I left UK on May 19th for 10 months of freedom and exploration with a Round the World ticket. Will I find New Zealand as perfect as it was fifteen years ago? How has Australia changed? Will I learn any Spanish in S America?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Trujillo - Archaelology

ON boarding the bus in Huaraz my eye caught sight of a European looking woman with blonde hair, who apparently and highly unusually seemed to be on her own and she was definitely older than the usual backpacker , more my age. I waited for someone to join her but no one did and she sat on her own on the bus.

In front of my seat were a french couple with a hyper excited toddler who started a peek a boo game with me . She started popping up and down to look at me and tittering in joy when she got a reaction. Her parents tried toget her to sleep but it wasnt until well after midnight that she finally succumbed . There is good legroom on the double decker Movil busues and a fold down leg rest which you drape your legs over - the hostess comes round with blankets and a pillow and a suspicious looking piece of meat in a soggy bun and a plastic cup of inca cola is also included in your fare. We were shown a video in English with Spanish subtitles - good for language improvement. The bus is clean and smart. Even our curtains were pulled shut for us by the hostess.
Before we left the coach station a man came on baord with a video camera and walked up the aisles taking pictures of everyone. This is a security measure as Peruvians have beenknown to buy a ticket and then hold up the bus once it is in the middle of nowhere.

We pulled into Trujillo , with no hold ups, early in the morning and F R and I started to look at our guilde books

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Trek to Kuelap, North Peru- PHOTOS!

For morePHOTOS recently uploaded ( March 06) see Kuelap Part 1 and 2 in the archives

Photo top left Kuelap main ruin

Chan Chan - Peru NEW PHOTOS!!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Cordillera Huayhuash - Peru July/August

Fernando helps Senor ? push the taxi trike with our gear down to Casa Hermanos Valdez Rivera in Chiquian.

The view from the bus window shortly before arriving in Huaraz

I met Rob on the bus to Huaraz from Lima - I was relieved to be on a bus going anywhere at all as it was a public holiday that day and the day before buses were booked solid - and I despaired of escaping Lima at all - I couldn't even get on a bus to Guayaguil in Ecuador, a 50 hour trip!But a wonderful taxi driver turned out to be my rescuer, he drove me from the main bus station to a smaller company on the other side of the huge motorway that cuts through Lima, always quite a hairy ride and showed me a company( Movil tours) that did direct route to Huaraz , for less money and they had seats available.
Next day I was there in plenty of time and put my backpack in what I thought was the correct place for loading and got a receipt back. I wondered why everyone else was hanging onto their heavy packs - Rob said hello to me first - he's a very friendly chap, and I told him where to check in his luggage. Fortunately I continued to be puzzled at the amount of people still with bags and obviously going on our bus so I made a quick enquiry in Spanish and both Rob and I had to dash to the left luggage deposit to recover our bags before our bus vanished. Phhew!
Rob was on 6 weeks holiday from teaching piano in Wimbledon and travelling throughout Peru with his Peruvian friend Fernando whom he met in Huaraz the previous year.
He was going to trek the Cordillera Huayhuash a second time with Fernando who is very fit and runs marathons in Lima when not waitering in tourist restaurants. Rob had done a tour with a company the previous year but this time wanted to "do it properly"- ie not rushed round in 8 days by so called guides, really arrieros ,hired by the agencies at rock bottom rates who then have little incentive to make it pleasureable for tourists , just get them round and back as soon as possible. Rob said his guides - a father and son team who spoke sparse English also were hoarding all the good food in one of the boxes and refused to open it up on demand one night . The paying walkers were getting a bit fed up of rice and potatoes and were a little suspicious that that was all there was to eat . Everyone suspected what was up and there was a bit of a furore when Rob snuck up one night and found all the good food hidden in one of the boxes - tins of fruit and veg and sausages which the guides were obviously saving for themselves!

So Rob's idea was to do a DIY expedition - the plan being to contact a genuine guide who he had met en route leading two English people e year before and do a deal with him.
Rob asked me straight out - would you like to join us? I had been contemplating without much enthusiasm another group tour , probably the standard 3 nighter most popular Huaraz trek - cant remember name now - so I jumped at the chance of a bit of adventure and we agreed to meet up next day to discuss our plans.
I stayed at Churrup hostel( very friendly very helpful with wonderful views and log fires) which is up a bit of a hill - I had got a bit blase about altitude at this stage, being an old hand at the Inca trail and Colca Canyon so it was a bit of a shock to find myself gasping for breath and feeling distinctly faint as I made my way home after an indifferent meal of pasta and a glass of chilean wine. I seriously thought I might not make it and had to come to a halt to stop the swimming in my head - really unpleasant feeling. So I had to remember to take it easy for a few days to adjust.

27th July
I met Rob and Fernando and we agreed to travel to Chiquian the next day to talk to the guide and discuss plans with him. I was still a little hesitant as I thought I might hold them up but Rob was insistent that I would be fine. I checked out the Huayhuash on the internet that evening and discovered that over the years there have been a stream of steady attacks on foreigners walking in this area - some incidents with fatalities. .
The year before two Israelis had been shot dead. A few years before that an American and his Peruvian girlfriend were also killed in cold blood and the perpetrators caught when they paid for their beers in US dollars. Hmmmmmm. But the peak of the problem was at the height of the Sendero Luminoso's - the Shining Path - power. The founder and leader is now behind bars but it seems there are still a few opportunisitic followers who may not kidnap or kill for politics now but purely for money. The Sendero are widely loathed by Peruvians - many people were bullied and threatened into joining and many lost relatives who were killed to inpsire fear or because they refused to join up.
But I couldn't let a few bandits put me off and I had met lots of people who eulogised enthusiastically about the breathtaking and beautiful scnery. Rob seemed totally unconcerned . Netherthe less I sent Mum an email before we left stressing that I would definetly be sending an email to her on the last day of our trek and when that was.

Luckily Rob speaks very good Spanish so he did a lot of the negotiating with the guide in Chiquian. We took the 3 hour ride to Chiquian and stayed overnight in a hotel . Abner, who met us at the bus station , and his brother Alcedes were charming and I felt reassured meeting them , young and very excited to have their first private clients.
Abner's family house in the town is a two storied building arranged round a big courtyard , muddy in the middle donkeys tethered up outside. A little gatito ( cat) called Prospero mewled and searched for food - rescued by the family . Several of his 10 brothers and one sister were around, watching us from the balcony on the second floor. Peruvians are very reserved and shy when you first meet them - and very formal but it helps if you speak fluent Spanish and Rob got on like wildfire with all of the family.

I had a long list of questions which I asked in my best spanish as neither of the brothers speaks more than a word or two of English. My main concern was of course health and safety - what happens if something goes wrong ? If someone is badly injured? Do we have a back up plan? Oh yes ! said Abner brightening - Duchman! Duchman turned out to be a a mule and a godsend, although he wasn't always entirely happy to be our emergency taxi. We worked out how many burros we were going to need to hire and we had Abner as our guide, Alcedes as our cook and arriero ( donkey handler) and how much food we needed to buy and all other supplies. Abner had a tent I could borrow; Rob and Fernando had their own.
The total price for me for 12 days came to around US$260 - much cheaper than organised tours - but we still had to buy our food. And in the end it was a bit more because we actually did 17 days.
Next morning we watched two squealing pigs being loaded into the back of our 5am bus and stamped our feet to try and keep warm in the cold darkness of predawn. We all threw back glasses of hot quinoa broth from a stand which helped to stave off the cold.
However as the hour of departure grew ever nearer we started to wonder if we had been done - Rob had already handed over half the money as a deposit for the trip and for Abner to buy supplies. 5am came and no sign of Abner who was supposed to be returning to Huaraz with us to help us buy supplies and show me best place to hire a sleeping bag . We decided to abandon the bus and managed to find Abner's house. It was still dark. Fernando bravely banged on the door - eventually Abner appeared - his alarm hadn't gone off - so he said - but it was too late and we had missed the bus and had to wait for the next one - I wondered if this wasn't a bad omen. Fortunately it turned out to be a very uncharacteristic blip.
We caught the next bus and did 5 hours solid shopping before catching the 2pm bus back to CHiquian. I also had to transfer some money to a Galapagos company in Ecuador to secure a place on a one week cruise in a month's time and collect some washing from Churrup.
We bought food, pots and pans, extra blankets ,candles , gas cannisters, 200 bread rolls, big rounds of Peruvian style cheese, chocolate , 2 cartons of wine , washing up liquid etc etc and returned to Chiquian - which I found a bit unfriendly as a town though it is vastly more authentic as a Peruvian town than Huaraz - of course much smaller. Narrow streets, small shops selling bread or hats and a few internet cafes completely inudnated with Peruvian youth - their social clubs - we entered a rather awful Chifa ( "chinese" restuarant - run by Peruvians not Chinese serving arroz with various bits)run by a malevolent looking dwarf and a heavily made up young Peruvian woman who you might describe as looking of ill repute to eat. A group of Jehovahs witnesses accosted us outside our hotel( the Huayhyash Hotel - one tiny bathroom - cubicle - with the only loo between at least 10 rooms and the light in my room kept blowing despite two replacement bulbs); they looked smart and affluent - they came from Lima. Like many Peruvians they wanted to know how much my air ticket cost and how much I earned in my job every month. They all want to get out.

Saturday - Day 1 of Trek
And they're off! What a procession of us - donkeys, laden with blue wooden boxes containing all our provisions and also carrying our backpacks and tents etc and Duchman with Alcedes leading the way. Abner Rob Fernando and I set off through the outskirts of the town down to the valley to the river below - the Rio Pativilca in the Department of Pucush ( pronounced poocoosh) . It was hot and dusty and we stopped for a while at the Puente Quisipata, a little stone brdige arching dramatically over the gorge the river had gouged out which was quite clearly full of trout. I spotted a torrent tyranulet and a plomito ( learned a lot of bird names in spanish) which flicked its tail up a lot - in English - an ash breasted sierra finch. We saw a lot of them. From the river we climbed and climbed and I found it tough going, at our rest stop near the top of the mtn we could see the Diablo Muire ( Mute Devil) a snow capped peak of the Huayhuash rnage. We reached another natural stop later on - a spring came out of the hillside and we drank it straight off, no purifiers etc.
Abner pointed out a chachacoma tree - very old ( 100s of years) and rare native tree with white flowers in summer. Lots of agaves, achapuya, similar to puya raimondi- the famous puya plant.but much smaller. Rob thought it might in English be a juniper???
Abner then showed us an Incan grave - hidden behind undergrowth stone graves with caved in roofs exposing skulls and bones inside. One of the skulls was elongated -Incans and other S AMerican cultures practiced skull manipulation by tying boards etc to heads to flatten them or elongation by other methods. The spinas of the cactus protects the site - you have to know where it is - not visible from the track.
Lots of lupin bushes , bushes with red flowers for the picaflors ( hummingbirds) and orange flowered shrubs.
We arrived at Abner's family farm ( chakra) at Pucush which is 12km up hill from Chiquian - Mum and Dad live there and off and on all the 10 children. All the childrens' names begin with A - the only daughter is called Anna Ming.
The farm was wonderful - ploughshares on the wall, tin cans for bells round cattle necks ,digging implements made with cord from cow hide , a cow hide used as a stretcher to carry big stones . All the animals have names.
Abner and brohter built new stone walls to create new terraced fields, 10 yrs of work and they are still clearing and flattening bits of land on their steep hill farm - 3,550 metres above sea level. We were given our own room , 2 double beds all covered in hand woven blankets ( ma) beautiful, simple. Alcedes does all the carpentry and has a small workshop , all by hand of course , no electricity here, no power tools. He turned the bed legs table legs , made doors , everything.
The house was rebuilt and extended from the original by the brothers - walls are plastered with mud inside for a smooth finish. We met a very handsome and sweet younger brother called Ansel, who was wearing a sombrero with an enormous brim which looked very fetching on him. He is studying Civil engineering in Huaraz, and was at the farm helping out with carrying milk from the cows daily over the hill to neighbouring village of Wasta , 4 hours walk away to sell at one sol a litre ( 3 sols buys you a two course basic meal in Peru so it was not hard to see that it was a lot of effort for not very much money) .
The family are totally self sufficient and proud of it - Senor Rivera senior showed us 3 enormous sackfuls of habas, - broad beans - which are dried and will last the family several years. We were given on arrival delicious habas soup, made with milk , homemade bread and their own cheese. Rob and I were both very inquisitive and wanted to know where everything came from and how they made everything. The soup was gorgeous. We ate in their front room on very old and marked wooden table with benches by candlelight and the smaller children came to watch us and little kittens waited hopefully underneath the table for crumbs.

To make Pucush Cheese
note: 10 litres of cows milk makes 1 kilo of cheese; 3 litres of sheep milk makes 1 kilo

Dissolve tablet ( comes from Denmark) in little water and milk
add bit of salt and leave for a minute sitr and then add to 75 litres of milk and leave for 45 mintues, stir, pour off the liquid ( whey) and for hard cheese put in the cheese press ( they have one of course) for 8 hours

The cheese was soft white crumbly,. they are very proud that it is all natural ( what is the tablet - rennet? thats just to set cheese?)
We then were given big white enamel mugs of chicha morada then a tour of the farm, chickens, cows, dogs,sheep, potaotes, beans and maize rotated and fields of alfalfa and a certain cereal that they make a type of coffee and a porrage from.
They call it cevada and both Rob and I loved the use of it as a rural coffee - it tastes wonderful - I wondered if it was a type of barley or is it chicory??they roast the kernels over a fire before using them .
Before we retired for the night Senor Rivera senior asked if I had a walking stick and when I replied in the negative he ambled off and came back with one of his own - you need this, he told me - and it really was, like Duchman a godsend. Fanta stick said Rob - one of his better jokes!
Quiswa tree - a rare native and aliso ( alder) .

Day 2
We were cosy but I could tell how cold it was at night and I was nervous that my sleeping bag which seemed very thin , was not going to keep me warm at altitude - so I borrowed an extra franzana - again good forethought as it turned out.
We were walking today to a height of 4,200 metres above sea level. After breakfast of mild fresh from the cows which Anna Ming milks, bread and cheese we bade emotional farewells , as we all felt terribly well looked after and spoilt, we set off at 9am on our second leg - and towards our first stop some more inca or pre columbine ruins.
the ruins were covered in spinas but it was possible, by treading very carefully and bending double to make out a whole complex of houses set out on terraces overlooking the valley . Hummingbirds flitted from flower to flower of the cactus all around the ruins.
Abner pointed out the line of the irrigation canal which is ancient but which they have restored to bring water all the way from the mtns down to their farm.

We were accompanied by a little dog , whose aquaintnace we had made at the farm the previous night , who was coming with us on her first trip , Chiquita!She was rather nervous and unsure of us at first, barking if we got near Abner or Alcedes .
We stopped for lunch with an incredible view of the mtns, at Wagas Punta, which means in Quechuan sad peak - not sure why it is sad. We had
fruit , water and a bottle of chicha each from Senora Rivera. Lots of hummingbirds in the cacutus - possibly saw a sparkling violet ear.
Could see a red mountain at one point called Toray Punta. At our campiste Alcedes had already arrived and set up camp including the tents with one tent being the kitchen.
Rob and Fernando went to wash in the stream which bubbled out of the hill just above our campsite and so was safe to drink. Wild horses pranced through yet more ruins - circular in shape or perhaps it was simply an animal corral.
Alciedes prepared our dinner, soup and pasta and a hot drink, mate de coca - good for the altitude.
The only thing we lacked on the whole trip was a large communal space - when it was too cold we just had to resort to our own tents but before that we lay on our back s and looked at the stars but it got colder and colder.
Chiquita although very sweet kept me up all night as she barked for 3 hours solid - her first trip out in the outback as it were and she was hearing all sorts of strange frightening noises which she needed to make a noise about.

Day 3

I woke with the first light and watched birds - a plomito and a bar winged cinclodes.We walked down to Pomopata village or communidad - which is land which is divided bewteen the people who live there. the village had solar panels on each house to genreate electircity which were a donation from interntaional( Canadian ) group in exchange for free passage or reduced charge for gringos through their village . We met the president of the communidad at the top of the pass mounted on horseback and paid him 20 soles to camp on their land.He wrote Abner a signed piece of paper which was our pass should anyone challenge us. Just up the track along the river we stopped at a stream fed reservoir which we swam in much to the amuisement and interest of locals. It was a relief to get into the cool of the water. Two young boys joined us in hte water which was lovely and cool and an old man acarrying a tree trunk on his shoulder stopped to watch us. I tried to lift the trunk but it was too heavy for me. I dont know how he did it. It was for the roof of his house. We then followed the river up through its canyon - it was the Condor River gorge, beautiful with tumbling waterfalls through dense vegetation adn overhanging branches but proved more than I could handle if I was not going to fall badly behind so I swallowed my pride and took the taxi - aka Duchman the mule- . He managed the steep steep track with apparently few problems - up is Ok but going down with a heavy load is not good.
The track twisted very steeply upwards over rocks and rough steps and passed over the river on bridges made of logs and earth piled on top to fill in the gaps. Abundant trees and birdlifge- Quenua tree - with peeling red bark. We stopped at the valley head for lunch. Awful horseflies. A mountain cara cara wheeled above us. From here on it was quite flat and the Rio Condor now opened up into a valley with red red earth - ochre? and a marshy valley floor with little pools - a very clear stream took us to the end of the Valley after several kilometres - where the most astonishing sight - a series of dramatic waterfalls , called Kota Wayhe - set in red rock blocking the end of the valley . On arriving at our campsite at the head of the valley Abner and I saw about 4 condors gliding high up amongst the crags on the afternoon thermals. Our 3rd night. Flanking us on all sides mountains and on our left a sheer black face with quenua trees growing impossibly high up .We arrived here at 5pm - the sun goes down at about 6.30pm and as soon as it did it was freezing cold. Alcedes had arrived already before us and the burros were grazing contentedly nearby - hobbled by the back legs with a length of rope to prevent them going too far , and set up camp.
He cooked us asparagus soup with added garlic and onion with pasta and tomoato and onion sauce to follow. The brothers worked really hard but Rob made sure it wasn't an us and them situation and eventually we all mucked in as much as we could though there was one disastrous evening when I decided to give Alcides a rest from cooking - he didnt like me in his kitchen one little bit and I kind of realised part of the reason why being cook wasnt all that bad as I sat there toasty and warm in front of the gas rings while everyone shivered in the cold outside.
If anything could have improved that trip it would have been a communal tent to socialise in in the evenings . the biting wind after dark sent us very quickly to our respective tents.
Chiquita , who had been barking at us as she didn't know us finally accepted that we were part of the family this evening and finally relaxed a bit in the night with less barking. She tucks up with the brothers who share a tent - I dont know how Chiquita finds space its a pretty small tent! But I bet she kept them warm.

Day 4
up at 6.30am Desayuno was hardboiled eggs - takes longer at altitude to boil water of course - porridge bread and cheese and marmalade - wonderful!
Grabbed my binoculars to see a bright rumped yellow finch.
4 condors and a moutnatin cara cara.
Burros were taking dust baths in some depressions in the grass - Rob, who keeps himself scrupulously clean went off for a chilly dip in the river.
We struck camp , Abner and Alcedes rounding up the burros and strapping on the boxes whilst we packed up our tents and packs. We set off up the waterfalls , past little stone walled houses roofed with ichu grass.
I usually started as soon as I was ready so as to give myself a bit of a lead beofre the others ineveitalby overtook me.
We all suddenly realised that Chiquita was missing! Abner ran back to camp - and found her distraught and completley lost - thank goodness - I couldnt have borne it if she had got lost there. Puma territory.
We headed to Condor cocha - a lake - ( red rock and earth caused by ferrous oxide - no trout in lake beacuse of it) and then took a diversion to Lake Huincococha - which Abner told a story about in Spanish and I had to ask Rob to translate as I only caught snatches - Juan Sanchez, had lots of cows , met a demon on a bridge , who told him to kill a bull and put it in the lake , which he did and devil gave Juan gold , but then the bull came back to life and lives in the lake and reappears at full moon or something like that.I suppose Juan died. Abner wanted me to walk back down the long way to where we had started but I said no I was fine and so I wnet down this vertical cliff face - but made it - and we jumped over grassy outcrops to reach firmn shore.
All day we could see flast summits - Yerupaja Grande . Abner is a keen mountaineer as well and knew teh whole area intimately as did the mule and burros - they knew the way.
We reached another big alke , Cocha Ishpac and wlaked round the side of a hill to view cordillera Negra.
In the afternoon it was more uphill slog over grassland - which never ended - clumps of Golahuiro - a grey, snake like plant which is medecinal and good for headaches said Abner when I asked him.
Punta Wayee - glacier was ahead of us - the ascent continued with whole valleys opening up on either side of us. I heard the eerie noise of a shepherd singing to his flock way below us. We walked 27 k that day - a lot of it uphill.Abner kept asking if I wanted Duchman but I was determined that I was doing all by myself.

When we arrived at our camp, by a stream and a paved road , there was another group camping there - the first other foreigners we had encountered!
A woman and young girl appeared fropm nowhere in the dark with plastic bags full of cheese - it turned out they were friends of Alcedes - how they knew he would be here tonight I don't know - Incan bush telegraph I suppose!We bought a cheese for 10 soles- gosh it was good! they disappeared back in to the gloom. I asked where they were going and Alcedes pointed high up the mountain - I could just make out the dim light of a candle - Peruvians don't seem to need torches - they just smell their way round in the dark.

Day 5
I borrowed the other blanket from Rob and Fernando beacuse every night so far Ive been cold - I needed 3 blankets and all my clothes on to sleep OK. We had a huge dinner last night 2 bowls of soup and large plate of pasta and tuna . A man appeared in the morning for payment for our night's camping - which is charged at rate of two gringos as Fernando is free being Peruvian - well at least I suppose there was a basic loo - a deep pit with a stone wall to keep off the wind - it was pretty sordid though and the wind had made sure of a spread.

It was -5 degrees or more last night according to the other group.I counted 3 cara caras on the other side of the stream. Black and white and big and clumsy. Ash breasted sierra finches too. The other camp were UK.
A large group of Israelis, all with matching reflective shades, passed us as we ate our breakfast heading up the path we would be tackling. We were well and truly on the gringo trail now.
Rob jumped happily into the freezing water again this morning. Fernando asked him if he had fish scales. A& A just looked at each other in disbelief at doing such a crazy thing.
Saw another bird, thin, grey /blue long body , never still long and stands very upright.
Also another unidentifiable - dumpy body , long legs black tail black beak, shakes tail and hops lanong the ground.
We walked up from Quartelhuain camp at 4170m to the pass at Gutenanpunta at 4690m with a view of the Valley Caliente spreading out below us where the hot river from Pucacocha runs down the valley , steaming hot. The valley gleams a bright green from the green cushiony plant that grows at this altituide. We passed the Israelis who were having a bit of a guitar and singing session on the top of the mountain pass. one of them was carrying a small sound system on his back! They had a guide and a horse rather than a mule and Alcedes took a distinct liking for one of the Israeli girls - he and Abner joked about the beautiful Shalom Shalom for days afterwards but we didn't meet up with them again.
We descended into the valley then branched off from the main path and A&A took us past a small house and farm to our camp beside a small river which was truly aguas calientes - it was boiling hot! Upstream the water comes straight out of the ground , a big pool where it appears is too hot to climb in - just boiling so we washed our clothes in it and found slightly less intense heat pools furthter down the stream to lounge in - it was heaven to have a proper wash and also to clean clothes . We drapped them over the hot rocks beside the steaming stream to dry . Abner threw Chiquita in for a bath - poor little Chiquita - but she was such a little toughie that she took it all uncomplainingly and shook herself off and settled down for a rest.
I wandered off to take photos - I was approached by a woman and a small boy and a dog from the house up on the hill - the boy aged 7 was coughing badly - his mother asked if I had anything for a cough - any medecines - as it happened I had cough sweets back in my tent so I brought them back to camp and gave her all I had - but I'm sure they woiuldnt be terribly effective- but she was very grateful. I wondered what happened if they had serious illness - would have to ride to nearest village with a doctor - a long ride. Rob gave them two lemons as well to put in hot water. We both felt very inadequate.

Day 6- to Inchuain
We woke up to find frost everywhere - even Chiquita had sought refuge in my slept in my tent even as it was so cold. Abner's socks were frozen stiff on the rock where he had left them.
We set off a bit late - 9.45am - Rob took a ride on Duchman - we realised we were actually paying for him everyday so might as well ride him occassionally! We walked to the bottom of the valley where the river grew in size and we had to cross the stick and earth bridge where a man with a huge log book was waiting for us. He was collecting fees from gringos for camping in the communidad and curiously had a camera with which he took pictures of us! For safety I think as we were entering the area where tourists are often targeted. this place was janca I think. Flocks of little yellow birds dispersed as we approached nad also saw flocks of "wachuwa" - big white birds - my inca trail bird book didnt have them. We stopped for lunch after Puca puca pass with a view of Siula Grande and Laguna Siula, Abner remarked that there wasnt as much snow on it as is usual. I think this the mountain that Joe Simpson climbed and wrote about in his famous book INto the Void.
We then descended to Carhuacocha with the great snowy mountains on our right. In September Abner told us is going to scale Yerpja Grande with a friendSuddenly I heard what I thought was a gunshot but on turning a corner it turned out to be a whip crack from a small girl who was shepherding sheep down from the mountain slopes.
We passed the small girl with the whip who was with a group of children, all with sunburnt cheeks - they laughed uproariously at us when we said hello to them and had fits of giggles once we'd passed.

Suddenly on our right we saw a woman running down the hill , carrying a small boy on her back Peruvian style in a shawl and with another small child hanging off an arm - we wondered what she would want when she reached us but she held out her hand for us to see - ammonites - which she had gathered from the hills - which of course were all once under the sea She had a huge bag of them and I bought one.so did Rob
Her name was Annette she could only have been in her early 20s - very beautiful - she walked down the track with us once she had made her sales - I carried her bag for her which was heavy and again marvelled at how strong these people are -we learned that her two boys were called Ronaldo and the youngest Luis -which is why I have to be Louisa in S AMerica - she left us at a path to the side which lead to her house - which was nowhere in sight - probably miles away still.

Abner spotted two vizcacha in the rocks camouflaged perfectly . We took photos going as close as we dared .
Arrived at camp at 6pm - a spectacular spot perched above an enormous lake with mountains- Silua Grande and Yerupaja Grande- rearing up majestically over it. There were frequent avavlanches which we could both clearly hear and see -in fac twe fell asleep to the roar of avalanches - very dramatic. This was Lake Carhuacocha - 4138 metres above sea level - the lake is famous for trout and small boys with basic rods wandered about the camps of the gringos to sell them. Abner bought some and we had them with beer bought from local house .
Saw giant coots on the lake . Rob felt unwell - he had been drinking water from streams an springs whereas I had been more cautious and if I couldnt see that the water was coming direcly out of the ground I would add iodine to treat it- didnt want to get ill in the middle of nowhere - mule or no mule!
As it grew dark the hills were lit up by fires which had been started deliberately by Peruvians in order to genrerate new growth - we never really beleived that this was the reason - in Ecuador I heard that the obsession with burning land is to do with creating rain - I still dont understand this .Rob being a bit of a twitcher like myself was alarmed for birds nesting in the grass.There were several other groups of trekkers at this point but we arrived later than everyone else and were right at the top end perched rather periously close to an enormous drop down to the lake - was careful where I walked that night!

Day 7
A long day and we only covered 15k but walked for 8 hours. We walked down to the lake we had camped above Rob and I in bird heaven as we rounded the lake and reached an estuary and conjunction of two rivers which was full of birds - lots of puna ibis, and unidentifiables but I think we saw an andean flicker, wachuwa, and possibly inca terns?
We said hello to a group of 2 belgian girls and one swiss - who we trailed the rest of the day -
For a while we were accompanied by two "guards" who were supposed to go up to the pass with us but they had fishing rods with them and we left them fishing. I 'm not suprised that they weren't keen to do the walk we did that day! We crossed the river and Abner took us a long trek, treacherously slippery up the side of a rocky hill - and I wondered why we were taking the hard route - though Abner assured me it wasn't hard - but at the top I realised why! On the top which was a narrow ridge of snow we realised we had climbed the side of a glacial lake - Lago Granprajanca 4245m above sea level - withe blocks of ice floating around in it . We continued down and round a second glacial lake , Lago Siula, and then ensued one of the biggest climbs I have ever done ( apart from another section of the Huayhuash) - wonderful views when I paused to catch my breath - the altitude really does slow you up- and you couldn't afford to get vertigo - the incline was almost vertical at times so the burros and Duchman had taken another lower route with Alcedes. But a real sense of achievement. Fernando just romped up with absolutely no difficulty at all - but he is only 32 after all and in superb physical shape - rippling muscles and Peruvian! Rob is older than me but much fitter - so inevitably I brought up the rear - Chiquita running back and forth occassionally as if to check on me!Occassionaly I wondered when the up was going to be over - we'd reach a plateau and I'd think right that's it - and then I would see the boys ahead of me on yet another section of uphill From the top we could see a 3rd lake - brilliant turquoise colour.The pass was at 4950metres - the highest we'd done so far I think it was called Azulcocha - yes must be as that means blue lake! We caught up with the Belgian and Swiss girls.
Saw- andean gull, barwinged cinclodes, hooded siskin and andean flicker.
Eventually the torture was over and in the new valley we were rewarded with the sight of a herd of wild vicuna and then two vizcachas- and I startled some kind of eagle or hawk- American kestrel? Very red colouring as I came down a hill - Fernando and Rob were talking and had disapperared to take photos so I was ahead for once.
We walked through a strange marshy landscape with lagoons with strangegreen cushiony platforms standing out of them - called "cuncush" - along to Lake Camicero where we saw puna ibis and tern like bird with black and white zig zag pattern on back when flying. Rob and I were lagging behind Abner and Fernando at this point and we talked about ourselves and lives,trying not to get bootfulls of mud as we negotiated the swampy ground.
We reached our camp site at the small settlement of Huayhuash - 4345m. Locals in ponchos and felt hats for te cold were armed with pellet guns were positioned all round our camp overnight.After all the attacks on gringos numbers of visitors had dropped off so much that the presidents of all the local communidads got together in Huaraz to decide on a plan . Now tourists pay communidads 10 soles each and in return the communidad provides 2 guards on a rota system on nightwatch. Each man does a 15 day shift and so the money is equally shared round the communidad.Good for us, good for them. This was the first year of operation of this scheme. I think I felt more worried by the sight of guards than their absence.Were there really armed bandits just waiting to get us up in the hills? It was very windy and cold when we arrived. We had a chilly dinner in the wind and looked enviously at the other groups including the Belgian/Swiss who either had sperate dining tents or at least a tarpaulin to shield them from the biting wind. After dinner in the dark I noticed a glow on a rock - I had a closer look with my torch - a glow worm .It rained during the night. Chiquita slept in my tent - nice warm hot water bottle!

Day 8
Another freezing night . Rob gave some of his porridge away to a small boy herding sheep. I rode Duchman for about an hour. Two security guards in ponchos hats and with guns that looked like popguns and were rusty accompanied us . I gave them boiled sweetsand Rob gave them 5 sols ( about a pound). At the top of the pass they posed for pictures with us and grinning widely waved us goodbye.
It was cold and misty and windy at the top - I saw a bird just over the pass, pecking in the grass, very fine long black beack, v black eye, dark brown back and buff brown breast - no idea what it was nor did Abner know.
After about 5 hours of walking we arrived at our campsite and it began to pour with rain. We then did another hour's walk to see more agua calientes - bathing and cleaning ourselves in a stream of hot water. Chiquita had her now customary dunking too!
Abner took us on a bit of a detour by another hot spring , coming right out of the ground which you can boil an egg in and we sipped mouthfulls from a mug once it had cooled enough - supposed to be very good for you. THere was a big concrete pool underneath this spring which was on top of a hillock overlooking the main river - which was built for gringos apparently.
We had a very long walk back to camp( Laguna Viconga)which was on the plains beneath a waterfall which ran from the large reservoir. Thunderous noise - all the other groups were pitched further up the valley. We were carrying all our rubbish out with us though some sites had large pits for rubbish which would be filled in at the end of the walking season.
This area was the heartland of the Sendero Luminoso - their concrete bunker HQ now abandoned , was somewhere nearby in the hills. Hwever we had no night guards here. Abner told us that this communidad was "muy tranquillo" - very nice.
The avocados we had bought had still not ripened and I had been putting them in my sleeping bag to see if that would take the hard edge off - but nada!
I was shattered by the end of this day - we went to bed at 7.30pm as too cold to stay outside and dark anyway.
At this stage I contemplated changing itineary of my trip to take in somewhere warm!
Vietnam, Laos etc - CHina/Mongolia in early spring would be pretty cold.

Day 9
We trekked down to a glacial lake via a climb up to the pass of Punta Cuyuc at 4950m. Abner told me - it will be nice and quiet today - no other groups - this way is too difficult. Which meant Duchman came with us but couldnt give us a lift over the pass - just too steep and slippery under foot! Hmmmm thanks Abner! But it was worth it -we were practically at the top of a snow capped peak with blocks of turquoise ice near a small glacial lake, .I took photos of Abner posing on the blocks as if conquering Everest. From here it was a steep scramble up scree to the top of the pass - which was always a "pocito mas" further up. On a precipitous ridge with the wind howling in my ears trying to make sure my hat didnt fly off we had picnic lunch as we did everyday - a lone arriero came running up the slope towards us - he had left behind a donkey who was having problems with altitude and he had returned to see if it was OK. He came back past us shortly afterwards - it was dead. Abner wasn't impressed - he said many arrieros pushed their donkeys too hard too fast and they got altitude sickness and died.Or else they are just too old and feeble and collapse and die on the trail. Our donkeys had taken the longer flatter route. All the Rivera bros donkeys were named after past Peruvian presidents. They never hit them and treated them really well as far as I could see. It was obvious that the family all love animals.
By now our daily routine was firmly established - packing unpacking , retrieving the donkeys in the morning from , loading them up, making lunch, washing up breakfast etc. Setting up camp at the end of the days walking - putting on more and more clothes as the evening drew in - until I would be sitting on on e of the boxes at night wrapped in two blankets.
After a few hours of skating on scree ball bearings downhill we arrived at todays camp at 2pm - early - at Huanacapatay - on a pleasant grassy flat beside a stream overlooking the river plain. Large isolated rocks underneath them with fluffy cactus, and silver plants with yellow flower heads. Pleasant spot.something over 4500 metres
I wandered off after lunch to do some bird spotting and left Fernando and Rob reading in their tent.
Out of the blue Peruvians will appear. No sooner had I settled down with binoculars to look at some sierra finches than 3 heads popped up in my sights - they came and sat right beside me with a few coy "olas" There were 2 girls who turned out to be called Jessica and Salina and a boy who was their cousin but I couldnt pronounce his name. They were looking after cattle in their school holidays.I had nothing to give them or even a camera to take picture . Jessica sported artificial flowers in her hair. they all gave me a grubby handshake and as I had nothing to give them headed off for the camp to see what they could get there! I told them everyone was friendly - hoping Rob would still be around!
When I got back to camp the kids were still there - they were going home to eat cuy - guniea pig - special treat before first day back at school next day.

Day 10 - 5079 metres! San Antonio Pass to Cutatambo
Another frost overnight. Chiquita didnt want to sleep in the tent and tried to get out so I let her but left the porch open so she would have some refuge from the cold. I had to get up for a pee at 1am - it was beautiful outside - clear starry sky and glistening grass, the shadowy shapes of the burros chomping away still on the grass - the sound of this can be quite disconcerting at night until you realise what it is.
While eating breakfast some kind of falcon perched on the rock above us - I took a photo to try and identify later - yellow legs, white front and dark grey back.
Rather worryingly even Abner admitted that today the walking would be hard going. We were going over the San Antonio pass - 5079 metres.
This day nearly finished me.
Alcedes , Duchman and the donkeys set off on the longer lower route round the mountain - we just headed straight for it.NOt many other groups do this walk - because it is pretty testing.
I just put one foot in front of the other - it was windy and we were often exposed on a near vertical slope with no path of any recognisable sort.Giving up wasn't possible. Towards the end of the climb up I was on hands and knees cursing the mountain - but I made it!
From the top there was a magnificent view of red mountains beyond and snowcapped ranges and Siula Grande on our right covered in snow and glacier looking suitably formidalble and many many metres beneath us , turqoise Laguna Jurau which is where Joe Simpson and camped before their now famous ascent of Siula Grande.

I was by now missing female company a bit - Rob and Fernando had each other , as did Abner and Alcedes but I had no particular person to talk to - though I did talk to Rob a lot when he wasn't walking with Fernando and I talked to Fernando Abner and ALcedes as far as was possible in my halting Spanish which they all insisted was improving but it was nothing like a real conversation And a cup of real coffee would have done wonders!But it is nescafe nescafe nescafe in Peru.

I had my head down most of the day so didn't see many birds though on the way up SA pass Rob spotted two perfectly camouflaged birds in the rocks. Little plants somehow were growing up here and we saw a big pile of vicuna dung - a communal lavatory advertising their presence and heard the male of the herd calling - a strange eerie cronking noise a bit like a bird.

There ensued a long skidding skiting descent - I went very slowly with granny steps and then Abner suggested a short cut which was a spectacular scramble down a lightly grassed another slope with a huge glacial lake at the bottom - I was glad I had gloves on. Your knees really take a pounding but mine bore up OK though of course later on in Argentina I found that my foot ligaments had suffered.
No problems with altitude though on the first 4 days of the trip the blood vessels in the backs of my hands burst and were sore and hands were really rough but have since healed up.I also gave myself a touch of tendonitis again trying to open the marmalade jar ( frozen on )and my hand swelled up very spectacularly. You also have to be very vigilent in disinfecting any small cuts or grazes. In retrospect I would carry some homeopathic remedies - arnica, ruta grava etc and a good antiseptic cream. Perhaps more paracetemol to give away too.
Arrived at campsite at 2.30pm with a spectacular natural water fall as scenic back drop. It hailed hard and was very cold. Alcedes stood outside impervious to the cold chatting to an arriero from another group. Chiquita snuggled up to me for warmth but always on guard duty and twitching at any unusual sounds.
I had a quick walk to the stream to get water - I always went as far a s I could upstream to get water even if Abner had assured us it was clean. I had seen Peruvians urinating directly in to the water which was the same water being used for cooking and cleaning so I thought it only wise.

Just beyond the camp site there was a low corrugated shack with sack cloth doors behind which there appeared to be some rather grubby and unfriendly Peruvians who collected the camp site fees from us in the morning. I asked if they had any beer to sell but it had all gone. They asked me if I had any medecines. Rob had been on a seperate scouting trip and came back to camp with hot fresh milk purchased from a small child . We discussed how it was strange that the Peruvians didn't seem to exploit the money making opportunities that we presented. Occassionaly a local would be selling a few bottles of beer but not much else.There was nothing here although there were quite a few stone houses around us. We were desperate to buy more cheese but no one seemed to be selling it - they make sufficient for their own needs. I expect this will change with time.
After dinner we played cards, Fernando, ALcedes me and Rob - a game of spoons - in my tent as I probably had the most space.

Day 11
I woke up and could hear noises as if everyone was up but when I emerged from my tent all the flaps were tightly zipped. Another heavy frost on the ground. Very cold. Chiquita came and curled up by my head and I read a book borrowed from Rob - "1215" a history of UK in 1215 - brilliant reading. It took me back into another world - a life beyond mountain passes and bowls of porridge. It transpired that Rob and Alcedes had gone on a walk - I braved the cold water and had a proper wash out of sight of camp - Flocks of bright rumped yellow finches in the morning around camp. Alcedes and Rob returned to camp at 9.30 and it was 11 by the time we had breakfast and packed up camp. I was a bit annoyed with Rob as it was a long walk again but at least flat and apparently there is a shop at the other end.We are out of bread, low on potatoes no sugar ( this is not suprising as eveyone apart from Rob and I seems to pour half a packet into their porridge/tea/coffee) Normal walking trips in the Huayhuash last 8 days so we were well beyond that now.
It was an easy walk alongside the river, lots and lots of swifts , beautiful scnery wateralls and suddenly cultivated land. Plants - one with little purple flowers nearly over and very sticky pungent green leaves which Abner said were used in bath water for nice smell. We got to teh small village of Huayllapa at 2pm - now I see why there was no rush to leave camp but they might have let me know!
We decamped in Jesus Espinosa's yard where we ate breakfast. Jesus is the father of Jessica and Saida -who were due to start school today- entailing a 4am start. They invited us to stay and camp there in their back yard but we looked around and saw that it was pretty dirty and cramped and we would be sharing with chickens so we in the end opted to forsake the tents and instead booked into a "hostel" with a shop underneath - boasting a rudimetary outdoor shower .We shared a room with 5 beds which was accessed via a rickety ladder and a balcony that was definitely not so much as cantilevered as propped up- and also found out that they would cook us dinner. Pretty garden of geraniums in the back and two small pug type dogs who were keen to play with Chiquita. Our hosts couldn't do meat for us - very hard to get hold of apparently. All supplies arrive by donkey . We were a ll a bit disappointed as we had all decided that a bit of meat or chicken would have been very welcome. HOwever fried egg rice and chips would do fine.We went to the shop at the top of the village to spread our money around the village a bit - Rob produced his list and we all sat down for the shopping process which took us 1 and half hours and provided a theatrical experience for at least eight small children. One small child was despatched to another room to count us out 100 bread rolls. We were very lucky as tomatoes, eggs and oranges had literally just arrived by burro ( donkey) and we snapped up these deliciacies. Dulcie, the shopkeeper, who was in very good spirits , much chuckling, added up the bill and it seemed to tally with Rob's estimate- miraculously. Little kids came to witness the drama. Lots of children in the bare earth streets, with narrow roads and houses with balconies. In the main plaza men in hats sat in a row on benches waiting to be called to a meeting in the town hall - we had been told there was a telephone here - I asked one of the men and I was directed to a pink room in a building with a stack of electronic boxes in it - like a server room - with one phone and a bench for queuing to use it.Local sattelite telephone! Fernando helped me to get a line and I rang Mum as I had promised to do when I had finished the trek - only got a minute before my card ran out felt quite emotional and thoroughly enjoyed the drama of calling from an Andean mountain village!
Huayllapa is where the two men responsible for the murders of an American and his Peruvian girlfriend came from . It happened about 5 years ago. They shot him in front of her and took all the money leaving her there with the body. They went back to the village. They then realised that she might raise the alarm. They turned back and as they had no more bullets stoned her to death. A grim story. There was a huge police investigation and the two men were caught after they started to pay for beers in US dollars. A cross and a plaque mark the spot the unfortunate pair died.

We sat down to our meal in the owners' front room - complete with shrine. They threw in soup as well and we ordered beers and finished with a tin of our own peaches passed round with a fork then a round of anis tea. Slept very soundly.

Day 12
Rob had arranged for us to have breakfast ( good old Rob ) with Dulcie the shopkeeper in her house as she had promised she could get hold of some meat. We all trooped in and squeezed round the family table with onlooking offspring. The house is pretty much a courtyard with a few "rooms" off it the kitchen is open to the courtyard on two sides and the roof is tin with a hole for the chimney of the hearth and clay oven. Earth floor, no lightling apart from the open fire, plastic sheet for table cloth. Stacks of firewood, a few wooden ladles and bowls. SHe cooked us lomo saltado - salty beef with rice and papas fritas ( chips) naturally and anis tea. It was a bit tough and quite honestly I would have preferred porridge but being in a real house was fascinating. We paid 20 soles for all five of us. Rob quickly made friends with the kids Gaby, Chris the baby and another boy. They posed for pictures.
We set off for another hard day's walk - though I did about a third on Duchman.We climbed out of Huayllapa beside a river , kids everywhere rushing up to us to ask for caramellos - I was giving away balloons which they consider almost as good plus there is the added benefit that they don't give them bad teeth . We stopped for lunch just before the pass with a view of the Diablo Mudo glacier and some ruins. An AMerican , his Chilean wife and a guide were there too , the American was going to climb the glacier.
We passed an arriero , a young boy who was cajoling an old donkey who just looked exhausted. We heard it died on the trail later that day - food for the condors commented Abner.
Much further on a woman came running across from her stone house thatched with ichu grass to offer us trout. I was unaware of this as Duchman just ignored my attempts to steer him and refused to stop making dismounting an impossiblity - so I was miles ahead of everyone which worried me a bit I couldn't see them and Duchman would also get a bit skittish sometimes, I thought it was just me not being very good with beasts of burden but Rob found the same .Anyway, I was fine. I walked last hour and a half up to 4800m which had been a gain of over 1000m from Huayllapa so I was not suprised when I found that I had a mild headache.
We walked past a few lakes - wader birds with black red beaks - beautiful afternoon sun, our campsite was away from all the other groups at Cashapampa- I thought we had finished walking for the day but no, "un pocito mas!" - we finally stopped all by ourselves in a little valley clad on either side by the red barked quenua trees with a terrific echo. We had the trout for dinner. Rob gave my feet a massage Chiquita's barking echoed all round the great granite faces of the valley.Condors wheeled above the mountains again.

Day 13
I walked all day today , no help from Duchman, up to the pass at YauchaPunta at 4847 metres above sea level where somehow I managed to leave my $20 binoculars from Argos( I left my good binoculars which Mum gave me at home as I was too scared of loosing them plus they weighed too much) on the summit.I think this was the pass that Fernando practically skipped up, he was getting fitter and fitter by the day whilst I just seemed to keep plodding on though I did notice that my trousers were beginning to need hitching up now and again. I hope an arriero got the binoculars - I would have liked to have been able to give them to Abner but I gave him my torch in the end. He did offer to go back for them but it was way too far and I said no and they were not really worth it. I felt terribly lost without them though and eyed Rob's enviously whenever something flew by - Rob lent me his later on for a little bird watching sesh - beside Lago Jahuacocha . It was a dusty walk down from the pass to the small settlement and our campsite for the next two nights beside the reed fringed lake. We had to ford some rivers to get across to our campsite and bought some beers from a young woman called Nancy who had a very sweet little daughter with her - I took their picture after asking.
On our maps the settlement was called Incahuain. There was a broken concrete cross on a small hillock here. It was a beautiful spot with a fabulous view of Ninashanca- the name means little girls' legs in interpretation of the two forked peaks.
Rob ,Fernando and I went for a swim in an icy pool which was fed from the main lake which itself was of course fed by the glacier.Much shrieking followed! It was not water you splashed around in for long and by now it was getting late in the afternoon and the sun's power was beginning to fade and the wind to whip round a bit more fiercely. There were quite a lot of campesinos around - selling beer to the tourists and washing clothes in the lake.On e woman sat on the ground not far from where we were swimming spinning wool on her distaff.A little girl , all of maybe three or four years old , ( though both adults and children are often much older than they look) absolutely encrusted in grime with tangled black hair and the sunburnt cheeks so common here thrust out her hand to us and demanded a caramello - a sweet. Normally we tried to give fruit rather than encourage habits that destroy teeth in places where dentists are unheard of. But I did have a few boiled sweets from a bag I had bought to serve as energy boosters and I gave her some of these. I kept forgetting to hand out the balloons I had bought which were packed at teh bottom of my backpack. There were a few round stone walled paja grass thatched houses clustered on top of the small hill overlooking the lake , a few dogs. We bought It was a popular campsite and we recognised many of the other groups we had met on the way including a large French walking party of about 12 people. They had a sheep with them and told us that this was for a pachamanga , which involves cooking meat in a pit filled with red hot stones. But we weren't invited more's the pity!
On the way in I had also spotted andean flickers jumping around amongst the low shrub and stone walls of sheep and cattle corrals. They are related to woodpeckers.We had our usual fare of soup and pasta with beer and special treat of chocolate bar rationed out for us by Rob huddled up in our blankets against the cold and windy night.
Chiquita spent the night with me but was very nervy and fidgety with ears constantly cocking as the other camp dogs barked at each other and dogs far distant.

Going to bed each night was always a performance. After finding a bit of water to do some basic ablutions in , though I couldnt always go the full monty as Rob invariably did I crawled into my tent and took off the clothes I had walked in all day and bundled them up to use as a pillow then put on my night clothes - a silk vest ( thank you Mum!) a layer of thermal underwear ( woollens from my Arctic training - which has been very useful here!) then a jumper or two , big peruvian socks , my fleece, my scarf, my woolly peruvian hat and my woollen gloves - I only just fitted into the skimpy and thin sleeping bag which I then layered with wool blankets wrapping one underneath me as a barrier beneath me in additoin to the inflatable mat. It didn't rain once in the whole 17 days trek but boy , it got cold.

Day 14
Rest Day! Hooray!We had all decided that it would be nice to stay an extra day at one spot and this one seemed to fit the bill. Most of the other groups moved off after breakfast and we were left pretty much alone .Rob and Abner went off for another walk up to a glacial lake. ALcedes went for a swim.
I went to look at birds from a small hill near the symbolically( I felt) broken cross.The hill overlooked the plain through which the river meandered past herds of cattle and sheep. On its lower sectoins it had cut quite a gorge but up here it had very low banks and was teeming with trout which locals attempted to hoik out everyday with their bamboo canes - so I m not sure how so many managed to survive to be caught another day- they all looked pretty small when they were hanging from the trousers of little boys by a string.Flocks of jet black puna ibis are gathered on the soggy banks of the river grubbing around in the short grass with their distinctive hooked beaks, their feathers ruffled by the gusting wind. A little wren flits from bush to bush on the banks of the swimming pool. Two andean seagulls, gaviotas,fly over the water with their ink black heads. A puna ibis flies by honking a bit like a goose to join the others . The sheep baa. The cattle stand solitary or in groups, heads down. A pair of bright white ANdean geese with necks outtretched are standing perfectly still side by side. A flash of yellow streaks past me, it's an andean flicker. Two hawks circle over the steep mountain side above me. I see a man and a boy walk out to the cattle in the far distance. A martin pescador( heron) sits patiently by the river just down from me.
A small boy, a shepherd , 10 years old came up the hill with his stick and without a word but looking at me sat down about two feet away. I felt awful but I groaned inwardly as I had wanted just to look at birds and think. He kept looking at Rob's binoculars which I had borrowed and also the bird book. Perhaps in retrospect I should have given him the book. But it didnt occur to me then. I asked if he wanted to look through the binocs which of course he did! We saw quite a few more andean flickers and I aksed him if he was interested in birds and his name age etc. He looked out towards the sheep which by now were heading off into the distance, he quickly asked me for a second time if he could have the binoculars and I said no and gave him a boiled sweet . He jumped to his feet and rushed off down the hill with an adios amiga.
Alcedes was back at camp and he had bought some mutton and was busy cooking it. I had been very happy without meat and found tins of tuna perfectly acceptable but there was something about the smell of fresh meat that was very appealing.
Rob and ABner had also been busy - they had been up to one of the stone houses and purchased a cheese - it turned out to be Nancy who had sold it to us. We ate dinner, mutton stew, slices of fresh white cheese , which is a bit rubbery in texture and tastes a bit like mozarella and some more beer to wash it down. After dinner, in the dark, Rob Fernando and I went up to Nancy's house to buy another cheese . SH came out to greet us as she must have seen the torch light. She ushered us inside and we had to stoop low to get through the doorway but once inside it was pretty spacious - lit by a single candle on a small table . I was immediately impressed by the tardis like proportions inside - there was a lot of headroom. There was just a simple low sleeping area strewn with blankets on which her sleeping daughter lay , stone alcoves and a wooden shelf suspended from the roof which is where food is kept and an open hearth and a stash of wood for the fire. Just a few simple cooking utensils on a small table where a simple wooden rattle also lay and a single candle. We sat down a sheepskin covered bench. Nancy was worried as her small daughter had been crying with pain complaining of pain in her arm. SHe had fallen over. Rob went over to the French camp to ask if anyone knew anything about breaks etc but no one did and no one volunteered to have a look. None of us were sure if it was broken and didnt want to move the arm in case it was . Abner didnt think it was broken but Nancy wasnt so sure. Nancy said she would walk to the nearest village , carrying her daughter on her back, the next day, a 7 hour walk , where she has family who could know a doctor .Nancy said her husband had left her for another woman which is not an uncommon story in the Andes. She must have been in her early twenties - she was stunningly beautiful.
We gave her 20 soles for the cheese instead of 12 soles to help pay for the doctor. Now I lok back and think why didnt we give any more? But we had been advised not to carry much cash with us because of bandits so perhaps that was why we were not so generous but now I look back and think we could have done more. Not for the first time I wished I had some basic medical knowledge - how to tell if a limb was broken etc. I did do a basic first aid course years ago but don't remember it teaching me much more than the recovery position. I felt pretty useless.
7.30pm I was in bed - I could hear bats ( I think) flitting about outside and the not so distant roar of an avalanche. The full moon lit up Ninashanka and the lake.

Day 15
We made a late start. which suited me fine. As we were eating breakfast we saw Nancy setting off with her daughter on her back. We called her over and Rob gave her anoher 10 soles. I made cheese and avocado sandwiches for her and we also gave her some lemons and a tin of tuna and wished her luck. ( Id forgotten that we did that when I wrote up day 14!)
Her daughter is just one year old. An old woman came over to colleect money for the grazing of our burros and Duchman and helped Abner and ALcedes round them up. She made a few wisecracks about gringas and Peruvians for our benefit. SHe suggested that I might fall in love with Fernando, Abner or Alcedes I replied " Espero" - I wish - which had her fallling about with laughter.
It really was a beautiful spot. There was an awful lot though of "basura" - rubbish- lying around by the water when I went for a wash. We all noticed how some companies weren't too scrupulous with carrying their rubbish out after breaking camp - Rob and I would often go and clear up after them. Very disheartening.
Abner made porridge with milk powder today rather than water - I have comneted in my diary that it was much nicer- but I can't really believe that now!
The walking started off well - alongside the river - ABner adn I saw a huge hawk/eagle with a white front ( pecho blanco) - same type we had seen a few days before . He told me the spanish name but it meant very little to me. VOwed to look it up on return to civilisation but still don't know what it is!
We then started to climb up in to the wooded slopes - it was nice to be among trees for a change but the gradient was harsh and I found myself breathless and falling right behind. TIme for Duchman! We met up at a pass and ate tinned sardines and cheese for lunch and a tangerine and a rare chocolate " sublime" - the best chocolate bar available in Peru.There then followed a long and gruelling descent , very hard on the knees, for at least two hours to the village of Llammac where we camped on the local's football pitch along with several other commercial groups.A bunch of Austrians were playing volleyball with the locals and we talked to them afterwards.
We all jumped into the river to wash off the grime and dust and were excited by the possiblity of another ristorante meal!
HOwever our hopes were temporarily dashed as the restaurnats were all closed for the school holidays and we were out of the peak trekking season. HOwever Rob used his charm again and persuaded a restuarant owner that he needed our money. We were offered bifstek, and the inevitable papas fritas. The bifstek was dry and tough. But we all enjoyed the novelty - and the oppurtunity to buy the two brothers their dinners.THere was a famous old adobe church with a belltower in the plaza where a few teenagers were hanging out, sitting on the dried up fountain surrounded by a few wilted rose bushes. We were also amazed to find a bright pink 7th Day Adventist Church. Rob went in and came back out to say that there was just one man and one woman in there singing away. Walking back along the pitch dark maze of alleyways where only the light emanating from under the doorways showed us the way together with the light of the moon we passed a door which was ajar through which the sound of live andean music poured out. We stopped to look in and saw a roomfull of campesinos dressed in ponchos playing traditional instruments and singing and they were being filmed. We were invited in to watch . One man played a huge harp. We were invited to try on ponchos and join in dancing to the music and were filmed. It seemed rude to refuse so we gamely tookpart. Actually ANdean dancing is a bit of a doodle . All you have to do is sway slowly from side to side and move your feet a bit and ocassionally do a twirl to send the poncho flying. We found out after the dancing that the female director worked for Huaraz Univeristy and was making a documentary about the music of Llamac which apparently is very special and famous.
Back at camp we were enthusiasitically greeted by Chiquita who had been guarding the camp - we were all relieved to see her as she had run off with a town mutt she had befriended earlier in the afternoon and was not to be found!

Day 16
It was a very warm night - what a relief not to be cold. We set off from Llamac at about 11am noticing in the daylight that there were a lot of new houses being built - LLamac is the start of the Cordillera Huayhuash trek for many people and it was defiitely beginning to show signs of development.
It was a pretty easy walk that day and we arrived at our campsite by 3.30pm. It was an idyllic spot in a field by a river from where you could just glimpse the brothers family farm at Pucush way up in the hills above us. We were nearly full circle. We camped on the far side and Alcedes had a job to get the burros to cross the stream - they were not keen at all. We shared the field with some horses too. The stream water sprung directly from the ground at the top end of the field and being "limpia" - clean - was good to drink direct .Long vines trailed from tall trees into the water just downstream of us where the water whirled away eating into the banks to create deep natural pools. We all stripped off and jumped in to get refreshed before the sun lost its heat. I didn't stay in long and felt a bit out of it as the boys splashed each other with the icy water and then sunbathed on the far side of the stream.
We drank the last of our 1 litre carton of wine at dinner and put the boat out with a tin of peaches laced with Gloria evaporated milk passed round for postre /pudding.
Abner told us that the field we were in was part of a property which was for sale. In total it was 800mx1000m and included the natural spring and a derelict property for $80,000US . We thought that was a bit steep for Peru but Abner said the land was really good quality. Rob and I were fired up about it despite ourselves and spent a happy hour planning our Peruvian hacienda lifestyle.
As night drew in it got quieter and we could hear the sound of the spring bubbling away and a bird not dissimilar to a blackbird warbling in a tree. Still sitting outside on the boxes Abner told us the tale of Luiz Pardo , the wild boy of Chiquian and a bit of a local hero Robin Hood style who robbed the rich to help the poor back in the 1880's. He was eventually tracked down by the police and shot dead at the age of 33.The moon which was three quarters full was so bright by now that I could have read by it.
The horses whinied occassionally as we withdrew to our tents. Chiquita came to sleep with me of her own accord and curled up by my head.

Day 17
Last day of the trek! I must say I was quite glad we were heading back by now. I was dreaming of a hot shower. The novelty of packing up the burros each day and of putting up and packing away the tents and was beginning to become more of a routine than a pleasure trip.
We had a huge last breakfast of tortilla to use up all the odds and sods. Alcedes threw CHiquita into the stream for another wash which she took again in great equanimity. She is a very patient and uncomplaining little dog.
Abner told me it was only a short walk back to CHiquian - another easy day. He was lying! We started off with a river crossing - Abner spent a long time picking the right spot to ford it as it was deep and quite strong - it was much trickier than it looked with slippery stones underfoot , the loaned fantastick helped me no end - we all made it over but Abner fell in and got soaked - much to our amusement.
A few kilometres on Abner showed us Luiz Pardo's hideout- which was a clamber up a steep cactus slope to a rock outcrop. A tunnel led inside the rock to a ledge which looked out over the river but was shielded well by giant cactus. The perfect hideaway and apparently hte site of his last stand.
The last stretch really tested my stamina and endurance. We climbed 1500 metres up from the valley floor to Chiquian perched halfway up the Andes on its plateau.But I was determined to do it myself with no help from Duchman.
The dusty path just kept switchbacking round and round up and up relentlessly. This is the path that Abner and his family, including his Dad, all take routinely to get from their farm to Chiquian.
Finally we were there and in time for lunch. Abner made a really sweet speech to us thanking us for being such good walkers and we all did a bit of hugging and backslapping and I got a bit tearful saying goodbye to Chiquita. We decided not to rush back to Huaraz but take the two brothers out for dinner in the evening and catch the bus next morning. We all went out for lunch together - in a ristorante with Sonia Morales playing in the background and with her posters plastered all over the wall - Sonia is huge in the world of Peruvian Waynu music which is very hard on our western ears and certainly not easy listening.It's very high pitched and waily but massively popular in Peru.
I had Ahi de gallina - garlic duck - which was delicious.Fernando Rob and I then booked into the San Miguel hostel for the night which was much nicer than the modern concrete monstrosity that was the Hotel Gran Huayhuash- (although the people there were very friendly). The SanMiguel ( 20 soles a night for your own room) was a very old colonial style house on two stories with a baclony running round the inside and a beautiful courtyard planted up carefully with flower beds to create a riot of colour - a real labour of love by someone. ALl the rooms were named after flowers - I don't recall now the name of my room - I didnt make a note of it - probably thinking I wouldnt forget!
The manageress, who for some reason took a real shine to me and referred to me as her amiga, told us she would turn on the hot water heater for us. Rob took the first shower.He was in there for ages and I started to get nervous about how much hot water there would be - eventually he came out and the manageress said you go in next senorita pushing me ahead of Fernando who was hopefully waiting by the door!
Poor Fernando - and poor me! I had a very luke warm shower and poor Fernando had no hot water at all. Oh - I didnt use up all the hot water did I ? Rob asked later.
te manageress showed me her leg which had a huge sore on it - she asked if I had any medecine for it. It did look a bit infected. I advised her to see a doctor. Perhaps she can't afford to?
I checked my emails in town in a community facility run by three American peace corps volunteers. I found out that the tenants in my house had been broken into - not just once but twice whilst I had been on the trek. They were making lots of demands about alarms and were witholding rent. Oh dear - back to reality!

We had dinner at 8 pm with the brothers who had dressed up for the occasion. We went to Mikis Place which was new and shiny but served terrible food. To make up for it we went to the little cafe on the plaza where they sold wonderful home made pie de manzana which we had with coffee ( well nescafe - thats all you can get in Peru)

Day 18 - 16th August
We caught the 5am bus back to Huaraz and Abner came with us.I complained about the sleeping bag as it was so thin and inadequate ofr the mountains and got a discount.

I now had to decide where to go next. As did Rob& Fernando who had about 3 weeks holiday left.
NOne of us wanted to stay in Huaraz now our trek was over and so we all agreed to travel together to Trujillo on the next bus possible. It turned out we could catch an overnight bus that same day so we booked tickets leaving at 9pm. We said our final goodbyes to Abner and promised to recommend him as a guide to everyone we met.

To fill in the time I went to the museum in Huaraz which had wonderful display of stone heads in side and in the garden from Recuay( I seem to have lost the CD with these on). At 8.30pm I rendevouzed with the boys and we boarded our Movil Tours bus which would take us all the way for 45 soles each.
I noticed a fair haired woman on her own , about my age and wondered who she was. It turned out to be Sarah.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Peru - Arequipa to Chala/Puerto Inca 19th July & Nazca

From Arequipa I got a bus to Chala on the Pacific coast. Some people have their backpacks sewn up in big sacks to stop them being interfered with but I didn't bother and so far I have had no problem.
The bus cost me 22 soles and I was the only gringa on the bus or gringo for that matter. For the first hour we had a stand up comedian in the aisle selling us cholcolates and asking us where we all came from. As I was the only non S AMerican I became a useful joke "Ah Louisa! QUe Linda!" how beautiful! They don't understand if I say Louise;they think I'm saying Luis - a man's name so for an easy life I have become Louisa for the duration of S America.
He was a natural comic - on speed non stop talking and loving it . He then sold us his own book of jokes.

Chala didn't appear to me to be the pleasant little fishing village that the guide book describes - it was a pretty dingy place with nothing to partciularly recommend it. There was no bus to Puerto Inca and it took me a while to find a taxi - no one seemed particularly interested in business and children stopped to stare at the solitary gringa. But finally I got someone to take me there - about an 8 k drive through a desert landscape . The town ended and the desert began. Just a few srub bushes here and there, the increasingly familiar dull sky - a rather dismal place to live. Puerto Inca itself is right by the ocean. It was recommended to me by an American couple who were on the Cusco - Puno bus - they actually gave me some really good recommendantions. He played guitar in a rock band and I must have written his name down somewhere - a ska band = they are big in Europe ....they said if I like birds I'd like this place and not many people around.
In fact Puerto Inca is really a hotel complex with some major Incan ruins behind and all around it .The taxi dropped me off behind a freshly arrived truck full of "truck explorers" on a "unique experience" together. It is a major stopping point for the groups in trucks and buses and I was the only independant traveller there. I had my third plate of ceviche in 24 hours whilst the various tour groups ate their huge buffets and then retreated - the Germans to bed, the Toucan tour group for their campfire with guitar session. I was dying to join in with the Toucans but didn't get a friendly starter for 10 from any on them so I suppose they had bonded and didn't want a change in group dynamic. The Toucan group definitely had the best time but that may have had something to do with the enormous amount of wine they consumed.
It roars and roars the pacific , wave after wave over and over.. I asked about swimming but something about the power of those waves put me off and it wasn't all that warm. I sat out in the dark on the beach on a log to listen and smell the ocean it was freezing cold- no stars as the cloud cover is just as thick at night but quite a bit of moonlight.
Ceviche is heavenly - in Puerto Inca it consisted of a mix of corvina ( white fish) pulpo and callamares with a yucca ( jungle potato) and a sweet potato on the side. I also had half bottle of concha y torro ( from CHile). The fresh raw fish is marinaded in lime juice - just divine. I could see a solitary light on the far side of the cove, it seemed to be moving around a bit. I wondered if people were living over there.

I spent the next day walking round the ruins and out to the point. Fishermen were dragging seaweed out of the sea to dry - I think it was bull kelp , the main body of it like a head with the stands of hair stretched out. T hey had set up a camp under a rock with blankets and old tyres , piles of sea urchin shells testifying to their meals. It was their light I had seen from the beach the previous night. The seaweed is used commercially as a facial cream ( if my spanish translation is correct) .
I walked the other direction as well up into the hills along the coast , past countless burials with graves full of bones and skulls some still with bits of hair and textile. THere are so many buried here that you are quite literally walking over a vast graveyard.

I left after two nights and got a lift back to Chala with one of the hotel guys in te Puerto Inca split screen VW van ,lovingly restored . He had an amigo who operated a car collectivo - I was heading for Nasca, further up the coast and all we needed were 3 other passengers . So I stood and waited and waited and waited and the taxi driver just disappeared. Everyone stared at me so I sat down and had a breadfast from a stall of hot quinoa in a glass - gloopy sweet stuff.
I was in luck as two miners turned up in another taxi which was going no further than CHala - and they were headed for Nasca as well. So my taxi driver appeared - the three of us climbed into the taxi but we didn't move - evidently we needed another passenger. The two miners were impatient to go - they had a deadline in Nasca- so we trolled round CHala the driver beeping his horn and yelling Nasca Nasca. Finally a young woman climbed kissing her boyfriend goodbye as if she had been waiting for the taxi to come and pick her up and we were off. The large miner was a comic - his friend called him El Gordito he was making everyone laugh and talked non stop but half the time I had no idea what he was saying. We drove through the desert for hours past the only bit of green which everyone got very excited about - an olive palntation called Lauca- stalls lined the road selling olive oil. THere was sand blowing across the roadand we went nerve rackingly fast and there was a hair riasing incidnet where we nearly collided with an oncoming lorry - the river waved his fist at the lorry and Gordito made some joke which they all guffawed at. Fortunately there was very little other traffic on the roads. People, standing in the middle of nowhere kept trying to flag us down but the driver didn't stop- we were chartered.
The two mineros worked in a mine 4 hours into the desert interior - a gold mine.

Once in Nasca and after I had politely declined the offer of a drink with the mineros the car dropped me at a hostel - La Estrella del Sur - a real dump for the money they charge.
I was sucked in immediately into buying a flight over the lines. Well I had come this far so it seemed to make sense ..I paid $50 US for the flight in a 6 seater plane with me in the co pilots seat. It was a definite thrill but it was all over far too quickly and I was a little alarmed by the steep banking the pilot performed to show the passengers on the other side the view of each of the figures. It was interesting but I think we could have been a bit lower and there was quite a lot of haze.
In the evening I went to the obligatory lecture about the lines and Maria Reiche who devoted her life to researching them. She lived in the Inca Lines Hotel where the lecture is given and there is a purpose built lecure room and planetarium in her memory.She lived her last 10 years in the hotel.
It was all pretty interesting and the best bit was a shot of looking through the telescope at the night sky.Nothing much else to do in Nasca - though they have not a bad market . There is an empty now closed down cinema. Some good fruit juice shops. An indifferent Chifa ( chinese restaurant) .

17/07/05 Arequipa

I arrived courtesy of a Cruz del Sur ( Southern cross) bus from Puno. What a way to travel! They give you a bun (disgusting) a drink, two films in English with spanish subtitles and even a game of bingo - good for practicing your spanish numbers.
Breathtaking altiplano scenery for the three remaining hours of daylight.(6 hour journey)My ears suffered badly from baurotrauma as the bus hurtled downhill very fast for about the last three hours of the trip as we descended from the altiplano to Arequipa. I still couldn't hear properly a day after arriving . My first two nights in Arequipa I spent in a more expensive hostel, one mentioned in the guide books - Tambo Viejo. It was a rather grand old house with a wonderful old staircase and ancient bathrooms and shrines with statues of the Virgin Mary dotted around the place - but I had to move from one room to to a pokey place half way up an outer staircase as they got their bookings wrong. They charged extra for storage for internet for telephones to taxis - everything and with little grace. 504's ( where I moved) breakfasts were better and cheaper all the staff were lovely and they called taxis and stored luggage at no charge and it was "no trouble". Internet was free and my room had the sure sign of a good place - a bedside light!All for 25 soles or 3 pounds 50 pence a night.
At tambo Viejo I met a German couple on a 3 week holiday in Peru , they were enjoying resting and resisting the pressure to do lots which is very sensible with only 3 weeks. There was a young Canadian as well who was there to climb the volcano.
There was a roof garden from where you got a wonderful view of the Volcano - tour operators offered a two day ascent - but I went instead for a drive in a 4x4 up to the Salinas Lake in the Aguada Blanca national park to the salt lake with the promise of sighting flamingoes. It was a long day - my guide and I walked round the perimeter of the lake and I found it particularluy hard going on my lungs as we were pretty high up - well over 300m above sea level and even though it was flat ground I found I was breathing quite hard. The immense silence of the lake area was overhelming. It was cold up there too - herds of llama and alpaca were munching the bare ground covered in hard mounds of which only grows at heights of and above. There are tiny settlements up here - Salinas Moche with its glinting metal roofs and other small villages iwth llama and alpaca corrals and with the inevitable plastic bags and bottles just dumped beyond the low houses. I tried to do my bit by picking up plastic bottles etc which were sitting in water holes and my guide bless him followed suit but assured me that until there is some better way provided plastic will continue to fly about this pretty pristine environment. We also passed a big borax factory. But farming llammas and alpacas is still the main industry here.
The landscape is eerie and unlike anything in Uk - spiky grass in hard cushions, little pools of water, salt flats, a thermal pool and the multicoloured mountains surrounding us- sandy caramel and soft reds.
My guide Ignacio was a nice man and is a mountaineer and usually takes tourists up into the mountains around which are red and look other worldly. He wasn't so good at plant and bird names which was a shame. However did see the big andean white ducks, ibis and small rock creeper type things - no flamingoes.

The proprietor, a woman in her 60s terribly imposing was very angry with me when she found out that I had been walking around after nightfall (it got dark at 5pm) by mself - very very dangerous she said. So in effect you were supposed to take a taxi up to the main square ( a 10 minute walk) after 5pm and back again - the problem being the taxi firms never understood my Spanish and never arrived. I had no problems walking back but did book a taxi home for the night when I went out to try and find some live music on a Saturday night.- What I found was a young band doing Beatles covers then another young band doing Beatles covers and finally a young couple doing Everything But the Girl covers in SPanish.
So I was not overly impressed. In fact I didn't really find Arequipa all that wonderful. It had a strange vibe to it. Much less indiginous feeling than other cities. But it has the famous Santa Catalina monastery ( well nunnery) and the Incan mummy museum - which i went to with the frozen remains of the child sacrifices, (in particular it tells the story of Juanita ) who were discovered close to the Ampato volcano crater rim preserved in ice for 50 0years.- which is fascinating.There is a good ice cream parlour and the only place in Peru I found serving real coffee - a tiny cafe up some stairs. I also found some second hand cameras but nothing I considered buying.
The main square is very imposing with colonial buildings with collonades , and other squares all in the distinctive white stone , silar. The central square has a large fountain, trees , shoe shine boys, photographers and various vendors and purveyors, and benches. THere was a local character who stood in the street in full Father Christmas regalia (Papa Noel) advertising a local taxi firm and that reminds me of the shoe lace man - bowed under by the weight of many shoelaces just his head clear of them.
Most of the shops leading from the square were selling tourist wares.
I like my second hostel though - the Casa de Silar - I had a room to myself with large double bed and big storage unit. Bathroom was as usual shared. Poor couple next door - one of them got very sick and knocked on my door to ask what they should do - I told them to drink lots of water and get the hostel to call a doctor . Breakfast you could have brought to you on the roof garden. Very friendly proprietors. I felt two small earth tremors whilst there - Arequipa is very earthquake prone. A big one whilst I was in S AMerica hit Northern Chile but did very little damage in Peru.
From Arequipa I did a 3 day trek to the colca Canyon with 2 Germans from Cologne - Britta and Sven. Booked with Eco Tours $45US for 3 days and 2 nights.

Sunday - I took a taxi to Tingo - about a 4km from the centre for lunch a 3 sol ride - recommended in the guide book. However I was the only tourist around. Arequipans all head out here at the weekend - there are two large public swimming pools and a park with a boating pond and a small fariground. Small boys and girls immediately were knocking at the window of the taxi before I had got out to try and lead me to their stall and I was postiviely mobbed by women as I descended the steps to the eating area. It is very hard to know whose stall to eat at but once you realise they are all pretty much selling the same thing it doesn't really matter. I let myself be led by a particularly persistent woman to a stall and sat down next to a family already eating. Later I talked to the woman who pulls in people - she gets 1 sol for every customer she provides. She had an 11 yr old son to support on her own as her husband had done a runner. She said that her son wants to be a policeman when he grows up. The policeforce in Peru is notoriouly low paid and this is perhaps why they feel the need to con the occassional tourist out of some money.
I had a huge lunch :
Rocotto Relleno - meat stuffed hot pepper in tomato sauce with sliced potatoes on the side
choclo con queso ( corn with cheese)
tamales - corn dough panckaes stuffed with meat
Picarones ( like doughnuts in a sweet honey sauce) - however no one knew them by this name elsewhere in Peru
and Inca Cola - pretty horrible but at least cold
Needless to say extremely cheap and delicious.
The boating pond was encircled by photograhers with ancient cameras taking pictures of people enjoying their weekend - not for their photo albums but to sell of course.None of them had digital cameras. The traditional photographer is still in business in public in Peru and in every city in every park you will find someone taking photos of people who want a momento of their day in variably with an ancient old camera.
I peeped into the public pools - both open air - one was dirty and deserted and the other sparkly blue with red starting blocks and seating and a few men swimming. There was nothing further to keep me there and I wondered about getting a taxi back - I kept looking for the firm that had brought me but there were only local taxis - they are all the same type of tiny japanese car. I had heard and been told and read of so many horror stories about taking taxis which you have not phoned for that I ended up catching a collectivo which went all round Arequipa before it dropped me pretty centrally.The fare was less than one sol.
There was quite a bit of agriculture going on round Arequipa but I noticed spray back packs on farmers - so my notion that the veg and rice and potatoes are all pretty organic was obviously rather naive. But high up in the Andes I think it must be better though I did see signs for chemical fertiliser painted on walls in places like Ollaytaytambo.

18/07/05 - Arequipa - to Mollendo (Meija Laguna Nature Reserve)

I took a taxi from the hostel I was staying at (Casa de Silar at 504 Rivera, which a nice American couple had told me about on the bus down from Cusco to Puno)to the bus station - usually bus stations are a bit dodgy and recently Peru seems to be upgrading them all, adding a modicum of safety with loading systems where bags cannot be got at so easily and arrival areas which can only be accessed if you have a ticket.
I caught a bus from Arequipa's bus station to Mollendo ( which cost me 12 soles ida y regressa) because I wanted to see the wetland wildlife reserve which runs along the coast. It was a 2 and a half hour journey not one and half as guide book said. the bus was late and in the waiting room I chatted to an old gent called Ricardo who was carrying a big plant in a plastic bag. I asked him if he liked gardening in spanish and he was so pleased that I had spoken to him that we talked for about 20mintues ;he invited me to his house.He explained he was "fanatico" about plants , big ones , whilst his wife likes bonsai . The white sap on his plant he said was good for back and muscular pain. I explained that I wanted to see the birds at Meija and he told me they had mostly all migrated. These encounters are always the best . The bus was very late and I was worried that I wouldn't have time to see the reserve and get back to Arequipa before dark.

On the way I saw road workers , mostly women with material wrapped over their mouths working on a new road - they were sweeping away the dust - what a job . At every stop people mostly women piled on to sell chiccarones, sandwiches drinks etc. I was sitting right in the front and mercifully only had a clipped vision of the Tv screen showing some awful American Film with lots of guns and plane and car crashes. The landscape was much the same all the way - desert and rocks and impossibly it seemed peole got off the bus to go - where? - tiny adobe huts in the desert. I wondered what they did there how far from the road were they ? But apparently in the rainy season this barren land turns green with flowers everywhere - I'd like to see it!Arriving in Mollendo at the terminal terrestre I took a shared taxi to the town centre and had a wander around before asking around for the bus to Meija - everyone wanted to take me in a taxi for 15 soles (1.50)but I stood firm and eventually a friendly local showed me where the stand was - the collectivo was empty and they don't leave until full so I had to wait another 15 minutes before the driver reluctantly decided that we could go -3 soles - the ticket collector was a woman - their job is to drum up more trade and get passengers onto their collectivo and not rivals. They hang out of the sliding side door yelling out destinations. I munched on a paper bag of bbqed chicarrones and corn , (pork scratchings) which I bought from a passing street vendor selling out of a big basket.
I had no idea how far it was and kept asking in the bus if anyone knew but eventually I spotted a big sign which read " Touristic Area"so Iasked to get out - there was a visitor centre by the side of the road which was very well laid out and very informative and someone appeared and for the small entrance charge gave me an actual map(!) . They are not that big on maps in Peru so this was a bonus and I do like a good map. There were miradors (observation towers) posted at various points along the shore and overlooking the lagunas where a lot of the bird life was.
No one else around , just the noise of the cicadas, frogs and ducks the smell of the sea and in the distance glimpses of white horses on the ocean. It was warm but grey skies as usual on the Peruvian cost with a nice breeze. I saw a brown rat like mammal with a long tail running along the track in front of me -it would stop every so often and look back at me and then carry on. I don't think it was a rat - wrong shaped head for a rat. A movement in the grass by the side of the track however was a mouse and I pulled it out of the grass by tail to have a look and then put it back. Just a Peruvian mouse.
Everywhere there were the huge vulture like black birds, - gallinasus - not very lluring adn very vulture like. Not much fer of humans. Lots of white egrets. Later on I saw an owl ( not sure which type) swooping along over the lagoon and a peruvian red breasted meadow lark perched in a bush. But highlight was when walking back to the visitor centre I saw on the ground two burrowing owl chicks on the ground just a few feet from me, motionless.
I walked down from the reserve and onto the ocean - evidence of people around - bicycle tracks and in the distance I could see men fishing with rods. A flock of pelicans swam over the waves low into the troughs one behind the other equidistant, in perfect formation as the waves crashed onto the beach. THere were no signs of anyone catching any fish but lots of crab shells on the water line. NO plastic , no rubbish no signs of contamination - the black sand beach was reassuringly clean and fresh. I just felt a little wary being on my own out there with just a few fishermen but no one bothered me.
The miradors, a nice idea, were a bit useless as bird hides - they were just open platforms and as soon as you climbed up the very basic ladder the ducks etc would see you and take off en masse. There were no flamingoes.
I was pleased that such a place existed and that Peru is protecting its coastal areas. Not many westerners get out here as it involves so many changes of bus etc but it is well worth it.
I flagged down a collectivo and spoke in Spanish to a fellow passenger a businessman, who asked me what I thought about the bombs in London.