Hiking Peru’s Colca Canyon

Note: see article end for 14 tips on visiting and hiking the Colca Canyon

Condor at Cruze del Condor, Colca Canyon

A majestic Andean condor flying past Cruz del Condor in Peru’s Colca Canyon

One of the deepest canyons in the world, the Colca Canyon is an excellent hiking destination and a prime place to see the awesome Andean condor.

Located in Arequipa Region’s Caylloma Province, the Colca Canyon is five hours’ drive north of Arequipa city. A major tourism destination, buses, tourist vans and guided tours depart daily from Arequipa for the canyon. Continue reading

Eating and Meeting in Lima – Peru’s Capital and Dominant City

Ugly Water Fountain, Plaza Mayor, Lima

Part of the central water fountain in Lima’s historic Plaza Mayor; the red and white flags fly in anticipation of the 28-29 July Fiestas Patrias (Peruvian national holidays)

Arequipa maybe Peru’s food capital and Cusco the country’s tourism capital but Lima is its transportation, business, dining and official capital. With one-third of Peru’s population, Lima dominates the country.

For many time-limited tourists, Lima is merely a place to transit between planes and buses. However, in a city with almost ten million people, there is much to do. Continue reading

The Epic Pantanal Wetland

The Pantanal, Brazil

A Pantanal water lily

The Pantanal, spread across South American countries Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay is the world’s largest tropical wetland. The region is also an amazing place for viewing wildlife despite consisting largely of privately owned cattle stations. In four days of Pantanal exploring I saw and photographed so many birds and other animals, they required separate blog posts. Continue reading

Animals of the Brazilian Pantanal

Besides birds, the Pantanal hosts many other animals. Following are photos of non-avian creatures from my June 2016, four day, three night Pantanal Trekking tour.

Animals of the Pantanal

This porcupine in a tree was only the second one the guide had ever seen. The farm workers could not believe we saw a porcupine
Continue reading

Pakistan Music

Pakistani music is diverse and I managed to sample a few styles during my trip.

Classical
Although there was music at both of Hani’s wedding receptions, it did not take a prominent role.


The music at the second reception consisted of a tabla and a sitar, the basis for Pakistani classical music.

Qawwali
Every Thursday in Lahore there are two special performances: Qawwali music at the Shrine of Data Sahib in the afternoon and Sufi drumming and dancing at the Tomb of Shah Jamal in the evening. Thanks to Malik and the personnel at Regale Internet Inn, I and the other Internet Inn customers had some of the best seats at both events.

Following are three photos and three videos from the Qawwali performances of 28 December. Vocals dominate the Qawwali style of music and the singing can get quite animated at times. Worldwide, the most famous Qawwali singer was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, someone Eddie Vedder was privileged enough to work with.

Every so often a man would come around to collect tips for the group then performing. At least two or three different formations performed. Some people went and threw notes over the band or other audience members just like at a Turkish wedding.



https://youtu.be/6bq9RnFOEms

Following the Qawwali performance, outside of the Shrine of Data Sahib some Gypsies performed in the street. They are societal outcasts with their long hair, body piercings and different dress but are seen as holy/providing good fortune, hence the crowd. Note the bells hung around their belts. These guys also attended the Sufi dancing that night.

 

Sufi Drumming and Dancing
That evening, several of us from the Regale Internet Inn caught rickshaws to the Tomb of Shah Jamal just outside Lahore for an evening of dhol drumming and sufi dancing.

Prior to the dancing the brothers Goonga and Mithu Sain drummed, at one stage joined by a saxophonist. The below video is pitch black and the sound is muffled because I recorded it with my camera in my bag as taking of images was not allowed. Despite these defects, the sound is still cool, particularly for anyone into jungle p0rn music or under the influence of mind-altering substances.

Later in the evening the dancers came on and starting dancing their freestyle Sufi styles. The almost purely male crowd were enjoying their hash in various forms and everyone had mellowed out so I slyly recorded the next video. Two of the dancers whirling themselves into ectasy in the below video were not originally meant to be dancing. The guy with the hat gave Drummer Goonga Sain a 1,000 rupee note (the largest Pakistani denomination, about USD 16.50) and for that his mate was allowed to sit front and centre and he could dance with impunity. The guy in the mustard-coloured dress insisted on dancing despite the best efforts to get rid of him by one or two of the ‘real’ dancers.

Despite the extremely loud drum noise, asleep in the tree above where I was sitting were pigeons. Unfortunately, the two people sitting next to me were shat on 2 or 3 times by these winged rats.

As the night was cold, the concrete seat uncomfortable and, most importantly, I wasn’t smoking the weed, I did not totally get into the sound and left with other Regale Internet Inn backpackers before the performance finished early the next morning. Outside the courtyard, other drummers were doing their stuff in front of another audience.

Bhangra
A Bhangra band provided entertainment New Year’s Eve at Regale Internet Inn. The group consisted of Chimta (large tongs), harmonium (squeezebox), ektara (single-stringed guitar) and dholak (drum) and voice.

The harmonium


The ektara