Lima(1 night) - After a nightmare start whereI had to runto just catch my connection from Miami by 2 mins I arrived in Lima, minus my bag. Met up with the GAPgroup which couldnt be a better group of guys and sharing a room with John Boy ( a quality Jewish lad from Watfordwho has the same immature sense of humour as me) - should be a great 3 weeks. Explored Lima in the day visiting variuosplazas, churches, catacombs, monumnets and other sights. Went out at for a meal in the night and tried Cerbiche, a lemony raw fish dish. Glad I tried it but once is enough for me!
Pisco - (1 night) Arrived late a night at Pisco, a town that was devasted in recent years by a massive earthquake.Our guide Johanna took us round the squareexplaining its effects, went for dinner and then back to the hotel to try the local Pisco Sour drink. I have a feeling that wont be the last one this trip!
Thenext day we went on a boat trip round the Islas Ballestas seeing loads of sea lions, different types of birds and animals and literally thousands and thousands of birds who plop out Guava s*** which madePeru rich in the pastby exporting it across the globe.
Then ontoa local Pisco winery tour and tasting session followed by ragging it over sand dunesin a sand buggy and then sandboarding down the dunes. Loads offun!!- Class afternoon! If I came again Id spend a night here atHuacachina which has a gorgeous oasis which sadly we only has about na hour to appreciate before moving on.
Nazca(1 night) - Had a guided tour ofthe cemetery site of Chachilla where 1500year old mummies are warpped in fabric and buried in squaresin dry sand. Their organs are not removed but they drink salt before death topreserve theri remains.They are buried sat down ready towalk into the after life. Very interesting and the mummies had dreads which made them look like Bob Marley! Stopped at a local pottery craft place where we got to try our hands (my art skills are still s***!) and play in aband.
Then onto the highlight of the day - flying over the Nasca lines. I was expecting to struggle to see the various shapes and animals (contacts were in lol) but it was surprsingly easy.Very Bumpy ride and even with the Spanish lady next to me puking into a bag the whole way (to be fair to her she managed to hold the bag in one hand and her camera in the other) it was awesome. Hard to comprehend how they managed to draw these lines so perdectly in 200-600 AD. The most credible theory is that they were a message to the gods but less credible ones (30%) are that they mirror underground aqueductsand water sources or that they mirror the stars.
Arequipa ( 1 night) - Great timing! - we arrived the day before Foundation day which celebrates when the Spanish arrived so we got to enjoy parades , foodstalls, fireworks, mime dancing and a party in the square. Also did a tour of the cathedral with John Boy -Got possibly the worstguide you could imagine. There were 4 main rooms and she didnt know what 2 of them were for - money well spent. Went out late at night to enjoythe festivities and dicovered its not only Wayne Rooney who loves pissing in the street!
Colca Canyon ( 2 nights) -Early start for the CC tour , one of the deepest canyons in the world. When in Rome do as the locals do so started hitting the coca leaves and coca tea to help with the altitude. Developed quite a liking for the stuff so bring on Columbia for the real thing! (only joking mum, my money will have run out by then so wont be able to afford it lol). Saw loads of Limas and Alpacas, local people selling crafts and learnt about teh pre-inca terracesfor farming. The climates are weird here - in the summer its rainy and cold and in the winter its dry and hot -odd!In the afternoon we did some spotting of the Andean Condors flying through the valley - massive birds!!
Enjoyed a couple of hours sipping Colca sours in thermal springs before tea and enjoying the Foundation Day celebrations in Chivay town.
Cusco(1 night) - Bit of a chill out day before the Inca trail. A few of us exploredthe local markets, bartering for our alpaca gloves and hats, water carriersand thsi horrendous sun hat that me and John bought for some reason - I blame Martina! lol Walked around the plazas, met Paddington bear who is apparently from Peru and drank a cheeky beer in a bar overlooking the main square. At night went to a gorgeous restaurant and sampled the Alpaca chef special - tasty!!
Ollantaytambo -(1 night) Drovehere(possibly the hardest place to remember how to say) stopping at a local community project sponsored by GAP where the local women are being trained in the old craft of weaving. The patterens they produce with their hands, wooden bars and thread coloured by fruit and other dyes are unbelievable!A truck broke down bliocking our exit soa few of us wandered off and founds another local project which was a Lima farm where we got to feed them.Bus fixedso off to a rehab zoo where locals are rehabilitating pumas, condors , parrots etc which have been abused by families or night club owners. Got to go into the cage with the Condors. Massive birds so pretty sacry when they fly at you!!
Next Stop the Sacred Valley(so named due to the sacred river that flows throught it irrigating all of the land), Pisca ruinsand saw graves in another cliff face. Culure was to carry the bodies acorss the gapadn bury them in holes half way up the face.
Arrived in Ollantaytambo which was our first proper taster of the Incas. Truly awesome! Im not exaggerating when I say I was bowled over by the size, detail and brick work of the terraces, religious sector and other areas of the Inca complex especially considering they usedmassive rocks which they had dragged from the quarry all the way across the river. Its ashame that they didnt get to finish their building before being disturbed by the bloody invading Spanish cos if they hadnt I reckon it would be up there with Machu Picchu and the pyramids.
Inca trail (3 nights) -Its a 24 mile trail, split into flat parts, Inca undulating parts and steep as climbs and descends on stepsat altitude. This trail is just part of the trail that covered the whole Inca empire with messenger points every 20km so that messages could be carried accross the empire very quickly.
Our group had 2 guides (Jose and Ubert) and 19 porterswho are basically heroes! Every day they pack up the site after we have left and then run past us carrying 20kgbags waering sandals to the next one to set up the tents, and cook the food. And the food was unbelievable especially considering we were up a mountain with only a gas stove to cook with.
BTW- It takes tourist 3 days to reach Macchu Picchu. Apparently every year the porters have a racewith no bags on their backs and the record is held by a 42 year old at 3 hours and 45 mins!!!!!!!!!! Up and down lethal steep steps. Unthinkable!!
At the end of the first day we played footy at 3000m. Team Gringo vs the porters. It nearly killed us but we managed to scrape a 2-1 vistory! (and no they didnt let us win!!) Highlight!!
The peak of the trail is Dead Womans Pass at 4,200mwhich we did on the second day where I tried to keep up with the 2 Norwegian vikings in ourgroup. My legs were kanckered at the end but yesDad my ankles and knees just about surived before you say!lol
At the end of day 3 a few of us took amisturn and ended up clambering down a drainage channelby accident - oops!! The guide was not too pleased! And then we enjoyed the hidden beauty of Winay Wayna.
On the final day we got up at 3.45to climb the Gringo Killer steps to reach the sun gate to see the sun rise over Machu Pichu. Magical sight! The sun gate is designed so that it perfectly hits the sun temple in MP at the two solstaces every year.
MP was built in the 14th or 15th centruy but not discovered until 1912 as it was covered by jungle deep into the mountains.Unfortunately its now subsiding because of the weight of all of the tourists.
MP is split into variuos sectors with the more important ones having being at the top with the most detailed brickwork. The Inca terraces have 3 main functions: agriculture (they used to grow 3000 different types of potatoes), retaining walls and decoration.
The nights were filledwith playing Spoons (a card game), listening to Mr Johns awful 12 year old girls taste in Music and laughing uncontrollably at the image of Jill sitting under the table every Xmas!
Providing your fit and the altitude sickness doesnt get you the IT is a challenge but not too hard.
MP was truly breathtaking and the only diapointmenmt was that we sacrificed getting tickets to climb Wayna Pichu (the sugar loaf overlooking MP)to see the sun rise at the sun gate. Oh well, next time!
Amazon (2 nights) - No rest for the wicked. Most of the group got to chill out in Cusco and enjoy well earnedmassages but 4 of us were up early the next day to fly to the Amazon in Peru. Stayed in a gorgeous jungle lodge (albeitwith moscitoes and 95% humidity) and over the 3 days enjoyed a day and night trek around the rainforest,a nighttime boat trip to spot Cayman, a tasting tour round a local fruit farm and a swim in the local stream and then the mighty Amazon!!Considering I got bit by a Piranah (ok it might not have been a Piranha but it was definately definately not a rock!) in the stream Ithink I was ballsy to get back into the Amazon afterwards.
BTW - apparently ist all movie hype. Piranhas are only dangerous if your bleelding or if you are in a small bit of water and they are hungry!- Still bit me tho didnt they!
Saw Caymans, Capibaras (world largest rodent, makkaws, monkeys , tarantulas, leaf cutter antsetc but didnt spot the elusive Jaguar or Anneconda L) Had a great time but for me the Amazon wasn't much different to the rainforests in Malaysiaor Australia. Maybe I was expecting too much??
Cusco( 1night) - Got back to Cusco to join the rest of the group and go out fora well earned night out. Great night!!
Puno(1 night) -Johanna gave us a tour of the town before lunch (chicken and egg sandwich incident lol). Not much to the town, just a jumping off point for Lake Titikaka. Went to the local pool hall at night and learnt a very very valuable life lesson!- Never let4 girls who don't play pool play doubleson the only free table. That's 3 hours of my life I will never get back! Pretty funny looking back though.
Tried the local speciality - roasted guinea pig. Not for me! Meat was ok when you managed to find it but there was this overwhelming smell that made you want to hurl!
Early start next day to jump on Tuk Tuks to take us to the boat for Lake Titikaka. 2nd life lesson learnt this trip - don't sit on the top deck chatting for 3 hours even if its cloudy with no suncreamif your taking cheap anti-malaria drugs. Massive mistake - just look at the pics on FB of my face and legs! Butt of most jokes for the next 3 days and now onto my 2nd face of the trip !! lol
Stopped at the first island, walked around then lunch outside. Guide explained to us about the local courting customs. Couples live together for a year after which either party can opt out without no comeback from anyone in the village. The wedding lasts for a week, For the whole time the woman sits on the floor and the man sits on achair whilst everyone else partys and has a good time. The idea is that if the married couple do not have fun that week they will have fun for the rest of their marriage. The man also has top sew a tapestry for his wife before the wedding to prove his love.
The village chief is elected once a year and him and his sons weardifferent coloured hats to the rest of the villagers. Everyone wears the bobble on their hat to the correct side to signal if you´re single or taken. Like a traffic light party in the UK!
Arrived at the 2nd island. Played an epic2 hour game against the localsat 3000m. Should get sunburnt and play footy more often as I played well and scoredscreamers with both feet! And no they weren't from 5 yards out with my shin before you say boys!)Embarrassingly still got beat considering some of them were playing barefeet. Gave them our Bwin kit bought specially for the occasion and then went off to our various families for the homestay. Our family had 5 sisters and 1 brother but sadly the mother had died a year ago.Language barrier was a challenge after we had exhausted ourlist of Ketchuan phrases but they were very friendly, loved playing cards and the food was v.filling! Afterwards the girls dressed us in local dress and we all went to the school hall to get involved in local dancing with everyone and a bit of drinking. Great fun but body was a wreck from the footy!!!
Next day we sailed to the floating islands and learnt how they are made. They cut squares of reed beds (mud) from the lake and tie them together. Then they lay layers of reedson topafter eating the insides (tastes like celery). The reeds are relayed every 3 weeksand the reed houses are rebuilt every 3 months. After approx 50 years the weight of the reeds pushes the base towards the bottom of the lake so they have to start a new island. It was quite touristy which was a shame but we did get to row a reed boat across to the other island.
La Paz (1 night)
The next day we bused it across the border to La Pazstopping at Cocacapamafor lunch.It was the last proper night as a group so we had Pizza and beers in the hotel. Class night with me and Shelley getting ripped to shreds. Gonna miss everyone….well turns out not for long lol
Mountain biked down the death road!!!Survived it but stacked it halfway down - pretty embarrassing!But obv got up and shrugged it off like a man!lol After swimming in possibly the world grimiest poolwe bussed it back up which turned out to be scarier than the way down. The fog came down and you couldn't see athing out of the drivers window.God knows how the driver managed to get back especially when stuck behinda smoking van for 10 mins.
And then it was two. Everyone leftleaving just me and Rune to explore La Paz. On fist impressions the city was a ran down s*** hole but we warmed it. There is a shop for everything you could imagine and a witches market full of crafts. Climbed to the roof of a hotel to look into the infamous San Pedro prison but when approached for a tour by a inmate on ´day release´ massively bottled it!!!
Lunch was an experience - braved a locals café on a backstreet (no gringos in sight) and asked for a menu. Apparently menu also means men u of the dayso we got 4 courses including slad, soup, beef & mash and jelly. Hilarious and good value for a pound fifty but not such a great idea before a 12 hour night bus with no toilet. Thank god for immodium!!
Uyuni and Salt Flats (4 nights)
After a horrendously bumpy ride we found Lipez tours and met up with our group. Strategically positioned ourselves away from the typically annoying brash Americans and got lucky with 2 Ozzies and 2 Swiss who all turned out be legends. Guide was Juan and driver was his bro.
First stop was the train cemeterywhere we bumped into the GA group (not for the last time lol). Then visited the salt town and salt statues, cactus island and then picture time on the salt flats. Because of the never ending white salt flats you can have loads of fun making pictures with objects such as Pringles, horns and beer cans.
The area used to be sea but when the Andes move it cut off the river supply and the water evaporated to leave the salt flats.
On the way to spending the night in a hotel mad out of salt which reminded me of the ice palace in that James Bond filmwe stopped at a cave that had fossils, proof that it used to be underwater.
On the second day we visited the lagoon Colorado (pink), black lagoon, grey lagoon (all filled with flamingoes) and drove through the desert.Turned out the Gap group were staying at the same hostel as our group so bumped into them again! lolIncident with a drunk Yank , John Boy and a swiss army night which confirmed why 90% of all yanks you meet when travelling are idiots to put it politely!! Hotel was at 4,900m and it was cold!!!!!!!!!!!
4am start on the last day to visit the Geysers (thereare plans for Bolivia to use the thermal energy for poweragainsoon)and lounge in the thermal pool. So gorgeous we would have stayed in there all day given the choice. Dropped of everyone at the Chile border and then me and Rune headed back to Uyuni stopping at the Green lagoon and all of the sites from the previous day as well as some extrarock formations. The sun was out today and it wasn't minus 20 in the wind-chill so we could appreciate them more. Ride home was a killer!! I was expecting a text for my exam results at midday which never came so every time we got to a town with phone signal I would be teased!! Eventually got bk to Uyuni and checked my emails - passed so let the celebrations begin!!!!
Few beers, pizza and then the ultimate fun pub! Loads of fun but would be more aptly named intimate parts pub´ or ´random pub´ considering the shape of the mugs you have to drink out of and the chicken hats and baby bottles some drinks come with!! Shelley and Rune suitably got me smashed to celebrate and Rune introduced me the Norwegian ápocolypse´ where you snort the salt, down the tequila and squirt the lemon in your eye -painful!!!
Went to an after party and partied with some locals which ended up with a local guy getting very angry with his girl amigo for a reason we couldn't work out???
Potosi (1 night)
Massive schoolboy!! In my wisdom I thought Id pack my bag before I went out and get the bus wearing my clothes from the night before. Swealtering 7 hour bus ride with no air con, hangover, jeans andlong sleeved black top is not a good combo!!!!
Arrived inPotosi very hot and even though I knew the taxi driver was screwing me I really didn't care!! He quoted 4 quid, I said 2. And the he gave me change so it cost the proper 50p. Honest but random!!
Explored Potosi. Nice small town with a rat run of a market , square and mint (currency museum) but onlyreally worth the bother for the silver mines.
Next day did the mine tour with Koala tours !!! Awesome!Eye opening!Scary! Claustrophobic! On the way there we stopped at the miners market to but dynamite (yes dynamite) and gifts (dynamite, coca leaves, booze) for the miners. Tried the 96% proof booze that the miners drink at work. Unfortunately the rest of my group was an apparently alcoholic family from CzechRebublic. I went first. It blew my socks off and I gasped like a girl. They followed with no reaction other than commenting "good stuff"!
For me the tour was one of the highlights of the whole trip. Never again will I moan about a day auditing (ok well not as much). I knew I didn't especially like tight places but now I know I def innately don't!! It was hot, dusty, at times we were crawling on our hands and knees in muddy water banging our heads and gasping for air. At several points I considered turning back (especially after reading about the miners in Chile) but I figured if they can do it for 10 hours a day I can suck it up for 3 hours. Plus you guys would never let me live it down if Rach managed to get through it! lol
There are over 200 mines and the miners work in 21 co-operativesover 6 levels. There are 45 deaths a year mainly due tocave ins cos the mining and structuring are not planned properly. The youngest worker we met was 11 who was going down on his own on his day off.
We did have fun afterwards though. After purchasing dynamite and ammonium nitrate at the market we lit it held it and thenblew it up outside the mine. The noise was immense and got the adrenalin running!!!
Sucre (3 nights)
John Boy sorted it with the rest of the group that Id jump on their bus to Sucre for free-result!!Stayed with the Gap group in Sucre and went out for a meal, pools and afew drinks in Joy Café. On the spur of the moment it turned into a big one , we moved upstairs, got a conga line going, hit the Jager bombs and enjoyed the strobe lights. Afterseveralrewarded shouts of Encore and beers spraying by the staff we hit the sack. Quality night!!
City tour of Sucre (with Gap for free lol), 1 quid empanada lunch and then shopping for fruit, a skipping rope and a football to take a s gifts to the girls at the orphanage.Girls opted for the baby orphanage. Lads opted for the 5-14 yearolds. Not all of the girls were true orphans but their parents couldn't afford to raise them. Surprisingly they were all happy and had their own beds and space for clothes, posters, toys etc. They go to school 5 days a week and have a play area out the back. Humbling experience talking and playing with them.
JP´s and Martina´s Birthday. Had Pizza and a few beers with the Vikings and then met up with the rest of the group. Went to the Karaoke bar which was awful!!!! So back to the Joy Café. Class!! Dancing on the bar, free beer, Patrick throwing up and then reaching for his next beer (crazy Viking!) And then after party at possibly the worst club in the world. Johanna warned us but we were not to be told! Bad mistake! Went downstairs, inhaled the smell of what must have been excrement smeared on all the walls, had one drink and left quickly!!!
Chill out day. Had food, sipped30p fruit shakes from the local woman in the market and watched England beat Switzerland.
In the evening we had a meal at a local dancing show. A couple of us opted out of paying to stay for the show but as the service was slow got to see over an hour for free anyway. Walked back to the square where therewere fireworks and celebrations for Sucre´s anniversary the following weekend. Came back to hotel to find the two Norwegians had just got matching tattoos of hammocks, palm trees and Acunamatata wrapped in clingfilm.
Sucre is a gorgeous city. No attractions in-particular but I could have easily spend a week there chilling out, sipping fruit shakes with the occasional party;)
Tupiza (2 nights)
The Gap group flew to their various destinations leaving me to explore the rest of S.America by myself L lol. Got the night bus to Tupiza, arrived at 4, met up with a couple of English lads and found a hostel.Explored the town the next day (not too much to it) and risked myfirst local haircut lol
Good group in the hostel so all went outfora meal (the local dish plate of random meat and mush was rough!!)and cheap local booze. Left thinking "what have I let myself in for after hearing their drug fuelled nights stories. Hopefully this is just a bad sample of travelers! Lol
Went on5 hour horse trek around the canyons with a South African who was the spit of ´Gap Yah´(Youtube it -its hilarious!), a none speaking English guide and a horse who appeared to do whatever he liked. The scenery was awesome with red canyons, catucses which reminded me of the wild west but my camera battery ran out after the first pic L. Massive heart attach when the horse slipped on train lines and nearly fell!!