Friday, October 31, 2014

Peru Road Trip - Part Two

Hey all,

I'm back with the second part of our trip.  We had a wonderful first three days and the second four where just as amazing.  The Andes were beautiful and very different from the greener Andes we hiked in Chile.  Different, yet amazing.

The high plateaus in the Andes, barren except for the tall grasses and sparse cactus almost echo with loneliness, but they aren't lonely.  There were many animals we saw as we drove through.  Both wild and domesticated.

And as we traveled, we saw things that both impressed and amazed us.  While we didn't LOVE the scenery, because of the type of geography it was, we were still intrigued and curious about what we saw.  Who were these people who could eke out a life in such bleak surroundings?

But the more we traveled, our slight disgust (I admit it, my Western mind saw the ugly and didn't understand the beauty) changed.  We quickly began to respect the people who lived here.  They lived, loved and laughed.  They built homes and communities out of nothing.  They raised their families, governed their people and then, finally died, all the time knowing they had done the best they could for themselves.

We saw empty plains, small villages, lakes and cities and each one showed us something different and amazing about the Peruvian people.  And I look forward to sharing them with you.

So here we go...

We woke up to this view out of our hotel room in Colca Canyon.  Not too shabby, huh?

Our neighbor--a domesticated Alpaca--with the beautiful Andes behind him. I didn't get too close.  He wasn't unfriendly, but I didn't want to get into his personal space.  *smile*

On our way to the Condor Lookout, we  came upon many locals heading to work.  This is just one of a dozen we ran into.

In Colca Canyon they have several valleys with pre-Inca agricultural terraces.  It is an amazing bit of farming.  The terraces are cut into the whole mountain like stacked staircases.

Here I am at the Colca Canyon Condor Lookout Cross.  You can see the sculptured mountains behind me.

 Unfortunately, we didn't see many condors the morning we went, but we weren't too upset.  We'd seen them the previous day as we wandered the high Andes.  Love those unexpected treats.

This pic I got online, so you could see the monument.  Great pic, whoever took it.

 Once we left Colca Canyon, we headed straight to Lake Titicaca.  On the way we drove past the Mirador de los Volcanes which offers views of several volcanoes that soar to more than 20,000 ft.  And before them are thousands upon thousands of wayfarer stones.  It's a pretty cool sight.

And on the way we discovered a wonderful surprise.  We weren't expecting to be able to see Andean Flamingos since we didn't travel in Northern Chile, so seeing these birds grazing in the middle of nowhere was dance worthy!

Not quite as brightly colored as those in zoos because of their diets, but it was still so cool to watch.  And the first time I'd seen flamingos in the wild.

The next morning we woke to the sunrise over Lake Titicaca.  We got up early so we could take a boat trip out to the Uros Islands.  

Not too bad of a view, huh?  Lake Titicaca is as big as the country of Costa Rica.  We could only see a teeny, tiny portion of it.  Even when we were out on the lake.

Our first look at the amazing Uros Islands.  These floating islands are where the Uros people live and their culture is quite unique.   They do everything here.  Live, work and raise their families.

This is the first island we visited.  We got a little lecture about how the islands are built.  Pretty amazing and informative.  You can check it out HERE on this cool blog.

This is the inside of one of the huts on the island.  I tried one of the beds.  Actually it was pretty comfortable.  I was pretty impressed.  Some of them were bigger than the room I live in.  
 The outside of the another, smaller hut.

We took a totora reed boat to the "capital city" of Hananpacha.  That's where the kids go to school, there is a real post office, restaurants and shops.  Primitive, but workable.

As you can see it's much bigger than the smaller island.  These communities may seem odd to us "land dwellers", but I have to say, I thought them quite astonishing.

The next day we visited the UNESCO site of the Santa Catalina Monastery.  I have to say, this is the most amazing place I've been in a long time.  This is a map of the monastery.  As you can see, it's bloody huge!!!!

One of the first courtyards in the convent.  Serene and beautiful, it goes by the name of Silence.

Another courtyard.  The three crosses are another area where the nuns would pray.

 As you can see, they love their courtyards.  I have to say I wouldn't mind being cloistered amongst such peace and beauty.

Most of the rooms had their own kitchen.  Very different than what I expected in a convent.

The living quarters were simple, but comfortable.  Again, very different than what I expected.
The convent had dozens of streets and alleyways.  It really is a small city in itself.

A street scene, one I loved getting on film.

 One last look at Santa Catalina Monastery.  It was a gorgeous, unique and interesting place, and I'm blessed to have had the time to visit.  I'd go back in a heartbeat and spend even more time, it was so lovely.  I think it was the perfect way to end our mini-vacation.

So, there you have it...  Our Peruvian road trip.  We still have a couple of places to visit, the biggest one being Machu Picchu at the end of next month, but this was the biggie.  So many places, so little time.

Plus, things are a changing.  Again.  I'll have more to share on that in NEXT weeks blog.  So stay tuned.  You never know what I'll be up to next!

And on that note... Click on the pic for a special message to my fans!

Hugs to all!!!!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, October 24, 2014

Road Trip Peru - Part One

Hey all,

Wow!  What an awesome trip.  Totally different than what we expected, but a trip we'll never forget.  Peru is a beautiful country in it's own way and a contrast in cultures and geography.  While not our favorite kind of scenery, it is lovely, especially if you like the dry desert look.

We had seven days to explore the south of Peru and since it is a lot bigger country than it looks, we had a lot of miles to cover.

We started out in Lima and headed south.  We planned to stay the night in Nazca, home of the famous Nazca lines, so we started out bright and early from Lima.  And the things we saw on the way were pretty amazing.

The land itself is dry and dusty.  I swear, every time I washed our clothes the water almost turned to mud.  *grin*  Seriously.  I've got pictures of the water in the tub and it's almost black, that's how dirty things are on the road.

But it is beautiful.  Sculpted dunes and mountains, flat open plains.  Barren pampas dotted with cactus and grass.  And deserts so empty, it makes your heart ache.

After growing up in the forests of the Sierra Nevadas in California, this dusty, open land was something foreign and at times, almost frightening.  We aren't used to so much open spaces and we pondered as we drove...  Would Peruvians feel claustrophobic if they wandered beneath the mighty redwoods in Northern California?

Pictures are always helpful, so let me show you what we experienced through the visual medium!
 This is what the majority of the Peruvian coast looks like as we traveled south.  Sandy, empty and so dry the goats in the hills are giving powdered milk!

Our first stop was in the legendary Huachachina Oasis.  Legend holds that the lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess was apprehended at her bath by a young hunter. She fled, leaving the pool of water she had been bathing in to become the lagoon. The folds of her mantle, streaming behind her as she ran, became the surrounding sand dunes.

And the woman herself is rumored to still live in the oasis as a mermaid.  This statue is her memorial.  During the season the surrounding dunes are filled with sand boarders, dune buggies and sand surfers.  We saw a few boarders as we sat at the oasis and had our lunch.  It was a beautiful and restful stop on our way to Nazca.

Our last stop for the day were the famous Nazca lines.  We couldn't go up in a plane (not enough time to research a reputable pilot, so we'll do that next time around), but we were in time to be able to climb the tower and see what you could from the ground.

It's only three stories high, but you can get up to see a few of the famous lines.  Not too well, but well enough!

The tree of life.  I think it's upside down.  But your guess is as good as mine.  What were the ancients / aliens thinking?

This is a little easier to see, especially if you click on it to make it bigger.  A guy with hands upraised.  Or a guy standing on his hands.  You choose.

Our next day we headed down to the tiny town of Chala, Peru.  It was a night's stop on our way to Colca Canyon to see the condors.  But we had a couple of stops to make.  First, we drove into the Andes to see the Pampas Galeras Reserve to see the shy and endangered vicuña.  But on the way we were treated to some beautiful scenery.

The sculpted mountains as we slowly headed up into the park.  Amazing.

Peruvians love their wayfarer stones.  Everywhere we looked we saw them.  A few days later we hit the mother load, but you'll see that next week.

We didn't have to go into the park to see the vicuña.  All at once, there they were.  Hundreds of them.  Apparently they were once so endangered there were less than 3500 left in the world.  Now, due to extensive conservation efforts there are more than 350,000.

And they are so cute.  Even when they are giving you the evil eye.  I wonder if they can spit like camels?

And as a bonus, we were surprised to see these guanaco.  90% of these beasties live in Patagonia, Argentina, so we counted ourselves as fortunate to see these.

At first it was hard to see the difference, but guanacos are darker in the face and have less white on the body.  Their tails are darker too.  You can see the difference if you look at the pics.

One of the best things about traveling is discovering the unexpected.  Just past Nazca is something quite amazing.  Discovered in the 1920’s, Chauchilla Cemetery is a necropolis consisting of mud-brick tombs and mummified remains belonging to the Nazca people, with interments that date between 200 and 900AD.   

After a member of the Nazca culture died, their body was mummified, clothed and painted, then placed in one of the mud-brick tombs that belonged to their family. 

Though many of the mummies are at least 1000 years old, many still have skin and hair attached. 

The incredible preservation of these bodies is due to both the carefully done mummification process and the dry (arid) environment of the Peruvian desert. 

On on down the road we went until we stopped at a VERY tiny resort in the small village of Chala.  It was a beautiful place right on the beach.  That night we heard seals bark as they played in the surf.

We were the only ones there, EXCEPT for the wedding party that was going on that night.  Until 2am.  LOUDLY.  Did you know that Peruvian wedding singers crooning American love songs can cause copious amounts of drinking?  We do.  *smile*

We woke up the next day and headed to Colca Canyon, the home of the Andean Condors.  It was going to be a long drive, so we started bright and early after breakfast.  The sea views were interesting.

And the road.  Curvy, to say the least.

How about this for beach front property?  It's got satellite!  We saw dozens of these types of homes dotting the coastline.

As we headed into the mountains we skirted the outside of the town Arequipa, which we'll visit another day.  This is a typical neighborhood in town.  We've seen this type of construction over and over again.

On this day we traveled higher than we ever had before.  We've hiked the mountains near the Matterhorn, biked through the Colorado Rockies and spent a week in Nepal.  But as we drove through the twisting turning Andean mountains, we hit 16,023 feet.

And can get breathless even if you're only driving through.  We nibbled on Cocoa leaves and took ibuprofen every few hours to countermand the effect of high altitude sickness.  It worked and we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery we discovered.

So that was the first part of our trip.  I'll share the Colca Canyon condors, our adventures on Lake Titicaca, and discovering the beauty of the Santa Catalina Monastery next week!  So come on back and share the adventure with me.

Hugs to all!!!!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams