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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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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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