First of all first Merry Christmas! Hope you all have a safe and sound festive time... I so wish I was back in the UK as good as South America is Christmas isn't Christmas without the cold weather, turkey, family, friends and not fotgetting the babychams! Pisco sours (local brew) in the searing heat is strange!
Anyway here I am in Cusco the tourist capital of South America largely if not solely due to Machu Picchu. I managed a few words to you from the airport in Santiago, Chile where I had a nice 8hr wait. I'm yet to conclude New Zealand and I know Maff has written a few lines in a group mail so apologies for the repitition. We basically had a ball visiting as much as we could of the North Island which included Whitianga, Gisbourne, Mapier, Rotorua and of course another pitstop in Auckland. We drove for miles and stayed in some beautiful hostels ( far better than the Aussie ones) we were in the first city in the world to see dawn (Gisbourne) which was quite unique and well worth getting up at stupid o'clock for, the night before we experienced an earthquake, we hearded sheep on route to a secluded beach whereby Maff truly melted and I gained a few more freckles, we saw the amazing volcanic activity in Rotorua and smelt it too and it really is as bad as the book states! We drove through the stunning Coromandel Peninsula and I played stalker snapping the local maori kids, we spent an evening 'local' style at a Maori hangi do enjoying food from an earth oven and tribal dances and rituals....finally we arrived back at 22B whereby we cooked for Sara and co which was the least we could do for all the hospitality they provided during my three pitstops there in 3 weeks!
The next day Maff took me to the airport and I cried I had such a top time in NZ with Maff and 22B I really wanted to stay especially as Parker and Jen were only a week away from landing there...oh well the travels go on and I boarded for the next continent, South America. I crossed the international date line so I landed before I took off, suprisingly I didn't feel too bad until I reached the craziness of Lima airport I couldn't find my hotel pickup so opted for a local taxi who didn't have a clue where my hotel was, an hour and a half and 3 phonecalls later at 2am we arrived only to be told it was full and I was moved down the road to a not so nice gaff, straight to sleep it was!
The next day was a free day I met a guy in a cab on route back to the original hotel so we spent the day together walking around Lima. It reminded me a bit of Manila although not so much on the darkside! We hopped on a local tour bus for the equivalent of a pound and were shown the sights in Spanish! Great value though!
That evening I met my next overland group or should I say my next Aussie group about 28 of them in all minus me 2 two other 'Poms' and two kiwi's! Gutted!! I thought I'd left that continent behind me!! Nevermind we went local for a few drinks and food but most of us had travelled so far we were about done. The next monring we headed in the new truck for Paracus near Pisco (sight of earthquake) for a trip to the Ballestas Island which was suprisingly good as you can see from the pics it was a bird and marine sanctuary and a great photo opportunity it was a bit like being on the set of an Attenborough docu!
That afternoon we moved onto dune buggys and sand boarding and camped the evening in the desert an awesome start to the trip and already it was becoming so more civilised (and too easy!) than the E.O.E trip although incomparable in a sense. The dunes were huge and the boarding was fun but Maff you were right too high for some including me of course! The buggys were like being on a rollercoaster...don't knock it til you've tried it!! Next morning was Nazca and the lines although I opted out of a cessna plane for some sun and relaxation by the pool instead, most people came back feeling quite blase and sick from the turbulance so I knew I'd made the right decision not to go!
The next day we headed out to the Chauchilla cemetary very strange in the middle of the desert as I hope the pics will show. More driving (not for long) onto Perto Inca and a campsirte by the beach with barbie and a short trek along the coast amongst some minor ruins. Th Aussies opted for the local disco the poms opted for the campfire! Minority rules I say!
Our next stop was Arequipa named the white city due to the volcanic white rock. Founded in 1540 it's a colonial city and was very quaint with pretty Plazas and a firm local culture. The city itself is in the midst of 3 peaks/volcanoes Misti 5822m, Pichu Pichu 5571m and the highest Chachine at 6075m all were very himalayan esq! We had three nights here but I chose to break my toe on the first after a nice afternoon strolling Michelle and I got lost as you always should do in foreign lands! I slipped over whilsy carrying 2 bottles of vino landing straight onto one with my hand! A deep cut and a sore foot later I was patched up by a local who told us both off for wearing flip flops! (she was so nice with it though!) We went back to the hostel/camp and I was patched up again properly by Jane a Veterinary student! The next day we city srolled and took in the sight albeit with a limp (not knowing it was broken!) we booked a mountain bike trip out into the country for the next day then foolishly went out on the tiles. The next morming our guide aka ex Peruvian champion turned up in his lycra suprised to see 4 hungover not so professionals with our heads not hung high!! Needless to stay at altitude we carried on and it was one of the best bike rides I've done this trip, great to be a world away shrouded by the hills amidst small communities who had no electricity or running water..it very much reminded me of the Tibet plateau.
Upon return my toe was now not happy so Owen ( a med student) and I went off to the local hospital where we got by on minimal Spanish and an xray showed a clear fracture. The rest was a complete farce! I had to translate to a guy on the phone called Richard who was the doctors son, the doctor looked like Del Boy in a leather jacket and we then had to make two journeys by cab to buy the plaster cast as the hospital couldn't afford to buy it! It was as all foreign hospitals are an experience to say the least! When they said they would be putting a plaster on up to my knee I thought I was on candid camera!! Oh no it was a tourist cast designed so I could walk....walk was the last thing I could do with it it was comedy to say the least! The next day we drove to Cusco arriving last night, Pish our leader rang a local doctor to come and see me and he cut the cast off (afetr smirking at it!) splinted it up and made a 'special' sole for my shoe so I can walk without bending the toe! A genius and gentleman I wish he was my local GP he was so nice! So several Peruvian 'Soles' later and I'm sorted I just need to rest as we leave for the Inca trail and Machu Picchu on the 27th and as you know I will be attempting to climb the trail 45km oer 4 days and no broken big toe will stop me!!
That's about it the group went to the Sacred valley and markets today but I opted to stay local stroll and update this all to aid this damn toe! I've had a lovely day though first one on my own in a while. The Christmas preperations are being made in the local square and it just seems so weird! We're having a group meal on Christmas evening, a secret santa/brunch in the morning and during the day Michelle has organised some volunteer work at a local orphanage so I'm looking forward to spending the time doing something worthwhile.
I hope whatever you're doing and where ever you are you all have a safe one part of me as I've said wishes to be back in the UK but this time next year I know I'll think otherwise whilst shivering! As it's now Christmas and I'm then off on the inca trail until the 31st this will be my last entry this year!
2007 has been truly incredible the people I have met the places I have seen and the delights and smells of local cultures has astounded me to say the least! Thank you all for keeping in touch being my text, email or through the good old blog I hope I've kept you entertained over the past 9 months just a few weeks to go now in South America then an adventure with Marcus in South Africa and I´m more or less done! I'll be back in the same old routine before you know it and if you've read and viewed the pics I won't bore you upon my return!! (Tobe!!)
So Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!
Loving and missing you all...
Adios, Rach xxx
Mum/Dad I will call you on Christmas day please text and let me know when and where is best!! xx