Monday, 22 October 2007

Cholita Wrestling

On our last night in La Paz a couple of weeks ago, we upped the sophistication levels and went along to some highbrow Bolivian entertainment - Cholita Wrestling! This is the local version of professional wrestling/WWF, and features a whole raft of different characters, including some 'Cholitas' or women in traditional costumes.

While not quite on the same monetary level as the WWF (the matches we saw where in a high-school gym), Cholita Wrestling more than makes up for this is sheer craziness. If you've seen 'Nacho Libre', then you get the idea... Here's a bit more info on this particularly latin-american cultural experience!

We got to see six matches, which started out loco and got progressively worse :) The first match was between a TMNT and some sort of fish:

There were various managers/referees who also got involved in this match - I couldn't tell you who won, the important thing was crowd participation:

The second match was between an Indian chief and... some other guy:

The ref didn't get too much respect in this match:

The third match:

By this time the crowd was getting nicely drunk enthused, and started throwing stuff at the wrestlers. Chicken bones seemed a popular option:

We also spotted a couple of women by the judge's table doing their knitting:

The 4th match featured some sort of dancing skeleton, who certainly busted out all the moves, but it still wasn't enough for him to win:

Then in the 5th match came what we'd all be waiting for - the Cholitas! This was a 4 person match, with two male/female teams:

With 4 people in the ring, the action got predictably crazy:

One of the males got knocked out after being thrown into the crowd, and had to be carried off:

We had ring-side seats for all the action, but this has it's downside as well - we got pretty wet about 10 seconds after this shot:

The 6th and final match was where society broke down completely. This was a two-on-one match, unfair on paper except that the 'one' was a werewolf:

This guy apparently has a fairly bad reputation, the ref was very reluctant to get in the ring for this one:

The action was fast and furious:

I couldn't tell you who won - I think the match was officially over when the judge's table got smashed, but the fighting continued on into the stands:

Crazy stuff!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Santa Cruz Trek, Peru (early Sept)

The 4 day Santa Cruz trek is one of the most popular treks in the Cordillera Blanca. It is very scenic but sadly the popularity has spread to big groups with donkeys leaving behind huge amounts of manure. The national park is not managed in a way we are accustomed to in Australia with people allowed to run cattle and pit toilets filled to the brim and falling apart, in spite of the 35 dollar park use fee per person!

The trek itself is in spectacular country.

As you trek up the valley there are mountains on both sides, carved by glaciers.

There are bromiliads covering everything. You can see a few on the tree behind Tom.

The lakes are a lovely glacial blue.

Since the days weren't too long we decided on day three to visit the Alpamayo base camp since the sun came out.

We almost saw Alpamayo, once voted the most beautiful mountain in the world.

The one next to it is pretty cool anyway...

Then we crossed the pass at 4750m. We were surprised it wasn't as tiring as expected.

On the other side the views continued to be amazing as we looked down over lakes in the valley.

And then for the drive home, a wild collection of switchbacks. Just gorgeous!

You can check out some more pics in the photo gallery.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Huaraz, Peru

Huaraz is the main town in the Cordillera Blanca, famous for trekking and mountain sports. We came here as the base as our base to do the Santa Cruz trek. The mountains were spread out above us and sunny skies were very welcome after the mists of Lima.

Lots of local people come in from the mountains for market day, still dressed in traditional clothes.

Our hostel was very friedly and a great place to base ourselves while hanging out for my job interviews. This is the view from the rooftop terrace.

There are lots of funky cafes to hang out in and have big breakfasts, like the veranda at Cafe Andino in the photo or homey California Cafe.

I like these trolleys that you see all over, usually loaded with everything from bread to building supplies. The drivers use their feet to brake!

Tom got to try guinea pig and we also did some cooking with local funky veges, which you can see on my food blog.

Monday, 15 October 2007

El Misti Part 2

We've returned safe & sound from tackling El Misti - it was quite an experience! The views from all over the mountain are incredible- it very much felt like we where in a plane looking down at all the ant-scale scenery. The nearby town of Arequipa is at 2,330m, so from the top of Misti (5,822m) it's a 3.5km difference. The photos here don't really do the views justice :)

Here's the starting gate, at 3,415m - doesn't look that hard from here!

We made base camp at 4,700m - about 5 hours from the start. It was an early night, as the sun goes down around 5:30, and there's not a lot to do once night falls. It's also pretty hard to sleep this high up, the altitude makes anyone a very light sleeper.

Sunset and the city lights of Arequipa:

We started heading uphill again at 3:00am, to reach the summit in the early morning - the views are much better then (less pollution). Kat unfortunately wasn't feeling too good due to the altitude, and stayed at base camp rather than ascending further.

Sunrise at around 5,000m - gives a good idea of the slope of the mountain as well:

The shadow cast by Misti as the sun rose was pretty impressive - it stretched for miles!

We made it to the top in about 5 hours, just after 8am. Fortunately I was acclimatised enough to not be too bothered by the height, though breathing did get pretty hard after 5,500 or so. The very last section is fairly steep, this definitely took me a while to get through!

The finishing line, at 5,822m:

On top of the world:

The nearby volcano Chachani, which is about 200m higher than Misti - it's also a very popular climb:

The best part was coming down - we scree-ran the entire way back to base camp, dropping 1.1k in altitude in about 20min. Here's Jose (our guide) and I coming off that:

All in all a great climb, though the legs were a bit sore afterwards :)