zaterdag 3 augustus 2013

Real tourism in Peru

On vacation with Steven in Peru

The last 3 weeks Steven Vrebos, a friend from Belgium is joining me. Together we are doing some pure tourism. I arranged a vast scedule of organised visites, through the highlites of Peruvian tourism.

I picked Steven up at the airport of Lima. From there he had a long busride from +- 18 hours to get to Arequipa. There we visited the Colca Canion. A canion with lot's of remainings from the ancient Peruvian cultures, thousands of terraces on the hillsides for agriculture, some beautifull old villages and places where the condors fly really close so you can observe theme well. But this is a different kind of tourisme. Hundreds of people doing the same trip, making the same pictures. They attract the condors by placing carcasses with rotting meat. So they fly unnaturally close to the people.

 Back in Arequipa, we visit the city with it's beautiful old parts, magnificant monastries and lot's of antiek shops. I almost bought a door knocker 'The hand of Fatima'.

From Arequipa we went to Puno the city that gives access to the lake Titi caca. Which lays at the border between Peru and Bolivia. We did a 2 day trip on the lake. Taking a boat to the floating islands made of straw. The in deginous people still live in the traditional way. Thanks to tourism and fishing for selling in Puno.
Every 25 years they have to construct a new island and move their houses.

Later we went to real island, Amantani, where we stayed overnight. We where hosted by local families, where they cooked  traditional food for us. We went to visit the Pacha Mama temple on the highest point of the island and made a wish.
In the afternoon we helped some local men to make adobe bricks for constructing new houses. These bricks are made from earth, water and straw.

From Puno we rushed on to Cusco. We took a cheap nightbus with a lot of locals. In the morning we arrive in Cusco and discover that Steven camera has been stolen. But impossible to find it back or find the thieve because the bus stopped at least 20 times at night to let local people in or out... In the hill's next to Cusco we visited some archeological sites without paying. If you entre through the exit or you climb the hill's next to the tourist sites you can see everything for free.

From Cusco we went on a 4 day Jungletrail to Machu Picchu. The first day we arrived high in the mountains to do some 'downhill' cycling. Then we walked 2 days in beautifull nature towards Aguas Calientes the city next to Machu Picchu.

The 4th day we woke up at 4 AM to klim the mountain to the entrance of the ruines, to arrive there at sunrise. After having 30 min. of explanation on the site, Steven and me we climed the Wayna Picchu mountain untill the temple of the sun on top of it. From here you've got a wonderfull view on the whole site of Machu Picchu.

At night we had a train and minibus back to Cusco arriving very late, tired and shaked.

After these 3  tours (Colca Canion, Lake Titi Caca and Machu Picchu) we finally got some time to chill and enjoy our last days in Peru. Travelling with two people is so different from travelling on your own. On your own you do just the things you feel like and you go straight from one point to another. With two people you take your time, drink a beer and chat a lot enjoying the sun. Things take more time. For me it was a difference like on your own your travelling and always on the move. If you've got compagnie you are suddenly more in a vacationmood and you enjoy things different. And with two you're more mischievous, but that's so much fun!

Later we passed at Curahuasi the village where I did my volunteering to visit the volunteers. We saw the school children practising marching and playing in their marching band. Because on sunday the 28th of July, the day we have our flight back to Belgium, it's the national independantsday of Peru.
On to Abancay, the capital of the Apurimac region, to hike through the Sanctuario National de Ampay.

The next day we arrived to the city of Ica, with his famous sanddunes of Huacachina. It's nice to climb the dunes, but don't stay there to long  because it's a real tourist-trap. One afternoon is way enough.

And then our last destination in Peru: Lima.
Most of the time Lima is clouded by smog, and there's not so much to see or do. In the historic centre, La Victoria, there's the convento de San Francisco, where you can visit the tumbes where the former people from Lima where burried. You can see thousands of bones and skull's. And there are lot's of old paintings. 'The last supper' by a painter from Mechelen (= Flanders, Belgium) and the paintings of the crucifiction painted by Rubens and his students.

And then my six months in Latin-America where over...

Last pictures of this wonderfull and rich experience:


Our hostel, 'L'auberge Espagnol'

The Colca Canion 

Gringo's having fun!

A pink flamingo 

Lake Titi Caca

The floating islands

Steven floating

Making adobe bricks on the Amantani Island

Creative recycling, shoe versus door hinge.




Saqsaywoman, free tourism 

Jungletrail to Machu Picchu

The 'Sexy Llamas' preparing for the trip.

Steve and me 

A long way to go...

Our guide in a small Coca field, 
local people chew this hole days to keep working without hunger or thurst.
You kneed at least 5kg of this and a lot of chemicals to make cocaïne.


Siesta time!

Easy roads and tracks for advanced hikers

Machu Picchu

The last Inka Emperor.

Machu Picchiquetito from the Wayna Picchu.

The busstation in cusco


Children preparing for independenceday

Ruines next to Abancay 



The End

Thanks for watching, next episode coming soon...

dinsdag 9 juli 2013

Ecuador: A Banana Republic?

About Ecuador

Ecuador is a very small country but nevertheless a place with a enormous bio diversity.
It's territory is devided in 3 parts: coastal region, the Andes and tropical rainforest and 1000 km from the coast the Galapagos Islands are an important source of biodiversity.

Ecuador thanks his name to a French expedition that came to measure in 1739 the place where the equator of the earth would be. The Equator is located right above Quito.

Ecuador has 14 million citizens, but because of a bad politic and social history some 2,5 million Ecuadorians live abroad. Which is very different from other countries like Brasil and Peru Where most of the people never left their own country.

The last 10 years there has been a lot of changes made and the country is developping more en more. Rafael Correa Delgado is the actual president since 2007. He is a leftwing politician (Izquierdista) from the party "La Revolución Ciudadana". He studied Economics, like my mother, and had a good connections with Hugo Chavez, the former president of Venezuela. He died 5 March (2013).
Correa he studied in different international Universities. His wife is Belgian, he met her during his studies in Louvain-La-Neuve, the sistercity of Leuven, where I was born.

So the country went the last 10 years from very poor, unreliable and corrupt to a fast developping country.
Changes that have been made:

- They reconstructed the roads, a trip that took you before 12 hours you can do in 6h now.
- They started to rise the taxes, wich gives the government money to invest in new hospitals and initiate a social security system.
- They did judicial reforms, in order to fight corruption
- They reformed their treaties with foreign and international compagnies active in Ecuador. Before compagnies didn't have to pay a lot of taxes, now:

1. Old foreign compagnies keep 20% of their profit, the Ecuadorians governement gets 80%

2. New foreign compagnies keep 40% and  Ecuador keeps 60%

A kind of system to regain all the profit that Ecuador has lost throughout all these years of corruption.
More countries should put in charge such a system. The whole of Latin America and Africa thas been plundered throughout history and most of it is still going on. And the majority of the profit always went/and still goes to European and North American compagnies.

When talking to a lot of Ecuadorians I discovered that lot's of people like their president and lot's of them dislike Correa, because of structuring and controling the media and forbidding syndicates to protest.
He is a very controversial man with sometimes extreme thoughts and he isn't scared to reprove (berispen, NL) the U.S. ambassador in Ecuador. In some ways that courageous, in others it could threaten their economic agreements.

I'm reading the book "Ecuador: de Banana Republic a la No República", written by Rafael Correa himself., to understand more what's his point of view and what the plans of Correa's governement are.

My trip

From Machala (see my last story) I went to Cuenca, the third biggest city of Ecuador. A beautiful colonial city, with a quiet European look and lot's of cultural activities. And from there I went to "Inti Raymi", the Inca's "Festival for the sun", which still is being celebrated by people from the Andes in Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Ecuador.

From Cuenca I continued to Puerto Lopez at the coast to watch the wails and visit 'Isla de Plata', or 'Bird Shit Island', their shit gives the Island a silver shine and makes it smell like ammoniac. Thanks birds!
This Island hosts lot's of beautiful birds that only come and breed here because the island is protected.

After 1 day of coast tourism back to the mountains, Baños de Agua Santa. A small and cozy town dedicated to alternative therapies and full of health centers. The Tungurahua volcano next to it provides the 'baños termales' from the city, the natural termal baths, from hot water.
Baños is a great place for outdoor activities and going out at night. And my stay in the wonderfull hostel 'Casa del Molino Blanco' and meeting very nice people, made me stay longer. Elba was a really nice host. She takes good care of the visitors and her hostel.

Quito, the second highest capital (2850 m) in the world, is a big city, with a beautifull historic center. And a lot of nice and helpfull people. But you kneed to be carefull, there are a lot's pickpockets and thieves.
On monday I had the opportunity to see the change of the guards at the precidential palace, with Rafael Correa being present.
Next to the city I visited 'La Mitad del Mundo', where the equator passes. And you can play some games testing the centrifugal forces of the earth, being different on each side of the equator.

Now i'm back in Lima.

Enough stories, time for some pictures:


Museum about traditional Ecuadorian heads from

Inside the factory/shop 

Me  and Florian (fr)

The 'Inti Raymi' festival in Ingapirca

The morning after...

Puerto Lopez

a 'little' swordfish 


... and more fish!


 Isla de Plata  or  Bird Shit Island

Blue Footed Boobies

Fluffy bird 

A very sick bird

Baños de Agua Santa

Best hostel of Ecuador!!  

The termal baths

Edwin Vieira, the owner of the 'Blah Blah' bar and strong campaigner for Correa the president.

Correa used the idea of Mr. Vieira for making a comic about Correas a president in his first legislature. 
"The only thing Correa did right ..."


Ceremonial change of the guards of the presidential palace.

President Rafael Correa, with his apostles. 

The fake middle of the earth
The equator like the French expedition measured it in 1739.

The real equator measured by GPS, 200 m next to the monument.

Hasta la pasta