Friday, 23 January 2015

One of the Deepest Canyon in the World – Colca Canyon Peru

Colca Canyon. I survived. It’s always the case that I don’t know what I am signing up for so when we hit the road at 3 am in the morning driving to the canyon I was soundly asleep in the van and enjoying the view in the morning rolling up and down the side of the mountain overlooking the Canyon. Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyon in the world but lack the fame of Grand Canyon. Guess they forgot to put the word Grand in front.

Breakfast stop and I had the first taste of Coca Tea …. Pretty delicious like any other tea but other than that nothing much. The first stop was the Condor Viewing area which was great since we spotted Condor … I thought they would be bigger but well they are big enough. Next stop Hiking time.
So Day One we started high up and slowly went down from 3700 to 2500m about 4 hours walk downhill with great view disappearing as we decent. After about 2 ½ hours my right knee started to act up and was becoming painful. Slow down the pace but still reach there in time for lunch. First day and we camp there with no more hiking. Illiot and Atin went for a side tour hike towards QaQatapay which is an Inca ruin that barely any tourist goes. I sat out that one and just relax at the hostel or lodge nursing my beer and my leg
Day Two was not too bad …. A little uphill and mostly flat walking and then downhill to Sangalle. Just a morning hike to the next stop for lunch and camp for the night. We had so much time the 2nd day to just chill back relax, swim, sleep at the hammock, play some soccer, some cards with other groups from other guide and even light a campfire at night. The bottle of rum we bought along the way was a good friendship maker I guess.
Day Three …. The day I almost gave up. Woke up at 430 am in the morning for a gruesome 4 hours hike uphill non-stop. It was a 1000m uphill elevation climb with a time limit where we need to get there by 8am else no breakfast. I invoked the smokers pace for that climb, super slow and was constantly out of breath. Walking so slowly I lost count how many people passed me including a few donkeys with bloody riders on top.

Vamos Chico (Lets Go) ….. Shouted the guide from far above looking at me with a grin on his face. Thou I could not see the grin I knew it was there. Cursing, swearing I slowly make my way up and finally reach …. Just before 8am. Everyone was so damn fast going up in 3 hours while I took 4.
“Oii Edwin …. Esta Bien ???”  shouted Elliot from above …. ( Are you OK ?? )
“No Fucking Esta Bien” I shouted back …..
Huffing and puffing that last 100meters I was nearly there …. Bite whatever thought I had of pain and just move on …. A step at a time ….
Next time … I am getting a donkey …. Fuck … Still I survived.
After breakfast was a drive to the hot springs, a hot spring never felt so good after that hike. Then it was a slow drive back to Arequipa with a lunch stop and a viewpoint stop at 5100m elevation.  

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Meeting Good Companion in Arequipa Peru

Arequipa was a nice town, one that I would consider living in until you get out of the touristic place which was all perfect and visited the real Arequipa and saw all the rubbish pilling up on the streets and the locals with their laid back life but hungry eyes for more to living. Still it was a perfect place for exploring and hence I love the city.

Background of the city by two majestic mountain, Mount misty and Mount Pichu Pichu the landscape is spectacular with the inner city lined with intricate old colonial building, museums of high standards, plenty of craft especially baby alpaca clothing, this town was no Machu Pichu but it was alluring by itself anyway.

Tourist town or no tourist town each will have a way to charm and keep travellers occupied especially in Peru where they guard tourist more carefully than their own kid. Hence there was the activities of tour bus which give one a glimpse of greater Arequipa not just downtown and then there is the river rafting for 80 Sols and of course trekking in Colca Canyon the deepest canyon in the world where one can even see Condors fly. (I’ll post a separate Post on Colca Canyon)
Breakfast in Peru & New Company
Ah back to where breakfast is served on the table instead of waking up and wondering if I would be bothered to make something or dress up to go out to get something. If I have a hostel of my own in future this would be the way to go. Put one or two table and force everyone at the hostel to eat at the same table. Force socializing the best way to meet people and if they somehow hook up and make a life together I will have a pin board of accomplishment. If I one day have a hostel ….
So that’s how I meet friends which was breakfast where I met Illiot from Australia. He had a crazy story for just travelling 6 weeks and getting food poisoning in Nazca for eating a bad Cerviche (Raw fish marinated in lime and spice) and had to be hospitalized for a day and now his passport was held hostage by the clinic till he pay up or the insurance cleared. So I tag along in the morning to the clinic since it was way too early at 8 am …. I was still in Chile time hence the body thought it was 10am. Fixed his problem after many pestering and phone calls and constant refresh of the internet page, finally the insurance company gave the green light and he got his passport back for 205 Sols … the excess
It was Christmas Eve and nothing better to do but just wonder around the city killing time before the big Christmas dinner back in the hostel where the family organized for all the backpackers for 30 sols. Christmas dinner was on Peruvian time so even thou the owner said 730pm we did not start till 830 which was then a huge feast of food too much for everyone one of us to finish. Force dinner and everyone make friends on the dinner table but since the table was so long only the immediate right left and forward got most of the attention.
That’s when we meet Atin from South Africa. Shit South Africa …. You clean of Ebola? Yeah its overrated he said. Salute more drinks and a new friend. It was a good night but an early one for me since I was way too tired from all the traveling
Christmas Day & White Water Rafting
Atin now tag along me and Illiot walking around the city. The idea was to visit the monastery museum but of course it was close. They did not believe me till they were at the front door with disbelieve on their faces. Walking around town by some miracle the tour agency is still open and we checked and within less than a minute they were booked into a tour for white water rafting. I was dragged along for 80 Sols.
The river that runs from the mountains cuts straight across Arequipa and we hurried back to the hostel chuck our stuff, change and off we were in the van driving upstream to the starting point.
Here you go wet suits, jacket, helmet …. Huh ???? The river water was apparently freezing cold although it was burning hot in the afternoon.
A good two hours later we reach the end of the rafting … class 3 and class 4 … pretty easy really but good fun and apparently cheap as well according to South Africa and Australia standards. I keep remembering it was much much cheaper in Bali …. But oh well …
So Atin decided to join us instead of leave on his own for Colca Canyon. The three amigos were born with such a weird combination. South East Asia, South Africa, Australia.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Border Crossing – Arica to Tacna (Chile to Peru) with a Malaysian Passport

One of the most nerve wrecking time during travels is always crossing borders from one country to another especially when it’s through a tiny border town. Information is always scare for border crossing town somehow and even when there is, its bare minimum enough that you have to think twice if the information is reliable. Everyone crosses the border differently (due to different passport) and crossing like a local is always the aim.
Chile Imigration

So I camped in Arica one night the border town of Chile before crossing over to Tacna the border town of Peru.
There are a few ways to cross the border between Arica and Tacna such as Train, Bus and Taxi but I can only share my experience crossing with a Taxi and base on the local recommendation it is the best method. Not the cheapest but then again it was pretty cheap to cross by taxi.
The International taxi stand is right beside the main bus station which is where I got the shared taxi. They call it “Taxi Colectivo” which means you share the taxi with random strangers crossing the border. The cost is written on the board so any taxi you take will be the same 4000 peso for the trip. However there is a departure tax leaving the International taxi stand and that is 300 peso which you have to pay at the booth on the right side immediate after entering the front door and get a coupon for exit which is handed over to the taxi driver.
The taxi driver also acts like a guide and would get your forms for entry to Peru ready plus he would also guide you step by step where to go (queue up) to cross the border. Facing Immigration thou is on your own so smile.
Getting out of Chile was pretty easy for as long you did not overstay or did not lose the slip of paper during entry they would just stamp you out. Onwards to Peru border and the officer looked at me and my passport.
Malaysia ?? …. Malaysia Passport is rare crossing the local border of Chile and Peru and I guess I was not surprise that he was not sure if I needed a Visa or not. The officer called over the counter to another ranking officer and asked if he knew anything about Malaysia passport
(Conversation in Spanish which I interpreted as such)
Officer 1 : Have you ever done Malaysia before ?
Officer 2 : Yea sure …. No problems the usual …
Officer 1 : Does he need a visa ?
Officer 2 : Nope just the usual stamp in ….
Officer 1 : How many days should I give him ?
Officer 2 : Dunnu ?? Ask him how many days he is visiting Peru
Officer 1 : How many days are you visiting Peru ( He asked in Spanish …. Then in English )
Me : One month ??
STAMP … Ok 30 days visa …. Dammit I should have said two months ….
No Visa Required for Malaysian Passport to Peru and definitely no payment / bribes necessary
Tacna the taxi driver will drop you off in front of the bus station or nearby it. I had to get a general direction pointed before leaving the cab. Border Crossing was easy and not as crazy as I thought it would be. Oh yea and there is a 2 hours time difference between Chile and Peru so factor that in when crossing.
Some things to note though which I was lucky enough due to paranoia
Money …..
I did not see any money changer nor any ATM in Tacna …. Lucky thing I change bare minimum CLP 10,000 to Sol 46.30 at the bus station in Arica. Bus from Tacna to Arequipa was Sol 30 local bus Morqueque taking about 10 hours to arrive. Taxi from Arequipa bus stop to the main plaza is about Sol 8 and its worth it for its damn hell far. ATM at the bus station of Arequipa does not always works such as when I was there so I could not get any money out of it. So I survived and reach the hostel with almost no Peruvian currency on me ….. Good thing is the main Plaza Del Arms is filled with banks which runs 24 hours and is pretty safe. Look for Scotia Bank which does not charge any fee for withdrawing using international ATM Card ….
Hope this helps any Malaysian Passport Holders trying to cross from Arica to Tacna J