Saturday, December 9, 2017

Huacachina

I had no idea before coming here how much of Peru is serious desert. Case in point: the dunes surrounding the strange oasis/tourist trap of Huacachina.


What you see in the picture is literally all there is to this little hamlet of restaurants and hotels/hostels surrounding a lagoon near the bigger city of Ica. It was a great place to chill for a couple of nights.


The thing to do in town is to take a dunebuggy trip out into the sands, which was fun and beautiful. I don't have pictures that demonstrate any of this, but we sandboarded (on our bellies) down a few enormous dunes, and the drivers of the dunebuggies are very skilled at driving crazy enough that everyone in the vehicle is screaming as if on a roller coaster but not so crazy that there's actually any crashing or flipping or anything. Since I don't have pictures of any of that, here's just a bunch of sand pictures for you.







Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Arequipa

We ended up spending quite a few days in Arequipa, set in a desert-y landscape (that somehow really reminded me of southern Morocco) at about 7500 feet. Even though Arequipa is Peru's second-largest city, it has less than a tenth of the population of Lima and a COMPLETELY different feel than the capitol. It was a really chill and relaxing place to wander for the better part of a week, with volcano Misti watching over us.


The central market is an amazing, sprawling place.


Especially the juice bars.





It's nice to travel with a chef who likes to go out to fancy meals and can't finish everything herself. Thanks, J!


From here, back to Lima for the last 10 days of Peru way closer to the coast.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Colca Canyon

I had no idea until this week that the deepest and the second-deepest canyons in the world are here in Peru. D & J & I took a two-day organized tour to the second-deepest: Colca Canyon. The drive to the canyon took us through a national reserve where we spotted a bunch of free-ranging vicunas...


...some of them set against the backdrop of one of the seven volcanoes gracing the landscape in this high country.


The landscape was sparse and gorgeous and mostly abandoned-seeming.





The high point on our drive to Colca Canyon (before we started descending into the canyon) was at nearly 15,000 feet--the highest I have ever been--and had amazing views.


Finally heading down into the canyon, you can see the town of Chivay, where we spent a night, in the background of this picture.


Chivay was chill, both in temperature and in atmosphere, and I wouldn't have minded spending another night here.


But on we went, deeper into the canyon. It's wide enough that it's hard to appreciate its full depth (more than 6,000 feet between the top of the mountains that tower over it, down to the river bed).

One of the reasons people like to visit Colca is that Andean condors thrive in this region and can pretty reliably be seen from a viewpoint called Cruz del Condor. We only saw one of these incredible birds when we were at the viewpoint, but later on, on our way back out of the canyon at another viewpoint, a condor flew almost directly over our heads at extremely close range. It was a stunning sight--so stunning that I was too busy marveling to manage to take a picture before it soared away and was gone.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Puno / Lake Titicaca

I'm now on the road with TWO great friends from the States, D and J.


Our first stop together as a travelin' threesome was the city of Puno, due to it being situated on Lake Titicaca--the largest lake in South America and the highest (12,000ft+) navigable lake in the world.

Puno itself is a really relaxing town that I enjoyed wandering, even if I was huffing and puffing every time a street went uphill. The altitude!




The main purpose of going to Puno, though, was to get out on the lake for a day. And a gorgeous one it was. Our first stop was the floating reed islands of Los Uros.


The indigenous people who live here literally build the "ground" they live on out of reeds that grow in the lake, constantly laying down new layers of reed as the bottom, oldest layers rot away beneath them. They also make their boats out of reeds (and then paint them these really bright colors). It's pretty mind-blowing.



When you're standing on one of the islands, the ground feels really boggy and squishy beneath you, but people have houses like normal, except they're made of reed and just sitting on more reed.



We also stopped on the island of Taquile (actual land, this one) and climbed to the top of it, enjoying sweeping views over the lake.


I was trying to imagine what it would be like to grow up and live one's entire life in this very isolated place, no cars, in the middle of a lake so high in the sky. I can't really! But loved this little glimpse into that world.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

AMAZONAS! (Part 2)

Okay, now it's time for animal and forest mania.

As mentioned, we stopped at a couple of animal reserves or little informal zoos were I got to interact with a bunch of jungle creatures. Which I have to admit was really fun, even though I feel uncomfortable with the concept. There were wooly monkeys...




...an anaconda (I let someone else go first to make sure they weren't going to die before I agreed to pose for this pic; and let me tell you, that snake is serious business--SO heavy and SO strong; I wouldn't have stood a chance if it had been hungry enough to want to eat me)...


...a scarlet macaw! Its wings weren't clipped, but they must feed it to keep it nearby, along with its friend, Green Parrot (not pictured)...


...my new ABSOLUTE FAVORITE ANIMAL, the three-toed sloth (and, fun fact: the bottom part of my shirt is wet in this picture because a matamata/prehistoric turtle had just peed on me)...


...and an animal that I hope never to meet in on its own turf: the piranha. We went fishing for them, and this is the one I caught. And then I immediately retired my fishing line, for fear that ghost piranhas might haunt my nightmares in the future.


On a night hike, guide Edwin very diligently made frog calls till he got an answer and found this guy, knocked him out of a tree, told us it was a poison frog, and then put it on my arm. AFTERWARDS, he explained that it can't hurt you unless you ingest some part of it. Sheesh. I've since looked it up, and it's a cambo frog. Pretty fascinating, actually, especially for the folks at Psychedelic Times, which I've learned is actually a publication that exists. Put "cambo frog" into Google and you'll get all kinds of interesting stuff.


A couple days later we saw cambo frog eggs on a walk through the forest.


On that same walk, we also saw a way MORE poisonous (says Edwin) poisonous frog. He did not try to put this one anywhere near me, and I don't think it would have allowed me that close anyway.



When Edwin found out I was interested in seeing some really old/hardwood trees, he took me to see this beauty, across the river. (Sadly, the side of the river we were on was loooong ago completely divested of all of its hardwood.)


We also slogged through some serious marsh/bog that was much more of an adventure than you can really tell in this picture. I was so focused on not falling in that I didn't even notice the dozens more mosquito bites I was getting.


On my last morning, I got to see a real stick insect. It's crazy. I know it's in the name. But they REALLY. Look. Exactly. Like. Sticks.


I'm also amazed at the extremely effective deterrents various types of palms in the jungle have developed to prevent animals from climbing them and eating their fruit. Yikes.


I wish I had a video from this one. Edwin found a termite mound. Scraped the outside of it off till the termites were running around insanely. Put his hand on it so they swarmed his hand. Then rubbed his hands together as if he was lathering them with soap, killing all the termites and releasing their very interesting, woody smell. And then rubbed that all over his face and neck. Natural mosquito repellent, he said. Already itching from SOOOOO many bites, I followed suit without thinking twice. Hard to tell at that point if it worked, though.


He also showed me a bunch of other natural jungle remedies, medications, etc. This one he released by whacking this tree with his machete. It's supposed to make the insect bites you already have stop itching. Again, I'm not totally sure whether or not it actually worked, but it did dye my shirt a bright orange that has faded to poop-brown with washing, and left a stain on a spot of the skin on my chest that I'm starting to worry might be completely permanent. Luckily, I had no need for the tree that gives a sap that's used to cleanse the gut of parasites, or the anti-malarial taken regularly by people in the jungle, or any number of other Amazon concoctions.


Okay, this is really long now, so I'll call it done. But first, should we look at another picture of the sweetest animal on the planet, the three-toed sloth? I think we should:


Finally, as if on purpose, the rain clouds cleared to afford a brilliant sunset over the river on my last night out in the forest. Ahhh, Amazon. You did not disappoint. I hope we shall meet again.