After Christmas celebrations with great company in Arica (Chile) we moved back into Peru this time to explore the South West of Peru. After clearing customs and immigration (all up took less than an hour) Our first stop was Tacna just 60KM North of the border with Chile. The town did not excite us, and we kept going further North towards Arequipa. Arequipa is also known as the White City but as we bypassed the city centre, we did not notice any of the old colonial buildings. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru with just over 1 million people. Located at 2400 meters and more than 80 volcanoes some active makes Arequipa an earthquake prone area. We did not stay in Arequipa and moved to Yura and camped near the Hot Springs. After a relaxing day it was time to proceed. The spectacular drive to Chivay brings us to a magic viewpoint at the Patopampa Pass (4940 meters high) with views of El Misti 5822 (high)and Chachani 6075 (high) From here the road drops 1300 meters before arriving in Chivay a small village at the beginning of the Colca Canyon around 3650 meters high. It has a central town square and an active market where we did some shopping before finding a camp spot and another swim at the thermal springs (Calera Hot Springs) just outside town. Next was Colca Canyon the third most visited tourist destination in Peru nearly 200000 people visit the canyon every year. We arrived mid-afternoon and tour busses had left. The canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and second deepest in Peru after the Cotahuasi Canyon. We camped at the Cruz del Condor the viewpoint where Andean Condors can be seen most days throughout the year. We were very lucky to see some in the afternoon upon our arrival with no-one around. The next morning, I think around 15 tour busses pulled up and so did the market stalls selling souvenirs. Instead of following the tourist back to Chivay or Arequipa we decided to follow the track towards Huambo on the 109 towards the Pan Americana Sur an area of astounding scenic beauty, with giant Andean terraces unique natural sceneries, as well as animal life; such as herds of Vicuñas (a wild relative of Llamas and Alpacas) and various types of birds, of which stand out the giant hummingbird, eagles, gooses and the mighty Andean Condor. Once we arrived, we were pushed for time as the Dakar friends were waiting in Huacachina. We travelled further north via The National Reserve of San Fernando, bypassing Juan de Marcoona as we would visit this as part of the Dakar race. On the way we camped near the Cerro Blanco. The world highest sand dune at more than 2000 meters. The dune is 1180 meters high from base to the top. Buggies can’t climb the hill hence it is a few hours walk to the top people tell me. (Not for us) with clear runs going down takes minutes on skis. I was surprised to learn that only one of the highest dunes in the top 10 was in Australia and only one in the Sahara Desert? Second largest in Chile Cerro Medanoso, (550 meters) 3. Badain Jaran in China 500 meters, 4. Rig-e Yalan in Iran 470 meters, 5. Isaouane-n-Tifernine in Algeria, 460 meters, 6 and 7 are Big daddy and Dune 7 in Namibia 325 meters, 8 is mount tempest in Australia 280 meters. It was time to visit our Dakar friends in Huacachina. a small lagoon surrounded by palm trees and gigantic sand dunes, this desert oasis Huacachina is home to a great Training ground for the Dakar and the dune buggy capital of Peru. These ancient mountains of sand are beautiful, surreal and jaw-dropping, allowing you deep into the desert to see the huge sand dunes all the way to the coast. After the Dakar we continued North to Paracas National park. the Park contains various archaeological sites from the Paracas pre-Inca culture, which existed in large part of what is now the reserve. Time for us to return to Lima and explore the city meet up with our friends Hans and Elizabeth, store our truck have a few drinks with Carlos and his family prepare the truck and get ready for the flight home in a few weeks. For us this was the end of our exploring of Southern and Central Peru, till next time when we explore Northern Peru moving towards Ecuador and Colombia.
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