Sunday, 31 October 2010

Come to Huaraz, It's Fun!

Paz was with me in officers-school in the Israeli army, he decided to make an easy start to his South-American trip, and join a friend already knowing what it's all about. We set to meet in Huaraz because it fit my timetable of a long trip, and Paz could easily arrive from Lima.
Knowing I don't want to be late for Paz's arrival, I got there 6 days early (my count). Paz & I agreed that if I do make it early I'm allowed to do everything except for the famous Huayhuash trek. Knowing I've got 5 days, I went to see some places around the city:
Lake 69:
Huaraz is the first place in South America that staying away from Israelis was just not possible. Every hostel seems like it's over occupied by us. I found a far away hostel thinking it would be better - I was wrong.
Checking out the options (alone or through an agency), I found out it would strangely be cheaper to just take the agency's van. 8 people in the evening turned into 15 the morning after.
We set with the Jaimes (a very Israeli hostel) to leave Huaraz early, we didn't. To complete the delay we also fixed an old spare tire (on our time) on the way - good thing we did, because we also had a flat tire all to our selves.
Arriving late to the trail, we knew we had little time to climb a long and hard way. Even so, we made a very Israeli brunch - Tchina, eggs, salad & Nachle-coffee. We skipped the Nargila due to the height & lack of time.
Some chose not to stop with us, and so we were now 9 on our way up (7 Israelis, one German & one French both amazingly patient to Israelis). Most of the way up I found my self in the same pace of Tal (Israel), Elichay (AKA Dagan, Israel), Julie (France) & Jutta (Germany). The climb was not easy, but we made it to the top in time to make some more coffee & take a bath. The water of this lake/lagoon are somewhere on the top of my list of the coldest waters I've ever bathed in to.
On the way back, I found Jutta as a really nice person to talk to, about everything. Because I'm so good with the ladies, I even had the guts to ask her to spend the next day with me.
A day out with Jutta:
Wilcahuain is an is an archaeological site just 30 minutes away from Huaraz. We took the local transportation, others ride here be bikes. It's a small site, one main building remaining. From there we walked our way down to the ''hot-springs'' of Monterrey. They were not hot at all and I think there was even a part when we both shivered from the cold. At least I picked out very good company.
Ice-Climb to the Vallunaraju:
Dagan said it would be fun! Why not actually?
Waking up, I found out I miscalculated the days with Paz's arrival and he was waiting for me to wake up in the lounge of the hostel. I already payed and couldn't cancel my plans, and so I quickly hugged Paz, told him what there's to do around Huaraz while I'm gone, and was on my way to have some fun.
Tom (AKA Cruz), Dagan (AKA Ha-Katan) & I set off to conquer the summit of that dreadful mountain (5685masl) with Mel, the guide (AKA Gibson). Three days. First for arriving and climbing to the base camp (4700masl) with all our gear. Dagan took the height a bit too personally and started eating backwards. Second day morning, we learned & practiced climbing on the glacier next to the base camp. Using ice gear was new to all of us, and we had our share of fun. We all went to sleep early knowing we have to wake up early (midnight) in order to reach the summit the next day.

Walking on glaciers, all the group has to be tied together, that way, if there's a crack in the glacier covered with snow and someone falls into it - the others get to be pulled in as well. Mel walked first, being an ice-climbing instructor, in Huaraz, he was a lot better acclimatized to the height of the mountain and allowed him self to pull us up to the slops. Frankly, we felt like dogs on a leash.
Asking to stop a lot (because of the fast pace), and because the general pace was too slow, we got to the height of 5600masl at 07:00. Knowing we got less than 100 meters to the top, but we were exhausted and the time was getting late (not good to walk on a warm glacier) - we decided that was that and we had enough.
Descending, as always was easier.

Paz and I reunited. Dagan had an idea (ever since Lake 69) to go to a rock festival in the upcoming weekend. Paz agreed to try the new sport out, and I was excited to try out my abilities on a real wall (after a long time of plastic walls).
Someone once told me perfect depends on the eye of the observer. Well, Hatun-Machay is perfect. For what & for whom? Climbers! Just heaven. Crazy rock-formations, 30-40 meters high, rise up from a grassy area. A brilliant guy from Huaraz had the place arranged with bolts and about 120 courses in all difficulties.
Paz, Dagan & I checked out the easier ones and still had a very good time. I can only imagine what it feels like for a real climber to arrive to such a place.

Still in Huaraz, Paz and I continue to longer and harder tasks. The Santa-Cruz & Huayhuash treks await us.

Tips for Huaraz:
- Lake 69 - most people arrive and make it their first one day trek. The fact is, some don't make it to the top because they are not yet acclimatized. It's an expensive & beautiful place, and I think it's just too bad to miss it. Go there when you know you can.
- Vallunaraju & Ice-Climbing - Hard. Doesn't mean you don't need to try it. It's not for me, but maybe it's your thing.
- Hatun-Machay - Amazing. Go there, if you like climbing or not. If you do plan on climbing, sleep there a night in the camp or in the refugio. The drive is long (2 hours), and that way you get more time for actually climbing.
- Andescamp is an amazing hostel. A good combination between the price, the breakfast and the amazing people running it. Thank you all.

Chachapoyas, Peru

Arriving early to Chachapoyas, I had time to search & pick a cheap hostel. During the search and almost giving up on the prices - Dennis attacks me from behind.
Dennis who?
Well, Dennis is a German who insisted on following me around Ecuador for about two weeks. Not so nice a person, and so I hope I meet him again soon.
Not thinking twice, I joined Dennis at his hostel and met Niels (not the one with the geese), Dennis' friend from home.
Later on, we (Dennis, Niels & I) regrouped with the Australian couple from the last Post (Dennis - could you help me with the names?) and set a tour for the next day to see the Kuèlap remains.
Three hours away from Chachapoyas (which is far away from the world as is), lie the Kuèlap remains. Kuèlap is most famous for it's more than 400 round buildings. It also has a 20 meter high defense wall. The Incas had to siege the city, and it was one of the hardest cultures for them to conquer. A few years later, the Kuèlaps joined forces with the Spanish ''gods'' and helped them beat the Incas.
The remains are impressive. Standing outside of the huge wall, you feel like defeat. The entrances are narrow & steep which makes it harder to enter for the armed Inca soldier (sounds familiar?). Inside the city, circular buildings stretch as far as the eye could see...not really, but there are quite enough. Each building was used by a family as a house. Within each building there's a hole - that was used as a family tomb.
The Kuèlaps used only 3 kinds of decorations named after their 3 gods - Puma-eyes, Cayman-eyes & the Snake. There is also only one open window in one house (out of all of the houses), all the rest are shut and were used as shelves.
Due to the fact that I was in recovery of a three day diarrhea, I told you the storyline of Kuèlap and not of how I felt there.
Catarata Gocta - The 3rd-Highest Waterfall in The World?
Morning after Kuèlap, Dennis & Niels had planed to see Catarata-Gota. I didn't really want to, but my bus was due to leave only in the evening. Dennis got up with a really bad stomach and decided to stay in the hostel where he could sleep and run to the WC whenever he felt like it. I took the chance, and went for some quality time with Niels.
Speeding again, in a private taxi, we got to the small village next to the high waterfall. 4 years ago, in the year of 2006, a German guy discovered and measured the beautiful waterfall and since then - the Chachapoyanes tried to populate the site. The people of the small village seem like they're not sure what the fuss is all about. Taking a guide is included when paying entrance to the park. Even though the path is as clear as glass, the guide told me there are snakes and dangerous animals, and he's there with a radio so help would come (we really tried to see some snakes, they were all on holiday). He was also a good story-teller. Through him I learned about the life of the guides working in the park (too many guides - not enough tourists), and his life off guide-duty (mainly agriculture). Niels got some translations from me, but was a bit frustrated that he couldn't understand the stories first-hand.
About 2 hours of walking, we arrived underneath the waterfall. From far away, it seemed as though some thing's wrong with the picture. The waterfall was not as impressive as the ads. showed! I want my money back! Someone stopped providing water for the waterfall, and the view was a bit sad. Even though there was not enough water from above, the pool was full enough to teach a German what you do when you arrive to a water source.
Washed and happy, we walked our way back to the village. The guide assured us that if we come in the wet season - the waterfall would be amazing and rushing with water. I believe him.
Later on, I checked the stats on the high waterfall - according to Wikipedia it's the 16th highest waterfall in the world, not the 3rd. Friends, beware of Peruvian advertisement.

Saying my goodbyes again to Dennis (this time with Niels in the way - we couldn't have our crazy goodbye-sex) & Chachapoyas, I was alone on my way to Huaraz.

Tips for Chachapoyas:
- If you made it all this way, there's enough to see. Kuèlap, Gocta (in the wet season) & the Sarcophagus.
- Kuèlap is very impressive. If there was a touristic center in Chachapoyas, and it would have been more reachable, I would recommend it as much as the Machu Picchu. The architecture is more impressive by far.
- Catarata Gocta was a bit disappointing, I wouldn't travel all the way to Chachapoyas for it, but it is a nice walk if you're already here.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

New Picasa Gallery - New Albums

Pictures guys, pictures...
After a long break, with problems, pseudo viruses & a new card reader, I worked hard on publishing some new photo albums of the passing 2 months. Enjoy:

Iquitos, Peru:

Traveling The Amazon:

Manaus & Belem, Amazonica, Brazil:

Salvador De Bahia, Brazil:

Sorry for the delay. Now that I've got time, Posts will start appearing as well.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Crossing Over (Ecuador to Peru)

Attempting to leave Vilcabamba & Ecuador, I asked the locals for the best way to do so.
The lovely people of Vilcabamba told me the route from Vilcabamba and South is shorter in distance, but takes more time. Even so, it has better views and I woudn`t regret taking it.
The timings of the Vilcabamba people was about 28 hours of travel until I reach Chachapoyas. This is how it went (times are estimated)
Waiting for the morning (and only) bus from Vilcabamba to Zumba at 06:00, I met an Australian couple, and not too many words were said before we found out we all are headed to Chachapoyas. The bus arrived at 07:00. It took us hours to get to Zumba, where we had o wait 2 hours until an open-sided truck left towards the border.
The ``main bus station`` is a flat dirt parking-lot. Open-sided trucks with different destinations filled the platform, but for some reason, all trucks had the same time of departure. That`s right - all & only buses leaving Zumba in all directions - leave every day at 14:00.
In all the ``hundred trucks leaving at the same time`` racket, we somehow found the right one.
The Ecuadorian border is easy and simple. Problems start trying to get your stamps on the Peruvian side. One of 5 old shacks is the right one (with the man and the desired stamp). Guessing correct, you are asked endless amount of questions. Then, before stamping your passport, you have to fill out forms with the local police station, which is located 200m in another (hidden) shack. After doing every thing we were asked, the stamp guy asks me to pay a 1 sol fee, for the good life of the children of Peru (or something else made up...), I really didn`t want to pay the clear ``bribe``, all I had was a 100sol bill. Showing it to the stamp guy, he just pointed t the door (the biggest problem in South America - is change).
From the border, we took a ``colectivo``. It`s a station-car taxi, but not private. Not private simply means that there is always space in the vehicle. This time we were 10 people in the car. A lady with 4 children in the front sit, 4 grown people in the back sit, a man in the luggage compartment and the driver. 2 hours later we were in San Ignacio. It was already dark and we were hungry and tired from the long travel. We found a hostel and ate dinner, going to sleep, we knew we just past half of the traveling distance.
The vans leaving San Ignacio were our forth kind of transportation vehicle we took. Another kind of ``colectivo``. This time, we counted 21 people on the small van. 3 hours until Jaèn. From the ``van-station``, we had to wait again, and so we grabbed something to eat. With the last bite, the van driver enters the restaurant and rushes us to his van, waiting just for us.
It was an hour and a half to reach Bagua Grande. Stepping off the van in Bagua Grande, we found out the next transport ``station`` is far away, and we can`t walk the distance. We took a ``Moto-Car`` (Tuk-Tuk), which took us to a private taxi station (arguing, we found out there is no other way - or is there?). The price sounded ok, and the driver promised to leave right away, and so - we took the bait.
The next three hours of my life passed really fast and slow at the same time. How could this be? Fast - because the driver thought he was on Formula1, and did not slow down even after nearly crashing head to head with a huge truck. Slow - me wishing the horror would end, helped time pass as slow as it could.
About 15 minutes before arriving, I got the balls to ask the youngster with the wheal to please slow down. It was clearly too late, as the road was clear and strait from there and on until Chachapoyas.