Of all parts of the tour, the road from Lima to Arequipa has been the hardest to book. Maybe the recent devastating earthquake is still disrupting the area, as the advertised tour guides and a few hotels around Pisco and Ica, were all unreachable online – domains existed but websites were down.
Initially, I had seen a ‘can’t miss’ price that covered the bus from Lima to Nazca, via Pisco and the Ballestas Islands in a few days, all for the bargain price of less than $300. After reading only one review on-line that was far from favourable, these people just had to go. Despite requesting no further contact and confirming no interest in the trip, they continued to send me a string of E-mails, notifying me of expiry of the offer. You would think that if you’re going to potentially screw someone out of money, you’d try to be a little more constructive about it and not hassle them.
With what appeared to be the only option out the window, it was a little hard to find some kind of filler trip between Lima and Arequipa. After a further week of asking around Lima hotels, I did come across another itinerary that covered the whole stretch. There have been great reviews for the organisers, but they asked for an E-mail, with credit card and passport information – I’m too paranoid to offer up that combination in a plain text mail, so that was a show-stopper. Looking at the arrival date and bus times, it was now obvious that Islas Ballestas would not be an option and after reading a few reviews (no unique fauna that I haven’t seen before), it’s not something I’m overly concerned about.
With one stop out of the picture, it was down to booking a Nazca hotel and hopefully some tours. I settled on the hotel Oro Viejo which not only offered a very reasonable rate of around $50 for the room, but they could also arrange the Nazca lines flight and a trip to the Chauchilla Cemetery (which was high on my list). The cemetary could be confirmed at $20 per person but the flight is still a little dubious on price. There are regulated fares these days and the ‘tourist season’ price is currently $65; the hotel couldn’t guarantee the price will be the same in September but I can’t see it being that much more. I have also read that it can be cheaper in the off-season – only one way to find out. Worth noting is that this hotel, as with most of the other private hotels, has not requested any kind of deposit. Of course if you’re pessimistic, you could argue that without the deposit, there’s no real booking. I somewhat agree and just hope that a printed E-mail discussion is enough validation.
Shortly after I booked the hotel, I re-checked the bus times on the Cruz Del Sur website; there was a problem. When I had first checked the times, there were a few options to Arequipa, including a preferred overnight schedule. Now, there only appears to be a 3pm departure from Nazca – I was either looking at another date, or they’ve updated the times. The 3pm bus puts a spanner in the works for a single full day of Nazca tours and the section from Lima to Nazca now has to be re-arranged. Luckily, the bus schedule on the last section of the trip, allows for a full day in Lima before flying out, so, the plan now is to get a hotel upon evening arrival, and then catch a 7:30am bus to Nazca, which should allow for a late afternoon tour of Chauchilla. The following day will hopefully get lucky enough with the weather, to make an early morning flight over the lines, before catching the 3pm bus to Arequipa. Next step is to check with the hotel, if we are able to make the afternoon trip to the cemetary; fingers crossed!