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Daily Archives: February 1, 2011

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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