During our time in Peru, we’d heard a lot about the ‘gringo trail’, which is the route most backpackers take through Peru. Once in Arequipa, as gringos (backpackers) ourselves we decided to follow this trail up to Lima, taking in Nasca, Huacachina, and Paracas en route.
Nasca is home to the Nasca lines, mysterious patterns drawn in the land which have no explanation. Theories range from it being down to Incans, pre-Incans, or aliens, so it’s safe to say no-one really has any idea. Paul and I decided to splash out on a flight, the only way to get a complete view of the lines. The planes they use are tiny. There were 5 of us in all as passengers, positioned to distribute the weight as evenly as possible, and our pilot did some crazy flying to ensure we all had clear views of all the lines; swooping, diving, and generally flying like a maniac. It quickly became clear why the UK government guidance says they aren’t safe and to stay away. We had been warned that the turbulence meant people often got sick, which I did. Being sat at the back of the plane, coupled with my irrational decision to eat some tomato slices 2 minutes before flying, was too much for my stomach. But despite that, it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far and a brilliant experience.
Next up was Huacachina, an oasis resort just outside of Ica. The only reason this place has become popular is because of the massive sand dunes that surround all sides of the resort, and so we happily followed the crowds to try sandboarding. We had the option of upgrading our boards so that we would effectively be snowboarding, but we chose to stick to flying down on our stomachs. After minimal guidance in Spanish that roughly translated to ‘board, wax, dune, go’ we found ourselves careering down slopes far steeper than anticipated. Definitely as good as a scary black run. After 2 hours we were happily bruised, bashed, and absolutely covered in sand.
Our final stop before Lima was Paracas, home to the Ballastas Islands. These are billed as the poor man’s Galapagos, and as we were missing the Galapagos due to the cost, this sounded perfect. It wasn’t. I can safely say that Paracas is the only place we’ve been in all of our travels that I wish we hadn’t. The town itself has very little to offer except overpriced restaurants and a pleasant beach view. The Ballestas tour was a big disappointment. As promised, the islands are home to thousands of birds. However, the majority of these appeared to be Peruvian Seagulls, which are about as interesting as UK ones. To be fair, we did see some cool sea lions, turkey eagles, and some pelicans, but given the hype, the tour was a dud. In the afternoon Paul and I ventured out on bikes into the nature reserve. Little did we know we’d be battling a ridiculously strong headwind through desert like conditions, only to get to our destination and see not a lot. In a reserve which is famed for its massive array of animals and fauna, we saw absolutely nothing. Safe to say, we were happy to be leaving Paracas.
Returning to Lima was a welcome change. Whereas on our first visit we’d resented the big chains and busy streets – having come for Santiago, a much prettier city – this time, after a few weeks of very remote towns, we couldn’t have been happier to see so much choice and variety. McDonalds! Dunkin’ Donuts! We may also just have been grateful to be alive after the scariest taxi ride of our lives getting from the bus station. This time we had an opportunity to visit the centre of Lima, where we watched the changing of the guard at the palace, and also visited the catacombs in the San Francisco Cathedral. 3 days well spent, it’s time to say goodbye to Peru, and hello Brazil.