sabato 15 settembre 2012

IN THE HEART OF ANDES: PERU AND BOLIVIA

23rd April - 18th May 2012

Peru: a country in the clouds

Chachapoyas country, Peru
It did not take long to realize that Peru offers an exquisite cultural diversity and ecological diversity, as well as ten thousand years of history, several adventure opportunities (mountains, lakes, lagoons, desert, beaches, rivers and canyons) and more than 400 dishes…
From the very beginning, Peru has been for me “the country in the clouds”!! We entered it at La Balsa border driving through an exhausting dirty road and a great wild landscape. We spent quite a while in the northern highlands fascinated by the cloud forests of the Chachapoyas country (cloud people country) and hundreds of still unveiled ruins, that have resisted the test of time. The visit to the Complejo Arqueologico Kuélap stands at the top of our time there. Kuélap is a fabulous site of a pre-Inca citadel at 3,000 meters over sea level built between AD 900 and 1100, which is considered one of the most impressive pre-Columbian ruins in South America. It is located in El Tingo district, in Luya province, in the Amazon and covers more than seven hectares. To get there it is not easy at all, but once you make it you cannot regret as you immediately get the feeling to be in a very special place. It counts more than 450 buildings inside and there are almost no tourists; when walking around the citadel you instinctively figure out how it looked like one thousand years ago.. 

From Chachapoyas to Leimebamba, and then from Leimebamba to Cajamarca, we had some of the most spectacular drivings of the entire trip!! I could not prevent myself from saying: Wow!!!! We went up and down through the Andeans from peaks of 1000 meters to ones of over 4500 and then up again and down again, and again, and again on a narrow trail in the middle of nowhere and of the clouds, driving with the eagles. 

In Leimebamba we spent a funny night camping on the football yard of the village encircled by kids running and shouting. We recovered from the long driving by bathing in Banos los Incas at the thermal bath in a private cabin in line with the local habit. As usual, while I was thinking how to approach this way of bathing (…) and wondering about privacy and hygiene, Mathieu had jumped into the water already !!! So, I stopped questioning and followed!!! Great!

On the landscape, women with big white beautiful traditional hats… 


Chachapoyas country, Peru
Complejo Arqueologico Kuélap, Peru
Complejo Arqueologico Kuélap, Peru
...With llmas (...), Kuelap, Peru
Complejo Arqueologico Kuélap, Peru


Complejo Arqueologico Kuélap, Peru







Kuélap, Peru
Driving from Chachapoyas to Leimebamba, Peru
Driving from Chachapoyas to Leimebamba, Peru
Driving from Chachapoyas to Leimebamba, Peru

Driving from Leimebamba to Cajamarca, Peru
Then it came the desert!!!!!!!!!!!!! Honestly, who could expect the desert in Peru????? Not me!!! And what a desert??!!! More than Mauritania and Mali!!! A lot!!! 
And then, the Ocean!!! Suddenly, a turquoise mass in front of us!! Desert and ocean!! Wow! And just after the Andes!!! Wow!!
Around Trujillo, Peru
For one minute I thought to be back in Africa. I was staring at Mathieu who was as surprised as myself... We both said: “Back to Africa??!!” We stopped to have a ceviche in Chicama just to make it sure that we were not in Nouakchott… and the “Spanish accent” of the waitress actually assured us… We spent the following days relaxing in Huanchaco, a chief surf and holiday destination where we spoiled ourselves with delicious ceviches, mild sun and the ocean. In Trujillo, the visit of Museo Huacas de Moche and Huancas del Sol y La Luna (archeological sites) was just superb!! It deals with a pre-Colombian site from the Moche culture (600 AD) and it is just amazing. 
From Trujillo to Camanà we drove the Panamericana crossing hundreds of miles of desert. Lima suburbs were quite a shock: heat, dust and pollution. And then again an immersion in the nature in Paracas National Reserve, a unique environment of coastal desert and marine territory populated by several bird, animal and plant species. On the way from Paracas to Chala we stopped to contemplate Nazca Lines, one of the world’s most enigmatic and mysterious achievements, leading to some crystal skulls..(?)
From Chala to Arequipa the coastal desert became marvelous. Sand, rocks, cliffs which drops into the sea and huge waves which break on the beach. "Beau! Simplement très beau!"


Woman with traditional hat.
Cajamarca, Peru
Around Trujillo, Peru




Huancas del Sol y La Luna, Peru






With ceviche and Inca beer,
Huanchaco, Peru

Huancas del Sol y La Luna, Peru

Paracas National Reserve, Peru
Lineas y Geoglifos de la pampa de Nasca. San José, El Ingenio District, Peru.
Driving south on the Panamericana, Peru
Delicious figs ice-cream, driving on the Panamericana, south of Lima, Peru
Driving on the Panamericana, South of Lima, Peru
..."Let's hope it!", Driving on the Panamericana, South of Lima, Peru
Driving on the Panamericana, Peru
We had a lovely time in Arequipa, la ciudad blanca as it is called, because of the charming buildings of pure sillar stone, a volcanic white stone which shines on the sun. Thanks to its gently climate (warm in the day and fresh at night time), beautiful colonial architecture and delicious cuisine, Arequipa – the second major city of the country - is an extremely pleasant place to hang out. We enjoyed it very much. 
Arequipa is also the perfect place from which to discover Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca and Colca Canyon, one of the most impressive destination of the country, the second deepest canyon in the world (3.200 m), surrounded by volcanos of over 5000 meters!!!! In Colca I also had my first meeting with vicunas, guanaco and condors. We stayed in Yanque (Pueblo donde residen los Senores) and lovely Chiway, la Ciudad del Amor, and got to know the local culture and beauties. Here we had our first night over 3.500 meters… and yes, I experienced the altitude sickness…
We celebrated Holland’s victory in recent French presidential election in Chivay at Banos La Calera, partying with a couple of French travelers on a cold, sparkling and euphoric night.  
Iglesia de la Compania de Jesùs. Arequipa, Peru
We ended our discover of Peru in Puno and Lake Titicaca, the world’s largest high-altitude navigable lake, straddling the Peru-Bolivia border…. The most intense blue since ever…!!!!! At 34 km from Puno we visited the Complejo Arqueologico Sillustani, on Umayo Lake, an interesting funerary site composed by towers (chullpas) made by Colla people from massive coursed blocks to bury their nobility.


Monasterio Santa Catalina. Arequipa, Peru
Woman with traditional dress. Arequipa, Perù
Driving on the Panamericana, Peru
Driving on the Panamericana, Peru

Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca, Peru

Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca, Peru
Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca, Peru
Arequipa's Canyon Country, Peru
Arequipa's Canyon Country, Peru
Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca, Peru
Colca Canyon, Peru
Chivay, Peru
Chivay, Peru



















Chivay, Peru


Chivay, Peru
Laguna Sakakani, Mirador los Flamencos, Peru
Lake Titicaca, Peru
Traditional houses around Puno, Perù
Sillustani, Peù




Lunar Bolivia

Bolivia is a surrealistic country plenty of contradictions and treasures. I liked its geographic diversity and cultural background, which varies a lot depending if you are visiting the altiplano, the city or the forest. In any case, everywhere in Bolivia, it is better if you take it easy… not only at altitude. It is long and strong in traditional culture and it takes time to understand the national attitude and identity.
We traveled through Bolivia’s western part: from Lake Titicaca to la Paz and then the all Cordillera from Oruro to Villazon. 

Lake Titicaca is a very special place in the world. The Inca considered this 3,200-square-miles lake as the birthplace of mankind. Unfortunately, water contamination from growing urbanization is becoming more acute and it is endangering the lake and thousands of indigenous farmers and fishermen who still depend on it. The all area is rightly described as one of the most beautiful in the country (…I would say, “in the world”). The exploration of Isla del Sol, the legendary Inca creation site and the birthplace of the sun in Inca mythology,  provided us with a magical experience: few places is the world are bluest and more mystical than this. We stayed in Copacabana some days and enjoyed this small, bright and enchanting (even if a little touristic) town. We had lovely walks around and delicious fish food. At our arrival the all community was busy celebrating a lively and highly alcoholic religious festival… There were colors everywhere. We camped along the lake with the nice company of three other young French travelers from Paris.   
  












Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, is the highest capital in the world (3,660 m) and it is a very unusual place too: you can be sure that its location doesn’t look like anything else. La Paz is built in a long and narrow valley, which is cut by La Paz River so that buildings and streets ascend steeply on all sides of the valley. The climate is mild with sunny days and fresh nights. The city is beautiful and extremely interesting. I loved it mainly because of its multiple faces. It is traditional and trendy, rich and poor, up and down, crowded and quiet,  touristic without any touristic atmosphere at all, local and global at one time. It also offers a lot of night fun and lovely day trips around town. We had a very good time in La Paz. We stayed at Enrique’s ARB garage in a noiseless and residential area close to downtown. We did some car maintenance and took advantage of all what a capital city can offer (bars, restaurants, night life, shops, markets). Driving around town we discovered an outstanding view of La Paz from Muela del Diablo (Devils Tooth). Finally, before leaving we explored some suburbs, where people leave in tents and precarious houses made by wood. Quickly, the capital  town of La Paz turned into being a big village. It was Sunday and people were celebrating God with traditional dances. 





Bolivia’s southwest is absolutely gorgeous;  “nowhere tantalizes the sense as much as it”. We drove from La Paz to Uyuni on a flat, desert and dusty landscape. Along the way, we were waiting for our senses to be tantalized and we had to admit that we are too much spoiled in terms of natural beauty and we were not able to appreciate it as due (…) We stopped at Las Termas de Obrajes, at 25 km from Oruro to bath and rest and we continued the day after on the same backdrop. Suddenly, a long bright line far away at the horizon, between sky and land, appeared in front of us. You could not looked at it for longer than few second as it was too much shining  Wow! We were getting closer to the legendary Salar of Uyuni