The Intangibles of Isla Taquile

Take a boat tour to the Uros Islands out of Puno, and the package will likely include a visit to Isla Taquile (Taquile Island). Where? you ask. That's what I said when I booked it. OK, I thought, as long as I get to see the reed islands. Turns out, if I had done my research, I should also... Continue Reading →

Night and Day, A Tale of Two Peruvian Bus Companies

I walked up to the Transportes del Carpio bus counter in Arequipa to pick up pre-paid roundtrip tickets to Aplao, but it wasn't going to be as simple as that. Not by a long shot. The biggest problem was I didn't speak Spanish. The second was the clerk didn't speak English. The bus line, after... Continue Reading →

Islas Uros, What Price Commercialism?

It's like walking on a waterbed. Unnerving at first, there is a definite squishy firmness under your feet as you walk on an island made entirely of totora reeds, so thick that there is no danger of falling through into Lake Titicaca. Even so, the feeling that water is underfoot never leaves you. Lake Titicaca is an incredibly large... Continue Reading →

Arequipa, the White City, the Silent Stones

Rooms almost glow from within. Light reflects softly from surfaces as if they're white-washed, made of ivory-tinted, slightly purplish stone, called sillar. Their whiteness the Spanish invaders admired so much that they made building material out of it. And why not? This rhyolitic rock is plentiful in the Western Andes where volcanic pyroclastic flows deposited countless acres of them long ago.... Continue Reading →

Maracuya, Granadilla. I’ll Call It Passionfruit.

I have had my share of passionfruit the last several years. I consider it my absolute favorite exotic fruit whose incredibly heady aroma can fill a room with its unmistakable scent of the tropics. My frenzy started out in New Zealand where the fruit has a dark, purplish rind and crunchy seeds not unlike pomegranate. One time, my... Continue Reading →

Who’s Minding the Archaeological Store? The Toro Muerto Petroglyphs

Julio Zuñiga Medina is troubled. Toro Muerto's archaeological treasures that are represented by roughly 5,000 ancient petroglyphs, presumed to be of the Wari people, are not being protected by the Peruvian authorities, it seems. It is possible to wander over 5 km in this desert area unsupervised and unwatched, even though vandals have defaced and removed... Continue Reading →

Did the Incas Build All of Machu Picchu?

To many, Machu Picchu is the poster child of the Incan civilization. Like an ancient lost city, the ruins lay hidden from the world for centuries, even the Spanish invaders, until they were 'revealed' to archaeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911. Yet, for all its majesty, Machu Picchu isn't the only impressive legacy of the Incas. I... Continue Reading →

How to Make the Perfect Pisco Sour

Pisco sours are an essential experience in Peru. No culinary trip would be complete without imbibing at least a gallon of the stuff (so I hear) in the land that learned how to distill the grape. Chile also produces pisco. Unlike cognac that is aged at least two years in oak barrels, Peruvian pisco must be... Continue Reading →

A Case for Peru’s Culinary Melting Pot: Sillao

Peru has many surprises. It contains 84 of the world's 103 biomes, has perhaps more archaeologically significant sites than any other country, and enjoys a food culture that is second to none in South America. The biggest surprise for me, despite its proximity to the equator, was the country's sometimes bone-chilling climate, due mainly to the Andean mountain range... Continue Reading →

The Astonishing Salt Ponds of the Incas: Las Salineras de Maras

A guided tour from the Sacred Valley to Chinchero or Cusco usually stops in the community of Maras. In one of the great hydraulic engineering projects of the world, the Incas built an intricate system of 5,000 salt ponds fed by small aqueducts of salt-laden spring water, a remnant of ancient seas that were trapped high and... Continue Reading →

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