[Fidel’s Passing, Part 4 of 6] Fidel Castro’s Ashes Cross Cuba

The morning after the 29 November 2016 memorial rally, Fidel’s ashes toured Havana, the beginning of a 4-day cross-country journey east to Santiago de Cuba. The route traced in reverse January 1959’s Caravan of Liberty when Fidel travelled from Santiago to Havana celebrating the end of the Batista dictatorship, the culmination of the Cuban Revolution.

Rocío and I witnessed Fidel’s ashes pass three times, once in Havana on 30 November and twice in Santiago on 3 and 4 December. On all occasions, people lined the streets in anticipation. Officials stood at regular intervals ensuring people remained off the road.

Old Havana, 30 November 2016

Hotel Armadores de Santander in beautiful morning light while crowds wait for ashes, Havana

Hotel Armadores de Santander in beautiful morning light while crowds wait for ashes, Havana

Early on 30 November we walked from our Old Havana accommodation to coastal Avenida del Puerto (San Pedro) for the caravan. Continue reading

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

Birds and Insects in Arequipa

Arequipa, a desert city in Peru’s south, has fascinating birds and insects, including impressive hummingbirds. Following are photos and a video compilation from my visits there.

Hummingbird next to vase of flowers, Katari Hotel Rooftop Restaurant, Arequipa

This hummingbird is admiring a vase of flowers on the Katari Hotel rooftop Continue reading

Colca Canyon: a Volcanic 2 Day Birthday Tour

In November 2016, to celebrate our birthdays, Rocío and I took a two day tour of the picturesque Colca Canyon. In southern Peru’s Caylloma Province, the Colca is one of the world’s deepest canyons and a must visit to see the Andean Condor. I had previously hiked the canyon. This time we wanted a relaxing trip. Booked through our YES Arequipa hostel, the tour was extremely good value.

Day 1

On our first morning we were picked up from our accommodation by the tour bus and driven north to Chivay, the canyon’s principle town.

Vicunas in front of Misti Volcano between Arequipa and Colca Canyon

Vicuñas in front of the Misti volcano 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

Condor Dive-Bombing and other Animals Around Macusani, Carabaya Province

A condor dive-bombing was the biggest highlight of Rocío and my two amazing October 2016 day trips from Macusani. Other animals in the Carabaya Province of Peru’s Puno Region included flamingos, Andean geese, a native rodent and domestic livestock.

Andean Condor Hunting and Dive-Bombing

Hiking back from Pitumarka to Ccochauma we had just turned the corner after Lake Qañuqota when we witnessed a truly special sight. In the sky an Andean condor, one of the world’s largest flying birds, was repeatedly hovering then flying, hovering then flying, sometimes as a silhouette in the sky, other times against mountains.

Although I had seen condors before, even quite close, nothing matched this occasion.

Andean condor hovering in front of snowy mountain, Ayapata District, Peru

The condor hovering in front of a snowy mountain peak 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

Ancient Buildings, Terraces and Cave Surprises around Ollachea

WARNING: this blog post contains images of mummified remains some people may find disturbing

Puno Region’s Ollachea district in southern Peru has fantastic, easily accessible pre-Columbian sites including chulpas, ruins, ancient terraces and mummies in caves!

An Ollachea shopkeeper told Rocío about places to visit outside of town on our October 2016 visit. Not only this, she kindly arranged for her son to pick us up and take us around in his trike-trailer. The sites, south and north of Ollachea were all close by the Interoceanic Highway.

South of Ollachea: Chillacori Chulpas, Ruins and Condors in the Sky

The son first took us to the Chillacori (also known as Chichacori and Chickakuri) Archaeological site featuring two chulpas (tombs) and other ancient ruins in an amazing valley setting.

Chulpa at Chichacori surrounded by potato fields, Ollachea, Carabaya, Puno, Peru

A pre-Columbian chulpa on a rocky outcrop surrounded by modern potato fields Continue reading