Much has happened so here´s a long one! -
Nasca, July 13th 2002

Tried to take out 300 Soles, and being lazy not reading that I had to press "Soles" to get local currency, I ended up with 300 US dollars. That's a bit of money in a country where the local lunch is less than a dollar. The local menus are great. You first get a soup with pasta, veggies and sometimes meat which can be anything from chicken intestines, chicken feet to proper chicken and other meat. The second course can be chicken, meat or fish with rise and potatoes or French fries and salad included a drink. All for under the dollar, not bad at all! Another problem with money is that the magic cost of most things are one Sole and since the money machines only give you fifties people always have trouble accepting your money. Its' not often they even have change for a five so street vendors have to run next door, next street, next...

I just love the people here. They are very happy friendly and honest even if you often pay more as a foreigner. They are very interested, cautious of your safety and that you are having a good time in their country which they are very proud of. It has happened more than once that people confronted us and told us we'd better not continue this or that street since it might be dangerous for us as foreigners. We haven't felt threatened anywhere so far even if you have to be very cautious of your things. Here's a lot of poor people and a lot of begging for money, candy and pens. As a principle I never hand out anything since it only encourage begging in the future. But it's a very fine line and often you feel guilty and want to help out.

Last mail came from Trujillo where I spent my time looking at the remains from the Moche culture 800 BC. You could still see the beautiful original paintings in the temples which have been well preserved with layers of bricks and finally sand. The Chimú culture took over after the Moche in this area with the great Chan Chan cities. Had no idea that the great Inca Empire which stretched vast, lasted less than hundred years before the Spanish destroyed and looted the culture. I had my private cab a whole day for a few dollars where the driver also functioned as a tour guide. Left the city with millions of cabs which in this city were yellow. They seem to pick one or a few different colours for the cabs, which by far is in majority in the streets. White and black are other popular colours in other cities.

Went to Huaraz where I met up with Vanessa a friend from the Encounter trip in the Middle East a few years ago. We rented some gear, did some food shopping and headed to the mountains. We did trek for three days in the high altitude. Huaraz itself is situated at 3800m above sea level and our highest point in Chillcayhuanco touched the 5000m mark. It was a beautiful trek with not many people around. The mountain sides were covered with green minimal vegetation and the mountains capped with snow. We had to take it fairly easy due to the high altitude. If you get exhausted at this altitude it's very hard to regain your breath. You can also get high altitude sickness and the only remedy is to take it easy and turn back to lower altitude. I was fairly acclimatized since the mountains in Ecuador but Vanessa arrived straight from London so she had more problems breathing. We could see the horses, donkeys, cows and bulls grazing free up in the mountains and went up to a glacier lake which lay beautiful between the mountains with ice-bergs from the nearest glacier.

At night we joined groups of other people; the first night some French people which had had to help out some Americans which suffered from high altitude sickness and was returning down the next day. The next night we joined three Americans which had brought their guitar, banjo and ukulele. We had a nice evening cooking our dinner and watching the sun setting with our nice but smoky fire which we mainly feed cow manure. At night we had to take turn throwing rocks at the bulls which kept nibbling at our tent. They were very interested but harmless. The nights were fairly cold so I really wished I had taken one of my warmer sleeping bags with me instead of the one I have now. It did hail and rain some in the evenings and in the morning the tent was covered with a thin layer of ice. The last day we had a bit of snow but when the sun showed up it did get warm quickly.

After Huaraz we headed to Lima which we had intended to skip, but a day sight-seeing is probably a must anyway. So we arrived in this city, at five in the morning, where you hardly ever can see the sun due to the Garúa the smog-fog which always are covering the city. We were tired after the three days trekking with little sleep and a very warm night bus. Did some sight-seeing and window shopping in this big city. We also looked around in Miraflores which is the place for the rich and important ones here. Most things were like home and so were the prices...

Yesterday we spent the day around the Ballestas islands which was a tame review of the Galapagos. We could see tons of see lions, boobies, other birds and some penguins. The islands were very nice and there where some beautiful caves but after the Galapagos I'm a bit spoiled and didn't appreciate it that much. Our guide, who had been working here for thirty years never had encountered rain at this time of year, did so for his first time today, where they get 2-3 mm rain a year. In the afternoon we did visit the Paracas national park which was mainly desert where we could watch some flamingos from a far distance and do a museum.

Today we did a flight over the Nasca lines. I wouldn't recommend the tour to anyone. You'd be better of spending your money elsewhere, watching the interesting movie explaining the story behind them and buying the postcards. The lines form animals and shapes, some 80 m long, in the middle of the dessert and can only be viewed from above. They were constructed by turning rocks and some people say it was a way of communicating with aliens. Most scientists reject this theory and say this is just ignorance not recognising the technology and knowledge these cultures had. The first figures were made around 400 BC. Since it hasn't rained here since the last ice age, the people are extremely dependent on water in the middle of the dessert. These figures can have been used by the shamans to get help from the gods keeping water in their wells. An underwater irrigations system with aqueducts were made 1500 years ago and do still provide water to the area. Since there is no rain fall the lines has been well preserved so far but this has all changed with the last El Niños/Niñas which has partly destroyed them and might do so completely in the near future.

That's all for now folks if you made it all to the end, cheers Emil