A Travellerspoint blog

Awkward Conversations

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Disclaimer: We have skipped a blog post for our 2 days back in Cusco as on the way home from MP I started to feel unwell, by the time we arrived back in Cusco I was on deaths door. There was very little to write about as I was in bed with flu and poor Lynden ran around getting me medicine and soup for 2 days.

Getting out of bed was still hard today as I wasn’t feeling any better and the medicine the doctor had prescribed had given me the weirdest restless dreams. Luckily we had an 389km coach journey down to Puno, where I slept most of the way.

We spent a low key evening in Puno gathering groceries for our upcoming home stay with a local family on an island on lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake in the world).

Feeling a little better we headed outside into the rain and boarded a tuk-tuk with no roof and drove down to the docks in the wind and cold. Sure enough I was back to feeling terrible by the time we arrived. We boarded the slowest boat ever and chugged along the lake for about an hour until we found the floating villages. These things were insane, mainly entirely of reeds tied on top of each other, with reed huts build on top of that for the families to live in. The locals don’t wear shoes and the floor is like you would expect - soggy rotting grass, so it doesn’t smell the best and every step you struggle to keep your balance.

The tour of the village was very quick, as there were only 6 identical huts per village. We then had the chance to try on their local dress...definitely not a fashion we will be taking back home with us!

From the village we had a 2.5hr boat ride to an island for lunch, where I slept the entire way, which didn’t really make me feel any better. When we arrived, our guide claimed the trout we would be having for lunch would be the best we would ever have...we can confirm the fish in Aus is better!

After lunch it was another hour on the boat over to the next island, which would be our home for the night. At the docks we were greeted by our host families (who didn’t speak English) and then taken to the local school (followed by the local band) where the gringos vs the locals at soccer. Our team actually didn’t do too bad, considering they had never played at altitude before - they even won a couple of games! After the game we were all dressed up in traditional clothing (still not a fashion ild wear back home) and attempted a traditional dance - thankfully it was mainly just turning and side stepping - so I think we nailed it!

That evening we had dinner with our host families and Lynden and I realised we knew even less Spanish than we thought, after saying hello and introducing ourselves we didn’t have any relevant vocab to have a conversation. Thankfully they had an 18 month old called Marco, so we mainly just talked to him in random Spanish words that we knew.

In the morning, the language barrier awkwardness continued at breakfast. Our guide had told the family I wasn’t well so they didn’t really let us help with the daily chores. We washed up and peeled potatoes and then were sent for a rest, we came back, peeled more potatoes, went for a walk and then had a final quiet awkward lunch. We did try and make conversation but our family mainly just smiled and say si. After lunch we were sent for another rest, where we sat in our room and waited until it was time to leave. We couldn’t get back to our slow boat quick enough! On the way back we had the chance to jump in the lake. Of course Lynden was all for it and jumped off the highway point of the boat, he quickly realised it was freezing cold and got straight back out.

Back on the mainland I was still feeling horrendous, so the doctor was called to come and see me again, he advised I had bronchitis so needed a new concoction of medication to make me better. So off to bed I went and stayed for the evening, with poor Lynden having to run around again to get me medicine and soup.

Tomorrow we make the 8 hour coach trip to La Paz and into Bolivia.

Posted by sdyzart 15:19 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes mountains lakes honeymoon travel southamerica mrandmrs

Following the Path of The Incas

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The day had finally arrived, it was time to start our 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. Luckily we had a fleet of around 30 porters who would be carrying our tents, food and sleeping bags, plus 2.5kg of our personal belongings (which equates to a few t-shirts, clean underwear, toothbrush and maybe a spare jumper). We just needed to carry our water, snacks, camera and waterproofs. Even though we would only be carrying around 4kg-8kg each (the porters carry 25kg each), we were still nervous about the hike ahead.

To get to KM82 (the start of the Inca trail) we first had to travel nearly 2 hours by bus to the town of Ollantaytambo, which was a gorgeous little colonial town in the Sacred Valley. We had the afternoon here to relax, explore and shop and a few of us decided to get a last minute mini training hike in and climbed the steps at the edge of the town to see some of the Incan ruins that were nestled in the mountain side. That evening after our big hearty meal and a large glass of wine, we all got an early night, the last good nights sleep we expected to have that week.

Up early, we grabbed our day bags and boarded onto the bus to head to KM82, which is where we met our guides Charlie and Marco, our leaders for the next 4 days and finally got to see just how huge the bags were that the porters carried. We instantly felt guilty for them having to carry our stuff (the oldest porter was 72!) but then we saw them pretty much sprint off, giant bags and all and it was obvious they were much fitter and used to the altitude than all of us combined.

Now it was our turn…

Day 1
We had 11km to cover and approx. 5.5 hours to do it. The first part was a slow incline from around 2650m to 2750m above sea level. The weather was good and we had a beautiful 2 course lunch prepared by the porters in T’arayoc before then doing some steep hiking to 3100m above sea level. It was around lunch time that the weather changed and down came the rain. The only up side to this is that it made us hike quicker and we arrived into camp nearly an hour early, but we then had to sit in our 2 person tents until dinner time. So it wasn’t a very eventful evening. The porters cooked up another tasty meal – quinoa soup, followed by chicken stir-fry with rice and hot tea. We when all tucked up in our sleeping bags before 9pm absolutely shattered.

Day 2
Great it’s raining and everything in the tent feels cold and damp – hooray. But there was no time to cry about that because today was going to be the hardest day of the hike and we were all dreading it. Today we had 12km of hiking to complete, climbing from 3100m to Dead Woman’s Pass at 4215m and then a very steep downhill hike to 3850m above sea level. It was cold, cloudy, windy and wet and we had 7 hours of hiking to get to camp. Our guide recommended we get up earlier and hike all the way and have lunch at camp, so we got day 2 done and dusted. By this stage we had all found our hiking rhythm and naturally split into 3 groups / hiking paces. I am proud to say, even though we are the oldest, Lynden and I were in the lead group. We powered off after an epically huge breakfast and reached the first resting point 20 minutes earlier than our guide expected. This gave us a boost and we excitedly hiked on and managed to reach the second resting point in 58 minutes instead of 2 hours. After a round of high fives, celebratory selfies and the boys purchasing a bottle of rum from a small refreshments stand, we wanted to push on and continue the climb to Dead Woman’s Pass (named purely because it looks like a dead woman’s profile…if you REALLY use your imagination). Lynden was also super motivated by this point, as we could see the path to the summit, but mainly because the profile included what looked like a boob with a giant nipple on it, so his goal was to reach that. Onwards and upwards we went into the cloud and mist and before we knew it we had reached the summit and in all honestly we couldn’t really believe it, but another tour guide confirmed that we had completed the worst of the climb and now we just had the steep hike down to camp.

Going down was harder than going up, our knees were sore and the rocks were steep and slippery, it slowed our pace a little but not by much and Lynden and I reached camp at 11.45am (finishing the days hiking in just 4hr 5min). We were thrilled and just as we arrived at camp the skies opened up and down came the rain. As we had arrived to camp so early, the porters were still setting up, so we managed to pile 5 of us into a 2 person tent to play UNO – which got sweaty and smelly very quickly. As it got closer to lunch time and more of our group arrived, we were able to take over the food tent and spent most of the afternoon in there playing cards and talking about the hike we had all just completed.

Due to the rain once again, the afternoon confined us to our tents, but everyone was exhausted, so we all welcomed the down time to rest. After an early dinner, we all happily got an early night as tomorrow was going to be a long day!

Day 3
We woke up AND it was still wet and rainy. Today we had 16km to cover and 9 hours to complete it in. The elevation to start with was small, just a 300m climb to 3900m above sea level and then an almost flat walk to lunch before a steep hike down to 2600m above sea level. Having powered through yesterday, today we took a more chilled approached and as the weather was a tiny bit better we were able to appreciate some of the views down over the valleys (which made a nice change from just looking at cloud). When we reached our lunch stop the sun was out, FINALLY and wow did we get a lunch – it was more like a degustation – the porters had gone all out with the most amazing dishes and then to top it all off they bought out a honeymoon / birthday cake for us and one of the girls in our group. It was a pretty impressive cake – especially considering they had baked it in a pot over a camp stove and decorated it in a tent on the side of a mountain.

Another reason we had to hike slower today is because this was the historic part of the trip, as we walked pass and through so many Incan ruins and each one was different, so our guide had tons of information to give us. The most impressive ruin was just outside of camp, a huge structure built into the side of the mountain and easily 300 steps from top to bottom. The photos don’t do it justice or convey just how big it was, but we were all pretty impressed and we knew this would be nothing compared to Machu Picchu!

Finally reaching camp in the sun, it was lovely not to have to hide away in our tents again. The porters bought around our daily bowl of warm water to freshen up in (they did this every AM when we woke up and every PM when we arrived at camp), we had a simple dinner and got an even earlier night, as tomorrow was the big day and we had to get up in the middle of the night to start hiking!

Day 4
The alarm went off at 3am, up we got and dressed in the dark with just a mini flashlight to help us find our clothes. At 3.30am we were having breakfast and just before 4am we were starting our hike in the dark to queue at the checkpoint to get into the sun gate. The checkpoint doesn’t open until 5.30am, but we were one of the first groups to arrive, so what did we do to kill the hour while we waited…played 10 player UNO by flashlight. It actually made the time fly by (we are all super brutal at this stage when we play) and it wasn’t long before we were through the checkpoint and making our way to the sungate, aka the ‘entrance’ to Machu Pichu. It was a 4km hike and we were all so excited, but it felt like forever to get there. One of the final parts before you enter Machu Pichu is what the guides call ‘the gringo killers’, a VERY steep set of steps. Lynden and I were first to climb them and our guide told us to take our time and not race…so of course we did the complete opposite and ran up them, trying to be faster than each other. It wasn’t a bad tactic as we got them over and done with within less than a minute.

It was then just a short walk until we were at Machu Pichu, we walked along the path, all of us excited and exhausted and ready to see this amazing wonder of the world. When we finally got there…all we could see was heavy cloud and not a bloody thing. Of course we were all devastated, but our guide said this was very normal at this time in the morning (it wasn’t even 8am yet). So we walked out of the Machu Picchu grounds and settled in at the overpriced café just outside and waited.

About 1.5 hours and 2 decent cups of tea later our guide returned and said it was time! So back inside we went and back along the path we walked, hoping that this time when we got to see the first glimpse of Machu Picchu, there was something more than cloud. OMG we were not disappointed, this mystical stone city lay in front of us, nestled amongst the mountain peaks. Bigger and more beautiful than anything we could imagine. It was hard not to cry at the incredible sight that laid before us. At this point our poor guide lost all control of us, as we went into photo and selfie taking mode, we all wanted a million photos from this view point. He finally rounded us all up again and got our attention and took us on a guided tour through some of the most impressive parts of the city. The skills the Incas had when it came to buildings, plumbing, construction was unreal. Our guide said that today archeologists and experts still don’t understand how the Incas were able to build Machu Picchu, man today doesn’t have the same skills as these people once did.
I think we could have spent all day walking around this place and learning about the Incas, but by 12pm, the fact that we hadn’t showered in 4 days and smelt half sweaty and half damp hit home and we needed to say goodbye to Machu Picchu and return to reality.

After a lunch in a proper restaurant rather than a tent with beer and wine rather than coca tea, we dragged ourselves to the station to make our way back to Cusco and a hot shower. The train journey was a few hours and probably the fanciest looking train I have ever been on, which made us feel even more dirty, but it was nothing that cards and UNO couldn’t help us forget!

Back in Cusco, it was a fight for a shower and then an early night and unfortunately I think I am getting sick.

Posted by sdyzart 06:40 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains skylines people honeymoon travel peru inca southamerica mrandmrs

Hiking Rainbow Mountain

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Well the overnight bus into Cusco was horrendous – the roads were so bumpy and winding that we all got very little sleep. Good news was that when we arrived in Cusco we were able to check into out hostel straight away – hooray.

We loved Cusco from the moment we arrived, so much so that I only took 1 photo of the place! Our afternoon was spent exploring the main square, visiting the market and eating the most epic lunch at a place called Jacks (so epic that we went back there 4 times in a 2 day period).

Our Machu Picchu hike is now only a few days away and although we are experiencing the altitude we haven’t actually done any hikes this high up. So while in Cusco we signed up to hike Rainbow Mountain, a 3.5 hour hike (each way) which would take us to 5000m above sea level (a similar maximum height that we would reach while on the Inca trail).

So guess what, we got up at 4am and drove out into the mountains and hiked up Rainbow Mountain in the cold, wind, rain and snow. Was it hard? Hell yes! But did we do it? Hell yes! Was it worth it? Absolutely! The altitude, muddy/snowy ground meant we had to step carefully but it certainly was an exhausting achievement. The mountain itself was more earth tones than rainbow – but it was nothing that a good insta filter couldn’t fix! From there our group then took it one step further and hiked over to Red Valley, which had a stunning view across the snowy mountains and over the green and red valley (Personally I thought this was more beautiful that Rainbow Mountain).

Back at the bottom, we defrosted in the van and made the 2.5 hour drive back to Cusco. That evening we all felt pretty proud of ourselves and a little more confident that the 4-day hike ahead of us to Machu Picchu wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

Next stop Ollantaytambo to start the Inca Trail. Eek!

Posted by sdyzart 09:11 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes mountains skylines snow honeymoon travel peru southamerica mrandmrs

Sacrifices and Australia Day

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We were back in Arequipa for just over 24 hours, but it was Australia Day so we had to make the most of it!

First thing we did was sleep in – FINALLY! Then after a healthy breakfast I headed to the Museo Santuarios Andios, which is home to the frozen mummy of "Juanita," who was sacrificed in the Andes in the 1500s. The history of the Incas was fascinating and also horribly sad, as children were a common sacrifice to the gods then. The most beautiful and healthiest of children were chosen and then taken on a pilgrimage into the mountains (which often took months) where they were then given as an offering to the gods in an attempt to appease them, hoping to ensure a good harvest or stop a natural disaster.

Juanita would have been between 12-15 years old when she made her pilgrimage, from what they found with her body on the mountain (baby shoes, bowls, gold and silver statues) it was believed that she would be reborn as a god and these items would help her in her next life. Even if she did believe this, I still can’t begin to think what must have been going through her mind as she trekked in the freezing cold and high altitude to her death.

When they reached the summit, there was a ceremony and she was dressed in the most lavish of clothing and gowns. It was believed by this point most of the children were close to death anyway from the hike itself and wouldn’t have been very coherent (you hope this was the case), but as part of the ceremony they were also given chicha (an alcoholic drink made from corn) to sedate them. After this Juanita was sat down in a burial hole and surrounded by the offerings, more blankets were placed around her and one final one over her head. I hope by this point she was unconscious, because to complete the sacrifice she was then struck on the head to kill her and then buried. It was heart breaking to hear her story and then see her mummy at the end of the tour. After the museum we were all ready for a stiff drink to shake off the sombre feeling that we all had.

Within the 90 minutes we had been at the museum, the boys had managed to find a pub and were already in full swing celebrating Australia Day. Over the next few hours the entire group ended up at this pub and this was where we stayed for nearly 6 hours, eating burgers and chilli fries, making our way through the drinks menu and becoming best friends with the owner; until we had to return to our hostel to get our bags and head to catch an overnight bus to Cusco! Our guide wasn’t best pleased when many of us turned up a little merrier and louder than usual, so we all got a short telling off before quietly boarding the bus.

Next stop Cusco!

Posted by sdyzart 16:32 Archived in Peru Tagged people children honeymoon peru arequipa inca juanita southamerica mrandmrs

Alpaca, Llama and Vicuña

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And we are off again, this time taking the coach 3 hours north to Chivay to see Colca Canyon. It was a beautiful drive, the snowy mountains above and the lush green valleys below, it was like something on a postcard and the photos just don’t do it justice! Along the way we stopped to take photos of the gorgeous landscape, which is where my llama selfie obsession began. All the way through the mountains we came across alpaca, llama and vicuña and I already have hundreds of photos of them. Vicuña are protected in Peru and are all wild, they are also the most valuable, as their hair is incredibly soft (it is 7 times thinner than human hair and grows very slowly). Every year the locals from the nearby towns round up all Vicuña and shear them, so their wool can make VERY expensive clothing. They are then tagged and cannot be sheared again until two years later. Also if you hit one by accident with your car, you can be sent to prison! Llama’s are the white ones with the long faces and are most commonly used for wool and alpacas…well they are also used for their wool, but sadly these are also the ones the locals eat too. All of them are gorgeous though and the llamas’ and alpaca LOVE a selfie.

As we drove through Colca Canyon we climbed to around 3270m above sea level and it was time to test out the coca leaves. The locals from Arequipa and higher all chew, suck or drink coca leaves in some form to help them with altitude sickness and give them energy. Our guide assured us that this was completely save and the leaves would not affect us in the same way the white powder would (unless we consumed around 50kg of it within a 30 minute period). Lynden has already successfully mastered chewing the leaves, I failed miserable on the first attempt and ended up with a mouthful of mush, so am opting to stick to the tea and candy. They also have this delightful stuff called Agua de Florida, which smells like lemon toilet cleaner, but inhaling a few drops rubbed between your hands, clears your headache within seconds. However even with all of these and drinking lots of water, most of us all still felt the altitude and at the higher lookout points, we had to take it much slower to stop ourselves from feeling worse.

Early afternoon we arrived in the town of Chivay, our home for the night. After a short rest we all got back on that bloody bus again, but this time it was just to take us 10 minutes down the road to spend the afternoon at some natural hot springs. It certainly was a treat for the sore muscles after all those long bus journeys. The temperature outside was around 18 degrees, so we were quick to jump into the first pool which was 34 degrees and slowly we worked our way up to the 38 degree pool, which many of us ended up standing up in rather than sitting in because it was too hot! Just as it was time for us to leave, we started to hear thunder in the distance and then suddenly the skies opened up and it was pouring with rain, which then turned to hail stones. None of us had bought a change of clothes for our wet bathers, so had to run back to the bus through the hail stones with just a towel wrapped around us. It was not a pleasant way to end a relaxing afternoon.

Back at our hotel, we cranked up the heater and curled up in bed under 3 blankets to warm up (it’s a very different climate here to Arequipa). For dinner we were reluctantly dragged away from our warm beds and down into the town for food and to be entertained by a local band and see some traditional dances. Now the band was great, but the dancing was peculiar. Each dance told a story, the first we worked out easily – it was about planting and harvesting crops, the next dance dumbfounded us all though. The man wore what looked like a wrestling mask and a farmers hat and he chased the lady around trying to get her to eat an apple. Then he caught her and maybe knocked her out we think, then to try and wake her he whipped her…then the rolls were reversed but this time the man got whipped, but it finished with the lady putting her skirt over his head and kind of sitting on his face…we are still not sure what story they were trying to tell with that one.

In the morning (after a night of very weird trippy dreams, thanks to the altitude) we had another early start to drive further into Colca Canyon to try and spot condors. We were incredibly lucky to see a juvenile on the rock face and then 2 adults flying quite close overhead. After this, we completed our first short altitude walk, it only took us about 30 minutes, but we got to see what kind of pace we would have to do for Machu Picchu – unsurprisingly, the pace will be SLOW. Before we headed back to Arequipa we made 2 final stops, one at the highest point (4910m above sea level), where we all just about had the energy and breath to get out, take a few photos, get back on the coach and fall asleep. And the last at the small town of Maca to see the Santa Ana church, a gorgeous white colonial church from the 16th Century and to get 5 more llama/alpaca selfies.

Next stop Arequipa again!

Posted by sdyzart 19:48 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains honeymoon travel peru colca_canyon southamerica mrandmrs

Altitude Sickness Here We Come!

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After a bumpy night on the bus we arrived in Arequipa, where we reluctantly got off the bus and straight on to another, thankfully it was for only 25 minutes to get us to our hotel. As it was only 8am we weren’t able to check in, so off we went into the town to find breakfast. After a good feed and some well needed tea to wake us up, we went for a short walking tour of the main square and to a local market.

At the market we got to taste some of the weird and wonderful local fruits from Peru, none of which we remember the names of, but they were mostly all nice. At the market we also found cheese and the most amazing fresh olives (our kryptonite) so we bought ½ kilo of olives and ½ a wheel of cheese and headed back to the hotel to play cards and feast on our market purchases. 5 hours later, Lynden and his new found drinking buddy Shane were still sat playing cards and drinking the local bottle shop dry.

Arequpia is 2335m above sea level and surrounded by 3 gigantic volcanoes - Misti (which is 5,822m above sea level) and mount Chachani and Pichu Pichu, which means the air is considerably thinner here and we all started to experience our first taste of what altitude sicknesses may be like. At the moment, we are finding we have to occasionally take deeper breaths and walking and talking takes a bit of effort. So going for a run was never going to be an easy thing, I managed 2km but had to call it quits after that due to the thin air and the streets being so busy with locals.

That evening we all headed to a local ‘potato restaurant’, where we got to eat 7 different types of potato (Peru produces around 3500 different varieties), Lynden also tried alpaca for the first time…I stuck with chicken.

As soon as we got back from dinner, everyone headed straight to bed to get a good nights sleep, as we had an early start the next morning to make our way up to Chivay for Colca Canyon.

Posted by sdyzart 17:11 Archived in Peru Tagged markets honeymoon peru arequipa potatoes southamerica mrandmrs

Drinking Baby Makers and Flying High

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At 10am we boarded our coach and made the 4 hour drive south towards Ica and the Huacachina Winery. The drive went surprisingly quick and we reached our first stop within 3.5 hours. As it was approaching lunchtime, everyone was ready to do some wine and pisco tasting. After a quick tour and explanation of how the pisco is made, we settled down to work our way through the tastings. At 41% the pure pisco tasted something similar to Sambuca, which I hated and Lynden ended up having to do double shots of. What we did like though was the crème liquor and the rosé that the winery produced (named the baby maker) and of course that meant we had to buy a bottle of each!

After a very boozy liquid lunch, it was time to get back on the coach and continue our drive south. An hour later we arrived in Ica at an Oasis in the middle of some sand dunes. Unfortunately the natural oasis has been turned into a tourist attraction so it isn’t as beautiful as it would have once been. The group then had the option to go sand boarding or stay at the local resort and chill in the pool. The 3 couples all decided it needed to be a pool day, so we kicked back and watched the rest of group head off to get sandy. Lunch at the resort was a ridiculous size (as we have found with most meals since we arrived in Peru) the plates were piled high with the local cuisine and 1 plate could easily have fed 3 people. One of the most popular dishes in Peru is called ‘Salta Lomato’ which is beef tenderloins stir fried with capsicum, onion and tomato and then served with rice AND fries. We have been salta lomato’ed out since we arrived, so opted to have mixed kebabs (which still came with rice) and then beef wrapped in bacon served with vegetables. The total cost of our lunch inc a large beer came to just $30 – bargain!

After lunch our drive continued into the town of Nasca, where we would be staying for the night. When we arrived at our hotel, it was like walking into an abandoned ranch from the 80’s and we were all convinced we were staying in a horror movie and would one by one be murdered over the evening. However it was quiet, the rooms were huge, there was hot water and a fan, so we couldn’t really complain. We all had dinner together in the creepy empty dining room, even though we were all still stuffed for lunch. I ordered the omelet, which shock horror was served on top of a giant bed of rice. The rest of the evening was filled with card games and Lynden and I drinking our way through both the bottles we bought from the winery.

In the morning, we were up early to take a private flight ride over the Nasca lines, which I can only describe as the Inca’s versions of the chalk horses in England. Very little is known about the lines, but there are more than 300 white picture drawings around the region. Our plane was tiny and only held 6 passengers and 2 pilots, we were both excited to take the flight, but within about 10 minutes we all started to feel like we were taking a ride in a red arrows stunt plane. The pilot wanted everyone to see the drawings, so he would fly past and say ‘ok the monkey is on the right’ and then tip the plane almost sideways so we were looking down directly over it, then he would say ‘ok now the monkey is on the left’ and do what felt like a hand brake turn and then tip the plane again. We saw 12 of the Nasca line drawings and in between drawings I had to close my eyes and try to meditate to stop myself from throwing up all over everyone. Lynden said he looked over at me at one point and I was white as a sheet and had sweat pouring down my face BUT I wasn’t sick, unlike 3 of the other people sat behind me, so I did feel pretty proud of myself for surviving the flight. However the motion sickness exhausted me and I had to go back and sleep it off. I am glad I took the flight and saw the lines from above, but you are never getting me back in that plane again!

For lunch, the ranch cooked a traditional highland style meal, which was prepared by digging a hole in the ground, filling it with rocks and a fire, leaving it for 2 hours to get hot, adding the meats, potatoes and vegetables and slow cooking for approx. 40 minutes. The results…ummm dry meat, semi-cooked potatoes, bland corn and a burnt green bean…it was edible, an interesting experience and thank god not a rice grain in sight, but I don’t think we would opt to eat it again.

At 3pm we all headed to a cemetery…yes it sounds like a weird one, but this was a 600-1000 year old Inca cemetery, which was home to approx. 15 preserved mummies. It was nothing like we imagined, it was literally a desert, as all the tombs were buried underground, but sadly grave robbers had destroyed most of the tombs, stolen the valuables and just left the mummies. Unfortunately left exposed to the elements they have begun to deteriorate, even with the sun and wind shades that have been constructed to try and preserve them. The history was still fascinating to learn about the Incas traditions and rituals though and their mummification process - in short they cut the tendons on the arm and behind the knee (which drained the blood from the body and allowed them to be sat in the fetal position), then they were sat on a weaved rope base and covered in herbs (to keep the insects away), clay and sand, then wrapped in blankets and had a rope robe stitched around them and placed into the tomb.

After a very busy day, we returned to the ranch, freshened up, grabbed our bags and headed into the town to board the night bus and make the 10 hour overnight journey South.

Next stop Arequipa.

Posted by sdyzart 06:39 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes honeymoon travel peru nasca ica southamerica

A Visit to Poo Island

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We finally made it to back to Lima! We arrived at our hotel just as our tour group briefing was beginning, so thankfully even with the 28 hour delay we didn’t miss anything. For the next 21 days we will be a group of 19 travelling together from Lima to La Paz.

After a good nights sleep in Lima (finally in a room with a fan! whoop whoop) and a lazy morning, we made the 3 hour drive down to Paracas. Our guide (Jesus) had said we were going on a ‘public bus’, so in all of our minds we were expecting a mini van, too many people and some chickens. BUT what we actually got was a pretty swanky coach, with comfy reclining seats, snacks, an onboard bathroom and movies – it certainly wasn’t a bad way to travel!

Paracas is on the coast, so we arrived into a sea-side town to find water front restaurants and lots of souvenir shops. We had a short wander around, watched the sunset and then had a group dinner together at a roof top restaurant. Our group is a great mix of nationalities – 3 Aussies, 1 Kiwi, 2 Irish, 5 English, 4 Scandinavian, 2 European, 1 Canadian and our Peruvian guide. There are 3 couples in the group (which we were relieved about) and ages range from 22 to mid 30’s, so we are excited for a pretty fun trip ahead.

The next morning a small group of us headed to the harbour to visit the Ballastas Islands, which is a national reserve approx. 30 min by boat from shore. We learnt once we had boarded and set sail that they island is also known as ‘poo island’ due to the number of birds that are there and wowzers it certainly lived up to it’s name! It smelt horrendous. However it was worth the stink to see all the wildlife – penguins, sealions and Peruvian boobies (which is a type of seabird). There were hundreds of all of them, nearly every inch of the rock formations were covered in some kind of animal.

After sailing around the islands for about an hour we headed back to land and then it was already time to pack our bags and move on to the next place.

Next stop Ica and Nasca.

Posted by sdyzart 16:46 Archived in Peru Tagged animals birds boats honeymoon #travel paracus #southamerica #peru #mrandmra

Monkeys, Mud and Jungle Life

all seasons in one day
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With the way this honeymoon is going, I don’t think we will ever adjust to South American time, as once again we were up at the crack of dawn, this time to catch a short flight over to Puerto Maldonado to see the Amazon Jungle.

Once we landed we had to take a 25 min boat ride up river to get to our lodge and it felt like something out of Indiana Jones. It was nothing but thick jungle either side of us and a brown river in front and behind. When we arrived at our home for the next 5 days we were greeted by a series of small thatched roof huts, dotted around a central lodge and 2 noisy resident macaws.

After we dropped our bags off, there was no time to waste as we were heading into the jungle to check out the local flora and fauna. Before we get to our jungle adventures, I want to set the scene a little of the Amazon:

1) It’s wet and muddy…everywhere and all the time.
2) It’s very very humid.
3) For a hayfever sufferer (aka me), the Amazon is the equivalent to sticking your head in a giant bag of freshly cut grass and pollen.

So taking all the above into consideration, I can confirm that for the last 5 days we have looked hot stinking messes and my nose resembles Rudolphs thanks to my allergies. There is nothing glamorous about this part of our honeymoon!

Our first hike started at the back of the lodge, where we learnt about the local wildlife, dodged giant ants and saw weird and wonderful plants in including one called a Walking Tree, which actually moves so it can get more sunlight (although it only walks about 20cm per year). We also were told that there are lots of poisonous and biting things in the jungle, so we should be careful. Of course Lynden ignored this and every time I turned around he was picking something up or touching something else *sigh*. Shortly after our return at sunset, the skies opened up and it was torrential rain for the next 13 or so hours! Needless to say, we got very little sleep because the rain was so bloody loud.

On day 2 we were off in the boat at 7am in the search of monkeys! Thanks to all the rain, the jungle trek was more like a swamp hike and one serious legs workout! After just 5 minutes of hiking we came across a family of howler monkeys, curled up and sound asleep in a tree. We hiked for about an hour to get to the stream that led to a lake in the middle of the jungle but en route we saw a family of brown capuchin monkeys as well as some incredible looking butterflies in all sorts of colours. We jumped into a boat and headed through the thick over hanging jungle out to the lake and what a morning we had! We saw more brown capuchin monkeys, a family of nearly 200 squirrel monkeys, various birds and then just as we were heading back towards the stream we saw something in the water swimming towards us. It wasn’t long until our eyes adjusted and we realized it was a black caiman. To start with we were excited, but this thing didn’t stop, it swam right up to the boat and then cruised it’s way up and down checking us all out, which became very unnerving. Now when I say boat, I don’t mean speedboat or something that kept us well above the surface of the water, I mean boat as in a small canoe with 6 tourists and 3 guides sat in it. The caiman was about 2.5m long, but you could see it eyeing up each one of us as it moved along the boat. It was clearly trying to suss out how it was going to get its breakfast that morning. As we headed back towards shore (caiman in tow for at least 10 minutes) we continued to see more birds, turtles and another small group of squirrel monkeys.

It felt like we had been out all afternoon, but we were back at the lodge by midday. After lunch and a short rest, it was time to head out again, this time through the jungle to a 47m high viewing platform to spot birds. And again we weren’t disappointed. We saw vultures, a pigmy owl, a toucan, macaws, as well as various parakeets and parrots. The wildlife safari didn’t stop there either, when we got back to the lodge, we had an hour to freshen up and then it was back out on the boat at dusk to see what nocturnal creatures we could spot. Within about 5 minutes we came across a group of capybara (giant guinea pigs – the largest mammals in the Amazon), followed by white caiman and turtles. It was an exhausting day and we were sound asleep by 9pm!

Day 3 we were up at 5am and hiking into the jungle to a ‘clay lick’, which is a clay wall where the local birds go every AM to eat the clay. They do this to line their stomachs and protect them against all the poisonous berries and insects that they may eat in the Amazon. It was an amazing thing to witness, we arrived just after sunrise, when the jungle was quiet and then slowly as the sun rose we heard the jungle awake. Minute by minute more noises began and soon we started to see birds flying into the distant trees and their chirping begin. We were waiting for the dusky headed parakeet to join us and eventually after lots of chirping and flying from branch to branch they suddenly all descended on the clay lick and the noise was almost deafening. Back at the lodge we had breakfast and then were back out in the boat again, this time to a local farm where we got to try various jungle fruits, none of which we had ever heard of and most of which we didn’t like the taste of, but we did get to see a family of night monkeys curled up in a bamboo tree and hold a macaw. From there we visited a traditional Amazonian tribe, where we tried shooting a bow and arrow, attempted (and failed) to spin cotton and watched the tribe leader start a fire. By lunchtime we were exhausted and luckily there were no activities scheduled for the PM, so we did nothing for most of the afternoon and then got a massage just before dinner.

On day 4, shock horror we were up at 4.30am (they do love their early starts here) and headed out on the boat again, this time to do a tree top canopy walk. The suspension bridge to get up to the viewing platform would have failed every health and safety requirement back home. That thing was old, rickety and I seriously expected to die while I was climbing up! Luckily the death trap held out and we spent the next few hours looking out over the tops of the trees for birds and watching a very lazy family of howler monkeys sleeping (they didn’t get up until 9.30am). The canopy walk is built within an animal refuse center, so we also were able to see up close some of the animals that were in rehabilitation and waiting to be released back into the wild. It was mainly monkeys and birds but they did also have a puma – which we must have been no more than a meter away from when we got to her enclosure. She was huge and looked pretty pissed off to have us stood there looking at her. As the refuse center is in the middle of the jungle it naturally attracts wildlife (who come to steal food) so as well as the captive animals we also got to see more howlers monkeys and 2 adorable little tamarin monkeys (Lynden wanted to keep one) up close. Our afternoon was spent in the pool (even when the dark clouds rolled in and the skies opened up), we just stayed in the water and chilled and then sat at the bar with the 2 barman trying to have a conversation, even though they didn’t really speak English and we don’t really speak Spanish. BUT we were there for 2 hours attempting to talk and laughing a lot. Then just when we thought our day couldn’t get any better, our guides points out a pigmy armadillo to us, just behind our room! The jungle has seriously delivered on the animal front.

Day 5 meant it was sadly time to leave the lodge and head back to Puerto Maldonado to get our flight to Lima. Unfortunately when we arrived at the airport, the airline informed us that the flight was cancelled and in short they weren’t going to do anything about it to help us or rebook us on another flight, so we should make alternative arrangements with another airline. There are only 3 flights that leave Puerto Maldonado a day, so of course there were no seats lefts that day, which meant we were stuck in the town for a night, which was very uneventful.

Now we attempt again to take a flight back to Lima to start our 21 day group tour of Peru. Fingers crossed this flight goes ahead!

Posted by sdyzart 07:30 Archived in Peru Tagged trees animals birds monkeys honeymoon travel peru jungle amazon southamerica

The Start Of Our Adventure

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We made it! After a 4am start, 3 flights, 2 transits and nearly 30 hours of travelling, we have finally reached Lima, Peru.

Our hotel is in Miraflores (downtown) and although our bedroom is very small and there is no AC or fan, it is clean and quiet. After a desperately needed shower and a good nights sleep we were ready to explore.

We started the day with the city’s free walking tour where we learnt….very little. I think the only thing we were told that was of interest was that on the monument in the middle of Plaza San Martin, the architects misread the blueprints and instead of putting a crown of flames on lady liberty's head they put a llama (the word for flames in Spanish is 'llama'). You would of thought the architects may of questioned this weird request, but nope they went right ahead and just built it. So in the middle of the plaza you will find a lady with a llama on her head as part of a historical monument representing 100 years of independence in Peru. Oops.

So after trekking over the city for 3 hours and learning nothing, we headed back to the hotel, freshened up and went on ANOTHER tour…this time a gourmet food tour – which was awesome. We ate some amazing local Peruvian dishes (Lynden even tried guinea pig), had our first Pisco Sour (which we weren’t overly keen on) and saw some Incan ruins. We finished the evening off with 4 desserts and then gelato – it was WAY too much food, but was well worth it! We tour ended in Barranco (the party district), where there is a ‘lovers bridge’ and couples have to hold hands and walk across together while holding their breath. If you do this then apparently you will have an eternity of happiness. Well it is pretty bloody hard to walk across the bridge in one breath when it’s packed with people scrolling along and taking selfies. BUT I am pleased to say that we did make it, but we did have to pick up the pace and push through a few people to get to the end.

After sleeping off our food comas, day 2 in Lima was super chilled…or at least it was suppose to be. We woke up at 4.30am, watched a movie, had breakfast and were out the door at 8.30am to go for a ‘stroll’. We started by going to the cat park (obviously!), which is simply a local park full of stray cats, which the locals feed. I was in my element but Lynden wouldn’t let me keep any. Miraflores is also next to the beach, so within 10 minutes we were at the parks edge looking down to the ocean, at which point SOMEONE - not naming any names (Lynden) suggested we walk down the very steep steps to the water. So down we go and start walking along the waterfront. One conclusion that we both drew very quickly is that Lima doesn’t know what a beach is. Their beach is the ocean and a tons of large black peddles and rocks, it doesn’t look appealing BUT people were actually trying to lay on them and sunbath?!? After 30 minutes of walking we hadn’t found any steps to get back up to the town and being stubborn and not wanting to walk back the way we came we decided to keep walking. 6km later we ended up reaching Barranco again and the lovers bridge!

Our guide the night before had recommended a local restaurant in Barranco and so we headed there for lunch and it was a good job we arrived when we did, as when we left the queue to get in was down the road! It wasn’t surprising though as the food was so good, the ceviche was to die for and we had fried octopus, beef tenderloin and Peruvian fries. After a beer and a glass of wine, Lynden also decided he was fluent in Spanish and insisted on practicing on all the restaurant waiters. Once we finished lunch we had to walk it off and ended up walking all the way home. A grand total of an 11km stroll!

Needless to say we were exhausted by the time we got home, so did nothing for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening we ventured back out for a bite to eat and stumbled across most of the population of Lima in the cat park having a dance party in a small amphitheatre in the centre of the park. The dance floor was packed with young and old, the seats were crammed full and then there was even a crowd stood around the outside – it was quite a spectacular scene to watch!

Tomorrow we get up at 4.30am and head back to the airport, next stop Puerto Maldonado for the Amazon Jungle!

Posted by sdyzart 10:54 Archived in Peru Tagged #travel #miraflores #honeymoon #southamerica #peru #ceviche #barranco

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