dare2go http://dare2go.com We travel full-time, in our overland truck come home, through Latin America. We share our life on the road, beautiful photos, and advice from our experiences. Thu, 22 Jun 2017 16:45:22 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 70263026 Street Art on the Move: the Colourful Truck Art of Peru http://dare2go.com/truck-art-street-art-peru/ http://dare2go.com/truck-art-street-art-peru/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 16:45:22 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6396 Trucks in Peru have colourful art painted on the back doors – occasionally the sides too. They move on all streets – so why not call them 'street art'?

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We were rather disappointed that we didn’t find ‘real’ street art in Peru – not even in the capital Lima. We always love to add to our extensive street art galleries . But then we noticed the colourful trucks everywhere, with their elaborate paintings on the back and bold coloured patterns on the side.
This truck art is unique to Peru – we haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere in South America!

So we thought, although rather late into our trip: these trucks are driving on the streets and have naïve art on their back. So why not call this the Peruvian version of street art and document these trucks with a photo gallery?

We were quite impressed by the art painted on trucks in Peru. This is a rather unusual piece of truck art: a lonely bear standing on a frozen ice landscape.

We were quite impressed by the art painted on trucks in Peru. This is a rather unusual piece of truck art: a lonely bear standing on a frozen ice landscape.

So we started to take more notice of the Peruvian truck art and tried to take as many photos as possible – most whilst on the move ourselves. Soon we realised that there are two or three distinctively different directions these paintings take. On one hand you find countless religious themes, like Jesus with the bleeding heart, Virgin Mary holding her baby, Jesus with lambs in a green field, Jesus with a crown of thorns, and so on.

Big brother and little brother – both with almost identical scenes of Jesus with lambs painted onto their back doors.

Big brother and little brother – both with almost identical scenes of Jesus with lambs painted onto their back doors.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Another variation of Jesus and the lamb(s). Here you have all the popular christian elements combined: Jesus holding lambs, white (peace) doves, a large waterfall as a backdrop, and a devotional sentence. This locked-away truck had a beautifully detailed Virgin Mary painted onto its back doors. Another christian motif painted onto a truck in Celendin.

This is the last photo we shot of a truck in Peru (before leaving for Ecuador), and it is an unusually surreal painting. The head of Jesus entwined in a twisted tree. At the base of the tree you can see two jaguars.

This is the last photo we shot of a truck in Peru (before leaving for Ecuador), and it is an unusually surreal painting. The head of Jesus entwined in a twisted tree. At the base of the tree you can see two jaguars.

Then you find variations of animal scenes, usually set in a mountainous green landscape. As a backdrop you often see a wide waterfall. Lions, jaguars, and tigers seem to be the preferred motifs, followed by cows and horses. Never any llamas or alpacas! This still confuses us, as lions and tigers cannot be found in South America, other than in a few zoos. Yet the llama and alpaca are the most commonly domesticated animal. These camelids even contribute a lot to the wealth of common people.

We still don't understand why lions are so popular as a motif for truck art in Peru.

We still don’t understand why lions are so popular as a motif for truck art in Peru.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
You find countless variations of such rural country scenes painted onto the back of trucks in Peru. This is not the only white tiger we saw painted onto the rear of a truck. When we did find any 'real' murals in Peru, they were mostly childish themes painted on school walls. But we saw more trucks with cows or horses painted onto their back than murals. Before you try to distinguish the faded contours of this white rider on a horse, have a look at the beautifully detailed edges of the two wooden doors.

Occasionally we noticed trucks, which had a road winding through a typical Peruvian landscape painted onto their back doors. Really clever ones then depicted the actual truck, with its current decorative motifs repeated in this art, driving along that country road. Sadly we never got a good photo of one of these.

This is the only photo we got of a truck painted on its own truck body. We had passed better ones, but never found the chance to photograph one.

This is the only photo we got of a truck painted on its own truck body. We had passed better ones, but never found the chance to photograph one.

What we missed (and would have thought quite appropriate) were scenes of local farmers working their fields, traditional festival scenes with all the colourful costumes, pictures of adobe villages, old Incan temples or gold funeral masks – typical Peruvian scenes. Don’t ask us why Rambo and warplanes are more popular as a decoration.

We saw this truck, with a beautifully detailed indigenous deity painted onto the back, parked below the Kualep ruins – how fitting!

We saw this truck, with a beautifully detailed indigenous deity painted onto the back, parked below the Kualep ruins – how fitting!

Truck art and trash in Chiclayo – the dirtiest city we found in Peru. You see stylised animal motifs, like these two birds, more often in the south – probably inspired by the local Nasca lines.

Truck art and trash in Chiclayo – the dirtiest city we found in Peru. You see stylised animal motifs, like these two birds, more often in the south – probably inspired by the local Nasca lines.

 

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Somehow the face of Rambo became a little too childish; only his pose looks tough. Here we see tropical flowers and hummingbirds painted onto the back of an old, but well maintained 70s American truck. The artwork on this truck serves mostly as a backdrop for the company name, and praising words for the 'beautiful valley' they come from. Some of the landscape paintings on the backs of trucks are a little kitschy.

Overall, these colourful trucks certainly brought us some extra enjoyment when driving long roads. We were always fascinated to discover a completely new motif painted onto one of them. Sadly, not many owners seem to go beyond the initial outlay of having their truck decorated. We have noticed countless older trucks, where the paint had faded or been scratched beyond recognition of the original art.

We hope you enjoy these photos of Peruvian truck art – and don’t curse us for publishing them as ‘street art’!

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We didn't find much 'real' street art in Peru, but on the other hand we noticed the unique art they paint onto their truck bodies. After a while, we decided to document these moving pieces of art and publish a gallery – a little tongue in cheek, we classified it as 'street art'. Have a look and be surprised by the many different motifs Peruvians decorate their trucks with!

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Overlanding La Selva, Peru’s Enormous Amazon Rainforest http://dare2go.com/la-selva-peru-amazon-rainforest-overland/ http://dare2go.com/la-selva-peru-amazon-rainforest-overland/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 00:52:20 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6343 La Selva occupies 60% of Peru – yet it's not on the tourist radar. We travelled overland through a large part of this section of the Amazon rainforest.

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La Selva, literally translated ‘the forest’, means the Amazon rainforest to Peruvians. This is an enormous part of Peru, covering around a 60% of the country, but not many travellers go there. La Selva is also not really that suitable for overland travel, because there are few roads. Nevertheless, we went and had a good time.

La Selva occupies 60% of Peru – yet it's not on the tourist radar. We travelled overland through a large part of this section of the Amazon rainforest.

La Selva occupies 60% of Peru – yet it’s not on the tourist radar. We travelled overland through a large part of this section of the Amazon rainforest.

For a long time, I had been keen to get more into rainforest regions. I knew that Peru takes up the second-largest portion of the entire Amazon tributary system. In Huancayo , a local had asked us why we weren’t continuing from there into ‘La Selva’. At the time I didn’t even know that Peruvians refer to their rainforest by this name. He explained to me that almost all roads are sealed and easy to drive. And, of course, that this region is “muy lindo” (very beautiful)!

For several reasons, we had to go to Lima first. Then the March floods (2017) hit the north of Peru. In Lima, we went to iPeru, the government-run tourist information service, to gather as much information as possible on road conditions and attractions in the Amazon lowlands.
To sum up: yes, there’s no problem going into the north-west of Peru – La Selva.

Most of the roads in La Selva of Peru are sealed - although in various stages of disrepair due to fresh landslide damage. Only 80 kilometers are without pavement, and in recent rains this section had suffered badly (we tried to photograph during the bumpy bits, but they were always too bumpy).

Most of the roads in La Selva of Peru are sealed – although in various stages of disrepair due to fresh landslide damage. Only 80 kilometers are unpaved.

This long suspension bridge is at the end of the dirt section of the PE-5N: Puente Punta Arenas.

We were relieved to reach this long suspension bridge, as it marks the end of the dirt section of the PE-5N. From Puente Punta Arenas onwards the road was freshly sealed.

 

We started in Huánuco and finished in Cajamarca, thus driving a large semicircle through La Selva. We had a few weather related hold-ups and the 80+ kilometres of remaining dirt road was much rougher than we had expected, due to recent rain falls. But overall, it was a great experience, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss.

We even tried to drive from Tingo Maria to Pucallpa, but we had to give up (some 80 kilometres in) due to too many landslides threatening to close this dead-end road. When we were returning, we ignored a road closure and drove through, right underneath a fresh landslide. The water gushing down the steep slope was causing large rocks to tumble onto the road. But, if we hadn’t taken that risk, we might have been stuck there for days…

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Once we crossed the last mountain range, coming from Huánuco, the road dropped steeply into this real tropical gorge. On the road to Pucallpa we encountered countless landslides; for some we had to stop and wait for machinery to clear part of the road. This was Yasha's view out her window whilst I crept along the soggy edge of one such landslide. Rainforest on the way to Pucallpa. We parked for the night behind a small indio village - this was our vista in the afternoon. We decided not to continue to Pucallpa. On the way back we snuck through under this fresh landslide - still water and rocks coming down the steep hillside.

Along the way we made some new friends who gave us more tips – some of these were unfortunately too late for us unless we wanted to backtrack, which wasn’t an option due to time restraints on our visa.

Did you know that you can travel the Amazon river, with your vehicle – on a barge?

Large barges run from Yurimaguas to Iquitos, and then from Iquitos to Pucallpa. We could have done the same trip in opposite direction, starting at Pucallpa, if we had know about it when we were driving that way. Iquitos is considered the heartland of the Peruvian Amazon and can otherwise only be reached by plane. There are a number of lodges in this region, aimed at eco-tourists, interested in wildlife observation.

If you are interested in seeing the Amazon river system up close we would recommend that you look into this option of travelling by barge!

Late afternoon along the highway through la Selva: rows of coconut palms reflect in a flooded rice paddy.

Late afternoon along the highway through la Selva: rows of coconut palms reflect in a flooded rice paddy.

The 4 Cs of ‘La Selva’ in Peru: cacao, cafe, coca & coco

As in most parts of this world, where pioneers push into undeveloped land, the roads are mostly lined with small settlements and much of the land is either secondary forest, or has been cleared for crops. Which brings me to the 4 Cs of the Amazon: cacao, cafe, coca & coco. Alongside bananas and some rice on low-laying land, these seem to be the main crops in the north-west.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Instead of being shipped in cardboard boxes, these bananas were densely stacked by hand - row by row - onto the back of the truck. Cocoa beans laid out to dry on the edge of the highway. A variety of local crops laid out on black tarps. One of the typical timber houses in the back is painted with an ad for the last presidential election in Peru. One of the many businesses in a small town that buys local produce to sell on.

Many settlements are often very basic; just two rows of small wooden houses along the road edge. The only occasional decorations are elaborate timber handrails along the upper storey balconies. Out the front, the region’s crops are spread out on black tarps to dry.

Most houses in La Selva are built from roughly sawed wooden planks; this one is unusually large.

Most houses in La Selva are built from roughly sawed wooden planks; this one is unusually large.

Some larger towns serve as regional centres and supply things like hardware and fertiliser. They are also home to agricultural buyers and their large warehouses. The majority of the houses are more substantial and built from concrete and brick.

We often noticed that the locals use MotoKars (the always annoying motorbike three-wheelers) as their personal transport. Obviously, many don’t have enough money to buy a proper car yet, so a family of 5 or 6 squeezes into one of these three-wheelers. In the town of Segunda Jerusalen, we noticed hundreds of them parked in line in front of a large church.

Hundreds of MotorKars (the three-wheeled motorbike taxis) parked in front of a church on Palm Sunday.

Hundreds of MotorKars (the three-wheeled motorbike taxis) parked in front of a church on Palm Sunday.

By far the largest centre of this region is Tarapoto. We had to stop there a few hours longer than we had wanted, to replace a broken key and get the stuck bit removed from inside the lock of our camper door. We also stocked up on provisions.

Tarapoto is a busy city, full of traffic, and steamy hot. We were glad when we had everything done and could get out to Lamas. This small town, located only a little over 20 kilometres from Tarapoto but 500 metres higher, impressed us so much that Yasha wrote a dedicated post about Lamas .

The town square and cathedral of Moyabamba (capital of San Martín).

The town square and cathedral of Moyabamba (capital of San Martín).

A 'tropical mural' in the centre of Moyabamba (steet art is rare in Peru).

A ‘tropical mural’ in the centre of Moyabamba (steet art is rare in Peru).

 

Further north Moyabamba is home to the state government seat of San Martín. This town has a number of tourist facilities, but didn’t impress us enough to stay. We spent the night nearby at Waqanki, a lodge with a colibri (hummingbird) garden. In the twilight, we tried hard to get at least one clear shot of these busily buzzing little birds.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
This was the most spectacular butterfly I was able to photograph (at Yacumama). I spent a good time stalking butterflies in La Selva - you find dozens of varieties. But they hardly ever sit still, or when they do they have their wings closed... Compared to butterflies, hummingbirds are even more difficult to photograph - they hardly ever sit still. Their main feeding times are early morning and at dusk - low light conditions which make photography even more difficult. This little colibri (hummingbird) sat on this branch for almost 2 minutes - lucky me! Unfortunately the light wasn't the best...

Just past Moyabamba we also spent another night on a private property, Yacumama, set in the midst of shallow lagoons, and surrounded by tropical trees. Unfortunately it was weekend, and the on-site restaurant pumped out Latin music until after 10pm – during weekdays this could be a nice, relaxing place…

Yacumama is a private reserve, come beach, come restaurant, set in the middle of several hectares of tropical green. We would think that on quieter weekdays it's a good spot to camp and spot some wildlife.

Yacumama is a private reserve, come beach, come restaurant, set in the middle of several hectares of tropical green. We would think that on quieter weekdays it’s a good spot to camp and spot some wildlife.

Our next touristy destination was Chachapoyas, which is the capital of the Amazonas province. The Chachapoyas people are famed for their ancient cities and their determined resistance to the Incas. They also developed a very unique style of burying their dead in inaccessible cliff faces.

We have written about the Kuelap ruins of the Chachapoyas culture, and their burial site of Karajia . From there we continued, along a rather narrow, scary road , to the capital of the next province, Cajamarca .

Our final vista of the endless forest. From here the road drops down into a valley, leading towards the west (Chachapoyas).

Our final vista of the endless forest. From here the road drops down into a valley, leading towards the west (Chachapoyas).


Links for further reading

A map showing the tributary system of the Amazon river.
Wikipedia about the Peruvian Amazon .
If you are looking for general travel information online, I found that the Rough Guide had the best website. (Follow the links to the 3 Selva regions at the bottom of this intro page!).


Please be aware: for travel into the Amazon regions you need a current Yellow Fever vaccination!


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Peru contains a large part of the tributary system of the Amazon river. This tropical lowland is known as 'La Selva' and occupies 60% of the country. Yet not many tourists visit the rainforest in the North-West of Peru. Part of the reason is that there is little infrastructure, which makes overland travel a tad difficult. Nevertheless: it's worthwhile to explore the Amazon of Peru!

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9 Places to Visit near Historically Important Cajamarca http://dare2go.com/9-places-visit-historically-important-cajamarca/ http://dare2go.com/9-places-visit-historically-important-cajamarca/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:38:03 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6295 The city and region of Cajamarca are historically very important. It was home to numerous pre-Columbian cultures, and the last Inca king was killed there by the Spaniards.

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Cajamarca is the capital city of the Region of Cajamarca in the northern highlands of Peru. It is one of Peru’s most important historic cities. This history goes back before the Spanish, and well before the Inca Empire. There are important historical and archaeological sites in the city and the surrounding area, some of which date back to at least 1000BC. Here are some good reasons to visit this area of Peru.

The city and region of Cajamarca are historically very important. It was home to numerous pre-Columbian cultures, and the last Inca king was killed there.

The city and region of Cajamarca are historically very important. It was home to numerous pre-Columbian cultures, and the last Inca king was killed there.


1. Plaza de Armas

The centre of the city has some spectacular examples of baroque colonial architecture. Most of these buildings are constructed from local, volcanic rock. While not as impressive as the ‘white city’, if you like Spanish architecture, Cajamarca is certainly worth exploring. On one side of the plaza is the Cathedral – on the other, the Iglesia de San Francisco. Both are constructed from this rock, but San Francisco is more impressive. It is older and its carved façade is much more ornate.

The very ornate baroque church of San Francisco stands on one side of the Plaza de Armas in Cajamarca.

The very ornate baroque church of San Francisco stands on one side of the Plaza de Armas in Cajamarca.

The Plaza de Armas is well-used by the residents. It has beautiful gardens and the fountain is over 350 years old. There are plenty of park benches to encourage sitting, relaxing and people-watching; a pastime in this part of Peru that is enhanced by the hats. Compared with other hat fashion in Peru, the locals seem to favour exaggerated head wear – they are taller and wider and more finely woven from straw. Nearby Celendin is the ‘hat capital’ of the region, and many of the hats you see are probably produced there.

And if you’re loitering in the plaza at the right time, you may also see a performance with the Clarinero Cajamarquino, a local musical instrument. They even have a day to celebrate it – the second Sunday in June.

Plaza de Armas, Cajamarca: Players of the Clarinero Cajamarquino in the foreground, with the lit-up Cathedral in the background.

Plaza de Armas, Cajamarca: Players of the Clarinero Cajamarquino in the foreground, with the lit-up Cathedral in the background.


2. The Central Market and Dairy Products

The Mercado Central is only a couple of blocks from Plaza de Armas. It sells all the usual things you’d expect from a produce market. Unusual is the number of shops lining the streets around the market that sell the cheese and other milk products this area is famous for. We bought cheese and yoghurt and looked for unsalted butter, without success. Some of these shops also sell local coffee, which is actually quite good.

One of the colourful stalls in the Mercado Central of Cajamarca. The nuts and seeds and dried fruit certainly attracted us.

One of the colourful stalls in the Mercado Central of Cajamarca. The nuts and seeds and dried fruit certainly attracted us.

One of the many shops selling dairy products along the streets surrounding the Mercado Central in Cajamarca. The decoration leaves no doubt about what it's selling.

One of the many shops selling dairy products along the streets surrounding the Mercado Central in Cajamarca. The decoration leaves no doubt about what it’s selling.

 

3. Belén Monumental Complex

Cajamarca Belén Monumental Complex: the courtyard.

Cajamarca Belén Monumental Complex: the courtyard.

One historic site, which is worth visiting is the Conjunto Monumental Belén. It’s just a few blocks from the centre and is probably one of the city’s most important architectural complexes. It is also built from volcanic rock with intricate carvings. The complex is set around an impressive courtyard, with the Iglesia Belén on one side and the Hospital de Hombres on another. There are various other rooms around the plaza, which are not open to the public. Curiously, the Hospital de Mujeres is across the street, and it houses an interesting Archaeological and Ethnological Museum.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Cajamarca Belén Monumental Complex: The men's hospital - the alcoves along the walls are where the beds were. Cajamarca Belén Monumental Complex: the Archaeological and Ethnological Museum in the women's hospital. The bed alcoves used as display cases. Original wall murals. Cajamarca Belén Monumental Complex: The women's hospital, now the Archaeological and Ethnological Museum. This is a mummified child. Cajamarca Belén Monumental Complex: The women's hospital tower.


4. The Ransom Room

Before it was the colonial city you see today, Cajamarca was an important Inca city. History was made here in 1532 when the last Inca Emperor, Atahualpa, was captured by the Spanish and eventually executed in the plaza. This was the place where the Spanish began to take South America from the Inca Empire.

Atahualpa's Ransom Room: this is the exterior of the only Inca construction left in Cajamarca.

Atahualpa’s Ransom Room: this is the exterior of the only Inca construction left in Cajamarca.

Atahualpa's Atahualpa's Ransom Room: this is the interior of the room - the red mark shows to where the treasure was filled.

Atahualpa’s Ransom Room: this is the interior of the room – the red mark shows to where the treasure was filled.

 

Cuarto del Rescate is the only remaining Inca structure in the city. It was in this room that Atahualpa spent his final days. He had offered a huge ransom (filling this room several times) to the Spanish for his release. They took the ransom and executed him anyway. It’s open to the public and entry is by a combined ticket with the Belén Monumental Complex.


5. Inca Baths

Just a few kilometres outside Cajamarca is a town called Los Baños del Inca, where people have been bathing in the thermal springs for centuries, starting with the Inca. Apparently, Atahualpa was relaxing here when the Spanish arrived in Cajamarca.

We didn't visit Los Baños del Inca, but this is a photo of them.

We didn’t visit Los Baños del Inca, but this is a photo of them from Image Credit

It is a very popular place for locals and tourists alike. We didn’t try the baths because we have no particular attraction to hot springs, but include them here for those of you who do.


6. Polloc – Mosaic Wonderland

Santuario de la Virgen del Rosario: the front of the church and the plaza - tiles everywhere.

Santuario de la Virgen del Rosario: the front of the church and the plaza – tiles everywhere.

If you continue from Los Baños del Inca on the Ruta 08B, after around 30Km from Cajamarca you will find the small town of Polloc. The Santuario de la Virgen del Rosario was created by a local artisan and his students. The mosaics are really impressive – we didn’t get to see the inside of the church because it was closed when we were there. That must be truly spectacular, judging by photos we’ve seen on this blog .

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Santuario de la Virgen del Rosario: mosaic mural on the exterior of the building. Santuario de la Virgen del Rosario: this mosaic wonderland was created about 30Km from Cajamarca. Santuario de la Virgen del Rosario: inside an enclosed courtyard there are carved balconies, stained glass and of course mosaic. Santuario de la Virgen del Rosario: this mosaic shrine is on the road above the church and other buildings of the sanctuary.


7. Otuzco Burial Niches

It wasn’t just the Chachapoya people who liked to bury their dead in cliff faces. The Ventanillas de Otuzco are just a few kilometres from Los Baños del Inca, and the ‘windows’ are actually carved out niches in rocky outcrops where the Caxamarca culture interred their dead, probably around 500BC.

Ventanillas de Otuzco, near Los Baños del Inca: these are carved out burial niches of the Caxamarca culture.

Ventanillas de Otuzco, near Los Baños del Inca: these are carved out burial niches of the Caxamarca culture.

Another view of the burial niches at Ventanillas de Otuzco, outside Cajamarca.

Another view of the burial niches at Ventanillas de Otuzco, outside Cajamarca.

 

You can continue along the same road for another 20Km and reach Ventanillas de Combayo, which are:

“more numerous and spectacular, being located in an isolated, mountainous area, and distributed over the face of a steep 200-m-high hillside” [Footprint South American Handbook , Amazon Link]

We heard the road was pretty rough going, so contented ourselves with a visit to the Ventanillas de Otuzco.


8. Cumbe Mayo

South-west of Cajamarca you will find this really interesting place. The road is not the best one we’ve driven – but better than some. After 20Km you will see amazing rock formations, petroglyphs and an aqueduct that is probably more than 3000 years old.

The stunning rock structures at Cumbe Mayo, outside Cajamarca.

The stunning rock structures at Cumbe Mayo, outside Cajamarca.

It’s a wonderful place to wander around slowly. You will be given a brochure with a map at the entrance. It follows a circuit through a valley between the rocks, down to the aqueduct and there are petroglyphs marked along the way. Some say the aqueduct could be the oldest man-made construction on the continent. But they just keep finding sites in Peru, so this can’t be a sure thing.

You can take a tour from Cajamarca, and will probably gather some very interesting information. We chose to drive ourselves, and were relieved we had when we heard the tour guides hurrying along their groups and calling to stragglers to catch up.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
The rocky outcrops of Cumbe Mayo are interspersed with farmland grazing sheep. One of the ancient petroglyphs at Cumbe Mayo, outside Cajamarca. This aqueduct is about 3000 years old. They carved it out of rock and put in right angle bends to slow the water. Found at Cumbe Mayo, outside Cajamarca. Cumbe Mayo aqueduct: it's hard to imagine how this was carved out of the rock, 3000 years ago.


Driving from Cajamarca to Kuntur Wasi gave us some amazing mountain views like this one - and another windy road.

Driving from Cajamarca to Kuntur Wasi gave us some amazing mountain views like this one – and another windy road.

9. Kuntur Wasi

Although this site is over 100Km from Cajamarca city, it’s still in the region. (Note that you can reach it on another route which is only around 70Km from the city, but the road is reportedly in terrible condition.) Tour operators take groups on day trips to the site. The road we took is the major highway to Chiclayo and the coast. We stopped in on our way to the coast, and spent the night parked in front of the museum.

Next morning we first visited the Site Museum, which houses a permanent exhibition of the objects found during excavations of the ruin site. It lays out the 4 phases of the use of the site by different cultures, showing examples of objects made from pottery, bone, shells, and stone. The most important discoveries were the tombs and the accompanying relics – many made from gold. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted in that part of the museum.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Kuntur Wasi Site Museum houses all the antiquities discovered when the Kuntur Wasi Ceremonial Centre was excavated. Kuntur Wasi Site Museum: the head of an idol from the Idol Phase at the Kuntur Wasi Ceremonial Centre. Kuntur Wasi Site Museum: a gold crown found in the tombs at Kuntur Wasi Ceremonial Centre. A carved stone stele still standing at the ruins of the Kuntur Wasi Ceremonial Centre.

After the museum, we climbed the hill behind to the Kuntur Wasi Ceremonial Centre. It is certainly in a scenic location, on top of a hill with views into the distant mountains. This centre dates back to 1100BC and ceased to be used during the final Sotera Phase (250-50 BC).

The main stair at the ruins of the Kuntur Wasi Ceremonial Centre.

The main stair at the ruins of the Kuntur Wasi Ceremonial Centre.


These are just some of the interesting sights in and around the city of Cajamarca.

Sights that we didn’t visit near Cajamarca

  • Santa Apolonia Natural Viewpoint – a hill near the centre of the city that provides an incredible view of the city and the Cajamarca Valley. It is also the site of the Silla del Inca.
  • La Recoleta Monumental Complex – a 17th century church and monastery, which is about 4 blocks from Plaza de Armas.
  • Cooperativa Agraria Atahualpa Jerusalén – Porcón Farm is 30Km north of the city. It gives the visitor an experience of nature and agricultural life.
Cajamarca is an attractive colonial city, as this row of houses with carved balconies shows.

Cajamarca is an attractive colonial city, as this row of houses with carved balconies shows.


There are many good reasons to visit this historic city, and its surrounding area, but driving the road from Chachapoyas to Cajamarca is not one of them!

In our post about Arequipa we asked the question: Is Arequipa the Most Beautiful City in Peru?
At that time we suggested:

Google ‘colonial cities in Peru’, and the list is Cusco, Arequipa, Trujillo, Lima, Cajamarca and Ayacucho . Of these Cajamarca is the only one we haven’t visited – yet.

Now that we have visited Cajamarca, we still hold the opinion that Arequipa is the most beautiful city in Peru.

What do you think?
Have you visited any/all of these Peruvian colonial cities?
Do you agree?

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The city and region of Cajamarca, in the north of Peru, are historically very important. The area was home to several pre-Columbian high cultures, who left numerous ruin sites behind. The invading Spaniards killed the last Inca king in this city, which led to the quick fall of the Inca empire. Our post shows you 9 places you should not miss near Cajamarca.

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Peru & Bolivia Amused Us With The Most Unique Hats http://dare2go.com/peru-bolivia-unique-hats/ http://dare2go.com/peru-bolivia-unique-hats/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 17:49:02 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6248 In this large gallery we have collected 40 photos of the very unique hat styles you will see all through Peru and Bolivia. Many of these hats really amused us.

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What really sticks out, particularly in Peru, are the amazingly colourful and strange-looking hats people like to wear. When you look more closely, you will notice that the style of these unique hats often changes from one region to the next. As a matter of fact, until a few years ago, locals were able to tell which village somebody came from just by looking at their head wear.

In this large gallery we have collected photos of the very unique hat styles you will see all through Peru and Bolivia. Many of these hats really amused us.

In this large gallery we have collected photos of the very unique hat styles you will see all through Peru and Bolivia. Many of these hats really amused us.

Many of these rather unique hat designs match the traditional weavings and embroideries, that the locals like to attach to their jackets and skirts, very well. Therefore, you would think that the hats were part of the indigenous costume since pre-Columbian times.

But there you would be wrong: the hat, as worn today, is a European creation and was unknown in Latin America until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. Before that some cultures wore knitted or woven head covers, but never shapely hats like they do today.

The Bowler hat is very typical for Bolivia, you don't see many in Peru (except close to the border). They usually have two decorative tassels on one side, sometimes simple wine corks.

The Bowler hat is very typical for Bolivia, you don’t see many in Peru (except close to the border). They usually have two decorative tassels on one side, sometimes simple wine corks.

Why are Women in Peru and Bolivia Often Wearing Men’s Hats?

Depending where you read about it, there are two slightly different stories of how brimmed hats became the fashion for women throughout Peru and Bolivia. At the end of the nineteen-hundreds there were many British in this part of the world. The bowler hat was the trendy item at the time; every man owned one and wore it daily.

So there was also constant demand for new bowler hats. Now this is where the stories drift slightly apart:

  • version 1: a local merchant imported a large order of bowler hats in sizes too small for most Europeans;
  • version 2: a merchant ordered bowler hats in England and the shipment contained too many brown hats – which nobody wanted to buy. A man’s hat had to be black.

Maybe there’s another version: that a merchant received a shipment with too many brown hats, and that he ordered too many small sizes. After all, the locals are usually of smaller build, with smaller heads…

Anyway, the clever salesman went out and convinced some local women that the stiff felt hat was the latest fashion item for women in Europe. Once the first women were seen with these in public, every other woman who wanted to be recognised as fashionable had to have a small brown bowler hat perched on her head.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
All dressed up for a religious parade in Sucre - of course with a decorated brown bowler hat. The lead dancer of the parade in Sucre wore rich gold decoration on her Bowler hat. I think this was actually a man wearing this unusual hat (in Tarabuco/Bolivia). At Tarabuco I observed several women wearing tall felt hats with a colourful pompom on top. This one takes the prize for the best beaded front decoration. Rear view of one of the tall black felt hats women wear in Tarabuco in Bolivia.

But you still see some people, particularly men, wearing knitted woollen caps. In Peru and Bolivia, it seems to be a ‘must’ only for most women to wear something fancier on their head. Their unique hat often expresses their sense of fashion and individuality. And it’s a great way to show off skills and imagination with handicraft, if they decorated the hat themselves, which most seem to do.

You can't be hatless if you join in the celebrations of Ollantaytambo.

You can’t be hatless if you join in the celebrations of Ollantaytambo.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Around Pisac (in the Sacred Valley) and Cusco you see many women with these flatish hats, which have a square cloth on top with a fringed edge. Sometimes the top of the flat hats in Pisac are richly decorated with small beads. Only around Ollantaytambo can you find these inverted (bowl shaped) hats. They are either decorated with woven ribbon inside or have a 'full silk flower garden' growing in them. Yasha even saw a fruit bowl. If you're daring you wear the Ollantaytambo hat on a coquettish angle - all the better to show of the inside. One of the Ollantaytambo bowls filled with silk flowers. Isn't he a cute boy with his colourful straw hat? One of the male dancers in Ollantaytambo. Another one of the male dancers in Ollantaytambo. Red is the dominant colour in Ollantaytambo - in such strong shades as you only get from modern synthetic fibres. A street vendor in Cusco. This shape hat seems to be more typical for the town. It still has a ribbon decoration on top similar to the ones found in Ollantaytambo.

Did I say red is the favourite color in Ollantaytambo? Another thing I noticed: oversized safety pins make for a cheap and shiny accessory.

Did I say red is the favourite color in Ollantaytambo? Another thing I noticed: oversized safety pins make for a cheap and shiny accessory.

There is the Straw Hat and the Straw Hat!

For many, the hat is the most expensive and luxurious item they possess. In regions where felted hats are all the rage we often heard that ‘poor people’ wear straw hats. This might be true if they have a cheap and coarse straw hat with few adornments. But, in the north of Peru, hats from woven grass are so finely crafted that they can be rolled up (without damage!) to fit through a ring.

The better examples of these straw hats come from the town of Celendin, and can easily cost in excess of $400-500! This is a small fortune in a country as poor as Peru. Straw hats are also much cooler and lighter to wear in warmer climatic zones. That’s why people prefer them in the lowlands of both Peru and Bolivia.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
So many hats to choose from - market in Arequipa. In Ayacucho these tall straw hats, complete with a very wide ribbon, seem to be the local fashion. Three cheese vendors at the market in Ayacucho - three times the same hats. In Celendin, where they produce the finest straw hats, the local plaza is decorated with an oversized straw hat. Local women in front of the cathedral of Cajamarca. On our way from the Colca canyon to the Sacred Valley we stopped in a small town to stock up on vegetables. We noticed that most local women wore straw hats with broad colourful ribbons stitched to them, and sometimes even large bows. In this photo you can see that the colourful ribbons on women's hats came in all shades and colours: purple, green, orange, red, and even gold. Look how far the ribbon dangles down on the side of her head. This one in bright gold. Not everybody in Yauri was wearing a hat with a colourful large ribbon decoration - some were more subtle. Three hats, three styles, all worn with pride.

All photos in this post are street photography, sometimes taken out of the moving vehicle, hence the occasional lower quality. From these pictures you might think that only older women are continuing these hat fashions. No, you see plenty of young women and adolescent girls with similar hats. The only difference is that they often wear a small hat, sitting at a coquettish angle, ready to fall off any minute – if it wasn’t secured by a thin elastic under their chin.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
This bronze statue in Cusco is a very good depiction of a typical local woman. The typical hats of Raqchi seem to be always combined with a burgundy coloured jacket, which has bright blue and white embroidery and fancy embroidered elbow protectors. The ruins of Raqchi are south of Cusco. Here most women wear flat 'flying saucers', which are embroidered on the top and around the rim. They also wear unique elbow protectors on their sleeves (I hadn't seen these elsewhere). Since it's not that far from the border with Bolivia you also see some Bowler hats. The Bowler hat of this woman in Raqchi isn't very special - but look at the embroidery on her sleeves! In Chivay (near the Colca Canyon) they put fancy hats even on their concrete statues. Also photographed in Maca: three hatted people having a chat. I photographed these 2 women walking their Alpacas in Maca, near the Colca canyon. They wear white hats with a wide ribbon made from silver sequins around it. They also feature an oversized rosette. Closer to the Colca canyon women wear white hats with rich embroidery. And who's sticking out with no hat on her head? I photographed this passing woman in Arequipa, yet her style of hat tells me that she is from the Colca canyon, most like from Chivey. Carnival celebrations in Luricocha.

Finally, you might ask two questions: why a ‘fashion report’ on a travel blog?
Well, we want to encourage you to observe the little things on your journey. The regionally unique hats of Peru and Bolivia are certainly one of these details.

And why was this post written by a man?
Anybody, who knows my past, will know that I used to deal in fashion accessories, mainly custom jewellery parts. During that time I developed a keen eye for fashion and what women around me are actually wearing.


2 recommended articles for further reading

An amusing and well written article in the Sydney Morning Herald
“The country of the hats” blog post on Living in Peru


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Open your eyes in Peru or Bolivia and you will notice the most unique hat fashions. The hats come in various very local variations, often outrageously decorated and almost impractical to wear. During our travels we have collected numerous photos showing off the styles in different regions of Peru and Bolivia. We have put these together in large gallery to make you smile (just a little)!

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A close-up of an old woman with one of the white embroidered hats so typical for the Colca canyon.

A close-up of an old woman with one of the white embroidered hats so typical for the Colca canyon.

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Visit Lamas & Wayku – Local Advice at its Best! http://dare2go.com/visit-lamas-wayku-local-advice/ http://dare2go.com/visit-lamas-wayku-local-advice/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 18:37:02 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6172 Lamas in Peru – never heard of it? People we met suggested we should visit Lamas and Wayku in the cloud forest. We are glad we followed this local advice.

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When choosing places to visit along our way, guide books can be useful, although the internet is sometimes more up to date. But nothing beats good advice from people who live there, or locals who’ve been there. That’s how we came to visit Lamas, and the town within a town, Wayku.

This was the view from our camping place in Lamas. Great idea to take local advice on where to go!

This was the view from our camping place in Lamas. Great idea to take local advice on where to go!

Travelling north on the 5N through La Selva Peruana (the Peruvian jungle), we arrived in Tarapoto. It’s the largest city in the region of San Martín, and we were hoping to find a supermarket to stock up a bit. We found one, and in it we also met Manuela (Swiss) and Thomas (German). They live in Lamas, around 22Km from Tarapoto. We chatted about all sorts of things, as you do when meeting others with common languages (English, as well as German). They suggested we should visit Lamas, promising it would be much cooler than Tarapoto, since it’s about 500m higher. At just over 300m, Tarapoto was actually pretty hot.

We were leaving Tarapoto the next day and travelling in that direction, so we decided to take up their suggestion. It’s about 12Km off the 5N. Thomas had given us his phone number, so we called him when we arrived. He offered to meet us and to help us find a place to park Berta. When he arrived, he had already arranged a place near some friends of his. We followed along behind his motorbike, uphill on a fairly rough track, to the top of a hill next to a big, white house.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
There are lots of beautiful flowers in tropical Peru, among them the Orchid. This one was photographed in the garden of Thomas & Manuela. These delicate blooms almost look like orchids, but they cover the trees that line the streets of Lamas. These flowering trees in Lamas come in a variety of colours. Walk the streets of Lamas and these trees, covered in flowers will catch your eye.

We had a 360˚ view of the surrounding countryside standing on vacant land, which was a bit overgrown by grass. The owner of the house came and joined us. He is a German (Hans), married to a Peruvian (Marjorie), who had also made Lamas home. While the vacant land wasn’t his, he assured us it would be fine to park there for as long as we wanted. And if there was anything we needed, we should just ask.

Hans went back to his house and Thomas left to go home, after inviting us to visit him later in the day. We settled in, admired the view and commented on how quiet it was. These are the wild camping spots we really enjoy. Marjorie came over to say hello, when she came home. She was just in time to call her moto-taxi driver to ask him to take us to Thomas and Manuela. We left with a return address on a piece of paper so we could get back to Berta.

Overnight camping in Lamas: this spot was absolutely terrific! It was quiet and breezy, plus the site had a nice view in both directions.

Overnight camping in Lamas: this spot was absolutely terrific! It was quiet and breezy, plus the site had a nice view in both directions. (Sorry, neighbours asked us not to publish the location.)

Thomas and Manuela live on the opposite end of the town, down a road that is so water damaged that it’s not really navigable, even by moto-taxi. We had to walk the last bit with the driver leading us to their door. They welcomed us through the gate/door of the compound and we stepped into their paradise. It is a tropical garden dotted with plants, some familiar from home, and flowers everywhere. They brought us down a winding path to an open living area with a thatched roof. They explained that they are creating a small Hospedaje in these beautiful surroundings. Then they showed us around. We walked downhill to the rooms that are almost finished. With all this walking downhill, we were totally surprised to walk through one of the rooms and out onto a balcony, with mountain views that just seem to go on forever.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
a little paradise in Lamas - the open-air living area of Thomas & Manuela a little paradise in Lamas - beautiful ginger flowers in the garden of Thomas & Manuela a little paradise in Lamas - the view from the balcony of the cabañas a view of the garden in the little paradise in Lamas

Lamas, one of the Oldest Cities in Peru’s Jungle

Maybe now is the time to describe Lamas. Founded in 1656, it is one of the oldest cities in the Peruvian jungle. It has a population of around 17000 people. They call Lamas the ciudad de los tres pisos (three floors) because it is situated on a hill, which has three distinct levels. The first level is still inhabited by an indigenous population who claim to be the descendants of the Quechuan speaking Chankas, who came from the south of Peru to escape the Incas. The second level was for the mestizos – those of mixed blood. And the third level was used as a fort, and is now a mirador.

According to iPeru website , Lamas is one of the main tourist attractions in the region of San Martín. They have a number of festivals, which attract a lot of national visitors. Therefore it’s easy to find accommodation and restaurants in all price categories.

The town was also recognised as la Capital Folklórica de la Región in 2003. The reason for this is found on level one.

The Town Within a Town: Wayku

On our second day in Lamas, we spent the late afternoon with Hans and Marjorie, sharing our stories and listening to theirs. Hans asked if we had visited the ‘town within the town’. He went on to explain about Wayku and suggested we should see it. The next day we walked into the centre of town and downhill to Indigenous Community of Wayku.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
These are the houses of Wayku, with no windows! beautiful totem carving by the artisans of Wayku these windowless Wayku houses have tiled roofs some of the Wayku houses have palm frond roofs

As mentioned above, these Quechuan speaking people claim to be descendants of the Chankas, although there is some dispute over this . Whoever their ancestors, they keep to the traditions in housing, clothing and food. It was most interesting to see that their houses have no windows – just small holes to allow airflow. Hans had explained to us that they believe ghosts can enter through windows. Their clothes are handmade and extremely colourful. It is the preservation of these traditions, their artisanal works and the tourism these things attract that earned Lamas the title of the Region’s Folklore Capital.

Other Sights in Lamas

Castillo de Lamas built by Italian Nicola Felice - some might think him eccentric!

Castillo de Lamas built by Italian Nicola Felice – some might think him eccentric!

This concrete statue stands in the plaza of the 'town within a town' of Wayku. Note the cuy (guinea pigs) hanging on him - a well-known food in Peru.

This concrete statue stands in the plaza of the ‘town within a town’ of Wayku. Note the cuy (guinea pigs) hanging on him – a well-known food in Peru.

 

The other main tourist attraction in the town of Lamas is the medieval castle, El Castillo de Lamas. I know that sounds a little strange, but an Italian by the name of Nicola Felice recently built a 5 story castle near the centre of the town. It was evidently his childhood dream and he came to Peru to fulfill it. The castle is quite impressive, built from hand-carved stone and complete with stained glass windows. It seems that the locals like it, and many Peruvian tourists come to see it. But a medieval castle in this environment is still just a little strange.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
An unfinished carving of a ram's head on the exterior wall of the Castillo de Lamas. This water feature is in the courtyard of the Castillo de Lamas. An old fig tree, wandering where it will, outside the Castillo de Lamas. A grand entrance to the Castillo de Lamas. The castle is built of hand carved rock.

Lamas also has an Ethnographic Museum, and there are several waterfalls in the surrounding area. We didn’t visit the museum or seek out the waterfalls. Rather, we were content to wander this small town, and spend time with our new friends. And we did notice that it was a lot cooler sleeping at 800m. We were actually looking for a quiet place to spend Easter, but once again took advice from the locals. They told us that Lamas is certainly not quiet during Semana Santa, so we drove on.


Paso de San Francisco (Argentina) , INHOTIM (Brazil) , Ayacucho (Peru) , and La Selva: these are just some of the places we have discovered, and really enjoyed, on recommendations given during chance meetings with locals.


Tell us (in the comments below):
Do you ever ask locals for advice, or follow their suggestions?
Or do you only rely on your trusted guidebook for tips where to go?

Neither of our 2 Peru guidebooks mentions Lamas…

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Lamas in Peru – never heard of it? Neither of our Peru guidebooks mentions Lamas (near Tarapoto). But people we met suggested we should visit Lamas and Wayku in the cloud forest. We are glad we followed this local advice. Here is what we found!

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Karajia Cliff Tombs: Remains of the Mysterious Chachapoya http://dare2go.com/karajia-cliff-tombs-remains-mysterious-chachapoya/ http://dare2go.com/karajia-cliff-tombs-remains-mysterious-chachapoya/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 17:17:47 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6132 The sarcophagi of Karajia, in the North-East of Peru, are a fascinating example of the cliff burial sites of the mysterious Chachapoya people.

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The Karajia archaeological site was a mystery to me; much like the people responsible for creating it. They are known as Chachapoya (Cloud Warriors), but this name was probably derived from what the Incas called them. How they named themselves is, and probably will remain, a mystery. They were evidently fierce warriors and the Incas had some difficulty overpowering and subjugating them.

Chachapoyas is the capital of the Amazonas state of Perú. It is named for the people who inhabited the area from around 800AD until the Inca overwhelmed them in the 1470s. Karajia lies to the north-west of the city.

Not much is known about the Chachapoya culture, but the discovery of cliff tombs like these at Karajia, is going some way towards uncovering the mystery.

Not much is known about the Chachapoya culture, but the discovery of cliff tombs like these at Karajia, is going some way towards uncovering the mystery.

The Chachapoya themselves are also something of a mystery – after some considerable study by archaeologists and anthropologists, still very little is known of this great culture. That it was great, is clearly exhibited by the archaeological site of Kuélap , which is one of the largest discovered so far. It is also the most accessible to visitors (especially since the recent opening of the teleférico).

We were on our way to Kuélap when we were contacted by friends we had met in Argentina 2 years ago. They had just visited Kuélap and were on their way to Karajia. I looked it up on our Reise Know-How map [Amazon affiliate link] to see if I could find it. It was marked as an archaeological site and was on our way. So we went looking for our friends.

It’s around 35Km off the main road. First you drive a zigzag up the mountains on a fairly good gravel road to reach Luya. After that the height doesn’t change much more, but the road is sometimes rough. Part way there the rain came down in buckets. The road was completely overrun by water in places, but we made it to Karajia unscathed. Our friends were there and we spent a lovely evening together.

When the rain came down,on the way to Karajia, the road was over-run like this in many places.

When the rain came down,on the way to Karajia, the road was over-run like this in many places.



The path down to see the Karajia cliff tombs was rocky, rough and very muddy. This was actually worse than it looks in the photo.

The path down to see the Karajia cliff tombs was rocky, rough and very muddy. This was actually worse than it looks in the photo.

Berta with Nessie once again. It was great to catch up with these overlanders again near the Karajia cliff tombs.

Berta with Nessie once again. It was great to catch up with these overlanders again near the Karajia cliff tombs.



A typical house along the road we took to the Karajia archaeological site.

A typical house along the road we took to the Karajia archaeological site.

 

The next morning we set off to find this local attraction. The 2Km path down is rough and muddy; probably muddier than usual considering the downpour of the day before. It’s also made worse by the cows and horses that also use the path, stirring up the mud even more. After about an hour, we made it to the bottom and reached the viewpoint. We were so concentrated on the path that we missed the first sighting – but it showed up in a photo!

Our first sight of the Karajia sarcophagi - but we didn't realise it until we looked at the photo.

Our first sight of the Karajia sarcophagi – but we didn’t realise it until we looked at the photo.

What we found were two burial sites in the cliff face above us – you have to walk down, and then look up. Cliff tombs are a distinctive feature of the Chachapoya. The most obvious one has a collection of sarcophagi or purunmachus, as they are locally known. Originally there were 8 – now you can clearly see 6. They stand on a stone ledge. Apparently they were constructed in situ, the sarcophagi built around the funeral bundles. They are made of mud or clay mixed with grass over a frame of sticks or bamboo, and have false faces with prominent chins. While these are not the only Chachapoya sarcophagi to be discovered, they are apparently unusual because of their size. They stand around 2.5m.

Looking back for a last view of the Chachapoya sarcophagi in the Karajia cliff tombs.

Looking back for a last view of the Chachapoya sarcophagi in the Karajia cliff tombs.

The other tomb looked like a cave that was enclosed. Even through the camera, completely zoomed in, it was difficult to work out the details. But there didn’t appear to be individual sarcophagi, although there were a number of faces fashioned into the structure that sealed the entrance.

Karajia cliff tombs: the less important people of the Chachapoya were entombed in a depression in the cliff face, which was then enclosed. Notice the false faces.

Karajia cliff tombs: the less important people of the Chachapoya were entombed in a depression in the cliff face, which was then enclosed. Notice the false faces.

The discovery of sites like Karajia supports the research into the Chachapoya. Its remote and inaccessible location has inadvertently protected it from looters and vandals, who are often several steps ahead of the archaeologists in this part of Perú. Also, perched high in a cliff face crevice, there is little threat of water damage in an area with very high rainfall and resultant flooding.

As Peter Lercher states in his National Geographic article, Lost Tombs of Peru :

“Fortunately for us, this reverence for the dead has preserved a part of the Chachapoya past that otherwise would have been long lost to decay.”

During the following days, we went from Karajia to Kuélap, one of the most impressive sites of the Chachapoya culture. And from Kuélap to the Mallqui Museum at Leymabamba, with its very impressive collection of mummies, rescued from the Laguna de los Cóndores after the site was first discovered and vandalised by looters. As a result, our knowledge of the Chachapoya culture was certainly expanded and my interest was piqued. Once again, we were reminded that there is more to pre-Hispanic history in Peru than the Incas and Machu Picchu.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
The Karajia cliff tombs: from the viewpoint we could eventually pick out what we had come to see. When we reached the bottom and were walking around to the viewpoint, we came upon this pile of human bones on a rock. I guess they were once inside the broken sarcophagus. Thankful for the zoom on our cameras, a clear view of the six remaining sarcophagi from the viewpoint at Karajia archaeological site. The remains of a broken sarcophagus on a ledge down and to the right of the other 6 at the Karajia cliff tombs. After we visited Kuelap, we also stopped at the Leymabamba Museum, which had this reconstruction of the Karajia sarcophagi on show. The opening in the back shows a framework of bamboo covered with a clay and grass mix. On the way back up the hill from the cliff tombs, we are offered the chance of riding horses instead. No thank you - not our chosen form of transport. The horses seem to be sure-footed on the slippery path, but we preferred to walk up after visiting the Karajia site. At the beginning of the path down to the Karajia tombs, we saw these people harvesting a field of potatoes by hand. By the time we returned, around 3 hours later, they were almost finished.


If your interest has been aroused, I can recommend:

An Overview of Chachapoya Archaeology and History by Adriana von Hagen [PDF-file], leading archaeologist of the Leymabamba museum.

The BBC documentary, Lost Kingdoms of South America: People of the Clouds (from 2013) [youtube]
In this documentary, Adriana von Hagen stated in an interview that probably only 5% of the archaeology of the Chachapoya culture has been discovered yet.

Realm of the Cloud People, by Victor Englebert , published in Archeaology.

The ancient Chachapoya people (Cloud Warriors) in the North-West of Peru used to bury their dead in elaborate rock tombs. They are often located on steep, nearly inaccessible, cliff faces. The sarcophagi of Karajia, near today's town of Chachapoyas, are an interesting example of such a burial site.

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The Gocta Waterfall viewed from the main road. You can visit this on the way to the Karajia archaeological site.

The Gocta Waterfall viewed from the main road. You can visit this on the way to the Karajia archaeological site.

And if you like waterfalls, on the way from Pedro Ruiz to the turnoff to Karajia, you can visit the Gocta Waterfall. At around 770m, it is one of the world’s tallest waterfalls – but whether it’s in 3rd place, or perhaps 5th, is still open to discussion. We didn’t visit it because there had been a lot of rain in the area and we didn’t trust the road. And we were not so keen to tackle the 3-4 hour hiking trail is such wet conditions. We photographed it from the main road and had to be satisfied with that.

A view of terraced mountainsides - some in sunshine and some shrouded in cloud. That typifies the weather in this part of Peru, where the Chachapoya lived.

A view of terraced mountainsides – some in sunshine and some shrouded in cloud. That typifies the weather in this part of Peru, where the Chachapoya lived.

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Better Stop for the Captivating Museums in Lambayeque http://dare2go.com/captivating-museums-lambayeque/ http://dare2go.com/captivating-museums-lambayeque/#respond Thu, 11 May 2017 19:53:15 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6079 Often bypassed by travellers, it's actually worth stopping at Lambayeque in northern Peru to visit its two captivating museums and many archaeological sites!

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We meet so many overlanders who drive the Pan-American Highway, and pass straight through Lambayeque, unaware of what this region has to offer. On the other hand, we purposely returned to Lambayeque because we remembered (from our last trip ) the captivating museums and archaeological sites this northern part of Peru has to offer.

With this post I would like to encourage all travellers to stop in Lambayeque and visit some of the highlights. The region was part of the extensive Moche (or Mochica) culture, a sophisticated society that dominated the coastal area in northern Peru between 100 and 700AD. Almost all museums in Peru (and many all over the world) feature extensive collections of the Moche’s finely worked pottery and gold adornments – yet their original homeland in the Lambayeque province is sadly neglected by too many travellers.

Most of their social and religious centres were constructed from adobe bricks, layer upon layer. These mud structures suffered from wind and water erosion, hence there are not as many well preserved sights to see as in other regions where people built with rocks. But they also kept the Moche treasures well hidden.

Often bypassed by travellers, it's actually worth stopping at Lambayeque in northern Peru to visit its two captivating museums and many archaeological sites!

Often bypassed by travellers, it’s actually worth stopping at Lambayeque in northern Peru to visit its two captivating museums and many archaeological sites!

Yet, the richest burial tomb of all the Americas was discovered not far from Lambayeque. This incredibly untouched tomb was discovered in 1987; the main excavations took 20 years to complete! To display the treasures from this burial site, a special museum was built in Lambayeque.


Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum

This is a very unique and captivating museum. It’s built in the shape of a pyramid, similar to the tomb. You enter from the top and follow the stairs down into the base of the pyramid. This design emulates the layers in which the original tomb was unearthed, and displays many of the well-preserved artefacts in the order they were discovered.

Apart from the outstanding finely crafted jewellery, the most interesting displays are those which show photographs from the original dig next to each other; life-size reconstructions of the tomb layers; and glass vitrines filled with the discovered artefacts. For example, some side chambers have been filled with hundreds of pottery vessels.

This reconstruction of the Lord of Sipán holding court is located in a side room of the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum.

This reconstruction of the Lord of Sipán holding court is located in a side room of the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. Image Credit

One of the displayed fine jewellery and a gold masks at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum.

One of the displayed fine jewellery and a gold masks at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum.

One of a pair of finely worked ear studs at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. Original size is ~7-8cm.

One of a pair of finely worked ear studs at the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. Original size is ~7-8cm.

 

The importance of the Lord of Sipán can easily be imagined by the sheer number of treasures and companions he was buried with. The archaeologists found layer upon layer of gold adornments and jewellery above the body, and many more layers below – truly fascinating!

All of this makes the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum is well worth a visit, even though you are not allowed to take photos inside.

A reconstruction of the Lord of Sipán burial tomb.

A reconstruction of the Lord of Sipán burial tomb. Image Wikimedia Commons

More about the Moche culture on Wikipedia .


Museo Regional Arqueológico Enrique Brüning de Lambayeque

If you like to take photos of pre-columbian treasures, then visit the Brüning Museum in Lambayeque. This museum houses the private collection of the German born ethnologist Hans Heinrich Brüning, which was acquired by the Peruvian government in 1924.

The collection contains over 12,000 pre-Hispanic artefacts. Of course, not all are on display, but you will find over 500 pieces in the gold room alone. I could imagine that you’ll be so captivated by the quality of the collection that you will find plenty to photograph.

One of the many captivating pieces at the Brüning museum in Lambayeque: a beautiful gold mask. These usually covered the head of buried dignitaries.

One of the many captivating pieces at the Brüning museum in Lambayeque: a beautiful gold mask. These usually covered the head of buried dignitaries.

This pottery vessel at the Brüning museum shows how well the craft of the Moche civilisation was developed. Most Moche pottery can be distinguished by a horseshoe shaped handle. On this piece the typical handle has been very much flattened...

This pottery vessel at the Brüning museum shows how well the craft of the Moche civilisation was developed. Most Moche pottery can be distinguished by a horseshoe shaped handle. On this piece the typical handle has been very much flattened…

More about Brüning Museum on Wikipedia .


Practical Information

You can easily visit both museums in one day. They are only a few blocks apart. After our last visit we came to the conclusion that it feels like a far better progression to visit the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum after the Brüning Museum!

We would recommend that you also choose accommodation in Lambayeque; we found nearby Chiclayo a noisy, dirty, smelly city – not an inviting place to stay.

Lambayeque makes a good base to visit other sights around the town, among them:

  • Túcume to the north: the largest complex of pyramids in the world. These were all constructed from adobe bricks, so nowadays they don’t look quite as pretty as stone pyramids elsewhere. More information.
  • Huaca Rajada is located to the south-east: this is where the original tomb of the lord of Sipán was discovered. It has another new on-site museum, which looks very interesting.
Remains of the pyramids in the valley of Túcume. This is the world's largest pyramid site, but unfortunately the mud brick structures didn't survive the wind and rain erosion very well.

Remains of the pyramids in the valley of Túcume. This is the world’s largest pyramid site, but unfortunately the mud brick structures didn’t survive the wind and rain erosion very well.

iPeru, the country’s official tourist information, has a stall outside the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum. Their information is usually thorough and correct, and each office tends to have one person who speaks English. This could be a good place to ask questions about visiting the surrounding sites.


TIP: don’t be fooled by the English language signs on the top floor of the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum; unfortunately they don’t continue further down. If you don’t speak (or read) Spanish it might be a good idea to take a guide [/S 35 at time of writing, early 2017]. The guides there at the same time as us, did seem to rush through the exhibition a little. We like to take a slower pace and have more time to digest all information…
Lambayeque in northern Peru is often bypassed by travellers. We believe this is a big mistake as you can find two really captivating museums in town. The region features many interesting archaeological sites of the ancient, highly developed Moche culture (100-700AD).

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When I wish I could shrink BERTA, our overland vehicle http://dare2go.com/when-i-wish-i-could-shrink-our-overland-vehicle/ http://dare2go.com/when-i-wish-i-could-shrink-our-overland-vehicle/#comments Mon, 01 May 2017 23:44:55 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6041 We are happy with the space our Berta offers. Only when I have to drive a road so narrow that the wheels touch the edge on both sides I wish I could shrink her.

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Or Yasha’s idea for a short to-the-point title:

Oops, we did it again!

If I had known earlier about the route from Chachapoyas to Cajamarca, the PE-8B, I would probably have chosen a different title for our post about the PE-3N. Both are very narrow white-knuckle roads and require extremely careful driving. That’s why I thought, I wish I could shrink Berta, our overland truck .

When I wish I could shrink BERTA, our overland vehicle - like on the PE-8B in Peru. This was probably the narrowest road we have ever driven.

When I wish I could shrink BERTA, our overland vehicle – like on the PE-8B in Peru. This was probably the narrowest road we have ever driven.

Ahead of driving this road, a fellow overlander told us that the PE-8B is one of the ‘most dangerous roads in the world’; I googled this claim and couldn’t find any supporting entries. Nevertheless, if you are a careless or reckless driver it can certainly be very dangerous… In Cajamarca we met a Peruvian man (who now lives in the States) who confessed that his legs had been shaking for most of the drive – so it can be really scary! And he was driving a regular Toyota 4WD…

Most of the PE-8B between Chachapoyas and Celendin is a single lane road. In some sections, turn-outs to let vehicles past are few and far between. But there is a big difference between it and the previously described PE-3N : almost all of it is asphalt and in decent condition. On the PE-3N I had to concentrate on potholes and was always afraid that the truck might slip sideways along wet and muddy parts of it. A sealed surface provides better grip and takes one worry away.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
From Leymebamba up to the Calla Calla pass, at 3,600m, the road was not really that narrow. After this pass it soon became single lane width. There were constantly signs saying 'Slow vehicles keep to the right': Well, for us it didn't make any difference: there was no room left on either side! Very occasionally, like here, you get a speed bump ahead of a very dangerous section. Late afternoon light on the mountains above Balsas. That's the PE-8B on the left.

The other difference is that we encountered much less traffic. The mountains in the east of Peru seem to be less populated. Due to many blind bends and and narrow road bits, it still meant that we always had to be ‘prepared’ for traffic. I concentrated on the road immediately ahead and Yasha tried to look further ahead and tell me in advance if she spotted any vehicles, including motorbikes, coming our way.

Yes, in parts (long parts) the road is really too narrow for a motorbike to pass us. Typically, for impatient Peruvian drivers, they tried but hardly ever succeeded first go. Often the tarred bit was so narrow that I had both wheels on the white line – left and right. Then there’s no room for anybody to get past us.

These were exactly the moments when I wished to have smaller truck. At least our box (the converted shelter) on the back is a tad narrower than the front, so I didn’t have to worry about it hitting sharp rock bits sticking out from the often vertical sides left or right.

On websites specialising in Overland trucks, I often see posts where people want the widest possible camper box on the back. Have they ever driven narrow roads in foreign countries, or do they only know wide highways in the USA and Europe?

So, to let the cat out of the bag, I already started to look for a little smaller truck to transfer our shelter onto. After South America we plan to travel more – all to be revealed when the time is right…

Enjoy the photos! Almost all were taken by Yasha, who is getting better at ignoring the steep drops and trying to capture the moment.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
The vista when we crossed the Calla Calla pass, at 3,600m. Another amazing vista, not that far from the Calle Calle pass. Water damage often softens the edges or washes them completely away - so you really have to stay as far as possible to the other side. Before we reached Balsas we spotted an overlander vehicle camped by the road. Garry and Frederike had decided to spend Easter away from people - the view from their site was spectacular. We came from the road section in the top of the photo and slowly wound our way down into Balsas. In Balsas the road was still too narrow for us - this time due to trees and rock walls to close to the road edge. The old suspension bridge crossing the river in Balsas. A new bridge is under construction, but it seems progress is slow... Well, leaving Balsas it immediately went uphill again - and the road wasn't any wider. This is what you face quite often on the PE-8B: a really narrow bit right before a hairpin bend. Vista back towards the valley of Balsas: on the mountain in the distance you can the the western section of the PE-8B, which eventually goes down into Balsas. Before we reached the pass leading into Celendin, the PE-8B wound its way in sweeping, wide curves up the mountain side. We met 3 vehicles at once, right at the end of this narrow section, with the vertical drop on the right. Driving along the narrow part of road you saw in the last photo. No way I could reverse there - only with mirrors! Another vista down the mountains. This one was taken shortly after we had to stop for the cows. I was grateful that this lone rider stopped on one of the few sections where the road was a little wider. We were really relieved to discover that from Celendin onwards the PE-8B going east was newly upgraded and wide!

A follower on our Facebook page commented that we should have one photo with Berta on the road, to get a better feel for the proportions. Well, we didn’t feel that it was a safe thing to do. So there’s only one picture of Berta next to the road, where it was a tad wider, and another of us meeting cows on the road *). Both photos should give you some idea how wide the road is!

Well, not only motorbikes, pick-up trucks, and freight trucks on the road - occasionally you get held up by life stock.

Well, not only motorbikes, pick-up trucks, and freight trucks on the road – occasionally you get held up by life stock.

*) less than 100 meters before the cows we had met 3 small vehicles at once. It was a real squeeze! I guess they had also been held up by the cows, and that’s why they all came at once…

Google satellite view of the route going into Balsas. It's the light coloured line following the the mountain contour.

Google satellite view of the route going into Balsas. It’s the light coloured line following the the mountain contour.

Google satellite view of the route going out of Balsas.

Google satellite view of the route going out of Balsas.

Practical Information

There is no alternative route if you want to visit both, Cajamarca and the interesting ruin sites around Chachapoyas. The PE-8B goes across two high passes, both at over 3,600 metres. The town of Balsas, more than half way from Leymebamba (where we stayed overnight near the museum), is in a river valley at only a little over 800 metres altitude. It’s steamy hot in Balsas, and mango plantations line the road.

We were glad that the final section of the PE-8B from Celendin to Cajamarca was obviously recently upgraded and nice and wide. On our paper map it showed the same classification as the previous narrow bit, so it was a very pleasant surprise.

Ha, I don't even believe that somebody who knows the road, can drive it in under 6 hours.

Ha, I don’t even believe that somebody who knows the road, can drive it in under 6 hours.

As long-term travellers we are very happy with the space our overland truck offers. But occasionally I wish I could shrink Berta, because our overland vehicle is rather wide. Like when I have to drive a road so narrow that the wheels run on both sides on top of the white lines. This happened on the PE-8B, and worse: often we had a steep vertical drop one side... See our photo gallery of this scary mountain road in Peru!

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New Cable Car Gives Easier Access to the Kuélap Ruins http://dare2go.com/new-cable-car-easier-access-kuelap-ruins/ http://dare2go.com/new-cable-car-easier-access-kuelap-ruins/#comments Sun, 23 Apr 2017 14:03:11 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=6001 The ruins of Kuélap could be the oldest ruins of a fortified city in the Americas. A new cable car gives visitors easy access to this archaeological gem.

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The Kuélap ruins in the Amazonas Province of Peru (near the town of Chachapoyas) have been considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites of Peru for some time already. They are the remains of the oldest fortified stone city in South America. Until a few years ago, people had to hike 10 kilometres uphill to reach the site – now it takes 20 minutes sitting in the comfortable new cable car.

We were fortunate enough to visit the site just one month after the opening of the brand new ‘Telecabinas Kuélap’. We would like to share our experience of this visit to Kuélap, and give you more practical tips at the end of the post.

The archaeological site of Kuélap, the ruins of the oldest fortified city in the Americas (much older than Machu Picchu!). A new cable car, opened in March 2017, finally makes access to this site much easier.

The archaeological site of Kuélap, the ruins of the oldest fortified city in the Americas (much older than Machu Picchu!). A new cable car, opened in March 2017, finally makes access to this site much easier.

The Cable Car to the Kuélap Ruins

The new cable car was opened in March 2017. It now offers an easy alternative to the 32 km dirt road leading to the ruins entry. This road is so narrow and rough that it takes a normal car 90 minutes to drive, and for larger vehicles (like our Berta) it’s a real challenge.

The cable car was built at a cost of 81 million US$ (far exceeding the initial budget of $21M). The current price to use it is S/ 20 for a return trip.

An impressive new departure building has been constructed above the village of Tingo Nuevo. With its natural stone walls and grass covered roof, it looks like a mountain lodge – Peruvian style. It blends into the environment quite well. You buy your tickets there and board the shuttle bus, which takes you to the base station of the cable car. There seems to be plans for future development, with spaces set aside for a coffee lounge and a gift shop (both currently still empty).

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
The new building of the base station of the 'Telecabinas Kuélap'. Here you buy your tickets and board the shuttle bus to the cable car station. Photos of the current maintenance and shuttle bus schedules. The modern departure station of the brand new cable car to the Kuélap ruins in Peru. The view down from the new Kuélap cable car into the river gorge it crosses along the way.

The base station of the cable car sits at 2,000 metres; the Kuélap entrance station is at almost 3,000 metres. Along the way, the 8,200 metre long cable crosses a deep river gorge (people suffering from vertigo might want to shut their eyes).

The City of Kuélap

This walled city was built by the Chachapoyas culture, which dominated the region in the Amazonas province of Peru from 500 AD onwards. They were fiercely independent and often referred to as the “Warriors of the Clouds”. For a long time, they even held their position against the mighty Inca Empire. Unfortunately, the Spanish invasion brought an end to the city of Kuélap and the place was abandoned. It was rediscovered in 1848, then nearly forgotten again until major archaeological work commenced there in 1997.

The main city is located on a ridge at roughly 3,000 metres altitude. It covers a site of around 600 metres in length by 110 metres in width, and is laid out on distinct levels. The impressive limestone wall, which surrounds this complex, is up to 30 metres high.

Part of the outer wall of the fortified city of Kuélap. This is the first section of wall you come to.

Part of the outer wall of the fortified city of Kuélap. This is the first section of wall you come to.

The prominent feature of this city are the remains of around 470 cylindrical buildings. If you follow the current main path into the city you soon come to the top layer, where you also find ruins of several rectangular buildings. The first attraction on this level is a large tower at the northern end, called ‘Torreón Norte’. It sits right at the edge of a steep cliff face.

At the southern end of the lower level, there is a large circular turret in the shape of an inverted cone, which is called ‘Templo Mayor’. This structure almost defies gravity and must have been a challenge to build. It contains an inner chamber in a bottle shape.

The southern most part of the Kuélap site, with the 'Templo Mayor' (Main Temple) to the right. This upside down cone defies gravity and must have been a challenge to build.

The southern most part of the Kuélap site, with the ‘Templo Mayor’ (Main Temple) to the right. This upside down cone defies gravity and must have been a challenge to build.

Recent excavations discovered almost 150 human remains around this site, but it is not completely clear if these were human sacrifices or warriors killed in battle.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
The remains of one of over 400 round buildings which are part of the ruins of Kuélap. The view from the site is amazing - in all directions. The 'Torreón Norte' (the northern tower) on the top level of the Kuélap ruins in Peru. In some walls of Kuélap you can find human remains; the Chachapayas people buried their dead in wall or rock niches. One of the few remaining ruins at Kuélap, which displays the ornamental stonework in diamond shapes.

Most of the complex is covered in tropical trees, whose roots wind around the rock structures. Part of the site is currently closed for further archaeological digs; another section for the reconstruction of the ancient drainage system (as some of the outer wall is under threat from rain water seeping into it). Stage one of the restoration work is targeted to be finished in early 2019.

Kuélap, Peru: another group of round buildings with decorative stone work at the base.

Kuélap, Peru: another group of round buildings with decorative stone work at the base.

Our Visit to Kuélap

We certainly didn’t come on a good day – it was Good Friday, and ‘Semana Santa’ is one of the major holiday weekends in Peru. The site was packed like it has probably never been before. On the way back down on the cable car, we had a long and interesting conversation with one of the leading archaeologists for the site, Cristian. He told us that on Monday to Wednesday there had been around 50 visitors per day, on Thursday (the first day of holidays) there were around 800, and on Good Friday the number exceeded 1,000!

You buy your entrance tickets for the site near the cable car end station. From there a paved walkway, with many stairs, takes you roughly 2 km uphill to the site. Then you have to skirt along some narrow earth paths to the far right of the complex, to the current entrance (Entrance #3). The regular entrances #1 and #2 are both closed for restoration. These walkways were absolutely not suitable for the number of visitors on the day.

Most of the pathways inside the complex are covered with a slatted timber boardwalk, which is not suitable for shoes with high heels, which we saw some local women wearing. Sometimes we encountered “traffic jams”, particularly when large guided groups wanted to proceed along the narrow boardwalk.

But we are certain that on ‘normal’ days you won’t experience crowds like this – yet!

The narrow and muddy access path leading to entrance 3, the only open access to Kuélap at the time of writing, isn't really suitable for large groups of people.

The narrow and muddy access path leading to entrance 3, the only open access to Kuélap at the time of writing, isn’t really suitable for large groups of people.

Most of the Kuélap ruins can be explored walking on a wooden boardwalk.

Most of the Kuélap ruins can be explored walking on a wooden boardwalk.

 

Although Kuélap is sometimes referred to as the “Machu Picchu of the North”, the site doesn’t receive anywhere near as many visitors: Machu Picchu had 4 million last year – Kuélap a little over 40,000. Thanks to the cable car, they are expecting close to 80,000 visitors for 2017, and a steady increase in numbers thereafter. This is still a far cry from the masses of people you find around Cusco!

The naming “Machu Picchu of the North” only creates wrong expectations. The two cities were built in totally different periods; Kuélap is much older and doesn’t display the same precise stone work the Incans are so famous for. In its time, Kuélap was of great importance for a much larger region, than is evident for Machu Picchu. Finally, the tropical vegetation covering the site gives Kuélap a completely different feel. There have been discussions about removing some of it, but apparently us foreigners like the atmosphere all that dense green creates.

The very narrow and steep access to the top section of the Kuélap ruins. These were most likely kept so narrow for defense reasons...

The very narrow and steep access to the top section of the Kuélap ruins. These were most likely kept so narrow for defense reasons…

If you don't want photos with other people posing in them you sometimes have to wait - very patiently!

If you don’t want photos with other people posing in them you sometimes have to wait – very patiently!

 

Future Plans for Archaeological Sites in Peru

[We received some of the following information from Cristian, the archaeologist responsible for Kuélap and nearby Karajia (burial tombs in the cliffs, see below)]

Peru wants to promote its other significant archaeological sites to spread tourist attendance and money into different regions, and to reduce the pressure on Machu Picchu. There are 10 sites which are in the plan to implement this, with better access to, and facilities at, the sites. Pachacamac (our last post) is one of these. The tourism ministry realises that better preservation is also a key corner stone of any plan to bring more visitors to these sites.

I found this article about Peru’s ambitious plans for the future . Though some are already well behind schedule, as we have experienced first hand: we drove several sections of the planned ‘Carretera Longitudinal de la Sierra’, which includes the PE-3S and PE-3N , and there was no sign of any building activity. Unfortunately, bits of the already upgraded sections have been severely damaged by fresh landslides. There’s certainly a long way (and slow way) to go…

Like at Machu Picchu, there are Alpacas at Kuélap keeping the grass short. Isn't she a cutie?

Like at Machu Picchu, there are Alpacas at Kuélap keeping the grass short. Isn’t she a cutie?

Concretely, for Kuélap this means:

  • there are plans to upgrade the airport of Chachapoyas
  • the site has been submitted for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List .
    This UNESCO page goes a lot deeper into the history and significance of the Kuélap ruins – well worth a read!

Practical Information for a Visit to the Kuélap Ruins

Best time to visit seems to be on weekdays, but avoid Mondays unless you want to drive up to the site. An information board at the ‘Telecabinas Kuélap’ showed that they are usually closed for maintenance on Mondays (with a few exceptions).

A return ticket for the ‘Telecabinas Kuélap’ is S/ 20 per person and has to be bought at the departure building (there are no ticket sales where the cable car starts). They don’t offer any concessions (meaning no discounts for students, children, or aged people).

Pets are not permitted!

A view towards the mountains around Kuélap. At this altitude you can always expect cold wind and rain - more likely after lunchtime.

A view towards the mountains around Kuélap. At this altitude you can always expect cold wind and rain – more likely after lunchtime.

Entrance to the Kuélap Ruins:

  • S/ 20 per person regular entrance fee
  • S/ 10 for university students, accredited teachers, and seniors 60+
  • S/ 2 for children and school classes

The ruin site is open 8:00-4:00 (on Easter they kept longer hours).
For some unknown reason, the 1st bus to the cable car leaves at 9:00am.

Allow at least 2 hours for the site visit (including the 2km walk to the ruins and back); we spent 2½ hours, including a short break for a snack.

Take a rain jacket, as the site is very exposed. You can expect short rain showers and strong cold winds at times. It’s best to wear solid shoes with good grip. Don’t forget that you are at 3,000 metres! It’s cooler than in the valley (where the cable car leaves from) and breathing isn’t as easy, so walk at a slow and steady pace. Take some snacks and drinking water, but please don’t leave any trash behind!


Chachapoyas as a Base to Explore Many Ancient Ruins

The nearest city is the laid-back Chachapoyas with its lovely colonial town square.

The main square of the town of Chachapoyas. To the left the cathedral, on the right the municipalidad. The entire town is painted in white and features over 600 ornate wooden balconies. It's a pleasant town to stay for a while.

The main square of the town of Chachapoyas. To the left the cathedral, on the right the municipalidad. The entire town is painted in white and features over 600 ornate wooden balconies. It’s a pleasant town to stay for a while.

The region offers numerous other sights nearby, which are well worth a visit. You could base yourself in Chachapoyas and spend several days exploring.

“Every week you could have a new story about a newly discovered site.”

[Quote Peter Lerche, a historian and former mayor of the Chachapoyas, from this article on abc.net.au ]

The best known highlights of the region, aside from the Kuélap, are:

  • The Sarcophagi at Karajia. The Chachapoyas tribe is well known for burials in cliff faces and walls. At Karajia you can see sarcophagi of high-ranking leaders and ordinary people , side-by-side.

    The Sarcophagi at Karajia sit high above the ground in the cliff face. On the left some graves of 'ordinary' people - less adorned. On the right sarcophagi of people who were considered of high rank within the community of the Chachapoyas.

    The Sarcophagi at Karajia sit high above the ground in the cliff face. On the left some graves of ‘ordinary’ people – less adorned. On the right sarcophagi of people who were considered of high rank within the community of the Chachapoyas.

  • Revash, south of Kuélap, is where the Chachapoya built small houses into the cliff face to bury their dead. Unfortunately, due to our outdated guidebook, we didn’t visit this site. Later we learnt that access has been made easier by a new dirt road, which now takes you within 3km walking distance. (The link above, abc.net.au, shows a photo of Ravesh.)
  • Roughly 90km from Chachapoyas is the small town of Leymebamba with its excellent museum, Centro Mallqui, which houses mummies and artifacts found around the Laguna de los Cóndores. Ask staff to turn the lights on in their mummy room (this is usually kept dark to preserve the mummies)! There are also a couple of interesting ruins sites around the town, like La Congona. If you take a tour to the museum enquire beforehand if they will include a visit to at least one site. The narrow road to Leymebamba follows a river valley through beautiful green rural pastures and small mudbrick settlements.

    Most of the road to Leymebamba follows a river bed and winds its way through a fertile valley.

    Most of the road to Leymebamba follows a river bed and winds its way through a fertile valley.


Currently getting to Chachapoyas can be a small adventure all of its own. Road access (e.g. by bus or overland vehicle) from the coast is time consuming – whichever route you chose. As the roads wind their way up and down several steep Andean mountain passes you get to see outstandingly beautiful vistas, which can at times be a little scary. We wouldn’t travel it in the dark…

Right now this limits the number of tourists visiting the region – an advantage for individual travellers. The planned airport upgrade will give Chachapoyas a well deserved tourism boost. On the other hand, you might not find the same peace and quiet to enjoy what the region has to offer.

The ruins of Kuélap are located in the north of Peru, in the Amazonas Province. They are considered the oldest ruins of a fortified city in the Americas and date back as far as 500BC. Until recently it had been difficult to reach this archaeological gem. Now a new cable car gives visitors easy access to the ruin site. Our post provides all the current details and prices.

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Pachacamac: 2000 Years of Peru’s History near Lima http://dare2go.com/pachacamac-2000-years-peru-history-near-lima/ http://dare2go.com/pachacamac-2000-years-peru-history-near-lima/#respond Wed, 12 Apr 2017 18:55:25 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5951 30Km south of Lima you find the lesser known archaeological site of Pachacamac, which covers nearly 2000 years of Peru's history and four distinct cultures.

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Just 30Km south of Lima, in the valley of Rio Lurin, is an archaeological site that we had never heard of. We were so fascinated by the Larco Museum – again – that we were praising it far and wide. A direct result of this was that a friend from the travel blogging community *) suggested we might like to visit The Archaeological Sanctuary of Pachacamac, since we were so close. So we did.

The Sanctuary doesn’t cover the 5000 years of Peru’s history, which we had discovered at the Larco Museum . But it does go back almost 2000 years. It was a ceremonial centre connected to the god Pachacamac, considered as the ‘Maker of the Earth’ by the local people.

The view from the Temple of the Sun, down to the Acllawasi and on to the New Site Museum at the Archaeological Sanctuary of Pachacamac.

The view from the Temple of the Sun, down to the Acllawasi and on to the New Site Museum at the Archaeological Sanctuary of Pachacamac.

This site was inhabited by 4 successive Pre-Columbian civilisations: Lima, Wari, Ychma and Inca. Each had their own influence on the development of the site. There were temples, plazas, palaces and other buildings. Its 3 main temples – Templo Viejo, Templo Pintado and Templo del Sol – were built at different times, by different cultures. But all incorporated the worship of the oracle Pachacamac in their use of the site.

Lima Culture

Between 300 and 400 AD, this was the first culture to construct buildings on this site. They built with small, hand-made bricks called ‘adobitos’. Amongst those remaining is the Templo Viejo (Old Temple), and the Conjunto de Adobilitos, which is right next to the museum parking lot.

The Conjunto de Abolitos at the entrance to the site, shows the work of the Lima culture, who first began building at the Pachacamac site around 300AD.

The Conjunto de Abolitos at the entrance to the site, shows the work of the Lima culture, who first began building at the Pachacamac site around 300AD.

Wari Culture

We experienced the centre of Wari culture when we visited Ayacucho . Around 800 AD, the Wari influenced the Lima culture, and this caused changes in the architecture, pottery and also how they dealt with their dead. This is also the time when the cult of Pachacamac spread beyond the Central Coast of Peru. Pilgrims began coming from far and wide.

These carved wooden heads were used by the Wari when burying their dead. The false head was meant to imitate the face of the deceased and was placed on the outside of the funeral bundle.

These carved wooden heads were used by the Wari when burying their dead. The false head was meant to imitate the face of the deceased and was placed on the outside of the funeral bundle.

Ychma Culture

This culture developed in the valleys of the Lurin and Rimac rivers from around 1100 AD. Originally they were scattered groups, but they integrated around the worship of Pachacamac. Most of the buildings in the Sanctuary today were constructed by the Ychma.

They formalised the layout of the site and built a new version of the Painted Temple (Templo Pintado), where the carved representation of Pachacamac dwelt. Unfortunately, access to this area is restricted and can only be seen from a distance, hidden under extensive roofing for its protection. This is due to extensive conservation work being carried out on the structure.

They were also responsible for the ‘pyramid with ramp’ structures (see further down), of which there are many remaining in quite good condition.

Although originally built by the Wari, when the Ychma arrived they rebuilt and fortified the structure, which housed the god, Pachacamac.

Although originally built by the Wari, when the Ychma arrived they rebuilt and fortified the structure, which housed the god, Pachacamac.

Inca Culture

The expansion of the Inca Empire began around 1440 AD. They arrived on the central coast of Peru 30 years later. The takeover of the Lurin valley was peaceful, and the Inca built the Temple of the Sun of Pachacamac on top of the highest hill. This was an adobe construction.

This view of the Acllawasi, built by the Inca to house the chosen women, shows the Incan stonework for which they are famous. Most of the building in Pachacamac is adobe.

This view of the Acllawasi, built by the Inca to house the chosen women, shows the Incan stonework for which they are famous. Most of the building in Pachacamac is adobe.

They also built the Acllawasi, which housed the chosen women of the Pachacamac Cult. Along the base of this building was the mortar-less square-cut stone construction that the Inca are famous for.

It is interesting to note that the Sanctuary of Pachacamac was the first major ceremonial centre that the Spanish conquerors destroyed in South America.

A Visit to Pachacamac

Pachacamac Archaeological Site is made up of the Archaeological Circuit and the New Site Museum.
Once again, the desert climate of Peru has been responsible for preserving the remains of this massive site so that we can truly imagine how life there might have been. We visited the Archaeological site first, to avoid the midday heat, then went to the museum after a lunch break. You may prefer to do it the other way because there is a lot of information about the site in the museum.

An ornament made of feathers in the Inca style from the 15-16th Century AD

An ornament made of feathers in the Inca style from the 15-16th Century AD

Archaeological Circuit

This 3Km circuit is well-organised, with very good information signs along the way, so a self-guided tour will work. We felt we would have benefited from having a guide but unfortunately there were none available at the site that day.

You can easily walk the circuit but there is also a road for vehicles. We had assumed that would be limited to the tour groups. But as we set off, a friendly guard told us that we could also drive ourselves through the site – since it was a hot day, we did.

There are parking lots at strategic spots where you can leave your vehicle and then walk along the access paths to the buildings. The longest walk was from the parking lot for the Painted Temple up to the Temple of the Sun. It appeared that it’s sometimes possible to drive up the hill, but the road was clearly closed that day.

This style of pyramid in Pachacamac is the signature work of the Ychma culture.

This style of pyramid in Pachacamac is the signature work of the Ychma culture.

New Site Museum

As soon as you enter the museum, you are left in no doubt as to the intention behind it:

The exhibition in this museum is aimed to share the universal values that qualify the Archaeological Sanctuary of Pachacamac to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These values refer to its exceptional cultural significance, which should be a priority of preservation for present and future generations.

They want UNESCO to recognise the importance of this place. The museum is certainly full of information about the site and the cultures who built and inhabited it. There are lots of examples of ceramics, carving, textiles, and metal work.

It also houses the carved wooden figure, believed to be the Pachacamac deity. This sculpture was kept at the top of the Painted Temple.

We learnt a lot from wandering around the museum, including that the Sanctuary is at an intersection of two major branches of the Qhapaq Ñan – the UNESCO World Heritage listed ‘Great Inca Road’. It was surely an important place in the Inca Empire.

Most of the information (about the 4 cultures who lived in Pachacamac) included in this post was taken from the museum walls. There appears to be plenty of evidence of the site’s value as a potential World Heritage listee.

 

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
This crown is made of leather and feathers and was found at Pachacamac. It is a style of the Lambayeque people so we could assume it was brought by pilgrims to this site. This is Chimu idol is carved from wood. It is 33cm tall. The cavities would probably have held adornments, possibly of semi-precious or precious stones or metal. This ceramic vessel, recovered from the Pachacamac site, is from 600-1000AD but its cultural style hasn’t been determined. This is a well-preserved piece of woven fabric exhibited at Pachacamac. The dry desert climate helps to preserve antiquities like these.

South America’s Oldest City

We would like to be telling you now that our next post will be about our visit to the World Heritage listed site – The Sacred City of Caral-Supe . Although we tried very hard to make it happen, we were completely stymied by Peru’s wetter than usual rain season.

We attempted to reach it from Huacha, following a rough gravel road through mining areas. After taking more than half an hour to drive 11Km, we finally arrived in a river valley full of citrus trees. There we discovered that the Rio Supe had broken its banks and we were unable to cross – just 8Km from our goal.

The next day, after retracing our steps along that terrible road, we drove north toward Barranca and turned off the Pan American Highway onto a much better road, which was even signposted to Caral-Supe. This time we were stopped within 15Km of our destination because of flooding. Same river – but approaching it from a different direction.

This is the road we tried to use on our second attempt to reach The Sacred City of Caral-Supe. The river had completely flooded it.

This is the road we tried to use on our second attempt to reach The Sacred City of Caral-Supe. The river had completely flooded it.

A local motorist stopped to talk to us and suggested we should come back in June. Unfortunately, we don’t really want to stay in Peru until then – and our visa expires at the beginning of May. So we missed ‘the oldest centre of civilization in the Americas’. It would have been the perfect addition to this series of posts about Peru being a ‘cradle of civilisation’.

Additional Practical Information

If you arrive in Lima by plane, as most tourists do, we recommend that you look for a reputable tour company with a knowledgeable guide to visit this site. We followed a small group with a company guide for a while, and he was describing individual elements in a really fascinating way. Well worth paying a few Soles more!

Information for Overlanders (like us)

Near the site there is a large oil refinery. Hence, you can find some of the cheapest fuel in Peru right here along the highway. We camped overnight in a nearby village by the river.


*) Thanks to Lyn Lindfield from the Travelling Lindfields (link to their post from Pachacamac) for encouraging us to visit Pachacamac!

Just south of the city of Lima you find the lesser known archaeological site of Pachacamac, which covers nearly 2000 years of Peru's history. Four main cultures in succession developed structures on the site, from the early Lima culture to the late Inca. The on-site museum provides excellent explanations and displays many outstanding artifacts found at Pachacamac. This site aims to become a future UNESCO World Heritage listing - so visit now!

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Forget Bolivia’s Death Road – Drive the PE-3N in Peru! http://dare2go.com/forget-bolivias-death-road-drive-pe-3n-peru/ http://dare2go.com/forget-bolivias-death-road-drive-pe-3n-peru/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 23:47:50 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5912 We have been on narrow and dangerous roads before, but the PE-3N was one of the most scary and slow-going main roads we have experienced thus far. [Gallery 30+ photos]

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Our headline might sound sensationalist, but did you know that the oh-so famous ‘Death Road’ in Bolivia has been reduced to a tourist attraction? There’s a newly built road in place which takes all non-tourist traffic. As a result, the old road is now mostly used by organised bicycle and motorbike tours. On top of it you now pay an entrance fee for the thrill. Its reputation came from the fact that it used to be a busy two-way road and, in many places, was too narrow for trucks or buses to pass each other…

To have the real nerve-wracking experience of regular traffic on a road that is too narrow, with plenty switch-backs, steep drops, landslides, broken-off edges, and crazy drivers, you should drive the PE-3N from Huaraz to Huánuco in Peru. Seriously!

This was by no means the steepest drop along the PE-3N. The region is actually fairly densely forested, mostly with Eucalypt, so often Yasha couldn't photograph for all the trees...

This was by no means the steepest drop along the PE-3N. The region is actually fairly densely forested, mostly with Eucalypt, so often Yasha couldn’t photograph for all the trees…

We actually didn’t expect it to be quite that bad. Yet, in hindsight, we’re happy that it’s over and that we made it – without an accident. When we arrived in Huánuco on Friday afternoon, all I was only capable of opening a beer and lying flat on the bed…

From its number, PE-3 (the N stands for ‘north’), this should be one of Peru’s main highways. If you look on the map you can see that it is; it runs almost the full length of the country from north to south, inland through the mountains. Yet most commercial traffic feeds from the mountains down to the Panamerican Highway, Peru’s main road along the coast. The PE-3 seems to have become a ‘forgotten’ secondary road, of lesser importance.

Actually, we have experienced the PE-3 once before, but it hadn’t really connected in our minds. We drove part of the PE-3S on our way from Ayacucho to Huancayo . This was also a very narrow road, single lane in some sections, but at least the majority of it was sealed – albeit with big potholes. That drive felt much easier because a) we were driving with mountains always on our side, b) the drops weren’t anywhere near as scary, c) it was at least wide enough for semi-trailers to crawl along, and d) the region wasn’t as densely populated and therefore had much less traffic.

Okay, let me get to the PE-3N. We met up with this road coming from Barranca at the coast. At first we had to get into the mountains driving up the PE-16, which had been closed for several days due to heavy flood damage. On the way up we had to skirt some fresh landslides – but nothing major. It’s in Conococha where you meet up with the PE-3N. At that point, it comes down from the north (via Huaraz) and veers inland.

It’s 244 kilometres from Conococha to Huanuco, of which the first 70 kilometres are actually really good road. You go over one pass of roughly 4,700 metres (Abra Yanashalla) with a really unique looking extinct volcano behind it. Ten kilometres later the nice, smooth road continues to the left (as PE-111) and you have to take the fork to the right.

Well, we had read that some people complained about this section of PE-3N. Yes, it was narrow, with no room for a centre line. But, apart from some deep potholes, it didn’t look too bad. Early that afternoon we came past a deserted quarry and decided to stay for the night. It was a few kilometres before La Unión – from there onwards our GPS shows a road of lower standard.

Day 1: we had driven 115km, 70 of which were on the PE-3N, and stopped early.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
This is what the first 70 kilometres or so of the PE-3N looked like. No indication that it would deteriorate so drastically... Looking down into a valley of green fields. I assume this is the village of Aquia. I spotted this amazing rock face from far away - but the 'face' became only clear when we were closer. The still sealed PE-3N winding its way down the mountain pass 'Abra Yanashalla' (4700 metres) Some potholes, but mostly asphalt on our first narrow section of the PE-3N. No asphalt left here, but I guess this very narrow gorge had been flooded.


Apart from the fact that the road through the town of La Unión was in a terrible state, the next day we couldn’t see that much difference – at first. There was still asphalt, but the number of potholes increased gradually – until there were more holes than asphalt. But, according to our GPS map, this was only meant to last until Tingo Chico – some 30 kilometres.

In reality, from Tingo Chico onward the road got worse, much worse. We were going slowly uphill and had reached nearly 3,500m, with no place to pull off the narrow road. So we decided to drive into the town of Chavinillo, and stayed overnight right at their small square – the only flat bit we could find.

It was mid-afternoon. This region isn’t used to tourists, and thus we attracted quite a crowd. First only kids, later also some adults who asked us questions.

Day 2: we had driven 71km, took a longer lunch break, and averaged 20 kilometres per hour.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Green fields along the PE-3N, after we passed through the town of La Union. We discovered some mobile data and pulled off at this spot for an extended lunch break. In between I watched Hummingbirds in the yucca flowers. It would have been a smooth ride if all gravel sections were in this condition. Down in the bend comes the next bumpy water crossing. You sometimes don't really want to know what the edge of the road looks like - best to simply stay away from it! Scary: that culvert is pretty much hanging in the air - with the road surface above it. Glad our Berta is so 'light'... After Tingo Chico the road became much more potholed. The mud up the walls shows how often it has been very wet. Water often comes gushing down the slopes, hitting the road, and creating a muddy wet mess. One of the many, recently cleared mud slides. One of the 'trustworthy' bridges which connects to small villages on the other side of the river. The raging river slowly eats away at the road edge. Here a landslide (from the right) dammed up the river, which consequently washed across the road and made a soggy mess. These are the wash-outs you have to look out for! Often the top layer is hanging freely in the air - with nothing much underneath. We are always amazed by the small green patchwork fields in the Andes. Most can only be worked by hand - at 4,000 metres, no easy task.


It probably rained all night. At least, every time I woke up I heard rain. The next morning, after a slow start (we don’t sleep that well at altitude), we came back to a mostly muddy and slippery PE-3N. The gravel road around Chavinillo was actually the best for the entire trip; recently graded and rolled, so there were hardly any deep holes. And luckily, we were driving uphill; I find it less safe to drive downhill in slippery conditions.

We were approaching our last mountain pass on this route, Corona Del Inca (the Inca Crown) at 4,000 metres. Soon after, we were held up by our first roadworks for the day. In many sections the road is in such bad condition that it needs ongoing repairs. Most landslides are only roughly cleared away by some heavy machinery, leaving deep tyre grooves and unsafe edges behind.

We hit another road block some 20 kilometres before reaching Huánuco. Here some arrogant, rich Peruvian guy decided to pass the line of waiting cars and argue with the flagman that he should be let through immediately. He not only attracted strong opposition from all waiting drivers, in the end he caused some real chaos because uphill traffic was allowed to get through first – and he was blocking their way.

Peruvian drivers: the use of the horn replaces the brain and the brakes.

The behaviour of this driver seems to be indicative of Peruvian drivers in general. We have found everywhere, that they simply don’t seem to possess any road sense, and are the most aggressive and inconsiderate drivers anywhere in South America. This is most likely because private cars are still a bit of a novelty. When we travelled here in 2008, we hardly saw any private vehicles in rural regions, or even driveways going to houses. Today, you still come past villages, on the other side of rivers, which only have foot bridge access.

Most ‘hairy situations’ we experienced along the PE-3N were caused by people not driving to conditions, trying to squeeze through where there wasn’t any room to squeeze through, or coming around blind corners at high speed.

Day 3: we had driven 70km, were held up at 2 road works, and our average speed was 10km/h

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
When we left Chavinillo the road was all muddy and slippery. Lucky for us it was all uphill. Our last pass: the 'Corona del Inca' (Inca Crown). The mountain range at 4,000 metres - part of these cliffs is the 'Corona del Inca' After some roadworks we were behind a line of traffic, all bumping from one pothole to the next. Here a big section of the road just sagged - leaving a steep step. So tell me, how can you pass an oncoming vehicle on this narrow road? Here another recent mudslide had been cleared away - it must have been a big one... The driver of this silver Toyota four-wheel-drive pushed past all waiting cars and then blocked all traffic. The last kilometres downhill into Huánuco. Traffic along here was getting fairly busy - still with no room to pass safely.


Almost all photos on this page were taken by Yasha with her new point-and-shoot Sony camera (Amazon Link). I was too busy driving… We don’t have any pictures of really frightening situations because, by her own confession, Yasha often simply closed her eyes. She opened them more often than felt comfortable to shoot out the side window – trying to ignore the sometimes very steep drop next to her.

We also don’t have a single photo of our truck Berta on this road; there was always too much traffic to think about stopping.

For Peru, to get the PE-3 up to the standard of a modern road, capable of taking the increased traffic of this century, will most likely take years. Any widening of the existing road would require extensive blasting and earth works. All of the Andean mountains seem to be very unstable. Any serious rain causes immediate landslides. Now (March 2017) the country has just experienced a serious set-back: the entire Panamerican Highway north of Lima has been damaged by recent floods, with bridges washed away and four lanes often reduced to less than half a lane.

So don’t expect that the condition of the PE-3 will change much in the foreseeable future.


A vista across the river to Chavinillo. Notice the road winding up from the river. It's not the one we took.

A vista across the river to Chavinillo. Notice the road winding up from the river. It’s not the one we took.

Postscript from Yasha: although Juergen couldn’t really take his eyes off the road to see it, there is some stunning scenery along this road. In between holding my breath and shutting my eyes, I really enjoyed the vistas that the amazing Andes can surprise me with, time and again. I never get tired of being in the mountains.

[All photos shown in the galleries are in time order.]


Update May 2017:

Since I wrote this post and decided on it’s title, we have driven another road in Peru, which was somewhat more scary . From Chachapoyas to Cajamarca there is only one route to take. It winds its way twice to up over 3,600 metres, dropping in between to as low as ~800m.
The conditions are quite different. The PE-8B, described in our newer post [link above], is almost completely sealed. This provides more control over your vehicle because there isn’t a lot of slippery surface. But most of it is much narrower than the section of the PE-3N, which is the topic of this post. In many places it was really so narrow that my wheels were touching both road edges at the same time. And the drops next to the road are much steeper! There are the occasional guardrails, but I would never trust them to stop a heavy vehicle from going over the edge. And anyway: they are few and far between…

We have been on narrow and dangerous roads before, but the PE-3N in the Andes of Peru was one of the most scary and slow-going main roads we have experienced thus far. It's probably easier if you're in smaller vehicle than our overland truck. Countless reckless drivers make it even more dangerous. This is the one difference to Bolivia's so-called 'Death Road', which is now only a tourist attraction; for regular traffic there's a new road. See our post with over 30 photos!

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5000 Years of Peru’s History at the Larco Museum http://dare2go.com/5000-years-peru-history-larco-museum-lima/ http://dare2go.com/5000-years-peru-history-larco-museum-lima/#comments Sat, 18 Mar 2017 15:49:27 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5843 If you only visit one museum in Lima, make it the Larco Museum! It has the most interesting display, which explains over 5000 years of Peru's fascinating history.

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If you only visit one museum in Lima, make it the Larco Museum. It is one of the most impressive museums we have visited anywhere in South America.

Did you know that Peru is recognised as one of the cradles of civilisation, alongside Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China and Mesoamerica? When the pre-Columbian history of South America is mentioned, most people think of Machu Picchu and the Incas. In fact, the Inca Empire only really dominated this part of South America for about 150 years. Then the Spanish arrived, and proceeded to destroy it. Peru’s civilisation actually goes back so much further than that.

Rafael Larco Hoyle was fascinated by this 5000 years of history, and studied it his whole life. The Larco Museum is a testament to his passion.

The Larco Museum is housed in this beautiful building from the 18th century. The treasures inside show Peru's history as a 'cradle of civilisation'.

The Larco Museum is housed in this beautiful building from the 18th century. The treasures inside show Peru’s history as a ‘cradle of civilisation’.

During 2008, we were in Lima, and went to the Rafael Larco Herrera Archaeological Museum. The two impressions it left were its gallery of erotic ceramics and its huge storerooms. The museum was completely renovated (2006-10) and is now simply named Museo Larco (link to their excellent website). We visited it again recently.

Rafael Larco Hoyle founded the museum in 1926. He became one of Peru’s pre-eminent archaeologists of the 20th century. He named it after his father, and it was originally housed in his home state of La Libertad in Northern Peru. In the 1950s he decided to move it to Lima, making it more accessible to visitors and scholars from all over the world. Its new name honours both father and son.

Introductory Room

When you enter the main gallery from the reception area, you are immediately introduced to the long history of civilisation in Peru and also to the work of the museum’s founder. On one wall there is a huge timeline showing the 4 areas of Peru and the cultures inhabiting them during 7 epochs identified by Rafael Larco Hoyle.

The time-line used by Larco Hoyle to categorise the epochs of pre-Columbian Peru.

The time-line used by Larco Hoyle to categorise the epochs of pre-Columbian Peru. (An easier-to-read version available as a pdf)

Video and Reference Room

To the right there is a room showing an introductory video (you can also watch it on youtube ). And from there you can either enter the library, where you are welcome to relax and read the reference books, or enter the Cultures Gallery. There are also computers in the library for use by visitors to check out the online catalogue, or the virtual gallery in the Google Art Project.

Cultures Gallery

In the four rooms of this gallery, information about the various cultures is organised by region and chronology. Excellent examples of artefacts support the written information. Most of the exhibits are pottery, although there are also stone carvings and wooden objects. It is quite an educational experience, which is thoroughly captivating and enjoyable.

Museo Larco Cultures Gallery - a few examples of the very early pottery on display in this gallery.

Museo Larco Cultures Gallery – a few examples of the very early pottery on display in this gallery.

Cultures Gallery - in this gallery you will find hundreds of pieces on display. These are from later periods - some just pre-Inca.

Cultures Gallery – in this gallery you will find hundreds of pieces on display. These are from later periods – some just pre-Inca.

Textile Room

Even in the pre-ceramic epoch, the people of Peru were using cotton, and wool from alpacas and vicuñas, to produce textiles. This part of the gallery has some quite amazing exhibits. The desert conditions have preserved some very old examples of this handiwork. The colours and textures are surprising. The most beautiful textiles were usually created to dress the dead for the afterlife, and these were often as valuable as items created in silver and gold.

A selection of the beauty on show in the Textile Room of the Museo Larco in Lima. Included are a feather mantle, a Paracas funerary mantle, and a quipus.

A selection of the beauty on show in the Textile Room of the Museo Larco in Lima. Included are a feather mantle, a Paracas funerary mantle, and a quipus.

Sacrifice Ceremony Room

Human sacrifice was practiced in most ancient civilisations – to appease the gods, or to transform the victim onto a higher realm. The gallery dedicates this one room to representations of this practice: mostly it’s depicted in ceramic forms, but ritual knives and other implements to perform the sacrifice or ritual mutilation are also on display.

Larco Museum – a ceramic piece showing human sacrifice. In the corner, a ceremonial knife used for the purpose.

Larco Museum – a ceramic piece showing human sacrifice. In the corner, a ceremonial knife used for the purpose.

Ceremonial Vessels Room

This room displays mostly cups, bowls and other vessels, which were created to hold ceremonial liquids – water, fermented drinks and sacrificial blood. They are made of clay, wood or metal. The more precious the material, the higher the political or social position of those involved in the ceremonies.

A ceremonial gold and silver bowl from the Chimu, Imperial Epoch – on display in the Ceremonial Vessels Room of the Larco Museum.

A ceremonial gold and silver bowl from the Chimu, Imperial Epoch – on display in the Ceremonial Vessels Room of the Larco Museum.

Gold and Jewellery Gallery

The five rooms of this gallery exhibit many priceless objects. As with the textiles, some of the most impressive objects here were created for the dead to take on their journey into the afterlife.

Gold and silver represented the power of the sun and the moon to the Andean people and anything created from these metals were reserved for the most important persons in the society. The museum holds the only known complete set of gold Chimu clothing in the world. It was probably the funerary offering of a great lord buried at Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimu kingdom.

The Larco Museum Gold and Jewellery Gallery has some impressive exhibits - ear ornaments, nose ornaments, necklaces, crowns, breastplates and much more made from gold, silver, copper, precious stones, turquoise, quartz or other crystal, gemstones or shells.

The Larco Museum Gold and Jewellery Gallery has some impressive exhibits – ear ornaments, nose ornaments, necklaces, crowns, breastplates and much more made from gold, silver, copper, precious stones, turquoise, quartz or other crystal, gemstones or shells.

Storerooms open to visitors

Larco Museum has a huge collection of over 45000 pre-Columbian artefacts. Those that are not in the permanent exhibition are held on simple shelves in storerooms. Unlike most museums in the world, these storerooms are open to visitors to wander around.

The collection is also available to peruse, in an online catalogue, on their website.

Just a small portion of what you’ll see when wandering through the Storerooms of the Larco Museum.

Just a small portion of what you’ll see when wandering through the Storerooms of the Larco Museum.

Erotic Art Gallery

This is a fascinating collection of pottery depicting sex explicitly and in all aspects. As the museum explains:

This gallery provides us with a clearer understanding of the world view of the societies of ancient Peru. At the same time, it offers a unique and fascinating opportunity for the study of sexuality, free of our own myths and prejudices.

For adults only - a fine selection of pre-Hispanic ceramics in the Larco Museum Erotic Art Gallery.

For adults only – a fine selection of pre-Hispanic ceramics in the Larco Museum Erotic Art Gallery.

Beautiful gardens and amenities

The museum is set in a beautiful environment. We were there at the right time of year because the bougainvillea were completely covered in flowers. The building was the Luna Cartland family house, a mansion built in 1700.

There is an excellent restaurant, with outdoor seating under a veranda, and a view directly into the gardens. We had lunch and the food was great. There are also several shops, clean bathrooms, and iced drinking water is freely available.

This pathway leads you to the shops and the restaurant, all in a beautiful garden setting. If you visit just one museum in Lima, make it the Larco Museum.

This pathway leads you to the shops and the restaurant, all in a beautiful garden setting. If you visit just one museum in Lima, make it the Larco Museum.

The exhibits in the Larco Museum are presented in 6 languages (Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, and Japanese). We found the explanation texts used clear language and were fascinating to read.

The Larco Museum holds the only known complete set of gold Chimu funerary clothing in the world. This is it. Impressive, isn’t it?

The Larco Museum holds the only known complete set of gold Chimu funerary clothing in the world. This is it. Impressive, isn’t it?

Museo Larco Cafe-Restaurant - a lovely place to relax under a shady veranda, looking out on a beautiful garden, and eating food that looks like this.

Museo Larco Cafe-Restaurant – a lovely place to relax under a shady veranda, looking out on a beautiful garden, and eating food that looks like this.

 
With all of this you could spend several hours, if not all day here, exploring all that the Larco Museum has to offer, including shady spots to rest and admire the surroundings.
If you only visit one museum in Lima, make it the Larco Museum! This privately owned collection in superb condition needs to be praised for the informative fashion their collection is displayed. The easy to understand signs (translated into 6 languages) provide clear explanations about Peru's 5000 years of fascinating history. Beautiful surrounds and a garden restaurant invite you to relax, so you can spend a full day - if you wish so.

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Pisco to Lima via the Central Highlands Scenic Route http://dare2go.com/pisco-lima-via-scenic-central-highlands/ http://dare2go.com/pisco-lima-via-scenic-central-highlands/#comments Mon, 13 Mar 2017 16:55:14 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5812 We took the long way from Pisco to Lima and were rewarded with an incredible scenic route through the Andes in the central highlands of Peru. [30+ photos]

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The mountains east of Pisco are some of the most scenic in Peru - we are glad we detoured...

The mountains east of Pisco are some of the most scenic in Peru – we are glad we detoured…

It’s just 225Km from Pisco to Lima along the coast of Peru – most of it Autopista. But if you have the time, and want to experience the Andes in all their majestic and colourful glory, you can take a scenic route through Ayacucho and Huancayo. The mountains are lovely, but there are also other attractions along the way. Of course it’s over 900Km to go that way, and more with visits to the interesting places off the main route, but we found this road trip really worth it.


Pisco to Ayacucho

Our first stop out of Pisco along Via de los Libertadores was the Tambo Colorado archaeological site. Due to the dry desert climate, this is a well-preserved adobe fortress of the Incas. It was formerly painted in strong red, yellow and black colours and some remnants of this paintwork can still be seen.

It doesn’t have the ‘wow factor’ of Machu Picchu and other sites in the Sacred Valley , but it’s another aspect of the Incan culture that is worth experiencing.

Tambo Colorado archaeological site is about 30Km from Pisco. The adobe fortress gives a different view of the Inca culture.

Tambo Colorado archaeological site is about 30Km from Pisco. The adobe fortress gives a different view of the Inca culture.


Puya raimondii, is the largest species of bromeliad, and grows in some parts of Peru and Bolivia between 3000 and 4800m in altitude. They are very impressive, with a total height of around 15m, and must be even more so when they flower. Considering that their reproductive cycle is 40 years, and that they are an endangered species, the chances of seeing them at all is small – and in flower…

Along this route you can see them by the roadside near the highest pass, Abra Apracheta, which is at 4750m.

The largest existing bromeliad in the world - Puya Raimondii - can be seen at over 4000m on the road from Pisco to Ayacucho.

The largest existing bromeliad in the world – Puya Raimondii – can be seen at over 4000m on the road from Pisco to Ayacucho.


Nearby we spotted another interesting sight on the mountain side. It reminded us of Puente del Inca on the pass between Mendoza , Argentina and Santiago de Chile. And for those who have been to Yellowstone National Park, the Mammoth hot springs also exhibits this curious phenomenon. Further ‘googling’ gave me a name, Geyserite: A white or grayish silica-based deposit formed around hot springs. (Read more about Geyserite here .)

This was an unexpected sight on the way from Pisco to Ayacucho. El Milagro - a geyserite formed by a hot spring, close to the road.

This was an unexpected sight on the way from Pisco to Ayacucho. El Milagro – a geyserite formed by a hot spring, close to the road.


These were certainly interesting individual sights along this 300+ kilometre journey to Ayacucho, but the most impressive sight was the mountains. We have never seen such colours in the Andes before, and we have certainly shown many examples of coloured mountains in previous blog posts . They were set off nicely by the occasional snow-capped peaks and the lush green of recent rain-induced vegetation.

Snowy peaks in the distance always enhance a mountain scene, and we saw plenty of these on the way to Ayacucho.

Snowy peaks in the distance always enhance a mountain scene, and we saw plenty of these on the way to Ayacucho.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
A picturesque farm in the high Andes on the road from Pisco to Ayacucho. The scenic route through the Andes from Pisco to Ayacucho includes these unbelievably coloured mountains. The Andes are often impressive and the trip from Pisco to Ayacucho is no exception. Beautiful, colourful mountains like we've never seen before. Rugged mountain terrain as you reach the higher altitudes driving from Pisco to Ayacucho.

Pisco to Ayacucho - coloured mountains and green grass produce a truly impressive vista.

Pisco to Ayacucho – coloured mountains and green grass produce a truly impressive vista.

Then we reached Ayacucho, our original reason for heading to the mountains. We found a city which is definitely worth visiting . Then there is the bonus of the nearby Wari ruins and the artisan town of Quinua.

It's rain season in the Andes so there is plenty of green, which contrasts with the plentiful rocks to make a great picture.

It’s rain season in the Andes so there is plenty of green, which contrasts with the plentiful rocks to make a great picture.


Ayacucho to Huancayo

The Carretera Central Sur is not a road for the faint-hearted! We checked with the iPerú office in Ayacucho and they told us it was certainly passable in our truck.

It winds along a river for most of the way – sometimes almost at river level, but mostly on the side of the mountains high above. For the most part, it is a one lane road with turnouts for passing. The edges of the road are often broken, and large chunks can be washed away leaving huge gaps on the downhill side. There are many landslides or evidence of landslides that had been pushed off the road – it’s been an unusually wet rain season this year and the soggy mountains tend to slip easily, huge rocks and all. Add to this mix trucks, buses and semitrailers and you have a nerve-wracking experience. Fortunately the traffic is not high volume and, as usual, Juergen managed it in a reasonably calm and totally expert manner. He knows his truck and Berta always performs well for him.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Ayacucho to Huancayo: sometimes you drive around a bend in the road and the Andes just seem to go on and on. The first semi-trailer we met along the narrow road from Ayacucho to Huancayo. We waited for him on this straight, and not so narrow, stretch. The views are amazing - the road is not. If you're driving you have to keep your eyes on the road, and stop often to admire the scenery. A very damaged part of the road from Ayacucho to Huancayo. Up ahead a semi-trailer and a bus meet on a sharp bend, with a car in the mix. The bus and car both had to reverse to the previous bend to let the semi through. One of the impressive views down the river valley that we followed from Ayacucho to Huancayo. Ayacucho to Huancayo: Coloured mountains in the Andes always catch our attention. This deep red against the green foliage is just lovely. The rain season brings out this strong green along the road to Huancayo. Here we could admire the scenery as we were close to the river and the drop-off was not so frightening. Patchwork fields in the fertile river valley are a common sight until you reach the very high altitudes.

Ayacucho to Huancayo: wash day by the river. No washing line necessary.

Ayacucho to Huancayo: wash day by the river. No washing line necessary.

Huancayo had little to offer us, except for supermarket shopping and the opportunity to get Berta a grease and a wash. But there are nearby attractions that are worth the visit.

We drove out of the city towards the villages of Cochas Grande and Cochas Chico. Although they are only about 10Km outside Huancayo, it was a bit of an adventure getting there in our truck. The main roads in the city are paved but when you drive away from them there are many roads closed for maintenance; others never paved, wet, muddy and full of potholes; many of them were just dead-ends! So we drove much further than predicted but finally found a spot in Cochas Grande to spend the night.

The next day we went searching for the workshops of the gourd carvers, for which these villages are famous. We ended up in the house of Familia Veli, where we met 4 generations of the same family, three of them working on the production of creative objects made from the simple gourd. They were very happy to chat to us and show us the processes they used. We spent quite some time there waiting for them to complete one of their creations that we wanted to buy.

 
Cochas Chico: just some of the elaborately decorated gourds offered by the Veli family.

Cochas Chico: just some of the elaborately decorated gourds offered by the Veli family.

Just 25Km north of Huancayo is the small town of Concepciòn, quite an attractive town in its right. But we came here to visit the Franciscan Convento de Santa Rosa de Ocopa. The convent was founded in 1725 for the purpose of training monks to evangelise the Amazon. The only way to enter is with a guided tour, which was in Spanish. But it was still worth it for the little we understood and also to see the inside of this interesting complex.

Photography is not allowed inside, although we were allowed to photograph interior of the church, the Comedor Franciscano (Franciscan dining room) with its amazing, colourful murals (depicting evangelisation and martyrdom in the Amazon jungle by Josúe Sánchez and completed in 1993), the original convent courtyard, and various outdoor locations. Interesting parts, which we couldn’t photograph, include the library, which has 25000 books dating from as far back as the 15th century; a large collection of original artwork including many works from the famous Cusco School; and the Museum of Natural History of the Forest, which is full of stuffed birds, animals and reptiles, as well as displays of insects. Not quite my thing, but I’m sure it would be interesting to many.

The church of the Convento de Santa Rosa de Ocopa near Huancayo.

The church of the Convento de Santa Rosa de Ocopa near Huancayo.

Convento de Santa Rosa de Ocopa: Comedor Franciscano with its colourful murals by Josúe Sánchez

Convento de Santa Rosa de Ocopa: Comedor Franciscano with its colourful murals by Josúe Sánchez

 

Huancayo to Lima

We took a bit of a detour from Huancayo, towards Tarma, to visit a 250 year old hacienda that is still a working farm – Hacienda La Florida. They offer hotel accommodation and camping, and also welcome people like us travelling in overland vehicles. It was tempting to settle in and stay a while, but we could only manage 2 nights because we had things to do in Lima.

Hacienda la Florida near Tarma - we could have stayed a lot longer. A beautiful environment and lots of history.

Hacienda la Florida near Tarma – we could have stayed a lot longer. A beautiful environment and lots of history.

I’m sure that the trip from Tarma to Lima along the Carratera Central would be very scenic at other times of the year. We chose to drive over the weekend because we wanted to arrive in Lima on Sunday – best day of the week to enter big cities in our experience. This is also the time when the residents of Lima like to head for the mountains to escape the summer heat on the coast.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
This is a typical picture of the area around Huancayo. It is in a very fertile area and the recent rains make it even greener. Beautiful and elusive: vicuñas are only spotted at high altitudes and we always feel lucky to see them. From Huancayo to Tarma, we left the fertile valley and reached a height 4200m. Here the land becomes more barren, but still beautiful. Huancayo to Tarma: before reaching the barren heights, the locals farm on every available piece of land by terracing the mountain sides.

It was also rain season and this major highway is not exempt from rain induced landslides. On Saturday we had a 3 hour hold-up due to a landslide further downhill. We stayed overnight in the small village of San Jeronimo de Surco. When we wanted to leave next morning, there was another traffic jam going uphill and completely blocking the exit from the town. It took us around half an hour to inch our way towards the highway. Then we could eventually cross the line of traffic into the downhill lane that was completely traffic free at the time.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Tarma to Lima: another view of the Andes, which seems to go on forever. The weather in the distance looks a bit threatening. Serpentine roads with hairpin turns take you up and down quickly. On the Carratera Central to Lima we drove up to 4800m so experienced quite a lot of road like this. On the road to Lima: landslides and traffic jams were a common occurrence. The Carratera Central to Lima: many views into deep gorges where it's not possible to photograph the mountain tops in the same picture.

Nevertheless, this is quite a scenic mountain drive – up to a pass of over 4800m, across a long plateau, and then quite quickly reducing altitude down towards the coast. We drove through incredibly green valleys with terraces up the sides; had views of snow-capped mountains and some more coloured mountains; drove through deep gorges where you felt like it went down for ever to reach the bottom and the mountain tops were high above us. This is also a huge mining area, so be prepared for the scars on the landscape produced by these activities. It always seems to be a shame, but this is a silver mine, and the silver I wear has to come from somewhere!

Snow peaks make great postcard pics - but not when the mine reaches up to the snow line. On the Carratera Central to Lima.

Snow peaks make great postcard pics – but not when the mine reaches up to the snow line. On the Carratera Central to Lima.

900 against 225 kilometres does seem to be a bit more than a detour. Travelling as we do with no deadlines – except visa expiry dates – it is nice to have the flexibility to take the long way round sometimes. This brought us more stunning mountain scenery, and interesting sights along the way.
We chose to drive from the coast back into the mountains of Peru because we wanted to visit the town of Ayacucho. The road from Pisco to there was one of our most scenic drives in Peru! We passed through some amazingly colourful Andean mountains. From Ayacucho north the mountain scenery also held us in awe. See our gallery post for more!

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9 Reasons to Visit Ayacucho in Peru – Now http://dare2go.com/9-reasons-to-visit-ayacucho-peru/ http://dare2go.com/9-reasons-to-visit-ayacucho-peru/#comments Fri, 03 Mar 2017 19:17:48 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5718 Ayacucho in the Peruvian Andes is not yet on the tourist radar. Here are 9 reasons why you should visit Ayacucho now - before it becomes the "next Cusco".

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Ayacucho (formerly called Huamanga) doesn’t have the beauty of the sillar stone in Arequipa ; it doesn’t have the hordes of tourists who make pilgrimage to Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley ; and it doesn’t have the pull of Peru’s capital, Lima. But Ayacucho, nestled in the central highlands of Peru, has a lot going for it.
Here are 9 reasons to visit Ayacucho NOW.

One of the roof ornaments created in Quinua, protects a house in Ayacucho.

One of the roof ornaments created in Quinua, protects a house in Ayacucho.

1. Ayacucho Really Wants You to Come

The Shining Path occupied the city and region, for the best part of 2 decades in the 80s and 90s, successfully isolating it from the rest of Peru. This would have been the time when tourism to South America was growing, and more people were heading to the wonders of this continent. Ayacucho missed out and now wants to catch up.

The Ayacucho Municipalidad is one of the eye-catching buildings on Plaza de Armas. It is enhanced by its current Carnival decorations.

The Ayacucho Municipalidad is one of the eye-catching buildings on Plaza de Armas. It is enhanced by its current Carnival decorations.

2. Colonial Architecture

Ayacucho has a lot of Spanish architecture and the majority of it is intact – some claim, more so than in any other city in Peru.

Plaza de Armas (or Plaza Mayor de Huamanga) is surrounded by mansions and the Cathedral. The mansions, from the 16th to 18th centuries, have tiled roofs and arched sidewalks. They were formerly homes of the wealthy, and today house government offices, museums and shops.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Plaza de Armas in Ayacucho is surrounded by colonial mansions with arched porticos. Many of the mansions in Ayacucho have lovely courtyards like this one. Always make sure you look through open doors when passing by. Catedral Basílica de Santa María in Ayacucho dominates Plaza de Armas with its commanding baroque presence. You can see inside the cathedral most afternoons after 5. Ayacucho: Plaza de Armas (or Plaza Mayor de Huamanga) is the beautiful centrepiece of this interesting city.

If you are a colonial church enthusiast, the City of Churches (another name for Ayacucho) has a total of 33. All are easily accessible, within a few blocks of Plaza Mayor. Churches are not open to visitors every day as you will find in other places, but we did find that some of them were open in the late afternoon – and they are always open when mass is being celebrated.

3. Folk Arts and Handicrafts

According to the information leaflet from iPerú, Ayacucho is also known as “Peru’s Capital of Folk Arts and Handicrafts”. Much of the artisanal work found in more touristed destinations of Peru, such as Cusco, probably originated in this area. It is also exported to Europe, North America and Asia.

The Shosaku Nagase Handicraft Market in Ayacucho is the place to look for local Folk Arts and Handicrafts, like these colourful Retablos.

The Shosaku Nagase Handicraft Market in Ayacucho is the place to look for local Folk Arts and Handicrafts, like these colourful Retablos.

Retablos are the most famous of these artisanal offerings. They were originally portable altars in a box, but have developed into outrageous collections of tiny, hand-carved wooden or hand-formed clay figurines and objects, crammed into several layers inside the box. They are extremely colourful and sometimes very funny.

Besides these, the area is famous for stone carvings, weaving, embroidery, silver filigree jewellery, and pottery.

The Shosaku Nagase Handicraft Market, just 5 blocks from the central plaza, has it all under one roof. If you’re interested in seeing the master craftsmen at work, their workshops are in the barrios of Santa Ana, Puca Cruz, Belén and La Libertad, also all close to the centre.

4. Quinua is Within Easy Reach

Less than 40Km from Ayacucho you will find Quinua. It is a small village full of artisanal potters, but is also interesting because of its authentic and original feel. Just walking streets gives you a real experience of the way of life in this area.

Quinua is a village of potters producing all kinds of detailed ceramic work, but are most famous for the churches.

Quinua is a village of potters producing all kinds of detailed ceramic work, but are most famous for the churches.

The potters produce a variety of ceramic objects, but the most famous are the ceramic churches. Although they may have begun as serious representations, today many of them appear as caricatures of the originals. They are placed as roof ornaments, on the ridgeline, as a protection against evil spirits (similar to the bulls we saw in the Cusco region). Every house in Quinua has at least one, including the church, which has many. You also see them frequently on the rooftops of Ayacucho. Some are so large they can be displayed indoors as a feature.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
In Quinua you will find artisan shops like this and you can also visit workshops and buy direct from the artist. Quinua potters are famous for these roof ornaments that protect against evil spirits Quinua: these roof ornaments sit above an entrance gate, and include a bull – common in the Cusco area. Close to Ayacucho, Quinua gives an authentic village experience

5. The Wari Ruins

The former capital of the Wari civilization (Huari in Spanish) is on the way to Quinua. This archaeological complex gives an insight into a culture which dominated Peru from around 500-1000AD. It stretched from Cajamarca in the north to Cusco in the south. They were the most dominant culture in this region until the rise of the Inca.

A view of a large section of the Wari Archaeological Site, including a ceremonial circle. All vulnerable buildings are under cover at this site.

A view of a large section of the Wari Archaeological Site, including a ceremonial circle. All vulnerable buildings are under cover at this site.


Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Wari Archaeological Site – this is a huge slab of rock used for sacrifice These are underground burial chambers discovered during excavations at the Wari Archaeological Site. Wari Archaeological Site: it is unclear if the niches in this ceremonial ring were used for seating the nobility during ceremonies, or if they held mummies. Many figures like these were found at the Wari Archaeological Site – these are reproductions by local artisans.

We recently visited Pikillaqta , another Wari site, when we left Cusco on our way to Puno.

6. The Colours of Ayacucho

Ayacucho leaves an impression with me of being very colourful. This may be because the buildings are painted in a variety of colours; unlike Arequipa, which is predominantly white, and Cusco, which has a lot of stonework or white-painted buildings with colourful trims.

There are plenty of parks with colourful gardens. Locals still go about in traditional clothing. The markets are colourful, with stalls offering colourful things for sale.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
This colourfully dressed woman sells artisanal ice cream in one of the Ayacucho pedestrian zones. In this part of the Ayacucho market, there were a number of drum vendors. We assume that business was brisk due to the upcoming Carnival. We were surprised by the colourful display at this hardware stall in the market of Ayacucho. The vendor was very happy to be photographed. These cheese vendors were dressed in traditional clothes, including their fantastic hats, in the market of Ayacucho.

It may also be that we were there just before Carnival, and there were decorations on buildings and people dressed up for events.

7. Climate & Altitude

The climate is very pleasant. We were there during the rainy season, but most days produced a lot of sunshine, with the rain arriving later in the afternoon – sometimes not until night.

Ayacucho: walking down the pedestrian zone Jiròn 28 de Julio towards the Arch of Triumph is pleasant and interesting.

Ayacucho: walking down the pedestrian zone Jiròn 28 de Julio towards the Arch of Triumph is pleasant and interesting.

At 2700m, the altitude of Ayacucho is very comfortable. While a reaction to this altitude, in our experience, is unlikely, it’s necessary to take the normal precautions when visiting any place in the Andes.

8. Ayacucho is Still Waiting to be Discovered

It feels more like a city for locals, with shops catering to locals, instead of a tourist city. We didn’t see very many foreign tourists and it’s less expensive than other tourist destinations. The locals are friendly but generally leave you alone. You are not being constantly harassed to buy something, eat something, or take a tour.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Templo de Santo Domingo is another of Ayacucho’s many churches. Colonial church enthusiasts will love this city. The Renaissance style Templo de San Agustín in Ayacucho is just one of 33 in the City of Churches. You’ll find it on the Plaza de Armas. The Ruis de Ochoa Mansion, just 2 blocks from Plaza de Armas in Ayacucho. Check out the carved stone figures supporting the balcony. Ayacucho is a centre for folk art and other handicrafts – the handcrafted Retablos are remarkable.

Ayacucho is a place you can discover in a relaxed way.

9. Its Location in the Andean Mountains

To reach Ayacucho by road, you have the opportunity to travel through some stunning parts of the Andes. Whether you come from Pisco, Lima (via Huancayo), or Cusco, it will certainly be scenic…

One of the amazing views waiting for you if you drive from Pisco on the coast to Ayacucho nestled in the Andes.

One of the amazing views waiting for you if you drive from Pisco on the coast to Ayacucho nestled in the Andes.


If you are in Peru and you have had enough of the bustle of Lima, or the tourist hordes of Cusco and the Sacred Valley, or the windy and sometimes dusty coastline (like us), we recommend a visit to the city of Ayacucho and its surrounding sights. We also recommend getting there by road – and don’t take a night bus!


Additional Information for Overlanders

First a short warning: the entire centre of Ayacucho is closed for trucks. This is for a good reason: too many of the roads in the centre are too narrow for regular trucks. You will also run into difficulties driving through them with a US-sized RV (anything over 2.3 metres of width).

To enforce the ban for trucks most of the main roads into the centre are blocked off by a combination of huge concrete blocks and iron bars – leaving just enough width for small Japanese buses to get through!

Nevertheless we managed to get in, after a number of tries. This was on a Sunday and it would have been impossible on a weekday. To get past parked cars I had to drive several times onto the footpath (which only works if there’s no power pole or street sign in the way).

We overnighted at ‘Casa del Maestro’, a private school marked on iOverlander . This is a convenient location only 1½ blocks from the main square. It’s only suitable for self-contained rigs, although there’s a toilet where you could empty a portable waste tank in the mornings. The gate is locked overnight and the location is quiet enough.

Again: you won’t get in here with a big rig on weekdays; there are usually cars parked opposite the gate, yet you need to turn wide to fit through the gate. We left at 7:30 in the morning to beat traffic and parking vehicles.

Ayacucho in the Peruvian Andes is not - yet - high on the 'tourist radar'. This colonial town has so much to offer to visitors: well preserved historical buildings, the most picturesque main square of Peru, and a pleasant climate. It's also "Peru’s Capital of Folk Arts and Handicrafts"; here you find them cheaper than in other shops throughout Peru and the world. See our post for more reasons to add Ayacucho to your Peru itinerary.

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Is Arequipa the Most Beautiful City in Peru? http://dare2go.com/arequipa-most-beautiful-city-peru/ http://dare2go.com/arequipa-most-beautiful-city-peru/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:04:53 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5672 The historic centre of Arequipa - the White City - is UNESCO World Heritage listed. Some say it's the most beautiful city in Peru and our gallery supports this.

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Our three visits to Arequipa are almost not enough. This city prompts the use of descriptions such as ‘Peru’s pride and beauty’, ‘picturesque’, ‘graceful and harmonious’, ‘prettiest’ and of course ‘beautiful’.

The main reason for the city’s appeal is that its buildings are constructed mostly from the white volcanic rock called sillar, quarried from the nearby volcanos. This gives rise to the nickname, La Ciudad de Blanca – the White City.

Arequipa is certainly a beautiful city; impressive and important enough to be listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site . I hope this selection from our many photos will inspire you to visit.

Arequipa is also known as the 'white city' for its many colonial houses built from the locally quarried sillar stone, a volcanic rock. Arequipa's historic centre is UNESCO World Heritage listed.

Arequipa is also known as the ‘white city’ for its many colonial houses built from the locally quarried sillar stone.

 

Arequipa’s Main Square: Plaza de Armas

The first place most of us go, when we visit a new city in South America, is the central plaza. Our guide book (Frommer’s Peru) describes the Plaza de Armas as “one of the prettiest main squares in Peru”, and I’d have to agree. It is surrounded on three sides by colonnades with all types of shops, many catering to visitors. Then the absolutely stunning cathedral takes up the whole of the fourth side. It is certainly a magnificent structure. However, we were surprised that the interior of such a beautiful building wasn’t just a bit more impressive.

On three sides of Plaza de Armas in Arequipa are these beautiful collonades. On the top floor are a number of up-market restaurants with a stunning view of the park and the cathedral.

On three sides of Plaza de Armas in Arequipa are these beautiful collonades. On the top floor are a number of up-market restaurants with a stunning view of the park and the cathedral.

The cathedral is built completely from the local sillar stone. It was badly damaged in the earthquake of 2007; one tower collapsed and has since been rebuilt. The interior is not quite as impressive as the exterior...

The cathedral is built completely from the local sillar stone. It was badly damaged in the earthquake of 2007; one tower collapsed and has since been rebuilt. The interior is not quite as impressive as the exterior…

 

On the north-eastern corner of the plaza you will find La Compañía de Jesús Church and Monastery. This is one of the most ornate structures we visited. Sillar stone can be carved with very intricate designs and lends itself to the baroque style of the period. The façade of this church is certainly ornate. Next to the church is the former monastery of the Jesuits. Now it is another tourist attraction, and the cloisters are full of up-market souvenir shops. You don’t need to enter the shops to enjoy walking around these beautiful courtyards, whose pillars are also intricately carved.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
The elaborate facade of the church of La Compañía de Jesús, Arequipa. Compared to this, the interior is rather plain. This church, diagonally opposite the cathedral, was originally built by Jesuits. Don't miss visiting the adjoining monastery - now home to many galleries and shops selling alpaca products! In the forecourt of the church of La Compañía de Jesús, Arequipa, is this niche made from carved sillar stone. The first courtyard of the monastery of La Compañía de Jesús in Arequipa has absolutely intricately carved columns made from the white sillar stone. It's easy to miss the entrance to this: it's to the left of the church, between the shops! The monastery of La Compania Jesus in Arequipa has three connected courtyards - beautiful, and calm to wander through and browse the alpaca wool shops.

Businesses in Historic Buildings

Like La Compañía de Jesús Monastery, many of the historic buildings of Arequipa are used by current businesses rather than being conserved as museums.

One of these is the BBVA bank, just off the plaza, which operates out of an historic building with 3 courtyards. It is also home to an interesting, small museum. It feels kind of strange to wander around this beautiful place while people are conducting their banking business in a variety of offices, edging the courtyards.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
The front courtyard of the BBVA Bank in Arequipa (which has a stunning entrance gate!). It's a good use of a colonial building; you will find it in the pedestrian street to the right of the cathedral. This is one of the courtyards of the BBVA Bank in Arequipa. You're free to wander in. They even have a public exhibition. One of the many beautiful, sillar stone framed entrances in Arequipa; this one is for some kind of government office. One of the many beautiful, sillar stone framed entrances in Arequipa; this one is of a hotel.

Other historic buildings house government offices, shopping centres, hotels, restaurants – in fact, any business you’re looking for in the historic centre may be found in an original building.

Arequipa’s Museums

We didn’t visit many museums, but there are plenty to be had in this historic city.

By far the most famous and popular is the Santa Catalina Convent. Our first visit to Arequipa in 2008 was short, but we spent a good portion of it in this amazing city within the city. It covers a whole city block – more than 2 hectares. It once housed 450 nuns, and their servants, who lived in complete seclusion. The women who lived there experienced freedom and autonomy that was not available to them outside the walls at that time. The Convent has been restored in part, and today’s nuns live in a separated section. The rest has been opened up to the public, in order to ensure its conservation.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
So many photogenic vistas inside the Santa Catalina convent - here in white and blue. The Santa Catalina convent is one of the main tourist attractions of Arequipa. This time we took a guided tour and actually learned a lot - recommended! So many photogenic vistas inside the Santa Catalina convent - here in white and red. So many photogenic vistas inside the Santa Catalina convent - here in red with a chapel at the end. So many photogenic vistas inside the Santa Catalina convent - a small plaza with a stair leading to the next level. One of the main kitchens of the Santa Catalina convent. In the room in the back you can spot an indoor well (see the bucket on the rope?). Inside of one of the nun's quarters. Beds were always set into an alcove to offer more protection in case of one of the frequent earth quakes. Some nuns had servants, others took in novices, so you often find two sleeping places in one house. There are also several exhibitions of religious art inside the Santa Catalina convent. This is one of the streets inside the Santa Catalina convent. The houses were financed by the nuns' families and individually built, hence such different styles.

On our third visit to Arequipa, with Bron and Bob in January , we visited the Convent for a second time and found it just as enjoyable as the first time; wandering along the cobbled streets and through the buildings. This time we took a guide, which gave us a lot more information. But it also made it a bit too fast, particularly for Juergen, who likes to take his time and photograph at leisure. It is a relaxing place to be, away from the noise and bustle of the city outside. I imagine the lives of the women to have been peaceful and comfortable.

Another museum, which really piqued Bob’s interest, is the Museo Santuarios Andinos. It is housed in the Casa de la Cultura and operated by the Universidad Católica de Santa María. This is home to the famous mummy they named Juanita. She was discovered in 1995, frozen on the side of the Ampato Volcano. It has been learned that she was some sort of sacrifice made to Ampato by the Incans. If you want the full story, the visit to the museum is by guided tour and the history is very interesting. To Bob’s great disappointment, Juanita was on holiday, down in the laboratory, and another mummy was on display in her place. It was still a very enlightening experience, and to be recommended as part of a visit to the historical centre of Arequipa.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
The outside of the Museo Santuarios Andinos, home to 'Juanita', a surprisingly well preserved mummy, which was found frozen in the Andes in 1995. Inside no cameras or smart phones are permitted. Casa del Moral, one of the many mansions in Arequipa, is open to the public. It gives a glimpse into the splendid past of this city. The courtyard of Casa del Moral in Arequipa is painted in the same striking colour scheme as the Santa Catalina convent. The dining room of Casa del Moral in Arequipa.

There are many old mansions in the historic city centre. We chose to visit the Casa del Moral because it is recommended as the best preserved example in Arequipa. Like many Spanish colonial buildings, it is built around a courtyard. The rooms are furnished with many original pieces, and it really gives a feeling of the times for those who lived in the comfort that wealth brings.

Is Arequipa the Most Beautiful City in Peru?

There is no doubt that Arequipa is a beautiful city. It is certainly worthy of its place on the World Heritage List. It has many, very impressive churches, besides those mentioned here. All of the buildings in the historic centre are worth a second look. When I walk through this city, I feel myself reacting to its beauty, and sometimes it just stops me in my tracks.

Santa Catalina is not the only convent in Arequipa. This is the San Francisco convent, which is not usually open to the public, except for the church for mass.

Santa Catalina is not the only convent in Arequipa. This is the San Francisco convent, which is not usually open to the public, except for the church for mass.

Google ‘colonial cities in Peru’, and the list is Cusco, Arequipa, Trujillo, Lima, Cajamarca and Ayacucho. Of these Cajamarca is the only one we haven’t visited – yet.

Based on this, I think Arequipa is the most beautiful colonial city we have been to in Peru.

What do you think? Have you been to Peru? Have you been to Arequipa?
Tell us in the comments below.

We think that Arequipa might be the most beautiful city in Peru. The historic centre is UNESCO World Heritage listed for its colonial houses. Most are built from locally quarried white sillar stone, even the painted ones. It certainly doesn't look or feel like the second largest city of Peru - until you hit a traffic jam at the fringe of the city... See our gallery post for a list of Arequipa's main attractions!

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Out of the Ordinary: Travelling with Family in Peru http://dare2go.com/travelling-with-family-peru/ http://dare2go.com/travelling-with-family-peru/#comments Sun, 12 Feb 2017 18:56:36 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5620 Travelling overland with family visitors can be logistically difficult. Here’s how we managed it with my sister and her husband, Bron & Bob, for 3 weeks in Peru.

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It’s exciting when close friends or family members want to come and visit us on our overland journey. They want a taste of our life – to share our day to day experiences. It’s not always easy to work out how best to do this in a limited time, but we have managed it twice before and now for a third time. My sister Bron, and her husband Bob, live on a narrow boat cruising the canals of England . This certainly gives them some understanding of the nomadic lifestyle.

For 3 weeks, my sister and husband travelled with us in Peru

For 3 weeks, my sister and her husband travelled with us in Peru

When they told us in October that they would visit in January, the first thing we needed to work out was where we were likely to be at that time. Predicting our future movements is always a bit iffy for us but we finally worked out that we could possibly be in Cusco at that time. That was good for them because they had always wanted to visit Machu Picchu.

Once that decision was made, we set about planning how to make it all happen. Juergen suggested they fly into Cusco and out of Arequipa. This would give the opportunity to spend time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas; travel to Puno and visit Lake Titicaca; and then on to Arequipa to experience the wonderful sites of this World Heritage city.

Our overland camper isn’t big enough to sleep 4 people – we wouldn’t have lasted 3 days, let alone 3 weeks if we’d tried. So all planning included the necessity of finding suitable overnight accommodation for Bron & Bob.

Here’s how it all worked out.


Pisac - Beautiful Doña Clorinda. Mati, the owner, told us all to feel at home – and we did.

Pisac – Beautiful Doña Clorinda. Mati, the owner, told us all to feel at home – and we did.

Pisac – Restaurante Doña Clorinda

In December, on the way to Cusco, we spent a couple of nights in Pisac, parked outside a restaurant. We decided to look around for a place to stay because Pisac (at 3000m) would be more comfortable than Cusco (at 3400m) for travellers flying into altitude they are not used to. It turned out that the restaurant also had guest rooms.

The day they arrived we headed directly to Pisac. Our first trip together in Berta was scenic but short – around 30Km. Bron and I sat in the camper; Bob up front in the cab. Everyone arrived feeling none the worse for the trip, and we settled in for 3 nights in Pisac.

Pisac Artisanal market - Bron could have shopped for hours

Pisac Artisanal market – Bron could have shopped for hours

We wandered around the city, shopped in the artisanal market and gave them the opportunity to experience a totally different culture up close. The Pisac ruin site was our first place on the Boleto Turístico del Cusco. This is a new idea since our 2008 visit to the Sacred Valley. For S/.130 you can visit 14 historic sites and museums in and around Cusco. It is valid for 10 days. [See our separate post about visiting the sights in the Sacred Valley .]

Pisac Inca ruins – this first ruin site excited the interest of our visitors

Pisac Inca ruins – this first ruin site excited the interest of our visitors

The hospitality at Doña Clorinda was wonderful and we had two dinners there that were excellent – home-cooked Peruvian specialities. Bron & Bob were of the opinion that this place would be hard to beat. The fact that we could stay in our camper, just outside the gate, made it very convenient.


Ollantaytambo – Hotel T’ika Wasi

We left Pisac, our guests well-rested and as acclimatised as was possible, to drive the almost 100Km to Ollantaytambo. This is the stepping off point for Machu Picchu. We had decided not to go again, and had arranged for Bron & Bob to go by train to Aguas Calientes. They would stay overnight and visit the ruin site very early the next morning, before returning to us later that day.

When we arrived in Ollantaytambo, we drove directly to the large parking lot, right on the edge of town. It is primarily for tourist and local buses, but anyone can park there. They also allow overlanders to stay there overnight. From there we walked towards the centre of town and found a hotel for Bron & Bob, less than 2 minutes from where we were parked. The Hotel T’ika Wasi is modern and comfortable; the staff are very friendly and Bron & Bob were able to leave their luggage there while they took the train to Machu Picchu the next day.

Ollantaytambo 3 Kings Festival – we enjoyed it while our visitors went to Machu Picchu

Ollantaytambo 3 Kings Festival – we enjoyed it while our visitors went to Machu Picchu

We were far from bored waiting for them in Ollantaytambo. By sheer coincidence we had arrived just in time for the annual Three Kings Festival. The streets were filled with colourfully dressed locals, who flock in from all around for this important celebration. There was music and dancing in the streets; holy figures carried in procession; and even a bullfight.

Ollantaytambo Inca ruins – it’s a climb up, but the sisters thought it was well worth the effort

Ollantaytambo Inca ruins – it’s a climb up, but the sisters thought it was well worth the effort

The Inca ruin site in Ollantaytambo is impressive, and the morning is the best time to visit – before the crowds arrive. It’s quite a climb to the top, but the rewards are worth it; walls with some of the biggest individual stones to be seen anywhere.

That afternoon we drove on to Urubamba – on our way back to Cusco.


Urubamba – a beautiful lodge to stay at, especially if feeling unwell

Urubamba – a beautiful lodge to stay at, especially if feeling unwell

Urubamba – Wayqey Lodge

Our plan was to stay 2 nights in this town, and visit the Archaeological Complex of Moray and the Salinera de Maras. But we all know about “the best laid plans…”

Bron and I had both woken that morning with the beginnings of a chest cold. We had managed to climb the Ollantaytambo site but, by the time we reached Urubamba, we were fading fast. We were very lucky to be directed to the Wayqey Lodge, because it became our home (and infirmary) for the next 5 days!

They had agreed to let us park the truck in their parking area and stay in it. Bron & Bob were given spacious accommodations, which included a downstairs kitchen/dining/living area and 2 bedrooms upstairs. When they realised we were both ill, they suggested I should also spend my time in the apartment ‘where it’s warm and there’s a TV’. Bob became the chief cook and sometimes nurse to us both, and Juergen was able to sleep undisturbed for the best part of 2 days in the camper when he also succumbed to the virus.

Chinchero archaeological site and church – we were recuperating but managed the uphill climb

Chinchero archaeological site and church – we were recuperating but managed the uphill climb

It was unfortunate to become ill during this limited time together, but we made the best of it. At least we were together.


Cusco – the Niños Hotel has a beautiful courtyard for relaxing

Cusco – the Niños Hotel has a beautiful courtyard for relaxing

Cusco – Niños Hotel

Although we were still recuperating, we decided it was time to leave our cocoon, and venture out into the world again, even on wobbly legs. On the way to Cusco we visited the agricultural site of Moray and Maras salt pans. We were happy not to have missed these impressive sites.

Then we stopped in the village of Chinchero and made a valiant effort to climb up to the archaeological site there. We took it very slowly and were pleased we actually made it. Moray and Chinchero are also included in the Boleto Turístico del Cusco. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get our money’s worth because this was the last of our 10 days validity.

The Niños Hotel (Children’s Hotel) is a convenient and comfortable place to stay, within walking distance of Plaza de Armas and other sights in the historic centre. It is in a lovely old building with an interior courtyard. All the profits from the hotel are fed into a foundation, created by the Dutch owner to care for street children in Cusco.

Cusco – Plaza de Armas at the centre of the World Heritage listed historic centre

Cusco – Plaza de Armas at the centre of the World Heritage listed historic centre

Originally we had planned to spend around 5 days in Cusco, but we reduced it to 3. We needed to get to Puno, and on to Arequipa. But we managed to see a lot in those few days. We walked slowly and rested often. The historic centre of Cusco is on the World Heritage list, and certainly earns its place there.


Sicuani – Hotel Wilkamayu

When we left Cusco we had reached the end of the second week of their 3 week visit. From there to Puno is almost 400Km. We simply cannot drive that distance in Berta in one day. Fortunately there are some towns along this route with hotels. We chose Sicuani because it’s probably the largest town, and it’s getting close to the halfway point.

Cusco – Pikillaqti is interesting to visit because it’s a pre-Inca site

Cusco – Pikillaqti is interesting to visit because it’s a pre-Inca site

We visited a couple of interesting historic sites on our way. Pikillaqta is the only pre-Inca site of any importance near Cusco, dating from 700-900AD. It was included in our expired Boleto Turístico del Cusco, but Juergen and Bob managed to get in to look at the site because the security guard seemed to be on a lunch break!

Raqchi is about 110Km from Cusco. It’s an Incan site with many different aspects: the Temple of Wiracocha, living quarters, and many large, circular stone structures believed to be storehouses. There is also a town square of the present town of Raqchi, which has a lovely stone church. The square is full of artisanal stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs for tourists.

Raqchi – a stopping place for travelling Incas, and also an interesting stop for visitors between Cusco and Puno

Raqchi – a stopping place for travelling Incas, and also an interesting stop for visitors between Cusco and Puno

The Hotel Wlikamayu was a brilliant find in Sicuani. We had almost given up on finding it when Juergen asked a moto-taxi driver. He then led us right to it – for a small fee. The hotel is lovely and it has a huge parking lot in the back where we could spend the night in Berta.


Hostal Casablanca in Puno - another hotel in Peru, which also provides facilities for overlanders

Hostal Casablanca in Puno – another hotel in Peru, which also provides facilities for overlanders

Uros Floating Islands – the women create beautiful handmade articles for sale to visitors

Uros Floating Islands – the women create beautiful handmade articles for sale to visitors

 

Puno – Hostal Casablanca

Another 250Km and we arrived in Puno. This hostal is about 20Km past Puno, but it offers facilities to overlanders as well as hotel rooms. It was another good solution for us. We only stayed 2 nights, giving us the day between to visit the floating islands.

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and South America’s largest lake. But the main reason people visit is to experience the Uros Floating islands. They are made from reeds, which grow abundantly in the lake and are moored to sticks sunk into the bed in more shallow parts.

The islands that accept visitors are well organised for tourists, but that doesn’t stop the people from being welcoming and open. They share information on their life-style and activities, invite you into their homes and happily answer questions. Bob asked our host what happens if there is an argument among the people living together on an island. She explained, in Spanish, that they cut the island to set free the problem part and “hasta la vista, baby”. Due to her hand signals, there was no need for me to translate the answer! In return for their hospitality they really like you to buy some of their handcrafts – Bron was very happy to comply.

Lake Titicaca – Bron & Bob really enjoyed visiting the unique culture of the Uros Floating Islands

Lake Titicaca – Bron & Bob really enjoyed visiting the unique culture of the Uros Floating Islands


Yura – Hospedaje Juanita

From Puno to Arequipa is more than 300Km, with no possibility of a town large enough for a hotel along the way. This would be our longest drive on the trip with our guests. When we left Arequipa in December, we spent 3 days in Yura. This town is famous for its cement works, but also its thermal baths.

We knew there was a place for us to park and a small hotel just nearby, so we decided to make this our goal and drive the last 30Km into the city the next morning. The hotel wasn’t the most salubrious of the trip, but it was ok for the night and we were happy to have a refreshed driver to take us on our final leg of this journey.


Arequipa – Hostal Las Mercedes is an overlanders’ favourite, but it also has lovely rooms for visiting family

Arequipa – Hostal Las Mercedes is an overlanders’ favourite, but it also has lovely rooms for visiting family

Arequipa – Hostal Las Mercedes

The last 4 nights of their visit was spent in the lovely Hostal Las Mercedes. Bron & Bob were most impressed with their room and the helpful, friendly staff. This is also a place that has facilities for overlanders and it was our 3rd stay here.

Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and probably the most beautiful . Its historic centre is extensive and many of the buildings are made from the locally quarried sillar stone – a white, porous, volcanic rock. It gives the city its nickname: La Ciudad Blanca (the white city). It is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Santa Catalina Convent in Arequipa is a ‘must-see’. There’s colour & history at every turn.

The Santa Catalina Convent in Arequipa is a ‘must-see’. There’s colour & history at every turn.

As well as just wandering around and enjoying the beautiful buildings, we visited the Monasteria de Santa Catalina, Museo Santuarios Andinos, Casa del Moral, and the Cathedral. We also went shopping. Bron and I had recently received a small inheritance from our mother and we decided to treat ourselves with a ‘present from mum’. Bron and I got beautiful jackets and Bob and Juergen both found pullovers – all from lovely soft alpaca wool. Thanks Mum!

Arequipa – visiting Casa del Moral, an historic mansion, Bob found his ideal spot

Arequipa – visiting Casa del Moral, an historic mansion, Bob found his ideal spot

We had a very unfortunate experience in that Bob’s bag with his camera and accessories was stolen. The most disappointing thing about it was the loss of all of his photos from our time together. But we all made the best we could of it, helping him find a new camera the same day – which he is very pleased with. We also gave him all the photos we had taken during the time. Thankfully, Bron also has some photos she took on her phone.

Despite this, everyone agreed that Arequipa made a beautiful ending to this incredible journey.


The Arequipa Cathedral is one of the most beautiful we have seen. At night it is especially lovely, bathed in light.

The Arequipa Cathedral is one of the most beautiful we have seen. At night it is especially lovely, bathed in light.

Goodbye

This trip was successful in so many ways.
Bron and I got to spend a lot of time together – sometimes just being. We sat in the camper together on most of the drives, while Bob sat up front with Juergen.
We had no real problems finding suitable places for us to park and for them to get a room; even when we were sick, the perfect place manifested.
Bron & Bob got a good taste of what our life is like.
I suppose now we must get to England and check out what their life is like. I promise we won’t stay for more than 3 weeks!

So what did Bron and Bob think of our shared journey in Southern Peru?

Our long awaited catch up starting in Cusco Peru, more than lived up to expectation. Despite the shared illness and a little bit of altitude sickness, we filled our three short weeks with some amazing sights, easy travel, diverse and welcoming accommodation, delightful food, and lasting good memories. Yasha and Juergen showed us a beautiful part of Peru and were absolutely the best hosts. How lucky are we!?!?

Travelling in a purpose-built overland vehicle with extra family visitors can be logistically difficult. Here’s how we managed it with my sister and her husband, Bron & Bob, for 3 weeks in Peru. We visited the Sacred Valley, Lake Titikaka, and the World Heritage city Arequipa.

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Unexpected Delight for Bird Watchers: the Ite Wetlands http://dare2go.com/ite-wetlands-bird-watchers-delight/ http://dare2go.com/ite-wetlands-bird-watchers-delight/#comments Sat, 04 Feb 2017 21:24:13 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5587 The Ite wetlands in South Peru are an unexpected delight for bird watchers. In the middle of a bone-dry landscape you will find thousands of water birds.

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Seemingly endless sections of the coastal highway in Peru can be rather dull and boring. It’s an extremely arid landscape. Everything is bone-dry and dusty – nothing but endless sand and rocks. And then, driving around a bend, you suddenly sit up in surprise! Ahead you notice patches of juicy green amidst a wetland extending as far as you can see. And thousands of birds. Welcome to Ite, which seems to be one conservation project gone right!

Overview of only a part of the Ite wetlands; they stretch much further! The white dots on the far left are where the museum is located.

Overview of only a part of the Ite wetlands; they stretch much further! The white dots on the far left are where the museum is located.

You see, these wetlands are man-made. Until 1996, tailings from two inland copper mines were flushed, through specially built channels, to be deposited along the coast. Then an applaudable remediation process was initiated. This resulted in the rehabilitation and management of the area, some 1,300 hectares, and the creation of these wetlands – now the largest along the coast of Peru.

The Ite wetlands have quickly become an important habitat for over 120 species of birds (others have counted over 140). Many of them live there permanently; others use the wetlands as a seasonal breeding ground or a migration stop. Some of the birds, which find refuge at Ite, are listed as endangered. Now the old tailings have become a bird watchers’ paradise.

When we visited in late January, we saw more flamingoes here than anywhere else! Usually you see flamingoes in high altitudes of the Andean mountains, where they live in lagoons and some of the shallow waterways meandering through the plateaus of the Altiplano. But never more than maybe two or three dozen in one place; in Ite we saw hundreds (it could have been a thousand plus).

Ite wetlands: cormorants in the foreground, one egret (but there are many more), flamingoes, and many other birds.

Ite wetlands: cormorants in the foreground, one egret (but there are many more), flamingoes, and many other birds.

We’re not birdwatchers per se, and we are certainly no experts at identifying unusual bird species. Nevertheless, we stayed several days to watch the birdlife at the Ite wetlands. It was simply a lovely spot to be, and peaceful to watch.

One thing, which was a little disappointing, was the fact that we only got mediocre photos. For wild- and bird-life photography we would need a longer zoom lens. When I walked down to the shore of the wetlands I still couldn’t get close enough for outstanding photos. First of all the edge of the wetland is really muddy, and your feet sink in very deeply, so you have to keep some distance. But foremost, the birds are extremely shy when humans approach. Grazing sheep can be less than 10 metres away but, as soon as any human comes closer than 50 metres, they all take flight.

As soon as one comes closer to the flamingoes they all take off.

As soon as one comes closer to the flamingoes they all take off.

There is also (what’s called) a ‘Museum’ complex at the southern section of the Ite wetlands. When we wanted to visit, on a Tuesday, it was closed. Next to it is a large park, with mostly ‘creative concrete’ structures, and several viewing towers. Unfortunately, when we visited, there wasn’t much to see here as all the birdlife congregated towards the northern end of the wetlands.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
This is what most of the landscape along the coast looks like: sand and rocks, nothing is growing. The 'museum' building sits at the south end of the town of Ite, overlooking the centre of the wetlands. Part of the park, next to the Ite Wetlands Museum, with a large concrete flamingo. There are several viewing towers in the park next to the museum.

Our tips to visit Ite’s wetlands – from an overlander point of view

The Ite wetlands are between Ilo and Tacna in South Peru, roughly 120 kilometres north of the border with Chile.

  1. Best bring a long zoom lens and/or some decent binoculars!
  2. Don’t forget sun protection as there is no shade anywhere!
  3. If you don’t want to spend several days consider spending at least a night! We parked, overlooking the wetlands with all the birds, at -71:0.78552, -17:52.6189 . This place gets some breeze and is fairly quiet; overnight there’s not much traffic on the nearby highway.
  4. Further north you find the Las Lagunas de Mejia, another important wetland for birdwatchers.
Links

A short case study about the remediation work at Ite
The Cornell Lab surveying the south coast of Peru (many local species named)
An Arequipa tour company offering birding trips to Ite

This is an Unexpected Delight for Bird Watchers in Peru: the Ite Coastal Wetlands. There are literally thousands of birds, many of which are endangered. These wetlands are between Ilo and Tacna in the south of Peru, roughly 120 kilometres from the border with Chile.

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Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Ite wetlands: three flamingoes lined up. Ite wetlands: most of the time it's difficult to catch the birds sitting still. Here are thousands in flight. Ite wetlands: we suspect that the group, in the middle of this photo, are flamingoes breeding. Ite wetlands: flamingoes near the shore.

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The Sacred Valley in Peru Now and Then (2008) http://dare2go.com/the-sacred-valley-peru/ http://dare2go.com/the-sacred-valley-peru/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2017 21:50:28 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5554 The Sacred Valley in Peru, gateway to Machu Picchu, is a beautiful rural area. We explored the famous Inca ruins, at our own pace, with Bron & Bob (visiting from England).

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This was one of the occasions during our current trip, when we went back to what should have been ‘familiar territory’: the region around Cusco in Peru, better known as the Sacred Valley. We spent longer there than expected in 2008 , mostly because both of us became sick with a chest infection. Guess what? Unfortunately, the same happened this time – although we knew better and left more quickly.

The Sacred Valley, the gateway to Machu Picchu in Peru, has changed a fair bit since our first visit in 2008.

The Sacred Valley, the gateway to Machu Picchu in Peru, has changed a fair bit since our first visit in 2008.

Other than that, we were surprised by how much had changed in a little over 8 years. Of course, the famous Inca ruins are still standing and look the same! Let’s hope they remain that way. It’s the surrounds that have changed. The popularity of Machu Picchu, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Moray, the Salinaras, the entire Inca circuit, has led to an influx of tourists we hadn’t expected.

In 2008 we stopped for this vista of a snow-capped mountain on the border between the Cusco and Puno provinces.

In 2008 we stopped for this vista of a snow-capped mountain on the border between the Cusco and Puno provinces.

Same spot, on the border between the Cusco and Puno provinces, in 2017: all craft stalls are set up waiting for buyers.

Same spot, on the border between the Cusco and Puno provinces, in 2017: all craft stalls are set up waiting for buyers.

 

But it’s not only the Sacred Valley where we noticed the change in Peru. As soon as we arrived in Tacna from Chile, we stood in a traffic jam. That wouldn’t have happened in 2008. Back then we noticed in rural regions that we could hardly ever get off the road – there simply weren’t any side tracks or driveways because not many people owned private vehicles. Now you see thousands of little hatchbacks whizzing around in every town, with some serious SUVs added to the mix.

On our way to the Sacred Valley we stopped in Arequipa, a town we remembered well from our last trip. It had also changed: the narrow streets were choked with traffic, the air laden with exhaust fumes. Not the Peru we remembered from last time! The country is blessed with a relatively stable economy, a low inflation rate, and many people finally seem to earn enough for ‘western consumer goods’; cars and smart phones tend to be on top of the wish list (and who can blame them?).

In 2008 we visited in September, which is the middle of the dry season: everything was golden brown. Now, in the beginning of the rain season, freshly planted fields were all lush and green.

In 2008 we visited in September, which is the middle of the dry season: everything was golden brown. Now, in the beginning of the rain season, freshly planted fields were all lush and green.

Our main reason for revisiting the Sacred Valley was that Yasha’s sister and her husband came to join us for 3 weeks in January. How exciting – specially for Yasha! January is not the best time to visit the mountains of Peru as the rain season is slowly settling in. On the plus side it means that it’s ‘low season’, so you don’t need to book everything long in advance and visitor numbers should be down.

Yasha and her sister Bron posing as 'locals' in Pisac. They certainly had some fun together...

Yasha and her sister Bron posing as ‘locals’ in Pisac. They certainly had some fun together…

But that’s where we encountered our first surprise: in 2008 we stayed for most of September, a month now considered ‘peak season’ for Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Yet back then we perceived most places as less crowded than now, in ‘low season’. We don’t even like to imagine what it would be like to visit during high season…

Fortunately for travellers like us, with their own transport, there are simple steps to avoid the main crowds. We would seriously recommend that you bypass most main tour operators and (if you don’t have your own transport and your budget permits) hire a car or a car with driver.

Some of the well preserved Inca terraces at the ruin site of Pisac. In the background, part of the town.

Some of the well preserved Inca terraces at the ruin site of Pisac. In the background, part of the town.

You see, almost all organised tours adhere to much the same time table: they leave Cusco in the morning and drive along the same main attractions (almost in a convoy), visiting the same highlights around the same time! In the evening they either return to Cusco, or drop off their passengers in Ollantaytambo to catch a late train to Aguas Calientes, the base village for Machu Picchu.


Best Times of Day to Visit Sacred Valley Attractions

Let me list the individual attractions and the best time to visit (from our experience):

  1. Pisac Ruins: after lunchtime you can visit this site in peace and quiet.
    We arrived around midday, a tad too early, as the site was just emptying. I had to park far away from the entrance, below a long line of buses. By 2pm the parking attendants, who were previously directing traffic, had left because there wasn’t anything for them to do. During most of our visit we shared the large site with maybe 20-30 other visitors – not 20-30 bus loads.
  2. Ollantaytambo Ruins: here the morning (up to lunchtime) is the best time to visit.
    In the afternoon the steep stair leading up to the main complex resembles, from a distance, a colourful line of (human) ants rushing up and down. In the morning the visitor numbers were similarly low as in Pisac.
  3. Moray and the Salinera de Maras: afternoon (or possibly early in the morning).
    We went first to the terraced circles of Moray and then drove on to the Salinera. At Moray there was some constant coming and going, groups arriving and leaving. Overall it didn’t feel too crowded. When we arrived at the Salinera, around 12:30, there wasn’t any room in the parking lot and we had to wait. Later, around 2pm, half the lot was empty.
  4. Machu Picchu: it’s certainly better to stay the night before in Aguas Calientes and rise early to visit the ruins – before the first trains from Cusco bring in the day visitors.
  5. Chinchero: we visited in the mid afternoon and the place felt almost ‘sleepy’.
    There was one mini bus parked in the lot.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
One of the old Inca gates in Pisac; note the beautifully curved bit of the wall on the left. The main complex of the Inca ruins in Pisac, as seen from some fortifications near the entrance. The terraces at Moray, all arranged in circle shapes, are thought to have been some agricultural experimental site of the Incas. We noticed the biggest change at the Salinera de Maras: now you have to pay S./10 entrance fee and you see nobody working the salt flats anymore. In 2008, when it was free to enter, we saw a lot of work activity.

When you know individual places from earlier, you will notice many other differences too. For example, the craft market in Pisac has expanded to almost triple its previous size. A lot more products seems to be mass-produced (we heard rumours that some now come from China) and it’s more difficult to find anything truly unique to buy. There’s also a larger ex-pat community permanently living in this small town.

We were totally surprised to find how much the craft market in Pisac had expanded since our last visit - and now it's open every day!

We were totally surprised to find how much the craft market in Pisac had expanded since our last visit – and now it’s open every day!

All towns and villages now have many more tourist facilities, restaurants and accommodation; the latter seem to cover a much broader price range, from simple hostels to truly exclusive 4 or 5 star resorts. For us this was good, because we needed a suitable room for Bron and Bob with the option to park our large truck on the same property (or nearby).

We were particularly lucky in Ollantaytambo, where we spent several days whilst Bron and Bob visited Machu Picchu (we’d been in 2008, and once is enough). We happened to arrive for the annual ‘Bajada de Reyes’ [Three Kings’ Day in English, or Heilige Drei Könige in German]. These are very unique celebrations, for which countless people arrive from the surrounding hills, all dressed in their native costumes. The celebrations in Ollantaytambo are said to be the most colourful in all of Peru. The weather wasn’t very cooperative, but we managed to get quite a lot of beautiful photos.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Our first encounter with people celebrating 'Bajada de Reyes' in Ollantaytambo was this group parading around the plaza. Spactators during 'Bajada de Reyes' celebrations in Ollantaytambo. Some of these later carried the town saint through the alleys. A spectacular performance during the 'Bajada de Reyes' celebrations in Ollantaytambo: these guys whipped each other in a formalised dance routine. Another group roaming the streets during the 'Bajada de Reyes' celebrations in Ollantaytambo.

Another difference we noticed, was during our stay at the Quinta Lala Camping in Cusco. In 2008 we frequently sat in a large group of overlanders, in the middle of the lawn, chatting and sharing a meal and travel stories. This time the social interaction among fellow travellers was much more subdued (or non-existent). I don’t know if that’s because so many more people are now overlanding the Pan-Americana. It’s nothing unique anymore, there are many online groups available to share tips, so there’s less reason to sit together and discuss your experiences.

When we stayed in 2008 at Quinta Lala, the campground of Cusco, there was a lot of social interaction between overlanders.

When we stayed in 2008 at Quinta Lala, the campground of Cusco, there was a lot of social interaction between overlanders.

When we stayed now, 2017, at Quinta Lala for most of the time the visiting overlanders preferred to do their 'own thing'.

When we stayed now, 2017, at Quinta Lala for most of the time the visiting overlanders preferred to do their ‘own thing’.

 

Around the World Heritage listed historic centre Cusco has also grown – a lot. To the south there’s now a suburb full of modern shops and a real shopping mall. The steep hills surrounding the city are now densely stacked with new residential developments; often there isn’t room left for real roads going into these, but only narrow tracks and seemingly endless staircases connecting the layers.

Our final observation: you see mobile towers everywhere – quite unsightly monster towers, often within plain view or as a backdrop to ancient Inca ruins. Well, we keep using the local Claro network for our updates and other things, so who are we to complain?

From 2008 to now Cusco has grown considerably - mostly up the steep hills.

From 2008 to now Cusco has grown considerably – mostly up the steep hills.

Mobile phone towers dominate the sky above Cusco (and elsewhere of course).

Mobile phone towers dominate the sky above Cusco (and elsewhere of course).

 
There is one saving grace for Cusco and the Sacred Valley: the vast majority of locals are really friendly. You never feel overly hassled, despite countless street vendors and touts. It’s this friendliness of the people that made our stay most enjoyable! Let’s hope this won’t change as more and more tourists arrive.

The Sacred Valley in Peru is the gateway to the famous Machu Picchu ruins. It's a beautiful rural area, dotted with interesting Inca ruins and other sights, which invite you to explore them at your own pace. We have included a list of times when it's best to see individual attractions. Read our post for more!

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The Sacred Valley in Peru is the gateway to the famous Machu Picchu ruins. It's a beautiful rural area, dotted with interesting Inca ruins and other sights, which invite you to explore them at your own pace. We have included a list of times when it's best to see individual attractions. Read our post for more!

PIN THIS for later!

 

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9 Impressions from the Road in the Last Year http://dare2go.com/9-impressions-from-the-road/ http://dare2go.com/9-impressions-from-the-road/#respond Wed, 25 Jan 2017 16:58:35 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5513 Sometimes little things leave the most profound impressions. Here are 9 titbits, mostly from Brazil, which stay with us as lasting memories from road in 2016.

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It’s often the little things which make or break an overland trip. When we write regular blog posts we tend to report about major destinations and sights. Thus little things sometimes aren’t reported because they don’t relate to any topic we write about. At the end of last year I published a post about things we hadn’t written about . Here I add a number of photos depicting small impressions, which stayed with us from last year.


1. Brazil is a Rice Growing Nation

We were surprised to find enormous rice fields in the south of Brazil, particularly in Rio Grande do Sul. We have since learned that, after Asian countries, Brazil is the biggest rice growing nation in the world – even though you don’t often find much Brazilian labelled rice outside the country. The south seems to be especially suited since much of the low lying land is naturally under water for much of the year.

For most of our stay we bought excellent Brazilian rice everywhere, even locally produced Arborio rice. That was until we were about to leave the country, and bought our last 5-kilo bag, which is of inferior quality to all other rice we had previously bought in Brazil…

One of the many rice fields we drove past in southern Brazil.

One of the many rice fields we drove past in southern Brazil.


2. The Small City of Curitiba is a World-wide Model for Town Planning

When we drove into Curitiba, we immediately noticed two things: the traffic was comparatively light, and the middle lanes of most roads are reserved for buses. Later we took in more details, like the long tube shaped bus stations and that buses have their own traffic lights on many intersections, giving them instant right of way.

Faced with rapid growth in the 60s and 70s, the town planners embarked on a project called BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), modelled as an above-ground public transport system. Now over 70% of Curitiba’s population is using the town’s public transport to commute to and from work. The enormous length of their buses (the longest in the world!) reflect the popularity of Curitiba’s BRT. For a deeper insight we recommend the following 2 articles:

Curitiba Bus System is Model for Rapid Transit
The Guardian on “how radical ideas turned Curitiba into Brazil’s ‘green capital’”

The middle lanes of all wide avenues in Curitiba are reserved for buses; note the length of this bus!

The middle lanes of all wide avenues in Curitiba are reserved for buses; note the length of this bus!


3. First of all, we are all Brazilians

We don’t want to portray things through rose-coloured glasses, but we gained the impression (as outsiders) that the racial divide is of lower significance in Brazil than in many other countries. We often watched people of different racial roots getting together to celebrate, have a drink, or share a vacation trip. Workplaces are almost always shared by people of different races.

This photo, taken in Pomerode (the self-proclaimed “kleines Deutschland” ), shows what we experienced many times over: kids of obviously different racial roots all happily pulling along the same path.

Multi-racial pre-school kids wandering past our camper in Pomerode, Brazil.

Multi-racial pre-school kids wandering past our camper in Pomerode, Brazil.


4. If you can eat it you can buy it at a Buffet – by the Kilogram

Even though we don’t eat out very often, we loved the Brazilian ‘per kilogram’ buffet style restaurants and other eating places. From our last trip we still remembered vividly the ice cream buffets, where you can pick as many flavours as you fancy. They usually have a huge selection – more than ordinary ice cream parlours (40+ flavours is not unusual!). You don’t necessarily end up with a large portion because you serve yourself, hence you might take only a teaspoon full of some flavours, a little more of your favourite ones. When you think you have enough you walk to the check-out counter, place your bowl on the scales, and pay for the weight of it.

Pistache in Ubatuba: one of the ice cream parlours selling by the kilogram (though: in this one, an exception, no self-service).

Pistache in Ubatuba: one of the ice cream parlours selling by the kilogram (though: in this one, an exception, no self-service).

We also had Sushi twice from a buffet (yum – you get to taste so many more roll combinations) and once, cake per kilo in Pomerode at the German ‘Tortenhaus’.

Part of the cake buffet at the 'Tortenhaus' in Pomerode: you can try as many cakes as you like (and can pay later).

Part of the cake buffet at the ‘Tortenhaus’ in Pomerode: you can try as many cakes as you like (and can pay later).


5. The ‘Namoradeiras’ – Flirting Women Busts in the Windows

They seem to originate from Minas Gerais , but now you can find the little ‘Flirts’ (translation of their name) all over Brazil. Most are dark skinned women, but once or twice I saw light skinned Namoradeiras with blonde hair. They almost always sit in an open window looking at you… The internet doesn’t provide much information about their history (maybe you’ll be more successful).

Older Namoradeiras were often carved from wood; now they are mostly made from clay. Almost all are still hand-decorated. You can find them in glossy glazing or matt, like these ones (which I like better). If you ever want to bring me a typical present from Brazil: one like these would make me very happy!

Three typical Namoradeiras for sale in craft shop in Pirenópolis, Brazil.

Three typical Namoradeiras for sale in craft shop in Pirenópolis, Brazil.


6. Astonishing Trees which Make You Stop in Your Tracks

When we drove past this tree in Pirenópolis, I literally slammed my foot on the brake to have closer look. I know some trees from Australia which have flowers up their central stem, but nothing as spectacular as the ‘Couroupita Guianensis’ , commonly known as ‘Cannonball Tree’ thanks to its fruit.

This tree, a relative of the ‘Brazil Nut Tree’, is native to the northern part of South America. In India and Sri Lanka it is considered a sacred tree for both the Hindus and the Buddhists. There it’s often planted near temples. One question which bugs me: how did it get from South America to Asia thousands of years ago, if history is correct and Columbus was the first to discover the Americas?

Well, if you notice the fruit you'll understand the common name 'cannonball tree'. Its flowers make the 'Couroupita Guianensis' a really stunning tree.

Well, if you notice the fruit you’ll understand the common name ‘cannonball tree’. Its flowers make the ‘Couroupita Guianensis’ a really stunning tree.


7. Corruption and the ‘Forgotten Road’

The GPS wanted to take the route in the top section. The one below is shorter, but...

The GPS wanted to take the route in the top section. The one below is shorter, but…

Yes, not everything is hunky-dory in Brazil. When we left Pirenópolis for Goiás, our next World Heritage listed town in Brazil , I was wondering why our GPS wanted to take us south (along the same route marked on the Google map above). To me it appeared from the map that there was a perfect main road a little north, shorter and going the right direction…

Well, we soon found out! Although the BR-070 is the shortest way from Brasília to Goiás it somehow seems to be a forgotten road in parts. Perfectly tarred, but all the bridges are missing! So you drive 3-8 kilometres on smooth asphalt, then it ends abruptly, turns to gravel and goes downhill, to cross a rickety old wooden bridge. We are wondering which company and politician shared the funds for this unfinished road building project…

The forgotten road (or at least the forgotten bridges) of the BR-070

The forgotten road (or at least the forgotten bridges) of the BR-070


8. Land-Clearing by Burning Off

This is a practise we came across way too often for our liking: land in Brazil being cleared by burning off. Sometimes our driver’s cab would be filled with smoke for hours – coming from these fires. Surely this should be a thing of the past!

Countless times we drove past the smoldering remains of a burn-off in Brazil.

Countless times we drove past the smoldering remains of a burn-off in Brazil.


9. The Condors of the Colca Canyon in Peru

Summer is not the best time to see condors in the Colca canyon in Peru. But we gave it a try anyhow; the landscape alone was worth our visit. We slept over night on one of the older, now closed parking lots near the view point. Over night it was truly miserable: heavy rain and fresh snow on the mountains around us. But, typically for us, we got going rather late, just when the sky was clearing up…

When we arrived at the new viewing platform it was busy with tour buses, so much so that I had to park Berta a little down the road. But we lingered longer than most and were rewarded: we had the opportunity to watch around 7 or 8 condors slowly circling through the valley, higher and higher, until they were finally above us in the sky. We felt sorry for all the people who had come with tours from Arequipa – they missed this sight because the parking lot was nearly empty by the time we left…

We were lucky to see condors circle above the Colca canyon in Peru; summer is not the best time for this.

We were lucky to see condors circle above the Colca canyon in Peru; summer is not the best time for this.


Because sometimes the little things leave lasting impressions

Most of the above photos are from Brazil. That’s because we spent nearly half a year there. Brazil, which is densely populated in general, nevertheless has a lot of interesting sights to offer. We find it a shame that the majority of Pan-Americana travellers seem to bypass it completely or only visit 2 or 3 highlights…

Sometimes the little things leave the most lasting impressions. We can visit all the well-known attractions and write about them. At the end of the day we often gain more insights by taking note of the small things which surround us in a foreign country – day by day. Here are 9 impressions that stayed with us from 2016 in South America.

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10 Things to Do in the Most Northerly Part of Chile http://dare2go.com/10-things-to-do-far-north-chile/ http://dare2go.com/10-things-to-do-far-north-chile/#comments Sun, 15 Jan 2017 00:49:18 +0000 http://dare2go.com/?p=5487 The far north of Chile offers more than just desert and beaches: ancient geoglyphs, mummies, historic town centres, and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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For the past 2 years, we keep thinking that we’ve left Chile for the last time. Then we find ourselves back there. When we decided to leave Bolivia, the most northerly part of Chile was the closest and lowest place to go. So we found ourselves in Chile again.

In 2008, we visited Arica and Iquique , but hadn’t been back during our current trip. During this short 3 week visit we noticed changes to things we’d seen last time, and discovered many new places.

The ocean walk to the Anzota caves outside Arica is one of the things on our list. The North of Chile appears all barren but there is - surprisingly - a lot to see.

The ocean walk to the Anzota caves outside Arica is one of the things on our list. The North of Chile appears all barren but there is – surprisingly – a lot to see.

Here are 10 things you can do in this most northerly part of Chile.

In the mountains

1. Drive part of the Ruta Del Desierto

The Ruta Del Desierto runs through the mountains of the Atacama Desert. There are 8 circuits in 4 regions making up this desert route in northern Chile. We drove Circuito de Las Quebradas in the region of Tarapaca. It runs from Colchane (3700m) on the Bolivian border to Huara (1000m), just east of Iquique.

Parts of the Ruta Del Desierto are unpaved, but mostly in good to very good condition.

Parts of the Ruta Del Desierto are unpaved, but mostly in good to very good condition.

During the first part of the Circuito de Las Quebradas, the mountains have interesting shapes and colours, and some things grow: like clumping, golden grass and lichen on rocks (which seems to eat away at the rock). As you drop below 3000m all of this disappears and the scenery is interesting only for its nothingness. In every direction there is just greyish-brown desert, sometimes with rocks strewn about, and no sign of any plant life.

A simple, but beautiful old adobe church in the small Andean town of Cariquima.

A simple, but beautiful old adobe church in the small Andean town of Cariquima.

A large boulder (or two) thickly covered in green lichen. (We posted more photos in our post '6 Places & Experiences we didn’t write about in 2016').

A large boulder (or two) thickly covered in green lichen. (We posted more photos in our post ‘6 Places & Experiences we didn’t write about in 2016’).

 

This route provides access to:

  • Parque Nacional Volcan Isluga
  • Thermal Baths at Chusmiza
  • Gigante de Atacama, just 12 Kilometres from Huara, and other geoglyphs along the way.
The famous Gigante de Atacama (our photo is from 2008) - one of the many geoglyphs in the Atacama.

The famous Gigante de Atacama (our photo is from 2008) – one of the many geoglyphs in the Atacama.


Iquique and around

2. Visit the historical centre of Iquique

In 2008 we went to Iquique principally for its free trade zone, but also wandered around the historical centre. This was what we wrote then:

Although we didn’t find anything in the trade free zone at a remarkably cheap price, we found it a pleasant little city, which is trying to make its historic centre nice. It has attractive wooden buildings, which were probably residences of those who got very rich during the nitrate mining boom. Some of them are badly in need of renovation.

The main square in the old part of Iquique.

The main square in the old part of Iquique.

This time we discovered that not much has changed. There is still not much that’s very cheap at the free trade zone (we were seriously checking out laptop prices – we found them later much cheaper in regular retail shops in Arica); they are still trying to make their historic centre nice, and a lot of the buildings are still badly in need of renovation.

There are some remarkable buildings in the historic centre, which are restored and beautiful. If you’re in Iquique, don’t miss the chance to have a wander.

One of the beautiful old timber houses in the centre of Iquique. Many were built in the years of the saltpeter boom.

One of the beautiful old timber houses in the centre of Iquique. Many were built in the years of the saltpeter boom.

This beautiful moorish style building in Iquique is currently under renovation. It houses a casino.

This beautiful moorish style building in Iquique is currently under renovation. It houses a casino.

 

3. Check out the beaches

Coming from Australia, it takes a lot to impress us when it comes to beaches – and the brown-grey sand of Iquique’s beaches didn’t really look that inviting. But the city’s shoreline has been made into an attractive area for residents and visitors alike. We drove along the Avenue that follows the coast on a number of occasions. On Sunday the playas were full of people, colourful beach shelters and umbrellas.

When the sun's shining the beaches of Iquique are really busy.

When the sun’s shining the beaches of Iquique are really busy. Image Credit

4. Experience the drive down the ‘sand dune’

One of the most amazing experiences in Iquique is to be had just driving into the city from Ruta 5.
You have to drop around 500m in altitude from the coastal mountains to the city. It is almost squeezed against the Pacific on one side and the mountains on the other. The fact that the mountain side you are driving down looks like it might be a sand dune doesn’t instill much confidence. I don’t remember it from 2008, but this time it was a disturbing (if not close to terrifying) experience for me… There is a wonderful view of the city and also of a huge sand dune, which looks like it could actually engulf the city if it decided to move.

Drive up the side of a sand dune, from sea level to over 500 metres above. In an earth quake in 2014 this road slid down the steep hillside.

Drive up the side of a sand dune, from sea level to over 500 metres above. In an earth quake in 2014 this road slid down the steep hillside. This made Iquique the laughing stock of all of Chile.

It is certainly a unique way to enter a city, and it was a great relief to arrive at sea level. When we left Iquique I found that driving up was nowhere near as frightening as the drive down had been.

A very small part of the gigantic sand dune which lays below an even taller one, where the road climbs up. It really dwarfs the whole city.

A very small part of the gigantic sand dune which lays below an even taller one, where the road climbs up. It really dwarfs the whole city.

5. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works

Thousands of people lived and worked at this remote site in the first half of the 20th Century. We had photographed this site from a distance in 2008, but this time we were determined to visit . It’s an interesting historical site and quite well done.

The Unesco World Heritage site of Humberstone. Saltpeter extraction works, like this one, initiated a boom for the Atacama desert and finally led to a war, which Chile won.

The Unesco World Heritage site of Humberstone. Saltpeter extraction works, like this one, initiated a boom for the Atacama desert and finally led to a war, which Chile won.

The former accommodation areas are now home to themed collections of mostly found objects of that time. Walking in and out of this museum almost brought a tear to my eye. The history was so connected in my mind with my Dad, who I lost earlier this year. He was always interested in objects that he was familiar with from his youth, and this place was full of them. And, he always had a story to go with them. It was an interesting place to visit but also a little emotional.

Humberstone WHS: a row of workers' cottages with some old machinery in front.

Humberstone WHS: a row of workers’ cottages with some old machinery in front.


Between Iquique and Arica

6. Get off the highway and check out Dolores memorial

As we drove north from Iquique to Arica, we passed through more of the completely barren Atacama Desert. About 70Km after the Humberstone site we started to see some green ahead. The trees are an endangered species indigenous to the area – prosopis tamarugo. They have been re-introduced into several protected areas to try to keep them from extinction. The Reserva Nacional Pampa del Tamarugal is one of them.

Right next to this reserve we found the Memorial to the Batalla de Dolores o San Francisco – the battle of Dolores or San Francisco. This site remembers a famous battle of the War of the Pacific (1879 to 1883), involving Chile, Peru and Bolivia, on November 19, 1879. Coincidentally, we arrived on the evening of November 19, 2016. I’m sure there had been commemorations during the day, but there was no remaining evidence.

The battle of Dolores or San Francisco was a decisive win for Chile. This site, of course, portrays everything from the view of the victorious Chilean side. Bolivia, in particular, still mourns the loss of its ocean access (and maintains a navy to this day).

The battle of Dolores or San Francisco was a decisive win for Chile. This site, of course, portrays everything from the view of the victorious Chilean side. Bolivia, in particular, still mourns the loss of its ocean access (and maintains a navy to this day).

We drove a few kilometres off the highway to the site, looking for a place to overnight. It was a good place to stop – quiet, no light except thousands of stars, lots of rocks and some rather shrubby trees. Besides being the perfect place to spend the night (we actually stayed for 2), we also found the site itself quite interesting. As well as the commemorating plaques and plinths, there are many ruins of mud brick buildings.

The battle site of Dolores is surrounded by crumbling mud brick ruins. It all looks like this was later the site of another saltpeter mining enterprise. Here somebody lovingly lined up some old pots, jars, and rusty tools on a white washed wall.

The battle site of Dolores is surrounded by crumbling mud brick ruins. It all looks like this was later the site of another saltpeter mining enterprise. Here somebody lovingly lined up some old pots, jars, and rusty tools on a white washed wall.


In and around Arica

Daniel, at the tourist office in Arica, spoke excellent English. He explained to us that, since the creation of the 15th Region of Chile (Arica and Parinacota) in 2007, the city has had more resources available. This area was formerly part of the Province of Tarapaca whose capital is Iquique. These resources are now being used for beautifying the city, conserving local heritage, and generally making their city a tourist destination of some note. They are now attracting cruise ships, the number visiting increasing each year.
He made several strong recommendations for things to see.

7. Wander the centre of the city

The city centre of Arica contains a number of old buildings, two of which are attributed to the designer Gustave Eiffel: the Church of San Marcos and the Customs House. This New York Times article – Despite Rumors, Not Everything That Towers Is Eiffel’s – brings the origin of the church into question, although I doubt if the locals would be convinced by the argument.

Paseo 21 de Mayo is an extensive pedestrian zone with all the shops you could need. There are also dedicated restaurant and café areas, often in lanes running off the pedestrian zone.

The all iron cathedral of San Marcos in Arica is commonly credited to Eiffel (most famous for his Eiffel Tower in Paris) - now there is some doubt about this authenticity. In 2015 and 2016 it underwent extensive renovations, hence our photo is from 2008. By now the cathedral should be open in freshly renovated shine and glory...

The all iron cathedral of San Marcos in Arica is commonly credited to Eiffel (most famous for his Eiffel Tower in Paris) – now there is some doubt about this authenticity. In 2015 and 2016 it underwent extensive renovations, hence our photo is from 2008. By now the cathedral should be open in freshly renovated shine and glory…

 
One of the shaded side lanes in Arica, with one restaurant next to the other...

One of the shaded side lanes in Arica, with one restaurant next to the other…

The city’s icon, Morro Rock, looms over it. It gives an incredible view of the area, if you have the energy to climb it. I confess – we didn’t.

We found it a pleasant city to just wander through, finding interesting sights along the way. It had certainly changed for the better since our previous visit.

The 'El Morro' rock sits right in the centre of Arica - next to the plaza and opposite the harbour.

The ‘El Morro’ rock sits right in the centre of Arica – next to the plaza and opposite the harbour.

8. Visit the Valle de Azapa & the Mummy museum

A 12Km drive from Arica, along the Azapa Valley will bring you to the San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum. This museum is owned and operated by the University of Tarapaca. It has more than 20,000 archaeological pieces, including a large collection of Chinchorro mummies. They claim more than 10,000 years of history is represented here .

Some of the Chinchorro mummies - you don't get to see much more. They have to be kept in the dark and climatised, so they are behind thick glass; flash photography is obviously not allowed.

Some of the Chinchorro mummies – you don’t get to see much more. They have to be kept in the dark and climatised, so they are behind thick glass; flash photography is obviously not allowed.

But the Chinchorro mummy museum offers a number of other exhibits, like these fishing hooks, and many informative signs (so far only in Spanish - lets hope this will change once UNESCO World Heritage Status is granted).

But the Chinchorro mummy museum offers a number of other exhibits, like these fishing hooks, and many informative signs (so far only in Spanish – lets hope this will change once UNESCO World Heritage Status is granted).

 

According to Daniel, there is an application in to make this museum a UNESCO World Heritage site .

Olive groves crowd the roadsides, some of them with trees whose age may possibly be measured in centuries rather than decades. The original olive trees were planted some 400 years ago.
This year, the small, fertile valley achieved its hard-fought geographic indication, Olives from Azapa .

One of the Azapa olive plantations (Please excuse the image quality).

One of the Azapa olive plantations (Please excuse the image quality).

Along the valley you will also find more geoglyphs, often quite hidden behind huge hot houses. These hold the apparent miracle of intense market gardening in what looks like a totally inhospitable desert.

9. Follow the ocean walk to the Anzota caves

These caves are a natural formation caused by wind and water erosion over centuries. The Chinchorro culture had used the Anzota caves for living space and some of the mummies were found in them.

More recently they were the site of a major guano quarry.

Now the area is a bird sanctuary, and the recently constructed ocean walk makes it a pleasant place to spend some time.

The ocean walk to the Anzota caves outside Arica is easy, a large part of it is wheelchair friendly. Some of the caves have new stairs leading into them. (But they didn't get rid of the smell of bird poop.)

The ocean walk to the Anzota caves outside Arica is easy, a large part of it is wheelchair friendly. Some of the caves have new stairs leading into them. (But they didn’t get rid of the smell of bird poop.)

10. Watch the birdlife at the Humedal del Rio Lluta

The Lluta River Wetland is an extremely important habitat in arid Northern Chile. Rio Lluta is the most northerly river in Chile to flow from the Andes to the ocean. It runs into the Pacific about 10Km north of the city of Arica.

This large estuary provides important habitat for multitudes of water birds, some of which are migratory birds who use it as a resting stop. The Lluta River, along with the Loa River between the regions of Tarapaca and Antofagasta, are the only ones on the coast of northern Chile that run all year round.

Lluta River Wetlands in Arica: this 'cloud' is only PART of a flock of sea gulls!

Lluta River Wetlands in Arica: this ‘cloud’ is only PART of a flock of sea gulls!

In Closing

The most northerly part of Chile is much more than just the Atacama Desert. We really recommend spending time in the most northerly city of Arica, where there are a variety of attractions including nature, ancient history and modern shopping and restaurants. Iquique and the inland desert also provide their own attractions.

Most people associate the far north of Chile with desert. That's it. We found that there's much more to explore. The main draw points are the two major cities, Iquique and Arica, with their historic centres. But hidden in the desert you also find geoglyphs, a museum with ancient mummies discovered in the area, century old olive groves, small historic towns, and an interesting UNESCO World Heritage Site. That's of course if you can get away from the beaches. See our post for few more surprises in North Chile!

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Lluta River Wetlands in Arica: Pelicans as far as one one can see. The sea gulls have to step back into second row.

Lluta River Wetlands in Arica: Pelicans as far as one one can see. The sea gulls have to step back into second row.

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