Peru—culture, cuisine, and wildlife

Peru has been a revelation, with a much more intact cultural identity than we saw in Chile and Argentina. The Inca and pre-Inca cultures (Nazca lines, burial sites, and hundreds if not thousands of geoglyphs) and the beautiful Spanish colonial city of Arequipa are just a few of the highlights. We enjoyed an overflight of the Nazca lines (and at the airport spied stickers on the door of two of our Overland Expo exhibitors—Peru Motors and Motoquest). Arequipa also might be the site of our favorite meal: a traditional "pre-Inca" restaurant, Sonccollay, on the balcony of the Plaza de Armas where we had roasted cuy (guinea pig), alpaca tenderloin stew, and small-batch Pisco whose smokiness rivaled good Islay Scotch. (Oh, and we were serenaded from down on the street by a garbage truck with a loudspeaker playing Ghost Riders at every stop . . . really.) We have also been blown away by the wildlife, especially the little-visited Reserva Nacional de San Fernando on the coast south of Nazca, whose sites we enjoyed courtesy of Alberto Sacio of (they rent Toyota Hilux trucks with Four Wheel Campers). This dramatic reserve is an epic four-wheel-drive adventure just to get to, and then you meet up with high altiplano species like guanacos and condors living alongside penguins and sea lions. There are fields of exotic bromeliads and creeping cactus with bright red fruits, and delicate songbirds in pastel colors flitting around.