would see the Nazca lines from the air. We climbed aboard the Cessna 182 and as the aircraft powered down the runway, it seemed very unlikely that this plane would get off the ground with 5 passengers and 1 pilot, yet the wheels lifted from the ground. We flew north to begin our flight path over the lines banking sharply left into a turn then right every time we came to one of the lines. The lines themselves are truly amazing when one takes into consideration the sheer size of them and the time it would have taken to make them. Initially 600 feet below the lines of the ‘Astronaut’ came into view, then as we passed up to 1000 feet, we made out lines like ‘The Spider’, ‘The Dog’ (which looked more like a frightened cat), ‘The Hummingbird’, ‘The Hands’, ‘The Condor’ and many other lines.

Nazca Spider

The time and perseverance that it would have taken to make these lines is a tribute to the people that lived here.

The Hummingbird

There are many theories about what the lines are, or what they were used for, ranging from ceremonies, directions to water sources, through to an alien approach path, but I will leave the theories to those more qualified. The night found us filling in time at the local planetarium discussing the relationship of the lines to the night skies as we attempted to psyche ourselves up for yet another night bus.