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A round the world trip in more than 80 days.

Why this blog ?

Our aim : travel and discover the world during 353 days and through some fifhteen countries. We are hoping that this blog will allow us to share the experience with our family and friends thanks to the posts and photos that we will be publishing and also thanks to their comments.

Currently ...

now. For the moment, we are gently readapting from nomadic to sedentary life.


At the heart of the Inca empire.

At last, we got close to Peru's main jewel and new wonder of the world : the Machu Pichu.

To get there, a stop in Cusco is mandatory. In old times, this city was the capital of the Inca empire (in quechua 'cusco' means navel, the Incas did found their capital where they thought the center of the word was located).

Nowadays, Cusco is a charming city of 'mestizo' (people with mixed spanish and indigenious blood) culture. It is full of magnificent colonial mansions, built over the outline of the old Inca city. Incas were experts in stone cutting and tying them up to create incredibly steady walls (I believe Tetris was invented by them centuries before its vulgarisation by Russians). Their cities were distributed into different squares around which they built houses and temples. When the Spanish conquered the city, they just used the existing constructions to build their houses and churches. That is why, in many of the houses of down-town Cusco, it is possible to see the original Inca walls, built over 500 years ago.

While visiting the area that surrounds Cusco, we were impressed with the level of development of the pre-Columbian civilisations. The Incas were warriors, and in the height of their empire, they had invaded a good part of South America. Originally they were not that much advanced, but on the other side, they took over the knowledge of the different cultures they have dominated. The archaeological and cultural richness of the area needs more than the few days we spend there. Inca people did master the techniques of weaving and dying tissues and the metallurgy of gold, silver, copper as wells as alloys. They had agrarian research centers and they did extract salt from a mountain source (still operated nowadays). They built trails that linked the different parts of the empire, scattered with rest areas and baths. They also diverted natural water courses not only to irrigate the terraces they spread all over the mountains but also to supply with water their 'nest-villages' built over the cliffs.

No wonder Peruvians are so pride of their Inca heritage. It does not feel as if at their arrival, the Spanish, right out of the obscure Midle Ages, were so much more advanced than their South American contemporaries.

Machu Pichu ruins are a beautiful example of what I call above a 'nest-village'. It is built over a steep mountain and its existence had been forgotten to be rediscovered in the early XXth century.

Today, it is the main tourist attraction of Peru and probably of all South America. The Government, the railway company that holds the monopoly of accessing the village next to the ruins (there is no road, the other option is to walk for days on the mountains) and the bus company that takes you up to the site take advantage of it and go for the last dime in your pockets.

After a few stops to visit some interesting sites on our way up the Machu Pichu village, we spent a short night in our hotel. At 4:15 the next morning, we were queuing up to get into one of the first buses. The reason for this early wake-up call is accessing the site while the morning fog dissipates from the ruins and before the hordes of tourists arrives. As well, to get there among the first 400 people, that is the daily quota allowed to climb the adjacent mountain where, after a good number of Inca stone steps and some sweat, it is possible to enjoy the best views of Machu Pichu.

Back in Cusco, and since I did not want to leave the place without trying the 'cuy' (guinea pig fried or roasted, a local dish), we went to one of the restaurants that offered it. We had the privilege to test the worst cooked and hardest 'cuy' ever… I am not sure if I lost one, or two, teeth trying to extricate some meat from the poor little thing. Maybe, we will be luckier in Bolivia, we will let you know if that is the case.


Photos : Arequipa and Colca Canyon

Click in the image below to see our pictures from our second stop in Peru :

Peru - Arequipa, Canon del Colca

Arequipa and Colca Canyon

Arequipa was founded in 1540 under request of Spanish 'conquistador' Francisco Pizarro, and only a few years later was mentioned by Cervantes in one of his books. With such references, plus the fact that many travellers speak highly of it, we had big expectations about this city.

Indeed, today it is mostly an industrial city, which size has been increasing in an exponential way over the last 80 years, and that has been damaged several times by earthquakes and eruptions over the centuries. So, although it keeps its original colonial structure, most of the buildings are not that wonderful.

The city is famous for the use of 'sillar' in construction. 'Sillar' is a whitish volcanic stone that is found in the area. It gives Arequipa its surname, the 'white city', and a particular character. All important buildings, such as the cathedral and the others that surround the 'Plaza de Armas' (main square), churches, monasteries and a few mansions spread around down-town are made of this rock.

What we have liked best is the 'Santa Catalina' monastery. With its 20.000 square meters, it is a real town within the city. Only high-born women could aspire to retire to that ecclesiastic 'private club' where, apart from life dedicated to prayers, they kept the life-style they were born into : each one had their own house inside the monastery and even kept servants.

If you ever pass Arequipa don't miss the mummy of 'Juanita', an Inca girl that was sacrificed to appease the fury of volcano Ampato almost 500 years ago, and whose body has been preserved practically intact (including hair and nails) in the snows of the crater, until it was found by an archaeological expedition at the beginning of the XXI century.

Arequipa is also the departure point to explore the two deepest canyons in the world, Colca and Cotahuasi, 3191 and 3352 meters deep respectively. The area is worth the visit for its beauty and for the condors that can be seen glyding over it. So we decided to make it the next stop in our trip.

Many women in the area wear a multi-colored traditional dress, quite weathered by the hardness of country life. In Cabanaconde, the small village from where we started the descent to the Canyon, electric power has only been available over the last 10 years. There are almost as many donkeys as people and practically no car at all. However they own a wonderful agricultural system, based in 'andenes' (terrases) irrigated using well traced channels and that is a heritage from pre-Inca times.

The descent to the canyon (and subsequent ascent) is a hard if beautiful thing to do. The way is a 5 km long, 1200 meters deep, sand and stone trail, only usable by people or animals. Normally you can make it to the bottom in some 2 hours and back to the top in 4 more hours. Little children from the village do the ascent in 2 hours and the guy from our hotel can do it running in 45 minutes. But Karim and I must have conquered the record of the longest time ever needed : more than 3 hours to go down and almost 7 hours to return. We even finished after nightfall (hopefully, we had our headlights, enough water and some coca leaves that are supposed to help with altitude).

In spite of the muscle pain that we have suffered for a few days, in the whole it was a great and satisfactory experience and we are happy to have done it. It allowed us to meet and discuss with some very nice people. There is nothing like sharing a tough experience to get people closer :)


Photos : Lima

Our first photos of Peru: Click on the link below and you might see how Lima looks like :

Peru - Lima

Is Lima worth it ?

New country, new currency and a new stamp on the passport. We left quiet Puerto Lopez (exception made of the insomniac roasters) and we headed south toward the capital of Peru, Lima.

Hitting the road through northern Peru scenery was quite awesome : an desert bathed by the pacific ocean. Difficult to imagine that this side of the border is arid while southern Ecuador looks very tropical and each inch of land is covered with banana plants.

After a 36 hours bus ride where the entertainment was the job of the sub 16 water-polo Ecuadorian national team (part of an international tournament the same evening), we reached our destination. Before getting to down-town, we passed some neighbourhoods that were not that much appealing to us.

While preparing this trip, I read so many bad things about Lima that I did not know what to think : Insecurity, pollution, nothing to see … Some travellers do not even make a pit stop here while visiting Peru. But we decided to give it a go and we have been rewarded.

It is true that you can see a bottomless class gap : shanty towns lacking running water and electricity side to side with classy neighbourhoods where houses are surrounded by 3 meter high walls and patrolled by private guards more armed than the police. But we really enjoyed visiting the old town and walking in fancy Miraflores and Barranco (the local Montmartre) neighbourhoods.

But since Lima is not the only attraction in Peru so we need to keep moving south. Talk to you in Arequipa.


Photos : Cuenca and Puerto Lopez

Here are our last photos of Ecuador. If you click on the link, you will see pictures of Cuenca and Puerto Lopez :

Ecuador - Cuenca, Puerto Lopez

Ecuador : The End

In yet another bus full to the last centimetre, turn after turn on a mountain road, with bachata and regeton as soundtrack, with sellers coming in and making their way among the hordes of people standing in the bus corridor to propose their merchandises in each stop of each village we passed, we finally completed the 270 km that separate Riobamba and Cuenca in 6 hours.

For me, Cuenca is the most charming city I have visited in Ecuador. It is well preserved and has got the advantage of being smaller in size than Quito. It helps keeping a certain homogeneity. I think it is also the one with more Spanish elements into its colonial buildings.

House fronts are coloured, or left white with coloured trimmings as in many other places in Latin America, but other things reminds me of a Spanish Province Capital : tile roofs with wood supports, the use of brick rather than concrete in buildings, pottery, a certain posh atmosphere of well dressed and carefully maked-up ladies, looking like they just came out of the hairdresser, taking coffee with friends and also elegantly dressed gentlemen with panama hats reading the newspaper in the public library or getting their shoes shinned in front of the cathedral.

After feasting on the great ice-cream sold in Cuenca's main square (it is one Karim's weakness together with chocolate) and a bit tired of mountains, we went to spend a few days in Puerto Lopez, to watch the whales that from June to September go there to reproduce.

The place has got still a real coastal village atmosphere, not completely spoiled by tourism. In spite of the attraction of the whales and the nearby Machalilla Park, in which many of the birds from Galapagos can be seen, and due probably to the misty weather of the season, at this time of the year there were not too many tourists.

In the village, many of the streets are still unpaved and muddy. The beach is nice but it is also quite dirty with garbage, what does not seem to bother the locals. The only thing that gives you a hint that this place is full of visitors at some point in the year is the quantity of restaurants and of bars along the beach, now quite deserted of customers. In a few places, they tried shamelessly to make us pay more that the local fare. It is the only place during our stay in Ecuador where I have had such a feeling.

Nevertheless, we stayed very nicely in there for a few days, enjoying the calm and getting mentally ready to bare the 36 hours of bus to Lima.


Photos : Otavalo, Baños and Riobamba

By clicking on the photo below, you will see some selected pictures from our trip in the Ecuadorian Highlands :

Ecuador - Otavalo, Baños, Riobamba


The next stop was Riobamba. Our taxi driver, and old man dressed with a kilted shirt, a cow-bow hat and burned by the sun, he crossed himself while driving in front of a church, so I guess that in this calm town people have also a very strong religious feeling.

This is the departure point for trips to the neighbouring volcan Chimborazo whose pick is, due to the nearness with the Ecuador line, the farthest point from the center of the Earth. As our fitness level can not be measured to such a giant even in our dreams (even if it is possible to go as far as almost 5000 metres by taxi), we landed here with the idea of taking what remains of the old Riobamba – Guayaquil railroad, that goes through a wonderful scenery. We were not lucky though,

we discovered that there were no seats left for a while : due to the bad shape of the railroad, the train can not be used anymore and instead they have some kind of a bus over rails, thus limiting the number of available seats per trip.

So finally we only stayed overnight and kept going south towards Cuenca, the third city of the country.



Next stop : Baños, Spanish for “Baths”. This hint will give you an idea about the main attraction of this little town, built in a deep valley of the Pastaza River. Its thermal waters, rich in sulphur, flows from the nearby volcano (which is still active, the last eruption was in 2006). Thanks to its healing waters, it has been for centuries an Ecuadorian national tourism Mecca. The town smells holidays and is full of souvenir, melcocha (toffee), sugar cane and buoy shops.

The local Virgin is very popular also. The church dedicated to her is decorated with many paintings depicting her “miracles” over the centuries and, at any time of the day, families are coming to light candles (a very popular activity all through Ecuadorian churches).

The most well-known baths are a set of open-air water basins built at the foot of a waterfall. Except in the early morning, it is full of people. With such a multitude of children and parents playing and shouting at each other covering the sound of the near by waterfall, it is hardly a relaxing experience. But still, it is a fun atmosphere and we enjoyed it.


Otavalo, Baños, Riobamba and Cuenca .. the Highlands from North to South

Back from the Galapagos and jumping from one bus to another, we have gone through the Highlands starting from Otavalo, some 100 km north of Quito, until Cuenca, before heading to the coast to rest for a few days and get things ready for Peru.

Otavalo is a relatively small town but very popular because it is where the biggest hand-crafts market in all South America takes place. People from the neighbouring villages make rugs, blankets and plenty of other stuff and every Saturday hurry to sell them at the market.

Also every Saturday there is an animal market: each one brings the pig, the cow, the goat, the hen or the alpaca he wishes to sell resulting into a big mess among which the potential buyers walk and bargain.

The town was one week ahead of the beginning of the yearly festivities of « Yamor » and the «fiesta» spirit could be felt in the air already. During our stay, we saw the presentation of the contestants to become the «Fiesta Queen»: the municipal orchestra walked opening the parade followed by each girl on the back of a pick-up truck escorted by a local police motorcycle, very cute in a party dress and by the arm of a police officer, himself dressed with his official white uniform.

I would have loved to stay for the « Fiesta » to see the bullfights (there is no arena built here, they just take out a cow into the streets and people go running in front of it) and also to have a chance to taste the « Chicha de Yamor », a drink that is only available during the Fiesta. But all this would have delayed us ten additional days, so after going to the market, getting our eyes full of images and resist the temptation of buying the nice things that are sold, we went back to the Southern Hemisphere, direction to Baños.


Photos : Quito

Some of you have asked for more pictures. Here are therefore some photos of Quito :

Ecuador - Quito

Planet Galapagos

We have not yet finished our first month of travel and we are already 10 days late. The reason : at the end we failed to resist the appeal and in spite of high prices, we went to spend a few days in the Galapagos Islands.

We took a 5 days cruise as it is the only way to access those islands where the most interesting animals live, and after that we stayed a few days resting in Puerto Ayora, a nice little town and yet the biggest in all Galapagos with some 19.000 inhabitants.

97% of the territory is a national park. The origin of the islands is volcanic so they have never been part of the continent. The archipelago is populated by a full array of reptiles and birds that landed there by chance a long time ago: so long ago that some of them have evolved into new species that can not be found anywhere else in the world.

They are probably the most trusting animals that exist on Earth. Birds, Iguanas and land turtles are completely indifferent when you pass near them or their nests, that many build directly on the ground (why bother to build a nest in a high place when there are no predators). And when you go snorkelling, sea lions approaches to pry and make fun of you because you are so slow and clumsy swimming, while sea turtles pass close to you and keep doing their routine as if you were invisible.

So if you like watching wild animals in the open and at a close range, this will be a once in a lifetime experience. You will have to dig through your pockets though, since everything costs twice as much as in the continent, you have a quite important entrance fee to pay for the park and organised visits are quite expensive (and unavoidable since you need to go with a licensed guide in order to access most of the places). But at least one feels that all those rules and limits put in place by the park authorities will hopefully allow to preserve this fragile ecosystem.

P.S.: if you think that what we are doing is an adventure, here is the web page of a Dutch couple we met in the ship. They could be our parents, still they are cycling the Andes ! They started in Patagonia 7 months ago and are heading for Caracas, where they will pick the flight back home in 2 months. Have a good trip Franck and Marianne!


Photos : The Galapagos

These are some pictures taken during our stay in the Galapagos Archipelago :