This blog describes the second of two exciting mountain drives to and fro across the Andes of Southern Peru, taking in two of the deepest canyons in the world, Colca and Cotahuasi. This drive took us from the historic city of Arequipa, through the remote Cotahuasi canyon and over one of our highest passes yet, to join the major road to Ayacucho, arriving just in time for the start of its carnaval on 6th February. Continue reading
We set off from Cusco on Sunday 17th January 2016 to cross the Andes southwards to Peru’s second city of Arequipa. Given we were in the midst of the wet season in the mountains, we expected to simply drive north up the coast of Peru from there, but that wasn’t quite how things developed. This blog describes the first of two exciting mountain drives to and fro across the Andes, taking in two of the deepest canyons in the world, Colca and Cotahuasi. This drive, the first of the two, took us to the historic city of Arequipa and its famous convent of Santa Catalina, via the picturesque Colca canyon and its condors. Continue reading
Rock climbing has only recently become a popular activity in Chile and Bolivia and this is most obvious when you see who is climbing – most people are in their 20s. Unless you are a mountaineer, or fancy a go at climbing the formidable Torres del Paine, then the crags are probably best visited as an element of a wider trip to explore the country, as they were for us. Saying that, there is plenty of potential for rock climbing in these two beautiful countries. Continue reading
We arrived in Cusco from Lake Titicaca on 23 December 2015, just in time for Christmas. In the end, we spent more than three weeks in and around Cusco and the Sacred Valley, which gave us plenty of time to explore the many, many Incan sites in the area. We’ve selected our favourite of these for an accompanying blog here – there is so much more to this area than Machu Picchu! As well as seeing how modern Peru marks Christmas and New Year, we caught the festival of the “Coming of the Kings” in the Sacred Valley at Ollantaytambo, and, despite it being the rainy season, we did some delightful walks along some lesser known Incan trails and even managed a little rock climbing, as well as the fantastic Skypod experience.
Cusco was the Incans’ capital city and the valleys leading to and from it, especially the Sacred Valley, following the Urubamba river towards Machu Picchu, are full of Incan delights. We spent more than three weeks in the area (see this accompanying blog to read about what else we got up to), giving us plenty of time to sample many of them. Machu Picchu gets all the attention, but there is so much more to it than that! In this blog, we pull out our 10 favourite Incan things from our time in the area, plus a little bit about Machu Picchu at the end.
Argentina is a huge country and a great destination for rock climbers. Whether you only go to one of the well-developed crags, each of which could easily occupy much more than a week of your time to explore fully, or just sample these crags in passing and discover a few hidden esoteric ones as part of a grand tour, Argentina has a wealth of options. Continue reading
Titicaca (or Titiqaqa in Quechua) is the largest lake in South America and, sitting at 3,812m, the highest navigable lake in the world. Coming here was one of the most anticipated parts of the trip for me, perhaps largely for what it represented. It straddles the border of Bolivia and Peru, at the top of the Altiplano, and sits at the heart of the historical cultures of the high Andes.
Bolivian wines? Really? This is probably what most people think when I mention the subject. In fact, it did take us a while to work our way through some distinctly ordinary wines, but, finally, Bolivia revealed her secrets with bodegas whose wines were excellent and compared well to the better Argentinian and Chilean examples we had tried.
It was perhaps appropriate that our arrival in La Paz, a city of dramatic geography, caught us out with its crazy topology. We arrived on November 21 2015 from the south, having driven for a few days up across the flat “altiplano” (high plain) that sits at around 3,800m, pausing on route to look for the recently disappeared Lake Poopo. We based ourselves on the outskirts of the city, coming and going from trips out to see the beautiful volcano Sajama on one side of the altiplano to the west and, to the east, the steep, lush Yungas mountains.
We’re not usually that interested in religious history, but the Jesuits’ social experiment in the heart of this fascinating continent is rather absorbing. We took a back road route across the border from Caceres in Brazil to pick up the “Missions Circuit” in the lowland plains of eastern Bolivia, then had an adventurous journey back up into the mountain valleys to spend more time in and around the lovely city of Sucre, visiting a traditional market, chasing dinosaur footprints and letting llamas distract us from rock climbing on the altiplano.