A Travellerspoint blog

October 23, 2016

Arequipa to Cusco

all seasons in one day
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It was another early start, we left our hotel in Arequipa at 6:30 a.m. for a short drive to the local airport. The flight left shortly after 9 and we were in Cusco thirty minutes later. There were only a few clouds in the sky and we had a great view of the mountains surrounding Cusco and of the city itself. The city is much larger than I expected.

Our rooms weren't ready, so our guide took us on a brief walk around one small area, then we went for breakfast. When we stepped outside, clouds had moved in and it had started to rain. Apparently this is what we can expect on the trek - clear skies and then rain, all within a very short period of time.

We had our first meeting to discuss some of the logistics related to our hike on the Lares Trek. G Adventures offers a deal if you rent a sleeping bag, air mattress and walking poles, S/.110 (I think I have finally mastered the symbol for Peruvian money). Our guide reassured us that because it is spring, the temperature at night will only go as low as 10 degrees, hopefully he is correct.

At 5:00 we met at the G Adventures headquarters in Cusco for our final briefing. There are ten members from our group doing the Lares Trek and our group met with Joel, the man who will be leading us on the trek. Joel explained the route we would be traveling, including the distance we will go and the elevation we will travel each day. He told us about the cooks who will be preparing our meals, the types of toilets we can expect to find and ways to avoid altitude sickness. Joel answered all of our questions and after the hour long session, I felt more reassured about the trek.

In general I have felt relatively healthy, although I have had a few headaches. Although I don't like to take aspirin, I have taken a few tablets and the headaches have gone away. Hopefully as I become more accustomed to the altitude, I won't get any more headaches.

After dinner we walked back to our hotel and saw Cusco by night, it is very pretty. Our daytime walking tour was postponed because it poured rain all afternoon. We will do the tour when we return from the trek.

Our final job for the evening was to pack our duffle bag, the bag that will be going on the trek with us. We don't have to carry this bag, or our sleeping bag and air mattress as the porters do that for us. We have to pack less than 8 kg and the sleeping bag and mattress weight 2.5 kg. I'm pretty sure I've packed less.

I'm nervous and excited to do the hike.

Posted by TKerrone 13:06 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

October 22, 2016

Arequipa to Chivay and back to Arequipa

all seasons in one day
View South America - Lima to Rio on TKerrone's travel map.

On Friday morning our group left Arequipa, at 2300 m to travel to Chivay, located 3600 m above sea level. This trip is to help with preparing us for our trek to Machu Picchu.

A local guide joined us on Friday and gave us information as we traveled to Chivay. Leaving Arequipa we drove through some very poor areas. The guide told us that Peru does not have a system for helping people who are disabled, unemployed, ill or old. Families are expected to care for each other. There are some free hospitals, but the care at these places is inferior, due to a lack of basics like medications and staff. The government has recently introduced some help for people over 65, but our guide informed us that we this is still not widespread. Once again, we were reminded that we are very fortunate to live in Canada.

The drive to Chivay took us through a desert, we drove through miles and miles of sand and gravel. We learned a bit about Visunas, a type of wild animal that live in the desert. The wool from these animals is highly sought after and because it is rare, the wool is very expensive. We also saw llamas and alpacas, domesticated animals that provide wool at much cheaper prices.

As we continued our drive we reached the highest point on the route, 4900 m above sea level. We got out of the bus and quickly posed by a sign, proving we reached this point. But it was very cold and very windy, so we didn't stay outside for long. There were even a few snow flakes.

In addition to stopping to take pictures of the scenery and the animals, we stopped to use washrooms at rest stops along the route. These stops were necessary as we have been advised to keep drinking water so we stay well hydrated. At one stop we bought cocoa tea, which is supposed to help with the altitude. We also purchased cocoa cookies and cocoa candies.

Chivay is a small town of about 6000 people. The town, typical of many cities in Peru, is centred around a town square. There is a church, the largest building in town on one side and the town hall on another. Our hotel was surprisingly modern, but in this wifi age, most people were disappointed that the wifi in the village did not work very well.

Our guide kept asking people how they were feeling. A few members of our group had headaches and another few had some tummy troubles. In the late afternoon we were scheduled to visit some hot springs. I was looking forward to sitting in the warm waters and was packed and ready to go, when my nose started to bleed. Apparently this is quite common in high altitude. I didn't want to miss the visit to the hot springs, so even though my nose continued to bleed, I packed extra tissue, and got on the bus. The area around the hot springs was rustic, we walked down a gravel road, crossed a rickety bridge and found a place to put our towels. As everyone in our group gathered in the pools, I sat on th side, holding tissue to my nose. As I was feeling a bit sorry to be missing the fun, my nose stopped bleeding. The moist air around the hot springs solved the problem! The pools were lovely.

On Saturday we had an early start, as we had a two hour drive to see the condors at Colcha Canyon. Apparently the condors come to a certain area early every day and viewing platforms have been built to accommodate the tourists who come to see these huge birds. We were dropped off a short distance from the viewing platforms so we could walk and further acclimatize. It wasn't far, and we walked slowly, but I felt a bit light headed.

We got to see a few condors, and they were magnificent, but I thought the views of the canyon were just as amazing.

Our group returned to Chivay for lunch and then had a long drive back to Arequipa. Tomorrow we leave for Cusco and on Monday we begin our trek.

Posted by TKerrone 02:41 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

October 20, 2016

Arequipa

sunny 30 °C
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On Wednesday night we took an overnight bus from Nazca to Arequipa . I was not looking forward to the ten hour trip, but the journey was not too bad.

Arequipa is about 2300 m above sea levels and it is where we begin to become acclimatized to the high elevation we encounter when we head to Cusco. From the window of the bus we saw many mining camps, mining is the main industry in Peru. The camps we are located in a barren environment, just small huts, fencing and lots of sand and gravel.

Arequipa is a city of over one million people. Our hotel is located in the historic area of the city. At the centre of the old quarter is a beautiful square surrounded by old buildings. There were two police officers, carrying guns, at every corner of the square. In addition, there were more officers at the fountain in the centre of the square. Several police officers rode bicycles on the streets in the area and security guards were visible everywhere. I wasn't sure if I should feel safe because of all the security, or frightened because of the security.

Our G Adventures guide gave us a tour around the square, down some of the old streets and finished the tour at the local market. He stopped at one stall and told us about some of the traditional medicines the local people can buy.

At 5:30 we met back at the square and our guide led us up to the top of one of the buildings so we could watch the sunset. No matter how many sunsets I've seen, it is always amazing. The large cathedral, located on one block of the square, had lights that illuminated the towers at night.

Our guide recommended that we begin taking our medication to prevent altitude sickness. He also reminded us to drink lots of water, I felt like I was preparing for a race as I walked around the city, constantly sipping from my water bottle. I felt fine all day, the only symptom related to the altitude was a slight tingling in my fingers after we climbed up the stairs to view the sunset. The tingling disappeared in a few minutes, but was a good reminder that I must be careful in the high elevation.

Posted by TKerrone 03:37 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

October 18, 2016

Paracas to Nazca

sunny 35 °C
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At 8:30 this morning we boarded a boat and headed to a Isla Ballestas, a national reserve, famous for the thousands of birds that live on the island. We saw, and smelled, the birds. In addition, we saw sea lions and penguins. Although I don't usually like small boats, I'm really glad I joined the group.

Following the boat tour, we got onto a bus and headed toward Nazca. The drive from Paracas to Nazca took us through a desert, we saw miles and miles of sand dunes. There were a few clouds in the sky, our tour guide explained that these were caused by blowing sand.

Peru is trying to establish wineries and we saw acres of vineyards. We stopped at one vineyard for a very brief tour and a chance to sample (and buy) some pisco, which is a drink made from grapes. Some of the drinks made from pisco include a wine, a type of sherry, a drink similar to Baileys, and pisco sours. The pisco sours are 41% alcohol.

The next stop was an oasis, it was very pretty, but very hot! Our guide told us that the weather was going to get cooler and cooler and that we should enjoy the heat.

As we approached Nazca, we stopped at the side of the road as we had an opportunity to climb a tower and take a few pictures of some of the famous Nazca lines. The patterns were easy to see, but it was so windy on the tower I didn't linger for long.

We arrived in the city of Nazca about 7:00. Don was reading about the town and discovered that the whole place was destroyed by an earthquake in 1994 and was rebuilt in 12 years. Tomorrow we are going to explore the city.

Posted by TKerrone 06:46 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

October 17, 2016

Lima to Paracas

sunny 20 °C
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Last night we met the members of our group. There are several people from Australia, a few from the U.K., two from Germany and two other Canadians. The youngest is 23 and the oldest person is 70.

This morning we had a chance to do a few last minute things in Lima, including getting some Peruvian money. Don and I, now very familiar with Araquipa Ave., knew where the Scotia Bank was located. Unfortunately, when I tried to take out some money, I received a message on the screen telling me that the bank was unable to process my request at this time. I know there is money in the account, so we decided to approach a cashier.
Although the woman we chatted with did not speak English, she found someone who could speak with us. After much discussion, it was determined that the chip on my card was not working. This is inconvenient, but we do have American money, credit cards and Don's bank card.

At noon our group boarded a van and headed for a bus depot where we caught a bus to Paracas. Prior to boarding we had our passports scanned and our bags checked. Once on the bus, an employee checked our name according to a spreadsheet and then we were photographed. The bus was very comfortable and the four ride went by quickly.

Paracas is a seaside town and we have a view of the ocean from our room.

At 7:00 the group met for dinner. (See attached photo.)

Posted by TKerrone 19:23 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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