At some point of my ‘Peru Hop’, I realized how most of the streets on our planet are still dirt roads; and go through the most stunning untouched areas. Last week, I continued my travels in Arequipa and the Colca region, which is absolutely spectacular! The first moments in white stone Arequipa feel like being back in Spain: the entire city center was built in the European style and is therefore very pretty compared to many other cities in this continent. And the landscape around the city… It feels like traveling to a different world when you get out of the westernized center of Arequipa and suddenly find yourself surrounded by metal huts built in a moonlike landscape.
Everything is grey-toned, the only color comes from the blue sky – if it is not covered by the cloud of dust every car is followed by like a shadow. And then there are the smooth, endless mountains that look like someone folded or crumpled them like a napkin. A few valleys away, the shape is still the same, but someone added yellow, brown and green to the image, the landscape gets more colorful. Continuing the drive, we pass wild alpacas, other lama-like animals and many volcanoes. We stop in the city of Civay, located in a valley full of hot springs. Some of them are so warm that it is impossible to get in, and each spring has its speci
al medical wonder effect – it smells accordingly. Next day, next highlights: not only do we get to go to the volcano and mountain viewpoint “Mirador de los Andes” on freezing 4910 meters above sea level, but also finally see the Colca canyon, which
with 4120 meters of depth is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Beating the records! Condors perform their morning flights only a few meters over our head, and the sun slowly breaks through the mountain range. The entire Colca valley is as clearly pre-incan heritage as the Sacred Valley around Cusco or the Titicaca Islands; which allows great views on historic terraces, walls and other ruins.
The following stop takes us to a completely different vegetation zone. Suddenly everything is flat, and dry, dry, dry. While a sandstorm blows through our hair, we climb up the view tower of the Nazca lines, which are 2300 year old pictures in the desert that show different animals and plants in an area of over 250 square kilometers, which is why many non-budget travelers book a flight over the lines. They look as if they were made to communicate with aliens, or any other being up in cosmos. And in a way, they must really have some supernatural powers, how else would those 20-30 cm deep lines still exist after that many years?!
The next miracle is Huacachina, a small town built around an oasis lake and surrounded by extremely high dunes. Another mind-blowing example of how little we need to survive: Let there be water in the desert, and there will be humans. Today, Huacachina is a paradise for every outdoor person and adrenaline lover, the local boogie drivers race so fast up and down the dunes that every roller coaster you’ve been on so far seems lame after. Only the loops are missing, but the fact of being in some open boogie with sand until the horizon makes up for it, promise. And the sand boarding, which is literally like snow boarding in the dunes, does its part as well. If we only didn’t do the Pisco and Wine tasting tour right before…
Some hours later, we’re at the beach in Paracas. It is still desert, but this time combined with the ocean. Looks fabulous, a giant beach like that tops every child’s sand castle dream! Coming straight from the desert, the variety of animals we find on the Ballestas Islands is very surprising, and justifies the nickname of “cheap Galapagos”: Penguins paddle around a few rocks away from sea lions, seagulls and pelicans. As if that wasn’t enough to look at, the islands are full of caves and arch shaped wholes, and of course the Incans’ ancestors had to add their little wonder as well, which this time is the Candelabra, a giant tree painted into the sand in a similar way to the Nazca Lines.
Our last stop before Lima takes us to a colonial mansion that could easily be the one of the movie Django Unchained, and has as much slave history. Only supplied with candles, we almost got lost walking through the endless net of small subterranean corridors, where hundreds of slaves were kept, tortured and killed.
And then Lima! What I will never forget about the Peruvian Capital is grey, grey everywhere. But even if you hardly ever get to see the sun, Lima offers many different things to do; from the Gaudi-like mosaics and the giant statue of a kissing couple in the Parque del Amor, to creative bars built in Mansions or wooden colonial trains and the world-best ceviche (raw fish “cooked” in lime, accompanied by onions and sweet potatoes). If you’re in Lima, check out the Kennedy Park in Miraflores with its 80-100 cats that by today even have NGOs taking care of them. And enjoy the variety of different cafés, clubs, art and music styles that you can find nowhere else in the entire country. It’s grey from outside, but has a colorful and vibrant heart.
By: Clara Bütow