Peru 13: Colca Cañon and southern Peru Coast

Following a relaxed Xmas time in Arequipa, we still wanted to observe the Condors at Colca Cañon and then make our way southwards into Chile. Nach einer ruhigen Zeit in Arequipa hatte wir noch den Colca Cañon vor uns, wo die Chance, Kondore zu sichten, sehr gross war. Also machten wir uns auf den Weg dorthin, bevor wir dann entlang der Küste Perus auf Chile zusteuerten. Leaving Arequipa we drove back to Tambillo and turned north passing through Huacán and Huambo before we got to the the Cruz del Condor viewpoint above the Colca Cañon. We arrived at the viewpoint towards afternoon and were lucky to see some Condors flying along the deep canyon. There was a possibility to camp in the older parking area although we found a small track going further down - here we decided to spend the night with a splendid view of the canyon. The surrounding mountains reached between 5600m to 6300m and, although our site was lower down at approx 4000m, it turned out to be a cold night, only tempered by the hot tea with a shot of rum before we retired.   Next morning we drove up to the viewpoint at around 10:00, the time when it is expected for the Condors to have sufficient thermals to rise from their perches. We saw only 4 in the distance after the mist had lifted and were grateful for the previous afternoon's sighting. Many tourist groups gathered at the viewpoint and also we  were required to pay the substantial entrance fee of 70 Soles pP (especially considering that we did not see any Condors close up). However, we were rewarded with some hummingbirds feeding on the flowers on the canyon edge. We returned to Arequipa via Maca, a small town with a quaint old church and known for the women wearing skilfully embroidered clothes and hats.   We continued via Chivay, Chucura and Yura to Arequipa, where we spent another night at Grace Valley hospedaje, conveniently situated around the corner of Plazavea supermercado so we could still do some essential shopping before dark.   Next morning we continued south through La Repartición, La Joya, Moquegua, Camiara to Ité on the coast.   On our way to La Boca del Rio,  we found a convenient wild camping spot at the deserted Club de Pescadores along the beach just below the main road, a few kilometres before we got to the town. A pair of seagulls were repetitively diving towards me while photographing, although I could not spot their breeding spot.   Next day we travelled past Tacna and crossed the border into Chile without too many problems. The Chilean customs officials were thorough in their search for fresh fruit and vegetable, which cost us one apple and two potatoes after scanning the luggage. Even our top box was scrutinised. The border crossing took approx. one and a half hours. Eventually we stayed just north of Arica at Camping Josefine where owner Paula, ably assisted by her lovely 6 year old daughter, runs the site. Not the best camping site but adequate for a night. The beach area, 2km away, teemed with terns and gulls.   This post covers 26th - 29th December 2016

Peru 12: World’s deepest Cañon and Xmas in Arequipa

Peru has the highest Andes mountain peaks in South America - not surprisingly also the deepest Cañon in the world. Cañon de Cotahuasi is very remote and difficult to get to - and we did not expect the surprises along the way. Wenn wir schon die höchsten Gipfel der Anden bestaunen konnten, wollten wir uns den tiefsten Canyon der Welt nicht entgehen lassen -allerdings mit ein paar unerwarteten Überraschungen auf dem einsamen Weg dort hin. Once we had left Nasca we took Ruta 30A eastwards via Puquio, a road with many curves and wild Vicuñas grazing. Underway we met Axel & Erika in their bright yellow Unimog who are already travelling for 3 years with their dog. The day ended with us camping wild at Laguna Yurira at an altitude 4400m - we were prepared for a ice cold night as it started raining a few drops. Following a quick supper we crept into our roof tent to shelter from the cold. Since we could feel tingling in the hands and feet and had altitude headache, we decided to take some Diamox as it has been a climb of almost 4000m within a day -not good.  In the morning we observed some Andean geese, Yellow-billed Teal and Giant Coots (as well as one lonely sheep -we named him Shaun). Less and less herds of Llamas were seen. Next morning we carried on along the 40A and turned off close to Rocruzca onto Ruta AR105, a small and rough road. At the turnoff our details were recorded at a boom -not to sure for what purpose.We discovered some southern Viscacacha (chinchillas), cute with their curly tail. As we drove along AR105 the area became very desolate and remote - virtually no people left except one herdsman who walked up a hill when he spotted us photographing. A few provisions made his day. Towards afternoon a thunderstorm was developing, dark grey and threatening, but beautiful. We were reaching a height above 5000m. The temperature dropped and suddenly our road was obstructed by a small landslide. We could not squeeze by and had to start shovelling and rolled some boulders out of the way which we barely managed. As we were shovelling the first sleet came down and then it turned into a snowstorm within the next 30 minutes - giving us just enough time to reach a reasonably level clearing where we could park. We could not see any tracks any longer, it got dark and within a short while we were covered in about 5cm of snow. At this point we decided to call it a day and crept into our tent. The altitude here was 4900m ( we managed still to come down from the 5100m we had reached an hour earlier). Not knowing how long we may be caught in the snow, I decided to restart the vehicle twice during the night and let it run for approx 20minutes. Luck was on our side - next morning the Cordillera de Huanzo mountains were clear, the snowing had stopped and within two hours of brilliant sunshine enough snow had melted for us to see the road again. We continued albeit a little nervous about further landslides as there was no oncoming vehicles we could ask. The road continued through the mountain ranges, up and down winding passes and  through little remote villages like Puyca, Alca and Tomepampa. Finally we reached the  Coatahuasi Cañon (3535m deep), where we stopped and camped at Mirador Bañadero del Condor with view of the distant town of Toro. This viewpoint/camp can accommodate maximum 2 vehicles and there was even a loo! 200m further is a lookout from where at times Condors can be seen bathing below a small waterfall high up on the opposite wall -we were not so lucky. We found the journey to the Cañon exciting and one of the most remote and quiet areas in Peru. The cañon itself was maybe a little disappointing as we had envisaged grandeur like the Grand Cañon in Nevada or Fish River Cañon in Namibia. Cotahuasi is different - not so visible. We continued through Puna landscape past the Nevado Solimana (6323m) and Nevado Coropuna (6613m), the landscape dotted with hardy green plants looking likes stones. Wind picked up while we drove through the Pampas de Majes where we could barely make out the sandstone petroglyphs Toro Muerto in the distance -not the day to explore further due to incredibly strong winds and dust. Barren mountains lined a very fertile and dark green valley with vines and rice. A lot a cacti grew on some of the slopes, the mountains pink and grey. Near Tambillo we turned into the stony desert and camped under clear skies full of stars, faintly aware of only a very distant rumbling of trucks along this stretch of road. Soon we reached Arequipa and found a pleasant place to stay, Grace Valley B&B with Diana and her mother running it and making us feel very welcome -especially since it was Xmas. While in Arequipa we could get the vehicle serviced at Mitsui Toyota on short notice,a professionally run workshop with one assistant in sales speaking English to translate. We relaxed in the comfort of the client lounge with view of the workshops. While in Arequipa we found our vehicle's starter batteries failing ( the Landcruiser VX100 has two in parallel that are best replaced as a pair) and we managed to get two suitable replacements (Panasonic brand to get a one year warranty in all the countries we were due to visit). We also found that from Grace Valley we could reach the old city on foot and the Arequipa Clinic by taxi, all very conveniently. Although it is possible to stay in the vehicle roof tent at the B&B, we suggest taking a room as the traffic noise can be loud. And maybe you are lucky getting the same blanket on your bed - a very homely feeling for us from Africa. It was a pleasant stay at Grace Valley and Diana tipped us off to book at Zigzag restaurant for Xmas dinner - an excellent suggestion. We toured the old city, had a haircut and looked for a laundry. The central plaza was abuzz with families showing their kids the nativity play - little Jesus was missing (it only appear on Xmas Eve after the mass). Shoe lace specialist merchant. Unfortunately the Santa Catalina monastery closed early and we missed seeing the inside which we believe is worth seeing. This made our decision easy to relax with a sundowner of different Pisco cocktails before going to supper. Santa Catalina Monastery We decided to stay the 25th and got served a traditional hot chocolate, turkey and Italian cake  for breakfast. When in Arequipa for Xmas - stay up after midnight, as this is the time when the fireworks everywhere started which lasted two hours. This post cover the period 17th - 25th December 2016

Peru 11: Reserva Naçional de Paracas and the Nasca Lines

Although the coastal area of Peru is mainly desert, we found a visit to the Paracas National Park attractive as it reminded us of our home country, Namibia. Having a closer look at the mysterious Nasca lines reminded us of books of Erich von Däniken we had read many years ago. So we decided to have a closer look. Ein Flug über die Nazca Linien klang reizvoll. Hatten wir doch über die von Däniken Theorien gelesen, dass diese Linien und Geoglyphen für oder von ausseridischen Wesen stammen könnten. The PanAm Sur to San Vicente de Cañete is a good stretch of highway with many holiday developments along it. It is close enough to Lima to be conveniently reached for weekends. Past Chincha Alta we briefly stopped in the town of Pisco. This area was hit by an earthquake during 2007 but most is reconstructed. The famous Pisco liqueur is distilled in this area and shops along the road offer many variants of it. We turned off  into the Reserva Naçional de Paracas, then visited the small natural history museum past the entrance gate before exploring the coastal desert park itself. After some calamari at La Tia Pili in Lagunillas (a fishing village in the park) we camped near Playa de la Mina on the parking area - all new toilets had been built at various places in the park, but the water was not yet connected. We spent a cold and quiet night with many Inca terns and Peruvian Boobies breeding in the sand cliffs nearby. Next day we toured through the park, realised that entry to the harbour Puerto General San Martini is no longer possible (mining export?), then enjoyed the beautiful dark red beach at Playa Roja, drove past "La Catedral" a natural formation near Playa Yumague. We camped at Mendieta Playa meeting Christian and Sarah from Austria who were enjoying kayaking around the formations. The fishermen left at sunset and we had this wonderful spot to ourselves and it was a good time to observe Royal Terns and both, the American as well as the Blackish Oystercatchers. Early morning we walked up the cliffs and had a wonderful view of the rock formations and observed breeding Peruvian Boobies, Red-legged Cormorants, Black skimmers and red-headed Turkey Vultures. Mid morning we decided to proceed down to Laguna Grande, a fisher settlement and then took a path through the dunes eastwards back to the PanAm. The area was desolated and incredibly barren but scenic. Past Guadalupe we reached Ica where we turned off to Laguna de Huacachina with plenty dune buggies racing on very high dunes - adrenalin galore for the visitors. The laguna itself looked rather dull and polluted. As we drove further south on the PanAm Sur we passed the viewing tower which we ascended to have a view of the three Nasca line formations that can be seen, albeit not very well. They were supposed to be the hands, the lizard and the tree. We could really only make out the hands(but had a good view from the air next day). Reaching Nasca we made a flight reservation for early morning and then put up our camp at Hotel San Marcelo, negotiated the use of a bathroom and enjoyed their pool. Next morning we left early to the Nasca airport and took the flight across many of the Nasca formations.The arid area is colourful from the air, Nazca itself not the most beautiful town. The first geoglyph we identified was the whale. Besides the many geometric figures and lines, which reminded us of landing strokes and signage for alien craft visiting ( although apparently used by the Nazca for rituals praying for rain) we could clearly make out the "Astronaut" figure cut into a hill side and the large monkey geoglyph. Other animal figures included the hummingbird, Condor and spider. It was a rough flight but worth getting a proper overview on the extend of the many geoglyphs,lines and symbols drawn into the landscape at Nazca and we could not but wonder, how they were made without an aerial view at the time, as they are really only clearly recognisable from the air. As we returned we had a glimpse of excavations dating back to the Nazca people and the entry points of the Cantalloc aquaducts built by the Nazca. This post cover the period 14th to 17th December 2016

Peru 10: Along the Northern Coast to Lima

Note from the Editor: We have upgraded WordPress and suddenly all line breaks are omitted which makes the text difficult to read - we apologise for this inconvenience until we find a solution.          .   The northern coast of Peru is barren and mostly desert. Nevertheless it offers much to see in the form of museums,pyramids, temples and adobe cities of past civilisations. Die Nordküste Peru entlang des Pazifischen Oceans bietet viel Sehenswertes. Überreste vergangener Zivilisationen zeugen von Besiedelungen weit vor den Inkas und Moche. We left our favourite camping site Swiss Wassi at Zorritos where I tried to solve my Apple-harddrive storage problem without much success but got my backup drive operational again.  Around Mancora We drove through Mancora, did essential shopping in Sullana, then drove via  Piura and the Desierto de Sechura, past Lambayeque and Chiclayo (in very strong winds-dust & sand everywhere) and decided to call it a day in Pacasmayo where we found camping at El Faro Adventure Resort -beautifully overlooking the ocean and known for its very good surfing and windsurfing conditions (one of the longest wind-surfable waves in the world). Jenny, the owner explains that it was started by her father and today her sons are also involved. For US$40 you could rent all windsurfer gear from Jaime, the instructor. Beautiful view -super waves El Faro -The Lighthouse Next we made our way via the village of Magdalena de Cao, celebrated because of Señora de Cao - probably the only female queen of the Moche period and her grave was not plundered and the mummy intact. Xmas was coming -also to this remote region Her grave was in the El Brujo Archaeological Complex, with its Moche temple and grave at El Brujo (400-800AD) Then our route took us back via Santiago de Cao to the camping site in Huanchaco, where we made our base again at Huanchaco RV Gardens Hospedaje Meeting Willi & Gabi Cordes again -nicknamed the "bomberos"due to the fire red vehicle. From here we explored  Chan Chan - the biggest adobe city in the world where part of the mud walls are still preserved and it is possible to see the extend of this once flourishing city during the Chimú Kingdom period. It is an Unesco Heritage site since 1986. This city was only captured by the Incas 1470 after they cut off the water supplies to the 100 000 inhabitants. South of Trujillo we visited the pyramids Huaca de Sol y Huaca de la Luna, the biggest adobe structures built in the Moche cultural period. Approx 130 million adobe bricks were used, each with the signature of the provider in it. As with Chan Chan the years of very wet El Niño period wreaked havoc with the mud constructions, which are now under roof to a great extend while being excavated and partially restored. Research has revealed that these temples where used mainly for blood ceremonies where captured warriors blood was drunk by the high priests of the Moche. The ancient city in the area, Cerro Blanco, is named after the whitish vulcanic peak behind Huaca de la Luna. We carried on via Chimbote and to the coastal town of Tortugas, where we had a special lunch at Restaurant Tarawasi. Run by Julian, a Spaniard, and his Peruvian wife, they cooked up a tasty meal of seafoods. They have rooms to rent but unfortunately there is no camping, so we continued through Huarmey and stopped again on the coast,where we had previously camped at km228 before Barranca. The local fisherman welcomed us once more to his beach area. Scenic but a lot of litter spoils the setting - a manifestation of the world-wide problem of pollution of the oceans and with that the remote coastal areas. At 7am the fishermen launched their boats and we decided to push on to Lima - along the PanAm running along the dunes dropping straight down into the ocean. We were not looking forward to visit the 30mill inhabitants of Lima, but our entry into the city was smooth and with luck we found Llantas Heintz without too much of a problem - here we hoped to find the same Coopers tires to replace the burst one. We were not disappointed: an absolutely professionally run operation, third generation Japanese owned operation and within 2 hours we left with 2 new Coopers tires, wheels balanced and rotated. If ever you have a need for new rubbers -try them. After successfully getting new wheels we proceeded to the suburb of Miraflores where we camped in the parking space of the Hitchhikers and Backpackers Hostal . We parked and slept in our vehicle - only annoying part was that each person entering has to ring the bell -which goes virtually right through the night and is next to the vehicles - we had quieter nights on our trip. Bonus: very close by was an excellent Sushi place (Edo Sushi) and we really enjoyed having something different to eat after 8 months on the road. Hitchhikers and Packpackers Hostal On the following day we decided to do a walking tour with one of the walking tours organisations starting at Kennedy Plaza, Free Walking Tours - it is a service which is tip based and you decide how much it was worth to you. The walkabout was most interesting, well organised and professional -worth doing. We visited  the central Plaza where the presidents palace is, did some Pisco tastings and sampled different chocolates. We visited the Mario Vargas library, the old post office and railway station as well as churches in the area. Before we departed, we visited the 3-storey computer centre close to Kennedy Plaza and finally got some advice of how to fix my Apple-external harddrive problem. About 100 shops offer all you need in computer and communications at this centre. This post covers the period 7th -13th Dec 2016

Ecuador 6: The Butterflies in Mindo

Mindo also offers an excellent opportunity to see many of the butterflies of Ecuador. A good place to start is at the local mariposarium (Butterfly Garden). Südamerika's Schmetterlinge sind prachtvoll. Mindo bietet dafür eine gute Gelegenheit im Schmetterlingspark, welcher etwa 2km ausserhalb des Dorfes liegt und auch per Fuss zu erreichen ist. Enjoy!
At the butterfly sanctuary we saw, amongst others,Papilio thoas, Owl butterflies on a tree trunk, Morpho elenor,Celtinas with their transparent wings,the red and black Heliconius melpomene toma. Following our visit to the butterfly sanctuary, we departed and drove from Mindo  via Santo Domingo de los Colorados to Quevedo, where we found a parking spot inside the security area of Hotel Presidente owned and run by Señor Wellington and his wife Sunet. Pictures on the wall testified of better times when even presidents of Ecuador stayed over here. Today it is no longer in the class for presidents, but we were happy to camp in the yard and use a room's bathroom, all for US$8 for the night. It was quiet and safe. Hotel Presidente -found a safe campsite in their parking at the new part being constructed Next day we travelled from Quevedo to Babahoyo, then on to Milagro (past Guayaquil). On the way on a very busy single lane road a rear tyre burst and we were somewhat nervous while changing the wheel due to the traffic of heavy vehicles. Heavy traffic in both directions -not a good place to change a burst tyre Our next stop was past Naranjal where we camped at Kaluz Hosteria and Spa with the hot Balneario de Aguas Termales in walking distance, which were run by the local Shuar people in the village. Breakfast was included in the tariff at Kaluz and we were permitted to use the clean bathroom of a vacant cabaña. The breakfast consisted of a piece of indescript queso (cheese) and deep-fried platanas, a bland and fairly tasteless banana - not quite what we would normally have ordered if there had been a choice. Camping at Kaluz A wonderful specimen of a Travellers Palm in the Kaluz gardens The Shuar are part of the Jivaro tribe, known for the shrunken head trophies which were only outlawed in modern times by the Ecuadorian and Peruvian governments. Balneario de Aguas Termales From Kaluz camp our route took us back to the trunk road and on the way we spoke to Shuar farmers harvesting the large red cacao fruits. Harvesting Cacao fruit On her way to school Then on to Santa Rosa, from there to Arenillas and ultimately to the border at Huaquillas from where we aimed to get to Zorritos in Peru for the night, knowing that a pleasant campsite awaited us. Border formalities were without any hitches although it took approximately 2 hours. Soon the magnificent trees of Ecuador started making way for boring banana plantations as we got closer to the border  Post cover period    4th to 6th December 2016

Ecuador 5: Hummingbirds (Colibris) and other Birds in Mindo

South America is endowed with beautiful birds - hummingbirds and colibris are just one of the many groups present. So we had to find a spot that would allow us to observe some from close by. Südamerika hat eine Vielzahl schönster Vogelarten. Die Familie der Kolibris ist eine der faszinierensten Gruppen. Wir hatten gehört das auf unserem Weg gen Süden der Ort Mindo dafür bekannt ist. Aber vorher musste noch etwas am Wagen getan werden. Galápagos felt like a 14 day holiday for us being on the ship. For a change we had super bathroom facilities, a roof over our heads and all food that was prepared for us in place of having to cooking outside no matter what the weather conditions were. By now we had travelled 7 months in our vehicle and we had done just over 21 000km exploring 6 countries. However, a few things needed fixing before we could continue - especially our fridge. Luckily parts had arrived in Ibarra when we got back and we could get them out of customs for the moderate sum of US$130. This amount was little in comparison to the DHL courier freight costs from South Africa for the few items we needed. Fellow traveller Stefan Sigl assisted to get the compressor brazed back into the fridge circuitry ( with assistance of local technicians in Ibarra), we also repaired the ARB air compressor ( the over-heating protection sensor failed) and did general maintenance, cleaning, washing etc. Then it was time to say our goodbyes to new friends we had now met going up north and coming back south and a good occasion was a farewell braai! Not to forget Fred & Elisabeth Smits from New Zealand in their 1957  Mercedes who had to leave their trailer behind to be able to tackle the high Andes. View from Finca Sommerwind Farewell Petra & Stefan Our route took us past Ibarra, Otavalo, Cayambe, then past Quito to Mindo, where we camped in the parking area of Jadin El Descanso hostal where we hoped to be able to observe hummingbirds in their extensive gardens. Mindo is a good place to see birds as everywhere are bushes and flowers and many restaurants and hostals put out feeders that ensure that Colibris have sufficient nourishment in the area. We were not disappointed - despite it raining almost all the time. White-necked Jacobin A pair of White-necked Jacobins Rufus-tailed Hummingbird Rufus-tailed Hummingbird Green-crowned brillant Hummingbird Green-crowned Woodnymph White-whiskered Hermit Unidentified -please advise if you know Unidentified -please advise if you know We were able to identify the following Colibris: Andean Emerald, Green-crowned brillant Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird,Green-crowned Woodnymph,White-necked Jacobin and White-whiskered Hermit.
Post covers the period    28th November-6th December 2016