It WAS the Policeman's fault.

Trip Start Sep 20, 2011
Trip End Jan 15, 2012

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Where I stayed
Arequipa La Casa De Mi Abuela
Colca Canyon, Hotel Pozo Del Canyon
Puno, Hotel El Buho

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011



Arequipa (2334m) the White City (la Ciudad Blanca) is a city settled in the shadows of three Volcano’s ......Chachani, El Misti and Picchu Picchu.....It is called the White City as it’s buildings are made of sillar, a pearly white volcanic stone that shines when reflecting the sun - which due to Arequipa's weather, shines often.

There is the usual “Plaza Principle”, as well as smaller ones around the city. Being the second largest city of Peru, it is quite spread out with limited hi-rise.
We arrived in Arequipa after our overnight bus trip from Cusco via Cruse del Sur.  Cruse Del Sur is just one of the many bus lines that travel across South America. They are very modern and leave and arrive on time. We have our Carma Suit (like airline business class). I sleep well, Pam, not so have got to like this type of travel and I do.
Our Hotel Casa Del Mi Abuel means “House of my Grandmother”.  The room is ordinary but the views are super - especially from the toilet. I can stand there and see beautiful El Misti, a snow capped good is that? The weather is great, as it has been all trip....I leave  small cairns everywhere praying for good weather in the Antarctic. Hope that I am not using up all my luck. 
After breakfast and sorting the laundry......couple of dollars and it is all washed and folded (no ironing, funny, eh you can wear your cloths unironed whilst away but must iron everything at home).... the Big Red Bus is our city tour option. It starts at the Plaza, then cruises around the city to different land marks..a nice commentary on the way. We stop at the “Mirador of Yanahuara”... from here we have brillant views of the volcanoes and the lush valley in the foreground. 
The tour finishes at “La Mansion del Fundador”, a house that belonged to the founder of Arequipa. The house sits in the Socabaya’s history dates back to the beginning of the Spanish occupation around 1540. The founder of the city, Don Manuel Garci de Carbajal, was given the land and ordered the start of construction.
The penultimate owner, Juan Crisostomo de Goyeneche y Aguerreverre, converted the building into a grand country estate.
The present owners, a group of architects, still have lunch there each Sunday. They have done a marvelous job of restoring the Casa to it’s former glory.

The next day we the bus, starting in the Plaza de Armas.  Opposite the magnificent Cathedral is the Government building. The second floor has a long columned verandah which would be a great vantage point for a photograph. I ask the guard can we go up there...he says something to his mate, and to us “vamos” which is come. Off after him we go.  We enter the building, round a few corners and go up some stairs which open onto the roof.. it’s up a rickety homemade wooden ladder and we are on the roof. The view across the square is superb....I am reminded of my time in Moscow, when for two dollars (one for the guard and one for the cleaner) I was given access to the roof of the Moscovar Hotel with expansive views across Red Square to the Kremlin. Nothing wrong with a little graft and corruption eh! We photograph till our heart’s content, slip a few peso’s to our friend, and it's back to ground level. This is a truly beautiful Plaza. 

First there's the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa (1540) on the northen side of the plaza while the east and west sides are all long buildings with columns supporting the second floor -  hotels, shops and restaurants - with the south side, a government building. The center of the Plaza is a fountain where people are feeding pigeons.....a coffee is needed, to sit and take it all in.
A visit to the Cathedral costs a little, but we get a lovely young lady to show us around. The Diocese was created by Pope Paul V in 1609.....built in 1621-1656 and totally rebuilt after a fire in 1844, with modifications made after earthquakes. It is a beautiful church...great alter and plenty of small chapels. A superb organ - German I think - it needed four men to activate the they use an electric air pump. Our guide thinks that it sounded better when man supplied the air. She explains all this to us as we quietly follow her. Upstairs is a small room full of the regalia of the priests...some truly ornate gold and silver treasured in the Cathedral for over 400 years. Colourful language is used to describe the artifacts with a variety of meanings for light, glory, purity and other words (using the literal translation can sometimes make for interesting reading). We venture out onto the roof and to one of the bell towers. Good tour, amazing history.
Lunch at La Tuturutu, a cafe on the Plaza....a touch of local cuisine.

As we stroll the streets, El Misti, with it’s snow capped crown, is ever present in our view................we are told that there are, on average, eleven tremors every day in this area as there are over 80 volcanoes in the area.
I am taken aback at one restaurant. Looking in the window I see “Che”, cigar in mouth, sitting looking back at me.....what a hoot.

The caravan moves on.........

Canyon Del Colca.......

Canyon Del Colca next......a minivan with a few others and we are on the road. Our guide Louis “call me Lewy”.... is a funny guy, constantly changing facial expressions as he relates ancient stories or interesting acts. He tells us that Misti and Picchu Picchu are both active volcanos. Tremors happen everyday he says... if the shaking lasts three to four seconds - do nothing ...five to ten seconds - move to a protected area if inside....over ten - get out!!!

Stopping at Los Andes for photos, I leave another cairn and my little weather prayer. We learn about the different animals and birds, as well as the people of the Colca they used to bind their heads when babies to encourage head shape. The Collagua, who lived in the mountains, long and thin.... the Cabana, who lived in the lower plains, a more stubby look. Now every time he mentions these people he pushes his head and makes a funny face....... hilarious!
We learn that the ancients made the higher terraces that we see all along the valley, the Incas, the lower ones... I can only sit in awe of the achievements of these people. Terraced gardens irrigation systems, all thousands of years ago .........brilliant.

Driving through the valley, we view Mt. Quehuisha a rather non descript mountain. From Mt Quehuisha the waters of the mighty Amazon are born....the great Australian singers and songwriters, Paul Kelly and Kev Carmondy, were right."from little things, big things grow"

Lunch at Yanque with good food and great views, we are then off on foot. We walk through the village looking over stone fences at the donkeys, goats, sheep and other farmyard animals.......following ancient tracks up (it is always up in South America) to view these fabulous terraces. We catch the sunset before we head back to the minivan and our hotel for the night. Hotel Pozo Del in Chivay is an adobe type construction.......once again the food is good and a fire adds to the ambience.........all good.

The next day is why we came to the Colca see the Condors take flight in the early morning. The minivan runs along the edge of the valley, heading for Cruz del Condor in the Colca Canyon. Lewy is still telling  stories of the people of the valley and pulling faces all the time. We pass through a tunnel....lights on as it is dark....”You want to see dark” he asks?... he turns off the is black... lights back on. “That is dark” he says..... I told you, a funny guy.

The Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon on earth (excepting those underwater) over 4000m, that is a deep 4km canyon.

We arrive at Cruz del Condor, the viewing point, assured that these birds will fly past as close as a few meters. Plenty of our fellow Condor seekers are already there so the best vantage points are already taken. I spy a rock that is free, climb up and have an expansive view up and down the canyon.
Way below the Condors are starting to pick up the thermals that will take them out of the valley and away in their search for food.
We watch, constantly looking for the promised Condor that will soar only a few meters away from us. People are pointing at the birds way below....Oh! I almost forgot, it WAS the Policeman’s fault. For two hours I stood on a rock waiting for the Condors to wake.....Two Long Cold Hours. Just because the rock was small and a wrong step would have meant a fall to instant death, didn’t mean that I had to get down........ he insisted and well, he had a gun.
Down I came, camera over my shoulder.....our driver yelled “Mister look” I turned and a Condor soared gloriously struggling to get camera aligned and focused. Yep! I it WAS the policeman's fault and he just shrugged.

On our way back, we stop at Pinchollo village where a wonderful group of young people, dressed in traditional clothes, dance for us. Then a photo opportunity. The view down the valley is grand. Lewy comes up with a “Condor” finger puppet.....he holds it just so.....the Condor flying by me in a photo...great. Told you he was a funny guy.

We spot some Llama....Lewy has a tale as to how the Llama got it’s name. As he tells it, a Spanish aristocrat was asking a native what they called that animal. Now the word for 'name, in Spanish is 'llama'... so the Spaniard kept saying 'llama', 'llama'. The native could not understand him, so when he kept pointing at the animal saying 'llama' the native said “Yes, Llama”. So my friends that is how the Llama got it’s name.....according to Lewy that is.

Another interesting story “Lewy's version”.......The Andes Mountains.
Another Spanish aristocrat is talking to a native.......he points to the mountains and asks their name. The local guy thinks that he is asking who lives beyond the mountains, as they have no collective name for the mountains, and say’s “The Andes”,  being a tribe the other side. The Spanish guy say’s Ok “The Andes”......beautiful mountains they are.
Our Colca Canyon visit is over and we now have to drive to Puno on the edge of Lake Titicaca.....A nice drive across the Alti Plano, with a short stop to view some Flamingos.
We arrive late into Puno and find our Hotel, El Buho, meaning Owl.


Puno itself is nothing much, a nice Plaza or two....the usual magnificent Cathedral, Catedral Basilica San Carlos Borromeo  that I still must visit.
It is a place where you come to to visit the Peruvian Islands of Lake Titicaca.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at almost 4000m. You can catch the Alti Plano train to Cusco from Puno as well.
On the Puno end of the lake is Uros Islands. These islands are made totally of never ceases to amaze me how people first discover these ways of life. The reeds grow around the lake and as they decompose they turn into a solid mass. The people of the Uros Islands cut this into blocks and anchor them to the lake bottom. Then they add fresh reeds on top, building to above the water level. Houses are then constructed on this, once again out of reeds. The people fish in the lake and barter for other items - and now we tourists make up most of their income.
Leaving Puno by boat, we travel up a reed lined channel before it opens into a bay of reed islands. This is (unfortunately) like a theme park....tourist boats sailing between the islands, ladies dressed in wonderfully coloured dresses beckoning us over to their islands.... large reed canoes, not too dissimilar to an Egyptian Queen’s Nile Boat, sail by with tourists having a wee lake cruise. Our boat crew has an island in mind. We land. The reeds are quite pleasant to walk on - the whole feeling very stable. We sit on reed benches and have a talk about life on these is all run very efficiently. We eat green reeds that an islander has harvested for us.......look at the trinkets that they have for sale......have a ride in the large reed catamarans.......nice visit but for me a little sad that a whole community has to show itself everyday to paying guests.

Our next stop is Amantani Island, where we will spend the night with a host family.
We are welcomed by the lady of the house, Janet, and two of her children. She shows us the way, and we walk from the beach across fields, over some stone fences and we are at our “home” for the night. 
As with all things there is a system, how it works is a secret. I am sure that most families on the island entertain guests...who gets whom and how many, that is the works for them. Our room is basic, just two beds a table with a candle. It is on the second level - "Watch your head as the doorway is small” she indicates just as I bump my head.  I think that her husband works in Cusco or La Paz for a year or two before coming home for a couple of weeks. No running water and no electricity....tough life eh!
Janet, with a little help from Pam, prepares some delightful soup for us. Then she, with the youngest tied to her back, takes us up to the village square... from here we walk to the temple on the top of the hill...did I say walk??? I mean climb to the temple on the top of the hill 4200m. The view is worth the effort, watching the sunshine over Lake Titicarca is a treat only few of us enjoy.
Janet is there to walk us back in the dark...and we needed her to show the way. Back to our room for some more soup, which is even better this time, plus some meat and veggies, all good.
There is a dance and we guests have to dress in local costume....I am given a poncho and a chullo.....Pam is not feeling well so elects to stay behind. I go with Janet and the young ones. The community hall is our bare light shining..... the others in our tour group arrive, men looking like cabilleros, women in their swirling shirts. We HAVE to do a crazy dance, holding hands and turning in circles....I buy Janet and the boys a coke, me a cervaza...very enjoyable night.
The next day, after breakfast, we exchange gifts..... we are advised to give only practical items. Our’s is food stuffs and some pens. Then we are taken, yes, by Janet and the boys to the beach.....I have a bit of fun with the boys building a fort. Kids the world over love building things, I am no different. We say thanks and goodbye then board the boat for a trip to Taquile Island where....can you guess??? yes, another climb from the beach, to the top of the island. We stop for a while and enjoy the view, watching island life go by. The Head Man of the Island passes by....we know because he is the only one allowed to wear all black.  The other men, depending on their marital status, wear different attire.  Lunch is a nice dish of trout straight from the lake.....a slow ride back to Puno with another setting sun for company. Life is good my friends.   
As we walk back from the docks, Puno greets us with another South American Festival. I told you before, these festivals happen everyday it seems. We follow the parade, once again full of colour, movement and music.....simply great.  Sitting on the steps of the Cathedral, we watch each group try to impress the judges. A couple of the groups have small children in the had a precocious little charmer who decided to put on her own show after her group had moved on. She gave us spectators all a great laugh...we cheered as she performed. One of her group came running back to chase her on.....super fun.

What a way to finished our time in awesome Peru, sitting on the steps of the Cathedral watching a can spend a whole life time here in a month.

Bolivia next, mountains, jungles and deserts...... 

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Mick on

Now I wonder, why does a reed boat in Sth. America west coast resemble a reed boat from ancient Egypt? Does the use of reeds force that shape? Or has one seen the other?

timbersfun on

Ofcourse, the Aliens have been everyway........

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