Saturday, 5 May 2012

Big smoke and poor man's Galapagos

After another night bus which was our most comfortable yet, on a flash new bus company called TRC, we made it to Lima. We weren't really expecting to like Lima as it's such a big city but we had decided to stay in the area called Barranco as we'd had it recommended to us and it was a great area, very bohemian with colourful, colonial buildings. Lima was looking up for us. We explored around the area and had lunch in a lovely restaurant overlooking the sea. Jonty tried the local speciality of cow's hearts which went down well although it was a mountain of meat.

Next we caught a bus into central Lima and walked around the plazas, had a look at the presidential palace and several impressive churches. We took a guided tour around the monastery called sanfrancisco which was fascinating. One of the highlights of the tour was the huge dusty library that really looked like something from the Harry Potter movie. There were also lots of frescos and courtyards. Then we went down to the underground catacombs which were quite creepy and mazelike. Thousands of people had been buried down there and there were so many bones and skeletons. Luckily we made it out alive!! We'd made friends with the Peruvian girl, only 28, who ran the hostel, she could be on The Apprentice, and enjoyed sitting in the hostel court yard eating, drinking and chatting to her and her friends.

The next day we went on a pretty cliff top walk and then went to see the ruins of Huaca Pucllana, a pyramid from Lima culture from Ad400. It was very interesting, there were main squares, buriel sites and of course the sacrificial area!! They were still excavating the site which was pretty interesting, so who knows what else they may find. We had a great final night in Lima. We had a tasty meal at a very local restaurant and then discovered a really impressive live Peruvian band who had this lead singer who could sound exactly like Bono, ACDC, the Gallaghers you name it. It was pretty entertaining, he could definitely have won Stars in their eyes as every performance was pretty energetic and committed. Jonty and I ended the night with a dance off in a rock/80's place round the corner.

Paracas was our next stop, a very cute little village on the sea with many pelicans just chilling out on the beach. As we couldn't afford a trip to The Gallapogos islands we took a boat ride to Isla Ballestos which is known as the poor man's gallapogos in the guide books although our guide for the day understandably preferred the name of 'small galapagos. It was fantastic, on the way to the rocky island we saw lots of dolphins, including baby ones, jumping up and doing backflips in the sea. Apparently we were lucky to see them and it certainly felt pretty special.

Isla Ballestos is a number of giant rocks in the sea absolutely covered with hundreds of birds that they looked like ants. There were cormorants, boobies, pelicans and very cute penguins. We also saw lots of sea lions soaking up the sun on the rocks and being surprisingly active jumping out of the water. But, we learnt that the jumpers had probably come from the 'maternity area' which was a mad sight. There were hundreds of sea lions playing on this beach and the noise was incredible-they were honking so loud-the newborn pups. The next part of our tour was a trip across the surreal desert landscape, it's part of the Atacama desert the driest place in the world, and to some of the nearby rocky beaches. And then it was dreaded night bus time again, dreaded simply because we can't seem to sleep on them although they are surprisingly comfortable!!

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