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December 16th – Trip To Machu Picchu

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

A really bad night last night. We had a power cut in Cusco and most of the night I spent intimately acquainting myself with the bathroom. I thought we would beat Montezuma’s Revenge but it was not to be, at least it was only me and not the kids. You can imagine what a picture of health I was when we arrived at the train station on the 16th to get the 7.00am backpackers train to Aguas Calientes. The journey is 4 hours, it felt like half of it was taken up just getting out of Cusco. As the train rises over the city it goes backwards and forwards to manage the steep grade and narrow rails – slowly. We passed the outskirts of the city – houses barely finished, paths of mud, children rummaging for rubbish alongside the tracks and lots of dogs. People with hopeless stares catch your eye and the whole segment of that journey was very uncomfortable.


The train was packed and in our carriage were the American couple from the Colca Canyon trip – you just keep on bumping into people! The scenery changed from cityscape to countryside and as we approached Aquas Calientes became mountainous and more like a jungle – very green. The train cuts through a valley with the mountains raising high either side. The town is actually lower than Cusco but as the clouds are quite low it still feels high. Aquas Calientes is a town on a steep incline built very quickly solely for tourism. A fast paced river runs through the middle and most of the streets are pedestrianised – it’s ugly. Our hotel was of course at the top of the hill so by the time we got there I just wanted to sleep.


We ventured out in the evening and found a nice restaurant with a darts board and sofas. The kids amused themselves and were joined by a 6 year old German girl (who had fantastic English) and who beat them hands down even though it was her first time! I chatted to her mother who was checking out Cusco for a place to live but after having been there a while was not at all impressed.


Our guide was supposed to show up at the hotel between 7 and 8. He showed up at 10.30 which was not ideal as we had to get up at 4.45am the next morning. I was so excited about the trip up to Machu Picchu tomorrow that I though I would never get to sleep but luckily my body was exhausted and we all went out like a light.


It had been raining the past few days (we had met our Japanese friend walking up the street who had arrived a few days earlier) so I was relieved to see the sun was shining and a blue sky as we walked down to get the bus. I give full credit to the kids as they got up without complaining (so I might have not told them the correct time…………….). There was already a queue for the bus but everyone looked as excited as I felt. The journey takes about 20 minutes  up a very windy loopy path but what a view! We mulled around the entrance while we waited for the whole group to assemble and it was a mixture of lazy people like us who took the bus and Inca Trailers who had made it up that morning. A few had also just walked up from Aquas Calientes and their bodies were literally steaming by the time they joined us. It was a follow the umbrella tour round the site but as we were early it was relatively deserted. How on earth do I describe the first time you see the site? It appears below you as you clear the short steep walk up (huffing all the way) – amazing. We were also lucky in that the mist kept seeping across for half an hour so one minute you could not see a thing and the site was covered and the next it would appear as if someone had just taken off a cloak. It really is a spiritual place and even O who gets very bored of ruins was impressed. The llamas grazing on the site just add to the whole “out of this world” feeling about the place.


My energy or lack of it did not allow me to climb the mountain Huanaya Picchu as I was shattered but we had a good wander around the site after the guided tour to take in the atmosphere. You can’t really put on paper what it feels like to be there so I won’t try, just if you ever get the chance to go there – do. It really lives up to the hype.


The train back was at 5 and again full of tourists and many who had completed the Inca Trail. It was good to hear all the stories about the trek and the camping and I am also glad that I did not do it – it sounded hard and not as fantastic as all the stories say……………..Everyone was tired so it was good to get back to the hotel in Cusco and a nice warm bed. What a day and another item I can cross off my things to do before I reach old age list.

Lake Titikakakakakakaaaa

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

December 12th – Lake Titicaca


Puno is the city on the edge of the lake. The view of the city from the bus as you descend in was not great. Dusty roads, half built houses and tiny streets, a complete contrast to the huge  mass of tranquil water that lies just beyond. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world – about 4000m high and it is enormous.


We were met at the bus station and taken to a very nice hotel. It seems full of tour groups of all ages but was very central so we went out for a walk and found a very nice pizzeria to eat. The town feels very full of people and all tourists get accosted by children selling finger puppets, women selling alpaca jumpers or restaurant owners shoving menus under your nose. A very firm “no gracias” does the trick most of the time!


Early start the next day and another tour. I was pleased to see completely new people on the minibus as we were driven down to the lake. Irish, Australian, Peruvian and French this time, a nice mix and it looks like we will have a good time. The best bit – there was a 19 year old Australian girl – absolutely stunning and wearing a skirt. I remark as her legs were showing travelling growth of about 3 weeks – excellent I could completely relax!!!

The boat took us first to the floating Islands of Uros. A community that live on these islands made of reeds – houses included. There is an extended family per island and apparently if an argument cannot be resolved the island just gets cut in half and moored elsewhere! The group had the talk by the guide about the people and their life but it was all a bit staged. There are watchtowers on each island, we asked what they were for – just the tourists to take pictures – hmmmm. There was 1 woman sewing a wool tapestry for show and many other women with these pictures for sale on theor stalls. We all joked that they shipped the pictures in from India and that one picture had been worked on for months. Sounds a bit harsh but this was the feeling that we all got – it was just a bit too much.


We had a ride in an old fashioned reed boat to another island. One new use for recycling – all the plastic water bottles the tourists throw away are put under the hull to make the boat float! The other island had a small “hotel” where you could sleep in a straw tepee overnight. There were also much smarter looking houses around the back – we all wondered if the straw houses on the other islands were for show and actually everyone lived in the better houses. We joked about there being a Starbucks and sure enough we came across a coffee shop – giggles all round. Looks like we have the cynical trip this time – but quite a laugh.


Another couple of hours on the boat and I can tell you that the lake is not always as calm as it looks. After diving and rolling our way through the waves we finally reached Amantani – our island stay for the night. We will be staying with a native family for the night. The island has no cars, only solar powered electricity for the few bulbs and live a very simple life. The islanders greet you at the dock and you are split into pairs (or 3’s). It felt like they were looking you up and down and picking you on your merits – eg that one looks like they can chop wood – I’ll have that one. We were slowly picked off couple by couple and we got a very grumpy looking old man – everyone else had a smiley woman. Help.


The houses are up a steep walk. With the altitude and the fact that our house seemed to be the highest of the lot I was huffing with my heart thumping in my chest before we got there. We had to stop twice as your legs just won’t work like you expect them to. Bet the host was thinking he picked a right lot. The island is very pretty, small agricultural plots, eucalyptus trees and 2 storey plaster houses with tin roofs. There are no roads (no cars) but walkways that have been paved with pebbles. The house was very basic but our room was cosy – with 3 beds (lots of blankets), reeds pinned to the wall to keep in the heat and a plastic sheet on the ceiling under the tin roof. There were bed pans under the beds – OMG is this what we were supposed to use – our host had just left us in the room and disappeared. Luckily as we were about to use them (really desperate for the loo now) he appeared so I dared to ask. Thank god – there was an outside loo way out back by the donkey. Think how embarrassing it would have been is we had used the chamber pots.


Lunch was with the family. They had a little room with a fire where the family (Ambrosia, Benedita and Judith) were and they invited us in. A table with 3 settings faced the fire – it was like a panel of judges. The family just sat on the floor and would not join us at the table. Judith is the same age as O so I was trying (in my pigeon Spanish) to talk about her school but the family were very quiet. Was it my bad Spanish or were they just like this normally? It felt good to escape at 4 when a walk to the summit of the island had been arranged with the tour to watch the sunset.


Back with the group of course we all compared hosts and food we were given. Our house has bulbs in the bedroom and we had cheese for lunch so the Ritz of the island as others had no cheese and candles. Looks like we have landed unfriendly family as all the others had nice chats (and their Spanish is worse than mine). The climb to the top was punishing and the drummer boy who accompanied us beating faster and faster did not really help. The view was amazing and the quality of light at the top something to behold. The walk down – great.


After dinner we were invited to don the traditional costume and accompany our families to a fiesta. Josh had poncho and hat, us girls had layers of thick butt enhancing skirts and shawls. It was fun dressing up and the clothes were nice and warm as by this time the temperature had dropped. Stepping out in the pitch black (no street lights) with our torches just made you realise how much you take for granted but the view of the stars – wow. I have never in my life seen so many clear stars – it was like looking at another world – incredible and made me trip us more than once as I just kept looking upwards. The dancing was fun – imagine 2 people holding hands sawing wood going backwards and forwards – a bit like that. It lasted an hour and then everyone was sooo tired it was straight back home to bed.


Early rise next day (villagers get up at 4!) and on the boat by 8. It was a great experience but I was glad to get back to our world of technology. The lake was also a lot calmer. A visit to the island of Taquille which is famous for handicrafts. Slight issue in that the village is a 1 hour trek (mostly uphill) from the port. All of us were again heaving by the time we arrived and the famous handicrafts were no better than on the other island. I would miss it out. The “famous” 500 steps back down to the other main port left my legs shaking. The steps were huge and snaked round – an assault course. We were all glad to get back on the boat and during the journey back sat on the top and Ian told us all about Sydney and what to do in Australia when we get there. Although we put sunscreen on we all got burned!


December 14th – Puno To Cusco


It was sad to say goodbye to everyone on the trip but onwards we must go. It was nice to get back to the hotel and have a shower!


Another early start and a bus trip with a difference from Puno to Cusco. The bus stopped at about 6 places on the way so broke up the journey. We saw ruins, an amazing church, a llama with blue eyes and the highest pass, complete with glaciers. It is at over 4000m – if you were in an aircraft the cabin would be pressurised at this height so it was the highest we have been without oxygen. I and J the Australian couple were on another bus doing the same route and stops so we kept bumping into them.

Flight Of The Condor

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007
Firstly I apologise - there will be no photos for a while as my camera has packed up on me. We have a spare but no lead so you will have to imagine with just the text. Ok what have we ... [Continue reading this entry]

December 8th – Arequipa

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

A first for all of us – the overnight bus. All the guidebooks say they have been hijacked and take at your own risk so you can appreciate I was a little apprehensive. ... [Continue reading this entry]

December 7th – I’ve Been To The Desert On A Horse With No Name

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

An early start and before we knew it we were flying over the desert in a tiny Cessna plane looking at the Nazca lines. The plane was tiny – just big enough to ... [Continue reading this entry]

December 6th – The Stinky Chronicles

Saturday, December 8th, 2007
How Cute Originally uploaded by roupiesontour
A boat trip today to the poor man’s Galapagos Islands – Ballestas Islands. The boat ... [Continue reading this entry]

December 5th Lima To Paracas

Saturday, December 8th, 2007
Sunset At Paracas Originally uploaded by roupiesontour
The first leg of the tour and a taste of the Peru bus service. ... [Continue reading this entry]

December 4th – Lima

Saturday, December 8th, 2007
Park Of Love - Miraflores Originally uploaded by roupiesontour
We were given a car and a driver yesterday for the afternoon. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Peru – The Land Of Paddington Bear

Saturday, December 8th, 2007
Building Plaza De Armas Originally uploaded by roupiesontour
God I really have learned to hate early morning flights. We were up ... [Continue reading this entry]