City · Peru · South America

Through Nazca to Arequipa

The bus left Huacachina after lunch and stopped for a tour of a Pisco factory, which is the local spirit, normally used for making Pisco Sour cocktails. 

The next stop was at a viewing platform just off the main road in order to see some of the Nazca Lines. The lines are various drawings and patterns spread across the landscape in southern Peru. They have been there for thousands of years having bewn created by the indigeneous tribe known as the Nazca. Today no one knows why they were created but most likely as images for their gods.

After spending the night on the bus and getting to see the sun rise, I arrived in Arequipa at 7am. After some breakfast and a shower I headed off to one of the city’s main attractions, the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. Having housed thousands of nuns over the years, the convent is huge and basically a city within a city, with its own streets, policies and way of working. The colours around this small city were beautiful and were really highlighted by the sun, although having outside walls made it very hot.

Nature · Outdoor activities · Peru · South America

Southern Peru

Leaving Lima, I started a bus tour called Peru Hop which gave me a set route from Lima all the way to La Paz in Bolivia via most of the main tourist stops. However the tour gave me the opportunity to make the journey my own by choosing which towns to stay in and how long I stayed in each one. It also does direct pick up and drop off from hostels and helps organise tours and activities so I felt it was going to make life pretty easy andhopefully give me the chance to meet other travellers. 

The first stop off was a town on the coast called Paracas, a couple of hours drive south of Lima. I had decided not to stay in Paracas but there was time to do a boat trip around Ballestas Island which is full of different birds, including grey-footed boobies and penguis, and seals. 

The next stop, which was also the final one of the day so the overnight stop, was Hucachina. This tiny town is an oasis in the dessert and the only activities here are sand buggies and dune boarding!

I had decided to stay in an ecocamp which meant some serious glamping with an awesome pool – good for some sunbathing after being so cold in Lima!

City · Peru · South America

Lima

The bus from Huarez to Lima ended up taking nearly 10 hours as the Friday evening traffic around the city was so bad. I had originally planned to find a fun hostel for the weekend but as I still had no voice, opted for a B&B instead. I was staying in the Miraflores district which has plenty of bars and restaurants and is close to the tourist attractions in the centre.

On Saturday morning I headed into the city by bus. The bus system in Lima is very good with several fast lines on segregated lanes on the main roads and so can move around pretty quickly. Payment is via a contactless card similar to an Oyster which felt very modern, particularly after the bus system in Ecuador. 

At Plaza Mayor, I just happened to get there in time to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside the Palacio de Gobierno, complete with marching band. After some lunch I walked through Plaza San Martin to the Museo de Arte which houses a real mix of different art from stone and textiles created by a variety of indigenous tribes, religious art once the conquistadors arrived, and more recent work, often influenced by European artists from the Impressionist onwards. 

As I was feeling much better, despite still not being able to talk, I took myself out for dinner to an awesome Peruvian restaurant called àmaZ, where all the dishes are inspired by the Amazon. More details on the amazing food in a separate blog post.

On Sunday I had a fairly chilled out day wandering along the coastal path and had proper Peruvian ceviche for lunch, although I’ve decided that I’m not a huge fan. 

Monday was my last day in Lima so I visited the cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace as well as some more pre-Colombian ruins called Huaca Pucllana, made from adobe and clay. Located right in the centre of the Miraflores area, they were originally in a pyramid shape.

City · Food · Peru · Restaurants · South America

àmaZ

Whilst in Lima I decided to treat myself to dinner at àmaZ, where all the food is inspired by the Amazon. It is also listed as one of the up and coming restaurants by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants so I thought definitely worth a try! I sat at the bar and started with a Pisco Sour, a cocktail made from the local spirit Pisco. It contains egg white and lemon juice as well as Angostura Bitters so is quite sour (who would’ve thought!) but is very yummy!

The restaurant serves many of the starters in half portions so I decided to try one as an appetiser with my cocktail. I chose Amazonian Snail, which was served back inside the massive shell! In many ways this was much better than French snails which have been enveloped in garlic butter, as I could taste the delicate but earthy flavour of the snail itself and it definitely was rubbery, just slightly chewy. 

As a starter I had tuna and passion fruit ceviche. Served with very soft avocado which balanced the acidity of the passion fruit, this was the best ceviche I have ever had! 

For main course I had Amazonian fish cooked with onions and tomatoes inside a bamboo leaf. Soft and delicate, all the flavour remained in the juices floating inside the leaf. I asked the sommelier for a suitable glass of white wine to accompany the dish and was given a Spanish white Rioja, which I’m not usually a fan of, but it went very well with the fish and the slight acidity and sweetness from the tomatoes and onions.

After all that food, I was sadly far too full for dessert as they looked amazing!

So an expensive meal for Peru but relatively cheap compared to London. A cocktail, glass of wine, bottle of water, appetiser, starter and main course all came to a grand total of £45. A fab treat for me! 

Outdoor activities · Peru · South America

Northern Peru

After three days staying at Kamala Beach Lodge in Montañita, I was feeling a bit broken. Going to bed once its already light and doing shots before breakfast will do that to you apparently! As I’d lost my voice completely and had a bad cough and aore throat, I decided to take it easy until I was feeling better and able to socialise again. 

I took the overnight bus from Guayaguil in Ecuador to Trujillo in Peru which took 18 hours including the stop at passport control. The bus was much nicer than everything else I’d travelled on so far and it had been only $10 more to go first class so I had a seat that reclined further, my own tv as well as dinner and breakfast. Thankfully I slept most of the way and got to Trujillo at 9am. 

I had booked into a hotel for the night and was able to check in straight away. I had a wander around the colonial old town and then went to visit some pre-Colombian ruins outside the town called Chan Chan. As the city is very near the coast, most of the walls are made with adobe bricks containing a lot of sand and its the largeat ruin in the world of adobe. Many of the decorations appear to be made from compacted sand and are quite impressive particularly as they are so old. Many of them are now refurbished but some are still the originals. 

As I was still feeling rubbish, I decided to change my plans slightly and rather than taking a couple of night buses as I headed to Lima in order to have more time for activities during the day, I took the buses during the day instead. My next stop was Huaraz which meant travelling back into the mountains from sea-level, up to 3000m. The views from the bus during the 8 hour journey were amazing as Huaraz is located between two mountain ranges, Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra. I was staying in a lovely little guesthouse called 

where I had breakfast on the sunny roof terrace both mornings. Even from here in the town, the mountains are amazing and the two ranges give a beautiful contrast to each other.
On the one full day I had in Huaraz, the weather was really sunny so I felt that I had to do something outside, particularly as I’d changed the plans and was rather disappointed that I wasn’t feeling up to doing a couple of full day treks that had been on my list – the dry air because of the altitude was also really not helping my cough. I walked up and out of the town for 2 hours to some pre-Colombian ruins which looked very striking with the white hills behind them. Unfortunately the trek had left me feeling exhausted so to get back into town I jumped into a collectivo, a beaten up old minibus that acts as a cheap bus! 

Next day was the bus to Lima.