A Travellerspoint blog

Capurgana

Relaxing in colombia

sunny 30 °C
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The journey to Capurgana was itself a bit of a crazy adventure. We firstly got a bus to the town of Monteria. This was a normal coach travelling on paved roads but it appeared the buses suspension was upside down or something as we bounced the 4 hours to Monteria. Everytime the bus stopped a horde of sellers would get on trying to sell fruit, drinks or strange fried goods. At Monteria we had to change and get the bus to Turbo, another 4 hour journey. As soon as we stepped off the bus we were harrassed by men wanting to take us to Turbo, confused we pushed through and found the ticket booth, only to then pay more than the guys were offering. Pissed off, sweaty and hungry we went to find food, only to have the bus guys harrassing us to get on the bus so we could go. They had told us the bus was at 4pm, we had 25 minutes before it left, but apparently it was full and they wanted to go now! So made them wait till we got our takeaway food and then got on into the bus, which was actually a mini-van, where our bags got tied onto the roof. Once we started we found there was no air-con, they wouldn't let us open the windows and there was actually a heater under our seats, it was 35 degrees outside. Needless to say the journey felt like it took a lifetime, especially as we also had a minor car bingle, when another car backed into us at a construction site. With huge relief we got out in Turbo.

Turbo is a horrid small town on the Gulf of Uruba filled with soldiers, but unfortunately we had to stay the night here to get to Capurgana. We stayed in the most run-down hostel but it is recommended as safe. The room was tiny and hot, with a saggy bed and the bathroom in the same room, hidden by a crappy shower curtain and the worst shower ever. In the morning we woke up super early to make sure we got our tickets for the boat to Capurgana, we wanted to guarantee we would be out of Turbo as fast as we could. The dock was a chaotic, smelly and dirty place with black water filled with rubbish but eventually, with our bags wrapped up in plastic bags, we found our way onto the speedboat to Capurgana.

The boat was an extremely bouncy affair, pounding the waves for 2 hours as it crossed the Gulf of Uruba. Unfortunately there is no other way to get there, but when we arrived we saw it was all worth it. Capurgana was a beautiful small carless village on the edge of bright blue water. We found a lovely place to stay and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying lunch by the waterside and swimming in the warm water. It was a quiet piece of heaven.

In the late afternoon we sat at the bench literally lining the waters edge watching the sunset and finally drank the bottle of wine we had been stupidly carrying since Mendoza. It was wonderful. There isn't really many places to eat in Capurgana so we had dinner at the same restaurant as lunch, actually I pretty much had an identical meal - soup, fish, rice and chips. It's the standard meal in this part of the world.

There was an enormous thunderstorm during the night and I was worried our beach day was going to be ruined but it turned into a beautiful day that started with breakfast overlooking the water (a common theme here!) We then moved hostels to where we would do our tour from and got ourselves stamped out of Colombia at the best immigration office ever. Literally a fat guy in a white singlet top with a huge silver chain, smoking and having a beer. Then it was off to the beach.... again... We spent the day lounging at the Capurgana beach and then also taking a little motor boat around to the next village, Sapzurro, where we swam at their beach. Pretty nice day really.
That evening we had a tour group meeting at a local bar, where we started off with a shot of Aguacaliente (that's what we think it was called) which tasted like strange zambucca and then got to know everywhere. On the tour there was 5 Dutch, 2 English, 1 Israeli, 1 Irish, 1 Canadian, 1 French, 1 Austrian and surprisingly only 1 Aussie - me! and our captain was an Italian guy called Fabio! We also had a local man, Nico who was our mechanic/boat driver, who also brought along his wife and strangely was missing all the fingers on his right hand.

After a horrific night's sleep, being kept awake by another enormous thunderstorm (apparently it storms every night in Capurgana) and a load of drunk afro guys drumming irratically on a large bongo and shouting whenever a wave crashed over the seawall, we woke up early and departed for Panama.

our horrific room in Turbo

our horrific room in Turbo

Relaxing in Turbo?

Relaxing in Turbo?

Turbo port

Turbo port

Black water and rubbish

Black water and rubbish

on the bumpiest boat ride ever

on the bumpiest boat ride ever

Little piece of paradise

Little piece of paradise

Loving the view

Loving the view

It's good!

It's good!

Perfect spot for a bottle of wine

Perfect spot for a bottle of wine

Sunset

Sunset

The beautiful coastline

The beautiful coastline

Sapzurro

Sapzurro

Relaxing in the hammock

Relaxing in the hammock

Posted by awowchuk 08:21 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Cartagena

pretty streets

sunny 34 °C
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Our journey from Cusco to Cartagena took all day. We woke up at 5am to fly from Cusco to Lima, then at lunchtime had a flight from Lima to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and finally had a late afternoon flight from Bogota to Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. As we got off the plane in Cartagena, it was already dark, but we were met by a wall of heat. We were very excited as we'd been very much looking forward to Cartagena, and had talked lots about the heat, during the cold parts of Bolivia and Peru. We caught a taxi to our hotel and then went out to explore the city. It was so hot! By now it was probably about 8 o'clock but as we walked through the town we were still sweating! We walked through the old town to one of the main squares, where we had a couple of beers and enjoyed some pizza. The old town is incredibly pretty. It has all be gentrified, and all the streets and buildings are beautifully maintained and lit very nicely. There are lots of horse and carts, offering to take tourists on tours, but we just sat in the square and listened to the music. It was good to finally reach the Caribbean, it felt like we had been land-locked in South America for a long time. As we walked back through the backpacker area to our hotel, the whole place felt very atmospheric. There was lots of music and many bars flowing out on the streets.

The following morning we had a little lie in and then had our first Caribbean breakfast, which was a bit weird before heading out to explore the city. It was even hotter than the night before, but we had a nice walk around. The buildings are painted very bright colours and the whole place felt very alive. We stopped to buy water and ice cream, and then had lunch at a real Colombian canteen. We sat on a table with another woman and an old man and had fried chicken and stewed beef. It was great, and pretty cheap! After lunch we made a couple of trips to cash machines and currency exchange places because we had to sort out all the money for the next week of our trip, because the area we were going did not have any cash machines. We then walked down to the beach. The beach was a little walk out of the old town, and was lined by lots of big hotels, and even more large hotels that were still being built. The water was very warm, but was still nice and refreshing given the heat. We walked right down to the end of the peninsula, stopping along the way to swim and at the end we found another beach in a sort of harbour. The water wasn't particularly clear at any of the beaches, but it was very calm. After the beach we wandered back through town, looking at all the fake sunglasses and hats for sale on the streets, and I picked up a pizza to eat on the way home.

Our hotel had a tv! This might not seem like a big deal, but we hadn't properly watched tv for ages, especially not English tv, so it was a real novelty to be able to watch the Big Bang Theory and other American tv. We relaxed in our nicely air-conditioned room before heading out for dinner. We had dinner at a little restaurant near our hotel in the backpacker area of town. It was starting to thunderstorm, so it was cool to sit inside, but there was a big doorway next to our table so we could look outside, enjoy the breeze and take photos. They also had a happy hour on so we had some beer. We then wandered through the old town, in search of ice cream. Sadly the ice cream restaurant was closed, but we stumbled upon some kind of film set, presumably for Colombia tv or movies. It then started to rain heavily so we headed back to our hotel, to watch TV.

beautiful streets of cartagena

beautiful streets of cartagena

lovely balconies

lovely balconies

The main beaches of Cartagena

The main beaches of Cartagena

more pretty streets

more pretty streets

Main square at night

Main square at night

Cartagena by night

Cartagena by night

Posted by awowchuk 06:53 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

The Lares Trek to Machu Pichu

"Talking about Innnnncas, talking about glaaaaychiers...."

all seasons in one day 9 °C
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Finally we were starting our adventure to Machu Pichu. The 5 day trip would take us on a visit to the sacred valley, trekking through the Lares Valley and Machu Pichu. This was the only thing we organised before we left Canada and we were very excited.

We were picked up from the hotel to start our sacred valley tour. It was a wonderful day visting multiple sites across the valley. The valleys really name is the Sacred Valley of the Inca's and it is filled with communities that still use the Inca language Quechuan and many Inca sites. They really love the Inca's! We first visited a small community to see how the women spin and make clothes. G adventures are the only agency that visit this village and we were able to see the money that is given to the community actually making a difference with a new school to educate women and paving of the main market square so it can be used in both wet and dry seasons (everything gets VERY muddy in the wet season). It was really interesting to see the women firstly dye the alpaca and llama fibres, using natural things like eucalyptus and then spin the fibre into yarn. They then weave the yarn into scarves, jumpers, beanies, anything really to then be sold to tourists in Cusco. There was also a bunch of alpacas and llamas that we got to feed which was fun.

The next site was Pisac, an Inca site. Our hilarious guide Henry, who was hilarious for his funny english more than what he actually said, trapsed us back and forth across the ruins of a village and its terraced farms. It was a pretty impressive site, everything built on crazy hills and just a like taste of what Machu Pichu would be like. What I found most interesting was the cemetery. As we've said earlier, the mountains were gods to the Inca's and so for burial they were placed in the fetal position and buried in a tiny cave in the mountain. At Pisac they had found thousands of burial places.

We continued on to an all you can eat lunch and then along the Urubama river at the bottom of the valley to Ollantaytambo. This quaint village with lots of cobblestoned alleys was another old Inca village that had been abandoned when the spanish invaded. It had more huge terraces and the ruins of some temples. We were also staying the night in this village and so after the tour ended we made our way back to our little hotel to relax before heading out for a fun dinner with the group.

We had planned and booked to do the Inca trail with G adventures back in March, but unfortuntely we missed out on one of the permits so we were going to do the Lares trek in a different part of the region. The group we were with during the sacred valley tour did manage to get permits and were going to be doing the Inca trail. They were a really fun bunch with some london cockney retirees, their military son, a hilarious father and teengage son from devon, another young backpacker from england who could drink like a fish and then some kooky american, a lovely norwegian couple, although the guy was literally viking hulk and a brash chinese australian couple. On their Inca trail there was 16 people and 29 porters and 3 guides!!! On our Lares trek we had us, a canadian couple and 5 cook/horsemen, mules to carry all our stuff, some alpacas and our guide!!!! We were going on a very different type of trek.

The next morning we said see you later to the group and were met at our hostel by Edith, our guide for the Lares trek and Machu Pichu. She was a lovely peruvian women who thankfully had much better english than Henry. Our first stop was at the town of Calca where we visited the markets to buy some presents for all the children and families we would meet on our trek. As opposed to the Inca trail, the Lares valley has many traditional communities in it that still live as their ancestors did. We then drove for 2 hours on the most mental and windy road I have ever been on. It would make top gear salivate. With relief we arrived at the town of Lares! The first thing we got to do was... relax. Lares has some natural hot pools so we got changed and rested our not so tired legs in the very hot water while Chino and Ronaldo our chefs prepared our lunch, gourmet camping style. Once we were relaxed and fed we started our 3 day 2 night trek. The trek through the valley would take us from 3500m at Lares, up to 3800m where we would camp the first night, then up to 4650m for the pass and then camping at 4100m the second night before descending to 2800m at the end of our trek. Edith kept saying the first day was just a warm up for the second day! We walked calmly along taking in the pretty setting and stopped many times, firstly to conduct a ceremony with coca leaves so pacha mama would look after us on our trek and in our lives and to give us Inca names and then lots of times to meet the children and give them some crayons, or bread or colourful hair ties. The kids would come running as soon as they saw us. We also gave coca leaves to the adults. Coca leaves are like money to the people here. At one point we picked up this 7 year girl Analee who was walking the whole length alone of the first days trek as she wanted to visit her mother who was working in the village, Wacawasi. She was very chatty with edith and so we learnt lots about her. At one point her 8 year brother came and joined us. He was also going to see his mother. They were very proud tiny kids. The boy alfred had a badly injured foot and we had to strongly insist on him using the walking stick which he gave back 20 minutes later. Meanwhile the girl was carrying many bags of food for her mother, I took these off her but 10 minutes later she took them back to help me! It was getting dark and cold as we came into the village of Wacawasi and when we arrived our tents were set up with chocolate and flowers on our sleeping bags and dinner being prepared! We got warm in as many layers as we could and had dinner inside a stone hut. The food each day was awesome, with soup, some sort of chicken or fish with rice and then desert. All made by chino and ronaldo on a camping stove! We were woken by the crew at 6am with a cup of coca tea and hot water to wash our faces. When we emerged from the tent we saw everything during the night had been covered in frost and it now made sense why Christian had been cold sleeping in nothing but a pair of pajama shorts. For breakfast we had pancakes with our Inca names written on them with caramel sauce - Wayna Pichu or young mountain for Christian and Quesicoyou or princess for me! After giving presents to the local children hanging around our camp we headed off to visit a family living in Wacawasi to learn about their lives. The family of 5 sleep together on one bed, cook, eat and store their drying harvest within one small smoke blackened stone room. The floor is jut compressed dirt and they have chickens and guinea pigs running around. The peruvian government gave all these people new cooking areas with new chimneys but the people do not like to use them as they are resistant to change and like to use the ones they built themselves even though it fills their houses with smoke causing respiratory and eye problems. It was a fascinating but also humbling site. It made us feel extremely fortunate for our own situations. The coolest thing was when the young boy brought out a stuffed Puma that their father had killed. They were very proud of what their father had done as Puma's are rarely sited, dangerous and detremental to their farming.

After this we started off on our trek. The walk was a gradual uphill and took us through dramatic lord of the rings looking landscapes. The first half took quite a while as we were stopping to say hi to children but also as a large discrepany was appearing between us and the canadian couple. We had been in altitude for weeks and done lots of activities whereas the canadian couple had come straight from the flats of Ontario Canada. We would walk 10 minutes then have to wait 10 minutes for them to catch up. We got pretty cold waiting around especially as Christian was only in shorts and eventually Edith said for us to continue on and we'll all meet again at the lunch site on the other side of the pass. We continued on the gradual uphill but soon after this changed into steep and deceptive uphill. You would walk up to where it bends around the corner and you think it will be flat and your almost at the top but then there is just another steep hill. As we climbed with our awesome walking sticks, past llamas and alpacas the weather was getting progressively worse and was snowing as we were approaching the top. With elation and a victory yell we reach the rocky pass at 4650m but then moved on down the steep descent to get out of the freezing weather.

We arrived at lunch 1hr and 15 minutes after we left Edith. She said it would take us 3 hours just to get to the top so we felt pretty pleased! We then waited inside the lunch tent getting warm for another hour and a half for the couple to turn up. It was a stunningly picturesque scene where we sat and had lunch, overlooking a lake with the mules and mountains all around. Thankfully after lunch the walk was a stroll down through the valley to Mantaray, the next camping site, passing snow-capped mountains and stunning lakes. It was very special.

We arrived at camp and once again our tents were all set up for us. We had time to have a rest before dinner so Christian decided to have a bath in the river running next to our campsites. I must point out that it is freezing cold at 4100m in the late afternoon and the water is running off the glacier but he still stripped down to his boardies and jumped into the river. Even the crew thought he was absolutely mental!
We had dinner that night inside another stone house but Andrew the Canadian guy was feeling incredibly rough from the hike and the altitude so it was a pretty calm affair.

The last morning after breakfast we had a little ceremony with some sparkling wine to say thanks to pacha mama and then we were off again. It was a downhill walk over rough rocky terrain. As we walked our horsemen came running past with all our stuff to get to the lunch spot. The landscape changed as we walked down, starting in the barren landscape at the top and ending in the warmth of the jungle.

We had lunch together and then had a ceremony where flowers were put on our heads to say thankyou to the staff. We also got to dress up in their clothes for some photos! We then bordered a bus and were driven to Ollantaytambo were we would catch the worlds slowest train through the sacred valley to Machu Pichu town or Aguas Calientes. The train travelled 40km passed snow-capped mountains and ended in the jungle at Aguas Calientes an hour and a half later. Aguas Calientes is a horrific town along the river at the base of Machu Pichu that is solely there for tourists going to see the ruins. It would not look out of place in South East Asia with a proliferation of dodgy hotels and souviner stalls selling Machu Pichu everything. We were happy to stay though as it meant we got to shower and sleep in a real bed!

We had an early start the next morning, getting a 5:30am bus (along with many other people) up to Machu Pichu in the hope of seeing the sunrise. Because of the queues we missed the sunrise but still got to see the ruins before all the tourists were flooded through it (it was cloudy so there wasn't really a sunrise anyway, it just got gradually lighter!). Edith took us on a 2 hour tour telling us all about the site but so much of it is conjecture. They really don't know what things were for or what exactly happened. This does not take away from the awe of the site. It really was phenomenal, even in the rain! After the tour, we walked up to the Sun Gate, a lookout point along the Inca trail, where the trail first gets a glimpse of Machu Pichu. It was so impressive. This day was my 1 year away from home and to be here was pretty special.

After Machu Pichu we headed back down to Aguas Calientes and had lunch with the Inca trail group before all getting the train and then bus back to Cusco. It was hilarious fun to swap stories about our treks. Sadly for them there had been a landslide the day before they were meant to hike up through the sun gate to Machu Pichu and the trail was closed, so they didn't get to see it at sunrise, instead having to walk down to town, catch the bus up and join the long queue with everyone else. We all had dinner that night in town, where some people ate the local delicacy of Guinea Pig but we couldn't understand why. It was expensive and you got no meat on it, just bones really!!! Mmmm delicious! And with that the tour was over and we would move on again for our next adventure.

Cusco lookout

Cusco lookout

Women spinning thread

Women spinning thread

Feeding the llamas

Feeding the llamas

Pisac

Pisac

the inca group at pisac

the inca group at pisac

The trek (the green line)

The trek (the green line)

The road to Lares

The road to Lares

Lares hot pools

Lares hot pools

Walking on day 1

Walking on day 1

Rest stop day 1

Rest stop day 1

placing coca leaves under a rock for good luck during our coca ceremony

placing coca leaves under a rock for good luck during our coca ceremony

Alfred

Alfred

Tents in morning of day 2

Tents in morning of day 2

Pancakes

Pancakes

Family with the stuffed puma

Family with the stuffed puma

5 people sleep on this bed!

5 people sleep on this bed!

local children

local children

Lord of the rings landscape day 2

Lord of the rings landscape day 2

Us

Us

Christian

Christian

We're going up there

We're going up there

Waiting around

Waiting around

Mules carrying our gear

Mules carrying our gear

At the pass - 4650m above sea level

At the pass - 4650m above sea level

Going down from the pass

Going down from the pass

The lake for lunch

The lake for lunch

lunch tent, the lake and the descent from the pass

lunch tent, the lake and the descent from the pass

the landscape after lunch day 2

the landscape after lunch day 2

mountain landscape

mountain landscape

campsite day 2

campsite day 2

Christians ice river bath

Christians ice river bath

hiking day 3

hiking day 3

the valley day 3

the valley day 3

playing soccer

playing soccer

the group and crew (minus Edith)

the group and crew (minus Edith)

Machu Pichu!

Machu Pichu!

Walking around the stone walls

Walking around the stone walls

Christian and the view

Christian and the view

Terraces

Terraces

1 year later... at the sun gate

1 year later... at the sun gate

At the sun gate

At the sun gate

Guinea pig

Guinea pig

Posted by awowchuk 17:06 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Cusco

waiting around

sunny 15 °C
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We arrived into Cusco early after our night bus and caught a taxi straight to our hostel. We knew we had a few days to kill because we'd been unable to move our trek to Machu Pichu forward, so we spent the day we arrived relaxing at the hostel and doing a little bit of exploring. Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire and later the scene of many battles between the Incas and the Spanish conquistadors, so the city is rich in history, with many churches and cathedrals and plenty of Inca ruins dotted around the city and in the valleys surrounding it. We wandered around the city, trying to get an idea of what we could do there and just taking it all in. Cusco is absolutely full of tourists, because people flock from all over the world to see the Inca site at Machu Pichu. Once you look past all the tourists the town is quite pretty. The main square is quite impressive, flanked on two sides by large Spanish built churches, and by pretty colonades on the other two. But as is typical in this part of the world, wherever there are tourists, there are hordes of hangers-on, try to make easy money out of them. For example there is a large golden statue of an Inca king in the middle of the main square, which is quite impressive in its own right, but it is surrounded by hawkers, encouraging you to stand in front of it, so you can pay to get your photo taken. There are also lots of traditionally dressed women, lulling around, with all manner of things such as goats and llamas, with which you can get your photo taken, once again at a cost. Everything in Cusco references the Incas, whether it's Inkacola, Inkagrill, Inkatours, Inkahostel or Inkainternet, a bit like everything in Mongolia references Chengis Khan, but it was nonetheless a fun and interesting place to spend a few days.

Our first couple of days in Cusco were pretty relaxing - we went to Jack's cafe, an Irish-owned cafe for huge breakfasts a couple of times, tried out Cusco's take on KFC, which was absolutely disgusting, made nurmerous visits to the Irish pub, which served amazing sheppherds pie and lasagna, and I got up early to watch the deciding test match in the Lions series. I had been getting up at 5am to watch all the matches on the tour, and was absolutely thrilled when we emphatically dispatched the Wallabies in the third test! On our third day in Cusco we switched hostels to a more lively and friendly hostel (this would be the second of three places we stayed for four separate periods in Cusco). The following day we went on a cycling trip. We caught a local bus and got off about 45 minutes out of Cusco. From there we began our 28km cross country cycle. Our route took us through a number of local villages, hills and valleys to a place called Moray. Moray was an Inca site that was used for agricultural experimentation. It is made up of a number of crater-like dips in the ground, which had been dug out by the Incas and turned into circular terraces. Each level of terraces had its own unique microclimate and soil conditions and the Incas used these differing conditions to test different types of crops - in particular potatoes and corn (there are over 4000 types of potatoes grown in Peru and over 300 types of corn!!). From Moray we cycled down a pretty tricky technical section to a town called Maras where we had lunch. After lunch we continued down a trail, that gradually got more and more technical. It was the first time Anna had ever been down a trail like it, but we both enjoyed it and got down it ok, albeit with an occasional walk down the steepest bits. The trail took us down a rocky valley to a salt mine. The mines had been built into the valley and were fed by a spring. Every family in the village had their own pool, which they farmed, for a bit of extra money. After the salt mines we faced the toughest part of the trail. I had one near miss when I was sent straight over my handle bars, but luckily I landed on my feet, and we made it down the rest of the trail pretty well. Once we reached the bottom we cycled along next to the river which took us back to Urabamba, from where we caught another local bus back to Cusco. By this time it was cold and dark and we were absolutely exhausted, but we were kept amused on the bus by a drunk man sitting opposite us, who had a crying baby sitting on his lap, and was trying anything to stop her crying, including licking her face. It didn't seem to work, but it was a funny sight! We had a lazy day the following day and caught up on washing and errands before we met up with our group for the Inca trek the day after.

Christian at Cusco cathedral

Christian at Cusco cathedral

Cusco main square

Cusco main square

Cycling to moray

Cycling to moray

the landscape around cusco

the landscape around cusco

cycling

cycling

farmers working the field

farmers working the field

Moray

Moray

the path down

the path down

salineras

salineras

Christian at the salt pans

Christian at the salt pans

Posted by awowchuk 13:28 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

hiking, cooking and looking

sunny 16 °C
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We were finally in Peru!!! After 3 weeks in Bolivia we were ready for a change and thus we happily spent all day on the bus from Copacabana and over the border to Puno and then onto Arequipa. Arequipa is Peru's second city and we arrived into it late at night and made our way to our hostel via one of the one million taxi's that operate in the city. We dumped our bags and headed into the city centre to grab some food and were pleasantly surprised. It was beautiful with a neat grid of streets and beautiful old buildings built from volcanic stone. The town square had a beautiful church on one side and double storey colonade's on the other three, all from the volcanic stone. After a quick dinner at the amazing Mammut steak sandwich restaurant, we headed back to the hostel and crashed. Travel days are always exhausting.

We had a really slow start the next morning, hanging around the hostel, having a long breakfast and playing pool before heading out for a wander around Arequipa. The streets really are lovely with lots of alpaca and souvenir shops. We hadn't been to a museum in ages but decided there was one in Arequipa that was worth visiting. The Juanita Museum. Approximately 500 years ago at the height of the Inca empire, a young girl was sacrificed on the top of the highest volcano in the region as an offering to the gods. In 1995 a team of archeologists discovered her and 3 other sacrificed children on an expedition to this volcano. The muesum was set up to exhibit the mummy and other artefacts from the find and to tell us about the Inca culture. Inca's believed in many gods - the sun god, moon god, mother earth, water god and the mountain gods. They were a mountain people and felt they had to pay respect to the mountains for giving them life. The sacrificed ones were chosen when they were 3 years old and were chosen as they were considered perfect humans. They moved to Cusco (the capital of the empire) at 3 years old where they lived a privileged lifestyle until they were approximately 12-14 years old. Once at this age they trekked to the top of a volcano or mountain where a ceremony took place in which they were drugged and beaten with a blunt instrument on the skull to die. Juanita is perfectly preserved by the cold, still with fingernails, hair and fluids as she was hidden under ice very soon after she died.

After seeing a 500 year old dead person we took the opportunity to have lunch. Sitting on a rooftop balcony overlooking the church, we had a lunch of Peruvian food, well I had a lunch of Peruvian food, Christian had pizza.... again. I had a wonderful ceviche, which had raw fish, prawns and octopus cooked in a lemon marinade, served with sweet potato. It was absolutely delicious and a very scenic setting. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around before having a really early night in.

We had to go to bed super early as we had to rise at 3am the next day to start a 3 day 2 night tour to the Colca Canyon, supposedly the worlds deepest canyon. We drove 3 hours towards the canyon where we first had a quick breakfast and then continued on to to the canyon where our first stop was to see the condors. The lookout points up on the edge of the canyon gave an amazing view of the mountains on the other side, the canyon below and the huge gliding condors flying throughout the canyon. We then drove slightly further on to the starting point of our trek.
We had an overly eccentric guide called Pepe, a peruvian man who looooved to talk! We spent half an hour sitting at the start listening to Pepe talking about the canyon, the condors, cactae and Peru. He talked A LOT! Finally we got to start our hike. The hike down started easily along the dramatic canyon but after half an hour it started descending down and down and down. It was really steep and hard on our knees but the view was spectacular. 3 hours later we arrived at the river in the bottom on the canyon where we took off our shoes and rested our feet in the cool water.

Lots of people do this hike in 2 days and 1 night but as we were going slower we got to spend a night a village in the bottom of the canyon. We spent the time relaxing in this tiny village, eating amazingly fresh and creamy avocados and Christian had an ice-cold shower! That night by torchlight we had dinner and listened to Pepe telling ghost stories!

The next morning after a pancake breakfast we started our hike again. Todays section was flat except for a 20 minute climb up. I hated this, it was hot and sticky and I was breathing so hard. I had no idea how I was going to do a 3 hour climb the next day. At the top we rested in the shade of a stall and Pepe explained to us all the fruit of the region, we ate prickly pear, some weird passionfruit and a fruit that tasted like sour kiwi fruit, plus I had some more wonderful avocadoes. The hike continued on for only 10 minutes before we stopped again and sat down and listened to Pepe talk about Peru for ages, and then we walked two minutes to the local 'hospital' and listened to Pepe again talk about health care in the village. We then moved on again to then stop and listen to Pepe talk about religion! There was a lot of talking. After this though it was a walk along and then back down into the very bottom of the canyon. At the bottom of the canyon was an oasis, a perfect place of palm trees, green grass, cabanas and swimming pools. We arrived at our oasis in the early afternoon and jumped straight into the pool. After a bit of a swim we had lunch and then spent the afternoon relaxing. Unfortunately a huge cloud blocked the direct sunlight so it meant less swimming time and it got cooler earlier than we hoped. The whole experience was very peaceful but also a bit surreal. We spent some time playing cards by candlelight with others in our group before dinner. The food on the trip was decent enough, with the standard fare, typical of Peru and Bolivia of soup then a plate of rice with some veggies and meat.

We awoke at 4:45am the next day as at 5am we had to start our hike up out of the canyon. It was a 1200m climb straight up before the sun reached the top of the canyon. I was extremely anxious about this after finding the 20 minute walk the day before hard, but Christian had made us some bamboo walking poles and so we started. It took us 2 hours to climb up, stopping for a few very quick moments along the way. It was probably the hardest walk I had ever done and I was sooooo glad to reach the top, sweaty but elated to not have cheated and taken a mule up.

After the climb we had breakfast in the town at the top of the canyon and then went along to some thermal baths along a river edge in a valley next to the canyon. It was wonderful resting our sore legs and feet and we even jumped into the cold river and then back into the thermal baths. Next was an all you can eat lunch at a peruvian restaurant, with any soup you could want and lots of alpaca, fried chicken and plenty of rice. The afternoon was spent making our way up to a snow-covered lookout point at over 5000m above sea level where we were able to see all the volcanoes around the area. It was beautiful and dramatic but also freezing cold. Then it was finally back to Arequipa.
We were so thankful to make it back and rest but our dorm room had a very obese man in it who snored all night. So in the morning with not much rest we got up and spent our last day in Arequipa. We signed up for a cooking course where first they took us to the local markets and showed us the local meats, fish, herbs, drinks and lots of fruit. We got to try more prickly pear and other exotic fruits. Then back at the cooking school we first cooked ceviche, a seafood dish where the raw fish or prawns or octopus is cooked in cold lime juice and then this is all mixed with chilli, garlic, ginger, onion, coriander and fish stock. It was absolutely delicious. Next we made a main course of fish cooked in a chili sauce that turned out a bit like curry and then we were served yuca ice-cream. It was a pretty delicious day. After this we learnt how to make pisco sours. Pisco is the local spirit in Peru, made from grapes and it is combined with sugar syrup, lime juice, angostura bitters and egg white in a cocktail shaker to make the yummy pisco sour.

At dusk we visited a huge old convent in the centre of downtown Arequipa. It is not used anymore as it is over 500 years old, with the new convent being next door. But wandering around this convent was amazing as it is like a mini town within Arequipa where the women lived an isolated life. The history of it was pretty interesting, the architecture stunning with beautiful volcanic stone, lit by candle and moonlight and wonderful vistas from the roof top over Arequipa to the volcanoes around.

We wandered around the convent for an hour or so and then it was off to bus station for our bus to Cusco!

Enjoying lunch

Enjoying lunch

Colca valley

Colca valley

Condor

Condor

At the bottom of the canyon

At the bottom of the canyon

walking along the canyon on day 2

walking along the canyon on day 2

The oasis and the hike out

The oasis and the hike out

Pool in the oasis

Pool in the oasis

the view having gotten to the top of the canyon

the view having gotten to the top of the canyon

The group at the top

The group at the top

Colca valley

Colca valley

Thermal baths

Thermal baths

bath and beer

bath and beer

Volcanoes including Ampopata

Volcanoes including Ampopata

Flip-flops in the snow!

Flip-flops in the snow!

the endless landscape

the endless landscape

Arequipa markets

Arequipa markets

Our ceviche

Our ceviche

Playing with fire

Playing with fire

Anna cooking!

Anna cooking!

Shake, shake, shake!

Shake, shake, shake!

Anna and her pisco sour

Anna and her pisco sour

Squares in the convent

Squares in the convent

Red walls of the convent

Red walls of the convent

Sunset from the convent

Sunset from the convent

Sunset

Sunset

Convent streets

Convent streets

The convent cathedral

The convent cathedral

The convent

The convent

The main square of Arequipa

The main square of Arequipa

Posted by awowchuk 07:18 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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