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Arequipa

sunny 22 °C

I spent a few days in and around Arequipa, a very nice colonial city in Southern Peru. Within the city itself there are a lot of religious sites, including many churches, the cathedral and the Santa Catalina monastery. One of the main sites is the monastery and I spent a couple of hours visiting it. It is huge, like a separate village walled off within the town centre. It was really interesting to find out about the way of life for the hundreds of nuns that used to live there and the few that still remain today and there was a lot of impressive colonial architecture. I also visited the university run museum which displays the body of the child mummy Juanita found on one of the mountains overlooking the town. As the Incas believed the mountains were Gods there have been numerous child sacrifices found in the mountains across the Inca territory. Strange to think that it was thought of as an honour and privilege to be sacrificed, but only the best children were chosen. Because of the burial conditions the mummy was still in very good condition so they have done a lot of studies on the body and you could even see the facial expression of the child.

I also spent 3 days trekking in Colca Canyon, which has apparently just been reclassified as the deepest canyon in the world. It is a few hours drive from the city to the canyon, which was not the most comfortable ride on an overcrowded local bus that required a break for some repairs on the way. From the village of Cabanaconde we started trekking, down into the base of the canyon where we crossed over the river and climbed the otherside to a small village where we stayed the night. On the second day we had a couple of hours walk in the morning back down into the canyon to an oasis where we stopped for a few hours for a refreshing swim. In the afternoon this meant we had a steep 3 hour climb back out of the canyon to reach Cabanaconde. It was really hot and hard work and would have been good to have another swim at the top to cool off. On the final day we went to a viewpoint to watch condors flying over the canyon. Despite having seen quite a few before now, they are really impressive birds to watch flying and a couple of them came very close to the cliffs so you could really appreciate the size of them. From there we went to the village of Chivay where we visited a hot springs before getting the bus back to Arequipa.

Posted by katiew 14:28 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

It´s been a year

sunny 18 °C

So, a year ago yesterday I left Scotland and arrived at my first destination, St. Petersburg. Many countries, fights, treks, tours and bus journeys later I am in Peru, still enjoying travelling. I missed my flight home from Mexico last week, so think I will be staying here for a bit longer yet.
I have spent the last couple of weeks, having a bit of a break from everything, staying in one place, doing very little sight seeing and have instead been enjoying doing a bit of work, trying to improve my Spanish, watching a lot of the football and tennis and just having a bit of a break. So to celebrate my year anniversy I decided to get going again and spent the day on the bus to Arequipa thinking about everything I´ve done over the last year. Its hard to remember what my expectations were when I left home, but I think the trip has far exceeded anything I thought was possible. I have seen all the major sites I dreamed of going to, the Kremlin, the Great Wall of China, Uluru, trekking in New Zealand, Patagonia, the Amazon and Macchu Picchu, to mention just a few. I have also been to many other places that have been equally impressive, even though I´d never heard of them before. I have also met some great people on the way, so despite travelling by myself I have never really been alone. A lot of people have asked if I´m bored of travelling yet, but everyday I am still constantly impressed by the new things I see and experiance. Yes there are times after a sleepless night in a crowded dorm room I think of going home to my own room and a change of clothes but I think my trip is far from over yet. Just a quick look a the job adverts is enough to make me want to stay away just a bit longer, and the more I travel, the more places I find there are that I want to visit.
So my plans for the next few months. I´m going to spend July travelling up through Peru, and August in Equador. Then I´m off to Costa Rica and I´ll probably spend a couple of months travelling up through Cenral Amercia to Mexico, where I will fly home in October/November. Well maybe, I haven´t been too good at sticking to plans, and I haven´t booked the flight home yet....

Posted by katiew 15:25 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

sunny 25 °C

After being picked up at 4am from the hostel it was a couple of hours bus ride to the village of Mollipata where we were to start trekking from. Here we met the rest of the group and our guides for the next few days and after breakfast we started trekking. The first morning the walking was all up hill until we reached where we stopped for lunch, a place with great views over the valley where we had come from. In the afternoon the ascent was more gradual and it was a nice walk to our first campsite below the Salkantay pass. Unfortunatly the clouds had come down so we were unable to see the mountain Salkantay. It was a cold night, camping at about 3800m and we had an early start the next morning so after dinner everyone went straight to bed. The second day of the trek was the longest and hardest but the scenery made it worth while. After our 5am wake up we started climbing up to the Salkantay pass. The pass is the highest point of the trek at about 4600m between the mountains Umantay and Salkantay, both of which are unclimbed peaks over 6000m. As we climbed higher the clouds lifted and we had excellant views of Salkantay. After stopping for a break at the top of the pass, it was all downhill into the next valley where we stopped for lunch. From here the landscape changed dramatically, we left behing the snow covered mountains and entered the high jungle. We reached our 2nd campsite late in the afternoon and as everyone was tired after a long days walking, it was another early night. The next day we had a lie in until 6am. We spent the morning walking down the valley past waterfalls and plantations of coffee, bananas and passion fruit. We reached the village of Playa for lunch and from here we took buses to the village of Santa Teresa where we had our final camp. The rest of the afternoon we spent at a natural hot springs just outside the village. This was a welcome chance to wash after 3 days of trekking. The final day of the hike we were mostly following a river through more plantations. And just before lunch we had our first view of Machu Picchu from the valley below the mountain. In the afternoon we spent several hours walking along the train track to reach the village of Aguas Caliente below Macchu Picchu. The town itself only seemed to exist for tourists, every building was either a hotel, restaurant or gift shop and everywhere you went people were trying to sell you something.
On the 5th day we had the choice of walking to Machu Picchu or getting the bus. Having walked this far I decided not to give up now and walk the final hour or so to the site. This meant another early start, starting walking at about 4.30 to reach the top by 6am. It was a steep climb up hundreds of steps but we eventually made it to the top as it was getting light and had a bit of time to wait for the people who had decided to go up in the bus. We entered the site just after it opened and spent the first hour or so having a guided tour of the area. Unfortunatly our guide wasn´t very good and spent a long time telling us very little about nothing much, but it was good to finally be there. And luckily our guide seemed to be in a hurry to leave so we soon had time to explore by ourselves. I decided to climb Wayana Picchu, the hill overlooking the main area of Macchu Picchu. This did mean another hour or so of climbing steep steps, but it was worth it, the view from the top looking down over the site was amazing. Somehow I seemed to take an alternative route down and despite it being crowdwd at the top I didn´t see anyone else until I reached the Temple of the Moon at the bottom of the hill. It was an interesting route down as well, not so many steps, but a few long wooden ladders loosely attached to rocks that didn´t look that well maintained. The Temple of the Moon is a small area of ruins in and around a cave near the bottom of Wayna Picchu. Unfortunatly from here I had to climb yet more steps to reach the main path up to Machu Pichu again. I then spent several hours just looking round the main part of the site and walking out to some of the further away parts including the Inca bridge and the sun gate, the enterance to the site from the classic Inca trail. After nearly 9 hours of walking around the area I walked back down the steps to Aguas Caliente where I met up with other guys from the trek for a drink befote we got the train and bus back to Cusco. We eventually arrived back in Cusco at about 10pm so it had been another long day but it had been worth it.

Posted by katiew 11:27 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Adventures in Cusco

sunny 25 °C

My first day in Cusco I met up with Jodie, andy, Sofia and Peter that I had travelled with for a while in Bolivia. They were all planning on doing a rafting trip and after going with them to a couple of agencies and hearing more about the trip I was easily persuaded to change my plans and join them on that in a couple of days time. This gave us a bit of time to explore Cusco, a very touristy town where you are constantly hassled by people on the street trying to sell you stuff, other than that it is quite a nice place to spend a few days. We visited Saqsaywaman, an Inca site just outside the city. Apart from having a bit of a dubious guide, (I think I could have made up better information about the place than he did) it was an interesting place to go. We also visited the museum of childrens art, that has developed from a charity project in the schools in the villages around Cusco. The children have never seen any paintings or forms of art other than weaving so when they are told to paint something it is very strongly influenced by there cultural traditions and nothing like Western children would paint, both in terms of the subject and style.

After a day in the city we were ready for the early morning start for the rafting. We were to spend 3 days on the Apurimac river a few hours drive from the city. The drive itself was fairly exciting, on narrow tracks through the mountains with huge drops right by the side of the bus and big problems whenever we met a vehicle coming the other way. We arrived at the start, and had lunch while we got ready to go. First we were taught the basics of rafting and some safety procedures before we had a bit of time to practise on the river. So we soon ended up in the river practising what to do if we capsized. Luckily we had wetsuits and although the water was cold it was a nice sunny day, so we could dry out quickly if we hadn´t of kept getting wet again straight away. However within about 5 minutes of being ion the raft and capsizing once I had already lost one of the shoes I had brought in ther markey just a few houes earlier, leaving me with just one shoe for the 3 day trip.
After a bit of practising we set off down the river for a couple of hours rafting before reaching the first campsite. This was good fun, mainly class 2 and 3 rapids, so it was a good chance to get used to the rafting and it was good fun. Although having seen a few class 3 rapids I was starting to wonder what the promised class 5 rapids would be like. We had a nice evening at the first campsite, camping on a nice beach. We had a good dinner and campfire to keep warm.

The second day of the trip was a long day on the river. After an early start we were straight into the rapids. More grade 2 and 3 to start with. We trued a bit if raft surfing in one rapid which didn't go so well, thanks to the guy paddling the cargo boat shouting the wrong instructions we nearly flipped the raft and ended up with 2 people falling in. Before lunch we experienced our first class 4 rapid and survived that without too many problems. There were also a few sections that were too dangerous to raft, where we had to walk round, which was a bit painful for me. Climbing over the rocks with just one shoe. By the end of the day my feet were a mess from the walking, sandfly bites and sunburn. Watching the guy in the safety kayak paddling down some of the hard sections and seeing the amount of work it took them to get the cargo raft down them was really impressive. We had lunch on another nice beech before continuing rafting for a few more hours in te afternoon. With some more class 3 and 4 rapids it was very exciting at times. This was mixed with calmer bits where we were able just to float down very beautiful sections of the canyon. We had another nice evening camping on a beach.

On the 3rd day we started out straight into some big rapids, nothing like getting soaked with cold water early in the morning to wake you up. In the first part of the morning we had a series of difficult rapids to get through, class 4 with a couple of class 5. All was going well until we went through one very shallow section and managed to get the raft stuck on 3 rocks. It took a lot of work from our guide and the guy from the safety kayak to eventually get us going without flipping the raft. After that it was the class 5 rapid which had a couple of really big drops in it where we just had to get down in the bottom of the raft and hold on. Despite this the force of the drop nearly lifted us out of the raft, but luckily we all managed to hang on and made it safely through the rapid, although we were soaked by the end of it.

After a few more big rapids the river got a bit calmer and we were able to relax a bit more. We stopped to jump in off a high rock by the side of the river, we were drying out a bit at that point. Then a class 2 rapid we tried body rafting, basically jumping in to the rapid and hoping for the best. I felt like I drank half the river within the first 30 seconds as you just no control over where you went and the waves were too big to avoid. After this I realised how lucky we were not to fall in in one of the big rapids.

We finished rafting at lunch time and had another good meal before driving back to Cusco. Spent the rest of the afternoon sorting everything out and getting ready for a 4am start for a trek the next day. In the evening we met with all the rafting guys in a bar in town where they showed us a DVD and photos they had taken during the trip. But unfortunatly I had a 4am start the next day for the trek to Mach Picchu, so couldn´t stay too long.

Posted by katiew 14:16 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lake Titicaca

sunny 21 °C

My last stop in Bolivia was Copacabana,, a small town on the shore of Lake Titicaca. After a morning on the bus from La Paz the first thing I did when I arrived was to go to one of the small stalls by the beach to try the local speciality of Lake Titicaca trout, very nice. I spent the rest of the day looking round the town. I happened to see a very strange event outside the cathedral, the daily blessing of cars. Loads of people come and park there, decorate there cars in flowers and ribbons then the priest comes out and blesses each car individually. All about strange, but after spending many hours on Bolivian roads it does make a bit of a sense.
The next day I went on a trip to the Isla del Sol, an important Inca landmark. After a very slow boat ride we arrived at the north of the island where we had a guided tour of some Inca ruins. This is the first Inca site I have visited so I still have a lot to learn about them. Then I had a really nice walk across the top of the island to the southern end before getting the boat back to the town.
From Copacabana I crossed the border into Peru and stayed in Puno, a town on the Peruvian shore of Lake Titicaca. The town was a bit more industrial than Copacabana and other than a nice main square it doesn´t really have a lot to talk about, but outside of the town there are a lot of archaeological sites. I decided to spend the afternoon going on a tour to Sillustani, which is apparently the highest necropolis in the world. This was a really interesting trip, the site has funeral towers built from 1500BC to the time of the Incas, so you could see how the design of them evolved and they became more complex as building techniques developed. And our guide was really good and explained all about the Inca beliefs and how the towers reflected them. The site itself was also in a really nice position, on a peninsula in a salt walter lake, so it was a nice place for a walk just before sunset. On the way back in to town we stopped at farmers house where they showed us around, talked about how they farm and we tried some of their food. All the farming is done manually, looked like very hard work and the women are expected to do as much as the men. The food was interesting, mostly a lot of different types of potatoes which they eat with a sauce made from mixing clay and water, not the most appetising of dishes.
The following day I went to visit some more islands on the lake. The first stop was the floating islands, islands made out of totora reed roots and are literally just floating on the lake. A few hundred people still live on these islands in small villages. Although it is very touristy and the islanders basically put on a show explaining about the islands, their history, how they are built and their way of life, it was still a really interesting place to go. The next stop was Isla Taquile, where we had a nice walk across the island to the main square. Had a look round there and then had lunch. The inhabitants of this island also seemed to have a relatively traditional lifestyle and it was interesting to see them wearing the traditional dress. Different colours and patterns on their clothes indicate things like whether they are married and their status in society.
The next day I took a long bus ride to Cusco. It was supposed to take 6 hours but somehow it managed to take 10, but I eventually arrived in Cusco in the evening.

Posted by katiew 15:44 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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