The First Festival of Esquilaya Coffee, Ayapata, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

2016 Ayapata Festival of Esquilaya Coffee poster, Macusani

A poster in Macusani promoting the 1st Esquilaya Coffee Festival (I Festival de Café Esquilaya) held in Ayapata on 25 September 2016

Peru is a significant producer and exporter of coffee, with its crop primarily grown on the Andes’ eastern slopes. At 3,475 metres, the town of Ayapata is too high to grow coffee. Why then does it have a coffee festival? Continue reading

Macusani, the High Altitude Home of Alpacas, Precious Memories and Sun Halos

About Macusani

Macusani, located 4,315 metres high up in the Andes Mountains, is the capital of Carabaya Province in southern Peru’s Puno Region. Macusani is also the self-proclaimed Peruvian and world alpaca capital.

Although receiving few tourists, the Carabaya Province, including districts Macusani, Corani, Ayapata, Ollachea and San Gaban, has amazing sights. Macusani town is not so scenic although it has views of snowy mountains on clear days. Mountains in the area include 5,805 metre high Allincapac and the world’s largest tropical glacier, Quelccaya Ice Cap. In Macusani town I did see my first ever sun halo, a colourful circle resembling a 360 degree rainbow.

For visitors, Macusani has basic hotels, restaurants, shops, a central market (Mercado Central) pharmacies and a single ATM inside the Caja Arequipa bank (only accessible during office hours). The weekly street market occurs Tuesdays. In October 2016 wifi was non-existent and not all mobile telephone networks had coverage. At least basic Spanish (or Quechua) is required as few people spoke any English.Macusani sheep and mountains

Sheep graze on the outskirts of Macusani with snow-topped mountains in the background Continue reading

Ayaviri, a Historic Andean Town

Historic town Ayaviri lies at 3,900 metres in the Andes’ high plateau. Ayaviri is the capital of Melgar Province in southern Peru’s Puno Region. Known for its Kankacho (baked mutton accompanied by potatoes) and cheese, Ayaviri also has hot springs and a notable cathedral.

Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi, Ayaviri, Melgar Province, Puno Region, Peru

Ayaviri’s late 17th century Andean Baroque-style Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi dominated the town centre Continue reading

Ilo, a Peruvian Port Town with Pelicans and Great Seafood

Boats, Ilo Port, Moquegua Region, Peru

Fishing boats graduating in size from tiny to huge, Ilo Harbour, Moquegua Region

Ilo, in southern Peru’s Moquegua Region, is a fishing and copper mining port off the tourist map. Located in the Atacama Desert, Ilo receives almost no rain. Continue reading

Cusco Food and Dining

Cusco’s international exposure and Peru’s South American-leading cuisine combine to provide fantastic food options. Following are seven favourite places from my July-August 2016 stay.

ChocoMuseo Café

Although touristy, the ChocoMuseo museum, gift shop and café are well worth a visit, or, in my case, multiple visits. The museum explains the chocolate production process and history and the café serves exquisite chocolate-based food and drinks. ChocoMuseo’s workshops also come recommended.

Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Mousse, ChocoMuseo, Cusco

Chocolate mousse and mix your own Mayan hot chocolate ingredients (chilli, honey, hot milk and cacao) viewing Plaza Regocijo and the city beyond Continue reading

Peru’s Amazing Rainbow Mountain

The tragedy of melting ice caps and glaciers caused by global warming has a silver lining in southern Peru’s Cusco Region. A few years ago receding snowline exposed the exquisite, multi-coloured Rainbow Mountain. Three hours drive east of Cusco, Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca) is now a popular tourist attraction.

Rainbow Mountain is higher than 5,000 metres and should only be tackled once acclimatised to altitude. Given my previous experience above 5,000 metres, I chose to visit after nearly three weeks in 3,400 metre high Cusco. In August 2016, Lotte and I woke up very early for the day-trip’s 3am pick-up.

Alpacas and Ice Cap, Rainbow Mountain

Llamas grazing in a stone-walled paddock with an icy peak in the background Continue reading

Inka Jungle Trek – Four Days of Fun and Amazing Scenery

A popular way to visit tourist magnet Machu Picchu is via a multi-day trek with the primary treks being:

  • Inca Trail: the most expensive and prestigious route, often requires booking several months in advance
  • Salkantay Trek: an alternative route that can be hiked independently
  • Inca (or Inka) Jungle Trek: a hybrid, activity based trek staying in hostels instead of tents

I chose the Inca Jungle Trek and in August 2016 enjoyed a fantastic four days with a wonderful group of people including Dale, Wian, Johann, Damian, Magali and Nicola along with super guide Jhimmy. The good food, reasonable accommodation and great value topped off the trip.

Booked through my Cusco hostel Ecopackers, Inca Path Peru operated the tour.

Day 1

The tour began with a drive from Cusco up to 4,350 metre high Malaga Pass. From the high Andes mountains with glaciers visible we mountain biked downhill to hot and humid Huamanmar.

Inca Jungle Trek, Cusco

The Inka Jungle Trek driver removing mountain bikes from the van roof with a glacier in the background Continue reading

Pisac, Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cusco

Pisac, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas close to Cusco, makes for a wonderful half- or full-day trip. It is also a great place to relax on a longer visit. Inca Pisac, high above the modern town, contains stunning views and ruins to explore.

Getting from Cusco to Pisac is straightforward, with frequent buses from Avenida Tullumayo and collectivos from Puputi Street travelling there every day. From the modern town to Inca Pisac, one can hike or take a taxi.

Pisac, Sacred Valley of the Inkas, Cusco

Beautiful mountains, valleys and Incan terraces from Inca Pisac Continue reading