#potd: Back to La Paz – art, culture, social struggle and edge!

mujeres_justiciaReturning to La Paz in Bolivia the other day felt a little like meeting an old friend again, we felt instantly at ease. As we wandered the streets for the first few hours back in this amazing yet crazy city, we sensed once again it’s uniqueness, it’s peoples confidence, and a vibrancy on the streets that was missing in Peru. In our first few hours we saw more street art in La Paz than we’d seen in 10 weeks in Peru, much of it with a clear social message – like this piece ‘Mujeres en busca de justicia’ (Women looking for justice) by the radical feminists of Mujeres Creando – still going strong three years on we are pleased to see, on a wall outside their building (see their website – the article ‘vivir bien como disfraz‘ pulls no punches).

Cusco airport at 6am brrr

Cusco airport at 6am brrr

We’ve been here only once before, for just 12 days back in March 2014 (see blogposts), and have wanted to return ever since to learn & understand more, fingers crossed we will have longer this time. We flew in this time to La Paz’s airport up on the altiplano (over 4000m), in it’s sister city of El Alto, the sun was out and the views stunning as we landed, and experienced for the first time driving over the ‘edge’ down into the valley bowl where La Paz is, some 500m below.

view south down Cusco valley from our last hostel

view south down Cusco valley from our last hostel

We’d been back in Cusco (Peru) for a final few days after visiting Arequipa, but not only was Cusco windy, cool & wet, but we’d both picked up our first stomach bug of the trip, meaning we couldn’t stray too far from a loo for several days. This was a bit of a letdown as we’d hoped to revisit a few people & places, and end our time in Peru on a higher note. Indeed departure day summed up those last few days – damp, misty & cloudy.

But hey it could have been worse, we could have been freezing our bits off back in the UK, watching the British Prime Minister gladhand the monsters currently in power in the USA & Turkey. Yuk!


Taxi jams, black carbon, melting ice caps and climate change in Peru

a traffic jam of taxis

a traffic jam of taxis

Take a walk down a busy street in any of Peru’s larger towns & cities and the problem soon hits you – in the back of the throat, up the nose, in the eyes. It’s the choking stench of black cardon, fine particles like soot, pumped out of the exhuasts of Peru’s many older diesel combi-collectivos (small busses, people carriers, minibuses), taxis & lorrys of various sizes. It blackens the streets & buildings, causes serious health problems for the people, and contributes to climate change (read – the effects of black carbon).

Climate change – the causes of it and the problems it excaberates – is a real time problem in Peru and across Latin America. The 33 Latin American & Caribbean leaders meeting as the Community of Latin American & Caribbean States (CELAC, founded in 2010 – report here) in the Dominican Republic since Saturday, may well be looking nervously north to the Trump fantasist & bully, but they should also be looking closer to home before man-made & natural disasters sink their economies for good.

Arequipa the 'white city' now just dirty white

Arequipa the ‘white city’ now just dirty white

This late-2014 report ‘Dumping Dirty Diesels in Latin America: Reducing Black Carbon and Air Pollution from Diesel Engines in Latin American Countries’ (opens as a 48page pdf), written for the US based Natural Resources Defense Council (about NRDC), sets out in detail the short to long term impacts on public health & the environment, and provides a wealth of frightening statistics. It also calls for & suggests available solutions. Sadly, history indicates that the vast majority of the ruling elites (and their corporate buddies) of CELAC are unlikely to give a damn about anything except amassing their own power & fortunes, and will never commit to the necessary infrastructure and changes, never mind the funds required, to turn back climate change. Continue reading

People power sees the band play on in Arequipa

band1A small display of people power occurred in the main plaza of Arequipa (Peru’s second city) today when security tried to shut down a band that had set up in front of the city’s looming catholic cathedral. Members of the band gestured to the watching crowd of 200+ people for support, and got it – cheers, shouts & claps were accompanied by a number of folks moving in to film security with their cameras. Security withdrew, and the band played on. Continue reading

#potd: The Human Rock of Colca Canyon Peru

colca_humanSo looking through the pics of our Colca Canyon visit, we came across this cool pic of a giant human figure sitting on the mountainside just below the Mirador del Condor in Colca Canyon. The human figure is clearly wearing a hoodie, the right arm is visible, but most worryingly the person appears to have a beard. Is it an ancient Inca hipster?

We’ve searched online without luck for info on this figure, as obviously we can’t be the only ones who’ve seen it – anyone got any info? Is it a natural result of rock erosion, or human-made centuries ago? Does it represent an ancient Andean deity or perhaps someone guarding over the sacred condors? Sent by the ancient deities perhaps to watch over this area of pachamama? Impressive whatever it is!

The pic below shows the figure in greater context, looking out not over just the Colca Canyon, but at the mountains further afield. Both pics were taken from just southeast of the Mirador, looking northwest along the canyon, using our trusty, cheap & battered 4yr old digital camera.

If you’d like to understand more about the importance of the Condor in Andean culture, and gain some insight into the spiritual aspects of this culture, then this book is a good start. At times the dialogue is rather stilted, but its a cracking tale of love and winning against the odds, and a tragic ending…with a twist: ‘When Condors Call – a novel of Peru’ by Inge Bolin (June 2010, 298 pages). ISBN 978-0-9866298-0-8 Chaska Publications, Nanaimo, British Columbia. Continue reading

Colca Canyon, Peru – where the condor flies




A visit to the Colca Canyon in Peru’s Andes is well worth the effort, even if you don’t actually get to see a condor fly by! The stunning beauty of the landscape in this region makes the trip well worth it, from snow-capped mountain peaks & rugged mountainsides, to lush fertile valleys and the near-death experience of Peru’s mountain roads.

canyon1The fotos here were taken near the ‘Mirador del Condor‘ (or condor viewpoint), which we are told is at the canyon’s deepest point, of some 1.2km down, of very steep sides – making it arguably the world’s deepest canyon!? The Mirador is at a height of some 3400m above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains reaching upto 6000+m, some of which remain actively volcanic, which is why we were quite literally up in the clouds at times (fortunately in a coach) – giving the whole area a quite mystical feel, as the ground touches the sky, and who knows what occurs hidden in the clouds?
Continue reading

#potd: In Peru the ‘Playa’ is not always the beach

playa4playa2Here in Arequipa, in Peru, we find plenty of signs for the ‘playa’, which seems unlikely given we are some 2400m above sea level, with no sea in sight. In fact the many ‘playa’ signs signify the entrance to a car park, or ‘estacionamiento’, payable by the hour or part thereof. Costs vary from S/.3 to S/.5 per hour, depending on the centrality of the car park. Car parks offer security for the car, which is a big issue here where the theft of parts (if not the whole car) seems to be a big issue.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such signs. We saw them in Lima, Peru’s capital city, which even more confusingly also has ‘playas’ in the more traditional sense – being a coastal city it does have beaches, although the ones closest to the city are man-mad (at the foot of cliffs) and hard to access. Continue reading

#potd: menu del dia vegeteriano en Arequipa

menudeldiaOur lucky run of finding more than enough veggie or vegan options continues on from Urubamba & Cusco to Arequipa. Here we’ve found at least 6 places within a 5-20minute walk of our hostel, located just north of the central area. This was Friday’s menu del dia at Omphalos, costing just S/.10 (about £2.50), and they’ve been our fave venue so far. Continue reading