The Rest of Arica and San Pedro

So on my last day in Arica I headed to a nearby archeological museum. To get there I cycled up the valley, which although the gradient uphill was subtle it was still hard work. Also I couldn’t get the highest gear to work which I usually use practically exclusively which slowed me down. The scenery on the way was also nice. The museum (aside from some noisy school children who I shared the museum with) was very interesting and had a full English translation.

Then that evening I caught the bus to San Pedro, the journey was more complex than I’d like as the police checked our ID and bags in the middle of the night.

After arriving in San Pedro I had a lasy day and saw their pre-columbian museum which was also excellent. Then the next day I went on a tour to the south of San Pedro and saw Flamingos on the salt plain which I have some great photos of, a pair of fairly saltly glacial lakes and part of the original inca road to Cusco (so if you had 3 months and a huge amount of water you could walk to Cusco) which was still a clear path through the desert.

The next day I went Sand boarding which is like Snow Boarding but slower and on sand (we went down a slope almost straight away which would definitely be a red run for skiing). I did fall over lots but am now unhurt but tired.

I’ve got some more time here in San Pedro to explore the nearby Geysers (but now we are on summer time you’ll leave at 3am!) and the nearby Moon Valley for sunset and possibly the nearby observatory if I go a day later to Iquipe and essentually miss it. Though money is a definite issue here, its almost as expensive as Oxford!

America

Firstly a boring economic note to my UK readers. The pound has weakened quite dramatically against the US dollar since I’ve been away and by xe.com there are currently only 1.75 US dollars to the pound. If Obama wins the presidency so this continues I might even make some money when I convert my US dollars back into pounds.

After paying an excessive amount (US$12 including “taxes”) to enter Chile from Peru by collectivo (ironically the driver seemed to be very trustworthy) I made my way by foot to my accommodation in Arica. It was dark but the area around the bus station was safe (though it wouldn’t have been if it was in Europe). I was then famished so I went to the local chicken and chips shop for some food. Now chicken and chips is also popular in Peru but with all the other specialites to try I’d managed to avoid it. In Chile, or at least Arica, it is a massive phenomenon available in every restaurant.

Anyhow the next morning at 10am I got up and headed to the supermarket to get some Chilean money and water. The currency in Chile is wonderful actually as there are almost exactly 1000 chilean pesos to the pound so I can really easily see how much stuff costs here. The supermarket was also pretty much like a typical US or European supermarket. That is to be expected as Chile is pretty rich and Arica at least reminds me of the USA. This is how I expected Argentina to be.

So I had a wander around Arica yesterday and had lunch in a Chinese restaurant (they are also good here) and saw lots of buildings in the centre designed by Effel. They were very striking and reminded me of the buildings by Lloyd Wright in Chicago.

At dinner I had some delicious fish (and I don’t mean in a sarcastic way ;)) with an Australian woman travelling around South America. We also had some interesting discussions about our previous travels.

This morning I headed into the mountains above Arica on a tour with my hostel. It was a bit touch and go as to whether it’d be on but in the end the car was full. So we headed slowly up into the mountains through the coastal desert all around this region. After being in the south of Peru for several weeks now I am pretty bored of it to be honest though we did see attractive Grand Canyon esq scenery on the way up. It was amusing as by half way up the mountain my Australian friend had caught up with me on a coach tour.

As we were ascending from sea level to 4500m in a single day we were given Coca tea as well as leaves to chew. Unfortunately the leaves are disgusting and the tea was very poor quality but coupled with my long stay in Peru at over 2500m I was OK.

Then half way up the mountain at our “breakfast” stop our car lost power to it’s electics. I should add that it was a fairly modern Kia and not a run down old banger so we had to get into the coach instead. We then headed up into the park above Arica. It was interesting and we saw a lot of wildlife as well though we didn’t spend long in the park and were soon returning to Arica.

Arequipa again

After leaving Puno I spent a couple of relaxing days in Arequipa. I left there a day later than planned as the accommodation in Tacna was going to be really expensive so I stayed in Arequipa for an extra day. On Sunday afternoon I went to a food festival in Arequipa and tried stuffed peppers which is a speciality while I was there. Other than that I went out on Saturday night and lazed around the hostel.

On the bus to Tacna I saw the romantic comedy “Failure to Launch” which was predictable but still funny. I also saw the Cruz del Sur “tour Peru” (but just point the camera at the attractive female presenter) video that includes a detailed look at some inca baths the presenter in a bikini for the third time. Frankly I’m bored of it now. We did get to see Shooter which was a really good film.

After the bus arrived in Tacna I took a collectivo for the short trip across the border into Chile where I now am. Chile is much richer and nicer but also more expensive.

Puno and Lake Titicaca

So on Wednesday I got the early morning bus with Cruz del Sur to Puno. The bus wasn’t as nice as the ones I’d been on before and it didn’t redeem itself with it’s movie choice of Miss Congeniality. By the afternoon I had arrived in Puno and got a “taxi” (actually a three wheeled motorbike which was a new experience) to my hostel. After a one hour walk around town I had caught all the main “sights” of the town. I’d be curious to know whether it manages to beat Slough in the excitement stakes (though this week it is hosting the APEC summit which means the town was full of policemen). Anyhow like Slough there are more interesting sights nearby in this case consisting of lake titicaca (which means Grey Puma in Ketchua the local language) which I went on a two day tour of.

The tour started early in the morning and was great. First we went to the floating islands near Puno which are made of reeds and mud and are artificial islands that have existed since inca times. Additionally part of the reeds are edible and we got to eat some of them. They have a subtle flavour and are generally similar to the banana. After that we went on a further three hour boat journey to the island where we were going to stay the night and we had an unfortunately late (but tasty) lunch before going to watch the sunset over the island which was very beautiful. After this on the way back to my accommodation in the presidents house I got lost and had to ask for directions in Spanish. As I was staying in the presidents house I assumed this was going to be a trivial process but there were 7 communities on the island and so there were 7 presidents and they were unsure which one we were staying with and neither were we. In the end we figured it out and were taken back to our accommodation.

After that we had dinner and then dressed in a poncho to go to a traditional dance festival which was very interesting and we danced around the fire which was fun. Then the next day we went to another local island with overpriced souvineers for a morning walk followed by lunch. After which we took the boat back to Puno. Back at the hostel I had the pleasure of reading my favourite magazine: Teen Vogue, it is the only magazine I’ve ever read which stops articles in the middle and then starts another article. It also has so may ads that the contents doesn’t finish until page 60 of the magazine! I went out with people from my hostel first to get a meal for only 2.5 soles (US$0.87) and then for considerably more expensive drinks in town. I had a Pisco Sour which is a traditional Peruvian drink and it was considerably better than the ones I have had before.

Today I have just arrived back into Arequipa for the night before heading onto Tacna and the Chilean border tomorrow.

Cuy and the final day in Cusco

Today us my last day in Cusco. I got up at 9am and had breakfast. Then after that I headed up to Saqsaywaman which is an inca site just above cusco which I had missed earlier in the week. It was pretty impressive even after seeing Machu Picchu and it was basically a fort overlooking Cusco itself. Though it also had farming terraces and a theatre. After that I headed down the road to the Jesus statue overlooking the city before walking down a different route into the city itself. By that point I was hungry and I went to a restaurant that was the earning wing of a charitable organisation running after school clubs called Aldea Yanapay (that definitely seems like the way to run a charity – the food was also no more expensive that elsewhere and excellent.)

Then in the afternoon I spent several hours uploading photos to Flickr (they haven’t all been sorted through and named yet – I’ll post when that is done.) and then went to the regional museum that would have been good had it had descriptions of the objects – even if they were only in Spanish.

After that I packed my case putting my cold weather clothes at the bottom of my bag so it is now finally sensibly packed (as anyone whose travelled with me knows I usually end up emptying my bag in every place I visit.)

Then I had dinner at Pacha Papa on San Blas square in Cusco. For that I had some Cuy (Guinea Pig). Unlike the Cuy rat I had in Arequipa which tasted like duck this tasted completely different from any meat I had tasted before. I also had some fermented corn beer with the meal which is made by eating the corn and spitting it out again. I wasn’t allowed a full portion as it makes some people sick but I did get a sample to taste. It is well worth trying and it has quite a subtle flavour (though it got stronger in the glass) and especially it doesn’t taste of hops like normal beer.