A Travellerspoint blog


Taking it to a new level

sunny 33 °C

So far our trip has basically consisted of blissful moments of relaxation, where we know where we are sleeping, eating etc. for a few days, and then periods of frantic organisation, which includes long hours in the nearest internet cafe (why did we not bring a laptop) trying to sort out where we are going, how we are getting there, and counting every penny that we need to do that. Our inability to organise anything (I thought Sam was an event manager??) has led to some of those moments when the sun is setting and you suddenly think.. 'Hey, do we have anywhere to sleep??'
After loving Cusco and not wanting to leave, we once again suddenly realised that we needed to be in North Western Mexico in 3 days... From there began 72 hours of transit hell... We rapidly booked a bus to take us back over the Andes to Lima. A plane takes 50 minutes but the good old school bus takes 21 hours. Great. We jumped on at 6pm, and as it was nearly two weeks since our last long haul bus we had almost forgotten how punishing it truly is. Almost. Several complaints, two naps, one whole ipod battery and 4 Twix bars later we arrived in Lima, where it truly sucks. Lima is a dirty, flat, hot city of ten million, 9.9 of which live in abject poverty. The thing that saves it is that despite the conditions Peruvian people seem relentlessly optimistic and helpful. We trudged to our hostel, had a shower and decided to escape reality for a while and attempt to stay up till 8pm by going to see a movie. We found a cinema and rocked in, careful to ask if the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles, and not the other way around.
Being the cultured creatures that we are, we decided to see Slumdog Millionaire, as the only english speaking show they seem to air in South America is Oprah, and she practically wets herself with excitement whenever she mentions it. Feeling very excited to be able to spend two hours without having to deal with not speaking spanish, we sat down and got comfortable. At this point any of you that have seen Slumdog Millionaire will be laughing because after ten minutes we realised that the movie is set in India and 80% of the time they speak Hindi. Which is fine, if you have subtitles. That arent in Spanish. Brilliant. We walked out to the disbelieving stares of most of the Peruvian moviegoing public...
Heads bowed in shame, we made it back to the hostel, where we slept in a room with the temperature hovering a few degrees off boiling point. Waking up with a tan, we hopped in a cab to the airport, sad to be leaving Peru but incredibly happy to be leaving Lima... We didnt leave ourselves nearly enough time though, as we failed to take into account the fact that peak hour is a global phenomenon, which occurs even when less than 5% of the population seem to have a job. Counting the seconds, we ran into the terminal, only to be told that we didnt have a ticket for the plane to Miami.
Three weeks earlier, when the beer haze had lifted long enough during Carnivale for us to realise we needed to change some flights, we had rang the airline (LAN - dont ever fly with them) and changed the dates on three flights, the first of which we were currently trying to embark upon. The guy on the phone had been very helpful and changed the flights on the spot, but judging by the blank faces of the check in staff he had only changed them in his head, because they knew nothing. According to them we were still flying on the original date - 4 days ago.
It took us quite a while to figure all this out, of course, because they only spoke Spanish....
30 minutes of arguing with whoever came in earshot later, the manager and then the managers manager were called in, and the problem was resolved. Nearly. The LAN idiots said we could get on the plane, but that we would have to check with American Airlines when we arrived in Miami for the connecting flight, as they 'couldnt see it in their system' or something. Fine, we said, storming off to the departures terminal, only to be slugged with a random US$65 airport tax, for no reason other than blatant fund raising.
By this time tempers were running thin, and when a guy selling sandwiches tried to extort yet more funds out of us, he recieved the full force of our frustrations... Leaving him huddled in a corner, hugging himself and shaking with fright, we got on the flight and made it to Miami... With no connecting flight tickets and less than 90 minutes we ran through the terminal, only to be confronted with our first taste of American Homeland Security. The line to clear customs was packed and not moving, because to get in doesn't simply require your passport and a smile, it takes three sets of fingerprints, 2 photos and an interview (interrogation) to get into America, whether you're from Iraq or Young.
Our bags didnt arrive on the conveyor belt, so hoping (but definitely not expecting) that they would magically arrive in Mexico City, we ran through the airport. The first airline assistant guy (we recognised him from the big ASK ME badge he was wearing) told us to rack off (Isnt that the American Way...) but we eventually found someone to direct us to the American Airlines help desk... In terminal D... We were in Terminal J. 4 km of Airport sprinting and fat yank dodging later we made it, skipped the line and breathlessly explained our predicament... The lady took pity on us and got us on the flght, despite the fact that the awesome LAN people in Lima had completey deleted our ticket from the system. And our future ticket from Mexico to LA, and our ticket from LA to NYC. What a bunch of CHAMPIONS.
We got on, found ourselves an exit row and settled in, looking forward to airline dinner (yes thats how desperate we are). It came, but with a US$10 price tag. No dinner for poor old us.
We arrived in Mexico City dirty, hungry and tired and our luck suddenly changed. Our bags had made it too. This may seem like a matter of course but we have learned to take nothing for granted....(see earlier blog on Chile). We made it to the hotel, which thankfully was quite nice, and flopped into bed.
We awoke with yet another bus trip ahead of us.. this time 20 hours to Merida, capital of the Yucatan... This bus made Peruvian buses look like Air Force One by comparison... Packed solid with Mexicans, we crawled our way out of the city and along the Gulf, finally arriving and finding the nearest bar in which to drown our sorrows in cheap tequila, thankful that our 72 hours of transit hell had finally ended.... Now, to rest up before the next leg...

Posted by willandsam 13:41 Archived in Mexico Tagged luxury_travel Comments (3)


The return from Machu Picchu

sunny 15 °C

After 4 days of trekking up and down mountains, Will and I were keen to get back to civilisation (and a shower). After a look around Machu Picchu, we got a train back to Cusco, a place we both have really enjoyed. Cusco is a mountain city (at around 3000 m above sea level..) of around 320000 people. The topography alone is enough to captivate you but then add in cobblestone streets, spanish inspired cathedrals, beautifully manicured gardens including working water fountains and locals carrying baby llama in their pouches whilst dressed in traditional Peruvian attire...yes llamas not to be mistaken for small hairy babies..

Another positive of Peru was the weather, having spent the last 6 weeks in 35 and plus temperatures it was actually nice to get out the jeans and don the woollen beanies. When we talked steam would come out of our mouths..i love that and if you didnt know any better you would think you were staying at a luxury ski resort and all you had to do was walk outside the plaza and ski down a huge mountain. Yes granted there is alot of begging and a gringo stands out like a sore thumb so as you walk down the streets there is constant haggling, however, once you state 'no gracias' they tend to back off (mostly).

Having worked hard during the Inca trail we decided to treat ourselves to a drink or two (happy hour is everywhere and seems to run for 2 hour intervals with about a 15 minute break in between..noice!) and a nice hearty meal. Will and I have made an effort to try all the local cuisine and in Cusco it is Guinea Pig and Alpaca. After 2 drinks each (snap only paid for 2 but got 4...ingenious) we happily walked to one of Cusco's many restaurants (oh and yes the altitude def sneaks up on you, 2 drinks each may have well been 10 each..another point in Cuscos favour).

For some reason we couldnt bring ourselves to eat Guinea pig..it comes out with all extremities attached including its rat like head cooked solid staring straight up at you with rat like teeth showing. All it is missing is an apple placed in its mouth..how do i know this you ask? Well most places think to entice fellow customers to choose the 'speciale' that a picture will in fact seal the deal...which in turn only meant the complete opposite..no deal..so instead we opted for the cuddly and cute Alpaca...think chicken but more tender, think sweet flavoured goodness with, not to mention, half the calories..now i have your attention.. it was delicious and just incase you are questioning our humanity or should it be animality...hrmmm...anyway relax they kill the really old ones, they're practically on the way out anyway may as well be used for something useful.

All in all our Cusco experience was amazing. This unspoilt gem is a must see and i def think it may be our number 1 place..(for now)..

Posted by willandsam 13:48 Archived in Peru Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Inca Trail

Day 4

all seasons in one day 18 °C

The final day had arrived, the reason for all the ridiculous stairs, gruelling mountains, freezing winds and annoying mozzies..all we wanted was a cloudless day so that when we reached the Sun gate we could see Machu Picchu cleary..being the wet season the chances of no clouds were very slim and our previous experience with clouds and visibility meant we had already accepted our fate...we both awoke at 3am not to coca tea but to terrential rain, it was so loud that we couldnt hear each other speak not having to get up for another hour we lay there praying that it would stop or atleast soften...it did and by 5:30am we were well into our final 6km trek pointless poncho in toe..these last 6km seemed to go on forever by this stage no one was speaking everyone was just concentrating on reaching the end and hoping that the grey sky would some how miraculously clear up...infact the only thing that stopped us in our track was a huge cracking noise..it sounded like lightening but infact it was a landslide...great we got this far and there is a landslide and we cant go any further..luckily it wasnt bad and so on we trekked finally reaching the sungate for sunrise...well it would have been sunrise if there was no clouds..instead refer to previous A4 paper quote in SugarLoaf blog...

The sungate looks over all of Machu Picchu and unfortunately there was a huge white thick cloud covering everthing, so we all stood cheering congratulating ourselves but kind of feeling a little bit ripped off at the same time..then as if on cue the one huge cloud slowly moved to reveal Machu Picchu, more cheering followed and maybe a few high 5s to random people (you do stupid things when there isnt much oxygen in the air)..Machu Picchu is everything we had expected and more. It is huge with amazing craftmanship (the best thing to do is check the photos as words dont really describe it). Jaime showed us around and we were captivated for the next two hours by his stories and knowledge..there wasnt a stone unturned, he explained everything to us and we felt extremely lucky as without him you could walk around for hours not really knowing what you are looking at.

Finally we couldnt walk any further, we were done, we had been wearing the same sweaty clothes for the past 4 days, our legs hurt and our brains were filled to the max so it was time to say good bye to Machu Picchu and head back into town to marvel at our efforts.

Here we caught a train back to Cusco, what took us 4 days to walk took us 4 hours by train...makes you wonder what were we thinking..

Posted by willandsam 12:52 Archived in Peru Tagged luxury_travel Comments (2)

Inca Trail

Day 3

all seasons in one day 5 °C

We awoke at sunrise once again to a beautiful day.. November to March here is the rainy season, so to see a cloudless sky we were very lucky. A quick litre of coca tea and we were off at 6am. Day 3 was meant to be easier than day 2 but the first two hours were spent climbing yet more steps.. We came across our first set of Inca ruins, a checkpoint for Inca travellers on the trail.. After 500 years the ruins are still intact, having withstood many earthquakes and greedy Spaniards.
We then continued upwards for another hour till we reached the second pass - basically the second peak of three that we had to scale. Leaving an offering to the inca gods (coca leaves) we wished for clear skies and good luck.. and immediately came face to face with a bear. It wasnt as scary as it sounds, there are bears roaming the Andes during the rainy season, and we were a hundred or so metres away, so i was safe in the knowledge that i could (probably) outrun Sam.
Im not sure if its just Australian competitiveness but we seemed to be travelling very fast, we reached the lunch stop at 1030! I was happy with that though and we smashed another three courses before setting off on another climb... At this point the highlands gave way to cloudforest - it got warmer and the jungle got thicker.. The trail was built on the side of some very steep mountains.. amazing that it could be achieved without any machinery.. slavery gets stuff done.
At this point we had left most of the other tourists behind and we had the trail pretty much to ourselves, it was incredible to be alone walking this path biult so long ago. Another few hours passes and the trail and ruins changed from simple checkpoints to complex towns, complete with altars of human sacrifice.. We were in more remote territory, where the spaniards hadnt destroyed everything. We came upon a town known as the little town in the clouds, the much anticipated end of the uphill part of thr journey... From there to the campsite it was all downhill, so with kness huetiong and legs shaking we arrived at Winaywayna, where we where treated to a luke warm shower, which was possibly the best thing ever!

Posted by willandsam 12:37 Archived in Peru Tagged luxury_travel Comments (1)

The Inca Trail

Day 1 and 2

all seasons in one day 1 °C

We arrived in Lima from Santiago, thankful not to have been arrested and ready to take on the next leg of the trip... After a 1am cab ride into Lima city, where the cab driver did not allow the nedle to fall below 145km/h the whole time, we crashed at our hostel.. We woke to find Lima is a massive hole. Everything is flat, rubbish everywhere, it smells and its full of people trying to squeeze a dollar out of us.
We had a bit of a walk around as we needed to tire ourselves out for the next trip... 21 hours to Cusco. The bus was thankfully a step above the Brazilian efforts, with big seats and great 80s movies (think Lassie....). What wasnt so encouraging though was that the bus company guy filmed us all as we got on.. for the purpose of identification should we be busjacked or fall off a cliff... brilliant.
We made it though and rolled off the bus to find a beautiful mountain city, full of paved roads and spanish colonial architecture. The entire place though is built to service the tourist trade with thousands of trekkers ready to take on the many trails the Andes have to offer.
Needing to be in prime physical shape for the trek, we decided that the best thing to would be to sample Cuscos nightlife. This resulted in missing an entire nights sleep and having to organise ourselves for the trek while in a right state.
Great work Dennis and McCloy.
Anyway, we managed and that night we met our tour leader, Jamie. He didnt have the chin of our own Jamie Dennis but we still warmed to him instantly. We waited for the rest of the group to arrive. And waited. and waited. And then we realised we were the group. Nobody wanted to go with us. At this point Sam cried. She says it was because she was tired but i think it was because she was thinking of the prospect of spending more time just talking to me.

We set off at 6am to catch a bus to kilometre 82, the starting point of the trek... the bus was late. Sam almost cried again. Then just as people were starting to stare, the bus arrived. Thank god. We immediately fell asleep as the bus wound up the mountains. We awoke to find ridiculous vertical walls in all directions. See earlier reference to sam crying.
The three of us set off on what was to be the easiest day of trekking. After 2km Jamie realised he forgot some of his stuff. This was to become a pattern, but his disorganisation was quite endearing as he apologised upwards of 40 times. The conditions were good for walking, and after a short time we came upon some natives. Up there in the mountains people live like they always have, dressed in the traditional style, mostly pulling llamas and with several dirty kids around their ankles.. The houses here are just stone shacks with no floors, doors, electricity or anything. its amazing. They mostly make money selling gatorade (god knows where they get it from).
Having a group of two actually turned out well (although sam might disagree) as Jamie was always on hand to tell us all about everything you could possibly want to know, from which cactuses to eat to how to make lipstick from bugs. Sam is actually wearing it right now. Hot.
After 4 hours of walking we arrived at our first site, for lunch.. The porters (the two of us had a support crew of 5 - porters to carry all our stuff, two cooks - we are real hardcore trekkers) were late, and we were hungry. I get a bit grumpy when im hungry so after having stern words with jamie we recieved a three course meal.. The porters and cooks turned out to be fantastic and our relationship with them was a highlight of the trip. These guys make about $60 to look after us for 4 days, and carry all sams bug lipstick, but they are so happy and keen to please. We were humbled by their attitude and fitness.
From there we headed further into the Andes, dreading the next day when we made the first real ascent. We camped at a beautiful spot next to a river known to the Incas as the sacred river... the trail follows this river and is said to reflect the exact path of the milky way. mmmm milky way.
When we arrived everything was set for us and dinner was cooking. The porters had sprinted past us with huge packs on their backs (and wearing thongs) to have it all ready. Sam then decided that we should camp more when we get home. Itll be a rude surprise when i make her set the tent up. And cook. And carry everything.
After another huge meal of traditional peruvian fare, we were ready for bed. After all it was 730pm! We slept like babies, and were ready for whatever day 2 threw at us....

As the sun rose on day 2, we were awoken by Savino, one of our porters, knocking on our tent door (yes he can do that. He is that good) with coca tea for us. Its tea made from the coca leaf, the same stuff they make the drug from... Apparently its good for altitude sickness. We demolished a few cups of that and and some brekkie (another three courses...nice) before setting off around 7am. At this point we hadnt reached the inca trail proper. The incas destroyed much of the early parts of the trail when the Spanish invaded in 1536 (thanks julio. good bloke). It wasnt too hard until we reached the steps. All 400 thousand of them. The trail began with an incline not seen since the days of the travelator on Gladiators.
We did three hours of solid steps, passing many a fat american on the way, before our first stop, where the porters looked like they had been there for hours. Some more coca tea and popcorn got us back on track, and we tackled the next 3 hours to the top of Dead Womans Pass, at a easy 13700 feet. It was a hard slog, and just as we got to the top, ready to celebrate, it started hailing. Hard. it was about 3 degrees as we put on our plastic ponchos. All i can say is dont buy stuff from a guy selling it through the window of a bus. The ponchos did little to stop the hail and we rushed down the other side. The incas, it turns out, like steps to descend as well. A thousand steps took its toll on our knees and we struggled downhill to the second campsite. Our pain though was compensated for by the views of the andes. Even the small hills put Kosiusko to shame.... We rolled into camp and did what all good trekkers do. Had a nap. Had another great dinner and headed to bed, but not before Will dislocated his knee. 15ks of trekking and a dislocated knee getting into the tent. Soft. Once again slept like babies, happy in the knowledge that it was halfway through...

Posted by willandsam 14:25 Archived in Peru Tagged luxury_travel Comments (2)

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