Peru

We arrived into Peru: a country with a population of 31 million and a lot of history dating back to pre-inca times. Tourism has become more popular in the last 20 years after the government was able to control terrorism and political issues within the country. It’s a beautiful country with a lot to see. I really only knew about Machu Picchu so were surprised at what else there was to see and do here.

We came to see Inca ruins and we definitely were not disappointed.

this lovely llama decided he wanted to feature in my photo at Machu Picchu

this lovely llama decided he wanted to feature in my photo at Machu Picchu

Pisac in the Sacred Valley

Pisac in the Sacred Valley

Everywhere there were all sorts of different cultures wearing their traditional clothing; all very bright and vibrant. The clothing indicated everything from where the person was from, what culture they belonged to, if they were single or married etc. Amazing that these people still dress in traditional clothing in their everyday life.

traditional dress in Colca Canyon Valley

traditional dress in Colca Canyon Valley

Amantani, Lake Titikaka

Amantani, Lake Titikaka

Uros Islands

Uros Islands

The landscapes varied considerably even within different provinces as we crossed the Andes. Agriculture is the main industry within the country and can be seen both in the lowlands, valleys, high in the rocky Andes Mountains and even the Amazon. You could see these farming people worked hard.

Colca Canyon near Chivay, the inca terraces perfect for separating crops

Colca Canyon near Chivay, the pre-inca terraces were perfect for separating crops

the mountain ranges between Lake Titikaka & Cusco

the mountain ranges between Lake Titikaka & Cusco

 lots of vege farming in the Sacred Valley near Cusco

lots of vege farming in the Sacred Valley near Cusco

When it came to animals we saw Vicuñas, Llamas & Alpacas in most highland areas around Peru. It’s neat when you see them roaming free up in the hills as opposed to on the side of the road with locals who are looking for money from tourists for a photo. The Amazon had lots of birds and yes a few nasty things.
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I need a shave! This is an Alpaca Suri.

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The Peruvian hairless dog was everywhere

The Peruvian hairless dog was everywhere

From the Amazon…..

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Most towns had a cathedral that was very significant compared to the homes in the area. Photo below on Left is San Peter cathedral, which was in Andahuaylillas (very rural) on the way to Cusco with amazing murals inside. No photos allowed though.

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Photo above right is one of many cathedrals in Arequipa

 

In the country towns homes were typically constructed of mud or concrete blocks. The homes looked like they were under continual construction and had no construction standards, just people building what they could afford. Generally the smaller towns and cities had electricity while the farming areas and islands had nothing.
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The house we stayed in on Amantani Island, other than having low doors, was very good compared to the mainland.p1110964

Transport, like any 3rd world country, is very innovative in getting the locals about; anything from 3-wheeled motorcycles to trucks loaded full with people. The road system was actually really good on the whole. Buses were good. Around the Andes’ towns the locals typically walked the many trails high into the hills. Good exercise!
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In every town we went to there were souvenir markets and locals selling trinkets and handmade crafts. Interestingly we were told that most of the markets sell acrylic products and tell the tourists its alpaca wool. Who are we to know the difference I guess. Buyer beware! No souvenir shops in the Amazon.

it was cold up here and yet there were souvenir stalls set up

it was cold up here and yet there were souvenir stalls set up

So much to see in so little time and each place we visited was so different. If you are interested in seeing more I have broken the areas we went to in Peru down into a number of separate blog entries. Read on.

Peru – Lima & Arequipa Cities

We passed through the capital Lima which has 10 million people and is very spread out with major traffic problems and crazy drivers! Pedestrian crossings mean nothing to these people as do traffic lights; they keep going with horns blearing blocking intersections.

Lima is on the Pacific Coast with nice views from the Malacon. There were lots of people out surfing, swimming and sunbathing below us as there were blue skies, something that is not typical of Lima. Nice for us though😉.
p1110824A city tour took us to see the old Colonial Centre of Lima and some of the historic parks and neighborhoods around Lima.
Plaza de Armas was once the Colonial centre of Lima, founded in 1535 and then rebuilt in 1746 after a major earthquake. The cobblestone streets and architecture are very grand.

Cathedral

Cathedral

Archbishops Palace with its grand balconies

Archbishops Palace with its grand balconies

Presidential Palace - Peru's President works

Presidential Palace – Peru’s President works

At the Monument of José de San Martin, a national hero who lead the revolution against Spanish rule, there were protestors & police, which is apparently a common site every day. There seemed to be a lot of people everywhere we went in Lima to be honest.
p1110830Our final stop was the San Francisco Church and monastery where we went underground to the dusty catacombs to see the bone filled crypts with skulls and femurs, of only the rich and middle class, displayed in all sorts of designs.
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It was then on to Arequipa, which lies on the edge of the Altiplano or Andes slopes, 2380m above sea level and is surrounded by the volcanoes Misti, Pikchu Pikchu and Chachani.

Misti volcano with a nice conal shape

Misti volcano with a nice conal shape. There are lots of houses at the base of this mountain!

Pikchu Pikchu Volcano

Pikchu Pikchu Volcano

 Arequipa is known as “La Ciudad Blanca” (White City), because many of its buildings are made of sillar, a white local volcanic stone.
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We arrived on a Sunday and decided to go down to the main Plaza to see the Arequipa Cathedral, one of the biggest in South America. Wow lots of people, they were there to set a Guinness World Record for rocoto relleno (hot peppers stuffed with meat, rice and vegetables) a traditional Arequipan food. Sunday is a family day so it was nice to sit and watch them enjoying the event and the day.
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sunset on the cathedral

sunset on the cathedral, it just glows

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We loved the cowboy hat on this Police women who was directing the traffic around the plaza.

 

In Peru people are conscience of the sun and typically wear sun hats.

 

 

 

The Santa Catalina Monastery is considered the most impressive colonial building in the City, founded in 1579. The 2nd female child of a wealthy family was sent to the convent at about the age of 14 to study under a nun for 4 years upon which she would determine if she would continue on to become a nun. It was 20,000m2 and was like a city within the city. There were approx 200 nuns with their ‘personal assistants” living here through to the 1900’s. Sounded like they lead an interesting life partying for many years. Now, there are 20 nuns who live in a sectioned off area of the Monastary with most of the monastery being used for tourism.

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At the ”Momia Juanita” museum we saw the Inca Ice Maiden found in 1995 at 6380m and is well preserved with hair, skin and teeth. It is believed that an Inca girl was killed as an offering to the Inca gods sometime between 1450 and 1480, at approximately 11-15 years old. To date 18 Inca bodies have been found since Juanita in 1995.
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Arequipa was a great town to just wander around and see the architecture.

Peru – Colca Canyon

From Arequipa we left for the town of Chivay (4 hours driving) and to the Colca Canyon passing thru the volcanic ranges and a National Reserve where we saw Vicuñas, Llamas & Alpacas roaming free. img_0735img_0737We climbed to 4700m where people live in the hills farming the harsh terrain. The road wound around the edge of the mountains and then we dropped down into the canyon to a small country town called Chivay.

the landscape here was so dry as we crossed the mountain range

the landscape here was so dry as we crossed the mountain range

farming looked difficult but there were lots of farms out here

farming looked difficult but there were lots of farms out here

Chivay down in the valley

Chivay down in the valley

In Chivay the women wear traditional clothing of the Cabana & Collagua Indian cultures now identified by the hat they wore. Interestingly back in Pre-Hispanic times the two ethnic groups in the Colca Canyon area deformed their babies’ skulls — the Collagua into a taller, tapered shape and the Cabana into a mesa-shaped cranium. Thank goodness the Spanish banned this and so the 2 cultures were forced into identifying their differences via dress.

A traditional Cabana outfit with the dancing guru.

A traditional Cabana outfit with the dancing guru.

Collagua hats and clothing worn by the women

Collagua hats and clothing worn by the women

The plaza had its iconic cathedral, which the locals enjoyed in the evenings. We liked just sitting and people watching.
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Not many places where you get to see the locals walking with their lama or sheep in the streets that’s for sure but they are taking them to the market to sell. This Lady still wears her Cabana hat to go to market even though she’s dressed in jeans.
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The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world and is famous for the condor, where we saw 2 small ones gliding in the thermals in the distance. There were amazing views inside the canyon of the valley floor terraces that had been built in pre Inca times and are now farmed by the local people here.
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Peru – Lake Titikaka

Lake Titikaka is the highest navigable lake in the world at an altitude of 3800m. Here we went to visit three islands; Uros, Amantani and Taquile.

The ancient Uros were the owners of the lake who in the time of the Inca invasions would lift anchor and drift together and move to a safe part of the lake. They were eventually conquered and made slaves. Today, the Uros people try to live a traditional life and still build their boats and islands using bundles of totora reeds abundant in the shallows of the lake, but add solar panels for electricity. There were 4 families living on the small island we visited.
p1110947p1110953The islands have become quite touristy where the locals have become business people relying on the tourist boats to come organizing tours in their reed boats, demonstrations of the way they live and craft markets to sell their wares. It worked!
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relaxing in front

relaxing in front

demonstration of how island is built and yes needs regular maintenance

demonstration of how island is built and yes needs regular maintenance

At Amantani we stayed with a local family (Aurora & Damien) where we got to experience some local traditions and customs. The community put on a party for all the tourists so we had to dress the part. Damien and Arora are on either side of us below.
p1110981This was a rewarding experience seeing how these people live. Most people speak Quechua but luckily our family spoke Spanish as well and with the other couple that stayed here we could communicate. There are actually 10 communities scattered around the island (4000 people) who rotate taking groups of tourists in to help their community. The house where we stayed was very clean and quite big but had no electricity so it was back to the basics.
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farming out back and great views

farming out back and great views

The color of the skirts indicate what community they are from on the island. A lot of the ladies sit in the community areas spinning the wool into yarn.

some of the hosts from the community we stayed with relaxing in the main plaza

some of the hosts from the community we stayed with relaxing in the main plaza

We hiked to the top of the hill and after a tiring climb in this altitude to the top we found Pachatata sanctuary, where special events are held & the amazing views over the island.

these people walk up here to tend to the crops, it was cold!

these people walk up here to tend to the crops, it was cold!

great views up here

great views up here on a clear day

Needless to say the bar in the plaza was busy after with everyone wanting to get warm. Beer and Muña tea with alcohol!
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Taquile is renowned for their knitted garments. The men actually knit the garments and can be seen all around the island knitting.
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 yes he's knitting at a really pretty viewpoint

yes he’s knitting at a really pretty viewpoint

Here we also had a great view over Lake Titikaka back to Amantani in the distance.
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Peru – Cusco & our fav. Inca Ruins

The historic area of Cusco has many narrow cobblestone streets, plazas and ruins and is easy to wander about. Cusco was invaded by the Spaniards in 1535 where many of the original Inca structures were destroyed and rebuilt in their own style.
Plaza de Armas is huge with lots of restaurants and shops around it.
img_0798The Basilica Catedral is on one side of the plaza and is big with 3 churches within the one building, each church all very different.
p1120069The Church of Santo Domingo and its gardens are impressive compared to many of the buildings in the area.
p1120038p1120041Ceramic bulls can be seen on the roofs of many buildings around Cusco and the surrounding areas to signify the Spanish era.

original roof design, we like this guy!

original roof design, we like this guy!

p1120094We went to many Inca Ruins in the area the best in our opinion being:
1. Machu Picchu, why of course, where we spent a whole day hiking the site. You can either hike the Inca trail in here in 4 days/ 3 nights or go by train at a small price(not!) to Aguas Caliente, which is worth staying over at to relax and have a hot shower after enjoying the site. Machu Picchu was never found by the Spaniards and therefore in good condition after being identified in 1911 by a man from Yale, Hiram Bingham. It is thought that the rich Incas from Cusco used this site as their country holiday destination in the Urubamba Valley.

Machu Picchu ruins with Huayna Picchu in the background

Machu Picchu ruins with Huayna Picchu in the background

The whole site was amazing, including the hike up Montaña Huayna Picchu to look down over Machu Picchu and along the valley. Yes it was as steep as it looks. Below is the view from Huayna Picchu back to Machu Picchu.

p1120147No wonder the Spaniards didn’t find it.
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We hiked 11km in total that day and oh yeah we deserved the beers and hot shower after.

2. Ollantaytambo is a town and site along the Sacred Valley and is surrounded by 3 mountains where you could see Inca ruins all around you. There were 247 steps to climb to the top of the main site, good exercise in this altitude.

Inca ruins or searching the net

Inca ruins or searching the net?

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can you see the Face and ruins on this mountain

can you see the Face and ruins on this mountain

3. Also In the Sacred Valley Pisac was really impressive sitting on a huge mountain side, where various Inca communities had lived. It was a big structure and we could have wandered around here for hours to the various ruins to admire the views. The Inca terraces were about 6ft tall and originally built for protection (erosion control and from enemies) and of course for agriculture purposes.
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loved the Inca floating stairs

loved the Inca floating stairs

4. Saqsayhuaman close to Cusco, where you got to appreciate huge boulders and wondered how the Incas built these walls shaping and polishing the boulders together with no mortar.
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these boulders are huge

these boulders are huge

We did go and see a lot more ruins than these and its definitely amazing how they built these walls and Terraces. We’re Inca’d out so we’ll leave you with the best in our opinion.
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Peru – Amazon

From Puerto Maldernado in Southeast Peru we took a boat about 3 hours up stream on the Rio Tambopata to our lodge. We spotted Baby Capybara’s the size of a small pig on the waters edge; these guys get up to 60kgs!
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walking thru the mud looked like tough work

walking thru the mud looked like tough work

nice & clean now after a swim

nice & clean now after a swim

The lodge was a 10 minute walk into the bush with rooms open to the outdoors. Wasn’t expecting such a nice place to be honest. Such a peaceful tranquil environment with the sounds of birds etc at night that just put you to sleep. Ok maybe exhaustion from getting up very early to go and see things, what with 2-3 activities a day.
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Lots of different species of birds including the Amazon Kingfisher but the best sighting was at The Clay lick with Red and Blue McCaws and Mealy Parrots, which were very cool. The clay gives many animals here nutrients to help them survive.
img_0930img_0935 Click to see Video of MacCaws.

these are birds nests that swing below the canopy. Very strange.

these are birds nests that swing below the canopy. Very strange.

It’s actually very difficult to see animals as the forest is so dense. Many animals like Jaguars, anteaters and snakes are easier to see at night as their eyes glow. Our guide on his previous tour saw an anaconda and shared the photo with us.
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We climbed the 30m tower to sit above the tree line and spotted a couple of families of Titi monkeys on the way up. Forest for miles up there that’s for sure; 60% of Peru is actually Amazon Rainforest.

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While hiking in the forest we first smelt and then saw a herd of Peccary pigs running through the forest. No photo of these guys as they were fast, probably running to get away from us. Here’s what they look like. Lots of bugs about too and some of them were big!
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The canoe ride around Lake Condenado was hot but peaceful and the small black Caiman waiting for us in the Lilly’s made us wonder where it’s mum was. The trees near the Lake were massive, we could walk inside them.

Daniel our guide was always on the lookout for animals

Daniel our guide was always on the lookout for animals

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A beautiful sunset along the river and Pisco sours to end a good trip.
p1120258647With Christmas fast approaching the decorations have come out at the lodge
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We have family coming to join us for Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone and have a festive season.
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