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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Tena to AmaZoonico: Days 27 to 31 – Week 1 Jungle Time

Feb 1st – 5th, 2011

Getting there
At the appointed time on the appointed day I headed out to find my bus. Turned out to take me a lot quicker than I had thought and gave me a 40min wait till departure. When the bus arrived I jumped in and was thrilled to see that I could get the seats at the door, what a score, air and I can see where I was going. 5minutes later I noticed two very confused looking Ecuadorians behind me looking at their tickets. What do you know, we have assigned seats! I apologised profusely and made my way near the back to seat 18 aisle. no air and no way of seeing where I was going. Well I waited and sweated a young boy came through selling some kind of frozen popsicle, the best 10cents I ever spent!

Baby Monkey
Surprisingly the bus left at precisely 2.30pm and we were soon on our way at top speed (which I think is the only speed). I had seen a few people with boxes of chicks getting on the bus and was not surprised by the cheeping sound coming from the family next to me. I did feel sorry for the poor, strange looking black chick that the young boy had a vice like grip on. It was particularly strange that it appeared to have a long tail… I then realised it was not a chick at all but a baby monkey.
The family saw my reaction and let me hold it, for the entire bus ride. He was tiny, barely the size of my palm, it sounded like he was only 15 days old and his eyes were just open. He clung to me and made cheeping sounds looking for safety.

I have since found out that it is a Chichico monkey or Tamarin monkey. They are the 2nd smallest monkies in South America. This was a Saddleback Tamarin. Black with a white moustache. Too cute and so in need of its mother and mothers milk. At one point it made its way up my shoulder and under my hair where it clung to me for dear life.

As the trip progressed I tried to convince the family to let me take the baby to the refuge with me, but through broken Spanish I was able to get from them that it was their sons pet and they couldn’t take it away from him… $30! Number 1 I didnt want to encourage the selling of wildlife and 2 I didnt have $30 on me. So unfortunately at the designated sign of Puerto Rio Barantilla I had to return the poor thing back to the family knowing, full well, that it would unlikely survive. A very sad start to my volunteering. I wish I could have done more.

Arrival
Moving on to happier topics, I found the very big sign announcing I was at the location, went through the big metal gates and down the bank to the left to find my canoe…not waiting there for me.

Mmmm what to do, sit and wait was all I could think of. It was quite pleasant at the river but after 15min I started getting concerned.

Then low and behold a canoe appeared, woohoo, I grabbed my bag and set off to the waters edge, just as the canoe pulled up, the kids got out and told me they were off duty. Ok then guess thats not my canoe! As they were walking away another canoe appeared coming from the opposite direction and they pointed at that one. Ok then here we go this must be my canoe, I shouted : AmaZoonico: and they stared at me as they motored past… But luckily there seemed to be mutual agreement that the gringo (foreigner) looked quite pathetic and they came and picked me up. This wasnt the tourist canoe but a work canoe and no one jumped out to help me put my bags in. Eventually one realized they might be there forever if they left it up to me and took one of them. Then we were motoring down the river, me balanced precariously on the edge of the boat (it was full of bamboo so nowhere to sit).

When I arrived at the “dock” to AmaZoonico I was met by one of the long term volunteers. Pascal is from Germany and has been here for almost 6mths, he will stay for a year. He showed me to my room and gave me a debriefing in the kitchen. When he handed me the keys he said the short one was for the kitchen the other for the bar/curio shop (it took me over a week to realise the key lengths were the same but very tops of the keys were different lengths). When he gave me my sheets, stating “I think they are clean”, that was the end of the briefing and I left to settle in my room a little bewildered. My roommate is Karyn from Germany and is very quiet but has a lovely personality and is a very hard worker. She will leave in 2 weeks.

I wasn’t feeling so well and by the time dinner arrived I had a splitting headache and had already thrown up once. By the time I went to bed, unable to eat the pizza they had made, I had thrown up twice more. Brought on by dehydration with a touch of stress added into it.

Day 1
Waking at 6am, feeling much better, I got dressed and wondered what to do. There was some fresh bread for breakfast and someone gave me some jam (we have personal stashes of food that become very important). Then I went upstairs (a total of 75) looking for Celine (France) who had already gone upstairs to start.

Finally finding her she showed me where the Bodega (food prep room) was and had me start cutting up choritos (small bananas) and platanas (plantains). It was all very confusing and there was no set system really. To start off I was following “Big Tour”, what a way to start, you have at least 6 buckets full of food (which is difficult when there is only 2 of you, luckily with me there was 3), and you walk the majority of the loop through the refuge, up and down numerous stairs. My biggest problem (other than the weight of the buckets) was that due to my height the buckets kept hitting the stairs as I walked, needless to say I have an array of interesting bruises.

Big Tour includes:
-Peccaries (wild pigs) that get lots of yucca
-Aves 2 (bird cage with macaws and parrots) that get lots of fruit. One of the macaws tried to redo my hair with its beak.
-Kinkajou cage 1 involves cleaning in the morning, food in the afternoon
-Jaguarundi (a feline that can jump 4m to catch a bird) feed meat and clean cage
-Kinkajou and agouti cage – clean and feed
-Pond – feed tilapia and turtles
-Capucin monkeys – clean and feed while they yell insults at you
-Ocelot cage (felines) – walk to check perimeter and check electric fencing in the morning, lob pieces of meat over fence in the afternoon.

All very exhausting at the end of it and in the heat and humidity even more so.

Our day lasts from 7am till 5pm, there is a lunch at noon, but we have to stay up in the general area in case a tour comes in. This makes for a very long day in sweaty, dirty clothes trying to avoid being bitten by the sand flies. But all in all its great fun.

Day 2
On big tour again, new people do each tour at least 2 days in a row. Today was also “bebidas”, which means we have to take the empty bottles down to the canoe in preparation for new drinks arriving the next day. This is exhausting work, going up and down stairs with cases of empty bottles. At least I thought so until it was up and down with cases of full bottles.

Beata
Today I managed much better and dare say, may even be getting used to the heat a little. It was much like yesterday with chopping of fruit, cleaning of cages and feeding of animals. I did get to meet Beata, a spider monkey that lives at the center. It was quite a memorable introduction as she managed to get into the kitchen and we had to try get her out before she got into the food. She has an injury or deformity and is so used to humans that she will never be released, so she lives with us here. But it is very important that we don’t hand feed her or try and get her to sit with us, in fact we have to discourage her seeking attention as much as possible as it could cause potential problems with tourists.

Strings
I have hit a popular note with the volunteers due to my strings and making of bracelets (thank you hippies in Coffee Bay, South Africa, who taught me). I am even making some to donate to the shop to sell for the center. When I pulled them out I immediately had numerous orders and after a week am still trying to catch up on everyones. I even sold a couple of my fancier ones ($5 plus a bar of chocolate) to them.

Day 3 (the dreaded thursday)
On thursdays and mondays we have fruit delivery. This means lugging huge bunches of bananas, platanas, bags of papayas (pawpaws) and a variety of other fruit from the canoes to the Bodega and up the 75 stairs. My first attempt was a bunch of bananas and by the time I reached stair 68 I was seeing stars and battling to breathe. Toki (germany) luckily came along and grabbed it from me. I crumpled into a pile on and found myself shaking and crying. Note to self, start small. I managed another 2 trips with smaller bags of fruit and then focused on tidying the bodega.

Front Tour
It was also the day I started learning a new tour. Front tour is much shorter and has more variety. It includes:
– toucans – clean and feed avoiding the one that likes to bite your rubber boots
– Kinti and Tamien (baby woolly monkeys) need to have their enclosure cleaned and disinfected, all the time avoiding tamien who likes to pee on people
– Tamarin monkey is one of my favorites, she is super cute and does great acrobatics for you when you bring the food.
– Mono Loco (crazy monkey) is a capucin with rather severe mental issues and is kept alone, which doesn’t help his nervous behavior. We hope to neuter him and introduce him to the other capucin cage (we hope this will make him less aggressive)
– Barizo (squirrel monkey) – clean and feed, also super cute.
– Paca – walk up steep hill and throw food in, we are not sure if he is there but something eats it so we feed.

Day 4
Am very excited as I get to go to Tena today, but first I have to survive another front tour and today is also Comida (human food delivery). Another day of lugging heavy, bulky things up the stairs from the boats up to the kitchen, really wish there was another way.

Tena
I was told I could leave at 3.30pm and get ready and the canoe would pick us up at 4.15pm. I got down and the others going said it would be there at 3.45pm….ahhh communication issues. Tossed on clean clothes (no time to shower), grabbed my stuff and went to get the canoe. It came at 4pm (go figure). When we got to the bus stop there was virtually no traffic and no bus coming from the direction we needed so we started walking. After an hour and 3km (didn’t matter missing the shower anymore) we were finally able to hitchhike and squished the bunch of us with another family in the back of a tiny pickup. It sounded like there was road issues a way back and everyone was help up, so we were very lucky to get this guy.

As I have been told hitchhiking is very safe here and the biggest danger is being killed in a car accident. Considering the speed limit is a suggestion, and extra fast is the only way with the cars usually driving in the middle of the road and honking as they come around the bend, I once again became fairly religious. But we made it to Tena about the same time the bus would have got there had it been on time.

Dinner, shower, sleep
There was a major festival going on in Tena with loud party music and fireworks. But Karyn, who had joined me, and I were only concerned with dinner and then shower. Afterwards I skyped the parents and then, both exhausted we went to bed, my bed being hard as a rock and hers being soft as a feather, we both assume the top bunk must have been just right.

Errands
the next day we ran errands, picked up supplies, checked emails (I didn’t get a chance to update blogs unfortunatley), and general administrative stuff. Turns out the late night entry into our room was Sara (canada) our head volunteer. She headed back early that morning.
While we were in the store we bumped into Lukas (Holland) who had come to town for the day to pick up supplies. Later on we got our tickets for the bus, picked up our wonderfully clean laundry and hung out till it was time to leave.

Party all night long
When we returned on the bus we got to canoe point and discovered there was no canoe… this seems to be a trend. Victor who lives there and usually takes us back was no where to be found, luckily Lukas had a phone and called in an emergency pick up from Liana Lodge, much to our appreciation as we did not favor hacking through the bush to get to the center.
Tonight was a huge fairwell party for 3 of the volunteers, and the music blared until 3am. I was in bed at midnight. Another exhausting day over and new one starting in a few hours.

Stay tuned for next week!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lima to Quito – The written version

Jan 26th to 28th 2011

I survived!!!

It really does amaze me what we put ourselves through in the name of travel and volunteering. Before I arrived in Peru my longest bus trip was a whopping 3hrs. In preparation for my long haul to Ecuador I did 2 trips of 6hrs each in the span of 3 days from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and back.

Finally the day arrived to bus to Ecuador, it was an estimated 30 to 48 hrs (give or take a day I guess). My friend Fernando, from Lima, and I had looked at all the options and came up with 2 possibilities for the trip.
(A) take a bus that will run the entire distance (the downside is that it was a less known company and bus quality was a question)
or
(B) take a well known bus co. to Tumbes (Peru border town), get picked up by a shuttle and go through the border then dropped off at the Ecuador bus station. (This allowed some time to stretch and at least the first half guaranteed of a good bus).

We opted for option two… it might have been better to go with option 1!!!
Leaving at 4.30pm I had planned to go on the super first class section, with seats that go almost all the way down. Unfortunately this wasn’t an option but luckily I got the 2nd level seat at the very front for a panoramic view of the trip. I had no seat mate so I was able to “stretch” out and get some sleep. We were even given a small meal and a drink.

Section 1 on the comfy bus with the panoramic view took 20hrs and I pulled into the border town of Tumbes around noon to be accosted by hundreds of taxi drivers.
WTF
This is when things went downhill. There was supposed to be someone to meet me and shuttle me across the Peru and Ecuador border immigration depositing me at the Panamerica bus station for the next leg. Turns out there was no one to meet me, the phone number I had went to voicemail and the taxi drivers at the bus terminal were aggressive to say the least. Eventually the bus station clerk told me my ride was here, a taxi driver hired by the company. He said that his job was to take me through Peru immigration and then leave me at the border to take a taxi alone… Mmm this was the exact thing I had been hoping to avoid, as I had heard taxi drivers regularly take advantage of travelers.
Calling for help
Calling a friend in Peru he explained what i had already guessed from the driver but said the driver was willing to come with me if I was scared about crossing alone. I decided to take him up on his offer, not only to prevent being scammed but also because he was happy to carry my big bag. Peru immigration was a breeze and Ecuador wasn’t much different, just a longer wait. My Peru cabby left me at the bus station after he had got me checked in and made sure I knew where a good place to eat was. I gave him a tip and thanked him profusely.
Panamerica
With a 2hr wait I twiddled my thumbs and caught up with my diary. Finally it was boarding time and it turned out the good bus was being saved for special occasions. Our bus was cleaned with air freshner, am fairly certain had at least one roach and during the following 18 hr trip its bathroom was locked.

But I had no seat mate so I made the best of it and tried to sleep. Finally only 1hr from Quito at about 2am in the morning I started to relax and think it was almost over. Then we stopped! A landslide had blocked our way. Our choices were an 8hr detour or parking and sleeping it out. As no one spoke English I had to muddle my way through and I guessed when we pulled over that option 2 was decided upon. I started to cry and then realised I was too tired to even do that and just made myself as comfy as possible.
Quito, I could kiss you
We finally pulled in at 8am, I caught a taxi to my friends and finally was able to crash out. But first things first I had had to pee for the last 3hrs.

I have spent the last 2 days in Quito and after another 5hr bus trip (this one coming with complimentary S bends numbering in the 1000’s I am sure), I am in Tena. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the bus and head into the jungle. All I hope is that my canoe is there waiting for me.

Now the jungle adventures begin with biting sand flies, monkeys and wild tourists!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lime to Quito Day 21 ->23 – A photo diary

Jan 26th 2011

Luckily I had the front window seat on the 2nd level so you get a panoramic view:

leaving Lima


Heading on the highway


Dinner: rice, chicken and some kind of drink


A view of the coastline


Driving along the coast


End of day 1 (total of 8hrs - 4pm to midnight)

Jan 27th 2011

Another 12hrs at least of driving today, before reaching the border town of Tumbes.

waking up from a decidedly strange angle


Breakfast....I think


rolling rolling rolling


rolling rolling rolling somewhere around hour 17


Pulling into Tumbes. Section 1 lasted a total of 20hrs

You are now entering Ecuador

waiting in the Ecuador Panamerica bus station


No panoramic seat this time, trying to get comfy


Entering the banana fields


the mountains, around hour 30 of trip


My bed for night 2

end of day 2

Jan 28th 2011
A landslide detained us a further 3hrs when we were only an hour from Quito…

I survived! Barely! total trip 42hrs!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Lima Day 19 -> 20 – Final bus preparations

Jan 24th 2011

Cheers…for now!
I have never been a fan of farewells and often prefer to say “see you later” in the hope that friends will once again be reunited on the road somewhere.
This morning I was returning to Lima for 2 days before heading on the epic bus trip to Quito, Ecuador. But first I had to say farewell to Wilson the hostel manager, Logan the American and Cathleen, one of my best ever travel partners. When I finally got in the cab and gave another round of hugs I was on the verge of tears. I am really going to miss this place and the hostel that became a 2nd home. If only good things could last longer.

Musical Gates
I arrived at the airport, checked in and as the clerk gave me my gate pass he said “oh and I managed to get you on an earlier flight”. Awesome! I thought until I looked at the time it was leaving. Flight 101 would leave at 10.50am, it was now 10.33am and I hadn’t got through security yet. I made a mad, panicked dash towards the gate, got through security who then decided to check my bag! I glanced over at gate 1 and noticed there was no one lining up, a small surge of panic started to grow. The security check point cleared me and I skidded to a halt in front of the gate at 10.47am. I handed my pass and as a concerned look spread over their faces I feared the dreaded words of “I am sorry the gate is closed”. Instead the following discussion occurred:
“You are at the wrong gate”
“But it says gate 1”
“All the airlines use this gate”
“so where do I go”
“We don’t know we are LAN airlines”
“My flight leaves in 1minute can you call someone?”
“No we are LAN you are on Star Peru”
“I know can you call someone?”
“No we are LAN”
It was starting to feel like a stuck record.
“Do you have any suggestions?”
“Ask security”
I dashed over to the security officers showed them my ticket they mumbled something in Spanish which was possibly along the lines of “gate 1 like your ticket says, stupid tourists”.
Frustrated I went to the monitor with all the flights and gates, every flight had a gate… but mine! Of course it would never be that easy. There were 5 gates in the terminal and no Star Peru sign or person anywhere to be found, I was starting to wonder if they truly existed or if I had bought a ticket on a mythical airline.

Back at the tv monitor I waited with baited breath as more flights had gates added, all except mine (which according to my ticket had left 5 minutes ago). I noticed an older gentleman with the same befuddled expression and asked if he was seeking the same gate as me. We both went over to gate 4 (what his ticket said) and once again received the following explanantion:
“we are LAN you are on Star Peru, we can not call anyone, we are LAN”.
At this point I did exchange a few choice words (under my breath) at LAN airlines. And went to sit and look confused with what turned out to be about 50 passengers all the same limbo as I was.

Suddenly there was an announcement for Star Peru to Lima at gate 1. Woohoo this is it, we all jumped up and formed a line, just as a F@$%#*g LAN person came down the line saying “This is LAN you are Star Peru”. Just as I was considering the action of physical violence I noticed a person, surreptitiously dragging a Star Peru sign and virtually leaped on him. Once I confirmed he was indeed dragging the sign of the mythical airline towards the mythical gate I yelled out “Star Peru to Lima this way”, among much giggles from the surrounding mass we surged after him… to Gate 4.

We lined up neatly and waited, and waited and waited. It looked like my earlier flight was going to leave at the original time of my ticket. Go figure!

Well I waited I chatted with the older gentleman and his wife and discovered they were on a tour, but due to his severe altitude sickness that landed him in hospital, they had to return to Lima and wait for the group. Thank heavens I never had it that bad.

Lima
Back in Lima I grabbed a cab and relieved the fear of driving in that city. They truly have no rules and I think if you ever decide to drive yourself be sure to have a license in Defensive Driving with a major in Offensive and an emphasis in crazy! It will be the only way to survive. And yet with the insanity of it all I have not seen any accidents, only drivers proudly displaying numerous dents.

Fernando had emphasized that he did not want me waiting at the house alone, as I had no key, and to call him as soon as I arrived at the airport. I managed to borrow the taxi drivers phone and rang him, saying I would be there in about 30minutes. When I got to the house the outer gate was open, thankfully, and I ended up sitting out side the front door for almost 40minutes. Turned out he got busy. Oh well.

That night I made dinner and we just hung out, started packing and sorting for Ecuador.

Jan 25th 2011
Today was a day of errands and hanging out. I packed well Fernando went to do some work. Then we went to the historic district and I picked up some more string for jewelery and postcards. We had chicken for dinner and then head back home.

My bus leaves at 4pm tomorrow so I sorted a few more things out and was in bed by around 11pm.

Tomorrow the next adventure begins!

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Cusco Day 18 – Relaxation

Jan 23rd 2011

The aim of today is to do as little as humanely possible. Cathleen took our laundry down and we grabbed some breakfast from the hostel. Then we worked on some internet related stuff and checked out our photos.

Logan the American
It turned out our roommate, who we luckily didn’t wake up at 4am, was Logan the American chap who had decided to walk the Inca trail alone. It turns out he didn’t do the trail, but rather walked the path along the railway tracks, still a long and beautiful walk but not as intense as the trail itself.
It was great to see him again and to catch up on the various adventures. He planned to go bike riding to Moray, where they have a very unique agricultural technique, using concentric circles and creating microclimates to grow different varieties of potatoes and maize. I really wanted to go but was feeling exhausted and the thought of me trying to ride a bike on my best days is dangerous to others around me, so I decided to pass. Cathleen on the other hand was still full of energy (must have had something to do with sleeping on the bus) and was happy to join him.

Last minute deals
It was great having a day off and to myself. I took a nap, ate a dorito chip roll for lunch and finally got off my ass and decided to look for a few last minute deals. I still felt almost hungover from the trip and was pretty much wandering around in a daze. I picked up a scarf and a few other things, but wasn’t really in the mood for any big purchases, not to mention there was a lack of space to be had. Then I headed back to the hostel to veg out a little more.

New roommates and another international gathering
Our new roommate turned out to be Erlend from Norway, who was planning on leaving for the Inca trail at 6am the next morning. We chatted a bit and then Logan and Cathleen returned from their adventure. Turned out they had arrived as the bike store closed and so had hitched rides and taken local mini buses (at one point sitting on each other’s laps), but managing to see the places they hoped to and getting some awesome pics.

We decided to have pizza for dinner and invited Erlend with us who then invited an English chap along, making us another session of the UN with England, America, Germany, Norway and South Africa. Pizza was good, company was better. Turned out the Canadian was still at the hostel and was bunking in the room with the English guy and there were many laughs at the fact that all the things he said to me he had already told his roommate. You can’t help but feel sorry for him.

It was also a bitter sweet evening as it meant tomorrow morning I would be returning to Lima and saying farewell to many good friends and Cathleen, who had become as close as a sister.

But all good things must come to an end in order to make way for new adventures.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Lake Titicaca Day 17 – I just like saying that word…Titicaca

Jan 22nd 2011

We had booked a full day tour leaving at 8am and returning around 5 or 6pm including lunch for 65 soles ($23 US). This sounded great to us but we later heard of cheaper prices, oh well. Cathleen had been suffering another bought of Bolivia’s revenge (something ruined her stomach while she was traveling there), but luckily I had some of my traveler’s diarrhea tabs and that combined with some immodium did the trick… for 2 days at least. I made sure she got some gatorade when we picked up drinks to rehydrate her.

Uros Islands
As we sped away from the stinking harbor that was Puno and headed into the lake I started to see why it was such an attraction. Bird life was every where and the water got progressively cleaner as we left the city. After about 20min we reached the community of Uros. Here the people make islands out of reeds and live permanently with about 5 families. Each island has a president and a set of rules. It is quite incredible at what they have put together. We stopped and visited one island and the president gave us a run down of how they make the islands, ingenious I tell you. Then we got to walk around and buy some handmade products. There was a large water bird that seemed quite content with people around and made an excellent photo op. On a smaller island I noticed they had pets, guinea pigs… then I realised that was actually the pantry. They also had a small “lake” in the middle of their island where they kept fish captive in a net, makes sense.

Guinea Pig Island aka the larder

A very cool bird hoping for handouts


After spending about an hour and just as the rain started falling we got back onboard and headed off into the heart of Lake Titicaca. It would take us almost 3 hrs to reach Taquile Island, our next stop, and so many of took a nap, some stood outside (when it stopped raining) and others just chatted. Our guide gave us a brief run down on Lake Titicaca with facts such as
– it is the highest navigatable lake in the world at 3827 meters (12628 feet)
– It is the largest fresh water lake in South America
– 60% is in Peru, 40% in Bolivia
and my personal favorite
– the Titi part is in Peru and the Caca part is in Bolivia.

Taquile Island
When we arrived at Taquile Island the sun was out, the water was a stunning sapphire blue and the air was clean. It promised to be a good day. We walked up the hill to our restaurant (each day the island decides who will feed the tourists so as to have equal share). Please note this hill was very steep and as all of us are huffing and puffing the locals are running circles around us carrying heavy packs, just crushes your ego. But then again I lost my ego with the altitude in Cusco, so all good.

Lunch
I think the food we had today was some of the best I have ever tasted. Reminded me of the home cooked meal in Lesotho that I shared with a family. It was all made in the family kitchen and consisted of quinoa soup, fresh fried fish, fried chips, rice and a special tea of coca and some kind of mint (good for stomach and altitude). Then the family did some local dances and at the end we got to join in, great fun. The community there has such a unique culture and I would love to spend more time on the island and learn more.

Kids and photos
When we got to the island’s main square there were little kids trying to sell us bracelets, which you try to avoid as you buy one and then you have to buy more. When you have someone take a photo of you, you find the kids edging their way into the picture, but if you say no they go away. I decided to have a photo with the stunning view of the islands behind me, but when 2 little girls edged in I didn’t object, next minute there was an onslaught of children, as one brit said “they must have been climbing out of windows as there weren’t that many in the square to begin with”. After the pic was taken the bracelet buying started, I managed to get away with only buying one each from the first 2 girls who had stood with me, and I gave one to Cathleen and kept the other. When we looked at the picture someone remarked that it looked like the “Peruvian Sound of Music”, I was just missing one boy.

Heading back to Puno
A nice long leisurely walk down the other side of the island led us back to the boat. It was so truly beautiful here that I would have stayed had someone offered. But for now it was time to head back to Puno and take the night bus back to Cusco. I managed to get in a nice nap in the sun as we sped along dreaming of the islands and the food.

Back in Puno we were transported back to the hostel and went to make some dinner, instant noodles and left over pastries.

Thunder and lightening very very frightening
While we waited to get our taxi for the 9pm bus ride it started to rain, then hail (which lost the signal for the tv right near the end of when Tom Hanks is about to get off the island on Cast Away). Not only did it thunder and lightening and rain and hail, it did it so much that it looked like it had snowed by the time the taxi came. The hail was fine and at least 2″ thick in some places.

Bus ride 2
The bus ride was 6.5hrs long and again I got the window seat. The movie was an independent movie from Afghanistan dubbed into Spanish with English subtitles. Interesting and yet disturbing all about the start of the war. Fairly soon I realised I would not be able to sleep, the heat blasting next to the window didn’t help and I needed to pee. Cathleen on the other hand had past out before we were out of Puno. At 1am I finally woke her up with a look of desperation. While waiting for the loo to be free, the 2nd driver had a fight with the guy in the loo as he thought he was maybe doing something he shouldn’t, in other words taking a dump (which is forbidden on these buses). eventually I got to pee and then convinced Cathleen to let me have the aisle. We pulled into Cusco at 4am and were back at the hostel by 4.30am. The dorm we were supposed to be in was missing the key so we went into my good old room and I got to have my bed. I think they should just label it “Kathy’s bed” for when I return.

All in a good day, a crappy bus ride, but a happy ending with my soft comfy bed. Stay tuned for a return to Lima and preparations for the epic bus trip

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Puno Day 16 – Change of plans

Jan 21st 2011

Not a morning person
After a suggestion from a friend, we had decided to change our tickets to only spend one night in Puno and come back saturday night instead of sunday. This would work out well for me, as it would give me a day to sort stuff rather than having to rush to the airport. Unfortunately the lady who did the bus check in was not a morning person, and BITCH barely covers her personality. One of the guys motioned to us and suggested we try to change it in Puno… we thought that sounded like a great idea.

Bus ride #1
I was in the window seat, but luckily it turned out the bus wasn’t super full and so I was able to move over to the seats across from us. For half the trip there was some kind of cops and robbers movie, and for the most part the journey was pretty easy. We stopped at this place for a potty break, very random in the sense that it was very nice and clean and blared “reduce, reuse, recycle” over the speakers and apparently was environmentally conscious as far as the sewer system went.

Due to certain limitations of the busses sanitation system it had been announced at the beginning of the trip that “the toilet is for pee pee only”. So as a result the occasional stop was very much appreciated. I felt a little bus sick at one point but was able to get a catnap for an hour or so and before you knew it we had arrived in Puno.

So this is Puno???
I am not sure what we expected but it definately was not what we found. With Puno being the port city to Lake Titicaca, a huge tourist attraction, we assumed that it would at least be clean or more tourist friendly. It was non of these things. The bay was horribly polluted, there was trash everywhere, it did not really offer much to tourists. All in all we were happy the friendly lady at the Puno station changed out ticket to leave earlier.

we walked around for the afternoon, explored the waterfront and just generally chilled out. Then we headed back to the hostel to check email. The boys (Mark and Joe – Brits) that I had hung out with in Cusco were supposedly in Puno and we hoped to meet up with them. While we waited for the Aussie on the computer to finish up Cathleen and I included him in our conversation. Or rather overwhelmed him, as we had developed a technique of holding conversations in stereo, each finishing the others story and adding highlights. As he finished up we invited him to join us for instant noodles, which he accepted. Turned out the boys hadn’t replied yet but one of them was online. So within a few minutes we had formulated a plan to meet at the statue outside the church in the plaza. The Aussie seemed happy with the change of plans and we headed out.

England, Australia, Germany and South Africa
When we got to the statue the boys were no where to be found. Then Chris (Aussie) remembered that there was another church. Go figure this tiny town had 2 plazas, 2 churches and 2 statues 5 minutes apart. Low and behold the boys were there and the party got started. We headed into a RockReggae bar (that played neither rock nor reggae) and proceeded to begin the 3rd world war as far as Jenga goes. It was hilarious, not only was the table a little unsteady but the jenga blocks were neither even nor rectangular in any way. at the end of 8 games the loss statistics were as follows:
Australia 1
Germany 1
South Africa 1
England 5 (Mark 1 Joe 4)
Joe was a jenga bane and even managed to knock it over when we were rebuilding it.

Pizza and laughs
We headed for a place to have dinner, the boys had eaten there before and said the pizza was great. Pizza was turning into a tradition with Cathleen and I so it sounded perfect. Joe was on a roll and had us all in hysterics the entire evening. He was having a blast taking the piss out of me and I was laughing so hard that I could barely breathe (I am sure I lost 5 lbs). Occasionally he would give me a break so I could take a breath but before long he was back. He especially loved it when we were discussing zip lines and I said in South Africa we call them foofey slides. That led to another hour of jokes and harassment. I managed to catch him off guard once when he was taking a big swig of beer and I said “my last dorm mates name was Fanny”. He very nearly spat the beer out. Classic.

Probably the most fun I have had in a long time. And I am really going to miss those lads.

Tomorrow the disappointment in Puno is banished by the beauty of Lake Titicaca.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Cusco Day 15 – Museums and Culture

Jan 20th 2011

Machu Picchu was incredible and I am glad I went, but I am happy to be “home” back at the hostel in Cusco. The dorm was full so I had to move into the double room again, but this time there was no Canadian to annoy me. My roommate is an eccentric older lady who has been suffering from flu and has shopped more than me.

Decisions
Cathleen came over so we could hang out and we sat to discuss future plans. She had hoped to do a jungle tour, but it had fallen through. When I mentioned going to Lake Titicaca she was game. So we went downstairs to book tickets at the travel desk. Leaving tomorrow at 8am we would have a 6hr bus trip there and then return 2 nights later on an overnight. The only bummer in this plan was that we would get in at 4am on monday and I had to be at the airport at noon, so a bit tight, but all is fine. The tickets cost 50 soles ( $17 US) each way. We also booked our hostel (same as the one in Aguas Calientes as they have free pick up). Then we went to enjoy a day around town.

Museums
When you want to go visit any historical site or museum you have to buy “The Big Ticket”. It costs 140 soles ($47 US) and includes around 12 sites. So to get the best value for money you have to try and go to all the places. This was the plan for today, we were going to see as many museums in Cusco as possible and end the evening with a cultural dance.

So thats the answer to the pyramids
For the most part the museums and art galleries were interesting, but I am not sure we were getting our money’s worth. Then we came across the muncipal art gallery. In an entire room there was a very stoned “artist”. Dreadlocked beard and hair, barefoot and showing a slide show explaining the power of “the light” he explained his plan for recycling in Cusco. Take pieces of trash and turn them into art (now thats a new idea). He had random pieces of card and paper with paint on them, straw all over the floor and a pyramid made of the traditional mud bricks used in houses. When an American lady asked if he had made the bricks his response was as follows “No man…. but we built the pyramid!”
At that point I made for the door before I cracked up laughing, I am certain the muncipality gave him the space for his own safety and to keep him off the streets.

Panaderia (bakery)
We headed back to sort out some laundry and get lunch and then hoped to make it in time to one more museum and the dance show. We had found a bakery (at the top of a very steep hill again) and grabbed some deliciousness that we sat and ate in the plaza. At one point two lines of police in full riot gear streamed on either side of us and lined up behind us. That definately gives you pause. Turns out there was a car ralley that would go through the main plaza at some point that day.

After watching one or two cars go by we lost interest and headed to the museum. Unfortunately we arrived 5minutes to closing and weren’t able to make it to the museum, so with some time to kill we grabbed a rum raisin icecream and perused a book store.

The cultural dance show was amazing and at the end they invited us to dance on stage, always game for a dance (after a few people were on stage already) I went to join. Had a blast, couldn’t breathe but felt fantastic.

Nuna Raymis…again
We decided to share a lasagne at my favorite restaurant, delicious as usual. It was amusing how they leapt up to welcome us, saw it was me and just made a friendly “oh its you, welcome back” gesture.

Then home again. Cathleen was still staying at the other hostel, but planned to come at 7am in the morning with a bag of goodies from the bakery (it was on her way).

Always good to have a relatively chill day.

Next is my longest bus ride, Puno and Lake Titicaca!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Machu Picchu Day 14 – WOW!

Jan 19th 2011

Why do you travel with hairspray??
Well at the appointed hour of 3am my roommated woke up and began preening. I have never understood girlie girls on the best of days, but why on earth would you find the need to use hairspray at 3am in the morning in a closed room as you prepare to walk an hour uphill in the rain? I had to ask them to open the door so that I could breathe.

Bus ride and rain
Luckily I was able to get a couple of hours sleep before my alarm went off at 6.30am. It turned out that Cathleen had woken up at 4am, saw the rain and went back to sleep. Breakfast consisted of tea/coffee and a bread roll. We caught the 7am bus and headed off on a 25min bus ride that made you value your life. It was no wonder the drivers all had religious paraphernalia hanging from the rear view mirror. The road is a series of S-Bends with the road only wide enough for a single bus. Considering buses leave every 10min and go up and down at the same time, when faced with another bus heading in the opposite direction one of the buses backs up into a “shoulder” to allow the other bus past. I think I rediscovered religion on more than one occasion during those 25min.

MACHU PICCHU!
Arriving at our final destination, the front gate, Cathleen decided to head in and we planned to hopefully meet up at some point during the day. I waited, in the rain, for my tour guide and finally entered. You have to hike up a fairly steep set of steps, which results in much huffing and puffing (as the 90yr old Peruvian guy jogs past you) before you get to the first of many view points.

Due to the constant drizzle and cloud cover my first impression of this ancient town was not awe and amazement. It looked like a bunch of old buildings on a field. Then the clouds shifted and my breath was taken away as you realise the sheer insanity of its location on the top of a steep mountain. the surrounding vegetation is lush and green and the constant shifting cloud cover added the ambience and powerful feel of the place.

General Info: Machu Picchu, “Old Peaks”, is a pre-columbian 15-century Inca site located 2430m (7970ft) above sea level. Most believe Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti (1438-1472). Often referred to as “the lost city of the Incas”, it was discovered by an American Historian, Hiram Bingham, in 1911. He was guided to the location by a local boy who was paid 1soles (today about 30c US). Bingham removed many cultural items and promised to return them within 2yrs. 100yrs later they still remain in the American Museums.

Our tour guide told us many things about Machu Picchu, including something about an Inca warrior or politician who was nicknamed the “Inca Rabbit” due to having fathered 365 children. Well it was interesting to stand in the rain and listen to the guide tell us stories and give information, I was constantly wandering away and after bumping into Cathleen I decided to just walk around with her for a bit. As she had already explored the lower section and I had the upper section (or part there of) and so we decided to split up and meet later.

I loved wandering around alone. Before when I first caught site of the ruins I had not been very impressed, but as you wander around and between the structures and see the views and feel the mist, it takes on a whole new meaning and you can feel the history and power of the place.

Llamas or Alpacas, flowers and birds
At one point I came upon a herd of llamas, or maybe alpacas, they seemed very domesticated and people were able to get quite close without the apparent spitting threat, even with the two crias (what you call a baby llama or alpaca). At one point I had a great shot lined up and promptly had this tall guy, with long flowing curly black hair, a white shirt unbuttoned half way, gold chains and dark glasses, walk right in front of me to try a self portrait. I wish I had taken a picture of him.

Something I was thoroughly enjoying was looking at all the flowers, there was a beautiful variety and I had a great time trying to get some good shots. I also chased a butterfly and just managed to get a pic and also the variety of small birds in the area. Loved every minute of it.

After about 3 hrs I decided to find a secluded corner and have lunch. I discovered a ledge and climbed up on to it, after I was settled I realised it was really close to another section of ruin that was easily accessible. The question I have is why is it that the minute you discover a nice quiet spot to have snacks it seems that everyone else in the area thinks thats a spectacular spot too. All too soon I had numerous people around me and so I decided to wander my way back to the entrance and head down. Rain was threatening again and this time it was promising to be a bit more enthusiastic than drizzle.

Middle/Easy/Hard…lost
Trying to find your way out of the maze of buildings is near impossible, they have signs showing you the way but you are more likely to end up back where you started than actually find the way out. Eventually I picked up the trail and after another short time out to soak up the view I headed out. It appeared it was also time for the local landscapers to do repairs, cut the grass and generally keep the place free from the jungle that was ever waiting to reclaim the ruins.

Brazilians!
I made it onto the bus and down the scary road just as the first heavy drops fell and I hoped that Cathleen would make it down safely as she had planned to walk and get some pics of the view on the way down. When I got back to the hostel I collapsed in a pile on the couch to wait out my 4hrs till it was time for my train. I now understood why there were people scattered on any available surface the day before when we arrived. It was quite exhausting spending the day up on the mountain and with rainy weather outside, being a pile of goo on a couch is a very welcome proposition.

As I sat and watched the nature channel a group of 3 guys came in and I was bemused when the one removed close to 10 empty bottles of water, 1 at a time. The next then removed empty snack papers one at a time. I couldn’t help but giggle at the site of it and soon we were all attempting conversation. They were from Brazil and had completed the Inca trail. When they heard I was from South Africa they excitedly yelled “waka waka go world cup”. I guess they like soccer. When they headed out they said they had to get a pic with me, I was so surprised I didn’t think of getting one of them. As they left the hostel manager mumbled “Brazilians”.

Return trip
Cathleen walked in shortly after and said she had explored all over the place at the top and discovered a few cool areas that I had missed. She had decided on the bus back down as the weather had turned crap and was now grabbing her stuff and heading to the train station. Her train left at 4pm while man left at 6pm. She planned to go to my hostel and see if there was room, so we hoped to meet up tonight when I made it home.

Finally it was my turn, I was in the middle class train going home, the Vista class. Turns out we not only got a free snack but instead of pretzels in a cardboard box, we got a basket with some macaroni type dish and a brownie in ceramic bowls, all very fancy. Then we had a show introducing us to Diablo (devil), a mythical figure. The best part of the train ride came with the fashion show featuring out car attendants wearing “an exclusive line of alpaca items”. The whole car got into it and the old ladies loved the handsome male model as he paraded up and down.

My seat mate turned out to be a Japanese Braizilian who worked in the police force and we had some good conversation. Upon reaching Ollantaytambo I realised my ride was not there but was able to reach the company and he showed up shortly after. Turned out we had to wait for the next bus, so my cop friend and I went to grab a beer and then he hitched a ride back to Cusco with me. I only arrived “home” at 11.30pm but was thrilled to see that the amazing staff had reserved “my” bed in the dorm, and soon I was passed out and dreaming of hot springs and Inca Ruins.

Unfortunately there was no space at the inn for Cathleen and she left me a note saying she would pop round the next day to hang out.

The adventure continues with museums and exploring Cusco.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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