Due to unfortunate circumstances we didn´t get to Rurranbuque in Bolivia for a jungle trip - but as we spent time in the Pantanal we think we only really missed out on seeing pink dolphins.
In La Paz Pug took a trip out to the pre-Inca ruins at Tiwanaku. Although he quite enjoyed it and found it interesting they weren´t as impressive as some of the ruins we´ve seen since. The trip also gave him a good opportunity to take some good pics of the mountainous city of La Paz.
Getting myelf out of a history lesson I decided to bike the World´s Most Dangerous Road whilst Pug was at the ruins. It was quite a fun day (with the best bike I´ve ever ridden and great equipment!) but don´t think I´d recommend it. The guides tell you so many horror stories of people who have killed themselves or seriously injured themselves on the road (mostly in the hope that you won´t do the same) that you then spend 4 hours solidly concentrating on not going over the edge or off your bike rather than enjoying the ride! On the bus journey back up you realise just how high the actual drop over the side is and that scared me more than the whole way down!
Our last activity in La Paz was going to prison! It was a scary and surreal day but quite cool. As it´s technically not legal we had to bribe our way in and then met a South African inmate who gave us a tour and chatted to us for a while. It´s a different world, especially in the nice half where we were shown around - you must buy your way into the nice half and buy your accommodation there, but then your whole family can live in there with you. The worst part of the day was seeing a man coming out of the punishment cell who was screaming and crying because he didn´t want to return to the bad half of the prison coz he was scared what the other inmates were going to do to him. The fact that kids were returning from school and walking around him while this was going on added to the effect!
On from La Paz we headed over to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. To catch up with Pug´s friends we got a boat straight over to Isla Del Sol in the middle of the lake to spend a night. When we reached the island we had to walk up the dreadfully long and high inca stair to get to a hostel (with big backpacks on was not a good idea). Luckily the boys were also on the island so we spent the night drinking the island out of red wine with them.
Isla Del Sol was a very tranquil and beautiful place, with great views over Lake Titicaca (and also extra nice trout!). It was a fab place to spend our last days in Bolivia, even though we got slightly sunburnt!
Our first stop into Peru was the stylish city of Arequipa. The main square is built from white volcanic rock which appears to shimmer in the sun. It was a relaxing introduction to Peru, and we got to taste our first (Peruvian) pisco sours which are yummy.
Then it was forward to the tourist trap city of Cusco, to meet Jen and Sean - yay! We got here in time for Pug´s birthday which he was happy about as it satisfied his inner history geek to be in the Inca capital for his 25th. We bumped into his friends again so had some celebratory drinks before they headed on a trek.
Because we are all so good at organising we were lucky to bump into Jen and Sean a few hours after they arrived (minus their luggage! note in our photos how Sean pretty much only has 2 t-shirts!) on the Plaza De Armas in central Cusco.
Next few days we spent exploring Cusco and the sacred valley, before heading out on a four day Inca jungle trek which would eventually take us to Macchu Picchu.
On the first day we cycled down from the highlands to the jungle where we would spend most of our time. This was good fun but the bikes were awful. Pug blames this for the fact that he fell off and may have broken a rib - whoops. It was definitely the easiest day (luckily because I was hungover - Jen´s fault). When we reached the bottom we visited some small recently discovered Inca ruins, where our guide explained a little bit about the Incas or Quechuas as we should call them (the Inca was only the king) - we were also introduced to our new best friends for the next 3 days: the nasty biting sandflies. The first evening we spent playing cards and getting to know our group before dinner - lucky to have a good extra 3 to our 4 (Maria - a Spanish english teacher who has lived in Scotland for 5 years, very handy as translator! and another Brit couple from Plymouth, Kiera and Nick, great laugh).
The second day was long and probably the hardest - about 10 hours and a lot of walking (if someone tells you its Inca flat it´s not flat!). The heat was really strong and walking up and up to reach the Inca trail was quite hard going but the views were awesome. My favourite part was when we stopped at a lady´s house turned resting place for an hour or so. She served the best chilled chicha (purple corn made drink - Peruvians eat and drink ALOT of corn based stuff) ever and had funky bananas, as well as having homegrown chocolate, coffee and honey from her garden. She also had a cute monkey who again loved Pug - Pug´s favourite part of the day was playing with Martin. haha!
As a much needed bonus we finished the day at a hot springs. The cleanest and nicest we´ve seen since being away, we enjoyed a couple of hours soaking our aching muscles (and then getting more bites on our bums from the damn sandflies, who were by this point our worst enemy - think Sean got 18 on his lower back alone and then his ankles were covered as well!)
The morning of day 3 was a boring 3 hour walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. Although we got to see Macchu Picchu and Waynupichu mountains the stones and train tracks were pretty monotonous. After lunch we decided to walk up Mount Phutiski (or something) for views over Macchu Picchu ruins from the opposite big mountain. It was a tough walk but worth it for the views. Climbing up the 90 degree ladders on the mountain face was fun and actually made the walk quicker and easier - plus the fun adrenaline/death factor.
Our last day was the much awaited visit up to Macchu Picchu Inca city. Stupidly, we all decided it would be a great idea to walk up to the top which meant we had to leave at 4.30am. It was a tough 2 hour climb to reach the gates before opening at 6 and only just made it ahead of the lazy bus loads of tourists. Well Pug and Nick made it and the rest of us pushed infront but we figured the bus people hadn´t struggled and sweated their guts out for 2 hours already so they could wait! Once inside the gates the race was on to reach the gate of Waynupichu mountain across the ruins of Macchu Picchu - they only allow 400 people per day to climb the iconic mounain (the bigger green mountain in the postcard pics and our photos) but we made it and got tickets to climb at 10am.
Our first couple of hours within the city we had to follow an idiot tour guide around who didn´t really inform us of much, except for how evil the Spanish are (which Maria didn´t really appreciate). Oh and he hated us because we had tickets to climb Waynupicchu and he had some sort of problem with that! After that we were free to explore ourselves.
Climbing Waynupicchu was tough, but easier than the morning´s climb - steep but quick. It gave us fantastic views over the Inca ruins below, and we got to explore the little ruins which are ontop of the mountain aswell. Once at the bottom again (and after enjoying our tasty picnic!) we spent a few hours walking around the city and taking our own postcard view photos! There´s alot more to the ruins than you´d expect from the postcard pic you always see.
It was a really great day, definitely the best ruin day of South America. It was a long journey back (not to mention the walk back down the stairs we had climbed at 4.30) to Cusco and once there we keeled over.
We spent a last couple of days in Cusco with Jen and Sean relaxing (aching muscles appreciated massages) and organising our next leg of the trip. A reunion with our trek group turned into a classic British night out (see the photos for the carnage - the Spaniard has spent too long in Scotland!).
Today we arrived in Lima (a nice and comfy 20 hour bus ride) and from here we are going north into Ecuador. Feels strange to be away from Jen and Sean again but it´s now the final stage of our trip so we are making the most of it! Colombia watch out!