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Pacific Coast North of Lima

Friday, 01 November 2013 14:34

Southern Peru has Machu Picchu, Cusco and many other historical sites of the Incas but on the Pacific coast north of Lima are innumerable testimonies of ancient Peru, many still not detected or buried in the sand of the extreme dry Atacama desert which is a perfect conservation medium. The UNESCO world heritage site Caral is supposed to be one of oldest city on earth, founded 4500 to 5000 years ago. Other top highlights are the ruins of the pre Inca cultures Chavin, Moche, Sican and Chimu like Chan Chan the mightiest town of our world built with adobe, which we had visited in the year 1980.

Today there are huge cities like Trujillo or Chiclayo in the desert, where the sweet water from the glaciers of the Andes flows into the Pacific Ocean. Close are beautiful beaches, which are popular holiday destinations in the austral summer. The coast turns 90 degree on the most western point of the continent and the the impact of the cold Humboldt ocean current weakens. The landscape becomes more green and tropical the closer you come to Ecuador. The water temperature is pleasant and on the border are the only mangrove forests of Peru located. This region is very fruitful with many rice, bananas and sugarcane fields.

Peruvian family enjoying the beach of Zorritos

Approximately hundred kilometers Northwest of Lima is the incredible lush national park Reservas Nacional Lomas de Lachay, a true oasis in the dryest desert of our planet. The mist of the ocean is sticking so long on its crests that a rich fauna including raptors and flora with trees are able to exist. Lachay has a remote campground and superb hiking trails over and around its ridges. We were lucky because we spent a sunny day in Lachay, which is very rare.

 

Cordillera Huayhuash

Friday, 25 October 2013 12:42

The spectacular Cordillera Huayhuash lies few kilometers North of the famous Cordillera Blanca and its main city Huaraz. It is a relative small range with stunning pinnacles sugared with enormous mass of ice and snow. Nevado Yerupaja is with 6617 meters sea-level its tallest peak and the second highest mountain of both: Peru and the tropics. Like all other major peaks of the Cordillera Huayhuash access to its summit is extremely difficult and dangerous. Even today some peaks are without any successful ascents for years.

North-east face of Nevado Yerupaja at sunrise

 

Thanks to the book and movie Touching the Void Cordillera Huayhuash became very popular in the last years: It shows the unbelievable story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates when they climbed up the south-west face of 6344 meters high Siula Grande in the year 1985. On the way down Joe Simpson broke his leg. His companion roped him down the steep, dangerous and difficult north-west ridge. Suddenly Joe Simpson hung under an overhang and he couldn't move. There was no more rope. Simon was standing in deep powder on the very steep ridge. The weight of Joe Simpson moved him slowly but constantly to the abyss. His only choice to survive was to cut the rope. Joe fell into an huge crevasse. Simon searched him desperately but couldn't find him. He returned to the camp and was sure that Joe didn't survive the crash but Joe found a way out of the crevasse through the glacier with his broken leg. After three days he came back totally exhausted to the camp in the night just before his companion wanted to leave.

Cordillera Huayhuash can be circled in a 10 days hike with many high cols (two more than 5000 meters sea-level), pristine lagoons and beautiful campsites. Only one little village is on its way - a lot of food and other stuff must be carried. Thus we searched for mules in Chiquian, the last bigger settlement on the western side of Cordillera Huayhuash and reachable via a decent paved road.

   

Ayacucho, Huancavelica and Lima

Monday, 07 October 2013 21:43

Ayacucho is supposed to be the second most attractive and fascinating town in the Peruvian Andes (after Cusco). Ayacucho, also called Huamanga by its 180,000 inhabitants, has a huge colonial inheritance with many beautiful churches and buildings. Andean life is very traditional and authentic because the tourism industry has neglected it more or less so far. The region of Ayacucho was the center of the Wari culture (700 - 1100 AD), which dominated the southern part of Peru between the city Chiclayo and lake Titicaca.

The name Ayacucho means corner of the death. It is located in a poor, rural and remote region. In the early 1980th the Maoist guerrilla organization Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) was founded here and a brutal civil war with Peru's military government broke out. More than 70,000 people were killed until 1992, mainly innocents in the villages of this region. The shadows of this terrible time are still visible and perceptible, for instance most of the elderly people are very shy or there are doors secured with eight heavy locks.

Wall of the sad Memorial Museum for the murdered people


We came to Ayacucho from Cusco on Saturday late afternoon, August 10th 2013. This street had been partially horrible because it was under construction. Two times we were nearly in detonations with huge falling rocks. Sometimes we had to pass awful deviations on narrow and steep rugged or muddy dirt roads. Like in most cities of South America there were high bumps every few meters on the street to prevent drivers from speeding. On a very high one our car gave a loud strange bang and the left top side moved down a little bit weirdly.

   

Amazonia

Wednesday, 11 September 2013 23:05

The grandiose river Amazon is with its uncountable tributaries with a length of more than 6000 kilometers the biggest river system and tropical rain forest on earth. The complete basin of Amazonia covers more than a third of South America. Besides exploitation, deforestation and environmental pollution wild life is abundant and biodiversity unique. Thus it is called the green lung of our planet. Amazonia is a remote, lush, green, hot, humid and wet area covered with rain jungle but with just few streets and settlements. Transportation on its rivers and by air is very often the only choice, for instance to Iquitos which is with more than 400,000 inhabitants the largest city in the Peruvian Amazonia. Indigenous life still exists with many legends, myths and priceless knowledge about the secrets of the rain forest.

Condor of Amazonia in the zoo of Pucallpa

Its main sources Rio Marañon and Rio Ucayali rise in the Peruvian Andes on its eastern slopes. Peru has a proportion of 12 percent of Amazonia. It covers more than 60 percent of Peru's size but less 10 percent of its people are living there. The Peruvian people call their Amazonia La Selva - virgin forest. After our car had gotten broken in Ayacucho we realized that we had to wait more than three weeks for spare parts from Germany. Thus we took light backpacks and traveled by public transportation into the Peruvian heart of Amazonica, which was an unforgettable stunning itinerary for us.

   

Cusco, Machu Picchu and Puno

Monday, 26 August 2013 19:12

Machu Picchu is probably the most famous tourist destination in South America. The mystic Inca site is located isolated on the eastern slope of the Andes in a marvelous and nearly tropical environment. Its buildings are in very good conditions. Thus life of the Incas can be imagined well besides thousands of visitors every day. In addition it shows the fabulous engineering and construction capabilities of the Incas.

Buildings of Machu Picchu with the only round shaped house

 

But Machu Picchu is not the only historical site of the Incas in southern Peru. Cusco was the navel and center of the Inca world. Today the city with more than 300,000 people is the major hub for tourists in Peru but also here you can feel former Inca life. Close to the town is the Inca fortress Saqsaywaman, on the way to Machu Picchu in the sacred valley are Ollantaytambo and Pisaq.

After crossing the Bolivian border we traveled along the western shore of lake Titicaca. The main city Puno is famous for its festivals and the floating islands on the lake Titicaca, established and inhabited by the indigenous Uro people. Nearby are Chullpas, large tomb towers put up by the pre Inca culture Colla for their important people. Later the Incas used and enhanced their Chullpas.

   

Ancohuma and Copacabana

Saturday, 10 August 2013 22:09

Ancohuma is with 6427 meters sea-level the tallest peak around the largest lake of Bolivia and Peru Lago Titicaca which is with 3810 meters sea-level the highest navigable lake on earth. It is a ice and snow castle and the second highest summit of the awesome mountain range Cordillera Real of the Bolivian Andes. Our dream was to achieve its top but we had bad conditions in the early morning like heavy snowfall, unusual high temperatures and groundless deep snow. Consequently we decided to turndown at 6256 sea-level below the last steep slopes. Especially we didn't want to accept the serious risk of avalanches. Nevertheless this trip was an outstanding nice experience for us.

Illampu and Ancohuma seen from lake Lago Titicaca

 

The tour to Ancohuma starts in Sorata, a pleasant and warm village on the eastern slopes of the Cordillera Real at 2700 meters sea-level. After struggling with its narrow and steep streets we found the heavenly campsite Altai Oasis with wonderful people (GPS coordinates: S15 46.179 W68 39.306). Johny and Simon thank you so much for your extraordinary support and creating this marvelous place.

   

Cerro Austria

Tuesday, 30 July 2013 17:01

The marvelous Condoriri range of the Cordillera Real is close to La Paz nearby the village Estancia Tuni. It is named after its most striking mountain which looks like a Condor seeing from West. It is "just" about 5600 meters high but very difficult to access due to serious technical ice and rock climbing. West of the main peak is the much easier Cerro Austria (5328 meters sea-level) which provides stunning views to nearly the whole range of the Cordillera Real.

Cerro Condoriri with the head and its two wings

 

There are other nice trekking mountains in this area like Cerro Mulamania (4949 meters high) and Cerro Thipala (5045 meters sea-level). But before we came in this region we had crossed Bolivia from Tupiza to La Paz. Outstanding were the rocky mountains Cerros Kari Kari close to Potosi.

   

Most northern part of Ruta 40

Sunday, 07 July 2013 01:59

The more than 5200 km long street Ruta 40 strechtes from the very South of Patagonia to the Northwest corner of Argentina along the Andes. It is one of the most famous, legendary and scenic roads on earth. Few years ago travelers had to deal with difficult dirt and gravel parts including severe river crossing. Nowadays most of the street is tarred or pavement is in construction or planned.

But the most northern part is still as rough as in former times. In addition it passes its highest point, the dreaded Abra del Acay. With 4895 meters sea-level it is higher than the summit of Montblanc, the tallest peak of the Alps. South of this col are beautiful villages like Cachi, Payogasta and La Poma with some touristic infrastructure. North is the mining town San Antonio de los Cobres with its engineering masterpiece La Polvorilla, an impressive railway viaduct with about 50 meters high. The largest salt lake of Argentina Salinas Grandes follows. Finally the Ruta 40 merges with Ruta 9 to the border to Bolivia via the town Quiaca.

Railway bridge Viaducto La Polvorilla

   

Cafayate and the Yungas of Argentina

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 01:38

The little town Cafayate and its environment is a natural treasury on foot of the Andes in the northwest corner of Argentina, more than 1500km away from Buenos Aires. After Mendoza it is the second most important wine region in Argentina. 200km North of Cafayate is the pleasant holiday destination Tafi del Valle in the first valley of the mountains.

The Yungas are the rainforests on the eastern shore of the Andes at lower altitudes from 500 meters to 2000 meters sea-level. The are situated nearly the entire Andes ranges from Venezuela to the province Salta in Argentina. Clouds from the Atlantic Ocean are sticking on the first mountain ranges. In Argentina these clouds are sometimes renewed in the Brazilian highlands, which are covered with  thick jungle. Thanks to tropical temperatures and high precipitation wildlife is abundant in the Yungas zones. For instance in Argentina's Yungas are: Tapirs, Peccaries, Pumas, Monkeys and a lot of different kind of birds.

Landscape between Tafi del Valle and Cafayate

 

End of February 2013 we had parked our VW California in the premises of our friends Cristian and Sebastian in the northern suburban Tigre of Buenos Aires to fly to Germany. They have several medium-sized motor-homes which they rent to tourists, see their webpage www.andeanroads.com. In addition they offer a small but cozy campsite in the region of Buenos Aires and a parking lot for motor-homes (GPS coordinates: S34 27.058 W58 40.916). Cristian loves Volkswagen Bullies, especially campers. When we came back to Argentina on May 22nd 2013, he had a nice welcome surprise for us.

   

Esteros del Ibera

Monday, 18 March 2013 14:30

600 km North of Buenos Aires the terrific wetland reserve Esteros del Ibera offers abundant wildlife like crocodiles, capybaras, monkeys, deers and a lot of different kind of birds, reptiles and insects. It is a pristine flat lowland with many lakes, swamps and morasses. Thanks to its remoteness only few people live in this fantastic region and tourism is a little bit underdeveloped. Colonia Carlos Pellegrini is the only larger settlement with few hundred inhabitants but all needed facilities like little hostels, some basic food shops and one campsite.

But access to this paradise can be difficult because a 80km dirt road leads from the South (Mercedes) to Carlos Pellegrini with some ugly, muddy and watery parts after rainfalls, which are quite often. The more rough northern course from San Tome is twice the way and includes some long sandy stages.

Half the way to Buenos Aires is the superb Parque Nacional El Palmar on the western shore of Rio Uruguay with the last bigger forests of the origin Yatay Palm Trees in Argentina, nice beaches and also stunning wild life. 

We came back to Argentina on February 15th 2013 and we decided to drive directly the northern road to Carlos Pellegrini, which was a little bit sandy but dry - no big deal with our car.

Sunset on the way to Carlos Pellegrini with some smoke from burning fields

   

Santa Catarina

Saturday, 23 February 2013 18:14

The state Santa Catarina is famous for its spectacular coastline. Green mountains covered with dense rain forest hit the Atlantic Ocean. Thus it is one of the major holiday destinations within Brazil, especially in the hot summer period. But the tourism has some negative impacts like environmental pollution, high prices and exceeding building boom. Some cities like Balnerario Camboriu have a skyline like Manhattan. We wonder if all Brazilians have apartments on Santa Catarina's beaches.

But we found some pristine beaches, mainly on the island Ilha de Santa Catarina. It is the heart of this state, also its beautiful capital Florianopolis is located on the isthmus between the continent and the island. More marvelous beaches are on the peninsula Bombinhas.

The population of Santa Catarina have their roots generally in Germany and Italy. There are town names like Nova Trento or Alfredo Wagner. In its third largest city, Blumenau and its surroundings most of the people speak fluently German. Blumenau hosts the second biggest Oktoberfest in the world (after Munich).

Two beauties on the beach Praia Mole on the eastern shore of the island Ilha de Santa Catarina

   

Sao Paulo and Costa Verde

Tuesday, 18 December 2012 16:14

Sao Paulo is a city of superlatives: According to lonely planet it is with more than 20 millions inhabitants the third-largest metropolis on earth. It is the economical, financial and cultural center of Brazil, even of South America. But it is a huge cluster of skyscrapers and urban developments with few green parks. Like in Rio the gap between rich and poor is intolerable. Consequently Sao Paulo suffers an enormous high crime rate with many killed people every day. It is infected deeply by the war of drugs.

The outstanding marvelous Costa Verde stretches along the Atlantic coast East of the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is the place where the steep and green mountains of Serro de Mar hit the Ocean. Thus there are many pristine islands, beautiful bays and terrific beaches. Costa Verde becomes Litoral Paulista, when it crosses the state border to Sao Paulo.

A major tourist destination is the lovely and lively village Paraty with many picturesque buildings and remote beaches. Most of them are accessible only by boat and some by foot through the lush and dense rain forest. 

Pristine islands in the Baia de Ilha Grande, seen from the viewpoint South of Corumbe (approximately 10km East of Paraty)

   

Rio de Janeiro

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 17:23

A Cidade Marvilhosa - The Marvelous City offers its visitors and inhabitants nearly everything like endless dreamlike beaches; lush, dense and remote jungle with wild animals, stunning trees and beautific flowers; sharp and rocky pinnacles; numberless interesting museums and galleries; huge football stadiums and famous teams; bustling exiting nightlife; and large shopping malls. It is a worldwide unique and spectacular synthesis between ocean, mountains, rain forest and human settlements including a lot of skyscrapers.

We felt not being in a metropolis with more than 7 million people because it has many different centers and quarters with large green oasis in between, even a National Park - Tijuca. Its size is really gigantic, for instance: The beeline is more than 40km from the pristine beaches of Guaratiba to the center of the city.

But the host of the Olympic Games 2016 and final game of the Soccer World Championship 2014 has also some drawbacks like poverty, social inequalities, high crime rate, endless traffic jams and still massive pollution. 

It was a sunny day when we traversed the more the 10km long bridge over the bay Baia de Guanabara between Rio de Janeiro and its little sister town Niteroi. The views from the bridge were fantastic. A huge vessel looked very familiar.

The center of Rio with the Sugar Loaf and a white-orange vessel of Grimaldi

   

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