keskiviikko 23. joulukuuta 2009

change of address:

my blog has changed. The new address is

maanantai 27. heinäkuuta 2009

Ruins of the Chan Chan pre-hispanic city

From the cold and high altitudes of the glaciers we continued our trip to down to the desert of the Moche Valley to visit the largest the ruins of the largest mud city of the Americas. I know.. when I heard about for the first time I thought about simple rectangular shaped houses without roofs made of mud and sand that would be far from impressive when compared to something as impressive as Pyramids in Egypt or Mayan archaeological sites of the Yucatan Peninsula - but I was glad to notice how wrong I was.

This is the view to the desert from our bus.

The settlement also known as the city of Chan Chan "capital of the ancient Kingdom of Chimor". Chan in an ancient Mochica language means the sun and it was built in Pre-Hispanic period in 850 AD to be a home for approximately 30 000 to 60 000 people. It had houses for the royal families, priest and the servants, storage facilities for food, ceramics and colorful feathers for clothings, shrines for making human sacrifices and worshiping gods as well as tombs to bury the most important people of the society. It is 20 km² big and was inhabited until 1470 AD when the Incas conquered it and the people were forced to move to Cuzco, the capital of the Inca empire.

This is the city plan:

These are the storage facilities:

The tourists were allowed to visit two sites. On the first site we saw a fortress with almost 10 meters high walls, palaces, courtyards, gardens and towers. Many of the walls were decorated with clay friezes that represented shellfish, waves and marine birds. There people worshiped the moon and the mythical figures of the ocean. Living between the sea and the desert sea-faring skills were vital to the people - after all it was their only source of food and inspiration for myths and legends. In this site all the paint was eroded by the sun and the heavy el niño rains, in the second site we could see that the rooms were painted in bright red, yellow, green and black. The reason for this was that before being relocated to Cuzco the people buried many of the rooms with sand to protect their culture from the Incas. Thanks to this it was still possible to see the impressive wall paintings of the gods and the warrior dancers in the shrines and golden artifacts in the tombs.


The following day we said farewell to Lima and continued to explore the country's picturesque seaside towns, beautiful jungles, magnificent mountains and the forgotten temples of the ancient cultures in the desserts. Our first destination Huaraz - a small town in northern Peru situated in the valley of Callejón de Huaylas and at the foot of the mountains of Cordillera Blanca. It took almost 10 hours for us to get there by bus even though it is only 420 kilometres from the capital. As you can see in the picture ..

in many places the roads were unpaved and in a bad condition and the area was so montaneous that we had to go up and down high hills and mountains all the time. The On the other hand, the scenery was so breathtaking that I could watch it for hours and the bus had such comfortable seats and windows that it made the trip pleasant. When we arrived to Huaraz it was 8 pm and already dark. We didn't see much of the city because our hostel was situated in the outside the centre and our main goal was simply to take our luggage to our rooms and find the closest restaurant. We didn't see many people on our way there but instead big bags of garbage on the streetcorners and heaps of stray dogs trying to find something to eat. Many of the dogs looked surprisingly well-kept and healthy - their furs were clean and they paid only little attention to people walking by. The amount of dogs still made us feel a bit uncomfortable so we were glad to reach the town centre and find a small restaurant where to eat. To our surprise the place was run by a English bloke who was married to a Peruvian woman and had a small motorcycle tour company. Because it still early in the evening and there weren't many customers in the restaurant he sat with us quite a while and gave us many good advices where to go rock and ice-climbing. After all trecking and ice-climbing were the main reasons why we had arrived to Huaraz.

Early the following morning we hopped on the bus to the Huascarán National Park - a park sized of 3000 km² and that contains 663 glaciers and 296 lakes. That's quite something for a park! First we travelled by bus for 2 hours to get there and then walked up to the altitude of over 4000 meters above the sea level! It was so tiring but the sun was shining so warmly that it made the walking easier. The best part of the trip was definitely ice-climbing :) Each of us in the group could try at least once and we could experience how it feels like to hang on a small ax several meters above the ground and trying to find a place where to put feel on a slippery surface. It was so much fun I'll definitely do it again one day.

Here you can see some pictures of the one mountains and lakes that we saw..

torstai 23. heinäkuuta 2009


After Machu Picchu I continued my journey to Lima in order to start my 21 day journey to Quito, Ecuador with 9 other fellow travellers from Australia, Czech Republic, England, Ireland and Uruguay. When I arrived to the city in the morning I was somewhat worried if I could go to look around in the city alone. The areas through which the taxi went on my way to the hotel looked a bit dogdy - there were
dreary rows of ugly apartment buildings that looked old and uncared for. One could see that many of the houses were colourful once but had lost their charm after the big part of the paint had peeled off. There was also somewhat trash here and there on the streets and cars seemed as if they were bought 10-20 years ago. To my dissapointment also from the outside the hotel didn't seem to have any character. It was just a grey concrete building with 5 floors and small windows a bank, parking hall and other buildings that reminded me of monuments to cold and deadpan functionality built in the 1960's and 1970's when houses were built fast and cost-efficiency was considered more important than the appearance. The decoration inside was fortunately quite charming with their dark red carpets and paintings on the walls.

I was told at the hotel that the city centre was perfecty safe during the daytime and biggest threats were some random pickpockets in crowded places, so I ventured to the downtown after lunchtime. I was impressed especially by the historical centre and it´s grandiose cathedrals and palaces that were built in French baroque style, massive moorish-style balconies as well as the lovely parks that were located just stone's throw away from the centre. I was a bit surprised to see so many cops everywhere, but I was told that just a few days before there had been some conflicts between police and indigenous protesters.

Indigenous communities got furious after the government passed a law that eases restrictions on logging and development in the Amazon rainforest and complained that it enables among others, oil and gas developers to encroach on their lands and put their traditional way of life at risk. When the indigenous people were convinced that the government didn´t pay enough attention to their peaceful demonstrations they put roadblocks near a city called Bagua where the police killed at least 35 people when clearing the roads and this, on the other hand, lead to wide demonstrations in the capital and forced the police to close many of the roads near the city centre. The day when I was there though seemed peaceful and quiet. Many of the locals were at work or at home and there were only a handful of tourists with their cameras and bags full of souveniers.

In the evening I met the rest of my group and we went to eat to a French Carmelite restaurant in downtown Lima, which was run by Carmelite nuns. One of my fellow travellers had recommended the place saying that the food there is gorgeous and really cheap - and she was right. I have never eaten as delicious fish in my life and the wine was a joy. I found it a bit peculiar though that everyone in the restaurant had to stop eating in the middle of the dinner to sing Ave Maria in French! I don't know a word French let alone be able to sing religious songs in that language, but I tried to pretend singing as well as I could in order not to seem rude. All in all it was a delightful and unique experience and the nuns were so warm-hearted and sweet that it made me feel genuinely welcomed right away when we entered the restaurant.

Anyway, here are some photos I took from there.. there aren't many of them, but then again I spent only 2 days in the city, so I didn't have an opportunity to see that much..

lauantai 4. heinäkuuta 2009

Machu Picchu

My journey to Machu Picchu started with some inconveniences. My hostel didn't have 24hour reception and I couldn't therefore tell the staff that I wanted to check out and leave my bag there. I was confident that they would look after my bag so I just left it in the room and planned to call them later on. I wrote down the number on a piece of paper, but unfortunately forgot the paper in the hostel and didn't notice it until in the bus on the way to Machu Picchu. It was Sunday morning and my guide couldn't reach anyone in the travel agency until around noon.

Otherwise, the trip had started well. It was a warm, lovely day and the scenery was really beautiful. We stopped for breakfast in a small town and I had coca tea for breakfast. Well .. it was actually just coca leaves and hot water, but quite tasty still.

This is my group. The picture is taken in the starting point.

The first day was relatively easy. We started our hiking trip at around 9 am and walked approximately for 2 hours down the Urubamba canyon, visited the sculpted Inca farming terraces and the settlement of Llaqtapata on the banks of the Cusichaca side river before having lunch. The porters were already waiting for us with warm coca soup, corn juice, dried sweet potatoes and pasta. It was a delicious lunch and after that it was so nice to sleep for half an hour on the grass and enjoy the sunny day. I knew that the porters were used to the high altitude and therefore were much faster than we, but I was still amazed that they could carry bags that weight over 20 kg on their shoulders, stop to help and support hikers if needed - and still make it to the resting place and manage to cook lunch/dinner by the time we arrived to the resting place and cheer when we arrived there. In a way I felt like a child who is learning to walk and is being cheered by athletes running a marathon.

This is the inca farming terrace. Here they used to storage among others corn and meat and save it there for worse times when for a reason or another there wasn't enough food for everyone. A terrace farm looks like steps which are created by using rocks and trees. On those steps it's possible to grow crops, because when it rains the water is stored on each step instead of flowing down freely.

After lunch we walked for another 4 hours or so before dinner. This time the hike was somewhat harder, because I wasn't used to hiking in the nature for hours. My knees and shoulders were a bit sore, but otherwise I was ok. The camping place was quite nice - it was a field in the mountains where it was possible to put tents and a little river where one could wash hands and teeth. We had a big dinner there - salad, soup and bread for starters, chicken and mashed potatoes for maincourse and a fruit dessert as well as a cup of tea. Considering that the 8 porters made a similar dinner for 7 hikers and 2 guides for 4 days and they carried all the incredients, cooking equipments, plates etc with them for 4 days - it was actually quite a luxurious dinner. Probably only very few campers in other destinations would eat as much and as good food as we did there.

This is what we saw after lunch:

This is me :)

They were our porters.

The second day was much harder. We woke up already at 6 am and had a breakfast. Also the breakfast was massive - an omelette, pancakes, fresh and dried fruits, bagels (with butter/jam/ham), toast, fruit juice and tea/coffee. Not even expensive hotels in Peru offer such a big breakfast! We tried to eat as much as we can, but couldn't eat everything and had to throw somewhat food away. It was really cold in the morning and I had to wear a t-shirt, 2 sweaters and a jacket for breakfast, but when we started walking it got warmer and in 20 minutes or so it was so warm that even though I wore only t-shirt and trousers I was still sweating! We climbed a steep-sided Llullucha valley and through an enchanting woodland. It was rather tiring due to the high altitude, but the scenery was so beautiful that I quickly forgot how tired I was. When we started to ascend the highest pass, Warmiwañusca (peak was on 4 200 meters above the sealevel) I was really tired. It must have taken like 20 minutes to walk a distance of 200 meters - that's how hard it was to walk. It was really hot as well (more than 30 degrees and the sun was shining brightly) and there was no shade where to stop to rest. I got badly dehydrated and got a bad migraine around half way of the to the resting place. I don't even remember a time when my head would have ached as much as it did then. The guide was really helpful and kept me company the entire time from the bottom of the mountain to the peak and gave me medicine and water to make me feel better. I'm so grateful about it, because without him there's no way I would have managed to walk all the way to peak. Each step felt harder, because the air got thinner and in Warmiwañusca I felt that my head was about to explode. I just fell on the ground and put my arms around my head and sobbed uncontrollably. After lying there for 15 minutes or so the guide helped me to continue downhill and as little as 10 meters lower I felt much better. My headache went away in 15-20 minutes and I could breath much better. We arrived to the camping place at around 4 pm after walking for 9 hours (distance of 11 km). We were served a big lunch (soup, salad, bread, avokados, chicken with yucca (a bit like potatoe), but I couldn't eat anything at all. I just ate a spoonful and went to sleep to the tent. I woke up at 7 when we had a dinner and could eat slightly more than earlier that day, but still just a little.

This is the view from Warmiwañusca:

This is our camping place.

On the third day we woke up around 7 am and had a big breakfast. Luckily my appetite had returned so I could get some energy for hiking. This day was much easier than the second even though we had to climb a steep hill, which on that altitude was quite tiring. Luckily we stopped in quite a few places to see inca ruins and to eat snacks. I was a bit surprised and dissapointed when I realised that I hadn't really seen any wild animals except few birds that far - even the mosquitoes didn't bother us there. The guide told us that there used to be plenty of animals, such as goats, deers, bears and other animals, but the locals hunted them for food and that's why there were no wild animals there. It's a pity because it was such as magnificent place and there would have been plenty of food and water for animals (at least on lower altitudes).

These are the main sights that we saw on the third day. These sights include the ruins of Sayacmarca (Inaccessible Town), an intricate labyrinth of houses and the Inca viewing platforms where one can see the Phuyupatamarca (Cloud-level Town.

Our last camping place was the nicest - unlike in the previous places there was good toilets and hot showers. We also met other groups there and there were many of them. Most of them seemed to be from the US and Australia, but there were few also from France and Italy (less than 10 perhaps). The Americans were the loudest and I could hear them from far away. They were shouting and cheering at everything possible. It was the first place where one could buy cold beer, which made them so happy that they were quite drunk as well. That evening we were served cake and chocolate for dessert (before the maincourse, which was quite funny - but it's possible that way as well). Every single one of my muscles were aching after 3 days of hiking so I slept quite badly and very little (we had to wake up at 4 am).

The last day was the best. It took 4 hours for us to walk to Machu Picchu ruins and we were really tired then, but it was definitely worth it. The mountains, the forest
and the narrow paths were mesmerizing. The ruins were surrounded by mountains shaped of a triangle many of which were covered by clouds that made them look dreamy. I could understand there why incas believed in spirits and the gods - there was something very spiritual about that place. Something that it's difficult to explain with words - only through art and poetry. That's a place where it's easy to think that there could be higher powers that have created something that beautiful.

sunnuntai 21. kesäkuuta 2009


On Friday, 5th of June I finally started my journey to South America. I flew from Dublin to Madrid and from there to Lima. I was worried at first that I would spend the long transatlantic flight alone, but I was fortunate to get a seat next to an Austrian guy with whom I got along well. He seemed like good-humoured, talkative and out-going person who had been travelling quite a lot. He was traveling alone, but planned to join a group of other Austrian and German tourists in Lima and travel around in Peru with them for around 3 weeks.

When I arrive to Lima a girl from the hostel was waiting for me at the airport. I was glad to see her as I was so tired after the long flight and 8 hours of time difference that I wouldn't have been able to tell any taxi driver in which hostel I was staying. It was 10 pm local time, but 6 am in Finnish time and I wasn't able to sleep much at the plane, so at that point I was barely awake. It didn't really help that I had to wake up the following day at 3 am to cath a flight to Cuzco. I met some nice people from Netherlands and the US at the hostel so I spent an hour or so in the living room with them drinking beer and watching tv before going to bed.

It was easier than I thought to wake up the following morning, but I didn't realize how tired I really was until I managed to loose my passport at the airport and not even noticing it before it was time to board the plane! Luckily I didn't miss the plane - even thought it was question of some minutes that I would have. The flight took only an hour, but if I had gone to Cuzco by bus it would have taken almost 12 hours because of the mountain roads and slow busses. The weather in Cuzco was surprisingly cold at 7 am - just around + 5 degrees or so and the wind was freezing. The airport was pretty much surrounded by eager taxi drivers and I didn't know which one to choose so I eventually took a random one to my hostel. I paid 20 soles (5 euros, but being tired and hungry I was pissed off, because I thought I was being ripped off). Now that I think of that it was quite .. a foolish reaction considering that I'm from a country where the minimum payment for taxis at daytime is 5.5 euros and even short distances cost 8 euros. Anyway, when I got to the hostel there was a young peruvian guy waiting for me. He didn't speak a word English, but spoke Spanish slowly and very clearly so that I could understand what he was saying. He also offered me a cup of coca tea and adviced which places to visit in the city.

At first I was a little worried about walking around in the city centre alone, but when I noticed that there were also other solo travelers from Australia, Europe and the US I became more confident. I was amazed how beautiful the city was! It's said to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and for a good reason. It's surrounded by six mountains and it's influenced by both inca culture (fine arts, handicrafts) and the colonial style (architecture, goldsmith's works and woodcarvings). Close to the city centre there are picturesque parks and beautiful inca ruins. There are also colourful marketplaces where one can buy fruits, colourful handicrafts, such as ponchos and hats made of alpaca wool as well as ceramics, jewelry and hand-made instruments.

Luckily I didn't have to walk around alone long as I met another solo traveler around noon. We were both sitting outside an israeli cafè and because neither of us had company I asked him if he would like some company and said yes. He was an Australian student from Sydney and had come to Cuzco, because an Australian friend of his was about to marry a Peruvian girl and the wedding was going to be held somewhere close to Cuzco. It's a pity that I didn't a picture of him .. he was very charming with his red curly hair (he has similar hair the British pop star Mika, but auburn red). All in all he looked like a guy I could imagine of meeting on bar by the beach drinking beer and listening to Jack Johnsson or simply red. I spent half a day with him and had a great time. He was easy to approach, laid-back and easy-going. By the time he went back to his hostel it was already 6 pm and time to meet the other people who going to Machu Picchu with me. It was a relatively small group (7 members)and for some peculiar reason most of them were also Australians!To be exact 4 Australian female students, a couple in their thirties from the US and me.
The Australians had recently graduated from university and took a couple of months off before getting a "real" job. For them Cuzco and Machu Picchu was the last place to visit and it was one of the highlights of the trip. My first impression of them was positive - they seemed out-going, talkative and enthustiastic about the hiking trip to Machu Picchu. Also the guide, a Peruvian student in his twenties seemed warm-hearted and friendly. The meeting was unfortunately quite short (only half an hour or so), because we were going to start our journey the following day already at 6 am and everyone in the group had loads of things to buy (hiking equipment, altitude pills etc).

torstai 4. kesäkuuta 2009


The first stop on my journey to South America is Dublin. I originally booked my Peru-Ecuador trip in an Irish travel agency USIT, which means that I had to stop in Dublin in order to catch my flight first to Madrid and from there to Lima, Peru. I came here for 5 days to meet a good friend of mine, Simon, who let me crash at his couch as well as to shop around for the hiking clothes and Spanish books.

The day when I arrived the weather was absolutely lovely - sunny and warm, we decided to go to an Italian restaurant to have lunch. The restaurant had a special lunch offer: one big plate of food that one could choose from a big selection of dishes. There were various kinds of pastas, meats, vegetarian foods, potato dishes and salads.. and it cost only 9 €. I hadn’t eaten anything since early in the morning, so I was starving and delighted that I could start my day in Dublin with such delicious food! After the lunch I went to Simon’s place to drop my stuff there and get ready for the evening’s concert in Whelans. Simon’s friend Peter had invited us to American singerRodriquez’concert, which started around 9 pm. I was first a bit suspicious as I had never heard of the singer before, but I was positively surprised. He has a soft, smoky and really charismatic voice. He sang mainly rock ballads about women, drugs and travelling without a destination. My favourite song of his is “the inner city blues” that goes: “going down a dirty inner city side road/ I plotted/ Madness passed me by, she smiled hi/I nodded /Looked up as the sky began to cry/ She shot it”. The concert place was small - there was barely any space to move around, but atmosphere was great. Everyone was dancing and singing along. After the concert we went to a couchsurfing party to the Blue goose. There seemed to be people from all over the world. I met a girl from Bulgaria, two guys from Ireland, two girls from Brazil and one guy from the US within 3 hours. It was really nice to chat with them. Other good things about the party was that there was free food (French fries, sausages, chicken wings etc) and cheap drinks. I bought a pint of Bulmers, but I couldn’t more than half of it as it tasted so bad. I did taste equally bad last time I drank it, but I had forgotten that I didn’t particularly like the it. Well.. Besides that we had craic and I’m looking forward to the next couchsurfing parties in Argentina.

These are Simon and Peter


On Sunday Simon and I woke up late in the morning. It was around noon when we got out of bed and had breakfast. The weather was even warmer (26 degrees!) than the day before, so we went to have a picnic in the park close by. It was completely packed with people throwing Frisbee, sunbathing, playing with their kids and dogs etc. It was so pleasant just to lie on the grass and let the sun warm our faces. We at bread and grapes we bought from the store and chatted about Simon’s four month journey to South America. He travelled with a big group of people there and visited among others, Peru, Ecuador and Argentina. His stories were entertaining and I got plenty of good hints about places to visit and things to try. I’m looking forward especially going to Machu Picchu as Simon told so much about how beautiful the scenery is and how unforgettable the trip was for him.

This is me and Simon

Monday was a bank holiday, so it was a holiday also for Simon. We started our day by going to the Maritime festivalin the Docklands. It’s primarily a marketplace, where people sell food, clothes and art from all over the world. We saw among others sauces from Africa, clothes from South America and art from Asia. Even though the narrow streets was completely crowded with people it was nice to stop by to listen to music and taste samples of African and Australian cuisine. From there we continued our journey to Dun laoghaire (pronounced dunleary) to sunbath and take photos. The place is a small seaside town just 20 minutes away from Dublin. It’s a really picturesque place with its two massive piers, white houses by the sea and it hundreds of meters long beach. I could actually imagine of living in a town like this, where the sea is just a stone’s throw away, there are cosy and cheap restaurants to drink wine and have craic with friends and there are small live music venues, where both local up-and-coming bands and foreign bands come to perform every now and then.

This is the east pier

Tuesday and Wednesday went by quickly. I spent the days walking around in the city centre taking photos, buying stuff that I need for my trip (such as books about Argentina and Ecuador, a Spanish phrasebook and a dictionary as well as a wind-proof jacket for my hiking trip). I must have walked around 6-7 hours each day, so I was totally knackered by the time I came back to Simon’s place. Anyway, here are some photos I took in Dublin..

Temple bar

Modern art in Dublin

St. Stephen's green