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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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
novices-cloister_48875933647_o.jpg Novices Cloister
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.
santa-catalina-arequipa_48875672486_o.jpg Orange Tree Cloister
cordova-street_48875741221_o.jpg Cordova St.
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.
sevilla-street-and-church_48875735901_o.jpg Seville St and church
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.
santa-catalina-arequipa_48875158803_o.jpgmalaga-street-to-zubaran-room-gifts_48875203133_o.jpg Malaga St. to Zubaran
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
santa-catalina-arequipa_48875886372_o.jpgmain-cloister_48875935257_o.jpg Main Cloister
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.
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).

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.

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.
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.

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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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!

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.
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).
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!

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.

Posted by PetersF 17:13 Archived in Peru Tagged animals volcano peru arequipa vicuna llama camel chivay Comments (0)

Peru : Colca Canyon condors

Wednesday 22nd August – Colca Canyon

We used our alarms to wake us, as there was NO WAY we’d naturally wake at 5 am. Breakfast (in the dark, but filling) at 5.30am and collection by bus at 6am. We passed the interesting street statuary (larger than life brightly coloured dancers) and collected the other people, before setting off for the road up to the Canyon.
We stopped in the main Plaza de Armas at Yanque to watch the local women dance in their traditional clothes a sort of twirling dance called the Hillori. Our guide said it is performed every morning. Now it is said to be a celebration of Quecha peoples over their Spanish conquerors, but it doesn’t take a leap of imagination to see it as a pre-Spanish dance of celebration to the sunrise (in keeping with native sun worship). Our guide told us the “history” of the dance- When the Spanish took this valley they wanted the people to adopt Christian beliefs, but the people were not very enthusiastic. So, the Spanish took all the men away to work the mines, locking them in each night. The women in the village had Spanish soldiers billeted nearby. This way the tribe would die out. However, the men knew better. They had a way out, so they dressed as women and snuck back to the village en masse one night. Lo and behold nine months later came a population explosion. The Spanish had no idea what had happened and the women used their beliefs against them, claiming they were virgin births!
As we drove along our guide told us about the history and customs of the area.
Originally, in pre-Inca times, there were the Hill People and the Valley People. Although originally of the same tribe, they had developed their own cultures over time and their interactions weren’t always harmonious. They bound their infants heads different (back to front or on two sides- later both banned by the Spanish), have different agriculture (terraces with crops, mainly corn and potatoes or Andean plateau livestock hill farming). I would imagine this is a folk recall of the Amyara and Quecha tribes moving north from the altiplano into the colca valleys. Archaeological and linguistic evidence shows this double immigration.
The local Quecha (pre-Inca) in the valleys had already an extensive terracing system, which was added to by the conquering Inca. As we drove I wondered why all the small fields had low stone walls topped with cacti. It was to deter donkeys from entering the field and hoovering up the crops. Apparently if your donkey entered a field the owner could take the donkey until you repaid him. If you refused the donkey went to “donkey jail” until you paid bail (which pretty much everyone did!). We drove along the winding banks of Rio Colca to the village of Maca, which had a very pretty little church (the 17th century Barogue Iglesia de Santa Ana) and courtyard. We stopped for toilets, church visit, stroll because we’d be too early for the condors otherwise.
Then after 20 mins we carried on up the road, over the river to a tunnel through the rock. The story went that if you could hold your breath all the way through you could have a wish (I didn’t manage). The Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon and home to a stunning array of wildlife. A bit further up, passing terraces and small ponds all the way, we arrived at the Mirador Cruz del Condor (a 2 hour trip in total). Quite amazing! At first we perched by a wooden barrier close to a small statue, looking down/across the canyon and two brownish juveniles crossed several times. We moved a bit right and the two adults took off, sometimes flying solely, sometimes as a pair and sometimes the whole family group. At one point all four swooped overhead only a few metres above us.
Brilliant! It was quite busy, but there was plenty of space for everyone. When our guide came back he told us we’d been REALLY lucky seeing so many and so close. It was now nearly lunch (we could not believe how long we’d been there) and we headed back down the same road, stopping briefly for some panoramic shots. Then we went back to the same buffet restaurant as yesterday.
I was keen to try some local fruit, so tried the chirioya (custard apple) which is native to the Andean highlands. Its sort of heart shaped and custardy-creamy and tastes like banana meets strawberry. Another local fruit was the Aguaymento (Peruvian cherry or pysalis), which we already knew.
Then we headed to the coach station. Unfortunately, this is where the Lima guy’s negligence really hit us as the luxury coach we should have been booked on was full, so we were on a rickety “extra” coach for an unpleasant journey to Puno (should have got a refund, but didn’t). We went back the same way as we came up to where the road split to Puno, then headed through the Altiplano towards the large lakes outside Puno (we got off for a leg stretch), through the modern town of Juliaca (dusk) and finally to the bus station at Puno where our efficient lady guide met us and (thank goodness for efficiency) told us she had sorted everything out properly for us. A taxi drove us from the station to our hotel in central Puno. Neither of us was hungry (and we didn’t need the free air!) so we took the lift to our room (good, a bit corporate) and slept.

Colca Canyon- Cultures
The local people come from the Collawa/ Collagua and Cabana Cultures and it was they who started cultivating the valley sides with terraces. Interestingly the Collawas are Aymara speaking (coming from Lake Titicaca) while the Cabanas are Quecha speaking (coming from, probably, the Wari culture). They cropped potato, quinoa and maize. Either they or the Inca carved small colca (granaries of mud and stone) into cliffs or canyon walls. There are still pre-Inca hanging tombs in the area. The Inca arrived at 1320 AD and the Colca area (Caylloma) joined the empire. The Spanish, under Gonzalo Pizarro arrived in 1540 and took the valley, In 1570 Viceroy Francisco de Toledo ordered the people
to abandon their villages and move to centrally located Spanish pueblo (a clear attempt to control the population). Missionaries arrived in 1565 and built the first chapel in 1569. The first road was not built until 1940!
Colca Canyon- Geography
The Canyon, at 4,160m, is over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and probably the deepest in the world. The river starts at Condoramo Crucero Alto (High Condor Cross) in the Andes, through Colca Canyon, over Majes Plain and to the Pacific. Chivay, elevation 3650m is at the mid point. Above Chivay is livestock farming (mainly alpaca and llama), below is terracing. The area is home to the Andean Condor (Vultur Gryphus), Giant Colibri hummingbird, Andean Goose, Caracara, Chilean flamingo as well as the vizcacha (a rabbit sized chinchilla relative), the zorrino (skunk family), deer, fox and vicuna.

Posted by PetersF 19:55 Archived in Peru Tagged animals birds peru church colca inca mama chivay yanque Comments (0)

Peru : Lake Titicaca and Puno

Thursday 23rd August - Lake Titicaca

We woke at a sensible time and wandered (by foot from the 2nd floor) to the open breakfast area. Our efficient guide picked us up exactly on time and we drove to the edge of Puno docks on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3822m above sea level, then walked to the boats. There were MASSES of them, all moored side by side and we had to clamber over several to reach the outermost one. Once there we chose indoor seats (rather than the top, open-air floor (after all it doesn’t take much to burn at this elevation). A supply of free tea was offered (anise for me, mint for Steve), before we took off onto the Lake. We gently motored through the little part (not unlike the Petit Lac part of Lac Leman) through reed banks until we arrived at the floating Uros Islands. We could see their wonderful yellow reed boats for some distance. Our boat guide explained that he went to different islands each day to give opportunities for all (as we left “our” island later we saw a larger island with a huge fish logo on a wooden sign). Each boat has a different prow (look at the chicken head and carp heads below). He told us there were functional boats and ceremonial boats e.g. for marriages, with a second floor with its canopy. The Uros use the totora (bullrushes) growing along the lake edge, dried out, to make their reed boats (balsas mats). We disembarked (an odd feeling as we were walking purely on reeds) through the reed entrance arch to the central fire/ cooking area. The islands huts are in a circle around the perimeter of the island, all facing inward. The local islanders explained how they built the islands each year with fresh reeds to form a floating whole, how the children take themselves to school by boat to Puno once they reached 7 or so, how they fished and ate. He had a helpful model showing the islands superstructure. Apparently if someone annoyed the village, during the night the others would take a huge saw (he showed us) and saw their part of the island off, leaving it to float away. The islands are not, in any case, fixed and their location can vary daily. At the small stalls on the islands we bought a Viracocha statue.
Lake Titicaca has 42 (currently) floating reed island. These man-made islands have been lived on by a tribe (non-Inca) who depend totally on the lake for survival. They seem to have lived this way for thousands of years, maybe as a way to escape control by any particular group- if someone tried you would simply slip away quietly overnight. Some larger islands still retain their defensive reed watchtowers.

The Uru (Uros) are pre-Inca people living on Lake Titicaca. They float between Bolivia and Peru, not really belonging to either. There are three main groups- Uru-Chipayas, Uru-Muratos (Peru side) and Uru-Iruitos (Bolivia side). There was a Uro or Pukina language, but it is not spoken nowadays due to their intermarriage with Aymara speakers whose language they have adopted (c1500AD). They say they have black blood because they do not feel the cold or altitude. They believe they “own” the lake and retain many old customs (though not religion). A second name (for themselves) is Lupihaques or Sons of Sun.
How to build an island. An island can house 2 to 10 families depending on its size. A new island is made by driving a stick into the lake and attaching ropes to it, then attaching it to the dense roots that the totora develop. These interweave to form a natural layer called Khili (1-2m thick) that support the islands. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top every 3 or so months. The islands last about thirty years. Each step on an island sinks about 2-4". As the reeds dry,
they break up which allows moisture to get in. This rots the reed, and a new layer has to be added. It is a lot of work to maintain the islands.
The Uros islands, 3810 m above sea level are 5 km from Puno port. Of around 2,000 Uros only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. The Uros bury their dead on the mainland in special cemeteries. They use motor boats when needed and have solar panels to run TVs and radios. The largest island has a radio station. The larger islands hold primary schools before going to Puno for secondary schools.
Food is cooked with fires placed on piles of stones. To relieve themselves, tiny 'outhouse' islands are near the main islands. The ground root absorbs the waste. The Uros' diet and medicine revolves around the same totora reeds used to construct the islands. When a reed is pulled, the white bottom (chullo) is eaten for iodine to prevent goitre. A reed can be wrapped around a cut and it’s believed it will relieve pain. The chullo can help with heat, being cool to the touch on the forehead. They also make a reed flower hot drink.
The islanders fish for native ispi, carachi, catfish and for introduced trout and kingfish, as well as hunting birds such as gulls, ducks and flamingo. On larger islands they have a few cows. Like the Chinese, some used cormorants to fish. The Puno ibis is domesticated for laying eggs.
After a while the guide pulled us back to the boat and we slowly motored through the remaining Uros islands until we got to open water when we motored across to Isla Taquile. The high sided island looked like a green jewel in the azure lake waters. We landed at the dock on the southwest side and walked up a moderately steep path, past the cultivated fields. Our guide (whose girlfriend came from the island and said he was a “lowland” despite being Puno born and bred) asked us not to give the children sweets (no dentist on the island) or take photos (they had religious/ cultural dislike). At the top of the paved path we went through an ornate arch into the one and only town. The view was lovely and the Plaza a pleasant place to catch our breath. Then we walked across the top of the island before cutting off right down some rocks to an outdoor restaurant with stunning views across Lake Titicaca. The seafood, paella style, was delic & our other guests (many students) good company. Our guide came back with the island’s mayor who talked about many of the island’s unique customs. An interesting one was that the ladies started their lives with plain, but full and thick black skirts and for each significant event in their lives they added a coloured skirt on top. Hence an older lady might be wearing 5 or more thick, coloured skirts. Another custom was to do with hair. Ladies would rarely cut their hair, so it would become very long. When married, after some years, she would cut her hair and turn it into a belt/sash for her husband. Then it would grow again and if they were still together years later she would cut it again and make him a warm hat. The more hats/ belts the more prestige of a loving wife! The mayor himself was elected by all the population and would hold the position for a year, then have to stand down. They felt the system worked really well.
We rested, took photos of the azure sea and cerulean sky before heading back down the road through an arch and down steeply to the dock on the other side of the island. Then a quick motor back to Puno docks where we were collected by taxi and returned to the hotel. As it was still light we went for a quick stroll through Puno, up to their main church, San Pedro (often called the American Sistine Chapel due to its lovely paintings, but then lots of other church claim this too!). Finally back to the hotel and S pegged out in bed whilst I grabbed a warm club sandwich first.
Puno and Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca (and Puno) holds a special place in Andean and Incan mythology. Most creation legends have Lake Titicaca as the birthplace of man, and certainly of Manco Capac. A variety of gods, depending on the tribe, live in or under the Lake. Inti, the Inca Sun God, lives there. It is regarded as the naval of the world.
Puno/ Lake Titicaca is 3,822m high which mans its cold at night and hot in the day. The UV is strong and should be respected. In 1668 Viceroy de Lemos made Puno the provincial capital (as Paucarcolla).

Posted by PetersF 20:12 Archived in Peru Tagged animals boats peru lake titicaca puno uros taquile Comments (0)

Peru : Puno to Cusco, over the Andes

Friday 24th August – Along the Andes to Cusco

We woke early and had a leisurely breakfast. Our super efficient guide collected us, gave us a quick tour of Puno city (not a very large city, low
buildings migrating up hills- much of it looked quite poor, though along the lakeside was nice), before dropping us at the coach station for the Inka Express to Cusco.
Puno Town
It was established by Viceroy Pedro Antonio Fernandez de Castro in 1668 as San Juan Bautista de Puno, capital of Paucarcolla Province and changed to San Carlos de Puno to honour Carlos II King of Spain. Quite a number of Spanish settled, surprising given the altitude. There is only 2 miles of flat land between the lake and mountains, which is why much of the city has been built up the hills. As you go further uphill the houses become poorer and
steeper- generally unpaved and definitely not available to cars! It is easily the largest town in the southern altiplano and thus a magnet for people moving away from the harsh life of the altiplano. It is a Capital folklorica del Peru due to the indigenous dances. Puno is so high it has extreme weather- though at a tropical latitude it never goes above 15 °C and in winter (July/August) can drop below 0 at night. It is generally dry and the sunlight very strong.
We did see the huge condor statue of Kuntur Wasi view spot (700 steps!).
A really comfy coach with (again with internet) with free drinks (yummmmm, Inca Cola). A little know fact- Inca Kola was invented in 1935 by an English immigrant to Peru! The tour guide gave us a pass for all the things we’d be doing on the way and off we set. Now surprisingly difficult to leave Puno as the main road A... was shut for roadworks and the diversion was a dusty, thin track. Then through Juliaca, a modern town where we ploughed through the main street (slowly, due to the fact the police were on strike and were in the road holding up placards demanding more pay). Jualiaca has the nearest airport, Inca Manco Capa International, which is very high for an airport. The Puno Province is important for agriculture and livestock, especially cattle, alpaca and llama.

However, having got out the road is lovely, past Sillustani (see below) and Lakes. Sillustani is a pre-Inca site, a burial ground, by Lake Umayo. They are towers, chullpas, built by Aymara-speaking Colla people in the 15th century (the same group that moved to Colca Canyon). The towers contain families, probably of the elite, but many have been grave robbed, sadly.
We headed straight on up the Altiplano plateau with its beautiful colours (yellow soil, red and orange folded hills), little isolated farms, wandering livestock. We passed local trucks, brim full of people but generally traffic was sparse. There were lots of cows/ bulls around and our tour guide told us these were the famous Pucara (Pukara) Bulls (not so famous that we’d heard of them) and that they were often depicted on ceramics as “Toritos de Pukaca” or Little Bulls of Pucara (we chose NOT to buy a china bull later at the market!). Shortly after we descended (a little) into the town of Pukara (107km N of Puno). The Plaza de Armas was typically Andean but the red church against the hills was memorable. However, the best part of this was opposite the church- the Pukara Lithic Museum (Museo Litico de Pucara www.pukara.org). I thought this was fascinating- it was dedicated to displaying pre-Inca Pucara culture carved stones for southern Peru/ Bolivia. The older, more delicate pieces were inside (no photos please) but larger pieces were displayed in the garden outside. S briefly lost me but we refound ourselves. We met (again) an Indian couple who we kept seeing on our trip through Peru! Outside, in the Plaza was a fairly naff market with stuff we wouldn’t want to buy, so we topped up our water bottle supply instead. A close by excavations has dates of 200 BC-200AD.
PS- Pukara also means an Inca fortress.
Then off again, following the river Ramis (I was surprised how wet the Andean plateau was) and up into the mountains (we could see the snow-caps before us).

Eventually we reached the stop of La Raya, which is the border between the Puno and Cusco departments and the highest point of the road (4335m). The views of the hills and plains were amazing and (of course) a small roadside stall had been set up. This is also a meeting point of two plates, the Chilean/ Nazca Plate sub ducting (going under) the South American Plate (or Cusco Plate as our guide insisted) Plate. This had led to the huge snowy mountains behind us, Chimpulla and Yana Khuchilla. The South American Plate is moving over the Nazca Plate at 60mm per annum, which sounds quite fast, so its unsurprisingly that it has led to vulcanism and earthquakes.
We didn’t stay for long, mainly for photos, before we set off down to Sicuani for a buffet lunch. We parked at the edge of the typical Andean town to eat at a large glassy restaurant. We finished quite quickly so went outside to the open area for a stroll. They had pet llamas and alpacas, including a baby llama with a bow, and a friendly dog who wanted to play. In front was a weir on the river with a hill behind (and two cute children in traditional costume playing).
After gathering us up we headed over the train crossing towards Rachi (Raqui) and the Temple of Viracocha (Wiracocha). The entrance (over the Vilcanota river) to the Inca site is quite imposing as the huge Inca walls are mostly intact (with stone walking up steps set in). We parked outside and walked through a small courtyard with shops into the archaeological site itself. The guide quickly talked us through the site by the huge ancient walls, then left us to explore (good, always preferable to me). 10 minutes before we were due back we went back to the shops as she’d recommended looking at the silver jewellery. She was right, it was nice, so I bought a Viracocha pendant.

Although Raqch’I is a Quechua word, its original name may have been Cacha. It is 3,480m high and on the Vilcanota River on the edge of the Sacred Valley, on the Inca road. The whole site, apart from eight rectangular buildings round a courtyard (a tampu or lodge), is inside a huge 4km wall and dry ditch.
Raqchi’, as a site, clearly consists of several specific areas. There is a temple, an administrative/ religious area, living area, storage, agricultural and possibly a defensive area.
The first area we came across after the courtyard were the walls of the great Temple to Viracocha (Wiracocha). The temple is a huge two storey building 25m high and 92m long. The red adobe wall rests on andesite foundations and has windows/ doors. There is part of the roof still evident. The temple roof was the largest in the Incan Empire with a peak at the central wall and stretching down over the columns to overhang by 25m. Each wall was flanked by 11 columns. It was, sadly, destroyed by the Spanish. The sheer size of the temple suggests it was a site of some importance to the Inca. What remains of the temple gives some idea of how Inca temples were used. The design means that in entering one of the two doors, a pilgrim would be immediately blocked by the line of columns. They would then be forced into a more meandering zigzag path around them towards the statue of Viracocha, volcano and fountain. The temple is a kallanka, a large building covered with thatch.
Administrative Quarters (wayrana)
Leaving behind the giant walls we walked over to the area called administrative and/or religious. This is because its unclear on whether it was used by priests, administrative officials, both or if they fulfilled both functions. There is a suggestions that these larger building may have been used for barracks, given the large perimeter wall. I think this is unlikely on a temple site. Like many of these functional building they have three walls.
Living Quarters (Kanchas)
Behind the administrative area are 12 building for priests/ administrators. They are divided into separate square lots, the largest being 4x6m. They all have niches in the wall, maybe as cupboards, maybe to hold sacred artefacts (some have cover posts). The passages joining the living areas were straight and orientated to the mountains and, presumably, specific sun points.
There are 220 circular buildings in parallel lines around the site, probably storehouses (qullqas or colcas). Each one is 10m diameter. The nearby hillsides are covered with terraces, which would have produced the cereals (corn and quinoa) to fill them. These colcas are uniquely circular rather than round. Possibly pottery and valuable alpaca textiles would also have been stored.
Close by was a spring which fills a pool, probably ceremonial. Possibly llamas were kept nearby to offer as sacrifices (similar to the site Mayobamba). The pond (qucha) is fed through two stone fountains. Next to it is a raised platform with a deep ash layer, presumably from burnt sacrifices. Ash from rituals was often ceremoniously put into the river. It is very possible that the spring, widely regarded as sacred, was related to the origin myth of the K’ana people in the Viracocha legend base.
Its probable that the site was a pre-Inca site, but the walls and buildings are definitely Incan. The site is on a ridge overlooking the valley.

Raqchi legends
According to Inca myth Viracocha came to the Kacha area, but was attacked. He brought fire from the sky and burnt the hills. The Kacha people pleaded for forgiveness, so he extinguished the fires before heading to the sea never to be seen again. They then built a shrine (wak’a) to him at Raqch’i. When Sapa Inca Huayna Capac took the region he was told the myth and decided to build a temple around the shrine. This account was written by Pedro Cieza de Leon. The stone idol was later Christianised as an apostle! I would say the sky fire is a reference to an eruption of Kinsachata (now dormant), evidenced by the volcanic lava all around. A large field (which we did not visit) may have held an area for worshippers to use and a ceremonial bathhouse.

We drove out of Rachi (there is a small modern town right next to it), along the Vilcanota (Urubamba) River to Andahuaylillas with a beautiful (but a bit OTT) church, often called the Sistine Chapel of America. The Plaza in front of the square was particularly imposing with a beautiful tree in flower (bright red and furry) and a mountain behind. The church itself, San Pedro de Andahuayllilas was a no photos job and inside was VERY golden and silver- like someone had no idea of restraint). It was built by the Jesuits 1570-1606 on top of an Incan (or pre-Inca) ceremonial site. Apparently there is so much
gold in there that locals volunteer a 24/7 security watch. We bought a postcard and waited for everyone in the plaza, before our descent to Cusco.
En route we passed the pre-Inca site of Pikillacta perched on the hilltop to our left, but did not stop. Pikillacta, despite being in what is now core Inca territory, was a pre-Inca site, built by the Wari/ Huari people. It was occupied c550-1100 AD as a ceremonial centre. For whatever reason it was never completed. When it was abandoned the builders appear to have deliberately burnt it. The site was almost certainly religious. The large central patio/plaza may have been for rituals and feats. The elite would feast and drink chicha (maize beer), maybe with village leaders. The halls around probably held sacred objects in niches (now lost). Wari artefacts show offerings of plants and animals around a central ceremonial post. Attached, smaller buildings (over 500) were for smaller meetings. In sector 4 the buildings appear to have been linked to the Wari culture of bringing out their mummies for ceremonies, possibly giving them offerings to help protect the living. One room contains an immovable rock, possibly used as a sacred object similarly to the later Inca.

Then down into Cusco itself, along the main entrance road, round a huge roundabout (where’s all this traffic from?), past the wonderful bronze of Pachacutec on a huge round stone pedestal, and into the bus station. The guide, Carlos, who collected us gave a running commentary through Cusco (go to this place, try that restaurant etc) until we got to our hotel. He sat down with us and gave us details of all our trips, his telephone numbers, times and places to be, even maps in case we got lost. Best organised of all the guides in our trip.
The hotel room was ghastly (more on that later), but we wanted to have a walk anyway, so we headed down to the Plaza de Armas (5 mins walk through Inca cobbled streets, pedestrians only) where we popped out of an alley into the corner of the Plaza. The hotel, Carlos V looked like King Carlos V was indeed the last person to stay there. It had so seen better days. We went down Calle Tecsecocha to the end, turned left, and right at once onto a pedestrianised street, Procuradores (with lots of tiny shops) to the almost corner of the Plaza. We wandered around the Plaza, admiring the cathedral and the Jesuit church, browsing the gift shops, and sitting by the fountain and golden statue of Pachacutec. As it turned dusk we looked for a restaurant and on the side opposite the cathedral went to the second floor to a lovely large (not that cheap) restaurant (Tunupa). The attentive waiter found us a table (posh) and we ordered ceviche (well, we had to try it somewhere), which turned out to be the most ENORMOUS plate you could imagine, filled with seafood of all description. Nice white wine to join it (Tacama Blanc de Blancos –a sauvigon/ viognier/ chardonny blend that had a
really fruity feel of apricot, lycee, almost lime- strong 13%). The floor show was great, focusing on Amazonian dances (and it was only polite that I joined in!). The shops below stayed open late so we had a browse and bought a ring (for E) and a T-shirt (for M and for S), before heading to bed.

The Dance Show (Amazonas Region)
They danced La Chumaichada- an Amazon-French dance; the Huanca, and Los Danzantes de Levanto – a brilliant dance involving the male wearing a white shirt with overlong sleeves, a black vest with red ribbons, black trousers and a peacock (or other) feather hat. A ‘pifador’ played a whistle, antara and tinya drum.

Posted by PetersF 20:49 Archived in Peru Tagged peru river cusco puno inca pukara andahuaylillas racqui urumbaba Comments (0)

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