Tag Archives: photoblog

Braving the thieving Monkeys

After a monkey stole Mr Ducky in Cambodia and a Hawk tried to eat him in Argentina, the couple were naturally quite scared about meeting the resident animals at Esperanza Verde.

A close shave for Mr Ducky....
A close shave for Mr Ducky….

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With our resident monkeys famed for stealing anything that isn’t tied down, extra caution was required…we didn’t make the same mistake a third time…

Returning to the Jungle…

So after much deliberation and a few skype calls to the family to get their opinion – we decided to return to the jungle. For the next 6 months we plan to take a break from life on the road and once again work with the monkeys and all the other wonderful animals at Esperanza Verde. Having fallen in love with life at the project dedicating a bit more of our time and putting off returning to London and potentially getting a “career” or some such scary prospect seemed to us like a no brainier.

So after our break in Cusco and our 4-Day hike to Machu Picchu we made the journey back to our temporary home. This time the once complicated journey didn’t seem so daunting and instead the familiar faces mapped the way. “Bigote” the ferry driver in Curimana didn’t seem to remember us but by the time we got to Bello Horizonte the unforgettable barks of Yarra, the family dog, announced our arrival.

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As they were functioning with just one volunteer on our arrival I think it’s fair to say the family were pleased to have us back. Before we knew it was back to work and we were pleased to find the monkeys hadn’t forgotten us. As usual Willow greeted us by jumping on us and pulling our hair…we missed you too Willow…

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Mica as ever is gorgeous and inquisitive…

And Jordi is still mischievous and can often be found stealing Yarra’s food when he thinks no one is watching…

In our absence there have even been a few new arrivals…meet Nikita our baby Capuchin who is charming everyone at the project…

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As ever life flies by here with lots of hungry mouths to feed and construction of the new house well underway. Internet access is limited but we hope to keep you regularly updated with tales from jungle. The plan is still to continue our travels next year but for now you’ll have to excuse us if we turn into some of those bloggers that just post endless pictures of cute animals…

Paracas and Islas Ballestas: The “Poor Man’s Galapagos”

Known to most as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” the Ballestas Islands in Peru are famed for their wildlife. With this reputation we had high hopes for our day trip from the little town of Paracas.

Like us, many opt for the combined tour – in the morning a boat trip to the islands and in the afternoon a trip to the National Reserve.

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It’s an early start of 8am when you head out on the boat and with just about as many tourists crammed in as birds flying above, it gets a bit crowded…

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In just under 2 hours we where whizzed round the islands, spotting hundreds of different variations of birds, a few penguins, sea lions lazing on the rocks and dolphins. It’s fair to say on the wildlife front the Ballestas had lived up to their reputation. Although it was a fairly grey and miserable day this somehow intensified the colours and didn’t stop the wildlife from making an appearance…

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However before we knew it we were back on dry land, having luckily escaped without a drop of bird poop. Apparently this is rare.

During our afternoon in the reserve we admired various viewpoints along the coast and some more of the various birds…

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And a man with a motorbike…

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But the reserve seemed to lack the wow factor we’d become accustomed too. The fossils sign posted left everything to imagination and the flamingos though pink were mere specs in the distance. Perhaps the grey weather didn’t help.

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The Cathedral Arch, once a great attraction, had unfortunately collapsed in an earthquake…

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The lunch stop naturally provided some overpriced restaurants in the middle of nowhere, and a free pisco sour the size of a thimble. But it did mean we got hassled by and up close to some of these feathered friends…

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Who artfully backed Sam into a corner…

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However for under £10 for the day we couldn’t really complain. And although the boat trip was brief, it’s worth it just to get a look at some of the wildlife on show.

Our Little Oasis: Huacachina

After our flight over the Nazca lines we decided to head for a bit of sun and sand in nearby Huacachina. Laying back on the sand, maybe a quick dip in the water and all over 25 miles from the coast. The oasis of Huacachina is now well established on the backpacker route for those interested in sand boarding and dune buggy rides.

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The Ica desert, whilst not enormous benefits from gigantic sand dunes that have attracted tourists seeking the thrill of sand boarding. Having done some in San Pedro, Sam and I couldn’t wait to give it another go. Lauren was more excited about lying back in the sun with the local turtles.

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Whilst all the hostels and travel agents in town offer sand boarding expeditions, we quickly noticed that the equipment was a bit rubbish. Most of the “sand-boards” on offer were in fact home made and you were meant to lie down on them like a sledge.

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Sand-board Peru is one of the only places to offer proper boards (well maintained) and the focus of the trip is the sand boarding. Most other agencies put their emphasis on the sand buggy rides. The buggy rides are good fun, but be prepared to be thrown about in the custom made vehicles. It’s not uncommon to turn up for a tour and find the police doing spot safety checks on some of the buggies.

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After a quick re-introduction, we set off to the big dunes. The size of these monsters made the ones in San Pedro look like a children’s play park. We spent 3 hours moving between increasingly large dunes in the sand buggy as the sun set. Sam and I were soon reacquainted with getting faces full of sand, but at least we had a set of wheels to get us back to the top again.  We finally finished with a bit of starlight boarding back into town.

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Even if you aren’t interested in sand based activities then Huacachina is still a nice place to stop for a couple of nights. All around the edge of the oasis there are plenty of bars and restaurants. The accommodation options aren’t great, but most places are fine for the short amount of time you’ll be there.

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It’s also a good place to go and visit a couple of Peruvian vineyards. Whilst no where near the scale of Concha y Toro in Chile these vineyards have plenty of history and are also all producers of pisco.

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After our wine tasting we headed for a pisco tasting, with everything from pisco cream to double strength pisco. In our group we had several Peruvians, two Aussies, three Brits and a Korean and as a result we all exchanged our words for “cheers” in various languages. However when we tried to teach the group the meaning of “bottoms up”, were pretty sure our Spanish translated as “arses in the air”…whoops. Ten glasses of pisco later we left (on unsteady legs) with several samples in hand.

 

Flying over the Nazca Lines

After much deliberation on whether to fork out nearly US$100 for a 30 minute flight over the Nazca lines we conceded. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, these ancient geoglyphs can only really be appreciated fully from the air.

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Small fears of my occasional travel sickness surfacing, we prepared to board the 6-seater plane…

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With two-pilots up front, one acting as a guide, and two fellow friends, we settled in for the ride.

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And wow…

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The Nazca lines themselves are a little hard to see at first but once spotted, these “drawings” are intriguing to say the least.

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In all honesty though, we were more impressed by the flight. If you’ve never been in a light aircraft before this is a perfect opportunity to try it. The plane twists and turns with ease to make sure you get the best views and it is an entirely different sensation to that of a passenger jet.

However if a flight isn’t for you then the Nazca lines can be seen from a viewing platform just outside town.

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We opted to stay in Nazca for a few nights. There are a few decent restaurants to keep you occupied but not an awful lot else. If you’re short on time, like our friend Claire, you can get an over night bus from Arequipa, do the flight early in the morning and head on in the afternoon to our next destination Ica.

Visting the “Ice Princess” in Arequipa

As the mini bus from our Colca Canyon tour approached the outskirts of the city of Arequipa I quickly realised I had grossly underestimated the size of the place. Not having read the guidebook yet, and having become accustomed to the smaller more basic towns in Bolivia I was pleasantly surprised that before I knew it I was driving past a Starbucks.

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Arequipa is in fact one of Peru’s largest cities and is the second most industrialised and commercial in the country. The centre of town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and whilst there is plenty to do in the city, like us, it is easy the while away the days enjoying the pleasures of modern city life again. We ate good food, drank coffee and socialised with the friends travelling with us.

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If you’re in Arequipa, even only briefly, there are two sites we highly recommend seeing.

Firstly we visited the “Ice Princess” or “Juanita” at the Museo Santuarios Andinos. Juanita, like the Children of Llullaillaco, which we visited in Salta, she as an excellent example of an Inca Mummy, a child sacrificed to the gods, buried and frozen on Mount Ampato. No photos but the tours of the museum are well conducted and the artifacts are fascinating.

Secondly a visit to the Santa Catalina Monastery is a must. Built in 1579 it is over 20,000 square meters and still has approximately 20 nuns in residence today. We got up early and arrived for opening. The sign on the door said it opened at 9am, despite the guidebook saying 8.30am, but they let us in at 8.30am anyway!

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I urge you to drag yourself out of bed and do the same, as by about 10am the tour groups started to arrive disrupting the tranquillity of the place. Our pictures were people free and the morning sun made the colours and the architecture truly beautiful.

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We wandered around undisrupted for a good few hours.

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Occasionally one of our group would get in shot…

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But most of the time we had the place to ourselves…

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Well except for a few creepy nun mannequins and some guinea pigs in the larder…

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We were a bit snap happy so here’s a few more shots to inspire you to visit…

 

Wildlife in the Amazon