A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Traveloo

did you just feel these rocks move?

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At 2:30 a.m., the alarm went off. Sound familiar? There was not a strong desire in my heart to repeat the beginning of our travels, but after some unfortunate cirumstances and a larger hole in the wallet than hoped for, we were off to Colca Canyon early in the morning. Stumbling into the van still half asleep, the guide informed that the ride would be cold. I didn´t realize he meant arctic cold. My limbs have almost thawed. Perhaps it was the fear of frostbite or perhaps the fact that we were riding on what felt like a Montana backroad, but more sleep did not occur. I felt for a moment, though, that I was in a dream when I found myself gazing out a sky full of stars that rivaled the best I have seen. It was awesome.
Slowly, dawn came and the van rolled onto the dusty streets of Chivay. Basically the hub of the canyon area, we stopped here to have some tea and coffee. From here we headed along the upper edge of the canyon toward the Cruz del Condor viewpoint. Colca Canyon is quite beautiful, filled with farming terraces created by the people who lived there even before the Incas. We learned much about the history of the area and stopped to view several interesting points, crossing over a fault line along the way.
Just before 7:30, we arrived at our destination and hopped out quickly because already we could see several condors rising out of the canyon. The Andean Condor is the one of the largest birds on the earth, with wingspans of several meters (sorry...Í am currently stuck in the metric system). The giant birds ride the warm air currents that rise up from the depth of the canyon in the morning, circling around quite quickly and expending little energy. As we stepped up to the overlook, one condor soared within 50 feet, allowing us to grasp its size and beauty. We soon found a nice seat on some rocks of the main viewpoint, gazing into the canyon and waiting patiently. Here the canyon is more dramatic, with sheer rocks and greater depth. We were only the second group to arrive, and as more and more people came, it seemed that fewer condors appeared. What an amazing sight to see.
As we were sitting and waiting, the earth suddenly moved underneath. When this happened, my instinctive and wise thought was, "I just felt a little earthquake." My second and not so brilliant thought was, "What just made the rocks move?" My sister and I were looking at each other with confused expressions. "Did you just feel these rocks move?" Yes, we both felt it. A short while later, our guide informed us that there had been a tremor and that some rocks had come down on a tour bus farther down the road. I think everyone but the bus was okay, but left some passengers without transportation. Long story short, we felt an earthquake and ended up with a couple from England and two girls from Belgium we met at the viewpoint along with four stranded french passengers filling the remaining eight seats of our ten-seater van. That provided for some unexpected entertainment.
On our way back to Arequipa, the full van came to a stop at the highest point along the road, just over 4900 meters! This height can also be known as over 16,000 feet! Several volcanoes rise above the barren land at this point. I jogged back to the van, just so I could brag of running at such an altitude. As we meandered back toward Arequipa, we stopped to see alpaca, llama and the more wild vicuna.
Now, as I lose my focus, I will say good night for now....

Posted by Traveloo 17:38 Comments (0)

beep beep

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I am sitting in an internet room a few doors down from our hostal right now. Honking taxis are rushing down the stone street as a cool breeze wanders through the open door and I am staring at yellow walls. I want to talk of our first couple days in Arequipa, but the words are not in my mind. I will write of this time later....

Posted by Traveloo 17:27 Comments (1)


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By the time we arrived in Puno, I was ready for bed even though it was only 6:00ish. We picked up our bags, headed out of the station and met a rather disturbing air. The aroma of Puno was not very pleasant. Realizing that there was no one waiting for us, though I had an e-mail in my backpack from the week prior saying there would be someone there, was not very pleasant either. We finally took a taxi to our hotel through the fairly run down town, where we were hardly greeted before being taken to our room. The room was not horrible, but it also left much to be desired. My sister and I looked at each other and pulled out our personal pillowcases. I went in the bathroom after Jen and laughed upon finding the toilet seat lined with toilet paper. The night was cold, smelly and noisy, but thankfully there was also rest involved.
The next day we spent in Puno is the reason that people go there. We took a boat trip out to the Uros and Taquille islands on Lake Titicaca. The Uros Islands are floating islands built of totora reed, which is also used to build the boats and homes as well as for medicine and food. Stepping onto the reeds is a strange feeling, knowing that the reed is all that exists between the water and your feet, though it is at least a couple meters thick in most places. Taquille island is large, with 2000 people, many buildings and hundreds of steps leading up to the top, The views of the deep blue lake are dramatic from many points on this island. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world with a little under half inside Bolivian borders and the other half within Peru.
By the time we stepped off the boat and back onto the streets of Puno, it was time for dinner. The first place we tried to go to was closed for a special party and we ended up at a fun little lounge/cafe/restaurant, which was also recommended. We chose a thai-inspired dish to share and I finally had a glass of wine as well. As far as Puno had gone, it was a pretty nice evening. We chatted and followed up the delicious food with a yummy apple tart thing. Though neither of us really wanted to go back to Rubi Lodge, we were looking forward to sleep and to leaving.
As my eyes opened the next morning, I was ready to move on. After I drank a little water, looked at some photos and organized a couple things, I realized I was not feeling very well. I thought that perhaps I had succomb to altitude sickness after choosing not to take medicine, however, as time went on it became increasingly clear that my body was attempting to reject something. I rested until we had to leave the hotel and then lugged my suitcase through the hot and smelly streets of Puno to the bus station. I got sick before we left the hotel, during the walk, at the bus station, on the bus and once we arrived in Arequipa. I spent the first sick day pondering what was making me so sick, not feeling as though it were the flu or something else, but wondering what could have given me food poisoning since Jen and I had pretty much eaten the same things. I realized yesterday (Saturday) that when we had dinner in Puno, I ate some of the vegetables (including spinach) that came on the plate with the delicious food and my sister hardly had any. It has not been the best couple of days, getting sick and feeling the most painful stomach pains and cramps I have ever had. Thankfully, I think I am getting better now, although I have hardly eaten anything over the last two days. To sum up Puno, I really have no desire to ever go back there....

Posted by Traveloo 12:26 Comments (0)

all aboard

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The evening before heading to Puno, we went to a folk dance show at the arts center in Cuzco, which was great. After that, we headed back to Torre Dorada and chatted with the people there for a while. We also shared some huckleberry candy and hot chocolate with them, which was fun. In the morning, they took us to the train station, made sure our bags were checked correctly and we said goodbye. It was so sad to leave them and Cusco, but the many adventures awaiting left no choice.
We boarded the andean explorer for the day long train ride from Cusco to Puno. This train was certainly first class. Jen and I had our own table and big, comfortable chairs. We had a menu of food to choose from and our place settings had several forks, spoons and knives, which we hopefully used correctly. :) The train also had a car with a bar and couches as well as an open air car on the end, which was great for photos. We passed through small towns where people farmed and children ran out to wave at the train. The tracks led us up to La Raya, the highest point of the trip at 14,172 feet, where we stopped and were able to get off for a few minutes. It was beautiful at this point, with peaks still reaching up above us. As I wandered toward the engine of the train to take a photo, I discovered something slightly disturbing. Scattered along the ground by the tracks and stretching on for at least 50 feet were piles of old cell phones, calculators, remotes, etc. I had observed a lot of trash in towns and along the countryside here, but nothing quite like this. As I stood in confusion looking at this junky pile of plastic, the engine horn sounded and I nearly jumped out my own skin. I reboarded the train and we began the 1800 foot descent to Puno. Before we arrived, I finally had my first (and second) pisco sour, which were quite enjoyable.
As we neared the lake and Puno, the sun was setting, I felt content and ready for this next stop of our venture. If only I had known what the next couple days would hold....

Posted by Traveloo 11:58 Comments (0)

a little taste of "cuzcotopia"

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You didn´t think I was actually going to write a travel blog about Peru without making a reference to "The Emperors New Groove", did you? If you are reading this right now and have not seen the movie, I strongly reccomend you stand up from your computer chair, exit whatever building you are in and head to the nearest video store, for you are missing out on a brilliantly hilarious slice of life.
During the time in Cusco, we got to stay in what felt like a palace, also known as Torre Dorada. When we arrived tired and itchy to Cusco, they were there waiting for us at the train station, a driver and another staff member who spoke very good English. We rode into the quiet, residential area of the city and eventually came to a stop in front of what would become our home for a few days. The sound of a crackling fire drew me into the smiling faces around us as we entered the reception area of Torre Dorada. A wonderfully kind gentleman who also spoke English sat us down and told us of their free taxi service, gave us a map and information about the area, recommended many places to see and eat and introduced us to the owner. We then headed up to our room, took nice, warm showers and fell asleep in the delightfully comfy beds.
Exploring the streets and sights of Cusco filled the day. Inca foundations rest under colonial spanish influence all over in this place. The heaviness seems to take form not only in the buildings, but in the people as well. I looked into the eyes of the countless people begging for us to give money in one form or another and saw a desperation and oppression. Along the streets there was great contrast of beauty and sadness. After wading through this sea of contrast, we entered the cathedral on the plaza. What a strange emptiness that filled me as we stepped out of the streets and into a grand building filled with gold and silver. It was glorious, but not in a joyful way and I felt God was robbed, for He should be seen in the smiles of people rather than in a gold altar in a dark building. My heart was very troubled.
The next day, we again entered these troubling seas as we headed out to the sacred valley to tour Chinchero and Moray. Chinchero was our first stop in this gorgeous valley. Here there were more Inca ruins to explore, but the crumbling walls only seemed to match the atmosphere of this town. Seemingly emotionless people wandered by, children peered out of doorways without smiling and injured and starving dogs were abundant. As my sister was talking to a dog whose ribs were visible, had a limp and wheezed as it breathed, I walked down the street trying to calm the ache in my heart, peered into another church building filled with gold and flowers and almost threw up. We went on after this to have lunch in Urubamba with our driver and then carried on to Moray. The ruins there were quite impressive, large circular terraces that look like an ampitheatre, but are believed to have been an Inca crop labaratory.
The ruins we saw on this day were amazing and the awe I have for the Incas is grand, but the highlight of this day came from children. Before we left the states, both Jen and I purchased several boxes of crayons, markers, pencils and pens. As we drove from sight to sight, we came across children walking many miles along hot dusty roads home from school. Our driver stopped numerous times and we hopped out to give these supplies to the kids. They reacted with surprise and gratefullness. I will never forget one little boy, whose eyes grew wider than I knew possible as we handed over a $1 box of markers and he exclamed, "MUCHAS gracias!".
As we headed back to Cusco in the late afternoon, I had many emotions flooding my mind. I actually did ponder upon The Emporers New Groove, believe it or not. There is a natural tendency, I think, when watching that movie to be pulling for Pacha, the humble peasant and his family, not for the greedy Kuzco, who can only focus on himself and his summer home with a pool. There is a desire for the innocent to be protected, for selfishness to fall away and for all to be loved and appreciated. I felt all of those things on these days.
Are you still reading this without watching the movie? What did I tell you?

Posted by Traveloo 09:52 Comments (0)

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