Rich red canyons plunging kilometres below to turbulent rivers and cacti silhouetted against stunning backdrops are often associated with America’s Grand Canyon.
However, we are hiking in the Colca Canyon of Peru. Reputedly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon this unique area – rich both culturally and geophysically provides a range of opportunities for the visitor.
Three day plunges into the deepest part of the canyon or condor spotting are amongst the more popular outings. We have opted to instead cross this rugged terrain for more than simply sightseeing.
As we trek along narrow cliff faces, sometimes only a foot wide – with 200 metre drops below – we begin to wonder about our choice of hike. We are hoping to cross the Colca Canyon and then descend to the romantically named Valley of the Volcanoes.
It made perfect sense at the time, a four day hike opposed to twenty gruelling hours by bus on back roads to visit the two sites. The rationality of our decision became questionable when a local described the route only for the “valiant and adventurous.”
The Colca region remained fiercely independent of the Inca Empire and today the people retain their own unique character. Women wear full length dresses, exquisitely embroidered with elaborate bodices in all shades of pink, and red with little flowers. The outfit is topped off with distinct hats beribboned with sequins and rosettes.
As we are setting off, a lady with a big pink rosette on her hat and voluminous embroidered skirts inquires where we are heading, and on hearing the Valley of the Volcanoes, she lets out a low whistle, “Its so far... and so dangerous!”
To reach the tiny village of Chocco, it’s a thirty kilometre hike along a hot and dry canyon, mostly along death defying cliff faces, so it’s little wonder that the residents have a certain frontier-ness about them. Women in traditional dress herd cattle and sheep down the cobbled streets, while men wear broad hats like cowboys.
We had scarcely arrived when our Peruvian friend is greeted excitedly by locals in the native Quechua tongue. Though he speaks this language of the Incas, they are so surprised by his appearance, and enquire if he is from another country!
Lines etched twice on her face for each of her years, and baby pink rosettes and lace on her hat dispirited and faded, an old lady is so engrossed in conversation with this outsider, she fails to notice us come up behind. When her gaze falls on us she exclaims, “Caramba!” An expression of delight or hell, the dictionary translates it as, “By Jove!” She can hardly believe her eyes – two gringas (foreign women) in her town!
As we leave the frontier village behind us, two days of climbing out of the Colca Canyon lay ahead – narrow cliff faces, blue skies and valleys. It is as wild and remote as you get, and we are not to encounter one person during the trek that involved crossing of a 5,100-metre pass.
Such altitude provides incredible views of snow capped volcanoes including Ampato where in 1992 the frozen body of the mummy Juanita was discovered. Known as the ice princess, Juanita is believed to be the body of a 12 to 14 year old girl sacrificed by the Incas to the mountain gods around 500 years ago.
The Valley of the Volcanoes lives up to its name – from the high peaks of the pass we can see many conical cones – apparently up to eighty from which lava once flowed. It is thought that each cone was formed from a separate eruption.
The final day of our trek takes us through and over the lava flows of the Lomas Ninimama Lava Field. It’s a hot dry landscape, distorted by the extremity of its cause. It has a young and raw, feeling as if this is what it was like when then earth began. It is ugly, yet beautiful at the same time with hundreds of different cacti species, birds and small flowers.
Scientists say that the lack of vegetation – nothing but the hardiest plants – and the lack of the erosion indicates that the volcanic activity occurred no more than a few thousand years ago, and possibly as recently as several hundred years ago.
Andagua, the principal town of the Valley of the Volcanoes sits at a breathless 3500 metres – and has an air of isolation. With men in high heeled cowboy boots and women in broad hats, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in the Wild West, with the clatter of horse hooves on the streets. Yet these women carry their babies on their backs in brightly coloured mantas (woven blankets) like their Peruvian compatriots, and it makes a fascinating mix.
To leave Andagua our bus climbs a tortuous route that winds over the surreal moonscape close to the summit of the Coropuna volcano, covered with snow. Vicuna, a now rare camelid that is the Peruvian national symbol, run freely. Deep chasms beside the road are obscured by the snow that swirls around the bus.
In this inhospitable climate, several campesinos (peasants) tend their herds of alpacas and llamas. They are hard and resourceful, like the people of the Wild West. Yet this cold and barren place was very different than the hot dry canyons that we had walked through.
Hardy, resourceful, individualistic yet community minded – certain characteristics jump to mind when you see the broad white hat of the cowboy. This is the land of the Peruvian cowboy – a tortuous, wild and remote landscape, unpredictable and seemingly untameable.
In Central America, just south of Nicaragua and north of Panama is Costa Rica. Costa Rica has the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west side. Therefore, the majority of Costa Rica's borders, sixty-five percent, are coastline.
Although a relatively small area, about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, it has everything one could want in a vacation. Beautiful white sand beaches, great surf, active volcanoes, natural hot springs, and towering rain forests are just some of the sites in Costa Rica. Site seeing in the area is relatively simple via rental car or public bus.
A number of the principal mountain ranges are volcanic, and visitors can easily visit many of these areas. In the province of Cartago, for example, which is not far from the capital of San José, you will find Irazú volcano, which erupted in the early sixties. Poás volcano, located in the province of Alajuela, has one of the largest active craters in the world. In addition, Arenal volcano, in the northwestern region, delights thousands of visitors each year to a constant stream of red, hot lava rocks tumbling down its slopes.
Picturesque forests grow in the crater of the dormant Barva in Heredia. Arenal, a young volcano in the northern part of the country is constantly active (and is the site of a spa with natural hot springs). The country's highest peak, Mount Chirripó, is not volcanic; it measures 12.412 feet. On a clear day one can see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans from atop Mt. Chirripo.
The capital of Costa Rica is San José and is a good starting place for exploring the country. It is conveniently located in the center of the country and all the bus lines stop here. The port of Limon on the Caribbean Coast has quite a different atmosphere from the capital. Life is easy going on the Caribbean coast compared to the city life in San Jose.
San José is located in the Central Valley region of the country. Evenings in San José can be cool do to the high altitude, but you will not forget that you are in a tropical place even in this bustling city. The city itself is busy and filed with traffic. There are many things to do, but travelers often miss these sites choosing instead to head straight from the airport to beaches or rainforests. Although San José is not the most beautiful city in the world, it is generally safe and has a lot to offer tourists.
About the Author
For more information about Costa Rica, visit Costa Rica
Last Updated ( Dec 22, 2006 at 12:06 AM )
Beautiful and Rising Himachal Pradesh
Written by Hiren Bhatt
Mar 30, 2006 at 05:38 PM
Himachal an Overview
Himachal Pradesh is a relatively small state in the North West of India, partly located in the Himalayas, with a well established tourist industry catering to everyone from party heads to trekkers and all points in between. The Capital, Shimla, is the former Summer Capital of the British Raj at the time when the administration used to flee the punishing summer heat of the plains and head for the hills, and parts of Shimla still look like they could be in the home counties of England. It is a beautiful state blessed by the gods. Perhaps, nature holds an important place in the life of a typical himachali , they worship the trees, animals and rivers. Himachal pradesh has carved a distinct niche for itself in the tourism industry also. Its snowy peaks, lonely walk-a-ways provides an instant respite from battering heat of the indian summer.
The climate in the hills is comparable with that of Europe, with warm, pleasant summers and cold winters. Mountains, rivers, forests, good trekking routes, fascinating religious ceremonies and the famous Kulu Valley "Charas" (hashish) are some of the reasons for Himachal's popularity as a tourist destination, for foreign backpackers as well as Indian tourists. Since the onset of the troubles in Kashmir, Himachal has gained huge popularity with the Bollywood film industry, as the obligatory mountain location of choice without which few Hindi movies are incomplete.
Dharamsala, once proposed by Lord Elgin as the Raj summer capital, is now home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile, drawing Buddhist practioners and the spiritually curious in droves all year round. The state is also now a major centre for electricity generation, with many hydro electric projects in various stages of completion. People of the hill state are extremely friendly and it is rare to experience any hassle.
Places of attraction in Himachal Pradesh
Himachal pradesh provides an exquisite blend of historical panaroma, adventure and thrill at places like Shimla, Kullu, Manali, Dalhousie, Chamba, Kangra, Kufri. Honeymooners love to throng about the intimate pleasures at princely palaces in Chail and Rajgarh.
It has second highest litracy rate in India. Himachal has garnished its image of "a state withstrong economy " from a begging state of 1970's. Now, it is gleaming in all the avenues of growth like Tourism, IT, Manufacturing and Pharma. It has propelled itself among the top five tax earner for Central Government of India. Now, himachali's are also contributing a major part in the national growth.
Himachal is no more a secluded land or tribal place it used to be in past. Since last decade due to some aggresive measures taken by respective govt's of state, it has been fully uploaded to comepete the modern world. Himachal is destined to achieve high growth rate in future: With its well connected network of roads, telecommunication and immense education opportunities. A new IT park has been slated to be developed in shimla, baddi and parwanoo are manufacturing hubs of state. Himachal government is inviting more companies by providing lucrative parleys like tax benefits, concessional land prices and transportation.These are the backbones of emerging industrial revolution.
In the recent steps to promote the tourism industy the government of Himachal Pradesh under the directive of Honourable Minister Shri Virbhadra Singh, assigned Shoghi Communication to integrate the Tourism Ministry site with the On-Line Hotel reservation system (SHOGHI-OHRS). All the hotels subscribing to this system shall be able to achieve the extra ordinary reach to showcase their facilities to the Global Tourist. The tourist from all over the world would be able to get their booking done while sitting at home and get confirmation on the spot for all major private hotels besides the government hotels of Himachal Pradesh through the company site http://www.himachalhotels.in.
Outlining Himachal Pradesh
This natural and cultural richness of the State coupled with its simple peace loving people and traditional hospitality makes the State a most favoured tourist destination.
Last Updated ( Dec 22, 2006 at 12:33 AM )
Best of Hawaii: Itinerary Ideas for the Traveler
Written by Anitra Pickett
Mar 30, 2006 at 05:15 PM
Want to do specific activities in Hawaii but have no idea which island has the best of the best? Use these lists to get ideas and helpful tips about the best surfing, scuba diving, exotic beaches, and much more!
This article is designed to help you choose which Hawaiian islands to visit if you have a particular activity in mind. Granted, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that all the 6 major islands of Hawaii have all of these activities in one shape or form. We have used a mixture of popular opinion and our own personal research and experiences for compiling these lists. An "(s)" indicates it may only be available during certain seasons. Remember to always check conditions & availability, especially for water activities.
1. Oahu - Waikiki
2. Maui - Lahaina
3. Big Island - Kailua Kona
1. Kauai - Na Pali Coast (s)
2. Kauai - Waimea Canyon
3. Big Island - Mt. Kilauea
Best Surfing (Advanced):(s)
1. Oahu - North Shore
2. Kauai - Hanalei Bay
3. Maui - Honolua Bay
Best Surfing (Beginner):(s)
1. Oahu - Waikiki
2. Kauai - Kalapaki Beach
3. Maui - Launiupoko Park
Best Scuba Diving:
1. Maui - Molokini
2. Maui or Lanai - Lanai Coast
3. Big Island - West Coast
About the Author
Anitra Pickett is CEO of GLAD Travel. Gladtravel.com (http://www.gladtravel.com) is an advanced online search and booking engine for accommodation in the Hawaiian Islands. The website features 1000+ budget lodging options, all for $99 or less per night. GLAD Travel encourages authentic, adventurous, and responsible travel for the independent and budget-oriented traveler.