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Bus Trip from Arequipa to Puno at Lake Titicaca

I stayed in Arequipa for a week. I liked the climate, the city and the surrounding scenery with the dominant Misti Volcano. I didn’t like that frequent and well documented express kidnappings make taking a taxi a super risky business, so I got by without, but overall I truly enjoyed my stay. But after a week of being an Arequipeno, it was time to move on. I decided to head down south to Puno – a city on the shores of Lake Titicaca, located at the elevation of 3,830 meters above sea level.

Being quite familiar with the downtown core of Arequipa, I checked out of Hotel Diplomats at around 10:30am and took a 30 minute walk to the bus terminal. Several operators sold tickets to Puno, so I chose the one whose bus was leaving the soonest. On the map, Puno didn’t seem all that far, so I expected the bus ride to take maybe a couple of hours. I should have seriously looked more into it, instead of assuming the distance as the crow flies would somehow be indicative of the time it would take to get there.

Photo: Alas del Sur Bus Company Services Between Arequipa and Puno
Photo: Alas del Sur Bus Company Services Between Arequipa and Puno

I rode with the company called Alas del Sur. Having mistakenly expected a few hours long bus ride, it was just a local type of nothing-fancy bus. The departure was at 11:30am.

The ridiculous thing about the Arequipa bus terminal was that as always, the hygienic services were charged for – a cost of 50 Centabos, and you were issued a ticket permitting you the use of the bathroom. I got to say that was a first for me.

Photo: Arequipa Bus Terminal Ticket for Use of Toilets
Photo: Arequipa Bus Terminal Ticket for Use of Toilets

Next ridiculous thing was that there was a 2 Soles terminal tax imposed on everyone looking to depart with a bus from the station. It was kind of like an airport fee you get charged for as part of taking a flight somewhere. After Arequipa, I’ve encountered the bus terminal fee a few time at other terminals in Peru. Peru is ridiculous like that.

Photo: Arequipa Bus Terminal Service Fee
Photo: Arequipa Bus Terminal Service Fee

An even more ridiculous thing was that everyone boarding a bus was taken a mugshot of. Even though I’m a citizen of a European Union country, the GDPR was useless to me in Peru. Needless to say, after Arequipa I realized that the mugshot taking in order to be allowed to use a bus you have paid for is a common practice in over-the-top Peru.

The bus left as scheduled at 11:30am, and I truly enjoyed the scenery as we went along. The vegetation-free, arid hills, with towering volcanoes often bearing snow covered caps, were spectacular on every turn.

Photo: Road Sign Warns of Wild Roaming Vicunas
Photo: Road Sign Warns of Wild Roaming Vicunas

A couple hours after leaving Arequipa we passed through the national park Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca with multiple hoards of wild vacunas roaming about. There were plenty of them on the vast planes of the area, but they were always at a distance from the road, and taking a reasonable picture of them from a moving bus was a challenge.

Photo: Wild Roaming Vicunas in Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca
Photo: Wild Roaming Vicunas in Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca

Somewhere around there I also spotted my first cloud I’ve seen since leaving Ica for Nazca. This part of Peru receives very little precipitation so despite cold nights, days are sun filled with clear blue skies and nothing obstructing the sun for months on end.

Photo: First Cloud in Peru I've Seen Since Leaving Ica
Photo: First Cloud in Peru I’ve Seen Since Leaving Ica

As the sun got lower, we passed by Laguna Lagunillas which I thought was the beginning of Lake Titicaca, but it was still far from it. The hours were passing by and soon enough it became very clear to me that we’re not getting to Puno during daylight. As a matter of fact, by the time we arrived in Puno, it was already past 9pm, making me truly regret not looking into how long the trip to Puno would really take. Had I known I’d waste all daylight if I take a bus during the day, I would have waited in Arequipa to take an overnighter instead, and arrive in Puno in the morning.

Photo: Laguna Lagunillas
Photo: Laguna Lagunillas

Having truly messed up on that, I had no option but look for accommodation in the city I did not know late at night again. What made matters worse was that because of the high altitude and the proximity to the highest commercially navigable lake in the world, nights in Puno are bone-chilling cold.

Luckily, a number of hostels near the bus terminal provided enough opportunity to secure a room rather quickly. The cost for what you get was however off the charts. The problem was then further compounded by the fact that once I paid for a room at El Lago, I realized the internet in the hostel was spotty, frequently cutting off so every simple task took a very long time to complete.

Photo: Hostal El Lago in Puno, Peru
Photo: Hostal El Lago in Puno, Peru

The rooms in the hostel were not heated, so the incredible cold of the night outside made any possibility of having a decent rest overnight a challenge at best. Likewise, the shower water was only a little warmer than fully cold, having only been warmed up by the daytime sun. Needless to say, taking showers in cold water when you’re shivering to begin with was an adventure in its own right.

The hostel also did not provide a roll of a toilet paper, but instead just a few sheets torn off from a roll. At 40 Soles per night, it was definitely one of the worst deals for the money I’ve had in Peru. But then again, I found Peru to be expensive in general. Especially when value for money is concerned.

The worst part of staying at El Lago, however, was the constant noise from incessant screaming and loud talking by the guy at the reception with his mates. Earplugs were of little relief against the party-night type banter in the place.

Nevertheless, the brutally cold night didn’t kill me and come morning, I was ready to truly hit it in Puno.

Custom Jewelry by Traveling Artist from Colombia

During my “where-the-hell-am-I” trips up and down Arequipa, I made friends with a traveling maker of custom jewelry from Colombia. With a bag full of various minerals and interesting rocks, Sebastian used copper wires to turn them into personalized jewelry.

When I first came across him, he was quickly attracted by my collar with large tooth from sea wolf adorned by three Amazonites, and I was interested in the large collection of crude rocks he was displaying on the street. Even though my personal collection of gemstones is already pretty large, Sebastian seemed to have some I’ve never seen before. A red tinged one was particularly of allure to me.

The rock, as he explained to me, is from the nearby Colca Canyon and is called “Coltacana“. Even though I knew precious nothing about said stone, I liked its looks enough to hire him to make me a collar from it according to my needs.

Photo: Coltacana Stone in Personalized Necklace
Photo: Coltacana Stone in Personalized Necklace

I took my new custom jewelry with me home to cleanse it with Palo Santo in order to remove the energy of other people who may have touched it from it, and since then, could not seem to part with it.

To my surprise however, I could not find any kind of mention of anything by the name of “Coltacana” anywhere on the internet. I got along really well with Sebastian, and came to hang out with him every day of my stay in Arequipa, so after not being able to find any kind of backinfo about the rock, I told him about it, so he suggested to look for its alternative name of “Jaspe Sangre Toro” (Jasper Bull Blood). That however lead to little success looking anything relevant up as well.

Photo: Hanging Out with Sebastian, Fellow from Amazonia in Ecuador and a Girl in Arequipa
Photo: Hanging Out with Sebastian, Fellow from Amazonia in Ecuador and a Girl in Arequipa

Doesn’t matter. I like the rock and like my new jewelry, and the artist who made it for me is now my good friend. Here’s a video of Sebastian making the Coltacana necklace:

Of course, I could not stop at that, and on one of the next days, I paid Sebastian to make me another custom necklace, this time from a beautiful sparkling gemstone named “La Piedra de Luna” (the moonstone).

Photo: Rare Moonstone Crystal from India
Photo: Rare Moonstone Crystal from India

The gemstone is iridescent and white with velvety parts within it. The stone however takes a beautiful blue tint when reflecting the sun – a property that gets it its name, as its whitish blue shine resembles the moon’s glow.

Unlike the Coltacana jewelry, which used string as a necklace, the necklace for this one was made from copper, just as the frame holding it.

Photo: Final Jewelry Featuring Moonstone
Photo: Final Jewelry Featuring Moonstone

I was told, that ti some countries, the moonstone is also known as “stone of mother earth” because of its positive effects on women at the time of childbirth, and its beneficial properties for fertility. Many years ago, it was also known as “traveler’s stone” because it was used as an amulet for people who were going on a trip.

The video of Sebastian making me the Moonstone jewelry:

I think that should I meet the right woman, the moonstone jewelry will go to her. But for now, it stays with me. I cleared it off negative energies as well, and had another necklace to rotate my existing ones with.

Photo: Native Fellow from Whom I Bought Large Piece of Coltacana Rock
Photo: Native Fellow from Whom I Bought Large Piece of Coltacana Rock

Basilica Cathedral Metropolitana of Arequipa

Basílica Catedral Metropolitana de Arequipa is located in the Plaza de Armas – the main square of the city. Its majestic presence makes it one of the most important architectural symbols of Arequipa.

The construction on the cathedral began in the year 1615, but due to numerous natural disasters, it wasn’t completed until 1656. Since then, the cathedral was damaged by several earthquakes and was completely destroyed by fire in 1844, so a new neoclassical court was built and it is the one that, with some modifications, is maintained at present.

Photo: Wide Angle Shot of Plaza de Armas Fountain with Arequipa Cathedral in Background
Photo: Wide Angle Shot of Plaza de Armas Fountain with Arequipa Cathedral in Background

As the majority of historical buildings in Arequipa, the cathedral is also constructed of sillar – the volcanic rock. The building, as well as the fountain in the center of Plaza de Armas are nicely illuminated at night for attractive nighttime photos.

Photo: My Cell Phone Camera Lens Had Smudges On It, Creating This Smeared Light Effect
Photo: My Cell Phone Camera Lens Had Smudges On It, Creating This Smeared Light Effect

During the day, outside of a few hours in the late afternoon when the sun rays hit the front of the cathedral from the side, the sun remains behind it, offering few opportunities for a decent photo unspoiled with strong backlight.

Photo: Only in Late Afternoon Can You Score a Daytime Photo of Arequipa Cathedral with Natural Sun Ray Illumination on Front
Photo: Only in Late Afternoon Can You Score a Daytime Photo of Arequipa Cathedral with Natural Sun Ray Illumination on Front

I don’t know when exactly the cathedral is open, but during a week of staying in Arequipa, I only caught it open once. I’d think your best chance to see it from the inside would be on Sunday morning, when it’s open for a mass.

Photo: Inside Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa
Photo: Inside Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

As a gringo, your best options for street pickups in Arequipa are right at Plaza de Armas, or on the adjacent pedestrian zones of Mercaderes (where the McDonald’s is) and San Francisco (also home to multiple night clubs offering decent pickup opportunities).

Photo: Areas Around Arequipa Cathedral and Plaza de Armas Provide Great Opportunities for Gringos to Pick Up Girls
Photo: Areas Around Arequipa Cathedral and Plaza de Armas Provide Great Opportunities for Gringos to Pick Up Girls

The busiest I’ve seen Plaza de Armas be was on Sunday when the entire area was flooded with people, and there was some dance group was performing on the street:

My Life Is Complete – I Got Spat On by an Alpaca

During my stay in Arequipa, I visited an outlet of Incalpaca – a factory with decades of experience producing garments from the wool of llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas.

The interesting part about the outlet is that attached to it is a small zoo if you will, where visitors can see the animals used for their wool. There was one cute vicuna, a small herd of llamas, and one extremely territorial alpaca.

Photo: Graceful Vicuna Occupies Her Enclosure Alone
Photo: Graceful Vicuña Occupies Her Enclosure Alone

Except for the alpaca, all other animals were shy and remained in parts of their encampments the furthest from the people. The alpaca was the only one to be standing fearlessly right by the fence along the visitors’ walkway.

I approached the proud animal snapped a picture of its head, and it proceeded to spit on me. It wasn’t the type of gooey spit you could get from a human, but more like a little dispersed spray of fine droplets, but it was nevertheless very cool.

Photo: Territorial Alpaca Graced Me with the Shower of Her Spit
Photo: Territorial Alpaca Graced Me with the Shower of Her Spit

I have heard of camels spitting, but never have I imagined I’d get the opportunity to be spat on by a camelid. Whereas other visitors to the compound reacted with disgust and ran away from the animal when they got spat on, I got excited and told to myself: “Holy shit! My life is now complete. I got spat on by an alpaca.

I looked at some of the garments sold in the store, but would not be able to bring myself to pay so much money for just that – a piece of a garment.

Photo: Standing by Enclosure with Herd of Llamas
Photo: Standing by Enclosure with Herd of Lamas

Anything made from vicuña wool in particular was super expensive. As in four digits for a scarf expensive. I was told by the apparently commission paid sales woman that vicuña wool is finer than kashmir, and the animals don’t produce a whole lot of it, so it’s always expensive.

But at more than 4,000 Soles (around $1,200 US) for a scarf, there would be no way for me to even entertain this type of a purchase. The sales woman insisted that she would hook me up with an attractive discount, but one way or the other, I never come anywhere near to spending this much money for garments.

Photo: Garmets from Vicuna Wool Are Among the Most Expensive in the World
Photo: Garmets from Vicuña Wool Are Among the Most Expensive in the World

I’m a vagabond in old, worn out clothes anyway. I’m smart with my money and even if I were wealthy enough to easily afford something this expensive, I don’t know what it would take to argue me into buying it. I however don’t doubt the amazing warming and softness properties of vicuña garments.

Touring Arequipa with Milagros

While on my way to get to know Arequipa, I met a local girl who said her name was Milagros (meaning “Miracles“). At first I thought she was messing with me, but apparently it’s her real name and said name is actually quite popular among females in Peru.

Photo: In Front of Bronze Statue of Bull with Milagros at Menelik Museum
Photo: In Front of Bronze Statue of Bull with Milagros at Menelik Museum

Milagros is from Lima, where she works for a bank. The bank sent her for a month to Arequipa. She arrived a day before me. We were both new to the city, and ran into each other as we both sought to get to know it.

We got along well, and went together to a couple of areas in the city located up on hills, from where we got better, unobstructed views of the mountains at the foots of which Arequipa is built.

Photo: View of Misti Mountain from Mirador in Yanahuara, Arequipa
Photo: View of Misti Mountain from Mirador in Yanahuara, Arequipa

Misti is perhaps the most iconic of them all, as it towers on its own, forming a spectacular mass of rock seen from almost any part of the city. At the impressive 5,888 meters above the sea level, Misti is however not the tallest. The one to the left of her is Chachani, who’s over 6km above the sea. Both Misti and Chachani, per what I was told by the locals, are active volcanoes. Both had visible snow on their peaks.

Photo: Posing for Pic with Chachani Volcano in Background
Photo: Posing for Pic with Chachani Volcano in Background

There is a third volcano to the right of Misti, called Pichu Pichu, but we never got a good view of that one, perhaps due to the pollution which made the mountain further away very indistinct.

One of the lookouts we visited – Yanahuara – is a bit off the beaten path from the attractive downtown core, but I found it to be well worth the trip. Its somewhat unimpressive square is made interesting by the sillar stone arches outlining the mirador, and a neat Catholic church just across the road from it.

Photo: Arches of Yanahuara Mirador in Arequipa, Peru
Photo: Arches of Yanahuara Mirador in Arequipa, Peru

On the arches are engraved quotes from famous Arequipa citizens. There was also an interesting totem pole near them, and an old church on the other side of the road.

Photo: We Asked Someone to Snap Picture of Me with Milagros in Front of Misti Volcano
Photo: We Asked Someone to Snap Picture of Me with Milagros in Front of Misti Volcano

We also went to the Menelik Museum. It’s the museum dedicated to the memory of one of Arequipa’s most famous fighting bulls that reigned in the 1940s.

During the brief presentation by a guy from the museum, we were told that Menelik was a Champion bull who beat all then existing bullfighting records, wounding or killing many of his brave and dangerous contenders, and died gloriously undefeated.

Photo: You Can Safely Mess with Thus Bull to Get the Horn
Photo: You Can Safely Mess with Thus Bull to Get the Horn

At the time of his death, Menelik weighed approximately 1,200 kilograms. Not only was he the best fighting bull in the Arequipa countryside, but he was the one who contributed most to the progress of the community, the construction of schools and public works, thanks to his triumphs.

There is a huge 3D model of the bull said to be lifesize. For a 5 Soles entrance fee, you can sit on the plastic bull for a photo, and marvel at preserved heads, as well as a hyde of other large bulls.

Photo: Lifesize Replica of Giant Bull Menelik
Photo: Lifesize Replica of Giant Bull Menelik

There isn’t a whole lot to see at Museo Menelik, and the presenter spoke too fast for people with limited command of Spanish to understand, so it may not be a worthwhile trip for many visitors to Arequipa, but I quite enjoyed the museum and don’t regret paying the entrance fee.

We also wandered around the downtown core of Arequipa, snapping photos of the cathedral which is on one side of Plaza de Armas, as well as the uninspiring fountain in the middle.

Photo: Cathedral of Arequipa Behind Plaza de Armas
Photo: Cathedral of Arequipa Behind Plaza de Armas

Arequipa is known as the “White City” (La Ciudad Blanca), a moniker allegedly derived from ashlar – the white volcanic stone used for building many of the city’s historical buildings. The rock is said to be from the solidified volcano ashes.

Photo: Plaza de Armas Is Surrounded by Buildings from Ashlar
Photo: Plaza de Armas Is Surrounded by Buildings from Ashlar

The downtown core indeed is impressive and its old architecture very photogenic. Many of the historical buildings were re-purposed and now house branches of banks or other bigger institutions.

Photo: One of Repurposed Buildings in Arequipa Now Home to a Bank
Photo: One of Repurposed Buildings in Arequipa Now Home to a Bank

I also liked the area around the San Francisco de Asis monastery. The street of San Francisco is where a lot of night bars are located, and it’s said to be a good place for gringos who want to pick up available Peruanas after dark. I went to a place called Deja Vu on one occasion, and got to participate in free Salsa class which was interesting in that the women were made to rotate after every learned set of steps, so you get to practice each move with a different partner. Both local and foreign girls as well as boys took part in it.

Photo: San Francisco de Asis Church in Arequipa
Photo: San Francisco de Asis Church in Arequipa

Even at night, the downtown of Arequipa, and Calle San Francisco in particular, are safe thanks to the heavy police presence. At night, the entire street had a cop stationed on every 5 to 10 meters on either side.

Photo: At More than Six Kilometers Above Sea Level, Chachani Volcano Is the Highest Peak Around Arequipa
Photo: At More than Six Kilometers Above Sea Level, Chachani Volcano Is the Highest Peak Around Arequipa

Overall, other than the really annoying and bountiful touts in and around the bus terminal, I enjoyed my stay in Arequipa and would not hesitate paying it a return visit. I would however not take a taxi as the risk there was just too high.

Photo: Mirador Carmen Alto Offers Views of Arequipa Farmland with Misti and Chachani in Background
Photo: Mirador Carmen Alto Offers Views of Arequipa Farmland with Misti and Chachani in Background

I concluded my tour of Arequipa by taking Milagros for supper in one of the upscale restaurants on Calle San Francisco. She ate Chicharron de Cerdo (pork cracklings), I was intrigued by a stew that said it would be either beef or alpaca. I asked the waitress if they had alpaca and said I would order it if that was the case, otherwise I’d go for fried trout.

She assured me they had alpaca meat, so I went with the stew. This was the first time in my life I’ve eaten meat from Alpaca, and found it to be very tender and flavorful, with no fat. The food in the restaurant was great. I even got my non alcoholic beverage in a Moscow Mule Copper Mug:

Photo: Alpaca Stew with Beverage in Moscow Mule Copper Mug
Photo: Alpaca Stew with Beverage in Moscow Mule Copper Mug

First Impression of Arequipa

Even though I liked the weather and the mountains surrounding Arequipa, it became clear right away that it’s thus far the most aggressive place of all I’ve visited in Peru, as far as touts are concerned.

Right from the moment I got off the bus, I had dozens of them on my tail, stuffing flyers in my hands, insisting I book a hotel they recommend because all others either don’t exist or are not good for me, trying to get me take the ride downtown with them, or otherwise forcing me to shell out for whatever they said they had to offer.

They were like vultures and the whole bus terminal was inundated with them, so I just smiled and walked steadily out of the terminal and onto the street, where it got a little bit better, but not a whole lot.

The first impression of Arequipa was definitely not the greatest, but somehow in the melee, I managed to pick up a map of the city, so I elected to walk my way toward Plaza de Armas (every Peruvian town/city appears to have the downtown square named Plaza de Armas).

Photo: Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa
Photo: Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

Minibuses were passing me by, but their markings provided little assistance in determining where they were going. I approached one that got stuck in a jam and asked the woman collecting the fare if the bus passed by Plaza de Armas. She unexcitingly barked back at me that I’m on the wrong street for that, but provided no indication about where I’d need to go to catch the right bus.

Moreover, Arequipa has awful reputation regarding the dangers of taking a taxi, with express kidnappings being alarmingly frequent. It seemed from the map that the terminal was on the outskirts of Arequipa, with Plaza de Armas being quite a bit away, but whereas I’m used to walking a lot with my backpack on, and since Arequipa sees very little precipitation, I merrily hit it.

When I had about 3/4 of the way to Plaza de Armas covered, I saw a hotel to my left that seemed reasonably decent while reasonably remote to possibly offer an attractive price for a room, so I thought – what the heck. It doesn’t hurt to ask. I normally go for hostels and leave hotels out as I prefer good price to more comfort, but the location and the state of the building seemed to suggest the possibility of a good deal.

I ended up staying in Hotel Diplomats and with my room sorted out for the night, I headed out unburdened off my backpack to explore Plaza de Armas and whatever else Arequipa has to offer.

Photo: Two Arequipenas with Two Llamas and Yours Truly
Photo: Two Arequipenas with Two Llamas and Yours Truly

Trip to Arequipa from Palpa by Way of Nazca

While the experience of finding and soaking up the energy of the ancient Solar Clock in Palpa was exhilarating, it lasted until the sun went down, which meant the conclusion of walking around and the return back to the hostel.

The following day was Monday, so I went out to town in hopes the only tour office I have come across would be open, so that I can find out about the options to take a tour to other sites where Palpa geoglyphs can be found. Unfortunately, the office was as closed and deserted as it was on Sunday.

Everybody I asked told me that because Palpa gets few tourists who come to stay in one its few hostels, the tours to Palpa are organized by agencies with offices in Nazca. Nevertheless, Nazca tour agencies mostly receive tourists looking to see the popular Nazca lines, so the less popular Palpa lines, while on offer, only see limited interest.

Being almost an hour away, returning to Nazca so I can take the tour which would bring me back to Palpa, and would thus cost a lot just to cover the time and gasoline spent for the hour long trip each way seemed counterproductive, so I made the executive decision to wrap it up in Palpa.

Photo: Plaza de Armas in Nazca Has Lawn Decorated with Copies of Geoglyphs
Photo: Plaza de Armas in Nazca Has Lawn Decorated with Copies of Geoglyphs

I took the 4 Soles local bus back to Nazca, where I booked an overnight bus trip to Arequipa. The bus with Palomino was leaving at 10pm, and was scheduled to arrive in Arequipa at 8am the following morning. The cost was 70 Soles for the seat on the upper deck. The lower deck, where the bathroom was located, had fewer seats that cost 90 Soles each. I got me one upstairs.

I had a few hours to kill in Nazca before the ride, so I wandered round the streets of the town, checked out a few shops, bought some crude minerals from a man with a lot of knowledge man about their properties, and had dinner in one of the restaurants.

The Palomino bus was however delayed by almost an hour. Once I got on my seat, I realized it’s gonna be a tough ride because next to me was an overly obese man, whose monstrous fat folds overlapped deep into my seat. He was also the only snorer on the upper deck. Whereas almost everybody else was quiet the whole night, except of course a privileged single mother who spent the first hour and a half talking exceedingly loud on her phone, had this slob of fat not been on the bus, it would have been a pleasant ride. Because of him, however, not only was the ride very uncomfortable in how restricted I was the whole time, but he also made any decent attempt at unwinding impossible with his sloppy snoring.

Nevertheless, even though sleep deprived and super antsy, I did arrive in Arequipa the following day, where the cloudless sky with beautiful sun and gorgeous mountain peaks towering over the city quickly cheered me up.

Photo: Misti Mountain Towering Over Arequipa
Photo: Misti Mountain Towering Over Arequipa

Solar Clock Geoglyph of Palpa

Even though unmarked, I found the way to the Mirador (viewpoint) in “la zona de Sacramento”, located a little over 1 km from the city of Palpa. There was a path that lead me up parched hill with no vegetation and cracked rocks from blasting sun that bakes them with intense force and hardly any clouds to shade them.

The dusty way up leads around the hill and at first offers no indication of the surprise that awaits a hiker. But once up on the ridge, you get treated to the magnificent view of an enigmatic geoglyph known locally as Reloj Solar (Solar Clock).

Photo: Aerial View of Solar Clock Geoglyph in Palpa
Photo: Aerial View of Solar Clock Geoglyph in Palpa

According to what I found out, based on how a shadow falls onto the lines that represent the Solar Clock at the time of the equinox, would determine whether the harvest in the coming year will be good or bad.

The Ministry of Culture (Mincul) of Peru has found out that on the slopes and plateaus surrounding Palpa, there are at least a thousand pre-Hispanic geoglyphs that were designed centuries before the emblematic Nazca Lines.

Photo: Adding My Rock to Pile at Mirador - Solar Clock in Background
Photo: Adding My Rock to Pile at Mirador – Solar Clock in Background

The Ministry of Culture maintains that Palpa’s geoglyphs were made by the Paracas and Topará cultures, between 400 AC and the beginning of our era.

Photo: I Placed Camera Against Rock and Set Timer to 5 Seconds
Photo: I Placed Camera Against Rock and Set Timer to 5 Seconds

I walked up to the Mirador, which is a small structure that looks like an open bus stop, and snapped a few pictures of the Solar Clock and the nearby runways from there. The Mirador however is not on top of the hill, but rather just parts way up. I decided to walk all the way to the top.

Photo: View of Mirador and Geoglyphs from Top of Hill in Palpa
Photo: View of Mirador and Geoglyphs from Top of Hill in Palpa

From there I also got the view of the city of Palpa, as well as the Mirador itself. The cloudless sky that this area is notorious for provided for intense head-bake, so staying for an extended period of time was not too sound, plus it was getting later in the day, so I decided to descend.

Photo: City of Palpa As Seen from Hill Overlooking Solar Clock Geoglyph
Photo: City of Palpa As Seen from Hill Overlooking Solar Clock Geoglyph

I walked down to the crest where the lines composing the Solar Clock are, and stayed for a bit right beside them to soak up their energy. I then had a brief meditation at one of the runways, and started to make way back to Palpa.

Photo: Getting Really Close to Geoglyph of Solar Clock in Palpa
Photo: Getting Really Close to Geoglyph of Solar Clock in Palpa

The whole experience of discovering the geoglyph and being able to get close to it was electrifying. The awe-inspiring, intoxicating aura of the ancient energy lines has left me feeling uplifted and exalted. I will never forget that feeling.

Photo: Brief Meditation at Energy Runway in Palpa
Photo: Brief Meditation at Energy Runway in Palpa

Palpa – Where Geoglyphs Predate Nazca Lines

I have concluded my stay in Nazca with a tour that was a lot of fun, but also a lot of pain. But while there, I found out that in a town of Palpa, which is only about 60km from Nazca, there can also be found geoglyphs which actually predate those of Nazca by estimated 600 to 1,000 years. I had to make a trip to Palpa to check it out for myself.

Photo: Spiny Desert Vegetation I Found in Palpa and Nazca
Photo: Spiny Desert Vegetation I Found in Palpa and Nazca

The ride with PeruBus cost only 4 Soles, and whereas the buses for Ica, which pass through Palpa leave from Nazca every 30 minutes, it takes little effort to get to the little town.

In Palpa, I secured myself a room for 35 Soles, and went out to rehydrate and explore the town. It was weekend, so most businesses around the main square were closed, though there was enough activity along the Pan-American highway to buy fruits or grab a lunch.

Photo: Main Church of Palpa
Photo: Main Church of Palpa

The only tour operator I could find in the entire town was closed, so I decided to wander around on my own, hoping I would spot something interesting even without help. The girl who waited in a local restaurant where I grabbed a bite didn’t know a whole lot about the geoglyphs, but I found out that there is a “Mirador” in Palpa, from where it is possible to see something, though she could not tell me what it was. I decided to find the mirador in hopes it would lead me to some of the ancient images.

Photo: Large Geoglyph on Mountain Side in Palpa
Photo: Large Geoglyph on Mountain Side in Palpa

Unfortunately I kept getting weird stares from the locals when I asked about the lines, so I ended up walking up and down aimlessly until I finally got on the right track to the Mirador. It was however not anything like that in Nazca. The uphill walk there was however definitely worth it.

Riding and Sandboarding the Dunes of Cerro Blanco

Once everyone had their fill of human remains from the Nazca desert cemetery, we rode our “buggy” deeper into the desert and toward the sand dunes of Cerro Blanco.

Here’s the video of fun our driver was having with us as he gave the buggy hell riding the dunes up and down:

Cerro Blanco was our last scheduled stop, after which we were to return back to Nazca. However, because the tour started more than an hour late, the journey toward the dunes was done when daylight was fading, and by the time we had our share of fun snowboarding down the dunes, it was dark and we had ahead of us almost an hour long journey back to town, but this time not only through the stormy winds, but also through near freezing nighttime temperatures.

Sandboarding was hell of a lot of fun, though. We already had sand everywhere – in our teeth, in our eyes, in our ears, as well as in all our clothes and inside our socks, so rolling around in sand was not gonna make it any worse than it already was. So we just went for it and enjoyed every minute of gliding down those endless sandy dunes:

But the ride back was rough as all hell. The wind was as relentless as ever and it was just overall brutally cold, so with the “buggy” providing absolutely no protection from the elements, the endless ride back through the pitch black desert as nobody could catch a break from violent shivering, was savage. I was a trembling wreck walking to the hotel after being dropped off, but at least at that time I knew that the hellish ride was over.