With just over a week to get to Lima for the Semi Final, I had plenty of time for Nasca and Ica. Nasca is all about the Lines, huge shapes and patterns hundreds of years old, a bit like crop circles but in the desert. No one knows for certain how or why they were made. There's loads of theories including the usual UFO ones, but most likely they were made in worship of the Gods, but what amazes me is that hundreds of years ago they had no way of viewing them! In fact they were not discovered until aircraft pilots began reporting them in the 1920's. And by aeroplanes the best way to view them, I went up in a tiny 4 seater plane, (photo 1) it was great fun and I wasn't sick (loads of people are). I was really disappointed with my photos, I must have had the wrong setting only a few came out well.
After that it was straight to Ica and everyone had told me about the sand boarding near there. 5km outside Ica is Huacachina (photo 4), a perfect desert oasis just how you imagine surrounded by huge sand dunes, it looks more like Arabia than Peru (photo 5)! Spent a few days sand boarding (photos 7-13) - totally mental so glad it doesn't hurt. There was a good crowd around, meet some funny characters, had a good couple of nights. Also meet my first fellow Palace fan since travelling, Steve (photo 10), so nice to celebrate promotion with at last.
I broke up the journey to Lima stopping off at Paracas NP for a day, saw loads of Sea Lions, sea birds, Penguins and stuff (photos 15+16). It's called the poor mans Galapagos, and at $10 a trip their right, but we got a good close look at the animals without disturbing them. So it was on to Lima with the Semi Final the next day and Argentina already through to the Final, the dream glamour Final with Brazil was on.
Copa America - Lima
I had a ticket for the 2nd Semi, Brazil v Uruguay. The stadium was like the city itself, a grey concrete bowl, not like the flash modern stadiums in Europe, but it had a kind of character that some of our perfect pretty grounds miss now. No surprise there was loads of ticket touts and merchandise sellers crowded everywhere outside. It was a tight game which finished 1-1, although Uruguay had the better of it. No messing about with extra time over here, it was straight into penalties, and Brazil won. I got a few shots of the game, but trying to get good action shots is harder than you think.
It was a great spectacle, but was lacking in atmosphere. The problem is there's very few visiting fans from the countries playing, unlike the thousands you get in the Euro championships. The Peru games looked crazy, but they were the only ones which probably would have, and unfortunately they went out in the Quarter finals. Anyway surly there would be a better atmosphere for the Final, and what a dream Final, Argentina v Brazil.
With 4 days until the Final I just stuck around Lima, as I said before not the nicest place, and really quite a grim looking city, even its main Plaza is ugly, grey, and concrete. There was one small haven in Miraflores (the only nice district to stay) called Larcomar (photo 24) I spent most time here, watched a few films in surly the best cinema in S America (the VIP lounge has waitress service - quality), done a bit of shopping, got this website sorted at last, and enjoyed plenty of KFC's, Dinky Doughnuts and various other western comforts - much needed after a while.
The Final - Argentina v Brazil
The more I thought about it the more I realised how lucky I was, one of the biggest fixtures in world football. I was going to be neutral, just hoping for a good game, but the closer it came the more I sided with Brazil. Lets face it the English and Argies don't get on when it comes to footy, and what finally decided it was a huge banger worshipping Maradona's hand of god! - that was it Brazil all the way. There definitely seemed to be more visiting fans this time, but mainly from Argentina (photo 26).
Argentina started well and went 1-0 up with a penalty, but Brazil looked dangerous with the quality Adriano, who will be a star at the next world cup, causing problems. They equalise on the strike of half time, but once again Argentina look better throughout the second half. The game looked like it was heading towards Pens (once again no extra time), and then there was 2 late late goals, Brazil equalising with literally the last kick of the game! Passions flowed and there was a huge scrape between the players, managers, and officials at the end, which all added to the enjoyment. Brazil once again won the shootout, great drama and excitement. A lot better atmosphere and buzz around the ground as well, but still a lack of true South American craziness and flares etc, I will just have to wait until I get to a Boca Juniors or River Plate game, but thats a few months off yet.
So that was it, the next day I flew back to Cusco (I couldn't't face that 24 hour bus journey again!), where I will spend a few days before my mission for a month into the jungle. I found out some details and its hardcore. I'm going deep into the Manu reserve, absolutely no amenities or communication apart from the odd supply boat every week or two (so this is my last update for a while). My first task is to learn how to use a machete!, there's no electricity or lodges - we camp every night, and showering facilities - well the rivers supposedly very clean!! What have I let myself in for? Well it will certainly be an adventure.
Speak to you in September - hopefully