Fiesta in Cusco

24 05 2010

After hiking 10 days to Machu Picchu and back we spent some very relaxed days at Cusco. We happened to be able to watch a big fiesta on the sunday of Pentecost – all different cultural groups of Cusco and surroundings met at trhe Plaza de Armas – it was a show of historic and modern costumes, dance, music and a mixture of colours you nearly couldn’t believe…. I am lucky I brought enough memory cards for my camera… more photos soon.

Peruvian colors at the Pentecost fiesta in Cusco.

Advertisements




Been there… the Inca City

22 05 2010

The typical Machu Picchu view... okay, the background only.

The promised photo…. 7 o’clock at Machu Picchu. Now we are back in Cusco, resting, and planning the last days. Probably more trekking north of Lima, at Huaraz.

This was the path around Salkantay…   beautiful and stunning landscape, but quite a tough walk….

The way to and around Salkantay.





Machu Picchu via Salkantay

20 05 2010

Just a quick note from the Internet cafe in Aguas Calientes – we hiked from Mollepata (80 km from Cusco) around the Salkantay Mountain to Machu Picchu – visited the legendary and really impressive Inka city yesterday. Today we start hiking back to Mollepata – 3 or 4 days…. photos when we are back in Cusco. Everything fine – also thanks to Mountain Lodges of Peru where we spent a wonderful first night.

Mountain Lodges of Peru - Soraypampa.





Peru – the prussian country of the potato

10 05 2010

Peru is the most amazing country we have travelled in so far. People are very very friendly and warm and  – it must come from the line of the Incas – are extremely well organized.  This shows in a prussian sort of punctuality and cleanliness which is almost too much. Even for us disciplined germans. The driver, supposed to pick you up between 3.00  and 3.30 am (yes, in the morning) rings the bell of the hostel at exactly 3.00 am. Two different chauffeurs of 4x4s, getting us to and back from the foot of 18.000 feet mountains were exactly on time – not one minute late even if they had to drive for 3 hours to arrive at the pick up point.

The big double storey busses, preferred means of transportation with own terrepuertos (groundports instead of airports) leave their bay punctual – 9.30 is 9.30, not one minute later.

When you have to use the Banos (bathrooms) at the bus station you pay 1 soles (25 Eurocent) and you get a  printed ticket as proof that you paid. Every piece of luggage gets a tag and you only can retrieve your bag when showing your tag with the identical number. It is more strict than being in an airport.

Even the taxi drivers in Arequipa where we stayed for ten days only try once to rip you – a little bit. A normal tour within the town costs 3 soles (= 1US $). If you ask for the price they tell you: 4 soles. You say “no” with a smile, they smile in mutual understanding and say “3 soles”. Deal done.

The other astounding aspect is the cuisine with a lot of varieties like ostrich, alpaca, guinnea pig (no, we didn’t taste that), all sorts of seafood and “cebiche” (or ceviche, the Peruvian way of sushi) and countless sorts of potatoes in all sizes and in colour variations from red over greenish-yellow to blueish.

There are dozens of differents kinds of potatoes in Peru.

We have this knowledge from a supermarket in Lima, but there is a better source:

Although the Spaniards could never have guessed it, potatoes were to be Peru’s greatest legacy to the world. They originated in Peru and grow there in a profusion of varieties and colours. It has been calculated that the world’s annual potato harvest is worth many times the value of all treasures and precious metals taken from the Inca empire by its conquerors.

The Conquest of the Incas, John Hemming, Pan Books

Writing this in a bus from Cruz del Sur rolling over the altiplano at 3800m altitude (12.500 ft) between Arequipa and Puno we are looking forward to visiting the lake Titicaca and the capital of the Inca empire – Cusco.





Nice try, thanks Chachani

8 05 2010

First morning light on Chachani summit.

The Chachani (6076m, 19.930ft) is the most impressive and highest volcano near Arequipa. We tackled it quite fearless and perhaps with a bit of lack of respect on our own – but had no luck.

With a 4×4 transport it takes 2.5 hrs from Arequipa to get to the begin of the trail at 4855m (15.930ft). Then you hike up to your base camp at about 5200m (17.060ft) which takes around 2 hours.

The problem is: You have to get up at 2.00 am to start your summit ascent. The first part we had checked out the afternoon before so we would find our way with headlamps to a saddle at around 5600 m (18.370ft). In sheer darkness we arrived at the beginning of the snow and ice area and started a long traverse along a quite steep slope. Some days before over 20 people had tried the ascent to the summit so there should have been a well trampled track. So we thought. But after two hours the track fainted more and more and we started to doubt if we were on the right path. Temperatures were way below freezing point and Kim and me had severe problems with cold hands and feet. You start worrying if you can’t feel your fingers anymore, don’t you? As it was still dark we decided to head back and walk down in a rocky valley to check out alternative paths.

As the first sunlight hit the scene we could see that we had been totally right. The icy and snowy path was leading to the next ridge from where you start to hike up to the first and then to the real summit of Chachani. As we detected this it was too late to start a second attempt. We felt a little sorry because this time we had slept well and had nearly no signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) like headache or nausea. And we walked quite fast considering the high altitude and the darkness.

With mixed feelings we crawled slowly back to the first saddle where the first rays of sun warmed our frozen bones. The descent to the base camp then was easy. Warm tea and potato soup helped to get back to life. The rewarding of this try was the complete loneliness (it was only us two in the base camp) and the amazing wildlife. We saw a fox strolling through the base camp after we had hiked up a little bit on the first day, two eagles landing 50m away from our camp and a cute brown mouse near our tent making a hell of a noise the whole night through. And we detected puma prints on the path in the snow (our driver had told us that there were pumas in the Chachani area). Or was it the Andean Yeti?

And we experienced an earthquake in the middle of the night. Kim was close to jump out of the tent while the earth was shaking under us. I felt quite lucky to be outside and not in a building in the city. For Remco from our Hostal Tambo Viejo who was organizing all our trips the “terremoto”  was quite normal.

I am still thinking about coming back and give Chachani another try. Volunteers welcome. Now I can act as guide.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.





Bike fun in Arequipa

6 05 2010

The white city of Arequipa in the south of Peru is definitely worth a visit. It is surrounded by three volcanoes   – Chachani, Misti and Pichu Pichu with altitudes close to and above 6000m (18.000ft) – and there is a lot of outdoor stuff to do like rafting, hiking the Colca Canyon and biking. We combined hiking the Chachani with a bike downhill from 5000m  (15.000 ft) altitude.

Mountainbiking starts with a downhill from the foot of El Misti.

Two days before we biked around the Misti with a small detour to the town of Chiguata with a beautiful old church built from the often used white volcanic stone named Sillar.

The church of Chiguata made of white Sillar blocks.

Great fun and cultural experience too because you ride through valleys with pre-Inca terraces which are still used today for growing herbs and alfalfa.

Riding through a valley with pre-Inca terraces.

Beautiful landscape close to Arequipa.

The bike tours are offered by Aldo Pena, who was several times Peruvian champion in mountainbiking and road cycling.

An eagle at the church of Chiguata.





El condor pasa

3 05 2010

El Condor...

... pasa...

The Colca Canyon ist the second deepest canyon of the world  as we learned while visiting Peru. So it was a must to hike it – and also a good option to get used to the altitude. You start at the small town of Cabanaconde (a 5-6  hours bus ride from Arequipa) and you walk down around 1000m (3.000 ft) to the river in the canyon bed.

Hiking down Colca Canyon.

We ran out of water before we reached the village we were heading for. The hand drawn map had not shown that you had to hike up the canyon on the other side again, then going along the slope and to walk down the whole distance again.

After 8 hours of walking we decided to turn around and  go back to the river – to boil some water and disinfect it.

We slept outside on the sandy river banks in a full moon night at amazing 22 C Celsius at 2.200m (6.600ft) altitude and hiked back up to Cabanaconde  the next morning. Sore muscles guaranteed.

On the way to the Colca Canyon you pass by the Cruce del Condores. We were lucky. Exactly in our 20 minute break there where about five condors soaring close to the look out point in  150 metres (450 ft) distance.

On the way to and from Cabanaconde you drive over the alitplano where a lot of llamas and guanacos are kept in herds. So this is a road sign worth being printed on t-shirts I think.

Beware of Llamas at the altiplano.