Category: Travel


A Vague Feeling

I decided coffee first...

I decided coffee first…

Yes, I woke this morning… several times actually, but when I finally woke, I had a vague feeling it was Friday. I couldn’t be certain, but it was just a niggling feeling. Quite annoying actually. I didn’t really know what to do first; put my pants on, make coffee, read my emails or pee. Ah, priorities…

I was told once that you determine old age when a fellow stands in front of the urinal, unbuttons his shirt and pees…

Personally, I believe it is when you forget how to ride the bike…

today-is-international-beer-day-284x284This morning I discovered it was International Beer Day. Then I saw the date on the post, 2nd August… I missed it.

Then it occurred to me, why do we need a day to celebrate something we do every day?

We do have some ridiculous celebrations.

I see the world is a better place… Westboro Church founder has gone to his reward, I just hope it’s full of little gay devils.

IEdownloadsI got invited by Yahoo to upgrade to IE11. How ridiculous! If Yahoo was so bloody smart it would know that I am using FireFox, and therefore couldn’t give a constipated about IE which is a load of crap.

I can’t believe people actually use this crap. But then I used it to downlaod FireFox… LOL

I have begun sorting out and filing photos that I took years ago, then lost them on a bad hard drive, then recovered.

One of them bought back fond memories of food and girls.

cabaña

This quaint cabaña is one of many by the Rio Piray near Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. I used to frequent these cabañas on the weekend, they served cold beer and local food. An added attraction was that I had two girlfriends (not at the same time) who lived there.

This is not the photo that inspired me but another, you’ll have to visit Things that Fizz & Stuff for the rest of the story.

Another photo that I discovered was taken in Cabanaconde in the Colca Canyon Valley, Peru. I took it on a frosty early morning stroll.

calf2

Just a calf looking over the fence at me.

Now it’s time for a nap.

Later.

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Sunday Travel Tales

Time for the truth.

BookCovModRedStrawberry Jam, Bread Rolls and Pisco Sours was a story written by me for an English language grammar book.

It was a project that I began in 2003, but lost the file through a crook HD. I duly recovered the file and almost finished the job, when a second HD crash caused its loss again.

I recovered it for a second time, but sadly it was an uncorrected version and while I have been posting chapters for your edification and entertainment, I have also been using the exercise to correct the grammar errors, sort of proof reading.

While the story has been written in the first person with me as a tourist and all the adventures related did happen, but they were not all the product of one trip.

You see, I was a tourist guide, and I did the trip many times with tourists from all over the world. I just added all the juicy bits into one story about one trip. I left out the grammar for you, it’s heavy grammar, and I didn’t want to check your homework.

The last chapter is rather mundane, about the flight to Lima from Puerto Maldonado and the end of the trip. Yes, our arrival at the same hotel we departed from, we were met with the customary pisco sours.

At the end of each 21-day trip, I got seven days off before the next one. I would usually spend my time and go down to Pisco or Nazca and relax by the beach or the pool for five days drinking beer, not wanting to see another pisco sour.

Now, I must go back through my posts, because I am not so sure that I included the first two chapters; if I didn’t then I will post them over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday Travel Tales

Strawberry Jam, Bread Rolls and Pisco Sours

Chapter 14 – The Jungle

A short flight over the jungle and we were in Puerto Maldonado. As we got off the plane, the jungle humidity hit us at once, we began to sweat before reaching the bottom step from the plane. Across the tarmac and into an equally humid terminal. First we entered the queue for vaccination against yellow fever, if you had a certificate (luckily I did) you didn’t need one, then we met our guide for the next part of the trip.

The Tambopata River - image: AV

The Tambopata River – image: AV

First it was to their agency to leave our baggage, for we only needed enough for two nights, and it was senseless to cart all our baggage into the jungle unnecessarily. So it was with a much lightened cargo we were off to the riverfront and after negotiating a narrow wooden plank that was balanced precariously from the muddy riverbank to the boat, we were safely aboard a long motorboat for the four and a half hour trip up river.

We travelled on the Tambopata River, the trip seemed endless. In places the river was wide, in others narrow, sand banks and floating logs were ever present and our driver skillfully steered us between them and kept us from harm.

Lots of cayman on the riverbanks - image: AV

Lots of cayman on the riverbanks – image: AV

Produce headed for town - image: AV

Produce headed for town – image: AV

All along the river we passed small riverside communities, mothers washing clothes in the muddy waters, children playing and diving beside her. Small boats laden with produce heading for town and the markets. And so the scenes continued to repeat themselves until we arrived at the Ranger Station and all sign into the Tambopata Nature Reserve. From here it was only a matter of another quarter hour and we would be at the lodge.

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First view of the Lodge - image: AV

First view of the Lodge – image: AV

From the river we trekked twenty minutes to the lodge and were ushered into the bar for our welcome.

Our first surprise was a small ocelot kitten watching us warily from the rafters. Its big round eyes observing every move. It’s mother had been killed by poachers for her valuable skin and the kitten abandoned to be rescued as a malnutritioned orphan by the lodge guides.

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The ocelot kitten, as big as a house cat in the rafters watching the proceedings - image: AV

The ocelot kitten, as big as a house cat in the rafters watching the proceedings – image: AV

Our chalets - image: AV

Our chalets – image: AV

Rooms allotted, we went to our chalets to freshen up before lunch. A very welcome cold shower and change of clothes from those we had travelled in. Then, what else was to do, back to the bar. And guess what? We didn’t get a complimentary pisco sour.

Lunch was quite an elaborate affair, considering that we were in the jungle, but these people were quite obviously used to having tourists with healthy appetites around and they catered to them very well. We left the dining lodge well stuffed.

One of the lizards I spotted in the afternoon - image: AV

One of the lizards I spotted in the afternoon – image: AV

We had the afternoon free, there were several marked walking tracks that led from the lodge by a circular route and back. We had time to manage any two of them, so that’s what I did, I managed two of them. It was quite enchanting to walk alone in the jungle, albeit on a formed track. Animal and bird life abounded, monkeys watching discreetly from the trees, vultures flying over head, macaws and various parrots made their ways across the clearings screeching like wounded banshees, giant iguanas scuttled across the trail in fright, more afraid of me than I was of them. So the lone treks were well worth the effort. Tomorrow we would be taken further afield on a longer trek by a naturalist guide. My arrival back at the lodge was nicely timed as several of my companions who had been exploring other trails also arrived. We agreed that after a shower and another freshen up, the bar was the next attraction before dinner.

Once again, we were well fed. Those who wanted were taken on a night trek, to see more of the local inhabitants. It seemed a long way to come and just sit in a bar, even if we were accompanied by a friendly ocelot kitten who walked along the bar accepting friendly hands. So I went along. We didn’t see that much, but the experience of being in the jungle in the dark with only a torch between you and total blindness was unique.

Trantulas - image: www.gfkovach.net

Trantulas – image: www.gfkovach.net

The next morning we were again led on a trek after breakfast. We were introduced to tarantula spiders, great hairy beasts that scared the willies out of the girls and the bravest of us held in our hands having been assured by the guide that they were harmless. They certainly didn’t look harmless, but nevertheless I swallowed my apprehension and briefly played host to a gladly inert hairball for several breathtaking moments, thus proving my manhood, or my stupidity, I haven’t decided yet which.

During the walk we saw parrots, parakeets and macaws by the dozen. The guide named them all, but the names were lost in their sheer numbers. I had long decided there were red and blue ones, green ones and green ones with red heads. Toucans and vultures were present and we saw herons and egrets. There were lizards, which were an acceptable size and iguanas that left doubts.

After our hair-raising experiences with the tarantulas, we were back at the lodge in time for lunch. After lunch, the guides showed us some of the more local inhabitants, the animals that could be found around the complex. Giant inch and a bit long ants that could inflict nasty bites, small snakes, lizards that had a green front end and a brown back end and bobbed their heads up and own as though they were agreeing with you, along with other curiosities like furry caterpillars, and equally coloured butterflies were among the offerings. Also we were treated to a small talk on the local ecology and the animals that we didn’t see.

After which, it was beer o’clock again, so we went to the bar to pay homage to the hour. Dinner time came and went and it was back to the bar, but we had a three o’clock departure to get the morning flight back to Cusco, so the bar session was brief

Back at the airport, pax off, pax on and away

Back at the airport, pax off, pax on and away

We left in the dark, down river, the trip was a little faster. We had one scary moment when the driver had to swerve violently to avoid a submerged log that could have sent us swimming. After dawn we saw the same communities, people fishing and travelling on the river that we had seen on the outward journey.

We had time for a second breakfast in Puerto Maldonado, collected our left luggage from the agency and taken to the airport. Our flight landed and we duly checked in and boarded.

Sunday Travel Tales

Chapter 13 – Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

 

A five o’clock start, early calls for everyone. It’s a good thing we didn’t have a late night at Rosie O’Grady’s. Breadrolls and strawberry jam for an early breakfast, then it was bags downstairs and into the bus for our next trip.

 

Today we were off to the Sacred Valley, the first part of our journey to Machu Picchu. 6:30am, yawns and bags into the bus and we got underway. The city seemed strangely quiet at this hour. We briefly visited some archaelogical sites like Qenqo, and Tambu Machay and Puku Pukara on the way to Pisac, the first town in the valley.

 

atambo-machay

Tambo Machay fountains

Both Qenqo and Puka Pukara were pretty much run-of-the-mill archaeological sites, they were “ho hum” interesting. Tambo Machay, was where the action was. The action consisted of two spouts of water flowing from an Inca wall. They were ceremonial spouts and to put one’s hand under the water of the appropriate male or female spout one was assured of success in love. Okay, now we would all have successful love lives and we were again on the way to Pisac.

 

Pisac ruins looking down at Pisac - image: AV

Pisac ruins looking down at Pisac – image: AV

The attraction of Pisac is the “Sunday Market”, but today wasn’t Sunday. However we were assured that the market exists on other days too, although not as grand and less tourists, so more freedom. First we were taken to see the Pisac ruins, and after a strenuous downhill scramble we would get to Pisac. The ruins were high above the town. We were afforded a grand view of the Urumbamba Valley and river, as well as seeing some of the best preserved ruins in the area.

 

Pisac market

Pisac market

The descent to Pisac was, as promised, strenuous. We arrived in the Plaza exhausted, ready to sit and relax. Coca tea and fizzy drinks were welcome. We still had about 45 minutes to explore the market, which covered the entire plaza. We were left wondering if this was a small market, what must the one on Sundays be like? Stalls made from blue tarpaulins were every where, offering souvenirs. Alpaca jerseys, Alpaca wool wall-hangings with beautiful pictures, statuettes of everyday life and erotica (apparently even the Inca must have appreciated this aspect of life) were among the offerings.

 

aTerracesOllanta

The terraces at Ollantaytambo – image: AV

After testing our powers of bargaining we were off once again, this time to the town of Ollaytaytambo at the head of the valley, with more ruins to explore and the prospect of lunch. Again were were assaulted by people selling everything as we made our way through the township and into the ruins where again, our tourist tickets were punched like a bus-conductor. As groups or singly we explored the famous terraces of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo was famous as the last stronghold  and stand of Manco Inca against the  Hernando Pizarro’s Spanish conquistadors in 1536. So we were privileged to be at the last place on Earth where the Inca existed as a civilisation

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Kids playing

Kids playing in the princess bath – image:AV

Besides the terraces there is also the smaller site below known as Inca Misanca, which has the Baño de la Ñusta, the “princess’ bath”. The lesser site is rather better preserved and today the bath is the playground of the many children who visit, a somewhat ignoble end to a noble beginning.

 

After our individual explorations, lunch, and then off to the train station. We had to get the train from here to Aguas Calientes. The train was due to arrive at 3pm from Cusco. Our travel agency had bought the tickets from Cusco in the morning, so we were guaranteed of seats. Most tourists tour the Sacred Valley on one day and catch the train from Cusco to Aguas the next, our company combined the two events to save time and an unnecessary trip back to Cusco. At the station we waited amongst the locals who were waiting for the same train. This was the local train, not the tourist railcar which would have whisked through here much earlier in the day without stopping. This was the train that served local communities from Cusco to Quillabamba much further along the tracks.

 

The train arrives at Aguas Calientes

The train arrives at Aguas Calientes – image: AV

The train arrived, along with the commotion, people disembarking, people (including us) embarking, all through the same doors at the same time with much pushing and shoving.

 

Again we found our seats occupied by locals, this time, however, we didn’t make such a fuss, we accepted places dotted about the carriage and left the invaders in peace; we were becoming culturally accustomed. For the rest of the journey we looked at the scenery going past our windows. It was interesting to note that the vegetation changed, from Altiplano to more tropical types. Something that people aren’t generally aware of, knowing that Machu Picchu is also a mountain, people expect to go up to Machu Picchu, in fact, Machu Picchu is down, at only 1,800m a.s.l. We passed many small villages, kids waiting for the train, we stopped briefly at some stations until we found ourselves in the deep gorge of the Urumabmba River and chugging to a stop at Aguas Calientes. Our signal to get off. We did, amongst tourists with backpacks and locals, all pushing and shoving in every direction again.

 

The steep main street in Aguas Calientes - image: AV

The steep main street in Aguas Calientes – image: AV

We were pleased to be out of the station and found ourselves in a small plaza, a neat fairly modern church and our guide led us off to our lodgings. The street wasn’t a street in the general sense of the word. It was a series of steep steps and slippery concrete slopes up the hillside, we seemed to be going up and up forever with our bags. Finally we reached our hotel, it was with a collective sigh of relief that we dropped our bags where we stood sweating in the humid atmosphere.

 

We were in the entrance to the hotel, it served also as the lobby, reception and in the morning we discovered also the dining room. It was a quaint place, colourful with lots of plants in the central courtyard off which were our rooms. We settled in quickly and gathered again in the lobby-reception-dining room were we met our guide for the next day when we were to explore Machu Picchu and to dutifully receive our complimentary pisco sours.

The colourful hostel  - image: AV

The colourful hostel – image: AV

Tomorrow was to be an early start, we were to catch the first tourist bus, which left at 6:30am, up the mountain. That meant we had to be up and watered and down at the bus stop before then. Hmmmm, an early night was called for. It was already 6pm, time to explore a little and have dinner. There were hot pools at the top of the street, so I opted for those to relax. After it was group time for pizza, and more complimentary pisco sours, a local band entertained us with music from the Altiplano played on a variety of panpipes with guitar and native drums in accompaniment, followed by our early night.

 

We yawned collectively over our breadrolls and strawberry jam at 5:30 in the morning. We also enjoyed a lot of fresh fruit, paw paw (papaya) and watermelon, lots of fruit juice too and for the first time on our trip we had cereal with milk. Then it was day packs on our shoulders and off downhill for the bus.

 

A lone llama in the mist at Machu Picchu  - image: AV

A lone llama in the mist at Machu Picchu – image: AV

Once aboard our guide started his story of Machu Picchu and how it was only discovered in 1911 by Hiram Brigham, along the road with the steep sides of the gorge on one side and the Urubamba river some 30m below flowing furiously through the narrows on the other. Across the river and up the zig-zag road that took us to the top. We were surprised to find a five-star hotel up there. One look inside the lobby, which didn’t double as a dining room, told us why we were staying at the hotel in Aguas Calientes, very plush. Nilo, our guide, came and distributed our entrance tickets and we were off in the crisp morning air. It was still very foggy, which added to the mystique, as we climbed among the ruins, pausing for Nilo’s commentaries. We were the first group of tourists in the place, the people who had hiked the Inca Trail would just be coming across the last pass at this hour to descend into Machu Picchu. So we were privileged to be able to take photos without the presence of lots of people to detract from the essence of our visit.

 

The ruins at Machu Picchu  - image: AV

The ruins at Machu Picchu – image: AV

We walked, we climbed, we paused to rest and listen in this once land of the Inca. The mist and fog cleared and the day became bright and sunny, and the walking hotter and sweatier as we marveled at the once lost community and tried to imagine what Machu Picchu must have been like in its heyday. Some of the structures were massive, others were more modest and had obviously been the living areas. There was an ever present evidence that Machu Picchu was primarily ceremonial. Water courses and aqueducts ran through the place, little waterfalls and spouts making picturesque interludes. Machu Picchu was truly the marvel we had been promised, it was everything that had been written about it.

 

Fountains in the ruins  - image: AV

Fountains in the ruins – image: AV

The day wore on, and after being in the ruins for four hours in the now hot hot sun it was time to return to Aguas Calientes. I elected to walk down the hill and back to Aguas, so I set off alone. The others, who were not quite so adventurous waited for the bus at midday.

 

After descending down, sometimes inelegantly for the way was scree, the track that cut the zig-zags and crossing the bridge, I found myself alone in the solitude of the gorge. The steep rock sides rose far above me, dwarfing me, and the feeling of being an insignificant part of the natural order of the world was so overpowering as the river ran wildly on my right far below. It was an eerie feeling, one that I had never before known.

 

After lunch, it was back to the station to get the train back to Cusco, we arrived at 9pm, back to the hotel, dinner and bed. For tomorrow was another adventure, we were flying to Puerto Maldonado and off into the jungle.

Sunday Travel Tales

The contuing story of Strawberry Jam, Bread Rolls and Pisco Sours

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Chapter 12 – Cusco

Tarim zig-zagging up the hill - image: AV

Train zig-zagging up the hill – image: AV

After a cool night snuggled safely under heavy blankets we woke to bright sunshine. At breakfast, our treat returned to bread rolls and strawberry jam, it was beginning to get a little monotonous. But we ate, drank coffee or had coca tea, there was also juice, plenty of it this time, in jugs on an ornate sideboard. Slowly we gathered and ate, then a hubbub of excitement, someone from another group pointing excitedly out the window. On the hillside opposite, in among the houses, there was a train going up the hill. But it was just going up the hill, it’s path was backward and forwards, as it zig-zagged up the hill. This was the train to Aguas Calientes. The same one that we would get in two days time when we travelled to Machu Picchu. For the next two days we had free, no planned activities, just rest and explore this fabulously famous city of the Inca.

I was going to go it alone. Although, I had formed some friendships within the group, I preferred the prospect of not having to consult a partner when it came to making decisions about when and where to go. Others in the group had planned similarly and some had planned to leave the group and actually hike the famed Inca Trail, four arduous days to Machu Picchu was not for this tourist, my days of hiking were long past and now I much preferred the comfort of train or bus.

Kids in traditional costumes selling everything - image: AV

Kids in traditional costumes selling everything – image: AV

My first idea was to explore the centre of the city, take photos and see what Cusco had to offer. There were several sites within the city that one should see, so first it was down the street to the Plaza and get my bearings amongst the tourists, churches, restaurants and travel agencies.

I quickly discovered that I could get my shoes shined by an urchin about twenty times a day, whether they needed it or not, I could buy postcards from a gaily costumed Qechua girls by the thousand, or have my photo taken ad nauseum with equally costumed families, who plied the streets with their similarly decorated animals.

I came to realise, Cusco existed today for the tourist and those who preyed on them to eke out an existence. At first it was unnerving to be attacked so ferociously by these Lilliputian street sellers. The local city guards tried in vain to shoo these kids from the plaza, but as they cleared one side, the kids invaded the other, and so it became a never-ending game of hide ‘n’ seek. The kids were the clear winners, leaving the guards exasperated by the end of the day.

The main plaza - image: AV

The main plaza – image: AV

I sat in the Plaza for a while, I took some photos, one was of a young girl slinging a plastic bag over her head talking business with yet another hapless tourist. It was in short order that I was to find out her name, Idália, she was eight, she had lots of brothers and sisters who didn’t have enough to eat. Yes, she was begging. However, I took a shine to her, we sat and chatted, she told me she loved talking to tourists, even if she didn’t get any money, because tourists were from far off places, the places of her dreams to one day be a beautiful princes in a castle in some far away enchanted land.

Idália, chatting up a tourist - image: AV

Idália, chatting up a tourist – image: AV

She was so much like my own daughter had been many years earlier, we had lunch together in a restaurant as she showed me “Gringo Alley” Procuradores was a a street that existed only for the tourist. Gringo Alley was a street off the Plaza, restaurants, more travel agencies, places to get photos developed, laundries, shops with inflated prices for tourists preparing to go on the Inca Trail. We sat and talked, we ate and she told me about the “Sexy Woman.” Wait a minute, here I was in a restaurant talking to an eight year old about a sexy woman, I needed my head seen to. I soon discovered that “Sexy Woman” was how most tourists, who hadn’t mastered the art of pronouncing Qechua names, say Sachsayhuaman.

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William, my guide to the 'sexy woman' - image: AV

William, my guide to the ‘sexy woman’ – image: AV

Sachsayhuaman was the large Inca ceremonial site up the hill and about two kilometres from the Plaza, and as it happened was on my list of things-to-do. It was then Idália revealed she had an older brother who would guide me to the site. Ah, I had developed an inside contact. After lunch she would go and fetch him. So I sat in the Plaza having an after lunch cigarette wondering if I would ever see her again. I only had to wait a quarter hour and she was back with her brother in tow. Now, when she had mentioned an older brother who was a guide, I had imagined a youth, someone a little older than the boy of eleven who now stood in front of me. William was quick to assure me that he knew all about Sachsayhuaman and for the princely sum of five soles he would take me there for the afternoon. The negotiation was set, and William and I set off.

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Massive stone blocks - image: AV

Massive stone blocks – image: AV

Idália remained in the Plaza, I suspect to organise more tourists for the seasoned William to take to see the “Sexy Woman.”

Up past the hotel, turned right and up a street that was just steps, eventually we came out at an old church and another plaza. It was here that my pocket was lightened by a further twenty five soles, to enter the Sachsayhuaman site, I needed a tourist ticket, which also gave me entance to another 16 historic sites, churches and museums. William didn’t need one, he was Peruvian. On up the steep track and the enormity of the site became apparent, stone walls, immense stone walls, some of the blocks of stone were gigantic, William assured me they weighed tons. He pulled a small pocket knife from a pocket and offered it to me. What was I supposed to do? He showed me. The thin blade of the knife could not fit between theses huge blocks, they had been fitted so expertly that there was simply no space between them.

William and I spent a good couple of hours wandering around the place, me marvelling at the immensity and technology involved and William proved his capabilities, he was quite knowledgeable, even leading me through a dark tunnel between the ruins, that he explained most tourists never know about. The afternoon was wearing on, clouds began to threaten us with rain and the expert William said we should return downhill to the city, if we wanted to avoid getting wet. We did, he was right, it began to rain as we reached the Plaza. I offered him ten soles for his tour, he was most happy and readily accepted the invitation to dinner later that evening. He was a likeable kid and I found myself enjoying his company. We quickly found Idália, he showed her the ten sole note and rabbited on about dinner, I invited her as well. We parted and I returned to the hotel. A shower and rest before dinner.

Horrible stuff - image: unknown

Horrible stuff – image: unknown

As prearranged, I found William and his sister sitting in the Plaza in front of Gringo Alley, they weren’t alone, there was another girl, Veronica, with them, their cousin. The pair chortled and derided the girl, who had not believed I would show up. They took me off the Plaza, saying they knew were we could eat more cheaply than in Gringo Alley and they led me to a small local restaurant, crude, but clean and not a tourist in sight. We each had chicken and chips. Not just a piece of chicken, but a whole half a bird. I had beer, the kids, of course, Inka Kola. I was surprised when it came to pay the bill. For the price I would have paid for myself in Gringo Alley, I had fed the four of us quite handsomely. My guides, were definitely worth knowing, and definitely worth the extra few soles I had spent.

Rosie O'Grady's, an Irish Pub in every corner of the world - image: AV

Rosie O’Grady’s, an Irish Pub in every corner of the world – image: AV

That wasn’t the end of the night, once again my little guides came to the rescue asking if I wanted to know where there was a good place to drink beer. Of course, the idea appealed to me immediately and they took me around the block and showed me an Irish Pub. There they left me, with the promise to see me tomorrow. And so I found myself at the door of Rosie O’Grady’s, there was naught else to do but go in, so I did. I found myself in a very pleasantly appointed bar, lots of tables with people eating, so food was available here too. If I hadn’t already eaten, I could have. I wasn’t at all interested in more food, but the bar looked inviting, so I took a seat. The barman introduced himself, a Peruvian with good English, I ordered a beer and that’s where I stayed for the rest of the evening. During the course of the evening I met the owner, an Irishman named Charlie, and we had a long talk about the world until I was ready to go.

In the morning I woke feeling a little under the weather, not with a hangover, or anything serious, but I was certainly reminded of having a few beers the previous night. If I had had one more, it might have been a different story. Nothing that wasn’t to be fixed by a good shower and a couple of extra bread rolls with my strawberry jam and coffee.

Korikancha, the church built on Incan foundations - image: AV

Korikancha, the church built on Incan foundations – image: AV

So fortified, I prepared to meet the day. There were several places that I wanted to see in the city itself, so armed with my camera I left the hotel and stated down toward the the Plaza. It was no great surprise that I was met by Idália and Veronica, the pair were so good yesterday and I enjoyed their company, so I was quite pleased to see them. They explained that William was with other tourists going up to see the Sexy Woman. So it was in their company that I visited such places as the historic neighbourhood of San Blas and the Catholic church that had been constructed on the remains of the Inca temple site at Korikancha and, after, a quick visit to some of the museums that my tourist ticket permitted.

After all that it was time for lunch. I didn’t mind the extra cost. During lunch we met some others of our group, who had coincidentally chosen the same restaurant, so we all lunched together. It came as no surprise that William also found us, it turned out that the tourists he took to see the Sexy Woman were the others in my group and they had also invited him to lunch. Conversation got round to Rosie O’Grady’s and we decided that it was a good place to spend the late afternoon after returning to the hotel for a shower and change.

It was a good chance to relax after being on the road continuously for the past ten days. For the next day, we were to begin our itinerary once again. We said our goodbyes to our young friends and returned to the hotel.

NB: Once again, I apologise for the B&W photos, the coloured originals are missing

Sunday Travel Tales

The continuing saga of Strawberry Jam, Bread Rolls and Pisco Sours

Chapter 11 – The Train

Puno Railway Satation - image: AV

Puno Railway Station – image: AV

The early morning bustle of the market again, provisions for the next stage of our journey. Edgar came and saw us off after our bread rolls and strawberry jam and helped us fend off the Alpaca-wool-jersey-saleswomen, who were becoming very insistent now that we were about to escape their clutches. As we prepared to cross the road to the station, prices began to plummet and as they bottomed out at a realistic “half-price” some of them actually made some sales.

Once on the train we found that our block booking of seats had been divided neatly and conveniently (for them) by several Peruvian families. Which meant that when we tried to claim our rightful places, we less than endeared ourselves to the locals, who of course couldn’t and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Although we won the day, we became the hot gossip item amongst the deposed locals. A situation which took all of ten minutes to defuse when one of the youngsters became an ambassador, simply through childish curiosity. I had a beard, and looked like Father Christmas, this created such an urgent need to know, that he asked me impishly if I was.

My standard reply (developed over many years of the same question) was, “No, I’m just his older brother.” That was it! Within seconds the whole carriage knew that Father Christmas had a brother and he was right here in the train. So, Ho, Ho, Ho, relations became somewhat more amicable, all before we reached Juliaca Station.

A relic at Juliaca Station - image: AV

A relic at Juliaca Station – image: AV

The train stopped at Juliaca, the carriage filled with people selling everything. Tepid fizzy drinks, newspapers, sweets, and pieces of chicken, hunks of roast pork, corn on the cob and even whole plates of food. It was still not even 10 o´clock, but people were prepared to eat lunch.

After about a half hour the rest of the carriage filled and the sellers departed and the train jerked and we were underway once again. We passed an old steam locomotive as we left the station, weeds growing around the wheels testimony to its fall from grace and days of glory past.

The train passed the flat terrain north of Juliaca, small farmlets divided by their stone walls dotted the landscape. We stopped at several small townships, whistled as we past  through their markets. The people seemingly unaware of the danger at their proximity to the tracks as they continued bartering with the train careening past less than a metre’s distance.

Main form of transport, on foot  - image: AV

Main form of transport, on foot – image: AV

The terrain changed, flat lands became hills and hills became mountains and the note of the diesel engine deepened as it became evident that we were climbing rapidly. We made a stop at Santa Rosa, again the train was assailed by sellers. More meals, fried chicken and roast pork, the tepid Inka Kola, that disgusting Peruvian oddity, were sold. The kids looked at the food as it was whisked past on trays, their parents oblivious to their desires. The tourists came to the rescue, we pooled together and bought a dozen plates of assorted chicken and pork and distributed them to the kids. Faces beamed as they accepted the fare, a few murmured thanks, some too embarrassed by their good fortune to speak.

We watched them gorge themselves happily with sticky fingers and smiling faces. Our little ambassador looked up at me, pork grease smeared from ear to ear. “You really are Father Christmas’ brother, aren’t you?” he asked, placing his luck on the benevolence of the Christmas spirit. I assured him I was. Satisfied with the answer he stuffed another bit of crackling in an already half-full mouth crunching it noisily between his teeth.

People selling everything  - image: AV

People selling everything – image: AV

Soon we were on our way once more, and it was evident that we were in the mountains. There was snow covering the peaks, we were approaching the La Raya pass. It was harder to breathe. It required some effort, for we had reached 4,321m a.s.l. and the train stopped. Everybody seemed to get off, so we did too. We were on a siding, apparently waiting for the train from Cusco to pass, which it eventually did a half hour later. There was obviously great rivalry between the two train loads, much shouting and taunting. It seemed as though the locals knew everybody and everybody knew them.

The mountains at La Raya, alt 4,200m asl - image: AV

The mountains at La Raya, alt 4,321m asl – image: AV

The south bound train passed and it seemed to be the signal for us all to board again, so we did and just as we had found our seats again, the trained jerked in its customary fashion and be shunted off the siding back onto the main track, stopped, jerked and changed direction. Once more we were off to Cusco.

Natural hot pools descending from La Raya  - image: AV

Natural hot pools descending from La Raya – image: AV

Going downhill the trip seemed almost jaunty, the train rocked merrily from side to side as though it seemed happy the uphill part was over.

We found some hot pools off to the right, natural springs, there were people over there having a closer look that was denied to us through our apparent urgency.

We also saw swampy areas, where the water literally trickled off the mountain sides, forming little rivulets, these became little streams, then bigger and bigger until we were travelling alongside a substantial river. This river was the Vilcanota. The Vilcanota flowed past Pisac, near Cusco, and became the Urubamba that flowed through the Sacred Valley of the Inca and onward past Machu Picchu until it became the Ucayli and flowed past Pilcopata and Manu Nature Reserve, then northward past Pullcapa and Iquitos until it became the Amazon and flowed all the way across Brazil to Belém on the Atlantic coast..

These little trickles, that we had witnessed coming down the mountain sides, would one day become the mightiest of the world’s rivers.

The scenery changed, forested areas, many of the imported eucalyptus trees which abounded throughout the Altiplano crowded the railway, framing small farms and villages and stood lone sentinels on hill sides. Still the river kept us company, sometimes on the right and then on the left as we zig-zagged across echoing rail bridges the singing iron tracks reverberating beneath us. Still we wove our way through small towns, a sign that we were nearing civilisation and we started the descent into Cusco. The city was lit brightly, houses sparkled on the hill sides in the dark, for it was now night as we chugged into the station, and our journey was over.

"Will Father Christmas forget me this year?" - image: AV

“Will Father Christmas forget me this year?” – image: AV

As we pulled our baggage from the overhead racks and pulled bags that had been squashed from under seats, we said our farewells to our small companions. We had fed them, played cards with them, laughed with them and sang with them, and now our small ambassador was in tears. “Would Father Christmas forget him this year?” No, he wouldn’t I assured him, he wouldn’t. It was an emotional moment, enough to bring tears to an overweight fool. I don’t think I have ever been hugged so hard in my life. I set him on his feet so he could join his mother, he took her hand and looked back giving me the loveliest little wave goodbye.

We were met at the station by a van and taken to our hotel. It was 9 o´clock a night and after a tiring 12-hour journey, all we wanted was bed.

 

NB: Sorry, some pics B&W couldn’t find the original colour ones.

Sunday Travel Tales

The continuing story of Strawberry Jam, Bread Rolls and Pisco Sours

Chapter 10 – Lake Titicaca

 

Famous alpaca sweaters - image

Famous alpaca sweaters – image Aspenandes

We nattered in the “lobby,” until our transport arrived, Edgar’s bus to take us to the port. We battled with insistent women selling alpaca wool jerseys. They were beautiful, and although they seemed cheap by our standards, we had been warned that they were actually double the real price. We could have bargained and paid something more reasonable, but time was against us.

 

Along roads that were cris-crossed with railway tracks, making the journey seem perilous as the bus slipped on the shiny rails, we arrived at the port and herded from the bus to a small roadside stall with tables and chairs and shade. Although still only 8am the sun was already strong. Here we bought cold juice and cokes and our last chance to buy drinking water, which we were assured we would need.

 

PEPUN200303s

The Yavari returning to port – image AV

It wasn’t long before we were shown along the wharf, where an old steamer was being fired up. The ship was one of the two British steamships from the previous century that had been assembled on the lake to ply trade between Bolivia and Peru. The haunting “chuff” of the boilers being fired for the first time in 50 years was eerie. We paused to watched as smoke belched from her smoke stack. We were privileged to be watching the resurrection of a ghost from the past, the Yavari was being made ready to sail. Our own departure was delayed so we could witness this special event. The old steamer moved gracefully away from its berth and steamed noisily chuffing out into the bay where it made one circuit and returned. All the glory of a bygone era was put on show before our very eyes. Nostalgia, is a powerful emotion.

 

Kids on the Uros Islands - image AV

Kids on the Uros Islands – image AV

We returned to the present. The ghost was again at rest, although smoke still billowed from the stack as we looked over our shoulders. Edgar got us all into the launch without fuss, we were now behind schedule, but the delay had been worth much more than could be reckoned. As our launch moved slowly at first away from land, Edgar began to recount legends of the Inca surrounding the lake, its origins and myths. Without realising, we were captivated by the emotion he put into his tales, that we were now at full speed.

Uros Islands -image: Virtual Tourist

Uros Islands -image: Virtual Tourist

Our first stop was the Uros Islands; the famous floating islands made of totara reed. The island we visited was St. Martha, it is the only island that tourists may visit, so that the Uros culture is not disturbed. The families do not live on this island, but come here each day to trade with the tourists. They dress in their usual costume, and follow an everyday Uros’ routine. They make reed souvenirs to sell, the parents make the trinkets, the older children sell them and the younger children play and receive gifts from the visitors. They love the little comics and presents of coloured pencils and educational stuff that we were encouraged to buy in place of sweets. Although it was evident that the kids would have preferred sweets. Every greeting was returned, “caramelo, señor?” hopefully. Some of our group took the opportunity to go for a quick trip in one of their totara canoes, for a small sum, of course, this is how the islanders made their living.

 

Small craft ply the lake - image AV

Small craft ply the lake – image AV

After a brief hour on the undulating islands, the spongy platform these delightful people called home and we were back in the launch and heading full speed out into the lake, passing between the two headlands that marked the Bay of Puno.

 

The water became bluer, a deep rich, jewel-like blue. Then waves, it was like being on the sea.

Amantani Island sen through an arch on Taquile - image AV

Amantani Island sen through an arch on Taquile – image AV

The launch began to buck and slap at the waves as we ploughed on through the mythical waters and the shape of Taquile Island appeared on the horizon, beyond it, Bolivia. Fishing and trading boats passed us in the calmer waters as we neared the island and began to slow toward our landing. Mercifully, Edgar had decided not to land at the main port for the ascent to the village is a grueling 500 steps up the steep island side. Instead, he was taking us to a smaller landing around the other side where the ascent was more gradual through farmlands, although the trek was longer. Along the way, we passed some ruins, and an old arch, looking back through the arch we could see the island of Amantani with the clouds over Bolivia.

 

We soon came across children scattered along the pathway, hopeful faces peering over stone walls. The bold requests for “caramelos” from the boys, but we didn’t understand why the girls only only whispered, barely audible. Edgar explained to us that here on Taquile, the women and girls never talk with a loud voice, that was reserved only for the men. One of the many quaint customs on this island that time had forgotten.

 

Our lodgings, no frills, but comfy - image AV

Our lodgings, no frills, but comfy – image AV

We arrived at hour lodgings, we had been warned that they were primitive, almost devoid of the basic comforts that we considered necessary.

The house to which we had been invited, had been extended to accommodate tourists. The beds were comfortable and had many blankets, for the nights, as we were to discover, were bitterly cold.

The Dunny! Outside toilet - image AV

The Dunny! Outside toilet – image AV

The buildings were all adobe, mud and straw sun-dried bricks. There were no locks on the doors, we had come to a place where crime is almost unknown and dogs for security unheard of, where teenage boys attracted their girl by flashing torchlight into her eyes, and she responded with a mirror to give his light back to him; where marriage was on a trial basis and divorce was ever present. A place where the women weave on primitive looms, and the men knit beautifully. A place where one had to take his own toilet paper with him in the dark to an outside dunny.

 

Our home-away-from-home was the only place on the island that had a small solar panel to recharge a car battery, and so give the tourists an extra hour of light by which to share their adventures over cups of coca tea in the evenings, while the boys and girls ran in the darkness outside, hopefuls flashing messages of love to their intendeds. Sleep comes early here, for so does the dawn. The island wakes with first light and is a hive of activity long before the sleepy-head tourists show their faces. Time here is irrelevant, only the light and dark.

 

Girls chatting in the ruins at the top of Taquile Is - image AV

Girls chatting in the ruins at the top of Taquile Is – image AV

Breakfast was not bread rolls and strawberry jam. We were almost disappointed. Instead, omelettes and scrambled eggs, coca tea and toasted rolls. Before a trek to the summit of the island to visit areas of earlier ruins and a chance to see more of the unique way of life of these almost primitive people and their simplicity.

 

We walked among the ruins at the summit for a while, and then met a couple of teenage girls having a chat among the ruins. They didn’t like their photos taken, in such communities it is polite to ask first and come to a small financial arrangement before doing so.. We continued on down the hill arriving in time for lunch.

 

Boys in traditional costume farewell visitors as they leave the island - image AV

Boys in traditional costume farewell visitors as they leave the island – image AV

After lunch, we packed our meagre belongings and headed down the hill. Here we encountered the famous 500 steps, fortunately for us, they were downhill all the way to the small harbour. We passed through many small arches and were fare-welled by boys in traditional costume, photos were expected and small business arrangements satisfactorily concluded. At the bottom, there was no ceremony, it was into the boat for the long trip back to Puno.

 

Temple of fertility at Chucuito - image AV

Temple of fertility at Chucuito – image AV

We didn’t go directly back to Puno, we had another item on our agenda. First we would go to Chucuito and visit the Temple of Fertility and see the first Catholic church built on the Altiplano. The return trip didn’t offer much different in the way of scenery to the outward journey, so most of the passengers relaxed, dozed, read, played cards or just chatted.

 

Kids jumping from one phallus to another - image AV

Kids jumping from one phallus to another – image AV

On our arrival we were met by a van and taken the short distance to the temple. Edgar showed us to a small stone enclosure where we found some kids playing, we didn’t take much notice as we gathered around to listen to Edgar’s tale about the temple and the origins of the nearby church. It was during the tale that we realised that the stones which the kids were jumping over and from one to another were actually phallic symbols, stone penises. It was then we saw the funny side and took photos. We listened with fascination as Edgar recounted tales of people who had touched the stone monuments and of how barren women had become pregnant and of how men who were in need of Viagra, didn’t.

PECIR198804bwI mused at the possibly virile future of these youngsters jumping from one phallus to another every day, and the ones nearby who were clambering around another, ready to pounce on tourists to sell their colourful little woolen finger puppets.

 

The afternoon wore on and we returned to Puno. Tomorrow was to be our train trip to the famous Inca city of Cusco.

NB: Sorry couldn’t find colour copies of some photos…

Sunday Travel Tales

Chapter 9 – Sillustani & Puno

 

The flight from Arequipa was short and we were soon landing in Juliaca. Leaving the airport was uncomplicated. We were met at the arrivals gate by a representative of the receiving travel agency, welcomed to Juliaca, and  soon on the main road towards Puno.

 

aSil1

Looking down on some of the older tombs – image: AV

The driver explained that he would first take me to Sillustani where I would meet the rest of my group for the trip to famous Lake Titicaca. Sillustani is one of the most famous sites of the Inca, it is a peninsula where the Inca buried their important, probably royal, dead.

 

As we neared the place, I could see the massive tombs rising from the ground. As we got nearer, the immensity of the stone crypts became apparent. Great markers of peoples past. We arrived at the site at the same a time as a small bus, these were to be my companions for the next stage of the trip. It was here I met Edgar, a slight man with an affable manner. He spoke quietly and gave us the history of the site before we started our climb up to the “chullpas” as they were called. Here at the top we found two distinctive types, one shorter and more primitive from a period earlier than the giants that could be seen from a way off. The actual burial place was small compared with the giant edifices, a small cavity facing the rising sun where the deceased was placed in a feotal position. The Inca believed you came into this world in a feotal position, so you should leave it. The rest of the monument was solid, simply a marker of the person’s passing.

 

asilk2

The large “Largata” tomb – image: AV

We were herded like sheep to one of the “chullpas”, here it was explained that some years earlier lightning had struck, and demolished half of the structure. We could see here, the construction. This was known as the “Largata” because of the lizard symbol on the side. No one knows why, or who was buried here, only those who passed, and they’re not telling. Photos were taken and we were lead to other aspects of the ceremonial site, temple of the sun and the smaller ring of stones, temple of the moon. Then even more primitive “chullpas”, white, an even earlier epoch of the Inca. Three ages of the empire were represented here, an indication of the importance these once great people placed on the area.

 

An interesting facet was pointed out, some of the stones involved were enormous. How did the Inca, who had no knowledge of the wheel, managed to transport, carve and manipulate the massive rocks into position? A question that until today remains unanswered.

 

After wandering the site and taking many photos, it was time to go. We retraced our steps back to the small bus. My van had gone, but I was relieved to see they had the goodness to put my baggage on the bus. Yes, on the bus, for it was roped, I observed thankfully, securely on top.

 

We didn’t immediately board the bus, but surrounded by the local kids selling everything from hats to Inka Kola and souvenirs we went to a small restaurant come museum. Here we drank coca tea, and wandered among the informal exhibits scattered about on trestle tables. Morbidly grinning skulls, bones, rocks that had obviously become and been tools in a past age, pottery and remnants of ancient fabrics that had withstood the test of time.

 

The bus at Sillustani - image: AV

The bus at Sillustani – image: AV

Coca tea finished, we faced the throng of kids again, some of us bargained for the offered goods and after winning small concessions from the expert negotiators we boarded the bus and were soon bouncing along the dirt track back to the potholed tar-seal. Eventually we came to the main road and turned right to Puno.

 

Our first sight of Puno was reaching the top of a hill and the road veered to the right and began its descent giving us a panoramic view of Puno, the bay, and the fabled Lake Titicaca as a backdrop. It was quite spectacular and several of took advantage when the van driver stopped. We piled out and took some photos.

 

Puno is an unremarkable city, plain, nothing to consume the interest of the visitor. Its popularity lay directly with it being the gateway to the famous lake. In fact Puno is a major hub for tourism in Peru; whether you came from Bolivia travelling to Cusco, you passed through Puno, or, if you came from Arequipa by plane, bus, or train, you passed through Puno, or, if you were doing the reverse, you passed through Puno. And, of course, while you were in Puno, there was the famous Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and it’s equally famous islands, the Uros floating islands and Taquile. Taquile is not the only attraction, fast gaining popularity is another of the Titicaca communities, the island of Amantani. Also, surrounding Puno, there were things to see and do like Sillustani, where we had just come from, and Chucuito, which was on our itinerary.

 

The railway station in front of our hotel - image: AV

The railway station in front of our hotel – image: AV

We arrived at an unremarkable hotel, totally non-descript, called the Railway Hotel, and as one would have guessed, it was in front of the railway station, which was slightly more picturesque.

 

Collectively we looked warily at our lodgings, and once we were settled in our quarters, decided that the hotel restaurant didn’t endear us to the festive mood that was around, for we had arrived during carnival. In the failing light we wandered as a troop to the tourist street. Jirón Lima had been turned into a pedestrian-only street and was home to the many travel agencies, banks and restaurants that catered to the needs and tours of the visitors. We found Edgar’s agency and were directed to a suitable restaurant, A London Pub, right here in Peru.

 

The Lake Pub, Puno - image: AV

The Lake Pub, Puno – image: AV

Once inside “The Lakeside Pub,” we were welcomed with, yes, if you guessed a complementary Pisco Sour? You’d be right. We drank them and ordered beers, not British, but certainly acceptable and well chilled. Even though the air outside was already chilling. Puno is 3,800m a.s.l. so at night, with no intense sunlight, the air chilled considerably. We were surprised we could get fish ‘n’ chips and enormous American style open hamburgers, even cottage pie was on the menu. Some of us opted for recognisable dishes, others experimented with lake trout and more ceviche.

 

Dancing in the streets - image: AV

Dancing in the streets – image: AV

After our meal, we discovered that the festive climate was heating up outside, so we went to explore. The streets, including Jirón Lima were crowded, gaily costumed dancers wriggled their bottoms in a quaint Peruvian fashion and we stopped to watch them. I don’t know the name of the dance, nor did I recognise it, although there were overtones of the “twist” from the early Beatles years, although there was more swivel than the “twist.”

 

We wended our way amongst the revellers and found our way back through the market to the austerity of our hotel. We were pretty shagged, but we did stop in the hotel restaurant for a whisky nightcap and an early bed.

 

The market near our hotel - image: AV

The market near our hotel – image: AV

In the morning we were awakened by our wake up calls. We had been given a list of things that we would need for our trip to the islands. So it was off to the market to search for such things as torches and batteries, because Taquile Island had no power; sunscreen was a must as well to combat the intense sunlight to which we would be exposed during our five hour boat ride on Lake Titcaca; and also some basic necessities such as the humble toilet roll, which wasn’t supplied in our next accommodations. Despite the early hour, the market was alive with throngs of people already going about their daily business. We joined the throngs and searched for our treasures. We found stall selling hot sweet fruit juice mixed with porridge, but not like the porridge that we know. Apple and porridge, heavily tinged with cinnamon in the crisp morning air, made a change from bread rolls and strawberry jam.

 

Back to the hotel, packed our bags for the trip. We were leaving most of our baggage at the hotel, only taking the travelling necessities for two nights and assembled in the “lobby” which was actually the wide corridor between reception and the restaurant, to await our transport.

I forgot…

Yes, old age is certainly creeping up.

I had meant to add this clip at the end of Sunday’s post.

.

.

I just love the pan pipes from the Andes, makes me homesick for Peru.

And this one, this one could well be the group we listened to at Rumillacta, I can’t gurantee that.

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Sunday Travel Tales

Back to our Peruvian story this week.

Chapter 8 – Colca Canyon

 

Breakfast in the garden, as we had come to expect, bread rolls, strawberry jam and coffee, once again with white cheese and fruit juice, we also had the choice of tea and coca tea liberally served to the tourists as Arequipa was situated at 2,200m a.s.l. and we were fast approaching higher altitudes where people suffered from sorochi, altitude sickness. The group had formed the previous day, most of the same people we had been travelling with. Twelve people in all, after breakfast, bags downstairs and we were ushered into a microbus. Our guide was Freddy, he was young and gay. He was a perfect tour guide, great sense of humour and knowledgeable. He conducted the tour in English and Spanish.

 

Our first stop was a roadside restaurant, where Freddy advised drinking coca tea because we were ascending slowly from Arequipa and would soon be passing a plateau of 4,500m a.s.l. We dunked our coca leaves in the steaming enamel mugs and were joined by a nosy alpaca who had entered the place like he owned it. The amicable beast visited each table in turn looking for friendship in the form of tidbits. Photos were taken as the animal wandered among the tables.

 

avicuña

Herds of vicuña on the high plateau – image: AV

Again, on our way, we passed vast expanses of plateau, herds of guanco and vicuña were pointed out guanaco are a smaller version of alpaca, and the vicuña smaller still and the bearer of the finest wool of any animal, making it very expensive and very sought after, this fact had consequently placed the animal on the endangered species list. The vicuña was now protected, but still subject to poachers.

 

Some of our number began to feel woozy. Headaches and nausea, the first signs of altitude sickness. We all felt the need to gasp for air in this rarified air. The oxygen bottle was assembled and distributed amongst those who needed it, the mood was very quiet in the bus as those who did not suffer could sense the obvious discomfort of those suffering.

 

At last, we came across the sight of Chivay, way down in the green valley, and the bus started its long windy descent. Into Chivay, it appeared a sleepy hollow as we stopped in the main square, surrounded by trees and neat little paths.. We were herded into a small restaurant where we were told we could sample alpaca steak. I did, I wasn’t impressed despite being told it was a local delicacy. The meat was as tough as old boots, so tough as to be unpalatable.

 

acabanaconde

Our hostel in Cabanaconde – image: AV

We didn’t stay in Chivay, but continued along the Colca Valley stopping at a small town for refreshments. We arrived at Cabanaconde, several degrees more primitive than Chivay. Streets were not paved, no power after 8pm, extremely simple lodgings with friendly people. “Mate de coca” was freely available and our sufferers began to feel better now that we were at 3,600m a.s.l. With no light other than candles, we were in bed early.

 

Woken in the morning to a mountain fresh day, a walk before breakfast. Yes, our bread rolls and strawberry jam were waiting with hot steaming mugs of coca tea.

 

acruz

Cruz del Condor – image: AV

Now for the return journey to Chivay. Our first stop was “Cruz del Condor”, a high point above the canyon where the Colca River flowed 1,200 metres below us. Here, if we were lucky, we would see the giant condors flying from their nests in the canyon walls to soar gracefully on the updraughts out of the canyon.

acondor

Condors soared gracefully out of the canyon

We were lucky and the condors did appear as graceful and magnificent as we had been promised. Some groups are not so lucky due to the fickle condors deciding to spend a morning indoors. Several of the great birds soared out of the canyon so they sported themselves above us on massive 3.5m wingspans. Camera action was immediate and frantic.

 

Around the area several women and children dressed in traditional garb sold wares, souvenirs and “tuna” (no, not the fish) tuna is the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. The women and girls peeled the fruit in various stages of maturity, green, yellow and red. Each with its unique flavour. The rock hard seeds were hard on the teeth, but the flesh quite tasty.

 

 

The hanging tombs - image: AV

The hanging tombs – image: AV

After the condors we travelled on down the canyon, Inca agricultural planning was shown to us, as were the hanging tombs on a cliff face, long since raided for their textile riches. We stopped at Achoa, a small dairy shop. Here we tried natural yoghurt and local cheeses. The yoghurt was fabulous, quite unlike anything you’d find in a home supermarket and much superior to the taste. The 90 day cheese was quite tangy, seemed like a good idea, so I bought a wheel that weighed about a kilo.

 

Rumillacta (Stone Village) our hotel - image: AV

Rumillacta (Stone Village) our hotel – image: AV

By then it was already after lunch and we continued on into Chivay where we stayed at Rumillacta (Stone Village), a three star hotel. Billeted in stone chalets. Lunch was served and the rest of the day free. Most of us went to sample the local hot pools, hot natural spring water, the smell of sulphur and a luxurious scolding in the pools soothed our travel wary bodies.

 

The evening was taken by a small band who played local music with zamphir of varying size. Complimentary Pisco Sours, dancing and dinner were the finale. The group also sold several CD’s of their music which was hauntingly beautiful.

 

Bed and a cool night under massive covers. The temperature here dropped to below freezing during the night.

 

A walk in the crisp morning air removed all vestiges of sleep as we circled the square and returned for, yes, bread rolls, strawberry jam and “mate de coca.”

 

After breakfast, back into our microbus for the return to Arequipa. I was travelling on by plane to Juliaca, most of the others were going to Cusco by bus or south to Chile. I collected my left luggage from the hotel and taken straight to the airport by the travel agency for my flight to Juliaca.

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