The race to Lima..

So we were back in Cusco and I have already covered our rather relaxed time here in another post there were a few things I missed.

We had two more nights in Cusco after Manu, which was also two full days before we got the 7 pm bus with Peru Hop towards Lima. Priority one was laundry and besides our normal trips to the market and some coffee shops (FYI if you are offered anything called lemonade with airampo and muña do not get it, Gav described it as tasting of lemonade mixed with bleach. A fair description it was quite strong and not very nice) we had one last place to visit- the San Francisco church.

At this stage I think we have been to almost every one of these in the cities we have visited, but there always seems to be something there worth a look. Cusco happened to be one of the most famous for a few reasons. It contained the largest painting in South America which is the third largest in the world, apparently -I’m not so sure about that claim but it is quite big  at 12 meters high and 9 meters wide and depicts the Franciscan “family tree”. It also had the famous Last Supper with cuy (guinea pig) and a very small (at the moment) catacombs which have only been open a year. They were only discovered when the abbot found some of the children at the adjoining school playing with some bones. Photos were forbidden but if you are in Cusco it is definitely worth a look, some interesting things in there.

The day we left Cusco, we also sorted out our bus from Lima to Quito. We booked the sleeper seats that we have got before, if we had left it any later we would have got standard seats and as we would be on the bus for 46 hours and due to arrive into Quito on the 22nd April at 8pm, we needed the comfort! That was the plan anyway. A few hours before we were due to leave it began to lash rain, we got drenched but luckily our bags didn’t get too wet as we made our way (by taxi) to the Peru Hop office. Our guide was Nilo again (yay!) who we had on the way to Cusco.

I love Peru Hop but this journey was gruelling. Getting on the bus at 7 pm, the bus was busy so we had to sit next to each other (so not much room) and then we continued towards Arequipa (with the pick up at around midnight outside Puno) arriving in Arequipa at 5 am. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep. The journey continued, covering the distance to the next stop of Huacachina (another 11 or so hours away). We were given a packed breakfast and Nilo told us that there was some issue on the road ahead so we needed to get past a certain point before the road works started.

The sea. Amazing coastal views but horribly, horribly scary road.

Our lunch stop was in a petrol station, we had ice-cream and sweets as there was nothing else available. Oh we were hungry.

We did have one brief stop  before Huacachina… the famous Nazca Lines most commonly seen from the air (again not something we could afford on this trip) but it was possible with Peru Hop to stop at the Mirador de las líneas de Nazca (check it out on the link as its easier to see what we saw). This was pretty cool and something I always wanted to see so seeing two small ones was a nice bonus.

Huacachina is located just outside the town of Ica and at the time we were there, Peru Hop were the only bus company running buses directly there (the place is tiny). It is a small village, around an oasis (a true oasis in the desert, not an Inca one like in Colca). Deserts are known for their shifting sands but here the sands do not move, as a result it has become a mecca for adrenaline seekers for its high dunes for sand-boarding and for the high-speed dune-bugging. We arrived late afternoon, the young folk and Nilo were all set for partying but after nearly 24 hours on a cramped bus we just wanted a shower, some decent food and precious sleep. Sad eh?

The starter for dinner: These were like fried empanadas/spring rolls with a sort of hummus dip, it was really good.

The following morning, with only the locals about we went off to explore the oasis…

After lunch, once everyone was up, we headed off to a local Pisco distillery in Ica  (on the road to Pisco in fact) called El Catador. Firstly we had a tour of the distillery followed by the most hilarious tasting session we’ve ever had.

Definitely an entertaining way to spend a few hours before heading back to the oasis for the main event-snowboarding and dune-bugging till dusk, Nilo described this as the best value  50 soles (£11, $15 at the time) of our lives, and he was right, it was a fun filled two hours!

Such a blast! Everyone should try it, the video doesn’t do it justice! Once we got back (covered in sand), there was less than an hour until we got the next bus to Paracas, luckily this isn’t actually that far away. For ease of organising we got Peru Hop to book accommodation for us (they can even organise it on the bus) and stayed in quite a nice hotel right in the centre of Paracas. That evening we went out for pizza (yep still everywhere), a place that Peru Hop go a lot (we got free drinks :)) and ran into the other group heading south. At this stage I didn’t realise it but there was a girl there who I haven’t seen since I was 18, she was close friends with my uni roommate. That was freaky! We caught up on the afternoon tour before she continued south and we went north.

The two hour boat ride was far too short, the risk of being pooed on was quite high, but we really enjoyed our two hour tour to the “Poor man’s Galapagos” of the Islas Ballestas. Peru Hop had also organised a free tour by minibus into the national park but before that we had time for a quick lunch…..

Ceviche!  Fresh as it can be made from fresh raw seabass, lightly cured in lemon/lime spiced with chili pepper.

After lunch, we had a brief tour of the Paracas National Reserve with Peru Hop.

It was while we were here that the earthquake happened in Ecuador. We weren’t too sure how bad it was and we were already en-route there. We had to wait and see.

We had a few hours to kill after the tour of the reserve so just went for a wander. We did end up in a rather weird place called the TIME MACHINE (it was free) in the bottom of one of the restaurants. Weirdest thing ever but quite fun-very hard to describe and I’m still a bit confused about it now.

En-route to Lima, a small minibus collected us and brought us to our last free tour with Peru Hop. The slave tunnels under Hacienda San Jose, connected the Hacienda with four other Haciendas in the region, and connecting them all to the port about 17 km away the owners were complicit in the illegal smuggling of thousands of African slaves into the area who were kept in horrendous conditions. Slavery was legal at the time but to avoid paying taxes to the government, the Hacienda owners created the tunnel linking the house to the port. Slaves would arrive late at night to be smuggled into the Hacienda via the tunnel so the owners could avoid the tax as these slaves would not be registered with the government, no records = no tax. They were also used as a refuge in case of bandits. and there were escape routes into the tunnels from various parts of the house including the altar of the adjoining chapel.

The house is currently used as a hotel and you can have weddings there. It is beautiful but if I was getting married I don’t think I’d like to have it in a marquee next to a tree where people had been hanged. Or have photos taken on a porch where people had been shackled for days on end beneath it.

Timeline (from Peru Hop website):

    • 1688: The hacienda was just a sugarcane plantation land with 87 afro-Peruvian slaves working.
    • 1811: More than a hundred years later, almost a thousand slaves where working on the sugarcane and cotton production.
    • 1821: During the independence battles, hundred of slaves ran away and joined Don Jose de San Martín (Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America’s successful struggle for independence). Fernando Carrillo de Albornoz, owner at that time, ran away to Spain leaving his wife and younger child, Julio. The government expropriated the hacienda.
    • 1827: Carrillo’s wife recovered the hacienda
    • 1854: Slavery was abolished but many slaves kept working in the hacienda.
    • 1879: The last heir of hacienda, San Jose, was killed by one of the slaves during the “War of the Pacific” time.
    • 1913: The hacienda was on sale and the Cilloniz family became the new owners
    • 1960: Since then, Angela Cilloniz became the former owner of the hacienda
    • 1970: Hacienda San jose was declared as a Cultural Heritage by INC (Cultural National Institute)
    • 2007: The Pisco and Chincha earthquake devastated the place. Most of the chapel structure had to be repaired. The house walls and decorations were ruined so everything had to be fixed, because of its value as Cultural Heritage, they had to be extremely careful at repairing it and it took them 5 years to do this.
    • Nowadays: Only the big house (Casa Hacienda) has been preserved but as a tourist inn, without the big land extensions it used to have.

The fascinating tour complete we continued on towards Lima, meeting the bus of those going direct to Lima from Huacachina. Arriving late into Lima. After so long in Cusco we found Lima crazy expensive and we were staying in the nice suburb of Miraflores away from most of the tourist things. With only two full days in Lima, we didn’t really have much time to see much, one day wandering around Miraflores (collecting our free t-shirts from the Peru Hop office) and the last day we took a walking tour in the city centre, which involved taking a bus with a very large tour group into the centre (the bus is very easy to use-they have dedicated lanes for the motorway in also so super quick).

The following morning we were leaving for Quito at 9am this meant getting a taxi during rush hour. Loading up the taxi, with our bags of snacks we set off. Lima traffic is mental and at one point we were stuck across all three lanes of the road with cars ringing us with horns blasting. Short lived thankfully and the rest of the journey was pretty uneventful.

We checked in for the bus, dropped our bags and spent four of our last six soles on tea and chicha before boarding the bus for Quito the highest capital in the world…….



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