A Travellerspoint blog

June 2011

In the capital of the Inca Empire week 1

Ruins, parties, guinea pigs and massages

sunny 20 °C
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I got to Cusco a week before my mum came because I wanted to be in this city for my birthday. I had heard it is a good place to party, and it was. Staying in a party hostel helped of course. The usual programme was going to the hostel bar for drinks, and then heading out to one of the clubs; Mythology and Mama Africa were the places I spent most nights at. I had a fun time during my first week there, though the days ended up being quite lazy.
Party time in Cusco

Party time in Cusco

Party time in Cusco

Party time in Cusco

Of course I did some sightseeing too. I walked around the beautiful colonial city centre a lot, saw a demonstration of traditional dances, went to the impressive cathedral, visited a couple of interesting museums and took a tour of the Sacred Valley. The tour was really interesting. We saw Inca ruins and local handicrafts markets and visited a place where the local textiles are made. We got good explanations on how the Inca built their temples and other monuments and information about their beliefs and culture.
Traditional dances in Cusco

Traditional dances in Cusco


Traditional dances in Cusco

Traditional dances in Cusco

Sacred Valley Tour

Sacred Valley Tour


Sacred Valley Tour

Sacred Valley Tour


Sacred Valley Tour

Sacred Valley Tour


Sacred Valley Tour

Sacred Valley Tour

I also had another exciting new food experience. I ate guinea pig! It comes whole with skin, head, everything. It doesn't taste like any other meat, but is a bit like something in between pork and chicken. Not the best food I have eaten, but definitely an interesting experience.
Guinea pig!

Guinea pig!

Another thing everybody tells you to do when in Cusco is get a massage. So I did. They're incredibly cheap (2.5 Euro for 1 hour of full body massage including hot stones!) and good as well. A nice way to relax.
Cusco

Cusco


Cusco

Cusco


Cusco

Cusco

Posted by sarahm_lux 10:48 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Colca Canyon

sunny 22 °C
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I did a 3-day trek through the Colca Canyon near Arequipa, the deepest canyon in the world (twice as deep an Grand Canyon). It was not one of the hardest treks I have done, but it was beautiful!

First we drove to a place called Cruz del Condor. Here, you have a nice first view into the canyon and, as you can guess from the name, you can watch condors flying through the canyon. We were lucky and saw many condors.
Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

When we started the trek, it was all downhill for the first 3 hours. We had beautiful views of the canyon when walking down into it.
Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

We then stopped for lunch in the first village and afterwards continued to the next village where we stayed the night. During that short walk in the afternoon, our guide explained us a lot about the plants in the canyon and we got try local fruits.

The accommodation the first night was very basic but nicer than I had expected. After our guide had prepared the food (in the kitchen which was full of guinea pigs) we had a nice dinner and spent the evening talking in the dining room till we went to our relatively comfortable beds very early.

The second day was very easy and relaxed. After an amazing pancake breakfast, we started our 2-hour walk, which was mostly downhill again. We stopped in the next village for some explanations and then continued to the oasis at the bottom of the canyon. The rest of the day was spent in the oasis. We lay in the sun, went for a swim in the pool and when the sun had disappeared behind the mountains, walked down to the river for a bit.
Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

On the third day, we had a very early start. We got up at 4.30am to start hiking up and out of the canyon at 5. It was a 3-hour uphill hike. It was hard, but luckily not quite as steep as I had feared. We were really glad to arrive at the top of the mountain and walk to Cabanaconde where we finally had our breakfast.
Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

After breakfast, our bus picked us up and drove us to the hot springs in Chivay. This was the perfect thing to do after that climb in the morning. We lay in the hot water for about 40 minutes and felt much more relaxed afterwards. It was then time for our buffet lunch, where we tried many nice Peruvian dishes, including some really good battered and fried bananas. Two more stops were made on the way back to Arequipa. the first one was at the highest point on the way, where you have a great view of the different volcanoes around. The second stop was to see some alpacas living in these mountains.
Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek


Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek


Colca Canyon Trek

Colca Canyon Trek

Posted by sarahm_lux 17:50 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru, here I am!

Arequipa and some volunteer work

sunny 20 °C
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From Arica I headed North to the Peruvian border and made my way across and to Arequipa. Arequipa is a very pretty city with many colonial buildings made of the white volcanic rock called sillar. it is a big city, but quite quiet. It is very touristy in the centre, but at the time I was there, there were very few tourists around. In fact, I was almost alone in two hostels I stayed at.
Arequipa

Arequipa

Arequipa

Arequipa

Arequipa

Arequipa

Arequipa

Arequipa

The main reason why tourists come to Arequipa is to go see the Colca Canyon. Of course, I did this too, but for this you need to read my next blog post.

In the city there were two main places that I found interesting.
The first one was the Convento de Santa Catalina. It is a massive monastery which is almost like a small town on its own is the middle of the city centre of Arequipa. Twice a week you can visit the convent at night till 8pm, which is what I did and really enjoyed. The rooms have a very cosy feel at night when they are only lit by candle light, lanterns and fireplaces. Although you cannot see very well in some places and of course photos don't turn out as well as in daylight, I found it a nicer experience seeing the place in the dark.
Convento de Santa Catalina - Arequipa

Convento de Santa Catalina - Arequipa

Convento de Santa Catalina - Arequipa

Convento de Santa Catalina - Arequipa

Convento de Santa Catalina - Arequipa

Convento de Santa Catalina - Arequipa

Convento de Santa Catalina - Arequipa

Convento de Santa Catalina - Arequipa

The second very interesting place is the Museo Santuarios Andinos, the museum where Juanita, a really well-preserved mummy of an Inca girl who was offered on a mountain in the Andes can be seen. You get a really informative guided tour in the museumm explaining many things about the Inca culture and about the human sacrifices they made.

Of course, another experience was the first Peruvian food I tried. The typical dish in Peru is Ceviche, a dish of raw fish and seafood marinated in a dressing made with lemon juice. Ît might sound strange, but I liked this very much. Something typical in Arequipa is the Queso Helado. This has nothing to do with cheese, but it is an ice cream made with coconut and cinnamon. Very tasty. I also liked Papa Rellena, a potato dough filled with beef, vegetables, olives and hard-boiled egg.
Queso Helado - Arequipa

Queso Helado - Arequipa

Since I had some spare time before moving on to Cusco where I would meet my mum and her boyfriend, I decided to stay in Arequipa a week longer than necessary for sightseeing etc and do some volunteer work. Of course a week is not very long, but I thought it is better than nothing and a good way to spend my extra time. I first took part in a volunteer for a day programme by an organisation called Traveller Not Tourist. In the morning, I helped paint a classroom in their school where their after-school programme takes place, in the afternoon I helped out in the English lesson and following playtime. It was a great day. The other volunteers were really nice and the programme is very interesting. It was a shame that I could not stay longer to work with them, but they did not have much work for a very short-term volunteer at such short notice. Therefore, for the rest of the week I helped out in a children's home called Casa Verde. I spent the afternoons picking up the children from school, helping them with their homework, playing with the youngest ones and doing other small tasks. At the end of the week, I did not want to leave. I liked the children very much (especially the youngest two, who are a brother and a sister and are really cute!) and would have liked to help out a bit longer. But I had to move on to Cusco.
Painting a classroom in Arequipa

Painting a classroom in Arequipa

Posted by sarahm_lux 17:40 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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