Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

Arequipa is located 2,380 metres above sea level with the main attractions being the Santa Catalina Convent, and the acclaimed ‘Museo Santary’, where you’re able to view a 500 year-old sacrificed virgin (mummified for 500 years of course) .

I, however, chose to use this time in Arequipa to visit the supermarket , twice, and spend time in my room appreciating having a roof over my head. And television. God I missed television.

Though it wasn’t all a total tourist fail, I did make an overnight excursion to the Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and where there’s a good chance of seeing condors.

As I stood at the edge, looking into the canyon, I wondered if seeing the wonders of China and India in the last few months has made me hard to impress? Because, shamefully, my wow-factor was pretty low. Sure it was deep, and long, but it was disappointingly narrow. Girth must be important.

… and just when I thought the documentary would have been better, a couple of condors soured out from over the cliffs, their 3 metre wingspan displaying their absolute might and glamour as they put on an amazing flight show within a 50 metre radius of my head.

Unfortunately, my little Olympus tough camera could not capture how special the moment was, turning the magnificence of the largest flying bird into that of a dying bat falling from the sky.

Need a better camera.

Pisco Sours party in the Huacachina desert

After the thrilling sandboarding experience, we went on to party in the Huacachina desert, drinking copious amounts of unlimited, lethal, Pisco Sours – Peru’s national cocktail.

It looked very inviting – a protected bonfire set up in between 2 large sand dunes with music, lights, and a table full of canapes which included cheese sticks, fruit skewers, and a range of pork finger foods.

Eventually, a bbq was set up and a variety of meats cooking.

Katarn to T – ‘Aren’t you going to eat any of the bbq?’

T, sheepishly admits – ‘No, I thought a bbq in the desert meant just the table of finger foods that were out earlier (camping in desert rookie!), so I went totally ‘survival of the fittest’ on the cheese sticks’

As the night progressed, there was plenty of dancing, laughing, bonding, burying of wastes, and learning interesting bits of new information. Like did you know that ‘camping in the desert’ means just you and your sleeping bag, no tent? Only the thousands of bright stars above your head – amazing!

Pisco Sour Casualties

– Irish Adam fell drunkenly into the bonfire twice while dancing wildly.. and once onto the lit BBQ.

– Little blond Australian Amy got a wopping cut above her eye – she was pulling a fancy dance move when Aussy Oden dropped his beer bottle on her face.

In the morning when everyone was ‘ooh’-ing and ‘aaaah’-ing over her swollen shut, multi-coloured, bruised eye.

Everyone – ‘What happened?!’

Amy – ‘It was Oden’

Oden, jokingly to the group – ‘I tried to rape her but she resisted’

Sandboarding in the Peruvian desert – Tiara style.

Huacachina, Peru, is a desert oasis surrounded by massive sand-dunes. MASSIVE, 70 metre high, steep, enormous sand dunes, and it was here that I was going to have my first sandboarding experience.

Everyone was excited, and it WAS exciting, like the way death is exciting.

How to sandboard with a fractured right toe.

– Wait til last and hope to God that someone else falls off their board and rolls down the sand mountain, cursing, looking ridiculous, before I do.

– Encourage being in shock. This will help prevent your legs from running away from this exciting experience.

– Don’t stand. Lie down on the board and listen to the instructions with intense concentration – elbows in, legs spread, do not let your feet drop… too much info, just imagine its a water slide. A really really high water slide. I like water slides..

– Let out a single, loud, blood curdling scream that carries through the desert, and most likely all the way into the city, as the man pushes me off the edge.

– Feel incredible, (invincible!) as I’m flying down the almost vertical drop with the wind and sand blowing in my face, giving me a naturally surprised facelift.

– Successfully make it to the bottom without becoming a sand donut.

All smiles as the dune buggies pick us up from the bottom. I did it! With permanent eye-liner tattoo, a fractured foot, and a bright blue Priscilla scarf flying from around my neck! I am not a pussy.

Jesus, our crazy dune buggy driver looks over at us devilishly and says 2 words – ‘Level two.’

Everyone cheers.

T, smile frozen on face – ‘LEVEL TWO? ….shiiiiiit!’

Ballestas Islands – The things you remember

Having no clue what the itinerary involved, I was pleasantly surprised that the first optional excursion in Paracas was a high-speed, bumpy boat ride to the Ballestas Islands where we were able to view the unusual ‘Candelabra’, a giant design carved into a desert hill, and thousands of sea lions plus many varieties of aquatic birds that covered the rocky land.

It was described to me as ‘the poor man’s Galapagos islands’, for those who couldn’t afford to see the real thing, and if you keep this description in mind, it didn’t disappoint, in fact the scenery was beautifully raw, and the sea lions gorgeous and stinky.

However, being an animal lover, I was surprised at how quickly I switched off from the guided tour, easily adopting a ‘seen one bird seen them all’ attitude, while trying to maintain the look of interest on my face.

My one an only question – ‘What is all that white stuff covering the island?’

Answer – Bird shit.

Amazingly, this is the only piece of information I retained from this highly educational tour.

Tucan tour group

It was time to leave the comfort of Sue and Roy and join my Tucan tour group.

Meeting at the Karcama hotel in Lima city, we sat around a large oak table and had to do the whole ‘who are you’, ‘what did you do back home’ and ‘where are you heading in South America’ introduction.

As I heard from the other 20 new tour members, I realised that these people, most of who had quit their jobs to be apart of this journey, were just like me in their sense of adventure and direction – we were a busload of bums heading to Rio! (woot woot)

Recovering @ Chillies and learning a valuable lesson in love.

2 days post tattoo

Sue and I wake up extra puffy and swollen the morning after our tattoo trauma.

Roy, views us both and jokes – ‘What time does the show begin?’

As a thankyou for being incredible hosts, I take Sue and Roy to Chillies for lunch, a Western Mexican grill-house that serves the best burgers in South America (according to Sue). As we’re seated in the diner, Roy’s taunt rings in my head and I self-consciously take off my sunglasses.

T, to Sue – ‘Do I look like a bad drag queen?’

Sue – ‘No! I think you heal very fast, not like me!’

I looked at Sue, who didn’t look bad at all apart from swollen eye-lids that were slightly red, and realised that we were both being extra hard on ourselves.

At that moment a handsome waiter walks past our table and stares at me, but not with a ‘grab your pitchfork and run!’ horror, but with a flirtatious, seductive look and a cheeky grin.

Seeing this, Sue turns to me with a smile that said ‘See, you and you’re permanent eye-liner are going to be just fine … ‘

Sue, sitting across from me and close to Roy – ‘You know, after Roy and I had been married for many years, I asked him once to close his eyes and tell me what colour my eyes are’

Roy, who was in the middle of devouring his juicy Chillies burger, chokes, then starts giggling at the memory fondly.

T – ‘Oh no, don’t tell me you got it wrong?’

Roy, his blue eyes squint from laughing heartily, honestly says – ‘ I thought they were green!’

I look at Sue with her olive complexion, that tans so easily, and her dark hair. Anyone would have correctly guessed that her eyes were brown!

Sue, her warm brown eyes filled with disbelief, even after all these years – ‘He said green! Not even black! But GREEN!’ throws her hands up in exasperation.

Roy, who has loved Sue from the moment he set eyes on her 39 years ago, was doubled over laughing. He too was amazed that he had answered a question, that should have been so easy, so wrong.
I learnt something very important that afternoon, that just because your loved one doesn’t remember your important features, like the colour of your hair or the colour of your eyes, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love or appreciate you! No, it means that they are colour blind.

My first tattoo … well, sort of.

Scene 1 – The part where I didn’t think
In a casual conversation while helping Sue hang the washing one morning.

T, spontaneously while pegging a pair of Roy’s shorts on the line ‘ Hey, we should get our eye-liner tattooed’

Sue in a slight Peruvian accent- ‘ Yes, do you want to do it today?’

T, surprised at how quick and easy the decision was – ‘I’m game if you are’

And that was that.

Scene 2 – The part where I did think
That afternoon we’re at the beauty parlour.

Sue, 61, anxiously –‘ Let’s not tell Roy (her husband), he’ll come at us with a whip!’ laughing, then adds in a matter-a-fact tone ‘ … Actually, he won’t even notice.’

We’re given a choice of who wants to go first and as I was still struggling with the word ‘permanent’ I graciously, if not cowardly, gave Sue the honours.

I watched nervously as Sue lay down on the reclined parlour chair with the spotlight shining in her face, looking ever so calm and relaxed as the beautician prepared her tools.

The beautician shows Sue a needle, then proceeds to inject an anesthetic into her eyelid.

The loose anxiety I felt turned into a tight ball of fear – needle?! I didn’t know this would involve a needle? In my eye!! As usual, I had only thought about the outcome and not the process.

I then watched the beautician tense Sue’s right eyelid while using the dentist drill sounding device to tattoo the eye-liner. During this time I could see Sue’s eyes flickering wildly underneath.

Brave T thinks, ‘Come on, if Sue at 61 can do this then so can you’

Shit scared T thinks, ‘Be reasonable, the womans had 3 children – she can bear anything!!’

Scene 3 – The part where I cried and discovered I had no balls.
Before I knew it, the beautician was helping Sue to the recovery bed with two white cotton patches over her eyes. It was my turn.

She didn’t even need to get to the needle part, only the topical numbing cream part, when my eyes started weeping heavily.

T, face covered in tears but not actually crying – ‘Is this normal?’

Beautician in Spanish with Sue translating – ‘ You have very sensitive eyes’

Answer equals abnormal. . . shit shit shit shit shit!

I felt a stinging prick as the needle entered my eyelid. More tears, now accompanied by a runny nose – Not pretty.

The beautician, who I hoped wasn’t feeling tired and sloppy from her hour session with Sue, started tattooing the corner of my right eye.

T, doing deep yoga breathing, thinks – ‘ooh, this tickles, but it’s not so bad, I can do this’

As the beautician made her way to the centre of my eye-lid, the tickling sensation became almost unbearable and my eyes started to flicker wildly as Sue’s had done. I could see a white light shining through my eyelid and started to fear that my eyes were going to fly open from the irritation, and then the tool that sounded and felt like it was making thousands of tiny incisions all at once was going to go directly into my eye!

T, panicked – OMG, any second now she’s going to tattoo my eye-ball!’

I seriously thought about getting up and leaving. Then I had a flashback to the scene in the movie ’40 Year Old Virgin’ when the guy leaves in the middle of his painful chest wax looking ridiculous with a chest full of thick black hair except for a couple of bald strips across his nipple. No, I couldn’t leave, not with only one eye done.

I lay there and took it, making low whimpering wounded animal noises every now and then, and slight head jerks whenever the tickling or sting got too much. Much respect to our beautician – a talented professional who when doing my left eye injected an extra load of anesthetic. Smart move!

Scene 4 – The part where we look like bad drag queens
Sue and I arrive home sore and tired, wearing large sunglasses to cover the immense swelling in our face, a swelling that was visually intensified by the black dramatic lines that now framed our googly eyes. We had that surprised, punched in the face without smudging the eye-liner look going on.

Roy, anxious, to his wife Sue – ‘Come on, show me what you’ve done’

Sue reluctantly takes off her dark glasses.

Roy, 71, standing nose to nose with Sue, stares at her face in high concentration and finally says – ‘I can’t see nothing… what did you do?’

The stray cats of Miraflores.

I am heartbroken. I had just written this post about the stray cats of Miraflores today when I received an email from my good friend who has been taking care of my cats Queba & Lestat. He wrote that Queba, my 14-year-old persian past away in his sleep last night 😦

So I’d like to dedicate this next post about the happy cats of Miraflores to my beautiful Queba.

The stray cats of Miraflores.
I stood in Parque Kennedy and was delightfully amazed at the scene before me – healthy un-manged happy cats everywhere, in the park flower beds, up the trees, rubbing their noses and heads on their friendly human neighbours, on sidewalks, in the alley ways, lazing around on the grass where less than half a metre away a flock of birds were grazing – it was spectacular! After having come from India where I saw a lot of animal neglect and heartbreak, this was an extreme breath of welcomed fresh air.

Roy – ‘Its amazing, the council look after the stray cats around here (even medical issues?) oh yes, you see they’re all very healthy looking and very friendly, they don’t cause any problems with the birds because they’re being fed you see, and the people leave them alone, in fact, they enjoy having them around.’

It was true, everywhere you looked there were stray, unstray looking, collarless cats. And they did look healthy, some a little too healthy if you know what I mean (heavy). These kitty cats were very friendly to each other, to the people, and to the native wildlife. . . it was pussy nirvana!

A different point of view – Life in Lima

While sitting at Mangoes enjoying a beer on a beautiful day in Lima, I met an interesting man named Jellin (pronounced Yellin). Originally from Holland, he had been selling mining equipment to the Peruvian goldmines in the late 90’s, married a Peruvian lady of the European class and settled down in Lima to start a family.

Today at 44, Jellin has a 6-year-old son, is getting divorced and can’t wait to exit Lima, which he will do in February to go to Spain.

Jellin, blonde haired, blue-eyed and able to speak Latin American Spanish fluently – ‘I hate Lima. The rest of Peru is beautiful but Lima is only a stop-over. Everyday I’m picking garbage off my driveway. If you cross the road at the pedestrian crossing, they will speed up to try to hit you. It happens here all the time.’

The Europeans are moving out of the affluent areas (like Miraflores) because they don’t want to mix with the new middle class that has started to form from the locals that are getting educated and working, earning some money and can now afford to live in the better areas. Its wrong.

The other day I was driving through a toll highway, in my white jeep – It’s the biggest and whitest jeep you can get – when the police stopped me. Now I knew I had done nothing wrong and have all of my paper work in order, and he stood there looking through my papers trying to find SOMETHING because they want to get anything out of you, 5 soles, 10 soles even, and you know what he said? ” your car is meant to be white”, it was ridiculous, but I joked with him and said “You know what the weathers like in Lima, you have to wash your car every second day, if you like I’ll wash it for you now”. He then asked me to get out of the car, and you know what he found? He pointed to the thin door outline which is grey and said ” you call that white?”. Now I got angry, and started asking for his rank and who his superior was. I said “I want you to write down in your book in front of me that you think my car is not white!’

Jellin, paused and smiled – ‘ Now, anywhere else in the world the police would either get heavy-handed or start writing lies and can really get you in trouble. But not in Lima, you go offensive and they will back down.’ Then adds ‘and if he doesn’t, you look away, reach into your wallet for 10 soles, and when he takes it out of your hand, you can look up, and hopefully he’s gone.’

Discovering ceviche – I’ve died and gone to Mangoes!

About a 15 minute stroll from Roy and Sue’s apartment is Larcomar, a still in developement coastal area that the Lima council has put a lot of effort transitioning into a picturesque touristy hub. Though incomplete, you can see where its going – long stretches of beautiful beach lined by low cliffs covered in luscious green grass with parks, scenic points, and recreational areas for the kids.

In the shopping and eating arena, Roy and Sue introduce me to Mangoes for lunch.

Sue, excitedly, – ‘We take everyone to Mangoes, it’s the only time we go’

Mangoes is a beachside restaurant with an outside deck that overlooks the ocean. Aesthetically pleasing to put you into a relaxed holiday mood, it was very pretty… But what was even more beautiful was the buffet.

With 8 different varieties of sensationally marinated white fish, raw or lightly cooked in all sorts of Peruvian, if not slightly fused styles. Side dishes of sauces, salads, different types of corns, many species of potato, also including hot and cold scrumptious ‘pollo’ (chicken) and beef options – It was like a dream come true! *DROOL*.

To start with, ceviche – I love quality raw fish, I love lime, I love salad, and I absolutely love how the chef would create this delightful ‘ceviche’ (all ingredients mixed with additional seasoning) as you stand their watching and waiting with the predatory eyes of a hungry hovering vulture.

But it was not all about the ceviche – Rows of full green avocado with prawns topped with a seafood sauce, herbed blue cheese wrapped in chicken fillet, rare roast beef gently folded around a crispy asparagus, stuffed cheese tomato things, layered corn and vegie things, baked banana in a savory gravy, grilled fish in soy and butter! *GASPS*

By the time I shamelessly ate my way through 3 hours and four plates, I had embraced the blissful pace of a hippo in water and ‘floated’ back to our table with my final plate of assorted deserts.

Roy, considering the sheer quantity in disbelief, simply said – ‘ That’s disgusting!’ laughing.

I too found this hilarious – I thought I had been eating politely.

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