Guantanamo Bay and a Crazy Journey from Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa

7 December 2016 was an epic day. After Fidel Castro’s passing and associated events, Rocío and I looked forward to finally beginning our normal holiday. However, little is normal in Cuba and this day certainly wasn’t.

Singapore Chris who we met outside Fidel’s funeral joined us at Santiago de Cuba’s Avenida de los Libertadores Intermunicipal Bus Station. Trucks and utilities east to Guantanamo and Baracoa leave from here and not the Serrano Intermunicipal Bus Station stated in Lonely Planet’s 2015 guidebook.

Morning mist outside Santiago

Morning mist outside Santiago

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Birds and Insects in Arequipa

Arequipa, a desert city in Peru’s south, has fascinating birds and insects, including impressive hummingbirds. Following are photos and a video compilation from my visits there.

Hummingbird next to vase of flowers, Katari Hotel Rooftop Restaurant, Arequipa

This hummingbird is admiring a vase of flowers on the Katari Hotel rooftop Continue reading

Colca Canyon: a Volcanic 2 Day Birthday Tour

In November 2016, to celebrate our birthdays, Rocío and I took a two day tour of the picturesque Colca Canyon. In southern Peru’s Caylloma Province, the Colca is one of the world’s deepest canyons and a must visit to see the Andean Condor. I had previously hiked the canyon. This time we wanted a relaxing trip. Booked through our YES Arequipa hostel, the tour was extremely good value.

Day 1

On our first morning we were picked up from our accommodation by the tour bus and driven north to Chivay, the canyon’s principle town.

Vicunas in front of Misti Volcano between Arequipa and Colca Canyon

Vicuñas in front of the Misti volcano Continue reading

Two Amazing Day Trips from Macusani, Carabaya Province, Peru

In October 2016 Rocío and I undertook two amazing day tours in the southern Peruvian Andes Mountains as part of our 2016 Interoceanic Highway Trip. We saw stunning scenery, prehistoric history and witnessed something extremely rare: a condor hunting and dive-bombing. From Macusani, guide Ulices and our Hilux driver took us one day to Ayapata District and the next to Corani District.

Video of the condor hunting and dive-bombing near Lake Qañuqota, Ayapata District

Located in Puno Region’s north, Carabaya Province is rarely visited by foreigners. In fact, in ten days, we did not see a single foreign tourist. This is despite being situated between touristic cities Puno, Cusco and Puerto Maldonado. One reason for limited tourism is elevation. Carabaya Province’s capital and largest city, Macusani, lies an inhibiting 4,315 metres high.

With fun couple adjacent Lake Qanuqota, Ayapata District, Carabaya Province, Peru

While hiking to Pitumarka we met a fun couple relaxing against a stone wall seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Ayapata District Continue reading

Wondrous Landscapes, Natural and Ancient Sites at Pitumarka, Peru

The scenery and views around Pitumarka in Ayapata District blew me away. Travelling from Macusani, Rocío and I accompanied guide Ulices and our Hilux 4WD driver for the first of two amazing day trips.

Seeing the glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, Andean geese, flamingos and other birds on the way to Taype was a great start. At Taype we turned off the main Ayapata unsealed road and drove past Lake Taype surrounded by mountains and potato fields.

Potatoes growing next to Laguna Taype, Carabaya, Puno, PeruLake Taype with potato fields in the foreground and mountains behind
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Condor Dive-Bombing and other Animals Around Macusani, Carabaya Province

A condor dive-bombing was the biggest highlight of Rocío and my two amazing October 2016 day trips from Macusani. Other animals in the Carabaya Province of Peru’s Puno Region included flamingos, Andean geese, a native rodent and domestic livestock.

Andean Condor Hunting and Dive-Bombing

Hiking back from Pitumarka to Ccochauma we had just turned the corner after Lake Qañuqota when we witnessed a truly special sight. In the sky an Andean condor, one of the world’s largest flying birds, was repeatedly hovering then flying, hovering then flying, sometimes as a silhouette in the sky, other times against mountains.

Although I had seen condors before, even quite close, nothing matched this occasion.

Andean condor hovering in front of snowy mountain, Ayapata District, Peru

The condor hovering in front of a snowy mountain peak Continue reading

Prehistoric Rock Art in Carabaya Province, Puno Region

Rocío and I visited multiple prehistoric rock art locations on our second Macusani day trip. Amazingly, no site had signs or barriers around them. Without our guide Ulices we wouldn’t have known they were there.

Between Macusani and Tantamaco Ulices showed us prehistoric rock paintings with white, red and orange pigments. Either the artists only used these colours or the other pigments had faded with time. Ulices didn’t know the painting ages, responding in Spanish that they were possibly as old as 3,000 BC.

Prehistoric rock paintings, Macusani District, Peru

Geometric rock paintings of different patterns Continue reading

Tantamaco’s Potatoes and Stunning Scenery

In southern Peru’s Macusani District, circa 4,000 metre high Tantamaco is the organic native potato capital. Potatoes are indeed widely grown here and in fact originated from this part of the world. However, for me this aspect of Tantamaco was overshadowed by the awesome Andes Mountain scenery.

Stunning valley views on way to Tantamaco, Macusani District

Stunning valley views on the drive to Tantamaco Continue reading