Lake Titicaca

Personally, I think one of the highlights of our trip was our home stay in Luquina Chico and our quick tour of one of the floating islands in Lake Titicaca. We started the day early on our way to the port on tuk tuks. 

Our early morning tuk tuk ride

On the floating island we visited, there were 6 families living there. Every month, these families elect a President and he usually stays on the island while the other husbands either go to Puno for work or go to a different part of the lake to gather more reeds. I think our guide mentioned that during winter or the rainy months, they usually add more reeds to the island about once a month and during the dry season, they add reeds every 15 days.

 Working on one of the tapestries

Working on one of the tapestries

Santos, the elected President of this one floating island, explained to us the process of gathering the reeds, securing the island so it doesn't float away, where the children go to school and showed us some of the textiles they make by hand on the island. 

 Us taking a ride out on their "Mercedes Benz."

Us taking a ride out on their "Mercedes Benz."

fter our brief visit to the island, we made our way to Taquille island for lunch. It was a very steep climb to get to the top but it was definitely worth it especially with the breathtaking view. 

 Our view from the restaurant

Our view from the restaurant

Late in the afternoon, we finally got to the peninsula where we would spend the night and they welcomed us by kicking our butts with a friendly game of soccer. We got a chance to watch them dance, a dance they usually reserve for festivals, and then we got the opportunity to do some dancing as well (the hip movements associated wit he dancing was honestly very exhausting). 

After the initial festivities, we went with our new papa Gabino, to have some dinner and to meet the rest of the family. Gabino is a quiet, distinguished and hard working man. We found out he is a 72 year old widower with 4 children. His youngest daughter, her husband and their 3 children, live with him. Since our stay coincided with Mother's Day, we brought a box of chocolates for Janet as well as a couple of little toys for the kids. 

Most of the families on the island either have a cow or a small flock of sheep. Some people in our group got to milk a cow and some of us got the chance to become sheep herders. Gabino had a small flock of sheep and there were about 4 lambs in the group. I immediately decided that my favourite one was the black sheep of the family.

Considering that the main staple in their diet are potatoes, we had our fill of potatoes that weekend and we also got a chance to dig for them the next day (I realized digging for potatoes is a lot of hard work and will try not to take them for granted any more).

  Gabino is putting Julian to work

Gabino is putting Julian to work

After our busy morning and one last meal with our family, it was time to say good bye. I know we were only there for less than a day but Gabino and his family have left a lasting impression on me. They support their families with hard labour and they work tirelessly every day. They live very simple, happy and content lives. That's something I should always keep in mind especially when I get overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of every day life

  One last photo op with our family

One last photo op with our family

From Nazca to Chivay

May 7-9, 2014

As previously mentioned, we had to take an overnight bus from Nazca to Arequipa. First of all, that bus had very comfortable seats, the only thing that made it not comfortable was this man snoring loudly. I couldn't believe how quickly he fell asleep. Within 5 minutes of boarding, he was already sleeping and then eventually pissed off everyone with his loud snoring. Despite his very loud snoring, everyone eventually fell asleep. Lucky for me I put my headphones on because Julian was saying his phone rang twice at 6 in the morning and answered it with  3 very loud hellos. I also felt like a ninja on that bus since I had to quietly step over a sleeping Julian to go to the washroom.

Yuri sharing his feelings of the snoring man

Eventually, we arrived in Areuipa and had to take another 45 minute private bus to our hostel, El Solar. I think we were all a little wary at first since it is a hostel but it had really nice rooms and we got a good view of the volcanoes from our window. 

 

The view of the volcanoes from our room

 

So by the time we got to the hostel it was around 9am and we were all tired and really hungry, very close to being hangry. Yuri wanted to take us out for a quick walking tour to this place that has empanadas for breakfast. On top of that, they also had a hotdog that had fries, red peppers and cheese. We saw the church of San Francisco, the main square, and a few chocolate shops. 

Delish empanada

Casey's massive hot dog

After our late breakfast, we continued with the walking tour. The pillars and the rain gutters in the courtyard both had intricate designs. 

  Group shot at the church courtyard

Group shot at the church courtyard

We then made our way to the market where a few people were brave enough to try the frog juice. 
We then walked through the fresh vegetables and fruits and eventually stopped at this lady's stand where we had the chance to sample some of the local fruits.

After our quick tour of the market, we were ready for some more beer. We ended up at this rooftop patio with a beautiful view. When the group separated, we decided to check out the Santa Teresa Monastery. There was another bigger monastery but we ended up going to the smaller one because we just happened to be close to the area. It was interesting to see that the place remained virtually unchanged since it was built. Unfortunately for us they didn't have an English speaking guide so we just got bits and pieces of the monastery's history. Either way, there are oil paintings from the 18th century and elaborate pieces of art that were either used during for mass or ceramic serving dishes used for special occasions. Unfortunately for Julian, we weren't allowed to take photos.

Later that night when we went out for dinner, some people tried the guinea pig, not surprisingly, they were the same people who tried the frog juice. Anyway, Julian was one of them and he said it was good but he probably won't order it again. I went the safer route and ordered alpaca instead. His guinea pig and my alpaca were both delicious although I'd pick alpaca over a guinea pig any day. Guinea pig aside, we had a great time at dinner and we even witnessed a dance performance. 

  Julian & Yuri taking a pic with a dancer

Julian & Yuri taking a pic with a dancer

After dinner, a few of us decided to hit the town. Mainly because we haven't been to a bar in Peru yet. So the 6 of us happily made our way to the street with the bars, with the recommendation of our guide, and we started the night. The first bar was ok, it was the same dingy bar you'd find anywhere else but hey, the music was good and so were the prices. While the bartender was making our drinks, we realized they free pour in Peru. We knew we were in trouble, especially us in our late twenties. 

  Group shot at the first bar

Group shot at the first bar

The next day, we left Arequipa for Chivay. We saw llamas and al pacas as well as their non domesticated counterpart, vicuñas. Since we had our own private bus, we were able to stop whenever we wanted, including taking photos of llamas crossing the road.

Once we arrived in Chivay, we pretty much had an uneventful night since we had to leave our hotel at 6:30 in the morning to see the condors in Colca Canyon. We arrived at the lookout at about 8:30 and Luz, our other guide for this part of the tour, told us we had to be here for over an hour. Luz mentioned that the Andean condors were out in the endangered species list and now they have a healthy population. We saw the condors fly around their nests, which was a ridge below our lookout point, I was kind of disappointed that they were so far. 

After some time, we decided what any traveler would normally do, check out the goods the local sellers had to offer. I should also mention that I saw this beautiful scarf made locally and probably out of alpaca but I didn't end up purchasing it. I'm definitely kicking myself now since scarves are my souvenirs of choice and this one was something I could wear back home. Anyway, I checked out this man's stall and this bracelet had a deep purple stone in the middle which sparkled in the sunlight, my friend Steph translated for me and the man called the stone "rain of stars" which was the selling point for me. 

Having my new bracelet custom fitted

We were busy comparing and admiring each other's purchases when someone from our group told us to come back to the lookout. The condors were now flying above us! It was great to witness these birds, and some eagles fly around in this beautiful canyon. In addition, Julian found an adult condor with two juveniles sitting on a rock for a few minutes. That made waking up really early worth it! 

A close up of the condor

Once we were done watching the condors flying, we had a short hike on the ridge and that was amazing. That also made me a little breathless and again, a little worried for our 4 day hike. Anyway, the view of the canyon was breathtaking and Luz was very knowledgeable of the area. She pointed out two villages across the canyon and mentioned that some people who choose to hike down to the canyon would usually stop in one of the villages. She also pointed out a narrow footpath a few hundred metres away from the villages and said that two people who were from Lima, tried to hike from one end of the canyon to the the village and they got to a certain part where they couldn't go any further. We trudged further along the trail and saw a few dead animal carcasses left lying in the sun. Luz explained that these animals died of natural causes and the local people who owned them left them there for the condors. 

Group shot of Colca Canyon

Once our tour was done, we hopped back on the bus and made our way slowly back to Chivay. We then had lunch and later that afternoon, we went to the hot springs. It was a good way to unwind and relax especially since we've had such a busy day. The only thing I was nervous about was the hanging bridge we had to cross to get to the hot springs, but it was all worth it. 

Group shot at the hot springs

After a quick shower, our guide took us to a local restaurant for dinner and some Peruvian dancing. They performed a love dance, an agricultural dance, a carnival dance and the one that caught our attention was the malaria dance. During the last dance, the carnival dance, Mariana , Dave and Steve got the lucky chance to dress up. 

Steve and I got the opportunity to participate in the malaria dance. 

Yuri and Steve in their costumes

From Pisco to Nazca

May 5 & 6, 2014

That day in Pisco, some people from our group decided to check out Ballestas Island, otherwise known as the "poor man's Gallapagos." We opted out of that event and decided to just walk around and saw this man feeding a pelican. 

Bad ass pelican

We eventually made our way to Nazca but we had a couple of interesting and awesome stops on the way. Our first stop was at Tres Generaciones, a local winery and pisco maker. After a 45 minute tour of their facility, we eventually got to try some of their best Piscos, all 8 of them to be exact. 

Post pisco tasting, it made for an excellent bus ride

Lisa and Steve enjoying some Piscos. Especially Steve with his pinky out, because he's classy like that

after that, we went to Huacachina to see some sand dunes! This was by far my favourite stop for this trip. We also got the chance to slide down the sand dunes, me and a couple other people only had enough balls to go down the dunes once while everybody else went down all three, even the two old ladies from New Zealand. 

Eventually we made our way to Nazca, another interesting place to visit. As a side note, before we left, I read that Peru has a dessert but I was really surprised at how big their dessert region was. Now back to the Nazca lines, half of the people in our group decided to fly over the lines while the rest of us decided to just visit the tower. For 3 soles, you can see two of the designs from the tower which was the tree and the hands. I thought it was pretty cool and wondered it must be awesome to see it from a plane (unfortunately majority of the them got sick and said it wasn't worth it, plus their flight was delayed for 3 hours)

Since we didn't have to go to the airport, we had plenty of time to walk around town and have lunch where I tried goat (in the words of our awesome guide, Yuri, it was "jummy"). Again, it was also delicious. I don't think Peruvian food has disappointed me so far. 

Baby goat for lunch.

Once we have reconvened with the flying group, we checked out Chauchilla Cemetery where they had mummies. According to our Nazca guide Antonio, the government doesn't have a lot of resources for the cemetery so no further excavations have been done at the site. They also haven't performed carbon dating on the mummies since the technology isn't readily available to them. Antonio also mentioned that when the site was discovered in the 1920s, that attracted grave robbers and most of the original pottery have either been stolen or destroyed. When you look around the cemetery, there are pieces of pottery, cotton and human bones scattered everywhere. From what they can gather from the grave sites, pottery, cotton and corn were commonly buried with the dead. We also saw a piece of cloth lying on the ground and according to Antonio, it was probably a piece of cloth that belonged to the deceased. To this day, there were approximately 10 excavated sites and possibly more have yet to be discovered. 

Mummies at the Chauchilla Cemetery

After the cemetery, we went to a local pottery shop called Taller Ceramica Emilia. Our host had this "crazy artist" vibe going on. Besides that, he was a very lovely and talented man. Apparently his family has been making and designing pottery for a few generations and they still use the techniques used by the original Nazca people. His paint brushes are made of human baby hair because they are really soft. He gets the materials from the mountains nearby (different soil colours) and he makes his own paint with them. He also used a llama bone to mold the pieces.

In this photo, he's showing us how he paints the designs on the pot. 

Some of his pottery for sale in the show room.

Later that evening, we decided to try out Chifa which is a fusion between Peruvian and Chinese dishes. Again, it was delicious. I had a bowl of chicken soup and some fried rice with a side of noodles and chicken for only 10 soles (around $5). I don't think neither of us expected to come to Peru to have Chinese food. 

 Chinese food in Peru

Chinese food in Peru

Unfortunately for us, our time at Nazca was over and we had to move on to the next city which was Areuipa. Our guide, Yuri, was born and raised in Arequipa so has very strong feelings for the city. So off we went to the bus station for a 10 hour bus ride....