#4 Peru, February 12, 2000

Dear Everybody,

I flew to Lima from Chiclayo. When I went to pay the airport departure tax, the lady told me my 20 soles bill was “false.” A man standing next showed me how to scratch the bill to tell. When I took a taxi from the Lima airport to the bus station I tried to unload the counterfeit but the taxi driver checked it immediately and asked for another bill. So, I’ll keep it for my scrapbook—(not) worth $7.25.

I got the bus to Chincha Alta.  During the three hour ride, three musicians got on, entertained with guitar, little guitar, bamboo pan pipes, drum and singing. They were very enjoyable and I bought a cassette from them. Chincha has quite a large black population from hacienda slavery days. It’s also famous for Afro-Peruvian music and dance which I saw on local TV.

The next day I went to the Hacienda San Jose for a 24-hour stay. The house is 350 years old, has 25 guest rooms, many pretty courtyards and linai’s; it has interesting artifacts like plows/yokes for oxen, a coffee grinder, huge bellows for the fire, a 12-foot bronze bathtub and an enormous ancient billiard table. I had several dips in the pool and enjoyed just lazing about. Apparently I was the only overnight guest–the elderly woman owner said that most of their business is on the weekends.

The next day I moved on to Pisco where the grape brandy is made which is the basis for a pisco sour. I went on a small boat tour of the Ballestas Islands that had sea lions, pelicans, three kinds of cormorants and the Peruvian booby plus Humboldt penguins and lots of guano.




I also saw the huge ancient candelabrum on the side of a sand dune.








I bussed on to Ica, a pretty little town that has lots of wineries. After visiting the Tacama winery, I had a glass after the tour which tasted like a cheap Chianti, and after checking out the local (wonderful) museum and some churches, I took a taxi 5 km to Huacachina. What a place! The hotel is next to a tiny lake which is an oasis in the middle of 200-foot high sand dunes. People climb them and “surf” down on boards. It’s almost claustrophobic since the dunes are so high and all around.

The room was very nice, with a nice pool, too, and a real treat because in Ica I had the hotel from hell. The room was the tiniest I have ever seen! I practically had to stand on the bed to undress.  The overhead light burned out, there was no hot water and only a trickle of cold in the shower. The swimming pool (!) was ice cold, and they were doing noisy work alongside it with a steam tractor. And nobody would make me a Pisco Sour. The window opened to the corridor with no bars or screens so I couldn’t leave it open and there was no AC or fan! Worst of all, when I lay down to go to sleep, I whacked my head on a “headboard” that was a log, sticking out 6 inches!

Bussing on to Nazca, I made arrangements to do the flyover of the Naxzca Lines tomorrow morning. These are huge ancient figures of birds, monkeys, spiders, and other things that can only be seen from the air. Nobody knows why they were made or who made them.

Well, it’s almost Valentine’s Day—Happy Valentine’s!


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