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The Peru Coast and Lima

By smithdm3 - Posted on 10 May 2007

Meg and I spent the last leg of our Peru trip enjoying the 'middle' coast area. As mentioned in my last post, we made our way to Ica by way of Lima (a flight to Lima and then a 4 hour bus ride rather than our initial thoughts of a 20 hour bus ride). We chose to spend 3 nights in Ica, which we would use as a jumping off point for a day trip to Nazca as well. The most surprising thing to us was the degree to which the area south of Lima (and I would guess that portions of Lima itself) look like a desert, I guess we simply weren't expecting that.

We arrived late in the evening in Ica, used an internet cafe to post that last entry and then ate dinner before turning in for the night.

Our first day in Ica we arranged a tour to see the local area including a couple of bodegas (wineries). Our tour began with a side trip to Huacachina, which is apparently the Americas' only true oasis. Surrounded by sand dunes is a small natural pond of water. We didn't take in any of the typical activities there which include dune buggies or sand boarding, and instead continued on our tour.

Our next stop was the largest church in Ica, they don't have a Cathedral you see, so the largest church would have to do. We didn't go in as it's kept shut due to theivery, instead we went across the street to sample some local chocolates 'Choco-Tejas' made of Dulce de Leche, pecans and chocolate. Delicious! They have other non-chocolate varieties, but the chocolate ones are by far the best.

We then moved onto Tacama, one of the three large wineries in the area. The area is quite dry, but there is the Ica River which carries water from the mountains to the coast much of the year that allows them grow quite a number of crops in the area including artichokes, asparagus and of course, grapes. Tacama is a large industrial winery that makes a number of different products including white and red wines, a sangria (in tetrapaks even), a sparkling white and the typical Peru Pisco. We tasted probably 6 or so of the different offerings and settled on a half bottle of their Tinto (or red) and mickey sized bottle of Pisco for making Pisco Sours with.

Leaving the industrial winery, we visited a smaller 'artisanal' bodega called Tres Generacions where they still use people's feet to press the juice from the grapes. You can go and do it if you're in town during that time of year (don't worry, they clean the peoples feet with alcohol beforehand). This bodega only makes Pisco, which is essentially a distilled white wine. We sampled a number of Pisco's here, as they have 5 different types based upon different grapes.

After a quick lunch we visited the Ica museum where they have a number of things on display including weavings and mummies. Unfortunately they had three weavings stolen a few years back, the most valuable of which they estimate could fetch a million dollars on the black market. Our tour of Ica done, we made our way back to the hotel where we had a quick dip and a bit of relaxation before heading back downtown for dinner.

The next day we arose early and went on our tour to Nazca. The drive from Nazca is around 1.5 hours. We stopped just outside of Nazca to climb a tower that provides a brief glimpse of the Nazca Lines. From the tower you can see three seperate images, the Hands, the Lizard (which was damaged by the building of the Panamericana highway) and the Tree. It was a good initial glimpse as to what we'd see from our flight over them.

Meg welcomed her first flight in a small plane as we boarded a small Cesna (I think it was Cesna) with two other tourists and a pilot and took off. The flight took us on a course that allowed us to see 16 or so specific images including the Condor, the Astronaut, the Dog, the Spider, the Hummingbird, some triangles and trapezoids, the aforementioned Hands, Tree and Lizards as well as the Monkey (I'm likely mising a couple). The flight was pretty cool, and the lines while not truly amazing are certainly something to see - the most amazing thing is that they've lasted hundred of years in my opinion.

After the lines we went to see a local pottery maker who showed the process they go through to make pottery (and have for ages I suppose). Then it was on to a artisinal gold refinery where they use a frightening amount of mercury to extract gold from crushed rock. Then it was back to Ica where we had some lunch and then picked up some chocolates at the establishment previously mentioned :) We spent the rest of the warm afternoon relaxing by the pool at our hotel.

Early the next morning we hired a taxi to take us the half hour northwest to Paracas where we would spend two nights at the resort Hotel Paracas. The resort has recently changed ownership and I'm afraid that while it was decent it didn't live up to it's price tag. What was enjoyable there was our trip out to the Ballestas Islands. These islands are used by many birds as a latrines, and hence have been used for ages by the Peruvian people to harvest guano. The islands are a great place to see a number of different birds, including pelicans, Inca Terns, Boobys (seriously that's what they're called) and the Humboldt Penguin. Yep, we saw penguins in the wild, pretty cool. It's also home to a huge number of sea lions, some of which are just huge.

We spent our last night in Peru in Lima after a 3 hour or so bus ride back on Tuesday. We had an Italian dinner at a great restaurant in Mirraflores (a burrough of Lima), it was a great change from the mostly fish/meat and potatoes and rice meals we'd had elsewhere. Wednesday, our last day in Peru, saw us fit a bunch of stuff in in Lima, including the San Francisco Monestary, complete with skull and bone filled catacombs below. We also visited the Museum of the Inquisitiona, Place des Armes (where we saw what we think was the changing of the guard ceremony), a pre-Incan 'pyramid' called Huaca Huallamarca and a brief trip to the cliffs before heading off to the airport. Quite a day.

We arrived back in La Paz late last night and spent today just relaxing. Tomorrow holds in store a little shopping for souvenirs and then it's back to Ottawa for me Saturday night. It's been a great trip and I'll be sure to post another post or two with more thoughts on info on the Inca Trail and some general thoughts on my trip to South America as a whole.

Hey Dave (and Meg),

Reading that post brought me back to Lima in my head. Jody and I did pretty much the same 'tour' on our day in Lima. Gotta love the catabombs, eh? We also toured Miraflores, etc. It's always cool to read about friends who have gotten to see some of the same things we have! I feel like we've bonded ;-) Glad to hear the trip's gone well. Jody and Tianne are having a good time in Vietnam too, although buying far too much clothes I think!

Hehe...just giving you a hard time as usual Dave. Sounds like good times. One of these days I'll make it down to Peru, and when I do, I'll use your and Steve's blogs to plan my trip.

Get any running in while you were there? ;)

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