Hello and welcome to an extra special edition of my blog; the one where I'm not in Pisco!!! I've just come back from doing the Inka Jungle Trail to Machu Picchu and I'm now covered in insect bites despite covering myself in insect repellent!
After finishing off my last blog I packed my bags, then after a couple of hours waiting around I set off for my fourth Huacachina trip during my stay. A bus journey and a couple of taxi rides later I was in the golden oasis that is Huacachina. The first night went down pretty predictably, a couple of drinks at the poolside bar followed by a meal at a restaurant near the lagoon. We then went back to the hostel. This time I had opted to stay in the quieter hostel down the road from our usual digs along with a dozen or so others. There Anton, Yani, Emily and Gino and I played some table football and drank some rum (along with some fresh lime picked from the hostel's lime trees). After a few games we then joined the rest of our group at the other hostel to party the night away at the clubs disco. I headed back to my hostel at about 3am.
With Tom and Sarah (a couple who have been at PSF a month) leaving the next day our group of five resolve to stay another night in Huacachina. So after sleeping in dangerously close to the 12 noon check-out time, I met up with everyone else and headed over to our usual Sunday morning breakfast spot that is the bamboo cafe. I had another full English breakfast and relaxed in the hammock for a bit before heading to the other hostel for some pool-side sun-bathing. After some more table football we headed over to another hostel/restaurant to get some dinner and to play some cards. Later on in the evening we headed over to the local capital of Ica to go watch a movie (although not before playing some air hockey and riding the kiddies' merry-go-round!!). We saw Predators which was inevitably rubbish!! After picking up some food for dinner and snacks we headed back to our hostel. With Sarah in bed early and Yani and Emily enjoying their last night together, Anton, Gino, Tom and I retired to or room for drinks and to eat our freshly gathered feast!! Later in the night we ordered pizza from the bar, only for me to find it covered in onions (I hate onions!!) so I just contented myself with the ham and cheese sandwiches I had left over. After listening to some music and watching some videos on Anton's MP4 player, we one by one fell asleep.
On Monday morning we again woke late, then headed over to the restaurant to get some breakfast. Running out of things to do in Huacachina we played some more table football at the hostel before meeting up with Tom and Sarah to get some drinks from a nearby bar before heading back to Ica to get our respective busses. After a quick stop-over in Ica, we all said our goodbyes to Tom and Sarah before going to our bus stop to book a ticket. With an hour to spare we hunted down some snacks for the 15 hour overnight bus ride. Yani said his goodbyes to Emily, then he, Gino and I headed off to Cusco to start our Machu Picchu adventure!!
The Wheels on the bus go round and round!!!
The trip started badly as I had left the snacks I had bought at the bus terminal (D'oh!), but my hunger pains were short lasted as they soon served our dinner, which consisted of a sandwich, a cake and a hot drink. I watched three on-board movies, which were all annoyingly in Spanish with the audio too low to understand! The lights then went down and after a while of tossing and turning on the bumpy, windey road I finally got some sleep.
I woke on Tuesday morning at about 8am to the sound of the stewardess shouting "CUSCO, CUSCO, CUSCO!!". We then got off the bus and started to track down a hostel for the night. After a couple of taxi journeys (where i first learned that taxi drivers in Cusco don't have a clue where anything is in Cusco!!) we finally arrived at the Southern Comfort hostel. This was where Tom and Sarah stayed when they visited Cusco. It had pretty nice facilities with a small bar, table football, TV lounge and small garden, however it was much quieter than we were told and there were building works goin on right next door! After dropping off our stuff we were treated to pancakes for breakfast, while we played some table football and started to plan our Machu Picchu trip on the computer. Next we headed into town to check out tour agencies and I went in search of a camera to replace the one I broke about two months ago. Finding nothing cheaper than about £100, I settled for a £4 disposable camera to record my Machu Picchu trip on! After more shopping and looking around the town centre we went in search of Jack's Cafe. This is a cafe extremely popular amongst travellers and I had heard it recommended by about five people at PSF. I had some cheese and ham on toast with a big chocolate milkshake (that was amazing!!). Full and satisfied, despite the expensive (by Peru standards) price tag, we bought some more rum (rum and sprite is now my tipple of choice FYI!) and headed back to the hostal to watch a DVD and get a shower. After having a few drinks in our room we migrated to the bar for a few happy hour beverages. With happy hour over and the bar pretty much empty, after getting food we trekked it over to Loki Hostel, the place we had booked into for the next night, where they had a reputation as a party hostel. I thought that they lived up to the reputation, with cheap drinks at the bar, a free pool table and cross-dressing guys (Monday night was ladies night!!) after getting some drinks and playing some pool, we headed to a club with a few of the guys and girls we had met there. After using up our free drinks vouchers we had got, we headed back to Southern Comfort.
After sadly missing out on Pancakes after rising late again on Tuesday morning, we headed to Loki to check our bags in for the next night. We were shown around the hostel and afterwards allowed breakfast in the bar area. With only Jam, bread and hot drinks on offer, we went back to Jack's cafe for some more milkshakes and a full English breakfast. Finally feeling well fed, we headed back into town to check out deals on the Inka Jungle Trail we were interested in. We shopped around and got some quotes, with the price seemingly going down by $10 every place we looked! We finally settled on a $180 package, which included meals, hostels, Machu Picchu tickets and also rafting on the first day. After putting a deposit down on the trip, we dropped off some laundry then headed round the market to find some essentials for the trip. After chilling at the hostel watching some movies on the big screen for a couple of hours, we went back to pay for the rest of our trek and pick up our laundry. After getting dinner at an English Pub (I had started to rack up a fair food bill by now!!) and playing some darts (with some of the most useless darts ever) we headed back to the hostel where the nights entertainment was starting to get going. We played a bit of killer pool (miss 3 shots and you're out, cool game!!) between 7 of us, I joined in some drinking games that the bar staff had organised. The first two games made me feel like I was 6 years old again, with drink musical chairs and drink pass the parcel (which ended in me turning my clothes inside out as a forfeit!). They brought out jelly shots that were also used as forfeits and also as the contents of a massive piñata that was smashed over the dance floor area. By this stage I was pretty merry, so after about half an hour of ring of fire I was well and truly done for the night!
I Want to Ride my Bicycle...!!
After stumbling out of bed at 7am, we headed to the reception to meet our guide, who took us to the bus stop, where we met up with the rest of our tour group. It was a truly international group with a German, Dutchwoman, Frenchman, Irishman, Argentinian to go with the two Australians and me, the token Englishman! After an hour or so of bussing we reached the peak of a mountain, where we were dropped off with our bikes to start the downhill bike ride. This was pretty cool, as there was a pretty fast, empty road to cycle down with fords and tight corners to navigate. There were also some spectacular views of mountains and rivers in the valleys. We stopped a few times to let others catch up, and by the time we had finished our two hour ride it seemed more like ten minutes!! We then got another bus to the first stopping point of Santa Maria, where we dropped our bags off at our hostel before heading to lunch. After this we had an hour to kill before our rafting adventure was to begin, so our group headed to a nearby cafe to get some ice-cream and have a chat. The other members of our group didn't sign up for rafting, so we left them to go change and meet up with Andrea, a Canadian girl from another tour group, to go rafting.
Raft and Roll!!
After a short bus journey to the river we were given our safety equiptment and given a quick lesson on navigating and safety procedures. We then got in the raft and started paddling into the shallow calm waters to get our bearings. After getting the hang of it we headed out into the rapids. They were pretty good (a class three for anyone who knows anything about rafting!) with a few spots where a couple of us nearly flew out of the raft! The guide was pretty cool, as he got us to surf on some of the waves (culminating in a huge splash in the face on most occasions!) as well as letting us do some of the navigating. The latter was a really bad idea as about a minute into Gino's turn at navigating he got us stuck on the worst possible rock on the course. After about five minutes of getting us loose, I had a quick go at navigating (not particularly well!) before we were met at the end of the course by the bus.
We then got dried off and met everyone for dinner at the same restaurant. We later headed back to the hostel to play some cards and have some drinks. After we felt we were waking the neighbours we went to watch some locals play football on the nearby concrete pitch. However when we got there the game was winding down so we offered to play the locals barefoot (all of us were wearing flip-flops!) This was bad idea number 2 of the day as after about an hour of playing, my feet were wrecked and my big toe started bleeding. With the score at 4-4, we called it a night and headed to bed ready for some uncomfortable trekking the next day.
Some Star Trekking!!
After waking up early and getting pancakes for breakfast, day two consisted predominently of trekking, first uphill from the river bank up into the mountains, passing cocoa farms, rural villages and countless women selling cold drinks at over-inflated prices! After an hour and a half of uphill struggling we stopped off at a quaint little cafe, where we got some drinks and were treated to a mini-zoo, complete with parrots, a monkey and a strange giant wombat looking creature!! After half an hour or so of chilling we continued our trek. For the rest of the days walking we occupied ourselves by telling jokes and singing songs. There were some amazing views of the river and waterfalls along the way, as well as some good food at a restaurant along the way. In the afternoon we had to cross the river using a cool pulley system and a big metal basket, shortly before making it to our penultimate destination for the day, the hot springs. These were natural hot baths near the river where travellers can relax. There were vendors nearby selling sweets, crisps and most importantly, beer!! Afteran hour or so chatting and swatting away bits of green algae, we got changed and got a bus to our hostel for the night in Santa Teresa. This night we shared a hostel with Andrea's group, so we all got some drinks and started up a few drinking games before heading out to a local disco which is apparently an essential part of the trail!! Exhausted I headed to bed around midnight, ready for another early start on Saturday.
Disaster struck on Saturday morning when Stephane, the French guy was ill from food poisoning. Therefore we split up into two groups; Stephane and Malou, the Dutch girl got a taxi at 10am to the restaurant we were having lunch at while rest of us had a 8am start to go trekking along the river bed. We saw some more cool views and did another pulley river crossing before making it to our next destination, a village where we met up with Malou and Stephane for lunch. This restaurant was pretty cool, with hammocks and avocado trees, where I stocked up. After eating, Stephane stayed at the restaurant with our guide to wait for a train while the rest of us joined another group that was lead by the world record holder for doing the Inka Trail (This guy did in 3 hours 56 minutes where we took three and a half days!) which also included a couple of American girl who had also been volunteering in Pisco, with another organisation. The restof the afternoon's trekking was along train lines, where after half an hour we got a game of I-spy going! The route was littered with butterflies and also annoyingly sand-flies, which had by now covered the lower part of my leg!! A couple of hours of trekking later we were in Aguas Calientes, the final stop off point on the trip to Machu Picchu. We checked into our hostel, then after watching TV for half an hour or so we met up with our guide who took us to dinner. After eating we were introduced to our guide for Machu Picchu and given our tickets, itinerary for the day and packed lunches for the following day. After enoying a couple of beers and getting water and sncks for the next day I wisely decides to get an extremely early night.
MACHU PICCHU BABY!!!!!
On Sunday Morning we got up at, wait for it........ 4am, in order for us to get tickets for Wayna Picchu, a mountain popular with travellers for getting an awesome view of Machu Picchu. So at 4.15 we walked to the first check point, the gates to the bridge at the bottom of the mountain. After a short wait we started the epic climb up the mountain in an effort to be one of the 400 allowed entrance to Wayna Picchu. After an exhausting 40 minute uphill climb, we were between the 50th and 100th in line so we each got our stamp and after a half an hour wait we were let in. After taking a few pictures of the awesome first sight of Machu Picchu and its surrounding mountains we met up with our guide. After finding the rest of our group the guide started his tour, first telling us about the mysterious history of Machu Picchu, then taking us around the various temples, houses and other points of interest, telling us about Inka culture along the way. We finished the tour at about 9am, giving us an hour to kill before our 10am ascent of Wayna Picchu. Feeling exhausted from the early morning and epic trekking we had a lie down on the grass before going to the toilet and preparing ourselves for the hour long climb of the mountain.
After a short wait in the queue, we started our climb. It started off downhill, on the route to the actual mountain before the incline started to kick in. I was starting to run out of water when I could finally see the top of the mountain. After a couple of tricky spots and a really tight cave which I had to squeeze through, I made it to the top, where twenty or so people were relaxing. There were also houses and temples at the top of the mountain, which I found quite amazing. After taking some photos and relaxing for half an hour or so, taking in the view, I headed back down. We explored the rest of Machu Picchu for a while, before heading back to meet Malou, who had declined to climb Wayna Picchu and was relaxing on the same bit of grass. After being shoed off the grass by a security guard we decided to call it a day at Macchu Picchu and headed back to Aguas Calientes by bus. We holed up in a restaurant where we got some cheap(ish) pizzas and after collecting our train tickets and picking up our belongings from the hostel we had a few well earned beers!! We then headed to the train station and caught our train to Ollantaytambo. I got a seat away from our group and so spent the journey talking to a 10 year old Peruvian boy and his mum!! We transferred at Ollantaytambo and got a bus back to Cusco, where I made a bee-line to Loki and after checking back in I headed straight for bed.
Bye Bye Cusco!!
On Monday morning after picking up a few souvenirs and wandering around Cusco for a while, I met up with the rest of our tour group, who were enjoying one last milkshake at Jack's!! We then headed over to Paddy's, the world's highest Irish-owned Pub to watch the Australia vs South Africa rugby match, before I said my goodbyes to everyone (Gino and Yani were staying another night). I found a ticket back to Pisco, then after checking my emails and buying some snacks (which this time I didn't forget!) I got the bus back to Pisco. This bus was slightly longer, but had better food and movies with English subtitles!!!! At about 11 am I returned to my dear family at PSF!!
So that was it!!!! Had a great time in spite of bug-bites and all!! Also pretty pleased to have avoided getting mugged or pickpocketed in the worst city for crime in Peru!! Got a disposable camera full of photos that I will try and circulate some time!! Really looking forward to getting my teeth stuck in to some more volunteering now, I feel like my batteries have been recharged and now I'm ready for some more concrete pouring and jack-hammering!!