I wish I could capture that feeling flying into a new country gives me. I’ve just landed in Lima and I’m exploring the city for the first time, I’m euphoric. It’s like starting a new relationship, happy and full of lust. Excited about what might be! I’m addicted to flying into new countries and completely in love with life.
Sometimes they’re supposed to be just weekend flings.. you fly in and gorge yourself on its delights then you’re off before the cracks start to appear. Occasionally your head is turned by an even better country and you’re off again! I have a whole 21 days in Peru. Yes my name’s Johanna and I’m a commitment phobe.
So Peru, what have I done, where have I been and what have I learnt. Lima is cool but it’s a big old city. It’s one of those cities where you probably need to know a local to squeeze the very best out of it. However, the food is great and more refined then the central american cuisine, plus the locals are so smiley and friendly. Weirdly there are loads of cats wondering around the Mira Flores area of the city, not scrawny cats but plump clean looking cats – it’s a mystery. I was introduced to Pisco here, which has lethal potential. It’s Peru’s own drink, made from grapes but fermented into a spirit. So you don’t feel like you’re drinking battery acid I’d recommend the Pisco Sour. It turns out that this drink makes you dance on bars – who knew?!
Just a few hours away is the magical oasis Huacachina. It literally is an oasis, a tiny village tucked in between the sand dunes. We took buggies up through the dunes and sand boarded back down. I’ve been completely spoilt by breath-taking landscapes but this was something else. I honestly felt like I’d landed on the moon. Sand boarding is pretty mental and not for the faint-hearted, but hysterical too.
Next stop Chauchilla, where there’s a Pre inca burial site. This place is so bizarre! It’s in the dessert with the Andes as a backdrop and then dotted around you can take a look at the open tombs and their mummified remains. These Pre-inca people had dreadlocks and were always buried in the foetal position. Sadly grave robbers have taken a lot but even now there’s no fences, security and you’ll randomly see a thigh bone lying on the dusty ground. As a collector of skulls I held myself back from adding to my ram, monkey and cat skull collection. At this site a lovely old man works with his family to produce replica pottery from Inca and pre-Inca times. This sounds a little dry but those Incas were a saucy bunch and some of the pots depicted graphic sex scenes, both heterosexual and homosexual. They were pretty forward thinking guys n gals. There was also a vagina pot, oh how I’d have loved to have bought this as a present and not let on that the pretty patterns are in fact lady gardens. But my lack of rucksack space meant it wasn’t to be.
Then the Nazca Lines! Okay I’m going to be really honest here and admit I’d never heard of them until my brothers asked if I was going to see them. These drawings in the ground are dotted around Nazca but despite a shed-load of research and money no one can categorically say who produced them and why. Some of the lines are 32 miles long and there are a number of animals and images etched into the thick sand. My favourite was the monkey but from the tiny 10 seater plane I couldn’t see it – gutted! I spotted all the others on the list though and I think my new favourite is ‘The astronaut’. I mean, really, as if the Incas drew an astronaut. Other theories are that it’s an alien or perhaps a Shaman off his face with big saucer eyes.
Last stop before Inca Trail preparations was Arequipa, a beautiful colonial town with a big square in the centre. It reminded me a lot of Antigua in Guatemala but this square was full of pigeons. I really don’t understand it but the locals seem to love them, they feed them and have photo-shoots with them. I’m wondering if someone should let London’s pigeon community know that they’re more welcome in South America.