From Paracas, we went to Nazca where we spent one night. People come here to see the Nazca Lines which are huge drawings carved on the desert floor over 1000 years ago. But the lines were not that exciting for us. To see them properly one should really get on an airplane tour but we didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars. If we had gone in the sky, we would have seen hundreds of cool stylized drawings like this monkey.
From the watch tower, we only saw “the hands” like this photo and “the tree” which was too big to see well from the short tower.
From Nazca we started the long 14 hour drive to Cusco. The scenery, as usual, was impressive. But one of the worst things about long term-travel is how jaded one can become. There is nothing like seeing your first beautiful beach, your first big desert, your first amazing Peruvian mountain drive. Our mindset on this drive was wanting to just get through with it.
We did have another first though – finally we saw vicuñas! These animals look like delicate smaller llamas whose wool fetches extremely high prices. Vicunas can be shorn only every there years and they do not fare well in captivity. So every three years, they are rounded up, sheared, then returned to the wild. Clothing made from vicuña wool is very expensive, like thousands of USD for a little shawl, or tens of thousands for a full-on coat! We did not see any vicuña goods in Cusco and we were told if a store had one, it would sit behind a glass case.
More livestock on the road. We always love seeing them.
Here is a big rig that almost went over the side rail and over the cliff. This had just happened before we drove by and the driver was trying to stop some leak in the front but didn’t need any help. This photo doesn’t capture the cliff but it’s just a straight fall on the other side. Close call.
The altitude was between 1000-14000 feet most of this drive. We had spent many days at sea level so we felt quite lethargic and breathless. But the kids were champs. No problems with altitude yet on this trip.
We split up the drive over 3 days and 2 nights. The first night we found a very cheap hotel in a dusty town. For $20, it was clean enough, had secure parking, and would let in Luna. But all night a car alarm was blasting right outside our window. We surely weren’t the only ones hearing this, but the town collectively didn’t feel anything needed to be done. We later learned that the owners simply lived in a flat upstairs in the same building! Throughout all our travels, we have grown tolerant to the incessant noise pollution in Latin America. But this was a bit much.
Our second night, thank goodness, we found a nice campsite at Casa Lena from the ioverlander app. A young Belgian and Peruvian couple started an NGO to provide schooling and meals to the children from surrounding villages. Their facilities had very nice classrooms, supplies, playground, bathrooms and showers for the kids. Everything is funded by the B&B/camping that they run and also by Belgian friends and families who “sponsor” the children for about $10 a month. The two met while she was traveling and volunteering in Cusco a few years ago. He was a rafting guide and she was a special needs teacher back in Belgium. Now they are back in his home town giving back and have two beautiful babies. Very brave and inspiring life.
Our last stop before arriving in Cusco was stocking up on meat. We love finding fresh pork.
Finally we arrived in Cusco after an ordeal of a drive. Getting to Cusco was special to me. In our previous life, Cusco seemed really far away. Like a vacation destination in magazines and for other people’s honeymoons. Before this trip Simon and I did not travel internationally much. There were many reasons. There were plenty to see around the States. We were pretty frugal and were always saving money for something. We also always had big dogs. And unless we had to, we didn’t like to leave them behind. So most of our vacations were camping road trips which took us to Utah, British Colombia and Montana. We eventually bought our first pop-up camper after Ty was born, and then decided to take on this crazy trip after Jamie was born. This big trip will eventually take us to thirteen foreign countries. So we are making up for it.
Cusco’s Plaza de Armas might just be our favorite central plaza so far. The city was once the capital of the Inca empire. Ruins of Inca palaces and temples remain all over the city. But just the walls and foundations. After the Spanish took over the city, they destroyed the Inca buildings and built their own structures on top of the immense Inca stones. It is really an interesting and beautiful albeit extremely touristic city.
Festivities in the Plaza. One for bread (really), and the other for one of the virgins (sorry Catholics).
Lamb and llamas everywhere. They are “working animals” helping the owners make a tip.
Luna was seriously in heat in Cusco. We eventually got her fixed a few weeks later, but before that she attracted a lot of attention from the machos. It was funny sometimes but it also got hazardous – I had to escape into a cab with her and the kids one time. This particular scruffy wired-haired suitor was actually very sweet. We ran into him a few times over our stay. He followed her but did not bother her too much like the other dogs. One night he spotted her as we were going into a taxi after dinner, and he chased the taxi through traffic for blocks. The kids had a great time looking out the back window cheering for him.
It’s been a while since we had mom and sons’ night out. Ty, Jamie and I visited a cathedral near the campground one evening, had fun ringing the church bell before they came up to stop us (we honestly didn’t know it was only rung for mass), followed by going to town for cakes and ice-cream. A great night to remember.