Wednesday, May 13, 2009


My next stop was Nasca. The main attraction here are the Nasca Lines
- geoglyphs carved in the middle of the desert hundreds of years ago
by pre-Incans that are only visible by air. I took a flight in a
Cessna to view the lines, but archeologists are baffled as to how the
ancient people created the drawings. Since they are only able to be
seen from above, it is a mystery how the geometry was worked out
initially. Incidentally, most Peruvians I talked to are convinced
that the Nasca people used San Pedro cactus to create the drawings -
the incredibly-potent hallucinogenic supposedly allowed the Nasca
people to leave their bodies, fly above the desert, and direct the
drawings from the air.

The other interesting thing to do in Nasca is sandboarding. I hiked
for hours through the desert before dawn to climb the world's tallest
sand dune (2,000 meters!) only to slide down the whole thing in about
25 minutes. It was amazing, but I was camera-less for fear of ruining
lenses with sand. Seriously a beautiful hike though.

Colca Canyon

Six hours north of Arequipa is the Colca Canyon - twice as deep as the
Grand Canyon, but almost an afterthought on the tour circuit. I spent
three days walking from the rim to the base of the canyon (and back),
stopping to view a family of massive condors, swim in natural hot
springs, eat cuy (roasted guinea pigs) in a small village, and watch a
woman check her llama in the luggage compartment under the bus back to


After Puno and Titicaca, I headed west to Arequipa. Set in the
foothills of eight active volcanoes, Arequipa is known as the "white
city" because the mineral content of the lava rock used to construct
its major buildings makes the stone bright white. Arequipa ended up
being my favorite city in Peru - in addition to the eye-catching
building materials, there was an enormous monastery in the center of
town that boasted great architecture and plaza space, a museum devoted
to the "ice mummy" Juanita (a young girl sacrificed by the Incas in
the mountain tops, then discovered perfectly intact hundreds of years
later after volcanic activity dislodged her from the ice at the peak
of the mountain where she was killed), and some of the spiciest (and
tastiest) ceviche I ate in Peru.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Titicaca, continued

My second stop in Lake Titicaca was the island of Amantani. The
island was nearly as rustic - it lacked running water and electricity,
though it featured buildings set on solid ground - but it was a
pleasure to spend the night on the island. I stayed with a host
family that was very welcoming - I played soccer with the 10-year old
boy before eating a meal of quinoa, potatoes and eggs with the family
- despite only knowing a few words of Spanish (the main language in
this region is quechua).

In addition to hiking around the island to take in a sunset, I went to
a "traditional" island dance, with live music and Inca Kola... plus,
my host family provided me with a poncho and stocking hat to help me
fit in at the party. I didn't have my camera with me that night, but
there are enough pictures of me and my fellow tourists in our costumes
on Facebook that I am sure you can seek one out if you are really

Urso Islands

After leaving Cusco, I headed south to Puno, the port city on the
Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. The city didn't offer much - it was
small, suffered from a malodorous lagoon, and was overcrowded - but
the trip to the lake made it worthwhile.

I took a two-day tour of the lake; the first stop was a floating Urso
"island" built out of reeds. The Urso culture pre-dates the Incas in
Peru, and they were notoriously isolationist. Rather than allow
themselves to be assimilated by the Incas, they left their original
homes on the banks of the lake and built boats, houses, and civic
buildings out of floating reeds, then left land behind. Today, they
still live on these small floating islands, but are much less focused
on isolation - they subsist primarily by giving tours of their homes
and selling crafts to tourists.

And we're back!

Again, sorry for the delay. After leaving Cusco, I had really poor
WiFi coverage and few opportunities to upload photos. Please bear
with me while I catch up on the last three weeks of my travels in

To kick things off, here's one of my favorite pictures from Machu
PIcchu. Nothing new to say about it, I just thought it was a pretty
way to reintroduce myself to blogging.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Sorry for the lack of activity in recent days. After Machu Picchu and
Cusco, I traveled south to Puno, spent two days on islands in Lake
Titicaca, went trekking for three days in the Colca Canyon, and now
find myself in Nasca preparing for a flight over the Nasca Lines and
sandboading on Cerro Blanco (the world's tallest sand dune).

As the trip has become more rugged, wifi access has been limited so I
haven't been able to upload photos. I'm back home in a week though,
so stay tuned for full reports and lots of new photos soon!