One Week in Bolivia: Copacabana at the Beautiful Lake Titicaca // La Paz // Uyuni

07.11.16 – 14.11.16

Crossing the border to Bolivia was luckily super easy – when we think back to the Central American countries, always demanding onward travel tickets, we appreciate the laid-back mentality here. 😉

1.Copacabana

Yes, there is indeed a small village called Copacabana in Bolivia – maybe it copied a little bit of the flair of his bigger brother in Brazil…? 😉 We definitely like this small village which is located right next to the Titicaca lake. Lots of bars, restaurants…and good weather. 🙂

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There is mainly only one thing to do here, which is taking a boat to the „Isla del Sol“. This is what we do the next day and are surprised by the beautiful lake. At some spots on the island, the lake looks like an ocean and is crystal clear! We learn from our guide that the pre-Inca culture believed that the sun was born on this island. A 3 hours walk from the northern part of the island to the southern part gives us time to enjoy the nature. Back in Copacabana, we watch the sunset over the lake – beautiful.

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2. La Paz

As we approach the outer borders of La Paz we are shocked: we knew it was big, but it seems endlessly huge! Although not the capital of Bolivia, it hosts the seat of the government. From many parts of the city, one can see the famous Illimani mountain. Additionally, La Paz is as high as almost 3,700m and hence, the highest administrative capital in the word!

Once we sneak our way through the complicated arrangement of streets by taxi, we actually like the vibe of La Paz. Dropping off our luggage in our hostel, we wanna discover the city, of course, with a free walking tour! 🙂 Here we learn for example about the famous San Pedro prison. Located in the middle of the city, the system there is known to be the craziest in the world: inmates have to pay for cells and and additionally, they pay an entry fee! A couple of years ago, one could even do a tour through the prison. If you had the wrong tour guide, it could happen that you never left the prison again. 😉 I suggest you to read the book „Marching Powder“ by Rusty Young, a “true story of friendship, cocaine, and South America’s strangest jail” [https://www.amazon.com/Marching-Powder-Friendship-Americas-Strangest/dp/0312330340].

One activity we had on our plan for La Paz was the famous „Death Road“ (Yungas road), which you can bike down. Years ago, this street was the only connection road from the remote villages to La Paz. Since the quality of the street was terrible, many deathly accidents happened there. Today, it is only permitted  for a few locals to access the street by car, otherwise only bikes are allowed. We weren’t quite sure if we were up for this adrenaline kick or not – we came to a point on our trip where the question was: „Do we really wanna do the activity or do we just do it so that we have done it??“

We’ve traveled pretty fast the past 1,5 weeks and were somehow „travel tired“…so we gave ourselves one day to think about the death road and then we’d see if we feel like doing it. Lazy day, lazy dinner in bed, lazy movie watching – that helped. 🙂 We were ready for the death road and it was a hell of a ride! Not of the speed or the danger (actually, we stopped so many times and had a very comfortable pace, we didn’t feel in danger at all), but for the landscape. From our starting point up at 4,700m (cold, windy, dry), down to 1,200m (jungle, humid, hot) it was a great trip. Right after this thrilling experience, the night bus took us to Uyuni where we planned to do the salt lake tour.

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3. Uyuni

This city’s only attraction is the famous „Saltar de Uyuni“, the biggest salt desert in the world! Since the tours start mainly at around 10:00am in the morning and we arrived at 7:30am, we decided to cancel our night in the hostel and signed up for a 3-days tour through the desert. 🙂 Mainly, our decision was influenced by the fact that on the last day, our driver would take us to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. Hence, we didn’t have to take care of this transport. Getting some breakfast in the sleepy town (where Wifi was treated like it was gold: not available for everyone ;)) and, typically, snacks and lots of water, we were ready for the desert! Our jeep was loaded and our group was a nice mix of nations: 2 Australian guys, 1 French girl, 1 guy from Poland and of course the fantastic Slovak/German team. 😉 The first day we spend mostly in the desert itself, taking the most hilarious pictures in the salt lake: since everything is white there and one has no orientation of sizes, you can take such funny pictures by positioning objects in the right ankle. 😀

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We also saw the cactus island and watched the sunset in the desert. The first night we spend in a salt hostel – walls, bed and small table made of salt. 😉 Enjoying dinner together we went to bed early, because the electricity generator anyway turned off at 9:00pm. Surprisingly, hot showers were available…still wondering where they got the water from in this dry area…

The next day we saw the sunrise and headed further in the desert. We saw beautiful lagoons in different colors: one was super green whereas the other was pink-red! The algae together with the sun and wind do photosynthesis and create different colors. Additionally, we visited the geysers in the desert. This night was supposed to be freezing cold outside (temperatures below 0), so we decided to jump in the hot springs and enjoy the hot water as we had never before – the moon and the starts above us make it a perfect end to our day!

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The third day we mainly spent in the jeep and made our way to Chile – again, the border crossing was super fast and easy and bam, Chi-Chi-Chi-le-le-le, here we are. 🙂

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Southern Perú – Arequipa and Puno

02.11.16 – 07.11.16

After a week in Cusco full of history, shopping for souvenirs and enjoying the city centre we head to the next beautiful city in Peru, Arequipa! Of course we travel by bus through the night, which saves us a night in the hostel and gives us an additional day in Arequipa. 🙂

And wow, we have great news: Jakub’s best friend Ella will be visiting us soon!! We are super excited and can’t wait to travel through Patagonia with her – it’s gonna be awesome. That means for us however, that we have to be in El Calafate latest the 23rd of November and will skip our planned Volunteering (postponed for Hawaii maybe… :)). We have a deadline. For the first time. How weird. 😉 So we sit down, make a detailed plan of where we are when to be able to arrive on time in the Southern Part of Argentina. Turns out that it‘s actually nice to have an overview of the next 3 weeks and where we’ll spend each day. 😉

But right now we’re in Arequipa, were we arrive in our alpaka sweaters and scarfs, just to realize that it’s way too warm for this type of clothes! So used to the colder cities, we wonder when we wore a Tshirt for the last time or sandals… 🙂 Arequipa is Perú’s second largest city, known for its beautiful city center, the THREE volcanos surrounding it and the proud  “Arequipeños”, who feel a little bit different than other Peruvians. 😉

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Plaza de las Armas

Enjoying a sunny day, we head to some travel agencies to book a 2 day hike through the Colca Canyon:

“Slicing through the High Andes like a giant fissure for more than 100km, Colca is the world’s second deepest canyon, approximately 3,400m at its deepest point — a shade shallower that the nearby Cotahuasi Canyon and nearly twice as deep as the US’ Grand Canyon. More impressive than the statistics are the region’s emblematic attractions, including soaring condors, endless trekking routes and unshakeable Spanish, Inca and Pre-Inca traditions little altered since the conquistadors first arrived in the 1570s.” [source: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20121012-exploring-perus-epic-colca-canyon]

Hungry from all the walking, we decide to try the famous „Triple Picante“ dish which our guide from the free walking tour we’ve done recommended us. And wow, it’s delicious! Although it mainly consists of meat and we don’t know how one person can eat one whole plate (we shared one), we do enjoy the filled pepper, potato-cheese mix and the pork.

Triple Picante

Triple Picante

Additionally, we try the famous chicha, a sweet Peruvian beverage made from purple corn, a variant of Zea mays native to the Mesoamerica, and spices. Non-alcoholic, it is a type of chicha usually made by boiling the corn with pineapple, cinnamon, clove, and sugar. [source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicha_morada%5D Of course we also had Pisco Sour, which the Peruvians claim to have invented, although the Chilenians say the same…anyway, it’s delicious!

Grrr, the alarm clock rings at 3:00am, why do these trips always have to start so early?! Pick up time is at 3:30am, and at 3:35am we sit in the van on our way to the Colca Canyon. The last stop before we start hiking is a small restaurant where we arrive at around 6:00am to have breakfast. Another hour later we begin the hike – strangely, the first 3 hours is only descending. On our usual hikes, we start walking up, not down. 🙂 But obviously, it’s a canyon! The further we walk down the greener the nature gets. After a lunchbreak of 1 hour we continue walking and arrive our accommodation in the late afternoon – a small oasis in the middle of the mountains! We’re super hungry and cannot wait to take a shower. But before that we treat ourselves together with our group with a whisky and Cuba Libre. 😉 Since there’s only electricity from a generator and this one turns of at 9pm, we go to bed early and fall asleep under a bright sky full of starts.

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

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The 3$ Machu Picchu hat was worth every cent in this sun! :)

The 3$ Machu Picchu hat was worth every cent in this sun! 🙂

5:00am the next day our ascend back up begins – pretty exhausting, but the morning is cool and within 2:50hs Ellen is up. Jakub even made it in 1:30hours and was the second person up there, great! 🙂 Breakfast awaits us on the top of the summit and after we got some energy back we head straight to Arequipa.

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All in all, the hike was okay but we couldn’t quite understand why everyone recommended us the Colca Canyon…it was not as special as we expected it to be. 😉 Maybe we have seen too many nice lagoons in Cusco and Huaraz, haha.

The next day we leave Arequipa to head further South. Puno is our last stop before we cross the border to Bolivia. Hence, we only see the city center, have a very delicious dinner, buy a CD from a local Peruvian folklore band who plays at the restaurant and look forward for the 7th country on our trip. 🙂

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Inca Capital Cusco and Machu Picchu

26.10.2016- 02.11.2016

Cusco city

Here we are, finally arriving at Cusco, well known as the capital of the Inca’s empire. So many times we heard about it, so many documentaries and movies we have seen and now we will spend the next days here, for real. 🙂 Our 14 hours bus ride was pretty comfy, we mostly choose the company „Cruz del Sur“, since they offer Cama seats (160 degrees), blankets, pillows and food!

The outisde parts of Cusco are like most South American cities – not completely build and pretty dirty and dusty. Luckily, we booked our hostel close to the city center and can concentrate only on the beauty of the historical Cusco. Right on the first day we decided, as always for a free walking tour. Our local guide explained us (a group of 3) a lot about the Pre-Colonial history of Cusco, being bordered by two rivers and build in a Puma shape. All together, the Inca capital Cusco was consisting of 8×4 Blogs and only the Inka aristocracy was allowed to live in the city center. The main and most important temple of the Cusco empire, the Temple of the Sun was located right on the central plaza in the city and was famously decorated by gold and silver (of course only until the Spaniards arrived), its gardens were as well full of treasures which were mostly brought from different edges of the Inca empire.

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After the Spanish conquered Cusco, they rebuilt the city  and destroyed a lot of the original temples and houses. Luckily some of them served the spaniards as perfect foundings for their churches and new building, because of this fact there ist still enough original Inca walls decorating this mix of cultures.

Definitely recommendable is a visit of the Main Church at the ‚Plaza de Armas‘ ( entrance 20S) where local artists influence in Catholism can be seen, like for exmple a Guinea pig lying on the table in front of Jesus and many more.

The whole city is surrounded by Inca ruins of big importance and definetly worth to visit, If you are short on time, book a ‚city tour‘ which will get you first through the historical city of Cusco – Church and Quorikancha – Temple of the Sun and after your will visit ruins of Saqsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay – ooou yeah day full of ruins and history 😉

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Sacred valley

After getting to know the historical part of Cusco a little bit, we decided to book a daily tour to the Sacred valley of Incas. Fully organised tour in english – ooooh nooo, we ended up in a bus full of Peruvians and spanish speeking folk, so we can advance our spanish skills a little bit more. 😉

The sacred valley was one of the most important teritories of the Incas near Cusco. The whole valley stretches out from Pisac with its amazing ruins and agricultural teraces up to Ollantaytambo, the last Inca inhabitated city and big archeological side. During this trip you can admire amazing architecture, engineering and agricultural skills of Incas, which blood is still running in local habitants.

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At the end of the trip on our way back to Cusco, we made one last stop in Chinchero village, famous for its Alpaca textile manufacturing. After a very firendly and sweet plus educative presentation from local women about the producing of the textiles and coloring them without any chemistry, we had to buy some of the alpaca products!

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Rainbow mountain

No doubt that the surrounding of Cusco has a lot to offer in both cultural as well as in natural aspect. That’s why we decided to conquer the so famous ‚Rainbow mountain‘, which has only been accessible to the public (and not only local people living in the mountains) since last year!

We booked our trip with a local agency with a super friendly pick up time at 03:00AM – aaaah. As always, to get ready for a new adventure we packed 2 full backpacks of fruits and water and food. My ‚small‘ backpack had approximately 100kg 😀

After breakfast in a small village and chatting with a local woman who was around 70 years old, constantly chewing coca leaves we drove 15 more minutes and finally start our hike up 🙂 Coca leaves are by the way known to help with altitude sickness! But we have to admit that some indigenous people take it „very serious“ with their coca and chew it almsot all day long…we wonder what affect it has… 😉

Since we are profesional hikers in the meantime, we are well prepared for every situation and weather condition: rain poncho, sunglasses, extra tshirt, knife, water, plenty of food and sweets, extra jacket, extra socks, extra rain poncho, extra knife, extra water – you never know when you need ALL of it. 🙂 Our guide started in a really athletic pace, maybe because he walkes up this mountain 3 times a week, so we followed J After a while we passed the first tiny village and entrance to the park, which was full of alpacas and llamas.

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We started to descend steaply uphill, realizing that we were probably the last group for today hiking up to the rainbow mountain. From the middle of the trail we could already see that the weather up there was not that good and probably is going to rain a little bit (not a problem for our poncho ready team). Here we go, not only rain but snow hit us on our way up and we were almost sure that the rainbow mountain up there is going to have only one single color – white.

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Let’s not give up and go to the top anyway…reaching the top 5200m, we gave each other high fives and laughed about not seeing anything except fog and some confused tourists taking pictures of a foggy mountain. As we were the last group up there, we had a little bit of privacy and time to eat our snacks (banana,apple, mandarine, granola bar, bread with cheese and one more granola each). After finishing all of this – surpriiiiiiiise, the clouds moved away from the mountain for a small moment and none of our group could hide the excitement- there it is, the Rainbow mountain!! A beautiful variety of colors like from a fantasy movie revealed itself to us. We fully enjoy these moments, and of course take 186 pictures 😉

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After half an hour in the cold, we descended – looked like an easy job after we ate all the stuff and have seen the mountain. Suprisingly, the opposite happened and we experiened for the first time strong signs of altitude sickness. It hits at least half of our group of 12: headache, strange stomach feelings, dizzines – wooow, we surely didn’t expect this on our way back down. Probably our body didn’t realize until know that we were this far up and now pays everything back to us.

OK – we made it back to our bus with some help of water, snacks and coca leaves 😉 Luckily, after lunch and 3 hours ride back, we arrived at our hostel, exhausted but happy – what a busy day 🙂

 

Trek to Machu Picchu

The legendary Machu Picchu is so close! But we went from being super excited to almost rejecting going there…here is the story how we got there in the end:

  1. Wohooo, let‘s do a hike, maybe a couple of days-hike through the mountains and arrive at Machu Picchu!

This sounded like a perfect idea. We knew that the famous ‚Inca trail‘ is booked out for months in advance and we also knew that there are some other trails to do as a suspention for the Inca trail. After spending a couple of hours researching and running through several agencies, we found out that every single agency offers one trail: the „Salkantay trail“, taking 5D/ 4N. Hmm, our equipment is not the best for the rainy season in mountain for 5 days and also the thought that almost every tourist in Cusco will be on that trek, walking in line – nope, that didn’t convince us about this option.

So we spent another 2 hours of research and found out happily that there is another option for us, the „Lares trail“, 3D/2N, perfect duration. It would lead us through the local communities in the mountains, we would get to know the culture and would end up with a visit of Machu Picchu as well – sounds like our trip.

Next 2 hours, running through agencies and realizing that this trip is not as common as Salkantay and the price will be approx- 500$/ Person. Nooooo waaay for 3D hiking 500$!!

  1. Disappointment

Since I – Jakub was looking forward to this place for longer time, I was really disappointed.

Everything around Machu Picchu is a huge business and turismus around this place is enormous. Do we even want to go there?

  1. Ellen solving the problem

Luckily, the second crew member of our team of 2, solved this problem. 😉 Lets do it the easy way and book the Machu Picchu 2days bus tour, including a one night stay in Aguas Calientes (where anyway everyone ends up, no matter if you hike, go by train or bus…).

Jakubs reaction – I don’t care, I’m disappointed, but lets go there once we are here.

  1. How we got there and how it was

Pickup from hostel in the morning. Driving for 6 -7 hours from Cusco to Hidroelectrica (we are still happy that we survived this bumpy, narrow, curvy street with our maniac driver).

Having lunch in Hidroelectrica, then walking 3 hours along the railroad tracks (totally forbidden but everyone does it…?!) to Aguas Calientes and get some good sleep there.

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Start walking at 04:00am from Aguas Calientes 30min to the bridge which is the starting point of the 1750 stairs up to Machu Picchu. Waiting in line until 5:00am until the guard opens the gate.

Walking up the stairs from the bridge to the main entrance 50 minutes in good pace.

Waiting for the rest of our group and our guide and ready to go….at 6:30am, we enter the place…

Woooooooooooooooow!!!!!

The moment you first see Machu Picchu, still half covered in the clouds, being all mystical and full of history, you forget all the tourists, all the annoying planning, the early wake up and long walk – you are just there.

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All of a sudden, it is not anymore the ruin from some documentary you might have seen on TV, now it is a real place and WE are THERE! Beautiful and mystical…

The first two hours we spent with our guide who told us more about this ancient site – actually we didn’t really pay attention to his stories, but rather enjoyed the view and the Llamas running arround us with the magnificent background of Machu Picchu. 🙂

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As I – Jakub booked additionally the entrance to climb the Machu Picchu mountain, I had to leave our guided tour and started heading up to the mountain. To make it short – definitely recommended, doable in 1 – 1,5 hours (if you are fit) and the view is amazing.

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Ellen, in the meantime, enjoyed the site itself and looked down on Machu Picchu from the upper terraces…you can sit there forever and just look at this stunning monument.

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After walking around the site and taking enough long moments everywhere, our day at the Machu Picchu was over and we needed to walk back down to hidroelectrica, catching our 6 hours bus back to Cusco…all this terrible way back again, OMG!! Like this was not enough, a vampire flies invasion bit our legs and arms on the way back from Machu Picchu to Hidroelectrica, how terribly itchy!

 

All together, the whole area around Cusco is really turisty, but still amazing to see.

The crazy 2 days to reach Machu Picchu are long and exhausting, but definetly worth to do it and see that site once in a life (if you have some extra money for the train, maybe choose that option 😉 ) .

 

What a whirlwind of new experiences, impressions, people…let’s see what Arequipa has to offer, where we head next.

3 Cities in 5 days! Paracas // Huacachina // Nazca

21.10.16 – 26.10.16

Unbelievable, but it’s the end of October, which means it’s getting colder and colder at home – fall has begun, the days are shorter, nights are cold…and we sit on our hostel balcony in shorts and Tshirt, enjoying the ocean view. 🙂

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As you can imagine, we haven’t regretted our decision to quit our jobs and our apartment once. Of course, we both do crave for some mum-homemade-food or just simple good bread, but all in all we arranged well with the Peruvian cuisine and after some time of trying a vegetarian way of life, we slowly get back to eating meat. And at the coast we obviously enjoy seafood, for example in Paracas!

Paracas is a very tiny village at the ocean, which doesn’t offer a lot. For us it was rather a short rest after our hiking days in Huaraz. And we wanted to enjoy the sun a little bit longer. 😉 The first activity for both of us was a morning trip by boat to the “Islas Ballestas”, the so called cheap version of the Galapagos. Funny. 🙂 But we were surprised how many sea lions we saw in the end! They gathered around the rocks and even big males with their 5 females watched us curiously. Thousands of birds flew around our heads, the boat ride was impressive. Later this day Jakub decided to visit the Paracas National Park, which included a visit to the red beach. The next 2 days we mostly spent on planning further our trip.

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Sea Lion Rock No. I

Bird's Bridge

Bird’s Bridge

Sea Lion Rock No. II

Sea Lion Rock No. II

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Big Male and his wifes 🙂

Red Beach

Red Beach

Our next destination was then Huacachina, again a very small place being famous for its location: it’s an oasis in the middle of the desert! The only thing this village had to offer was a ride with the buggy and sandboarding – we had to try it. 🙂 Late in the afternoon we started the ride with this huge selfmade buggy. You cannot imagine how bumpy a sandy road can be when you speed through the dunes in such a vehicle! We were screaming and laughing at the same time and the driver kept making his buggy jump through the desert. Stopping at a very steep dune, we got our wooden boards and while we were still wondering how the hell we would make it down that hill safely and without being injured, the first person in our group was already sliding down…head first…OMG. What a crazy adventure! It was not as fast as we thought it would be since the sand brakes you down a lot, but still thrilling enough to try it again and again. 🙂 As the sun set we sat on the dunes, enjoying the beautiful sky and the illuminated oasis.

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Uuuh yeah! :)

Uuuh yeah! 🙂

Aaaaaah

Aaaaaah

Huacachina

Huacachina

The next day we caught a bus in the morning to Nazca. This place is actually very famous – in 1932 , archaeologists found some very characteristic lines, the so called Nazca lines. Additionally, when air traffic became more popular pilots spotted the lines in the desert of Nazca which looked a lot like figures or animals. It turned out that the ancient population of the Nazca had created these lines in the dry desert sand, without actually seeing what they will look like in the end! The people must have been very intelligent, since the lines are so straight that the creation of such had only been possible with mathematical knowledge. Still, scientists are not sure why they “drew” these lines – assumptions vary from astrological to religious reasons. For tourists, the city offers flights over the Nazca lines in small Cessna airplanes and since it was Jakubs big dream to do it, we booked a flight! 🙂 Reading some recommendations, we skipped breakfast the next morning – the flight can be very bumpy and unusual for your stomach. After waiting at the small airport until the fog has vanished, we finally boarded the plane together with 4 more people and up we went. What a feeling!! Being in such a small airplane you feel every change in wind, every curve we flew goes directly in your stomach…but it was thrilling, amazing, wonderful, awesome, incredible. 🙂  The first figures we saw were smaller than we thought and you needed to look very closely to spot them in the desert. Nevertheless, we saw all 12 animals and as the flight ended, we had 2 full vomit bags from not so well feeling passengers and 4 big grins from happy passengers (we were the happy ones). 😉

Can I still get out?

Can I still get out?

Nazca Figure

Nazca Figure

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What an amazing experience!

In the afternoon, we booked a guided tour to Cahuachi because we wanted to learn more about the culture of the Nazca. This place used to be a major ceremonial center of the, based from 1 AD to about 500 AD in the coastal area of the Central Andes. The site contains over 40 mounds topped with adobe structures. Scientists believe that it was a pilgrimage center, whose population increased greatly in relation to major ceremonial events [source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahuachi]. Interestingly, the Nazca built very smart water wells the people nowadays in Nazca still take water from.

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The water system

The water system

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Cahuachi ruins

Cahuachi ruins

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Some crazy days ended and we looked forward to board our night bus which would drive us for the next 14 hours to Cusco. There, Machu Picchu is waiting for us, one of the big highlights of our trip and something we looked forward to from the beginning…woohoo!

Oh, and after our time in Latin America, we should actually count the hours we spent on buses – feels like we have spent half of the trip in mini vans, long distance buses, transporters,… 😉 That just belongs to our trip I guess!

Hikers Delight: Huaraz

14.10. – 20.10.16

For the next couple of days we set our home base in the mountain city Huaraz, known for its many trekking trails and tours. 🙂 We’ve already received many recommendations, especially for the famous “Laguna 69” trek and the 4-days Santa Cruz hike, but we would like to draw our own conclusions and plan to start asking around at the uncountable tour agencies for trips. It’s gonna be some exciting days and we cannot wait to discover the beautiful Cordillera Blanca and Negra and enjoy nature around here. And the very “delicious” specialty around here: guinea pig!

Still alive...

Still alive…

...not so alive anymore...

…not so alive anymore…

But before that, we check in our hostel and for the first time, we feel like home. 🙂 The room at “Casa de Ana” hostel is wonderful big, with comfortable beds, AND with real blankets! Typically we sleep under linen or thin fleece blankets, but here we have good normal blankets just like at home… what a feeling. We sleep like babies.

The owner of our hostel gave us some advices for good tour agencies and the next day our first mission is to set up a tour program for Huaraz. 🙂 So far we’re not 100% sure whether we wanna hike the 4 days Santa Cruz trek or not. We’re in the middle of the rainy season here and our mountain equipment is not fully applicable to these weather conditions. To be honest, seeing some backpackers here and their outfits we feel like bloody tourists in our not so fancy “North FaKe” jackets, haha. 🙂 After our first visit in one agency however, we’re pretty thrilled about that hike – best example of how well customers can feel when they’re being consulted in the best possible way. The guy from “Eco Ice” had a Google Earth 3D map prepared, showing us exactly how we’d hike, how difficult it might be, where we camp etc. Wow! Where do we sign up? 😉 No other agency was as professional as this one (which was also the most expensive one), but we still wanted to buy us some time. The plan was to do a first day trip here to find out how the weather might be and then start the trek in 3 days.

Hence, our first day trek the next day should be the famous “Laguna 69”. Early in the morning we waited for our transport, which should pick us up at 5:00am, but of course, typically Peruvian, didn’t arrive until 5:40am. A 3 hours bus ride, including a small stop for breakfast, later we arrived at the starting point. Several times we were being educated about altitude sickness, because it is no fun walking up to 4.900m within 3 hours. For the body, if not well acclimatized, it can have dramatic consequences – we saw some examples this very day! But first of all the hike started very easy in a beautiful surrounding, picturesque nature with a river tranquilly floating through the valley, cows passing our way and pure sunshine.

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Nature

Nature

After 30min we began ascending and wouldn’t stop until we’re all the way up. Unfortunately, after one hour hiking it started to rain and we learnt: having an emergency rain poncho from Drogeriemarkt Müller for 1.99€ in the backpack can save your life! 🙂 The last 30min of the trek where the most difficult ones… due to the altitude, your legs and body somehow feel heavier than they actually are, a light headache begins and breathing felt like our lungs shrunk to half of their size. Additionally, it started snowing!! Our first snow this year, what an unexpected surprise. 🙂 And then we reached the top and although the Laguna was mostly covered in fog, it was an amazing view. The color is beautiful turquoise and seems so unreal!

The foggy Laguna 69

The foggy Laguna 69

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Topmodels! 🙂

We stayed for 10min, having a fast lunch and then headed down because our hands started to freeze and it got colder and colder. A quick descent led us back in the valley where the weather was sunny and great – of course! 😉 We met one guy on our way down, still fighting his way up, saying that he is close to. turning around due to his bad condition. He had 5 more minutes to go so he pushed himself further up, although it can be very dangerous to keep ascending when you have alerting signs of altitude sickness. He was pale as a wall, felt an aching chest pain, was short on breathe and had a headache. The curious thing s that his physical condition was very good – he however only arrived the day before in Huaraz and had no time to acclimatize. Another girl was sent back down from the guide 10min before the top because her pulse was too low to go further. One girl even fainted on her way back and lost consciousness! After this experience, we were glad that we made it up and down safely and had a great first hike. But: this day also showed us how unpredictable the weather can be and how quickly it might change. So we decided against the Santa Cruz trek but planned to do more daily hikes.

2 days later the next laguna was on our plan, called “Laguna Churup”. This time we planned it by ourselves since it was very easy go get there. We caught a small van from the city center which would bring us to the village Pitec 45 min away. The ride was such a funny adventure – normally, the van has 8 official seats… we were all together 20 people in the van, one guy sitting on the roof and somewhere was a dog running around in the van. 🙂 Arriving at the starting gate we needed to register and it went straight uphill. I would consider this hike difficult, not only because of the altitude, but mainly because of the continuous uphill path. It was stony and uneven, and sometimes we would climb on rocks holding on to a rope. I was just exhausted when we arrived at the top. 🙂 Again, the view was worth the pain – this Laguna was filled with crystal clear water, snowy mountains in the background…just the perfect mountain panorama!

Uphill we go

Uphill we go

Jakub's stone formation

Jakub’s stone formation

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But as always in this area, the mornings are nice and sunny, the afternoons rainy and cloudy. We already heard the thunderstorm approaching us and quickly made our way back down. How great that a warming Jakub-made soup waited for us in the hostel 😉

Our last day in Huaraz we dedicated to the famous Chavin ruins, an archaeological site from the pre-Inka Chavin culture. This archaeological site is a large ceremonial center that has revealed a great deal about the Chavín culture. Chavín de Huántar served as a gathering place for people of the region to come together and worship. People went to Chavin de Huantar as a center: to attend and participate in rituals, consult an oracle, or enter a cult [source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chav%C3%ADn_de_Huantar%5D.

Indigenous woman trying to sell pictures with her sheep ;)

Indigenous woman trying to sell pictures with her sheep 😉

Main plaza at Chavin

Main plaza at Chavin

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Returning to the hostel we packed everything for our night bus to Lima, which would leave in 1 hour, when Jakub returns from the kitchen, saying:

“So, I just talked to this couple and they directly drive to Paracas from here…should we maybe skip Lima!? I heard from everyone it’s anyway ugly.”

“Well, I only wanted to go their for the food – we could even cancel the hostel without paying any cancellation fee…”

“Pfff, so yes, let’s skip Lima and go to Paracas!” 🙂

That’s how we sometimes do decisions here – as you can imagine, we do appreciate this freedom of having no fixed route, planning spontaneously where to go next and what to do. Okay Lima, you’re out! Paracas, the small coastal city will be our home for the next 3 days! 🙂