On Saturday the sixth of August 2011, I began a trip 25 years in the waiting. It is a journey that I have dreamed of doing since I was a child. I'm off to South America, specifically Peru & Bolivia with a relax at the end in Buenos Aires. To say I'm excited would be an understatement.

This journey began for me in 1985 when I lived in Port Lincoln. It was a beautiful summers day, the sun a rich golden warmth that eradicated the edge that lingers in people after Christmas and New Years. Children were everywhere frolicking along the foreshore and through the waters, jumping from the Jetty and enjoying all that could be from the day. The morning drew to afternoon and my sister and her friends started to wander further than my mother wanted them to. She sent me to bring them back closer to her view.

I stepped into the blue water lapping the shore, took a few steps into the pitiful surf, and fell. Electricity shot through my body, screamed into my skull, nerves became alive like never before. I yelled, but not understanding the pain, thinking it was probably just a stubbed toe, I reached into the water and pulled my foot free and into the air. My mind went white, my voice pierced the golden joy of summer, the water darkened, staining with the rich blood pouring forth from my foot, opened like a baguette.

During my stay at the hospital where they repaired my foot as best they can, I received a gift from my Grandmother. It was a calendar with pictures of places around the world. In the calendar I found two that I had to see – The Pyramids of Giza and Macchu Pichu. I have carried a picture of Macchu Pichu with me since then, and finally on the 21st of August 2011, I will be there after having hiked through the Andes for the previous three days.

Below are the entries for the Peruvian leg of this trip.

August 10 to 11 2011 - Pisco & Nazca

We take a public bus from Lima, filled with Peruvians travelling to the countryside, the ride takes us from Central through to the highway. The suburbs in between are blends of old, new, half demolished, modern and despairing. Construction is everywhere, even throughout the poor districts. At times the poverty is heartbreaking, then you see a beggar with a mobile phone, and you realise that this is a city bursting at the seems to be modern against all the trials of a developing economy, struggling against decades of corruption. Unemployment is over a third of the population, apparently a few years ago it was closer to half if not more of the population. Last month there were elections in Peru, a chance to change for the better. The Peruvians I have spoken to are divided. Some believe this will be a great opportunity while others believe that this is going to be just more of the same as before.

The country side driving south is sand and rock, a desert with green blushes periodically. Many would find it inhospitable, but life clings and thrives amongst the wastes with agricultural ingenuity.

Along the drive, our guide Ali, chooses to correct some misinformation we may have regarding the people of Peru. The first one is that the people called Inca are actually Quechua. The Inca were the kings while the Quechua are the people of the land. Quechua is still a living language and we will meet quite a few people who use it as their primary language and Spanish as their second. When we get to Titicaca, we will need Quechua mostly as they are very traditional people.

We arrive in Pisco in the early evening, and wander through the small seaside town. It is a quaint town offering little besides restaurants and access to the Ballestas Islands, a group of islands that is a wildlife preserve, scheduled for the morning.

When we wake, we make our way to the tour office for our trip. Apparently there has been some bad weather and the Government has cancelled access to islands in the name of safety. We are given the option of driving to a national park where we can see other animals or continue early onto the winery where they make Pisco. If we go to the winery early, it means we will be at the Ica sand dunes for sand-boarding earlier. The group opts for Pisco and sand-boarding.

It's a short drive to the winery, Bodega Dona Juanila, where we are given a guided tour of the winery. The winery practices companion planting with its grapes, growing bananas and papaya. In April, the winery (and all the wineries in the region) host a party to crush the grapes and make the Pisco. It is here we are told that Quechua people are mostly alcoholics who enjoy any excuse to drink and party. They are devout Catholics while the sun is up, but pure Quechua when the sun goes down.

Pisco is a brandy distilled from freshly squeezed and pulped fruit rather than matured wine. It is also fermented in ceramic conical containers and must remain organic without any additives or preservatives, although sometimes other fruits are added to create special blends. It is fascinating to listen to the guide talk you through the very traditional techniques as well as highlight the failures to modernise the process.

When the tour is over, we are taken to the bar for a tasting. There are six to try, and the flavour difference between them is astounding. The Piscos were:

  • Pisco Sour
  • Vino Rose
  • Vino Perfecto Amor
  • Pisco Puro Torontel
  • Pisco Acholado
  • Fina Crema Con Pisco

All the Piscos were quite strong, sitting around the 40% alcohol mark, although the flavours were such that the alcohol didn't override on most. For me the Rose really stood out as a sweet intoxicating beverage, so I bought one to take home.

I learned something regarding the Wine Industry in Peru. There are quite a few Pisco wineries around but there are far more vineyards. Most of the vineyards are leased by Chilean companies for the production of Chilean wine because the Peruvians do not have the capital to support their own industry. Most of the leases are for 30 years and the Chileans get major concessions for this, so much so that the majority of money made from the production of these wines goes abroad ensuring that Peru will not be able to establish itself properly in the market. It's quite a shame really, as the grapes produced here are quite exceptional and give Chilean wine a lot of its character. If some rich person wanted to help the Peruvians get a god start they would set up a sustainability project here, leasing land for grapes, building the proper facilities and offer world class training to the locals with a goal of establishing a world class Peruvian wine, that could grow and offer independence to the people. It could be built as a community project, that would remain the property of the community afterwards, with the profits used to raise the community and help grant them financial independence.

After the Pisco shots, we made our way to the Sand Dunes at Ica.

Now this was a highlight. We all piled into a Dune Buggy, myself at the front and started tearing our way across the dunes. The buggy roared it's way up the dunes, carved wide arcs across their crests and plunged into the hollows between. The speed was exhilarating, and the adrenaline built steadily in all of us as we made our way through the dunes to the first of our boarding sites. We reached the top of the dune and disembarked. Our driver pulled the sand boards out of the back and began waxing them. The sand-boards look much like snow boards, with Velcro straps for front and rear foot holds. The first slope was quite steep and our driver told us that this one would be lying down.

Here's how you prepare for a face first slide down a dune:

  1. Wax your board
  2. Lay down flat on the board, grip the front foot straps with your hands
  3. Tuck your elbows in and rest them on the board
  4. Have your feet and legs in-line with the board
  5. Be pushed off the crest
  6. Open your legs and raise them slightly for speed
  7. Steer with the weight of your legs – higher or lower on each side
  8. Brake with your feet, if you must

It is intoxicating, and you build up quite a speed. I have some video which I will post when I get back home as I have no way of converting it here into a file that will upload and be played easily.

One at a time we fly down the slope, each cheering at the speed we reached and each other. Once down, we run to the next summit. Our driver gets the buggy and drives away. At the top, Mads and myself decide that we are going to try standing up for this one. Mads goes first and does a zigzag down, trying to maintain control, and reaches the bottom having experienced a few nice speeds.

For myself, I think, how much different can this be to snow-boarding? So, knowing I'm going to stack hardcore, I strap in, position myself for a straight downhill run and go. I make it a short way and have to lift the front of the board out of the sand, then go again – fast, quickly digging myself in again, before the world goes cyclic – round and around, direction loses meaning as I catapult myself through the sand. My board is strapped to my feet and I feel it catching sand a few times before I stop. Awesome! That was my best stack ever, and by far one of the most fun.

For the next hour we board two more slopes, before our driver asks: "One More? A Big One?"

We of course say yes, and he drives us to a massive downhill. The photos I took probably don't show the scale of it, but it was huge. I set my camera to sports mode and took enough pictures that I can create a gif when I get home to show the scale and speed.

When we had finished our awesome final downhill, our driver ripped across the dunes once more, gradually taking us back to the village to have lunch and lounge by the pool. A thing to take not of, is that Peru has some of the biggest sand dunes in the world. From Nazca, not too far away, there is a Sand Dune that qualifies as a mountain.

After lunch we drove onward to Nazca, into the hills the road swerves drastically in short curves and hairpins, long wide corners next to sheer cliffs with epic views of the valley then down into the plains and onto the highway to Nazca stretching long into the distance. Planes swoop low, lilting side to side to offer a view to their passengers of the lines not visible from the ground. Halfway through the stretch is a small lookout. Here you can pay 2 Sols to climb and see two of the Nazca lines: The Hands, and The Tree. They are impressive to behold, but really are just patterns in the dirt, be it very old patterns. The wind in the lookout is moderate, but when you reach the ground the wind is negligible, in fact it is pretty much non existent below one foot. Therefore, the wind doesn't destroy the patterns.

Onwards into the town of Nazca, and to our hotel. A relaxing evening before the next day's activities.

Other Peru Articles:

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