More from the intrepid explorers
Having finished trekking in the Colca Canyon, we headed back to Arequipa where in order to recover from the strain of the trek dinner took place at ZigZag, where we compensated for the lack of meat consumed over the last four days by each devouring steaks. Drinks afterwards lead us inevitably to “deja vu” where the aces and pains of the trek were danced away.
Hangover day lived up to its name and the grand event of the day was a cinema trip, the girls to see “Sex and the City” the boys and some of the less fashion conscious “Prince of Persia”, which was unanimously voted to be the worst film ever made, with the exception of Legion of Angels. Everyone was thankful to crash early on the joyous cama beds of the Peruvian night bus.
We awoke in a different land, Huacachina was a completely new experience for the majority of us with the exception of John, who relished the chance of being back in the desert landscape similar to that of his native Botswana. Our arrival however was not only for John but for all a slight disappointment as the day was very overcast, however as the sky cleared, the mood lifted and we spent the majority of the morning sunbathing by the pool and reading stolen trashy magazines. Sand boarding and dune buggying in the afternoon was absolutely incredible, if loud as the girls proceeded to scream at every sharp turn and vertical drop of which there were many. We completed 5 sand boarding runs with varying levels of success, with everyone managing to stand up and ride by the end, even if turning left a little to be desired! Watching the sun set over the sand dunes and turn the whole landscape a blazing red was a fantastic end to the day.
An early start the next day, saw us back on our hectic schedule of perpetual movement. We stoped about 10.00am at the Ballestas, known to most as the poor mans Galapagos where we joined a long line of other tourists and headed out on speed boats to view the amazing wildlife of the islands. Sea Lions, Penguins, Cormorants, Andean Geese, starfish, sea anemones and to the hilarity of all particularly our mature and respectable leaders boobies. to see such a huge variety of beautiful birds and sea life cohabiting in their natural enviroments was phenomenal, we also leaned a huge amount about the history of the area from the Spanish conquest through to the economics of the area based on the cultivation and collection of bird guano. After the tour we went for an early lunch of traditional Peruvian Ceviche (raw fish cooked in lime) and calamari before hitting the road again this time destined for Villa Maria, the slums of Lima, where the Quest School is based.
The project is a huge operation working within the local communities, the school itself was set up12 years ago by quest, and ever since has been supported by gap year students like us, giving scholarships to disabled or homeless children so they can attend school, not only providing for them an education but also child care during the day when many of the single mothers head into Lima for work. The children are amazing, they launch themselves at you and cling like limpets, all the while shouting to their comrades the joyous news of the arrival of “Gringos”.
Quest also builds houses for families in the local community, about 20 so far. houses cost 600 pounds, take two days to build, and give a family of 5 shelter from the snow. In the summer Quest pays for 250 children every day to go to the swimming pool, and there is always a group of gap year kids who’s project phase involves living at the school for a month to work with the kids . We had such an awesome time playing with the children and looking around the community all the while accompanied by Nena the gringo guard dog. We all loved the opportunity to see what other work Quest does and relished the chance to contribute to such a great project even in such a small way.
From Lima we were again transported cross country by night bus, this time to the destination of our next trek Huaraz. Surrounded on three sides by mountains Huaraz is settled in beautiful surroundings with huge opportunity for outdoor activities. The first of these was to be a day trek, scheduled for the day after our arrival and intended to assisted in our re-acclimatisation to altitude. This carefully planned trek unfortunately clashed with another epic occasion, USA playing England in the world cup. In order to be present to witness this Titan like clash, we established a careful plan. We would arise at 3.30 in the morning, down coffee and depart for the hike before 4.00am. Not only that, but in order to fool the Guards at the national park who would demand that such a large grope hire a tour guide, we established new identities as fierce football fans from across the globe who had met in a pub the night before, only to discover they were all faced with the football vs amazingly beautiful hike debate and had concluded to hire a bus together and set off to hike in the middle of the night.
The actual walk was beautiful, with the climb taking us through the mountains, past Inca ruins and to a electric blue glacial lake at the foot of the snow caped mountains above. As it was only 9.00 am, we ate cheese, bread, honey and dried fruit to restore our strength before embarking on the descent. Once back at the bus it was a close call to make it back to Huaraz arriving 5 minutes into the game to the news that England had scored. The game was eagle watched by all and the draw relished by none and debated over for a considerable amount of time to come.