Dr. med. Harold Vanderschmidt
Nature and Medicine

Expedition Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Panama 2019

1.5.2019 -4.5.19

In the next two months I will be travelling through 5 countries starting in Germany. It was nice to see the family again and we had a perfect time together. I did enjoy the German Food I was offered. For two days the weather was nice but the last day I was surprised with rain, low temperatures and even snow. Time to say Good Bye and take off to Mexico City with Lufthansa Airlines.


After 11 hours and 30 minutes flight time my final destination Mexico City was reached. The Lufthansa Crew was very nice and we have had a few bumps only crossing the Atlantic. After Arrival I had to wait in a long line at the Immigration. I had a booking in an Airport Hotel and the Check in was fast and easy and there was no need to travel through Mexico City at night to reach an accomodation.


After a good sleep I have had an excellent breakfast in the Hotel. 1983 was my first visit in Mexico City and I was interested to see the difference after 35 years. 9 Million people live in Mexico City and 21 Million including the surroundings. Because Mexico is not the safest place on our planet I had booked a private Tour including Tour Guide. I was surpriced how the City had changed in the last 35 years. The City is very clean and the Traffic organized. The old American Cars are gone and replaced by a normal mixture of cars. Because of the pollution every car has to be checked twice a year.

The first place I have visited was Xochimilco. Xochimilco is a leftover of  a canal system from the Azteks. People love to come here over the weekends to relax and have entertainment.

I was keen to see an Axolotl, an amphibian animal which exists in Xochimilko only. This animal is unique because of  its ability to regenerate limbs. The Axolotl can not be found anywhere else and is critically endangered. They can only be seen in a certain area of Xochimilko which is controlled by the University and Government of Mexico City. A special permission is needed to visit the area and is mainly given to researchers and scientists.

After that I went to  a local market and parks followed by the Zocalo - Plaza de la Constitution. I was lucky to see a celebration with people in Aztek costumes close to the Templo Major.


Time for the Pyramids! After pick up from the hotel I have visited the Plaza de las tres Culturas. Here I could see remains of the Azteks, the Catholic Curch Cathedral Santiago build by the Spaniards and Modern Buildings in one view. 1968, ten days before opening the Olympic Games,  a terrible massacre took place here and hundreds of civilians were killed. After that the tour took me to Teotihuacan and the Pyramids from the Azteks. I have climbed the Pyramid of the Sun. The Pyramid is 65 m high with steep steps. I have managed it like 35 years ago when I have visited the Pyramids the first time. Due to the high elevation I had a short rest on my way up. After that I have climbed the Moon Pyramid and the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatel. New discoveries were made in the last 35 years and I have seen how advanced the culture of the Azteks was. The tour was finished at the Basilia de Guadalupe the most holy Christian Church in Mexiko. Mexiko City is built on a dry lake and due to this fact buildings are sinking and can collaps like the old Basilica did. A new Basilica was build next to the old one.


After Mexico City my next destination was Cancun in Yucatan. Cancun was choosen from ISAKOS for their World Conference in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. The flight to Cancun took 2 hours and in the afternoon I did  check in  in the Conference Hotel.


Mexico is not safe and my decision was to book a Tour with a private Company - Mayans Explorers. I was lucky to get the owner as a Tour Guide and I have had three amazing days visiting the archeological sites and interesting nature reserves in Yucatan. The first day was a very long day and it took 15 hours before I came back to the Hotel. The first stop was Chichen Itza. I have been there 35 years ago. Because we did arrive very early the amount of tourists was not that high but later it became very crowded. It was not allowed to climb the Pyramids but it was still nice to see them again. 35 years ago I have climbed the Pyramids and was able to take photographs from different angles. After that I have visited a Cenote. Cenotes are underwater sinkholes with fresh clear water. Yucatan is the only place on our planet with a high number of more than 8000 of these waterholes. Most probably they are all connected to each other and lots of them are still not discovered. After that the tour took me to Valladolid - a small town in Yucatan. From there it was not far to Ek Balam which was dicovered 1993 - 10 years later after my first visit here. Ek Balam means Black Jaguar. The Jaguar was an important animal in the Aztek and Maya Culture representing strenght and power. After Ek Balam I have visited the National Park Rio Lagartos with its Pink Flamingos. After a long boat drive I have seen a beautiful colony of Pink Flamingos and could photograph them during sunset within the golden hour.


The first visit today took me to a pretty Lagoon with turkois and green water. Next to the Lagon I have visited Muyil - a very nice archeological site from the Maya Culture. The first thing I have seen was an incredible swarm of Zebra Swallowtail Butterflies.  Butterflies need salt and electrolytes and to get it they aggregate around mud puddles. I did some movies and after taken enough pictures I have visited the ruins. On my way there was a nice outlook in the middle of the forest with amazing views. After that I have seen two Howler Monkeys in the trees - an amazing sighting and my big camera was busy a second time. Coba was the next destination. We had to take a bicycle to reach the highst pyramid in a reasonable time. The view from the pyramid was amazing. Punta Laguna was the next destination. It was difficult to find the Spider Monkeys in the forest but after some time I was successfull and I could track them. They are ultrafast and it was difficult  taking photographs due to the light condition and their speed. Another long day came to an end and I had a chance to see a nice sunset at the Lagoon.


Early morning I was taken to Tulum. 35 years ago this place was located in the middle of nowhere and now it has turned in a Tourist Destination with Hotels, Restaurants and Beach Clubs. I can still remember that I have seen amazing paintings and engravings and that I have photographed them. Unfortunately I had to stay on the walkway and after taking a few photographs the visit was over. Going back to exit was difficult due to the high amount of tourists pouring in. We went to the beach and my plan was to take a boat and photograph Tulum from the seaside but due to the rough sea it was not possible. On the way back I have had a nice Lunch in a typical Mexican Restaurant in Playa del Carmen. Before I went back to the Hotel I have visited the Museum in Cancun. It was nice but not to compare with the National Museum in Mexiko City. In the Afternoon I have started my preparation for the ISAKOS Conference.

11.5. -  16.5.19

I have attended the ISAKOS Conference in Cancun. ISAKOS is a World Organisation for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. The Conference takes place biannually in different locations of the World. The Conference was well organized and was filled with excellent lectures and presentations. After 6 long days I have received more than 41 CME points for my Medical Education. Cape town was selected as next venue for 2021.


After the Conference, this was my off day and I did stay in the very nice Conference Hotel. I had to digest the new information and organize my further trip. I have had a booking for a Whaleshark Tour and unfortunately the tour was cancelled due to bad weather. The real Whaleshark Season is in July and August when hundreds of these animals meet at the Yucatan Peninsula. Another problem was the pollution of the water with red algees called Red Tide. They can affect health and lead to lung and skin problems. I had to reorganize my trip for the next day and my decision was to visit two Islands: Isla Contoy and Isla de Mucheres. Isla Contoy is a National Park and one of the best destinations in Yucatan to see Frigate Birds.  


I was picked up early and brought to the Cancun Port. Cancun is a Holiday Place and full of tourists. I ended up on a boat full of happy people celebrating a Party on board. The boat was more like a floating Disco and I could not really enjoy the boat ride. Only 200 tourists are allowed to come to Isla Contoy per day. Most of the people came for sunbathing and relaxing at the nice beach. My decision was to look for the animals. Isla Contoy does not have fresh water and this is the reason why they do not have mammals. I found a very nice lagoon full of young Frigate birds . I have seen the adult birds cruising in the sky and hunting fish in the lagoon. The young ones are always hungry and crying for food. I could see how the young birds were able to stick their whole head into the parent throat taking the fish out. I have seen Iguanas and crabs and during lunch a nice snake hanging from a tree. After that I have photographed pelicans hunting for fish. It was not easy due to the harsh light. In the afternoon the boat took off to Isla de Mucheres. This Island is beautiful but turned in a touristic place full of Shops, Restaurants and Hotels. The boat ride was not better than before and now converted in a Disco and Tequila Party. I have visited Isla de Mucheres for one hour and the it was enough and I was happy to get back to my Hotel in Cancun.


It was time to say good bye to Mexico and I was picked up after breakfast to catch my flight to Mexico City and then Quito in Equador. It took 15 hours before I reached Quito. The Immigration was fast: no Paperwork, Question Tourist or Business answered, Stamp in Passport and done! I was taken to the Hotel but I had difficulties to sleep due to high elevation. Quito is the highest Capital on our planet with 2850 m elevation and directly located at the Equator.


After a good sleep despite the altitude  (2850 m) I was picked up after breakfast for a City Tour in Quito. My Guide Santiago took me to the Panecillo first, a 41 m aluminium mosaic Statue standing on a hill, a major landmark in Quito. On top of the statue I have had a very nice overview over Quito. After that we went to  the Basilica del Voto National. Santiago told me that we could climb up the Basilica. The climb was an adventure because we had to climb up multiple steep iron ladders. On top I have had an excellent view and lots of photographic opportunities. Due to the altitude I was out of breath when we walked up and down the hills in the City. After an excellent lunch I was taken to the Middle of the World and the Intinan Museum. Here I learned a lot about the Equator related science. I was able to balance an Egg on a nail due absence of the Coriolis forces. A new experience.


In the morning I have had a tour to the North of Ecuador. I have visited the Otavalo Market where they sell handicrafts. The market was almost empty because of the early morning. I bought some nice socks from Alpaca wool and took Photographs. After that we went to the famous Cuicocha Lake or Guinea Pig Lake. We did a nice hike here and I was able to take  very nice Landscape pictures from the Crater Lake , the Avenue of the Volcanos and the Cotacachi Volcano (4944 m).


After Check out from the Hotel Santiago took me to the Cotopaxi National Park 50 km south of Quito. Just after the start we have had a car accident. A car crashed in Santiagos car from behind. The impact was small but left a big dent in his car. I could witness the South American temperament when the Police was involved. After long discussions Santiago got some money for the repair and the case was solved. There was obviously no insurance in play.

The Cotopaxi is an active Stratovolcano and one of the highest Volcanoes in the World with an altitude of 5897 m. We could drive up to 4600 m passing the wetlands. It was windy and cold and we did a hike up to 4800 m. The snow cap was only partially visible due to the clouds. I have never been that high in my life. Mountain climbing in the Alps has taken me to 4000 m and not higher. I did enjoy the view down to the wetlands where we stopped on our way back. I took Photographs from wild Horses and nice Flowers. The was Flower Season and the whole Wetland area was covered by a nice purple Enzian type of Flower.

After this adventure Santiago took me to Banos – a very nice small City with a lot of recreational activities. On the way to Banos I could photograph the Chimborazo – the highest Volcano of Ecuador with 6263 m followed by the Cotopaxie. It was dark when we did arrive in Banos. Here I spent the night in the Luna Volcan Hotel – a very fancy and nice Resort in the mountains close to the Tungurahua Volcano. The Tungurahua is an active Volcano with an Elevation of 5023 m. The last Eruption took place in 2014.


Banos is the entrance to the Ecuador Amazon Forest. In the morning went to an Outlook and I have had incredible views down into the Valley. After that we have visited three Waterfalls. One of the Waterfalls was located on the other side of a river. Here we did cross the river with a Cable Cart. After Lunch Santiago took me to the Chimborazo Nationalpark which was not spezified in the itinerary. The only place to see Vikunjas is the Chimborazo Nationalpark and I was lucky to see them. They live in the Wild in higher altitudes. Vikunja Wool is the most expensive wool in the World. I could take nice Photographs from these shy animals and later from the Chimborazo as well. Interesting fact is that the Chimborazo is the highest mountain in the World. The Mount Everest is 8848 m high, the Chimborazo 6263 m. Because the Chimborazo is close to the equatorial Bulge the Peak of the Chimborazo is the closest Point to the Sun measured from the Center of the Earth. The Chimborazo beats the Mount Everest by 2 km. I spent the Night in the Abraspungo Hotel an old Hacienda in Riobamba.   


In the morning I had to get up early. The plan was to do a Train Ride to the Devils Nose. Before we reached Alausi – where the Train Station is - I have visited the oldest Church in Ecuador La Iglesia de Balbbanera. The Church was built 1534 by the Spaniards.

In Alausi I started the Train Ride through the southern Andes of Ecuador.  The biggest complication faced by the construction of the Trans-Andean railroad was the Devil’s Nose, a mountain with almost perpendicular walls. To overcome this obstacle a zigzag railroad was built that climbs more than 500 meters in less than 12,5 km with steep ascents and descents. It still remains an impressive piece of engineering. After the Train Ride we went to Ingapirca where I have had the first contact with Ruins from the Inkas. After Lunch we have visited Ingapirca and I was introduced in the Life of the Inkas by Santiago who did explain it very well. After that we drove to Cuenca where I spent the night in the Hotel Mansion Alcazar, a very nice old and charming Hotel in the Old Town of Cuenca.


The next day I have visited Cuenca Town. Santiago took me to an Outlook and then to a Panama Hat Factory and he told me that Panama Hats are not from Panama. These Hats were made in Ecuador and given to the workers who built the Panama Canal at that time. It was very interesting and at the End I bought a nice Panama Hat for myself. After that we went for a City Walk, visited a Museum and had Lunch in a very nice Restaurant. After Lunch we continued the City Tour and we went to the Cathedral and a local Market


I was picked up in my Hotel in Cuenca and driven to the Cajas National Park. The Park is located between Cuenca and Guayaquil with a pass in 4255 m. I have had lunch in a very unique restaurant. Before lunch we went for a hike . The Cajas National Park is a wetland because it catches all the rain coming from the Pacific Ocean. I have photographed the landscape including the twin waterfalls, paper trees and a river. After lunch we continued our journey to Guayaquil with a stop at The Three Cruzes in 4255 m. Here I have photographed the Landscape with its multiple lakes. After passing the cloud forest I have reached Guayaquil at sea level and was brought to the Hilton Colon Hotel next to the Airport.


After a good night sleep at sea level  I was transferred to the Airport. The flight with Avianca took 1hour and 40 minutes to San Christobal in Galapagos. After passing the security and payment of 100 US Dollars park fee I have met the people going to the cruise. After a short ride with a bus we were brought to the port where two pangas were waiting for us. After taking the first Photographs (I could not resist) in the Harbour we were equipped with life jackets and taken to the boat Grand Majestics – a very nice Boat for 16 people with two 2000 Horsepower Engines. We have had a warm Welcome and after a briefing I could move in my cabin.

In the afternoon a trip was planned to see the El Junco Lagoon. Due to fog in this elevated area I  have visited a Tortoise breeding Center instead. I was told that they have animal trafficking in Galapagos as well and recently 123 young turtles were recently stolen and brought to Florida where they were offered for 7000 US Dollars per animal. The Breeding Program is very important for the survival of this Species. Each Island in Galapagos has different types of Tortoises with different DNA. The Tortoises are kept for 8 years in the Center until their shell is hard and they can be relesed in the Wild. After the visit I went back to the boat .  

After that I went back on the ship and had a briefing about Floreana Island our destination for the next day. The night was interrupted by strong movements of the ship due to the rough sea. The drawers in the Cabin - held by a magnet - became loose and kept on moving in the rythm of the boat…


In the morning I woke up early and I wanted to see the Sunrise at Floreana Island. I went to the back of  the boat and saw a Sea Lion resting on a Couch. He was totally relaxed and not shy at all. He became pet of the boat on this particular day  and was given the name " George".

After the breakfast we have had a Panga Ride and the first contact with Galapagos Sea Lions . The first visit on Land  was Post Office Bay where Tourist leave their Postcards and take Postcards from other Tourists for delivery in their Home Countries.

In the Afternoon we went for a swim with Sea Lions and visited Cormorant Point where I could film the blue footed Booby Dance and photograph Flamingos and Crabs.

After the return to the Boat we had Dinner and there was a lot lot of noise at the back of the boat. The light of the boat had attracted flying Fish and their Hunters: Galapagos Sharks. The boat was surrounded by 60 - 70 Sharks - I have never seen such a high Number of Sharks close to a Boat before.


The next stop was Espaniola – the oldest of all Galapagos Islands. In the morning we went to Suarez Point. Unfortunately that place was already loaded with Tourists. I could photograph Nasca Boobies and most important the Waved Albatros. This bird is an endangered species and can only be seen in Espaniola. I took Landscape Photographs also especially from a Blowhole close to the Cliffs. On the way back to the Panga I have seen Marine Iguanas. Normaly they are black but in Espaniola they have a red and green color due to specific algies they consume. These Marine Iguanas do exist in Espaniola only.

In the afternoon we went to Gardner Bay – a very nice beach with white sand. I went for snorkeling and have seen three white tip Reef Sharks. After the snorkeling there was a nice sunset and I took Photographs from Sea Lions laying in the pure white sand.


Going back to the Center of the Galapagos Islands the next destination was Puerto Ayora at Santa Cruz Island. In the morning we went up to the Highlands and  visited the Twin Craters and Grand Turtoises in the wild.

After that we had to say Good bye to half of the passengers leaving the Galapagos Islands. At Lunch we met the new Group replacing the people leaving.

The afternoon was free. I had planed visiting the Darwin Center but I did not like the idea to see the Turtoises in captivity after I had seen them in the wild. Puerto Ayora was worth a visit especially the Fish Market with the greatest show from wild animals I have ever seen in my life. Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas, Frigate birds, Pelikans and Herons were begging for fish at the market – unbelievable.


Genovesa is one of the most northern Islands. In the morning we went to El Barranco - a nice trail. I have photographed Nasca Boobies and Blue Boobies. Here I could see the red footed Boobies also and a short ear Owl. I was lucky to see frigate Bird with their fully blown red front pouch still looking for females. The snorkelling in Genovesa was not great because of the high amount of plankton in the water. In the afternoon we have had a beachwalk and I could see the Frigate Birds again and I could photograph them in flight. The sunset was very nice for landscape photos.


After Genovesa I spent the next day on Rabida Island and Chinese Hat Island for snorkelling and kayaking. The sand at the beaches were brown due to high amount of iron.

I have seen blue footed Boobies fishing and could photograph them. Snorkeling was great. I saw Marine Iguanas, Sea Lions and white tipped Reef Sharks in the water.


The trip was continued back to San Cristobal Island. The first place I have visited was Witch Hill. The cliffs here were amazing and during the beach walk I could photograph the beautiful landscape and Sea Lions and Marine Iguanas. In the afternoon the boat went to Lobos Island. I could snorkel with Sea Lions again and it was a lot of fun. After the Snorkeling I went on the island. Lobos Island is full of Birds and Sea Lions. The track was very rocky. I found a group of Sea Lions with a large bull who was ready to mate chasing all his competitors away.


The last day in Galapagos. After packing and Check Out we were taken to the Interpretation Center of San Cristobal. We have had a nice discussion with one of the Head Rangers of the National Park. He explained the problems with the non native animals in Galapagos  and their impact on native animals. There was a very informative exhibition of the History as well. After the tour we had lunch and then we were taken to the Airport.

My flight to Quito was interrupted by a stopover in Guayaquil. In Quito I had to get my luggage from the Avianca Flight and then I could check in for my Latam Flight to Lima.

After a 2 hours flight I arrived in Lima at night time and was picked up by Juan and Carlos – my guides – and was brought to the Marriott Hotel. On the way to the Hotel I could realize the bad traffic in Lima already.


After a good sleep – I was really tired after the long trip the day before – I was picked up early in the morning and taken to Ica. The traffic in Lima was horrible. I have seen many Tuk Tuks and was reminded about the traffic in India. Only cows were missing.

In Ica I have had a flight over the Nasca Lines – a collection of  huge figures of animals and birds visible from the sky. The flight with the Cessna took one hour. It was very interesting and is still a mystery who had developed these lines. For me they looked like extraterrestrial paintings. Maria Reiche was a German – Peruvian Archeologist and her theory was that these figures and lines were used as a sun calender and an observatory for astronomical cycles.

The whole coast of Peru looks like a desert and sometimes I thought I am in Dubai. After the flight I have visted an Oasis called Huacachina. Here I could watch a World Cup in Sandboarding.


The next day I have had a boat trip to Ballestas Island. The speedboat was full of Chinese tourists. This Island is a tourist attraction and full of birds with Peruvian Boobies, Sea Gulls, Terns and more. I have seen 5 Penguins and a few Sea Lions. The Chinese People started crying after they have seen these animals – may be thinking about a mouthwatering dish. From my view the trip was not worth it after being in Galapagos for 8 days.

In the afternoon I have had a guided Tour in the Paracas National Park with nice outlooks and desert like landscapes.

After these tours I went back to Lima to the Marriott Hotel which is located in Miraflores in one of the better districts of Lima.


I was picked up early in the morning and driven to Caral one of the oldest archeological sites in Peru. We had to go to the north of Lima where the traffic is horrible. I have seen a lot of migrants from Venezuela close to the roads selling goods. The last piece of dirt road to Caral was very bumpy and we had to cross small river streams. After  reaching the side I had a guided tour which was very informative.

Later on our way back we had lunch in a local restaurant. The have offered me Cui (Guinea Pig) but I was not able to order it. I love these animals and I cant eat them. After a delicious Lunch with local food we went back to Lima.


In the morning I was picked up for a Coffee morning from one of my old patients from Dubai. I have had a nice breakfast with this lovely lady and I went for a Lima City Tour.

In the late afternoon I was driven to the Airport to catch my flight to Chiclayo. I will never forget this transport to the Airport. It took 2 ½ hours to reach the Airport due to heavy Friday afternoon traffic in Lima. I just made it on time. After arrival I was taken to my Hotel. The driver was a tiny man with Panama Hat. Here in the North of Peru I had to start speaking Spanish.


  In the morning I was picked up for my transport to the Chappari National Park. It was a long drive with a never ending bumpy road to the park. I have seen small little villages and farm areas. Sugar Cane is one of the main plants for farming here. After arrival in the park I have had a walk through the reserve. I was lucky to see Spectacled Bears and I could photograph them. They are the only bears in South America and critically endangered. After the walk I have met a group of Students and I had a nice conversation about conservancy and protection of wildlife.


In the morning after check out from the Hotel I have had a tour visiting the archeological side of the Lord of Sipan. I could see the original archeological side where the tombs were found and the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in Chiclayo. The Museum is unter strong supervision and Photography was not permited. In the afternoon I have had a long drive to Trujillo. I did arrive at night and only Night Photography was possible because of late arrival.


Early in the morning I was taken to the Airport. Here I met one the Australian Couples from the Galapagos Tour and there was a big Hallo. I have had a stop over in Lima and I had to change the plane going to Arequipa. After Arrival I could feel the height with thin Air immediately. Arequipa is 2335 m high and surrounded by Volcanoes. In the Afternoon I have had a City Tour . I have visited the Monastery. The Monastery has an amazing Architecture and is build in way that it can withstand Earthquakes. Arequipa has a very high seismic activity and people feel the earth vibrating sometimes on a daily basis. After the Monastery I have visted the Museo Santuarios Andinos. Here have seen Juanita. Juanita is a mummy which is still fresh frozen. She was found 1995 on a Mountain in an elevation more than 6000 m. She was sacrificed on top of that mountain by the Inkas. The mummy was examined in the US and a CT Scan did show that her death was caused by a scull fracture. Photography was not permitted in the museum.


In the morning after Checkout I have met my Guide Gina and the Driver. I was taken to the Highlands of the Andes sometimes to Heights more than 5000 m. I could photograph active volcanoes, Landscapes and Wildlife like Vikunjas, Alpacas and Lamas. Passing the Wetland Zone I saw different kind of birds like Ducks and Ibis. Finally I have reached the Colca Canyon and I did stay in the Colca Canyon Lodge for one night. I was given a Panoramic Room with Canyon and River view.


The next day I was taken to the Condor View Point. There were a lot of tourists already but no Condors. I have seen 3 Condors sitting in the Rocks. It was still early and cold and most probably not enough thermic for the birds. A bit later a few Condors started flying but very low. Most of the people were happy and have taken pictures with their Cell Phones. I kept on waiting and after the majority of the Tourists were gone the Condors started flying high and circulating. I was able to capture beautiful images from these huge majestic birds. Wildlife Photography requires patience. After 45 minutes the Bird activity stopped suddenly because the Condors started looking for food. We continued our journey to Puno at Lake Titicaca. I did arrive in the late Afternoon in the Hotel Libertador Puno.


Early in the morning I went for a Boat Cruise and was taken to Taquile Island. Taquile is an Island at the Peruvian Lake side 45 km away from Puno.  1700 people live on that Island in 4000 m elevation. There is no electricity and there are no cars on this Island. 1937 the Island was given back to the local people – Taquilenos - and is still under their management.

I have had a long hike up to the top of the Island where I could visit a local family. They live from tourism, handicrafts and farming and are completely independent. Recently they were given solar panels from the Peruvian government but for light only. The local people were very nice and they did show their local dances and handicraft techniques.

After this visit I was taken to the Uros. These indigenous people (roughly 2000) live still on floating islands build with reed. I was impressed by the way they build these islands. They can last up to 100 years but are changed every 50 years because of smell.

I was told that the Uros have very dark blood and no problems with the altitude and cold. Genetic testing has shown that they are most probably related to people from Polynesia.

A young couple did show me their home from inside. Walking on these reed islands is very comfortable. They have to be very careful when they cook because of fire. They mainly live from tourism and handicrafts. They can not live from fishing anymore. After the trout was introduced in the Titicaca Lake only 3 original species of fish are left from 14. I have bought two pillowcases from the young couple. I was given an amulet as a gift because they were so happy.


Early in the Morning I was brought to Juliaca Airport.  Juliaca is called Ciuidad de los Vientos and the population is 200000 people. They live in a high altitude of 3825 m. The small Airport was full of  young Tourists and backpackers. After Check in I have had a short flight to Cusco. After my arrival in Cusco I was brought in my Hotel Palacio del Inka. A former old Inka Palace was remodelled into a Hotel and I did like it very much when I entered the huge Lobby. Cusco is very charming. 350000 people live in an altitude of 3400 m. Many people fly in from Lima directly and many of them have altitude problems. I could see a few people in the Hotel attached to Oxygen Supply. I was already used to the altitude and felt great. The City Tour in the Afternoon was amazing. My Guide was a local Lady and the first place we visited was the Qorikancha Museum just opposite the Hotel. It is an old Inka Temple built 1438 and I could see the Inka Architecture with their perfect structures. The side is managed by the Dominican Order of Cusco. Despite many Earthquakes the Inka Walls were never destroyed. My Guide was very knowledgeable and after the visit we went to the Plaza de Armas. There was a Festival and School Classes were presenting colourful costumes. I took a series of Photos and after that we went to the Cusco Cathedral. This is the one of the most amazing Cathedrals I have ever seen. There were two altars with baroque elements and a huge selection of paintings from local artists. I was impressed by a painting showing the last Supper with a Guinea Pig. Peruvians are very catholic but the still believe in the old gods especially in Pachamama the god of the Earth.


The next morning I was picked up by Alfredo – a very experienced guide – for the Sacred Valley tour. We started with Sacsayhuaman with old relicts from the Inka time. From there I have had an excellent view down to the City of Cusco. It is still unclear if this place was used as a fortress. After taking photographs we went to Chinchero. This place is famous for its rich soil and weaving. I have visited a factory where the weaving techniques were demonstrated. From the Marketplace there was an excellent view to the snowcapped Salcantay Mountain (6172 m). After that we went to Moray – a spectacular example for Inka Technology with rounded Terraces and Greenhouse effect due to an artificial special microclima.

After that I have seen The Salinas de Maras. Salty water from the mountain is catched in terrace bassins and after evaporation of the water the salt can be harvested. An incredible example of Inka Technology. The place is still in use.

Ollantaytambo was the next stop. It is an old Inka City and a Fortress. After climbing up there was a nice view to the opposite hill with storage areas for food. The contour of the hill in one area looks like an Inka Face Sideview.

After Lunch we went to Pisaq and have visited the Ruins and Terraces from the Inka time with amazing views.


In the morning I was taken to the train station Poroy to catch the train Hiram Birham with destination Aquas Calientes / Machu Picchu. Hiram Bingham was an American Archeologist who discovered Machu Picchu 1911. The train ride took 3 hours and for Entertainment there was a Peruvian Music Band on board. From Aquas Calientes – a small town full of tourists – I had to take a Bus to Machu Picchu. I did arrive at 14.00 at the Entrance Gate. It was raining the whole morning and people told me that they did not see anything because Machu Picchu was covered in thick clouds. I was lucky and the rain stopped when I went in. Thanks god I was prepared wearing waterproof clothes and my Cameras were hidden in my waterproof  backpack. There was a gap of 45 minutes with view of Machu Picchu and I was able to take a few photographs. After 45 minutes it started raining again. I did continue the guided tour . Most of the people left because they were soaking wet. I could share the guide with 3 more people and despite the rain I did enjoy the tour in an empty Machu Picchu. After the tour I went to my Hotel – the Sanctuary Lodge next to the entrance and I spent the night there.


Next morning the rain was gone and there was Sunshine. I had to make a decision!  On my Ticket there was an option to climb  Huayna Picchu. The Ticket was valid from 7.00 – 10.00. My choice was:  Taking Photographs from Machu Picchu in ideal light conditions or walk up the steep mountain with 60 degree incline. Because the surface was still slippery and the trail dangerous I took the Photography Option and I did not regret it. I was able to take very nice Photographs from Machu Picchu in different locations.

At 10.00 the sun went away and it became cloudy. I did the Hike to the Sun Gate (Intipunku 2720m) – the end of the Inka Trail and original entrance for the Inkas. The Sun Gate is actually higher than the Huayna Picchu but the trail is less steep and dangerous. I could take nice Landscape Photos and went down to do another trail to the Inka Bridge which was much shorter but interesting also.

In the Afternoon there was Sun again mixed with clouds and I could take pictures again from the best photographic points in different light. After that I went down to the City of Machu Picchu. This place was full of tourists and after taking some photographs from Lamas and Buildings I went back to the Hotel for a Coffee break. After the Coffee I went back to Aquas Calientes and took the Hiram Birham Train back to Cusco.


After a very short sleep of 4 hours I was picked up by Alfredo early in the morning for the Rainbow Mountain Tour. After 2 hours driving we had breakfast in a very unique Restaurant. After the breakfast it took another 1 ½ hours before we reached the starting point in high altitude. The Hike was tough because of the altitude and thin air. The most difficult part was the last one whit a steep incline. The weather was perfect and when we reached the Peak the number of tourists was still acceptable. I took a lot of Landscape Photographs and from local People as well. I was proud that I had climbed my first Mountain above 5000 m.

On our way back I have seen lots of tourists going up – like a procession. I was happy that we went very early. On the way back to Cusco we have had Lunch in a local Restaurant and when I arrived in the Hotel I was done for that day. The Rainbow Mountain is stunnig and after Machu Picchu the 2 nd best attraction next to Cusco, but definitely not for everybody.


After a long sleep and a good breakfast I was taken to the Airport for my flight to Puerto Maldonado. The flight was short and I could take very nice Photographs from the Andes and the Tambopata River from the Air. After arrival I was taken to the Headoffice of the Rainforest Expeditions Company. I had to repack because of tight space in the boat. I took only the most necessary belongings with me especially my Camera Gear. After that I was taken to the river. The Busses were escorted by the police. I was told that the Government had stopped the Goldmining Business in this Area  and obviously they were afraid of attacks against Tourists from people who lost their Business. The Boat Ride took 2-3 hours and the first destination was the Refugio Amazonas where I spent the first night in the Amazon.

After Dinner I went for an Excursion with a Biologist. They have a research Program about Tiger Moths and we had to catch different kind of Tiger Moths at night. It was unbelievable how many insects turned up when the light was switched on. I could capture 5 different species and they will be send to Lima for Review. In case of a unknown insect DNA testing will be done in Canada. They have discovered 29 new species in the Reseach Center so far.


The next morning we had a walk to the canopy tower. On top of the tower I have had a nice overview but due to fog I could not photograph the Landscape. After breakfast I was taken to the Tambopata Research Center  and with me 4 more people. It was a very nice group with two Chinese living in the US and a Couple from Portugal. On our way to the Center we have had two stops. One at the Malinowsky Point for Registration and the second at the Chuncho Clay Lick where I could photograph the first Macaws.

In the TRC we have had  a briefing and afterwarts an afternoon walk in the Rainforest. The rooms in the Lodges are very special because they do not have windows. At night there is a loud sound from the Rainforest and sometimes there are visitors also.


The next morning we went to the Colorado Clay lick next to Lodge. Unfortunately there were no Macaws. Our Guide Erik could not really explain why. The there was suddenly a noise caused by Capibaras. A Jaguar showed up but after the first click of the Cameras he took off and disappeared in the Jungle.

After return to the TRC for breakfast we did a Hike to different Outlooks. We have seen Spider Monkeys, Howler- and Tamarin Monkeys, different kind of Birds and Insects.


The 4 people from my group left the TRC early in the morning and I was left alone in the Center.

I wanted to photograph the Macaws in the clay licks and because it was not busy in the Center I was able to charter a boat to visit the Chuncho Clay Lick again. In the morning it was foggy and after some waiting time we reached Chuncho at 10.00. The place was full with people but after half an hour one after the other group left because there were no Macaws showing up.

Erik told me to be patient and so we took our chairs and relaxed until the first pair of Red Green Macaws arrived with a loud noise. Slowly more and more Macaws came and started communicating with each other. Finally they all settled down in one tree above the clay lick. After some time one bird went down to the Clay Lick. I was told that he was the Scout  checking the security. Macaws are very shy and sensitive in the wild. Half an hour later the whole group went down to Clay Lick and I got my pictures.


In the morning I went to the Colorado Clay lick again and again not a single Macaw. This time I could see a lot of parrots and they went down in a Clay Lick and I could photograph them.

After that we went for a Jungle Walk and I could photograph large trees and roots.

At Lunchtime I have a nice encounter with a Macaw. A Scarlet Macaw came rom behind and stole a breadroll from my plate. After that she started eating the breadroll in front of me and later she walked on my shoulder and finished the bread. She relaxed for a while and then she took off in the Jungle. I was told that she is a frequent vistor in the TRC and that her name is Tabasco

In the Afternoon we went for a Sunset Cruise. The weather was perfect and I could take beautiful landscape pictures. There were not many animals next to the river. In the Amazon most of the animals hide in the deep jungle.


The days in the Amazon passed very quickly and in the Morning I was taken to the Refugio and later with other guests from the Refugio back to Puerto Maldonado. Here I had to repack my luggage again. After that I have had a short visit in a Butterfly Farm. In the late Afternoon I had my flight back to Lima. Here I did stay in an Airport Hotel to catch my flight to Panama City in the early next morning.


The flight to Panama City took 3 ½ hours and after arrival I was picked up by the Hotel Driver.

He did not speak a single word English but I could tell him in Spanish what I wanted to see in Panama City. I spent the afternoon in the Hotel preparing the trip for the next morning.


Isaac, my Driver and Guide (70 years old and working in Casinos in Panama City for 40 years) took me to the Panama Canal early in the morning. The weather was good and it was very interesting to see how the big ships were taken through the Canal. After that he took me to the Causeway, to old districts and an old Church with a golden Altar. Panama is not the cleanest City. I have seen a lot of dirt and plastic – not very pretty. He finished the Tour with a drive next to all the Highrisers. They looked similar to the Highrisers in the Dubai Marina but in general they were not in a good condition.


In the morning I was picked up again and taken to Panama Viejo and to the Metropolitan National Park. I have a nice walk and could find an Outlook where I could photograph the City. There were no animals except some Leaf Cutter Ants. They are always nice to watch. After that Isaac took me to the Puente de las Americas. The Bridge connects North and South America and was built by the US between 1959 and 1962. After that he went back to the City and he did show me the Corkscrew Tower and then I was taken back to the Hotel. In conclusion I have had a nice stopover in Panama City but there was no need to stay a single day longer.


  After Breakfast I was taken to the Airport. My flight to Mexico City was on time and the flight time was 4 hours. I did stay at the Marriott Airport Hotel again. From Terminal 2 I had to take a Bus to Terminal 1 were the Hotel is located.


Because I had done the Sightseeing in Mexico City before I spent the whole day in the Hotel. I was not able to upload my Images regularly due to bad Internet Speed in the remote locations. Finally I was able to finish this Blog.


Day of the return flight to Frankfurt. I have had an amazing trip through 4 Latino- and South American countries. I will never forget what I have seen and experienced. I believe I have seen some of the most spectacular Landscapes, Archeological Sites and Animals our Planet has to offer.

I have had 19 Flights, 2 Boat and 2 Train trips, lots of driving and did stay in multiple Lodges and Hotels.

I have to thank 16 guides taking care and passing their knowledge to me.