Jungle Fever, fistfights and bullfights

Hi everyone,

can't believe another month is already gone.. Hope you're all enjoying
the spring back home.
Here's what we've been up to since the last email.

== Cusco ==
Cusco is nice but you can really feel you're on the major tourist
trail here, where ever you go someone is trying to sell you something
or get you to eat in their restaurant. "Hello mister, tourist
information?" (walking by) "Hello, excuse me, Excuse Me!, tourist
information please!!" "You want city tour?" "Inca trail tomorrow
mister?" "You buy postcard? - it's for my school..."
The main square is pretty nice though (if you're a balcony above the
salespeople) with a couple of impressive old churches (built on the
grounds of and with the material from blown apart Inca buildings..).
Every Sunday there's a parade as well and you can watch the military
doing the John Cleese "silly walk".

My brother Mikael landed in Cusco early on our second morning there,
bringing a fresh supply of mums homemade buns and cookies and lots of
Swedish candy. It lasted several hours. Mikael didn't have the decency
to show any signs of feeling the jetlag or the altitude having flown
in directly from sea level to 3400m so the first day (apart from
eating almost all the candy) we marched up to Sacsayhuaman - an old
Inca fort high up on a hill above Cusco. The stone-work on this site
is really unbelievable - massive irregular blocks fitted perfectly
together. The largest rock is 300 tonnes and between most of them it's
not more than a millimeter gap (even though there's been a few large
earthquakes here since the 1500's that erased completely most of the
Spanish buildings..). We also checked out a couple smaller Inca sites
within walking distance (the whole area is completely full of old Inca
things). Next day another fort - Ollantaytambo - with more gigantic
rocks fitted perfectly together..this time on an even more
difficult-to-drag-large-rocks-to hilltop.
After this couple days warm-up we ready for Machu Picchu and got
ourselves train tickets there. The "proper" way to see Machu Picchu is
the Inca Trail (one of the them - there's different Inca trails all
over Peru and Bolivia) - a 4 day trek that ends at the site. In high
season there's about 500 people a day that do the trek though and the
camp sites are about as crowded as the Roskilde festival...so we
decided to go for the train.
Machu Picchu is different from the other major Inca sites in that the
conquistadors never managed to find it so it didn't get turned upside
down looking for gold. It's in a very beautiful spot, high up on a
cloudy hilltop - well hidden and wasn't found until 1911. Nice to
stroll around there for a few hours but tons of tourists.
Next day, to get a break from all the sightseeing we went whitewater
rafting. Was the first time for all three of us and was tons of fun.
They should have called it "brownwater rafting" really though on this
river but there were a few good rapids. Also adding to the fun the
guide was completely mad..kept wanting to flip the raft over on the
calm stretches and when we stopped for a break he had this game to
The game consisted of two ores stuck in the ground next to the water,
and then you were to stand 10-20 meters away on the river side and
hold another ore while spinning around it and looking at it for 15
seconds, then run down and pass between the first pair of ores and
back. Two people would do it at the same time and the first back wins.
Me and an american girl were first...around second 10 balance was
starting to abandon me and at 15 I just ran straight down, grabbed one
of the ores and fell in the river to start drifting away! It must have
looked so funny...unfortunately the guide that was taking photos had
to leave the camera and hurry to throw me a rope before I drifted down
to the next rapid. Edel and Mikael did better on their turns.

Before leaving Cusco for the jungle town Iquitos to see some proper
rain forest I also had to go to the doctor to get some medicine for
killing off parasites and amoebas that were starting to take over my
stomach. Oh the joys of cheap chinese food in La Paz.. (mental note :
don't eat fish when you're high up in a mountain chain several days
from the sea...)

== Iquitos ==
Iquitos is a real jungle town - you can only get here by plane or by a
couple weeks on a boat. It's just by the lazy kilometer-wide Amazon
river (the Amazon's only 100m above sea level here so not in much of a
rush), a short while after it is formed when the Rio Ucayali and Rio
Maranon rivers meet.
Around 300.000 people live in this hot and crazy little town, with
lots of nice old buildings from the beginning of the rubber boom (most
of them in need of a paint job since the end of it). The best way to
get around is the loud tuktuk taxis - you don't see that many 4 wheel
vehicles on the streets (a few cool heavily customized volkswagens

When we landed late at night there was a couple dozen people outside
the airport wanting to be our taxi, plus one extremely persistent
jungle-tour salesman. We avoided him, picked a taxi guy randomly and
got in the (so far) 4 wheel taxi. It got a flat tire after less than a
minute and had to stop...(I try to get at least one flat tire into
each email..). The car behind stopped as well and out jumps the same
annoying jungle tour salesman! He could give us a lift of course but
it all seemed a little too coincidental so we went for another taxi
instead. The second taxi lasted the whole way to the hotel which had a
3 bed room free luckily. When Edel went back down to the lobby to give
them our passport details there was the first taxi guy again - arguing
with the woman at the counter and wanting commission for (almost..)
bringing us there!
The hotel room was the loudest ever, there was a 30cm gap above the
windows where all the street sounds found their way in. You'd wake up
in the middle of the night sure that one of the tuktuks just drove
straight through the room! Got some sleep eventually and the next day
we had breakfast at a nice place owned by a an old Texas guy, he'd
been the minister of tourism in Iquitos a few years ago and was great
advice on which of the dozens of tour companies to pick for a good
tour to the rain forest. We also found out from him that the guy that
had been chasing us from the airport the night before had served a
prison sentence for robbing a few tourists once!
The trip Gerald, the Texan, recommended the most was to go stay with
the Cocama indians in the Pacaya Samiria reserve, so we went to their
little office in a falling apart building on a muddy street a bit
outside the city center and booked 5 days even though it was 18 hours
away by boat. There was no boat leaving the first night so we decided
to check out a butterfly farm 20 min by boat from Iquitos to spend the

After the stress of picking a boat among the 20-30 people yelling for
us to go with them at the port we arrived at the farm and had a very
nice tour around. The owner showed us all their animals - they turned
out to have an orphanage for wounded animals as well as the butterfly
garden. There was one really cute 5 months old baby anteater "Rosita"
- very playful, a full grown jaguar "Pedro" that had been dropped off
by someone who had been trying to sell it in Iquitos for a full month
when it was little - when it couldn't stand up any more from not being
fed properly he gave up on selling it and dropped it off at the farm.
The owner showed us the tiny wooden cage the poor thing had arrived
They also had a big fat tapir "Lola" that had arrived there also
unable to stand after the owners had tied it's leg with a fishing line
when it was little.. It was recovered now anyway and seemed happy - at
least as long as it was given lots of bananas...the owner told us to
get out of it's field quickly when the bananas we were feeding it ran
They also had a few nice monkeys that were climbing around freely up
in the trees, or coming down to inspect a bag or anything else you
left at the ground for too long.. My favourite was the anteater
though, she came back to play one more time and after a while fell
asleep in my arms - the owner said it was time for her milk and
afternoon nap..
www.amazonanimalorphanage.org if you wanna check out the place.

On the way back from the butterfly farm the guy with the boat asked if
we wanted to stop by an anaconda farm as well so we did. We had hardly
got out of the boat before the people at this place had hung a sloth
each on us. Sloth are weird animals...so slow that algae grows in
their fur and with the most stoned smile I've seen anywhere since I
moved out of Holland. We continued to have a look at some parrots and
turtles and every animal was interrupted from whatever it was doing at
the time and handed to us to hold...think both them and us would have
preferred to just look really, especially the anacondas - Mikael
didn't have time to object before the 4 meter one they carried out
from it's tiny cage was hanging around his neck. Another anaconda that
was dragged out had a big rabbit-shaped bump in the middle of it and
would definitely have preferred to sleep on the food for another month
or so..
The boas that were in the same cage were really stressed - hissing and
doing fake attacks - the owner explained that it was because he had
just caught them in the jungle! They also had 4 baby caymans and a
turtle in a very small plastic container (might have been an old
fridge..) with about an inch of water.
It got even worse when we got to the monkeys. When I sat down next to
the first one that seemed really depressed he jumped up in my knee and
buried his face, I was scratching his back to calm him down a bit but
I felt just like crying myself, the poor animal was tied tightly
around it's neck and to a wooden pole with a less than a meter string!
I was asking the owner to at least give it a longer leash but he said
"then he might kill my chicken" Yeah right... The monkey got really
distressed when I got up but the next sight was just as bad - five or
six smaller monkeys each with a string or chain around it's neck and
tied to a pole with a half meter string. One of them was so hungry
that it tried to eat a paper I had around my finger (from a massive
matamata turtle with very sharp claws the owner had unexpectedly
handed me earlier).
We were heading for the boat at this point but the owner tried to
explain "if I had more money I could build big cages" ... = "give me
money give me money give me money". As Edel was saying - if he doesn't
have any respect for the animals to begin with money's not going to
change anything. He was already charging twice the nice butterfly
place in entrance to look at this sad mess..
When we got back to Iquitos after the week with the Cocama indians we
went to the fauna protection office to make a complaint (..or Edel did
- they wouldn't let me or Mikael in since we were wearing
shorts...can't really complain about their rules since we hope their
rules will shut the anaconda gangster down though). Most likely he
wont have permits for keeping all those animals, or taking animals
from the forest (he didn't seem like the paperwork type of guy) so
they would do an inspection and hopefully shut him down - the animals
probably will end up in a zoo and be happier.

== Pacaya Samiria ==
In the evening of the second day we met up with the people from the
Cocama indians to take us to the boat. All went very smoothly, tuktuk
down to the chaotic harbour and got hammocks on a big riverboat. Just
before it was time to head out we heard we need to change boat though
because this one wasn't leaving until the next day (apparently this
happens all the time and people usually hang their hammock up on a
boat and wait around a few days..) - stress over to the next boat and
this one is full, very full. There's two packed rows of hammocks down
the entire length of the boat, and then as many as you could possibly
fit along the edges as well. Really as many as you could fit - the
people that arrived later were making another layer sleeping on the
floor under all the hammocks. Somehow they managed to free a small
cabin for us though so we got a place to sleep. It was a tiny 4 bed
cabin, just Edel, Mikael, me and the Cocama guide Carlos, our
backpacks and some supplied for the indian village, a few pretty big
spiders and a lightbulb. Electricity was very unreliable on the boat
though, and the food looked even more so - we survived on some cookies
we brought (noticed later that the kitchen was just next to the
toilets as well..).
The riverboat journey turned out to be 21 hours but we slept ok. After
we got to the dropoff point we changed to a small motorized dugout
canoe for the last hour or two up to the Cocama village - the canoe
was floating very low in the water with us plus all the backpacks and
supplies for the village but there was probably no reason to worry -
the next day I'd see one of these boats with 30 people in it pass, you
couldn't even see the boat - just a lot of people and an engine
driving by out on the river. When we got to the village we got a
little hut for the night and in the morning we were showed around by
Victor - a guide from the village. Their village was pretty big, over
a thousand people (in total there's about 90.000 indigenous people
living in the Pacaya Samiria - the reserve itself is about half of
Holland in size.). The village is a long row of huts by the riverside,
they have their own school, a small hospital and a church (for the 10
or so of their people that still feel like going now after the
missionaries aren't allowed to hassle people in the reserve any
more..). Their community is involved in reforestation projects
(illegal logging still takes place in the reserve), in hatching river
turtles and other fauna protection projects. About a week before we
got there they had stopped illegal loggers from taking out mahogany
worth 30.000$ - the captured timber was still lying around in their
village and they were planning to use it for furniture to their little
school :-)
Once in a while when walking around the village you'd see a river
dolphin surface out in the water, and in the hut we had our meals
there was a nice little howler monkey, "Pancha", climbing around,
playing with the kids and making funny sounds. He hadn't learned the
full howler monkey howl yet, we would hear them later when we were
camping in the rain forest - sounded like a howling wind and was as
loud as thunder.
In the evening we headed off another 7 hours by boat deeper into the
Pacaya Samiria to camp - us three (we were the only tourists in their
village at the time), Victor and two more guides from the Cocama
village. The only sign of other humans we saw on the way was a couple
of small control stations (the reserve actually seems fairly well
protected) - we spent the night in the second one before continuing to
a really beautiful lagoon in the morning to set up our camp.
The lagoon was called the tuna lagoon...because before this area
became a reserve there had been multinational oil companies here
checking out if it would be profitable to dig up the whole area for
oil drilling...and these workers had left empty tin cans of tuna lying
around everywhere so now the indians called the place the tuna lagoon.
Luckily it was protected before they could destroy it though - the
lagoon is full of river dolphins, grey and the larger very endangered
pink one - we'd see them make a little dive above the surface or come
up to breathe once in a while. There were tons of birds as well, lots
of blue-yellow macaws, the very strange hoazin (they have claws on
their wings and punkrock style haircut..), parrots, kingfishers,
herons, eagles and lots of others. The only thing to distract from the
beautiful image would perhaps be the sound the river dolphins make
when they surface to breathe....sort of a farting like sound. We were
joking that "sounds of the river dolphin" would probably not be the
new age hit the title suggests.
Our camp site was invisible from out on the lagoon even though it was
only 10 meters from the water - anywhere by the river side the
vegetation is like a thick green wall, with trees and palm trees
drowning in climbing plants - by the camp site there was a little hole
in the wall where you could go in with a canoe under a tree and land.
We did a couple of walks in the forest, very beautiful with absolutely
massive trees. Much of this forest gets flooded during the rainy
season on some years and we could see the water mark a meter up on a
few of the trees (we were there at the end of the rainy season, on a
couple places we could still go in with a small canoe between the
As in any lowland rain forest there's not all that much going on at
ground level though - most of the plants and animals are up on the
higher branches. We saw squirrels and five or six types of monkeys
anyway and lots of mosquitoes... Mosquitoes as big as lobsters and
able to bite through wellington boots! (ok, they were the same size as
back home but I stand by the claim about the boots..) The mosquitoes
and the heat made it pretty though to be on land, was nicer to be out
in a boat or swimming with the dolphins - they'd come pretty close but
didn't come up to play like ocean ones might.
Apart from swimming with the dolphins we also did some piranha
fishing. Now...one might question the logic in swimming in water where
it takes only seconds to catch a piranha but they're not as bad as in
the movies...that's what we were told anyway. We also went alligator
spotting in the evening! You shine with a flash light just over the
water and look for the red reflection of their eyes, Mikael got a good
look at one and Edel spotted the red eye of our camp fire :-)
Two absolutely gorgeous sunsets over the lagoon and it was time to
head back. Boat back in the morning, took a bit less time to return to
the village since we were going downstream now. When we packed our
bags Edel found a big tarantula sitting behind the mosquito net
exactly where we had been sleeping the first night!
Before we had headed out to camp in the jungle Carlos (turned out he
was the village shaman) had asked us if we wanted to do an Ayahuasca
session. Ayahuasca, "vine of the dead", is a drink made from a vine
and another plant in the jungle that the indians have used for
communicating with the spirit world and curing the sick for thousands
of years. It's said that the experience can be a lot more intense than
LSD though so we decided to give it a miss...don't think I'm quite
ready yet..
Even if I'm not quite brave enough myself I find it sort of
interesting to read about these things - DMT, the most active
substance in the Ayahuasca brew can, apart from allowing you to see
little gnomes that sing for you, often cause synaesthesia (when senses
overlap so you can see sounds, taste colours etc.) - apparently some
Amazonian jungle tribes have songs that are designed to look (not
sound) in a particular way when using these plants! Ayahuasca or San
Pedro cacti sessions with a local shaman is actually becoming serious
tourism around here, most jungle lodges offer this and the guide book
even dedicates several pages to it. There's plenty of experience
reports to read on the internet as well, lots of people seem to find
it very useful for understanding their life and deciding what to do
with it. Then there's the reports that are just completely wild and
crazy....and they make a lot funnier quotes! Here's a couple good ones

"I was trying to come up with the purpose of trees then my friend told
me that plants influence our survival and that the history of mankind
could be changed by people interacting with plants in a number of ways
to change thoughts religions or ways of life. This seeemed really neat
to me. From here we went to my bedroom and played with my hamster."
"He kept talking about being able to feel all the energy right on the
top of his head, i could actually kinda see the energy and told him to
move to the left a little. he did and then freaked out and left to
walk home. Well apparently he thought his heart stopped and ended up
calling the cops and going to the hospital where he got hooked to an
iv and had a catither inserted in him, although he felt much better
the next day"
"i thought i seen mother teresa in this wierd display of lights then
puked like never before. After that day i've been much more calm can
breath better and have been happier. "

(here's the full report if anyone's interested -

We had a while to wait around in the village - they had radio contact
with the big river boat to try to figure out when we had to leave to
catch it (the village is two hours away from the main river where the
boat passes and the schedules for the big boats are very random).
Before we headed back to Iquitos Manuel, the chief of the group that
organize their ecotourism, wanted to offer us a drink of indian
whiskey as they called it..he was pouring from seven or eight
different dirty plastic bottles into a glass, one bottle had some
twigs in it, one what looked like dried mud - just a couple drops from
most of them, a good bit from one and to taste from the last one. He
said there was no alcohol in it but it was burning like I imagine the
96% alcohol I just saw that you can buy in the pharmacies here would
do...we all helped to drink as much of it as politeness could make us.
Then we slept on the small canoe on the way to the big river boat, and
then slept another two hours waiting for it to turn up before sleeping
on the big boat. When it got there it was just as crazy packed as the
first one but Victor, who was travelling with us the whole way to
Iquitos, magically managed to find a couple of hammock spaces - Edel
was sleeping on the floor (I swear I asked her at least 10 times to
take the hammock so I'd sleep on the floor instead..). We were a bit
worried about our bags being nicked with so many people around but
ended up having to feel bad about that because people on the boat were
so nice. One woman in a hammock next to us was feeling sorry for Edel
on the floor and offered her to share hammock (she politely said no..I
hope she would have joined mine in that case :-). A few minutes later
another random stranger came and gave Edel a blanket. Sort of have to
ask myself the question if it was mean to worry about the bags...and
don't really want to ask the question if I honestly would have been
kind enough to do the same things for them..
One more night in Iquitos before flying back to Cusco - moved
ourselves up to a room with aircondition for once, had some very
welcome showers, got our clothes washed and I got rid of my one week
We had to fly via Lima, and the first flight was delayed a couple of
hours so when we got there we had 4 minutes to make our
connection....which we made! Really impressed by Lan Peru - they had
people waiting for us when we got off the first plane to take us
directly to the Cusco flight...and they even managed to get our
luggage over to the new plane!

== Cusco / Manu ==
Back in Cusco Mikael had to fly back to Sweden :-(
Also on the negative side I got myself a fever...not the best sign if
you just returned from a week in the middle of the Amazon (I think it
was probably just from sleeping with the airco on max the whole night
when we got back to Iquitos though...you can buy antibiotics over the
counter here so it was sorted in a few days anyway..).
[A five centimeter cockroach just ran across the floor in the internet
cafe...just thought that was worth mentioning...]
After a while recovering in Cusco we got ourselves on another rain
forest trip, 4 days to the Manu reserve. The Manu reserve starts on
the last mountains of the Andes before the Amazon and then covers
cloud forest, highland and lowland rain forest on the way down. It's
apparently the most bio diverse area on the planet (there's tons of
different hard-to-remember statistics about it - usually something
like a so or so small area of Manu contains as many species of this or
this type of animals as the whole of europe and north america
together). It's almost as large as the Pacaya Samiria and most of the
reserve is closed to tourists, the tour we booked only went to a
couple locations in the cloud forest/highland rainforest at the edges
of the reserve, which starts about 10 hours from Cusco by bus. There
were lots of early mornings on both the Iquitos tour and this one, the
first morning we went outside of our cloud forest lodge before sunrise
to see the mating dance of the strange "cock of the rock" bird, and
after breakfast got mountain bikes to go down the few hours on the way
to the next lodge. The road was following a stream in the valley down
below and the view was very nice - forest covered mountains all
around. Had a bit of rain though.. In the village where we stopped
there was a large chain across the road (and someone waiting to lower
it to let vehicles pass) - Alex, one of the guides, missed the chain
and biked straight into it, fell and scraped his arm. I can't believe
it - these guide guys can spot a green bird in a tree at night but he
missed a massive chain up in the air across the road..?
They also had some whitewater rafting on the schedule for the day - it
was a pretty calm river in comparison to the last time but the rafting
guide was a bit overenthusiastic on the "jump to left side, jump
right, forward, left back,..." commands which was slightly irritating.
It got a bit exciting when he messed up with the commands and we
rammed a big rock in the middle of the river though :-)
The scenery around the river was very nice - little waterfalls finding
their way down to the river on the sides everywhere...under one of the
falls the guides were getting us to paddle all we could to give Edel
and a Canadian lady at the front of the raft a shower..didn't work out
a 100% though unfortunately..
The first morning at the second lodge we went on a canopy tour. Not
the quiet look at epiphytes from a catwalk up in the trees canopy
tour, more hold on to a pulley and go crazy fast along a steel wire
canopy tour. Edel wasn't the only one to back out.. It was good fun
though (if you don't have vertigo) although with very little time to
enjoy the view as you're whizzing along to the platform up in the next
tree. There were 5 platforms altogether and then we abseiled down to
the ground from the last one. The guides had tons of fun messing
around when they went down, abseiled upside down or head first..
We also did a few walks, the jungle was a bit easier to enjoy here
than around Iquitos since it was a bit cooler and a lot less
mosquitoes than in the lowland jungle. Back by the tuna lagoon it was
nice to be in such a completely remote location though, you see more
animals than when you stay in a lodge like this. Anyway, we saw a
couple monkeys and our guide Silver was pointing out lots of different
medicinal plants...including a few that US companies have a patent on!
Makes little sense to me how you can get a patent on something you
didn't invent, something that's existed for ages and been used
traditionally for thousands of years but what do I know.. We also saw
more of the weird hoazin birds and a strange "walking palm tree" - it
sends out new roots high up in the air that pulls the tree in the
direction where it finds the most light...they can "walk" almost a
meter in a year apparently!
One Argentinian girl that were on the same walk told us she had
crashed into a tree on the canopy tour and hurt her leg...she somehow
just forgot to break. There went my arguments for telling Edel how
extremely safe it was anyway... :-(
Long trip back to Cusco in a truck that kept boiling every hour and
then we got a ticket for the 10.5 hour bus to Arequipa the next

== Arequipa, Colca, Cotahuasi ==
To bus to Arequipa was strange...must have been some weird attempt at
luxury. They served food (how much rat is in the strawberry cake?),
they played bingo (win return ticket), they showed a film
("Something's gotta give", downloaded from the internet and burned on
a mostly unreadable disc - they finally gave up on the "eject, clean,
play" procedure with 30min left...I still don't know how it ends!).
They also videofilmed everyone on the bus before taking off - suppose
it was to record your face...as they only had the standard
name-age-nationality-passportnr details you need to even be allowed to
buy a ticket already. We hadn't been on a long distance bus for almost
a month now..getting spoiled..

North of Arequipa are the two largest canyons in the world, Colca and
Cotahuasi. Colca is about twice the size of the Grand Canyon they say,
and a great place for trekking and spotting condors but we wanted to
start by heading to Cotahuasi - it's a bit harder to get to so gets
only about 1500 tourists a year and is the worlds deepest canyon -
over 3.5km! We talked to one agency that had a 4 day trek that seemed
hard but ok - the guy told us to come back at 8 the next morning to
talk to the guide for more details. We did but then the shop was
closed..came back 30min later but still closed. There was a guy
standing around outside the shop though and he turned out to be the
guide. He'd give a bit different answers than the agency owner though
and seemed very distant when we talked to him...staring at nothing far
far away ".......Cotahuasi.......[silence]...........Cotahuasi is
like....[silence]......the first day you
walk.............sssssshhhhhhshhhhssssshhh" (his hand flying around in
the air like an aeroplane - possibly to show altitudes when you walk
up/down the canyon). "....the second day you walk sssssshhhhhhooouum"
(another loop in the air for each day). Since we feared this guy was
more or less completely insane we decided to go with a different
agency (want to be stuck with this guy in the middle of nowhere for 4
days? imagine what kind of food he'd cook? :-)
Found one that had a 2 day trek that seemed nice - couldn't go the
first day though because there was a festival going on in Cotahuasi
and all the buses were full so we booked 2 days in Colca first. More
early mornings (I can hear you laughing James.. ;-) - the 6 hour bus
would leave at 1:30am so we went back to the hostal to try to get some
sleep. I missed some sleep because the shower ran out of water and I
had to wait around covered in soap for about an hour before it came
back.. Got some more sleep on the bus though and then we met our
guide, Calisto, had some breakfast and headed off from Cabanaconde at
the top of the Colca canyon (about 2km deep at this point) to start
walking down. When he pointed out the little village we were heading
for deep down on the other side of the canyon we thought he was almost
as mad as the first guy - it looked several days away. The zigzag path
down was pretty steep, some of it steps but mostly loose gravel, and
we got down in a few hours - me and Edel huffin and puffin and slippin
our way down and the guide - in sandals - seemed like he could have
walked it in 5 times the speed with no problems. They're tough people
around here - once in a while there'd be an old woman or someone
carrying about half a house on their back running past us on their way
At the bridge over the river by the bottom there was a woman selling
drinks and we bought a fanta that was expired since over a month. It
tasted like dish liquid (I should know..I drank a good bit of Yes
Ultra once when I was little..my poor mum had to call a doctor to ask
if it was dangerous..). Expired products are sort of standard up in
the Andes - the worst one we got so far was a kinder egg in La Paz
where the surprise was that it expired in 2003!
We reached the village eventually and after another couple hours we
got to an oasis where we spent the night. It was really an oasis down
there at the bottom of the canyon - there was a hotspring waterfall
appearing out of nowhere on the mountainside nearby and they were
leading some of the water over to the oasis, it had swimming pools and
palm trees in the otherwise desert looking landscape.
The next bit sounds sort of like something from the "Four
Yorkshiremen" Monthy Phyton scetch ("We had to get up in the morning
at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before we went to bed, eat a
lump of freezing cold poison for breakfast and work twenty-nine hours
a day down mill...").
We had to get up at 2:30 in the morning, eat no breakfast and walk the
2km vertical uphill on a path even steeper than the day before, before
The reason we had to start so early is that if you do it in the hot
sun at day tourists like us would surely die, and locals like Calisto
might get slightly thirsty, or perhaps even sweat a bit. It took us
about 4 hours to get up, the sun just starting to light the tops of
the highest mountains around when we got to the top. The first quarter
of the way wasn't too bad, then halfway, a bit tougher the next
quarter of the way, and then just one quarter left the guide told us
and then another quarter and another... Turned out there were six or
seven quarters of the way altogether...
Calisto himself could do it all in two hours he told us, or one if he
rushed.. Some tourists rent a mule to get up, like a nice Autralian
fella we met in the oasis - he was on his 3rd round-the-world trip
(the first one had lasted 4 years when after US+Europe he decided to
walk home..). He had made the mistake to pay the mule owner the night
before though and this one drank up all the money and was at 3am very
unable to do the walk... He eventually found a sober person with a
mule though and passed by us on the way up.
After a quick breakfast back in Cabanaconde we got on the 7am bus to a
condor lookout point. Turned out we were lucky with timing on which
day to be somewhere for once - there were lots of condors in the air
(some days they see none) and also there would be blockades starting
in a day or two so noone could get here (the protesters had the not
too unreasonable demand that some of the 7$ entrance fee to the condor
lookout point would go to pave the road from Arequipa to here instead
of ending up in some politicians pocket..). There's probably one or
two hundred tourists at the lockout point every day.
Once we got back to the hostel in Arequipa we now had neither water or
electricity...they both came back in an hour though and we didn't
really want to complain to the nice old woman owning the place -
especially as we kept waking her up at terrible hours to get in or

== Cotahuasi ==
The bus to Cotahuasi was 12 hours long but the driver was going fast
enough even for the locals to complain and shaved off an hour. Wasn't
too easy to sleep from the very bumpy road, the Jackie Chan movies and
then the loud Peruvian music.. Ah well, at least it wasn't Britney
Spears.. At one point in the first hours the bus stopped and they were
asking people to get off and change bus..most didn't and we weren't
really sure what was going on so we stayed as well. Turned out they
were getting some people over on another bus just for passing a weight
control station - 5 minutes later they stopped again and the other
people came back to the now once again overloaded bus....
We got to Cotahuasi at around 3am, and were met by our guide with the
movie star name Larry Laguna. He got us to a hostel where we could
sleep a couple hours before heading off early in the morning.
We had dropped by the woman in the agency after coming back from Colca
to change the trekking plans for Cotahuasi to something that would
suit the little that was left of our legs after the 4 hour climb a bit
better (didn't really have to say anything..was enough when she saw us
limping in..).
In the morning we got on a local bus up to a lookout point at
Pampamarca - 2.9km above the canyon floor from what they said. The
view was very nice..could see a little 90 meter waterfall far down
below and Larry pointed out a couple landslides from the last major
earthquake - six something on the scale. There's a law in Peru that if
your house and everything gets destroyed by a over 6 quake you don't
have to pay back mortgage etc. - the government "decided" that this
quake was less than that though so the law wouldn't apply.. Guess
politicians are the same everywhere..
The next morning we got a another bus to a different waterfall, and as
soon as we got off the bus we saw a fistfight. Turned out it was the
bus driver and someone that were sorting out a fight from last nights
drinking.. Nice to know that the guy that drives your bus on the small
next-to-the-edge roads at 6am was out drinking the whole night. Almost
everyone seemed to be getting drunk though - the Cotahuasi festival
was still going on, and often the buses had to wait for some drunk
people on the road to get out of the way (...also in the morning and
It was about an hour walk to the waterfall, 150 meter high, and the
path led right up to the top of it. After hanging around the waterfall
for a while we headed back to Cotahuasi and Larry invited us home to
have a look at his bonsai plants, then we went to look at a bullfight.
Not the perverted
type of bullfight, more half-drunk local boys getting themselves in
trouble bullfight. One drunk looking guy had a massive scar on his
side - perhaps from last years.. There were a few close ones but noone
got badly hurt - not even a guy the bull pressed up against the ring.
At one point an older extremely drunk man fell into the ring and
wanted to fight the bull as well - the others in the ring had to
distract the bull while the police dragged him away.
Someone next to me was eating cuy (guinea pig) - I had been planning
to try it (it's a Peruvian speciality) but don't think I will now. It
looked so nasty, the little grilled rodent on the plate still had it's
head, teeth and claws left, as well as a bit of fur here and there.
For the finale of the bullfight they were trying to somehow get a
couple ropes tied around the bull and we weren't really sure what was
going on.. It looked pretty brutal, they had a ropes around it's head
and up against the ring and it got up on back legs and fell over a few
times trying to get away. Once they got two ropes tied around it one
insane guy got up to ride the bull. Predictably he fell off within
seconds and got a very good beating by the bull. I was sure he was
dead - the bull stepped on him and everything! He was still able to
both walk, run and drink beer though once the others got the bull away
from him.
At 6 in the evening we got on the Arequipa bus, and we bought the poor
woman at the hostal some chocolate for waking her up at 4am again.

== Nazca, Pisco ==
Another long bus to Nazca, stayed 2 nights there - enough to have time
to go up in a small plane and look at the famous lines. Saw one more
fistfight here before we could get up, there was some sort of schedule
conflict for the plane and the guy from our tour company was sorting
it out with the (bigger) guy from the other company. Our guy lost. We
didn't mind waiting really...were just afraid they were gonna break
the little plane (really looked the door might come off).
We got up eventually (in a different plane), and the lines were pretty
clear from up there - we saw about a dozen of the figures and lots of
the lines and trapetzoids. There seems to be one theory about why they
were made for every visitor to the place - big calendar / aliens /
pilgrimage walk tracks / maps of underground water / more aliens / to
be seen from the sky by shamans under the influence / running tracks
in sport competitions / even more alien theories / star maps etc.
It was a small four seat plane but the flight was pretty smooth, even
with the kid with a slingshot shooting at us coming in for landing...
From Nazca we headed up the panamerican highway along the desert coast
to Pisco. Got a nice break from the buses getting a ride with a
massive old Dodge -68 collectivo-taxi.
In Pisco we got a half-day tour out to some islands to look at sea
lions and bird colonies.

In Lima at the moment, heading further up the coast tomorrow (and
enjoying the kind of seafood you just don't get up in the Andes..).

take care all of you :-)