Waterfalls and Historic Sites in Northern Peru

Most tourists cross the Peru-Ecuador border near the Pacific Coast at Aguas Verdes. However, if you are adventurous, have time and speak some Spanish, I recommend crossing inland at La Balsa and seeing the region’s spectacular sites.

Joe standing in front of Yumbilla's lower waterfall

Standing in front of Yumbilla Falls, the world’s 5th highest waterfall

A post about my May 2017 visit to the area, part of a 2 year trip around South America and Cuba.

After a night bus from Huaraz, I enjoyed a day in Trujillo before another overnight Movil Tours coach ride to Pedro Ruiz. Adventures began early morning when the bus stopped face to face with an oncoming truck. Rain-induced landslides had narrowed the road to one lane. Continue reading

Peru’s Historic Nazca Lines and Sandy Ica

Nazca and Ica are popular tourist destinations in southern Peru and for good reasons!

I visited Nazca and Ica in April 2017, travelling north from Arequipa. Following are some favourite photos and videos from the trip.

Nazca: Nazca Lines and Historic Sites

Nazca is famous for its ancient, world heritage-listed Nazca Lines. The best way to see these desert designs is via a light plane tour from nearby Maria Reiche Neuman Airport (April 2017: USD$70 / 238 soles + 30 sol departure tax).

In plane awaiting take-off at Nazca's Maria Reiche Neuman Airport

In aeroplane awaiting take-off at Nazca’s Maria Reiche Neuman Airport

Hummingbird Nazca line as viewed from aeroplane

The Hummingbird Nazca line as viewed from aeroplane

Continue reading

Havana, Cuba’s Capital and a Must-Visit

Cuba’s capital Havana is one of the world’s great cities. Its combination of history, architecture, transport, economics, culture and climate can’t be copied.

Back in 2016-17 I was lucky enough to visit this unique place including for new year’s eve. Coincidentally, also in Havana I saw Placido Domingo, was there when Fidel Castro died and bumped into Enrique Iglesias’ Subeme La Radio video shoot.

This video provides a taste of Havana’s streets:

Following are snapshots of Havana from the trip. Continue reading

Cuban Postal Systems and Mail Boxes

Posting letters outside the Nuevitas Post Office

Posting letters into the Correos de Cuba box outside Nuevitas Post Office

The Cuban postal system (Correos de Cuba) is both a cheap way for locals to communicate and a source of foreign revenue. See, Cuba produces two sets of postcards and two corresponding postage rates:

  1. A touristic card aimed at foreigners costs approximately US1.50 to buy and post internationally
  2. A corresponding Cuban propaganda post card with the obligatory Fidel Castro or José Martí quote costs an unbelievably cheap ~US$0.06 (1.45 CUP) to purchase and send.

Continue reading

Cuban Ingenuity and Repurposing

Bike chain lock on outdoor kitchen, Viñales

Bike chain lock on outdoor kitchen in Viñales

Cubans are great at recycling, reusing, repurposing and modifying objects to extend their usefulness. The limited availability of resources caused by both the communist state policies and US embargo have forced their frugality and ingenuity. This was especially true when the Soviet Union collapsed, causing the 1990s Special Period when extreme rationing occurred.

This hardship-induced resourcefulness has had a positive consequence of lower waste levels, reducing environmental pollution.

Following are some of the examples of frugality and ingenuity Rocío and I saw on our Cuba trip. Continue reading

Cuba’s Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR)

Havana graffiti stating Viva CDR 28 (Long Live CDR 28)

Havana graffiti proclaiming Viva CDR 28 (Long Live CDR 28)

Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (Comités de Defensa de la Revolución), otherwise known as CDR, exist in every Cuban neighbourhood. Established on 28 September 1960, less than a year after the Cuban Revolution, the volunteer-run committees monitor and report on counter-revolutionary activity and promote social welfare. Stephen Smith’s Cuba: The Land Of Miracles quotes a BBC reporter aptly describing the CDR as “a cross between the neighbourhood watch and the Gestapo”.

During our visit, Rocío and I witnessed many CDR references throughout the island. Continue reading

Cuban Communist Country Products

During Rocío and my visit to Cuba we saw multiple old and modern artefacts from other communist or former communist countries. Considering Cuba’s post-revolution political alignment and the United States embargo this should not have been a surprise.

Communist Crockery

A tip for those visiting Cuba: at your guest house check under the china for its origin. With limited access to goods, Cubans often keep items for decades, including their stoneware. We noticed this at our first meal in Cuba with crockery made in Czechoslovakia, a European country last existing in 1992.

Crockery made in Czechoslovakia at our first Havana guest house

Crockery made in Czechoslovakia at our first Havana guest house

At Santiago de Cuba we used a porcelain coffee set produced in Bulgaria, most likely from its pre-1990 communist period. Continue reading

Buildings of Havana, Cuba

The Neo-Mudéjar Ursulinas Palace (Palacio de las Ursulinas) building in Old Havana

The Neo-Mudéjar Ursulinas Palace (Palacio de las Ursulinas) building in Old Havana (Habana Vieja)

To my untrained eye, Havana’s buildings were special. To architect Rocío’s, they were inspiring. Interesting buildings or aspects of buildings appeared around almost every corner and this blog post documents a tiny proportion of them. Continue reading