Posts Tagged With: wildlife

Huaraz, Peru’s playground

27/12/13-01/01/14

After a week of Californian ‘surf-laidback-and-relax-dude’ beach style at Huanchaco we drop down a 320km on Peru’s land map and strand in Huaraz, an area well-known by adventurers and mountain ramble lovers.  Together with the two German girls and Philippe, a new member of the group, fatigued as we are at 5 o’clock in the morning after a night of bus travel, we lay our trust in the first stranger at the Huaraz bus station promising us a free ride to a cheap and good place to stay.  Surprisingly, it is a cosy family house and it is as cheap as it can get and the ride is for free!  It seems like Huaraz is teaching us a lesson: “Don’t lose the faith.”  Because after the many months of travel it seems like we forgot to trust people… not every person out here is trying to get a dollar out of a traveller.  We leave our bags in the rooms and prepare ourselves for a first good hike into the Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes.  Huaraz is especially known for 23 rivers flowing down and its hidden lakes in between the different peaks the area counts.  Not less than 296 is the total sum of lakes to discover, some of them a few hours away, others days and weeks.  We go for the Aguac Lake close to the village.  First a microbus(1,3Soles a person) to Willcawain village and from there we climb bit by bit, leaving civilization behind us.  The land scape is outstanding and as going higher the view each time further.  The path is easy to recognize but nevertheless each time steeper.  Soon Lara and Philippe start to feel the height and slow down, we follow our rhythm together with Sophia.  The way is long but we stay enthusiast as we convince ourselves that the lake is behind the next rock.  But even then, every turn we take we see the path loosing itself high above us between the sharp treeless ridges.  Luckily another sheer-up pushes us further than our own limit as we sit down for a moment and chat with a goat shepherd.  If we ask about how long before reaching the lake, we get a “Just 30 minutes more, following this trail.”  And that’s just what we needed to fill our muscles with hope.  We go 30 minutes, 45, one hour and yet no lake.  We realize that asking a road in measurement of time to a with altitude filled veins, coke-chewing, all-day-long-chasing-goats-shepherd is just ridiculous.  Height sickness starts to affect me at a slow but steady rate, Giorgia feels a bit better and Sophia of which we lost sight is jumping like a mountain goat from rock to rock as it is her very nature.  But finally the effort is rewarded as we reach the lake at 4560MASL.

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A crystal clear pond of water reflecting the Cordillera Blanca takes together with the height our breath away.  An idyllic place for a break, a picture, a piece of chocolate and some swigs of water.  The freezing airstream hits us from all sides so after a while we start the descent.  On our way down we find Lara, with a slightly white face, who feels horrible but still tries step by step to get to the lake.  (Compliments to Lara for not giving up!) Unfortunately we have to brief her that it still will take some hours and a bit more down we find Philippe who by now has a greenish appearance and feels miserable.  Fast we descent to take the last microbus back to the centre of our mountain village.  After some nightly snoring we wake up and prepare us for some relaxed bathing at the local ‘hot springs’ of Monterey (4Soles a person).  Some muddy overcrowded square pools seem to be one of the highlights of Huaraz and are even used for swimming classes.  But what do we care for, we are just five itinerants with broken bones, cramped muscles and creaking articulations, who really need some healing hot water therapy.

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And there is much more in this small lost village to discover: a labyrinthic market to look for fruit and vegetables and delicious goat cheese, lots of street sellers to lose time in finding the cheapest and freshest bread, there is a park in the centre of the village to wander around or sit on a bank and watch passing by the daily Andean grind.  At a thirty minute bus ride distance there is Willcawain, a historical site consisting of different ‘chullpas’, reminding us that Peru’s culture is so much richer than Machu Picchu and Lima.  The chullpas were funerary monuments for Wari high status persons in the Callejón of Huaylas region between A.D. 600-900.  The occurrence of this type of architecture is a valuable evidence of cult for the dead as shown by caches (offerings) discovered in this region. The mummies or mallquis buried in the chullpas represented the ancestors and the identity of the communities that habituated in the whole area.  All signs of a rich cultural existence of a pre-Hispanic Peru and all places we want to visit to reach a better understanding of this country.

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In the mean while (we know, we are a bit behind, but lots of places we visit did not have internet and for that we find it impossible to update as much as we would like. 😦 ) a new year is knocking at the front door and the hostel owner prepares for all her guests a fine new year’s eve dinner.  We prepare ourselves, hairs are cut away here and there and with my new look we are ready for a outstanding night.  We enjoy every fork disappearing in our mouths and after the many kisses, wishes and ‘whows’ for fireworks lighting up the sky, we end up in 13Buhos bar to finish the night in the early morning.

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Recommendations

–          Hostel Tambo is as good as it can get, a fine hostel close to the bus terminal and four blocks from the center. It offers, laundry service, hot water, WIFI, comfy beds in big rooms, there are different common areas for some social life with other travellers, a kitchen with everything you might need,… Both the price of 10Soles a person and the kindness of the owner are a present from the Gods.  At: Av. Confraternidad Oeste #122 (well hidden opposite the stadium).

–          Entering the ruins costs 3 Soles each ticket, they are small archeologically sites but interesting to visit and it is a beautiful walk downwards back to the village aside a narrow river

–          We paid 40Soles each for the overnight bus ride from Huanchaco till Huaraz

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Categories: Peru | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Loja and Vilcabamba… gain a minute of life

17-19/12/2013

The more time we spend in Ecuador, the more we get used to the altitude, the more we like and can enjoy hiking in the high mountains.  Loja offers us a nice town with beautiful church, lovely town square with its famed clock tower and with some lively celebrations on the streets, perfect to spend some nights and a good base camp to go and visit the surroundings.

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Vilcabamba is a village at 40km from the province capital of Loja hidden between two mountain ranges known as Valley of Longevity, assuring a quite live and lots of years to live that live.

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This town is well-known for its older population that seem to have forgotten the day to die.  In this spot on earth people get bored by celebrating the 100th birthday of one of the inhabitants and get barely excited when one of the dwellers reaches 120 springs.  It is remarkable to see at 3 o’clock in the afternoon a disco filled with greybeards and grannies shaking their skeletons at the rhythms of a Pasillo or a Yavarí. The National Institute of Gerontology Investigation must have thought the same, the day they decide to build an investigation centre right next to the centre of the village.  As far as we know, it’s proven that the bones of those old buggers are comparable with those of teenagers but the mystery of their almost immortality is still unfound.   We buy a bottle of local water in the hope to gain at least some minutes.

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We have a great time in Vilcabamba wondering around in the green surroundings and letting the peaceful ambient entering our soul… which must add at least another minute of live! 😉

The enjoyable green surroundings and healthy fresh mountain air are one of the main features of Loja.  And when we talk about green, we talk about the 1462 square kilometers big National Park Podocarpus.  The park, divided in 3 explorable sectors (Cajanuma, Vilcabamba and Bambuscaro) gives us an infinite combinations of visits to do; from just a walk to lose yourself for a week of hiking without contacting any civilizations, from an entertaining exploration to professional investigations, from mountain over fog covered forest to hundreds of lakes and from fauna and flora spotting to the observation of rests ancestral knowledge.  Together with the German travel companions Lara & Sophia we decide to explore the northernmost Cajanuma Sector, at 13km from Loja.

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From the free entrance of the park we walk 8km with stunning views to the refugee at 2750MASL.  From there we start our odyssey through the cloud forest of Ecuador.  There is a loop to do with different side paths for some extra kilometers… and we decide to do them all.  First, the declivitous ‘Sendero Oso de Antiojos’ with an extension of 400m, then the even steeper 700m upwards ‘Sendero Bosque Nublado’ and finally the almost vertical ‘Sendero El mirador’ of 5km which follows the sharp mountain edge.  It’s a hard track to do and takes more time then we calculated.  So right at the very Mirador Cajanuma, after a short check on Lara’s out smoked lungs and after a democratic voting we decide to go on and fulfil the hike. (to watch video click here)

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It goes more and more up, clouds are pushed up the hillside by cold wind gusts and drop down as soon as they pass the edge.  Sea of clouds floating under us are hiding the deep, by river erosion out shaped, valleys just a step away from the path.  Our full adventure heads to a climax, just after the long downhill on creepy overgrown in mist covered slippery paths, as the last rays of sunlight fight their way through the dark, heavily charged, rainclouds.  The divine is with us and sends us a sight that ships emotions straight to the heart, almost too great for the mind to comprehend or recognize.

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Hours after the day departed we finally reach the main road and with the last strength we have left in our muscles, burning the last calories left in our feeble bodies, we raise our thumps in the dark night and get lucky the fourth time that they are lightened up by the headlights of a truck.  Once in Loja again, after two big empanadas, one litre of fresh squeezed fruit juice, French fries and a soup each we go back to our dear Aguilera International Hostal, our save and soft nest for the last two nights.  We fall asleep with the José Bolivar castle, the gateway to the city, glowing in the night just out the window, shielding our night rest and safeguarding our dreams.

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Recommendations:

–          For outdoor lovers, trails in Sector Vilcabamba, Bombuscaro and Cajanuma are well indicated, and depending of the extra loops you do it goes from beginner to advanced.  All entrances are for free.  For the pros there is an extra trail to do (only open from October till January) for about 14km till ‘Lagunas Compadre’ an area with more than hundred crystalline lakes.  For this trail you are obligated to go with guide and takes between three and five days. Here prices depend on your needs (Spanish or English speaking guide) and your negotiating skills to lower them.  We paid 0,75$ pp sharing a taxi with 4 persons to get till the entrance of Cajanuma.

–           Vilcabamba is, in our opinion, not worthy to spend the night as hostels are more expensive. It is very small and easy to reach from Loja and to see in one day. Unless you want to live forever of course.  😉  There are regular buses from Loja at 1,15$

–           For a good night rest we recommend Hostal Aguilera International.  Prices go from 15$ for clean rooms, Wi-Fi, breakfast and hot water of course.  The hostal even has a sauna and Turkish bath for their clients! We assure you that, after a long day of mountaineering, you will not forget it fast!  

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Categories: Ecuador | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

La rumba de Cahuita

15-16/10/2013

Da Manuel Antonio decidiamo di spostarci sull’ altro lato della costa per visitare l’esotico caribe costariqueño e fare una sosta nella tanto decantata Cahuita. Per Bert é la seconda volta peró il ricordo é cosí piacevole che ci ritorna volentieri. E cosí… sulle note del leggendario Walter Ferguson che intona “mi rumba de Cahuita, mi rumba chiquitita…” ci incamminiamo nel lungo viaggio che da Manuel AntonioQuepos ci riporterá verso San José e da lí a Puerto Limón per infine giungere a Cahuita nel tardo pomeriggio spendendo un totale di 18.120 colones (27 euro circa). A pochi metri dalla stazione degli autobus troviamo l’ostello in cui passare le prossime due notti: “The Secret Garden” il nome, un luogo tranquillo, immerso nel verde, gestito da una donna olandese molto cordiale e vivace. Ci sistemiamo in un dormitorio misto per 9000 colones a notte (13 euro), includendo WIFI e cucina comune. Facciamo un giro per i dintorni del villaggio respirando a fondo l’aria rilassata di questo luogo senza tempo e godendo dell’atmosfera spensierata dei caraibi.

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Dopo una rigenerante dormita interrotta solo dai primi raggi del sole e dal verso dei numerosi uccelli che popolano il giardino selvaggio dell’ostello, equipaggiati con tramezzini e un paio di banane gentilmente offerte dalla casa, 2013-10-16 11.06.12 andiamo ad esplorare il Parco Nazionale di Cahuita, una reserva naturale di 58.836 acri tra mare e boschi con una ricchissima biodiverstiá animale e vegetale.

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Se si entra da Cahuita non bisogna comprare nessun ticket, si accede per semplice donazione. Ognuno quindi, in base al proprio portafogli, dona del denaro alla fondazione che si occupa della tutela e salvaguardia di questo paradiso, in cambio dell’accesso al luogo per tutta la giornata. Ben presto ci rendiamo conto che il Costa Rica ci sta offrendo l’ennesima prova della sua straordinaria bellezza. 7 km a cavallo tra spiagge e stretti sentieri, una flora esuberante e una fauna a dir poco sorprendente in cui si possono avvistare meravigliose e rare farfalle, iguane, lucertole dalle sembianze preistoriche, curiosi bradipi dai movimenti pigri e impacciati, appesi a sottili rami in cerca di riposo, e dispettose scimmie cappuccino sempre pronte a distrarti con il loro savoir-faire per poi soffiarti di mano borse o buste del supermercato. Un’ oasi tropicale con alte palme, cocchi, acqua calda e cristallina, una variopinta barriera corallina, sabbia bianca finissima e un’impressionante vegetazione completamente incontaminata. Pura magia!

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La giornata vola senza rendercene conto. Torniamo a casa esausti ma soddisfatti del lungo trekking. Domani si cambia, verso Sud, Puerto Viejo de Talamanca ci attende.

Suggerimenti:

  • A Cahuita sono sufficienti due giorni per visitare i dintorni (es. Playa Negra), godere del sorriso caldo e accogliente della gente del luogo e spendere un giorno visitando il parco nazionale, un MUST per tutti i viaggiatori nelle vicinanze.
  • Consigliamo di iniziare il tour per il parco la mattina presto. Sono solo 7 chilometri sulla carta ma tra una foto, un tuffo e un cocco in spiaggia il tempo vola!!!
  • Non é necessario pagare cifre esorbitanti per prenotare escursioni guidate. Il percorso é perfettamente segnalato, si puó intraprendere da soli senza nessun pericolo ed é cosí molto piú accessibile per un turismo low budget come il nostro (solo una donazione per entrare).
Categories: Costa Rica | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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