Thursday, 22 November 2007

Puno, Peru

The Peruvian town of Puno sits on the side of Lake Titicaca. The famous floating islands on Lake Titicaca are in a nearby bay.

The town itself is fairly unremarkable and sadly pollution of the bay has led to a think carpet of green algae which is in stark contrast to the shining waters Titicaca is famous for!

This area has been important for thousands years. The most spectacular of the ruins are several funerary towers, Chullpas, on nearby mountains. They were built by Colla, Lumaca and Incan cultures during their subsequent occupations of the region.

Both sites we went to visit command beautiful outlooks from flat top mountains.

On the side of some at Cutimbo you can see carvings of pumas and monkeys.

The famous sunset at Sillustani didn't disappoint.

We met up with a couple from California at the airport and with Ryan and Monica were able to rent a taxi to visit all the sites instead of going on a tour. And also explored a little of the town too.

The Uros Islands are man made floating islands formed from the Toro-toro reeds that grow around the edge of the lake.

The reeds constitute everything from food to walls and boats. Although it's a bit touristy these days it was still nice to visit for the morning.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Museo de Arte Precolumbiano (MAP) - Cusco

One of my favourite museums in Cusco was the Pre-Columbian Art Museum. Click on the link to see their site. The small "exhibition" section with 5 photos of pieces from each section is the extent of their catalogue but it has some interesting cultural notes.
The collection is extensive. The well preserved collection covers a wide range of archaeological periods from around Peru from preceramic BC through to Inca works. The pieces are displayed for their aesthetic and artistic merit rather than in an anthropological format.

I have tried to label each of the pieces by period in my photo gallery.

They start with stone pieces from the formative period

And wooden pieces

Then Nasca pottery famous for polihcromatic decoration

Mochica pottery was more sculptural

While Huari pottery is more stylized

The Chancay Chimu gallery had some of my favourite pieces with depictions once again of animals and sea birds important to their culture.

The Incas were more famous for their stonework but there were some interesting pieces.

The final galleries are filled with jewelery and metalwork.


While Ben was over visiting us in Peru, we took the opportunity to head into the Amazon jungle. We went on a safari into Manú National Park, located to the west of Cuzco. This section of Peru is surprisingly well preserved, with only 3000 tourists allowed in each year, only slightly more than the number of people who visit Machu Picchu every day! The park is very remote, with the only real way in via boat - and if it's dry season, this involves a lot of getting out and pushing, as the river gets pretty shallow.

Thankfully this wasn't the case for us, the river was running strong thanks to some recent rains. We went in to the region for 7 days, mainly making our way down river in a big motorized canoe. We all had a great time - this trip was one of the highlights of the year so far. The area was mainly rainforest (think Queensland), but the amount and diversity of wildlife we saw was pretty incredible - eg. we saw seven different types of monkey on the first day! While cliché, seeing the animals in their natural environment is completely different to in a zoo. The only downside was that the animals tend to be most active in the early morning, which meant way too many 4:30am starts....

Jungle Sunrise:

Roughing it in the sticks:

Unusual fruits a plenty:

The bugs are a lot bigger in the jungle:

The bugs are also a lot meaner - for instance, butterflies tend to harass turtles and drink the fluid out of their eyes:

We found one of these fellas in our bathroom one night:

The park is a bird watchers paradise - around 800 different species are found there. The 'Cock of the Rock' is a bit weird looking, but is Peru's national bird:

This guy is even more bizarre:

There where also plenty of Toucans and Macaws:

And of course there were plenty of larger animals. We saw nine different types of monkey all up:

The Capybara is the largest rodent in the world, basically a giant guinea pig:

There where plenty of Caiman around (a relative of the crocodile, but not quite as vicious):

We where also very fortunate in being able to see the Giant Otter - this animal is heavily endangered, but we managed to see three different families. This species is unique among the otters in that it lives in family groups, and can be fairly aggressive when it has young (no swimming!)

As we'd mainly gone downriver, we flew back to Cuzco. This was an experience in itself, we took a 12-seater Cessna with Pisco airlines. As it had been raining a fair bit, the dirt runway actually was more like mud...

The airport:

Our crack safety specialist:

The view from the air:

We took quite a lot of photos during the week, so I've split them up into 4 different galleries - these are:

Animals, Birds, Insects and Plants/People

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Peru stops for stats

The day that Ben arrived was census day. I'd seen it written up on the sides of houses for a while like political ads. What I hadn't realised was that the whole country shuts down, including intercity buses and even taxis.
Basically from 8am to 6pm everyone has to wait at home for a census collector to come and ask them demographic details. The questions are fairly similar to the Australian one but this year controversy struck when women were asked the number of their children that have died. In a catholic country the inference that they could be asking about number of abortions this sparked more talk than whether you could list jedi night as your religion!
They take the census very seriously, last time our guide was on a remote trek and someone knocked on her tent at 6am to do the census with her!
Well, that's my little bit of quirky Peru for this week. Can you imagine Australia shutting down for the census, I guess it demonstrates a commitment to statistics....

Inca Trail

We got back from the Inca Trail yesterday - had a great time, the weather was so-so for most of the trek, but turned out perfectly for the big day at Machu Picchu. The site was as impressive as all the hype surrounding it! Here's a couple of quick photos:

We're off to into the Amazon jungle for a week tomorrow, hopefully to see some jaguars!