A Travellerspoint blog

Arequipa to Lima

Wednesday April 4

We fly from Arequipa to Lima @ 9pm tonight and then most of the group begin their flights homeThursday evening, so Juan has arranged a Lima City Tour for Thursday morning. Unfortunately, Georgia's flight home leaves Lima at 0200 so she will just stay at the airport when we arrive tonight - she had tried to change flights but no other seats were available on her routing.
Ric gets a few envelopes from the hotel desk and circulated the word that a tip collection will be taken for Darwin, Willy and Juan on the way out to the airport tonght. There is lots of support for this as everyone has been very pleased with the drivers and especially with Juan as our guide.
Early breakfast and walkabout then @ 1000 we walk to Santa Catalina convent for a local tour. It is very extensive, like a city within the city, where ~500 nuns lived at its peak in the 1800s, but only 27 are left today (between the ages of 19 and 104!). A life married to God seemed a better option than others for women at that time, but the Catholic faith, often including earlier enduring elements from pre-conquest religious beliefs, still seems very strong throughout Peru today.

DSC_0076

DSC_0076


DSC_0106

DSC_0106


DSC_0115

DSC_0115


DSC_0133

DSC_0133

We next go through the Santa Maria Museum (near the main square) to see the remains of "Juanita", a 12-year old girl from Cusco, who was ritually sacrificed in the time of the Incas on one of the high mountains near Arequipa, to appease the gods and avoid more volcanic eruptions. She and her priestly entourage had walked from Cusco and then climbed to ~6000m to make the sacrifice near the mountaintop. Her body was extremely well preserved by the cold and dry atmosphere when she was found by archaeologists. A number of similar ritual human sacrifices have been found along the high Andes from Ecuador to Chile.

We all walked back along a road leading over the Chili River and shared a great lunch at a large restaurant on the other side that included Cuy (roast guinea pig, Peru's national dish, done in what Juan refers to poetically as "road kill" style - flattened down and deep-fried), and live Peruvian music including the ubiquitous pan pipes, Ric's favourite (not!). Keely even got up on stage for a photo of her piping along with the rest of the band - great fun!

IMG_20120404_140103

IMG_20120404_140103


IMG_20120404_084119

IMG_20120404_084119


IMG_20120404_085343

IMG_20120404_085343

After lunch Ric and I went to an inner courtyard near the main square where as Juan had suggested they had lots of alpaca shops so I could find one of the styles Catriona had suggested she would like. Much hilarity among the women in our group earlier (at Pisac market I think) when I produced Catriona's sweater photos and explained my legendary lack of fashion sense, along with sincere empathy from most of the men for my plight. But this time, with Juan's help interpreting, I found a suitable baby alpaca sweater and finally check that item off my list - hurray! Yet more shopping/looking along the pedestrian mall and then we bus out to the airport for our flight to Lima.

Ric has done a great job overseeing the collection of tips and delivers these and a heartfelt thank-you to the drivers in "flawless" Spanish with Juan's assistance. "Ustedes son los mejores choferes!" = "Darwin and Willy, you are the best drivers ever!". I then give a little speech thanking Juan for his truly exemplary service to us all on the trip, and present him with his tip as well while Georgia is still with us. These are pleasant duties as everyone feels that we have really had remarkably good services from all of them. Good stuff!

Uneventful flight to Lima, goodbyes to Georgia, and we bus back to Hotel Antigua Miraflores by about midnight to fall into our beds. It actually feels a little like coming home after our nomadic tour of the past 2 weeks.

Posted by alangcampbell 15:37 Comments (0)

Chivay to Colca Canyon to Arequipa

Tuesday April 3

Up and off by 0700 for the drive down the Colca Canyon to see the condors. I restart altitude pills and several others look a little pasty also as we set off in the crisp air of another brilliant sunny day - ideal for condor viewing as we are told by Pedro, the local guide hired to accompany us with Juan this morning.
DSC_0999

DSC_0999


The trip seems somewhat perilous but our bus and drivers continue to impress us with their capacity and skill. We hug the side of the canyon on a rough dirt road that serves several small communities but also crosses a few streams (without bridges), deteriorates into 4x4 rutted trails at points, and frequently features sheer drops of 1200m + to the canyon floor now far below. Two tunnels (we have seen very few on this trip) do not inspire confidence in this landslide-wracked country, but all is well as we stop in a very small town and on the roadside next to some pre-Inca hillside tombs.
DSC_1005

DSC_1005


We arrive at the condor viewing site to join ~100 others watching 15-20 of the majestic birds (the colony is thought to be ~30 here) soaring on the strong thermal currents rising from their nesting sites below the cliff edge. It is a riveting sight so we all snap photos, shoot video or just gawk in wonder at these huge carrion-eating birds with wingspans up to 3m or so. Within 30-45 minutes the "show" is mostly over as the condors soar down the canyon (apparently they can easily cover 100km and back in a few hours) in search of more prey, leaving a few juveniles behind to entertain the crowds.
DSC_0051

DSC_0051


DSC_0065 (2)

DSC_0065 (2)


The rest of the gang take a walk along the canyon edge with Juan and Pedro but I take advantage of the break to catch up on some lost sleep, before we all reboard and and retrace our steps to Chivay for lunch. Once agaihn reduced to Dieta de Pollo (chicken noodle soup) as the pills kick back in, I am fairly quiet company for Ric whose walking/hiking regime seems to be working for him. We manage a little walkabout in the Chivay market before getting back on our bus to head for Arequipa for the night. Sleep overtakes me again so I miss the winding climb back to the still foggy summit above the canyon, and much of the bleak Altiplano terrain, until Ric tells me we are near Arequipa itself.
DSC_0068

DSC_0068


A bustling city of 3m at ~2000m the city has a rich history and a vibrant future as the economic center of this active mining region of Peru.
El Misti (5800m) is the volcano 17 km away that visibly overlooks the city and has erupted several; times over the past few centuries, covering the area with ash etc. Arequipa is known as "the white city" since many prominent buildings are constructed of sillar, a white volcanic rock that retains its colour.

We walk from our hotel along the traffic-choked streets (small independent taxis are everywhere competing for fares and spewing exhaust) and happen upon a Semana Santa procession of several religious floats carried on their shoulders by lots of sombre suited men, preceded by very loud brass and drum marching bands and followed by devotees with prayer candles, all walking very slowly around town.

We met Eduina and Russell, Rosy and Steve and had just settled inot our dinner on the upper balcony of the Plaza de los Armas, the main square with the central cathedral on one side, when the entire procession wound its way around the square in front of us.

Semana Santa is serious business here. We choked our way through the exhaust funes back to the hotel after supper and turned in early. A day in Arequipa tomorrow before our eveniing flight back to Lima and the end of our group tour - where does the time go?!

Posted by alangcampbell 12:43 Comments (0)

Puno to Chivay

Monday April 2

IMG_20120402_081539

IMG_20120402_081539


Up, breakfasted and on our way by 0800 today as we take a bicycle taxi and are reunited with our bus, drivers Darwin and Willy, and our accustomed seats. Ric and I have had no trouble reserving the back pair of seats (where we can assist as toilet monitors if necessary!). Chris and son Nat sit in front of us, then best friends Clare and Charlotte, couples Judy and Mick, Rosy and Steve, Eduina and Russell, roomies Georgia and Keely, and up front couples Ruth and Alan and Betty and Bernie. Other than Bernie and Betty from Ottawa, Georgia from San Francisco and ourselves, everyone is from the UK and it has proven to be a great group with which to share these adventurous travels. Juan circulates with water refills, and any other assistance needed, and the unflappable drivers keep their eyes peeled up front. With minor changes this order has been maintained throughout our trip - creatures of habit that we are!
P1010175

P1010175


So we head back through Juliaca and the near Altiplano until we reach the truningfor Arequipa and the Colca Canyon.I have finished my altitude pills and think I am now protected, but sadly that is not the case and by next morning I will be taking some of Juan's Exodus stash of altitude pills to counteract the effects once again.
DSC_0991

DSC_0991


DSC_0990

DSC_0990


We climb to just over 4300m at an Altiplano summit (plenty of higher peaks in the distance to 6000m and more!) - it is quite a foggy and soggy wasteland up here right now - before descending into the Colca Canyon at the small town of Chivay that marks its head. We see to go on downhill forever as the town in at 3600m but eventually arrive at a very attractive and new hotel, Pozo del Cielo ("Well of the Sky").
DSC_0992

DSC_0992


Ric is feeling somewhat unsettled so opts like some others to hike around the immediate hills (where some old structures are evident), while I go with the rest to nearby geothermal pools. Very hot (the sulphurous water emerges at 60C and is aerated and cooled to 39C in the main "tourist pool") and the whole place is very well organized and attended by staff and police.
P1010326

P1010326


Dinner at the hotel and off to bed as we have an 0600 departure tomorrow to drive down the Colca Canyon to see the condors riding the thermals a couple of hours away.

Chivay is within the National Park for the Colca Canyon, so it is very quiet and dark overnight.

Posted by alangcampbell 12:32 Comments (0)

Amantini Island to Puno

Sunday April 1

Ric and I awake at 0600 and decide to go out quickly for a walk and to see the sunrise over Lake Titicaca now underway. There is a bit of snow/hail on the ground but it is a brilliant morning of yet another unbelievably beautiful day in Peru! We walk east toward the sunrise and meet Juan along the path. He has his camera out too and is looking for birds. In Juan, Ric has found someone who can match his energy/enthusiasm for hiking so when we pick our way up to the saddle between Mother and Father Earth peaks I am delighted to let them continue to the Father Earth summit while I slowly make my way down, taking photos and making sure to get back to Daniel & Augustine's for breakfast at 0800. Bread, jam, egg, juice and tea and we are set to go to the boat for the longer journey to Puno and the floating Reed Islands.
DSC_0909-1

DSC_0909-1


But first I buy a woven toque made by Augustine like the one I had admired Daniel wearing. It came in handy as it started to hail in earnest as we approached the boat at the dock, festooned with flower garlands presented to us by Augustine. The storm passed as we motored away to Puno - a 4 hour journey against building waves - and the sky cleared as we pulled through a channel in Puno Bay and entered the Reed Islands.

These floating islands are indeed made of reeds gathered from the bay and anchored to the shallow bottom by long poles driven through. In ancient times the inhabitants used these to avoid the Incas and their taxes, and were eventually abandoned, but today ~40 such islands have attracted indigenous residents to subsist (fishing) and cater to tourists like us to supplement their income. The small (~80ft square) island we visited has a female President right now and Anna explains how they cut and bind the reed bundles to create the floating platform on which they live and work.
DSC_0962-1

DSC_0962-1


They make craft items and clothing and many of our group have fun donning local garb for a photo - lots of chuckles all around! We left aboard one of their large reed boats, rowed by two of the very able women, but when Steve and Chris took a turn at the oars disaster struck as Steve's oar broke! After signalling back to the others on the island a new oar was deleivered, the pros took over again and we made it to another island where our motor launch had moored to wait for us.
DSC_0983-1

DSC_0983-1


We arrived at the Puno dock in short order, Ric and I presented the tips to the Captain and her father and we transferred to our hotel near the main square in a fleet of little taxis.

After cleaning up we went out for an evening meal together and explored the main square and pedestrian mall before heading for bed before another early morning.

Posted by alangcampbell 12:21 Comments (0)

Cusco to/from Sacred Valley

Up at 0800 (lovely!) for our Sacred Valley tour. First stop, on the outskirts of Cusco is Saqsaywaman ("Satisfied Falcon" though Juan tells us most tourists call it "Sexy Woman"!). This was the major ceremoinial and parade ground for the Incas in Cusco. It is immense in scale, even though only 20% of the original structure now remains) with huge stone blocks carefully joined in the Inca way. The outer walls (from above) are zigzag-shaped like lightning bolts.
IMG_20120330_084519.jpg
It was used for religious purposes but after the Spanish invasion it was the site of a battle by Manco Inca, the remaining Inca leader, who hoped to retake Cusco in 1536 and almost succeeded in laying siege to the small Spanish force there. When reinforcements arrived from the coast, the Incas were defeated at Saqsaywaman and retreated to Ollantaytambo. Saqsaywaman is the head of the puma shape in which Pachacutec (we┬┤re actually getting to know these guys!) had originaly designed the city of Cusco.

We head NE out of Cusco, cross the mountain divide and descend into the Sacred Valley, the valley of the Urubamba River, near Pisac.
Ancient Pisac was a horticultural experimental centre where hybrid varieties were grown for use throughout the Inca empire which we have seen has tremendous variation in elevation and soil conditions. Potatos, tomatos, quinoa and many other crops were refined here and then introduced where the conditions permitted. Today archaeologists are working to restore the many terraces that extend well up the mountain slopes.
IMG_20120330_110019.jpg
This is also the site of the oldest known Inca cemetery, but its cliffside tombs and mummies, like those of the Nazca we saw earlier, have been robbed for any valuables, leaving only a few bones and skulls in some.

We carried on to the present-day town of Pisac for lunch and a little market shopping before driving to Ollantaytambo where we caught the train to Agua Caliente a couple of days ago. This is the place where the Inca rebels, led by Manco Inca, made their last defiant stand against the Spaniards in 1536.The Ollantaytambo site was never completed, but stands as a reminder of how inventive and industrious the Inca and their subjects were in stone building. Some walls, at the top of a slope about 50-100m high are exactly joined and locked with three separate layers of shaped stones (granite for the most part, chiselled they believe with other rocks containing hematite). They were "renovating" to add new walls in vertical pallisade style when tools were exchanged for weapons and the site was prepared for a last battle against the Spaniards pursuing from Cusco.
IMG_20120330_153532.jpg
When the Spaniards finally arrived and attacked on foot and horse the Inca used their usual weapons, arrows, slings, catapults, knowing the Spaniards would come close, confident of success (they had never lost a battle with the Inca...until now).But when they were close enough the inca rolled many of the huge building stones from the heights above the terraces down the steep hill causing pandemonium among the armored cavalry, their horses and the foot soldiers.When the Spanish recovered from this unexpected attack and advanced again the Inca opened a dam they had prepared out of sight in the mountains above and flooded Ollantaytambo. The Spaniards were routed and survivors retreated to Cusco, pursued by the Inca through the valley. This was the only Inca victory however, and Manco Inca could see that reinforcements would be brought in soon to finally defeat them so evacuated the site and retreated first to Vilcabamba, near Macchu Pichu, and soon thereafter to the Amazon junge where no trace has been found since of their final fate. Today many of the great boulders that rolled down the sloped still dot the broad lawn at the bottom, next to the little town of Ollantaytambo.
IMG_20120330_153434.jpg
Weary from "battle" (up/down/up/down), we drove back down the Sacred Valley, over the mountains and back into Cusco for some dinner and our last night in the former capital of the Inca Empire.

Posted by alangcampbell 12:35 Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 23) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 »