A Travellerspoint blog

February 2021

Peru- Paracas

Ancient sites, deserts, pisco and beaches

Friday 17th August – Down the coast to Paracas
We drove back to the hotel and decided we just had time to have a light lunch there. We explained that we didn’t have much time to the waiter, so he brought us some lovely soup (sancochado which is beef, yucca/cassava and potato) and cold Cusco beer whilst we sat outside. Perfect timing as
the taxi collected us at 1.30.
We drove through Lima, over the major roads to the main Bus Station. Totally unlike our bus stations- we had to queue to hand/check in our luggage and get a receipt, then find the correct departure door and wait. Ours was Nazca via Pisco and Paracas. A longer wait than expected as the coach in was late, so we started half an hour later than we should have. Still, it was quite easy all in all. The coach was luxurious with footrests, free internet and
complimentary food! We set off south down the Pan-American Highway out of Lima and quickly we left the city and headed along the desert coast of Peru. It was interesting scenery of sandy hills, coast and small villages. By the time we reached Pisco town it was dusk and we arrived at Paracas in the later dusk having watched the sunset from the bus.
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The coach let us off and we had to collect our luggage by using our receipts as proof. Paracas bus station was a large open shed with a few plastic-tablecloth tables and a water bottle shop. Our taxi collected us and after a few minutes of road surprised us by turning off along a sand track (if that). Still, it turned out it was only a short cut to another road with our hotel on the left. The sweeping entrance was good and the lobby all marble and shiny. Our room was gorgeous- huge with a comfortable balcony over the swimming pools (yes, two) and Paracas Bay. We had pre-booked an evening meal at the hotel (Bahia Hacienda Paracas) as it was said to be popular and we had a wonderful sea view. Our really helpful waiter recommended some seafood, caught locally and very fresh, which turned out to be an excellent choice. A Chupe de pascado and a Lima butter bean lime salad (butter beans have been eaten for over 6000 years in Peru). He found some super local wine (Ocucaje Peru Fond de Cave Chardonnay – they have been in the wine/ pisco business since 1898 and this fruity white wine was great with the fish) to go along with it. We were persuaded to try Pisco Sour, which Steve liked, and I hated.
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Pisco is the capital of Pisco Province. It is a Quecha word meaning bird and the Spanish set up a villa close to the indigenous settlement. A vineyard there did so well that the 16th century Spanish invented a yellow/ amber brandy which is now called pisco. Chile has long tried to claim the brand, and even renamed one of its towns Pisco.
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Saturday 18th August – Paracas reserve
We woke quite early (still adjusting to the time zone, I think) and spent the early morning watching the bird life from our balcony. As it was dawn, but pleasantly warm, there were lots of birds feeding on the early fish shoals and even more so when the early fishing boats came in. I particularly enjoyed watching the pelicans with their distinctive looks and fishing techniques, as well as the large Peruvian Boobies. Steve got very interested in watching the kite surfers and decided he’d like to try kite surfer one day.
The bird life is the most abundant of land life in the area- a huge variety of birds are there- 216 species. We saw white-tufted grebes, Peruvian Pelicans, Peruvian boobies at least.
We had time before breakfast for a pleasant early morning walk along the bay (going right, towards Paracas town), then had an excellent breakfast of tamales (boiled corn and cheese in a banana leaf), before heading to the lobby to see if we could go to the Ballestas Islands. Unfortunately it was too windy (we didn’t notice in the bay, but when we later left it we could see the problem), so our guide proposed a tour of the Reserve instead. This turned out to be a better choice than the Ballestas as over the day we saw pretty much all the same animals (dolphins, guano birds, seals to name just a few). The minibus collected us and another family and set off left towards Paracas town (a very small town or a large village depending on your point of view), then slightly inland into the paracas themselves.
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Paracas is a Quecha word for sandstorm, which is what happens each year late Aug/ early Sept as the winds pick up and the skies fill with sand. The dunes in the area are a result of this phenomenon.
We stopped to buy a Reserve pass, then drove to the Red Mountain (a pre-Inca necropolis), which was opposite the Paracas Reserve Museum. The necropolis, Wari Kayan held several hundred burials in the Topara style c.100-250AD. They had associated ceramics (plain, red and white slip), food and weapon offerings. Each burial was seated and textile wrapped, facing north and looks very similar to early Nazca Culture burials. The museum started with an interesting room about how the area looked million of years ago (a rainforest before it dried out), including some fossilised landscapes. The remainder of the museum was really dedicated to the environment, both marine and land, around Paracas (including an environmental part upstairs).
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When we had finished our guide took us over the sand (literally- just like when we drove through Wadi Rum in Jordan) towards the Pacific. We came over and down a paracas to Red Beach (Playa Roja), which was a truly beautiful bay with very red sand. The island in the distance was called Pannetone Island (because it looked just like one). We spent a while here enjoying the rollers of the Pacific. Annoyingly, for Steve, he managed to break his sunglasses and it was so bright he had to wear them with 1 arm only until we got to Arequipa where he bought some fake Gucci’s to replace them in the Plaza de Armas. Then we drove back up the sand dunes and ending in an alien looking environment our guide jokingly called Mars (red, arid sand, no visible water, small rocky outcrops and NO ONE else around). He explained that the small piles of rocks (well larger than pebbles but smaller than rocks) were small hills made by people. They are called apachetas and relate to pre-Inca and Inca beliefs in the power of mountains. If you make or add to an apacheta you can have a wish or good luck (slightly different interpretations, but the general gist is the same), so of course we had to do this!
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Read the section about Inca mythology to understand the importance of rock piles. Certainly in Inca (and probably pre-Inca) times a small pile of rocks would mark your household place or huaclla (the size of which, of course, depended on whether you were a peasant farmer or an emperor!). It is understandable, given the terrain, that Andean cultures would have a thing about mountains (what with the earthquakes, volcanoes, altiplano and Andes peaks). Many sacrifices and necropoli are associated with mountains.
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The minibus took us past more sand dunes and beaches (no-one seemed to use these beaches- in Europe they would have been packed. Apparently Paracas is trying to develop itself as a seaside destination). We parked a short walk from the overhang that looked down over The Cathedral, where we were lucky enough to spot a whole school of dolphins. The Cathedral (or rather what was left of it after the natural arch was destroyed the 2007 tsunami) was covered with guano birds. It was very windy and we soon left to visit Devil Beach overhang. Our guide said this was one of the more dangerous beaches as it had a terrible undertow. We were getting rather hungry, so we headed back to our hotel for a late lunch of fresh seafood, which we ate outside with a glorious view of the bay. For wine- a recommendation from the maitre d’ was a local white; Vista Alegre Pinot from one of Peru’s largest vineyards, establish 1857. A lower alcohol wine since we had a longish journey, it was light and fruity and pleasant for lunch.
We spent the afternoon sitting on the beach chilling, before our taxi took us back to the Paracas coach station shed to catch the coach to Nazca. The same system of luggage check-in and off we set.
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Paracas Reserve
This is the only coastal / marine reserve in Peru. It is a World Heritage site of 335000 hectares (land and sea) and covers the ecosystem, geography and archaeology of the local pre-Inca Paracas and Chavin cultures. The sun shines around 18.7 °C all year and there is virtually no rainfall. Wind in general is 15 km/h but in the paracas time reaches 32 km/h.
In the sea there is abundant life -fish like bonito, toyo, anchovy, guitarfish, tramboyo, mero, corvine, chitas, lorna, silversides, pampanito, over 250 algae species, turtles, zooplankton and phytoplankton- the food chain fuel. Not to mention sea mammals Seals, sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, whales, Humboldt penguin and marine otters (seacats).
Between sea and land are crustaceans, algae and molluscs. In places there are stagnant pools where life has found a niche (mainly bullrushes (totora) which are woven into baskets).
On land the lack of rainfall makes it look very arid- animals are basically the desert fox, a few bats and reptiles (two lizard types and a gecko). The few plants that survive here are cacti and bromeliads (tillandsia).
The peninsula supported the Paracas Culture (c1200 BC – 100 BC), who perfected a water irrigation system enabling them to live in the arid area. The Peruvian archaeologist Tello excavated in area in the 1920’s at the Paracas Cavernas shaft tombs (evidence of reuse and of ritual use of the heads followed by re- interment). The Paracas culture was invaded from the north c150 AD by the Topara culture and they seem to have co-existed for some 100 years. Their interaction contributed to the development of the nearby Nazca culture. Interestingly the Pampa de Santo Domingo site (occupied from c6500BC) yielded a decorated quena (Peruvian flute)- the earliest example.
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Posted by PetersF 12:17 Archived in Peru Tagged birds desert beach peru paracas pisco inca chavin Comments (0)

Nazca; Peruvian history

Deserts, plane rides, archaeology, those lines!

Saturday 18th August – Paracas to Nazca

The coach trip took us from Paracas, through the paracas (sand dunes) down the Pan- American Highway, through the town of Ica (dusk), across a plain, over some small mountains, across Nazca Plain, over some other smallish mountains for about 3 hours to Nazca, where we arrived in the early evening. Our taxi took our luggage from the coach station (much busier than Paracas) while we walked up the main street. The town reminded us very much of Yangshuo in China. The Casa Andina was a lovely hotel with a glass lobby, a huge open central vestibule with palms and slate maps of the lines all open to the rainless air. Our room was on the second floor, which was based around the central section (which also had a swimming pool). A functional, but pleasant room. It was not very late so we decided to find somewhere to eat a small, simple meal before walking the town. We went right out of the hotel and opposite found a small café / restaurant. We went upstairs to the balcony area and ate their special (noodle soup, beer, pancake and ice-cream pud) for only a few soles. The ice cream was of Lucuma (Gold of the Incas), which is a native fruit well know to Inca and pre-Inca cultures (pottery). It’s yellow flesh tastes a bit like maple.
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When we’d finished we walked back to the hotel, but kept on going, past the night clubs to the Plaza de Armas. A pretty, very blue looking plaza with a central blue-mosaiced fountain and the cathedral/church on the side. We sat for a while here as it was pleasantly warm, before heading back to the hotel for a nightcap.
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Spanish-Peruvian History
1. Pizarro and Almagro
In 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas between Portugal and Spain agreed which parts of the New World each one claimed. After Pizarro had effectively neutralized the Inca Empire he and his fellow conquistador, Diego de Almagro, were granted control of the new lands by the Spanish King Carlos I. After taking Quito, de Almagro felt he had been cheated out of his fair share and fell out with Pizarro (1535). His son El Mozo Diego de Almagro, by his native Panamanian wife, attacked Pizzaro in Lima in 1541, then went after the Inca Sapa Manco II, killing him (see Inca history section). This was pretty much the end of the Inca Empire.
The feud between the Pizarros and Almagros led Carlos (now King of Spain and HRE) to set Peru up as a Viceroyalty
2. Viceroyalty 1543-1824
The first Viceroy to arrive was Blasco Nunez Vela. His title was Viceroy of New Castile (=Peru). He was promptly murdered 1546 by Gonzalo Pizarro, who then claimed the viceroyalty. The second viceroy, Pedro de la Gasca was having none of it and executed Gonzalo after his defeat in the Battle of Jaquijahuana (1548). Gasca was a strong man and the title now became Viceroy of Peru 1547-50, instituting an Audiencia in Lima (an Audiencia basically meant the Viceroy had administrative and judicial powers derogated from the king- a practical measure given the distance but obviously important symbolically).
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Six short lived viceroys (Antonio de Mendoza 1551/2, Melchor Brava de Saravia 1552-6, Andres de Mendoza 1556-61, Diego Lopez de Zuniga 1561-4, Juan de Saarvedra 1564, Garcia de Castro 1564-9) preceded Viceroy Francisco de Toledo (appointed1569, arrived 1572). He established an Inquisition in Peru, executed the Inca Tupac Amaru and destroyed Vilcabamba. A succession of viceroys followed, some more effective than others, and all keen to convert the locals. The Jesuits were especially proactive in this area. Fernando Torres de Portugal (1584-9), Francisco de Borja y Aragon (1615-21), Fernandez de Cordoba (1622-9) and Fernandez de Castro (1667-72) stand out in one way or another. The encomienda system was badly run, leading to lots of abuses. Although it was legally abolished in 1720, it in practise continued well into the 18th century.
The local people were not well treated and revolts were common:-
i) Pedro Bohorquez 1656. Claimed to be Sapa Inca
ii) Jose and Gaspar Salcedo 1665-8. Mine owners
iii) Juan Santos Atahualpa 1742-80. A Cusco Inca who claimed descent from Atahualpa. He took Cusco. Despite his death in 1755 the rebellion continued until 1780.
iv) Tupac Amaru II. Tupac came from the Inca royal family and his Cusco Sierra Uprising of 1780, although ultimately unsuccessful, is regarded as the first freedom fight. His family was killed in front of his eyes, he was then tortured and beheaded. His son was taken to Spain.
3. Wars of Independence 1810-24
In South America there was increasingly a wish for independence and two landowners, Simon Bolivar (from Venezuela, but gave his name to Bolivia) and Jose de San Martin (from Argentina) began the fight. San Martin marched to Chile where he defeated the royal troops at the Battle of Chacabuco before sailing to Paracas in 1819 with the newly free Chilean navy. He took Lima in 1821 and declared Peru free. De facto, Peru was free although further fights -1824 battles Jurin and Ayacucho and Battle of Callao were needed before the Spanish finally formally agreed in 1879.
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4. Republic 1820-80
Simon Bolivar was made Dictator of Peru in 1824 (having already liberated Venezuela, Ecuador, Columbia) and Antonio de Sucre given military command. In 1825 at the Congress of Upper Peru the Gran Colombia was formed (mainly Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia). Bolivar attempted some liberal policies, but soon reverted to a centrist approach. Shortly after, his lover, Manuela Saenz attempted to assassinate him. He resigned and left for Europe, but died before sailing. He was followed by competent but uninteresting leaders. The period saw a number of territorial disputes resulting from the liberation and early pan- American coalitions. 1836-9 the Peru-Bolivian Confederation attempt to unite the countries failed with the War of Confederation. The Ecuadorian-Peruvian War of 1941 and brief Cenepa War of 1995 have led to formalised borders.
5. War of the Pacific
In 1879 Chile attacked its northern neighbour, Bolivia, seizing its entire coastline. Bolivia asked for help and Peru joined the war, which was basically won by Chile. By 1884 Peru had lost Tarapaca, Tacna and Arica (Atacama region). In the treaty Chile agreed that Tacna and Arica cities could decide which country to be in, then reneged. The USA waded in and in the Treaty of Lima 1929 Arica was given to Chile and Tacna to Peru. The Peruvians still feel very strongly about this.
6. Aristocratic Republic 1884-1930
So called because most of the presidents during this period came from the elite. The ordinary people became increasingly disenchanted. Socialist and Communist parties were formed at this time.
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7. Modern Politics
President Bustamente y Rivero attempted to form a democratic government by limiting both noble and military power. The final result was a military coup in 1948 by General Manuel Odria. He courted the lower classes, but civil rights were suppressed and corruption grew. He surprised all by allowing elections, but a right-wing series of rulers ensued. Civilian vs military coups became the rule until 1980 when a new constitution was drawn up and civilian rule ensured. In 1985 Alan Garcia tried to manage an economy in trouble, but badly mismanaged it so by 1991 the national reserved were -$900mill. This was the background to the rise of the communist rebel group The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso). As their strength grew the administration became increasingly dictatorial with human rights abuses. The people chose a mathematician Alberto Fujimori as president (1990), hopeful that he could help mend the economy. His fight against the Shining Path led to abuses on both sides until its leader Abimael Guzman (aka Gonzalo) was captured in 2000. Fujimori tried to seek a third term (questionable) but stepped down when a bribery scandal broke, followed by human rights, corruption etc charges. The new president, Alejandro Toledo restored democracy and judicial process to Peru. The current President is Ollanta Humala (2011-)

Posted by PetersF 12:46 Archived in Peru Tagged desert history archaeology nazca Comments (0)

Nazca: the famous lines

Sunday 19th August – the Nazca Lines

This was (I’d hoped) going to be one of my dream days as I’d always wanted to see the Nazca lines, so I woke with a hope that it was not too windy to fly. A nice breakfast by the pool, followed by a short morning walk the other way (right) from the hotel to the edge of Nazca where we could see the plateau and hills down each side road, and then we waited for our guide in the lobby by the gift shop.
Nazca Town was founded by the Spanish in 1591 close to the indigenous settlement of Nanasca.
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Another English person (Michael) was there and we struck up talking- it turned out he was doing a very similar route through Peru to us! When the guide collected us she said it looked perfect for the flight and we drove out of Nazca towards the Maria Reichle airport. We were talking about weather and our guide said it had only rained in Nazca twice in her lifetime, which we found amazing. At the airport we got out and went into the waiting section, a low- tech building. We’d paid Nazca Air already, so our guide checked us in. Then they got all our details (again) and insisted on weighing us. Steve & M had to buy an empty seat between them as they were over the weight allowed per seat (100 kilos). I was well under! Then I had to go and pay the airport tax at the kiosk. Then we had to wait (and wait) until we were called for our flight. We looked around and wandered outside but not very interesting. Luckily we didn’t take too long (40 mins) but I’ve heard tales of hours. We were called to go through the security to the small secondary waiting area. Finally we were allowed onto the concrete for our plane- a 7-seater single engine Cessna. Now, this next part is very flattering to me- we were loaded weight order from larger (Steve) to least (me). I was right at the back in the “childs” seat, which was a 1-in-a-row so I had a window both sides. GREAT. Take off- GREAT.
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They told us to put on headphones so we could hear the pilot who explained he would bank both ways (left, then right) so please to not try to move over to each window as everyone would see everything and the plane would remain stable). What followed was an AMAZING experience as we flew away from the thin strip of green (Nazca town) and over the Pampas de Jumana where we saw these brilliant designs. The plane did bank quite a lot but it doesn’t bother me (although the couple in front nearly used their bag and Steve felt mildly queasy). Highlights for me (in order) were The Whale and Ribs, The Astronaut, The Llama and Dog, Monkey, Spider, Condor, Runway, Hands and Tree of Life) but we saw plenty of others too.
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1. whale (eastern) drawn over big rectangle with flower
2. triangle (over a small 3-pointed hill)
3. 2km long trapezoids(other side of triangle hill)
4. astronaut (unique as on hill not in desert)
5. monkey (5 fingers 1 hand, 4 on other)
6. dog
7. llama
8. hummingbird
9. vulture/pelican and flower
10. condor
11. spider (close to hummingbird and condor)
12. runway
13. spiral and iguana
14. flamingo/ alcatraz (300m long with long beak)
15. parrot (230m long)
16. geometric designs
17. over highway
18. Hands (again 5 and 4 finger configuration)
19. Huarango tree (right next to hands)
20. lizard (right next to tree but cut in half by road- faint)
21. straight lines
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nos 1,4, 5, 6, 8
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nos 9, 10, 11, 13, 15
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hands-nazca-lines_48879029353_o.jpg hands
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nos 14, 18 & 19, 20, Scissors
The plane went over the Pan-American Highway, town of Palpa, hills and it was over far too soon IMO and we touched down and disembarked. Then we had to wait around because some German couple we were taking got lost.

A note on the Nazca Lines
What? The lines are a World Heritage site (1994) and are found on the high, dry plateau of Pampas de Jumana between Nazca and Palpa towns. The shapes are very varied, from simple lines, spirals and geometric shapes to fauna (mainly trees and flowers) to zoomorphic designs (mainly animals). The largest figure is over 270 metres long. The images were made using simple tools (post holes have been found) to plan the design, then a shallow trench (10-15 cms) would be dug exposing the light coloured layer below the red iron-oxide upper layer. The pale lower layer is made of lime, which over time has hardened with the morning mist into a cement, preventing erosion. The Nazca desert is the driest on earth and has not seen rain for aeons. Add to this the total lack of wind and it is clear why the figures have survived. They were first re-discovered in 1927 by a hiking Peruvian archaeologist Xesspa.
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Why? There is no clear reason for drawing the lines, so people have come up with their own interpretations. IMO they have a religious or symbolic significance. The geometric designs may be related to water rituals, the animals and plants maybe to fertility? Their size and visibility from the mountains suggest they may have been made to please or worship the gods (mountains as or symbolic of gods is a common theme in Andean cultures- certainly water would come from the mountains and water is a high commodity in arid Peru). Reiche (the archaeologist most associated with the lines) suggested an astronomical significance, lines pointing to places celestial bodies rose.
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Who? The Nazca Culture (400-650AD) is not well known, but seems to have strong links to the Paracas culture slightly north.
We drove back to the hotel and as we had a long coach trip ahead of some 400km we thought a good lunch was essential. We sat by the pool and told the waiter how much time we had and let him make suggestions. He made an excellent choice for us as we had lomo saltado (tenderloin stir fried with chilli and chips) & causa (avocado, potato and egg). Whilst Steve had a pud (picarones- pumpkin fritters, which I didn’t fancy) I went to the gift shop (which I did fancy) and bought a silver Nazca Spider earring set and a Nazca Hummingbird picture in Nazca sand.
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Then the taxi took us to Nazca coach station (no waiting room here, you board the bus directly) to get on our luxury coach (again food, drink, internet provided) to go to Arequipa. Now I was slightly apprehensive of this trip and both of us had been in two minds whether to fly to Arequipa, but I’m so glad we took the coach because the scenery was amazing. We went straight across the Pampas on the Pan- American Highway and down towards the Pacific coast. This is so unlike anything in our part of the world- the sand and road just go straight to the sea where the coast is so long and straight that the rollers just keep coming in long unbroken lines. We spotted the odd factory (of what?) in the sand dunes but absolutely nothing else (too dry and arid for people I suspect) until we got quite a long way down Peru. Then we started to see where thin rivers from the Andes to our left came to the sea. Everywhere a river/ stream came was a thin band of green and around each of these houses and people in small, long and thin, villages down to the shore. Each one had a small fishing fleet, by now moored as it was becoming dusk.
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As it turned from afternoon to early evening our road, which had been mainly level with the sea, headed sharply upwards and the road sat vertiginously high above the sea with little to nothing between us and the Pacific below. Then, as the sun set gloriously over the Pacific, we turned inland into the Andean foothills, many a gorgeous red colour. Night fell as we headed inland and finally to Arequipa where we arrived very late. Our guide had forgotten us and we had to catch a taxi and it turned out our travel company had booked the wrong hotel (!) – actually we’d paid for a 3* and they’d booked a 5* but we didn’t have to pay extra, so I guess it was OK (but less character). Anyhow it was too late to fuss, so we headed to bed (after leaving a message to say there was no guide and please to sort things out).
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Posted by PetersF 12:59 Archived in Peru Tagged desert flight lines archaeology nazca Comments (0)

Nazca to Arequipa

Monday 20th August - Arequipa: Jewel of the South

The overnight trip (19th-20th) down the Pan American Highway was amazing- from parched desert, to Pacific rollers, to high mountain passes.
OK, not a brill night sleep as we were too close to the road, but an excellent breakfast (with coca tea because Arequipa is very high 2380m above sea level) and a helpful staff who promised to move us during the day (which, to their credit they did and we had a nice room to come back to). It turned out that the Peruvian operator our company had used has simply forgotten to book half our holiday (I’m not sure how he thought we’d be in Nazca one week and simply arrive in Cusco another week with nothing inbetween!!). Luckily our UK operator sorted it out (the only downside being the god-awful coach we had to use between Chivay and Puno because the luxury coach we should have been in was overbooked).
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Back to Arequipa. We woke at a sensible time and the day was our own to do what we wanted. So, obviously, our first trip was a walk down to the Plaza de Armas. The city is very beautiful, gleaming white, and as we walked into the Plaza, the sun was shining in a blue cloudless sky for us. The Plaza was lovely, with colonnaded walkways around the edge, palms and a fountain in the centre and the cathedral on one side.
We avoided the ticket touts (there are loads) and decided to walk up towards Iglesia San Francisco to see El Misti volcano rising above the white buildings. Then we went round the back outside of the Cathedral, with its pretty cobbled and flowered streets. We carried on around the edge of the Plaza and back up Calle San Francisco, seeing the white Iglesia San Francisco (below) and a pleasantly quiet small courtyard/ plaza with a view of Chachani behind. Next to it was the colonnaded Mercado Artisanale with some quaint handicraft shops. The Historic Centre of Arequipa is a World Heritage site.

Heading back to the Plaza, we thought a bus tour later in the day was a nice idea, so we found a small shop and bought 2 tickets for an hour later. We went up to a second floor balcony overlooking the Plaza to have what turned out to be undoubtedly the worst coffee we have ever tasted (and this is Peru, home to coffee!). We left it! Then we went back down to catch the bus- we all walked around the back of the cathedral to catch an open-top (but with protective sun canopy) bus. The bus drove down Santa Catalina road and Casa del Moral, then down cobbled streets out of Arequipa centre past the small Parks of Grau and of the Naval Heroes towards Puente Grau (we saw an iron bridge (Puente Fierro) which was deigned by Gustav Eiffel and still in use). From it we could see an impressive red church opposite, which we later discovered was the La Recolta monastery.

Casa del Moral was built c1730 and is the best preserved baroque-mestizo architecture in Peru. Its name comes from the Mulberry (Moral) tree in the centre of the main patio. It currently belongs to the Peruvian bank Bancosur.
We crossed over and back down to go the other direction along the river Chili. Then we went over the Puente Bolognesi to see the Tambos (ancient buildings renovated/ rebuilt by the city in original style and rented as apartments). We drove a bit further into the Yanahuara district of Arequipa and arrived at a lovely palm filled Plaza with a beautiful white church in the right corner (The Iglesia San Juan Baptista de Yanahuara) and a beautiful six-arched Mirador de Yanahuara with excellent views of Arequipa’s volcanoes. There was writing along each arch, but (obviously) we could not read it. We walked around the white and yellow plaza and looked down the lovely cobbled yellow-white, flowered side streets.
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After a brief rest the bus set off up the Arequipan hills, almost to the edge of the city to the top of a hill in the Cayma district. The track led (by foot) to the Carmen Alto Mirador with amazing views of El Misti (active 5822m) Chachani (extinct 6075m), Pichupichu (5571m) and Arequipa itself. There was a bronze statue of Pachacutithat everyone wanted to photograph themselves with (whilst we had a cooling drink). A large school group was there too, as it was a compulsory trip.
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We admired the huge flowering cacti there (I believe these are used to make a drink as they are prickly pears- we tried one that night as a cocktail).
The Tuna or Cactus Fruit or Prickly Pear is an ancient Peruvian cultivar.
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Its image is on Wari, Chimu and Inca textile pictures. Its red-purple interior (green skin) tastes similar to sweet watermelon and makes a nice jam or drink).
Then back on the bus to go down the side streets of wealthy Arequipan houses (we could tell they were rich as the houses were finished!).
We passed Goveneche Palace to head to an Incalpaca factory. We were mildly interested in the techniques, but more interested in the cost of alpaca products. We were really lucky that they were selling alpaca blankets half price because they were a Burberry design and they had decided not to renew the contract.
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After the factory visit we stopped at the edge of a road and a taxi was called for us (apparently the bus was continuing on the 4-hour trip, but they hadn’t said this initially, so watch out). The taxi took us back (free) to the Plaza. We walked back up Santa Catalina street and found a small courtyard café (Alliance Française) opposite the monastery. It was hot and the altitude was high so, as we weren’t hungry, we had manzanilla tea and some nibbles. Some French tourists struck up a conversation about where they’d been which all sounded good. Then we went across the street to Santa Catalina Monastery.
Convent of Santa Catalina
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The monastery is not cheap to enter ($7.50), but is definitely worth the money. The entrance is not very prepossessing as it comes off the street, but it quickly opens to a courtyard. The metal turnstile entrance was manned by a friendly lady who said we could take any photos we liked. We turned the corner into the first cloisters- the Silence Patio (a tunnel-like area for the lowest of novices).
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And then it opened into an open courtyard with a fountain- the Novices Cloister. Then we arrived at the pretty blue and white Orange Tree Cloister, down Malaga Street to the Zurbaran room- a “museum” which was basically the richer nun’s collections of mainly crockery and religious artefacts (a little mawkish for our tastes) and next door to the shop, which sold religious gifts in the main. We bought some pale greenish pastels of coca for our trip to the Altiplano tomorrow. We then went down the long main road, Cordova Street, with all its differently dated rooms (right 18th C, left 20th C) and Toledo Street to the Orange Grove at the far end.
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Then the clay jar laundry, back to Seville Street and Granada Street to Zocodover Square (Arabic zoco=to exchange as nuns met on Sundays to exchange goods). Through the Great kitchens (lovely painting/ friezes down the sides) great-kitchens_48875740456_o.jpg and Chapel (very gold 1748) to the Main Cloister (1715-23) with its trees, confessionals and 32 friezes. We finished with the small display of the better paintings in the Convent before going back through the Silence Cloister and out.
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The Convent of Santa Catalina (or, as we called it, the Naughty Nuns Convent), dedicated to St Catherine of Siena is very large inside, a city within a city, filled with flowers on patios, arched streets, fountains and parks. In 1582 the first convent was destroyed in an earthquake, as were many of the buildings in Arequipa from which they took rents. A new convent, stronger than before was built in white, red and blue. The nuns (up to 500 in its heyday) built themselves private rooms rather than dormitories and as time went on the nuns began to live more material lives, paying little attention to vows of poverty.
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Many, if not most, were daughters of aristocrats and had little intention of being silent or poor. Behind the doors of the convent they acquired fine plates, cutlery, paintings etc. By 1871 it was so notorious that Pope Pius IX sent Sister Josefa Cadena to reintroduce proper
order (poverty, flagellation, prayer and fasting). I assume she was not very popular! It was reopened to the public in 1970 and the many religious painting found have been put on display. Around 20 nuns still live in the convent. www.santacatalina.org.pe
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We felt we’d spent quite a while in the convent, so we headed out for a cold drink and a search to find (initially) a replacement lens for the camera (no luck at all) and then a replacement camera (much more fruitful). We found buying a camera a really long-winded experience. At home we’d pick a camera, ask a salesperson for a boxed one, pay, leave. In Peru- oh no, nothing like that simple. Pick a camera (the easy bit), ask a salesman (now getting complex), who has to see id (ours) to sell us a camera (because his computer insists on it). Luckily we had copies of passports, which he reluctantly accepted (as we don’t use id in our country). Not finished yet. This took the best part of 20 minutes. Can we have our camera now? Oh no, NOW we have to take his printed out chitty to another desk for another salesman to check, then we can pay and FINALLY (this is now over half an hour) a salesman brings us our camera and insists on telling us how to use it (in Spenglish). The salespeople say this is typical of a sale and were really polite and apologetic about the process but they must have the patience of saints to do this all the time. So, long story short, we now had a working camera again.
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Now I wanted to see the Juanita mummy but S was less than keen (to say the least) so I just stuck my head round the corner before we went pack to the hotel for a rest before dinner. The Juanita Mummy (or Ice Maiden or Lady of Ampato) is in the Museo Santuarios Andinos, La Merced. She is the frozen and well preserved body of an Incan girl, aged 11-15, found on Mt. Ampato in 1995 by Reinhard and Zarate. She was killed c1450-80 by capa cocha (the Inca sacrifice by blunt trauma to the skull, crushing it). She was wrapped in a bright coloured aksu (burial tapestry), was wearing a cap of red macaw feathers, colourful alpaca shawl and silver brooch. Grave goods of good quality including gold and silver figurines accompanied her. Her whole body is so well preserved that it was possible to say her last meal was vegetables about 7 hours before death. Her good health and high quality grave goods suggest she came from Cusco nobility and her death during the reign of Pachacuti gives good information on life at that date (even down to hair styles). She is technically not a mummy as she was frozen rather than desiccated. Sadly the burial site collapsed shortly after when Sabancaya erupted and only two more bodies were recovered.
Heading out for dinner we decided to take pot luck up the streets around the back of the Cathedral, so we walked down Jerusalem Street to Santa Catalina where we found a courtyarded picanteria, the Wayrana. Inside we went up a level and ordered some fruit cocktails (non alcoholic) and alpaca steaks. We were pleasantly surprised when an unadvertised local band began to play and shortly after some dancers joined them for an impromptu show (the waiter said it was anyway) of local dance and music. Right next to our table was a pillar proudly displaying a certificate for the restaurant of earthquake proof construction (which was sort-of reassuring). The band ended up touting their CD, but it was nice enough and cheap enough for us to buy, so we did. A nice meal after a long day, so we wandered around the evening plaza life before heading back to the hotel (who had, as promised, moved all our stuff into a nice, quiet room).
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About Arequipa
Arequipa or La Cuidad Blanca (White City) is along the banks of River Chili with the volcanoes of the Altiplano as a magnificent backdrop. It has an excellent climate with sun and blue sky nearly all year. Peru’s second city, it is famed for its beautiful white buildings made from the
sillar, the volcanic rock from the nearby volcanoes. The area was first settled c7600BC, then by the pre-Inca Collaguas group (see Inca history and Chivay so see how this group were brought into the Inca Empire through the marriage of their princess to Sapa Inca Mayta Capac). Both the Collawas and Inca would have respected the mountains as life-bringers as their snow-capped peaks formed the ultimate headwaters of the mighty Amazon. Mayta Capa founded the city c1300 Ad and it was enlarged by the conquistador Garci Manuel de Carbajal in 1540 who renamed it Villa Hermosa de Arequipa. It did well in colonial times as the trading point for caravans taking gold and silver from the Bolivian Potosi mines to Callao Port by Lima.
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Posted by PetersF 14:27 Archived in Peru Tagged peru arequipa Comments (0)

Peru : Arequipa to Chivay vicuñas and volcanoes

Tuesday 21st August – Arequipa to Chivay

Now, we woke in a little trepidation given that our Lima contact had clearly forgotten to book half our holiday, but our UK contact had clearly sorted it because our coach to Chivay came to pick us up promptly at 8.00 AM. We collected from a few other hotels (inc M). Our guide was a local Indian with some strong views on social justice (though he was still a pleasant man). The coach stopped briefly at a coca outlet and he recommended buying coca leaves to chew to help with the altitude. Steve bought a smallish bag and off we started chewing. Half way up the altiplano we moved to sucking sweets. A bit further and, trust me, we were SO sick of coca I don’t think we’ll ever touch it again. Yes, I know it’s seen as a local natural cure for altitude sickness but, YUK. As a side note, as we went up I got a headache (not uncommon for me) so I thought, aspirin and took one. A bit further up and headache still annoying, so, fine, lets add a paracetamol (again not abnormal). At the top (the Mirador as I’ll mention later)- penny drops. I’ve got altitude sickness- reach for the Diamox Pills. OH YES, they work. Forget the natural remedy and go straight for the pharma next time.
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Anyhow, back to the trip. We headed out of Arequipa past increasingly less posh houses. When I commented on the tax situation of houses, our guide explained that many of the people where local Indians coming from the harder life of the altiplano as largish family groups and would work over many years to earn enough to buy each part of the house- e.g., work for 6 months to buy bricks for the lower floor and erect it, work 6 months to buy the roof and so on. He was also immensely proud of the fact that in the last earthquake some dozens of people in Lima died and not a single person in Arequipa died or was seriously injured due to better construction.

We headed pretty quickly out of Arequipa and up, up to the Altiplano, which is sparsely populated with just, isolated farms and tiny hamlets. We passed a few things on the way up, including a truck half way down a hill (it had clearly fallen off the road but everyone was OK), a deep depression in the hillside (guide said it was from an volcano eruption), several glaciers, some very empty desert-style areas, a few greenish valleys, some mining factories. Pretty much the whole time we could see snow-tipped volcanoes, either El Misti, Chachani, Pichupichu or Sabanaya. After a while we reached a higher plain with an amazing view of Misti. This is the Pampas Cañahuas (3500 m/11,482 Ft), Reserve and we were lucky to spot quite a number of wild vicuñas (on both sides). The vicuna were within a few paces of us and we stopped to look properly. The guide said we were lucky to see so many and so close, including a male with his harem and a few young ones.
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Vicuna, Alpaca and Llama
There are four types of camelids in South America/ Peru: Alpaca, llama, vicuña, guanaco. They originated in North America about 40mill years ago before moving to South America 3mill years ago. They became extinct in North America in the last Ice Age.
The alpaca (vicugna pacos) is a domesticated version of the vicuna, bred for its soft wool (it is too slender for a beast of burden) and food (alpaca steak is lovely). Alpaca wool is soft with a variety of natural colours (the Peruvians say 52) that is made into textiles. They are herd animals, kept 3,500-5,100m above sea level on the Altiplano. Each group has an alpha male with several females and young. The male will warn against attack and kick if needed. The rock art in the Mollepunko caves shows domesticated alpaca at a date of 4000 BC and they figure on Moche pottery. Originally it was believed that the alpaca’s ancestor was a llama, but DNA shows vicuna is the correct choice. Like their camel cousins, all the Andean camelids spit. Basically this is a projectile air and saliva (with occasional grassy stomach content included). They generally aim at other alpaca, llamas etc. All the camelids in Peru can cross breed and produce fertile offspring- an alpaca-llama cross is a huarizo (soft wool & gentle).
The vicuña (vicugna vicugna) is a wild camelid living in the high Andes. It is the ancestor of the alpaca and its wool is highly prized and very expensive. Not much is made as the animals have to be rounded up from the wild (because of its value the government has an annual round up to prevent poaching). Both in modern times and under Inca law the vicuna is a protected species (only Inca royalty was allowed to wear vicuna clothing). Until recently it was endangered (by the mid 70s only a few thousand remained, though numbers have recovered since). Most vicuna live in Peru in the Altiplano (3,200-5000m) where their thick warm fleece prevents them from freezing at night. It is the national animal of Peru, and you see it depicted everywhere. Like alpacas they live in family groups- male, harem and young and are somewhat territorial.
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The guanaco (lama guanicoe) is of the llama family and lives wild in the Altiplano. It is generally brownish with a grey face. The name derives from Quechua wanaku/ huanaco and the young are called chulengo. They live in family herds- male, females and young. Groups of 10-50 young male herd together. They live as high, if not higher, than alpaca and vicuna and are adapted to the low oxygen at these extreme altitudes with a blood rich in haemoglobin. A teaspoon of guanaco blood contains 4x more haemoglobin than humans (so, about 68 million cells). Their wool is as prized as vicuna, but hard to acquire.
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Finally, the llama, domesticated over 6000 years ago, possibly from the guanaco. They are the largest of the four camelids and used as pack animals (carrying 1/3 of body weight), food and for their soft wool. They live in herds. Llamas are often seen as pets as they are relatively intelligent and can learn simple commands. The name llama is a native name (young are cria).
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Shortly after this some strange geological formations, the road split between the road to Puno and the road to Chivay. We kept left towards Chivay and very shortly after stopped at a small café (Viscachani) and roadside market. We had an anise tea and wandered the market. I thought about the toilets until I went into them and then I thought again. Instead we walked to the nearby Andean lake, part frozen and were lucky to spot two black Puno ibises popping out of the rushes. Then, much to our guide’s annoyance, two people went on a stroll and were late back.
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So, off again, and past the high Andean Altiplano farms. Even at this height people lived, adapting to the altitude, raising mainly llama and alpaca herds along with small crop outputs. Many had artificial or enlarged natural, ponds in front with geese and duck. We had seen a small gauge railway running alongside us for some time and I asked about it. Apparently a railway for people was built between Arequipa and Cusco long ago, but it was so expensive (and not much quicker than road) that hardly anyone used it. We passed the abandoned station not long after. However, as mining in the area took off, the mining companies decided to take over the track for the ore, so it was still in sporadic use. We passed one of the mining villages en route (it was so high and such a long way that most miners lived there for several months so as to acclimatise to the altitude in order to work).
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Finally we reached the Mirador de los Volcanoes. This was the highest point of our journey (even in Peru) at nearly 5,000m (4890m/ 15,748’). There are over 80 volcanoes from the Quarternary Era. The view of all the volcanoes was stunning. We saw Ubinas, Mismi, Misti,
Chachani, Sabancaya (very active) and Ampata. There were apacheta towers everywhere (see my section on Paracas to explain apacheta). Steve with his massive lungs went jumping over the low walls up to a small hut (amusingly some one else from the coach tried to copy him and fell almost flat on his face). There was a small handicraft market (again) and a traditionally dressed lady with her llama pet (I assume to collect money for her photo).
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And now it was slowly down, down. This side of the mountain we came across llama and alpaca herds (with their herd dogs). Each herd was marked by the owner by ear-piercing a coloured tassel on each animal. They were free to roam (a bit like our system of common land) wherever, but the guide said they generally wandered home towards the evenings.
He told us little about the road we were travelling on. Originally it was an Incan track used by the runners- these were teenage boys (around 12-18 years old) who would take messages by relay from/ to parts of the Inca Empire. They had to be fit and able to run at altitude, so were often chosen from the local peoples. Tambos (rest houses) were built a day’s journey apart and stocked with food. In this way up to 400km could be covered in a day. It was considered an honour to be a runner and they were well paid (in kind and prestige). Most runners were retired at around 18. The Inca were keen on road building in order to establish a good communication network throughout their empire. By the end of the empire they had over 16,000 km of stone roads and suspension rope bridges up to 100m spanning the deepest of gorges. One such bridge, built in 1350 lasted until 1890!
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Into Chivay
We went around a corner and finally saw Chivay town far below us. Chivay (3,600m/ 11,811’) is pretty much the town in the centre of the Canyon. We snaked down to the town, stopping at the Main Plaza. Another traditional lady with her llama pet posed for photos as did a lady with a chained
vulture (our guide got cross at this as this vulture is endangered- he asked us not to pay her to try to dissuade her from the trade). The driver (local to Chivay) met his little daughter and amazingly managed the tight corners without touching once. We parked at the edge of town and walked down an uninteresting lane with high stone walls, to a large restaurant with the most amazing buffet. Alpaca everything (roast, grilled, casserole, spit-roast, fried....) and delicious puddings.

After a time relaxing after lunch, the guide offered a complimentary tour of pre-Inca/ Inca Chivay. Most of us agreed, but one couple wanted to go to the hotel, so we dropped them off, then went to the nearby town of Yanque where there was a beautiful church with mountain views behind before we came back to the coach park at the edge of town.

Ancient Chivay
We set off walking down a dusty path at the edge of town, and quickly turned a corner to see an amazing vista of the river (Rio Colca), canyon walls, terraces (pre Inca and Inca) and greenery. The path got thinner as we headed away from Chivay into the hills. After 10 mins of walking we reached the Inca wall (complete with built-in stepping stones to walk up it) and road. Set on top was the pre-Inca reservoir/irrigation system. Over the water basin we walked to the top of a hill with a view of the terraces all around us. Our guide showed us the lower pre-Inca terraces with the Inca ones above, including their field labs (circular depressions for crop growing surrounded by banks of terraces on the perimeter designed to create a mini-climate. We crossed the Inca bridge to see one of their colpas- hollowed-out depressions in vertical rock where food could be stored and kept cool using a) shade b) the updraught of cool air. Coming back we met a local with his donkey troupe carrying firewood back to Chivay.
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We walked back and our guide said would we like a trip to the Caldera (Hot Springs) Thermal Baths. Sounded lovely and relaxing, so we all agreed. A quick drive up the mountains brought us to a modern complex of several heated swimming pools. Each pool was set to a different temperature by a careful use of the cold and hot springs. We paid for towels and headed down to the end pool, a pleasant 35°. It had seats all around the edge so we could sit neck deep and admire the amazing canyon around us. After 40 mins we were wrinkled prunes, so we headed back to the coach, which took us to our hotel on the outskirts of town. It was such a steep cobbled entrance the coach reversed up! The hotel had amazing views and a whole-glass
restaurant (and oddly a French speaking concierge). Our room, in the courtyard below was large and comfy with fab views from the sofa. Our guide recommended a restaurant in town and organised a taxi to take us (sunset).
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Although it looked uninteresting outside the food was excellent (fresh fish and alpaca) and the show was the best we saw in Peru. The local musicians explained every tune they played and the instruments they were using, including a ancient quena. Then the dancers again explained (in English) the meaning behind the dances. The dances were, at times, quite suggestive like when the lady danced over the prone man!! We definitely saw the Diablada dance (from Puno), where the man wears a devil suit and mask.
Peruvian Dances
The Wititi is an Aymara (not Quecha) dance originating from the Altiplano/ Lake Titicaca area (with links to Tiahuanaco culture- the dance means shining warrior conquers the dark). The Collawas group/ tribe/ culture who moved to Chivay/ Colca brought the dance with them c1500BC. Later it was used to celebrate the alliance between Mayta Capac and Princess Mama Yacchi of the Collawas Union. This dance is a sort of romantic warrior dance similar to a Harvest Festival. It can be inside or outside and lasts as long as people dance. Men wear military costumes of straw monera (helmet), shirt, Llicllas (loaded blankets), unko (military Inca dress) or polleras skirt (the Spanish banned the unko) and chumpe (girdle). The women wear traditional dress (often with sweets in the apron) with huatos coloured braids and a black hat with different details depending on their collawa (e.g. White straw hat= snow) and coloured llama threads. The dance involves a honda/ huaraca weapon, which fires fruit. Hence the use of a hard straw hat! The Kashua (an outdoor communal dance) and the Huayno (a couples dance) are the most common. The Llamerada dance imitates a llama’s walk. Llipi-puli and Choq’elas are vicuna hunting dances. The Huaconda or Wanka dance is also well-known. The Karabotas- a brave rider with whips, broad hat, earflaps, chullo, alpaca/ vicuna poncho, dagger, and spurs leaps to music- probably dates to the rebellion of Tupac Amaru. Finally the Tinku, a kicking, circling dance.
The dancers were very keen that we get involved and Steve was quickly chosen to join in, given a traditional lady’s skirt and hat. He really enjoyed it and ended up doing a sort of conga. What with the wine (Tacama Gran Tinto- a Malbec/ Tannat/ Petit Verdot blend which was a deep crimson and smelt of blackberry, liquorice, cherry and at 12.5% strong for the altitude) and the coca leaves and the altitude and the long day (not to mention the 5 am get up tomorrow) we decided to call it a day at 10.30pm!
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Inca Life
Beyond the royal/noble life, most Inca were farmers. A breakfast of chicha (corn beer) would precede working the land until lunch. Then a lunch on corn with chili and herbs, or potato soup, of cornmeal bread, or if lucky stewed guinea pig. They made their own clothes from cotton or alpaca/ llama wool. If you were gifted, you may be trained as an artisan (craft or record keeping) and live a more comfortable life. An intelligent boy might become a yanacona and used as a page for the nobles or in priests. They would make contacts and could rise high. Finally, the most beautiful 10-year girls might be chosen to be “Maidens”. After studying religion they were put into noble or royal households as maids. Occasionally they were sacrificed and buried in mountains.
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Posted by PetersF 17:13 Archived in Peru Tagged animals volcano peru arequipa vicuna llama camel chivay Comments (0)

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