Category Archives: Peru

Puno ¨Disney¨; or more commonly known as the Uros Floating Islands….

Without wanting this to sound disrespectful, ¨Disneyland¨ is what immediately came to mind when visiting the Floating Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca. Whilst they are all very legit and have been doing so for a very long time, the ¨show¨ was so slick, the colours so bright and the presentation so polished that we had trouble investing emotionally in their story, even though we wanted to.

The Uros islands are at 3810m above sea level and are just five kilometers west from Puno port. Around 2,000 descendants of the Uros were counted in the 1997 census, although only a few hundred still live on and maintain the islands; most have moved to the mainland. Maybe it´s due to this that the whole effort didn´t quite grab us. As much as we wanted to be fascinated about the way they build and maintain their islands using the reeds, no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination… but the whole thing just had such an orchestrated feel about it that we were not engaged, sadly.

So much so that when we were sailing away, the lined up family sang one or two songs and then finished with a resounding ¨hustalavista baby!¨
Blimey; chuckle chuckle!

Fortunately when it was time to board our bus to Copacabana, Bolivia, we were ready. Except, Daughter and I already had people in our seats! After much toíng and froíng by management, we eventually sat in our rightful seats, next to our travel buddies, ready to take Bolivia by storm…

A long bus ride to Puno…

After spending one last night in Cuzco, we said our farewells and headed off to meet the bus taking us to Puno. After the long 10 hour bus and bump ride, we made it, checking into the lovely “Intiqa Hotel” in the middle of the greyness that appears to be Puno.

Mind you though, what with the hotel, and a scrumptious meal at “Colours” (a restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet) coupled with some long awaited shopping, Puno was certainly shredding its grey hue rather quickly.

Puno is the main Peruvian town that lies on the edge of Lake Titicaca. It is famous for its floating islands, which we are going to visit tomorrow. Then we have our next bus ride, to Copacabana, finally crossing the border into Bolivia. That´ll be interesting I´m sure.

Once there, we have 2 sleeps to explore all there is to see and do, including finalising our next leg which is spending time on the Amazon in eco-huts. Fabulous!

Aquas Calientes – Hot Springs of the Tacky…

Think of the tackiest, touristy place you know of, roll it together with an almost ski chalet village theme, and you might just have touched on Aquas Calientes.

Located at the base of the mountains, under Macchu Picchu, its a town grown out of opportunity and necessity, and certainly not by design. Growth, not in an impressive way by any stretch of the imagination. You can therefore only imagine what spending New Years Eve here was like…

Yellow is obviously the colour of choice for the local celebrations, and that was everywhere. As was the enticing free “pisco sour” drinks (local favourite) to get you in the door. But the ongoing push to get you into restaurants, bars, etc does wear a little thin, especially given we had not talked to other humans for the previous 4 days, except for Care Bear and the Porters. The other key celebratory tool used are fire crackers, and sure enough, they fired up at midnight in a big, and rather loud way! Thought the lid of the La Cabana Hotel was going to lift off at one point.

Anyway, this morning we head back to Cuzco to start the next leg of this adventure… Puno, Lake Titicaca; Bolivia and Copacabana. Exotic sounding isn´t it…stay tuned!

Inka Trail; 42km of walking splendour, and sore, sore bodies!

42km of hiking like I´d never done before, and nor had Daughter.

We meet our guide Roger, and off we went. After a briefing the night before, we headed off for our initial site seeing tour around the Cusco area, finally ending up at “base camp” for EcoInka (our tour team).

First night we stayed at KM82, 2800m, in our tents which were lovingly prepared by our soon-to-be new best friends – the porters. They displayed their best efforts to impress us, and indeed they did, especially Cook. What he could whip out of a camp kitchen was quite incredible really.

We knew we were looking at roughly 10km a day to cover the Inka Trail, with scenary to die for. So with all 9 porters employed to carry our stuff and set up camp etc, and 2 cooks to feed us along the way, we were set. After being wined and dined, both dinner and breakfast, a-trekking we did go!

Day 1 – Hard…
Once crossing the ferociously flowing Urubamba River to get ourselves checked in, we were off. 11kms, mainly uphill. Hatunchaca @ 2900m for lunch was the stop, and weren´t we ready for it by then. The hardest bit though was the next 200m climb, all in 2km. But all was good, and we made it for afternoon tea (yes, we had that waiting for us) @ Wayllbamba 3100m. Here we camped for the night at the little village, as its the last community on the Inka Trail.

Given we had only got to 3100m, and the next day we were to be at 4200m, we knew we had a tough day in front of us…

I digress here a little to explain the Porters…country Peruvians mainly. They each carried 20kg on their backs and ran from one post to the next, packing up after us and setting up before us, uphill and downdale. As I said before, quite impressive really.

Day 2 – Amazing but TORTURE…
After a 5:30 start, we headed out as we had done the day before. Roger had already explained that this day was the hardest, but that would have to be the understatement of the century. Essentially we were going up 1100m! And the only way to that is to walk, and walk we did. So we headed up mountains, and many steps, and the body screamed. We were heading for the first pass Abra de Warmi Wahusca, or more commonly known as Dead Woman´s Pass 4200m.

Sadly for moi, altitude sickness (or the technical term is AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness) kicked in at about 3500m. Trying to climb up that mountain feeling nauseous and dizzy was no mean feat I can assure you. Daughter however did it just like a mountain goat. Hence why she and the others were waiting for me for 90 mins while I slowly, and under sufferance, labourious dragged myself up the last couple of hundred metres. There was much jubilation as I reached the top, bless them. I even did a little dance. The view was spectacular, like nothing else we had seen before. Pity we forgot to get the team photo at the sign, but hey, next time!!

Then there was the walk down. From the top, reaching camp – Paqaymayu 3500m looked doable. Little did we know what we had to drop 600m to reach it. It was ugly. The steps down played havoc on the knees that had muscle memory to go up, and on my head and stomach that was not coping so well. Daughter sailed on through, as she does.

By the time I did reach camp, behind everyone else, I was a bit of a mess really, on the inside that is. When I collapsed into my tent, all I wanted to do was crawl into my sleeping bag and curl up in a foetal position. But much to my horror, my sleeping bag was completely soaked through. That was the last straw and I burst into tears! Poor Daughter, and poor Roger. He couldn´t do enough to get that damn thing dry. It did come back in record time, smelling of the evenings dinner, which did nothing for my nausea, but at least I could hybernate. By that stage, I also got back into the altitude sickness drugs so it was all going to get better.

And it did…

Whilst I wasn´t that much fun that evening, or for the next day for that matter, once the drugs kicked in, the downhill was much easier to some extent, and life began to look rosy again. Even to the point where jokes were being cracked about the lack of showering and the stench factor, greatly amusing Roger by this stage, who had now taken on the code name of “care bear”.

Day 3 – Beauty and getting better…
This day started as the others, 5:30am. I started out quite rough, but as the day progressed and the drugs kicked in, life got a lot less harrowing! We made it the second pass – Qochapata 3950m, spending time at Sayaqmarka and enjoying this well preserved Inka town. Staying over night at the most beautiful spot, Chaquiqocha, with the most amazing views at sunrise.

Except, as I had forgot to mention, we did most of the Inka Trail in rain or cloud! So we were often soaked throughout, and then equally drying off, all on route. Fortunately, at all the really sensational bits, the sun shone brightly, but not this particular morning though. We got a glimpse of its magnificence, but it was not long lasting…bugger!

Day 4 – Slendour and happy tears
Today, after heading through the third pass near – Phuyupatamarka 3670m – we were will on our way to Macchu Picchu. Not sure how, but we managed to have lunch in a restaurant in the middle of the rainforest (which it had turned into by this stage). And it was the last time we had with our cooks etc, so it was big hand shakes all round, and a little team photo.

Macchu Picchu, what more can I say other than WOW. The walk in was spectacular. And, as if on cue, the sun came out. We had even got to the point by now of complete smugness! All these people (turisticas) walking past us were so clean and wandering around the site as if on a mission, but we had conquered the Inka Trail! We are feeling pretty damn good about that fact I can assure you.

Not quite sure what vibes we must have been putting out there, but I had a strange man cuddle me (a very brave move by this stage). It might have had something to do with all of us breaking into very loud outbursts of Halleluiah!

Word of advice for anyone tackling this feat… do a hell of a lot more preparation than I did!
For those of you who know what the ¨1000 Steps¨ in Mt Dandenong are… you need to have done them 1000 times to get even close to being ready. My rather lame efforts of doing them a few times did not even come close. We live and learn…

Once we reached the bus stop, to got to Aguas Calientes where we spent new years eve (and have that long awaited shower!), we all burst into tears and applauded ourselves on a job well done. A once in a lifetime adventure I suspect, but one we can now tick off on the ever-growing to do list!

Here´s to the happiest news year ever….

Christmas Day in Cuzco Peru

I´ve got two words to say: Merry Christmas
and then another two…Fallen Angel
The most amazing place, who offered a 4 course Christmas lunch.

Not only was the food spectacular, but the place itself is something I´ve not seen before. Come restaurant, come art gallery, come bar, come nightclub, come hotel, it certainly catered for a particular type of clientele…¨gay¨ would probably sum it up as well as anything else. The decor of the place was amazing.

A taste of what I mean: the tables were bathtubs with a large sheet of glass over the top, resting on old thongs (the foot variety!), filled to the brim with gold fish and shells amongst other treasures… see what I mean!

A very special and memorable place to celebrate Christmas lunch.
Other than that, a quiet and reflective day had by all, just as it should be…