31 October 2011

The Salar de Uyuni

The enormous salt flats near Uyuni in Bolivia make up a landscape unlike any I've ever been in.I spent four wonderful days with Filippo and Davide (Italy), Jean-Baptiste and Eugenie and Vincent (France), and our guide/driver/cook José, who spoke excellent English and looked after us superbly. This is one of the reasons for the hiatus in posting recently, but I trust I'll make up for it over the next few days.

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

30 October 2011

From the Muela del Diablo

My Italian friends, Davide and Filippo, and I hired a taxi in La Paz and visited several nearby places including the remarkable, savagely rain-eroded landscape around the Muela del Diablo. We saw no other tourists and only a couple of local people. We climbed as high as was safe on the Muela itself and were treated to fantastic (in several senses) views, including this, when the late sun highlighted one of the area's remarkable features.

Apologies for the lack of recent posting. I've been travelling away from Internet access, and even when it again became possible, it wasn't easy. I'm now in Salta in Argentina, scared by the expense of the place (especially after the cheap and wonderful Bolivia) and rushing to get to Patagonia where, among other things, I trust I'll be able to stop bleeding money by camping :^(

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

21 October 2011

Cordillera Blanca — Churup from Huaraz

From the rooftop patio of our hostel, we could see the Cordillera Blanca in every kind of light. Here, morning rain filters the light around Churup.

I loved Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca. You might have to put up with a few more photos from there.

[8 October 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 300 mm, ISO 400, 1/500 at f8]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

20 October 2011

Lake Titicaca

From Copacabana the boat journey to the Isla del Sol takes roughly an hour and a half. I found the trip enjoyable and relaxing — something about the continuous roar of an outboard motor seems strangely meditative to me.

Once again my journey south has been delayed by protests. The road out of Copacabana has been blockaded, apparently in protest at some judicial decision. Apparently, though, it's possible to take a minibus to the blockade, walk through and take another minibus to the straits of Tiquina where the ferry crosses to where I can catch yet another minibus to La Paz. I'll try early tomorrow morning, but I'm lucky — Copacabana's not a bad place in which to be stuck, even if not quite as appealing as the wonderful Huaraz in Peru, where I was last delayed by similar action. Still, I'm keen to keep moving south so I'm not short of time in Patagonia.

[17 October 2011 [Ecuador], Panasonic Lumix GH1, 14–45 mm at 17 mm, ISO 200, 1/320 at f16]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

19 October 2011

Uros Islands, LakeTiticaca

The Uros Islands lie on Lake Titicaca, just offshore from Puno. Hundreds of tourists visit them each day — I was one. The people who live on these floating islands were welcoming and good-humoured and I found the islands, constructed of constantly replenished layers of reeds, fascinating. As we listened to the explanation of how the islands were constructed, I could see ours undulating just perceptibly. The accomplishment seems remarkable; the islands support not just people, but livestock — I saw cattle and pigs (the two cats were popular subjects for tourists' photographs, too).

But whether the hundreds of tourists each day benefit the islands depends on what one considers a benefit. The subject of "authenticity" has intrigued me for a long time and I've had several good discussions about it with people I've met on this journey. I'd begun to lean towards the view that, in a sense, everything's authentic — this is how it is, now — but after visiting the Uros Islands I'm less sure of that.

I'm now in Bolivia, at Copacabana, recovering from another three-day headache :^(

[16 October 2011 [Peru], Panasonic Lumix GH1, 14–45 mm at 14 mm, ISO 100, 1/100 at f16]
All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

18 October 2011

First view of the Cordillera Blanca

Towards evening the bus crested the range and in the distance we saw for the first time the snows that give the Cordillera Blanca its name.

[4 October 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 14-45 mm at 14 mm, ISO 400, 1/2000 at f8]  

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

17 October 2011

Coastal desert, Peru [2]

In many places between Trujillo and Chimbote, not even cacti grew. If not for the blue sky (which grew bluer as the misty cloud cleared), we could have imagined ourselves on a lifeless planet. I'd never realised geology alone could be so beautiful.

[I'll be crossing into Bolivia soon, and don't know whether I'll continue to have the wifi access that's allowed me to post so frequently. Moreover, since leaving Huaraz the opportunities to photograph have been limited and with some exceptions, like the magnificent bus journey over the altiplano from Arequipa to Puno, I've felt uninspired to photograph. Posting might be light for a while.]

[4 October 2011 [Ecuador], Panasonic Lumix GH1, 14–45 mm at 45 mm, ISO 400, 1/2000 at f8]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

15 October 2011

Blue-footed booby on the Tintoreras

The best view of a bluefooted booby in the Galápagos was on the Tintoreras, the small islets next to the wharf at Puerto Villamil on Isabela. No mistaking the identification here.

I'm now in Arequipa in the south of Peru; next stop Puno and Lake Titicaca. The Galápagos seem so long ago now, but I'll never forget them. 

[16 September 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 136 mm, ISO 400, 1/640 at f8]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

14 October 2011

Bridge & stream, Laguna 69 trail, Cordillera Blanca

A wooden bridge crosses a small stream at the start of the trail to Laguna 69. Fed by glacial meltwater, the stream rose noticeably during the course of the day.

[7 October 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 14–45 mm at 18 mm, ISO 100, 1/15 at f16]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

13 October 2011

Frigate bird, Puerto Ayora

Despite their size, frigate birds can jink and turn in an instant; if one decides it wants your fish, resistance is futile — you can't outfly it. This one at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz was one of a good number looking for scraps from a fisherman cleaning his catch.

[19 September 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 100 mm, ISO 400, 1/800 at f7.1]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

12 October 2011

Backdrop for ice climbing; Cordillera Blanca

We climbed mostly under an overcast sky, on the face of an inactive part of a glacier. Occasionally the dense cloud parted, revealing parts of the surrounding mountains.

[8 October 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 100 mm, ISO 100, 1/800 at f11]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

11 October 2011

Remains of the day, Huaraz

From the patio outside my room in Huaraz, I've been able to enjoy these kinds of views. I'm not sure of the name of this mountain, but I never tire of seeing it in different light — here, just before nightfall.

[Update: I've just published a new post on Pohanginapete]
[Update 2: The mountain is Vallunaraju]

[7 October 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 14–45 mm at 45 mm, ISO 200, 1/200 at f8] 

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

08 October 2011

Above Laguna 69

A col (small, high pass) above Laguna 69 in the Cordillera Blanca (see the previous post). The weather already showed signs of deteriorating, but we were fortunate to see the place in spectacular conditions.

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

Andean ice above Laguna 69

Yesterday some friends and I climbed up to Laguna 69 (don't ask about the name; I have no idea) at about 4700 m in Peru's Cordillera Blanca. To stand on the shore and see mountains like this rising above the glacier, which in turn sat above a great rock cliff falling sheer into the cerulean waters, made my heart sing.

This is my kind of country.

[6 October 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 171 mm, ISO 100, 1/1000 at f11] 

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

06 October 2011

Coastal desert, Peru

The desert between Trujillo and Chimbote, through the window of the taxi taking us to Chimbote for the connecting bus to Huaraz. Of all the deserts I've seen, this seemed most like that of imagination. Astonishingly beautiful. [No time for more — off to the Cordillera Blanca in a few minutes.]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

05 October 2011

The path to Kuelap

The massive structure of Kuelap sits at 3000 metres, surrounded by steep valleys. Although far less well known than Machu Picchu, the travellers I met who had visited both sites found Kuelap at least as impressive, with the advantage that what reconstruction has been carried out is easy to identify — and the guides point it out. What I did find difficult about Kuelap was photographing it to show its astonishing size and position — unlike the manicured Machu Picchu, much of Kuelap still hides among the bromeliad-clad trees, and because it's the highest point in the area (unlike Machu Picchu), one can't look down on it. This photograph looks back from the foot of the main wall down the path to the carpark.

If you're thinking of travelling to Peru, consider spending a few days in Chachapoyas to visit Kuelap, the Sarcófagos de Karajía, and maybe some of the many other fascinating and spectacular places in the area.

[2 October 2011, Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 100 mm, ISO 200, 1/640 at f8] 
All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

04 October 2011

Early morning, inside; Galápagos

Jumping back a few weeks — my room on Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos archipelago (I love that word — "archipelago"). The room was actually partitioned, and I slept in the other area in a larger bed — with sheets. I wrote at the tiled bench in the kitchen area; I wrote in restaurants, I wrote at a little bar on the waterfront, I wrote wherever and whenever I could.

Now I'm in Peru, ready to leave Chachapoyas, which has proved far more interesting and enjoyable than I'd expected. I'd intended taking the notorious bus to Cajamarca, but having been over part of the road yesterday on the way to Kuelap, the desire to enjoy the landscape has waned a little — 12 hours on a winding, rough, slow road no longer seems so necessary. I'll take the night bus to Trujillo instead, despite my aversion to travelling at night when I can't see what I'm travelling through (and they're not as safe as the day journeys). Then on to Huaraz in the climbing and trekking paradise of the Cordillera Blanca.

[13 September 2011 [Ecuador], Panasonic Lumix GH1, 14–45 mm at 14 mm, ISO 400, 1/50 at f16]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

03 October 2011

The Sarcophagi of Karajía, Peru

The sarcophagi at Karajía, near Chachapoyas in northern Peru, stand high on a cliff, inaccessible to all but birds. The whole mountainside used to contain these tombs, but earthquakes over the last thousand years have taken their toll. These reminders of Chacapoyan culture pre-date the Incas.

An eerie place. The sarcophagi stand guard, strange and silent; the brittle bones of humans lie in places right next to the path.

Off to Kuelap in less than an hour. 

[1 October 2011 [Ecuador], Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 300 mm, ISO 200, 1/500 at f5.6]  

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor

01 October 2011

Eared dove, Quito

Eared dovesZenaida auriculata) were one of the first birds I identified in Ecuador. Ubiquitous in Quito, they're widespread elsewhere too, and only in Cuenca did I notice they'd largely been replaced by fat feral pigeons. This was one of the few reasonable photos I managed; an eared dove outside my room at the Tutamanda hostel in Quito.

I'm in Peru now, at Chachapoyas. I left Vilcabamba early yesterday morning (Thursday), travelling by bus through a spectacular landscape to Zumba; in the back of a ute to La Balsa and the most informal, friendly border crossing I've ever had, from Ecuador to Peru. Then a wonderful hour and a half squeezed into a car with six others plus the driver and our luggage, to San Ignacio. On to Jaén for the night, then this morning to Bagua Grande and another fast colectivo ride through yet another spectacular, sere landscape to Chachapoyas. I'm now at the hostel Revash, heading for the Sarcófagos de Karajía tomorrow and the pre-inca ruins at Kuelap the next day.

[25 August 2011 [Ecuador], Panasonic Lumix GH1, 100–300 mm at 300 mm, ISO 400, 1/400 at f5.6] 

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor