A Travellerspoint blog

May 2010

Galapagos Islands

sunny 26 °C

Day one started with an early flight from Quito to Guayquil to Galapagos. We were meeting up with some friends we had made on our Antarctica trip, Adam and Nelle. After paying our $100 park fees and getting through quarantine we were off to the boat, the Angelique, a 16-berth sailing ship. The ship was a bit rough on the outside but much nicer inside, made with wood from the Ecuador Jungle. The room was nice with large bunks, small porthole and an ensuite, and there is a lounge, dining area, front and top deck on the boat.

The Angelique

The Angelique

The Angelique crew - Seth, Sarah, Nelle and Adam

The Angelique crew - Seth, Sarah, Nelle and Adam

Cabin Bunks

Cabin Bunks

After lunch and meeting the rest of our boat-mates we headed straight to Baches Beach, which is on Santa Cruz Island (the main island in Galapagos), not far from where we were picked up. We walked along the beach and met our first Galapagos wildlife… marine iguanas, flamingos and sally-lightfoot crabs. The beach was nice - white sand, turquoise water and black lava rock.

baches beach sally lightfoot crab

baches beach sally lightfoot crab

baches beach marine iguana

baches beach marine iguana



We wandered around before hopping into to the water for a cool-off swim and snorkel, the guide told us the snorkelling wasn’t going to be that great, but we had a fabulous time and ticked a couple of our ‘Galapagos boxes’ with a Galapagos shark (1.5- 2m), a big turtle, stingrays and a few fish - most were too fast for our camera (or us taking the pics!).

baches beach galapagos shark

baches beach galapagos shark

baches beach string ray

baches beach string ray

Just as we were leaving the beach a baby sea turtle decided to pop his head out of the sand, big mistake, he was gobbled up by a frigate bird hovering overhead. We all rushed to the nest to see if there were more turtles, and a girl from another boat was working with them, so she held one up for us all to see - very cute, but only about 5% survive the walk to the water!

baches beach baby sea turtle

baches beach baby sea turtle

Night one was a bit rough as we headed up 8 hours to the north of the archipelago, but Sarah was fine, must have her sea-legs from the Antarctic horrendous boat! Day two had us at Genovesa Island, in Darwin Bay. We landed on the beach and got straight into snorkelling. Lots and lots of tropical fish, white tip sharks, eagle sting rays (polka dot) and cornet fish. There was a sea lion on the beach and we got pretty close, that was the first time we realised the tame-ness and how unafraid of people all the Galapagos animals were, it was really quite amazing.

genovesa sea lion and seth

genovesa sea lion and seth

genovesa sealions mum and bub

genovesa sealions mum and bub

genovesa white tipped reef shark

genovesa white tipped reef shark

genovesa pufferfish

genovesa pufferfish

genovesa golden cowray

genovesa golden cowray

Genovesa moorish idol

Genovesa moorish idol

genovesa king angelfish

genovesa king angelfish

After our snorkel we followed the beach trail and met two of the main species of Galapagos birds, the Boobie and the Frigate bird. Everywhere in Galapagos is well-organised and trails are marked out on each island to prevent destruction of the area, there are only a few trails at each landing spot, so there does tend to be a few other tourist boats everywhere you go. As the animals are not scared of humans they do not move when you walk past, and this was even true of the nesting birds, we were 2m from them everywhere. The frigate birds were pretty amazing as the males have a great mating ritual of blowing up their chests, like large red balloons, up to the size of a soccer ball. Some of the girls thought it looked like a large red heart, aaawww.

genovesa frigate group

genovesa frigate group

genovesa Frigate bird

genovesa Frigate bird

genovesa nasca boobie

genovesa nasca boobie

genovesa red footed boobie

genovesa red footed boobie

It is the most amazing opportunity to look at wildlife and we have never experienced the opportunity anywhere else in the world where you can get so close. In the afternoon we went to the far side of Darwin Bay to Prince Phillip’s Steps (PPS). We snorkelled along the long cliff face and played with sea lions.

genovesa PPS sealion and seth

genovesa PPS sealion and seth

genovesa PPS sealion

genovesa PPS sealion

genovesa PPS Giant Damselfish

genovesa PPS Giant Damselfish

In the early evening we went on the hunt for a short eared owl. They are one of only 3 predators of the birds along with another owl and the Galapagos Hawk. The owl sits on the lava rocks and waits for the storm petrels that nest in the cracks of the lava rocks to come out, then they jump on them and eat them. It is very rare but we were lucky enough to find 3 owls and then see one attack and catch a petrel and rip it apart, right in front of us!

genovesa PPS short eared owl - attacking

genovesa PPS short eared owl - attacking

genovesa PPS seth and pair of boobies

genovesa PPS seth and pair of boobies

genovesa PPS nasca boobie

genovesa PPS nasca boobie

Day three started at 6am with a walk on the lava flats of Santiago Island. The lava was amazing and had great patterns which looked like ropes or cables wrapped in circles. There were cracks and hills that were a different colour due to the different cooling temperatures and subsequent oxidization. The last eruption was 100 years ago, but the Galapagos is the most active volcanic area in the world. Adam was in Galapagos for the wildlife and wasn’t too impressed with this lava-only-no-wildlife island, but we liked it!

santiago sunrise

santiago sunrise

santiago crack in the lava

santiago crack in the lava

santiago lava flow crack

santiago lava flow crack

santiago lava wiggles

santiago lava wiggles

After breakfast we walked up Bartolome Island and saw a great view from the top, supposedly the best view in Galapagos. We could also see the beach that we were going to snorkel at later, around the pinnacle. On the landing the guide slipped on the concrete slab and went down on his chest, smacking his chin. This resulted in 2 internal and 4 external stitches from the doctor on a fancy boat anchored near us.

bartolome sealion drive

bartolome sealion drive

bartolome sea lion

bartolome sea lion

bartolome s and s

bartolome s and s

bartolome view

bartolome view

bartolome dancing hot lava lizard

bartolome dancing hot lava lizard

Before lunch we snorkelled and once again saw sea lions, white tip sharks, and lots of fish. We did see some starfish which was something new. On the swim back to the boat from the beach we saw a Galapagos Penguin. Only one - but that is enough (box ticked!). Swimming back to the boat for a bit of exercise is becoming a bit of a habit, and not a bad thing given the amount of food served at breakfast lunch and dinner.

Bartolome penguin

Bartolome penguin

Bartolome Razor Surgeon fish

Bartolome Razor Surgeon fish

bartolome marzipan starfish

bartolome marzipan starfish

Bartolome parrotfish

Bartolome parrotfish

After returning to the boat we decided to ask if we could jump off the deck. Unlike our Antarctica cruise, which was very military in its organization and execution, the guide just smiled and said, ‘yep’. He may well still have been a bit concussed from the fall. So we climbed to the highest point on the bow and off we went, apart from Sarah, but she went off the side.

I can't believe everyone missed my jump!

I can't believe everyone missed my jump!

Seth jumping

Seth jumping

The afternoon was spent on-board, which was a little disappointing (as we had been told all the navigations would be at night) as we motored back to the main island, Santa Cruz. Sarah found a good perch on bow and sat up there looking at passing hammerhead sharks and dolphins.

Brown Pelican on board

Brown Pelican on board

We anchored in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz which is the main town and spent the night there.
In the morning we went to the Darwin Centre where there is a tortoise breeding program. We saw lots of large land tortoises and even saw ‘Lonesome George’ who is the last of his species, in order to save the species, they have placed two female tortoises from another island which are his closest relatives (60-70% DNA match) but to date there has been no success. They have recovered one species of tortoise from only 14 tortoises remaining back up to 1600, which is pretty successful!

Darwin centre tortoises

Darwin centre tortoises

Darwin centre tortoise

Darwin centre tortoise

Darwin centre lonesome george hiding

Darwin centre lonesome george hiding

Because it was change-over day (some people leaving the boat and new arrivals) we sort of got dumped in town with no guide. So the four of us walked to Las Grietas, which is a canyon with rock pools at the base. It was a huge lava gorge which was filled with perfectly clear brackish water. We swam in the first pool (about 60m long) and then some local kids showed us a tunnel that went under a rock and into another pool which was about 100m long. It was a hot day, so the cold water was delightful to play in!

Las Grietas

Las Grietas

Swimming under the rock to discover new pools

Puerto Ayora Fish shop - sealion on right counter

Puerto Ayora Fish shop - sealion on right counter

In the afternoon we had an excursion with our new shipmates to a private Tortoise Ranch in the highlands of Santa Cruz. Here we saw more giant tortoise in the wild (sort of, they wandered around the ranch).
We then went to an underground lava tube which was pretty cool. They run from the highlands all the way to the ocean. It is where the pirates hid their treasure. There is currently one tour boat in the bay that was purchased with money from a treasure find! Unfortunately, we didn’t find any.

Los Ranchos - giant tortoise

Los Ranchos - giant tortoise

Los Ranchos - Seth the tortoise

Los Ranchos - Seth the tortoise

The next morning we went to Post Office Bay on Floreana Island, which is named due to the barrel that is just behind the beach where postcards are placed. It dates back to the 1700s, when the pirates would leave letters and then other pirates would check the barrel and if there was a letter addressed to somewhere they were going and they would deliver it. We searched through the postcards in the barrel but found none for Brisbane. There were a couple of Sydney but you have to deliver by hand. We left a couple of cards and will see if they are picked up… some looked very old!

Post office bay - Pirates mailbox

Post office bay - Pirates mailbox

Posting a postcard, Post Office Bay

Posting a postcard, Post Office Bay

We then snorkelled in the bay and saw amazing turtles. None of them swam away but just swam around us. We got some great photos and video and had a great time just enjoying the time in the water with them, Again it was incredible that they would swim at you and be within a metre.

2 Turtles

Floreana - Turtle

Floreana - Turtle

We then went to Devil’s Crown, for the best snorkelling of the trip, which is a rock island 1km off the coast. We jumped off the zodiacs and snorkelled down the open sea side of the rock. The current was really strong so we just floated along. We saw turtles, black tip sharks and lots of fish. We then swam under a tunnel into the centre of the rock formation (sort of a culdera). The water there was streaming through between the rocks and we swam with sea lions and lots of tropical fish. The sea lions actually swam so close and the bay ones played with us for ages, just swimming round and round us and coming within cm of our goggles.

Playing with the Sealions

sarah adam and nelle snorkel

sarah adam and nelle snorkel

Devils Crown - 2 sharks sleeping

Devils Crown - 2 sharks sleeping

Devils Crown - Sarah Snorkel

Devils Crown - Sarah Snorkel

Devils Crown - Seth Snorkel

Devils Crown - Seth Snorkel

Devils Crown - excited after great snorkelling

Devils Crown - excited after great snorkelling

Late in the afternoon we went for a walk at Cormorant Point where we saw flamingos which were very pink, much nicer than we had seen previously. We walked over the hill to a beach on the ocean side of the island which you are not allowed swim at because it is a Green Sea Turtle nesting area. We walked along the beach and saw large schools of sting rays swimming just off shore, and sharks and turtles. There were birds circling waiting for baby turtles to come out of the sand but none did while we were there.

Cormorant Point - Flamingo

Cormorant Point - Flamingo

The next day (Day 5) we landed at Espanola Island which had a long white beach, Gardner Bay, with 100+ sea lions lazing around on it. We walked among them and looked at all the poses they were in. Lots of pups suckling and sea lions playing in the water. Great photos up close. On the rocks we watched Marine Iguanas eat the algae off the rocks and swim around. They are truly prehistoric and a little bit punk-rocker.

Gardner Bay Seth the Sealion

Gardner Bay Seth the Sealion

Gardner Bay Punkrocker Marine Iguana

Gardner Bay Punkrocker Marine Iguana

Gardner Bay Marine Iguana

Gardner Bay Marine Iguana

Gardner Bay Storm brewing

Gardner Bay Storm brewing

We then snorkeled at Suarez Point and saw a huge school of fish that you could swim under and up back through. The video does not show it that well but when you are under the fish you cannot see through them. As you come back up through they part and there is a donut void which you swim through. We did this a few times and then continued around the rock and saw more sea lions, a turtle and a lobster in a cave.

Seth swimming under the school of fish

In the afternoon we walked at Suarez Point and saw some Albatros and Boobies. The Albatros were huge and amazing. They were nesting so close and just walked past us to the cliff to take off.

Suarez Point Albatross

Suarez Point Albatross

Suarez point - No boobies past this point

Suarez point - No boobies past this point

On the 7th day of the cruise we started with a walk on Santa Fe Island to find the land Iguana. After a long walk and no action we stumbled across a small one and then a large one and then there were iguanas everywhere. They were not worried by our presence and would walk along the path and get within a metre of you waiting for you to get out of the way, you would, and they continue on their way. The Land Iguanas were much bigger than their marine counterpart and a yellowy colour.

Santa Fe Land Iguana

Santa Fe Land Iguana

We then went snorkelling in the bay and saw sting rays and even bigger schools of fish than the day before. There would have been tens of thousands of fish in a 50m long school just swaying in the current. There was also a sea snake that swam around and of course sea lions that played in the rocks and with us.

Angelique and Seth

Angelique and Seth

In the afternoon we navigated to South Plazas Island one of two islands that make up the Plaza Islands, named for the channel that runs between them. This island is has the highest density of wildlife in the archipelago. The land Iguanas which are different to the species on the previous mentioned island. These ones have mated with the Marine Iguanas but the offspring cannot breed and do not live as long.

South Plazas - Gull

South Plazas - Gull

On return to the boat we had another jumping off the boat session to cool off as it was sunny and hot. We spent the afternoon on the bow of the boat having a beer and watching for dolphins. We did see a Manta Ray and a suspected whale (not confirmed).

sarah side jumping

sarah side jumping

Seth Jumping

Seth Jumping

Our last night was spent at-anchor, so a good night’s sleep. In the morning we went for a quick walk around North Seymour Island before breakfast. This was our chance to get really close to the blue-footed boobie, which is the unofficial mascot of the islands… lots of ‘bobbies’ jokes etc.

North Seymour - a pair of boobies

North Seymour - a pair of boobies

North Seymour - Blue Footed Booby

North Seymour - Blue Footed Booby

Big Fat Lizard, North Seymour

Big Fat Lizard, North Seymour

After breaky we were off-loaded and back to the airport and Quito. Our 8 days in Galapagos were great and April is obviously a good time to go and see all the birds in their mating-glory! All the pictures were taken with our tiny, little x3 zoom camera, that’s how close they all were!

Posted by seth_g 01:33 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Amazon Jungle- Iquitos, Peru

sunny 26 °C

We got up at 420am to get the taxi to the airport and caught the flight from Lima to Iquitos. On arrival we were greeted by the tour company, got our bags and headed off to downtown Iquitos, (we were slightly surprised by the size of the river town, 500 000 people) we hopped on a bus and headed to the ferry wharf. Here we got on a long boat with a sizable outboard motor for our 1 hour trip up the river to our lodge. First we did a lap around the city area, Belen, on the river and looked at the floating houses that people live in as it is cheap and they do not pay tax.

Belen - River houses

Belen - River houses

5 minutes up the little river we came to the Rio Amazonas and the water changed colour dramatically from an oxygen-depleted black to a oxygen-rich brown, the typical Amazon colour. There were dolphins around the river mouth and we stopped and watched them for a while.

Mirror-like Amazon

Mirror-like Amazon

On arrival at the lodge we had a welcome drink of juice and settled into our room. We then went for a walk in the jungle and saw a birds nest with small eggs and many other interesting flora and fauna (and a million mosquitoes - we were very grateful for our Aussie 80% deet repellent, as these were tough customers and others were being bitten). And came back to relax in the hammocks.

Hammock Hut

Hammock Hut

Lunch as usual on tours was basic but plentiful. After a siesta in the hammocks, we set off for a river cruise to the animal rescue centre. Here we saw monkeys, a sloth, turtle, tortoise, toucan and snakes. The animals had been brought there by locals when they were injured etc, our tour guide had even brought a monkey he had found at a market in the city, they were totally domesticated and were happy to jump all over you. We also got a little briefing on natural medicines, including cat’s claw which they believe cures cancer. We all had to drink some sugar cane liquor, which was surprisingly ok!

Tame toucan

Tame toucan

Sarah and pocket monkey

Sarah and pocket monkey

2 Sloths

2 Sloths

We then went in search of dolphins but didn’t find any! Instead, we went for a swim in the river… bit scary after just holding a snake who’s mother or father might live in the river, but it was refreshing. We then spent the next hour or so watching the sun set over the river.

Sunset on Amazon

Sunset on Amazon

Seth enjoying the Sunset

Seth enjoying the Sunset

After dinner we headed out for a night canoe in the lagoon. The guide claimed that he had only seen 6m anacondas in there. We spent an hour on the lagoon and in amongst the flooded rain forest where trees covered us over. It was a bit scary and we saw some big spiders and frogs but nothing capable of eating us in one mouthful.

Cruising through the flooded rainforest

Cruising through the flooded rainforest

Day two found us up and off to a local village. We had refused to pay the 10 soles for gumboots as we purchased waterproof shoes and they needed a workout. The walk was not that bad but there were some wet and muddy patches. We saw a very big 250 year old tree, which is quite a rare sight so close to the river, as most have been felled for wood products, mining or farming (the residents protested and saved it from the chop) and had a great deal of jungle medicine explained to us… Never to have a sore tummy in the jungle again. We visited a family’s house in the middle of the jungle and chatted about life in the jungle, they don’t live a life of luxury, by our standards, but they have plentiful water and food and a great life by the river. The guides parents had grown up in the river and he explained that his grandparents struggled when they came to the ’city’ of Iquitos and missed their fresh fruit and fish.

Huuuge tree 250 years old

Huuuge tree 250 years old

Walking tree - it walks to water - trunk doesn't touch the ground

Walking tree - it walks to water - trunk doesn't touch the ground

The local villagers put on a bit of a show for us and we danced (well, walked around in a circle) - it was all a bit strange, they wore their traditional outfits, but normally wore Western clothes. They just wanted to trade everything we were wearing from our watches to our shoes for the jewellery they made. We did get to use the blow gun and shoot darts at a target. We both missed. We bought a few bits of jewellery from the locals… but they were more interested in trading than money. It was quite interesting stuff, lots of anaconda vertebrae and piranha jaws in the jewellery.

Blow-gun - Seth is really that much bigger than the chief!!

Blow-gun - Seth is really that much bigger than the chief!!

Sarah refusing to barter her watch

Sarah refusing to barter her watch

In the afternoon we went on a canoe ride through the flooded forest that we had been in the night before and to another river. We stopped at the local swimming pool, which was just fork in the river, but we played with the local kids and had lots of fun throwing them in the water, the little kids were great swimmers, but then they do live and play in the river everyday.

A visit to the local swimming pool

A visit to the local swimming pool

River Queens - playing with the local kids

River Queens - playing with the local kids

That night we went for a night walk in the jungle. We were about 15 minutes into the walk, just getting out of earshot of the camp music and the guide jumped back into the girl behind him. He had been talking to us about the only poisonous (deadly) snake in the Amazon and sure enough he had just avoided stepping on one that was about 2m long. Very big. His friend had died after being bitten by one 30cm long only 6 months ago. She was a long way in to the jungle and did not get any medical assistance. Fair to say that was the end of our jungle night walk and we had a well-shaken-up guide for a while.

The third day we went piranha fishing. We fished off the side of the canoe and used rotten fish as bait. We got lots of bites and pulled a few clear of the water before they fell off the hooks. The Canadian in the boat managed to catch one and he had it cooked for her lunch, it was only about 10cm long, not much meat, but a good set of teeth! The guide caught an electric eel, which was the only other excitement. Typical fishing trip.

Having fun piranha fishing

Having fun piranha fishing

In the afternoon we went to the ‘aquarium’. Here they had caiman (small freshwater-looking crocs) and the largest fresh water fish in the world, that live in the Amazon. We walked out on a walkway to a rotunda and on the way these very, very large shadows passed beneath us. We got out to the rotunda and the guide had some ‘fish food’ which these fish almost jumped out of the water to get at. They were massive, beyond what any of us imagined… about 1m, with huge mouth and jaws and they definitely snapped at the food!

The next morning we went to the monkey island. It was a rescue centre for monkeys and there were 7 different types of monkeys, from little tiny ones that could fit in your hand to larger ones. Some of them had returned to the jungle around the house and others were still living in the refuge area. It was great fun seeing all the monkeys up close and we fed them biscuits, made from egg shells mainly, so they got plenty calcium… not bananas, which seemed strange!

Monkey tree

Monkey tree

Monkeying around

Monkeying around

More monkey

More monkey

In the afternoon we headed back to Iquitos and then flew out to Lima, for a night, then to Quito, Ecuador for another night and then another early morning flight to Galapagos.

Posted by seth_g 11:13 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Peru- Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Nasca and Lima

semi-overcast 18 °C

After recovering from our Inca Trail in Cusco for a day, we headed to Arequipa on an overnight bus. We had originally planned to head straight out on a day tour for Colca Canyon, but decided that was pushing it a little bit.
Arequipa was a nice town, the second biggest after Lima, with a load of white stone colonial buildings. We spent the day wandering around and exploring, there were a fair few churches, but we didn’t really venture into any. We decided not to do an organized tour to Colca, as a lot of them seemed to involve a lot of bussing and not a lot of walking (unless you got on a tour starting at 3am).

Arequipa main square - colonial buildings and thousands of taxis

Arequipa main square - colonial buildings and thousands of taxis

Arequipa town centre

Arequipa town centre

So we set off the next day on the public bus, which was interesting, the first hour or so involved guys walking up and down the bus trying to sell things, at first we weren’t sure what was going on… a guy gave out a handful for sweets to everyone and then came around asking for money for them! The second one seemed to be selling some kind of tea with great medicinal powers. The bus journey took a lot longer than we thought and after 4 hours we reached Chivay, the main touristy town of the canyon, the views were great, but the journey seemed to go on and on. We had decided not to stay in Chivay and stayed on the bus for the next 76km to Cabanaconde, a smaller village in the middle of the canyon. The previous bus to arrive in Chivay, terminated there so about 50 people tried to cram onto our bus. Sarah had made the mistake of trying to nip to the toilet and had to battle her way back on board, it was a little easier as she was about 6 inches taller than most of the people.

Chivay

Chivay

So we set off on the last part of the journey to Cabanaconde (76km) on the bumpiest, slowest road, ever. It took 2 ½ hours, stopping at each little town along the way. Painful. We even had a guy on the bus trying to get everyone to stay at his hostel, seemingly he rides the bus everyday to get clients. Annoying.

We had booked to stay at a great little family-run hostel, Pachamama, where the son spoke perfect English (handy) and his mum did all the cooking (tasty)! He was really helpful about routes to take through the Canyon for the next day, although we told him we wanted to do a big walk, he was a little worried about our plan. Oh well.

Cabanaconde village square

Cabanaconde village square

After a great dinner of wood-fired pizza and a hearty breakfast of crepes, we set off for our trek at 6.30am. We walked out of town for about 15 minutes to the viewpoint, which was pretty spectacular. The Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon, and as we had arrived at night it was cool to see it in the daylight. The path (yet again un-signposted) was supposed to start at the viewpoint, so we set off down in the canyon on the small path leading from the centre of the viewpoint. After about 30 minutes of scrambling across the canyon, the path really started to get very small, and after about 45 minutes we decided to turn back… a long way up the canyon, we think we must have walk about 1/3 of the way down the canyon. Back at the top we decided to follow the path all the way along the viewpoint and after about 5 minutes could see the metre-wide path winding its way slowly down through the canyon.

Heading down the path that wasn't

Heading down the path that wasn't

It was now 8.20am and we were about 1.5 hours behind schedule, with 9 hours of walking ahead of us! We decided we would keep going and just not take very long breaks. The walk down to the first town involved walking down 1200m in altitude, crossing the river at the bottom and then up 200m (altitude) to San Juan de Chuccho. The map we had said 3.5 hours, we walked non-stop and did it in about 2.5 hours. The walk down was nice, but it was good to reach the bottom and then the sleepy town on San Juan. We didn’t see many people and in fact only passed 2 men and a donkey coming the other way. There wasn’t much action in San Juan, just one man and his sheep, but there were a few hostels and campsites, so it is obviously used a bit.

Making our way down from the top

Making our way down from the top

Going down, way down

Going down, way down

Looking down to the bridge over to San Juan

Looking down to the bridge over to San Juan

We wiggled our way from San Juan in the vague direction (we thought) of the next village, Coshnirwa. Again, no signs and only a hand-drawn map to follow. After going the wrong way for 20 minutes and getting corrected by a guy, we were back on track and crossed a little tributary of the main river and then walked solidly uphill for about 30 minutes, it was also boiling hot! The next 2 villages were dead, we didn’t see anyone and the places looked abandoned, the only sign of life were the beer bottle tops strewn across the main square in Malata.

Malata and Cosnirhua aross the canyon and 200m above the river

Malata and Cosnirhua aross the canyon and 200m above the river

We started to get a little worried about the lack of people and shops as we had pretty much drunk our 2 litres of water each, but just at the end of the village we found a hostel with a little shop (still no people!), but it did have an Inca Museum, but we made our apologies (no time on our busy schedule for museum visiting!) and moved on.
We headed downhill to the ’oasis’ past some farming terraces and a long winding path to the bottom of the Canyon and the river again. The Oasis is an area of greenery and palm trees with a few swimming pools and hostels set up purely for tourists. We headed for one of the set-ups with a restaurant and really looked forward to a swim and some lunch. We had covered what was supposed to take 7 hours in 5 ½ hours (even bumped into 2 girls who said it had taken them 10 hours the day before! Oh dear!).

Rough Colca River near the oasis

Rough Colca River near the oasis

Oasis

Oasis

Looking down on the oasis and the zig zag up the other side

Looking down on the oasis and the zig zag up the other side

After some confusion (as to where our guide was) we managed to get some lunch and have a swim, we lounged around for an 1 ½ hours and then set off UP! It was a horrible thought that we had 3 hours of uphill (1200m altitude) - yuk! We marched on up and settled into 20 minutes walking, 3 minutes resting, passing a few tour groups on the way, some of them really struggling. The walk took us 2 hours and then frustratingly the path from the top of the canyon into Cabanaconde wasn’t marked (again) and we ended up clambering over some farming terraces and getting annoyed with each other! But we finally made it back to the village and our hostel… much to the surprise of our landlord! We left the hostel at 6.30am and returned by 5.30pm - not a bad day’s walking!

Great rock formation, on the way up Colca Canyon

Great rock formation, on the way up Colca Canyon

Terraces that we got lost on after two hours of up

Terraces that we got lost on after two hours of up

We made it back!

We made it back!

The next day we headed off to the Cruz del Condor - which is a popular viewpoint for large condors cruising the canyon. We had to get the 6.30am public bus to the viewpoint (but had booked onto a tourist bus from there back to Arequipa, with a visit to the thermal pools and lunch). We turned up at 6.15am to the village square to get the public bus, but no bus turned up and only a truck, people started to climb onboard, so we figured no bus was coming and we hopped on too! It was hilarious, we had a 40 minute ride, standing in a crowded open-top truck, squished in with 30 other people and all their luggage.

The 'bus'

The 'bus'

The Condors were pretty amazing and we got quite a few cruising past. They were huge, but came quite close.
Condor pics.

Condor

Condor

Onboard the tourist bus, we headed back to Chivay and visited the thermal baths, which was nice on our legs after the trek of the last day and then wandered off on our own for lunch. Seth found another DVD shop and bought a few movies for $1 each. The journey back to Arequipa still seemed pretty long, especially as we were getting straight onto another night bus to Nasca that evening.

We didn’t sleep too well on this bus, as it was the only overnighter that we have caught where we weren’t getting off at the last stop, so we were worried that we would miss it!

We arrived into Nasca at 7am and were swamped by people trying to sell us ’deals’ for flights over the Nasca lines. Basically, there are a collection of ’lines’ and diagrams in the desert outside Nasca, which were drawn in the land by ancient people and the best way to see them is from the air. After a lot of messing around we got ourselves to the airport and booked onto a little 4 seater (pilot, co-pilot and us) plane. The flight was 30 minutes long and we saw all 14 of the Nasca symbols, they were cool; hummingbird, monkey, alien, shapes etc. The flight started out ok, but when we started viewing the symbols the pilot would turn the plane so much that it was nearly side-on and fly around the symbol, then turn the plane side-on for the other passenger and fly around it the other way. After a few turns Sarah started to feel a little wobbly and at the monkey (number 8) the orange juice she drank an hour before the flight came up! Not good. The flight was good and it was great to see the strange symbols… but it was nice to be back on dry land again!

Arriving in Nasca

Arriving in Nasca

Just a little plane

Just a little plane

Alien, Nasca Lines

Alien, Nasca Lines

Monkey, Nasca Lines

Monkey, Nasca Lines

Humming Bird, Nasca Lines

Humming Bird, Nasca Lines

Hands, Nasca Lines

Hands, Nasca Lines

We headed back to the bus station and managed to catch the late-running 10.30am bus to Lima. And 7 hours later we arrived in the capital, and the whole Nasca flight seemed like a little bit of a blur! Lima is a big city with 9 million living in it. We stayed in Miraflores, which is by the beach as the city centre has become a bit dangeroous. We were able to walk down to the shopping centre which overlooked the water and have a nice dinner. Ceviche is the main seafood dish, mixed seafood 'cooked' with lime juice served with a light salad, corn and sweet potato to balance the citrus... it was great. Lima has a reputation for being the gastronomic centre of South America.

Miraflores Coast, from the shopping centre

Miraflores Coast, from the shopping centre

We got on the tourist bus to check out the city and enjoyed a sunny afternoon driving around the city in a double decker, open top bus. We went past an adobe pyramid, Huallamarca, and then headed into the city centre. The buildings were a mixture of styles because of the earthquakes that have damaged the city over the years. Even buildings can have two distinct styles where sections have been rebuilt. In the square we found a Peruvian Hairless dog. They have a very high body temperature and are called 'Hotdogs'. They look a lttle like pigs due to the no hair thing.

Adobe Pyramid

Adobe Pyramid

City square, Lima

City square, Lima

Lima Town Square

Lima Town Square

Peruvian Hairless Dog, 'Hotdog'

Peruvian Hairless Dog, 'Hotdog'

We then went to a famous bar and then San Francisco Church which had amazing alfrescos and paintings dating back 100s of years. The tile work was Moorish and quite exquisite. We went into the Catacombes, which was the only place we could take a photo. When they sorted through all the bones they found over 20 000 femurs, proving over 10 000 people had been buried in it. A bit spooky.

San Francisco Crypt

San Francisco Crypt

Sarah picked out her favourite building which was Lima's first apartment block and is now abandoned, which is a shame. The building had large chess pieces in place of gargoyles along its rooftop. As we left the city we got a view of San Cristobal mountain which has colourful houses on it and a large cross at the top. A relic of the Spanish religious influence. Although colourful the houses are the slums of the city.

The first apartment block, now empty

The first apartment block, now empty

San Cristobal

San Cristobal

After the bus we went for a walk in Miraflores to Parque del Amor. Here there was a large sculpture of a Peruvian couple in a 'Peruvian kissing embrace'. They have a competition once a year at the park to see who can hold a kiss for the longest, but you have to be in position of the sculpture. It is said that they practice long and hard.

Peruvian Kiss

Peruvian Kiss

We also went to some amazing markets in Lima which were in a big warehouse and had everything that could possibly be copied in there. From DVDs to clothing to bags to electronics. We walked around for an hour or so just looking at all the stuff.

After a good time in Miraflores we headed to a hotel close to the airport in preparation for an early flight to the Amazon. We ducked out for dinner in a bit of a dodgy area and were rewarded with a great Chifa, chinese restaurant (huge amount of Chinese people in Lima), and the best lemon meringue pie of the trip. And there has been a few tastings to compare it to.

Posted by seth_g 16:54 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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