Captivated by the Antique White City of Arequipa

Oh, Beautiful Arequipa!

We have fallen in love again with another beautiful city.
I never imagined that a place like this existed in Peru.
But, then again, I had no idea what was in Peru.

When we set out on this journey, we casually believed that we would probably be best off avoiding every major city. We like the country, rural life, and wild, untamed places. We don’t like traffic, crowds, or noisy places. We figured it must be true that we would hate all big cities. And, we assumed that third world cities would be the worst.

But, funny things happen when you travel. Your eyes open, your brain expands, and your perspectives change.

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The Blue Eye of Peru: Arequipa’s Santa Catalina Convent

Sometimes there is a place that just speaks to us, luring us from afar. And, though we are not religious people or museum people, the Santa Catalina Convent is one of those places that just kept tugging at me.

Even before we began our tour of Peru, I knew that this was a place I wanted to see. Needed to photograph. It turned out to be a bit off-kilter for our normal interests, and a slightly high on the price we like to pay for such a tourist-y attraction.

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Peru’s Colca Canyon and the Condor Cross

Canyons are an impressive wonder of nature, both for the eyes and for the mind. It is one thing entirely to look over the vast crevices in amazement. It is another entirely to connect with the history of the creations.

There is some strange evolution taking place within me, as I strive to understand the how and why behind the sights that we are so fortunate to see. Perhaps it comes with a writer’s curiosity to tell a story. Maybe from the passion to teach our children from the tools of this wide wonderful world. Or, indeed this evolution might have something to do with the broadening horizons of a seasoned traveler.

 

From Peru we have learned the long history of humanity, Christianity, gastronomy, craftsmanship, music, and beyond. We have even touched on issues of environment and ecology, anthropology, paleontology, and architecture. But, the study of earth, geology, somehow had not yet crept into this edition of the book of life.

Continue reading Peru’s Colca Canyon and the Condor Cross

We Narrowly Escaped a Volcanic Eruption in Peru!

This is our family…standing ON TOP of the geothermal areas beneath the Sabanacaya Volcano. Parked underneath, hanging out checking out the wonder of nature.
 
We have just learned that a few hours after we left, this exact volcano exploded sending ashes 11,000 feet into the air!

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Meeting a T-rex at the Oropesa Dinosaur Park

Wow, this week has been a whirlwind. We have seen and done so much. It seems like we have a hundred more stories to tell.

We had so many more great hikes and discoveries in the Colca Canyon area. We have been invited to document an upcoming indigenous Easter celebration and homestay in the area, too.

Continue reading Meeting a T-rex at the Oropesa Dinosaur Park

The Epic High Altitude Display of Sibinacocha Lake

After a full day of adventures on another memorable road trip in Peru, we made the final ascent past Sibinacocha Lake. It is not too often that we go past the same attraction twice, as we usually continue our way to the next destination.

In the case, our journey through the Inca Road of Qhapaq Ñan was only a day trip. Without a complete loop to take us back to our stay in Sicuani, the only option was to turn around and reverse the journey.

With the views offered by the day trip, no one was disappointed to spend another several hours basking in the scenery. However, it had been a long day and we knew that the drive home would not allow for as many stops as we made on the way up. The windy dirt roads were not a place we wanted to be found after dark or with a change of inclement weather.

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Driving the Inca Road of Qhapaq Ñan

The journey begins in the small town of Sicuani, South East of Cusco. On this outing, we did not know that we would venture through the Qhapaq Ñan. An isolated section of the Inca Road.

This and every expedition happened in our vintage Landcruiser, outfitted for a destination of full-time travel, or #vanlife if you like. It is a vessel with memories of its own, of culture and adventures, friendship and family. We call this portal to the world, our beloved ‘Magma’.

She is red and slow and sure. As sure as the last year and the past 13,000 kilometers across Ecuador and Peru. As slow and powerful as the coagulated drops of blood that seep from a volcano spilling all her secrets.

The roads she takes us on are often narrow and forgotten, rustic and undiscovered. The memories she delivers in these far-off places are poignant discoveries of the innards of the earth. Through her, we find ourselves lost in the veins of the last meaningful societies and the final stretches of land undisturbed by man.

Cusco, Peru Road Trip

And on this day, like so many others, we sing songs of merriment as we drift away from the paved streets into the mountains of obscure embankments and rutted roads. On a whim, we joined noggins with another traveling spirit, to plan an adventure without a plan.

We don’t know much. We just know of a lake that floats in the sky and of a dusty trail that will lead us there.

The final hints of Sicuani fade behind us like the last reflections in a fogged mirror. The sprawling countryside floods our senses with visions of a land unravished and a life more simple than we can understand. People with warm faces and cheerful clothing moving about the picture with purpose and admiration for the earth.
Indigenous Children of Peru

The farther we follow the trail, the fewer sightings of our kinship are to be found. The echoes of the valleys offer only words via hoof prints and winds tickling the tips of the grass. Between us, we only offer poetic sighs of awe and bewilderment.

The pastures lose their footing at the shoulders of the mountain. But, the terraces refuse to end their climb. Shelves of green dangle from the tops of the last emerald peaks. Perfectly carved steps catching the corners of the sunlight and cradling the water from the sky. Incredibly, not carved by man but instead formed by an undefined creation of nature.

And then, the green color of life slips away into the abyss, replaced by vibrant yellows and grays that signify life in the thinner air of the heights. We are high and it is cold. From the parallels beneath our feet are the striking highlights of snow bathed peaks.

We can sense that we are not in the heavens yet, but somehow we are no longer of this world.  In a place where sheer slabs of mountains should reign the lands, we find once again the impossible reality of rolling plains. Golden grasslands dotted with a million glistening lakes, reflecting the skies like the looking glasses of angels.

Cradled by the peaks in these plains of the sky, is the largest breeding area for alpacas in all of  Peru.  It is Spring, birthing season during the months of February and March. Little bundles of fur in herds by the hundreds flit across the mountain plains, hop across the road, and stare in wonder at us, their intruders.


With every corner, another misty pool of water offers confusion about where and how to find the gem of the sky, Sibinicocha Lake.  How can it be that just one lake can be singularly more breathtaking than all of this?

 

We peer at the signs interrupting the view, squinting our eyes to translate the words and their meaning. We have reached an elevation of 4, 780 meters or 15,682 feet.  This is an altitude record for us in our Magma. As the information sinks in, all at once we notice the wavy red letters at the top of the sign spelling out “Qhapaq Ñan”.

The words are clearly not Spanish and I am confused. But, our friend, our traveling companion whispers the words into the air. They swirl in the space between us like a secret meant to be held in. We must repeat it to each other, her, my husband, and I for it settle in. Qhapaq Ñan.

THE Inca Road. It covers more than 30,000 km and 6 South American countries.  It was designed and created by the Inca civilization over several centuries as the main infrastructure of trade between the nations. This relationship still exists today between connected villages and centers of trade. The road has been noted by UNESCO world heritage as one of the most extreme geographical terrains in the world.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter anymore if we found the Sibinacocha Lake. We had found the  Qhapaq Ñan Inca Road. This means more to us than any archeological site we had seen in all of Peru. We were in the path of history and humanity in the remote landscapes of the Andes Mountains. As overlanders, this trail is the holy grail of South America.

We did eventually come to the Sibinacocha Lake. The 22nd highest lake in the world. The name means “whistle lagoon” in the native Quechua dialect. On the first pass, it did indeed whistle to us. Even in the overcast conditions, the sheer magnificence was undeniable. We paused to ingest the magnitude of the place before heading farther down the mountain for a lunch break.

But, the only way to Sicuani was to reverse the same route that we had spent the day traveling up. In the moments between our first glimpse and our second, a whole different world was unveiled. The  Sibinacocha Lake paired up with the brilliant sun and the surrounding mountains in an epic display of heaven and earth. It was the most incredible vision of a natural landscape we have seen in Peru thus far. So much so, that it deserves a post of its own.

Come back in a few days for the impressive reveal of Sibinacocha Lake.

Swimming in the Colcamayo Thermal Pools 

We have officially lost count of how many thermal pools we have visited. Due to the high volcanic activity of both Ecuador and Peru, it is easy to find public thermal pools all over the place. Our most recent visit was to the Colcamayo thermal pools in Santa Teresa, Peru.

The pools are heated by warm underground water sources that are usually full of natural minerals. For this reason, many locals will have strong beliefs in the healing properties of these waters.

Many of the thermal pools we have visited are only warm at best. But, these pools were nice at toasty with temperatures between 104-111 degrees Fahrenheit. These are also the first pools we have visited that were crystal clear and with a natural sandy and rocky floor. Continue reading Swimming in the Colcamayo Thermal Pools 

An Unexpected Farewell to our Nomadic Dog, Dante

It’s never easy to make a post like this. Even when the right words are swirling around in my head, they never come out right on paper (or screen). Putting it into words makes it all too real.

On Saturday, on our way out of the village of Machu Picchu we suddenly and unexpectedly had to say Goodbye to our beloved friend and family member, Dante.

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Tales of a Nomadic Family ***Currently in PERU***