Dance, Dance, Dance

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Yesterday, our guide told us about a large dance competition being held at the city stadium this morning, in honor of the Virgen de la Candelaria. Folk dance groups from around the Puno District come to the city every year for this competition. This year, there are 112 teams competing. The teams vary in size, and can be up to 200 – 300 participants. The competition starts at 6:30am, and thousands of people come to watch. Check out this video of one of the groups.

We decided to get up early to see some of the dance groups. We stood outside the entrance for the dancers, and were rewarded with so much color and excitement. We saw several teams in the short time we were there.

Then, we were off to the airport for a flight to Lima. We arrived in time to walk to the Larcomar Mall for the sunset and a little shopping.

 

 

 

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The Good Ship Yavari, Puno, Peru

Saturday afternoon, February 2, 2019

After returning to land, we had an opportunity to tour the MN Yavari, a ship that had been commission by the Peruvian government in 1861. It was built by Thames Ironworks in Scotland, then dismantled, and shipped in parts to the port of Arica, Chile in 1862. The parts were transported by rail 40 miles to Tacna, the end of the railroad. The original contractor failed to complete the journey by mule to Puno, so the parts sat in Tacna for six years before being loaded on to pack mules for the remaining 220 miles to Puno. The parts arrived in Puno in 1869, and the Yavari was finally launched in 1870. It had been designed to run on coal, but there is no coal in Peru, so dried llama dung was used as fuel.

Since then, it has  been refitted to run on Diesel. The ship operated until 1979. Some years later, it was renovated to carry passengers on the lake, and has even operated as a bed and breakfast. The rooms look pretty small to me, but I suppose it would be an adventure.

Currently, the ship and museum are closed as it needs more renovations to remain seaworthy. This work cannot continue without more funding. Although it isn’t open, our guide had managed to arrange for us to tour the ship.

After lunch, a friend and I went downtown. We were mostly on a hunt to purchase some red quinoa and black quinoa. We stopped first at the Plaza de Armas. The downtown area was very busy as it is the beginning of Festival de la Candelaria. The Virgin of Candelaria is the patron saint of Puno. The feast begins on February 2nd and continues until the 18th. This festival actually goes back to the Andean celebration of Mother Earth, the figure of Pachamama. Originally, the whole region around Lake Titicaca honored Pachamama in order to have a rich harvest and favorable weather. Tomorrow, there will be a dance competition at the city stadium. As part of There were people decorating another plaza with pictures made of flowers.

On our way to the supermarket, we were stopped by a parade, a very short parade, celebrating the Virgin of Candelaria, only about two blocks long. There were some local dignitaries, some military, a band, and several men carrying a large float of Mary. The parade moved quite slowly, as they had to push up the electrical wires a few times to allow the float to pass underneath. There were many people in traditional garb. Many were throwing flower petals at the float. After the parade passed, we noticed a few shrines along the parade route. The street was covered with flower petals that were being swept up by a maintenance crew.

We made it to the supermarket, where we found our quinoa, plus some corn and some sauces. It’s a good thing I brought my expandable tote with me.

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Colca Canyon and the Andean Condors

Thursday late morning and afternoon, January 31, 2019

The Colca River is the longest river in Peru, stretching from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. On its journey, it creates the deepest canyon in the world, over 2.5 miles, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. This area was inaccessible by road until the 1940s. Even then, the outside world was not aware of the canyon, which was first navigated in 1981 by a Polish rafting expedition. The expedition suggested that this canyon was the deepest in the world, and that was later verified.

We drove from Colca Valley to Colca Canyon, through a tunnel that was built as part of the Majes-Siguas irrigation project in the 1970s that built a 63 mile long aqueduct to bring water to the dry lands around Arequipa.

The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world, considering both wingspan and weight, with a wingspan of almost eleven feet. It is the national symbol of Peru. This bird is considered near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Condors don’t make nests, as they can’t carry anything. They prefer rock ledges or caves on mountain faces, with wide open spaces. They use thermals that rise and spiral off the cliffs to soar for hours, looking for carrion. They rip open the tough skin of their kills, making it easier for other animals to feed on the carrion as well. Andean Condors have been known to prey on small live animals, but their short talons are not well adapted for hunting.

The condors mate for life, and can live up to 100 years, and lay one or two eggs per year. The young will stay will the parents for several years, as they don’t reach maturity until about age 5. The young have brown feathers. At about age 8, the feathers turn black with with patches on the wings and a ruff of white feathers. The male has a crest on its head which distinguishes it from the female.

Cruz del Condor, about a mile above the river, is an excellent place to view these magnificent birds. The total elevation here is 12,416 feet. We waited for a while, constantly scanning the skies around us, until we were rewarded with our first sight of a flying condor. Our trip in the cold was rewarded!

While not a pretty bird, the Andean Condor is magnificent, especially in flight. There were three condors perched on a nearby mountain that we watched for a while. We saw several flying, took too many photos, and decided to return to our vehicle. On the way, we saw people pointing and shooting photos, so we checked it out. First, we saw two on a ledge, then we saw three, then four, and finally six. There were two adults, and four juveniles. The ledge may be where their home cave is located. We watched as they fluffed their feathers, communicated with each other, and soared.

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On our way back to the lodge, we stopped at a few more lookout points, and I bought a Cabana hat.. We went in to the village of Chivay, to do some shopping. The center square and the Main Street have some statues that reflect the local cultural dances. Chivay is the largest village in the Colca Valley, with about 7,000 people. Twice a week, there is a large market where people come to sell their goods, and the population doubles. It was delightful to watch the people, many of whom were dressed in their local attire, with lots of layering of skirts. There were so many beautiful hats, belts and dresses, colorful and with lots of bling. I did get my Cabana hat, and I was looking at some of the embroidered jackets, but resisted them (I’m kind of regretting that now.)

As we left Chivay, a thunderstorm was approaching. It was still raining when we reached the lodge, but we went to the hot pools anyway. Ahh – so very relaxing.

 

 

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Zig Zagging through Arequipa

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Our guide took us on a driving tour of Arequipa, starting with a view of the city from atop a hill. We noticed many fields and some farm animals within the city proper. There are many old Inca terraces being utilized for farming. They grow papaya (which is much better than we have at home), passion fruit, broccoli, avocado, carrots, asparagus, turnips, quinoa, potatoes, corn and more. They also grow maca, a member of the onion family, which is good for energy, and is sometimes called natural viagara.

Many homes are built on the hillsides. There are no roads going up these hills, so all of the homes have to be accessed by stairs. Walking up and down keeps them in good shape, but I sure wouldn’t want to carry four bags of groceries up several flights.

We drove through several districts of the city. The Yanahuara (Black Trousers) district has many colonial era houses. When the Incas first arrived here, they saw that the local people were wearing short black pants, so gave them the name Yanahuara. After the Spanish began settling in South American, many Castilians settled in this district. Castile is in the north central part of Spain, and Castilian people are represented by a lion in many of the carvings here.

We paid a visit to La Mansión del Fundador (home of the founder). Built by Don Garcí Manuel De Carbajal, a Spanish lieutenant who explored the area as an emissary of Francisco Pizarro, as a home for his local wife and family. From the paintings here, it seems he was a handsome man. BE93A150-54E1-40A2-B163-487C85490146The house was restored in 1980s, and is used as an event center. The grounds are beautiful. You can hold a wedding there for about $5,000 (not including food, drinks and decorations). The house is full of artwork and furniture from the many families who owned it over the years. Sitting high above the city, it provides panoramic views of the fields and buildings here.

We also stopped at Molina de Sabandía, a 400 year old water mill used to grind wheat. Unlike the water wheel many of us are familiar with, the Sabandía uses water diverted from a nearby stream and sends it down a series of floors to power the mill. Here, too, there are beautiful views of the city of Arequipa.

Our visit to Museo Santuarios Andinos was fascinating. This is final resting place of the Peruvian Ice Maiden, a 12 year old Inca girl who had been sacrificed to the gods in the 1450s. Dubbed Juanita, her body was discovered during a 1995 excavation atop Nevado Ampato in the Colca District. Her body had been hidden in ice until a nearby volcano began erupting, causing melting on the mountain where she had been buried. She is called the Ice Maiden because the body is placed in deep freeze in total darkness from January to April every year for conservation purposes.

We also enjoyed Mundo Alpaca (Alpaca World) where we heard about the differences between llamas, alpaca and vicuña. All of the wool is sorted by hand. The baby alpaca is pulled out first, then the fibers are separated by color. The vicuña provides the finest and most expensive wool. These animals are shorn only once every two years. The wool must be sorted by hand to remove impurities and coarse fibers, leaving a small amount of very soft wool. We observed a couple of local women weaving the wool into beautiful fabrics. I purchased a scarf and shawl made of silk and baby alpaca. Normally, I can’t wear wool, but this is very soft and delicate and I think I’ll be able to tolerate it.

The Mercado San Camilo is a very large market frequented by the locals. We were awed by the displays of fruits (some of which we didn’t recognize), vegetables, meats and cheeses as well as household goods.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant that our guide had suggested, Zig Zag, where we were able to try alpaca meat. This meat is quite good to eat, and is lower in calories and cholesterol. Our meals were served on piping hot lava plates; the meat was still sizzling. Besides alpaca, we were able to have two other meats. I chose beef and chicken; Mark chose beef and lamb. We could even choose the size of servings, which I appreciated, not having to waste half of my meal. The meats were served with some tasty sauces as well.

We learned the next day that there was a 5.0 earthquake in the Arequipa area around 6:20 pm. This was the time we were walking to the restaurant, but we didn’t notice the tremors.

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Final Excursion in the Amazon

Saturday afternoon, January 26, 2019

Our afternoon excursion was on the Yarapa River. This river is outside the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, so there is more water traffic there. We boated past several Eco-lodges, including The Treehouse, where all of the lodges are up in trees. Most of these eco-lodges are quite basic, for guests who want to experience nature without the amenities. (We did see some solar panels and electrical cords, so they aren’t completely off the grid.)

 

We spotted a couple more Pygmy Marmosets who played hide and seek with us. They really are adorable. There were a couple of Wooly Monkeys jumping through the trees and playing with each other. They reminded us of the acrobats with Cirque du Soleil. They cling to the branches and swing by their prehensile tails. It’s amazing that they don’t fall in the water, which is a good thing since they can’t swim.

 

We did see a Coatimundi running up a branch, but weren’t quick enough to get a photo. They have long noses like anteaters, but are related to raccoons. They spend most of their time in the trees.

Suddenly, our guide became very excited. “My friends, my friends, you are very lucky. There is the world’s largest Toucan – the White-throated Toucan.” It was difficult to spot at first, hiding behind a branch. With some maneuvering by our pilot, we got to see this magnificent bird. It was joined by a second one that we couldn’t see, though.

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We managed to see a Yellow-crowned Brushtail Tree Rat peeking out of its hole in a tree. We had seen one at dusk the other day, but this one was much easier to see. It obliged us by climbing out so we could see the entire body.

After dinner, several crew members entertained us with music and singing. They call themselves “The Chunky Monkeys.” Several of us got up to dance for a while. It was a lovely final evening here in the Upper Amazon.

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Holy Jumping Sardines!

Saturday morning, January 26, 2019

44A3AD97-7393-46DB-92E3-7B6CAA855388The normal daily schedule includes a short excursion (less than one hour) before breakfast, then a longer (two hour) excursion after breakfast. We return for lunch and perhaps a nap. There may be a lecture by one of the professional photographers, a naturalist or one of the other crew (we learned how to make Pisco Sours, a skill that will be used when we return home). Then, we take another two hour excursion around 4:00, returning shortly before dinner. We pick up our Pisco Sours, get a briefing about the following day, and then have dinner. Sometimes, we go straight to bed, because we know we’re getting up really early the next day. Sometimes, we manage to stay up for another hour. The days are very full.

This early morning, we visited Supay Creek, where we saw more birds, including a Plum-throated Cotinga (only from the back), Red-capped Cardinal and a female Anhinga with its beautiful feather pattern. Before today, we had only seen the graceful Anhinga flying over us.

We spotted a Green Iguana basking at the top of a tree, giving us a nice view of its underside and claws. He looked very comfortable up there. Next was a juvenile Black Hawk. A couple of days ago, we had seen one airing its wings; it, too, has a beautiful feather pattern. There was a Black-fronted Nunbird with a red beak, and a Cinnamon Attila.

The water was very calm today on Supay Creek,  mirroring the trees and vegetation in the water.

On our second excursion, this time to Iricahua Creek, we went through a school of Amazon Jumping Sardines, small fish that were very active. Then, we spotted a beautiful White-eared Jacamar, related to the kingfishers. A Black-tailed Trogon posed obligingly for us. Ficus plants grow very large, with numerous roots into the water below. They can be homes to lizards and bats. We were fortunate enough to see specimens of both, including an Olive Treerunner Lizard and a Black Spotted Skink.

Our guide picked some Mistletoe for us to examine. The seed is very sticky, so it will adhere to a bird that lands on the bush, then be carried to another area where it can drop and germinate.

A lovely pair of Blue and Yellow Macaws entertained us for a while, as did a Green-backed Trogon. As we sped back to the boat, the jumping sardines were all around us. What a treat!

A few local women stopped by the ship in their boats with crafts to sell. There were some beautiful items, both woven and carved. I succumbed to a macaw made from Tagua and Mahogany, at a price of 30 Soles, or about $7, which I considered to be a bargain.

 

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Amazon Things That Go Bump in the Night

Friday evening, January 25, 2019

The late afternoon excursion was an evening hike in the Dorado Flood Forest, to look for creepy-crawlies. Both of the photography experts accompanied us on this excursion, and I was fortunate enough to pick up a few pointers from them that improved the quality of the photos I got tonight (at least I think so).

We boarded our skiff and traveled about 50 feet to our destination. It was probably too muddy to walk. We were fitted with tall rubber boots before heading out.

Among the millions of mosquitoes (many of which bit me through my permethrin-treated clothing), we found bats, grasshoppers, katydids, frogs, and butterflies. A highlight was watching a butterfly lay its eggs on a leaf!

We were getting so distracted by all of the beauty of the Peruvian night that our expedition coordinator had to come and remind us to return to the skiff so the crew could get to bed before midnight! If it weren’t for the mosquitoes, I could have stayed for hours. By the way, the worst place to get bitten is on the palm of the hand. Every time you move your fingers, it starts to burn and itch all over again.

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