A Travellerspoint blog

Cusco to Amantini Island, Lake Titicaca

Saturday March 31

Up at 0500 (seems almost normal now!) to begin our drive south to the Altiplano and Lake Titicaca. Up and over the mountains south of Cusco following the Urubamba River eventually to its source in the high mountains that parallel the Altiplano and form the continental divide (north to the Amazon basin or south to Lake Titicaca).

We stop for snacks at a small town where the shop has enough ceramics of note to tempt Chris into buying a large green and white glazed bull - don't know how he plans to to pack that and lots of other souvenirs already bought (large ceramic bowl etc) back to the UK. This town, Dorito, is apparently where the practice of putting 2 pottery animals on your roofline for luck started - called "Doritos".
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Stopped beside the river a little further on to enjjoy our packed lunches. Two little boys, presumably from nearby households, kicked along the riverbank past our party on the off-chance something might come their way, but we soon packed ourselves back into the bus and continued toward the Altiplano.
Once up on this high sparsely-covered plain between two high mountain ranges (passed many llamas and some vicunas) the road straightened and our speed increased toward Lake Titicaca.
Near the lake we passes through a very dusty working city, Juliaca, which is growing very quickly (trucks and construction everywhere) and followed dirt roads out along a peninsula to the south where we met the passenger boat to take us and our overnight packs to Isla Amantini for the night's homestay.
The boat owner (and principal deckhand) was 75 and very spry, and the captain was his youngest daughter. We enjoyed a beautiful ride of an hour or so out to the island, eventually against a steady breeze and 2-3' waves, to arrive at the main dock on Amantini.
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We were greeted by some of our host home parents who walked (effortlessly in the 4000m air) with us (labouring mightily) up and up to the garden terrace of the senior host home parent for tea and to meet our various hosts. Bernie easily makes a new small friend while we are all introduced around.
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We found the beautifully rock-paved paths quite steep and were grateful for the reviving effects of the bunch of peppermint sprigs we were each given and advised to sniff. Lake Titicaca is South America's largest lake (170kmX60 km) forming part of the border between Peru and Bolivia. According to legend, the first Inca, Manco Capac, son of the Sun God, Inti, emerged here.
After being shown to our rooms for the night at Daniel and Augustine's home near the lakeshore,
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most of us joined Juan for a walk up the smaller of the two hills on Amantini, Mother Earth, to see the temple and amazing views on top.
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The islanders live cooperatively, sharing tasks like walkway building and dividing the terraced slopes for subsistence farming among the several separate communities dotted around the shores, totalling some 2000 people altogether. Arches on the paths announce the various communities' ownership and responsibility, and work goes on literally from dawn to dusk.

No wired electricity is used by islanders (there are some small solar arrays) although a former Peruvian President installed underwater cables and light standards some years ago. They don't need or want it, and can't afford it anyway, for their cooperative subsistence lifestyle. Life expectancy here is 80-85, probably a result of their extremely simple and active lifestyle.
The people produce beautiful woven pieces and hosted a folk craft festival on the island in 2009.
Back at Daniel and Augustine's, Chris, Nat, Ric and I are invited into their cosy cocina (kitchen) to meet their daughters, Lehaina (sp?) and Mariella, and watch our supper being prepared on a wood-fired clay oven: soup, rice and vegetable stew with mint tea. Daniel, but not the ladies, eats with us and then joins his family in the kitchen. Belatedly we notice the relative lateness of the hour at about 8:30pm and turn in quickly so they can do so as well.
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Very quiet and dark overnight, especially if you need to visit the outhouse in the courtyard below!

Posted by alangcampbell 11:56 Comments (0)

Lima 4

Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012

This is our last day in Lima and Peru - our flight leaves just before midnight tonight, so we pack, check out and store our large cases in the hotel's luggage locker. We assume that Easter Sunday will be a quiet day of religious observance and family activity, so wander over to the Kennedy/Central Park area of Miraflores to check it out.
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Avenue Arequipa, one of the main thoroughfares from Miraflores to Lima Centro, is completely closed for the morning to vehicle traffic (lots of police and roadblocks ensure this) and many people are taking the opportunity to walk/jog/bike up and down the street. This makes walking in Lima much more enjoyable, so we join in, walking down the central boulevard toward downtown for an hour or so, before turning ourselves in to Tip Top, an old 'A&W' type/vintage restaurant north of San Isidro for refreshments in the heat and humidity, and then retrace our steps to Miraflores for our usual sandwich lunch. Ric finds a nice little place for sale - a bit of a fixer upper but in the grand style.
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Ric is indefatigable and heads out for a final walkabout on the Miraflores seaside for the afternoon, while I opt to stay at the hotel and work on my blog from one of the pleasant common areas in the main entry hallway. The lean, older Hispanic gentleman who apparently is a permanent Antigua resident in a second floor apartment, makes his way slowly out to take the air a couple of times while I write or tap away. I chat with a younger Hispanic woman, newly-arrived with her husband from Chicago, but originally from Honduras. She is delighted to be back in Latin America, but her husband, also Hispanic is said to be nervous about Lima. She hopes to persuade him to take the 'chicken bus' (1 sole for as far as you want to go) to Lima's immense central market today and shoulder her way through the throngs there to explore and shop. I suggest that the taxis are quite inexpensive and wish her well.
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Ric returns and our airport taxi, arranged by Juan, arrives on time to get us to the airport well ahead of our flight. The driver speaks no English, but gets us to the airport with great skill so we tip him well with some of our remaining soles and leave him very pleased, pointing us to the correct (guarded) airport door which is opened immediately for us as (apparently still quite identifiable) gringos on our way to a flight.

After negotiating the various pre-flight stations we dispense of our few remaining soles at an airport shop priced for that purpose. Outside the shop a Peruvian musical trio are performing for an appreciative idle crowd - it seems that Ric can't escape the ubiquitous pan pipes just yet!

The full flight to Houston leaves on time but with carry-on bag space oversubscribed by many passengers with numerous large cases. Several hours later we have the same experience on our early morning flight to Calgary and we end up jamming our packs under seat in front of us where our feet may otherwise have gone.

Ric and I finally part company after claiming our checked bags in Calgary as I continue on to catch my short flight to Victoria and home.

We have been great travel companions and agree to get together soon in Victoria to reminisce about an outstanding adventure in Peru!

Posted by alangcampbell 11:35 Comments (0)

Lima 3

Saturday April 7, 2012

After breakfast we head to the Larco Museum (Museo Rafael Larco Herrera) in Pueblo Libre, north of Miraflores, by taxi. We can't understand how cabbies here make any money since fares are cheap (this one is 15 soles ~ $6) but gas is quite expensive (~$1.50/L) - they must get a discount we decide.
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The Larco is a fantastic private museum - it seems odd that the private museums here are better than the public ones - with a very extensive collection of artefacts from Northern/Central/Southern Peru, all beautifully restored and presented ina first-class facility (Larco's old mansion site on top of an ancient pyramid no less!). There are beautiful gardens and outdoor spaces as well, and we opt for a guided tour which is very informative and well worth the price to gain more insight into the complex history of Peru. There are lots of Mochica pottery and other artefacts (pre-Inca civilization in N Peru), some of it (in a special 'erotic collection') quite bawdy and explicit. In addition to their displayed exhibits, the Larco permits you to walk through their warehouse collection - quite mind-boggling as we explore rooms of floor to ceiling shelves containing thousands more restored items.
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We take a taxi back to Hotel Antigua to freshen up and then another to Museo de Oro del Peru in Monterrico (east of Miraflores against the foothills of the Andes). This private museum includes a very impressive collection of gold and other artefacts, as well as a huge collections of weapons and military memorabilia. In 2001 Peruvian government archaeologists charged that most of the museum's collection of artefacts were fakes. The museum sponsors rejected the claims, but the apparently controversy continues to this day. In any event, to our untrained eyes things looked genuine and the collection is certainly very extensive, though less so than the Larco Museum. We avoided being overcharged (x2) by Museo de Oro staff for a taxi ride back to Miraflores by walking a few blocks and hailing one ourselves on the main road.

We have dinner at what we have dubbed Hotel Antigua's 'twilight zone' restaurant (where you may sit but never dine!) since we have tried but not yet successfully ordered/received evening meals (by contract their breakfasts are outstanding and very quick). Success tonight as the reluctant chef gets help from other hotel staff and we enjoy both one of the specials and dessert!

Posted by alangcampbell 11:03 Comments (0)

Lima 2

Good Friday, April 6, 2012

Ric and I made an early start to walk from Hotel Antigua to the Larco Mar shopping complex, at the south end of the Miraflores coastline, built down the side of the cliff across from the Marriott Hotel. It is definitely an upscale, rather North American development, but not much is open early on this Good Friday, so we continue to walk south along the coastline to the Barranco district. Formerly a holiday resort area for the wealthy in Lima, the area is now one of the centers of nightlife with numerous clubs and restaurants.
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In the middle of Barranco is the Iglesia de la Ermita, a church built to commemorate the rescue of fog-bound fishermen guided to safety by a luminous cross they saw on the site. The church was abandoned after extensive earthquake damage in 1940, and a large new cathedral was built nearby to replace it.
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There was a light rail system in Barranco many years ago, but today the remaining rail cars provide rides for tourists or have been converted to restaurants or galleries. We admired the grand old architecture still evident in many of the buildings in the central area, near the Spanish Embassy, and took a break looking out to the sea from one of the many viewpoints on the coast.
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When we arrived back at Larco Mar we found many shops now open for business, but most seemed to carry things we might find in any high quality mall, and at much higher prices than the Peruvian marketplace, so we settled instead for ice cream cones and a panoramic view of the surfers riding the waves off Miraflores' beaches.
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Back again to Hotel Antigua to find Chris and Nat, Clare and Charlotte getting their things ready to head for Lima Airport late this afternoon, so we carried on to the Kennedy/Central Park area for lunch at a pleasant little restaurant off the main street. I have grown fond of their tri-colour sandwich while Ric favours the chicken sandwich with fries - creatures of habit for sure. Then back to the market shops for some more browsing(some are actually closed today) before heading back to the hotel for farewells to Chris and Nat, Clare and Charlotte as they catch a taxi to the airport for their evening flights back to the UK.

Posted by alangcampbell 13:04 Comments (0)

Lima 1

Thursday April 5

Our planned city tour starts at 0900 and ends at 1400. This is our last group tour before people start to leave to catch their various flights home.
Ric and I had visited some of the sights included in Miraflores (Park of Love, Huaca Pucllana) but not the tony San Isidro area (many embassies, olive trees and guard posts) and definitely not the downtown Lima area which, as you might imagine in this city of 10m is swarming with people in the spirit of Semana Santa (Easter week).
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It was very hot and crowded in Lima's central squares (St. Martin etc) as we caught part of the Cardinal's address in the main Cathedral, standing with 100s of the faithful in the huge vaulted chambers. We walked on to the nearby Church of San Francisco and toured the catacombs beneath and the original library and halls adorned with frescoes and other art from the 1500s.

While most of us then waited for the bus to draw up, Chris managed to wangle a personal tour of one of the serious-looking armored vehicles stationed with military personnel nearby in case of demonstrations. He said it was amazing and that he was given an enthusiastic tour by one of the soldiers, but of course he couldn't understand a word he said!
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The group then continued on to Pueblo Libre, another of Lima's many urban districts, to visit the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History with Blanco, our local guide for the day, and Juan. There were some very impressive artefacts, including many Mochica items from Northern Peru that we had not seen previously in our tour of central and southern Peru.
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Then back to the Hotel Antigua and many goodbyes as most people leave on flights tonight. A few, Clare/Charlotte and Nat/Chris fly out Friday and then Ric and I will be the last of the group to depart when we leave on Sunday. It is a funny feeling to see these folks with whom we have shared so many adventures going their separate ways to resume their normal lives back home.

Nat has collected email addresses from everyone and we have agreed to submit a few excellent photos to a website he plans to set up so we can share the memories we have all collected. There will definitely be some really stunning pictures among the group - Chris in particular has the gift of seeing things and capturing some beautiful shots all along the way.

In the afternoon Ric and I explore the myriad of little craft stalls organized in plazas north of Kennedy Square in Miraflores where we had some lunch. Tomorrow we plan to walk to the upscale Larco Mar cliffside mall, near the Marriott Hotel on the Miraflores bluffs, but we will certainly return to the market stalls here before we leave.

Posted by alangcampbell 21:31 Comments (0)

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