Friday, May 17, 2013

Destination(s) of the week- Arequipa, Peru & the Colca Canyon

We're going to get a bit quirky today...when people think of Peru they think of Machu Pichu.   I visited Peru on a small group adventure tour with Explore in April/May of 06.  Hard to believe that was 7 years ago.  Where did the time go?  It got me hooked on small group adventures and I've done four more since then.  This is the 2013 version of the tour I was on and it still looks pretty well the same itinerary as mine with a few minor (and better) changes.   Explore listened to our suggestions!!!  (no back and forth to Colca Canyon in one day!) 

Arequipa is the second most populous city in Peru, next to Lima, with a population of close to 850,000.  It is known as the "White City" due to it's many white buildings.

The group all flew into Lima (everyone flew over from London but me - I was the lone Canadian - or should I say lone non-British person!) and after an evening get together flew into Arequipa the next day.

This is the view that awaited us in Arequipa - pretty nice.

That evening we visited a restaurant that highlighted several different meat entrees called ZigZag.  Here is my platter:  beef, alpaca & ostrich.  Please don't hate me!!  Not one of my better moments but none of these animals are endangered - these were farmed.  And they did ever taste good!!! (although the ostrich was a bit chewy)

I see from the itinerary now that the tour drives to Chivay and then to Colca Canyon.  We did it all in one day.  It was an option of the tour and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was very tiring and I ended up with a cold that stayed with me the entire trip.

However after a 2 a.m. wake up call (screech!) off we went. stopping in the town of Chivay for some homemade buns for breakfast...

Church in Chivay - we wander to the market but please realize we were half asleep!! 

You knew there had to be a dog right?  This little guy befriended us in the park above and wanted to come with us!!!

And then we arrived at Colca Canyon....Colca Canyon is spectacular.  It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon however not as wide which prevents it from having the breathtaking views you can see at the Grand Canyon.  The area around it has terraces built by the Incas which have been lovingly maintained by the locals and still in use today.   However it is known more being the home of the Andean Condor.  We got there just in time to see them head out for their morning hunting sessions.

Isn't he/she a beauty? 

Look carefully to see him - I chose this photo to show off the beauty of the canyon
 Seeing these condors was absolutely thrilling.

I must say I was glad I had taken altitude sickness pills as Colca Canyon was one of the highest points on the trip and while others were vomiting outside the van I was fine.  My smugness did not last long because as I mentioned earlier I did get a terrible cold.  A cold and altitude - not a good combination. 

I would include more photos here but I am SLR back then was a film camera.  Remember those?  I shunned digital for a long time until I finally bought my first DSLR in 2010.  However I did have a small digital point and shoot.   The above photos were scanned.  (one day I plan to scan all my film photos but that is going to be a BIG job that will take years and requires a new scanner - not in the budget right now!)

As you can see the Colca Canyon does not have the colours or width of the Grand Canyon however it is still very beautiful.

She was dressed up for the tourists and I had to pay her mom to take a photo but how could I resist - so cute!!! 

Where there is tourists there is people selling junk. 
 I must admit I did buy a lot in Peru.  One woman on the tour said to me "you are buying Peru". (bitch!)  I still have most of it - err..except for the little stuffed alpaca - okay the kid who sold it to me through the train window got me on an off moment...In fact my photographs are proudly displayed in a beautiful leather photo album I got at a market...I do have two alpaca sweaters.  One knock off bought at a roadside stall - one authentic bought at the resaler.  (for the price I paid it better be authentic!) Jewellry...and I did buy quite a few gifts as well...
These terraces were built by the Incas and lovingly maintained by the locals.
Back to Chivay for a snack and a quick photo...I had to pay again but then again how could I resist?

How cute - the alpaca I mean.  God how could I eat one of them?  The shame! 

Back to Arequipa and straight to bed.

In the morning after breakfast (and my first taste of strong Peruvian coffee - found out you add hot water to it before drinking - yow!) we went to the Santa Catalina convent.  Beautiful!!   Well the building was lovely...the meaning  behind it...well let's not get into that.  Young girls left their families and lived here - only seeing their loved ones again through grates or gotta love the RC church. 

In retrospect I wish I had gone back to photograph it later in the day as our guide suggested...the sunlight was pretty harsh for good photography.

The main square in Arequipa - this cathedral is supposedly one of the finest in South America

Pigeons hang out everywhere!
We also visited the Andean Sanctuaries museum which showcased the human sacrifices of the Incas.  No photographs were allowed but you can view the mummified remains of young girls who were sacrificed to the gods.  These children were chosen when very young and it was a great honour to be sacrificed.  Here is a bit of info:


The Museum “Santuarios Andinos” or “Santury Museum” was created in 1996, following the major archaeological research and discoveries in southern Peru. The museum is in charge of the project “Santuarios de Altura del Sur Andino” or “High Sanctuaries of the Southern Andes”, led by Dr. Johan Reinhard and José Antonio Chávez Chávez.
The Museum has five galleries exhibiting ceramic, textiles and metal, and includes eight frozen bodies of women who were sacrificed on the snow capped mountains in southern Peru. The most important of the women sacrificed is “Juanita”, who was the first to be found in 1995. Today she is exhibited in a special freezer, protected from the environment by a closed glass chamber vacuum. The box is secured with steel bars and has two layers of Plexiglas. The interior of this box is at a temperature of -19°C to prevent body decomposition.
Other bodies besides Juanita are: “Urpicha” or “Dove” found in the volcano Pichu-Pichu and “Sarita” found in the Sara-Sara volcano. Found with them were five more sacrificed women found in the Misti volcano in August 1998. These findings confirm that the Inca Empire practiced human sacrifice.


Juanita is the name given to a frozen corpse, which was discovered in 1995 by Johan Reinhard and Miguel Zárate in the snow capped volcano called Ampato, in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Also known as “The Lady of Ampato” or “The Ice Maiden”, this woman was not sacrificed by the process of artificial mummification, in which internal organs were removed and then the body was embalmethroe preservation. The body of "Juanita" retains all its organs intact due to freezing glacial temperatures (natural mummification) of the mountain Ampato (Arequipa, Peru) where she was buried and placed as an offering.
The body of this young woman was subjected to a virtual autopsy in the laboratories of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore (Maryland, USA). She had a CT scan and was subjected to a three-dimensional X-ray. The body is that of a girl, about 14 years of age, who died around 1466. She was a member of the Inca Empire and probably died during the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui.
She was slender and beautiful. She had not suffered from any disease. She had perfect teeth and bones. She had enjoyed good food with a balanced diet and had fasted a day before slaughter. She had a 5-cm crack in her skull and internal bleeding that ended his short life. She died by a well-aimed blow to the head with a club, probably while she was kneeling.

It was a very interesting museum. 

And that brings us to the end of my time in Arequipa and Colca Canyon. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Destination of the week....Petra, Jordan.

I visited Petra while on a two week small group adventure of Egypt and Jordan in early 2009.  For those who are not familiar with Petra here is a blurb from Wikpedia.  They explain it a lot better than I could!! 

I can't even begin to describe how beautiful Petra (aptly named the "Rose City") is so once again I will let my pictures tell the story...

Near the entrance of Petra - the holes are entrances to caves that the Bedouins lived in.

Entrace to the siq which leads to the Treasury

You can ride a horse or take a buggy in Petra - or use shank's pony. (your feet!)

A peek...

Almost there!

Isn't it amazing? The Treasury!

Not sure if this picture was meant to turn out this way - at first was upset but now it's kind of cool...

More caves/homes

A refreshing glass of hot fresh  mint tea.  A "must" in Petra!

beautiful floor tiles

about as close to the edge as I dared to go!  The Petra complex is HUGE - you would need days to see it all.

lots of camels around!

and stray dogs and donkeys....

saying goodbye to the Treasury.

they were going at quite the clip!


Petra was one of the definite highlights of my trip to the Middle East.  Would I go back?  Never say never...

Gallivanting around Guernsey - part 3 - a beach, a tower or two and a cream tea

Day three (Monday, March 26th) arrived and the weather was pretty darn good so once again I took my local bus into town and hopped the #91...