This video is a ten minute edit of some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen – starting with the Salar de Uyuni (the world’s largest and highest salt flats) in Southern Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni is roughly 25 times the size of the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States. All the video scenes were shot on a 3 day/two night tour from Uyuni and at altitudes of between 3,650 metres and 4,500 metres.
This podcast is part one of a series of two podcasts I’ll be making in Southern Peru, and it begins in Lima in the Plaza de Armas. I then head down underground into the catacombs of Monasterio de San Francisco – the old cemetery of Lima – and resting place of an awful lot of bones. I then head to the coast at Miraflores, and to the super cool Larco Mar bar complex.
The following day is museum day, with trips to Museo Larco Rafael Herrera – home to 50,000 pre-Colombian pots, and a fabulous and famous collection of erotic ceramics, and later on to the ‘main’ museum in Lima – Museo de la Nacion.
Following Lima, I get a bus 9 hours south to Nazca and take a rollercoaster flight over the Nazca lines, then head on another 10 hours South to the beautiful Colonial town (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) of Arequipa 2300m up in the Andes where I visit some frozen 500 year old Incan ice mummies in Museo Santuarios Andinos, and finish the podcast in the incredible 16th century ‘citadel’ Monasterio de Santa Catalina.
This podcast will be followed by another podcast from Southern Peru in the next couple of weeks covering the Colca Canyon, Puno, Lake Titicaca, and Cusco, followed by a long stay helping to develop an Eco-yoga community in the Sacred Valley outside Cusco, where I hope to finally get a chance to learn and practice yoga, and also learn about eco-building and organic cultivation.
Arequipa, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, provided our ‘aclimatisation stop’ on the way from Nazca to Chivay and then Puno. Nazca is at sea level, and both Puno and Chivay are over 3,500 metres – a trip straight up to that altitude is asking for altitude sickness.
Arequipa is unofficially Peru’s second city, and lies at 2,380 metres, in a valley surrounded by three volcanoes, and has a near perfect climate – it hardly ever rains and has perpetual blue skies. El Misti volcano, pictured just to the left of the cross in the photo above is 5,822m high, and is topped by snow year round. It occasionally erupts and will probably do so catastrophically sometime soon – or so the locals think! Worryingly, this doesn’t seem to stop them building settlements higher and higher up the lava flows. The other two volcanoes are Chachani (6,057m) and Pichu-Pichu (5,669m).
The city was ‘re-founded’ by the Spanish in 1540, but the area was previously occupied by Aymara Indians and later, the Incas.
Perhaps Arequipa’s most striking feature – apart from its blue skies and snow-capped volcanoes, is the pearly white volcanic material from which the majority of its buildings are constructed. Known as ‘Sillar’, it causes the whiteness of the buildings to contrast beautifully with the deep blue skies, sparkling in the crisp sunlight.
There are a couple of worthwhile things to do in Arequipa, apart from visit all the colonial plazas and churches (had enough yet?), my favourite being the Museo Santuarios Andinos, or the ‘Ice Mummies’ museum.
A few years ago on nearby Mount Ampato some archaeologists discovered a series of Inca ritual sacrifice victims. These sacrifices were of young children, mainly girls, and are thought to have been offerings to appease the volcano gods. The amazingly well preserved bodies, including that of the famous ‘Juanita’ are kept in the museum, with all the artifacts found buried with them. It provides ample food for the imagination and a fascinating insight into Inca life 500 years ago.
Secondly, if you can spare the rather steep entry price, visit the more than 400 year old Santa Catalina convent which is effectively a beautiful, isolated 2 hectare citadel within the city. It was where about 450 young nuns from privileged families lived in total seclusion. Although rumours abound of their antics for the first couple of hundred years (wild parties, orgies etc), all the partying was quickly stopped dead by the arrival of a famously strict and draconian head nun. Try and visit at sunset on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as we did, when you can wonder around the convent by candle light.
Isla de Ometepe and San Juan del Sur are two of the emerging tourist destinations in Nicaragua. We begin this podcast with sounds from the trip between Granada and Isla de Ometepe by boat, and finish up on the beach in San Juan del Sur via Maderas volcano & the jungle.
This podcast also contains sound clips from “Crazy Dave” himself, owner of Hideout Surf Camp on Maderas beach. If you’re looking for accommodation on Maderas beach and are thinking of staying there, we suggest you listen to this first :-).
Happy New Year! It’s been a few weeks since I managed to get to a reliable enough internet connection to update our blog, but fear not, I’m now back in civilization and catching up!
Isla de Ometepe is Nicaragua’s fantasy island, formed by twin volcanoes rising out of Lago de Nicaragua (Lake Nicaragua). Lago de Nicaragua is a HUGE lake – 177km long by 58km wide – and looking out across it is more reminiscent of gazing out to sea than an inland lake.
I made my way here on an extremely rough four hour boat trip from Granada, during which time I miraculously managed to avoid chucking my guts up. For anyone else trying to get to Isla de Ometepe, I’d definitely recommend the easy route via San Jorge.
Having braved the extremely broken-up roads around the island, I ended up with a cheap $5 room at Santa Cruz, just past Playa Santa Domingo and at the foot of the Maderas volcano. I soon realized that on Isla de Ometepe I was in a wonderfully unspoiled & friendly place – perfect for walking, relaxation and simply contemplating. Some of the activities possible here include hiking the volcanoes, horse-riding & swimming. We ended up doing very little here except for wandering around the island, and climbing half way up Volcan Maderas – one of the most memorable walks I have done in a long time. During a five hour walk I met one farmer, some monkeys and no tourists.
It was hard to drag myself away from Isla de Ometepe, but the nearby beaches & surf of San Juan del Sur beckoned.