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Friday, 5 September 2008

Rafting and Condor spotting enroute to Bolivia

Ah.... finished the trek. Finally smashed the giant granite monkey that had been hanging off my back for so long - Sian.

We decided to relax with a 3 day whitewater rafting trip down the Apurimac river. It was absolutely brilliant :) Gregg joined us for 5 days around Cusco and on the trip too so we had a merry gang of 4 again. Started off with a gruelling 5 hour bus journey down dirt tracks into the valley as the main way in or out of the valley is by river. The scenery was stunning with huge cliffs rising up on either side of the river and no sign of other people. We camped each night on deserted beaches and the only light came from candlelit torches and a big driftwood bonfire. The stars were incredibly bright. Each day the river got progressively more interesting with bigger rapids and waterfalls but our guide Wiliam was very experienced so nobody fell out unless they wanted to!

Said goodbye to Chris and Gregg when they flew to Lima, the 2 of us are now in La Paz, Bolivia having travelled south through Arequipa and Puno. Arequipa was a lovely colonial town with a large convent in the city centre. "One of the largest religious centres of South America" and it didnt dissapoint! Peaceful alleys, beautiful views across the courtyards and fascinating stories of the nuns lives back in the 1600s when the convent was first built. A 12 year old girl would pay the equivalent of $20,000 to enter as a novice. It then took up to 4 years of solitary confinement, only leaving the cell to attend mass before the girl was a full nun! Her reward - a personal servant and life of prayer inside the convent walls. Not very appealing.

We then went on a 2 day condor spotting trip to Chivay. Very touristy but made enjoyable by seeing the amazing birds. Wingspans of 3 metres!

Puno next for a tour of the floating man made islands. Constructed by one of the oldest tribes in the area, it is thought that they fled the mainland when the bloodthirsty Incas came to chop out their hearts and eat their babies (according to our guide). The engineering of it is very impressive and secure for the most part but there were times which felt like I was about to sink through the reeds into the lake...

And now, La Paz. We havent seen very much of the city yet but first impressions are of a vibrant city, full of poverty and with big hopes for their current president Evo Morales. The graffiti covering the city is very much in favour of Evo and his ability to promote change, revolution and a new era of dignity for Bolivia.

Next stop... Inti Wara Yassi (http://www.intiwarayassi.org/) where we will live in harmony with the monkeys and possibly learn to fight with the pumas!

Sian & Dave