Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2

Peru 1


I whizzed through Peru quite quickly (fifteen days to be precise) and here is the story of what I got upto.

The border crossing from Ecuador to Peru was an odd one. Peru and Ecuador were at war in the past decade and only signed a peace deal in 1998 yet the border makes it seems that these two old foes are the best of friends. The Ecuadorian immigration formalities are actually completed in the town of Huaquillas a few kilometres from the border itself, where one gets stamped out. Then one crosses the border and has to find the Peruvian immigration some distance away as well, where one gets stamped in. The system seems to depend on a kind of honour system bizarre, particularly in these parts.

After arriving in Tumbes I got a bus to the unattractive town of Chiclayo. The draw there being the archaeological sites nearby. These are remains from the Moche empire that existed in Peru a long time ago, around 1000 BCE. In Tucume there are a number of adobe structures, most of which have not been excavated due to a lack of funding. Amongst these is what is allegedly the worlds largest adobe structure Huaca Larga. There are a number of pyramids and some limited excavation showing the contents of some of the buildings. The problem at this site is that as adobe is not the best material for withstanding the rigours of time, the structures are only recognisable from a distance and closer up generally just look like hills. The same could be said for Sipan, although much smaller in scale. Here however are several tombs of various high ranking personages.

In Layembeque nearby are a couple of museums showing what was within some of the sits nearby. The first I visited, the Bruning Museum, had a limited show of what was to be found whereas the Tumbas Reales museum is one of the finest I have visited. This museum excellently presented al the findings from the Sipan tombs with reconstructions as well as many of the original artefacts. The amount of gold and precious goods taken from just a few tombs is extremely impressive and much of it is extravagantly moulded or engraved. Some of it is inlaid with turquoise and much of it would make any ancient Egyptian Pharaoh quite envious. A limited Spanish website showing some of the bits on show is http://www.rtpnet.org/%7Efelipe/sipan/sipan.html. Whereas http://sipan.perucultural.org.pe/ and http://www.telefonica.com.pe/sipan/ are good sites in Spanish about the sites and excavations.

From Chiclayo I headed on south to Trujillo and Huanchaco. Huanchaco is a beach resort much more pleasant than the city of Trujillo fifteen minutes away. The draw for me though was more archaeological sites most famously Chan Chan. This has a well excavated adobe complex which really gives one a feeling of how the ancient Chimu (later than Moche) civilisation lived. To help with this there is a museum in Trujillo. Also at the museum is information about the Waringo, the Peruvian hairless dog. These are an endemic species in danger of extinction, largely due to the number of immigrant dogs, but bred and distributed amongst the various archaeological sites of Trujillo and its surroundings. There is archaeological evidence to show that he has been around since before the Incas and was a favourite pet of Inca royalty. They are a bit strange to see, looking unhealthy in comparison to the furry dogs we are used to. http://www.thebreedsofdogs.com/INCA_HAIRLESS_DOG.htm

Other Chimu sites I visited in Trujillo were Huaca del Iris and Huaca del Dragon, both of which are smaller temple structures with religious reliefs on them. I then went a bit further out to Huaca de la Luna and Huaca del sol. These are Moche again, so much older and the Huaca del Sol (pyramid of the sun) is thought to be the largest mud brick construction ever built. The Spanish though in there gold frenzy decided to divert the nearby river through the pyramid s as to wash most of it away and expose any gold within. They found nothing but did succeed in destroying and removing about two thirds of the structure. Thankfully the smaller Huaca de la Luna (pyramid of the moon) did not suffer the same fate and although the Spanish did break into it they got bored and left. This pyramid however, built in six stages one over the other has some excellent reliefs and frescos depicting wars, sacrifices, dances and deities. The colours are extremely lurid which is more than impressive considering that much of the painting is between two and three thousand years old.

From Trujillo I went to Pisco, named after the drink (not vice versa). From Pisco I visited the Islas Ballestas on a boat trip. There I got to see the Candelabra a geoglyph facing the sea that looks like a large candelabra or trident. The origins of this thing are in dispute. There is no record of it until 1925 and there are various theories. The local guides would like to link it to the Nazca lines a bit further south but the odd thing is that General San Martin who spent some time in the area documenting the landscape, flora and fauna made no mention of it. Some say that it was he who made it, others say it was tour guides trying to make another reason to come visit. As of yet there is no way to date this type of thing. There is a picture of it at http://www.ballestasperu.com/ing_principal.htm

The Islas Ballestas are also home to several endemic species including the Peruvian Boobie and Inca Turn as well as other birds. There are thousands of sealions and some of the biggest bull sealions I have seen. The islands themselves are interesting, the way they have weathered.

After the islands I went to the Paracas park and museum. In the museum there are some mummies dating back up to seven thousand years and a number of skulls intentionally deformed during childhood to give a sloping brow. In the park we were hoping to see flamingos, there was one in the distance. There is a nice landscape though.

From Pisco I went to Huacachina where they apparently have the worlds largest sand dunes. There I went sand buggying and boarding. The sand buggy is driven by one of the local lunatics on day release from hospital who careens around the desert trying to reproduce the feel of a rollercoaster, only without seatbelts or any sense of method or safety. At times we went over near vertical drops and actually got to the bottom of one quicker than the sandboarder who had left a minute earlier than us.

The sanboarding is conducted by the lunatics slightly less stable friend. Basically this involves strapping a piece of ironing board shaped wood to your feet and heading down a near vertical drop on a sand dune without actually embedding oneself in it. Having never been snowboarding or skiing or anything like that before I approached the new sport with some trepidation. My first attempt was slow and sure and actually my lack of speed meant that at times I had to excavate my board from the sand. My latter attempts were better and increasingly quicker, although by the end of a few goes I decided I would sit out the rest as I seemed to be putting a lot of stress on my ankles. This is no doubt as I was not doing it properly, but still I never got a face full of sand. On one of the latter dunes that I decided to sit out of. We descended in the buggy down the sae slope being boarded down and got to the bottom in time to see Adam wipe out in a dramatic fashion going head over heels at high speed and leaving impressions of his face every few metres on the lower part of the dune. He was miraculously unscathed apart from his pride. We saw a lovely sunset over the dunes and headed back to the oasis of Huacachina.

From Huacachina I got a bus to Nazca. Nazca is most famous for its lines. These are a massive series of geoglyphs etched into the desert in the surrounding area. They represent various images, of people, whales, a dog, a llama, a monkey, hands, a solar calendar and many more. These are a favourite for people with theories of extra terrestrial involvement. There are however more down to earth explanations. The images are also found on ancient Nazcan pottery and are generally thought to have been used as Shamanic spirit guides and perhaps also as offerings to the gods that they at times represent. By far outnumbering the lines however are the geometric, particularly trapezoidal lines. Some have claimed them to be landing strips for interstellar craft but more reasonably they are thought to be representations of energy lines similar to the lay lines found in Europe or the Feng Shui lines of China. The most remarkable thing however about all these is that they cannot be seen from the ground but only from the air. The scale of some of the figures and shapes is quite awesome with some lines running for several hundred metres perfectly straight ignoring natural features such as hills and cliffs.

So to get a good look at the lines I took a flight over the Nazca and Palpa lines. These being two nearby groups as I thought if I was going to do some I may as well do as much as I could. It was impressive to see the extent to which these people had mapped out and drawn on the desert floor. Some of the figures are easily recognisable whereas others require more concentration or imagination. On the return from viewing the lines (in a little four seater Cessna, I was up front in the jump seat and a Dutch couple behind, she spent most of her time bringing up breakfast. In fairness it was a bumpy windy flight), we saw the ancient aqueducts. These are a series of spiral holes in the ground which carry the water from the Andes to irrigate the fields around Nazca. The system was actually built two or three thousand years ago and is an underground system (to avoid water loss through evaporation) and is still maintained by the farmers working the land each responsible for a section in the same way for time immemorial.

Amongst the theories about the lines is that the shamans would view them from an ancient hot air balloon. This theory was put to the test by Julian Nott and Jim Woodman who managed to fly a smoke filled balloon with only the resources available at the time. http://www.nott.com/nazca.htm The most famous archaeologist concerning the Nazca lines is Maria Reiche who claimed it was a giant astronomical calendar. This has been largely disproved though.

The following image shows many of the interesting straight lines as seen from space but one cannot see the figures on it. http://landsat7.usgs.gov/gallery/images/L7_195_6_70_11102002_full.jpg

The following website has pictures of many of the lines and some information about them. http://www.crystalinks.com/nasca.html

From Nazca I decided to get a bus straight to La Paz, Bolivia and leave Peru behind. Before you wonder, what happened to the rest of Peru, Macchu Pichu and Cuzco etc. don’t fret. I decided on this part of the trip to confine myself to the coast and its desert (the desert stretches from southern Ecuador all the way down through northern Chile), as in the highlands at the moment it is the rainy season and I am hoping to see the Carnaval in Oruro, Bolivia in a few days time. I am leaving South America from Peru in June anyway so will check it out then, when it should be a much better season. The bus took about twenty hours and went through some nice coastal scenery and also along the shores of Lake Titicaca. It was there we crossed the border and headed onto La Paz at an astonishing 3,800 metres. Enough to take your breath away and it does as at that altitude just going upstairs can fell like work. I am going to acclimatise here for a few days before setting on to see more of Bolivia. As always I will keep you posted.



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