Monthly ArchiveMay 2008
Peru 07 May 2008 05:23 pm
We had an active week during which we saw many interesting new things, and learned a lot about the Peruvian way of life.
On April 30th we got to Puno from Cuzco (6 hour bus ride). Puno is the major town on the shore of lake Titicaca – the highest navigable lake in the world at 3800m above sea level. We were lucky to arrive at the time of the miniatures festival in Puno. In this festival, there is a fair in which the locals sell many tiny objects, among which animals, homes, and even certificates and passports. The locals believe that if you buy a miniature object – you will get it in the real life. Other than that, Puno isnÂ´t very impressive – it is probably the poorest town weÂ´ve spent time in on this trip.
On the next day we went on a two-day trip on lake Titicaca. We first visited the Uros floating islands. These islands are completely artificial – made by locals from totora – a kind of straw that grows in shallow waters. Totora is he main material for all construction in the islands – including homes of the locals, and their boats.
Next we sailed from the Uros islands to Amantani (which is a real island). Island Amantani has 4500 inhabitants that live a very calm indigenous way of life. Most locals work at agriculture, and trade crops with other villagers. Lately, the locals also earn from tourism. On Amantani, we stayed with a local family, named Â¨SimonÂ¨, as the head of the family. We slept at their house, and ate meals with them. In the evening we were even dressed in the local clothes, and went to a Â¨partyÂ¨, with local songs and dances.
The local food, unsurprisingly, consists mainly of potatoes (around 6 different types, but still!). For example, the lunch consisted of a potato-quinoa soup (quinoa is a local grain, somewhat like buckwheat, though they call it Peruvian rice) and a 6-types potato main course, with a piece of cheese. It was actually not bad at all.
On the next morning, we sailed to the Tequile island, which is a more popular tourist destination. We spent a day on the island, walking along it from one end to another, and sailed back to Puno, where in the evening Eli had fried guinea pig. It was much worse than Alpaca, which we ate a couple of days before, but itÂ´s an interesting dish.
The unfamiliar guy in this photo is Diego, an Argentinian whom weÂ´ve met on the trek and then again in Puno.
We spent the night in Puno and in the morning took a bus to Arequipa. It was also a 6 hour ride, though a much less pleasant one, because it was a cheaper local bus (the lesson was learned for the later trip to Nazca). Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru, and is called La Ciudad Blanca (the white city) because of the white volcanic stone many of its buildings are built from. We later found out that there is another reason for the name: during the time of the Spanish conquest, there were a lot of conquistadors in this city, so the locals made up the name because of the mainly white population. Arequipa is located in a geologically active area and is surrounded by 3 large volcanoes. It also has frequent earthquakes, some of them strong enough to do damage. Here is one of the volcanoes, called Misti (5800m high).
In Arequipa we took a day off to explore the city. ItÂ´s very beautiful and has a lot of interesting places to see, the highlight being the St. Catalina monastery – a huge enclosed compound right in the heart of the city, which is an active monastery for almost 500 years.
Next, we joined a two day tour to the Colca canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand canyon in Arizona. Colca canyon is considered by some to be the deepest in the world, although its close neighbor, Cotahuasi canyon is commonly cited as being somewhat deeper. The Colca canyon is in the middle of Colca valley, a fertile highland that is settled since pre-Inca times.
WeÂ´ve spent a day and a half viewing the valley and the canyon from various angles. Unfortunately, its deepest parts are currently inaccessible. The highlight of the tour was on Tuesday morning, when we went to Cruz del Condor, a place where condors can be seen flying. These are huge, impressive eagles (3 meter wingspan, the second largest among birds, after albatrosses), who flew right over our head (!), and we were fortunate enough to capture a couple of photos.
In the valley and on the way to it we also saw other interesting local animals: many Llamas and Alpacas, VicuÃ±as (from the Camelid family like Alpaca & Llama, just undomesticated and smaller), Vizcachas (a local rabbit with a long curled tail), Andean ducks, eagles and falcons, as well as large hummingbirds (Collibri). Anna had a close encounter with one of the eagles:
DonÂ´t worry, it is domesticated and very friendly.
Next we took the fancy Cruz del Sur night bus to Nazca. The bus ride felt like a flight – including stewardesses, recorded directions of emergency exits, pillows, blankets, and even food. It was a pleasant experience, and we managed to get a full night sleep in the semi-cama (half-bed) seats. The bus arrived to Nazca at 6 AM, so we had plenty of time to explore the city and its surroundings until our bus to Lima at 13:30.
The highlight of the region is, of course, the famous Nazca Lines – huge, mysterious figures carved in the desert over 1500 years ago. There are two ways to see the lines – climb a view tower from which about 3 figures can be seen, or take a flight in a local “piper” plane. From safety and stomach stability reasons, we`ve decided to go for the less extreme approach and took a taxi to the observation tower, and later to a nearby hill from which many straight lines that stretch to the horizon can be seen. HereÂ´s one of the figures, displaying hands:
This is actually one of the smallest figures, only a few tens of meters long. The largest figures are up to 300 meters in length. We also saw Cerro Blanco, the largest sand dune in the world (about 2 km in height) which is right behind the town of Nazca.
Now weÂ´re waiting for our bus to Lima, where weÂ´ll arrive in the late evening. Tomorrow we have a flight to Madrid, and from there back home (we land in Tel Aviv on Saturday morning).
See you soon.