Most tourists cross the Peru-Ecuador border near the Pacific Coast at Aguas Verdes. However, if you are adventurous, have time and speak some Spanish, I recommend crossing inland at La Balsa and seeing the region’s spectacular sites.
Standing in front of Yumbilla Falls, the world’s 5th highest waterfall
A post about my May 2017 visit to the area, part of a 2 year trip around South America and Cuba.
After a night bus from Huaraz, I enjoyed a day in Trujillo before another overnight Movil Tours coach ride to Pedro Ruiz. Adventures began early morning when the bus stopped face to face with an oncoming truck. Rain-induced landslides had narrowed the road to one lane. Continue reading →
Nazca and Ica are popular tourist destinations in southern Peru and for good reasons!
I visited Nazca and Ica in April 2017, travelling north from Arequipa. Following are some favourite photos and videos from the trip.
Nazca: Nazca Lines and Historic Sites
Nazca is famous for its ancient, world heritage-listed Nazca Lines. The best way to see these desert designs is via a light plane tour from nearby Maria Reiche Neuman Airport (April 2017: USD$70 / 238 soles + 30 sol departure tax).
In aeroplane awaiting take-off at Nazca’s Maria Reiche Neuman Airport
The Hummingbird Nazca line as viewed from aeroplane
Soroa, 7 kilometres north of the Havana-Pinar del Río Freeway is a village known for both its waterfall and orchid garden. As fans of orchids the latter attracted Rocío and me and we made a detour to Soroa between Viñales and Havana.
Getting to Soroa from Viñales without private transport took two colectivos and then a Jeep organised by a tout from the mechanic near the Candelaria/Soroa junction. The travel logistics and costs are listed below this post.
Soroa Waterfall (Salto del Arco Iris)
The Soroa Waterfall has two entrances. The Jeep dropped us off adjacent the lower, southern one where we paid the 3 CUC (US$3) entry fee.
Entry signs to waterfall Salto del Arco Iris; cascada is Spanish for waterfall; entry costs Cubans 10 CUP (US$0.40) and foreigners 3 CUC (US$3)
January is well outside the May to October wet season so the waterfall was a relative trickle. Despite this, the overhang and surrounding greenery still made a beautiful setting.
160 kilometres west of Havana is the intriguing city of Pinar del Río. Not a major tourist destination itself, south-west of Pinar del Río is the famous Robaina cigar tobacco farm Finca El Pinar and to the north, Viñales’ wonderful landscapes.
After the new year in Havana Rocío and I were ready to go west. From Parque de la Fraternidad we caught the local P-12 bus to near the National Bus Terminal (Terminal de Ómnibus Nacionales). On 19 de Mayo Avenue we took an old Chevrolet van colectivo to Pinar del Río. Part way there the vehicle experienced a flat tyre.
Our classic Chevrolet van parked under a tree on the roadside between Havana and Pinar del Río
While changing the tyre, the driver used a rock to support the axle. The van’s lights contained images of Che Guevara.
Driver changing tyre on way to Pinar del Río; note the rock and the Che Guevara image
Camagüey Province’s Río Máximo Wildlife Reserve (Refugio de Fauna Río Máximo) contains not only Cuba’s but the Western Hemisphere’s largest flamingo nesting site. After not getting to Cayo Sabinal, Rocío was determined to see the flamingos at Río Máximo.
Flamingos at Río Máximo Wildlife Reserve
In Camagüey City we asked people and agencies how to get the reserve. No one seemed to know. State tour company Ecotur hadn’t organised tours there for two years due to the track there requiring a truck and the lack of on site hygiene facilities. An official tourist guide, who also didn’t know the way, recommended we hire a large US car (with driver) that had been converted to diesel to maximise our chances of reaching the reserve. In the city centre while looking for such car, we met an old man who reckoned he knew a way there. Then we met a younger guy who was willing to take us and had a friend with a car.
Instead of a hulking diesel-fueled US classic we had the opposite: a small Soviet petrol sedan! But our Lada had character, including huge windscreen cracks and no internal rear door handles. Time for another crazy Cuban adventure. Continue reading →
Reserva Ecológica Limones-Tuabaquey (Limones-Tuabaquey Ecological Reserve) features giant millipedes, a huge natural depression, caves with indigenous art and endemic flora and fauna. Who knew it would be so difficult to get to!
Rocío and I wanted to spend Christmas eve 2016 in a cabin at the reserve near Cubitas. At least that was our intention after reading Lonely Planet’s 2105 Cuba guidebook.
Our Multi-Faceted Journey to Reserva Ecológica Limones-Tuabaquey
Getting to Cubitas from Nuevitas involved taking a passenger truck for 10 CUP (US$0.40) each to the junction of Camagüey-Nuevitas Highway (Carretera de Camagüey a Nuevitas) and North Circuit (Circuito Norte). From there we would hitch-hike along North Circuit to our destination.
The North Circuit (Circuito Norte) road was desolate while we waited for a ride in the roadside shelter
At the junction we waited more than an hour for a ride. It was the 24th of December and the highway was desolate. While waiting, lizards, birds, cows and butterflies entertained us. Continue reading →
I had never heard of Nuevitas until this day. A port town on Camagüey Province’s coast, it is not on the tourist map. Arriving to Camagüey from Holguín, Rocío and I hoped to go north to Cubitas for the Reserva Ecológica Limones Tuabaquey. Instead, the fruit cart man suggested catching the train east to Nuevitas. We wanted to experience a Cuban train ride so embraced his idea.
Our bicycle taxi driver advised we buy food beforehand as the train doesn’t sell any. 5 CUP (US$0.20) per fish sandwich later and we were set.
Fried fish sandwiches in Camagüey for the train journey to Nuevitas
Taking a Cuban Train from Camagüey to Nuevitas
The daily Nuevitas train left Camagüey at 5:20pm with ticket sales beginning 4pm so we had time to observe the locals in the station and watch a freight train pass. Continue reading →
Rocío and I wanted to catch a train on our Cuban trip at least once. Unfortunately, the Santiago de Cuba to Holguín train times weren’t convenient. Instead, Rocío asked around how to get there and we went trucking.
Sugar cane, Cuba’s primary agricultural product, between Santiago de Cuba and Holguín
We caught a passenger truck one third of the way (10 CUP/US$0.40 each) and then a second truck the remaining distance (2.50 CUC/US$2.50 each). Well, we thought it was taking us to Holguín. However, it dropped us off part way.
Passing by Birán, where Fidel and Raúl Castro grew up
Slightly annoyed we got ripped off (in Cuban terms) for the second ride, I soon became glad we didn’t reach our destination. We were about to have a rare experience. Continue reading →