Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6


Chapter 6


Pisco - Nasca - Arequipa - Colca Canyon - Santiago

from the lees of the grapes like Eau de Vie and Grappa and can be made from various different grapes.  Most of the explanation was in Spanish and some in English but I could just about follow it.


Julie and I then moved inside for the tasting.  The wine was sweet and thick but it was interesting, although somewhat deadly, to taste the different types of Pisco.  Needless to say I preferred the most expensive one so I bought a bottle of that to take home.  We had to wait outside the bodega for a taxi to take us back to the main road. Carlos wanted to learn English and insisted I had his card so I could write to him in English and he would reply in Spanish!


We caught a Lima bus home to Ica which was very new and comfortable.  They were showing a Sandra Bullock film “While you were sleeping” in English with Spanish subtitles and I was quite content to sit in comfort and watch the film.


In Pisco Julie went home to change before going to work and I met up with Jen (she had spent the day at Paracas again and was picked up by an Italian group who insisted she stayed with them).  We visited Julie’s travel agency to try and book a trip to Nasca for tomorrow.  There were no seats available on any of the buses passing through Pisco.


Sunday 26 July

We took an early bus to Ica and waited several hours for a bus to Nasca.  In the bus station Jen opened her birthday present (a small jug from Cusco) and we amused the rest of the passengers with our birthday celebrations.


When we alighted, a chap looked at our tickets and loaded our rucksacks into his ancient American car.  Two others joined us and we were taken to an aerodromo.  There is one airstrip on the outskirts of Nasca and several little airline offices (huts) along the edge of it, each has its own small plane.  We had to wait for a while (as usual) and watched a video of the lines and Maria Reiche.  She worked at Nasca almost continuously from 1946 to her recent death.  She believed that the lines were an astronomical calendar, linked to the rising and setting points of celestial bodies on the east and west horizons.  It was then explained to us that this company could not take us for a flight as we had a ticket for a different company!  We protested that we had showed our tickets to the chap who had picked us up but it was all very good humoured and someone from the correct company came to collect us in a much more modern car.


We returned to Nasca town and, whilst waiting for our real flight, attempted to book our onward transport to Arequipa.  All the buses were full.  At the fourth bus company they said they could get us a seat at 2200 tonight.  We were driven back to a different airline office and had a great flight over the lines in a six seater, four gringos, one guide and one pilot.


It is interesting to note how many of the extended lines are extremely straight.  One theory claims that they were made using cane poles and a rope, in much the same manner as a surveyor uses ranging sticks and a theodolite; when Maria Reiche first came to Nasca some of the locals could indeed remember wooden poles at the end of certain lines - perhaps sighting posts for the stars.  How long it took to construct them is a last, inevitable question - and since none of them can be properly seen from the ground it is tempting to believe they must have been the skilled product of numerous generations.  In strictly physical terms this isn’t necessarily so.  A few years back a local school tried building its own line and from its efforts calculated that a thousand patient and inspired workers could have made them all in less than a month!  Jen remonstrated with the pilot for looking round at us and not looking where he was going and he replied by showing the plane could still fly without him touching the controls.  We were unfortunately unable to take any photographs.



We had all evening to wait for the bus and explored the town.  This didn’t take long.  All the souvenirs involved representations of the individual patterns which make up the lines.  We were pestered by young shoeshine boys, even though we were wearing sandals, and Jen attempted to put them off by offering to kiss them.  They stayed out of range but were still very persistent.


We waited at the travel agent’s office for the 2200 bus.  At 2145 one stopped but it was full.  We moved to the bus office, a few doors up the road, and waited for the next one.  The bus office was actually someone’s sitting room and kitchen.  There were zillions of buses pounding up the road but none had the right name until 0200 when an ancient coach with some spare seats stopped and we were off to Arequipa.


Monday 27 July

We arrived in Arequipa at 1030.  That might have been our last long distance bus trip.  The name probably comes from the Quechua phrase “Are quepay” meaning “OK, let’s stop here”.  Sited at the foot of an ice-capped volcano “El Misti” the place has long been renowned for having one of the most pleasant settings and climates of all Peru’s cities.


Everyone was gearing up for the Independence Day celebrations.  We arranged a trip to Colca Canyon for the next day for S30 (£8.11) staying overnight in Chivay and I bought a cheap camera.  The processions and fireworks that evening were viewed magnificently from the restaurant on the upstairs balcony at the Plaza de Armes.  After the fireworks (they were very good at fireworks) there were speeches and then music and dancing (on stage anyway - more chaps in shiny suits with bells on their boots).  No-one in the square danced except for one drunken Peruvian who danced, very badly, with Jen.  We were most disappointed.  There were the usual food vendors and also tables and chairs where you could sit and drink.  But drink what?  The choice was either Anis or a concoction of rum and what looked like hot tea, mixed together and very sweet, drunk from a cup.  Well I had to try it didn’t I?


Tuesday 28 July

The next morning we waited in the sun on the roof of our hostel for the TurBus to Chivay.  The bus was full of Peruanos from Lima with one French couple and one other English couple.  Our guide, Joanna, was at university in Arequipa learning to be a teacher and this was her holiday job.  We were travelling around the top edge of the Atacama desert and the similarities to the desert at San Pedro were obvious.  The bus had to stop for photographs when we saw a couple of vicuñas in the distance but Jen and I had seen it, done it.  We stopped in Yanque to see its early eighteenth century chapel and later in Maca where their church had suffered in the last earthquake.


On the way up the Canyon there were various miradors (lay-bys with a good view) overlooking some of the most impressive and intensive ancient terracing in South America - when the Incas arrived it had all been done!


Impressive terracing!


Jen and I had a modern room on the second floor of a modern hotel in Chivay and lunch was spoilt for me because I had forgotten the “no smoking, no drinking” rule when first at altitude.  I had been on the coast for so long I had lost my immunity.  My forehead was clammy and the darkness started coming in so I went to lie down before I fainted.  Jen cancelled my lunch (that was a bit hasty!) and visited me later complete with a glucose tablet from one Lima lady (good for altitude sickness), a cup of coca tea recommended by several of our travelling companions and a cheese sandwich made from rock hard white bread and the wonderful Peruvian cheese (just as good as Chilean cheese!) which tasted like rubber.  I was feeling fine by now but couldn’t refuse all these gifts.


We sat on the balcony in the sun looking at the mountains until it was time to go to the thermal baths at La Calera.  These were only a short distance away and consisted of lots of hot water pouring down the hillside in concrete drains and pipes and at least two modern swimming pools at the bottom.  We were allowed half an hour in the baths and stayed for longer.  We returned to the hotel for dinner and were entertained afterwards by a panpipe band and dancing, after which Jen went to the local hop with some of the Lima girls.


Wednesday 29 July

Our day for visiting Colca Canyon which claims to be the deepest canyon in the world at more than 1km from cliff-edge to river bottom.  The Mirador Cruz del Condor, located some 200km and five hours from Arequipa, is a popular viewing place for looking into the depths of the canyon - it’s around 1200m deep at this point - and where you can almost guarantee spotting a condor or two circling against unbelievably breathtaking scenery.  There were many vehicles at the top and people crawling all over the rocks.  We were told to keep quiet so as not to frighten away the condors but when one was spotted a whisper went through the crowd.  We could see young condors, with brown plumage, and mature ones with black and white plumage but they were a long way away.


The little black and white blob in the middle is a condor!


I was slightly worried that someone would fall down into the canyon as there were people clambering down very insecure slopes.  There was an amazing togetherness within our crowd after such a short time.  All the young Peruvians were very touchy, feely and wished to practise their English.  There were also local women in traditional dress selling cacti fruit and other comestibles.  We tried as many as possible and they were mainly very good.  One woman had an eagle (?) on a rope and was happy to be photographed.


We were driven back down the edge of the canyon and stopped at a different mirador from where you could see the Inca graves high on the cliff.  Little stone bundles that hang underneath overhanging rock like bees nests.  How on earth did the Incas get there to build them?  Apparently they are not so little, they have more than enough room for a mummy (albeit short!).  We stopped at the highest point of the pass on the way back where the ground was covered with piles of stones.



They were wishes stones.  You build your own tower from the many loose stones available and make a wish.  “I would like to visit Peru again.”  Will it work I wonder?  As the road was a dirt track it was very dusty and there was mucho traffic - all these tourists (I can’t say gringos because they were mostly Peruvian) taking tours to Colca Canyon.


Back at Arequipa there were kisses and hugs at parting.  We exchanged addresses with Marlene who insisted we stay with her and her husband in Lima next time we visit Peru.


Jen and I walked back up the hill to the Hostal Nunez where we had to spend S55 (£14.86) on a room with four beds, a private bathroom and a television because that’s all they had available.  Jen and I loved rooms with more than two beds because we could spread our stuff around and it was easier to pay up than find another hostel.


Thursday 30 July

The next morning we headed for the market because the book said they sold hats.  I was particularly enamoured with the black stetson style hats some of our panpipe band at Chivay were wearing.  Unfortunately Peruanos, as well as being short, have very small heads and there were none that fitted me.


In the afternoon we visited the Monastery of Santa Catalina which housed up to 500 nuns in seclusion up until its opening to the public in 1970.  Nuns still live there but they are restricted to one quarter of the site, worshipping in the main chapel only outside of opening hours.  The idea of being a cloistered nun was an anathema to Jen and I but we appreciated the interplay between the strong sunlight and the brilliant colours of the stonework (!).


It wouldn’t have been a bad place to live apart from the god bothering.  We returned to our hostel to sun ourselves on the roof until it was time to go to the airport.  Fortunately the Hostal Nunez also ran a taxi service.


It was a 30 minute flight to Tacna and dark by the time we took off.  Arequipa, like most Peruvian cities, has streets in straight lines.  Flying away into the night I could see the lights of the city below me, looking just like a beautiful Christmas decoration.  By the time we arrived it was late and our taxi driver tried to take us somewhere cheap but they were full.  He then tried to take us somewhere expensive but we were used to cheaper prices so we walked off to find somewhere slightly less expensive ourselves.  It was difficult.  We later read in the guide book that Tacna is very expensive compared to the rest of Peru.


Friday 31 July

Jen was in a bad mood as she was woken by the dual sounds of television and children screaming at an early hour and there was no hot water (like last night).  What are we paying these expensive prices for?  She hotfooted it downstairs to complain but the management were uninterested although they did turn the television off and stopped the children screaming.  Gagged them presumably.


We took a bus to the “terminal” and were pounced on by collectivo drivers.  Arica?  Arica?  The first one that nabbed us seemed fine and we ended up, having paid S0.40 (11p) for the privilege of being in the “terminal”, sitting in his ancient Dodge saloon outside waiting for some more customers.  We were just beginning to get restless when our driver returned with a family who wished to go to Arica too.


It was an hour’s drive with two stops - Peruvian exit and Chilean entry.  At one of them (I don’t know which) we had to pass through a small cubicle where two women were searching the women travellers for drugs.  A gringo!  The woman to whom I was assigned really enjoyed going through my bag and my pack and thoroughly investigated every item as well as me.  Jen was somewhat luckier and the locals passed through unhindered.


In Arica we remembered the travel agent with the cheapest Santiago flights and walked down to book one.  There was a flight at 1900 that night so we decided to take it.  In Santiago we directed the taxi to the youth hostel as, although it was late, we knew they were open 24 hours a day.  Fortunately they had beds or they would have after midnight.  We were given two beds in a four bedded dormitory with a locker each.


Saturday 1 August

A whole day in Santiago to ourselves and we now knew the city.  We knew how the metro operated and started by visiting the funicular.  Unfortunately that’s all we could do as the funicular was closed for the winter.


We returned to the main shopping area and went shopping.  The winter coats in one shop were very attractive but although they were cheap they were all too small.  We passed the boutique with the wonderful suits that I had noticed the first time in Santiago and ...  The Givenchy boutique - beautiful suits and coats at amazing prices.  Jen and I fell upon them like people who have spent the last six weeks living in dirty and creased T shirts and leggings.  Jen tried on a Givenchy trouser suit which she really fancied and I had found a mid-calf red winter coat.  We had no money but I had a Barclaycard and we were smitten.  Plans were hatched for an amazing night out on my last day.


Jen was complaining about the hairiness of her legs to the sales assistant so, having spent heaps of money, the assistant guided us over the road to a small hairdressers where they also did leg waxing.  Bliss!  Beautiful smooth legs with no pain and a very small amount of

pesos.  By now we were hooked.  We needed lipstick, every woman here wears lipstick, mascara and I needed ear-rings.  Jen also needed shoes because her trouser suit needed heels and she didn’t bring any with her.  What a mistake.


The Youth Hostel was full of girl guides.  Apparently guiding is quite a strong movement in Chile.  These guides were from Hertfordshire? Lancashire? I can’t remember.  Exchanges are arranged with guides in other countries and they were spending three weeks touring around southern Chile.  Guiding was never like that when I was a child or I might have been more interested!


Sunday 2 August

We took a day off from shopping to explore the countryside.  A metro to Parque O’Higgins led to a bus to San Jose de Maipo.  From there we found a collectivo to San Alfonso.  The driver of the collectivo pointed out ex-President Pinochet’s house to us.  After that we had to hitch.  Our first lift in the back of a Chevrolet pickup took us on to the next village.  We were following a map given to us by the Tourist Information in Santiago and heading for some thermal baths.  Baños Morales or Baños Colinas, we didn’t mind which.


Our next lift was in a Suzuki Vitara with Kurt, a topographer.  He was happy to give us a lift to Baños Morales but when we got there he said he was going on up the valley and if we wanted to stay with him he would give us a lift back to Santiago.  No contest.  On the way he mentioned Baños Colinas and said it was a very bad road.  This was all in Spanish.  I thought this meant we weren’t going there but it turned out we were going there, along the bad road.



And it was bad.  It was another dirt track, missing in places, with wet bits and dangerous bits, all the time overlooked by mountains in magnificent colours.  Kurt delighted in telling us where people had died on this road.  At the end we had to pay P2500 (£3.57) to enter the Baños Colinas car park (which Kurt paid) and then we had three pools in the hillside, three or four feet full of hot water.  He was not going to bathe but Jen and I changed in a tiny cubicle and leapt in.  As usual I had forgotten my bathers but I had Jen’s sports top and my shorts which matched very well.  The water was murky but very warm and we were instructed by one of the locals to take the mud from the bottom and plaster it over our faces and bodies.  Not a gringo in sight, just what we liked.



Kurt drove us home with a short stop at the fossil shop as he and Jen were both into stones.  They did not wish to buy any, however, fossils have to be found not bought.  We also drove down to Baños Morales, just for a look, and then the two of them could not resist going for a short fossil hunt.


We had to battle with the Santiago rush hour to get home.  That evening we all went for a Chinese meal and, to say thank you, invited Kurt to join us for our binge tomorrow.  He comes from a large family, was it six brothers and seven sisters or the other way around?  He is the only one working in Santiago, all the rest of the family are still in Puerto Varas, more than 1000km to the south.  He accepted.


Monday 3 August

A day for more shopping - all the bits we couldn’t find the day before yesterday and time to have my boots cleaned again, P500 (£0.66) this time.  We ended up having coffee at the fish market and the chap we met before came over to see how our holiday had been.  He could see before he asked that we had had and were still having a wonderful time.  We spent the afternoon trying to find a noisy, lively restaurant for that night.  Our book suggested a restaurant not far from the hostel which provided good food and local music.  Without too much difficulty we found the place and went in for a look.  An extremely grumpy waiter showed us around.  Although the menu looked fine we were not sure that there would be any music and dancing so decided to try and find somewhere else.  Despite ringing several times I could not get hold of Stefano (my winery contact in Santiago).  Having trawled through our guide book and another guide to Santiago supplied by the Youth Hostel, I asked the chap in reception where he would recommend for music and dancing.  Not a question he had to answer very often it appeared!  He could only suggest an area of the city where the nightlife was hottest.  We dressed up and stunned the rest of the Youth Hostel with our transformation.  Don’t they ever go dancing, these people?



We finally decided on a restaurant up at Providencia, near the Embassy, because there were places to dance there too.  Kurt volunteered to drive.  In the restaurant, Jen and I ordered but Kurt was uncertain what to have.  He asked Jen to choose something for him and when his meal arrived it was wrapped in fancy paper with ribbons.  Kurt was a little embarrassed!  Jen decided this was the one night when she would partake of a little alcohol, we each ordered a Tom Collins.  Not a good choice for someone who doesn’t really drink as it was gin, gin, more gin with a little bitter lemon.  The waiter spoke perfect English which was handy as, after the meal, he advised me on the nearest and best places to dance.  We tried the discotheque almost next door and danced the night away.


Tuesday 4 August

I was slightly the worse for wear after our celebrations last night (it must have been finishing Jen’s Tom Collins!) so the day started slowly and quietly.  The collectivo was booked for 1230 and with an hour to go we went out for a last coffee at the stew and beetroot cafe.  We arrived back at the Youth Hostel at the right time and waited, talking to an American about our travels.  At 1300 one of the the youth hostel guardians, who looked remarkably like a gorilla, rang the collectivo office for me, they knew nothing about collecting me but promised to send someone shortly.  Within 15 minutes I had said goodbye to Jen, gathered up all my bags and left for the airport.


At the airport I trawled the souvenir shop looking for something on which to spend my last pesos but there was nothing I fancied.  I ended up giving them to BA for their “Change for Children in Africa” appeal which I suppose was only just.  Without their problems I would not have visited South America in the first place.  Thanks BA and thank you Tavern!!

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