From Latin America

Anne and Hugh´s Travel Diary – Nazca

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on July 18, 2011

 

We arrived late in the afternoon at the village of San Pablo to visit the Museo Maria Reiche. This is the former home, research base and now resting place of the German born Dr. Maria Reiche, Phd, who devoted her whole life to studying the Nasca Lines and fighting to get them protected and preserved for all time.

It is a fascinating place with copies of her original notes and diagrams on display, along with photos and graphs explaining how the Nasca constructed an underground irrigation system that fed a series of deep well water channels in the area.

The Museum was added onto her original one room house, which still contains the original furniture she used. If you look inside, it has been set up to show her (a sculptured manikin of her), sitting at her typewriter desk working, with all her sketchs and survey drawings (copies of the originals now stored in the Peruvian National Archives) hanging from the wall.

On the east side is a new gallery with Nasca Pottery and aerial photographs of the Nasca Lines.  In the garden at east end is the tomb where she was laid to rest after she passed away.

Her work was instrumental in getting the Nasca Lines recognised as a World Heritage Site.

From here it was a short drive up out of the valley this small museum and town was in, out onto the broad flat Nasca Plains.  Here we stopped at a viewing tower set up to allow people to look down on the Nasca Hands and the Nasca Bush.

This is one of the driest places on the Earth.  It has not rained on these plains for centuries, which is why the Nasca Lines have lasted such a long time.  Recently there was an unseasonal heavy rain storm in the hills to the east.  The flash flood that resulted from this deluge did do some damage, which the aerial photos I took next morning will show.

We then proceeded south east to the City of Nasca, arriving just after sunset.  Our hotel here was a Casa Andrea, quite lovely and comfortable.

After checking in we went out to a local restaurant for supper before turning in for the night.

Good night to all from Nasca, Peru

Read more about the mysterious Nazca Lines here http://www.escapedtonazcalinestours.com/

Annual Construction of the Qeswachaka Inca Rope Bridge

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on July 7, 2011

Robert from the Cusco sales team recently went to see the unique annual Inca rope bridge construction near Cusco and shares his experiences and photos with you. Check out the link below:

http://www.escapedtoperu.com/english/qeswachaka-inca-rope-bridge.html

Colca Canyon – Condors and Natives

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on June 15, 2011

Blog post by Gary

My wife Malka and I have recently returned from a trip to the Colca Canyon area of Peru and I felt like sharing some of our experiences and knowledge of this lovely area with you all.

Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world and is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the US. The deepest canyon is said to be the Cotahuasi which is actually next door to Colca! The main attraction for our clients visiting this area is the ease with which they can see the largest land-living bird, the Andean Condor. Each morning during the dry season the Condor Cross viewpoint is visited by hundreds of tourists eager to see the spectacle of often half-a-dozen or more condors swooping on morning thermals. 

I personally have been very lucky in that many times I have seen more than 10 of these majestic birds flying around, but be aware that at other times you may only see a couple of them, you cant get nature to order of course but this place is the most accessible point in Peru to view the birds.

Malka and I were taking it easy while we were there and I had a break from the office but we did re-visit and stay at some of the hotels we use for our clients, not just as somewhere to stay but also to re-check the standards and services of each hotel. For value for money our favorite is the Colca Lodge. The awkward transfer to this hotel is more than made up for by the comfortable rooms, great spa and the best feature, their own hot springs right in the hotel grounds. It is a real pleasure to wander down to the pools in the cold evening air in your fluffy robe and slippers, immerse yourself in the soothing hot water with spectacular views of the valley and stars, and enjoy a cocktail before dinner. A great experience which we recommend to all our clients.

For those looking for luxury however the Casitas de Colca is a superb, high-end pampering experience. This Orient Express property is simply sublime with guest having their own houses to stay in, each one with a sumptuous level of comfort and facilities. If you want to splurge on luxury this is the place, have a look at my video of the room we were in with its own private outdoor hot pool.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcRX6S_VDvQ

The little villages in the Colca valley are fascinating too, many still cling to age-old traditions and the rivalry between the two sides of the valley and canyon are still evident in the hats that the women wear. The two cultures, the Collaguas and the Cabanas, have different styles of hats, one being more of a cap style and the other with a wider round brim. The women always wear them, and not just for the tourists. As you walk arounf the villages you will see what rural people have done for hundreds of years, in many areas of the Colca valley life continues in much the same way as it always has. 

This is a beauftiful place that the majority of visitors to Peru dont get chance to see, if you have the time in your itinerary i highly recommend it and as you can see, its not all about the condors!

Peru Vacations – Is It Worth Visiting Colca Canyon?

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on April 15, 2011

So, you’ve got to that part of your Peru vacation planning where you can’t decide which places to visit and what you may need to cut out in order to fit with your timeframe. It’s difficult as there are so many options in a country as diverse as Peru, that someone planning their trip can get overwhelmed.

One great option to include in your trip is a visit to the Colca Canyon in the south of Peru. This article will help you decide if you should include it in your Peru vacation or not.

What is the Colca Canyon?
The Colca Canyon was formed by the Colca river, and is located about 160km northwest of Arequipa. Most visitors use Arequipa as the base for trips to the canyon, which is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is considered the second deepest in the world.

Who goes to the Colca Canyon?
The Canyon has plenty of options for outdoor types and adventurers as well as those who simply enjoy spectacular scenery and traditional towns and villages. There are many popular treks around the Canyon, from two day circuits on well maintained paths to seven day routes that require an experienced guide. Rafting, mountain-biking, climbing and horse-riding are also popular. You can also take a dip in the ‘La Calera’ thermal baths whilst enjoying the superb scenery.

Wildlife enthusiasts have a near guarantee of seeing the largest land-based bird in the world, the giant Andean Condor. Visitors to the ‘Cruz Del Condor’ viewpoint in the early morning can see these huge birds swooping past the lookout point over the precarious drop into the base of the Canyon, 1.2 kilometers below.

How much time do I need to visit the Colca Canyon?
Including travel from Arequipa and then on to Lake Titicaca or back to Arequipa, three days are a good length of time. However, if you want to take more time to investigate Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, there is plenty to do to fill up any additional days! Alternatively if you are pushed for time the canyon can be visited as an overnight trip. A day trip from Arequipa is not recommended due to the travelling time involved.

What else can you combine with Colca on a Peru vacation?
Based in the south of Peru, the Colca Canyon is near to the impressive Lake Titicaca that sits on the border with Bolivia. Visitors can visit the various islands dotted around the lake and see the hand-woven floating reed houses that the local people still live on.

Also in the south and easy to combine in a circular route from Lima is Cusco and the Sacred Valley; the ancient centre of the Inca Empire. From there it is possible to travel to the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of Machu Picchu, perhaps hiking the last 46 kilometers along the popular Inca Trail or one of the alternative routes.

Also relatively easy to include in your circuit are the Nazca Lines, a mysterious collection of ancient geoglyphs carved into the Nazca desert. Shapes range from simple geometric forms and lines to animal shapes like monkeys, birds and lizards. No-one is really sure why the lines exist, or who put them there.

The Colca Canyon is most commonly combined into a tour taking in Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. To this route you can easily add the southern coast and Nazca Lines and/or the Amazon Rainforest depending on the time you have available.

Have you visited the Colca Canyon? What did you think?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Escaped to Peru sponsors Peru´s most successful cricket team

Posted in Traditions and Culture by escapedtoperu on April 14, 2011

 

The Cusco-based Tour Operator Escaped to Peru, part of Escaped to Latin America, is proud to be a sponsor of the Peruvian national cricket team as they enjoy their best ever result in international competition in Costa Rica.
The Peruvian national cricket team has enjoyed its best ever tournament in Costa Rica and the Tour Operator Escaped to Peru is proud to have been a sponsor and is a constant supporter of the development of this sport within Peru.

The recent ICC Americas Division III tournament was held in San Jose, Costa Rica between the 14th and 18th of March and featured 6 Latin American teams seeking promotion to the second division. Peru competed against teams from Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Falkland Islands and on pitches that were slow with huge boundaries all the teams battled with the local conditions and struggled to score runs. The Peruvian team played extremely well to beat every team except the eventual group winners, Belize.

Gary Sargent, the Managing Director of Escaped to Peru, is normally a member of the squad but missed this tournament due to work commitments. He explains "The current team is made up of mainly ex-pats like myself who have been nationalized". Gary goes on to say "We are actively promoting the development of cricket amongst Peruvian born young men and women and we are sure that within a few short years we will be able to field a complete team of native Peruvians". Until that happens the nationalized members in the side will continue to represent Peru in a sport that is not yet fully recognized by the Peruvian authorities despite being supported by the ICC, the world governing body.

Some of the private bi-lingual schools in Lima such as Markham and Hiram Bingham are running cricket coaching for their kids, both male and female, and recent junior tournaments bode well for the future. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about cricket in Peru can contact Gary via his office.

I confirm the subscription of this blog to the Paperblog service under the username escapedtolatinamerica

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on April 11, 2011

Machu Picchu – How To Guarantee A Better Vacation Than Anyone Else

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on March 3, 2011

One of the most iconic sites in Latin America is Machu Picchu. Whenever someone thinks of taking Peru vacations, the classic photo of the Inca citadel sitting high in cloud forest comes to mind.

However, it’s no secret that Machu Picchu has large numbers of visitors all year round. If you’d like to visit the site and get a unique experience that is probably better than most other visitors, here are some tips.

1) Get there early
The idea of dragging yourself out of bed at 4.30 am may not be very appealing, but it will be worth it when you find yourself at the front of the queue for entrance to the site. You’ll also get the opportunity to be one of the 400 visitors with permission to climb the spectacular slopes of nearby Huayna Picchu, as this is only available to early arrivals.

2) Start from the wrong end
Most visitors to Machu Picchu take a conventional path around the site, working their way up the nearest terraces to the guard house to take their own version of the iconic photo of the site with Huayna Picchu in the background. You’ll get a dose of near-solitude if you head straight to the other end of the site near the base of Huayna Picchu and work backwards.

3) Arrive by foot
It may be hard work, but you’ll feel rewarded when you finally get to the site instead of rumbling along in a bus with everyone else. Two main options exist:

Option 1: The Inca Trail
A 3 or 4 day hike along the best-preserved section of ancient Inca highway, the route takes you through an incredible variety of landscapes before finishing at the Sun Gate that overlooks the site. It’s a very popular route, so make sure you book up to 3 months in advance…

Option 2: Walking from Aguas Calientes
If you are staying in the nearby village of Aguas Calientes, it is possible to walk up to the site first following the river then using a steep flight of stairs through tropical foliage. Visitors are recommended to make an early start and to carry a flashlight.

4) See the site from all angles
Check out the site from more than the classic Gate House angle. Try climbing Machu Picchu mountain itself – this is a fairly strenuous climb but offers fantastic views from the top of both the site and the surrounding mountains.

Other options for a different angle on Machu Picchu include looking down from Huayna Picchu and making the 45 minute walk back up the Inca Trail from the main site to the Sun Gate. You’ll be surprised how few people make the effort…

5) Get a good guide
There are a lot of conflicting theories about Machu Picchu’s history, and it is easy to get spun a tall tale by a guide. By travelling with a reputable tour operator you can get escorted around the site by an expert who puts a lot of time and effort into staying on the cutting edge of discoveries about Machu Picchu. This will definitely give you a unique perspective on the site. Be sure to choose a fluent English speaker!

6) Stay the night in Aguas Calientes
Try to avoid the typical scenario of cramming a trip to Machu Picchu into a single day. If you are prepared to stay the night in nearby Aguas Calientes you’ll have the benefit of a peaceful afternoon on the site after all the day trippers have left to rush back to Cusco. You’ll be amazed how much quieter the site is towards the end of the day. This also allows you to get to the site when it first opens on the following day.

Have you got any other tips to have a unique trip to Machu Picchu? What was your visit like?

 

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Galapagos Tours – 5 Mistakes To Avoid

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on March 1, 2011

If you’re thinking about visiting the Galapagos Islands, you’re in for a treat. Made famous by Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle in the 19th century, the Islands lie 972 km west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Undiscovered by mankind until relatively recently, you’ll see a fantastic range of flora and fauna in ecosystems that exist nowhere else on the planet.

However there are a couple of pitfalls to travelling to the Galapagos Islands and also while you are on your stay. Here are five things you are best avoiding.

1) Missing your plane from Ecuador
The vast majority of tourists arrive at Galapagos by plane. It is only possible to reach the islands by a flight from mainland Ecuador starting in either Quito or Guayaquil. International flights do not go directly to the Islands. If you are flying, make sure your seat doesn’t get given away to someone else by:

  • Checking in more than an hour before take-off
  • Planning your international arrival to Ecuador at least a day before your departure flights to the Galapagos to give yourself time between connections (If you miss the start of your cruise there is no way to catch up!)

2) Taking a tour with an unqualified guide
Conservation on the islands is of critical importance, and the best people to maintain standards are the tour guides. They should help keep you on the marked pathways and assist in communicating and enforcing conservation rules.

Visitors to the Galapagos Islands should be guided at all times by a qualified individual.  There shouldn’t be any more that 16 people in your group, to allow for proper control and guidance of tourists.  They should also provide information about general water safety and monitor all swimming and snorkeling.

3) Touching animals
It’s tempting, but visitors should not interact with animals on the Galapagos Islands. The majority of animals on the Galapagos have no reason to fear humans, and consequently will allow visitors to get very close without bolting.  

However, you should go no closer than within two meters of animals, as in some cases they will follow you, leaving their nests uncovered, exposing eggs or chicks to the sun.  Additionally, no animals should be fed or baited on water or land.

4) Introducing new species to the islands
Introducing any exotic organisms to Galapagos could have a devastating effect on the ecosystems that exist in a state of delicate balance.  Any food, animal and vegetable products as well as seeds, plants or fresh flowers should be declared before leaving the airport at Quito or Guayaquil so that a trained inspector can deem if they are safe or not. Live animals in any form are also not permitted.  

The same principles apply for inter-island trips; each island is its own unique ecosystem, so introductions between islands can be just as destructive to the natural process of things as items from the mainland.

5) Lighting fires
In 1985, Isabel Island suffered severe damage from negligence with smoking and fire lighting. Amazingly, the same thing happened again almost a decade later in 1994.  Even though a beach fire seems like the perfect end to a day on an exotic island adventure, visitors should resist the urge to build a camp fire.

Are there any other things that visitors to the Galapagos Islands should avoid? What are your Galapagos vacation experiences?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Peru Vacations – 11 Tips To Remove Luggage Stress

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on March 1, 2011

 

One of those necessary annoyances of travelling to Peru or elsewhere in Latin America is planning the luggage that you will carry. You don’t want to end up lugging around giant suitcases of empty space, but you don’t want to be breaking zippers either.

Here’s some helpful advice on sorting out your luggage for a Peru vacation.

  1. Pack light with spare capacity. You will probably fill up your luggage space as you travel with purchases and gifts for friends and family back home.
  2. Treatment of luggage in Peru is no better or worse than anywhere else – take a sturdy suitcase, soft-sided resilient backpack or hold-all (depending upon the nature of your trip).
  3. You will also need a day pack which should be taken as hand luggage providing it falls within the permitted dimensions.
  4. An easy way to free up space – you will NOT need a clean set of clothes for every day of the trip as all good hotels have laundry facilities and laundries can also be easily found in any tourist destination.
  5. It is useful to have luggage that can be locked to stop people quickly rummaging through your belongings. (Do note that traveling through the US customs may break your lock to check the contents of your bags).
  6. Check luggage requirements for all the airlines that you may be using on your vacation – these are constantly changing, so have a look at their website to avoid being caught out.
  7. For hand luggage, the maximum weight varies between 6 and 10kg. The rules may differ on your return journey. Items such as laptops are often counted as separate from your hand luggage allowance, so take advantage of this in your packing!
  8. If any of your flights involve a change of plane, there is always the possibility that you and your checked luggage will arrive separately. Make sure you plan a day on arrival at a fixed address that can receive your forwarded luggage when it arrives.
  9. Try to use distinctive baggage that will be easier to describe if it goes astray, and label your bags clearly with your name and hotel destination.
  10. If you are moving fairly quickly on to your next port of call add this information to the luggage label. Place a duplicate label inside each piece of luggage.
  11. Due to the climatic diversity of Peru you may need a variety of clothes to suit the coastal desert, the high Andes and the Amazon Rainforest depending on your itinerary. Layers are more practical than thick jumpers and mean that the same clothes can be used in all three climatic zones. Check the high and low temperatures before you travel and the likelihood of rain.

Some additional guidelines for baggage allowances
Note: these can be subject to change, so make sure you check your airline’s website!

  • Baggage allowances vary from one carrier to another.
  • Infants have no baggage allowance, but parents are allowed to carry a reasonable selection of items for the baby, free of charge.
  • Children (aged 2-11 years inclusive) normally have full adult baggage allowance.
  • Club and First Class passengers have a higher baggage allowance than Economy Class, usually around 30kg in total.
  • As a very general rule, most international carriers as well as domestic carriers in Latin America allow a maximum of 20kg in Economy Class, for both internal and international flights.
  • If you are taking a small domestic flight, airlines operating planes with fewer than twenty seats often have a limit as low as 5kg.

Do you have any other useful tips for packing for Peru vacations? Did you ever have a bad luggage experience?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

Machu Picchu – 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Too

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on February 26, 2011

Have you heard of Machu Picchu? If not, you’ve probably never heard of Peru, or South America! Machu Picchu is a famous Inca Citadel located in the Andes mountains of Peru.

It is a destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists a year on Peru vacations. Here are five reasons why you should follow in their footsteps and go and see Machu Picchu for yourself.

One of the 7 wonders of the world
In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the new ‘Seven Wonders Of The World’ in a worldwide internet poll involving millions of people. Other sites included the Taj Mahal in India, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Colosseum in Italy and the Great Wall of China in…China.

If there was ever a place to see before you die, Machu Picchu is globally recognized as one of your best options.

An incredible setting
2,430 meters above sea level on a mountain ridge in cloud forest, Machu Picchu was hard to find and was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors. Despite improved access for the high numbers of tourists, visitors can still get a sense of the remoteness of the site.

Visitors to the site can stare down over dizzying drops to the Urubamba river that churns through a deep valley surrounding the site. Peaks rise up on all sides, covered in thick vegetation. There is no substitute for visiting Machu Picchu and getting a true sense of what it must have been like for the Inca inhabitants hundreds of years ago.

Adventurous access – the Inca Trail
Machu Picchu isn’t just a site, it is a destination. For travelers with a sense of adventure and a desire to test their legs, Machu Picchu can be accessed by a 3 or 4 day trek along a section of the ancient Inca highway known as the Inca Trail.

The route passes through cloud forest and Andean tundra, climbing over 4000 meters on mountain passes in full view of snow-capped peaks. It is impressive, which is why it books out quickly – if you’re interested, get in touch with a tour operator at least 3 months in advance to reserve your space.

See it while it is still around
On the World Monuments Fund 2008 list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites, Machu Picchu showed up. With the number of annual visitors in the order of hundreds of thousands, the site is degrading under the physical effects of so many tourists.

Geological surveys on the site have revealed that certain areas are in danger of collapsing – if you want to visit one of the most iconic sites on the planet, you may not have much time left.

See the classic photo for yourself
Almost everyone has seen the famous photo of Machu Picchu – the Inca ruins perched on top of a mountain ridge with the impressive steep slopes of Huayna Picchu mountain in the background.

However, no photo can give you the full impression of the site. The only way you’ll ever appreciate the majesty of Machu Picchu is to visit it for yourself!

Have you been to Machu Picchu? What did you think?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America