Why is it that everything interesting in Peru is uphill? I´ve swapped the casual chillout of Mancora for a whirlwind tour of Peru, spending about 50 hours on buses and a half hour on a plane. And having to do way too much walking uphill.
Huacachina was my first stop, after 30 hours of bussing. I was so tired when I arrived that I completely slept through the 5.9 earthquake that night. Huacachina is an oasis in the desert where you can go sandboarding. It´s like snowboarding but then through sand, which doesn´t go very fast so it´s a lot more fun to lie on the board, face down, and slide off steep dunes. We were driven around in dune buggies that tore up the desert, a real thrill ride, especially when you´re about to go over the crest of a dune and you can´t see the descent until the last second.
The next stop on the agenda was Nazca, home of the famous Nazca Lines. You can take a small plane to see them from the sky, and it´s a mesmerising, completely mysterious view. There are lines that go straight for miles, right across hills and valleys, intersecting with other lines almost haphazardly. Amidst this crisscrossing are super detailed sand drawings, up to 300 meters long or wide, of all sorts of creatures: hummingbirds, monkeys, spiders, parrots. The strangest of all is hewn into the rock: a little man, waving, with what looks like a fishbowl over his head. He´s called the astronaut. Nobody knows why the lines were made, and it looks like we´ll never know either. Fascinating stuff.
From Nazca it was off to Cuzco, the oldest inhabited city in South America and the capital of the Inca empire. It´s gorgeous here and I´m staying at a great hostel. It´s also 3300 meters up so on the first day the altitude really got to me. Instead of chilling on the second day, I went along on a hike to a series of Inca ruins above Cuzco. Normally, one takes the bus to the last (most uphill) ruin and then casually saunters back. Somehow we ended up doing the opposite, so after 5 hours of uphill walking in the thin air, I was completely dead. Interesting stuff, though, and I got a lot more perspective on the Inca culture, and their rapid demise at the hands at the Spaniards. Turns out the Spaniards were A) harder, stronger, better, faster than any Inca warrior, B) lucky enough to enter Peru at the time of a great Inca civil war, C) carried enough diseases to wipe out 95% of the population, D) had horses and steel armor, E) shaved their beards which made the Incas think that they knew the secret of eternal life, because they would come out of the barber´s tent looking 10 years younger…
The highlight of Cuzco is obviously Machu Picchu, which I visited yesterday. I learned how to spell it the day before so I felt qualified to visit. There´s really no level of hype big enough that Machu Picchu won´t do justice. It´s spellbinding, an almost perfectly preserved Inca city high up in the mountains. The scenery is out of this world, with jagged peaks sticking out all around, going straight down to a green, lush river gorge. Words cannot really do it justice, it has to be seen. Truly a Wonder of the world.
It´s also supercute how there are alpaca llamas walking around everywhere, trimming the grass. At some point I decided to take a nap on one of the terraces (I had gotten up at 3am to get there at 8am) and a llama walked past me and ripped off a huge, huge fart. Smelly bastards, but absolutely cute to see. I then had one for dinner at night and it was delicious!
Here are some selected photos, and you can see the full album here:
I´m heading off to Arequipa next, which will be my last stop in Peru before I get to Bolivia.