Last Sunday we flew from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale to Lima. Since then we have traveled to Ica, Huacachina and Nazca. This is not your weekend adventure. No guide book, interview, map, or website can completely prepare anyone for a different country, let alone the change that comes with 3780 miles and changing continents. After clearing customs in Lima we met Stephen, (brother of a good friend from Hope) whom I should not have been worried about finding. He has blond hair and is taller than me, that is to say 6’4 or so, and towered over the Peruvians that were all gathered at the airport to pick up friends and family.

That which greets every tourist at any foreign place was the first thing we noticed after Stephen, “Taxi? You want taxi?” We fought through the throng and met Stephen’s family who accompanied us in a cab back to their place. They live in Miraflores, a barrio south of the center of Lima.  We had an informative ride through a not-so-nice part of town and were cautioned about certain parts of the city, “Watch your bags, don’t go out alone at dark, careful of cabs…etc.” Standard warnings. After we settled into our room we talked with the parents for a while, who, along with being extremely informative (as they have lived in Lima for almost a decade) were able to steer Tyler and me in the right direction for food and sights. We decided our plan of attack for the next morning, and went to bed.

The morning after was softened by the lack of time-change and our excitement to get out and see the city. Three blocks from the house led us to fifty foot cliffs and fifty feet down the Pacific Ocean roared. We walked along the water (west of the city) and then headed into the center of our barrio for lunch. One of the culinary specialities of Peru is their Chinese food, which is found all over at restaurants called Chifas, yes Peruvian Chinese. [Ironic Pause] We found one (not hard) and they showed us the menu where the prices were 20-30 Peruvian Nuevo Soles (3 soles = 1 dollar) which we thought was fishy. I looked at the wall behind the waiter and saw the menu in Spanish with prices from 5-15 soles. When I asked him about the disparities between the two menus, he murmured something about the tourist menu and flipped to the real menu with lower prices. Tyler and I shared a silent chuckle and sat down victoriously.

The next day was a different adventure, something more of what I had been expecting when reading and hearing about South America.  We were looking for the American Embassy, and accidentally boarded the wrong bus. We ended up in a part of town that was not advisable to visit, yet had to press onward to catch our next bus.  Tyler pulled out his cell phone on a bridge to call the embassy to ask for directions and as he did an older gentleman walked by yelling, “Put it away! Hold your things tight!” We explained to him our situation and he walked us through where we had to go, and left us with a few more warnings about having our things stolen.  We crossed the bridge and at the bus stop confirmed with two policemen that the directions we had were correct, and they also made sure to tell us that we should be extremely careful with our things. Thoroughly scared, Tyler and I both hugged our bags as we rode in a combi, a public bus-taxi, clearly not built for anyone taller than 5´6”, as several more people warned us about pickpockets and robbers.  Later on, while walking downtown a pair of middle-aged women stopped us and told us not to continue walking in the direction that we were going, that if we continued it would be dangerous to us.  We turned.  In the end, we had no problems and laughed about the situation, but the day gave us a healthy respect for being vigilant of our belongings.

Pigeons, Lima Peru Catacombs

Pigeons, Lima Peru Catacombs

Child with pidgeons, Lima Peru Catacombs

Our plan is to travel by bus as much as possible. They are much cheaper than planes and will take you anywhere at any time. One of the things that we were most nervous about was safety on busses. Reports of busses going off cliffs in South America are not uncommon in the US media, and we wanted to be sure that we were with a reputable company. The general consensus was to go with the more expensive companies when travelling on the mountain roads, and it doesn’t matter on the others. The more expensive busses don’t let their drivers drink and drive, and also sometimes have a guard on them to make sure they don’t get hijacked.  To make us feel better, one girl we talked to told us a story about when she lived in Guatemala, and none of the bus drivers would turn on their lights at night, even when they were on deserted roads with banana trees on each side.  She dealt with the anxiety of not seeing anything, oncoming tree or taxi, by striking up conversations with whomever she was with about which would win, banana tree or bus.  What do you think? What about bus vs. 200 foot cliff? Me, I’ll take that expensive ticket please.

One taxi driver shared his thoughts on bus safety in Peru, “If it’s my time, it’s my time.” I think that this is a good summary of everyone’s attitude towards death.

After being in Lima for a few days we headed south, destination Nazca.
The drive took longer than we anticipated, so we stopped in
Huacachina for the night.

On our way from the Ica bus station to Huacachina, our taxi driver was nice…too nice. He was talking about how we should not worry about anything and how he would take care of us…as he drove us into the dark. We went from the bright lights of civilization to roads with nothing and nobody in a matter of meters. Suddenly all of the warnings about taxi drivers and being taken advantage of surged adrenalina into our veins. We looked at each other with the, “Where are we going? “look and watched the cab drivers every move not knowing what to expect. Fortunately, we rounded the next corner and saw Huacachina in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief. He took us to a hotel where we wanted to stay, which turned out to be too expensive, so he took us around to the rest of the hotels until we found one that was suitable. He turned out to be a great guy… just like everyone we have run into here. It´s too bad that the media only reports the bad, and the stories about the good in humanity are so few and far between, especially in places like South America.

After settling in our hostel we went outside to look around. Huacachina is a desert oasis surrounded by sand dunes where the main industry is tourism. City might be an overstatement, it was three streets wide and the lagoon in the center took up a third of the city. After befriending the waiters next door that shared our love of reggaeton, we climbed a dune outside the city (at midnight) and took some awesome pictures of the lights.

Huacachina at 1AM with Ica in the Background

Huacachina Lagoon at Midnight

Crazy 10 second exposure!

Even though our midnight hike lasted over 2 hours, we woke up early and had a great time sandboarding and dune buggying. The dunes were bigger and the desert view more expansive than I´d ever seen. Impressive mountains of sand could be seen as far as the eye could see. The tallest sand dune we boarded down (on our bellies) was over 150m tall!

Duo Dynamico


Buggy Goodness

Yesterday, after the dune buggies, we headed to Nazca, a city famous
for its enigmatic lines left thousands of years ago. We flew above
them and marvelled at the shapes: monkey, hummingbird, astronaut, dog,
and others, all staring up at our Cessna challenging our imagination to wonder their true meaning.

DSC_0416 Albatross


Central Circle Fountain

Newly Innaugurated Plaza in Nazca

Nasca Line Tiles

Plaza de Armas, Nasca

Nasca Festival Fireworks

Nasca Festival Fireworks

Nasca Festival Fireworks

Fireworks > Safety = GREAT TIME!

Other details: it has been cold at night, as low as 45, and we have only worn shorts a few times. The people here still call it winter, although it is in the 60s during the day. It has not rained, but we are in one of the driest deserts in the world, just south of here gets only 1 inch of rain per year. The food is good, we eat lots of chicken, rice, french fries and potatoes. With every meal there is a tray of sauces: ketchup, mayonaise, mustard and ahi, a salsa picante that is different in every restaurant. Also, to put Peru in perspective, it is three times the size of California.

In the next six days we will travel 1050 miles north to Quito to start our service program. We are going to stop in Lima to pick up some supplies and may also make a pit stop in Huaraz, where the second tallest mountain in South America is tempting us… If that does not work out, no pasa nada…hey, we´re flexible.
Until next week,
Jeff Vredenburg and Tyler Depke

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Author: tdepke

4 Responses to “Week 1: The South America Innaguration”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Awesome and worrisome! I’m thrilled yet stomach is in knots. Just glad I hear about all your adventures after the fact. Pictures are incredible, writing is phenomenal. Keep it up and BE SAFE!!

  2. Cindy says:

    Thanks for the update! Be safe – have frun, praying for you!

  3. Alison says:

    This awesome you guys! Im so glad your having such a unique/ fun time in SA. Be safe and continue to explore, can’t wait to hear more!

  4. Awesome especially the night pics. It looks like the place is burning.

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