A Travellerspoint blog

August 2013

Lake Titicaca

Peruvian and Bolivian side

overcast 18 °C
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Puno, Peru
Sunday 25th August

We arrived in Puno, which is the main town on Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side of the lake at around 3pm. We hung up our damp and still soaked clothes from the Inca trail and headed out for some lunch in Puno. Afterwards we headed down to the port to find out about trips to the islands.

Monday 26th August

The next day we took a boat at half 7 to las islas Uros, which are the famous floating islands on Lake Titicaca. These islands are built on square feet blocks of roots which float in the water. They put a wooden pole through the middle and then tie each block together to make a platform. On top of these floats, they lay reeds across once a fortnight in opposite directions to build the islands up. The roots last 20-25 years, but the reeds need topping up every 2 weeks. The houses are made of the same reeds tied together. Each island is about 250m². There are loads of these little islands, each with about 5 houses and then there is an island in the middle with a school on which all the children attend. You can if you wish do a homestay on these islands, but it gets very cold by the lake at night and there is no electricity other than the odd solar powered lightbulb in the houses and so would be pitch black after dark. Chris and I were more than happy in our hostel!

The island's men spend their days fishing and trade the fish for other produce at the market back on dry land. The women make tapestries showing Uros life on cushion covers and small table covers to sell to the passing tourists.

After taking a traditional boat also made from these reeds across the lake to another island, we headed off on the boat for another 2 hours to Taquile island.

Taquile island is a proper island about 3 hours by boat from Puno. This island had great views of Lake Titicaca and if you climbed up past the main square, it was so peaceful and quiet. We sat for about an hour, enjoying the sun before deciding to head back down to port for the return boat.

We started heading back the way we came, when we heard a young child going in the opposite direction ask his Dad why they were heading that way to the boat and not the way they had come. (The way we were going.) The Dad explained that the boats picked you up from the other side of the island. Chris and I suddenly had a minor panic as we realised the chances are we needed to be on the other side of the island as well. We had 25 minutes to work our where we were going and get to the port before the last boat left for the day. Fortunately, we had not started the downhill section to the original port and were only a few minutes from the main square. We had the name of the port and so asked the locals which way. I checked to see how far it was, and one man said 15-20 minutes. We picked up the pace, which is not easy when you're at 3800m above sea level and heading uphill. Knowing we didn't have any spare time, we checked a few times along the way that we were going the right way as it was not signposted and as we were still heading uphill, we could not yet see the port. We made it in the end with 5 minutes to spare, which allowed for us to realise how close we were to missing the last boat. Never have we been so grateful for inquisitive children!

We arrived back at 5pm and headed into town for dinner before heading back to the hostel.

The next day, we caught the bus to Copacabana, Bolivia.

Copacabana, Bolivia

Tuesday 27th August

We caught the bus at 7.30am and it took about 2½ hours to reach the border and 30 minutes for the whole bus to clear immigration. Bolivia is an hour ahead of Peru and we arrived shortly before midday local time. We were unexpectedly greeted at the bus by a free transfer to the hotel, which was a matter of minutes away on foot, but being up a hill we were very grateful.

We dumped our stuff and went out for some lunch. The food in Bolivia cost the same as in Peru; however their currency is a lot weaker which therefore meant the main course for 35Bs was not £8 as it would have been in Peru, but just over £3. We found what looked like a nice restaurant and ordered a couple of burgers and drinks. The food came very quickly and while I was busy putting sauce on mine, Chris got started on his. He took his second mouthful and said is it alright to eat raw burgers? I said no and he spat out a mouthful of completely raw burger. These burgers were incredibly thin, so thin that they barely stayed together. I cut into the middle of mine, and it was bright red. It was completely raw. I didn't think to take a picture in time but it looked as raw as mince in the supermarket. As you can't eat raw mince unless it's chopped there and then, which we doubted very much we decided to send them back and head off.

When I told the waiter the burger was raw, he just stood there staring at the almost still moo-ing burger and before questioning me as to whether it was cooked our not. If that wasn't proof we didn't want to eat there then I don't know what is. Commence trying to explain to the waiter that the burger had put us off our food and we just wanted to go. He disappeared off, I assume to check with the manager as he returned with the bill for the drinks. These came to £2.80 and I tried to pay with the equivalent of a £4.50 note, which was too big to him! Eventually he found some change and once we'd finished our drinks we found somewhere safer to eat. We think....

Isla del Sol

Wednesday 28th August

This morning, we checked out of our hotel and caught a boat to Isla del Sol which is an hour and a half from Copacabana. We trekked up the mountain and spent about an hour looking for accommodation until we finally found one with a great view of the lake for the princely sum of £11 including breakfast and a private bathroom. I have noticed that whenever discussing with people how much something costs, when I go to translate the options to Chris, I think they seem to think we're backing out because the price has often dropped before I finish even telling Chris. This was the case here as the man dropped his price by £2.

We set off walking to Challa, a village which according to 'good old never one to exaggerate, Lonely Planet, ' it had a 'white sand beach straight or of a Greek holiday brochure'. We arrived at this beach after an hour and a half's walk and unsurprisingly it was not picturesque by anyone's imagination. We sat on the wall for about half an hour with school children staring at us as they went past before we headed slowly back up to our hotel.

We went out for dinner, remembering to take a torch for the journey back. Our restaurant only had lights at the front to light it up from the street and so we ate our dinner by candlelight before walking 10 minutes in pitch black down the mountain to our hotel.

Thursday 29th August

The next morning we woke up in our unheated, single glazed room to a substantial covering of frost on the ground outside. We had breakfast and headed off down the mountain to the port to get the boat back to Copacabana. Today was to be the day of no seats as despite being one of the first down to the port to buy a ticket for the boat, we initially ended up with no seat until some people shuffled along reluctantly on the bench. The boat ride back to Copacabana was quite funny (for me) as most people on the boat looked ready to chuck at any moment as it was incredibly choppy today. Unfortunately Chris was made to eat his words as yesterday he'd questioned how anyone could feel seasick on one of these boats. Luckily he and everyone else survived and there was no potential chain reaction.

We bought a bus ticket to La Paz and had an hour to get lunch. We arrived at the bus 30 minutes before its departure time, as advised to find there were no seats left. It was OK though, the angry bus man has a solution; there was one seat at the back and the other person could sit on the jump seat at the front. We declined his great offer for the 4 hour bus journey and he got annoyed. He said there wasn't another bus until much later and just got angrier when I tried to ask what time. We knew we still had time to buy another ticket with another company, but I'm guessing as he already had our money, he was not to fussed about sorting us out. Eventually another lady offered us a seat on a different bus. We were reluctant, as we have heard Bolivian buses race and overtake crazily to beat each other to fares. They also have a tenancy to end up in ditches. This bus didn't look battered and so we went with it. We were the only foreigners on the bus.

All was fine for the first couple of hours until for some unknown reason, the bus turned off the ruta nacional and onto dry, incredibly bumpy fields, which was to be our route for the next half an hour. We eventually arrived in the centre of town where we sat in traffic for about 15 minutes. We soon headed out to the middle of virtually nowhere which it turned out was where our bus was to terminate. We finally managed to flag down a taxi to our hotel.

We went into town for dinner, but managed to go to the one part of town which had nothing but a load of market stalls. We found an awful restaurant to eat at and left most of it and got a hotdog on our way back to the hotel.

Here's to tomorrow being a more successful day in Bolivia. At least our hotel is warm!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:12 Archived in Bolivia Tagged boat beach bus lake island floating uros isla_del_sol Comments (0)

Llama! Llama! Sexy Llama! - The Inca Trail

El Camino de Inca - Km 82 to Machu Picchu

all seasons in one day
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El Camino de Inca - The Inca Trail

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Map showing our route over the four days. Our campsites are marked on in red

Day 1: Inca flats - 10 miles

The night before the Inca trail, we had a briefing with our tour company Llama Path, where we were able to meet the other 8 people in our group, our guides, Marco and Flavio, and to find out a little more about the route we were about to take.

Our group was made up of two friends on holiday together, a French couple who were coming to the end of their 8 month trip, two honeymooners and a slightly older American couple, who turned out to be the kindest and most well prepared for trekking couple you could ever meet. They had everything!

We met with our group, guides, and porters at 4.30am the following morning. We were greeted by a round of applause from the porters and a cup of coca tea. This turned out to be the standard greeting when arriving at the lunch spot or camp for the night.

We set off, stopping after 2 hours for breakfast in Ollyantaytambo before carrying on for another hour or so to the start of the Inca trail at km 82. We all got off the bus and the porters started repacking their bags. There were 10 people in our group as 2 had dropped out. Three of the couples had hired an extra porter, who took sleeping bags, sleeping mats and changes of clothes plus anything else you would need at camp. There were 14 porters in total, and Chris and I were supposed to be carrying our own sleeping equipment; however I think as we had lost 2 people, the Porters decided they would help us out as the guide told us to leave our stuff for now and see what happened. The sleeping stuff weighed 3 kg so Chris and I were incredibly grateful as our bags were not the lightest. They probably weighed about 10kg with the 2 litres of water we needed to carry. The porters were carrying between 20-25 kg each! And they moved a lot faster than we did!

While this frantic packing and repacking took place, a truck which looked like an open top small cattle truck pulled up and unloaded about 18 men, who it turned out were the porters and cooks for the company Gap. Unsurprisingly, the cattle truck left quickly before their tourist group arrived by bus. We could not believe this company transported their porters in such a way on a 3 hour journey from Cusco, in the mountains at night when temperatures were if you were lucky around freezing. Marco (second guide) explained that this company did not treat their porters very well and to top it off, Gap charge a lot more for their trip than Llama Path did for theirs, which meant there is a rich Canadian man somewhere who knows nothing of how hard his porters have to work.

Once packed, We passed through the checkpoint, got our passports stamped and headed off for a group photo at the start point.

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Our group at the start of the Inca Trail

Our first guide, Flavio, explained as we stood in the now fairly warm sun that we would pass through 3 micro-climates over the next four days, which would mean we would see very different vegetation. Currently, it was hot and dry, so only the strongest of plants grew here. It was very dusty. We were hot walking in shorts and t-shirts (and our big packs). Along this stretch, we stopped and looked at the various different plants and had some of the Inca history explained to us.

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Hikers!

After about half an hour, our porters came past, and we applauded them for their efforts. All our porters wore red uniforms and are referred to as 'the Red Army'. Our porters were the only ones who all walked together just as llamas would. They seemed to look out for each other more, and definitely looked good when you saw them coming up or down the hill all together in a group. In the same way they would clap us, it was tradition for us to stop and clap them whenever they went past in order to show our appreciation.

We carried on along the 'Inca flats' which had some fairly uphill sections, which were not as easy as we had hoped, bearing in mind that on day 2 we would be climbing 1000m to 4250m over only about 2 miles/3km. Shortly before lunch we saw some Inca ruins, which was just really a small house.

After 5 hours walking, we arrived at our lunch point, where the porters had already set up a cooking tent and an eating tent for shade, which had tables, tablecloths, stools, cutlery and serviettes. We were all very impressed! They had even heated some water and poured it out into individual bowls for us to wash our hands with their anti-bac soap. There were even individual towels!

We sat for lunch, which was ceviche (local cold fish dish), homemade pumpkin soup and then trout, rice and vegetables for main. The food was so delicious, you could not believe it had just been prepared on the side of the mountain. After lunch they gave us more water, which they had boiled for 5 minutes in order for it to be alright for us to drink. Later on we saw other companies just filling up big 25 litre bottles from the tap and filtering the water through a piece of cloth..... That well known method of catching invisible bacteria in water.

After lunch, we had an uphill section which took about 2 hours and passed the first campsite about an hour before arriving at ours. In the 2 hours it took us to walk this section, the porters had managed to pack up, walk it themselves, set up camp, including the 5 tents we were to sleep in and get started on food. It was so nice to arrive at camp knowing everything was all ready for us.

Each evening, we had 'happy hour' which was hot drinks, snacks and popcorn, while a four course dinner was prepared for us. Annoyingly, because of the altitude, you don't have much of an appetite, and can't overeat because your body can't digest the food as quickly and so you end up with an upset stomach. This meant we were having the smallest portions for dinner when really you just wanted to eat it all. For dessert, we had flambé bananas, which were lit in front of us.

Day 2: Dead Woman's Pass

Day 2 was our hardest day as I've already mentioned, we had a steep 1000m (3000ft) climb, followed by down hill by 700m, (2000ft) back up by 400m (1500ft) before coming down 400m to a campsite at 3600m, all only over the distance of 12km/7.5 miles.

The first climb was to the appropriately named Dead Woman's Pass at 4250m (13779ft). This stretch seemed to go on forever and took about 3 hours to climb. As we got higher, we really slowed down because there was just no air. As the pass came into sight, the path steepened and seemed to go on forever. Today was warm, but as you got to the last 300m climb, the air turned very cold and thin. We made it to the top exhausted, cold but pleased we had made it. We then had a half hour wait on this windy summit for the rest of the group to make it.

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Freezing cold but pleased we have made it to Dead Woman's Pass in our matching reversible llama hats.

The next section was downhill on some big steps made of fairly flat rocks. We were told it would take about 1½-2 hours to get down this section. It tuned out sand dunes are not the only fun thing to run down and so we ran down the first half. The second half was a bit more uneven so had to walk, but it was still a lot easier than up. We made it to the bottom with the French couple in 50 minutes, arriving at our lunch spot. The rest if the group arrived an hour later. This lunch spot was also one of the campsites for the second night, which most groups stopped at.

After lunch we had our next uphill section, which wasn't quite as hard but still difficult as we neared the top. This section also had 2 false passes, and so you couldn't really tell how far you had to go until the final stretch. We headed down to camp, arriving after about 3 hours walking. This camp was really cold as we were 3600m (11800ft) high.

That night we woke to rain at 2 am and just before we got up at 6 there was thunder and lightening. At least we were not going to have carried our waterproof rucksack covers and jackets around for nothing!

Day 3: Gringo Killer - 5.5 miles/9km

We had a short day today with only about 6 hours of walking. The first section was fairly flat, which was a good thing as it continued to rain until about 9am. We arrived at the final summit at about 8.30am, which was also the first campsite for night 3. We also heard that it had snowed overnight on the two +4000m passes. We were very glad we didn't have to climb up to those in the snow and ice

We began the affectionately named Gringo Killer, which was a horribly uneven downhill section which dragged on for 2 hours. Our reward was seeing Intipata Inca ruins, which were massive with terraces going right the way down the hillside. We headed off the path for 10 minutes to the site, where we sat with the French, one of the English guys from our group and a very fast walking German man who had come over the second pass in the snow and rain, leaving his group hours behind him. The rest of our group arrived after an hour or so, and we were given a tour of the ruins before doing the last 20 minutes to our final and incredibly smelly campsite.

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Spectacular Inca Ruins

As this campsite was 5 minutes walk from the Machu Picchu gate, there were 250 people camping there, and not enough (squat) toilets to cater for that number, as well as it being the last toilets before Machu Picchu, for those walking further on day 4. It was already not pleasant when we arrived at 2pm.

As it was our final night, the chef baked a cake, which was more than big enough for about 20 slices. They had carried an oven along the trek. We also asked how they keep the meat fresh, to which the response came across as if that were a silly question as one of them was carrying a freezer. (Obviously!)

Day 4: Machu Picchu - 3.5 miles/5.5km

We got up at 3.30am and left shortly after 4am to queue for the gate to open at 5.30am. We did the five minute walk to the gate by torch light and were the third group to arrive and so got a seat on the last bench undercover. Minutes before the gate opened, it began to rain.

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Waiting at the gate

The gate opened promptly and we were through by 5.35 and had an hour's walk by torchlight along a narrow rocky path with a sheer drop to your right. By 7 am we got to the sun gate and had our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. It was absolutely amazing and suddenly made the last 3 days completely worth it. We stopped for some pictures before walking the last 30 minutes to Machu Picchu, stopping at a couple of viewpoints along the way.

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First glimpse of Machu Picchu at the Sun Gate

Entering Machu Picchu this way along the Inca trail is breathtaking as you are arriving at Machu Picchu from above, therefore being able to see the whole city at once. If you arrive by bus, you enter at the bottom of the city and cannot really see much above you and gradually as you walk higher you get to see the whole place, but by the time you reach the top, the wow factor and overall image has been ruined through the snippets you saw on the way up. Also, once in Machu Picchu, unlike a lot of other Inca sites where you can see most of it from within, if you're in the middle of Machu Picchu, you can only really see the place where you're standing.

We enjoyed doing the Inca Trail a lot more than we had anticipated, and although there were times when it was really difficult, particularly on the final uphill sections, you soon forgot about those when you got to the top. The views and scenery were stunning, and I could not believe how quickly you could change climate and landscape. We walked through dry dessert like areas one minute and then on to lush green jungles the next. I would completely recommend the Inca Trail to anyone who is travelling in South America as it truly is an unforgettable experience.

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We made it! Marco is on the left and Flavio is standing on the right.

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Us at Machu Picchu

The rain had stopped and we were able to walk around the terraces used for farming which overlooked Machu Picchu city. We had our photos taken overlooking the city, including group pictures. We then headed down to the main entrance to have a snack and put our bags in the luggage storage. As we arrived at the picnic area, the heavens opened and the clouds and mist descended over Machu Picchu. This was 8am and we planned to head back in at 9. It became really cold and 9 o'clock came and went and the weather still showed no signs of improving. You could no longer see the mountains. We were supposed to be having a 3 hour tour. We sat it out another 1½ hours before deciding to go for a shortened tour, seeing the key parts.

We headed out and were instantly drenched. Chris and I were wearing water repellent trousers and within 5 minutes we could feel the water dripping down the inside of our legs. Our tour guide, Flavio told us this was only the second time in 12 years that it had rained this badly. Our 'waterproof' shoes lasted another 15 minutes, (what can you expect if they're £25 from Sports Direct?) And I'm not sure at what point my anorak gave up. Maybe 30 minutes? After our 90 minute abridged tour, we headed for lunch in Aguas Calientes, which is a tourist town out the bottom of the mountain, purpose built for Machu Picchu.

In the restaurant, we changed into dry clothes and enjoyed a nice lunch, but it was nowhere near as tasty as the food we had had during our trek.

As we left to catch our train at 3.30pm, it finally stopped raining; however it did start again while we were on the train. This train was naturally a lot nicer than a First Capital Connect train but drove at similar speeds, although this was actually good because although it took 40 to do the 20km back to the start of the Inca trail, the scenery was beautiful. We got back to Cusco at 8.30, showered and fell into our lovely comfortable beds.

Tomorrow we are catching the bus to Puno, which is the town on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. We plan to spend a day here, 2 at most before crossing the border into Bolivia.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:11 Archived in Peru Tagged inca_ruins machu_picchu inca inca_trail Comments (5)

Inca Ruins - Cusco

sunny 23 °C

Having read in the guidebook that the Inca ruins were best seen at dawn, we got up at 6.30 and set of a little after 7. We climbed up a massive hill in the general direction, before realising you couldn't get across to where we wanted to get to and so headed back down and set of again at half 7.

We arrived at Saqsaywaman, the first and most impressive ruin (the reason you buy the tourist ticket) just after 8am. The sun was already quite strong and from the 250m hike we were both quite hot and just in shorts and a T-shirt; however all the locals were still wrapped up for winter.

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Saqsaywaman is a fortress made up of hundreds of huge stones weighing a couple of hundred tons, the largest weighing 300 tons and 12m high. You have good views over the town of Cusco from the top of the site. In the middle of this site there was a large flat area between the two halves where there were some cute llama grazing. There's also a large rock which over hundreds of years had been worn smooth to create a 15m long slide, which was so much fun to slide down, and you gained quite a bit of speed!

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We spent an hour wandering around here before heading off to Qenqo, the next ruin on our ticket.

Qenqo was a lot smaller than Saqsaywaman, but had some nice crevices and arch ways to walk through. After this, we were approached by a woman offering a horse trek to the next ruin and a couple of other places, and so we decided to give our legs a break (we had been walking for nearly 4 hours by this point) and headed off by horse.

They selected two horses, one considerably bigger than the other, which we'd assumed to be Chris' but turned out to be mine. Chris looked quite funny on the horse as I'm pretty sure it was to small for him!

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We headed off at a very slow pace, with Chris' horse regularly refusing to walk (so would you if you had a heffa like Chris on your back while trekking up a mountain). We visited two other Inca ruin sites, Tambomachay and Puca Pucara, both of which were very small. Tambomnachay had a wall with what looked like blocked up door ways and a small waterfall. Puca Pucara was small ruins, which looked as though it had different rooms.

We saw a couple more ruins on our horses, before catching the bus back to Cusco at 2pm.

Tomorrow we will be having an actual relaxing day as Wednesday we are doing the Inca Trail. There may be no blogs for a few days!!! (Sorry Sarah!)

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:12 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Such Great Heights - Arequipa (2300m) to Cusco (3300m)

This has been the most difficult entry to get online.... GRR!

sunny 25 °C

Arequipa - Friday 16th August

Last night we bought some lip balm from a pharmacy, but the only one they had was strawberry flavoured, which meant it had a slight red tinge to it. Anyway, Chris had got himself ready for bed and when I went to get into bed, he was sat there putting his moisturiser on with bright red lips, which had gone around his lips as he'd put so much on. He looked absolutely hilarious, like a child who had stolen his mum's bright red lipstick! Sadly he wouldn't let me take a picture so the rest of you could enjoy a laugh. Spoil sport!

On our final day in Arequipa, we had a look around a market and I got 250g of olives for about a pound.

In the afternoon we visited the cathedral and had a guided tour with a lady who had the most bent out of shape glasses I think I've ever seen in my life. In this cathedral, most of the features for example the pulpit have come from Europe. Everything she seemed to point out she'd finish off by saying and that's from Spain/France/Italy. Three main highlight of this cathedral is the 12 metre high organ, which is the highest in Peru, containing over 1200 pipes, and came all the way from Belgium. Another funny part of this tour was how a lot of things, such as the organ, are only used for special occasions like 'Christmas, Easter...... And Sundays.'

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Belgian Organ

In the afternoon we visited the town market, which was very well organized, with a section to sell each different thing, for example, a couple of aisles of fruit, another section for meat and so on. We then had a look around a colonial mansion house, which was nowhere near as ornate as one you would find in England. Afterwards, we collected our laundry, which had been washed and dried for £1.50 while we saw the sights.

We caught the 10 hour night bus to Cusco, which we'd spent an extra £2.50 on our ticket for a '180° flatbed' seat. Let's just say their definition of 180° is very different to ours as it seemed to be similar to the other night's, which was about 160°. On the plus side, there was more legroom and they were slightly wider seats.

Cusco - Saturday 17th August

We arrived in Cusco at 7am and after a short nap at the hostel, we headed out to explore Cusco. We were both suffering a bit with the altitude, Chris feeling constantly out of breath and I had a thumping headache.

We went to the Plaza de Armas, which has the cathedral and a church overlooking the square. Unfortunately, to visit any of the attractions in Cusco, you have to have a tourist ticket which covers all the attractions, which costs more than twice as much for a foreigner and at £40 each, a lot more than anything else we've paid for over here. We've decided to get a partial ticket for £20, which includes a couple of the 'unmissable' attractions. We spent about an hour trip planning in a café before hiking up a hill to a random church, which has a good view over the Plaza de Armas.

Cusco - Sunday 18th August

This morning, we still felt a bit weary from the altitude, but had to change hostels which meant a 10-15 minute walk up and down the streets of Cusco. Our next hostel is really nice, but I accidentally booked us bunk beds for the next 3 nights. Hehe!

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Bunk beds!

Today in Cusco it's graduation day and so there were loads of parades around the Plaza de Armas, with the people graduating marching round. There were very few women in these parades, and most of the men looked like they were probably in their 30s.

While sat on a bench in the square today, we became a tourist attraction as a lady asked to have her photo taken with us! We went to the market and got some lunch as well as buying some llama gloves for Chris for the Inca trail. I got a reversible llama hat like Chris' and some gloves yesterday.

Tomorrow, we're going to Saqsaywaman, some ruins at 7am as this is supposed to be the best time to visit them.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 18:59 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Colca Canyon

Extremes in temperatures!

all seasons in one day

Thursday 15th August

Today we got up at 2.45am ready for our excursion to Colca Canyon at 3.

The bus took about 3 hours to get to the canyon and was freezing cold, particularly the higher we climbed. Arequipa is at about 2300 m.a.s.l. and the canyon starts at about 3300 m.a.s.l. We stopped off for breakfast at half 6 and at a colonial village on the way to the mission view point, Condor Cross. Here you had an excellent view of the condors which live in the canyon. A baby condor is brown and at the age of 4 they change to black and white. They are approximately 1 metre tall and have a wingspan of 3 metres. We saw quite a few baby condors and a couple of adult ones. There are a few photos on Facebook, but they were difficult to zoom in on in the bright sunlight.

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Chris and I at Condor Cross Viewpoint

Chris was quite cold during this trip and so decided to buy himself a reversible alpaca wool hat with llamas on, ready for the Inca trail. It's a pretty awesome hat.

After Condor Cross, we headed to the hot springs and went for a swim in the thermal baths made out of rocks next to the river. These were filled with water which had come off of the volcanoes and one was far too hot to really sit in. We spent about an hour here before getting some lunch and trying some alpaca meat. Not sure this was the best example as it seemed potentially overcooked as it was very chewy and tough to eat.

We headed to the highest point at 4900m which had a great view of the surrounding volcanoes, which are still active and had steam coming out the top of them.

Finally we stopped off in the natural reserve and saw a group of llamas, vicuñas and alpacas.

We arrived back to Arequipa very tired at about 5pm.

Tomorrow is our last day in Arequipa before we get the night bus to Cusco. This time, we managed to get bed seats which go 180° flat and in a separate room to the toilets! All for an extra 10 soles (£2) for the ten hour journey!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 16:22 Archived in Peru Tagged canyon llama hat colca cold condor alpaca vicuñas Comments (1)

Arequipa! Arequipa!

Tuesday 13th August

sunny 28 °C

We arrived in Arequipa shortly after 7 am having just spent 9 and a half hours on the night bus. Despite sitting in front of the toilets, the journey was not as bad as we'd imagined as fortunately the toilets are 'suspended' during night trips, only being allowed for emergencies. (Although why you would want to use a stinky bus toilet for any other reason than absolute desperation is beyond me.) This obviously did not stop two women trying at 3.30 and insisting on having a loud conversation about how long they'd been waiting.

We caught a taxi to our hostel, which is colonial built out of stone, which basically means freezing cold on a boiling hot day to you and me. We have a temperamental electric shock shower again which went freezing cold after a minute of boiling hot when I used it, but obviously worked fine for Chris.

We headed to the Plaza de Armas, where there was a parade passing through to celebrate Arequipa day. According to our taxi driver, the fiesta is tomorrow, although there was quite a large parade there this evening as well so we will have to just wait and see tomorrow. The first parade had a really good marching band, mostly made up of 12 year old boys, who played their instruments very well, in time with each other; however at times looked like a disorganised rabble when it came to moving together.

We visited the Santa Catalina monastery, which was absolutely massive and took a good 2 hours to go around. The monastery was almost like a mini town with three 'main' roads running through the middle connecting the various different parts. There was some really interesting architecture (pics to follow on Facebook soon...) And various different styles had been used to create the buildings surrounding the numerous little squares within the monastery.

In places the monastery did seem a little repetitive, especially once you had seen the hundredth nun's room and kitchen.

Afterwards we headed back to the Plaza de Armas and visited another small church before watching the second parade, which included men and women in traditional Peruvian dress dancing in the street, throwing out vegetables to the crowd which was a bit odd.

Tomorrow we plan to explore Arequipa a little more and venture out into the suburbs.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 19:13 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Huacachina and Nasca Lines

Sunday 11th August - Monday 12th August

sunny 25 °C

Today was supposed to be a relaxing day, chilling by the pool and the lagoon; however it appears Chris and I do not know how to relax. We started off well, having a picnic by the hotel pool, but Chris wanted to walk up the sand dunes, saying people seemed to make good progress in not much time.

And so we set off up the dunes, with every step we took up, we fell half a step back down as the sand did not offer any stability. In the end it took us a good half an hour to hike up this dune, stopping for a drink along the way. By this point, the sun was shining and it was about as hot as the day was going to be. When we finally made it to the top, the view across the lagoon was stunning; however not as good as the tourist photos we had seen of the same view. We spent about half an hour at the top, and watched one man run down to the bottom in under a minute. We set off running down the dunes and it is the most fun I think we´ve ever had for free! You feel like you´re really bouncing and you do actually cover quite a distance with each jump. I would completely recommend to anyone running down your local sand dune! I wish we´d known that it was more fun to run down the dune than to board, particularly Mums as that is covered by the insurance.

As Chris got towards the bottom, he became a little too ambitious in his leaps and let out a little yelp, which alerted the Peruvian family at the bottom to turn around just in time to see him land flat on his face, doing a little roll as well. Afterwards, his face was completely covered in sand.

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Chris´ sandy face, not a beard growing!

We headed back to the hotel and went for a swim in the freezing cold pool and laid in the sun for about an hour, before deciding to walk up the sand dune again, just for the fun of running back down. It was just as difficult the second time round walking up, but once again well worth it.

Today, (Monday) we caught the bus to Nasca and headed out to see the Nasca lines. A lot of the tour operators offer flights over the lines for about $100 per person, but apart from them not having a great safety reputation, we had heard that most of the lines are too small to see from the height the plane goes to, and so we headed out to the Mirador viewing platform, which as you´ll see on facebook once I´ve downloaded the pictures is actually just a scaffolding tower in the middle of nowhere.

The lines themselves just looked like someone had driven over a muddy field with a motorbike. I was glad we had at least gone to the viewing platform, but Chris would have happily skipped them.

We caught a public bus to this platform, and planned to do the same going back; however the first bus which went past said it had no seats. The next bus was due in 20 minutes, although a French tourist bus had spare seats and offered us a lift back to Nasca. Does this count as hitchiking?

Tonight, we´re getting the bus to Arequipa at 10pm. It takes about 10 hours to get to Arequipa so here´s to hoping for a good night´s sleep. We got the last couple of seats on the bus, unsuprisingly next to the toilets. Yay..... Must book the next bus a little earlier next time!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 16:54 Archived in Peru Tagged bus sand dunes nasca huacachina nasca_lines Comments (0)

Las bodégas

Saturday 10th August

sunny 25 °C

Saturday 10th August

Today we actually took it fairly easy. We took a taxi to the pisco vineyards just outside Ica. The first vineyard, el Catador, is a small old fashioned vineyard which continues to use more traditional methods to produce the famous Peruvian drink. Although made with grapes, pisco is more of a spirit and is 44% alcohol.

We were given a private tour by a local who told us all about the pisco and how they make it in their vineyard. His English was really good, and he seemed to like being able to ask us things to help improve his English, which I think is great. We also spent about 5 minutes talking in Spanish which was brilliant and I reckon Chris enjoyed the quiet time to his own thoughts while we discussed the differences between Castellano (Spanish spoken in Spain) and South American Spanish.

After the tour, we were given about 5 samples of pisco to try. I said that I thought one was fruitier than the other and the man liked the word fruitier so much that he had me translate it into Spanish for him as an example and write it down for him. He says he's going to use that.

We headed off to the next vineyard Tacama, which is an industrial vineyard. Here we were taken on a tour which turned out to be completely in Spanish. (More daydreaming time for Chris.) After this tour, we were given a few wines to taste and another shot of pisco. There was also a dance display with a woman and a horse. The horse was actually dancing! It was so cute. I've got a video on my camera, which I'll try to upload to Facebook.

In the afternoon we booked our bus on Monday to the Nasca lines for the day and the night bus to Arequipa. Tomorrow We are spending the day at Huacachina and will spend the night in a 3 star(!!) hotel.

On a general note about our travels, today we had some washing hanging up to dry in our room, and the lovely lady who owns the hotel took it outside to dry it for us while we were out. Better still, Chris has reduced the amount of washing I will need to do in the future by losing his fleece (which a bird pooped on yesterday). This is why he's not allowed the passports....

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:42 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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