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Carnaval Carnage!


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Finally our last internal flight, our last time moving hotels and the last destination of our honeymoon.

It got off to a bloody annoying start, we were up at 2.30am and when we got to the airport at 3.15am, we were then informed our flight had been delayed by 3 hours, so we had 5 hours sat in a tiny domestic airport with plastic seats and one cafe that sold only beige fried foods. Luckily we had the laptop loaded with movies so we kept ourselves amused, but the extra 3 hours in bed would have been nice!

Finally the flight took off and 2 hours later we were in Rio, as the plane came in to land we could see all the Carnaval bloccos (street parties) taking place below us (it was only 8.30am).

Luckily when we got to our hotel they let us check straight in and the first thing we did was sleep! Feeling refreshed we made plans with a new friend we had made when we were in Buenos Aires, who also lives in Perth and therefore of course has a mutual friend with Lynden.

The night started off civilised, but of course after a few drinks on a roof top hotel bar overlooking Copacabana, the party was on. We were a group of 5 - Lynden and I, Richie and 2 new friends he had made the day before - Cole and Nick from the USA.

Carnaval is basically a week-long fancy dress party in the streets. There are people everywhere in fluoro and glitter and very little clothing, you basically just have to follow the crowd or the music to find the nearest blocco. As you walk down the street there are locals selling beers from eskies, so everyone is street drinking. We found our first blocco, there was a samba band and everyone was dancing to the live music but we were only there about 30mins when it finished. From here we headed to Copacabana beach, bought some very large and alcoholic caprihina cocktails from a guy with a fold out table and an ice box and went on the hunt for a beach bar. It was at this time that Lynden decided he no longer needed his cast and had Richie cut it off with the fruit knife the guy had used to make our cocktails.

We found a bar, grabbed a table on the sand, hit up the dance floor and ordered another round of drinks. It all gets a bit blurry after that. There was definitely lots of dancing and drinks, and one point the boys were wrestling in the sand and then ended up in the ocean. We met more backpackers from UK and USA and we got home some time around 5am…we think.

Our second day in Rio we spent in bed sleeping off the hangovers! That night though we had tickets to go to the Sambadrome to watch the samba school parades - something we had both wanted to do for years. It had been lightly raining all afternoon, but when we came to leave, it was like Iguazu Falls all over again, I don’t think I have ever seen rain that heavy before! We luckily managed to find a taxi but the rain didn’t show any sign of stopping and as the Sambadrome is open air we were drenched, and we had also got there 2 hours early to make sure we got good seats. When we got to our block to find a seat (which were just concrete steps) it actually looked like a waterfall, you couldn’t sit down for all the rain that was pouring over the edges of each row of seats. Wet and cold we perched on the edge of the front row and prayed for the rain to stop. Slowly it eased off and just before 9pm the rain finally stopped and it meant the parade could begin. The samba parade was like nothing we had ever seen before. For 2 days the 14 main samba schools in Brazil compete at the Sambadrome. Each school has 60-85 minutes to complete their parade, they have 1 song, which is sung live for the entire hour and each parade has about 4000 participants and 4 or 5 floats. The costumes are incredible, the floats are insane and each parade tells a different story. What we didn’t realise when we arrived was that each school had an hour to perform and there were 7 schools that night, so the parade wasn’t going to finish until after 6am!

We stayed until 4am and watched 5 of the parades, my favourite was the second one which told the story of magic and had witches riding cauldrons, frogs, a giant golden raven, beauty & the beast, Jack Sparrow and about a million other crazy things. We absolutely loved being there and experiencing the parades, I wish we had had the energy to stay until the end but we just couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer.

Day 3 we slept all day again and really just had a lazy day. In the evening we met Richie for dinner and then we went home and had an early night #partyanimals

The next day we had set aside for doing all the classic touristy things. We had an incredible view of Christ the Redeemer from our hotel room and we were both desperate to see him up close. We took the bus up first thing in the morning and it was already crowded and hot, but it was so worth it! The views back over Rio were beautiful and the big guy himself was awesome. Another bucket list item ticked off the list! The day was disgustingly hot and we wanted to do Sugarloaf Mountain at sunset, so we went back to the hotel, did a gym work out and just chilled out. We then headed to see the Selaron Steps, which are around 200 steps covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. However when we arrived, we discovered that the steps had been turned into a blocco and we couldn’t see any of them! BUT as we were at a blocco we figured we should get a drink and at least join in a little bit, but we quickly realised these people had been partying for way too long and everyone was just a hot drunk mess.

So it was onwards to Sugarloaf for sunset and that’s where we met up with Richie, Cole and Nick again. Sugarloaf did not disappoint (although it was a cloudy sunset) but watching the city lights all come on once the sun went down was another cool way to see the city. The highlight though was once it was dark we could see Christ the Redeemer in the distance peaking through the cloud looking down on the city. The photos just don’t do it justice!

Tourist items all ticked off, there was only one thing left to do, hit the town for Canavals final party night. First we had an epic sushi dinner and then we jumped on the metro and headed to Gloria as apparently that was where the party was at….but it was dead. We could hear music and see people all heading in the same direction, so we followed and eventually we walked into the biggest street party ever. It was insane, every bar was playing their music as loud as possible, the streets were packed, the floor was filthy and it smelt like stale beer and pee. We found a quieter bar to regroup and then we headed into the madness once more and into a club where we drank and danced and laughed and just had the best final night together. Lynden also decided at some time close to 4am that he should buy a bottle of vodka and some red bulls – probably the most expensive round ever and by that stage we had drunk so much that none of us really wanted to drink it, luckily the bar had no issue with us taking the half empty bottle home with us. We think we got home around 5am again, but in all honestly we have no clue.

Once again we slept all morning but at 1pm the boys all headed over to our hotel so we could have a pool and sauna afternoon, so for the next few hours we did very little other than chill in the water or sit in the sauna trying to sweat out the alcohol. It was then time to say goodbye for the last time and go our separate ways. We packed our bags for the final time, checked out of our hotel, grabbed a quick dinner and then was picked up by our chauffer and taken to the airport to fly home business class, which is the final highlight of our trip.

So this brings us to the end of our 8 week honeymoon, there has been so many amazing adventures and experiences that we will never forget. Our highlights though:

1 – Peru tour, where we met amazing new friends and conquered Machu Picchu
2 – Easter Island (inc the accidental upgrade to business class)
3 – Our private wine tour in Mendoza
4 – Iguazu Falls (minus the boat tour)
5 – Carnaval – Sambadrome, Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain and Bloccos
6 – The lifetime of memories this trip has given us and all the new friends we have made.

Now it’s time to head back home to Perth and back to reality.

Posted by sdyzart 12:10 Archived in Brazil Tagged parades honeymoon travel carnaval party carnival celebrations brazil brasil rio south_america copacabana christ_the_redeemer southamerica bloccos sugarloaf_mountain

100% wet


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So you would have thought we would be use to the early starts by now, but nope we still hated rolling out of bed in the early hours to catch our next flight. But a few hours later we had landed and the taxi driver was dropping us off at the Iguazu National Park and we were ready to see us some water!

First thing we wanted to do was book tickets to do the river tour and see the falls up close, but they saw Lynden with his cast coming from a mile away and said absolutely no way was he allowed on the boat. We were both gutted, because it was something we both really wanted to do. Lynden insisted I still do it and he would go and explore one of the hiking tracks, then grab us some lunch and meet me back at the tour desk.

So off I go, completely unprepared it turned out for what I had just signed myself up for. I took my rain jacket with me because I figured there was a good chance I could get wet, so given we were there all day the rain jacket would mean I wouldn’t have to walk around in potentially damp clothes. Well 5 minutes into the truck ride down there, where the guide not only tells us we may need to stop and help move giant low hanging poisonous spiders out of the way (?!?!) she says to us ‘You will get 100% wet on this tour’…sorry what? She then proceeds to tell us that after we take some photos of the falls the boat will drive us directly into them…are you fricking kidding me! So here I am, hair done, makeup on and wearing t-shirt and leggings and as I look around I see EVERYONE else is in their bathers. I’m screwed and then it is too late, I have a life jacket on and they are handing me a dry bag for cameras and I’m wondering how much of my body I can fit in there instead and how the hell am I going to avoid 100% wet. Well I can tell you, when you take the boat tour at Iguzu Falls you cannot avoid 100% wet.

Here I am, sat on a row by myself, fully dressed and wearing a rain poncho, with 25 other people in their swimwear. I looked like a bloody idiot and I know this because people kept turning around and actually looking at me. I had sensibly removed my shoes, socks and hat and locked them in the dry bag, I attempted to roll up my leggings and pull my rain jacket over my knees in a desperate attempt to stay somewhat dry and I had pulled tight the draw string on the hood, so I resembled Kenny from South Park. Well the effort was a big fat waste of time, because a rain jacket is not designed to be driven at speed through one of the worlds biggest waterfalls.

The tour delivered on exactly what it promised, I was indeed 100% wet. The water had gone straight through the top of the rain jacket but somehow not out the other side, so it was sat inside the jacket in pools of water, I only realised this once we were out of the falls and I attempted to move, only to tip the cold water in my sleeves all down the inside of my jacket and on to my lap. As you can imagine I was less than amused and people continued to look back at the idiot who thought she could stay dry on a waterfalls tour. Back on dry land, everyone else grabbed their towels, dried off and put on clothes…I on the other hand squelched all the way back up the 250 steeps to the truck and sat in a puddle waiting to leave.

The great thing about Argentina though is that it’s hot and sunny, so by the time I reached Lynden 30 minutes later I looked somewhat human again and was already drying off.

While I had been drowning, Lynden had made it all the way around one of the hiking tracks, taken nearly 100 photos of the falls, bought lunch and had been waiting for me to return for nearly 45 minutes.

Once I was back we only had 3 hours left at Iguazu before our taxi picked us up, so we jumped straight on the tram and took it up to see the top of the falls. I hate it say it, but I wasn’t overly impressed, yes the falls are big and the crashing water is loud but it just didn’t do anything for me. It was also insanely crowded, which definitely took away from the beauty of it. The map said we needed 2.5 hours to do the top of the falls, but we were done within an hour.

We decided to re do the hike Lynden had done in the morning, as he said it had some beautiful photo opportunities, the walk through the jungle was cool and it wasn’t too crowded. And he wasn’t wrong! The falls looked amazing from down below, the mist created a rainbow at every waterfall and the jungle surrounding them looked like something off of Indiana Jones. We went a little bit crazy with the selfies because we could, without someone pushing past us like at the top. We also just stood and enjoyed nature for a while.

One of the other things I forgot to mention is that Iguazu has coatis everywhere, which are similar to racoons. They look so cute but have massive teeth so we didn’t get too close, but they all run around together, so various times throughout the day as we were walking there would be a band of coati running along through the jungle beside us. They also had no qualms if they thought we had food just boldly walking right up to us.

All watered out, we met our taxi driver and drove to the border crossing. Given the nightmares and hours we have had at every single border crossing, we prepared ourselves for the chaos and queues. Well we were through border control within 15 minutes, we didn’t even have to get out of the car for our departure stamp from Argentina and they didn’t check any of our bags!

Now for an early dinner and a very early night as we have to get up at 2.30am to go to the airport to fly to Rio for CARNAVAL!

Posted by sdyzart 13:52 Archived in Argentina Tagged waterfalls water honeymoon travel argentina south_america iguazu_falls southamerica

Food Food and More Food


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The ferry to Uruguay only took 1.5 hours and then we were in Colonia, a small colonial town on the Rio de la Plata estuary. We had 4 hours there and as soon as we walked out of the terminal we saw a place to hire golf buggies, so of course that’s what we did. We were told there was a giant Colonia sign at he end of the town that was worth seeing…umm we would argue against that having driven there. What we came across was a small white sign, which we climbed all over and then took inappropriate photos with #colon. We drove all over Colonia checking out the sights, inc an old bull fighting ring and then returned the buggy and took to exploring by foot.

It is a very small town and the beautiful old part was only a few streets, but they were lined with giant trees and cobbled stones and randomly lots of old abandoned cars, which only added to its charm.

We had read that the best thing to eat in Uruguay was something called ‘asado’ which is a giant plate of mixed meat and ‘chivito’ which is a giant steak sandwich. We finally found a place that sold asado and it was a buffet – so we thought we were on to a winner. Turns out we don’t really like asado, it was weird cuts of meat, all a little bit burnt and it all tasted the same. In hindsight I think we made the error going to an all you can eat buffet place. The hunt will continue at dinnertime.

At 3pm we have seen every inch of Colonia and so jumped on to a local bus to drive to the capital, Montevideo through the lush green countryside. The drive should of taken 3 hours but the bus broke down and we were stuck at the side of the road for ages, so it was more like 4 hours.

So our first impressions of Montevideo was it was dirty, felt unsafe and we didn’t like it. It also didn’t help that we found a giant cockroach in our bathroom, so that had me questioning if spending 48 hours in Uruguay was really worth it just because I wanted another stamp in my passport and Lynden another shotglass??? Well after the appalling dinner we had I decided no it had not been worth it.

After a good night sleep we walked around Montevideo with fresh eyes and actually it wasn’t too bad. Definitely not our favourite place but the city has some beautiful parks and impressive architecture. We headed to the main square after breakfast and joined a free walking tour of the city. Once again we retained very little information about the history of Uruguay other than that Jose Artigas (a national hero in Uruguay) has his ashes buried under the Plaza de Independence and they are guarded by 2 soldiers at all times.

We finished the tour at a great foodie market, where we made our second attempt at trying a local delicacy and this time we had success!! Lynden managed to get a ridiculously large chivito, which he devoured. The restaurant also served ‘medio y medio’ which basically means half half – its sparkling wine mixed with white wine – it was super sweet – so we ordered a bottle! I don’t know why we then decided to order dessert, but it was another local dish that we NEEDED to try called ‘chaja’, which is sweet sponge cake, meringue and a ton of cream. It was definitely worth it!

After lunch we stupidly listened to our guide and went to see the ‘giant RAINBOW’ Montevideo sign, which was a 10 min taxi ride across the city. Well guess what, it was not giant and it was not rainbow! It was white and the same bloody size as the Colonia one. So after 1 photo we found ourselves searching around for something else to do in the area, but apart from walk along beach there was nothing else to do.

We eventually found our way back to the harbour to take the ferry back to Buenos Aires. We had business class tickets (as it was only $20 more) which really only bought us access to a lounge (which was packed - clearly everyone did the upgrade) and a glass of sparkling wine, everything else was the same as economy…so we got exactly what we paid for. Also all passengers had wear shoe protectors during the crossing, at first we thought maybe because the carpet was new, but it was filthy and old. Not a single person questioned this madness, everyone just put them on and we all walked around the ferry looking like idiots together!

Next stop an early morning flight to visit Iguazu Falls for the day and to travel into Brazil!

Posted by sdyzart 18:47 Archived in Uruguay Tagged water boat honeymoon travel south_america colonia montevideo asado southamerica food_porn uraguay chevito chaja

It's getting hot in here!


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It’s so glorious to be back in the sun and warm! Although we arrived into Santiago at 9.30pm it was still humid, it felt so nice to not be wrapped up in layers.

We had a lazy morning in our apartment hotel with muesli and tea in bed, which was the best thing ever after so many hostels and early starts. We then headed out to explore the neighborhood and loved our first glimpse of Santiago. Lynden was able to get a hair cut and I found a proper nail salon to get a manicure (#firstworldproblems). From there we headed over to Plaza de Armas to join a free walking tour of the city. Our guide for the next 4 hours was Felipe and he was an actor and play writer, so as you can imagine he was full of energy and passion – within the first few minutes of our tour beginning I knew we were in for an entertaining afternoon.

Felipe took us all over the city from the main square to the cathedral, the old congress building, supreme court, government house and stock exchange and he gave us a LOT of information on the history and politics of Santiago…unfortunately we both retain history lessons about as well as a gold fish so can’t remember much at all about what he said, but it was a great story to hear! Every time he finished speaking and it was time to move on to the next location he would shout ‘lets go in dis direction!’

One of the things I do remember (mainly because Lynden asked Felipe about a million questions afterwards) was about the coffee scene in Santiago. Back in the 80’s business men would go down to certain coffee shops where waitresses in very short skirts would serve them and flirt a little. BUT the main reason they went down was for ‘happy minute’, which was when the coffee shops locked their doors and windows and the waitresses stripped while the men drank their coffee. These shops were referred to as ‘coffee with legs’ and there are still some places around Santiago that operate this way…which of course was where all Lyndens questions came from (and no we did not go).

After the historical part of the tour, we headed over to Barrio Lastarria which was a funky neighborhood with street art, artisan markets and trendy wine bars, where we stopped to drink wine and enjoy the afternoon sun. Onwards from here we headed to Barrio Bellavista, which was the foodie neighborhood and consisted of 3 main streets – food street, drink street and party street – all next to each other depending on what kind of night out you were after.

Once the tour was finished we walked back to Constitution Street (aka food street) to give some of the local delicates that Felipe had recommended a try. Our first stop was a restaurant called Galindo where we tried ‘pastel de choclo’ which was like a baked corn pie. It has beef, chicken, onion, a boiled egg and olives at the bottom, the mushed corn on top and then we think sprinkled with some kind of cheese. Whatever it was on top it got stuck in our teeth like super glue and made it an interesting dish to eat. From here we were to a local brewery for Lynden to taste a beer that a few locals had recommended…which turned out to be more of a beer cocktail – it was beer with lemon juice and then the rim of the glass had chunky pieces of salt on it and it was finished off with smoked paprika sprinkled on top. As you can imagine it tasted terrible (but yes of course Lynden drank it anyway).

Our last stop of the evening was to try ‘chorrillana’ and after the recommendations we had been given so far we weren’t sure what we would be getting, but we had foodie success when a giant plate of french fries came out, covered in pulled beef, bacon and nacho cheese – it was a heart attack on a plate but my-oh-my was it tasty!

We rolled ourselves back to the hotel and packed our bags, as it was already time to move on again and our next stop was for a bucket list item that I have had on my list since I was a kid.

Next stop EASTER ISLAND!!

Posted by sdyzart 16:54 Archived in Chile Tagged honeymoon travel chile south_america southamerica

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

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