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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Aguas Calientes Day 13 – Peru Rail and Hot Springs

Jan 18th 2011

Is it worth the cost?
Yesterday I sat with the hostel travel desk to figure out my options to go to Machu Picchu. It was way more expensive than I expected but from all I heard it was well worth the trip. Sorting tickets and transport out alone would cost around $200, to do it through the travel desk with transport to and from train station was $225, I took the less stressful route with the travel desk.

Transport to Aguas Calientes (Place of Hot Water)
My pickup from the hostel was at 7am and it turned out I was the only person in the mini bus. My driver spoke no English but I was able to communicate that I was vet nurse and was interested in animals. He then started to name any and all animals that wqe saw along the route and teach me the Spanish words. We also listened to some excellent 80’s techno music and fairly soon we reached the train station in Ollantaytambo.

Peru Rail was my transport to Aguas Calientes and I was in the Expedition car, aka Backpacker or bottom class. Turns out my seat mates were a couple from Brazil and a girl from Chile, none of which spoke a lick of English. But we still managed to communicate a little and the girl from Chile gave me a dried fig (which looked a little disgusting, but tasted rather good). We were all very excited when it was announced that a snack was included (pretzel sticks and 2 small chocolates) and we entertained ourselves trying to find the best pictures to take along the route.

Aguas Calientes
Finally arriving at my destination after a beautiful train ride, I was met by a hostel representative. We walked through the mandatory tourist trap by the station with hundreds of souvenirs to choose from. Across a fairly rickety bridge that crossed over a raging river and around the corner to the hostel. At check in another girl had just arrived and we both looked at each other and both said “solo? Excellent! See you in 5 minutes”. And the rest is history, we had an instant connection and an immediate bond. It also helped that she is almost fluent in Spanish.

New Friend and Hot Springs
Cathleen was from Germany, 23yrs old and teaching German in Chile. We went and got her bus ticket and entry ticket to Machu Picchu and then had hoped to go check out some amazing botanical gardens on the property of a very expensive hotel called Inka Terra. Unfortunately due to people stealing orchids in the past it was only open to guests (and unfortunately I am not prepared to give them my first born to stay there). So sitting on a bench we opened the ever useful Lonely Planet and discovered the location of the towns namesake, the hot springs!

The hostel was kind enough to loan me a towel and we headed off in the wrong direction. Righting our mistake fairly quickly we turned around and found the entrance just a hop, skip and a jump from the hostel. 10 soles ($3.20 US) we walked up and up and up until we got to the entrance, got changed and headed into the first pool littered with foreigners from around the world. The water was amazingly hot, the floor was gravel and if you waved your hand a guy would come running to take your drink order. After about 2hrs later (much pruned by then) Cathleen and I, along with 2 other girls decided to do a 60sec dip in the cold pool. Cold was certainly the descriptive word and there was much giggling and whooping from all of us, well 3 of us at any rate. The 4th was an American lady, about 38yrs, who had just completed the Inca Trail. She had the look and cool reserve of a seasoned traveler and someone who would most like fit into any location around the world. She also, unfortunately, had the type of cool indifference that bordered on arrogance, she just looked down her nose at the 3 of us while she counted down the seconds.

She left with a bunch of others shortly afterwards and went to catch the train back to Cusco, leaving 2 portuguese and a german lad in the pool with us. Miguel, one of the portuguese, was having a grand time chatting us up, “us” being used loosely (I was getting the occasional question to make it appear he wasn’t completely hitting on Cathleen. In the end, and after 3 beers each, with only 30 minutes till their train they finally left hte pool, but not before Miguel got Cathleen’s info (completely ignoring me at that point) using the pic we had taken as an excuse. Go figure!

Hawaiian Pizza in the middle of Peru
As wonderful as the hot springs were, you definately felt the need to have a shower afterwards and the fabulous staff at the Pirwa Hostel gave me another towel free of charge. Then we headed out to get pizza, both of us joined at the hip by this point. I had a craving for roast chicken and after a thorough search we opted on a place with great variety and ordered an Hawaiian pizza to share. They bake it in a pizza oven right in front of you and was one of hte best pizzas I have ever tasted. Cathleen got a beer and I ordered a fanta, which arrived very warm and the waiter was confused when asked for a cold one. As they had none in stock I requested ice, this resulted in the need to run to another place to get me a glass full of ice (I was promised it was made from bottled not tap water).

A great day by any standard. Cathleen planned to wake up at 4am and walk up to Machu Picchu while I opted for the 25min bus ride and a tour that was included with my ticket. My roommates turned out to be two German girls who planned to wake up at 3am to walk up…oh goody!

Tomorrow I am amazed at the Machu Picchu and the sheer insanity of its location.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Cusco Day 12 – Canadian ‘ey…

Jan 17th 2011

The plan for the day was blog and diary catch up, perhaps a nap or 3 and nothing much else. As it turned out I had to move from the dorm room to a double room and my new bunk mate was a Canadian guy.

Blah blah blah…
Usually this wouldn’t be an issue, but after hearing how much partied, how much time he has spent hung over, how this hostel wasn’t a party hostel, how he could get a private room with bathroom for the same amount, how he owned his own landscaping business but still had to do a lot of the manual labor as he was the biggest guy… blah blah blah

Do you smoke weed?
After bothering me all day as much as I tried to avoid him, or tell him I was busy with my blog etc., hints didn’t work and I was on the verge of telling him to “bugger off”.
He then tried to convince to go party.
“No thanks”.
What about a beer.
“No thanks”.
Do you smoke weed?
“No”.
Thats a bummer because I was going to ask you to go halves on it. How about a rum and coke.
“In a little bit maybe I am busy”.
Finally out of desperation that he might leave me alone, I agreed to a rum and coke and a game of jenga.

ROLL OVER!!
I eventually managed to leave his illustrious company and head to bed, avoiding his attempts to make me watch a movie. He had warned me he snored but he hadn’t warned me he snored like a BEAR with a severe sinus infection!!! Luckily he only snored a couple of times but I still spent a fair amount of time yelling at him to “ROLL OVER”. Apparently the technique my mum taught me for my dad works on annoying Canadians too.

Don’t get me wrong on this, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt but after a few hours of hearing about his drinking conquests I thought I was going to throw myself out the window.

In the coming entry you will hear of my adventure as I head to the town at the base of the awe inspiring Machu Picchu.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Cusco Day 11 – Sacred Valley Tour

Jan 16th 2011

After a good night sleep, and some good dreams, I am feeling almost fully recovered, which is good because of the long day ahead. I have booked the Sacred Valley Tour, a cost of 30 soles (about $10 US), pick up is at 8.30am and we expect to be back only after 6pm. Yesterday at Sacsaywaman I had picked up the big ticket for 130 soles ($47 US), you need one of these to get into the monuments.

Pisaq and Market
The tour would cover around 200km and finally pulled out of Cusco at 9.30am. There were some spectacular views along the way and I was amazed at how the people farmed on terraces on the sides of the mountains with only minimal erosion. Our guide Paul explained that a lot of the terraces were still from Inca times.

Our first stop was Pisaq, a picturesque town with a fantastic market. I picked up a few things after some tough bargaining and then bought some maize (not sweet corn) on the cob from a street vendor, delicious especially with the chunk of andean cheese to go with it. The ruins were 3 miles away up a steep hill and our driver stopped for 2 young lasses from America who had been hiking up after their taxi left them at the bottom. They were very cool, one from Seattle the other from Eugene. Paul, our guide, invited them to join the first part of the tour for no charge, and we chatted merrily about their volunteer work in Ollantaytambo. I gave them my contact info as the one was very interested in visiting me in Ecuador. Unfortunately I never heard from them and am not sure if I wrote something down wrong (blame the altitude) or if they lost it. I never got their info.

Paul sat and chatted to me about the region and its history and about the flowers amongst other things. I still could not make it up the ruins and stairs made me quite flustered. So sitting and enjoying the view was the next best thing. And what a view.

Urubamba
Next stop was Urubamba for lunch, 20 soles ($5 US) for a buffet lunch. I had brought some sandwiches and knew I wasn’t hungry enough to spend 20 soles and hardly eat, blame the altitude. I grabbed some water and a coke (suggestion of Paul’s) and found a table. According to Paul the tabs I was taking for altitude sickness changes the pH of my body and creates and interesting reaction to coke. Woo hoo it wasa party on my tongue, the bubbles are intensified. Due to lots of tourists and limited tables I offered to share mine with a couple. They turned out to be from Brazil and she worked for a South African co. By the end of lunch we had exchanged information in case either of us headed to the others country.

Ollantaytambo
This has to be one of my favorite stops. This beautiful town has preserved its Inca urban planning and many still live in original Inca houses. There is a wonderful charm about the place and the ruins are spectacular, at least from the bottom as I once again opted for breathing rather than the view. Paul loaned me a book on flowers along the Inca Trail and I sat in a corner and was amazed at the variety.

Paul pointed out the old Inca grain storage, high on the hill. they used the altitude to keep the grain fresh, removing doors to prevent humidity and therefor molding and also adding a special menthol herb to keep insects out. Quite ingenious.

Chinchero and an Approaching Storm
Our final stop was something completely different. Also the highest altitude in the tour, almost 3800m (12467ft). Here you will find many colonial buildings built on top of Inca ones, including a beautiful old church with Inca foundations and stunning artwork.

We arrived just as the skies began to darken and a few wayward drops fell. It looked as if the heavens were about to open, but luckily we seemed to have just missed it. The storm must have been chasing us all along and now returning back to Cusco, we circumnavigated it.

Introduction to Anis Liquor and Lasagne
On the bus trip home we had someone giving us a run down on Anis Liquor, made from anis seeds it had a wonderful licorice flavor and if they had smaller bottles or I wasn’t flying I may have taken one.

Back in Cusco, I went in search of a Korean place I had seen but it was closed. So I headed back to my old faithful, Nuna Raymi’s and decided on Lasagne. It was officially the best I have ever had, layer after layer of meat and cheese sause, I think there may have even been a noodle somewhere. And fresh Andean cheese to grate over. Spectacular.

Relax with me tomorrow as I play catch up and try avoid the Canadian.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Cusco Day 10 – Saqsaywaman

Jan 15th 2011

Saqsaywaman (pronounced sexy woman)
One mile from Cusco, on the top of a hill, the remains and foundations of a colossal structure are found. Saqsaywaman or Sacsaywaman means “Satiate Falcon”. It was built over 77yrs (1431-1508) under the rule of the Inca. The Spaniards used the site as a quarry to build a cathedral, a number of temples and house and ended up dismantling most of the temple. The stones are cut and positioned with razor sharp precision and the largest weighs about 70tons.

We decided to take a taxi up and the guy seemed to give us a great deal, only 10 soles. As we drove up he said that he would wait for us for an hour and a half if we paid 20 soles. Absolutely, this guy was great…

The view was spectacular, Mark tried to get close to some Alpacas and came very close to being spat at. Due to breathing I wasn’t able to climb to the top and so just relaxed in the sun and took a nap, until a local tour guide decided to come and chat (most likely fishing for work). But it was pleasant enough. The boys ran around all over the temple and also went up the hill to where a replica of the Rio Christ overlooked the city. They were as happy as pigs in mud.

Scammed and Sick!
We finally met up again and found our taxi driver. And headed back down the hill. When we got to the plaza, our driver announced his deception “20 soles…per perosn”. I was really mad but was feeling really crappy so tried to argue and then gave up. Next time I need to remember to ask is that the total, before getting in. The boys chose a place to eat overlooking the main square and promptly ordered beer and burgers. I went to the bathroom and promptly threw up all my breakfast. It appears as if the sun combined with the altitude was a very bad combination. I drank some water said my farewells and good luck (they had the start of the Inca trail the next day), and staggered back home.

Sent to bed
When I walked in the door, Wilson the hostel manager, took one look at me and sent me straight to bed. I managed to have a quick shower and proceeded to pass out into oblivion. I believe at one point someone new came into the room and at another point I heard Wilson go “Kate?” (what he called me) and I replied with a weak “Si”, he walked off saying something like “ok you still alive”. Oh what an afternoon.

The Spaniard!!!
After about 3hrs of pure exhaustion, I started to feel a wee bit better and sat up to check email on my little netbook. My new neighbor walked in and asked how I was. His name was Guillamo (William) from Spain, he was on vacation from studying physical education. Tomorrow morning he was leaving for the Inca Trail, then Puno and Lake Titicaca and then onto the salt flats in Bolivia. We fell into an immediate comfortable discussion and after a few topics he said “With your travel lifestyle it must be hard to find a husband or boyfriend”, I stuttered a little and tried to explain and he help up his hands and said it was ok. About 10minutes later he stopped again and said “Maybe you will find your prince on this trip”… I think I swooned! He was cute, polite and there was an ease about talking with him.

When he got frustrated with trying to shove all his stuff in his bag, I came over and with a few adjustments managed to get everything in easily. He had to head out and drop off his stuff with the tour agency and I went to scavenge for left over bread in the kitchen. I met Logan, our American roommate, he was hoping to head off and do the Inca trail alone and had some fascinating stories of where he had been already. I found bread and strawberry jam and he produced some peanut butter for the makings of a feast. We saved some for Guillamo and when he got back chose a movie and relaxed. Logan was busy downstairs on the computer so Guillamo and I watched Fight Club. we were super comfortable on the couch and the personal bubble space didn’t seem to cause any issues. At one point we were both lying with our heads almost touching. There was definately some attraction, but no time to explore.

At bed time he asked to set my alarm as well just in case and we chatted a bit before he got up to switch off the light (wearing only a pair of Calvin Kline white undies). In the morning as he headed out, I woke up and said cheers, as he left he said “I hope you find your prince” and then he was gone, no photo no info, I know I swooned this time and had good dreams when I fell asleep again.

Coming up next is an intense tour day around the Sacred Valley.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Cusco Day 9 – Brits and Breathing…

Jan 14th 2011

My stomach apparently dislikes the altitude and the copious amounts of coca tea I have been consuming. It has started a morning regimen and it is not a particularly pleasant one. Still feeling crappy but need to at least attempt to walk around.

Alpaca Sweaters and Lucio
I had planned to buy an alpaca sweater at some point during my stay in Cusco but it seems the zipper on my brown hoody/jumper decided that I needed to buy one sooner than later. So off I went to scour the alley ways in search of a good deal with as much pure alpaca as possible, there are a lot of substitutes out there. At the end of “my” street I turned left and headed to a little store just a few feet up the road. However, with the angle of the road it felt like it was more a of a mile than a few feet and I was huffing and puffing by the time I got there (a total of 2min walk).

This is when I encountered Lucio! What a spectacularly hilarious guy. His family owns a few alpacas and this is the family business, he had photos and everything to prove it. The very first sweater I tried on was a grey with blue vertical stripes. He was very enthusiastic about this one as it highlighted, how shall I say, my silhouette… which he motioned with his hands, all very amusing. i tried on a few after that and he was happy to give his opinion on all of them but we decided the first one accented my two best features the best. Then we looked for one for my mom, he wanted to know if my mom had two good features as well, just so that he could choose the best options for her of course. Eventually we found one to both our liking and haggled over the price. He finally agreed to 120soles for both (around $40). I had to go back to get some more money so he help onto them for me.
(photo to follow as it won’t load)

Lunch with England
After heading back to the hostel grabbing some money, and a nap, I decided to hunt down some grub and then go get my sweaters. After wandering up and down a section of my street trying to decide which place I wanted to eat I finally decided on Pepe’s. As I was entering the door I realised I was being closely followed in by two guys who had decided on the same place. we both chose upstairs and as we were being seated at different tables we introduced ourselves and ended up combining the tables. They were Mark and Joe from Conventry, England, and they were leaving for the Inca Trail in 2 days. They had only just arrived in Cusco that morning from England and were not sure if they were suffering jetlag or altitude sickness. We decided to hang out for the rest of the day. Turns out my very limited Spanish was fluent as far as they were concerned, so it might have been these skills that aided in their decision to hang out. But lets just go with my stellar personality ­čÖé

Exploring
After dropping off leftovers at my hostel (turns out another side effect of Altitude Sickness is a lack of appetite – means leftovers for later) we headed out to explore the town and pick up my sweaters. Lucio was excited to meet new people and promised them a good price if they came back. It was great walking with the boys as you felt a lot more confident to stop and take pics and their company also distracted me from the obvious breathing issues I was having. We walked all over the plaza, exploring the numerous alley ways with stall after stall of wonderfull stuff to bargain for.

Mark needed money so we went in search of a bank. As we walked down El Sol avenido the sky turned black and a thunderstorm was eminent. They usually appeared out of no where around 3pm and gave you about a 2min warning before letting loose a deluge. We decided to find shelter and a drink and joked that the bank was most likely the next building (on later investigations it turned out to be true). We made it just in time and what a deluge it was, the streets turned to rivers as we enjoyed a Pisco Sour (a first for the boys).

Uphill
We decided to head to the place I had had dinner the night before to see about food, but there was still 2hrs before dinner service so we headed to the boys hostel. They had, however, failed to tell me that the hostel was at the top of Mt. Everest (at least thats what my lungs thought). By the time we made it up a near 70degree incline to the hostel I was huffing and wheezing like a 2pack a day smoker. After relaxing and catching my breath (only took me about 20minutes) we headed back down the hill to have dinner.

Food Glorious Food
And what fantastic food it was, at least for the boys. Joe ordered some trout and Mark some beef and vegetable thing, both delicious. I opted for something on the appetizer menu as I was not so hungry and chose an interesting sounding mash potato with light pesto and yellow chilli. Turned out to look very pretty, but it was a cold dish and the pesto was overpowering. Not the kind of thing you want when you feel crappy and still the thought of it turns my stomach.

As we paid the bill and were considering leaving they suddenly brought out a free dessert and it was chocolate!!!

An Elephant on My Chest and the Mother of All Storm
The boys walked me home, such gentlemen and headed back to their hostel promising to meet up tomorrow for another day of adventure. I grabbed a shower, tried to watch part of a movie but finally decided to try sleep. No matter which way I lay I found breathing very difficult, and that also leads to panic. So trying to calm myself I tried to focus on deep breaths. However, it felt like an elephant had taken residence on my chest and my lungs felt almost bruised. Finally around 2am I grabbed my blanket and went out to the couch. I propped myself up and that seemed to help breathing. Around 3am I was woken by the sound of rain pelting down and thunder and lightening, I was quite nervous the roof would cave in. But at the same time I loved the sound. Truly an epic tempest was brewing outside.

So despite the battle to breathe it was a great day and I made new friends, always a bonus.

Stay tuned for our adventures around an old temple and the height of my altitude sickness.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Cusco Day 8 – So This is Altitude!

Jan 13th 2011

Woke up constantly through the night checking the time. I never sleep well before a trip and this one was no exception. When the alarm finally did go off and I dragged myself out of bed I discovered that Fernando had apparently bounded out of bed and was literally giddy with excitement. He said it was because I was going to go to Cusco and Machu Picchu, but it might have been that he would have the place to himself (At least till his sister arrived in a day or 2). So well I searched for coffee, I also tried to comprehend the list of suggestions and tips that he was spouting at me, not an easy task let me tell you.

Tips for Altitude Sickness
– eat light (pasta or vegetables, no heavy red meat)
– eat carbohydrates (bread and pasta)
– chew coca leaves (place in mouth and pull main vein out)
– drink coca tea
– drink LOTS of water
– pace yourself, don’t do too much at one time (fine with me)
– practice taking deep breaths and holding them to get O2 to your lungs
– eat candy (again fine with me)
– try to avoid chocolate (boo) but if you feel depressed then it is good to have some (well I am sure I can figure that one out ­čśë )

Awaiting my Chariot
All too soon the taxi arrived and I headed out to explore part of Peru on my lonesome. Thank heavens for WiFi at Lima airport and all it wasn’t long before it was time to board. In the meantime I had met an American couple that were heading to Machu Picchu that evening and then after a day or two there heading to Quito, Ecuador with a 16hr layover (planned) to explore and then off to the Galapagos Islands. It seemed fairly crazy to me to just bounce around seeing all the sights but not getting a feel for the place. I can just imagine them sitting with a checklist ticking as much off as possible in as little time as possible. Just crazy I tell ya. And I really hope they don’t suffer from the altitude otherwise their plans could be up in smoke.

And Then it Hit Me
When we landed I decided to take it easy and not rush to get off the plane. I was wondering why half the plane had the same idea until I realised they were staying on for a further leg of a trip, very nearly didn’t get off the plane. As I walked off the plane I immediately felt unsteady and a tightness in my chest. I am sure some of the staff thought I was drunk as it seems that it was exceptionally easy to be thrown off balance. Its crazy to think I could be affected so quickly.

My taxi from the hostel hadn’t arrived yet, so I stood and kept shoeing potential taxi drivers away in between trying to take deep breaths without hyperventilating.

Flying Dog Hostel
Finally it arrived and speeded on its way to the hostel. A tiny place at the top of a slight hill (although at altitude it felt like a 90degree slope), with only 23 beds, a spiral staircase, comfy couches, DVDs and a big screen tv. I was in the dorm room and grabbed the bed by the little balcony. The beds were the most comfortable I believe I have every had in a hostel before and I immediately took a nap.

Dinner at Nuna Raymi’s
Around 5pm I crawled out of bed, feeling like I had had a major party the night before. Its not fair to be hungover without the fun. I figured I should attempt to find dinner and perhaps walk around. Promptly got lost trying to find the recommended location. Apparently another side effect, for me at least, of Altitude Sickness, is the single minded drive to find said location, I considered the option of going somewhere else, but only briefly, I wanted to find Nuna Raymi’s, end of story. After wandering up and down the same street for what seemed like ages I realised I had walked past it numerous times. there was no one else there but the staff were very nice and seemed to speak limited English. Still I managed to order a plate of pasta with olive oil, fresh tomatoes and Andean cheese. When it arrived it was delicious and I ate it with as much gusto as I could manage.

Round about then a large tour group arrived, and the leader announced that the head waiter (my Spanish speaking waiter) would tell them more about the menu. Out of no where he suddenly discovered the gift of English and could describe the dishes quite well. And yet when he returned to me he fell back into Spanish. It was all rather amusing. Someone in the group ordered Cuy, roasted guinea pig, it is considered a delicacy in Peru. They brought it out for pictures then took it in the back to cut it up.
For those with sensitive consitutions please beware

After dinner I headed back to the hostel and just vegged, I felt like I had run a marathon, was recovering from pneumonia and had a hangover all at the same time. Not a happy feeling on any given day. I had a headache, short of breath and general exhaustion. So a movie and bed seemed like a fantastic idea.

Stay tuned as I continue to battle to breathe and meet a couple of Brits to hang out with.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Lima Day 7 – Emotional

Jan 12th 2011

Today was quite overwhelming, most likely due to a combination of hormones and preparing for my trip to Cusco. Turns out Fernando would most likely have to leave for the afternoon to help a friend and may not be back till the next day. Which meant we had to organize a taxi to pick me up at about 6am in the morning.

Laundry
we headed to his parents to get some laundry done, but there was a lot going on in the house and I hid in the kitchen trying to get some email work done. Just as I had decided to give up on the dryer, it was just making the wet clothes warm rather than dry, Rosa, the housekeeper announced she had made us lunch. So I went and hung everything on the line, considering the scorching nature of the day I guessed my laundry would be dry in about 10 min.

Conversations
Fernando and I started chatting over lunch and it took all sorts of philosophical twists and turns, ending in me trying to explain why I was wanting to do this trip and what I wanted to get out of it. Suddenly he said “I know you want to feel safe”, he hit the nail on the head, and I got a wee bit emotional. But sucked it up and we moved on to collecting the laundry.

Its really not about being unhappy in one place or another, its more about finding that place and or person that makes you want to stay put, or something along those lines.

We got home and Fernando headed out, I was not sure when he might return but we had booked the taxi and he had given me precise spanish instructions on how to call and confirm the taxi.

Hot Water and time Out
Thank the heavens we had hot water in at least one shower. It turned out to be more luke warm, but it took the chill away and it felt wonderful. So giving myself a time out, I had a shower, washed my hair and just generally took it easy. Made some roast chicken with left overs from the night before using some medium Nando’s Peri Peri spice I had brought with me. It was delicious. Then I watched “I am Legend” caught up on my diary and suddenly all was right with the world.

Impromptu Spanish Class
Suddenly Fernando returned with a friend in tow, who spoke very limited English, and the evening turned into an impromptu Spanish class. It was a lot of fun and good to have everyone in a light hearted mood after that morning. I was taught some basics and then also some colloquial words to use to, how should I say, get my point across.

By midnight I headed to bed and Fernando set his alarm. A good day in the end, even if the morning was a bit tough.

Stay tuned for my arrival in Cusco and discovering the real meaning of Altitude sickness.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lima Day 6 – String Glorious String

Jan 11th 2011

Did not sleep very well, too much going on in my head, probably didn’t help that Fernando fell asleep with his iPod on and the faint sound from the headphones filtered through the walls. Add to that my blisters from my sandals started itching badly so then I had to root around in my med kit to find the cortisone cream… if its not one things then its another.

Volunteer in Pisco???
I was meant to leave for Pisco today for a week of volunteering, but received an email yesterday saying they no longer had space and would only take volunteers for 2 weeks. I was a little annoyed but what can you do. We decided to change my ticket to spend more time in Cusco (which turned out to be a fabulous turn of events).

String!!!!
We had a fairly relaxing morning and then headed out to the Historical District to look for the string I use for making jewelery, Katia had given Fernando precise directions. Not only did we find it but it was only 7 soles (about $2.15 US) for about a 100m roll. I bought 5 and need to buy more. Fernando said he would be my string dealer and send me some when I need it.

Chinatown
There was a big commotion in the main square as the changing of the guards proceeded, apparently it was a special ceremony but no one could tell us much about it. Wandering towards Chinatown we picked up some street food on a stick, Fernando got heart and I got chorizo sausage, delicious. In Chinatown there was a big Peruvian guy harrassing an old Chinese guy begging for money, he was acting all tough guy (obviously making up for something). Fernando gave the beggar some money and very loudly chastised the big guy.

Ticket Change
After a quick but delicious lunch we grabbed the metro bus to Miraflores to change the ticket. The Metro buses are the new fancy big buses that will eventually replace the small buses that have no time table, careen through the streets like crazy and are generally a health hazard (all be it amusing to ride). We were able to change my ticket for only a $30 charge to leave in 2 days (13th), giving me 6 days longer there. It also means the possibility of visiting other places close by like Lake Titicaca.

Going Solo
Fernando headed off and left me to sort things out on my own. Found an internet cafe and wrote a blog entry, then headed to the main square. Then returned to the internet cafe to pick up my book I had left. I am telling you one day I will forget my brain somewhere.

Kennedy Park/Cat Park
As I returned to the main square I noticed a cat in the park, then another and another. As I was taking a picture some locals gestured for me to head around the back of the church. Low and behold there is an entire community of stray cats that are cared for by local groups and the city. They have beds, get food, and are quite calm around humans. Kids regularly walk up to them and drag them around, they seemed totally unphased. In the park they will walk and just plop down in the middle of the walkway and people have to walk around them. I also noticed a large absence of bird life in the park

Flying Dog Hostel
At 5.45pm I had set up a meeting with a hostel owner to look around his hostel and potentially get a link exchange for Bootsnall.com (an independent travel site I do occasional work for). the hostel was great and the owner was very proud of it. I mentioned I was heading to Cusco and he offered me a discount to stay at his hostel there. Little did I know that that hostel would turn into home away from home.

Heading Home and Dinner with Friends
Grabbing a bus back home, feel almost like a local, I headed back. the bus got super crowded and I gave up my seat for an older gentlemen. When I got off and walked across the street with a family we all nearly got hit by a taxi zooming past. We all laughed and they intimated how you had to suck you butt in when ever you cross the road.

Fernando showed up an hour later with the first of some friends who were coming for dinner and we went to shop for food. Or rather his friend and I walked behind Fernando and carried everything he passed to us. His friends were from when he was a young boy and they had a really close bond. Around 1am I went to go pee and ended up lying down and falling asleep, they all seemed to be having a very intense conversation downstairs anyway.

All in all another great day!

Stay tuned as things get emotional and we attempt another impromptu Spanish lesson.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lima day 5 – solo adventure and museums

Jan 10th 2011

Today Fernando has a business meeting out of the city and so I have the whole day to keep myself occupied. I decide that it is time to step out on my own and test my skills on local transport. Heading out to the appropriate curb I grab a bus heading to Miraflores so I can meet up with Katia and see her shop. Fernando had instructed me to catch the green, red and white bus to Barranco. However, I recognised the name of Chorillyos and knew it was after Barranco, after quickly checking with the guy if they head to Miraflores I jumped on.

The small local busses that you just grab on the side of the street have a ticket taker come intense collector of passengers. These men and women ride half hanging out of the bus announcing the destination and trying to encourage folks to ride their bus. In between these techniques to attract new customers they wander around the bus jingling change and collecting the fair. It is all rather amusing.

The ticket taker on this bus kept giving me encouraging winks (at least thats what I am going with) and when a guy came and stood right in front of me he tried to make the guy move so I could see. The guy didn’t but I appreciated the attempt. After about 30min I finally recognised the big circle and bus stop and hopped off. What a relief. After a quick call to Katia she came and met me.

Her store is fantastic, with lots of cute and …. interesting stuff made by local young designers. The best was still Katia’s jewellery and I really want to buy a pair of her earrings. We hung out at her store as she worked on updating the inventory and price stickers for the new year. Around noon we walked over to a chifa (small chinese restaurant) and met Danny for lunch. But first, bless her heart, we had an icecream, she is a girl after my own heart.

We had the ever present Inka Kola and pork/veggies and crunchie noodles. Very filling and delicious. Walking back to the bus stop I hopped on the next bus and headed home.

I had hoped to get some laundry done, but when I got back to the house, Fernando’s mom was there and I could tell she was really busy so didn’t want to ask. Instead I decided to head to the museum she had recommended. As luck would have it, Fernando’s dad was heading out the door so gave me a ride.

Larco Museum:

The museum was amazing, very well laid out and not overwhelming. The exhibits were inset into a black wall and so the lighting was perfect. They even had a small room with a library and free internet (at least I assumed it was free). There was a room for what I can only assume was the overstock, glass case after glass case of pottery all sorted into sections. It just blows your mind.

Fernando’s parents had told me there was also an Erotica exhibit of Inca pottery (which was a little weird having them telling me to check it out). It turned out to be almost hidden away with the lights off. As you enter the lights come on section by section. I had thought this was because of children, but according to Fernando it is due to the prudish nature of the catholic religion. Lets just say the Incas left little to the imagination and one could get quite hot under the collar.
WARNING SENSITIVE PICTURES BELOW

Once I was all done there I headed home and decided to just walk the 15 blocks hoping to come across a bakery I had seen on the way. I didn’t find the bakery but just when I decided to have an icecream from one of the guys selling them on bikes, there were none to be found. Go figure. By the time I got home I was exhausted and crashed for 2hrs. Fernando came home around 10pm and we watched “Descent 2”, stupid scary, but amusing all the same.

Stay tuned for further adventures through “cat park”, more new friends and string glorious string.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lima day 4 – Pachacamac, seafood and wetlands

Jan 9th 2011

Fernando had got in really late, or rather early this morning, but we still managed to crawl out of bed around 8.30am. We headed over to his parents house to check email and, as usual, she fed us.

The plan for today was to pick up Danny and head out to an archaeological site. The coast of Peru is desert, with very fine sand that gets into everything, but it also means it preserves sites very well.

“Our” sense of direction got a little muddled, we found Avenido Baden Powell but kept turning the wrong way to get to Danny’s house. Eventually we figured it out and picked him up. On the way out of the city Katia called and said she would join, so we parked in the shade and waited for her to catch up in the taxi.

Before long we were speeding out of the city and all its craziness. The cultural site we were headed to is called, Pachacama, or The Sun Temple. It just rises out of the sand and is truly breathtaking. Civilization is encroaching quickly, and there are sure to be further parts of the Sun Temple under these towns.

Here is a small blurb about the temple from http://www.labyrinthina.com/pachacamac:

“Pachacamac (pronounced: pah cha kamak) lies 25 miles SE of Lima adjacent to the Pan American highway astride the Pacific coastline. “Pachac├ímac” in Quechua means “Pacha” world, and “camac” to animate — “The One who Animates the World.” The site was considered one of the most important religious centers of the indigenous peoples of the central Andes, and contains a number of pyramids. Spanish historical records, along with extensive archaeological research, have served to clarify its history and significance. Built centuries before the time of the Incas, Pachacamac is noted for its great pyramidal temples, and for the remains of frescoes adorning its adobe walls. Culturally and chronologically it is related to Chancay, and other centers of the Cuismancu empire, including Huari. At the time of the Spanish conquest it was a major Inca shrine.

According to legend – “in the beginning there were no foods for the first man and the first woman, and the man died of starvation. The Sun then fertilized the woman and she produced an offspring. Pachac├ímac became jealous of his heir, and killed the offspring, scattering the remains. These became the essential ingredients of humanity: the “teeth of man” were maize, his “bones”, yuca. Artistic images of Pachacamac do not exist, he was considered invisible. However, a wooden staff, thought to be a representation of Pachacamac, was found in 1938 during an excavation of the site. Miguel de Estete writes on the matter, “the Idol makes them [the Incas] understand that it can sink them if they anger it!” Tremors and earthquakes were expressions of his anger.”

After wandering around and exploring we headed out to get some lunch and what a lunch it was. First on the menu was lightly cooked fish in lemon juice with a yellow chilli sauce, then calamari and finishing with a sort of Paella. Delicious. Of course inka cola and beer to join and at the very start a bowl full of something similar to corn nuts, but way tastier.

Our final stop was some wetlands that even had some basic environmental education. It turned out to be cheaper, and way more fun, to row around the wetlands vs walking. Unfortunately these boats were not very easy to row and on numerous occasions we ended up in the reeds and hysterics. There were many kinds of birds, including cormorants, ducks, a type of vulture, egrets and many more. Some of the most fun I have had to date.

Before parting ways we stopped in Lima and picked up a kind of fruit shaved ice, I had pineapple and it was delicious. We dropped off Katia and Danny and then stopped by a store to pick up some things and get the car washed. Well we were there I got a long sleeved mens button up shirt, per the biologists, this is vital in the jungle as I can use that over my clothes and spray it with deet (insect repellent) instead of myself.

When we finally made it home we made some dinner (rather Fernando did) and relaxed a bit. Fernando had to go to his folks house as he had a really early morning and needed all his paperwork and such. I spent the evening watching Iron Man 2 and went to bed early..ish.

Stay tuned for my adventures as I take the bus solo, have some bad news on my volunteer work and exploring the Larco museum.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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