Jan. 19, 2015

The day started clear, sunny and hot with most of the day in the 80s F–27C and ended up at 52 F–11C at 10 pm. Today’s drive was constantly changing and surprising. Anticipating a long day, we left the Nazca Lines Hotel just before 8 am and immediately ran into a problem, literally.

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This is a bicycle cart of ornamental plants. The driver decided to pull it across the bridge rather than ride it.

The desert beyond Nazca continued in all directions. The exceptions are the river valleys, few in number and widely spaced. One of the first we passed through was the Yauca Valley, entirely planted in olive trees right out to the edge of the desert (We bought olives). Further along, the Ocona and Camana Valleys are the electric green of rice.

We bought olives from a roadside stand.

For almost 200 km (100 miles) between Chala and Camana, the rocky coast alternates with sandy beaches. The road curves up and down through hairpin curves to cross the rocky headlands that jut into the ocean. There were sections that we imagined were like driving through the Cinque Terre of Italy with one difference–there is no one there. NO ONE. One hundred miles of empty beach and rocky shore.

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The water was beautiful green and blue. This photo was my attempt to show the color that I think of as Winslow Homer blue–it’s not just the waters of New England. Mile after mile of beaches and rocky outcrops.

Then we started up toward Arequipa, both of us surprised at the sand. In some places the dunes have filled in behind the retaining walls intended to hold back the sand to a height of more than 2 meters. Sandbags are perched on top of the retaining walls to prevent sand from sliding over the top and covering the road, but it’s only a matter of time until nature wins.

The approach to Arequipa includes a view of the optimistically named Cerro Verde mine. Only the tailings are visible, dominating the landscape until you reach the city.

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We found our hotel Los Tambos, and ended having dinner in a rooftop cafe overlooking the cathedral towers.

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