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5-10th February 2015 Cusco, Nazca, Huacachina Oasis, Ballestas Islands, Arequipa - Peru

  • Getting back to the charming downtown of Cusco (at 3,400 m), we took it very easy with my sister, mainly spoiling ourselves with nice food, resting, talking, then walking around the architectural treasures from the colonial era in sunshine…after dark the temperature dropped and I had to sleep again in my warm clothes below 3 blankets in 8-10 degrees. Heating is almost nowhere to be found in South America.
  • Later we took an overnight bus from Cusco to Nazca to save time and money on accommodation, and planned to stay only for the flight over the Nazca lines, which was a good decision...the city is half built, plain, featureless, poor and quite dirty. The non-touristic, but also real side of Peru, which can be found outside the central zones of all cities. The flight itself was cool, anyway I love flying! The planes are for 4-6 pax, so quite familiar and when the pilot turns vertically the plane to see the lines, you feel like being a huge bird. The ideas regarding the famous Nazca lines purpose are still not generally accepted. Most likely it was used as irrigation canal in shapes of astronaut, dog, monkey, hummingbird, condor, spider, etc. I was eagerly looking for the interesting animal figures and geometric shapes, but for me the forms of the riverbeds were more fascinating, witnessing again masterpieces of the beauty of nature...a bit pricy experience though, in fact we could have skipped it...
    After it we were heading straight to the oasis.
  • I never thought I would ever enter a true oasis and I didn’t expect this place to be one of the favourite ones. The small, lively oasis is surrounded by sand dunes, deserts and palm trees, settled on the side of a small lake. A perfect place to relax, treat yourself and recharge your energy.
    We went on a buggy trip into the desert, which was soooo much fun!! Pure adrenaline rush-packed driving up and down on the dunes with full gas, on these unsafely looking machines. Next to it the sandboarding was less exciting, but the view from the top of the sand hills towards the oasis and the surrounding desert was a big wow and we had the most fun here.
  • Islas Ballestas, one of the most impressive marine reserves in Latin America, ironically called the "poor Galapagos Island," (it is smaller, is closer to the mainland and cheaper to get there). A place where many seals, penguins and seabirds can be seen and live undisturbed and untouched...which is not quite true, because the motorboats carrying tourists are already polluting the Pacific Ocean so much that near the rocks sea lions were swimming in yellowish foam...I know, better than living captured in a zoo or circus, as at least they are living free in their natural environment, but still...
  • Arequipa, called "Ciudad Blanca" got this name because of the 'sillar', the volcanic rock material used for building. Later a guide told us that this name actually comes from the fact that in the 16th century only white people were allowed to live there...
    The historic center of the town is nice despite of the intrusive street vendors we already got used to (we had to)...we spent most of our time in the impressive and unique Santa Catalina Monastery, which was built as 'a city in a city' around 1580 and was expanded later in the 17th century. This is one of the biggest convents in the world. 450 nuns had been living there for over 400 years.
    There are several volcanos around the city, which we didn't see because of the cloudy weather.