From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego

Hiking Salkantay gallery


I met many horses one the way which are carrying goods over the pass for other hikers or the people who live on the valleys. I also saw some horse bones on the way and horses which looked as if they soon might collapse. Made me feel good about not loading my bagpack on one of them as painful as it was to carry it.

One evening when I put up my tent this calf came looking what I was doing and when I stretched out my hand extended his neck and licked my finger, only to jump away frightened by its own courage.

His mom kept me company during breakfast the next day

Posted on 26 May 2013, 2:19 - Categories: Peru

Pyramids gallery


Posted on 25 May 2013, 24:39 - Categories: Peru

cusco gallery


Posted on 25 May 2013, 24:26 - Categories: Peru

Monkey business

Today I received a reply to an email I wrote to Faunaforever, an environmentalist NGO based in Puerto Maldonado (Tambopata) about my experiences with monkeys in the jungle lodge I stayed in.

Here is what they wrote:

Dear Christina

Many thanks for your enquiry and your concern about the trade of wildlife in Puerto Maldonado. The story is not as clear as it could be and there is a lot of grey area.
Are you able to tell us the lodge where you experienced this? The reason I ask is that we know of some lodges who have bought their wildlife (although probably won't admit it) and some who have rescued wildlife.
Some lodges have become safe havens for animals which were once someone's unwanted pet and some animals even come from the local wildlife rescue center which cannot find space to house more animals and they look to lodges for help.
The chances are though that if there is a tame animal at a lodge, it has been purchased by passing pet traders who came down river from the rainforest. It's very sad.
Unfortunately, Peru's law on having pets from the rainforest is slack at the best of times. However, being a lodge there is probably more chance that the officials will move on it if we tip them off.
Do let us know.
Thanks again!

So, monkeys in a lodge might not mean that the lodge participates in wildlife trade. I think as a tourist it is good to ask questions when you see wildlife being kept as pets, though. If they are rescued animals the owners will understand your concern. If they are bought voicing concern is even more important. If tourists don't like it, lodges won't do it. I feel a bit bad about passing on the name of the lodge, ratting people out and all of that. But it is for the Greater Good I guess.

For the monkeys!

He also wrote this:

Ps. Good blog!

I agree!

Posted on 26 Apr 2013, 10:04 - Categories: Peru


Lets go back to Peru for a bit. More precise, lets go into the Amazon jungle in Peru.

This entry did take a while as I had written an email with questions to the lodge I had stayed in, as otherwise I felt it would only consist of assumptions and accusations. As I neither received a reply to the mail written in English, nor in Spanish in the end Internet research had to do.

The lodge I stayed in was one of the usual jungle lodges near the lake Sandoval in Tamapota. The area is awesome

and the jungle holds an abundance of beautiful to creepy animals, one morning we visited the nesting area of wild macaw and on the night walk in the evening saw giant tarantulas.
The people in the lodge were really friendly and welcoming, which was one reason I felt obliged to hear what they have to say about this issue, before writing the blog entry.

This is about the animals in the lodge. There were 5 (not counting the cat and the pig). A baby wild pig, a macaw, a Titi monkey, a baby Howler monkey and a baby Spider monkey. The lodge is not a research station, the animals, as we were told when we asked, were bought, not rescued.
Officially the trade of wild animals is forbidden in Peru. Especially the trade of endangered animals, which macaws and spider monkeys are. Yet it is common.
Macaws are caught and their flight feathers cut, baby monkeys are often caught by killing the mother. The survival rate of a baby monkeys which have been taken away from its mother is said to be less than 10%.
I have to say that both the baby howler and spider monkeys, who were about 6 month old, looked healthy and well cared for, but then, I'm no vet.
Once male monkeys in captivity reach sexual maturity they often become aggressive or start masturbating excessively, because of sexual frustration.
Funny how similar monkeys and human males can be :)

The neighbour lodge had a grown male howler monkey, but he seemed to be pretty chilled

and mostly just hung around in trees. Howler monkeys have an impressively strong tail, hanging from a tree, 15m from the ground only by their tail is a relaxed position for them.

The Titi monkey in the lodge was grown up as well and there was nothing aggressive about him. He was rather like my cat had been, crawling on my lap and demanding a cuddle, jumping on the table when I was writing something or playing cards and placing himself right on top of whatever I was busy with (just that he would pick up and examine the playing cards as well). He even climbed on my shoulder and sat still there and I felt a bit like Pippi Langstrumpf walking around with him.

The macaw in the lodge was mean though, his flight feathers had been cut, but he used his beak to climb up trees. When he was hungry he came down on the porch and liked to try and peck our toes or the monkeys, understandably especially when they came close to his food.
As you can see from the above, I'm a bit of a hypocrite, as I fully enjoyed the experience of playing with monkeys and took lots of pictures of them.

But in my defense, had I known beforehand I would have chosen a lodge without wild animals as pets over this one and I advice other travellers to do so.

After all the only reason the lodges buy the animals in the first place is because they think this is what the tourists want. And unfortunately they do as the references for another lodge on tripadvisor show.

Not that this surprised me. I found that a lot of tourists (especially the ones carrying backpacks and Lonely Planet guide books) do not give a shit about their impact on local culture, environment or social conditions, as long as it is cheap and there is a party.
May their porters sleep out in the rain with nothing but a tarp on the Inka Trail, being paid next to nothing, may the druglords make lots of money with cocaine sold in Cartagena and may the lodge have cute monkeys for us to play with.

Posted on 20 Apr 2013, 9:04 - Categories: Peru

Tourist hell and travelers heaven

The Uros islands are a place to feel awkward.
The construction is quite cool, made entirely out of reed small platforms are bound together to create enough space for a small village. Appearantly due to the constant increase in tourism more and more of these islands are built as people now have an additional income to fishing and can make money by simply living there (there is a tourist tax of S/. 5 (1.2) to go on the islands).
I wonder how it must feel to live your daily life as an exhibit in an open air museum? With the huge amount of tourists trampeling through their frontyard for an hour or so and then leaving everyday there is no time or interest for real conversations. For me being there felt slightly claustophobic, stuck in the role of the voyeur, nowhere to go and there is simply no space in my bagpack for useless trinkets...

People on Amantani seem to have figured it out though. There is a rotational system in place, which means every family gets a visitor once or twice a month.
There is time to have a meal together and get to know each other. I spent my evening teaching the 11 year old son playing nine men's morris and backgammon. Fortunatly he is a very smart kid, so he understood the games despite my bad explanations in horrible Spanish.
We also had time to hang out on the island, see some of the old ruins and have a hot chocolate at the only bar in town. Maybe because of the redish earth and stone walls, but the place reminded me of Taiz, peaceful and laid back as it is.

Because of the rotational system there is no competition between the families, the community had opted for equity instead. It seems to be working out well, everywhere there are signs for prosperity, most houses have been extended or rebuilt in the last three years and electricity has been installed. No beggars can be seen. Appearantly this economic system is still in place from pre-Hispanics time, called "ayllu".
Somewhere a Neo-Liberal is crying .

Posted on 19 Dec 2012, 10:25 - Categories: Peru

Machu Picchu...

... is awesome! 'Nuff said.

Posted on 11 Dec 2012, 6:56 - Categories: Peru

The zen of hiking a mountain in high altitude

I had not booked the Inka Trail and after some research (thanks to the South American Explorer Club) I found out that armed with a map and my hiking gear it would be possible to hike the Salkantay trail, over the pass of the holy mountain of Salkantay, on my own.

The trail starts at around 3000m altitude, going up to 5000 when passing the mountain. I hiked for four days, carrying my own gear, a method I can only recommend to the most stubbornly independent or simply masochistic hikers.

The air is so thin up here that even lying in my sleeping bed I feel out of breath. In the mornings I experience dizzy spells and even packing up my tent makes me pant.
I have never had a great lung capacity, when we tested it in Cardio-Vascular classes in University my teacher actually asked me if I suffered from Asthma. Hiking up mountains and carrying out a conversation at the same time has never been possible for me. But up here, even walking a straight path feel like hiking up hill.

Especially the second day was frustrating, seeing the path in front of me, which I normally would have walked at my normal walking speed, but now stopping every 20 steps to catch my breath, thus it seemingly taking forever.

One has to develop rather a Zen mindset as described by Michael Ende much better than I could:

Manchmal hat man eine sehr lange Straße vor sich.

Man denkt, die ist so schrecklich lang;
das kann man niemals schaffen, denkt man.
Und dann fängt man an, sich zu eilen. Und man eilt sich immer mehr.

Jedes Mal, wenn man aufblickt,
sieht man, dass es gar nicht weniger wird,
was noch vor einem liegt.
Und man strengt sich noch mehr an,
man kriegt es mit der Angst,
und zum Schluss ist man ganz außer Puste
und kann nicht mehr.

Und die Straße liegt immer noch vor einem.
So darf man es nicht machen.
Man darf nie an die ganze Straße auf einmal denken, verstehst du?

Man muss nur an den nächsten Schritt denken,
an den nächsten Atemzug, an den nächsten Besenstrich.
Und immer wieder nur an den nächsten.
Dann macht es Freude; das ist wichtig,
dann macht man seine Sache gut.
Und so soll es sein.

"Momo" by Michael Ende

So I walked, step for step and breath for breath past the holy mountain of the Inkas. I met people who live along the trail, it is not primarily there for the benefit of the tourists, but serves as a lifeline and a connection between the mountain communities. I slept in their backyards with the cows and beneath the mountain.

It was the hardest hike I have ever done, but an adventure! and I'm proud of myself for surviving it...

Posted on 26 May 2013, 3:08 - Categories: Peru
Comments: »
Awesome   Posted on 10 Dec 2012, 21:42 by Tomage le Fromage
Awesome indeed! Must have been quite the adventure :) Keep up the good work ;)

Cusco -

- Suedamerika wie aus dem Bilderbuch

Posted on 25 May 2013, 24:35 - Categories: Peru

Cultural heritage dissapearing in the desert sand

After Lima I went south to Nazca with a rest at an oasis near Ica, there is nothing to do there, but it has a lake surounded by palm trees and sand dunes, I felt like being in One Thousand and One Nights.

After my experience with paragliding in Colombia I decided to skip the flight over the Nazca Lines and got out of the bus at the viewtower at the Panamericana. Yes they built the road through the lines.
As it is with structures one has heard and seen a lot about, once you are finally there it is mostly a "yes, that is it" you snap a few pictures and leave. Of course they are impressive and one can imagine the reaction from the conquestores after they crossed what they thought was an empty desert, climbed up the hill and looked back. I found the fact that the old Nazca civilisation built aqueducts, which are still in use today more impressive, to be honest.
There are lots of theories of why the old Nazca civilisation went through all the trouble to create the lines, mine is that at some point they looked at the desert and said: "Lets create something awesome!" After all, this was before TV

The Nazca Lines are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage, and because of this there is the political will as well as funds for the conservation of them and some oversight exists against skimming or the funds being misappropriated. Although not completely:

Other structures from the Nazca civilisation are not that lucky. The Chuachilla cemetery is a sad example, graverobbers left bones and artifacts scattered around in the sand. The mummies of the often inexpertly opened graves were sometimes damaged in the process and are now only protected by a sunscreen from decomposition. Funds provided to remedy the situation are lost in the jungle of local corruption and archeological excavation of the site has completely stopped as any excavated grave is immediatly visited by graverobbers and the findings vanish into private collections.

Our guide was visibly upset about the situation, unsurprisingly, as it is his cultural heritage that is dissapearing. Additionally there does not seem to be any kind of interest group, NGO or other form of representation. Nor is one likely to form in the future as, according to him, a group of guides, which had written an open letter to the local government concerning the situation had consequently lost their jobs.

After the cemetery, we went to a cool museum, where one could see 1000 year old pottery and see how it used to be made. And there was a little kitten.

Guide: This bowl is 1000 years old
Girls in group: Oh, a kitty!

Posted on 4 Dec 2012, 3:34 - Categories: Peru

abandoned on the church steps (Lima, Parque Kennedy)

the story

Posted on 20 May 2013, 3:07 - Categories: Peru

Busrides and bad movies

Another long busride was looming before me, this time to the town of Trujillo in Peru. I settled in for 20 hours of uneasy sleep and bad movies.
If I have to rate the experience of bustravel in each country according to movies shown, Ecuador would lose and Mexico would win.
Not that the movies shown in Mexico were brilliant masterpieces, they were the typical mindless Hollywood comedies or action movies, in other countries these were mixed up with some B-movies no one had ever heard of for good reason.
Ecuador bus companies seem to have collected the worst of the worst and the gem of the collection is Magma a film designed to make vulcanologists cry. They also managed to traumatise me (and probably everyone else on the bus, especially the children) by showing a (good) movie about the Rwandan genocide, but they followed it up with Piraña, which was much more fun, especially the ending and probably more appropriate for the children present, at least I did not feel like in need of a hug afterwards, though I might not be too keen on going swimming in lakes....

To Puno I will go by train.

I arrived in Tujillo, a surprisingly beautiful town

in the middle of the desert. A town of wide blue skies and pretty courtyards.

I recovered from my busride and went to the desert the next day to see some pyramids. Yep, desert, pyramids, this would not be the last time I'd feel as if I were in North Africa. Pictures

Although Ecuador wins the price of most horrible movies shown in buses, Peru wins the price of ugliest dog:

Posted on 25 May 2013, 24:46 - Categories: Peru


There is a salsa here in Peru, which is kind of like mustard, but hotter, which one always gets to fried meat or fish, anyone know what it is and how to prepare it?

Ich bekomme hier in Peru immer eine Sosse zu gebratenem Fish oder Fleisch, die echt lecker ist, ein bisschen wie Senf, aber schaerfer, weiss jemand was das ist (und wie man die selber macht?)

Posted on 14 Nov 2012, 6:10 - Categories: Peru

Inca trail

I had to write this again, as I deleted in accidentaly. It seems like one has to book beforehand to on the trail as permits are restricted, which means I will probably book it before I leave in June. In other words anyone aho wants to come along has to tell me soonish. There are two options: hiking the classical trail (4 days, 600$) and hiking from (7 days, 800$). The second option is much more difficult and not for untrained hikers. I have not decided, which option to take and anyone who wants to come along obviosly has a say.

Posted on 15 May 2012, 6:13 - Categories: Peru
Comments: »
Inca Trail Advice   Posted on 16 May 2012, 8:01 by me
Ewelina could not comment for some reason, here is her advice: We paid 230 usd each for the classic trail. We booked it when we reached Cuzco. There was no problem with availability. I wondered whether they were trying to scare tourists and force them to pay higher prices at the same time. It was interesting actually, the further away we were from Cuzco, the more expensive the trip was (we started looking at the prices once we got to Peru). Oh, you're going to have an amazing time :)