Tuesday 7 December 2010, Puno (elevation 3,851)
The border is 8k from Copacabana. Formalities are easy but for the first time our carnet was required.
There are floating islands on Lake Titicaca near Puno. These were developed by the Uros to evade the Incas. They fled in boats and as the totora reed boats rotted more reeds were placed on top. Eventually islands were developed on top of floating clumps of roots. The Uros have since intermarried with Armaya people but still continue with their floating lifestyle. These days they depend on tourism and the sale of souvenirs. The modern world is there though. Solar panels provide electricity for TVs and other appliances. Holes are dug deep into the bottom of the lake to ensure hygiene requirements do not pollute the lake. This is possible because the water is only about 12 meters deep. Besides goods that can be purchased on the mainland they eat the bottom of the stem of the totora reed, fish and flamingoes. Yes there are flamingoes in Peru at this altitude.
NB: Titi means Puma and caca can have several meanings depending on the language such as grey or strong.
Thursday 9 to Friday 10 December 2010, Arequipa (elevation 2,363m)
What a pleasure to be at such a low altitude. I can even run up stairs again. The buildings in Arequipa are made of white silla volcanic rock. On the way we went through a landscape of white earth obviously from the same source. This was interspersed with some stunning vivid green valleys. We found a hotel and asked about parking. No problem, park in the courtyard! Well with lots of care Pieter managed to maneuver through the narrow outer and inner doors and the pot plants. And later do the reverse. The town is very pleasant but definitely a tourist town. Prices in the centre are high, nearer the hotel they were much more reasonable. An extremely cheap breakfast consists of chips, rice, chicken or fish, bread and coffee. Once was enough for me. Pieter only had the bread and coffee. Since then we have seen this full meal breakfast often in small restaurants and central markets.
Churches were a-plenty, 5 in a few blocks including a convent, Monasterio Santa Catalina, that is a city within a city. We didn't go in as we felt the entry ticket was just too much. I did visit the Museo Santury where 'Juanita the Frozen Princess' is kept. She is an Inca sacrifice from 500 years ago found on the summit of nearby Ampato (6288m). The archeologists who found her used the eruption of a nearby volcano to make the expedition possible. The volcanic ash melts the snow. They found 3 other sacrifices further down the mountain. It is assumed Juanita was royal, probably the daughter of the king, because she was buried on the actual summit and her clothing indicated royalty. She was dressed in red and white - red for power and white for divinity - the colours of royalty. The offerings with the sacrifice were for luck, the earth, water, sun and moon. The Incas believed in having a balance between the various forces. Sacrifices were made every four years and when there was a major volcanic eruption. The sacrifices believed they would live with the gods and become gods themselves.
Saturday 11 December 2010, Cabanaconde (elevation 3,326m)
The landscape was fantastic. Initially it was flat and dry with irrigation projects, rather like in Egypt along the west bank of the Nile. Then came the mountains of various hues. We were stopped by two oversize pipes being transported. They needed the entire road. How they made it through the mountain curves I don't know.
Sunday 12 December 2010, Juliaca (elevation 3,843m )
Cabanaconde is above the Canon del Colca which is one of the worlds deepest canyons at 3,191m. This means the little green oasis of Zorro must almost be at sea level. Looking down into the canyon it is hard to realize Zorro is 3 kilometers down. The road goes along the top of the canyon, past various lookouts where tourists and souvenir sellers meet, until the canyon rises up to the same level as the Alto Plano. There are many condors in the canyon but you have to go on a hike to have a chance at seeing them.
Chivay seems to be at the end of the canyon. There had been a festival over the previous days and we were just in time to see the remnants being dismanteled. They use silver trays as decoration. We were headed for Cusco or Sicuani a town on the way along dirt side roads. At one point we came across one of the pipe carriers blocking the road. We followed the available road. This turned out to be the wrong way and we ended up almost back to Puna. Actually it was fortunate we did as we would not have made it to Sicuani, the first major town on the route. Since we had been driving through rain, hail and wet snow, camping would have been the pits.
Monday 13 to Wednesday15 December 2010, Cusco (elevation 3392m)
Once again lovely countryside. Once again we took the wrong turn. This time it was a choice between a good tar road and a bad tar road. We were on our way to Cusco, surely that is going to be the better road? No, it is the bad road which does improve after a while. By the time we realized our mistake it wasn't that far back to the correct road. It just meant arriving near dark in Cusco.
Cusco is a lovely town. It was nice just to sit, drink coffee (local not espresso) and watch the people.
Thursday 16 December 2010, Santa Teresa (elevation 1566m)
The scenery is fantastic. Through mountains with valleys down from the sheer cliffs. We passed a colorful local party and were allowed to take a picture. Unfortunately I had not realized which road we should take and the route I had set out was wrong. Ergo we did not turn south at Santa Maria but carried on. Eventually we were stopped and told the road to Santa Teresa was closed but there was an alternative route. Yup, back to Santa Maria and turn south.
By the time we arrived it was getting late but we still hoped to catch the 18h40 train from the hydro electric construction. Then came the current news. Three days previously a road bridge between Santa Teresa and the construction site had been washed away by the rain! In any case there was only one train per day at 15h40! The good news was that we could take a local car to the pedestrian bridge and walk to the construction site. So we stayed the night.
Friday 17 to Saturday 18 December 2010, Aguas Calientes (elevation 1900m)
The walk was reasonably tough - uphill most of the way. We met up with Chris a Rumanian and he helped us with our food bags and Pieter's backpack. Pieter is walking exceptionally well at the moment, but this walk in the hot sun was hard. We left early enough to have plenty of time to get to the station. The next surprise - the train ticket was twice as much as the Tourist Office had told us! Foreigners have to pay in USD or pay Soles at a reasonable exchange rate. I had exchanged Soles for dollars in Cusco and we had stocked up in Argentina as well so the actual money was not a problem, just the exorbitant price of the ticket. It is 10 times the price that Peruvians pay. You have to show your passport to buy the ticket, then they check your passport again when you get on the train. The journey takes about an hour and winds along the Urubamba River and through the town before doing a switch back to the station.
But why are we here?
Machu Picchu (Old Mountain) is fabulous!!!!!! The difference between the stone masonry of the temples and that of the people's houses is stunning. From perfection to relatively crude work. The buildings are built from white basalt which is plentiful. The houses were covered with clay and painted. The temples were apparently covered with gold, at least on the inside. At its height about 600 people lived there. They farmed the terraces. Each male child was given 1,000 square meters of land. When a male died the land reverted to the king to be given to the next male child. The Incas were strict. A man married one woman and had about12 children. Crime was punished by placing the criminal on top of the mountain for a day with his hands and feet tied. Bad crimes were treated in a similar fashion, except the criminal fell over the cliff.
The Incas believed in balance -male / female; good / bad; two closed windows; 2 pools to watch the stars in. They also believed in 3 levels - sun, earth, underground; heaven, this life, death; Condor, Puma, Snake; peace, power wisdom.
It had rained during the night and was very misty in the morning. We went anyway and hired a guide. This was very worth while. Once the mist cleared around mid-day we returned to the various sights and took the photos. As usual photos do not do it justice. You have to experience the place. One good thing, Machu Picchu is only 2,425m above sea level so it was easy to walk around. I always thought it was high up in the mountains. It is a very steep road, especially if you walk but overall not very high.
Sunday 19 December 2010, Santa Teresa (elevation 1566m)
Back to Santa Teresa. The train was cheaper, though not much. The walk from the station to the footbridge was easier - downhill most of the way. The last bit straight up the hill was a bit tough. We took about 15 minutes against the youngsters 5. There was a minivan waiting to pick up any travelers. Once we arrived it set off for Santa Teresa.
Monday 20 to Monday 27 December 2010, Cusco (elevation 3392m)
Same hostal, same parking spot, except this time someone tried to punch in a window. Frustrated because the laminate film on the window prevented access, they punched a hole in a larger window. One tyre went completely flat and had to be repaired along with a second tyre that had a slow leak. An expensive return to Cusco. Luckily after this we found a garage that was not full and where we could park the car while we stayed in Cusco.
Christmas Eve was hectic. Various shops were giving away toys and the queues were long and patient. One included a calendar, hat, drink and bread roll. Plaza De Armas was converted into a market selling the usual souvenirs and house hold goods. Plus wooden structures to be used as a manger along with moss, thatch, flowers and other natural decorations. The centre was crowded with pedestrians, cars were diverted.
Christmas Day was interesting. We thought everything would be closed except the churches. Instead quite a few businesses were open. Outside the churches hawkers were selling small baskets, dolls, dolls clothes and small bed covers. These dolls were then taken into the church to be blessed. Small girls also took their own dolls. Outside the cathedral several dance groups performed. They were colourfully dressed and danced around a manger. Costumes included those of animals. The dancing itself became repetitive and definitely had its origins in the indigenous culture.
Tuesday 28 December 2010, Chalhuanca (elevation 2,913m)
We we given the wrong directions to go to Nasca and went for a tour around Cusco. Eventually we discovered the road to Nasca was initially the same as the road to Machu Picchu! The road goes through mountains, valleys, along rivers and through permanent snow. Several time it went up to 4,000m then down again to 2,000m. Once again we saw flamingoes close to 4,000m. We stopped over night in a small town with 1 hotel and 1 hospedajie. Next day through mountains again. Gradually they became drier and drier until Nasca where there is an oasis of green. We decided to stay for 2 nights rather than spend a third day driving. This means staying until after New Year.
Wednesday 30 December 2010 to Saturday 1 January 2011, Nasca (back to sea level more or less and the insects which just love me)
You can't come to Nasca without seeing the lines and glyphs. I went up for a flight, Pieter stayed on the ground. Peru has expensive tourist attractions! Was it worth it? Yes. I was mostly interested in the straight lines and the mountain where the top has been removed and no rubble left behind. These are very impressive when viewed from the sky. It certainly seems to confirm Zecharia Sitchen's (and others) view that the Gods came from outer space. For much better photos look them up on Google.
The flight itself was a nightmare. The plane was a little cramped 6 seater. The heat coming from the desert made for an extremely bumpy ride. Turning the plane to see the glyphs from the other side didn't help. Two of us were sick. At least I wasn't alone. In the end I just pointed the camera in the right direction and hoped for the best. I was extremely glad to be back on the ground. I have never been airsick before. I don't want to repeat the experience.
New Year was impressive for such a small town. Nothing was officially organized. The fireworks consisted of private people letting off their own fireworks. Lovely to watch and it went on for half an hour. Then to bed to wake up at the usual time the next morning. Grrrroooaaaannnn. I can't sleep during the day. At least we only left for Lima on the 2nd.
Sunday 2 to Sunday 30 January 2011, Lima
We have decided to ship the car back to South Africa, sell it, and purchase a Toyota Troop Carrier somewhere in the world.
What a saga it is to ship a car! Looking back there were two major causes for the frustrating experience. One - we neglected to mention that the car contained personal goods (then again as soon as anyone saw the car this is obvious); two - the customs agent was inexperienced (incompetent?). Let me set it out in sequence.
The first week we searched on the internet for agents to handle the shipping. We visited the one we found and they promised to contact us with a quote. We also sent feelers out online. None of these contacts ever came back to us.
Monday 10th - I phoned the local MSC office (Mediterranean Shipping Line) and obtained an e-mail address for Carolina. I e-mailed the details to her.
Tuesday 11th - We visited Carolina at MCS to find out more details. She gave us a contact at the MSC Container Yard who could provide agency services.
Wednesday 12th - We drove out to the port (Calleo) and visited the agent. The fee had to be paid before we could proceed. Unfortunately credit cards are not accepted in Peru, not even by the bank. The money had to be paid in cash. There is a limit on our daily cash withdrawals which meant that the agency fees could be paid in the next day but shipping fees could only be paid on Monday. In the meantime we drove to a nearby Notary to have various documents signed.
Thursday 13th - During the night we decided we wanted a detailed invoice before paying. We had been quoted a nice round figure of USD 1,000. Later taxes of USD190 had been added. It was all just too pat! Interestingly the detailed invoice did not include the taxes. However we decided to go ahead as they were part of MSC and the money had to be paid into an MSC bank account. We felt the whole issue of agency fees had been handled in an unprofessional manner. We drove to a nearby bank and paid the money. On returning to the container yard we drove the car into a container and took the bus back to the hotel. The car was weighed on entry.
Friday 14th - The customs officer came in the morning BUT the car was locked and no-one had any keys . Why does anyone expect the car to be unlocked? We were phoned and asked to come with the keys. Unfortunately the journey takes an hour ( it doesn't matter if you go by bus or car, it still takes an hour). Naturally the customs officer had long gone by the time we arrived. He would come again on Monday.
Monday 17th - We were there bright and early, before a lot of the staff! As soon as the customs officer arrived Pieter took the car out of the container. The customs Officer took a quick look and walked off. No-one seemed to have a clue what was happening, even the customs agent who should have known. However they had been told to weigh the contents. Out the contents all came and were loaded onto two pallets, taken away and weighed. Glad they are in boxes, just imagine if they had been in cupboards!.
Tuesday 18th - Once again we arrived bright and early. Everything was taken out again. The Customs Officer did not arrive. Imagine our frustration. This time the contents had to be weighed again plus the car without the contents. In addition there were a lot more forms to be notarized dealing with the contents. We also had to provide a reservation for our flight out of the country. Why? We never received an answer to that question. The reservation slip was actually easy to get. Travel agents do this all the time in Peru - for a small fee. They cancel the reservation as soon as they have printed it. The intention was to take the reservation with us the next day. However it was required early in the morning and one of the agency personnel, who lived near the hotel, came by in the evening to collect it.
Wednesday 19th - Around lunchtime we received a call asking us to be at the yard by 3:00pm. Finally the customs inspection we thought. Not at all. The car had to be lashed and locked up, that's all! This is when we realized the whole saga had to do with getting the correct forms in place for customs!!!!
OK what a relief --- except we still needed the documents back for the car plus the Bill of Lading. The documents could only be returned once the container had been taken to the port, We hope to get them on Monday 24th. We finally paid the shipping fees into a different MSC bank account and e-mailed the deposit slip to Caroline. Not sure when we will get the Bill of Lading, this will only come once the agency has the car papers, which waits on the customs agent. Hopefully by Monday 24th. We will only then actually book our tickets out.
Tuesday 25th - Finally after two weeks to have the car loaded and formalities completed we received our original documents. These were delivered to our hotel after work by an MSC employee who lives nearby. It has never taken this long before.
Our tickets to London are for next Monday. Another week's delay to get a cheap flight.
Yes we did do other things.
We went into the central square and watched the changing of the guards. It was hilarious. 15 minutes before changing the guards, 4 guards marched out and took their places beside the main door and the gates. A band came out playing marching tunes. Two squads of soldiers came out, one from each side. They met in the middle and the Leaders waved (nothing precise here) their swords at each other. The troopies carried guns and the uniforms were drab. The marching was... well.... unprofessional. The arms were not held straight when they were moved resulting in a floppy arms march with not quite in sync steps. The squads left, the band left and the 4 guards left Oh well.
The Museo Larco was much better. It contains a large collection of pre-Columbian ceramics and has Spanish and English signs. The ceramics included erotic pots. The Museo Nacional de Arqueologio, Antropologia e Historia is within walking distance. The only sections that had English signs were the Inka section and the section on the people who lived in Peru before 0 BC. I learnt that there are 6 'Cradles of Mankind', Sumeria, Egypt, Indus Valley, China (Yellow River area), Central America and South America (mainly Peru and Bolivia). I was surprised to see well developed artifacts from 3,000BC. The only other place I have seen such things is in China.
The beach was very disappointing. The dirt-dry land falls steeply down to a narrow edge before coming to the shore. The shore itself is very narrow and consists of stones. The water temperature is OK but bathing without shoes would be painful. One family set up a small kiddies pool and filled it with salt water. Their children loved it.
We like Peru and Bolivia best of the countries we have been to. The reason is that the people are not predominantly European but Inka and this brings a different ambience. Women, mainly older women, still wear the clothes they developed after the Europeans arrived with some items from before then. Many houses are still being made of adobe (mud brick) which is quite strong in the dry climate. There are many 2 storey adobe houses. Roofs have a symbol on top for good luck. Children quite often come to work with their mother's, usually only babies but during the holidays older children as well. Car alarms are very annoying. There are 5 different tones/tunes which are repeated, loudly. This goes on and off ALL day.
In Lima the way people talk on the cellphone is amusing. When listening they hold it to their ear, when talking they hold it to their mouth like a microphone.
For the first time we have a better plan than head north then east. This year in summer we plan to travel through Eastern Europe from Macedonia possibly up to Russia and Moscow. In winter we will head for North West Africa. Next year (2012) we intend to travel through Ukraine, the 'Stans', Russia and Mongolia to Vladivostok. From there it will be onto North America followed by a few years in the Americas. We then expect to settle down in Australia with side trips to South East Asia. Of course there are a myriad dependencies. First we have to buy the Troopie in England, if we don't we will buy one in Australia and go from Vladivostok to Europe this year. Then our health has to remain good and our enthusiasm for travel still be as strong. Lastly we may decide to settle somewhere other than Australia. It will be interesting to read this in 2 years and see how close the plan came to the actual. After all we did keep to our original plan.
|Cost of diesel per litre||4.12||ie. buying the Troopie, outfitting it and investing my father's inheritance|
|Camping per night||South America menu|
|Hotels per night||23.87|
|Kilometers traveled||3,454||Home Page|
|Days in country||56|