We travelled into the world of high altitude. Lima was at 1550 metres, Cusco was at 3300 metres. After landing in Cusco, we quickly drove down to Ollatayambo at 2790 metres to acclimitize for three days. Machu Picchu was at 2450 metres. Our highest elevation for the trip, was crossing the Andes at 4316 metres. Wow. Many of us suffered to varying degrees, from altitude sickness.
This was not the effects of altitude sickness. No, we were a group that liked to have fun and we were forever trying for 'levitation' style jumping photos, crazy shadows, and whatever we else we could creativity come up with, just for fun.
We headed out of Lima and travelled down the road to Paracas National Reserve. We headed to the Ballestas Islands, a National Wildlife preserve for mostly birds, but also sea lions, dolphins and of course, the Humboldt Penguin (that was for you Sue.)
Fabrice, Anne's husband, travelled around and would quite often bellow, and I mean bellow, "Anne. Anne." He would wave his arms above his head, trying to get her attention so she could take his picture of where he went. I mean, it was everywhere he went! He was certainly an engaging character with a thick French accent. He added such flavour to our hodge podge of a group.
I dont know if Anne took his photos all these times, but we sure did. Here. And here. And here. And here ....
Then we moved on to another type of desert, complete with Oasis. In the Ica Region, it's called the California desert and the sand dunes are just as expected, big and ever changing. You could taste the grit between your teeth. We were being transported out somewhere in the desert about an hour and half for sunset shots. This was the most terrifying experience, dune over dune in our buggy, going down what appeared to be 90 degree angles. But the sunset shots were well worth it! However, coming home in the dark ... I don't know what was scarier - seing what was coming or only feeling what was coming. Yikes!
It was surprisingly cool, under the layers of wool, even in the heat of the day.
Celebrate! We also attended a large yearly celebration one day in in one town and a parade for police graduates in another town. Although many wore costumes for these celebrations, the traditional clothing is still worn by the majority throughout the country. We were to learn this is because they are poor and have no money to buy clothes, but many have lamas or alpacas and can therefore make their own clothing from their wool.
We also just went to different small villages and took photos. On one such occasion, I was able to take one photo of the police car before the police ran me off. BTW all four tires were flat! In another small village, we became part of a wedding processional making their way around the town square after their nuptuals. There was a man who was 'recycling' as he stood outside his restaurant and trampled down all his platic and tin cans. And I mustn't forget the Peruvian dog - a grey hairless cross between a Chihuahua and Chinese Crested dog with long legs. They often were seen with sweaters on to protect their skin from sun burn.
Oh, and did I mention the stairs and/or hills all over the place. I have never climbed so many stairs and my one knee swelled up like a ballon. And of course, the streets were quite narrow, all leading to a town square, and lamas and alpacas were everywhere. It seemed this way all over the country.
But it wasn't always about Peru, the country, the people and the landscape. We sometimes took photos of each other, and sometimes we even put the camera down just to enjoy the moment unfolding in front of us. In fact, Martine our tour guide, made us all sit in a row, on the sand dune at sunset, cameras down, and just experience it for five long minutes! I can't show you a photo though ...