A Travellerspoint blog



25 °C
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We had an amazing time visiting the Galapagos islands. We started our trip with an 8-day sailboat cruise visiting several islands. After that we went to Isabella island (the largest) for 5 days.

The wildlife in the Galapagos is superb. On many of the landings we encountered newborn sealion pups who were just opening their eyes. At other sites were we able to swim with juvenille sealions, and on Isabella two played with us the entire time we were snorkelling. And when a white-tipped reef shark swam nearby, one of the sealions chased him away! These two pups loved floating up to our masks, blowing bubbles in our face, and then swimming away. On Isabella we also "discovered" a sheltered bay that had about 20 resting green sea turtles at low tide. On Santa Fe we snorkelled with a school of eagle rays and several turtles. At a few sites we swam with sharks.

Perhaps the two most interesting animals on the islands are the giant tortoises and the marine iguanas. It is believed that both floated to the islands on debris, and with no predators the tortoises grew to great size while the iguanas turned to the sea to feed on algae and seaweed. The tortoises were hunted to extinction on most islands (first by sailors and then by Ecuadorian colonists and introduced species). Three species of the giant tortoises are extinct while Lonesome George is the last of his species. On Santiago island Charles Darwin complained about not being able to set up a tent because the soil was undermined by so many iguana burrows. Today the land iguana is extinct on Santiago because feral goats destroyed the soil and out-competed the iguanas.

Birds are everywhere, with the most famous being the Darwin finches. These tiny birds have different sized beaks depending on their niche. There is even one that uses cactus spines to pick bugs out from under the bark on trees. The most amazing thing is that none of the animals are afraid of people. The boobies got their name from early sailors because they could just walk up to them and club them to death.

Click on any of the following photos to see more of our other photos from the Galapagos. Descriptions of the photos explain things better than I can do here.


Posted by edenjosh 15:26 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecotourism Comments (1)

Beach time

surfing in Mancora, Peru and whale watching in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

semi-overcast 24 °C
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After descending from the chilly Andes, we decided that we needed some time in the sun. Unfortunately, coastal fog covers nearly the whole Pacific coast of the continent for much of the year. The exception is Mancora, which for some reason has year-round sun. We shacked up in a cheap hotel $13 with a pool (yay) and took surf lessons the second day. It wasn't too difficult, but that's because our instructors had on flippers and were giving us a good push. When we rented (smaller boards, the only available) in the afternoon, things weren't as successful.

So the next day we switched to boogie boards, the waves were much larger, and we had more fun. Other than enjoying the beach all we did was eat lots of fresh seafood--including ceviche (fish cooked in lemon juice).

We then headed to Guayaquil, Ecuador to book a Galapagos cruise. In the three days before our flight (to the Galapagos) we went to Puerto Lopez where we were able to see humpback whales. They come up here to mate every year and the males breach over and over again to impress the females. It was awesome.

Click on the whale photo to go to our flickr site. We have the Galapagos photos there but haven't had the time to write about it yet.


Posted by edenjosh 13:59 Archived in Ecuador Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Trujillo, Chiclayo and Chachapoyas

Pre-Inca ruins abound!

sunny 23 °C
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After our trek in Huaraz, Josh and I felt the need for a little culture -pre-incan culture that is! Boy, did we get what we asked for!

First, we took another long night bus to Trujillo. Trujillo is one of the richest cities in Peru so the hotel prices reflected that. We pounded the streets for a while until we found a place that was not TOO grungy and within our price range. Because the night buses arrive so early in the morning, by 10am we were showered and ready to explore. We hopped a local bus to some HUGE near-by ruins called Chan Chan. Chan Chan was a large adobe city that was inhabited by the Chimu people who occupied the northern shores of Peru from about 850-1470 AD. Most of the city now just looks like huge piles of sand but archeologists have worked hard to uncover the palace section of Chan Chan. Because the Chimus lived in a desert close to the ocean, they relied VERY heavily on the sea for life. This is obvious in their artwork. The walls of the palace are decorated with carved reliefs of fish, pelicans and other sea birds, octopi and fishing nets. The was very different from inca ruins that we have seen,
mostly because the incas did not seem to decorate their walls much.

The next day we hopped on another local bus (always an adventure) to the Huaca de la Luna. This is another huge archeological site, but this time from the Moche peoples who lived from about 200 BC-850 AD. The Huaca de la Luna was suspected to be a temple. The Moche worshipped first and foremost a creature called the be-header. To appease their god, they frequently performed ritual be-headings. These were illustrated clearly in their wall paintings and on pottery. Prisoners were tied up and led into the main square of the temple. The priest would cut their throats and a priestess would catch the blood. The priest would then show the blood to the crowd and drink it. All very brutal and grapically depicted in the artwork. I guess their be-headings didn't appease the god enough because they were all eventually wiped out, most likely by an el niƱo. The temple construction was quite interesting. It was built in an inverted pyramid form and every 80-100 years the people would built a whole new, bigger and better, temple on top of the old one. They would replicate almost the same artwork each time. In some places, the different layers were exposed so you could compare the older temples with the newer ones. On the same site, there was also a huge pyramid called the Huaca del sol as well as a Moche village but we could not look at them closely as they are still being uncoverd. The sand moves in quickly in a desert.

After Trujillo, we headed to Chiclayo. Chiclayo is home to the richest scientific discovery ever made. In another former Moche settlement, they discovered many tombs near a huge pyradmidal structure. Some had been plundered by grave robbers but some remained uncovered. Most contained pottery, gold and silver but the tomb of a King held the motherload. There was so much gold and other riches in his tomb that the weight actually pulverised his bones. He was also burried with three women, his army general, a boy, a dog, two be-headed llamas and two men to act as guardians to the tomb (their feet were amputated so they couldn't run away). The next day, we went to the museum where most of the artifacts found in the tombs are held. The intricate decorations were amazing! My favourite was a necklace made of big, gold and silver peanuts!

Because we still hadn't gotten our fill of old, crumbly ruins, we headed to Chachapoyas -further inland and into the jungle. Here we got to explore a village, high on a hill top that belonged to the Chacha peoples. They were eventually conquered by the Incas but in turn, helped the Spanish fight the Incas later on. The Chachas built their houses of stone and they all had a circular shape. Each house also had a low, hallow stone wall running through it where they raised guinea pigs for dinner.

The next day we hiked to the Gocta waterfall. It is thought to be the third highest waterfall in the world at over 700m. There wasn't much water volume, so that nearly all that reached the bottom was mist.

All three towns were an archaeologists dream! They were pretty cool for two science geeks too...


Posted by edenjosh 14:58 Archived in Peru Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca

highest mountain range outside the Himalayas

sunny 20 °C
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We've been lugging around most of our trekking gear for the past two months with one destination in mind, the Cordillera Blanca. In an area 150km long and only 20km wide it contains 22 6,000m peaks and 50-something peaks over 5,700m. In comparison only three peaks in North America are over 5,700m--Mt. McKinley (6,194m), Mt. Logan (5,956m), and Mt. Orizaba, Mexico (5700m). The area attracts serious mountaineers (think ice axes and crampons) along with trekkers who spend anywhere from a few days to several weeks in the valleys and up and over passes ranging from 4,600 to 5,000m.

We arrived in Huaraz on the night bus from Lima and spent two days acclimatizing in town drinking french press fair-trade, organic coffee by the litre, and eating apple pie and reading magazines at the lovely Cafe Andino. The third day we headed up to The Way Inn at 3700m to further acclimatize and do a couple day treks before heading out for the 4-day, 50-km Santa Cruz trek. After catching the local minibus (combi) to the closest town, we walked for about 2-hrs to the lodge and set up our tent. With some daylight hours still remaining, we made a dash up to Laguna Churup--a 5 hr return trip and most popular day hike from Huaraz. Unfortunately we weren't fully acclimatized and got headaches on the way up to the lake at 4450m. After returning to the lodge Eden vomited and started shivering and we took a taxi back down to Huaraz.

Altitude sickness is a serious danger in the mountains so we spent two more days deliberating whether we wanted to do the Santa Cruz trek while acclimatizing at our favourite cafe.

Deciding to do the trek, we set out early in the morning catching a combi to Caraz, 90 minutes away. From there we got a shared taxi to the trailhead at Cashabamba and were on the trail by 10AM. The first day of the trek was relatively unimpressive. The trail was quite degraded from organized trekking parties and their donkey trains (we counted 15 donkeys and 1 horse for one group of 8 trekkers. I don't know why people would need so much equipment and are so lazy that most don't even carry a day pack.) Because of the steep valley walls, only brown/black dry mountains were visible until we arrived at the first campsite, Llamacorral, at 2PM. This is where the trekking agency groups camp and was full of donkey poop so we decided to go onto the next camp an hour away.

The second day we woke up reasonably early but didn't leave camp until 9:30. It was an easy hour and a half to a river junction where we had some snacks before climbing up the steep switchbacks on the way to the Alpamayo base camp. The views from here were stunning. We then turned around and cut across a traverse to the second campsite at Taulipampa. This site was beautiful. Surrounded by glaciated peaks. Again, however, there was lots of mess from the organized trekking groups.

The third day we climbed up to the Punta Union pass at 4760m with relative ease. It wasn't nearly as difficult for me as our 5000m passes on the Ausangate trek and I was carrying far more for this trek. We then continued down the trail for 5 hours to the campsite at Huaripampa.

The following morning we woke up early, walked for 3.5 hours to Vaqueria and caught one of the minibuses back to Yungay.


Posted by edenjosh 14:41 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Reed islands, deep canyons, Oases and foggy seas!

Welcome back to Peru!

semi-overcast 18 °C
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It's nice to be back in Peru. As chaotic as it is, it is still more chilled than Bolivia.

From La Paz, Bolivia, Josh and I headed to Puno, Peru. Puno is right on the shore of Lake Titicaca. One of the main attractions there, besides the lake itself, are the floating Uros Islands of the Uro people. This indigenous group many years ago were in constant threat of Incan attacks, not to mention the Spanish later on. They had always used tortora reeds for making boats but they decided, to be safe, they would make huge floating reed islands, far from the shores of Lake Titicaca, and live on them. They have lived that way since then even though there are no "pure" Uros left. Every year they pile new reeds on top of their islands as the ones on the bottom rot away.

The Islands were so interesting to visit. Walking on them was soft and springy. The children there will probably never experience a scraped knee! Many Islands contained just one extended family and they rely heavily on tourist dollars now for survival. Many inhabitants sell handicrafts and rides in their reed boats and the children sing songs for tips and candy.

After Puno, we headed to Arequipa for a second time. It is a nice city where you can buy a huge plate of Chinese food for just over a dollar! That wasn't our main reason for returning, however. We wanted to hike in the Colca Canyon -2nd deepest canyon in the world and more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States! Our trek was only three days in total. The first day we hiked deep into the canyon and slept in a small village. The villagers grow lots of fruit that cannot be grown outside of the canyon because of the altitude and colder climate. The second day we hiked to the bottom of the canyon to a glorious oasis! We swam and relaxed in the sun -but only until about 3:30pm-afterwhich the sun disappeared behind the canyon walls! That night, we left the oasis at about 3am to start the long hike UP and OUT of the canyon! We got to the top in time to watch the sunrise. After that, we took a bus to a part of the canyon (Cruz del Condor) where we watched the huge condors playing in the up-drafts from the canyon. It was amazing how close the condors came to us while soaring by.

From Arequipa, we headed to Ica and then the near-by oasis of Huacachina. It is a relatively small oasis completely surrounded by HUGE sand dunes. We spent a couple of lazy days there hanging out by the pool and walking on the dunes. It was such a nice change from the cold weather we were used to. After a couple of days, we headed back to Ica and took a boat tour around the Ballesta Islands. There we saw tons of birds, including Humboldt penguins and pellicans, and lots of sea lions relaxing in the sun. It was a great tour of what is also referred to as the "poor man's Galapagos".

Needing to keep on keeping on, we headed for Lima. Winter in Lima means coastal fog! Even though it is only about 9 degrees from the equator, it was a cool 15-18 degrees during the day and foggy foggy foggy! It was strange to be in a desert that was so muggy! We enjoyed our time there and basically just pigged out the whole time. Because we hadn't had North American food for a while and figuring we wont be in a big, international city like that for another long while, we justified our binge. We ate at Pizza Hut, had massive sandwiches at TGI Friday's, ribs at Tony Roma's and Cinnabons for lunch! We left with our arteries a little more clogged and a few pounds heavier but happily satiated by American food :)


Posted by edenjosh 16:31 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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