Category Archives: Adventures in South America

The South American Raccoon (Video)

Here is a short video of a coati aka the “South American Raccoon”. I usually don’t like zoos, but this one in near Tena (Ecuador) I really like. That little fella was running around there free in the guest area and we couldn’t resist to feed him.

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Souvenir buying guide – Backpacking Edition

Various souvenirs in Peru, South America

Buying souvenirs in South America is great. They are cheap, they look great and usually of decent quality.
Thus, when you come around the first major shop or souvenir market, you are probably inclined to buy a bunch of them, but wait, here you will learn why.

Why not to buy souvenirs on the first occasion

Souvenir buying guide - backpacking edition south america
There is one simple reason, the souvenirs are basically all the same across Peru, Bolivia and some parts of Argentina. At first I was amazed and a bit confused. Later on, in my travels I got the answer from a French NGO “worker”. She worked previously in Africa and told me how the souvenir industry works. Basically, the produce all the souvenirs in the country with the lowest wages in the area. From that country the ship to all major cities around and provide their products. Thus, you can buy almost the same souvenirs in Arequipa, Cusco, Sucre and Salta. There are usually slight variations, but after visiting two or three markets/shops in different areas you will spot those. Also check out the Lonely Planet or other Tourist guides if a local market offers unique items. In my experience carpets and other woven products are usually locally produced. Also the witch-craft markets are limited to certain areas, in case you want to buy dried animal corpses (PIC). But be careful when taking pictures like those shown here, they usually don’t like that as far as I remember…

Souvenir buying guide - backpacking edition south america

Get the best prices

Although the prices are quite cheap (at least for US/European standards) there can be major price differences for the same product at the same market. Take your time and ask prices for certain products you are interested in. Usually every product is available in most stores or at several traders at a market. I noticed major price differences every time. Also try haggling, in my experience it worked best buying several items and once with a discount. Here are some tips for bargaining and haggling. And don’t forget nearly nothing is unique there, thus you can always walk away and try again in another area.

Cat playing with souvenirs

Some great examples of what you can get

Alpaca scarves. I don’t use scarves, but most people do. So I got a bunch of them. They are of great quality. Make great presents and you can easily put them anywhere in your backpack. They are also great to protect some of your more fragile items.

The famous Inca vs. Spaniard chess. These chessboards with their little figurines are great. They look amazing, are usually built to be portable (fold em and put the figurines inside). And even non-chess players think they look great or at least cute. I got a few of those too.

inca_vs_spanish_chess_board_souvenir_south_america_1

Inva vs Spanish - Chess Board from Peru, South America

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Further Information on where you can find great markets for souvenirs

The following books all contain special information for specific countries. The list great markets and shops for every major city and village. They are organized and written especially for backpacking and traveling. Thus, you can easily read them while you sit on the plane, bus, train, etc.

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Exploring Arequipa

Exploring for me is gathering the essence of a place, this includes places that some people may find irritating, annoying or not worth seeing. Well, I am here to experience the world in all its diversity and nuances. Here I provide you with my best shots from exploring the Peruvian town Arequipa – one of my favorite places of the world.

The fences of the neighourhood

The fences of the neighourhood

Spiked walls for security

Spiked walls for security

In my first days in Perú I was quite disturbed about seeing a lot of spikes, fence and barb wires. Now I think it looks worse than it is. Here are some impression right from the road about Peruvian security measures. In Peruvian towns it is common that certain areas are locked during certain times, usually these areas are also guarded. I never experienced any problems, although it can be quite irritating if you see it the first time.

Bridge Crossing

Bridge Crossing

The Eiffel bridge oneway today

The Eiffel bridge oneway today

If this bridge looks familiar this might be due to the fact that this was built by Eiffel – yeah the same guy who built the huge tower in Paris also known as Eiffel Tower ;). This bridge is really interesting, it is really long. Yet, nowadays it is kinda funny and maybe a bit unpractical. From far away it looks really impressive – and it still is – but when you stand on it and realize that it is one way for cars, well yeah… not that practical. They view from there is great, I could take pictures of housing areas I usually would not dare to walk into.

Working Peasants

Working Peasants

I also discovered some peasants working near the roads, they had a cute dog “watching” the area. I really liked this sideroad. The first time I went down it, I was a bit scarred and then there appeared several eagles. Later on I discoverted the peasants and could take some of my favorites shots.

Men at Work

Men at Work

Later on I headed back into more urban areas. There I found a large road, which I had to follow. From a bridge a saw a repair shop. They took care of a police car, as you can see from the picture the police is armoured. I took some shots of the workers to capture such an authentic situation first hand. Then they registered me and began waving friendly, hence I took some more shots. I prefer honoring the hard-working people with my time and attention, than museums or statues.

After I went along the large road up on a hill, I discovered that this was one of the local breweries.

Here is a video with more photos from Arequipa:

For further information about Arequipa and Peru, I can highly recommend the following book: the Lonely Planet – Peru.

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Video: Rafting the Apurimac River near Cuzco (Perú)

Video: Apurimac River, near Cuzco, Perú

This one of the best experiences in my life. A rafting trip for 3 days in a canyon near Cuzco (Perú). It was amazing the landscape, the adrenaline and the team. I think rafting is awesome for team-building, on the last day one guy fell out of our boat in the rapid, two of us pulled him out in a matter of seconds, whereas the others continued to steer the boat through the rapid.

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From Tafi del Valle to Salta (Guestpost by Ximena)

One way. One road to the most diversity of view from Argentina. Once away from San Miguel Tucumán, the capital of the province of Tucuman you take road 55 to Tafí Viejo. You may be surrounded by a dense green forest completely far away from crowd. You may be ecstatic with this green panorama till the next way around from the mountain that you find yourself in a desert. Few moments later, you realize that you’re not longer in road 55, you’re in national road 9. At first the sight, you won’t notice anything but then everything changes, from a desert to a valley of red mountains. It’s amazing the different color of this mountain range. You may stop in the “Garganta del Diablo” (Devils Throat) – the heart of the mountain. Just silence and fresh air, it’s really worth to see! Then, arriving to Salta, there is a change in the color of the mountain, they are more modest but not less stunning. Once in Salta, you may find be surrounded by vegetation again.

Arriving in Salta

Road 9 North

Road 9 North Highway

El Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat)

El Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat)

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