#potd – Huanchaco for sunsets, surf and pre-Inca cultures

#Huanchaco, a coastal town some 10km north-west of the large northern Peru city of #Trujillo, was unknown to us until we arrived there for a week, and a pretty decent place it turned out to be. In fact it was famous for several things – it’s sunsets and surf; the ancient fishing craft ‘caballitos de totora‘ on the beach; the second oldest catholic church in Peru built by the Spanish, as ever sitting on high ground and threatening the town & people below (nice views up there, didn’t go in of course); and its links to pre-Inca cultures in the region going back 2000+ years – Chan Chan the one time capital of the Chimu culture is located between Huanchaco and Trujillo.

We’d been a bit nervous coming up here to north Peru because of the devastating rains, flash floods & mudslides that had struck the region in mid-March. Across Peru over 200 died and hundreds of thousands were displaced. The centre of Trujillo was flooded at least six times, a working class district (or shanty town) El Porvenir was almost washed away, and bridges across rivers on roads heading south were destroyed leaving the north coast cut off from Lima and the south – which wasn’t sorted until late April. We certainly didn’t want to be disaster tourists and nor did we want to get in the way! However research indicated things had improved, but just in case we opted to stay initially outside Trujillo in Huanchaco. Which turned out to be fine, whilst in Trujillo the most obvious hangover from the floods in the central area was the dried mud/dust and some remaining sandbags. Continue reading

Clear skies and ancient history at San Pedro de Atacama in Chile

view southeast from Quitor to San Pedro

Leaving aside the the iffy tourist scene in San Pedro de Atacama, there are three very good reasons for coming here – the clear skies day & night; it’s stunning geographical location; and some very ancient history dating back to the 9th century BC. The clear skies are there most days & nights, but especially at night – find a darker space to sit back and stare at the beautiful and clear array of stars, and indeed galaxies. To see the sky even better at night, we took a late evening tour with SpaceObs out to their site south of San Pedro, where there’s no ambient light, and had access to 12 telescopes of varying strengths – to see clearly things far away that we’ve never seen before. Recommended – see website!

entrance to Quitor site

We took in the local geography at the same time as the local history, by walking 4km from our hostel north alongside the Rio San Pedro (or Rio Grande), to the ‘El Pukara de Quitor’ (in Quechuan – the Fortress of Quitor, where Quitor is an ancient indigenous community – see wikipedia history in Spanish). The walk, and the views from the top of El Pukara and nearby viewing points, were breathtakingly beautiful on a clear sunny (very hot!) day – see pics below.

San Pedro, like all the villages & small towns in this region, sits beside a river or other water source (such as an oasis). Many are in river valleys, in San Pedro’s case between the mountainous Andes border between Chile/Bolivia (and Chile/Argentina) to the east, and a further mountain range (the Cordillera de Sal) to the near west. And so despite the heat & harshness of this remote desert region, there has been human habitation in these areas for a good 11,000 years – from hunter-gatherer groups, to herders and agricultural communities. And situated as it is on an ancient river, that feeds into the even larger Rio Loa – that travels from higher up in the Andes to the north, all the way to the Pacific sea (Chile’s longest river – info) – San Pedro is also on an ancient trade route dating back several thousand years.
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Tour Day 2: Volcanos, Lakes and Deserts on the Bolivia / Chile Border

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This gallery contains 17 photos.

On the move by 7.30am on Day 2 of our Tour from Uyuni, #Bolivia to San Pedro de Atacama in #Chile. We left our salt hotel and the Salar de Uyuni behind and travelled south along the edge of Cordillera … Continue reading

Civic strike in Cochabamba / #ParoCivico en #Cochabamba

What a strange day! Awaking in the morning in #Cochabamba Bolivia, to the sound of almost silence? No roar of traffic nor murmur of voices. What is going on? Out on the streets, in the city’s central district, it is eerily quiet. A quick hunt for coffee & wifi access, and a scan of a morning paper, reveals that…today, Thursday 16 March, is a 1-day #ParoCivico or Civic Strike. Organised by the Civic Committee of Cochabamba & supported by the local mayor, it´s specifically against a complicated legal section of a certain law, but more generally against narco-trafficking, and also the sense that the ‘Cocaleros’ (coca growers) receive preferential treatment (ie in relation to taxes).

This is a complicated issue! But we find the city, and probably the whole region, has been shut down by civic action since the very early hours, primarily by the simple tactic of blockading the roads – the key bridges into the city, the key intersections – and therefore ensuring there is no transportation. The blockades are a mix of ‘public transport’ vehicles (busses, taxis/trufis), bins & rubbish, and of course people in the middle of the road. Simple, and very effective. The streets are eerily quiet here in the city centre, and for as far as we are able to walk. Others are walking too, or moving by bike & motorcycle, and a few vehicles circulate within the blockaded areas. (See local media reports here and here in Spanish).
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#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

#potd: Pachamama resistira!!! amidst the concrete of Arequipa

pacha_resistiraHaving made our way on foot across the river Chilli, and northwest through the district of Yanahuara in Arequipa, we came across a veritable oasis of lush greenery & working terraced agricultural fields near to the mirador Carmen Alta Chilina and on both side of the river valley. Locals were busy harvesting herbs, working the fields & keeping irrigation channels clear. To the north, nothwest & west, through the mist & clouds, the mountains of Chachani, Misti & Picchu Picchu loomed over the city, thankfully with no volcanic eruptions in sight! Continue reading