I landed in Lima, Peru last Saturday and have been pleasantly surprised everywhere I go. I stayed in the neighborhood of Miraflores in Lima and enjoyed walking around town on my own, watching surfers and paragliders along the beach, participating in the nightlife, and trying my first Pisco Sour (grape brandy known as Pisco, lime juice, sugar syrup, and egg whites). I was told by everyone to just past through Lima, but I am so glad I didn’t listen because it turned out to be a wonderful 3 days. I met some nice travelers at my hostel and 4 of us decided to travel together to the next city.
From Lima, we took a 5 hour bus ride south to the city of Ica. There is a small town called Huacachina which is a 5 minute taxi ride from Ica which used to be a getaway for the Peruvian elite. Now this town caters to backpackers. This small town is an oasis in the middle of the desert and surrounds a lagoon. We stayed for 2 nights to enjoy some much needed relaxation at the pool, sand-boarding down the incredible desert dunes, and winery and Pisco winery tours. Everything is very reasonable if you are traveling on the US dollar, New Zealand dollar, and Euro. Average cost for a nice meal is 15 Peruvian Soles which is about U.S. $5.35 although I was finding pretty good meals for only 10 Soles. All of the tours cost around U.S. $10 and an average accommodation is U.S. $10 a night.
My friends and I went in different directions from Ica. I took an overnight bus to Arequipa where I will be a volunteer teaching in a kindergarten class for the next 4 weeks. Arequipa is Peru’s 2nd largest city which lies at the base of El Misti and experiences earthquakes often (I was told they felt one last weekend). There is the saying here, “When the moon separated from the earth, it forgot to take Arequipa” referencing the city’s colonial buildings built from an off-white volcanic rock called sillar that shines in the sun. The weather here is consistently sunny and warm during the day and cool at night. I will be taking Spanish language one-on-one tutoring beginning Monday for an entire week so I will be ready to help at the school the following week. I will also be living with a host family here in Arequipa which I will get to meet tomorrow afternoon. So far I have enjoyed everywhere I have been in Peru and would recommend it to any travelers (especially when on a tight budget). I plan to do a 3 day trek in the Colca Canyon (more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon) and visit Chile and Lake Titicaca on the weekends. I will make my way to Machu Picchu via Cuzco once I am done with my volunteer program in Arequipa.