Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Machu PicchuAs with all the Aztec, Olmec and Mayan ruins I missed through Central America I am not going to have the time available to go and see any of the Inca sites here in Peru.

The Inca Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco here in Peru. The Inca civilization arose from the highlands sometime in the early 13th century.

Nasca Bird

The most famous of these sites is Machu Picchu located high in the Andes, but there are a great many more that I would have like to have seen had time allowed. 

It is not to be however, and at the end of the day they are just piles of old rocks. Very  spectacular piles of old rocks, but just piles of rocks all the same. 

Nasca Monkey

I had also hoped that when I flew south to Chile I might catch a glimpse of some of the Nazca lines through the aeroplane window.

The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. 

The hundreds of individual figures range in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks, orcas, and lizards.

Nazca Spider

The lines are shallow designs made in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish/grayish ground beneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes.

The largest figures are over 200 metres across.

Inca Kola 1

However because my flight south will be taking place at night I have no chance of seeing any of them.

It would seem that the closest I am likely to get to any of the ancient worlds of the Americas will be drinking the local Inca Kola.

It is as popular here as the usual colas would be back home and tastes a bit like cream soda.

It isn’t fortified with anything funky as I believe the original Coca Cola was. The clue is in the name as to what the real thing really was!

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Lima 1

Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro only forty years after Columbus had discovered the Americas and the city became an important element of Spain’s empire on the South America continent. It was the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru.

It flourished as the centre of an extensive trade network which integrated the Viceroyalty with the rest of the Americas, Europe and the Far East.

All these global influences can be seen in the wonderful architecture to found all over the city. It is quite the most impressive that I have seen since heading south from the USA.

Lima 4

As usual I have taken a guided tour bus to ensure that I see as much as I can in a short time period.

The buildings are amzing and there is a colonial charm to be found all over the city, even if some of the buildings are looking a wee bit tired.Monastery 2

This is the monastery established by the Franciscan monks.

I was taken on a guided tour of the catacombs underneath the building and was rather surprised to see that all the bones of those who had been interred there for centuries have been laid out in ornate patterns and eloborate piles.

It was a bit macabre for my tastes and I dont think I would want tourists gawping at my remains three hundred years down the line, so can’t imagine that the residents of Lima would have felt any different.

The tour was good though and it was great to be shown around a city unlike the endless getting lost that I experienced through Central America.

Beatrice 2I saw all the sights of the city going around on the tour bus this afternoon, but nothing was as impressive as Beatrice’s smile.

Beatrice works on the reception desk at the hostel I am staying in and I have been having lots of fun trying to tempt her out for drinks, whilst she tries to convince me that aliens and giants are responsible for some of the ancient structures worldwide.

I have not had any luck yet, but will be in town for a few more days yet, so you never know.

 

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Playa La PampillaLima is a real surf city, which sits at the top of cliffs next to the shore.

There are a number of breaks right in the middle of the city and I am keen to bag a few of them while here.

This morning I strolled down the cliff path to the beach you see here, which is called Playa la Pampilla.

DCIM100GOPROThe shore is steeply shelving pebbles, which are very similar to the north shore in Llandudno where I grew up.

This means the waves always crash quite heavily on the shore so getting out is a question of timing. You wait for a wave to come in and as it is crashing down you run down the pebble slope and launch yourself over the top and on to the back of it. It is then just paddling like mad to make sure you get out before the next one arrives. 

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I managed that with aplomb and even got all the way out back without having to go through any waves.

Such dry hair paddle outs are rare but are a particular blessing when the water is as cold as it is durig the winter back in the UK.

I was expecting it to be very quite in the water today because most people would be at work, incluing my friend Javier, but there was a crew of local old timers out on their longboards having a great time in the water.DCIM100GOPRO

They were certainly getting the best of the session and not for the first time on this trip I was missing my own longboard which I left at home.

I still managed to catch a few though and this is the best picture of the day. My wet suit seems to have relaxed a bit too so I could enjoy myself a bit more in the water because it wasn’t as exhausting.

The walk back up the cliffs though was painful because they are so steep and high. My calves were burning!

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DCIM102GOPROI have been itching for a decent wave for weeks now and was delighted when Javier offered to drive us both south of town to have a surf session at Punta Hermosa.

There are a few breaks close to the point there, but we opted for Senoritas because there seemed to be less of a crowd in the water.

It was fantastic to be surfing with one of my friends again. For me that is a huge part of what surfing is all about. Laughing and joking in the water at each others rides, wipeouts,  etc.

It is however the first time that I am wearing a wetsuit in months and I’m not enjoying it at all. One is necessary because I have now travelled so far south, but my suit has shrivelled up like an unused sponge whilst being baked in the back of my car all through Central America. I felt like like I was putting on a straight jacket, and could barely breathe. 

DCIM101GOPROAll the time I spent sat around just drinking beer at the hostel or in the city back in Panama has also done me no favours fitness wise.

However I make it out past the broken waves easily enough. The crew in the water upon arrival are all Peruvian locals as opposed to surf tourists like myself. I haven’t had that since the USA due the number of people flying into Central America for waves these days.

DCIM101GOPROI did manage to catch a couple of decent waves after I had eventually caught my breath, but we didn’t stay in the water for too long because neither Javier or myself was feeling too clever.

However you can see how stoked I was at the end of the session here, despite being in the process of being swept across the rocks when I tried to get out!

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Peru Flag

After crosssing the Andes without resorting to cannibalism I have arrived in the home of Paddington Bear.

I am going to be based in Lima on the Pacific coast for a few days before moving on once again.

As with everywhere I was hoping to spend time in South Amaerica IPeru Map am far too pushed for time.

I would point the finger once more at Panamanian customs for this but need to move on from griping about them.

That is not easy to do however because they have cost me my opportunity to surf the longest wave in the world in the North of Peru at a place called Chicama. 

Valentino, Javier, Manuella & Me 2

Rather than rush around endlessly during my stay here I have decided to just hang out in the city. This is not least because I have some good friends here. You can see a picture of Javier, Manuella and their son Valentino here that was taken while we enjoyed a beautiful lunch at the Regata Club.

There are quite a few breaks right in the middle of the city and unlike Brazil there is loads of swell about at the moment so I am certainly going to bag some waves whilst I am here.

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the-andesFlying from Brazil to my next stop in Peru I have to cross the longest mountain range in the world, the Andes. 

They are over 4,000 miles long and extend through seven South American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

The Andes range is the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia and I have learnt that the peak of Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is actually farther from centre of the Earth than any other location on the planet’s surface, due to the equatorial bulge resulting from its rotation.

AliveIn October 1972 a plane carrying a rugby team from Uruguay to Chile crashed in the Andes. The survivors had to fend for themselves amidst the freezing weather at altitude with a very limited supply of food, after the search and rescue operation for them was called off. Only16 of the 45 on board actually survived, and they had to resort to eating the flesh of their team mates who had died to do so.

It is common knowledge that rugby clubs foreign tours can get a little out of hand, but this took things to a whole new level!

The movie Alive told the story of these events, but I am hoping not to have anything similar happen on my own flight. The plane seems to be full of Japanese tourists, most of whom are pensioners. I doubt they would feed a big lump like myself for long! 

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World record holder Serginho Laus surfs the Pororoca tidal bore wave past debris from the Amazon jungle on the Araguari river in northern BrazilThe time has come for me to leave Brazil and I am going to have to do that without seeing the world’s longest ‘wave’.

The Pororoca like the Severn Bore is a tidal bore, which is a phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave of water that travels up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay’s current.

Pororoca 2The Pororoca has waves up to 4 metres high that travel as much as 800 km inland upstream on the Amazon River and adjacent rivers. Its name comes from the indigenous Tupi language, and translates to “great destructive noise”.

It occurs at the mouth of the river where its waters meet the Atlantic Ocean, and is best seen in February and March, so I can’t blame the Panamanian customs for missing it.

The wave has become popular with surfers and an annual championship has been held in São Domingos do Capim. However, surfing the Pororoca is particularly dangerous, as the water contains a huge amount of debris from the shores of the river. The record for the longest time captured on tape riding the wave is a staggering 43 minutes!

Piranha

I had talked about surfing this with my Brazilian friend Rommel before he died, however it is probably just as well that I didn’t have the time to have a go at it on this trip.

Apart from crocodiles, cayman, etc living in the river the Amazon is also home to it’s own very angry fish. The Piranha!

Check out this footage of a few people who did manage to surf it a few years back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a_2g6uTDb0

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Hotel De Cataratas AerielI only had a very short time available to me in the Iguacu National Park to enjoy the falls and the wildlife living nearby, so I treated myself to a stay at the Hotel De Cataratas.

It is the only hotel in the park and as you can see from this aerial view is right next to one section of the massive waterfalls. 

Hotel De Cataratas RoomThe hotel is operated by the Orient Express group who run the trains fromLondon to Istanbul, and a similar level of opulence to what you would expect there can be found here.

It is however far from cheap and I think I spent more on one night here than I did in the whole of El Salvador and Honduras combined! 

Hotel De Cataratas Pool 3Having spent plenty of time in hotels before and during this trip I have become rather good at making the most of the facilities on offer anywhere I go.

Although it is the winter here in the middle of the rainforest it was still more than 25C so I spent a great afternoon sunbathing on the loungers by the pool. All the while being brought olives, peeled fruit, nuts and caipirinhas by the retinue of staff who really didn’t have much to do. There was even time for a deep tissue massage before I left.

It was an extravagance, but made sure I left Brazil with some wonderful memories despite the surf not being up to much while I was at the coast.

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Iguacu Falls

The Iguazu Falls, the Iguazú Falls, the Iguassu Falls or even the Iguaçu Falls (depending on where you come from) are the waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones.

The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu, and are the main reason that I came to the Iguacu National Park. My guide book described them as making Niagara Falls look like a mere trickle.

The Iguazu River flows through Brazil for most of its course. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, the Iguazu River forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil. 

IMAG0125Thanks to Panamanian customs seeing Argentina from across the other side of the river is as close as I will get to that huge country.

It is a shame because all the Argentinians I have met on this trip have been fantastic people and few have anything like as much animosity towards the UK as their Prime Minister Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would have us all believe.

IMAG0154There are developments to allow tourists as close as possible to the falls themselves on both sides of the river.

This walkway (that I really have no idea how one would go about building) sticks out right into the middle of the falls from the Brazilian side. 

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As you can see, you get drenched going out along the walkway and the down pressure of all the water going over the falls creates so much wind that the spray is driven into you and soaks you in seconds.

The falls which actaully compromise over 270 separate waterfalls stretching over 3km are breathtaking. 

DCIM100GOPRO

On the Brazilian side this is the last place to get close to the falls but you can almost stick your hand into the torrent of water.

I took some video while I was there which you can check out here using the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Qo8ctWnmk

I can admit to not noticing the rather menacing spiders lurking above me whilst filming! 

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I spent an entire afternoon just marvelling at the power of this place which my pictures will never do justice to.

It was awesome.

Nuff said!

IMAG0131Any foolish notions of bombing in were quickly set packing you would not even last seconds in the water, with or without surfboard!

The only other thing to report was this amusing sign.

I didn’t know banisters could drive!

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JaguarI left the coast because I was flying down to Foz De Iguacu in Brazil to check out the Iguacu National Park.

It is a vast nature reserve extending 225 thousand hectares into both Brazil and Argentina that was set up in the 1930s to protect the local fauna and flora.

Caiman

It is home to more than fifty species of wild cats including pumas, jaguars and ocelots

The River Iguacu that flows through the middle of the park is home to cayman, and represents the border between Argentina and Brazil.Toucan

There are also countless birds including many eagles and toucans such as the one I spotted here.

In the park there are also a huge number of deer, monkeys, and a several very poisonous snakes and spiders. DCIM100GOPRO

However the things that I had the most contact with are these little fluffy things called coatis.

Don’t let their appearance deceive you though, they have very sharp clawws and have long sinced recognised that carrier bags carried by tourists are a potential source of easy food.

DCIM100GOPROThroughout the day I saw several people fighting them off after the coati had crept up on their purchases from the souvenir shop unnoticed.

They would immediately set about ripping any packaging to pieces.

To try and minimise the ongoing assaults the national park have put up signs all over the park asking you not to feed the animals.

However and I checked this several times, nowhere did it say that you were not allowed to get them drunk!

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