A Travellerspoint blog

Copacobana, Bolivia

Where they really know how to party

overcast 8 °C

Our arrival in Copacabana (not the one in Barry Manilow´s song but I hope you have the tune in your head now!!) main square was like descending into mayhem. 8ams and there were flower festooned, cars, trucks and taxis everywhere blocking the entire main square and nothing was moving. We had only gone and (accidentally) timed our arrival perfectly for the national holiday - the fiesta of the Virgen de Candalaria, the patron saint of Bolivia - the equivalent of Paddy's Day!

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After having breakfast and a snooze at the Ecolodge about a kilometer down the beach on the shores of Lake Titicaca, we wandered slowly back up to town - at an altitude of 3,800m it is hard for us low-landers to catch our breath. The town itself is a little rough around the edges, Bolivia seeming poorer than it's neighbours we had already visited, and we had no great expectations of it. We heard some music and followed our ears. There on a side street was a full brass band playing the most amazingingly cheerful music, and in the middle of the street were men and women dancing traditional dances in all their finery. To date we hadn´t really seen south americans drink much but here they were downing pints like there was no tomorrow, women and all. The drinking even formed part of the dance as men and women interlinked arms and downed whole pints in one go- no sipping here. Of course Seamus had to have a go at the massive tuba. It suited him very well!

Girls by wall

Girls by wall

Boys dancing

Boys dancing

Chica in the groove green dress

Chica in the groove green dress

What you lookin at

What you lookin at


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Back in the main square we heard more music and follwed it into a partially covered yard where the participants had obviously been dancing and drinking since early morning. The concrete floor was flowing in beer (or pee, not sure which). Men and women all up dancing, the men looked like Bolivian versions of Al Capone with their wide brimmed hats, sharp suits and greased back hair. The women, well the photos speak for themselves. We stood around the edge and tapped our feet for a while - the only Gringos in the place. Crates of beer bottles were being opened by the second and being polished off just as quickly. Women were pouring the dregs of the beer from each glass onto the floor and someone told us this was for 'Pachamama', the Earth Mother, who is revered in South America. Then someone placed a bottle of beer in Seamus' hand and so began a great afternoon/evening. Our new friend Roberto was fascinated by Seamus' bald pate and kept wanting to touch it and then there was his hairy beard! Baldness seems to be very unusual here, everyone sporting a full head of black hair, even the very old. So Seamus was a bit of a novelty and he was loving every minute of it!
Chow time

Chow time


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Dancing queens...

Dancing queens...

Beer crates

Beer crates


the o sullivan shuffle

the o sullivan shuffle

Roberto was a bit of a macho dude and was very strong to boot. When he grabbed me to dance he held me in a vice-like grip and nearly broke my fingers. I knew who was boss! He and Seamus also had a boogie. Seamus was trying to teach Roberto the O'Sullivan Shuffle which as many of you know is a bit free style! We were finally introduced to Roberto's wife, Rosa, who was a lovely lady and who looked a lot older than Roberto. Probably from doing all the heavy work, as many of the south american women seem to do. Anyway, they seemed very happy together which was the main thing and Roberto kept calling her 'Mi amore' which was a good sign, but he still had an eye for the other chicas! After drinking multiple free litre bottles of beer opened by Robertos teeth we decided we had better eat something and leave while the going was good. It was now 8pm and had only had breakfast.

If only we celebrated Paddy's Day like this in Ireland.

A and R dancing

A and R dancing

Jiving.jpgAine and Rosa dancing

Aine and Rosa dancing

Baba

Baba

A parting hug

A parting hug

Posted by Loodersatlarge 19:02 Archived in Bolivia Tagged copacabana Comments (0)

Colca Canyon

Where the mule is king

sunny 25 °C

"Oh My God", "this is madness" and, more often than not, "what the ***k" - these were the utterances you would have heard if you were anywhere near me on our trek to the bottom of the Colca Canyon - the worlds deepest canyon, at 4,160 meters (more than twice as deep as the grand canyon in USA).

To get to the canyon we got a local bus which took us on a 6 hour journey over a 5000m snow covered mountain pass where herds of the very rare vicuña graze on the slim pickings. I was really worried about altitude sickness so I was busily masticating coca leaves like a local. They must have worked as I had no real ill effects other than feeling like I had been run over by a bus.

driving over the 5,000 m pass

driving over the 5,000 m pass


The bus takes you along the rim of the Colca valley from where you can see the little villages perched along the sides of the canyon. The road was only built int he 1970s so that gives you an idea of how remote this area is. The bus was filled with locals, the women in their magnificiently colourful traditional dress, with their multicoloured bundles of produce. These women can carry heavy loads. In fact, come to think of it, we have yet to see a man carrying such heavy loads. Hmmm.

our descent into the colca canyon

our descent into the colca canyon

colca river with stepped terraces created around the 13th century.

colca river with stepped terraces created around the 13th century.

The last part of the road is unpaved and fords streams and many large potholes, all the while running along the edge of the canyon with sheer drops to the valley below. Not for the faint hearted. Aine was busily looking the other way most of the time but on the odd occasion I got her to look out our window she turned very pale and buried her head in her hands! On arrival at Cabanaconde, the last village on the road, we checked into our hostel and went on a recce to see where the next day's trek would take us. We walked slowly to the nearest viewing point, every step being an effort in the thin air at an altitude of 3,600m. When we saw the path down to the valley and the path on the other side of the canyon, Aine really had second thoughts. It is VERY steep. We were later asked by our hostel owner if we wanted him to guide us for the 2 day hike, and Aine was all for it but I thought we could do it without his input so we declined his offer. Bear in mind that afterwards, everyone else we meet on the trek had a guide!

a typical village scene we passed along the way

a typical village scene we passed along the way

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aine doing her recce for our descent to colca valley. can you find her in the photo?

aine doing her recce for our descent to colca valley. can you find her in the photo?

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Next morning the two foolhardy hikers set out. The path took us along the edge of a cliff and was about 4 to 5 feet wide in places but then 2 to 3 feet wide in other places which wasn't too bad!!!!. After a couple of km of this slowly descending path, the way became very steep turning into a zig zag path down the cliff face. I was swallowing back my fear and I confess on occasion to snapping at Seamus as he wanted me to pose for photos. Not very good timing! About half way down we met a young girl coming up on a mule accompanied by 2 other riderless mules. She was about 13 years old. I told myself that if the girl could do it I could do it and this kept me going. Meanwhile Seamus was trotting along like the mountain goat that he is.

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the path that lies ahead

the path that lies ahead

zoom to oasis at bottom of canyon with zig zag path on right

zoom to oasis at bottom of canyon with zig zag path on right

more path

more path


Me, contemplating life, the universe and everything!!!!!!

Me, contemplating life, the universe and everything!!!!!!

Please God, don't let me fall and I'll be a good girl for the rest of my life......

Please God, don't let me fall and I'll be a good girl for the rest of my life......

The heat was horrendous and we eventually made it to the bottom of the valley where we had a chat with the local ranger who was into some evangelical religion so we talked about God for a while in pigeon Spanish. I was very amiable to the conversation as by this stage I was very friendly with God having invoked him all the way down the canyon!

A bridge too far???????

A bridge too far???????

Ahem !  We've only just met, do you mind if we keep a little distance between us????

Ahem ! We've only just met, do you mind if we keep a little distance between us????

We crossed the bridge over the Colca river and were met by a woman called Gloria who herded us to her little restuarant in a tiny village on the cliff edge. Gloria cooked up a storm on a wood burning adobe oven. Delicious veggie soup follwed by an alpaca stir fry. Delicious. There are no roads down in the valley so everything must be transported by man, woman or mule. This is the way it has been for thousands of years and will probably continue to be the way in the future if these villages survive. Everything is hard work, and these people know all about it. Tending the fields and terraces by hand, harvesting by hand and moving goods around by mule. We have it so easy.

Now that I`ve done his laundry, i`d better make his lunch.....

Now that I`ve done his laundry, i`d better make his lunch.....

Gloria's humble little kitchen where she made the most tasty lunch for us.

Gloria's humble little kitchen where she made the most tasty lunch for us.


After our lunch with Gloria we had to hike up again, cross another river, trek into 2 more villages before our final descent into the oasis at the bottom of the canyon.

hand weaving belts, and of course Aine had to buy one....

hand weaving belts, and of course Aine had to buy one....

But now came the difficult part. From the other side of the valley we could see that the path crossed over a land or rock slide and it did not look inviting. On getting to this part, I really had to force myself to go forward as after about 15km, there was no going back. God was invoked again, as was Evelyn Ryan and every other saint and angel. The path was made of freshly, but barely compacted, material and was about 9 inches wide. It was terryfying. But we made it. No way would I have done this 2 months ago but our hiking in Argentina had kind of prepared us for this kind of thing. A big hug from Seamus on the other side helped of course.

The 'Landslide' which we had to cross. Scariest thing Aine has ever done!!!!

The 'Landslide' which we had to cross. Scariest thing Aine has ever done!!!!


This cross was situated about 200 yards after crossing the landslide. A picture tells a thousand words!!!!!!!

This cross was situated about 200 yards after crossing the landslide. A picture tells a thousand words!!!!!!!


villages across the canyon

villages across the canyon

The last part was switch back steep paths downhill to the oasis, in which there are a few little hostels with swimming pools filled with warmish water from geothermal springs. We got our little room which comprised an earthen floor, bamboo roof, a bed and a candle. There is no electricity down here. Dinner was cooked up by the men running the hostel. There are no women working down here... probably too busy lugging heavy loads around further up the valley!

Our final destination with the zig zag climb for next day. Something to look forward to??????

Our final destination with the zig zag climb for next day. Something to look forward to??????


Our very own little oasis!!!!!!!

Our very own little oasis!!!!!!!

Over dinner we met a group who were with a guided tour and had a good chat with them. Hit the hay with our candle and got up at 5am to get on the track before the sun came up. The 1000m climb was all up. Switch back zig zag paths up the canyon side. Tough tough tough. We had to make way several times for mules heading up to Cabanaconde for provisions. How I wished I was on one of those mules! Although maybe not, as the mules seemed to have no regard for how close to the edge they went. After 3.5 hours we reached the top and savoured the view. But mostly I could not believe that we had trekked those steep slopes. A real achievement.

Thinking of swapping my old life for this .......

Thinking of swapping my old life for this .......

Back in Cabanaconde we had a much needed shower and with a sad heart got on the bus which took us out of the valley. Oh to have spent a few weeks in the Colca Canyon.

I'll swap you my baby llama for your silver chain...........

I'll swap you my baby llama for your silver chain...........

Posted by Loodersatlarge 08:52 Archived in Peru Tagged canyon colca Comments (2)

Interpreting the Nasca Lines

some culture to add to our resumé

overcast -34 °C

We thought be might never arrive in Nasca. Mid way on our journey, our bus stopped in the middle of the road on the outskirts of a little village. Some locals had placed large boulders across the road in protest over something. Apparently, the Peruvians like to protest. Eventually after a few hours the police arrived and removed the road block and on we went arriving at our hotel at 11.30pm instead of 8pm, tired and drained but still in one piece. I think that calls for a beer or two!!!!!!!!!

Nasca is a little town on the Pan American highway which runs down the west of South America along the Andes moutain range. In the 1940s, when commerical flights started to fly over the area, pilots noticed lines and patterns in the desert. Then in the 1950s, a german woman called Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and archaeologicalist, came to Nasca and devoted the rest of her life to the study of the lines. No one really knows why they were constructed but it is believed that they both point towards scarce water resources and are aligned with various constellations in the night sky. Either way they are amazing as they can only be appreciated from above and how these people could conceive such patterns which can only be seen from above is anyone's guess. The lines were constructed between 400 and 650AD and comprise a series of ancient geoglyphs and are designated as a Unesco world heritage site since 1984. The whole area was most likely used for worship, prayer for rain and fertility rituals. The lines are formed by a shallow trench with a depth of between 10cm and 15cm. Such trenches were made by removing the reddish/brown iron oxide coated pebbles that cover the surface of the Nazca derest.

Being on a budget we thought we would do the cheapo version and see the lines from viewing platforms, but then we thought, what the hell, we will never be in Nasca again, and booked a flight to see the lines from above where they are best appreciated. Boy was it worth it. We flew in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk which is a 4 seater, single engine aeroplane. By jobe could the manouvreability make your stomach turn.

Let the pictures tell the story.
this had better be fun.....

this had better be fun.....

Seamus, please come on board it wont be that scary!!!!!!!!

Seamus, please come on board it wont be that scary!!!!!!!!

i thought you said this wouldn't be scary!!!!!!!

i thought you said this wouldn't be scary!!!!!!!

some of the lines with the pan american highway to the right.

some of the lines with the pan american highway to the right.

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Nasca is not only about the lines. The area is rich is archaeology and culture left by the ancient Nascans

Since 1997, Nazca has been the location of a major Canadian gold mining operation. The people who were living on the land for the previous 2000 years did not have title to the land, so they were displaced without legal problems.

Nazca is one of the driest places in the world with average annual precipitation up to 25 millimeters. Nazca's weather is controlled by the Humboldt Current which carries water from Antarctica up the west coast of South America. This cold ocean water cools the marine air and limits the accumulation of moisture within clouds, as a result though clouds and fog are able to form there is little rain and the region is exceptionally arid. in fact there was only 20 minutes of light drizzle in the year 2012.

We visited Chauchilla Cemetery which contains prehispanic mummified human remains and archeological artifacts, located 30 kilometres south of the city of Nazca. The cemetery was discovered in the 1920s, but had not been used since the 9th century AD. The cemetery includes many important burials over a period of 600 to 700 years. The start of the interments was in about 200 AD. The cemetery has been extensively plundered by grave robbers who have left human bones and pottery scattered around the area. The site has been protected by Peruvian law since 1997. In 1997, the majority of the scattered bones and plundered pottery were restored to the tombs. The bodies are so remarkably preserved due mainly to the dry climate in the Peruvian Desert but the funeral rites were also a contributing factor. The bodies were clothed in embroidered cotton and then painted with a resin and kept in purpose-built tombs made from mud bricks. The resin is thought to have kept out insects and slowed bacteria trying to feed on the bodies.

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Posted by Loodersatlarge 07:59 Archived in Peru Tagged nasca Comments (0)

Picking up the pieces in Lima

and onwards to Paracas

sunny -32 °C

After our saga in Santiago we arrived in Lima in style being picked up by a driver at the airport who whisked us to our hotel in San Isidro where our hotel was located. Being dog tired we opted for a takeaway delivery and did'nt set foot outside til nearly lunch time the next day. When we walked outside we soon realised we were in the D4 of Lima. Nearly every second property was an embassy and of course the place was impeccably groomed. Sometimes you fall on your feet when you book online but this time it was entirely by accident.

Our stay in Lima was really a litany of taxi rides to replenish our stolen stocks - camera charger, laptop, backback etc. It amazed us how many staff were in all the shops, some with no customers. However, the surplus of staff did not equate to great service - to try and get some attention was a skill in itself. At one point Seamus stripped naked and no one in the shop noticed........(I apologise, that was Aine dreaming again).

On our our first day after spending several hours trying to get served in shops we were starving so we decided to go into the first restaurant that looked busy. We went down a side street and into what turned out to be a chinese restaurant where we had the tastiest and freshest chinese we have ever tasted - 3 drinks, 2 starters and 2 main courses all for the princely sum of €7. We love Lima! That evening Aine was gagging for a drink and our hotel only served beer so they directed us around the corner to the nearest hotel which turned out to be the 5 star Lima Country Club! We decided to break the bank and ordered two double pisco sours which cost us nearly 5 times as much as lunch! It was very luxurious indeed so much so that when we were presented with a small bowl of mixed nuts and raisins we devoured it and the waitress replenished it and brought us some heur d'hoeves. Of course I ate them too and she topped us up with some more. We had to leave before we drew too much attention to ourselves.

Day 2 and 3 commenced with a fine breakfast followed by more shopping combined with sight seeing (the Cathedral and other fine buildings. We walked along the sea front at a height of 400 m above the strand where there were shops built into the cliffs. Having replaced most of our stolen stock we took a 4 hour bus to Paracas which is on the coast south of lima.

There is nothing much in Paracas except for it's proximity to the Ballestas Islands, which are world renowned for bird and mammal life. We took a boat ride out to see the wildlife and saw plenty of it. On the way to the islands, we saw El Candelabro, a large-scale Geoglyph that may have served as a beacon to mariners.

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The mystery as to the origins of this particular Geoglyph is ongoing with much speculation. The Ballestas islands are famous for guano i.e. bird shit, which they harvest every few years by hand and export to the UK. Peru's economy in the last century was based on guano production, but the fact that the Peruvians overfished the stocks of anchovies over the years has meant that the number of birds has drastically reduced. Still. there is a shit load of birds there. Some of the rocks were black with nesting cormorants. Then, there are pelicans, gannets and seals basking on the rocks.

i'm the king around here

i'm the king around here

approaching one of the Ballestas Islands

approaching one of the Ballestas Islands

Hunboltd Penguins

Hunboltd Penguins

Humboldt Penguins

Humboldt Penguins

Seals

Seals

What do you think your looking at????

What do you think your looking at????

eye spy

eye spy

Gannets

Gannets

Later that day we got the hell out of dodge, Paracas, and got the bus to Nasca, the home of the famous Nasca lines.

Posted by Loodersatlarge 07:55 Archived in Peru Tagged lima paracas Comments (0)

Seamus has a close shave

Well not really so close..

sunny 16 °C

You know how it is. You pass a little shop on holidays and someone calls you in and you walk by. Then you feel guilty or just curious and you go back for a look. Well that´s how we ended up in Juan Garcia's little barber shop. We were looking for a camera shop down a side street when we were called in by a little man with only 2 teeth in his head. Seamus was getting a bit hairy and needed a hair cut and a bit of a beard trim so we thought - in for a penny in for a pound.
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In we went and once Juan had Seamus in the chair we had passed the point of no return. I'd say we were Juan's only customers in the last few years. Literally. He blabbered away to us in Spanish and seemed to have his mind set on the fact that we were Swiss or Swedish no matter how many times we said we were from Irlanda. He also decided that my name was Anita and called me Anita for the rest of the visit. By this stage we had learned that Juan was 85 years old and a sprightly 85 at that. We tried to explain what Seamus wanted and Juan got out his electric shaver - it was as blunt as a stone but he soldiered on attempting to shave Seamus' head and beard whilst leaving bits here are there. Then came the funny part. Juan pointed to an old red plastic flask that had at least 30 years on ingrained dirt on the oustide. I passed it to him, he opened it and poured the liquid into a bowl. Then he took an ancient long-haired shaving brush and started to coat Seamus' face with the liquid.

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Seamus with the shaving cream

Seamus with the shaving cream


Now anyone who knows Seamus well, is aware of his almost anal (probably the wrong word to use in this context) obsession with hygiene. You should have seen the look on his face when Juan approached with the brush. I thought I would explode. Next thing we see is Juan reaching for the cut throat razor which he started to 'sharpen' on the leather strap. He approached Seamus and I had to leave the shop as I was afraid my laughing would make Seamus move and result in bloodshed.

Sharpening the cut throat

Sharpening the cut throat


Christmas crib

Christmas crib

In between shaving Seamus, Juan kept hopping up and down and showing us things such as his Christmas crib, xmas lights and associated xmas music. He also kept putting one of his hats on our heads which he said made us much more attractive.....Then he gave me a handful of CDs and asked me to select one. I selected a CD of mambo tunes which seemed to please Juan. Next he insisted that I get into the child's barber chair which was shaped like a horse. This was no mean feat as all the fantastic south american food and beers have resulted in a slightly larger rear end that I started out this trip with!

The kiddies chair

The kiddies chair


Juan and 'Anita' in the kiddies chair

Juan and 'Anita' in the kiddies chair

Back to Seamus who now looked a little like a dog with the mange with bits of hair here, there and everywhere. Juan kept telling us how 'guapo' or handsome Seamus was going to be at the end of the session. I was looking at old photos of Juan and he himself was certainly a 'guapo' young man in his time. He also had loads of photos and newspaper cuttings of him cutting various bishops' hair - he even had a picture of Hulk Hogan in his shop. He said he trimmed his beard. Maybe that's why Hulk had to go into retirement for awhile....

Juan as a 'guapo' young man

Juan as a 'guapo' young man


Juan - the Barber of Arequipa

Juan - the Barber of Arequipa

After at least an hour, the job was done. Well, as done as it was going to be for now. Juan sprayed alcohol all over Seamus' head and face til it was running down his neck. It smelled delicious and made me hanker after another pisco sour. After several photos, we said our goodbyes to Juan. He gave us his card and asked us to call him. How funny would that conversation be with no understanding on either side of the line?Juan went over to the Christmas crib and blessed himself and said a little prayer for us on our travels. It was then we noticed the tears in his eyes. Of course this set me off too and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. After much hugging and back slapping we headed on our way. A little less hairy and feeling a lot lighter of heart at having met the fabulous Juan Garcia.

Vaya con Dios Juan.

Juan the Man and Seamus

Juan the Man and Seamus

Posted by Loodersatlarge 17:03 Archived in Peru Tagged arequipa Comments (2)

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