Another beautiful day in Peru. Our morning started with a morning drive to the Sacred Valley on the way we visited Awana Kancha llama/alpaca farm plus fibre and weaving business.
After several of us got into serious trouble in the shop 🙂 we pulled out and headed for Mirador Taray a view point overlooking the sacred valley. Magnificent!
Our final stop for the day was the market town of Pisca. Got some awesome photos until the wind came up and started blowing stalls apart.
Headed back to Cusco and out for a dance theatre this evening.
What an incredible day! We got picked up early and headed to the sacred Valley. It is an ecologically varied valley with a number of microclimates present. It is also stunningly beautiful. Our first stop was Chinchero View Point were we overlooked a number of snow covered mountain peaks surrounding the valley.
Dropping down into Chinchero we took some time to visit a family of spinners and weavers who showed us how they spin and dye wool from alpacas with vegetable and insect dyes.
Taking the back roads along the way was wonderful – the farming and natural beauty was all around us and not a car in sight.
Our next stop was the archaeological site of Moray which is thought to be from the 1400’s. The site wasn’t discovered until 1932 when a group flew over it in an air plane. It is thought that several families lived there. The terraced bowls were built in natural depressions to create micro-climates for vegetables and other crops. Experiments by scientists in Lima have shown that potatoes grown at the bottom of the bowls were it is warmer, grow much faster and produce much more than those grown up top.
Maras – a salt producing area was our next stop. Springs come through the mountain and pick up salt from mineral deposits deep within the earth. The salt springs are captured in several hundred shallow pools were salt is produced by evaporation. The process takes about a week until the salt can be collected.
Uruvamva was our stop for another excellent Peruvian lunch lunch – this is considered the gateway to the sacred Valley.
The Archeological park of Ollantay Tambo was awe inspiring. A series of terraces and walls culminated in an Inca temple of the sun. This was a religious site with some priests living in the buildings.
After a hike through the ruins we headed back to Cusco stopping to try some corn beer on our way. The men got the straight stuff, women get theirs flavoured with strawberries which was fine by us as the straight tasted horrible. After visiting the home guinea pig colony we headed back to Cusco and a nights rest. More tomorrow….
A beautiful stroll down cobbled streets led us to the main square and the Incan Museum. The Inca civilization stretched from Columbia to Argentina in the 1400’s and at it’s height numbered 8 million people. 1.2 million Incas remain today. Cusco was the central part of the Incan Empire – Cusco means literally golden palace. Most of the gold ended up melted down into spanish coin following the arrival of the Spaniards. Incredible art objects became spanish dubloons. Inca places of worship were built over by Catholic churches. Major earthquakes which occur every three hundred years have destroyed many of the spanish built churches revealing the Inca remains below. Due to the building practices of the Incas their buildings were much more resilient to big quakes.
In the museum we were fortunate enough to watch local weavers at work and see some incredible pottery and textiles. Our next visit was to Qorikancha – the Inca temple of the sun. The Incas were accomplished astronomers, had elaborate rituals for the burial their dead and a strong religion based on their gods.
In the afternoon we took a bus up to a view point about the city which was a warrior training complex called Saqsaywaman. Literally translated this means Falcon scratches. Buildings were built around a huge amphitheatre of sand.
The base of the structures was bedrock which was carved to accommodate the blocks that were put on top. Here warriors lived and trained. Views to Cusco were breath taking.
The one anomaly was a beautiful pure white 100 foot statue of Jesus in the building area. The story goes that a Muslim country gave a grant to Cusco earmarked for statues to their gods. Cusco is 85% + catholic so Jesus was the choice. Needless to say that was the last grant money received from that particular muslim country…………..
Tomorrow we drive deeper into the sacred valley.
It was the day of the exploding bathroom sinks. Our shoes and pants ended up soaked after an encounter with an Arequipa airport washroom sink. Later that day in Cusco we had another wet encounter in a restaurant bathroom with a faucet whose pressure was a little on the high side……
The flight into Cusco was spectacular! The mountains and then the approach to the city were like nothing I have ever seen. Landing was like threading the needle through magnificent mountains.
Once we landed we visited gold and textile factories and then had a magnificent lunch in a restaurant on the square. Our afternoon was spent exploring Cusco, it’s shops and parks and then we settled for an early night. This a beautiful, safe city. The altitude is about 11,000 feet and the city setting in a valley is stunning.
After visiting the local market in the town square,
an early morning start on a glorious cold, windy, sunny day took us along narrow winding roads towards the canyon. Carol got up close and personal with a baby alpaca during one stop along the way as our cameras clicked away.
As we drove the colours became more spectacular. We could understand why the rainy season makes travel impractical as streams coming down the mountain run directly over the road rather than under them in a culvert. There are also no barriers between the edge of the road and a several 1000 ft drop in some cases – adrenaline production got boosted a couple of times 🙂
The condors are viewed from an area within the canyon looking down several thousand feet to the chasm below. The colours of the volcanics mixed with various minerals are incredible, with pockets of snow still remaining in north facing crevices. We were lucky and saw several condors soar on the thermals around us. The 9 foot wing span made them hard to miss – beautiful birds. A lovely morning.
Following the condors we bumped back to Chivay in our mini bus, had another excellent Peruvian lunch and headed back to Arequipa. Tomorrow we fly to Cusco.
Our day started early as we joined 14 other travellers in one of the smallest buses I have ever had the privilege to ride in. The road to Colca Canyon climbed steadily to a Mirador de Los Andes pass in the Andes that was at an elevation of 17,000 feet. Along the way we saw wild vicunas and stopped for some herbal tea (coca, muna and chachacoma) and coca leaves at a small roadside stand.
The resident alpaca enjoyed the tea leaf residue when we were finished. Once on the road again we reached the summit of the pass quickly.
Despite altitude pills, large quantities of coca leaves, sugar and water we still felt a bit woozy when we climbed out to take photos – a break from what could truly be called a mini bus.
The descent into Chivay in the Colca Canyon went smoothly down an extremely steep road with lots of hairpin turns.
After a traditional Peruvian lunch we drove down the canyon a bit to our hotel the Eco Inn. It was gorgeous – right on the gorge over looking the river. there are 400 volcanoes in Peru, 189 surrounding Arequipa and the area. 7 are active. We saw smoking cones en route and the Colca canyon is home to a number of hot springs. Our walk through the village of Yanque was lovely – we met locals bringing their animals home, saw an ancient burial area in the wall of the gorge and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. We head to Colca Canyon proper tomorrow to see the Condors fly.
Following a harrowing drive to the airport in Lima morning rush hour traffic, we reached the airport, let our heart beats regulate and caught our plane to Arequipa – the second largest city in Peru. Pre-flight entertainment was provided by a group of a very vocal gentlemen whose flight had just been cancelled.
UNESCO World heritage site
Known as La Cuidad Blanca – the white City because many of the buildings have been built from a white volcanic material called sillar.
Situated in a beautiful valley surround by 3 volcanoes, mountains and high desert. 7000 feet high
Our first evening in Arequipa was spent having dinner in a roof top restaurant overlooking the town square. While enjoying a Peruvian dinner of alpaca, local freshwater shrimp and passionfruit juice we watched the evening promenade of the locals and tourists. A diner next to us ordered guinea pig – while the presentation left something to be desired he said it tasted good…. It is cool here in the evenings and the restaurant very kindly provided us with ponchos to ward off the chill.
The next morning we headed off for a city tour. Our first stop this morning was Carmen Alto a look out where you could see the three volcanos – Chachani and Pichu Pichu are extinct, Misti is still active with the last smoke being observed in 1985.
There are apparently 10 earthquakes here each day. Mostly small – we haven’t noticed any yet -hope to keep it that way. After taking some city shots we went to Janahuara a square filled with palms, artists and surrounded by volcanoes and an ancient church.
It was a beautiful place. We also tried Cheese Ice cream – delicioso!!!! After ice cream we travelled to visit the Monasterio D Santa Catalina built in 1579. It is a nunnery. In the beginning rich families purchased places for their daughters in the nunnery for 200 gold pieces. Girls were sent there at 12 years of age to ensure that their families received favour in the eyes of The Lord. What the girls thought is unrecorded. This practice was banned in early 1800’s by order of the Pope and entrance fees were waived. Currently 18 Nuns live here and their are 8 novices. A girl must be 20 to enter the convent. The Interior of convent was stunningly beautiful with rich terracotta and cobalt blue colours combined with cobblestone walkways and lush geraniums.
Our visit to the town square following the convent tour was dominated by pigeons and pigeon caca. I have never seen so much bird guano in my life outside of a seagull rookery, although I hear we are in for a treat with the Antarctic penguins. The square was also full of people feeding pigeons, and flowers. Our guide Mario took us to a local restaurant for an excellent traditional Peruvian lunch. We then walked through the town back to our hotel and are getting ready for our trip to Colca Canyon tomorrow.
After exiting the chaos of Lima International airport I had an entertaining drive to the hotel through the red light district and past some interesting shenanigans on local buses. And – have I mentioned the driving in South America??????
Some factoids about Lima
9 million people live here in a 1000 square km city.
330,000 cabs operate here, that is 10X more than NY city
Considered second oldest civilization after Mesopotamia according to Peruvians
Fishing, Mining, tourism, agriculture are the main exports, 85% of the country is catholic, cerviche is the national delicacy.
The next day we caught a city tour and traveled to the old town and the Plaza Mayor of Lima which houses the Presidential palace and the Governor’s palace.
The street art is amazing in Lima!
We then walked over to San Francisco Church/Basilica and the catacombs. In the 1800’s people were buried under churches in rectangular excavations. 5 people were buried in each grave. the first body was put in then covered with a layer of dirt and quick lime, the next body was then placed in etc. 25,000 people were buried in this fashion under that church alone and each church in Lima has catacombs under them. People wished to be buried there to be closer to God. During our tour of the Basilica San Francisco we also saw the old Franciscan monk quarters and beautiful mosaics. the entire structure was tongue and groove – no nails.
After a cerviche lunch ( muy delicioso) in Kennedy park near our hotel, we headed off again with our minder Mario who took us on an unscheduled trip south through the real Lima via public transport to an area called Barranco on the Pacific Ocean. Lovely area. Lots of Asian influence here on food – which is a fusion of Chinese, Japanese and Peruvian.
After an overnight flight from LAX and a transfer in Lima I arrived in Quito Ecuador after 24 hrs of traveling. My hosts were there to meet me and we had a 45 minute drive to Hacienda Verde. The farm is located about an hour outside of Quito right on the Equator – walking from north to south on the farm I crossed the Equator 5X one day. The farm consists of 100’s of acres and is a combination of Dry Andean primary and secondary forest as well as thriving agro-forestry projects managed by Fabian Bucheli and his wife Lucia de la Torre. Tannin, avocado and citrus trees are the main producers with understory plantings of beans, alfalfa, peppers and other harvestable plants. Diversity is a key to the management of the farm. Some of the land is leased to a flower producer, as well as to a poultry production operation. The other parts of Hacienda Verde are actively managed by Lucia and Fabian. All irrigation is gravity fed with water obtained from reservoirs on the farm. Irrigation canals are dug across the hillsides and water is diverted to fields on a rotational basis. Horses are used to help with the harvest. One of my purposes in going was to photograph the plants, animals and insects on the farm. It is a photographers paradise. A highlight was standing quietly on a hillside
covered with flowering plants photographing hummingbirds. Ecuadorian cuisine is outstanding. Fabian and Lucia have created their own special fusion of Ecuadorian (Lucia’s heritage) and Columbian (part of Fabian’s heritage) recipes that made each meal memorable. Fresh juice is made daily from passionfruit, tree tomato and many other fruits. And did I mention the cheese? also made locally. It is pure foodie heaven. Fabian and Lucia are actively developing a eco-tourism business involving guided hikes of the farm and surrounding forest lands together with a traditional meal following the hike. They are also going to be offering cooking classes featuring fresh picked produce from the farm. If you are planning a trip to Ecuador I would highly recommend contacting them and arranging a visit. Contact information can be found at http://www.fabianbucheli.com
On one day of my visit we drove to the market town of Otavalo via the backroads that used to be the main trail that the native Ecuadorians took to get to Quito to sell their products and pick up supplies. The towns are located about one days ride apart and are 500 years old or so. The scenery as we climbed into the Andean Cloud Forest – another unique ecosystem in Ecuador – was spectacular. We dropped quickly into Otavalo after crossing the mountains. Lucia and I briefly explored the local market and then we drove to a lake near Otavalo where Lucia is monitoring a family run business that sustainably harvests reeds from the lakeshore and creates everything from furniture to wall art to baskets and more. On our way home we stopped at the beautiful home and dairy farm run by Rafael and Baunila – friends of Fabian and Lucia. They have about 30 cows – mainly holstein crosses as they are healthier than the American holsteins in this climate. Dairy management is far different than in North America. Cows are milked for up to 8 years and are on pasture every day. Rafael and Baunila welcomed me into their home with open arms and we had a wonderful visit.
The final day of my visit was spent photographing pollinators.
Honeybees are disappearing in this part of the world as well which is very worrisome as they are the main pollinators of avocado trees for example. Lucia is looking for another pollinator if honey bee populations get much lower – the first step being to identify what was visiting each plant. We found some wasps and a bee I call a panda bee that were also pollinating fruit trees.
My time in Ecuador ended all too quickly and it was time to head off to Peru.
I am fortunate enough to take another trip of a lifetime this fall to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and the Antarctic. Hope to be blogging as I go along, Internet dependent. Time in Ecuador will be spent at Hacienda Verde at latitude zero near Quito, photographing native plants, the farm and birds in the Andean dry forest, enjoying the local cuisine as well as learning about Ecuadorian farming practices. Following that I will link up with Carol (my long term traveling buddy) in the city of Lima for the remainder of the trip. We look forward to sharing it with you.