Tag Archives: Peru

Lake Titicaca

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lake Titicaca is considered the world largest navigable, high-altitude lake at 3,808m. The lake is 165km long, 60km wide and they think around 300m deep. The lake is massive and approximately sixty percent of it is in Peru, the remaining forty percent is in Bolivia.

Puno

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPuno is a large city on the edge of the lake, that seems to operate as an access point to the islands on the lake. The centre of Puno has many old but gorgeous colonial buildings. A little further out of town are bumpy dirt roads and mud brick houses. The main street of Puno has many cute shops and restaurants, some nice old cathedrals and set back behind a school is a local market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUp on the hill overlooking the city is a rather ugly statue of a condor, one of the most important animals in the Peruvian culture. Despite the ugly statue it provides an amazing view of the entire city of Puno and the lake.

Taquile Island

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaquile Island is a UNESCO protected island that maintains much of the original culture. The island has a population of 2500 people. They are known for knitting, weaving and farming. The men on the island are some of the best knitters in the world.

The island is gorgeous and provides a brilliant insight into the lives of the people. One of the things I found fascinating was the traditional clothing that is very colourful and steeped in tradition.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe men wear black pants, a white shirt with a short black waist coat and a decorative knitted belt. The single men wear a hat/beanie that’s predominantly white, with some colour at the top. but married men have a beanie that’s colourful all over.

The women wear layers of brightly coloured skirts, bright tops and wear a black shawl with brightly coloured pom poms hanging off it. Single women display four pom poms, and the pom poms are very big. Married women have pom poms that are smaller, and they only display three.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other thing I found fascinating is that when men greet each other, they don’t shake hands, they give each other some coca leaves from their bag.

Llachon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALllachon is on a peninsula and this was where we had a homestay with a local community. We were each allocated to a family; I was together with three others from the group. Our homestay mum was Pastora. She had a gorgeous little son named Sebastian. We were given private little mud brick huts to sleep in. The beds were also made of mud brick, covered with a layer of reeds, then the mattress and bedding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe helped our homestay mum to till the fields and harvest potatoes. We then gathered with the rest of the community to play some volleyball (or in my case, take pictures). After the fun, we all were dressed in traditional clothing.

The traditional dress in Llachon differs from that of Tequile Island, but still shows the distinction between single and married people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe single men wear brightly coloured poncho’s and beanies, while the married men wear more muted colours. The women wear brightly coloured skirts, a white embroidered shirt, knitted belt, coloured shawl and a beanie that is long and colourful, but has a white frilly edge around the face.
Married women have a black embroidered jacket over their shirt, rather than a shawl, and wear a black hat with two pom poms.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn both islands, the mean make the hats. jackets, belts and so on for their wives, as a sign of love. Similarly, the women make the beanies, belts and bags for their husbands. A man who goes to a party wearing many bags (thirty or more) is a very proud man, as he has so much of his wife’s love on display.

Once we were in our traditional dress, we all headed to the kitchen where we chopped up vegetables for the evening meal. Our families cooked for us and we ate a delicious meal of all home grown and freshly harvested vegetables.

The next morning we had another freshly cooked meal, before saying our goodbyes.

Uros Islands

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Uros Islands are floating islands made of reeds. They are clustered in roughly the same area and are made up of around 50 islands. The islands are built with layers of buoyant reeds called Totora reeds. As the reeds rot, the islands are built up with more layers of reeds on top.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent a very short time on the Uros Islands, but were shown how the Islands are constructed and we were shown the simple lifestyle of the inhabitants. The Islands have become quite commercial, but are still interesting to visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

For all my Lake Titicaca photos, check out my album on Flickr.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

The Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu

The Inca Trail starts in Ollantaytambo, where you receive a small duffle bag and your rented equipment (in my case a sleeping bag US$20 and walking poles US$15). Anything that fits into the duffle is for the porters to carry and cannot weigh more than 6kg. You really do need to pack for all kinds of weather!

The porters each carry packs of 25kg or more, including the duffle bags, tents, tables, chairs, toilets, gas bottle, the kitchen, food and more. We had a group of fifteen people, supported by three guides, Ruli, Elvis and Monica, and twenty-four porters.

P1050390Day 1

On the first day we caught a bus to “KM 82” of the Inca Trail. This is a place known to the locals as Piscaqucho, which means five corners. The starting elevation at this point was 3,375 metres.

The very start of the Inca Trail has a check-in point where you provide your passport; it is cross-checked against your Inca Trail permit and then you receive a stamp.

P1050448Due to the rain we had layers of rain coats and ponchos. As we stepped onto the bridge to cross the Urubamba River and start the Inca Trail though, the rain simply didn’t matter.

The walk was up and down hills, and we saw many beautiful mountains and some Incan sites along the way. By 1pm, we were all hungry. We met the porters at Hatunchaca for lunch. There they had set up a kitchen tent, dining tent and toilet tents. We had a delicious three course meal for lunch, followed by cups of tea and then we were on our way again.

P1050438The trail ended on an incline and spirits were high as we walked into our Wayllabamba (3,000 metres) campsite around 4:30pm. Once we were allocated tents and given the lay of the land, it was afternoon tea time. Hot chocolate, pop-corn and cookies!

We remained seated and chatting, a three-course dinner was served and then we were all so tired, it was time for bed.

Day 2

P1050483Due to landslides at the normal campsite for day 2, our campsite was set for some distance further along the trail, which meant that we had to walk further than normal on Day 2 and that our hike would actually finish on Day 3 instead of Day 4 (which we excitedly learned meant we would see Macchu Picchu twice). This meant an early start, with our wake-up call and Coca Tea at 4:45am.

Very dopey, we all packed our bags, had our breakfast, layered up in raincoats once more and put our packs on, to start making our way up to the highest point of the trail, Dead Woman’s Pass.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the altitude and the sharp incline, it was quite slow going. Maintaining a slow and steady pace, we reached Dead Woman’s Pass, an elevation of 4,215 metres. The rain cleared just as we reached the peak. This was such an incredible achievement – we were all really excited to have made it, and celebrated with a snack and an amazing view.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At each stopping point our guide told us something about the environment or the culture, which made the journey a rich experience. One of the things Ruli would regularly say after explaining something or telling us what we were going to do next was “Clarito de Luna?” — Clear as the moon? — in order to check if we understood. It became a cherished saying along our hike.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith such a big day ahead, it was soon time to carry on. We crossed the top of the pass before heading down a steep decline on the other side. We continued down and down to 3,600 metres where we were able to stop for lunch at Pacamayu. This is the normal camp site for Day 2.

After quickly recharging our bodies with food, we were off again, headed up to the Incan ruins and then the second pass, both of the name Runcuraqay. The pass was 3,800 metres and a much steeper incline than Dead Woman’s Pass.

P1050572The rain came back and it was time for ponchos once more. Through the rain and mist we had a quick look at another Inca site, Sayacmarqa, high on a hillside at 2,650 metres before continuing onto to our campsite for the night at Chaquicocha (I think the elevation was around 3,200 metres – slightly higher than the first night). After a full day of rain, a swampy campsite and roughly eleven hours of hiking we weren’t the most excitable group of hikers at that point in time. The cooks certainly raised spirits with another amazing three-course meal, and this time the main dish was Spaghetti Bolognese. The dinner tent was silent as everyone tucked into the amazing meal!

Day 3

The third day started off dry and despite a few moments of drizzle was predominantly a perfect day in terms of the weather. It was to be another long day, but slightly less physically challenging than day two.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we were nearing Macchu Picchu, there were more Incan sites along the way. We stopped at Phuyupatamarca (3,640 metres), Intipata and the had lunch at Wiyñawayna (3,640 metres). They are all such amazing sites to see and each one is different.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We learned a great deal about Incan/Andean beliefs and one of them stuck with me. It’s the Andean Cross (Southern Cross) symbol. It is known as Chakana, and is split into two halves which each have six steps. Each set of steps is a group of beliefs. The Andeans have a strong connection to the earth and a strong sense of community. One set of steps is about reciprocity. If you help someone, some time later they will help you. This may be on a one to one basis, or a community helping a neighbouring community or on a more global scale. But maintaining the idea that if you do something positive for someone, you will have it returned. I really like that philosophy. I guess we sometimes refer to this as karma, though I’m not sure if it’s really the same thing.

P1050529After lunch we were told it was just two hours to the Sun Gate (Intipunqu), where we would catch our first glimpse of Macchu Picchu. So we put on our packs and with a spring in our steps continued along the undulating Inca Path amongst the rainforest.

When I stepped through the sun gate, I was just breathless. A lifetime goal was achieved and I stood looking at one of the most amazing sites I had ever seen. In the distance was Macchu Picchu (at 2,450 metres), the lost city of the Inca’s. Bathed in sunlight, set against a blue sky it simply glowed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter about twenty minutes of staring at such a wonderful site, we quickly had to descend into this wonderful city before they closed for the day. We arrived exactly on closing time and had to beg the guards to allow us to take ‘just one picture’ before we had to leave. We were so blessed to be able to enter this magical city when there were no other visitors. Despite our rush to take a picture (or ten) it was such a calm place to be. We were all very quiet, taking it all in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce the guard starting to get cranky, we all headed out of the site, had our passports stamped and hopped on the bus to Macchu Picchu town, officially known as Aguas Calientes (2,050 metres).

Another unfortunate (or fortunate in some ways) circumstance around the ‘new’ last campsite was that due to all the rain, it was flooded. Though none of us would have chosen to stay in a hostel, we were all quite relieved when that decision was made for us. Every single one of us thrilled at the idea of being warm and dry.

We celebrated our hiking success and luck with the weather with a beer and meal together, before crashing in our dry, warm beds.

Day 4

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe final day we caught the bus back up to Macchu Picchu, where it was rainy once more. Our tour guides gave us a tour of the city, and thankfully the clouds parted and the rain stopped. We got to wander the streets on the Inca City, learning about the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Condor and more. We learned that the blocks were ‘cut’ by the Inca’s observing each stone, finding the natural veins, chiseling a small hole in them and the putting in dry timber, as the timber got wet it swelled and caused the stone’s to split perfectly. Everything the Incas did was closely linked to nature, their positioning of Incan Sites and buildings within them. They were such an amazing people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Macchu Picchu site is very hard to describe as it’s simply so amazing. Hopefully some pictures will suffice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll too quickly our time at Macchu Picchu came to an end, we caught the bus back into town, had some lunch and then started our 5 hour journey back to Cusco.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

For all my Inca Trail & Macchu Picchu photos, check out my album on Flickr.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Cusco

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cusco, the Navel of the Earth, is an important city in the history of Peru. It is at 3,400 metres and is on a hillside.


The Plaza de Armas (main square) has two gorgeous cathedrals on it, as well as many shops and restaurants. The city has millions of tiny, narrow and steep cobbled streets, which makes exploring just fantastic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are many women wandering the streets dressed in traditional clothing trying to sell their bracelets, beanies or get a picture of you with their baby llama. They wear the traditional clothing, so that if you take pictures of them they can ask you for money.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe older part of town, behind the Plaza de Armas, shows off many older buildings that use traditional Incan construction. The base of the building is stone and the upper part of the walls and rendered. There is one important temple, and one of its important features is a large stone in the construction of the base that has twelve angles. I’m not quite sure why this is such a big deal though, I am sure it must have some religious significance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAway from the Plaza de Armas in the opposite direction is a local market with some fantastic fresh fruit juice stalls, fresh fruit, cheese, bread, meat, grains etc. It’s always interesting to wander local markets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe city’s layout is supposedly in the shape of a Puma – an animal sacred to the Peruvians. Once I had wandered to the top of the hill and found a great lookout point, I can assure you it’s a stretch of the imagination to see the puma shape. At the lookout point was a great hostel with a café/bar called Limbo that had comfy couches and an amazing view of the city.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was in Cusco that I had the chance to learn how to make a good Pisco Sour. I also had the opportunity to eat guinea pig and alpaca. While the guinea pig was served whole, teeth and all, I gave it my best shot but didn’t like it. The alpaca however is delicious! I have tried Alpaca in three different dishes and every time it has been amazing. Worth a try!

The Sacred Valley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Sacred Valley is a valley with a river flowing through it, the villages in the low and high lands of the valley were mostly agricultural communities.

There were four places we visited in the Sacred Valley: a Llama farm, Pisac, Amaru and Ollantaytambo.

Llama Farm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI cannot recall the name of the Llama farm, but it was a site set up to teach people the difference between Llamas, Alpacas, Vicuñas and the other kinds of Llama type animals. Llamas have longer necks, pointier noses and ears and their tails point upwards. Alpacas are shorter in height and neck length, their ears and faces and less pointed and their tails point downwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe site also gave up the opportunity to learn about how the alpaca wool is spun, dyed and used. We got to see demonstrations of all parts of the process. The weaving was particularly impressive!

 

Amaru

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmaru (the name means Snake, another important animal in the Peruvian culture) is a local village in the hills that is supported by Intrepid. We were invited into the homes of the local community to meet the women and to enjoy a home cooked traditional meal made from foods they had grown themselves. The food was absolutely delicious!

The women also dressed us up in their traditional clothing and we took photos.

They were the most welcoming and friendly people, and we were all invited back to visit again soon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pisac

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPisac is a town in the lowlands, where we stopped to see how the silversmith’s create their intricate pieces of jewellery. Silver is a metal found in the area. We also had the opportunity to explore the local markets for souvenirs.

The town itself was snugly nestled in the lowlands, and everywhere you looked there were mountains setting a beautiful scene.

Ollantaytambo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOllantaytambo was the starting point for the Inca Trail, so the visit was very brief. The city was very cute, with tiny cobbled streets and little houses, nestled amongst the mountains.

For all my Cusco & Sacred Valley photos, check out my album on Flickr.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

The Amazon Jungle, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPuerto Maldonado is roughly a two hour flight from Lima, stopping in Cusco along the way to drop off and pick up passengers. Transport around Puerto Maldonado is quite slow as the road conditions are pretty bad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen heading into the Amazon, you first re-pack just the necessary items into a small duffle bag before catching a boat ride up river for an hour or so to the lodge. There are many lodges each used by different companies. The lodge that Intrepid took us to was called Cayman Lodge Amazon, where we all slept in our own bungalows. We had two guides, Kristian and Jessie, who were both brilliant; they spoke English well, and were very friendly and knowledgeable about the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPuerto Maldonado is in a region of Peru called Madre de Dios, down a section of river called Rio Tambopata. While in the Amazon we enjoyed several activities, all of which centred around looking for wildlife; a river cruise, a short night cruise looking for caymans, a jungle walk, a lake boat trip and a night walk.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Amazon has so many amazing weird and wonderful creatures and which ones you see is just up to luck. Our group was lucky enough to see a number of Capybara’s (giant guinea pigs), Turtles, two different kinds of monkeys (at a great distance), a Tarantula, a tree snake, a tiny snake, and a yellow-headed Vulture during the day. When crossing a lake in the, unsuccessful, hunt for an anaconda we did a spot of fishing and caught some yellow piranhas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalking through the muddy jungle, we heard wild pigs and red howler monkeys. Listening to the howler monkeys was very eerie and calming at the same time. It sounded almost like wind rushing through a tunnel. I thought it was pretty cool.

Our night walk mostly allowed us to see insects, including another tarantula, a giant spider, frogs, praying mantis’ and a wild chicken sleeping in a tree.

IMG_0339The jungle is really full of bugs, so to make the most of it you really need to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt despite the heat, as well as coat yourself in both sunscreen and bug spray.

The time in the jungle was pretty chilled; there isn’t much to do aside from soak up the atmosphere and keep your eyes peeled for whatever creature crosses your path.

For all my Amazon photos, check out my album on Flickr

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

Lima, Peru

Santiago Airport

The flight to Lima went via Santiago, Chile. While this is not a particularly noteworthy event, it’s an airport worth discussing. It’s quite small, but in a sense quite chaotic. The short version is that flights don’t appear on the departure screens until the very last minute. To assist passengers find the right gate there are no information desks, airline desks or staff with knowledge of such things. Santiago airport is simply a waiting game. Not recommended for the anxious traveller.

Miraflores

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lima has several suburbs, I stayed in Miraflores, which is a more affluent suburb. It is coastal, a cliff top suburb looking out over a pebble beach and the ocean. I felt that the city planning was done well as there are gorgeous wide avenues, many green parks and the city is wonderfully clean. It also feels incredibly safe and the people are friendly.

There are a few main streets worth mentioning. Avenue Jose Pardo is a main street, while it doesn’t seem to offer a lot to see or do, it feels a bit like one of the backbone roads of Miraflores.

For shopping and restaurants Malecon Balta and Avenue Larco are great. The two streets meet at Kennedy Park which is a great location, lots of people and a gorgeous park which has night stalls. It is also around the Kennedy Park area where you will find lots of restaurants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you head all the way down Avenue Larco it ends at a cliff top shopping mall called Larco Mar. Larco Mar is very cleverly designed, open air and to make the most of the views. While they are probably more expensive, there are a number of restaurants and bars here too.

If you follow the coastline in a northerly-ish direction (I’m bad with compass directions) a walkway continues for kilometers, and passes through numerous parks. The park of Love is quite fascinating and I would say reminiscent of Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona. Lovely mosaic sculptures and walls. These cliff tops provide the most stunning backdrop for sunsets. And it is at sunset that you can go paragliding (for an obscene about of money – approx. USD$100 for 10 minutes)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My day of exploring Miraflores was a Sunday, so not much was open. One place worth a mention is the ruins of Huaca Puccllana. About a ten minute walk up from Avenue Jose Pardo. Randomly in the middle of all the houses is a partially excavated site. I found the guide a little hard to hear, so I will provide my best version of what I understood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs it had previously been private property the site looked like a big pile of rubble, until it was discovered to be a buried historic site in 1981. The site was a basically a town, the area that had been restored was the temple and plazas. The pyramid at the back of the complex was used for religious purposes and was a tiered construction. A new tier was built every twenty years. For each new tier, human sacrifices were made and the bodies were buried in the tier. It was also later used as a giant cemetery.

The buildings were all constructed from bricks that were quite narrow, they were laid vertically on a slight angle, with gaps between them, the next row would be angled in the opposite direction. This is called the bookshelf technique; it is thought that this design would allow for movement without damaging the structural integrity of the buildings. It was suspected this technique was used because of the earthquakes that are known to occur in the region. I also wonder if the technique was used for insulation purposes.

Downtown Lima

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADowntown Lima is way more hectic than Miraflores and traffic is completely nuts. While I felt quite OK, I read and heard a few warnings about safety. Just make sure you are careful with your personal belonging.

The Moorish influence can be seen in the architecture in downtown Lima with many building having old timber balconies extending beyond their walls. Many of the buildings are painted bright colours and have elaborate doors and windows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few main sites in downtown Lima are Plaza San Martin, Plaza de Armas and the Monastery of San Francisco. It’s nice to wander between these sites, and they are all fairly close to each other.

Plaza san Martin and Plaza de Armas are both public squares. Plaza San Martin has a statue of San Martin and Plaza de Armas has a fountain. Bother have fantastic buildings surrounding them and it is great to just wander and take in the atmosphere and the architecture. Plaza de Armas has a large cathedral on one side and adjacent is the presidential palace (I heard there is a changing of the guard once per day, at midday).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Monastery of San Francisco is quite fascinating. The church was closed when I went, but the monastery had a guided tour throughout, including the catacombs. No photos can be taken inside, so I am unable to share, but it certainly was stunning. The old architecture, carved cedar ceilings, the art work, ornate doorways and furniture. The catacombs of course were fascinating, crypts housing hundred upon hundred of bones, I think we only saw femurs and skulls.

A piece of artwork that was particularly interesting was a Flemish painters version of the last supper. It was created with a Peruvian flair, where the main meal being shared was guinea pig and wine was being drunk from golden Inca goblets.

Food to try:

Two local dishes worth trying are Pollo a la brassa, some form of roasted chicken; and Ceviche, raw fish cured in lime juice and onion. Lomo Saltado is also quite a common Peruvian dish and is a fairly basic, but very tasty, beef stir fry.
The traditional drink is a cocktail called a Pisco Sour.

Many dishes are served with rice and chuclo. Chuclo are large white corn kernels. They don’t seem to have a whole lot of flavour.

The average cost of a meal is about 40 soles.

Where I stayed:

Prior to my tour starting I stayed at Backpacker’s Family House, only about a block from the coastline. I thought it was good value for money, good location. It was a clean hostel with friendly staff, free wifi and breakfast included.

Getting around:

Around Miraflores I found walking was easy, and the distances between places aren’t too far.
To get to downtown Lima you can catch the metropolitan (bus) or take a taxi. When you take a taxi, be sure to get the price before getting in – it should not cost more than 20 soles. (I paid between 15 and 17 soles).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARandom Note:

In every building are ‘S’ signs, indicating where you should gather in the event of seismic activity (earthquakes).

Check out my album on Flickr, to see all my Lima photos

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest