Rayne in Peru

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Made it!!!!!

Fantastic, incredible, and knackering are probably the words I´d use to describe the 4 day trek we´ve just done. The first week or so may have been a bit laid back but as promised, it was a tough trek, made even harder by the fact that amongst the many ailments I managed to have 2 full on migraines (flashing lights, pounding head, feeling sick, can´t stand light or noise), a mosquito bite the size of a golf ball on my foot and hayfever. They say things come in threes but surely they´re not all meant to come at the same time?! Nonetheless we all made it in one piece (and I´m proud to report I was the first to the top of Dead Woman´s pass!!!) and have photos to prove it which will follow soon.

We all kept journals on the trek (albeit mine in a pretty rough sketchy note form!) so will be filling in the blanks here in the near future, but for now I´m off for a relaxing day in Cusco and hopefully a massage to ease our aching muscles!

xx

Friday, October 22, 2004

The White City

Hmm. Not too impressed with the computers here in Arequipa, as they just lost my mammoth entry for today! Gutting!

Luckily this city is gorgeous so just about makes up for it. It has a different feel from the other cities we´ve been in so far, cleaner, whiter and greener. Built by the spanish it has fantastic colonial architecture, all built in the white ´sillar´stone from the El Misti volcano that towers above the city.

Apart from the obvious shopping (at which we were happy to oblige), there are 2 must sees in Arequipa so yesterday we set off on a stroll round the city to take in the Santa Catalinanunnery and Juanita, the frozen mummy of a 12 or 13 year old Inca girl sacrificed to the gods atop El Misti. She´s been so well preserved by the ice it´s incredible to believe it´s 500 years since she made the trip up the mountain.

No time to write more now so will update from Cusco, where we arrive this afternoon.

xx

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Onwards to Arequipa

I certainly wouldnt say that the Nazca lines were disappointing, because they certainly werent, but they were distinctly smaller than I expected them to be! I guess thats like every person who goes to New York to see the statue of liberty and says "gosh shes only small". Seeing things in photos you lose all sense of proportion, and photos of the nazca lines dont take into account that the pampa theyre sat on is absolutely huge!

We took a 45 minute flight over the plain to see the lines, the only way theyre really visible. Why they were created is still a complete mystery, with the current favourite being that they point towards sources of water and were part of the ritual worship of water. The most visible lines on the plain are gigantic straight lines and trapezoid shapes running in some cases for miles across the plain, whilst the animal shapes that are so well known from all the guidebooks are actually pretty tiny. Peering out of the window of our little plane I was looking for huge shapes of spiders, monkeys and birds, and it wasnt til one of them was pointed out to me that I realised I was looking for something much bigger than they were! The Incas truly were a great civilisation, and despite apparently not having any form of writing had a fantastic skills of organisation and construction. Underneath the Nazca plain, stone built aquifers carry water from the mountains to valleys where they were able to create highly efficient agriculture.

After the flight we boarded the bus for the ten hour trip to Arequipa, which at 2500m is where we begin to acclimatise ready for the Inca trail. Travelling down the coast we saw spectacular, if a little barren and hazy views, where the Pan-American highway cuts its way through the rock cliffs. Still very little in the way of greenery for most of the way, but we passed through lush fertile valleys which showed how a little work could transform this land.

To add to the minor calamities of the trip, we managed to fit in a minor earthquake, a rock fall blocking the road and a section of road buried with sand. Youd never see that on the M4.

Arrived in Arequipa late last night and off to explore the city now. Overlooked by the towering volcano El Misti its meant to be an incredibly beautiful place, and the weather has finally turned to the most fantastic blue sky and hot sunshine, and this is only 9am in the morning!

xx

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Nazca

A relatively quick update from me as the rest of the group are in the pub which is clearly a much better place to be than on the internet whilst on holiday! I´ll just have to fill in the gaps later when I´ve got more time, as we´ve managed to fit a hell of a lot into the last 24 hours. So here´s the bare bones of it...

Drove down from Lima last night to Paracas, our next stop on the trip. Driving out of Lima you start to get an idea of how harsh this country can be. The coastal strip is basically just desert, not a hell of a lot grows anywhere, but still on the south side of lima you pass through mile upon mile of slums and shanty towns, just mud and bamboo huts clinging on to what are little more than sand dunes. There´s no such thing as subsistence farming round here, you´d be lucky to grow a blade of grass let alone anything resembling food. It does bring home exactly what poverty is, and it´s nothing like you see in Britain. I can´t get my head around how people can actually live in some of these places but they clearly do.

Reaching our hostel in Paracas shortly after dark, we started to miss our lovely colonial style hostel in Lima. Not that this place was actually that bad, but the discovery of a number of 2" long beatles in our bedroom set up the usual girlie wimpiness and we enlisted the help of the boys to bat them down to the other end of the corridor. I´m sure the hostel would be lovely in the summer, as they had a pretty terrace and even a swimming pool out the back, but being off-peak season it was pretty dead and the service in the restaurant left something to be desired, with the waitresses appearing not to understand a word of our admittedly pidgin spanish, nor our resident translator Nick´s attempts. They also seemed to find it perfectly normal that we would order more than one meal each, somehow ending up with couple of extra dishes which noone had a clue where had come from! And don´t get me started on trying to pay for the stuff... our waitress brought me the pad with my order on, gesticulated at it wildly then when I tried to pay for it shook her head and walked off. Very confusing. Luckily breakfast this morning was a less tedious affair, with the only issue being 9 hungry people trying to share a single knife!

Dingy as it was, the hostel was suitably close to our first port of call, early this morning, for a speedboat trip out the the Belagos islands (i´ll check the spelling of that later as pretty sure that´s wrong!), where there´s a marine nature reserve housing thousands upon thousands of birds, plus a few sealions lazing around on the rocks. A load of crap to be honest. Sorry that´s a terrible joke that couldn´t help putting in...the islands are ´harvested´yearly for guano (bird droppings) which is exported for use as fertiliser.

And so we moved on to the second of our stops of the day, at the Pisco vineyard/distillery. Pisco is a local drink made by distilling fermented grape juice, and is actually pretty nice. The traditional drink is Pisco Sour, which is Pisco with lemon and sugar, although is often served in restaurants with egg white mixed in, making it taste a lot like liquid lemon meringue pie. other ´cuts´of the alcohol include what was described in the guide as ´perfect love drink´. Apparently an aphrodisiac, it tastes rather a lot like mead (honey based wine). A few shots of that and we were ready for the challenge of the day...

So third stop was at Huacachina, a desert oasis where you can have the ultimate desert experience (or so it says on the flyer!). Now if any of you ever come to Peru I highly recommend the sand buggy desert tour! I was expecting it to be a bit naff, and was much more interested in the sand boarding taking place on the closest dune, however piling in with the rest of the group into the back of our 9 seater buggy I was pleased to see our driving strapping an array of sand boards into the back. Over the first dune, and suddenly I was very glad I hadn´t stuck to sandboarding! Call me ignorant, but this was truly like a desert out of the movies, huge sand dunes as far as the eye could see, not a person or buggy in sight, was as if we had the place entirely to ourselves. Of course it soon emerged that our driver was truly a complete and utter nutcase, and was determined to scare the hell out of all of us. We soon learnt to recognise the signs, the manic grin wqas of course pretty much permanent, flattening the cap to the head meant he was about to speed, up turning it backwards meant we were about to go over a steep drop, taking it off meant that we were clearly about to need a spare pair of trousers! Utter fantastic fun...!!!

Made a couple of stops on the dunes, first for a few of the girls (and guys) to engage in a spot of rolling down the dunes junior-school style, then to sandboard down , which was a hell of a lot harder than it looks. Thinking my one week snowboarding experience would stand me in good stead, and possibly a little fired up on Pisco Sour, I promptly set off down the dune...and stopped. Right, off again. Stopped. Turns out (perhaps unsurprisingly) that sand is a hell of a lot heavier than snow, and the slightest bit on top of the board meant you were about to get buried under a ton of sand! So slow progress made by me, as I didn´t have the guts to go straight down like some of the others, but really great fun nonetheless! Actually it was the next stop where they truly went head first... straight down the steepest and longest dune we could find, lying face first on the snowboard. Call me a wuss but I skipped that one!

Final stop on the dunes was rather impromptu. Shortly after Nick was heard to say " yeah, these things never break down", guess what, we broke down. In the middle of the desert. Hmm.

And of course we were in the bottom of a monstrous sand valley, and have you ever heard of there being mobile phone reception in the desert?!

Half an hour later, we had come up with a new theory for the creation of the nazca lines (people trapped in the desert with sod all to look at or do!), witnessed an intriguing way of repairing an engine with what looked distinctly like soap, finally got the engine started again and made our way back via a few more vertical drops and climbs (new trousers again...).

All in all, fantastic fun and I´m loving every second!

Tomorrow we fly over the Nazca lines then make our way down to Arequipa for a couple of days to start acclimatising to the altitude ready for the Inca trail...

More updates soon!

xx

Monday, October 18, 2004

Vive el Peru!

If theres one word to describe this country from the air, it would be "brown". Yeah I know everything looks kinda brownish from the air, but this place really is brown! During a mammoth journey over from Heathrow via Sao Paulo (where we had to wait for about 6 or 7 hours in the end for our delayed flight), we got to see much of Bolivia and Peru from the air, and for someone who is used to the countryside being the leafy green wetness of Wales, it was actually quite hard to comprehend how people actually live in this place! Flying over you see huge snow topped mountain ranges, the flat of the altiplano and something in-between that kind of looks flat until you spot the occasional switchback road that is clearly winding itself up the side of a mountain down there, plus the impressive looking Lake Titicaca which is the highest navigable lake in the world, where the landlocked Bolivian navy are stranded. Even knowing that theres plenty of towns and villages you really cant see them at all, it just looks like mile upon mile of brown earth with the occasional reflection from the sun hinting at some kind of life down there. All pretty impressive stuff.

We are now in Lima, and despite being described by most people I have talked to as being pretty scuzzy, it is still quite impressive. Spent last night in a lovely hostel in the posh miraflores district, had our first peruvian meal, and went on to see in our first night with a bonding session in our room over several bottles of wine and a pack of cards...enough said!

Came into Lima proper this morning for a look about, before we pick up the last stragglers of our group from the airport (they were stranded in heathrow after the flight was overbooked, though they did get a nice wad of cash to compensate and havent missed too much). Theres a big parade going on in the plaza des armas so theres hundreds of people out, all dressed up in purple robes and celebrating christ. Of course we have no idea whatsoever whats going on, and even finding a route through the crowds to the internet cafe was a bit of a challenge. Was surprised to find that theres virtually no white tourists here, and havent even seen any student backpackers yet either. Not that im disappointed at that of course...! It does mean we get the full attention of the "postales" sellers (postcards) and even made friends with a policeman who proclaimed that I was "beautiful"... yep I could get to like this place! But no, we havent bought any postcards yet so dont expect any winging there way through the post, Ill get round to that later.

Next stop Paracas where we head by bus this afternoon. Over the next couple of days we are planning a speedboat trip out to a nature reserve, a flight over the Nazca lines, and sandboarding in the dunes. So a packed schedule and cant wait to get on with it!

xx

Friday, October 15, 2004

Ready, Steady...

So, after months of thinking 'Shall I?', I've really not got much choice any more as there's only 23 hours to go! I leave tomorrow (Saturday) night from Heathrow, flying to Lima via Sao Paulo. From there we travel down the coast via Nazca and Arequipa, and up to Cusco where we acclimatise before facing the trek. I get back to London on 31st October, no doubt tired but hopefully triumphant!

For those who don't already know, I'm forgoing the nice relaxing holiday on a beach somewhere in order to raise funds for CancerBACUP, a charity providing information on cancer to both cancer patients and their friends and family. I've paid the cost of the trip in order to ensure that all sponsorship money goes direct to the charity, so huge thanks to everyone who has sponsored me and given me the motivation to get of my arse and do this!

To all those who haven't yet sponsored me, shame on you! No seriously, if you'd like to then it's not too late, every penny pledged on my online sponsorship page at www.justgiving.com/lorraineholt will spur me on to greater effort on the mountains! It would be fantastic to reach my target of £3,000...

Updates to follow here and at www.cancerbacup.org.uk/trekperu2004 whenever we can find an internet cafe...

xx