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

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

Traditional Wititi Dancing in Arequipa

Originating in the Colca Canyon, Wititi dancing is important and unique enough to be included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Most visitors to the Colca Canyon see touristic Wititi dancing in town squares or at folkloric evenings but at Arequipa’s Yanahuara Plaza I was lucky enough to watch an informal performance.

Wititi dancing and costume, Plaza de Yanahuara, Arequipa

A woman in Collagua dress dances with a Wititi 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

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

Tantamaco’s Potatoes and Stunning Scenery

In southern Peru’s Macusani District, circa 4,000 metre high Tantamaco is the organic native potato capital. Potatoes are indeed widely grown here and in fact originated from this part of the world. However, for me this aspect of Tantamaco was overshadowed by the awesome Andes Mountain scenery.

Stunning valley views on way to Tantamaco, Macusani District

Stunning valley views on the drive to Tantamaco Continue reading

A Mysterious Cavern in Corani District, Peru

Why was there a hole in the ground with separate entries south of Aymaña in Peru’s Corani District, 4,000 metres high in the Andes Mountains? Even guide Ulices did not know the cavern’s purpose.

The cavern's two entrances from the outside, Corani District, Peru

In the foreground is the cavern’s side entrance while the hole above is visible as a depression in the hill Continue reading

Colonial and Pre-Inca Gold Processing Technology with a Bonus Sun Halo

Gold has been found in southern Peru’s Carabaya Province for centuries, if not, thousands of years. On our second day trip from Macusani, guide Ulices showed Rocío and I two historic gold processing sites in Corani District – one Spanish colonial, the other pre-Inca. Each site in the high Andes used different methods to apply similar processing principles.

Colonial Gold Processing

Not far from Corani town are the ruins of a gold mill set up by the Spanish rulers during colonial times. Gold ore was crushed between two millstones on a channel. The milled ore then washed into a pond with the heavier gold falling to the bottom and the lighter waste rock travelling downstream.

Spanish Colonial gold processing, Corani District, Peru

The colonial gold mill’s runner stone remains partially on top of the larger bed stone Continue reading