Leaving behind the comforts of home, Barbara and I found ourselves on the road again. Our first stop was Quito- thats right Equador… no, not to have a look around, just for a nights rest on the cold, tiled floor of the brand new airport. We managed to get a couple hours of shut eye (it was nice to have our sleeping pads along for this), before our 5am wake up call for our next connection- a quick 2 hour flight to Lima, Peru.
Into Lima, we caught a cab from the airport to our hostel. Sure a public bus would have been MUCH cheaper, but in our tired state, it wasnt worth the hastle. We got checked in early and started planning the rest of our time in Peru.
Barbara and I have both become quite comfortable with travelling by the seat of our pants. We had booked only three things before we set off from Houston:
1. Our accommodation for our first night- it’s nice to have this figured out, so that when you arrive in a sleep deprived stupor, you dont have to seek out internet to find your first stop. Just hand the address to your cab driver and relax.
2. Our Inca Trail/Machu Pichu Trek- with limited permits available this was necessary. Barbara had sorted this out while we were in New Zealand.
3. Our Nazca Lines flight. This reservation turned out not to be really necessary as we are in the shoulder season.
Other than those three things, we really had not gotten too detailed about our two weeks here. So we sat down for about an hour to hash everything out. At this point we have certainly learned that we can/should be/have to be flexible in our travel plans. Seems to always work out for us.
After sorting out our travel, eating lunch, and exploring the massive supermarket, we wandered the streets for downtown Lima for a few hours. The hostel receptionist recommended that we take the bus up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal. For 5 soles (about $2 USD), we decided it was worth the ride. We hopped into the crowded bus (with more locals than gringos), and headed up the crazy twisty, steep hill. While the driver dodged children and dogs, our tour guide rattled off an amazing amount of information- all ‘en espanol’. Neither Barbara nor I are fluent enough to really comprehend anything she said, but we still had fun taking pictures of the colorful houses and buildings as we wound up the mountain.
At the top of the mountain is a small parking lot and large cross (Peru has a strong Catholic heritage) that lights up at night. We spent our 20 minutes at the top gawking at the size of this massive city. The pictures never do fully capture anything, but we tried.
Up first thing in the morning, we caught a cab to our first bus. It was due out at 7. There was a second bus with the same itinerary headed out at 730. After being told that our bus was delayed, we waited patiently in line as the 730 bus loaded and departed before us. Guess time works a bit differently here in Peru. We finally set off on our ride around 8. The time delay aside, this was one of the nicest buses we have taken in all of our travels. Even our second class seats ($29 USD for a 7.5 hour ride), was fully air conditioned, in comfortable seats that reclined to an almost sleeping position. We probably paid 10x what the locals bus would cost, but sometimes its nice to travel in a cushy air conditioned bus- especially when the route crosses a giant desert.
Our destination was Nazca, home of the Nazca Lines. The lines were created several thousand years ago, by scraping the dark rocks off the surface of the landscape to expose the lighter colored dirt below. These lines form large outlines of animals and shapes. They were not discovered until the 1940s, when a scientist was surveying the area by plane, spotted the formations below. Still to this day, no one really is sure why the lines were created. We had to see them for ourselves.
So off we set in our 6 seater plane, 700 feet above the ground to check out the area. I had never been in a plane that small- both of us were a bit giddy with excitement as our pilot banked into left and right turns, leaning our plane towards the ground so that we could get a better view. HOLY SMOKES THAT WAS FUN!
The shapes were huge- some over 400 feet long. The most famous of all the shapes in the hummingbird, which is probably the most well defined. We had a ball as the plane circled around each shape, a full 35 minutes of flght time later we had buzzed over the top of at least a dozen of the geoglyphs. In addition to the shapes, there are hundreds of lines, criss-crossing the landscape. It was simply spectacular to think that all of this work was done without ever being able to see the shapes from the sky.
If you are heading to Peru, the Nazca lines are definitely worth the stop!
Lots of pictures for this one: