Tag Archive: Arequipa

Sunday Travel Tales

I must right a wrong. I haven’t checked, but I have a vague idea that I neglected to tell you the name of this story. “Strawberry Jam, Bread Rolls and Pisco Sours”. If you have been following this story from the beginning, you’ll have noticed that breakfast is always strawberry jam and bread rolls, and everywhere we went we got complimentary pisco sours.

Wrong, righted…

Chapter 6 – Ica and Nazca

Amid bread rolls and coffee, I made my farewells to my new travelling companions at the cafe in the square. After, I was put into a motor taxi, stuffed in next to my bags and taken to the streetside bus station for my trip to Ica. I was surprised that some of my travelling companions were also on the same bus. We talked about our travels, watched the scenery, which was much the same as we had seen before. So the trip was uneventful.

Reastaurant at Huacachina Lagoon - image: AV

Restaurant at Huacachina Lagoon – image: AV

On arrival at Ica, we were met by a local guide and taken to the lagoon at Huacachina where the braver of us (not me) were to experience sandboarding down the highest sand dunes in the world.

Sandboarding, I discovered was rather like surfing without the benefit of waves, but rather like surfing on a steep beach.

See the foolhardy way up there? Image: AV

See the foolhardy way up there? Image: AV

I chose to walk around the lagoon, which was a true oasis in the desert, picturesque, palm trees and cool green water, then sat on the terrace of the one and only restaurant to watch the braver, or more foolhardy, slide, fall and tumble their way down the towering sand dunes that surrounded us.

Carlos, the smile that won the hearts of the ladies - Image: AV

Carlos, the smile that won the hearts of the ladies – Image: AV

While waiting on the others to rejoin me for lunch I had my shoes unnecessarily cleaned by an irascible tyke with a cheeky grin. He did a good job and in return got an invitation to lunch as well as payment for his labours. Lunch was soon underway, Carlos, my irascible tyke, made an unprecedented hit with the girls, and he was only nine.

I chose cerviche, I had developed a taste for this tongue tingling dish, others had more recognisable fare, hamburgers and plates of baked and fried fish. Beer was the order of the day and Carlos chose the national drink which to this day, reminds me of horse pee.

Lunch over, bruises nursed and abrasions bandaged, we were returned to Ica for our trip to Nazca.

Now, somewhat naïvely, we chose to travel by “collectivo” because it was well more than an hour quicker than the bus. What we didn’t know was what a “collectivo” entailed. We found out, there were fourteen of us, enough to fill two and were off.

A “collectivo” is a miracle to behold. They are late 1950’s early 1960’s American cars. A mixture of Dodges, Chryslers, Buicks and Fords. To actually call them cars was a euphemism, they were relics, actually relics is also a euphemism for wrecks. The one that I was in, the driver had to hold up the boot while we deposited our bags, he had to hold it because one hinge had rusted off. He changed gear with a large engineer’s screwdriver stuck in a hole in the floor and after smoking two cigarettes in the front seat, I discovered that the fuel tank was the large plastic bottle at my feet. The trip was as mercifully quick as it was breezy, for none of the windows wound up and wayward springs in the seats didn’t afford too much comfort either.

Much of the road to Nazca is straight, so we flew at a comfortable 150-160kms/hour for a lot of the time until we reached the zig-zags and zig zagged down into the first of the green fertile valleys.

Maria Reich Observation Tower at the beginning of the Nazca Plain. Some of the desert designs can be seen from here. Image: VirtualTourist

Maria Reich Observation Tower at the beginning of the Nazca Plain. Some of the desert designs can be seen from here. Image: VirtualTourist

We stopped at the observation tower at the beginning of the Nazca plain, scrambled up for a look and photos, then finished the trip to Nazca.

The driver took us all to our hotel called “Majoro.” Majoro was a lovely sprawling homestead, swimming pool and delightful surroundings and a poolside bar. Settled, changed and into the pool for a refreshing swim.

Dripping we sat at the bar and were given the traditional complimentary Pisco Sour. And that is where we stayed until dinner.

kidspoolin barNazca

Kids playing pool in the bar – Image: AV

Some of the local farm kids wandered in and played pool and a game with heavy brass discs that you have to throw into holes on a special box. The ultimate throw is to get the disc into the mouth of a large brass frog in the centre. The kids were quite good at it, and made the frog swallow several of the brass discs.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant was a simple affair, trout, chicken and beef were the offerings with rice and salad and then it was back to the bar. None of us wanted to explore Nazca which was some 15 minutes away by car. We wanted to rest, for in the morning we were to fly over the mysterious Nazca lines.

Breakfast, yes, you guessed, bread rolls, strawberry jam and coffee. We breakfasted lightly in anticipation of the morning’s flight. It was to be only a half hour flight, but we had been warned, the aerobatics involved so that we could all see and take pictures often led to subsequent manifestations of air-sickness.

Cessna, ready to take us over the Nazca Lines - Image: AV

Cessna, ready to take us over the Nazca Lines – Image: AV

Collected at the hotel for the drive to the main road, for the airport was almost across the highway from the entrance road to the hotel. We were divided into groups of three and ushered to some small planes, Cessna’s, all pre-flighted and ready to go. Some were apprehensive about the flight, 747’s were okay, 737’s were okay, but this was a small one.

The astronaut, one of the petroglyphs at Nazca - Image: AV

The astronaut, one of the geoglyphs at Nazca – Image: AV

We were soon weaving our way acrobatically amongst the geoglyphs on the desert floor. We had a good look and our guide explained all there was to see. We also saw the wreck of two Cessna’s that had collided in mid air a year earlier and left a stain on the desert below. Unsettling for some, especially when we discovered that there is no form of air traffic control in the Nazca region. Hmmmm….

Safely back on the ground, two of our number had to clean up the floor of the plane, the rest of us escaped, a little green around the gills, but managed to forgo the embarrassment of actually being sick.

Back to the hotel and lunch.

In the process of being restored, one of the open graves at Chauchilla - Image: Peru Tours

In the process of being restored, one of the open graves at Chauchilla – Image: Peru Tours

After lunch were were collected once again for an afternoon tour to the Chauchilla cemetery where we were treated to the spectacle of open graves and mummies exposed to the dry desert air. In past years the graves had been ramsacked by treasure hunters and were in the process of being restored. Haunting grins on grisly skulls from past civilisations. Somehow it seemed different to the sanitised exhibits behind glass in a museum. It was real.

On the return we were treated to another of nature’s phenomena, whirlwinds travelling across the desert floor. One even chased us and rocked the van quite severely making the girls scream as it chose to cross the same piece of road where we happened to be.

Back to the hotel, shaken but not stirred, bar and pool, not in the same order for everyone. The girls wanted to go shopping, so a taxi took them to Nazca. Why is it that wherever girls go, they have to shop?

Sapo, the brass frog table - Image: nicholasspyer.com

Sapo, the brass frog table – Image: nicholasspyer.com

Dinner, then rest, bar or pool again and more of the brass frog game. Some of us had a go and discovered it’s not easy; the kids ran rings around us.

We had a bus to catch at 11pm that would take us overnight to Arequipa.

There is no bus from Nazca to Arequipa, so 10pm found us on the main road through Nazca. There is no bus station in Nazca either, you just wait outside the place that sold you the ticket and the bus stops to pick you up when it arrives from Lima.


First view of El Misti, one of the three volcano surrounding Arequipa – Image: trekearth

Our bus did eventually arrive, about 11:20pm. Finding our numbered seats was another problem, they were already occupied by heavily bundled sleeping ladies or disinterested men. The biggest obstacle was stepping over sleeping children, sprawled haphazardly in the aisle, in the near dark. Eventually we found unoccupied seats and settled down as the bus left Nazca and headed for the coastal road, the continuation of the Panamerica Sur that would take us to Arequipa.


Recipe for Pisco Sours…

For the brave


Recipe image: Illustrated Cocktails

For God’s sake don’t use LIMES; use lemons.

This is an age old mistake perpetrated by Americans. In South America, lemons are green, as soon as Americans see green, they say lime! They are NOT limes, they are green lemons.

Enjoy your pisco sour.

Sunday Travel Tales

Arequipa, Southern Peru

The White City

Plaza de Armas

Called the white city because many of the buildings are built with silla (white volcanic stone).

El Misti, the most famous of the three volcanoes that tower over Arequipa


Santa Catalina Convent, a city within a city


Home of Juanita, the Ice Maiden

Found in 1995 on the slopes of the Ampato Volcano after the ice melted from the heat of an eruption on Sabancayo, the next  door mountain, exposed her resting place.


Casa de mi abuela (My Grandmother’s house)

We used to stay here on our tours. It’s an example of old world charm. Breakfast in the garden, it is a real rabbit warren of hallways to the rooms.

Bullfighting in Arequipa

Here the bullfighting is not against man, but between the animals. The practice is diminishing.

Arequipa is the gateway to the Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world. There are three earlier posts about this, here, here and here

Sunday Travel Tales

The last two posts we have looked at the Colca Cañon and Cabanaconde; this week we have a brief look at Chivay, the main city (town really).

The first sight of Chivay as you descend from the five hour journey from Arequipa

Rumillacta (Stone Village in Qechua), the best lodgings in the area

Plaza de Armas, the main square

Kids in the plaza during the Women's festival, even the men and boys dress as women and girls during this festival

In the centre of the photo is a boy, he has the face mask on. The Festival de Mujeres dates back to the times of the conquistadores, when a Spanish soldier fell in love with an Incan princess; he dressed all his men as women so he could attend the royal ball.

One of the side streets near the centre of town

Kids playing on top of the cathedral during the festival. Boys will be boys wherever in the world

Just a quick look at Chivay with some of the old photos I have.

After our return from the canyon, we stayed the night in Rumillacta and had a local group of musicians with pan pipes and dancers entertain usa long with dinner. In the morning we returned to Arequipa. This clipe found on YouTube from 2005, looks pretty much like the same group (I was in the area 1997/98).

Next week, something different.

Sunday Travel Tales

When writing about travels one tends to write about the famous places, the places that people already know exist somewhere along the tourist trail. I have been equally guilty, although I do try to get off the beaten track and I will try today.

In the south of Peru, usually after a 12 hour overnight bus from Nazca where one usually wakes as the bus leaves the coast and heads inland towards Arequipa. Arequipa is a nice place with the convent, the Ice-Maiden and its famous backdrop volcano, El Misti. But we aren’t stopping there.


We are heading for Chivay at the head of the Colca Canyon where most tourist base themselves for the tour of the canyon. But we aren’t, we lunch in Chivay and head away again, traveling the full length of the canyon to Cabanaconde.


I was last there in 1997, so some things may have changed. They may have electricity 24 hours a day now, but I suspect it is essentially the same little sleepy hollow as it used to be.

We stay overnight in a simple hostal, have dinner in the one restaurant and return for an early night. There’s simply not much to do there.

Waking early before breakfast a stroll in the fresh mountain air and you get a chance to see the town.

The altitude is 3,600 (11,000ft +/-) metres above sea level, so the air is brisk and you wrap well.

Pretty rudimentary

The neighbours are always curious

Looking back down from the high spot

Just as much home for the cows

The kids are curious too, and hang around to watch the tourists

Yes, the kids watch the watchers. After a simple breakfast, it’s everyone on the bus and we head off back up the canyon to Cruz del Condor, our first stop.

Cruz del Condor is the deepest part of the canyon and will be another Sunday Travel Tale.

NB: These photos are all mine, salvaged and scanned from old abused negatives. I apologise for the quality, but there you have it.

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