Ancient Pitumarka Mummies in Taype

WARNING: this blog post contains images of mummified remains

Rocío’s and my September 2016 visit to Ayapata District coincided with an exciting local story. One week earlier authorities had seized mummies from a family in the Pitumarka archaeological site. The one baby and four adult mummies, found when the family removed earth to build a home, were kept secret from authorities for four years. Upon seizure, the ancient mummies were placed in the new, almost empty, Taype Ccochahuma Municipality Civic Centre.

Taype Ccochahuma Municipality Civic Centre

The Taype Ccochahuma Municipality Civic Centre (Municipalidad Centro Poblado) temporarily hosted the mummies Continue reading

Where is Ayapata?

Ayapata in Carabaya Province, Peru, is a place I never knew existed*. This was until Rocío and I saw Macusani posters advertising Ayapata’s first coffee festival for 25 September 2016. We thought it was a great excuse to visit, despite the excellent Maps.Me showing no roads leading to Ayapata. Even today, Google Maps still shows a road-less town of Ayapata District.

An unsealed road did link Macusani to Ayapata, with vans departing from Macusani’s bus terminal for the two hour journey. Flamingos, Andean geese, ducks and other birds inhabited the stunning Andes mountain and lake scenery.

The journey’s second half encountered fog, darkness and rain. Rocío feared the steep roadside drops and poor visibility combined with the usual South American driving style.

Sitting in front of the van travelling to Ayapata on mountainsides in low visibility Continue reading

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

Pukara, Ancient Archaeological Site and Ornamental Bulls

Pukara, also written as Pucara, is the name of both a southern Peruvian town and a nearby archaeological site in the Lampa Province of Puno Region. Less than an hour from Ayaviri, Rocío and I stopped here in September 2016 to explore the ruins and associated museum.

Pukara archaelogical site in front of mountain, Puno Region, Peru

Pukara ruins in front of a rocky hill 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, Capital of the Former Incan Empire

Cusco’s colonial charm, Incan history, surrounding Sacred Valley and, not least, proximity to Machu Picchu combine to make it Peru’s tourism capital. With great food options and lots to see, the city is an excellent trip hub despite its 3,400 metre-high elevation. I was based there for three weeks in July and August 2016.

Plaza de Armas and Surrounding Mountains, Cusco

Cusco’s central Plaza de Armas including the imposing cathedral

Also known as Cuzco, Cusco was capital of the Inca Empire for almost a century until conquered by the Spanish conquistadors in 1533. The Spanish destroyed the original structures and replaced them with the colonial city, often building on Incan foundations. Continue reading