Baracoa, a Special Place in Eastern Cuba

Boats in Baracoa Bay with El Yunque (The Anvil) mountain in the background

Boats in Baracoa Bay with El Yunque (The Anvil) mountain in the background

Baracoa in Cuba’s far eastern Guantánamo Province has unique a history, location and environment. Founded in 1511, the city is the island’s oldest Spanish settlement and Cuba’s first capital. Historically, people could only visit Baracoa by sea or air with the first mountain-piercing road connection opening in the 1960s. Continue reading

[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’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

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

Hot Spring, Waterfall and Flash Mystery: Highlights of Ollachea

Ollachea is stunningly set amongst the mountains, large waterfall and ancient terraces. These surroundings along with the natural hot spring make the mining services town worth visiting. At 2,785 high, Ollachea’s elevation and climate lie between tropical San Gaban 54 kilometres north and tundra Macusani 49 kilometres south. Like San Gaban and Macusani, Ollachea is capital of its own district in Carabaya Province, part of southern Peru’s Puno Region.

In October 2016 Rocío and I came to Ollachea to relax in its natural hot springs and enjoy more wonderful trout. While visiting, my camera flash mysteriously failed. We also toured ancient sites nearby worth their own blog post.

Ollachea surrounded by the fog-covered Andes Mountains

A central Ollachea street with surrounding mountains blanketed by clouds 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

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