Cusco, Machu Pichu, Amazon, Lima
03.05.2011 - 13.05.2011
Day 96, 3 May 2011
We left reasonably early and went to the bus station where we got on a bus for the long ride to Cusco. There were a few stops along the way but otherwise we just watched the changing scenery and saw two movies (C-Spanish language, English subtitles, different).
Once we were settled in Cusco we ducked out for a sandwich then after a briefing we went for a wander around town (C-one of the worst sandwiches ever).
We were going to go out for dinner but decided not to as I wasn’t feeling very good. Later that night/ the next morning (at 3am) unfortunately, Chris was coming down with the same thing I had and then had a skype interview for a potential job in Tassie. We didn’t get much more sleep as the full force of the bug hit us in the early hours of the morning.
Day 97, 4 May 2011
Luckily today was set aside as a free day –well we spent most of it in bed. We did manage to go to a shop that showed us the difference between synthetic wool jumpers and alpaca. There is a huge market here for jumpers here but many that claim to be 100% alpaca or ‘baby alpaca are actually fake (C- ‘maybe alpaca’). I got an alpaca jumper..
We did venture out in the afternoon, but struggled to get much further than the main square (about 500m). It was a long day of tv watching and feeling sorry for ourselves.
Day 98, 5 May 2011
We were much better today! We managed to get out of bed and ate some breaky then we headed toward the shopping precinct. We walked and walked through markets, got a few trinkets and ended up at the Inca temple of the sun. It was interesting to learn that when the Spanish got to Cusco they flattened all temples (except this one) and built churches. This temple had a beautiful court yard in the middle and was set in really nice grounds.
We also went through a monastery which was interesting, but a bit eerie. We then did the dirty…. We went to Mc Donalds. To give us some cred – we did only want safe, reliable food. But why is it that once you’re there with the burger it’s exactly the same as it always is.
I think we went out for dinner that night with the group but were fairly early to bed.
Day 99, 6 May 2011
We were up early and off in a mini van four our tour of the sacred valley. The first stop was an animal shelter where we saw some macaws, puma, condors and other interesting animals. The shelter gets the animals from people who are caught trying to sell them on the black market.
Next we stopped at a charity project where the women are encouraged to explain the process of weaving with alpaca, wool and llama. We experienced another hard sell on some products, but we managed to get a good price on a piece of material (another wall hanging!).
After a long drive past some inca ruins we made it to more ruins. We were shown around and then were allowed to explore ourselves. C and I made our way to the very top and agreed that it would have been a great place to play hide and seek except for the heaving breaths you’d have because of the altitude.
After another stop for lunch we got to the town of Ollyantaytambo and walked up some more ruins. These ones were up the side of a bit hill. The terracing is amazing – they make use of every possible bit of land no matter how steep it is. (C- there are also some faces carved into the stone, some parts formed by nature, others the Incas accentuated with their masonry, very impressive)
We had a nice room at the hotel– apparently some of the walls were ‘inca walls’ (hmmm yep complete with new concrete) and after dinner we crawled into bed as it was freezing.
Day 100, 7 May 2011
We thought we were up to day 99 today so we didn’t celebrate…
Today was a bit of a gap filler. We were up and out of the hotel by 8:00 and on the train to Agua Callientes (hot springs) town by 8:30. The scenery from train was amazing as the environment changed from altiplano to jungle. The size of the mountains was unbelievable – especially when we were at the bottom of the valley.
Agua Callientes itself doesn’t have much to offer except for a number of over priced restaurants and tourist touts. C and I bummed around for most of the afternoon, then found a place with reasonably priced beer and pondered our return to Aus.
Later that night C and I ordered a guinea pig for dinner (which we called Bob- we also agreed never to have a guinea pig as a pet, C- or a pet named bob). It was interesting, but not sure if we would try it again. There wasn’t much meat and the taste was not very good. It was kind of too well cooked but maybe you have to cook it like that (C bring on the Argentinean steak!).
Day 101, 8 May 2011
I can not believe that we’re here. Today was awesome. We were up very early and bundled off in busses to climb up to the top of a mountain to the entrance of Machu Pichu. We had been told that it was near on impossible to get a stamp to allow you to climb a particular mountain, huanapichu, in MP as they limit them to 400 per day and people queue from 3:00am to get them. We were lucky however as when we got there, they were still handing out the stamps.
So as soon as we got in we raced off to Huanapichu, waited to be let in and then set off at a cracking pace, heaving for breath most of the way up. There were lots of small slippery steps, even some that you needed rope to hang on. However it paid off as we were about the 5th people up the top and it was magical. You could see the whole MP site but the surrounding mountains were spectacular.
We then had the arduous task of getting down all of the steep steps. It was fun though, and we made it back to our group in time to start the tour. I think we were lucky to do the climb early in the morning as by 9:00am it was quite hot and sunny.
The tour was interesting – telling us that MP was really a trading centre and a lot of people bought their goods there to swap for other things. The engineering of the waterways, the earthquake proof walls, the sun dials and the ‘Inca GPS’ system make you wonder why we need so much fancy technology to produce things. But the sheer size and perfection that makes the whole site just blows you away.
Thinking it was our 100th day, C and I shared a beer on the top of MP overlooking the site. It was really cool.
We met our group who had walked the inca trail in Agua Callientes, got the train to Ollyantaytambo then headed back to Cusco.
Later that night we had a few drinks at the world’s ‘highest’ Irish pub, (C- Wendy managed to meet Pat Cash the tennis player).
Day 102, 9 May 2011
We had a very slow start too the day as my head was not the best. But luckily it was another free day so C did some computer work while I slept. We headed out about lunch time and did a bit of shopping.
C and I went to a cool place for dinner and had some food that was like home – an Aussie burger and fish and chips…. We also got our South America t-shirt that says ‘no gracias’ as it is a saying that we’ve said too many times to the touts.
Day 103, 10 May 2011
After re-packing and scoffing breakfast we set off for the airport. I would have thought getting 16 people through everything and on a plane together would be nigh on impossible, but we all just followed our leader, dropped off the bags, went through security and eventually boarded.
We arrived in Porto Moldanado which is a growing town in the Amazon. The change in temperature hit you like a slap in the face – a welcome change from the cold of Cusco, but the humidity didn’t agree with quite a few people.
After changing bags and bumping along a dirt road to a very make-shift port (stairs down a river bank a few planks) we got onto very long thin boats that I think resemble the Chinese junk boats. At least we had life jackets!
We zoomed along the river, stopping at a ranger’s office but also stopping to look at various wildlife. We did see a number of Capybaras (they are like a big guinea pig) (C-60kg guinea pigs!) snuffling at the water’s edge.
After about 2 hours we made it to the lodge which was beautiful. It was a big open air wooden structure with couches, hammocks and a bar with cold drinks. The rooms were also pretty amazing. There were no hard walls between the rooms- just bamboo dividers (all three off the supposed walls that don’t even reach the ceiling, if someone snores, we will know), the doors were bits of calico and we had an open area looking straight into the jungle. Luckily we did have mosquito nets over the beds and two candles for light. It was very rustic but really cool too.
After dinner we were taken on a night walk and went back on the boat to search for cayman. We saw a few eyes poking out from the water, but not much. We did see a few too many spiders & scorpions though (C- we only saw one that would kill you, the rest were just impressive for their shear size).
Day 104 11May 2011
The noises in the jungle were amazing. I was up quite early as I wanted to see if there was news from home, but it wasn’t hard to be woken by the cacophony of birds, cicadas etc. After breakfast we set off on a nature walk, stopping at a big tower and then to a lake. The lake was lovely, but quite hot. We went in search of the big trees, then fed piranhas bread (one of our group actually cut himself to see if they liked blood).
We all flaked before and after lunch, but I did manage to get online and see that Josh and Charlotte Barwick had been bought into the world and were doing great. One of the tougher moments to be a million miles from home, in the middle of nowhere I have to say (C- however, you have to admit, internet in the middle of the Amazon is a sign of the times)
We went off on another activity, this time going through a fruit farm, tasting all the strange fruits they grow. I have no idea what they were called but there were quite a few sour type of fruits. We were assured that most of them make good ice cream.
We played a few rounds of cards before dinner, then the boys got stuck into a bottle of rum afterwards (C- not purely my idea, someone else brought the rum).
Day 105 12 May 2011
The days are going fast now. I can’t believe that we only have 30 left!
We left the lodge fairly early and made our way back to the airport. It was a long flight, via Cusco to Lima and before we knew it, we were back at the starting hotel. (C-more disconcerting was weight of our bags 37.5 kg and we have two in storage in Lima).
After a shower and loading some washing we set off for our last group dinner. I can’t say it was the best food we’ve had but by the time the food came everyone was starving.
We headed to a bar and had a few drinks with the group before finding our way back to the hotel.
Day 104 13 May 2011
C- Black Friday, and I have the headache. Wendy seemed to get a burst of energy and was typing up some of the blog.
We also discovered that our toothbrushes have gone walkabout, blame it on black Friday (re-located but covered in rid).
At breakfast, we caught up with some of the group as everyone was making their final preparations for leaving. Again we started repacking, in Wendy’s words, “I am used to repacking, but whether I like repacking is debatable”.
We headed into the main part of Lima City with tour member and began to explore the city. We walked around the buildings shops of the square and enjoyed some ice cream. A public display on the history of food in peru was being shown. It looked really good, although we couldn’t read any of the Spanish descriptions.
A political conference was taking plae at the presidential palace. So we found bench and did some people/ event wathxing before catching up with our friend.
Next was the catacombs. This was a real surprise. We managed to get there just as an enlgish tour was starting. The art work was amazing and then you decend into the old catacombs. It use to be public cementary under the church. Due to the burial rituals, more and more people were buried until it was full. They estimate about 25,000 people were buried in the main pits alone. The main pits are wells that are about 10m deep and 3m diameter, full of bones. Wendy stayed close to me, although I kept bumping head on the roof.
We also found this man doing traditional weaving, and found out the bargain of the tour, 15 sols (5$Aus) for hand made wall hanging.
We headed back to the hotel in a taxi, driving in Peru must be dangerous part time, Wendy and our friend were hiding in the back talking, oblivious to the traffic conditions and dricing I was watching from the front.
We picked up the bags, said some final farewells and then head off to the next hotel to start the Huayhuash (pronounced - whywash) tour. The briefing was at 7 and was a few short as more people were flying in that night. Afterwards some of the group went out to dinne. W and I recommended the first place we visited with Neil on the GAP tour. I even manged to ask for some free pisco sours. An early night as tomorrow we start the next adventure.