A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ebmarnp

Across Peru in 10 days

The cities of Puno and Arequipa

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We traveled from Cusco to the city of Puno, beside Lake Titicaca. The area lies 12500 feet above sea level, the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world, and is unique for the multiple native cultures which reside around the lake and on the islands within the lake.



The land is arid and dry, but the views are amazing.


Llama crossing!



Following Puno, we traveled to Arequipa the second largest city in Peru and 4000 feet lower than Puno.


This colonial city is famous for its buildings made from a pearly white volcanic rock called sillar.


The city is ringed by three active volcanoes, all around 20,000 feet high, which provide a unique backdrop to the antique churches and scattered palm trees.




We decided to visit the Santa Catalina Monastary, a convent which was founded in 1580. It wasn't open to the public until 1979, at which point the treasure trove of hundreds-of-year-old china, statues, paintings, and architecture was able to be admired by all.


The nuns were well known for their baking, including pastries, muffins, and other sweet goodies. Kevin went looking for some.





Dirty habits were washed in large ceramic jugs by the numerous servants.





A dry wishing well in the kitchen!


Despite numerous earthquakes the convent has been restored beautifully and provided amazing views of the city and sunset.




Arequipa has provided us good food (Morrocan, Mexican, Italian, and French), great live rock music, and much needed rest and relaxation!

Posted by ebmarnp 16:39 Archived in Peru Tagged sunset church lake city Comments (2)

Machu Picchu

semi-overcast 21 °C
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Our first stop in the journey to Machu Picchu was the town of Aguas Calientes, at the base of the mountain on which the city was built. It has the facade of a frontier town but the character of one large tourist trap.


Machu Picchu (elevation 8,000 ft) was believed to be constructed sometime around 1430 for the Incan Emperor Pachacuti. Archaeologists are still at a loss as to the purpose of the site. The current theory is that it was a retreat for the nobility and priests as well as a site of extreme religious importance due to its location in the mountains. The numerous terraces also prove that the city sustained itself through agriculture, enough to support almost 1,000 people. It was abandoned less than 100 years after it was built, perhaps due to smallpox which was brought by Spanish Conquistadors and introduced to the city by travelers.

The fact that the Spanish never found Machu Picchu means that many of the buildings and temples were left un-plundered (and makes the site unique among the Incan ruins). American historian Hiram Bingham "rediscovered" the site with the help of a 11-year old Quechua boy in 1911. Another interesting note: the original name of the city is unknown; the ruins are named for the mountain that overlooks it.

The views as we took our bus up 12 switchbacks were stunning. Machu Picchu is saddled between two mountains, Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, but several other mountains tower over the ruins, each one a sacred deity for the Inca people.



When we arrived early in the morning, Machu Picchu was shrouded in a dense mist, typical for this time of year. The fog swirling around the stones gave the site a dream-like appearance. We felt like we had been elevated to the world of the Incan gods.






The structure of the Temple of the Sun (seen below) was amazingly constructed and archaeologists still marvel at its symmetry and design.


As you can see, all these houses need are a roof and they are ready to be lived in again!


The stones used in areas of religious importance were very large and fit tightly together without mortar. This has proved highly resistant to earthquakes.


The double jamb below marks the entrance to a sacred space.


Behind Kevin is an altar inside of a cave nestled underneath the Temple of the Sun.


Rock protuberances with holes were used as the hinges for doors.


The Room of the Three Windows was another sacred place. The views of the valley were incredible from this vantage point.


This immense stone has 32 sides, a unique stone the likes of which is not found in any other Incan ruin.


It was at this point that a rainbow appeared from within the mist! Watch here.


We reached the Intihuatana stone, which was used to chronical the summer and winter solstice as a kind of sun dial. Guides tell us that you can feel the energy of Inti, the Sun God, emanating from the stone. It was actually at this point that the mists began to dissolve and the layout of Machu Picchu was revealed. See it here.



Below is another sacred stone which looks like Huayna Picchu, the mountain it stands in front of. The immense stone was left in place where it was found by the city's builders.



Some clowning around from a nice view of the Intihuana stone area on the right and the industrial zone on the left.



The switchbacks up to Machu Picchu are seen in the distance.


Some of the sacred mountains surrounding Machu Picchu.


This massive piece of granite was formed into a condor. Here in this picture you can see one wing. It is believed the Incans, after mummifying their dead royalty, would place the bodies onto the wing so that they would be carried up to the gods. See the video: here.


A view of the city from the top of the agricultural terraces.


Kevin made a friend.


We followed an Incan Trail to the Inca Bridge. This was once used by runners who carried messages between all of the Incan cities and spans a gorge that is 2,000 ft deep.


Views from mid-way up the mountain of Machu Picchu, with Huanyna Picchu seen in the background. Videos can be seen here.


We ended the day on Machu Picchu mountain, watching the clouds swirl around the mountains, listening to the roar of the distant Urubamba river, and reflecting on the marvel that lay at our feet.



In total, we spent 6 hours winding our way through the ruins and surrounding mountains. We could have spent weeks.

Posted by ebmarnp 10:35 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains ruins inca Comments (6)

The secrets of Nazca

Exploring the lines and the mummies of Nazca

sunny 32 °C
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We had an amazing time at Nazca, which is located a few hours south of Ica.

After settling into our hostel we spent a day exploring the mysteries of this desert city.The Nazca people were a pre-Incan culture that flourished in the harsh desert of south central Peru. As a result of their environment they developed advanced methods to interpret the weather, particularly in terms of rainfall. They built hundreds of underground aqueducts, vibrant pottery, and the mysterious Nazca lines.


We started exploring this amazing culture (and their predecessors the Paracas) by traveling to the necropolis of Cauchilla, which is a mile wide cemetery that holds thousands of family grave sites, of which only 12 have been fully excavated by archaeologists.


The mummies are created by removing the internal organs, rubbing the skin with lime and chili, and then slowly baking them in a oven for several hours to dry out the skin, placed in the fetal position, after which they were put to rest in small family plots built like houses underground. The dry desert air, which can reach temperatures up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, perfectly preserved the bodies and left skin, hair, and nails still intact.




Yes, some of these mummies have dreadlocks which would get up to 3 meters in length! From what archaeologists were able to determine these long-haired mummies belonged to the upper class and served as spiritual and/or political leaders.


Generations of families would be buried in the same plot, with extensions added on to the "underground home" as each family member died.


Sadly, this cemetery remains horribly underfunded. Not only have grave robbers removed all of the gorgeous examples of pottery, jewelry, and textiles that the mummies were buried with, but there are thousands of other graves which await discovery. This cemetery is the only one of dozens which are scattered across the Peruvian desert, most of which are unexplored.

Onto the famous lines! We chartered a small plane to give us the much famous bird's-eye-view of the Nazca lines.


After a shaky launch into the sky we were amazed at the pictures that began to appear below us. Trapezoids, spiders, birds, monkeys, even a killer whale (what is that doing here in the desert hundreds of miles from the ocean?).


We saw this guy, the famous "astronaut," hanging out on a hillside:


And numerous depictions of birds, which the Nazca (like most pre-Colombian societies) saw as representative of the divine world of the sky:


Pair of hands and a tree next to the Pan-American highway:


Alien runway or an astrological system? You decide! (Kevin is convinced it's the former.)


Now in Cusco (recovering from altitude sickness) we have several more side trips planned before we make our way to Machu Picchu.

Posted by ebmarnp 05:34 Archived in Peru Comments (6)

Wrapping up Colombia, On to Peru!

Magical Medellin, New Year Frolicking, Visiting Middle Earth

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We finished our holidays in Colombia, first with a metro cable ride and then a tour of the botanical gardens in Medellin:




Then we traveled by bus over over mountain roads to a small town outside of Cartagena called Manzanillo de Mar:





Not pictured, blaring reggaeton 24 hours a day!

We spent New Year's Eve in Cartagena. We had dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, I Balconi, then strolled the streets, looking at the lights and following the crowds.





Check out our fireworks here!

This guy didn't manage to stay awake for the sunrise:


But we did!


Next, we caught a flight from Cartagena to Lima via Panama, and arrived, mysteriously, in Middle Earth:


What else to do but check out Museo de la Nacion...




And the astounding private collection at Museo Larco...literally thousands of pieces in storage, yet open to the public.


And a simply incredible public collection of pre-Colombian pottery, fabric, jewelry, and statues.




And one ring to bind them!


These are the ruins in the neighborhood of Miraflores, two minutes from where we are staying at Rivendell:


This city, this entire country, is one amazing layer of history and culture after another. Where will we go next? Only this guy knows:


Posted by ebmarnp 20:10 Archived in Colombia Comments (2)

Football Frenzy and Taganga Tranquility

Enjoying the best of Colombia

sunny 31 °C
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We are making slow progress towards Tayrona National Park, which has within it some of the most beautiful beaches of Colombia.

First, we had to make a two night stop in Barranquilla to pick up a package. We were fortunate enough to be invited by our hostel owner to a local football game the next evening.

It was the quarterfinals of the Colombian league championships. This was a match in which the local team, Junior, was expected to defeat the guests, Chico.


This game had everything you would expect at a typical American sports game: a never ending supply of beer, fighter jets overhead, fights in the stands, the steady pulse of drums and horns, and thirty-five thousand throats demanding victory. The only difference: there was as much drama on the field as there was in the stands. Players were horrendously injured but miraculously, within minutes of being carried off the field by the Red Cross, back on their feet and ready to play.


At the half, the crowd began to get ugly. Junior was down 0-2, until...click here

Fortunately, the game ended in victory for Junior, 2-2. We still aren't sure how a tie was a victory but that didn't stop us from celebrating the glorious defeat of Chico!

Onwards! Through Santa Marta and to Tanganga, a small fishing village outside of Tayrona National Park.


This picturesque little town is slowly awakening to tourism as it is rapidly becoming a hot spot for diving.

One of the main roads...

Fortunately, we found several secluded coves and beaches that are only enjoyed by the local fishermen.


Possibly a new resort?

We are both enjoying the clear green water, the dry air, the surrounding hills dotted with cacti, and a side to Colombia's Caribbean coast that we didn't expect.

Posted by ebmarnp 10:35 Archived in Colombia Tagged football beach Comments (3)

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