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October 31, 2007

Peru Parte 1

We are Peru

I must be one of the rare few who dont get excited about the prospect of peru when people mention in quivering anticipation of how it or amazing macchu picchu could be. For many tourists Peru is S America and Macchu Picchu the reason for the long haul to the continent. Everything else takes a backseat and travellers get glossy eyed and make a dash for Peru s archeological jewel and miss out on what else Peru has on offer. Which I´ll give Peru credit, is a wide variety of cultural pockets and extremely diverese wild life and environs... but when it came down to it, Peru just didnt get my engine revving like other SA countries. It seemed like perhaps overall I had just been going through the motions of another andean nation and in the process dealing with the bulk of the surly Andean tourist industry. Doesnt sound enticing? Well read on... perhaps who ll find the odd glimmer of excitement and wonder hidden behind my cynical take on tourism centred around the Sacred Vally and M Picchu.

After coming from Ecuador and Colombia , Juliet and I were a little taken aback when emerging bleary eyed from our bus at the station in Piura we were told by the guard how perilously dangerous it would be for us to walk out in the street with our backpacks, despite it being manically busy and 8 in the morning. This was Peru, the most touristed of the countries on the continent. And this is a little disconcerting as it seemed improbable, but when a number of locals tell you this with nothing to gain themselves you start to second guess and get slightly uneasy. But we hopped in a taxi to another bus comapy merely a few blocks away and werent robbed before travelling another 3 hrs again and repeating the process and getting the same warnings.

Peru´s bus sytem is terribly organised with the hundreds of different companies occupying there own stations spread around town , usually in some of the dodgier areas. It also means that comparing bus prices ) which vary widely= is a real pain in the ass and requires a day of prep before disembarking..

So we coasted down The Pan America and saw nothing but dark grey sandy desert disappearing to the mountains on one side and being swallowed by the ocean on the other. Cheapily errected brick mortar squats ornated with rusty steel girders protruding from the top intersped the bleak expanses of sand before arriving at the next city. Each city is centered around one of the few places on the coast with a river making it from the mounatin to the ocean and providing an oasis of sorts with cheap mortar and brick fences and rough crops crowded around it. The barrios of modern Peru possibly constitute the ugliest construction site I have been privy to view.

This bleak expanse of desert stretches from its border with Ecuador to Chile in the south and despite the proximity to the equator and the sea level altitude, it is for some reason fucking cold too. The sky is dulled a depressing grey and the everything seems a tad unexciting and like purgatory. Yet numerous pre Inca civilisations thrived here and built empires which were eventually subsumed, destroyed or disappeared into the sand.Heavens knows why such a place would be the centre of so many locations.

Trujillo plaza Huanchaco Fisherman

Finally we ended up in Trujillo a town founded by Pizzaro in 1500 and what not on the coast , a little osais in the great expanse of desert splattered with quaint brightly painted colonial buildings and close to the nearby ruins of the huge Chan Chan which pre date anything Spanish by a good 1000 years. We bunked down in a nearby fishing village town crowded with seafood restaurants, surf shops and local fishermen who use reed bots to "surf" back into the shore with their catch. We wandered around the massive ruins, which were nothing more thangiant crumbling walls with some interesting carvings still visible and stumbled across the sacrificial pit at the nearby temple of the moon which was severed down the middle by spanish looking for gold.

Chan Chan The Pan American

Another 16 or so hours of bus down the Pan Am and giving Lima the slip, we passed Pisco, the town devestated by the recent earthquakes. The town was a mess and rubble littered the streets. Most of the residents had been moved into tents and as our bus drove through children ran after us, their hands out for money. I remember CNN or some other terrible news agency reporting the devestation by hightlighting the lack of water and electricity... which didnt actually exist in many of the houses anyway pre quake. The shabby building practices certainly hadnt helped things in nearby Ica where we were headed, but they looked to be coping much better. We drove to the neighborhood desert oasis of Hucachina where a few buildings, trees and tourists crowded a lovely little lake that is dwarfed by surrounding dunes of amazing magnitude. Sandboarding is the hightlight here and we spent an afternoon trudging up ridiculously high dunes and plumetting down only to fall on our ass 20m later.

Nazca is a short bus ride away and we stopped in town briefly enough to take a cheap flight over the lines (a truly amazing experience, which left others in our plane with very green looking faces) and get some fill of chinese food which restaurants seemed to dominate the town. What struck me most about the desolate (there is that word again), flat plateau on which the huge geometric and animal images were carved, was not amazing precison or truly huge scale of the things, but the ravaged look of the landscape itself. It looks scarred and cut by water but then cruelly left dry for 500 years. This is what apparently wiped out the Nazca culture, long droughts , and resulted in possibly more glyphs as they tried their best to appease there merciless gods.


The bus route we then took wound its way up into the Andes and we experienced nightmare bus travel as the worst music we had ever heard was played at discoteque levels and the bus rocked us back and forth in seats midgets would find constricting. After numerous breakdowns and bathroom emergencies we arrived in Cuzco and the heart of the tourist scene in Peru.

Music: Battles, Nick Drake, Boards of Canada,

Posted by alex at October 31, 2007 8:49 AM


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