Published: March 12th 2008March 12th 2008
Lima - arrived late at night but transfer went okay after finding out by email from travel agent that I was supposed to be on a tour 3 days ago. Moral of story - don’t trust travel agent books you on the right tour date even though you have checked a few times with her. I know this probably isn’t my first whinge, but finding out you are on a wrong tour 3 days late is not my thing!
Lima itself didn’t strike me at first, arriving late makes you wary of a place I think, you start seeing the worst of it. Then after a couple of days of strolling around I built up confidence and took a heap of photos on the 3rd day and watched another great changing of the guard at parliament house in Plaza de Armas. And a good point - they can cut hair properly!
Ballestas Islands - they say is the poor mans Galapagos which is probably right in the cost factor, but was awesome still, heaps more birds, penguins and sea lions concentrated, and amazing granite rock formations.
Huacachina Oasis - the picture on the back of the 50 Sole. Lovely little
oasis in the middle of the desert - a nice pool which was welcomed and high sand dunes all around. Did a dune buggy ride as well which was awesome, and sand boarding included which was great because you only went down and not have to climb the hills. Was great. Finally got air under our buggy right at end of trip.
Nazca - firstly, on our drive to Nazca we stopped and saw a natural Inca face in the mountain which was very cool, but of course the Nazca Lines, not much known about them, possibility built by 3 rulings of peoples from 1000bc to 500ad. The story I don’t believe is that they were running tracks! Why build a running track in the shape of something? Anyway, not as big as I was expecting but still really cool and an awesome plane flight.
Nazca - Chauchilla Cemetery, just something to do to fill in time but really awesome. Very preserved mummies (and daddies and babies), possibly because of the dry weather and that they were salted and wrapped in cotton to mummify. Sad story of grave robbers looting graves for treasures which still goes on. Also, part of
My first 'Nazca line'.
this tour we saw Inca pottery being made - most exciting part was that they ‘varnish’ the pottery with oil from their noses. The other thing we saw the gold mining process which was really interesting, crushing, more crushing, rinsing and liquid silver wash and boiling.
Arequipa - overnight bus to get here was manageable. Guys who left day before us to get passport sorted only made it a few hours before us though being held up by protestors burning tyres as a roadblock just out of town. Is on again, Miraflora car bombs in Peru day after we left, a bus on the same bus route we took to Huacachina was held up and robbed a day or two after our bus, hope we stay ahead of things I suppose. Anyway, nice little town again, protest going on at Plaza de Armas about social security.
Colca Canyon - very nice drive from Arequipa but very cold too, even had snow near highest pass of 4900m. Beautiful scenery of mountains and terraces, missed condors at Condor Cross but saw them a bit further down the road which was both cool and lucky. Also saw an Andean Fox which was great.
We had a 'nightbow' in Pantanal, now a 'sunbow'.
Altitude sickness - gotta be for wooses right! Well even after climbing a volcano at Quito I got crook and had to have some oxygen - hopefully Lares Trek will be ok.
Cuzco - really nice little town set amongst the hills, and not as cold as last couple of places which is a bonus. Great feeling of safety too. Still feeling a bit shit from neck or altitude though.
Lares Trek - overall a very lovely trek with nice scenery and locals. Even though we hiked up hills for 5 hours first day, then 7 ½ hours second day, then 4 hours downhill 3rd day. Was hard but have been sorer from a 2.4k run or game of soccer, which I had a couple of with kids along the way anyway. Also, rained whole of first day, froze that night, woke up to snow in morning, 2nd day walked through snow for most of morning but cleared up to beautiful albeit cold days that afternoon and 3rd morning.
Macchupicchu - first got into Aguas Calientes which was nice little town 1 street long and one street wide, mostly built between raging river and railway track. Up early to go
to Maccupicchu which was awesome, walked another 6 hours around site and climbed Wyanapicchu for 2 hours which was harder than the whole 3 day trek. Went and saw Inca Bridge as well clinging onto cliff face which is awesome. Whole site is very preserved, basically because they built well with heaps of retaining walls hanging off cliff faces, and because Spanish didn’t find it. Was rediscovered in 1911.
Sacred Valley Tour - visited a few Incan sites including Saqsaywaman apparently more important than Macchupicchu, Pisac which has a great cemetery in the hillside, and Ollantaytambo which had some unfinished rocks showing how they built the top levels first, and also a very cool fountain that you could change the flow with your finger to dribble over the rock or splash out - very weird and interesting. Also got to visit a Llama and El Paca farm, including Vicuna and endangered Guanaco and watch some spinning and weaving. Also had some Chicha, local corn beer which was ok but they also farmed guinea pigs which was a cute reminder to my childhood.
Puerto Maldonado - main reason I was going here was for clay lick and see hundreds of macaws,
Can't see dolphins and not share.
but that is apparently 8 hours north of where we were by boat! Had jungle walk and saw monkeys and some cool plants. One was magnetic tree which sent compasses wrong, another the justice tree - it and fire ants lived together and was used by locals to tie bad people to (overnight would kill you). Saw bird eating spider and tarantula again. At our lodge which was really nice, played a bit of table tennis with the baby coati, and got good at table soccer. On the wild side, there were scarlet macaw I managed to feed, military macaw and aurora that talked to me and a tapir that even though he is herbivore tried to eat me (probably because I smelt like flowers after all day walking in jungle heat ). Went piranha fishing again but there were no piranha this time.
Puno - beautiful scenery on way from Cuzco, could’ve been Scotland or Ireland, nice green fields and snow capped mountains. Nice town settled right on the Lake.
Lake Titicaca - first stop was Uros reed islands which are amazing, built by locals with reeds that float when they die and the islands last about 25 years.
Bit squelchy walking around but apparently on 1 metre of reeds above water so not too wet. Then to Amanti Island for our home stay. Lovely families in basic housing but nice warm beds. Played soccer with locals and got dressed in local costume for fiesta that night. Danced with my family and had a good night. Then my worst boat ride ever (including 5m swells to do a great white shark dive and Force 12 crossing the Drake) to Taquille Island which has been declared by Unesco as world heritage because of their famous weaving. Beautiful views from island through lovely archways that separate communities on island.
La Paz - Border crossing into Bolivia is bad. One of our guys lost USD20 to cops just taking it saying it was fake and tour leader thinks he lost some as well. Then a South African not allowed in without visa although internet says it wasn’t needed. Anyway, La Paz (The Peace) is a rather compact city with population somewhere between 1.2 and 2 million people. Has a scary feel about it but that might be from warnings of fake police, muggings, robbery etc. Well, while waiting for the
Dune buggy and sand boarding day.
city tour bus, I was approached by a lovely Mexican lady and had a chat and then a plain clothes policeman rocked up. Was rather rude to him and firm but he walked away, only realized girl was part of the scam after she walked away as well. Other guys on tour said it happened to them just now as well but she asked them to take a photo then the fake policeman said it was illegal and tried to get him into a taxi. Anyway, tour was good. Bolivia has had nearly 200 coups, on average every 10 months. Nearly a third of population of Bolivia lives in greater La Paz. 42% of pop is under 14yo and 4% over 65yo which is retirement age. Average wage is $1200/yr but congressmen earn $4000/month, sounds like a heap of other countries. Free schooling and free health for pregnant ladies, kids under 5 and people over 65. Oh, and because the air is thinner, water takes longer to boil but actually boils at 85 degrees???? Will remember that one for trivia nights!
World’s Most Dangerous Road bike tour out of La Paz - very awesome! When they call it that they
mean on a good day too, not a pissing down rain day when you can hardly see let alone the landslides that we had to beat. Was cool though seeing the power of mud sliding down hillside of somewhere between 50 and 100m high and 3 metres wide. Had covered road and we had to scoot across before we were blocked off. Proud though because we were coming downhill really quick, our group was the only tour to get past the landslides, everyone else had to go back uphill with our car because it couldn’t get through. Then another landslide at bottom on hill only 5 mins after we got through, this spot had a landslide 4 years ago that killed a whole family asleep in a house. Because it was rainy and cloudy, we didn’t get to appreciate the full height of where we were which seeing half of it could be a good thing! Overall, an awesome day.
Tiwanaku Ruins out of La Paz - nearly missed tour because it was late picking me up but managed to meet it after seeing shop. 1 ½ hr drive 72km out to ruins, was busy in town and had a
touch up with another car which gave guide and driver giggles, and then saw dogs mating with another half dozen dogs queuing and fighting. At the ruins, saw couple of museums first with 7m 20 tonne monolith and heaps of pottery and a cool mummy like none I’d seen but not allowed to take photos. Nearly looked roped up. Then to ruins where we saw other monoliths, pyramids and the Sun Gate. Tiwanaku people ruled from 1500bc to 1200ad when the Incas took over.
Our Lima to La Paz tour - apart from stuff up and not nearly making it on the tour, no other tour I’ve been on has had so much trouble. We started with only 9 passengers and on day 1 a guy left his passport at hotel. 3 days into the tour him and his wife left early to arrange in Cuzco (even though they didn’t make it too early because of road blocks and demonstrations). Then in Cuzco, another guy left the tour because his girlfriend was having trouble at home. So back to 8 but we picked up 5 more people. One of these lost their passport on our Puerto Maldonado trip so
she and the guy had to stay in Cuzco to get passports sorted, then fly to Lima separately where the girl was in a car accident but ok. 3 down now. Then crossing border into Bolivia a South African wasn’t allowed in without a visa even though the internet said it wasn’t needed. Now 4 down. I finish in La Paz and the other 3 all made it to rejoin in La Paz. Oh, and a girl dropped and broke her camera beyond repair. Now this might be repeating myself but also, the tour kept barely missing road blocks and demonstrations, airport closures and landslides!
People summary -
Chile - very good looking gentlemen with military/business hairstyles and a seriousness but calm and confident attitude. Was mostly in Santiago though so could be big city people.
Argentina - very multicultural - can’t really put a definition down.
Brazil - quiet yet confident and outspoken in some way. Very multicultural physically. I love the drawl accent of the Portuguese.
Mexico - thing I can most remember is how Asian everyone looked. The ladies were very Indian however. Lots of younger boys with gel hair styles and mostly men carrying the
Central America generally - again, nice looking boys but with a cheeky grin always just there - very larrikin like lurking just under their serious front.
Peru - very reserved people. Good to see most ladies and kids still traditionally dressed not only for tourists with hair in braids and wearing ponchos and occasionally men. Generally very friendly people and always saying buenos dias or ola. Most young boys though seem sad or angry which is sad and old people are either really old or don’t age gracefully. Came out that Peruvian women were forced to wear their hair in two long braids by the Spanish and now they still do for tradition.
Bolivian - not long enough to make any generalizations although seems to be very mixed local races. Generally friendly however look out for fake policemen!
There are more photos below