Start of the Adventure
05.10.2015 - 05.11.2015
Hours on plane: 17.5
Hours on bus: 61
Hours on a train: 2
Phil's injury count to date: 2 (one sprained ankle and a minor laceration to little toe)
Things were have learnt:
Doxycycline does indeed induce photo sensitivity.
Cocoa leaves do help with trekking- I won't go as far as attitude sickness... ( maybe placebo! But it does something!).
The Peruvian spirit pisco taste like tequila and is not for the faint hearted.
The sewage system in Peru is less than ideal.
Debbie should have listened to her Spanish CD more on her drive to/ from work rather than Taylor Swift.
Our adventure started in Madrid where Debbie got into an heated argument with an old man who couldn't speak English ( and we couldn't speak Spanish). It involved the shouting of 2 languages, walking sticks being waved and tears. Apparently he didn't like us standing "near" his door while we waited for our hosts. We stayed with a lovely couple who nursed Debbie's upset with their wine, cheese and meat (they must have had approx 50 bottles of red wine in the apartment!). We also found ourselves singing karaoke in the apartment as one of the hosts decided he wanted to sing along with Kylie, Beyonce and Sia on spotify (after more wine and Gin). The next few nights we continue with the same pattern- wine, cheese and meats (we could do this forever). We spent the remaining sober times going round the sites:
Palaces, squares, markets, Real Madrid stadium, Bullring and a general wander round the city.
Time came to leave Madrid and so we embarked on a 12 hour flight to Lima where we start our time in Peru.
Lima wasn't what we expected it to be. More to do than we thought and safer than we anticipated.
Plaza de Armas - changing of the guards takes place everyday. Quite a grand affair with hundreds of guards and a band. Roads are sealed off. Lasts a good hour or so. Puts the British version to shame.
Le Catedral de Lima
Monasterio de San Francisco
Huaca Pucllana - Pyramid of Lima pre Inca times. Strange to have such a valuable archeological site in the middle of a housing estate.
Museo Larco - Nice little museum with lots of dug up pots/ceramics etc. All pre inca times. Interestingly, they showed a few skulls of people who sustained head injuries with subsequent bleeding/ haematomas- holes were cut out in the skull to let pressure out. Funny that our modern techniques of treating the same hasn't changed all that much. Phil spotted the Quipu (see photo)- a series of tiny threads with knots along the length of thread. This was a recording device used back in the day. What was counted/recorded depended on where the knots were along the length of the thread and what colour the thread was. Things like population, tax (?!) and other things they wished to count. Debbie thought it was a nice necklace.
After 3 days we were ready to move on from the pollution, mad traffic and cars constantly beeping.
We hopped onto a lovely big red bus "Peru Hop"and headed for Paracus (6 hours, Audiobooks made the journey much more enjoyable! Thanks Vicky!). We had dinner with our guide Diego and the rest of the bus gang. It was lovely to have 11 people from different parts of the world, all with different stories to sit together and share their experiences and future plans. One quit their dream job in the US to travel for the year alone. Others took a few weeks/ months holiday to travel round.
We stayed overnight and travelled to the Ballestas Islands the next day via a speed boat ('poor man's Galapagos'). Managed to spot several sleeping sea lions, penguins and thousands and thousands of birds! Phil's stomach didn't like the speedboat ride very much though! (he also got shat on twice by the birds that were there...what are the odds eh? No one else got shat on). Unfortunately our experience of Paracus was ruined by a unpleasant surprise. On returning to our room after breakfast we discovered our room was flooded by water that was being pumped out of the toilet!! Everything on the floor was wet and since the bags were wet, the stuff in the bags was also wet. I wish I could say it was clean water, but it really wasn't. This made Debbie very very sad.
So with our dirty stinky wet bags we hopped back on our red bus to head to Huacachina
Very small town surrounded by majestic sand dunes which encases an oasis. Not much else going on here otherwise but decided to stay 3 days to enjoy sand dune buggying/a wine tour (twice) /BBQ and just chilling out before hitting the road again for Arequipa.
Sand buggying and sand boarding has been a highlight to the trip so far. Our buggy driver did not speak any English and trying to teach a group of tourist how to sand board in Spanish (no demonstrations) was interesting. He just pointed at the boards at the back of his buggy and then at the dunes. Debbie was sensible and decided she wasn't going to do any heroics so opted for the seated position for the first slope seeing as everyone that tried standing up has fallen before they even reach half way. Phil then pushed Debbie down the first slope. It was all going well until the board picked up a lot of speed and Debbie tumbled over and sustained a very minor head injury. The driver saw this and then told us we were doing it all wrong. Great. No further injuries apart from finding sand in places you wouldn't think! It took 3 days to completely eradicate sand from our ears.
The wine tour involved drinking shots of pisco in a 140 year old vineyard. We also tried some Peruvian wines. One of which was a low alcohol percentage but if taken with fruit, it continues to ferment in the stomach and apparently you stay drunk for weeks (?!- potential business idea for freshers). After several shots we thought the tour was over. Our driver had a different idea ("more wine") he took us to a very odd, quirky ( ...bit creepy..) and dusty " pisco bar and museum' for further shots. It actually looked like a deserted haunted house. Inches of dust, very odd collection of " antiques" which included a preserved bat, a mummified child (?!), clocks and old paintings. Thank god the pisco was 45% alcohol. We hoped that would kill off most stuff that could be harmful.
Time came to move on. We hopped back onto our bus and headed for Arequipa via the Nasca line viewing tower. The bus journey towards Nasca was beautiful. We spent a good hour or so weaving through Mountains before reaching the Nasca desert. Unfortunately the tower wasn't really high enough to get a good look at what the images were. I think we made out a tree and a bird?
After a further 11 hours we arrived at Arequipa.
It was obvious we were back in the city. We could hear the constant beeping horns through our ear plugs as we tried to get some sleep on the bus. Through all the noise and pollution we could see the beautiful snow capped Andean mountains in the distance. You could stare at them all day.
Phil went white water rafting while Debbie napped (due to the lack of sleep she was barely forming sentences or staying awake while sat up. White water rafting probably wouldn't have been a good choice).
To no one's surprise we had another water overflowing party in the toilet. This time our shower plug hole decided to turn into a water fountain. Since the Paracus incident we have learnt to keep things off the floor. No casualties on this occasion. After 3 days we continued on our journey to Cusco.
We arrived at Cusco after 12 hours on our big red bus.
We were mesmerised by the Andean mountains surrounding the city. The attitude made itself known almost immediately. We couldn't walk up a flight a stairs without getting short of breath. Here Phil lost our first battle with the dreaded D and V bug. The problem was made a lot worse by the fact we had no running water in the house......fortunately a very quick recovery was made. We stayed for 2 days to acclimatise prior to the Inca trail (one of the wiser decisions we've made!). We were also back in the classroom for 2 days learning Spanish! I have to say, it was a bit of a chore ( for debs) to learn all the grammar, conjugations etc and whether a table was female or male?! We just need people to understand what we are saying and frankly do not care if I accidentally call a bottle a male rather than female...
We met our lovely group of fellow Trekkers the night before the trail. There were strikes going on in Cusco as the government made proposals to privatise Macchu Picchu. Unfortunately our trip clashed with the last day of the strike. So instead of leaving at 5am, we were told to meet at 3am to avoid road blocks etc. Despite the very early start, we still ran into problems. A 3 hour bus ride to the starting point of our trek turned into 14 hour off road bus ride. Local citizens were blocking the roads with rocks and setting tyres on fire. We ended up being trapped between 2 road blocks and so we went off road in some village. The lovely Peruvian ladies came and chatted to us and told us not to worry and that it's actually walkable to KM 82 ( our starting point) as it was VERY close from here (our guide said it wasn't a walkable distance at all..in the end it took us more than 10 hours by bus to get there, just as well we didn't try to walk it). Despite trying multiple routes, we couldn't get to where we needed to be. An old man (who looked just as terrified as we did) threatened to throw rocks at our bus. In the end we took the bus off road into some narrow mountain roads (led by another local young man in a car with our guide- apparently he knew of a "back way" to the trail of which he could show us for 60 Soles (£12)). Along the way we recruited a few porters ( the original porters who were meant to come couldn't get to us either). It was so surreal to watch our guide open the bus window, shout out a few words ( presumably "hey, do you want to be our porter??) and then they either got in the bus (they didn't even need to go home to pack?) or shook their heads and carried on. We managed to secure 5 porters and a chef. Our guide was really going out of his way to get us to the Trail. Most groups had cancelled the trips.
We arrived at our campsite at 6pm and our plans were to squeeze in day 1 and 2 of the trail into our day 2 seeing our first day was spent on a bus. All that trouble was worth it. The trail was beautiful, we had to keep reminding each other to look up and not stare at our feet all day.
The attitude started becoming a problem at around 3000m. Walking on a very slight incline became very difficult. Kudos to the porters who race past us wearing flip flops carrying huge packs containing our kitchen?!
We didn't manage to complete day 1 and 2 of the trek in our first day but instead we split the deadly second day into day 2 and 3. Surprising by day 3 lunch time we had caught up with the normal schedule and we actually overtook some groups who started a day before us. Debbie was very skeptical about cocoa leaves helping combat the effects of attitude. But desperate times calls for desperate measures and we found ourselves chewing on bunches of dry dry cocoa leaves like crazy people as we climbed the never ending Inca stairs. It appears to work! It may have been a placebo but Debbie felt somewhat woozy and giddy with it which may has distracted her. Phil couldn't stop saying "give me more cocaine!"- such a child. The last day started at 3 am! We took a small walk to Winay wayna, a little hidden gem. Here we enjoyed the stars and a few friendly llamas! 5 am we started our final hike to Machu Picchu. We all felt a great sense of achievement once we passed the sun gate. Not only did we survive the trail without any casualties/ injuries, we managed it in 3 days! Machu Picchu is a place where you can only appreciate fully with your eyes. No photos or post cards can do it justice. It's a shame that the tour around the city in the afternoon was so crowded. Think we will try and remember it as we saw it when we walked through the sun gate first thing in the morning.
After the trail we spent a few more days in Cusco to continue our Spanish lessons and to explore the city a bit more (though both of us by this point were sick of churches and cathedrals!). So we wandered round the main square and visited the chocolate museum. We also had a £5 massage to aid recovery!
We then got ourselves on a plane to Trijillo via Lima.
We stayed out of Trijillo city centre and based ourselves in Hanchaco. It's a small fishing village that attracts a lot of surfers. Here we had our first surfing lesson! After an hour of theory we hit the waters. By the 3rd surf Debbie could stand and surf the entire wave! (Phil annoyingly managed this on his first go!). Phil also had his first yoga class! It was suppose to be sunset yoga but the clouds weren't playing ball so we didn't get a sunset. After 3 days of chilling it was again time to move on.
After a overnight 12 hour bus ride ( in a fancy bus! Fleece blankets with a silk trim?! AND a pillow! Phil did good.) We arrived at Mancora. Again we stayed slightly out of the centre in a little beach bungalow. The 20 minute tuktuk ride down a'road' reminded us of the sand bugging experience....Here we enjoyed the sun, sea and sand. We've been spoilt with beautiful sunsets everyday. The food here is good! Had Cerviche (see photo- Peruvian raw fish dish). Also, they served one of the best carbonaras we've had?! We stayed here for 5 days to relax.
We took a trip out in the sea to whale watch! We were ljustvin time as it were the last few days of the whale watching season! They quoted us a 85% chance of spotting a whale. That was good enough odds for us. To our pleasant surprise within 2 minutes of being on the boat we spotted a mother and baby whale! We went parallel to them for the next 2 hours and had some beautiful sightings! Unfortunately they didn't jump for us like free willy. Whale calves drink 100 litres of milk a day! That's a lot of milk! The whales migrate to the warmer Peruvian waters during this time of year to mate and to have their calves. Thus baby was about 2 months old. We also saw some sea lions and sea turtles! It was a lovely trip.
This is our last Pervuian country before we move onto Ecuador! Next update in early December (if Phil pulls his weight) when we will have done Ecuador including the Galapogas Islands, an Amazon trek, and a zip line or two.