Meeting Uros People on Lake Titicaca, Peru

Living on an island of reeds, in a house of reeds, sleeping on a bed of reeds, cooking on fuel of reeds, and fishing from a boat of reeds? How intriguing is that? Please meet the Uros People of Peru!

The Uros’ way of life has fascinated me for years. According to the story, when the conquistadores, Spanish conquistadors, invaded their territory, the Uros fled and decided to go and live on Lake Titicaca in Peru, which is South America’s largest lake and one of the navigable lakes at the highest altitude in the world (3810 meters). Continue reading

5 Awe-Inspiring Landscapes in South America – Our Roles to Help Save the Planet

Tres Cruces, Peru

Tres Cruces, Peru

“An image of the earth, its landscapes, directly affects people. The beauty of the earth creates enormous emotion, and through that emotion, you can transmit knowledge and raise consciousness”~Yann Arthus-Bertrand

This quote spoke to me, which made me read up on Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s work and philosophy. He is known for, among other things, his book Earth from Above – aerial photos from landscapes around the world (more about that here). Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a photo-journalist , cinematographer as well as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations.

I decided share a couple of our photos with you that exactly had that effect on me: that emotion where it felt as if my chest enlarged because it filled with air and energy. Standing in these places made me aware of my minuscular role in the universe and the extraordinary beauty of our planet that we need to preserve and treasure. Continue reading

Peru’s Best Ice Cream, Produced by Deaf People – Meet Heladería Holanda in Cajamarca

Peru's best ice-cream - Heladería Holanda, Cajamarca (©photocoen)Several travelers and locals had mentioned it to us: Heladería Holanda, an ice cream parlor in Cajamarca. Since the owner is Dutch, and so are Coen and I, it made sense to visit it when in Cajamarca (what is it about wanting to connect with your countrymen when abroad?…). The ice cream parlor is tucked away along the spacious Plaza de Armas, downtown Cajamarca and not easy to spot, which is quite different in Baños del Inca, a town 3 kilometers from Cajamarca. Here one of Heladería Holanda’s ice cream parlor is brightly signed and easily visible from the parking place of the hot springs that the Baños del Inca is famous for.

Heladería Holanda in Cajamarca

Cajamarca is home to Heladería Holanda’s first ice cream parlor. They can’t hang a Dutch flag outside, or color its outdoor walls orange because the building is part of the national monuments that characterize a city. I have to say, I love it when a city is strict on banning all kinds of neon or otherwise ugly advertisements – it makes a place so much nicer and friendlier to wander about.

The entrance is a narrow hallway, after which we immediately recognize ‘home’. Not so much because of the ice cream, which invokes more an Italian association, but for the orange-colored walls and posters featuring the Netherlands. The employees wear orange shirts and caps. Both are women, and later we learned that a large part of Holadería Holanda’s staff consists of single mothers. The second group of employees is deaf people, about which more later on. Continue reading

Trail Running in the Mist and Staying in the Present

Trail Running in Peru (©Guy van den Branden)When running, one of my pitfalls is focusing on how much farther I have to go. This can be killing because it often seems too far, which is so discouraging that I give up. The problem is that instead of staying in the present – and thus running right now and right here – the mental focus has shifted to the future.

Understanding this rationally doesn’t mean I’m apt at staying in the present. However, one morning when Coen, two friends and I set off in thick mist I simply couldn’t see how much farther I had to go, which gave a whole new dimension to covering our 10+ kilometers. I had fun!

Coen and I ran without our camera. Fortunately, Guy brought his and all photos in this blog post are his. Thanks Guy. Continue reading

5 Off-the-Beaten-Track Attractions Around Lake Titicaca

Toritos for good luck in Atuncolla.

Toritos for good luck in Atuncolla.

Our journey in Peru started around one of the most bewitching places in South America: Lake Titicaca. As usual I had a general idea of the places I wanted to visit in Peru; also, as usual as well, we got a couple of surprises on the way. Peru’s Lake Titicaca turned out to offer much more than just a stop in Puno and a visit to the floating islands.

After 10 years Coen and I continue to share the passion for finding hidden corners, off-the-beaten-track places, and enjoying moments of pleasure when we stumble upon such a treasure. As a result, our ‘planned’ (or should I say, ‘expected’) two-day, straightforward trip to Cusco turned into a brilliant five-day exploration.

There is still a feeling of excitement when entering a new country, even after 10 years on the road and having visited 30 countries. It takes a couple of days to get the feeling of a country: the energy, the ambience, to interpret the faces of people, to learn the nuances of the language. Going slow is a great way to do exactly that.

Visiting the floating islands of the Uros obviously came from a guidebook – all guidebooks talk about this. But from where to visit them, Llachón, was a tip we got years ago from other travelers, which I had jotted into a notebook. We came across the chullpas around Cutimbo by just driving around, feeling intrigued by the landscape and driving up a hill to see if there was anything of interest. The lunch at Prudentia’s house in Atuncolla was the result of Coen walking into the countryside, wanting to take a picture and meeting this extraordinary woman.

And so our Peruvian journey started in a most surprising, fantastic way. Here are the places we visited or stumbled upon. I invite you to go there and check them out. Do you know places around Lake Titicaca worth sharing? I’d love to hear about them (e.g. below in the comment section).

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