Ica is also home to an English-speaking desert aristocracy, many of whom attended U.S. universities and now maintain the region's prolific vineyards. Peruvian horses (caballos de paso), with their stylized gallop, are bred here, but dune buggies are probably a more popular means of transport, especially east of the Paracas peninsula, where the dunes are shaped like enormous waves of sand.
The next best thing to seeing the Nazca Lines from the air is to rent a boat at Paracas and head for the nearby nature reserve, which is home to pelicans, cormorants, and playful seals that love to swim alongside people. But the most impressive site on the Paracas peninsula undoubtedly is The Candelabra, or Three Crosses, a Nazca-like symbol thought to have been a guide for sailors.
Airborne once more, the jet turns north and heads along the Andean spine of the country. The Inca Empire when Francisco Pizarro arrived was the most prosperous civilization in the Western Hemisphere. It extended almost 2,500 miles from present-day Colombia to central Chile, and was administered from the Andean city of Cuzco, which the Incas called the navel of the world.
We arrive in Cuzco late in the afternoon. While the Travel Channel camera crew photographs the President reviewing the troops, I enjoy a (perfectly legal) cup of coca tea, a beverage routinely offered to new arrivals at this 11,000-foot-high city since it helps prevent altitude sickness.
Our destination that evening is Ollantaytambo, a fortified Incan city an hour's drive from Cuzco. That our journey would be uneventful is a source of tremendous satisfaction to the President. "Maoist guerillas with the Shining Path insurgency once owned the night, but no longer," Toledo smiles. "Peru lost $35 billion and 30,000 lives, but now our mountains are safe."