Friday, 13 May 2016

Entering Ecuador

The New Cathedral in Cuenca.
The stairs to the mirador.
Impressive doors to the Cathedral.
The difference in scenery from Northern Peru to Ecuador is big. My last few days in Peru were hot and dry, but as soon as I crossed over the border, things turn green, lush and wet. Being on the equator, the sun rise and setting times never really change, and although there are a variety of weather systems, I felt that it pretty much always rained at some point during the day. I really enjoyed the bus trips here in this country - looking out the window was a magical experience for the senses, and I'm sure people thought me weird but I couldn't keep the smile off my face. I sat there listening to my travel music reserved for bus trips to get me in the mood, staring out the window, not believing that I was busing in South America and this beautiful country - these moments of travelling when you are just enjoying everything are what you travel for, it's like enlightenment. I got off the bus early in the morning at my first stop in Ecuador, the city of Cuence, and still in high spirits despite the fact that I hadn't booked a hostel or changed any money. Armed with mobile GPS, I found an ATM and thanked it for dispensing me some much needed dollars and then went on the hunt for a hostel.

You know you just want to pat me, you just don't want to be seen doing it tough guy.
Ecuadorian art.
The historic centre.
Ecuador, following the financial crisis in 1999 when their currency's inflation went through the roof (and them some), now uses US Dollars - my most hated currency. Why do I hate it? Well for starters it's paper. Most countries still use the paper note system, as Australia own the patent for plastic notes and everyone that wants to make the change need to pay Australia for the technology, but a lot change adopted, including New Zealand, Chile, Brazil and even Romania. The States have made changed to their bank notes, like adding a little colour to the very bland black/green and white colour, which made it very dangerous as you could hand out a $100 note instead of a $1, making someone else very happy. The notes are also all the same size. Come on America, get your monetary shit together and move with the times, for everybody's sake! Anyway, I now had dollars and had to use them for the next 3 to 4 weeks while in Ecuador, so I had to just deal with it - the up side was that prices looked very cheap and no longer did I have to deal with huge numbers for anything - a local bus ride in Colombia for example costs 2,000 pesos, and things can easily get into the hundred thousands! I found a nice hostel, after walking around for an hour asking at every place I could find - so many places here were far above my budget level and very posh looking too. I checked in, and asked for the WiFi password as every backpacker does now, and chilled out for the day, waiting for the rain to stop.

Waiting for the rain to stop...
The doors to the New Cathedral.
UNESCO buildings.
Since Bolivia I have been in places higher than 2,000m above sea level and more than 3,000 in some places too, and Cuence was the same - it sits at 2,500m. Although accustomed to the altitude, and I no longer felt headaches or weak legs, you still don't really want to be running around here. The city isn't huge, with just under 600,000 people, but the centre is what everyone comes for, as well as the view of the surrounding countryside. The historical centre is UNESCO listed as the architecture is stunning. You may think these UNESCO people just sit there and 'like' cities in South America for new Trust Sites, but if you come here you will realise that it surely deserves to be there. The town was founded by the Spanish in 1557 and named after the city of Cuenca in Spain, where the town fathers came from. The Old Cathedral was built in the same year as the town was started (the Spanish had their priorities),  but by 1880 it had become too small, and so a newer, bigger church was built - The Cathderal of the Immaculate Conception, also know as The New Cathedral. It sits right on the Plaza de Armas and is huge, the façade is made of alabaster and local marble, but it is the blue and white domes that really make it. Walking around the town, there are beautiful buildings everywhere, and loads of photo opportunities, but it is also a business city and it buzzes in the afternoon if the sun out. Walking the 45 minutes up to the mirador (lookout) is worth it as you get a wonderful view of the city and the mountains, but make sure you bring something for the rain, because chances are it will.

The view of Cuenca from the viewpoint.
Panama hats.
Down at the markets.
Close to the city is the Cajas National Park, and it is very popular with the tourists. I decided to head there as well, get a bit of mountains and walking in as well as some fresh air and peace and quiet. Although it rained, it was a pleasant bus trip for only $2, and the weather cleared a little, enough to enjoy a 3 hour easy hike and get some photos in too. Although not Torres del Pain, it is still beautiful and this particular walk had mountains all around a mirror-like lake. The park entry was free and I enjoyed it. The next day I walked around the city again, my happiness and smile increasing with the sunlight that come out and really lit the city up. Lunch at the local markets are a must for anyone in South America, and here was no different, and I had a bowl of chicken soup and a plate of beef with rice and veggies and a drink, all for $2. The lunch ladies were also very nice, and we chatted and joked - the Ecuadorians are really very open and friendly people. The city is also famous for it's Panama Hats, and walking around just outside the centre and you can see stores selling them in huge quantities. The hat is a traditional brimmed, straw hat and traditionally made from the leaves of a palm-like plant, and started to be manufactured in the 1600s, and now the art of weaving them has been UNESCO listed too. Although the town isn't packed with things to do, walking around and looking was enough for me - I don't need adventure sports, hundreds of museums or banging nightlife. My next destination would be a little different though.

The town of Baños.
Jumping off a bridge... why?
That swing.
Baños is a town tucked away between mountains and volcanoes. The big boy Tungurahua resides right above the town, and at more than 5,000m is an impressive site. It is still actives, and in fact was having a little bit of a spit 3 days before I arrived. The town, it's full name being Baños de Agua Santa (Baths of Holy Water) is famous for taffy, adventure sports, such as rafting and bungee jumping, and also for it's proximity to the Amazon and the Pink Dolphins found there. I wasn't really interested in all of that, well the dolphins yes, but the jungle trek to see them was way over my budget. I wanted to walk and see the volcano. In this town you have to take advantage of the weather when you can - if it's not raining, hurry up and go out and do something before it starts to rain again. I walked up to the Ojos del Volcan (Eyes of the Volcano) to get a good view of it -  hours of zig-zagging road up and barking dogs, but the view was incredible. The town is nestled between the mountains with a river running through it, and a dam at the far end of the valley. Tungurahua guards the town, there are farm all over the side of the mountains and clouds hanging around the peaks. There is a swing here that goes right over the cliff too - after a thorough testing  I gave it a go, scared myself half to death, jumped off and settles for a photo from the safety of the road. I didn't fancy walking back down another 2 hours, and I hate going the same way back, so I jumped in a local 'taxi' (a guy in a ute), paid him $1 and got back to town in record time.

Baños and it´s waterfalls.
A dog advertising peanuts.
The waterfall feeding the baths.
After a day of walking, I decided to visit the name sake of the town - the thermal baths. The Termas de la Virgen are at the edge of town, and the water that feeds the baths come straight from straight from the mountain. The scene is lovely, two waterfalls pouring down the cliff behind the building, views of the mountains, clouds and setting sun from your hot tub. It only costs $2 to get in during the day and an extra $1 for a night-time dip. After washing off in very warm water that comes straight from a pipe in the wall, I sought out my fist pool. I've been to Roman baths before, and Turkish ones as well as Japanese Onsens, all of which have multiple tubs with varying degrees of heat. This one had 3 - cold, hot and too hot. The first bath you climb into is the hottest, and the first time I tried it was too hot - a real 'monkey bath.' For people that have never heard me say this before, a monkey bath is when you put your toe in and it's too hot, making you go 'oooh oooh oooh.' Monkey Bath. Someone then advised me to sit in the cold water first for a minute or two, then get in the hot one - maybe to numb my skin? Anyway, it worked and I managed to climb into the soup pot and enjoy the 42c water for about 5 minutes before climbing out slowly to avoid being cooked. The second pool was far too cold for night time, and I quickly got out and headed for the middle pool - this one was just right! It was like a game of Goldilocks finding her  ideal porridge temperature, and now I had found mine. So had everyone else it seems, and there was a bit of a jostle for a seat and the best spots, as well as kids and adults all moving around and talking loudly. South Americans aren't quiet people usually. I got up and left to have dinner, not quite feeling like a virgin again, but must refreshed.

Nuns in church.
The promise...
... the reality.
The next day I ventured out early (as it wasn't raining) to hike up to the Casa de Arbol, or Treehouse, on the opposite side of where I walked the previous day. A lovely walk up, mainly following the road as I didn't want to be sweating it out as I walked in and out of jungle, and the road provided a much better view too. I managed to make it about 4 or 5kms before the rain started to come in, but I was rescued from getting wet from two very friendly Canadians  (aren't they all!) and their dog. Brett, Una and their dog Ella had driven all the way down here from the West Coast in their Chevy van. I sat in the back with the very well behaved Ella, chatting to the couple up front, talking about travel, Ecuador, weather and how awesome I thought it was that they were doing it all together in their own car! They explained that the dog was great, but she made museums and cafes hard sometimes, wet weather was no fun (wet dog smell...) and hot temperature makes the 'hotel room' unpleasant. All that aside, they were having a ball and I really want to buy another van and a dog and travel Sarah Connor style! The Treehouse was a disappointment unfortunately, as the weather had well and truly come in by now. Normally from the swing on the Arbol (yes, another swing!) you swing right out into nothing with the huge volcano right in front of you. I didn't swing (wet bum) and nor did I see the volcano (cloud cover). A few people did the swing and photo because they had made it there, but I waited 15 minutes for the weather to clear then left. It rain for the rest of the day so I sat in my $10 private room and watched TV.

Wet bum and bad photo - is it worth it?
Cuy doing the dirty on the BBQ.
Making taffy!
The next day I got on another bus, this one only 4 hours, and headed to Quito - the capital of Ecuador. Sadly I had spent very little time here, and missed many things. Everywhere I went people asked me "did you go here? Oh, that's a shame, it's awesome!" My only answer is that you can't go everywhere (unless your Daddy is rich and is happy to send you money). What I would really like to say is "well, I am going to the Galapagos in a week, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it." Wouldn't go down so well I wouldn't think. It was a good time to get out of town anyway as it was Saturday and all the school kids were running amok, some down from the capital and some locals, but the place was unbearable. The bus trip was nice, and again I put on my music (loudly to drown out the kids), sat back and relaxed, ready for the next place, the next challenge. I know I was rushing things a little, but you have to if you have limited funds and limited time. I try to enjoy what I can for what it is, and try to never have regrets, only wishes to come back.

Beautiful green Baños.

Monday, 9 May 2016

The City Of Lima

The outlying suburbs of Lima.
Helado helados!
Am intricate street lamp in the city.
Arriving in Lima, which sits in the middle of Peru, was a big change from Cusco and Arequipa. Being the capital of the country, it is expected to be the largest, but at 10 million people Lima is the 3rd largest city in South America behind Sao Paulo and Mexico City. The mass of people, houses and traffic was a bit of a shock after quieter, more peaceful cities - here is was all go, beep beep, and just things happening everywhere. The second thing that hit me was the heat. This bus ride had been a horrible overnight bus from Arequipa, and the air-con hadn't worked all trip, and so it felt like a sauna. Opening the roof hatch only gave temporary relief from the sweat of 100 other people, and once in the city the air was rather stinky too. From the bus window I could see the suburbs of the city, sprawling up the hills around the city - the 'favelas' that you would never think of visiting, and if you did, you'd never return. The bus dropped me at their office, miles from my hostel, and the first thing I saw was a poster warning you about the dangers or the Zika virus. The instant I stepped out of the building to get my bearings I was warned that Lima is a very dangerous city and I should get a taxi. Such a lovely welcome to the city, one that would continue during my visit here.

Big government building in Lima.
Monastery of Francisco di Assisi.
A did get a taxi, as my hostel was miles and miles from where the bus had left me, and the neighbourhood that I was in looked quite sketchy too. 20 minutes later and much sweat later, I was checking in. The hostel used to be someone's house, and they had added extra beds and a reception area for clients. It still felt like someone's place though, as they owner spent most of the day sitting on his sofa watching crappy television. He was a lovely guy though, and always happy to help out, so I'm not complaining! After a snack and a shower, I ventured into the centre for a look around and to see the capital of Peru. After both Cusco and Arequipa, and what I'd heard of Lima, I wasn't expecting much. This is exactly what I got. It wasn't easy getting into the historical centre - I couldn't find a bus that would take me, I was given conflicting directions on where to get this bus, and so I eventually got the 'metro' system, a bus that runs on a dedicated road, directly to the centre. I had to buy a metro card with a deposit, and the bus was packed to sardine levels with no air-con. I finally made it in, walked to the main plaza and was confronted by armed riot cops. The Plaza de Armas was cordoned off for the next 2 days due to the 'possibility' of an election, and eletions in South America are never a quiet affair. I tried to get the police officer's/soldier's attention to ask if I could go in, as loads of locals were angry and couldn't pass - I was let through as soon as he realised I was a foreign tourist.

Lima Cathedral.
A cool looking pub in Lima.
The cathedral and the police.
The square, although not the prettiest compared to other Latino cities, was still lovely. The city was founded in 1535 by Señor Francisco Pizarro, who was responsible for the death of the Inca Emperor in Cusco, along with many other things. The original name was "Cuidad de los Reyes," City of the Kings, and was the capital and most important city for the Spanish in the Viceroyalty of Peru. After the Peruvian War of Independence, it became the capital of the new Republic of Peru and now a third of the country lives here, all jammed together. It is probably most known for the oldest University in South America, the National University of San Marcos, which was founded in 1551. Lima also hosted the 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference, will hold the 2019 Pan American Games, but most importantly was the host city for the 1982 Miss Universe competition. Tragically, in 1940, an earthquake hit the city, destroying most of it. Migration and growth boomed in the city, and the population jumped from just over 500,000 people in at the time of the quake to 1.9 million in 20 years and 4.8 million by the 80s, and 10 million today. This huge growth spurt has pushed the city way beyond it's limits and original boundaries, creating slums in downtown and shanty towns on the outskirts, called "pueblos jovenes," or "young towns."

Guarding the Governmental Palace in the centre of Lima.
Paragliding over Miraflores.
Lima Cathedral.
Most tourist locations are close to the square, so I wandered around in the heat looking at the old buildings and trying to enjoy the city. It is quite dirty and polluted - buses drive past and blow out thick, black smoke that even the locals choke on. I found the Monastery of San Francisco di Assisi, which is high on that 'things to do' in this city. The outside is simple Spanish Baroque style with a yellow facade, but it's what is inside that makes it special. I paid the 10 Sole fee for a tour in English and joined a group straight away, and we were taken through the place by a Peruvian woman who's English was wonderful. The library here contains over 25,000 volumes and even has that old, dusty book smell to it, and it beautiful with its old oak panelling and Old World decorations, which include oversized books and wood-and-leather recliners. It is the second oldest library in South America, Quito having oldest. There is something about old libraries that I love, and this one reminded me of the wonderful Trinity College Library in Dublin which is my all time favourite. There were many things on the tour, and the church itself was very beautiful, but the most interesting though about this place, and the main reason for tourists visiting is the catacombs. Discovered in 1943, these vaults contain the bones of more than 25,000 people, as people were often buried beneath churches in the past - a great space-saving idea. The bones have been counted and organised for display, skulls piled together with skulls, and femurs with all the other femurs - there is still a stale, dead smell down there, and I was glad that the tour was a little rushed as I felt quite claustrophobic and unable to breathe. Sadly no photos at all were allowed, down here or the library, but the memory (and the smell) will stay with me forever.

The coast and the barrio of Miraflores.

Not the only tourist in town.
Looks more like SE Asia to me.
I didn't stay long in Lima, and 3 days was more than enough for me anyway. It is busy, over-crowded and polluted. Add to this that my phone was stolen on the metro bus back to my hostel on my first day. The bus was so packed that I couldn't move an inch, and someone could have done anything they wanted to me and I wouldn't have been able to see them let alone stop them it was that busy. Luckily the important things were safe. I filled a police report for insurance, had to 'give' the police officer money for photocopying which seems to speed up the report making process, got a new phone and headed to the park to relax and have some lunch. There is a park in Miraflores that the local street cats hang out in - I call it the Cat Park. dozens of cats just lay around, licking various parts of themselves, and get fed by crazy cat ladies. They weren't particularly friend either. I walked a little around the cliffs 5 blocks from my hostel, looking out across the pebbled beaches and over the Atlantic Ocean. The sky was fairly pollution-free here and filled with people paragliding with their GoPros, the green park and walkway busy with people enjoying the day. I left the next day, stopping off on the border town of Piura, where there wasn't much to see or do, but it was a nice change from the big city and long bus trips. It was so hot here though, and there were also loads more motorbikes and tuk tuks, reminding me of South East Asia. I got on another long bus ride the next day and crossed the border into Ecuador.

Speeding tuk tuks in Piura, northern Peru.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The White City

A VW Beetle - quite common here.
I know I've talked about border crossings before as well as bus trips, but it is a quintessential part of travelling in South America. They go hand-in-hand, and sometimes you cross border multiple times in a day or night - like Europe of old before most of the border checks got taken down. Sometimes in Europe you still get checked, usually people shopping in Andorra and bringing back duty free cigarettes and booze, but if you have a van you get stopped all the time - borders and sometimes even as your driving into town with foreign plates. Spain is quite big for this - the police seem to always be on the lookout for people, and having a big white van was never an asset. One time I was driving into the town an Huesca in northern Spain, late at night, and the Policia Nacional pulling me over, shotgun leveled. Quick look in the van, and a question: "Senyor, what have you got in the back?" to which I always reply (at border checks or airports) "dirty laundry," which always stops them from caring. Anyway, I have gone slightly off track. No border checks this night, but I was on an overnight bus to the 2nd biggets city in Peru - Arequipa.

Snowy peaks.

Outdoor confessions.
The Cathedral of Arequipa.
Getting out of your bus at 7am is never pleasant after a bad night's sleep. Bus terminals are horrible in South America - always full of people, bad smells and people calling out for bus tickets or food, dogs roaming for scraps... interesting though, but not fun when you are alone with all your bags and you need the loo. Fishing around for that loose change without taking your backpacks off is great entertainment for the locals, but you don't want to leave your bags on the group unguarded, and end up taking them all in. Some baños here as well charge different prices - one for liquids and more for a 'number 2.' Not sure why, but I think it's the extra paper you need - the woman tried to charge me more because I has carrying a 20kg bag on my back... very cheeky. I wasn't impressed with Arequipa at first, and sitting in the taxi to my hostel wasn't doing my hopes any good. Normally I don't do taxis, but I checked and it was way too far to walk loaded down like a mule in this heat, and the taxi cost less than $3 - hard to argue with. I somehow managed to get a private room and ensuite for the same price as a dorm (mix up in my favour?) for 20 sole a night ($8), and a 5 minute walk to the centre. I chilled out on the rooftop terrace for a bit, trying to wake up after my journey, as was amazed that I could see Mount Misti peeking through the clouds. This is lucky, as the postcards and Google images will make you think you can see it everyday from the main plaza - I only saw it once.

Plaza de Armas.
Beautiful archways of the main Plaza.
Doorways in here always lead to good things!
It was founded in 1540 by the Spaniards (yes, them again!) and originally called "Villa Hermosa de Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion" or The Beautiful House of Our Lady Santa Maria. Mouthful! I don't know when they changed the name, but I'm glad they did - the modern name supposedly coming from the local language (Aymara) and means, "ARI" for "summit" and "QUIPA" for "laying behind" which would mean the volcano behind the city. The city was very important for it's economic prosperity as well as it's loyalty to the Spanish Crown, and is still a wonderful example of Spanish Colonial Architecture. Most of the buildings in the centre are built from white 'sillar,' a volcanic stone - churches, stairs, walkways and the city hall are all made of of this beautiful white stone, giving it the name "The White City." Straight streets run up and down the city in a grid pattern, and there are so many doorways leading into atrium and small courtyards that walking around the small historical centre can take days if explored properly. It was declared the capital of Peru in 1835 (and was until Lima took it's place in 1883) when the country gained it's independence, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site and today is full of tourists and locals shopping in it's streets, eating at it's great restaurants and also for trip to Colca Canyon.

Red arches.
Blue arches.
One of the city's main sights is the Convent of Santa Catalina. Right in the heart of town, it was built in 1580 and designed as a 'city in a city.' High walls surround the goings-ons inside, and until it was opened to the public in 1940, nearly 400 years later, nobody knew what went on there. One of the biggest convents in the world, it houses 450 nuns at it's peak and was completely shut off from the world, keeping itself in mystery and silence - now it's the cities biggest attraction, and the price 40 soles ($16) doesn't stop them coming. I decided to visit either this or the museum where you can see "Juanita," a girl completely frozen during an Incan offering to the gods back in the mid-late 15th century. My budget was low and you can't see everything, so the Monastery it was, although I would have loved to have seen both. As you walk in, you immediately see the large painted letters spelling out "Silencio" and continue your walk in complete silence - it works! Then again, I did the walk alone, so I didn't really have much choice in the matter. Brightly coloured in red and blues, the buildings are beauitful - simple but beautiful. Arches walkways, wooden doors, small apartments for the nuns with communal kitchens and small single beds with crosses above them. There wasn't much information as usual, so my mind wandered and I started to picture what life would have been like here - the North part of the building is still a functioning nunnery, and you see nuns walking around the city too.

Whoah, that's DEEP!
The church on Plaza de Armas.
A kitchen in the Monastery.
Walking around the main Plaza de Armas, there are people calling out to you for tours and restaurants, most of which are for Colca Canyon (or Cerviche for food). I grabbed some info, and all these places offered tours with a guide. I decided to do it alone, and gob a mini-van from my hostel at 3am. They pick you up at this time and it's a 5 hour drive, and you want to reach a certain part by 9am - the place where the Condors come for breakfast. The Canyon is claimed to be the deepest in the world by the locals here, but the internet states differently, saying that it is the second deepest, but still twice that of The Grand Canyon in the USA. 160kms North West of Arequipa, it is 3,270m deep and receiving more than 120,000 visitors every year, it is Peru's 3rd biggest tourist destination. We stopped at the Cruz del Condrs (Condor's Cross) at around 8:30am and were told by the guide (the rest of the bus were doing the guided tour and I was just using the bus) that we had 30 minutes free time. I walked around, looked at the canyon, took some pictures and enjoyed the view, but wanted some condors. 8:55am, heading back to the van and out they came - nobody listened to the calls of the driver who was revving his engine and trying to get us back in. These huge beasts came circling around the heads of the people at the lookout, sometimes coming within metres of clipping people with their huge wings. Like clockwork these majestic birds turn up at the same time everyday as they get fed - something I don't have a problem with as the experience was awesome! After loads of pictures and shouts from the driver and guide, we piled back in and drove down the road 5 more kilometres for the start of the hike.

The area around Cola Canyon.
Cruz del Condor at 9am.
One of the many condors at Cruz del Condor.
Most people do this hike over 3 days and with a guide - I planned (and I use that word losely) for a 2 day hike and no guide. I was here to hike alone, enjoy the peace and quiet of nature and walking, not to listen to people talk all the time. I ran a little ahead of the bus group and set off, but stopped every 5 minutes to just stop, look and appreciate. It was also very hot! I looked across the canyon and could see the river below, the mountains towering above everything else, and the path that zig-zagges up and down the sides, knowing that I would have to face that very soon! I was 'guided' down by a lovely golden dog of some sort, who was happy to just walk alongside me, receive a few pats, and drink my water and eat my pasta lunch left-overs. The hike down was pretty hard going, but the view was spectacular. I walked 18kms for the day, and made it down to the bottom, crossed a bridge and part way back up before heading down to my hotel for the night at "the Oasis." The oasis is a small 'island' in the middle of the river between the steep walls of the canyon, and I think the perfect place to stay. I met a dog before heading down and he was happy to follow and guide me down, and even sat and had a rest while I drank an Inca Cola (my favourite soft drink of Peru!). My new dig for the night was pretty basic - stone cabin with a stone bed, and the matress wasn't much softer, but it had a great pool. The dog followed me down to the pool and chilled for a bit before wandering off to guide some other tourists around. Dinner was simple, but cheap, and I shared the meal with some other travellers, all the while listening and watching the biggest pop star in Peru on TV. Her name is Luz Yenny de los Andes, and not to knock local culture and music, but her songs are all the same, in sound and sight. She's a little Peruvian woman who dances and sings her way round Peru, and she loves what she does if the video clips are anything to go by.

Scary bird eyes.
A hummingbird on a cactus.
(one) of my 4-legged tour guides.

I started off early after sleeping like the dead, and I knew it was going to be hard getting back up that damn canyon. It took me around 3.5 hours of zig-zag paths, all up hill to reach the top, and I ran out of water an hour from the top - I gave a dog the last of it. He was clearly very much in need of it, and I felt I needed to give something back to the local community, especially since he was my dog from the first day - how or why he was now on the other side of the canyon was beyond me. He accepted gratefully, gave me a lick on my hand, and continued off to do his job and guide the two people he was leading down. I thankfully reached the top and found a farmer's irrigation ditch and washed my head and face, but not drinking it as much as I wanted to. I just had enough time to buy some water at a local store (and have a funny conversation with the ladies there about me having no water), grab an 'almuerzo' and jump on the bus back to Arequipa. Thouroughly enjoying my time in Peru, and one of my favourite's here in South America. Who can go past a city like Cusco, the ruins of Machu Picchu and the White City with it's canyon close by? My next bus would be a long one - all the way to Lima, the capital of Peru.

Arequipa, thank you for the wonderful time

Birthday Weekend

The always impressive Pedraforca. Just beautiful! Hiking with a touch of snow. Winter was setting in by November, and although ...