A Travellerspoint blog

Cusco A

The centre of the incan (now gringo) empire....... Part One!

sunny 17 °C

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5:30 am we arrived in Cusco on the night bus from Arequipa!

It was early but the hostal was pretty used to early buses and welcomed us with a nice cup of coca tea! Casa de la gringa (not somewhere I would of picked previously based on the name) was a really nice hippy pad. It was a wee bit expensive for Peru.... but we were in gringo-ville (or is that Vile!) and the very nice, tranquil San Blas!!!

We wandered down to the plaza de armas which was a happening little square with plenty of reasonably priced coffee shops high up on the sides of the plaza buildings and great places to people watch (in the next few days we spent many a cup of coffee sitting out on the tiny balconies overlooking the square) and (it must have been) the most photographed water fountain in the world!!! Well.... by the locals anyway :)

Our first day was spent researching the options of whether to hike the inca trail or hike an alternative trek like the popular salkantay trek! After talking to numerous companies with numerous different prices we decided on a local company (Puma Trek) which had been the most helpfull (I personally wasn´t keen on the United Mice guy.... he was particularly arrogant and I had no time for him)! The wait for the Inca Trail was only 4 days so it was an opportunity we couldn´t miss!!

Later that day we watched the sun set over san blas from the comforts of the Muse Bar and an ice cold beer (although ice cold may not have been neccesary as it was getting a wee bit chilly now the sun had gone down)!

The next day was shopping day....... yeah for Steph and doh for Alan ha ha!

Its a bit strange christmas shopping in the heat of Cusco by day but the christmas trees donned many shop and cafe windows!

Of course the best christmas shopping is at the market places where you can get bargains galore! It can also be quite stressfull as we had to barter over 5 soles or so and apparently our eyes were not working properly as every market stall owner told us exactly what was on show, pointing to the object promptly....... hat, scarf, gloves....... gracias!

All that stress led to a much needed cold beer at Muse (again) followed by a bit of a mad night with a friend we had met in the hostal! I ended up getting a little tipsy.... must have been the effects of the altitude!

The following day we had arranged a trip to the sacred valley of the incas. It was very cheap at 25 soles! We boarded the bus at about 9am (ish.... mañana mañana!.... but of course !!!)

We sat next to a slightly eccentric old guy, called Robin, who was an avid bird watcher and only on the trip to spot condors! He was an interesting guy, especially after just spending 2 weeks in the jungle!

Our first stop was supposed to be Pisac for the colourful huge market but we stopped at a smaller market (supposedly less touristy) first!

Pisac was a massive market and pretty impressive, we only had 40 minutes so we rushed straight to the middle and made our way back. Managed to get a few purchases in and a lovely cheesy empanada!

Next stop, the ruined citadel. It was a bit of a climb but the sight of the huge terraces set against huge mountains made it worth it! We all followed our guide who waved the peruvian flag high above his head to show us the way ha ha (I know.... quite embarassing!!!)

The main Temple del Sol (sun temple) was relatively small but set high on the mountain giving great views of the sacred valley and the sacred river!

To get a photo at the smaller lower site of ruins I ran down 100 steps, Alan took a photo and I ran back up...... completely knackered......... altitude!!!!

One of our fellow passengers cut his hand on a cactus (quite hard to actually do) and winged about it all the time to the next stop (lunch) and then all the way through lunch untill (and only after lunch ofcourse) he decided to go to the medical centre!!! I looked more likely that Cusco was going to be one of "those" places with "those" sort of people !!!!

Lunch was at a place called Urubamba. It was at a total gringo (with gringo prices) restuarant and was buffet style! Alan and myself took one look inside and thought f*** this and went across the road. Our meal was expensive.... but very nice and not a drop of a cold buffet with Salmonella laden salad anywhere :) !!!

Ollantaytambo next, a really nice place although it was ram packed with tourists. The whole town was surrounded by the ruins!

Climbing up the solid stone terraces we saw amazing views of the town and valley. We could also see the mountain of Rio Patacancha which had a huge incan sculpture of Wiracochan (the main incan god) facing towards Machu Picchu. Apparently during the winter solstice the sun rises and shines just under the face of Wiraccochan!

We walked around the terraces on a narrow path (following the peruvian flag ofcourse) and down to the incan baths before it was time to go!! Time to go..... we had only seen one quarter of the site and were quite gutted!! We would have to return!

Next stop... Chinchero (village of the rainbow). Surprise surprise we headed straight for the market, which was on the original incan market site! Colourfull market but we were only interested in the ruins! Built on top of the ruins was a 17th century church.

Our guide gave us 30 minutes to look around, forgetting to remind us of the quite large ruins just around the corner........ with a carved stone throne! Alan, Robin and myself went exploring on our own and found a very interesting stone rock in the middle of a field with secret stairs up to the top and a carved throne!

The light was dim and so it was time to head back to Cusco! It was a little rushed but for 25 soles you couldn´t go wrong...... even if Robin never saw his condors!!!

Posted by stephyd 11:11 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Inca Trail........ Part II

Dead Womans Pass..... or would she ???

sunny 20 °C
View Around the World on Taffski's travel map.

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We were awoken to a tap tap on the Tent door, which was also accompanied by a cup of piping hot Coca tea.

A nice touch and more than made up for the 5am wake up call!

Our backpacks were packed and we headed for Breakfast whilst the porters packed away our tents..... which was an entirely new experience... Luxury or what !

It was a lovely morning and the weather seemed to have changed for the time being from yesterdays downpours.

We got some Maize porridge (which was surprisingly good although it was easier to drink it than spoon feed yourself it), the obligatory bread & Jam and Pancakes.... WHAT ???

Yep.... feckin Pancakes !

First time I´d had pancakes whilst camping that´s for sure ! They were warm and nice too which made it all the better !

Then it got better........... How ???

We got a goody bag each !

WOW !!!

We got a carton of juice, an apple (unbruised which was something!), a chocolate buscuit thingy and some coca sweets !

OK.... so you get some shitty things happen to you by not paying for the most expensive trip... however.... the cheaper ones also manage to treat you every once in a while (which was nice!)

We headed off at 6:30am sharp with Jackie and Clare rejuvenated and leading the way with Steph an I close on their heels and Hernan... well... somewhere behind us ?? Not too sure where though !

We soon hit the Uphill section of the Trek !

We´d been warned about Day 2 being a stiff ascent, however, it was about 8:30am already and the sun was baking us as we trapsed up the trail.

It was funny (well... sort of with Heinsight!) as we struggled with the steepness of the ascent combined with the altitude issues associated with breathing. However, you were intermittantly reminded that it could always be worse....

As a Porter Loaded down with a 30 Kilo Backpack trapsed past you!

Brought you down to earth anyway as our packs (assuming you had a large one that was) weighed anything from 2 to 10 kilos at most! even with our sleeping bags and sleeping mats)

Jackie started to feel the effects of the Altitude and the walking a bit later on up the hills. Fair enough I suppose as this isn´t a trail for the un fit (as we were finding out !!!)

Some of the Israeli Guys had decided to bring virtually their entire backpacks with them and hence had packs weighing (I reckon) maybe up to about 20 Kilos !!! And they knew it !!

Injuries were starting to Surface and one of the Israeli Girls decided to hire a porter for the remainder of the hike up to Dead Womans pass.

As we pointed out to her.... better to pay a little extra and get there than not to get there at all !!!

The Israeli Guys weren´t having any of it though and struggled on upwards!

Steph and Jackie decided to swap bags as Jackie was struggling.

We finally arrived at what we thought was the summit...... it was a flat piece of land called Llulluchampa, however, after a brief restbite and buying some more water (which incidentally was getting more expensive the further up the trek you got) Hernan informed us that the hardest section was yet to come and that it was another 2 hours or so walking to reach "Dead Womans Pass"

Jackie Revelled at this (both the time remaining and the name of the pass!)

It was steep going and Jackie and I took our time getting up by taking regular breathers every 50 or so steps.

Steph and Clare headed off ahead, whilst I held back with Jackie.

It was a lovely walk (apart from the altitude, steepness and the trek itself) and the views back down the valley were amazing. It sort of gave you hope that you´d eventually get to the Pass and have a rest......

Eventually..... we made it.

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Jackie and I were down to having a break every 20 steps or so (which was quite slow I know) however, we all made it and had a photo with the lot of us when the poor Israeli guys and their full backpacks stumbled to the summit also !

We were at Warmiwanusca. It was the highest point of the trek at 4,200 metres and boy did we know it !

After some biscuits and some backslapping we headed downhill towards our camp. It was at 3,800 metres and having held back to ensure Jackie was safely up the hill earlier, I hammered it downhill on my own ahead of the others.

Late lunch was had at camp and then we had the remainder of the afternoon to relax and chill out (or recover as we called it!)

It had taken it toll on some of the guys though and knee injuries and back injuries were sprouting up amongst the whole group.

That night the Israelis lit another candle before we had our supper (chicken and rice) and we hit our sacks early.

It was a cold night !!!

Steph had managed to swindle my sleeping bag (which is warmer than hers) and so at 5am when our Coca Tea arrived.... I had already been half awake waiting for some warmth to relieve my frozen toes and fingers !!!

The same routine again was followed this morning, and we headed out after brekkie about an hour after getting up.

It was however, only a half hour (albeit steep) ascent to the ruins of Runkuraqay.

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The Ruins themselves were covered by mist and so the whole vista was somewhat mystical in appearence.

The Mountain side fort was only a small site, however, was presumed to have been used as a staging area for the inca runners (or messangers) that used to traverse the trek daily passing goods, produce and messages along it´s length.

They covered up to 14 km each if the land was flat and 10 kms if the land was undulating. The messages were passed from one to another at each check point and this meant a message could get from Cusco to Machu Pichu in less than a day...... which is no mean feat these days either !!!! :)

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Half an hour later, we´d reached the summit of yet another "Andean Flat" (i.e. It´s Not FLAT !!!)

Here we headed downhill after a quick buscuit break and towards the Citidel of Sayacamarca Perched on the hillside in the distance.

The Ruins were a Military base and where the Soldiers were based primarily (like an Army barracks!)

Because of it´s locailty, the soldiers could easily reach either side of the sacred valley within a days walk to assist or act out whatever function they were required to perform.

We then continued walking until we reached the Sacrificial site of Phuyupata Marca.

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This was one of my favourite sites as you looked down onto the site as you approached it. Firstly it was in the shape of a heart with the two rounded ends heading towards Machu Picchu and the West. It also had some fountains and a Sacrificial Stone Platform at the side of the ruins. Here was where the Llama or Human Sacrifices would take place and the fountains running along side the Platform would run red with the sacrifical blood from it´s victims !

At the top of the platform the Priests would offer whatever it was they had (normally the Hearts of their frshly sacrificed victims held aloft as an offering) to the Mountain Gods... all of which were clearly visible in the distance !

An Intersting place indeed !

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Hernan had explained most of this to us in Spanish (just Steph and me as Clare and Jackie had decided to carry on ahead and not bother listening to Hernans Pigeon English account of the site.... Unlucky Them !)

Anyway, from here on was the step Section we´d heard about. The route roughly consisted of 3000 steps heading downwards towards our camp site for the night.

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The Steps were cuite steep and luckily for us it wasn´t raining as they were pretty slippery when dry, never mind wet!

Steph an I soon reached a fork in the path and decided to head up to Winawayna as opposed to heading down directly to the camp site.

This was a great decision as there was hardly noone else at the site and it looked pretty much as it had been for the past 400 years or so. Plants still crept up it´s walls and the buildings still looked like it was the first time someone had looked on them for a few millennia.....or so it seemed anyway :)

I loved it !

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We climbed up the steps to the top of the terraces and then headed back down having sat and scanned the surrounding mountains and the Machu Picchu Valley and it´s associated train down below us !

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We then headed back to the camp site and srrived just in time for tea.

The camp site was different in that there was a shop that sold beers and also somewhere to have showers!!!!

This was luxury and Steph and I had a shower and a beer before we had a posh tea on a big table in the camp site.

It was buffet style and very nice and afterwards we had a formal (and dead cheesy I thought) "ceremony" where we passed over our "tips" to the porters.

I hated this bit and wasn´t too enamoured when we were asked to say something again......

Luckily one of the Israeli guys stepped up to the challenge and gave a thanks on all our behalfs!

We hit the sack after a few more beers (nothing compared to some of the other groups though who partied until the early hours of the morning !!!)

Our decision was rewarded the following morning, when, whilst it was still dark we were awoken with our customary Coca tea.... at 4am !!!!

Today was the Final walk and we were all queued up by the entrance gate to Machu Picchu at 5am (which is when it opened!)

It was now a race to the Sun gate..... or so it seemed for most of the people on the Trek.....

Steph and I on the other hand continued to take pictures of the views and the Plants etc. as we sauntered up to the Sun gate with Jackie and Clare.

It was especially rewarding when we saw all those that had shoved and ruched past us earlier down the path sat at the sun gate...... except there was no sun !!!!

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Sunrise seemed to have been postponed today and the mist seemed to have blocked out the view down to MAchu Pichu !!! All that rushing for nothing it seemed :)

Steph, Jackie, clare and I all sat down and laughed as the other groups all then filed down the remainder of the path towards Machu Pichu ready for the mist to rise.

Our guides didn´t seem too fussed at our Lack of a view anyway !

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The mist did rise... eventually.... however we´d already walked down to the site (where we could see nothing) and gone to the Entrance gate to get our tickets stamped (which was a requirement... and seemed specially strange since we´d already entered the park once !!!)

Anyway, Hernan then sprung it on us that he was leaving us there and we were to join the Isrealis and the Brazilian and Korean´s guide for the tour of Machu Pichu....... hmmmmmmmm

So Hernan´s tip suddenly got smaller as we shaked hands and he headed off back to Cusco... early !

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The Other Guide was alright anyway, and his English was a little better than Hernans so maybe it wasn´t such a bad thing after all.

The tour itself turned out to be a pretty much "formal affair"

Whereas, we were taken to Point A

Given a 3 minute talk on Point A

Moved to Point B

Given a 3 minute talk on Point B

Asked if we had any questions...... which invariable couldn´t be answered.

Move onto Point C.....

baaaaaaaaa

Or so it felt !

Such a dissapointment, however, Luckily Machu Pichu Itself came to our rescue and the Site Purely from a Size and Visual point of view more than lived up to it´s Newly adorned title of one of the "UNESCO Seven Wonders of the New World"

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We headed to the Sun Temple.

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We then headed to the Three Windows.

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From here to the Sacred Rock where we got a group picture !

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We were also reliably informed that we weren´t allowed to touch it ???)

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What ???

It´s a feckin Rock I thought !!!!

Stupid Rules !!! This was to be the start of our run in with Machu Pichu regulations and those that upheld them it turned out!!!

So of course... stone was touched !!!

I was told off and allowed to continue on my way.... However... had I received the Stones Energy and was Stronger and more spiritual as was supposed to happen.....

What do you think !!!!

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That´s one thing you´ll find about these sorts of places.... and not Just Machu Pichu..... the Pyramids, Uluru etc. etc.

Some New Age Hippies always seem to cling onto the fact that the site is "Special" and as such... only the "initiated" i.e. those that choose to think like an Idiot can achieve a higher state of Consciousness and as such tap into the "Power of the Rock "

ARRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!

I hate these people and funnily enough (me being a closed persona ) didn´t manage to tap into the "power" of the Rock !!!! Damn !!! And to think I used to think I was the Messiah reborn and "special"!!!!

Damn !!!

Ah well......

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After visiting a few more sections of the Ruins (which were magnificent.... as Ruins !!!) We were invited to walk around the site until we then headed down to Aguas Calientes on the bus where we could pick up our rail tickets back to Cusco... via a bus journey also !

Firstly we headed straight back to the "Sacred Rock".......

"Stop !!!!"

What....

we (or rather I) was informed that the Whole site was indeed a "One Way" system .... which meant you weren´t allowed to double back on yourself !!!

Feckin Shite Rules !!!

We walked ahead and around as to back on ourselves and made it to the Viewing Spot overlooking the Site where we´d been realier in the day.

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Anyway, everyone immediately ran off in the direction of Huaynu Picchu... the Rock Behind the ruins in the "classic" picture of the site! We decided to head for the viewing spot at the start of the site....

It was time for the Welsh Flag Shot !

Steph got the Camera ready and I got the Flag out...

Snap...Snap.....

"STOP !!!!"

What ???

"You can´t take a picture with a Flag in it.... in fact Flags are not allowed here !!!"

What the F*** ???

"What about feckin Animals ???"

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"If you don´t remove your flag then you´ll be escorted from the site!!"

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Luckily we´d managed to get off two shots before the "Security" had so nicely informed us that you weren´t allowed to take pictures with a flag at the site !!!

Who the feck comes up with these damn rules I thought !!!

We managed to smuggle in a quick shot of the car too whilst we were there..... no security issues there though !!!

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Anyway, Steph and I had been told that Apu Machu Picchu (Machu Picchu Mountain) was a better walk and gave you a different perspective of the site.

This we did... well.... we walked two thirds of the way up and then decided we´d head back down and (minus all the crowds from before) would climb up Huaynu Picchu Also !

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This was no mean feat I have to say as both walks are quite tiring !

I was absolutely shattered by the time we reached the Top of Huaynu Picchu, however, we were rewarded by being two of only four others at the Summit and also by watching a Condor Gliding in the Updrafts right next to us as we´d climbed up !!!

Brilliant !

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The View of Machu Picchu was different and gave you a better perspective of how big the site was as all the terraces that clung to the cliff sides surrounding the main site were more easily visible.

We headed back down, jumped on the bus and headed to Aguas Caliented (or Machu Picchu Pueblo) where we had a coke and a sandwich with the rest of the guys, before we headed back onto the train to Ullataytambo.

Here we got on a bus and before you knew it we were back in Cusco !!!!

What a trip !

It was eventful, beautiful, testing, and some times tedious, however it was well sowrht doing the Inca Trail purely to see all the ruins leading up to the Climax Machu Picchu.... which we both agree.... definately lived up to the Hype.

Posted by Taffski 09:29 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Arequipa and Torre Muerto

The second largest city in Peru and a day trip to one of the best archaelogical sites we´ve found so far!

sunny 22 °C
View Around the World on Taffski's travel map.

Arequipa

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We caught the night bus from Nasca and ended up in Arequipa at 8am the following morning. We got a taxi to the hostel and since it was early we hung around the hostel for a while and had some breakfast.

Arequipa itself was hot and the sun was shining. This was a nice and straight away we bumped into 2 Canadians that we´dmet in the Hostel in Quito.

We spent the rest of the day wondering around Arequipa as it was a lovely city and perfect for idylling the hours away on a hot afternoon.

We popped into one of the museums to see one of Arequipa´s claims to fame.... the Ice Maiden Juanita.

Her grave was found in 1995 at the top of Ampato Volcano at a height of 6,380 metres.

She was only 12 to 14 years old at the time of her death and she´d been sacrificed some 500 years earlier.

Since she was at the top of a mountain and the ice had covered most of her body, she is one of the best preserved mummies in the world.

The visit itself consisted of a short film where we got to see the actual moment she was discovered (which was cool) and then we got a guided tour around the museum looking at some of the artefacts also found at the top of the mountain. The cloth was particularly interesting as it looked almost new and like one of the shops outside had just popped one of their blankets etc. into the museum for the hell of it! However, this stuff was actually over 500 year old !

At the end of the museum tur we got to meet the lady herself.... face to face so to speak!

She was tiny !

That was perhaps the most striking thing you found about her when you saw her encased in her new Glass Box (as opposed to her ice box the previous 500 years!)

After we popped out with Geoff and Ainsley (the Canadians) for a Chifa (Chinese food.... which I loved!) It´s both cheap and good for you and, although Steph wasn´t overly impressed, they cooked it in the wok at the front of the restaurant... which is always a good sign!

We then popped for a few beers with a few other backpackers and having played pool in the token Irish bar in town hit our sacks!

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Today was Monestaria Catalina day!

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45 Soles (about 8 pounds!!!!!) just to get in to the place!!!

What..... ????

That´s perhaps the most we´ve had to spend whilst in Peru to get into a site! And this was a working Monestary.... not too sure where all the money was going !

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Anyway, having been co-erced into paying to go (reluctantly I have to add) by Steph we wondered in.

There wasn´t an English speaking guide available for about a hour (it was lunch time) so Steph and I popped to the lovely little restaurant at the centre of the Monestary and then returned to the entrance to see if there was a guide available.

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We met our guide (who was nice and spoke good English) and then we started our tour.

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We started at the Locuturios (where the Nuns could communicate with the outside world and themselves... god forbid!) Since there was about 200 nuns with about 300 servents in the place at it´s peak.... this could be a busy place!

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We learnt a lot about the way of life of the nuns and how they were pretty much self sufficient. Also how the rich and influential Arequipenians (people from Arequipa) would pay to get their daughters signed up to be a nun as they would be well educated up to the age of 15... where they could decided whether or not to continue with their cloistered lives ??? Easy choice I reckon.... however... each to their own !

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The place was made for Photgraphy!

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Honestly.... the light... the colours.... the shapes.... the buildings etc. etc. all added up to two hours of clicking around the place!

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The colours you can see in the pictures are not the original colours as it was originally all white. However, later on the colours were spruced up a bit and we´re left with a collection of vivid blues, whites, oranges etc. etc.

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We tipped our guide (well as she was good and only got paid from her tips!) and then headed off to catch up with Aisnley and Geoff over a few beers...... again!

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On our way out we wandered into the Art museum in the monestary. I found this place very interesting as (for a change) not all the work was of a similar ilk and based on the Classical Religious paintings from Europe and in fact some had adapted themselves to form a new style of painting called Arequipenian (similar to the Cusco school of artists) where the painters qould combine classical paintings or religious imagery and blend in older native themes based on the Inca or Ayamara faiths and beliefs.

I found this painting particularly interesting anyway.

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But not a late night tonight.... oh no..... Tommorrow was going to be a day of adventure !!!!!

Torre Muerto

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We got up about 7 and headed off the bus station for about 9am.

As we arrived we luckily were just in time to catch the bus to Corire...... the only 3 gringo´s on the bus we jumped on and it immediately sped off into the desert.

After 2 hours and watching the film "The Labyrinth" (with David Bowie.... sainging in Spanish though... very strange !!!) we arrive Corire.

It was a tiny little town... literally in the middle of nowhere and so since it was about lunch time we settled into an Almuerzo (lunch menu of the day) at the corner restaurant.

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It was perhaps the best Almuerzo we´d had in a long time.... as it was a Sunday and it was only 5 soles each ! The Lamb in the Stew actually had meat in it which made a big difference and since we were all once again.... the only 3 gringos inthe whole town and most of the town was in the same restaurant as us eating Almuerzo... we decided it was a good choice :)

We then got a taxi to the start of the walking trak up to the site of Torre Muerto.

With Hindsight... we should have got a taxi to the top of the site, however, it was a nice walk and so we started to walk in the hot sun! and how hot !!!

Remember.... Torre Muerto literally translates to Death Valley..... and it was a desert !!! Mad dogs and Englishwomen and all that :)

Anyway, we walked to the Entrance gate to the site and no one was in to let us pay our 3 soles entrance fee !

We headed up the hill having glanced briefly at the ancient map inside the entrance building to have a clue as to where we were supposed to be heading.

On the way we passed a small restaurant (come shack) and we had to take a picture of the washing line outside !!! Makes a change from Socks and pants anyway we thought :)

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about 45 minutes later and minus about 3 pints of sweat... we finally made it to the first of 3 viewing areas.

We all got excited as we scoured the white rocks sitting in the sand on the hillside....

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This ones´got an etching... we all ran over to look....

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And this one....

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And this one.....

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etc. etc. etc......

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In fact... there´s over 3000 seperate etchings and engravings scattered all over the site.

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And what made it better... since there was no guide... no gringos.... in fact...no other people at all at the entire site.... it felt rather special to us all !!! As if we were discovering these things for the first time ever !!!

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The engravings got better and better as we wondered through the site.

Humans.... LLamas.... Shapes... patterns.... snakes.... parrots..... Aliens ??? Yep Aliens...... this place was fascinating indeed !

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indeed.. the whole area is world renowned for it´s high UFO sighting ratio !!!

Interesting indeed...... ,)

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The engravings were on the White Volcanic Rocks... spewed out from a nearby (well relatively.... some 500 miles away) volcano some 300 years ago.

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The Engravings themselves are thought to come from numerous races and times ranging from 3000 to 100 years ago and from races such as the Wari... to the Ayamaras.

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After spending about 3 hours investigating only a fraction of the entire site... the sun had gotten the better of us and we decided to head back into town and catch our bus back to Arequipa.

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We arrived early and the bus was full until the 5:30 pm bus... so we got some juices and sat in the central square until it was time to leave.

As we leaft we had a great sunset and arrived in Arequipa some three hours later.

It had been a great and unexpected day and a day that since we´d tried to get and organised trip out to see the site (and failed as they don´t run them!) a sweet success as we´d managed to visit the oplace all on our own.... which is always the sweeter.... well I reckon so anyway !

We spent the next day just chilling in Arequipa in the lovely hot weather and bought a few christmas presents and the like... including some pottery work with a special pattern on it.....

you guessed it...... Some of the patterns from Torre Muerto !!

Posted by Taffski 17:34 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Nascar Lines

Some people rave about them.... some people skip them.... It was time we found out for ourselves what all the fuss was about!

sunny 25 °C
View Around the World on Taffski's travel map.

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We spent a whole 2 hours in Lima.... sat in the bus station as we´d left our bus from horrible Huaraz and waited our next bus down to Nascar.

It wasn't a long route and we decided to take the front seats on the upper floor so we could watch the desert skip by as we were travelling during the day (for a change!)

As we sat in the bus station in Lima we saw on the news that a bus had crashed the previous evening on the Lima to Nascar route and that a backpacker had gone missing at Colca Canyon !!! All in the same News !!! Were we in a hot part of the world or what ??!!!

As we left Lima we were stopped pretty soon on the road and a top ranking Police official and his accompanying TV and newspaper reporters all boarded the bus. We were then warned about the dangers of not wearing seatbelts in the front 8 seats (apparently a new law had recently been passed in Peru about wearting seat belts in the front 8 seats of the bus... and it was nothing to do with the crash on the very route the previous evening!..... but of course !!!)

We were checked to see if we were wearing our seatbelts, which we were of course having seen the news earlier, and we were once again on our way!!!!

Some 5 hours later, at midday, we arrived in Nascar.... sorry Nazca.... sorry.... Nasca ! (There's no Z in the Nasca Alphabet and it's not about racing cars! This is a common problem we found in Peru with people using the Z for places like Nazca and Cuzco..... however there´s no Z in the older languages!!!)

We scooted past the hoards of hawkers outside the bus station offering everything from Hot water in their hostel to hot ladies in the their hostel and headed to the Walk On Inn (which had good ratings on Hostelworld and hostelbookers.... the two web sites we use to find hostels.... much better and up to date than the guide books!)

It wasn't the best hostel we've stayed at, however, the owner seemed nice, eager, chatty and so we booked in for 2 nights.

The Hostel did however offer to arrange flights over the lines for a reasonable price and also we arranged an afternoon trip the following day to the Chauchilla Cemetary with a English Speaking Guide.

We were told to check out the options in terms of cost and having asked around a few agencies we found the hostels to be more than reasonable (if not the cheapest it would be accountable in some ways as we booked it through the hostel) and so we booked the following days excursions.

The town of Nasca was nice enough and having walked around during the afternoon it was easy to navigate around and seemed friendly enough without being "overly" touristy.... it was still touristy though !!!

After a nice evening meal we headed to bed early.... it was an 8am pickup for the lines the following day and Steph and I couldn't wait.... Me more so I reckon as the Nerd in me was a bit more excited than Steph..... I have to say !!!

I'd heard so much and read so much about the lines I was both excilarated to finally be going, whilst also a bit apprehensive in case they didn't live up to the hype.... most importantly of all.... my Hype !!!

We headed out at 8am after a quick breakfast at the hostel (who allowed us to have a more substantial breakfast also on our return which was nice!)

We arrived at the airport and sat down. It was sunny and clear (thank the makers!) and so we finally were called forward to the plane.

It was a small 6 seater cessna and stupidly (I thought) we boarded first. This meant we were at the back of the plane.... the seats were low and the windows looked small.... however..... once we got settled in we realised it was perhaps the best place to sit as we could see straight out of the window as opposed to seeing half the roof as the people in front of us could, and also between the two of us we could see both sides easily (And unlike the others our windows weren´t scratched either).... maybe not such a bad decision after all !!!! Thanks Steph X X

I got prepared with my camera and filters etc. as the Engine stuttered and we trundled down the runway. I wasn't going to miss anything on this 35 minute (we'd been promised) flight that was for sure!

It was a nice takeoff and the pilot had a pre allocated route around the nasca plains and above the mystical lines!

I was excited as we headed to our first set and left the Aerodroma Maria Reiche behind (a Famous German Scientist who spent her entire life... near enough... studying the lines!)

Our first image in the sands below was to be "The Whale".

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At first it was hard to see however, the pilot banked the plane hard over so that we were literally looking directly down onto the site which was great and from there on.... the manic camera clicking began!!! I was like a man possessed and clicked frantically with my full memory stick loading up with image after image.

The pilot was a fair guy and so having banked on the port side, he then turned around and banked on the starboard side to let the other side of the plane have a view. This was great for Steph and I as we both got to hang over the other one admiring the images below (And taking more pictures ... but of course!)

The Whale was a good start, however, for me, the next few sites were to provide to be the most fascinating both in terms of their sheer size, but more importantly their accuracy and their purpose !!!!

The Trapeziods and Pyramidal shapes that loomed up next in the distance seemed at first... unreal... surely these things weren't real???

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The ran for literally miles into the distance and the accuracy with which the Angles and their points and most impressivly the straightness of their lines was breathtaking!

I know.... I'm going all nerdy here... however... honestly these things were truely amazing! I still think they were brilliant now as I'm typing this and I also have a smile on my face as I recall the images... at first.... seemingly innocuous and archaic... however with a good second look ..... beautiful and carved into the sand of the massive Nasca plateau for a purpose???

but of course....

there had to be a purpose to these lines !!!! Didn´t there ???

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We then passed over the astronaught..... ??? a somewhat strange shape on the side of a hill that seemed to differ from those other lines on the plains below..... not regular and not uniform.... more rounded and modern.... I wondered about this one !!! You can make your own mind up... however... this is the one some people use to link the lines to UFO´s etc.....hmmmmmmm .... I´m not convinced??? I reckon the Trapezoids are a much better indication... however... we digress ;)

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We then moved onto the Monkey with it's spiralling Tail. Also noticable was the number of digits it had on each hand... interesting ??

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Then it was the turn of the Dog.....

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Then the Condor...... Notice the detail with it's talons clearly visible in the sand. However..... I've yet to see a condor with a head that is that shape ? Again another anomoly that I couldn't explain... and come to that, neither could Mrs Reiche!!!

There are a few formations on the desert floor that still baffled Mrs Reiche up to her deathbed... and to be honest.... that's perhaps the main beauty of this place.... much like a painting.... It was up to the common observer to see in the lines what he or she wanted... and I loved this !!! These was no Correct or Incorrect answer.... only suppositions !!! :)

Things that are still unexplainable still exist on this planet you know !!!

We've not got all the answers yet! Not even a know it all like me ;)

Anyway, Next came the Spider....

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and interesting one on accounts of it's elongated Hind leg... notice that the lines run off to the right in the pícture. Interestingly enough, there is a tarantula in the inner South American jungle some 600 miles away that actually has it's reproductive organs on it's Hind right leg!!!

Is this a drawing of this particular spider... and if so... why and more importantly.... how the heck did these "primative" people know about the damn thing ???

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Next we banked over the hummingbird. Clearly visible and one of the most beautiful sculptures in the sand below.

As we flew around the Nascar plains I noticed many other lines and marks in the sand. You had to look carefully though to spot them... intermingled with all the other lines and car tracks on the desert floor below.

Although these two sculptures were not pointed out to us.... I clicked and got pictures of them anyway.... The Pyramid.... which is not on any of the tourist maps etc. of the site... the accurancy of the image is what makes it so interesting... and the angles of the corners etc. while I´m still curious why it´s not on any of the maps of the site ???

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then came the concentric circles.... the Ying and Yang.... the Male and Female Union... the sun and moon..... (a theme which would reoccur again and again on our trip in South Amerrica) and you can see clearly where the middle of the two concentric circles intertwine and join in the middle... much like the Ying and Yang of Chinese symbology.....

Only one problem here though......

Nothing else in this whole region is similar.... at all !!!!!

Only the chinese (a few thousand miles over the water) have anything similar at all !!!! Maybe just coincidence ???

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Alcatraz was next, on our seemingly ever shortening tour, which to me seemed very strange indeed. The back of the image was clearly of a bird, however, it was more like a flamingo than anything else....since it's neck was long and twisted.

I pondered over why not a flamingo.. however... the nearest flamingoes were on Lake titikaka... some 2 thousand miles away !!! Hmmmmm...... Unless of course it was closer or larger or even the coast was closer some years in the past?

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Alcatraz it was then.... ???? Stupid name I thought !

The Parrot was another interesting site. The reason was that at first glance... yep, it looks like a parrots head.... however..... on closer inspection of the picture... you can clearly see two rings for the parrots Eyes..... So it's not a side on view of a parrot and to me looks more like a beetle or something similar...

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We then rolled around the observation platform.

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Now this place was interesting as you could see from the plane how the main road had been laid by the peruvian engineers.... directly over the site !!!

Great or what !!!

Luckily enough.... (I wouldn´t be surprised if this was totally by luck also) only a few metres away from the "Tree of life" and the "Hands" images.

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The Tree was nice, but the Hands were very interesting as they seemed to be far more abstract than any of the other sites on the plain and I pondered once again as to their meaning and what they actually were a picture of? Waving goodbye... hello.... waving at all.... and what form are they set on ???

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Suddenly, before I knew it.... we were touching down..... 25 minutes after we took off !!! Now the flight was only $50 and to be honest I loved every second of it..... however..... if anyone is going agaian... I can recommend only one thing......

Go Longer !!!!

Spend a little bit more money and spend a little longer flying over the site...

It truely is one of the best things I've seen and something that has lived up to the hype entirely and really made me question some of the reasoning and existance of places like this!

Don't worry..... I don't now believe in UFO's or anything.... however..... it does open up the questions..... Why, How, by who and for what ???

I loved the place !

Posted by Taffski 17:51 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Huaraz

Steph´s Favourite Place!!!!!!!!!!

all seasons in one day 20 °C

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Arriving in a big city early in the morning, with all your worldly belongings on your back, is always a little daunting... and here we were 6am trying to find a hostal that didn´t exist anymore! The taxi driver was good though and we ended up at a nice hostal called Jo´s Place, owned by an english guy and his peruvian wife!

After settling in to the hostal with breakfast and even an english paper (although all the best girly sections like horoscopes had been taken out) we wandered into the big smoke of Huaraz.

Many Peruanos called us gringo´s as we walked past........ thank you Peru, we almost forgot our pilly pally skin!!!! So first impressions of Huaraz were a little hostile. Welcome to the Gringo trail, Ecuadorians would never be so inpolite!

Later on we arranged a tour to visit the ruins of Chavin de Huantar for the next day and then headed for some food! The food was very nice!

The tour started at 9am, stopping only an hour into the journey at a small village for some ¨throwing your money away¨opportunity! We did buy some coca sweets, essential ofcourse ha ha!

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The minibus, which was full of Peruvians and a very quick spanish speaking guide, stopped at a very pretty lake with spectacular mountains behind. We also managed to get a great picture of a local woman in traditional dress!

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It was a very beautifull ride but long ride to the village of Chavin, with sheer drops over the mountains.... yikes!!! It had now started to cloud over a little which irritated us slightly and to put the cherry on the cake they ushered us into a touristica restuarant.... well ofcourse food first, whats more important.... the reason you are taking the trip or food!!??

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All chicken and riced up we eventually made it to the temple site of Chavin de Huantar, built around 800 to 400 BC. The actual site was very impressive with a massive ceremonial plaza, llamas grazing all over. The most exciting part though was the hidden passageways, although any engravings on the walls were very worn! Alan and myself wondered what the hidden pasageways were used for......... maybe they kept ferrocious pumas there or maybe they were an escape route!!!! Puma home sounds cool!

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The temple was cool but having our particular tour guide was a complete waste of time!!!! Speaking in spanish would be fine if she had taken a little time for us but she was very fast and very rude!!! We were made to feel stupid as we didn´t speak fluent spanish (at an incredibly fast pace) in the two months we had been in South America!!!!!

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The minibus took half the time to return to Huaraz (even though the driver had his 5 year old son sitting next to him... without a seatbelt). They also dropped us off in the centre, miles from our hostal, late at night without saying a word SO the temple was cool but the company was SHITE!

End of rant for now!

The next day we met some south africans (Anna, Mike and Nicola) that we had met in Huanchaco and decided to walk the Santa Cruz trek together. We decided it would be much better if we did the whole trek by ourselves which meant without donkeys or guides........ we didn´t need any of these!

Mark, an ozzie guy we had also met in Huanchaco, had decided to take a tour with a couple of other people he had met. The transport was the only thing we had to organise with a company and at the office we met marks fellow trekkers!!

The rest of the day was filled with buying food for the trek........ looking around the market, amongst the pigs and gunnea pigs that were strewn up to tempt us mmmmm!!

In the evening we all met up and decided to go to INKA PUB, a nasty restuarant where I decided farmed FRESH trout would be tasty. How stupid was I? I was seeing the remains of the fish all night long, come the morning I was very tired and still unwell.

Even though I still felt rough I decided what the hell and got on the minibus for the trek with Alan and our fellow trekkers!

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It was, again, a very long, beautifull yet bumpy ride (not the best when feeling like crap) to the entrance of Huascaran National Park (The Cordillera Blanca) where the entry fee was 65 soles! Then it was another one and a half hours, with narrow passages and sheer drops, to the start of the trek!

It was a fairly easy trek to our first camp although I felt bad and poor Alan had to carry my bag aswell as his own!!! The camp was next to a refugio where Alan asked about camping and a young male peruvian told him it was 5 soles to camp.... Anna and Nicola then went and he told them it was free hmmmm!

After setting up the tents we found out it was the wrong campsite.... I think I had got so excited about a short walk and the other guys felt sorry for me SO we decided to stay and accept that tomorrow was going to be a long day!

Surrounded by donkeys I had a siesta while Alan and the others played football with the locals! I woke up, threw up and managed to eat 2 beans and a mouthfull of mashed potato before leaving the others to talk about politics, religion and the meaning of life!!

It was a very early start, the tents were packed and we were on our way at 6am. With a little more energy we walked for 2 hours before having a rest and a bit of breakfast. I couldn´t really eat much again and felt ill, after debating with myself (and Alan) whether to carry on or turn back I carried on........ stubborn or stupid!!!!

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The path to the start of the real climb was a hard slog, Mike kindly took my bag while Alan got the short straw of staying with the girls and encouraging us. I had a little paddy fit but with Alans CAREFUL words of encouragement ha ha I carried on regardless!!!!

It was an even steeper slog to the laguna where we managed to blag the help of a donkey for the girls rucksacks for only 20 soles, unfortunately for Alan he still had his!

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The final climb was very very hard, we had a little system going where we counted 100 steps and stopped for 1 minute, every ten stops we had a 2 minute break!!

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Just as I was taking my last break with Alan we were very lucky to see a Chinchilla......... sunbathing in the sun......... that was my reward.

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The best reward though was the spectacular view at Punta Union, at 4780m, of the Mountain Taulliraju! It was clear, we were lucky with no rain!!!

Alan managed to get his "Flag Shot" to celebrate our conquering of the pass and then we headed on down!

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After a cup of soup at the top it was a steep descent (a lot easier) to the camp that was at the end of the never ending valley!

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Marks group were already there and Mark brought us some popcorn over as we set up our tents... sweet!

That night we had pasta and sauce (a staple campers diet ha ha) and for the first time I wolfed it down yummo!

The next morning was a nice relaxed start as we had a nice, easy, mostly down hill 18kms. We left at 9am! The first 2 hours were relatively easy although we did have the wind against us. We stopped briefly to watch two local farmers trying to capture a cow and her calf with two unruly dogs.... it took them a while but they managed in the end. We followed them onwards, down into the valley!

We arrived at the campsite in good time so we decided to carry on and try and make it to the very end. The walk was all downhill, the sun was shining and the views were great. There was also a tarantula on the path... yikes!!

Cashapampa (the end of the trek) came into view at around 4pm and we found Marks group setting up camp in the village! Apparently yesterday they saw a dead donkey so one of guys (an english actor) carried all his gear in respect for the donkeys...... bless!

We caught a taxi to Caraz where we caught a collectivo (a local bus the size of a minibus that stops every minute and fits about 50 people into a 14 seater). It was quite a expereience but we made it all in one piece back to Huaraz!!!

The next day we were very tired and (due to being ill on the trek) I spent most of the day in bed!!!!! For a couple of days we didn´t do much at all and just recovered! We put some clothes in for washing, the following day they returned the washing minus two of my tops and a bra....... three bloody items........ typical huaraz! I did everything I could to get them back but they were gone! I am a backpacker and three items of clothing is half my backpack ha ha!!!

So huaraz was an experience, gringo calling, food poisoning and lost clothes........... Peru and the gringo trail could only get better!!!!!!!

Posted by stephyd 14:45 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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