[Fidel’s Passing, Part 1 of 6] Being in Havana for Fidel Castro’s Death

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruiz was one of the most influential and controversial people of the 20th century. He led Cuba’s communist revolution, ruled the country for almost 50 years and inspired and assisted left-wing movements regionally and globally. Even after handing over presidency to his brother Raul in 2008, Fidel was still regarded as the most powerful person in Cuba.

Saturday was going to be another interesting but normal day exploring Havana for Rocío and I. Instead, in the morning our hosts informed us Fidel had died aged 90 at 10:29pm the previous night (Friday, 25 November 2016). Our plans changed.

Cuban TV Fidel Death Coverage

Cuban TV Fidel Castro special the day after he died with an email address for people to send in their tributes; the Spanish headline translates as “Ever onward to victory, Fidel!”

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Arequipa, Home away from Home

Arequipa's Coat of Arms on the Portal de la Municipalidad

Featuring Misti Volcano, Arequipa’s coat of arms on the main plaza’s southern portal, Portal de la Municipalidad

Arequipa, Peru’s second city and location of its Constitutional Court was home base for a significant part of my trip. Its mild climate, manageable size, affordability, world heritage-listed historic centre, volcano backdrop and South America’s best food made the city a great place to stay. I also met Rocío here. Continue reading

Plaza de Armas, Arequipa’s Splendid Main Square

Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

Pigeons and people populate the late afternoon square in front of the cathedral

Like the Santa Catalina Convent, Arequipa’s main square (Plaza de Armas) is part of the city’s world heritage-listed historic centre.

Surrounded by the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa to the north and portals to the east, south and west, the plaza is a wonderful place to relax, watch the world go by and politely decline unsolicited offers.

Archway displaying Peruvian colours with Misti in the background, Arequipa

A giant ribbon in national colours on the eastern portal (Portal de los Flores) prior to Peru’s independence day (28 July); Mt Misti is in the background Continue reading

Arequipa’s 16th Century Landmark: Santa Catalina Convent

People playing Pokémon GO outside Santa Catalina Convent, Arequipa

Santa Catalina’s white volcanic stone walls tower over these Pokémon Go players

Founded in 1579, Arequipa’s imposing Santa Catalina Convent (monastery) takes up a whole city block and is a major tourist attraction. One can easily spend hours exploring the different rooms, cloisters and galleries. The convent’s history, size, architecture, art and ambience impress. Besides the museum, an adjoining New Monastery still functions although it is closed to the public. 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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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

Corani and its Colonial Church, Carabaya Province, Peru

Corani, 4,000 metres high in Peru’s southern Andes, is one of Carabaya Province’s 10 district capitals. Enveloped by impressive mountains, Corani’s district has several places worth seeing including prehistoric Titulmachay cave art, Jaylluwa Stone Forest and colonial and pre-Inca gold processing sites.

Corani District shield, Carabaya Province, Puno Region, Peru

Corani District’s shield includes a llama, tree and gold Continue reading