Category Archives: Peru

The mysterious Alien Nazca lines!

Legends has it that the mysterious Nazca lines of Peru were created by ancient Nazca people for visiting Aliens in their strange air crafts. Nazca images were symbols for communicating with landing craft and landing strips were created along with the symbols.

I come to believe it is true, however I am not sure if the Aliens did land on those landing strips made by these ancient Nazca people. The lines were constructed impeccably by clearing off shallow rock debris on this dry desert plains, the lines were so shallowly created that I couldn’t believe you can see it from the air.

This has been one of the places I had always wanted to visit since I was a young kid after reading all the conspiracy theories in supernatural magazines.

It was the low season, and unfortunately not all the aircraft companies were open, the price for a short 30mins was us$150, it was usually us$90 when all the companies were competing with each other.

There was a  Peruvian version of Sesame street  being shot while I was waiting for the flight and I might be in a part of the episode. I made friends with a couple of the characters while they were filming us and were chatting with the puppets who were taking the Nazca flights as well.

Even thought the airport was constructed for just viewing the Nazca lines,  we needed to have a security screening, our bags were checked and so were all of us under a metal detector and a screening gate.

There is a mandatory 2 pilots on each tiny 8 seater plane, because of a plane crash accident when one pilot had a heart attack on flight and killing all the tourists a few years back.

The pilot greeted us and explained the various Nazca lines we were to fly over, each of us were weighed to assign seats, and I was lucky to be assigned the last seat at the tail for a window all to my own.

The plane circled a few times around each line, from above some of the lines could be barely made out because of the constant erosion by vehicles crossing the desert.  30minutes was a pretty short time, but it was worth the cost of visiting these lines which could possibly be destroyed with more human activities in the Nazca deserts.

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The perk of missing the bus while crossing a river

On the way to the Bolivia’s side of Lake Titicaca, one of my travel mates went missing while the bus had to cross a river in a boat ferr.

So I had to get off the bus with all of our luggage and waited for another bus.

It was meant to be! A culinary serendipity where I got to snack on really tasty fried fishes that I couldn’t find else where in my journey. If my travel partner hadn’t gotten missing, I won’t have tasted this brilliant dish!

Battered fried fish, served with steamed corn, potato and really delicious peruvian chilli, spring onion sauce!

The two stalls selling the same delicious fried fish!

Ballestas islands the poor man’s Galapagos

So you can’t afford the Galapagos islands in Ecuador, what can you do?

If you are in Peru and Galapagos in Ecuador is not in your budget, then I highly recommend, the Ballestas Islands in Paracas.  This is one of the most spectacular sights of marine birds that you will ever see in your whole life. It even beats Galapagos for the sure concentration of bird life, this is real life nature show at its god smacking best.

Ballestas islands has penguins, boobies, pelicans, comorants, sea lions, almost the same bird life as in the Galapagos but with birds covering the islands completely, my jaw dropped repeatedly. This is the reason why I was disappointed with the Galapagos.

The only way to get here is by taking one of the speed boat ride from Paracas, it cost around us$25 for a 2 hour tour.  It is only a few hours away from Nazca so if you are visiting the Nazca lines, go visit Paracas.

The downside is you can only view the birds from the boat along with a crowded bunch of tourists screaming repeatedly

“the skies covered with birds!”

Scenes of Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is one of the largest high altitude lake and situated between Peru and Bolivia.

Life in the various islands and the surroundings still remain quite rural with no running water or electricity, a harsh agricultural lifestyle that is rather surprising for the largest influx of tourists visiting the area.

I enjoyed the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, visiting Taquile island which still preserves its authentic cultural lifestyle than Bolivia’s side in Isle de Sol that was innundated with tourists and locals trying to cash in by collecting endless road tolls and charging entrance fees for passing every village. The boliviano side wasn’t particularly welcoming nor friendly either.

Nazca mummies of the Chauchillas

You should visit the Chauchilla necropolis when you visit Nazca for the famous Nazca lines in Peru.

Take a taxi from town and stay a little longer than the usual 30mins.

This is the only place where you will get to see mummies exposed in their natural graves. In this very dry flat sandy desert plains lies scattered with exposed skeltons and burial artifacts.

If you stared out into the dry sandy desert, you could make out femurs and fingers phalanges, part of the cranium exposed on the surface. This whole nercropolis is huge and I could only visit a part of it as the rest were protected.

It is just intriguing to see these tombs of the Nazca people, many skeletons still have well preserved long hair and skin out in the open sun after few thousand years.

 

 

Ollamtamybo – Inca mummified artifacts

Ollamtamybo, one of the more important sites of the Inca era became the last stop in my Inca trail. I arrived here after walking for 4 days from my living Inca trail. This is where I would take the train to Aguas Caliente for Manchu Picchu and return to Cusco after.

I returned to Ollamtamybo, wanting to do a short 2 days in this tiny town. After Manchu Picchu, the wonderful ruins of Ollamtamybo seemed a little underwhelming.

While visiting one of the ruins, met a very friendly Peruvian and his son who worked with the archaeological digs in nearby areas. He invited me to his home to look at some of his archaelogical finds. This became the highlight of my trip to this town.

The house was a typical mud brick construct with guinea pigs running around the mud oven kitchen. Quite a sight by itself to have dinner running around.

He took out some Inca burial artifacts from a serious of cardboard boxes, one of the fascinating finds was a tiny desiccated human baby.Then there were others, adult human skulls. Some had broken cranium, a chilling proof that these were human sacrifices. The non-enlongated skulls showed these human artifacts were not from royalty but of normal descent and hence the Inca sacrificial burials for these mummies were for minor events.

Still, the artifacts were fascinating and a great opportunity for a close up glimpse which otherwise be viewed from afar in boxed up windows of a museum.

Mummified foetus could be possibly a burial sacrifice.

A mummified skull with broken cranium, clearly a sacrifice as most skulls would have been struck at the front.

This is where most of the artifacts were kept, cardboard boxes with newspapers.

Not sure what this bag was used for, as it is not the typical shape of a coca bag. It could have been for a courier for letters and documents.

Woven coca bags call chuspa is mandatory in every burial.

Precious conch sea shells were important commodity in the Andean mountains.

Easter Parade in Ayacucho, Peru

The South Americans call it Semana Santa or Easter week. One of the most famous places to witness the holy week is in Ayacucho, Peru. The whole week was filled with tons of activities and quite a great place to spend your easter.

I got to wander into the main church where celebrations were held and the volunteers were busy decorating the main draw for the easter procession. It was a painstaking affair and took days to prepare. While outside in the streets, everyone were viewing the afrombras, decorative carpets made from colored sand and flowers, waiting for dawn to witness the final parade of the week. It all cumulates on Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Christ.

At dawn, the procession begins, representing the resurrection of christ with candle lighted parade with the Jesus figurine at the top.

 

If only I have cerviche once a week

I have an obsession with food, always.  This is part of the essential part of my travels and it is a deal breaker for anyone who wants to travel with me. I eat a lot, sometimes a lot of weird stuff, and often the restaurant or food stall is hidden on some back alley street. I hate going to typical tourist restaurants and seek out the cheap and characterful places. It also helps to have an iron stomach, especially if you are game for raw stuff.

Part of the popular dishes in South America is cerviche. Raw seafood cooked in lime juice and other sauces. I had it in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Easter Island, Peru.

The best cerviche I ever had was in the most unlikely place that is a little far away from the coast.  That was in Nazca, Peru, famous for the Nazca lines. It was cheap and so good for only us$5 for a complete meal that included a soup, the cerviche, main fish dish, a drink.

Every country prepares their cerviche a little differently.

Bolivia serve mostly fish cerviche with fried toasted corn and lotsa lime and chilli. Ecuador loves their cerviche with conche and prawns served with panacones (fried banana chips) and pop corn. Chile has their sea urchin cerviche which is delicious but expensive, serve plain with lime and onion. Easter island has mainly tuna cerviche, serve plainly like the Chileano version with lotsa lime juice. Peru has one of the best cerviches, mainly fish with some spices and mint.

 

Manchu Picchu Inca Ruins

Woke up at 3am and started my ascend to one of the greatest man-made constructions in the world, the famous Inca Ruins of Manchu Picchu.

If you are wondering why I was so crazy to do that, the Peruvian authorities only give out 400 daily passes to Wayna Picchu, the famous mountain  backdrop of every image of Manchu Picchu.

Then came a road block, the security guards told me the entrance only open at 5am, a few other locals were already waiting to get in but were refused. I begged and told them it would take me double the time to climb up to Manchu Picchu, it would be impossible to get those entry passes to Wayna Picchu, I was refused again.

Somehow, seeing me looking a little pathetic and disappointed, one of the kind hearted guards took pity and told me to come over, we walked towards the barriers and he opened the gates, refusing the rest of the people waiting, I was allowed in on my own.

Walking up with a headlamp in the dark, instead of taking the 20 minute bus up (it starts at 5.30am). It was a huge physical feat for me, even though it was only 2400m in Altitude. It was a fantastic feeling being one of the first people up in Manchu Picchu, I was pretty proud of myself for that little tiny feat.

The trail up, look how steep the climb up of Manchu picchu was!

To climb up to the entrance of Manchu Picchu took 1 hour and a further 1 hour steep rocky climb to Wayna Picchu.

Sunrise at Manchu Picchu wasn’t terribly fantastic and the light quickly turned to a dull grey sky, at least it didn’t rain up in these Andean mountains!

There were 2 timings up to Wayna Picchu and I was recommended the 11am  timing when the fog and cloud dissipated, but it gets really hot and I would sweat off all 1 liter of my water bottle. Reluctantly paid a whopping us$5 for a tiny bottle of water!

The view overlooking Manchu Picchu was amazing and photographs hardly express my feelings of this amazing Inca complex.

View of Manchu Picchu complex from Wayna Picchu

It is said that Manchu Picchu is a spiritual university for the Incas where selected scholars and priests who come study the various science of that time, astrology being one of them.  Whatever it was, the whole place gave me a huge sense of how amazing and god smacking awesome to have built this great university complex right in the mountains.

I stayed until closing, meditated a little, giving thanks to the universe for allowing me to be in one of the greatest sites in the world. While most of the tourists have disappeared, the birds, viscachas (similar to chinchillas) and llamas begin appearing around me. Late afternoon is the best time to be there to catch those cute viscachas running around the manchu picchu ruins and watch those llama grazing, natural lawn mowers of the inca ruins.

Crazy eats of South America Part 1

In Mendoza, Argentina the famous Malbec wine region : The Malbec grape varietal thrives and where the best Argentina wine come from, also famous for its Dulce de Leche, a condensed caramelised milk product popular with Argentinians

Half spoonful of  Dulce de Leche, fill the other half with Malbec wine, gulp it down.
Chile has its terramoto cocktail drink, red wine, pisco (grape liquer), pineapple icecream. This is Mendoza’s version of very bad drink ideas that taste quite disgustingly weird.

Alfajores : Very typical biscuits of South America, you see versions of it everywhere, especially in Chile and Argentina. This Argentinian version consist of snow dusted sugar on 2 biscuits with Dulce de Leche filling (caramelised condensed milk) . Quite addictive and probably will kill your liver and kidney from all those sugar! You easily find them in shops, cafes and on the streets.

Cerviche in Easter island. Raw fish cooked in lemon juice along with raw local shrimp from the surrounding sea. Served with steamed banana bread (right) that is more banana than bread, local Tuna call Kana Kana (middle), fried plantains (left) with salad in the background.
One of the best cerviche tasted so far since coming to South America but deadly if you are not into raw fish and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Mendocino (Mendoza, Argentina) version of Paella :

Rice cooked purely in white wine and a bit of broth, but really mostly cook in wine.  Add  tomatos and fresh tomato, onions, salted anchovies, garlic. The octopus is cooked in red wine with carmelised onions. Local Mussles added at the end, Olives and Half boiled egg place on top along with Biondilo and Mendocino hard feta cheese. Cooking preparation & time s about 1 hour.

Eating out in Argentina is expensive and one can’t afford to eat out for all main meals daily especially when it cost 50-80pesos (us$13- us$20) for quite a sub standard dish. That’s just a dish not a meal. However Mendoza is a great place for beautiful vegetables, sea food, meats produce and cooking is fun if you have a great kitchen.

Empanadas are like the South America version of curry puff, pastry stuffed with meats, or cheese, or chicken. There is the fried and baked version. The pasteleria everywhere seems to make awful pre-prepared empanadas, but there are dedicated shops that make fresh versions when you order them. The fillings and the pastry matters a lot. The trouble is it is more of a hit and miss affair when choosing a good empanada shop. The standard varies and often the popular shops serve up quite crappy versions even if there are tons of folks buying it. The  freshly made fried empanadas taste better than the oven baked ones of course. This is what most Chileans and Argentinans have as cheap fast food. A typical cheap dinner will consist of at least 6 pieces.

Salted pig in Argentina, this is more traditional and often prepared only for the weekends. The whole pig with skin and hooves is cured in salt. It seems more of a spanish dish where you make a stew out of it.  The taste apparently is better than fresh pork. Preparation takes more than 1 day to soak the pig in water to rid of the salt then boiled and stewed with root vegetables or eaten just like so. I  have no clue what this taste like as I don’t eat red meats.