Friday, September 24, 2010

Chiclayo to Mancora, oh what a drive

Arriving in Chiclayo, on 3 hours sleep is a difficult task. We A) didn't know much about this small city and B) didn't really know the best option to get to our main destination, Mancora.

All we knew is that it was around 5-6 hours away.

So waiting for our luggage I spotted 2 backpacker looking guys (from Netherlands). I quickly asked them where they were going. Their response, "Mancora". PERFECT I thought. Now second question, How are you getting to Mancora? Their response, "no idea, you?" BAHHH!
So we quickly came to the consensus of double teaming and sharing a cab, which we overpaid for but of course talked him down and price and thought we were getting a good deal. (400 soles for 4 people in a small car, he started at 600 soles. we then get to mancora and are told it should have been 250, 300 MAX) OH well, another lesson learned folks.

It was an adventurous drive, going 160km steady with no seat belts (YIKES), stopping for "brunch" at a sketchy little place they didn't quite know how to cook huevos (eggs).... but all in all, we reached our final destination: MANCORA! We all went to the AMAZING hostel, KoKoPelli (, hopped in the pool, ordered a beer and relaxed the rest of the day.

Did I mention the 2 Dutch guys are some of the funniest guys I've ever met, that was also a highlight of course :)

Lima Hustlers


Don't ever get into a cab without making sure the price agreed for the trip is clear as can be!

We ran into a slight dilemma when arriving at our sketchy airport hostel in Lima. We arrive late and were starrrrrrving, and since I refused to eat the KFC down the street we asked the man at the front desk where the closest supermarket was... little did we know that it was SO far (he left that part out).. So he quickly got us a cab (clearly a friend, but assured us it was a "seguro" which means "safe" cab company) and we were on our way to the supermarket. Once on the ride the driver was saying he would drive us to the airport in the morning (perfect right?) for the same fair we received it coming from the airport to the hotel. BUT THEN started talking amounts in DOLLARS, not soles.... (not so cool).
Luckily for me I am a good arguer (even in espanol), so I talked down the price a lot, knowing it was still way too high...
So after our muy caro (expensive) supermarket trip (bananas that would originally cost 15 cents each, were now 2 dollars each), we agreed to pay 1/3 of the whole price (he wanted it all up front... NO WAY BUDDY)...

The follow morning, bright and early to catch our flight to Chiclayo, we were greeted by our lovely taxi driver. The only thing he didn't know is that I was planning on stiffing him as soon as we arrived. And that is just what we did. We paid him 1/2 of what was left to owe. Hahaha and ran away...

SO Lesson learned, be more aggressive BEFORE you get in the taxi, as apposed to while inside it...

But it did feel good to return the favour to him, someone tries to rip me off, I'm going to rip them off right BACK!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa

The Santa Catalina Monastery is the most religious monument in all of Peru.

The beautifully coloured edificio (building) was built in 1580 and increased in size during the 17th century. It is over 20,000 square meters large, and each section has its own unique characteristics. There are approximately 20 nuns currently living in the northern corner of the complex; the rest of the monastery is open to the public.

It took us around 2 hours to see the whole thing, and each minute was filled with adventure and exploring.

Some history for you;

Each nun at Santa Catalina had between one and four servants or slaves, and the nuns invited musicians to perform in the convent, gave parties and generally lived a lavish lifestyle. Each family paid a dowry at their daughter's entrance to the convent, and the dowry owed to gain the highest status, indicated by wearing a black veil, was 2,400 silver coins, equivalent to US$50,000 today. The nuns were also required to bring 25 listed items, including a statue, a painting, a lamp and clothes. The wealthiest nuns may have brought fine English china and silk curtains and rugs. Although it was possible for poorer nuns to enter the convent without paying a dowry, it can be seen from the cells that most of the nuns were very wealthy.

One of the many alleys at the Santa Catalina Monastery.In 1871 Sister Josefa Cadena, a strict Dominican nun, was sent by Pope Pius IX to reform the monastery. She sent the rich dowries back to Europe, and freed all the servants and slaves, giving them the choice of remaining as nuns or leaving. In addition to the stories of outrageous wealth, there are tales of nuns becoming pregnant, and amazingly of the skeleton of a baby being discovered encased in a wall. This, in fact, did not happen in Santa Catalina, and there are rumours of the same story in the nearby Santa Rosa convent, as well.

The convent once housed approximately 450 people (about a third of them nuns and the rest servants) in a cloistered community. In the 1960s, it was struck twice by earthquakes, severely damaging the structures, and forcing the nuns to build new accommodation next door. It was then restored and opened to the public. This also helped pay for the installation of electricity and running water, as required by law.

This was their laundry area.

Music Room, me gusta!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Colca Canyon Adventure

Wake Up: 2am
Bus Scheduled Departure: 230am
Bus Actual Departure: 315am
Chivay Arrival: 6am

Did I mention that it was -10 degrees celcius in Chivay? Oye!

So our Colca Canyon Day tour was definitely jam packed and early but what a great day it was!

We stopped along the 2 hour drive from Chivay to the lookout point of the 2nd deepest canyon in the world. The sighest were amazing and the sun started to shine which brought us much needed warmth!

The final destination was an absolute treat. The canyon is home to the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), a species that has seen worldwide effort to preserve it. The condors can be seen at fairly close range as they fly through the canyon walls and are an increasingly popular attraction. 'Cruz del Condor' is a popular tourist stop to view the condors, the pass where condors soar gracefully on the rising thermals occurring as the air warms. The condors are best seen in the early morning and late afternoon when they are hunting. At this point the canyon floor is 3,960 ft (1,200 m) below the rim of the canyon.

After the lookout, we stopped off at the Hot Springs near Chivay. Our bus was full of Spanish friends, so funny and we were called the party bus. I think the hot springs got the best of us.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lake Titicaca, Floating Islas

A boat ride from the islands to Puno, mainland.

Traditional Wear for the hair, pom pom like.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Homestay like no other... LLACHON

Our next stop after Cuzco was Puno. Puno is the largest city on Lake Titicaca, which is the highest lake in the world (3,811m). Our time spent here was to get accustomed to a home stay set up and to see the lake...

We did however venture to a few fun places in Puno. One being the Coca museum. The coca leaf was, and still is, chewed almost universally by some indigenous communities. The remains of coca leaves have been found with ancient Peruvian mummies, and pottery from the time period depicts humans with bulged cheeks, indicating the presence of something on which they are chewing. Very interesting indeed.

The following day we set off by boat to Llachon. It is a small town on the mainland, but across the lake. Dropped off on the beach Erik and I looked at each other and were both thinking the same thing, where do we go now?? Luckily for us we ran into the nicest lady who was also roaming the beaches, she invited us for lunch and we ended up staying there for lunch, dinner, accommodation and breakfast. All for 40 soles each, which is about $16.
Such a lovely adventure, we walked to the highest peak and could see Bolivia, other islands on the lake and Puno. Our meals were so so good, Trout for lunch (a local specialty), quinoa soup and eggs for dinner, and pancakes for breakfast. We also had the best tea always, our home stay family would pick natural herbs and you just put them in hot water and Mmm Mmm good!

Loved Llachon, and I would recommend this small cute place for anyone looking for a great home stay.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


The time has come, 5am wake up in Aguas Caliente for Machu Picchu!

Located 120 km northwest of Cusco, the Inca city of Machu Picchu lay hidden from the world in dense jungle covered mountains until 1911. This 'Lost City' is one of the world's archaeological jewels and is one of South America's major travel destinations.

What an amazing drive up to the top, the valleys are filled with birds, diverse trees and plants, and an awe inspiring feeling of peace.

MAPI is definitely the most expensive portion of our trip thus far... 120 soles, which is about $45 CAD. (the bus up there an additional $7 and the train another additional $75)


Coming up to that picture perfect spot was so unreal! Especially thinking that people once lived here... so far away from everything else, and we got to witness their ruins and picture their lives.
This being said, it was almost like a maze also, and me, loving to explore, it was a real heaven.
We started by walking around the ruins and taking loads of photos, then decided to do the trek UP the highest peak. It was a 3 hour adventure that was tougher than I thought. The elevation alone made every step hard to breath, and the fog-smog building up didn´t exactly help either. But once we reached the top, ahhhh what an amazing view! We were literally IN the clouds.. amazing. We then decided to go a different way down, not knowing that this different way was 10x more difficult (I´m talking steeper than steep parts... with the smallest ledge and looking down was not the best idea)... then we ended up in an almost rain forest like part, and wow did it ever feel like we were in the thick of a rain forest. It poured and poured, and we hiked and hiked.

Upon our return, freezing, sore, dehydrated, starving... but oh so rewarding.


oh and ps, llamas everywhere just roaming! haha so cool!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cuzco & The Sacred Valley

Our time in Cuzco was filled with delicious restaurants, positive vibes cafes, coca tea everywhere, and people people people. This is one of the most bumping 3rd world coutries I have ever been to. Although it is a little too touristy for me, it´s still full of so much culture and life.

Our first day here was spent resting and relaxing in the Plaza de Armas, acclimatizing to the elevation. Which by the way really does feel different. I was having trouble breathing just walking up the stairs (and I´d like to think of myself as an athletic person), and both of our heads felt as though they would explode at any minute! The solution for this: COCA LEAVES. Now, many of you think of something ¨bad¨ when you hear the word coca... when in fact it is completely natural and very spìritual for the people here. It alleviated the headache and gave a new form of energy. Needless to say, I became fond of this plant for when I needed a boost.
Unfortunately for me, I decided to go off the beaten path and eat at a local restauran (away from all the touristy stuff) aaand got quite sick. I was in bed literally for 34 hours, ew.

The day after I was feeling a bit better so we decided to head to the Sacred Valley and then Aguas Calientes (base of Machu Picchu).

We first stopped in Pisac. A cute little town... AMAZING Market.. and that works well with me, loving to shop shop shop. We also went to the PIsac Ruins, very cool. The next stop before our train ride was Ollantaytambo, a town dominated by 2 massive Inca Ruins. It was cool to see how they planned their city those hundreds of years ago...

Adventuring aruond was really fun, and I was slowly starting to feel better... crossing my fingers I would be up to MAPI (Machu Picchu) the following morning...