Buenos Dias, my last blog I seem to remember saying that South America keeps surprising me and that the Salt Flats trip in Bolivia would take some beating. Well, Macchu Picchu is definitely up there! I had heard Peru was expensive, incredibly touristy and perhaps a tad overrated. That’s rubbish!
We arrived in Cuzco after a nightmare journey on a bus with locals to find an incredibly beautiful colonial town with square after square and church after church. Yes it’s touristy but it doesn’t feel ruined by it at all. I hate to admit that there is a MacDonald’s in the square but even Maccers have toned it down a bit and replaced the golden arches with quite smart granite ones! The many squares and cobbled streets are lined with restaurants and shops but the buildings are old but incredibly well maintained and made even smarter by using gold and granite writing on white walls. At night Cuzco gets even better somehow. The best thing still though is the people, they have an incredible sense of humour and rather than get annoyed with tourists they enjoy them being there. Obviously they try to sell things but it’s done in such a funny no pressure kind of way that I’ve not experienced anywhere else in the world. Cuzco is probably one of the safest feeling and friendliest places I’ve ever been to and I never expected to say this but one of my favourite cities in the world! We spent an afternoon finding out about Macchu Picchu, trekking and rafting and after many jokes and quite a bit of haggling we booked what had to be the biggest bargain in Cuzco! We booked a days rafting for the next day, a days downhill mountain biking, two days trekking to Macchu Picchu, a day at Macchu Picchu, all food, all accommodation, numerous guides, all equipment and probably other things I’ve forgotten for £103! Try just going rafting in the Lake District for that! Peru is not expensive and don’t let that put anyone off going it’s just that it costs a certain amount to do these kind of trips; guides need to be paid, fuel isn’t free, entrance to parks etc. From what people had said I was expecting Macchu Picchu to be a bit of a letdown before I went, yes it’s incredible to have a whole civilisations city in such good condition but it was only built about 700 years ago and there are many older engineering triumphs in the world. When you get there you realise it is somewhere you need to visit and its location is incredible. Three days of trekking to get there through the jungle really makes you appreciate it and when you sit on the very top of Wayna Picchu looking down at Macchu Picchu you realise that not everybody gets to see this in their lifetime and it really is a special place.
From Cuzco we went to Lima and stayed there for a couple of days. We went to a Copa Libertadores game which is the equivalent of the Champions League but for South America. We saw University (Peru) vs Libertad (Uruguay). It was an incredible atmosphere, flares going off everywhere and everyone singing, jumping and swinging shirts around. We had some good photos but Kunaal had his camera literally ripped from his hand (they ripped the handle which he had round his wrist!) so we lost those photos and the mountain biking from Cuzco. From Lima we got the nightmare bus journey to Quito, Ecuador. It was full of screaming locals and had no A/C so we were sweating buckets for 36 hours!! I’m glad we went to Ecuador, it was a whistle-stop tour, we only went to the capital and from there did a trip to the Equator. I think it cost us about 80p in buses to get to ‘mitad del mundo’, the middle of the world! Quito was a nice city, we’ve seen so many colonial areas now and to be honest they get a tad repetitive so I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had only been there. It seemed like a very friendly capital though and was a nice place to just wonder round. The best thing about Ecuador had to be the price, they use US dollars and as an example we had a curry, rice, naan and a beer for $5 each. We spent Easter Sunday in Quito so we thought we would treat ourselves a little to a Mongolian BBQ, it’s an all you can eat place where you select your ingredients, they cook it on a big hot plate and bring it over. To be honest it wasn’t very Mongolian but I think you’ll agree ALL you can eat is the main attraction there! From Quito we got a bus to the border with Colombia, crossed the border and got a bus to Cali. I’m going to reserve all comments but one on Colombia for a few days because I don’t want to tempt fate but it seems like a fantastic country with fantastic people. Tonight we head up to Cartagena which sounds like one of the most amazing cities in South America; it’s a Caribbean beach town with so much history and character. I remember being really ‘beached out’ in Australia sitting on the beach in the Caribbean in 36 degrees and chilling out is quite appealing now! Doing the same in Venezuela afterwards and then it’s just rain, rain and more rain in the Amazon for a week or so!