A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about mountains

Taking the scenic route from Adelaide to Melbourne

The Great Ocean Road

all seasons in one day
View Australian adventure! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

My Aussie adventure continued with a trip to Adelaide where I met my friend Carly at the airport. We hadn't seen each other since August so it was really great to catch up.

We spent our only full day there in the Barrossa Valley on a wine tour. Yes, another wine tour for me!

We went to just three wineries in the region. Our tour didn't include the Jacob's Creek winery, but we'd been told it's very touristy and not too authentic in there for the tour.

It's a pretty interesting combination, plenty of wine and no food but hey ho, that's the fun! I actually thought we didn't get too much information at the places we visited. We tried plenty of wines but didn't learn anything of the production processes, unlike the wineries I visited in Mendoza.

The following day, we found the car rental office to pick up the car for our road trip! I had said from the start that I wouldn't drive, since it's been a while since I've driven and I didn't want the first time I drive in years to be in a rental car with a passenger next to me, in Australia. Carly loves driving so it worked out well on that front, even still, it's a lot of driving for one person so I'm extremely grateful that she was happy to do it!

Driving along the Great Ocean Road is one of those must do activities in Australia, but most people go on a round trip tour from Melbourne and don't make it to Adelaide. That's partly because it's a long drive from Adelaide to the first big place of interest, the Grampians national park. There is a pink lake close by, which was thankfully pink when we visited, I think the idea of the pink lake was keeping Carly motivated on the long first stint!

But get there we did and this is where we spent our first night, surrounded by mountains and trees, a stark contrast to my nights spent in the Outback! We even spotted some koalas just chilling in the trees.

We made a few stops the next day on the way to Apollo Bay, stopping at some lakes and waterfalls. It's amazing how peaceful you can feel outdoors amongst nature. It's something we easily forget living in a big city, just rushing through life.

We stopped at Warrnambool for some lunch before finding our way onto the actual Great Ocean Road! This day we saw all the good Great Ocean Road sites: The Grotto, London Bridge, The Arch, Loch Ard Gorge and the Twelve Apostles.

On the second night we stayed in Apollo Bay, a small surfing town with some interesting characters in our hostel. I'm referring specifically to the inebriated French man who told us that he was being deported, despite having a one year old son staying in Australia with his mother. Apart from everyone else seemed alright!

On day three we had wanted to visit the beach but sadly it was a tad drizzly in the morning so we made our way to Lorne, a small beach town perfectly placed for an afternoon sunbathe on the way to Torquay. Post sunbathe we stopped at the world's most disappointing waterfall. Ok that's probably a bit harsh, it's just that there was absolutely no water there. I do feel as though the trail should have come with some sort of disclaimer, you know: 'warning: there may be no water'.

It was then time to head back to Melbourne, this particular road trip was over.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 09:40 Archived in Australia Tagged mountains beaches friends roadtrip Comments (0)

I went to Cajamarca and bought 5kg of cheese

all seasons in one day
View London - before the off! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

Last weekend I took a trip to Cajamarca, a historically important highland city about 6 hours north of Trujillo. It's known as the place where Inca ruler Atahualpa finally fell to the Spanish in 1532, marking the end of the Inca Empire.

Cajamarca's main industries are gold mining and cheese production. I embarked on my trip with a cheese based shopping list from several people in Huanchaco, I had a map with the 'right' cheese shop labelled so I felt confident all would work out well.

On the first morning we went on a tour of Cumbe Mayo, the site of a pre-Incan aqueduct, potentially the oldest man-made structure in South America (according to my Rough Guides book!). If you look very carefully, shut one eye, tilt your head and throw in a healthy dose of imagination you can see the animals/ pirates/ etc. in the stones. Regardless, it's a beautiful mountainous spot and worth the visit.

Following the tour I attempted to find the cheese shop but to no avail. The wifi at the hostel wasn't working so finding more information - like the name of the shop and how much was required - was proving difficult. I had to abandon my cheese search to go on the next tour, to the Ventanillas de Otuzco.

The Ventanillas de Otuzco is a necropolis, this is thought to be the second burial place for the bodies laid to rest here. You can't go inside anymore as they're trying to conserve the site, so we briefly passed by. We moved on to - drumroll - a famous cheese factory called Los Alpes. It turns out, a Swiss man brought cheese production to the Peruvian highlands! I decided to purchase 2kg of queso tipo suizo, convinced that this would be plenty, possibly too much.

Incorrect. We got back to the hostel and the wifi was back up and running, it turns out my order from Huanchaco was for 3kg from the specific shop! By this time it was too late to find it, so I parked the search for the following day.

We got up early to visit the Baños del Inca, a site of thermal pools, with an overwhelming number of bathing options. Finally we settled on a group bath for 4 of us. You get your own changing area and pool where you can control the temperature of the water going in. You think because it's thermal baths you want hot water. It turns out, the hot water is really very hot and on several occasions we had the cold tap open and stuck our faces under it for relief. The 40 minutes we were allocated became an hour, it had initially seemed stingy, but let me assure you it's plenty. We left with our muscles so relaxed it felt as though we'd finished a 4 hour hike, all sleepy and slow.

It was in this state I went to look for more cheese, I think I found the right shop, it was not in the same place as I had been told, but it had the same name so I took a chance, and that was how I landed up with near enough 5kg of cheese to bring back. We left it in the very chilly hostel, whilst we visited the cafe with the 'best coffee and cake in town' for lunch. We went up to the viewing platform and supposed site of the Silla del Inca (there's no chair there these days), visited every single artisanal tourist shop on the way up, and when the rain wouldn't give up and stop just over an hour later, we found ourselves back in the cafe to keep dry.

The Plaza de Armas is striking with grand churches on either side and surrounded by mountains, giving the city both a Colonial and distinctly Andean feel.

It was a short but sweet trip with excellent company and a stunning backdrop.

Posted by Rebecca Heller 07:30 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains ruins cajamarca cheese Comments (2)

Huaraz - exploring at altitude

all seasons in one day
View London - before the off! on Rebecca Heller's travel map.

This time last week I had been in Huaraz for all of about 3 hours, having arrived with 5 other volunteers in the early hours. We'd taken an overnight bus from Trujillo to Huaraz, and were already waiting to go on our first excursion.

Huaraz about 3000m above sea level, and all of the expeditions from there go higher still. All the advice is to acclimatize to the altitude before going much higher or attempting a difficult hike. So naturally, we chose the Pastoruri hike - the trip that takes you to the edge of a glacier at over 5000m. Naturally. I should mention here that we had been advised that although it's high up, the walk itself at the top wasn't too taxing.

The bus ride takes you through the vast Cordilleras Blancas y Negras. We stopped at various points on the way up, to get some coca tea, to see the unique Ancash cacti, to take in the scenery on your own two feet rather than a moving bus. The stops are also supposed to help you adjust to the altitude as you climb. We reach the final bus point at about 1pm, ready to start the hike. Unfortunately, I stepped off the bus and the mountains around me continued to move, the tour guide told me I just needed to breath, which at the time, and at 5000m, was easier said than done. I stayed on the bus whilst the group went off to the glacier. As I got back on the bus, the heavens opened and the 1pm rain started, except at 5000m, it was a snow storm. After about an hour, the group came back back having reached the glacier but soaked and cold to the core. Having been a bit unwell in the days before the trip, the snow storm seemed like a sign that perhaps, I just wasn't meant to do that hike! I slept for a lot of the drive back to Huaraz, and felt significantly better once we were at a lower altitude.

The next big trip I had wanted to do was Laguna 69, look it up, the photos look stunning. However, it is by all accounts a difficult trek; I was feeling discouraged from the day before, and if truth be told, not 100% better so I opted for the Chavin de Huantin tour. The drive takes you through the Cordilleras Negras (as opposed to the Blancas peaks which have snow). Chavin was a pre-Inca civilisation and the ruins we saw date back to over 2,500 years ago. The site we visited was a former Chavin temple, an important religious centre for the Chavin civilisation. Due to lack of money, and perhaps cultural and political will, the ruins haven't been protected as well as they might deserve. You need a fair amount of imagination to picture the temple in its former glory, and an animated guide will certainly help. Our guide, a former school teacher, was certainly that. He spoke with passion, especially to inform us that the tour would only be successful if we worked together - listened and concentrated on his tour - otherwise we wouldn't learn anything at all. '¡Amiguitos, escuchame!' You can take the teacher out of a school...

On the final day of our trip, we did an independent hike. We took a local bus to the bottom of a mountain and made our own way up through Quechua farm villages to a lake at the top. Half way up, one of our group couldn't walk anymore due to an old injury, so we sent 3 of the group up on foot, whilst we found a taxi for the injured party. 3 of us went up the rest of the way in a taxi, a slightly scary experience, especially when we passed a 4x4 coming in the oppposite direction. I would have preferred to walk, but in the spirit of no one gets left behind, I'm glad we all made it to the lake! From the top you get overwhelmingly beautiful views of the snowy Cordilleras Blancas and the valley below.

I would have loved to have had more time In Huaraz, and ideally to have been completely well, but I'm glad I still decided to go. I would thoroughly recommend Huaraz to anyone with a spirit of adventure who is lucky enough to be close enough by to visit (a 8 hour bus ride is close!).

Posted by Rebecca Heller 07:07 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains ruins huaraz hikes altitude Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]