A Travellerspoint blog

July 2007

Nasca

Ancient lines on the pampa

sunny 20 °C
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On July 22nd we thus boarded the bus heading for Nasca on the south coast. The bus ride was uneventful - the landscape was much the same as that of the previous day. Sand dunes, desert, mountains with no life, except for in a few green river valleys. We made it to Nasca after about seven hours. It’s a smallish, sandy town in the middle of a desolate desert area. We booked into the least overprized hotel we could find - Hospedaje Nasca Sur, across from the hospital. Thay charge 45 soles, whereas Estrella del Sur next door charges 70 for exactly the same kind of room.

July 23rd was a nice, warm and sunny day in Nasca. We slept in - tired from all the travelling over the last few days. Then we went for some food in restaurant Los Angeles. Conveniently, the owner there also books plane tours over the Nasca lines, which is what brought us to the town of Nasca in the first place. We booked a trip through her for the next day, then had a nice breakfast with mate de coca on the side. Then we went to sort out some other practicalities - we booked a bus onto Cusco for the day after tomorrow, put in a reservation for seats on the Machu Picchu train from Cusco for the 31st of July, send some postcards, and booked a hostel for our first night in Cusco. All that sorted, we had a well deserved day of R&R.

On the 24th, we were picked up from the hostel by the lady from the Los Angeles restaurant, and she took us to the little airport and introduced us to the pilot. We waited around for a slot to open up, and around 10 am we boarded the tiny six seater Cessna plane, and took off across the plains of Ingenio around Nasca. The flight lasted 30 minutes, and rolled and rocked like a rollercoaster, making my stomach protest.

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But this was well worth it for a look at these amazing lines and figures! Over an area of 500 sq km, the flat, dry plain is covered in a myriad of lines and figures, criss-crossing each other and forming a huge network over the landscape.

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Straight lines are interspersed with huge triangles and trapezoids, looking like giant arrows on the soil.

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Among these are scattered figures of animals, plants and people - these are smaller than the lines and trapezoids, but are still 90-120 meters long.

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The lines are created by removing darker stones from the surface, to expose the lighter rock underneath. All in all the 500 sq km area contains around 300 figures, and 70 animal and plant drawings - and who knows how many straight lines. The lines and figures are thought to have been created by the Nasca people around 900 BC - 600 AD. Various theories state that they are anything from an astronomical calendar, ritual walkways related to a water cult, giant running tracks, alien landing sites, and representations of drug induced hallucinations. Alan favours this last theory - as he put it: “they must have been fucked up”. Whatever their reason, the lines are an amazing feat, and they must have taken ages to create. They are also beautiful and mysterious to look at, and the few that you get to see on the fly-over were absolutely amazing! We saw a whale, a man (often referred to as an astronaut due to the shape of his head), a dog, a monkey, a bird known as a condor (which it is not really, due to the shape of its beak), a flamingo, a hummingbird, a spider, a parrot, a tree and an odd figure known as the hands.
After the plane ride, we went to a restaurant with an Italian couple who had been on the plane with us. Here, we ran into another Italian couple who were on their honeymoon. The six of us ended up spending nine hours in the restaurant, drinking beer, having some food, and just talking for ages. It was a great day, and in the end we said goodbye to the others who were heading out on a night bus, and went to bed.

See more pictures from Nasca on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5

Posted by monkyhands 21:40 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima

Getting to Peru

sunny 29 °C
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On the 20th, we managed to get space on the bus. But the wait had made us restless, and we decided to spring for the 24 hour bus all the way to Lima, Peru, rather than stopping along the North coast. LONG ride, but it went more or less ok. The border crossing was fine, and the bus was a very comfortable double-decker, with movies on board, and three meals a day (but not good meals, unfortunately). The seats reclined enough that you could comfortably sleep for most of the night. In Tumbes, about half an hour after the border crossing, two Peruvian men boarded the bus and went to sleep in their seats. Shortly after this, the bus was pulled over by the police, who came on the bus carrying semi-automatic rifles. They took the two men off the bus, and then thoroughly searched their seats and the toilets, apparently looking for a knife or other weapon (so they said). They never explained further, but we gather that the men must have robbed something in Tumbes, or perhaps stabbed someone. Either way, we never saw them again, and soon the bus was on its way again. We managed to fall asleep early on.

On the 21st, we woke up to find that the bus was behind schedule by several hours - shit! As if 24 hours wasn’t long enough. We were driving very slowly, but they never gave us any info as to why. We rolled on slowly through the drab coastal landscape of Peru - sand and sand dunes as far as the eye can see, and barely any life, apart from semicircular plastic tents housing chicken farms. The landscape seemed the perfect set for a Star Wars movie. Eventually, after almost 30 hours, we made it to Lima. Not a very inviting city we thought. Or perhaps we were just still restless and itching to move. Anyway, we booked a ticket straight away, to continue on to Nasca the next day (Peruvian town, not a racetrack). We spent a restful night in Lima, had some food and drinks in the pleasant Miraflores suburb.

Didn't really have time to take any pictures in Lima - just passing through.

Posted by monkyhands 21:38 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Guayaquil

City time in Ecuador

sunny 30 °C
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OK - been a while since I posted, so here is a couple of entries to catch up from Ecuador into Peru. On the 17th we took ourselves down to the “bus station” in Puerto Lopez and caught the 9 am bus to Guayaquil - Ecuador‘s largest city. The bus ride took four hours. Once arrived, we checked into a hotel, and then walked around the city for hours. We had some food, visited the town’s markets and looked at their riverfront arcade. It’s a dirty, worn-down city, but it has its upsides. And it definitely feels more like a bustling city than Quito. Tired, we went back to our hotel, and found that we could get wireless internet there - always a bonus when this works out!

On the 18th of July, we decided to stay another day in Guayaquil, although there is not actually that much to see here. We wandered the streets again, looking at people. Found a park populate by large iguanas. They were all over - in the trees, on the ground. You had to stay well clear of the trees, in order not to get peed or pooped on! We ate in the central market - great, cheap food there. Chicken stews with rice and avocado salad, or grilled chicken or meat, again with rice. So tasty. And the fruit shakes are excellent. You can get blackberry, peach, papaya, orange, passion fruit, apple, grapefruit, and others we had never heard of. Our favourite though, was the strawberry with aloe vera - very good, and very healthy I’m sure.

On the 19th, we got up and went to the offices of the international bus company called Ormeno, hoping to catch a bus to Tumbes in Peru. Unfortunately, the bus was full, and we had to return to our hotel and stay yet another day. Once again we entertained ourselves in the markets of Guayaquil, buying DVD’s, eating food and drinking smoothies. The market we felt gave a true representation of Ecuadorian fare. Exotic, and sometimes very strange. The fruit was odd shaped, and coloured, and had exciting and interesting smells, tastes and textures - some weird and wonderful, some definitely not. But we proudly managed to concoct a three course meal for under three dollars - consisting of ceviche for starters, seco de chivo (goat stew) with rice as main course, and a revitalizing strawberry and aloe vera milk shake for dessert. So we actually quite enjoyed Guayaquil!

All the pictures from Guayaquil are available on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5

Posted by monkyhands 21:34 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Down to Puerto Lopez

Busses, whales and fishing

overcast 23 °C
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On July 13th, we took a bus out of Quito heading west to Manta on Ecuador's Pacific coast. The bus was a bit late from the get go (no surprise there), but eventually we got going at aroud 1 pm. To our dismay, the bus was boarded by one salesman after another, taking advantage of their captive audience (apparantly a standard behaviour here). First came a guy selling some polished rocks and crystals - he was claiming they had various "magic" powers, using words such as "astronomic" "scientific" and "researched" to give some credibility to his claims. Second, a guy came on with some sort of odd looking wire and bead constructions which were exclusively decorative. You could pull and push them into different shapes "in the style and fashion of the moment" as he convincingly pointed out. Then came a guy selling some herbal tablets, which could cure just about any ailment - bladder infections, kidney problems, various "women's issues", and even sores caused by HIV. He used drawings and pictures of different human organs to prove his point - all very pseudo-scientific. In the end he poured some sort of colorant (looked like iodine to me) into a glass of water, and by putting in one of his all-purpose tablets and stirring it, he made the water clear again. Apparantly this was to illustrate how the tablets could clear up infections that made your pee go dark. Unfortunately for him, the pen he used to stir the glass was extremely suspicious looking (most likely, the extra large top on it was full of bleach or something like it). But hey, who's looking when you are on a bus zipping up and down mountain sides in the Andes. All in all very tiring. Then came some dubbed b-movies, and very loud Ecuadorian pop music, till we were close to breaking point. The ride to Manta was supposed to take 8 hours, but after about 9 hours, we were still not there. We gave up, and managed to get off the bus in Portoviejo to get some sleep.

On the 14th, we thus found ourselves in Portoviejo instead of Manta. As the town seemed to be devoid of charm and interest, we decided to get going again. Rather than head to Manta, which we had only meant as a stopover anyway, we went straight to Puerto Lopez for some whale whatching. The busride took about three hours through dry, dusty hills, untill we arrived at the coast. It was sunny, but surprisingly chilly considering the proximity to the ecuator. We checked into a hostel, and went exploring. Puerto Lopez is a medium sized, dusty town, but the beach is beautiful. We looked at some diving, but it was way overprized, and so we booked a whalewatching tour instead.

July 15th, we went to see some whales. We has lots of great sightings, and we saw the whales (humpbacks) both slapping their tails and heads on the water, as well as jumping pretty much clear out of the water. Truly amazing! Hard to get pictures though, as it all happens quickly - but Alan managed to get some great ones.

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After a few short hours, we turned back to shore. We went to the local market for a meal, and had fresh crabs, which we smashed up with wooden hammers, as well as fried fish with rice. Good, cheap eats! We also found a local soda called Inka Kola - it tasted kind of like green soda, or sprite, but not quite - its good!

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Next day, on the 16th, we were going to head off, but then decided to stay and try to find a fishing trip with a couple of people we had met at the hostel. We found a really good prize with a guy named Wiston Churchill (Wiston, not Winston). He does his business out of a small red shed on the beach front - really nice guy! He charged us 20 dollars a head for several hours of fishing off a boat, including equipment, boat guys, fruit and water. Granted, it was all very rustic, the gear was not the latest model (not even rods, but lines on handles), but it worked! For the first while, we caught nothing, but we still had a great time bird watching - we saw fregats, pelicans and blue footed boobies (who needs Galapagos!).

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We cruised around Salango Island in our little fishing boat, and our boat guys spotted whales! There were several jumping in the distance, and a pair that came quite close before they dived down and disappeared.

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Amazing! After that, our fishing luck turned as well, and we caught several fish - all of them small and odd looking, but hey it's better than nothing.

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We all caught at least one fish, so everyone was happy when we made it back to shore again. We went to show Wiston the fish, and he offered to have his wife cook them for us, if we would come round his house for dinner. We gladly accepted the offer, and at 8 pm we went to his house. His wife had made miracles with our sad bunch off fish, and the meal was a delight. Simple fried fish and rice, but so tasty! The family was really great as well, all the children curious about us and where we were from. All in all a great day - and a great look into real Ecuador in a sense!

Don't forget to go to www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5, where there will soon be more photos of our whale watching and fishing experiences.

Posted by monkyhands 20:35 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Quito

Latitude 0 (nearly)

sunny 24 °C
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On the 10th of July, we caught a plane from Panama City, to Quito in Ecuador, with a stopover in Bogota in Colombia. The service on Colombian airline Avianca was excellent, and so the flight went smoothly. We had a four hour wait in Bogota, and arrived in Quito around 8 pm. We had to try a bunch of hostels before we found one that wasn't full, but in the end we got a room at the Backpacker's Inn (original name). We went out and had some Ecuadorian grub (goat stew and cheese and potatoe pancakes) - quite good.

11th of July, we spent doing the sightseeing thing in Quito. Very nice city actually. We walked around the Old Town, enjoying the colonial architecture, the churches and so on. We even went to the top of the tower in one church, which gave us a great view of the city. The city is located in a valley in the Andes, and is built on several hills of various sizes, which makes the skyline very interesting and varied.

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The climate here is very comfortable due to the altitude (Quito sits at 2850 m above sea level). Unfortunately, this also gave us some mild altitude sickness - felt like a mild flu, with sore heads and bones, dry mouths and red eyes. So, we took it nice and easy, and stopped for breakfast in a nice little cafe.

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Generally, we just had a nice day of people watching and enjoying Quito's little quirks. Lots of interesting stuff to look at.

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At one point, a guy popped up from the roof of an armed money transport, and pointed an uzi randomly at the crowd, including us. That's a first! Fortunately, he soon popped back inside his hatch, no harm done.

On July 12th, we decided to be even more touristy than the day before, and so we went to see the Mitad del Mundo - the monument marking the equator line, 22 km north of Quito, to stand with our feet in separate hemisspheres - very silly, but good fun.

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At the line, we realised this was actually the first time we had been south of the ecuator on any of our trips - very cool. Afterwards, we went to the busstation and booked tickets out of Quito for the next day - more about that in the next entry.

Don't forget to see more of our pictures of Quito at www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5

Posted by monkyhands 19:40 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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