Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Largo Titicaca & Isla del Sol.

The others have returned home, or are doing other travels in South America. So David and I decided to take the long trip from Cusco on the overnight bus to Bolivia - which was actually a reasonable trip. The sleeping seats recline well, and are much better than an economy class flight seat.
Arrived at the border, completed formalities on the Peruvian side, walked through "no mans land" to Bolivia and did the same there. Jumped on a micro bus to take us the 15 mins to Copocabana. That was squishy fun sharing a 12 seater bus with 22 locals! No seat belts - naturally.
Spent a few hours in Copacabana before we could catch the early afternoon public "ferry" to the Isla del Sol. It's a small boat packed with passengers, and goods, no life jackets and the captain was very laid back steering the outboard motor with his feet. The crossing took one and a half hours.
The island is beautiful. The lake is a sparkling blue jewel surrounding it - deep clear water. Our accommodation had a stunning view because it was located at the very top of the community of Yunami.
There are a number of Inka ruins on the island. No cars, you have to walk every where, or hire a donkey. The island is very small - about 12 km in length.
One day we took the boat across to the Isla de La Luna.
Both of these islands are important in Inka legend and history because it is where the Inkas believed their culture was born.
We saw a number of single hull, and double hulled, traditional reed boats. These days they recycle plastic drink bottles to make the form, then cover it with the reeds. This also reduces the impact of harvesting the reed beds.
Many of the homes, including our hotel, have reed ceilings - which must be quite insulative I would think.
We have returned to Cusco and go home the day after tomorrow. What a great time, and wonderful adventures we have had.
I'll miss this continent - we intend to keep returning. Can't let our improving Spanish go to waste, particularly David who is quite fluent now, and has an enormous vocabulary.
Michelle and David.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Manu National Park

The Manu river is in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin.
This is the largest national park in Peru at 1.8 million hectares. It is a UNESCO World Heritage listed biosphere.
About 500 visitors a year pass into the reserved zone. Most of the park is off limits, except to scientists, and the indigenous Machiguenga, who live as they have for hundreds of years.
Machiguenga were severely effected in 1984 after missionaries brought the flu; it is now forbidden to have contact with them.
The trip into the reserved zone is 11 hours over rough roads, followed by 2 full days in a motorized canoe. Then we spent 3 nights at a jungle camp.
The skill of the canoe captain, & his one crew, were awesome. The rivers are broad, very fast, and shallow at this time of year. Negotiating the numerous small rapids with an outboard motor on the back of a canoe was quite something - better than a fun park! We dropped 300 mts on the down river journey, then had to regain it again on return.
The heat, humidity and biting insects are difficult, but the rewards were great.
We saw -
4 jaguars, including a mother and juvenile. Two stayed around for nearly half an hour on the river bank while we watched from the canoe.
4 capibara - including one mother with 2 young ones
1 tapir - big!
Many species of monkeys
Many species of birds
White and black Cayman
Lots of tortoises
Piraña - red, white and yellow
Giant otters
Many beautiful butterflies, and large glowing fire flies at night.
We saw a lot of flowering plants,  amazing large trees, and vines.
The jaguar and the otter are listed as endangered so we feel privileged to have seen them at all, let alone so well - thanks to our guide. She had amazing sight, seeing things long before we could manage to focus on them. I doubt we would have seen much without her help.
Most of the animal spotting was done from the canoe. However we did some walks, and that was best for monkey spotting - they are such a hoot; very gregarious.
Michelle, David, Elly.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Ausangate trek

Another very high altitude trek of 4700 to 5200 mts. We are pros at sleeping and walking at these altitudes now.
This is a sacred mountain range to the Andinos. We had mixed weather with 2 days of intermittent heavy falls of snow. Then it cleared perfectly for our treks over the high passes.
Stunning coloured lakes, glaciers, and picturesque scenery.
Also some tiny interesting communities where we bought some beautifully hand spun, knitted and natural vegetable died products in the softest pure alpaca.
We finished with some hot thermal springs.
Next stop the jungle of Manu UNESCO world heritage biosphere. Out poor tired bodies need this rest.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

It seems an age since my last post and so much has happened since Araquipa. Travelled by bus to Chivay followed by a day trip to Colca Canyon which was incredible. The condors performed for us, at one stage there were ten of them soaring on thermals just above us, it was almost as though we could touch them. On the way back to Chivay we asked to be dropped at a nearby village where we wandered around, ending up at a suspension bridge over a steep part of the canyon which gave an idea of the steepness in some parts. Travelled back to Civay by ´´collectivo´´ for a couple of soles, that was interesting.
From Chivay to Puno where we spent a day on Lake Titicaca visiting floating islands and the island of Taquile were some sort of festivity was in progress. Dancing in the plaza followed by beer, then more dancing and more beer.I can only imagine what the dancing was like later in the day.
Puno to Cusco by bus then a day in the Sacred Valley which was taster for Machu Picchu.
After a free day Cusco we left for the Salkantay trek. 12 of us altogether Sandy and me and 10 others in their twenties. Needless to say we very soon realised we could not keep up with them as they raced ahead on the first day which was 18 km on rough roads. Funny, the next day the young ones told that ours was a good pace so decided to follow until the could see the pass at 4600m then raced ahead. That was a long day 22km with 4 hours up to the pass and 6 down to the camp. The views were magnificent and it was well worth it especially when we reached Aguas C then Machu Picchu.
We have just returned from Manu NP were we had a terrific time. The wildlife was so prolific and interesting. The lodges were very basic but comfortable, right beside the river. Had to leave our comfort zone with some rafting through the rapids and them ´´zip lining´´ through the tree tops followed by rapelling back to earth. Sandy was looking for the staircase down but was out of luck.
Off to Iguaso Falls tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Cachora to Machu Picchu

We have just completed a ten day hike to Machu Picchu starting at the village of Cachora in the neighbouring department of Abancay & passing by the extensive & impressive Inca ruins of Choquequirao.  This was our hardest walk so far with distances up to 15 km & ascents & descents of over 1000 m, often on the same day.  The views of steep mountain valleys & snow-capped peaks were stunning.
We also did a mini-project spending a morning with the school children in the village of Yanama.  I'm not sure what they made of our descriptions of Australian wildlife but Ellie's picture book helped and Jim's graphically acted death from snake bite was a great hit.  We never suspected the depths of his thespian talent!
We finished the walk at Machu Picchu - easier to get to than Chokekiraw (alternative Quechua spelling more or less) but certainly impressive for its size & the extent of intact buildings.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Sacred Valley of the Incas

Yesterday spent the day visiting Inka archaeological sites in the sacred valley.
First to Pisaq the most well preserved, and significant site after Machu Picchu. Impressive agricultural terraces are being restored with funding from UNESCO.
Next to Ollantaytambo to see more ruins and aqueducts, and finally to Chinchero. At Chinchero there are almost no ruins, but the local culture and weaving techniques have been preserved.
Then today we saw a procession for the Virgin de Cococabana, before departing for our city tour.
Tomorrow we begin a 10 day trek to Machu Picchu using an unusual route.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Cusco Peru

In Cusco at 3400mts - a beautiful city full of quaint streets, hidden plazas, museums, churches and beautiful shops with the softest alpaca knitwear.
Really enjoying the relative quiet and cleanliness after Lima.
We have unfortunately had to leave our good friends Sandy & John behind because they have gone to Arequipa to enjoy other sights before arriving in Cusco.
Rob is still in hospital in Lima waiting to be transported home.
Ann has joined us for the Machu Picchu trek - start Sunday for 11 days.