Saturday, July 30, 2005
Tonight we head to Lima... home to 9 million people, a third of Peru´s population.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Last sunday I booked myself on a 4 day trek through the Andes specifically the famous Cordillera Blanca mountains. Like all good long term backpackers I booked myself on the Budget 4 day santa Cruz trek, believing that a hike thru the mountains is indeed just a hike thru the mountains. Now it´s been about 10 years since I´ve done a trek of the 4 day variety and it seems things have changed a fair bit in the camping world. For me part of the trip has always been out there in the mountains suffering a little with your powdered mash potato, raincoat rolled into a pillow and your own gear on your back over those mountain passes. But it seems the SUV generation has turned camping on it´s ear.
My fellow random tour members were 2 Belgian chess players, father Rudi and his son Thomas, 2 hard as nails Scottish ladies in their fifties, a spanish mountain man with his belly dancer girlfriend, a dutch couple and our Peruvian guide. Believing I was suitably prepared with my torch, sleeping bag, pocket knife and 3 chocolate bars (which I believed would make my fellow campers envious) I set off for the mountains. Upon meeting my fellow campers I immediately realised I was the only one without walking sticks. Yes the walking stick has been a very strange development in the trekking world. Virtually everyone has them. (at about 100 bucks per stick I might add). Most people also seem to have the 380 dollar goretex jacket, not to mention superdown pertex pants, 7000 series aluminium accessories, waterproof jackets with sleeve control, nylon pants complete with outdoor washed out look that turn into detachable shorts with one zip, miners headlamp torches, and a variety of other gadgets all worth hundreds of dollars and which will probably be only used on the Santa Cruz trek. All of which will be carried up by the poor old donkeys. When you think that back in the 1920´s some men climbed everest only with hobnailed boots, tweeds and canvas backpacks it makes one think.
As me and my fellow budget trekkers sat huddled behind a stone wall to protect ourselves from shivering we started to ponder the benefits of posh camping. Personally I find it a little insensitive tramping around Peru in 4000 dollars worth of gear you´ll wear once. Moreover some of the trekkers had all their gear carried for them, their tents set up for them , toilet tents, eating tents, cooking tents, shower tents, private guides, Red wine and restaurant quality food to eat. And paying up to 300 US dollars a day for the privilege of walking in the mountains. But isn´t the point of camping to rough it a tiny bit? The feel of that first shower when you get back to civilisation, that first meal, first beer. Having said that there wasn´t one of us that wouldn´t have jumped at the chance to join them if invited. I wonder what camping in the mountains will be like in another 10 years time...
The views of the mountains were quite spectacular and were exactly the same whether you were on the budget tour or not. We crossed a 4700 metre pass which was hard work but were rewarding with fantastic views and luckily the weather was clear for virtually our entire trek. Definitely worth 4 days of roughing it without the special altitude watch, high peak trekking poles, zyrtec oxygen cannisters, battery powered shower, brass whistle, disposable handwarmers, insect head net, GPS navigator and sock warmers.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Little wonder the area around Huaraz is at the cutting edge of adventure tourism. well at least I´ll be taking a few thousand beanie clad tourists with me
So much for our beach holiday. By the way half fallen down apartment blocks and millions of plastic bags don´t quite make it Bondi Beach. But I can´t really complain.
One thing they did have in Trujillo were these boats made out of cane papyrus which the locals use like surf skis and go fishing with. Apparently they have been using these boats for thousands of years.
Speaking of thousands of years there are some amazing ruins in Trujillo, from the Moshi and Chavin empires which both predate the inca empires by hundreds of years. In fact the incas only starred for about 150 years before the Spanish. These other empires left amazing ruins as well, not to mention incredible examples of human sacrifices. So our beach holiday lasted a day and a half before we took the night bus to the Cordillera Blanca, specifically Huaraz.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Smoke from cooking fires is the 4th biggest cause of death in developing countries, in fact it kills more people than Malaria. Other than very smoky kitchens, headaches and lots of tears, the smoke can cause low birth weights, infant mortality, cataracts and cancer. For more info type killer in the kitchen in google.
So Ben has set up socio adventures to help local communities. So if anyone out there plans on coming to Peru I can't recommend this tour more
Not only do you get to help little cuties like the twins above, but you'll get that sense of achievment of actually having built something, not to mention the gratitude of the locals who quote "Will never forget you as long as they live". They also threw in a couple of guinea pigs( they were delicious), a chicken and a sack of potatoes for good measure even the kids lent a hand, they were particularly fond of washing bricks and eating our poporn
It was a great 5 days and the guy in the hat is currently writing a poem about us... The family were lovely and of course we ended up getting more out of the tour than they did.... Gotta love giving, it's so selfish
Of course all great beauty pageants have some half time entertainment and we found ourselves at the centre of that as well. Here I am doing the region's famous hanky dance. Kate got extremely jealous when I was invited up by one of the beauty Queens
There's something slightly perverted about judging 12 year old girls in a beauty contest but we took our responsibilities very seriously. The categories were 1) overall presentation and entance 2) facial beauty 3) dress 4) ability to answer a question
and the result? well Kate, Jose the guy to my right in the top photo and me voted for number 2. Unfortunately the other judge voted very high for number 3 on the right and she was crowned the fiesta's beauty queeen and given 35 bucks for good measure.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
After visiting our family in Otavalo, Northern Ecuador for a few days we hit the road and the railways south. The highlight being the famous El Nariz de Diablo, Devils nose railway.
6 richety hours thru
scenery, with 200 tourist
cold but fun
Last day with the
family and the