31st July - it was time to leave the mountains and head for the coast - destination Lima. When we hit the main road south along the coast, we were treated to a pristine super smooth highway. Great road, but it ran through bleak desert with poor barrios on both sides and rubbish everywhere. I know for those travelling on limited time through South America, this coastal road is likely their main impression of Peru.... sad because inland and in the mountains, Peru is a beautiful country.
We entered busy Lima and our route took us through some choice areas. One large market area stood out, not just 2nd hand stuff, but probably 3rd or 4th hand - a hard life for a lot of people. Having been unable to get a space at a campsite for our van, we opted for a bit of luxury at a decent hotel in Miraflores. The van with rooftop bag wouldn't fit in their car park - not a problem - with plenty of help and not an eyelid batted, everything on the roof including spare tyre was put on the hotel trolley by the porters and placed in storage. We enjoyed our stay, but I cannot say I was overly impressed by Lima, with one exception - the food...there are great restaurants and the ceviche was amazing.
Back on the road, we continued south towards Paracas hoping for some kitesurfing. We arrived and wild camped in the car park at the kite beach. It was a great little spot and quiet at night. Time to break out the bikes and cycle the 3+ miles into town. Once again, ceviche and Pisco time. The kite beach was super windy, friendly and the kiting fantastic. I was even given a little tour of the best spots by a British kite school owner.
As this is the Pisco region we had to do a tasting, so we headed to one of the oldest vineyards where we took a tour and tested a few of the wines and a little Pisco - purely for educational purposes. We've also added a few new favourites to our cocktail list.
Before heading to Cusco, we also stopped at Huacahina, an odd little oasis surrounded by massive dunes. Arriving on a Sunday evening the place was overrun by motorheads, heading out in the huge dune buggies. We waited for the calm of Monday morning before heading out, great fun, although a little more wax on the boards would have been welcome.
Nazca - we decided not to take a flight but opted for a rather rickety lookout tower where we got to see some of the lines. Our last site before heading into the Altiplano and the Reserva Nacional Pampas Galeras was Cerro Blanco, the highest sand dune in the world, standing at 2,078m - it made some of the surrounding mountains look small!