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peru trip Lima Huacachina Nazca Arequipa Colca Canyon Puno & Lake Titicaca Cusco ollantaytambo Machu Picchu

Day 1.Lima We transferred to our hotel in Lima, a pleasant colonial villa in the Miraflores district. Miraflores, about 30 minutes' drive from the airport, is a leafy cosmopolitan suburb on the coast with several hotels, bars and restaurants and a couple of busy shopping streets.

Day 2. Huacachina. We walked round Miraflores in the morning, then picked up from our hotel at around 12.30pm and transferred to the bus station. Royal Class bus of Cruz del Sur to Ica. The trip takes about 5 hours. The road follows the coast, which for a large part of the year is shrouded in that typical Peruvian mist called garúa.

On arrival in Ica we took a taxi to our hotel in Huacachina, an oasis 4km outside Ica. The village lies on a lagoon fringed with palm trees and pastel-coloured houses, in the middle of a desert landscape with enormous sand dunes all around. The hotel was not lujo, but charming, and did have the advantage of a pool.

Day 3. Huacachina. Early in the morning (around 6am) we went by minibus to the small harbour of Paracas for a boat trip to the Reserva Nacional de las Islas Ballestas. The islands are famous for their unusual eroded rock formations (ballesta means arch) and in  particular for the birdlife. We had to hang around for some hours until the sea mist cleared, which it eventually did just when we thought the whole thing would be called off.

The boat journey takes about 45 minutes, passing a huge figure of a candelabra carved into the rock face. As you approach the islands the noise of the barking sea lions gets louder and louder and the unmistakable acrid smell of bird droppings fills the air. All around you see, hear and smell seals, iguanas, penguins, pelicans and many other water birds. Entire colonies of sea lions lie wallowing in the sun.

Bus back to the hotel in Huacachina mid afternoon. And in the evening a stroll round the lagoon and dinner in one of the waterside restaurants.

Day 4. Nasca. Next morning we took a dune buggy ride through the sand dunes. Once Chris had borrowed a pair of motor cycle type goggles from the driver, the adventure went much more smoothly. Later that afternoon it was back to Ica bus station to catch the bus to Nasca, a 2 hour bus trip. It was a bit of a hassle to get a taxi to take us to our hotel there - it being a few miles out of town and down a dirt road. Still when we got there it was a lovely old finca with a pool

Day 5 Night bus & Arequipa. Up early to get the flight over the Nasca Lines. Bad visibility delayed us for an hour or so, but we took off eventually. You fly in a small Cessna airplane over the Nasca Lines at an altitude of about one thousand feet. The flight lasts about 35 minutes and they point out to you all of the major lines, including the monkey, spaceman, condor, whale, etc.

In the afternoon we visited the desert cemetery of Chauchilla. The cemetery is a necropolis in the middle of the desert, containing a collection of skeletons, bones and some entire mummies from the late Nasca period. Dinner at the hotel, then back to Nasca bus station for the joys of the overnight bus to Arequipa

Day 6 Arequipa. The overnight bus trip from Nasca to Arequipa left after 10pm and we arrived around 8am. Our hotel in Arequipa was a family run colonial posada, with classic iron wrought gates and a courtyard filled with flowers. It was close to the Santa Catalina monastery and the Plaza de Armas. We had the rest of the day to explore Arequipa

Day 7. Colca Canyon We took a private 4x4 trip to the Colca Canyon. Picked up from the Arequipa hotel at 9, and deposited in the Colca Hotel at 12.30. This was the one real failure of our trip to Peru. The driver was not interested in us, and the hotel was terrible.

Once clear of the spreading suburbs of Arequipa the road starts climbing from the city's altitude of 2300m, then across the Salina y Aguada Blanca nature reserve. Eventually the road reaches an altitude of 4800m, before dropping down to the valley at 3500m. The Colca Valley is over 100km long and deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Day 8. Arequipa. We were picked up around 8 by the surly driver and taken to the viewing spot for the condors. We were driven through several rural villages and followed the road along the canyon to the Cruz del Condor viewpoint. Cruz del Condor is the place you can see the condors up close. Between 8am – 10am as the sun begins to heat the air deep in the canyon, the condors glide up on these warm thermal currents. Happily we saw some condors. The surly driver then whipped us straight back to Arequipa which we reached at 14.30

Day 9. Puno and Lake Titicaca. The next morning the bus to Puno was at 9am. After 6 hours (around 3pm) we arrived in Puno on Lake Titicaca. Our hotel overlooked the Plaza de Armas, and we had a few hours to explore the city

Day 10 Puno and Lake Titicaca. In the morning we were picked up by a decrepit old bus and driven to the harbour of Puno. Here we boarded an even more decrepit boat to take us out on Lake Titicaca. First stop was one of the floating reed islands which were quite spectacular. Then the trip ventured out further onto the lake to get to the island of Taquile. . On Taquile we had lunch and watched "traditional" dancing. Inevitably it is a bit of a tourist mill, and there is certainly no spontaneity in what the indian natives are doing.

Day 11. Cusco After breakfast we took the express bus to Cusco, and got to Cusco around 3pm. We stayed at a very nice hotel in the San Blas district, within walking distance of the Plaza de Armas and the other sights of Cusco. Both our room and the roof terrace had a fantastic view across the city. There was time to take a look around Cusco that day

Day 12 Ollantaytambo. The next morning we embarked on a guided excursion through the Sacred Valley. Stopping at the market at Pisac, and then the Inca fort at Ollantaytambo. We stopped two nights in a lovely posada here. This fortress was the only place where the Incas managed to hold off the Spaniards. The huge rocks that form the impenetrable walls of the fortress weighed over 50 tonnes and were transported here down the river. The rocks then had to be hauled up to the top of the hill by hand.

Day 13 Ollantaytambo. We had the whole day in Ollantaytambo, and were therefore able to "do" it properly. We revisited the fort, then climbed up to the grain silos on the opposite side of the mountain, and had a walk along the river. Interestingly the town was off the main tourist trail, and apart from a short period when tourist buses crowded in from Cusco on day trips, we had the place very much to ourselves.

Day 14 Aguas Calientes We trundled down to the tiny station at Ollantaytambo where our train departed at 9.30am. After chugging up the mountains for a couple of hours along the river, we pulled into Aguas Calientes. This small town is the gateway to Machu Picchu. Everyone on their way to or from the ruins passes through here, so there’s a constant flow of trains in, plus buses out to go up to Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes is one of the nastiest little towns you will come across, it is only there to service tourists who want to visit Machu Picchu, and is just hotels and restaurants, with food of low quality and high price. Happily we liked our hotel, and even found a decent restaurant.

Day 15 Machu Picchu and Cusco Up before dawn to catch one of the first buses at 6.30am up to the entrance of Machu Picchu. It’s about 20 minutes by bus up a steep sandy road. The Inca city of Machu Picchu was not found by the Spaniards and it wasn't until 1911 that an American archaeologist "discovered" the overgrown and deserted ruins. They have now been restored and are incredibly well kept.

When we got there, it was in cloud, and one could see around 10 meters in front of your face - a view of white cloud and nothing else. However after an hour or so, the cloud lifted, the sun came out, and we were treated to Machu Picchu at its photogenic best. Only when the mist has lifted can you begin to grasp the sheer size of the complex.

Back to Aguas Calientes in the bus in the late afternoon, and caught the train back to Ollantaytambo, from where we were picked up and driven back to the same hotel in Cusco.

Day 16 Cusco A day to explore Cusco. A long walk up to the Inca ruins at Sacsayhuamán. Besides the many historic churches and cathedrals, Cusco also has some of the most perfectly preserved Inca walls in Calle Loreto and the Calle Hatun Rumiyoc. Cusco also has several monasteries open to the public, and we did our bit there too.

Day 17 Lima and flight to Easter Island. After breakfast, out to Cusco airport for the plane back to Lima. Here we had a "final day" tour of Lima, which was more a taxi taking us to the Indian Market in Miraflores, and picking us up to return us to the airport in the evening. We spent the day seeing the centre of Lima, and wandering along the seafront at Miraflores. Our flight to Easter Island left after midnight, so it was adios Peru.


Easter Island