A Travellerspoint blog

July 2010

Yes, yes, I know...

Lima - Cusco - Aguas Calientas/Machu Picchu - Cusco

semi-overcast 20 °C

Hello everyone,

As you can see from the long list of recent destinations, it´s been a while since I´ve managed to get to a computer (and have long enough/not be too tired to write an entry).

Anyway, in order to get through what is quite a substantial backlog of events, I´ll sum up the things I remember about my short time in Lima. So, in no particular order...

1) The ubiquitous Mitsubishi vans that pass as local buses in Lima. Despite being relatively battered, which didn´t really inspire confidence, there was at least some attempt to deflect attention from this by their garish colour schemes and incongruous set of names (local streets mixed with what I would consider somewhat optimistic destinations - Santiago de Chile, Caracas etc). Despite this, the conductor still felt it necessary to hang out of an open side door, yelling the real destinations to any potential passengers, even people just waiting to cross the road...

2) That´s it. I´m afraid my memory really is that bad...

So, moving swiftly on to Cusco. After retrieving my bag at the airport, we flew to Cusco. Our flight was quick but held up in Lima by a mother who decided to stand up and make some milk for her bawling kid while we were on the runway. Her retort to the steward who told her to sit down was devastating in its simple logic: "but if I sit down, she´ll start crying again..."

Anyway, we arrived in Cusco to very warm weather and a distinct lack of oxygen. Unfortunately, I over-compensated by drinking far too much coca tea (that´s right, folks - nothing less than the unrefined version of the drug you may or may not hoof up your nostrils from time to time) and was out of action for the rest of the day. On the second day, we managed to walk around a bit, which definitely confirmed that Cusco is my new favourite destination in South America so far (out of two). We also managed to rack up a hit for local cuisine - feasting on Quinoa soup and stir-fried Alpaca meat (for those interested, quite a strong ´dark´meat that is tougher than beef but more tender/less gristly than horse) for the bargain price of 2 pounds.

Cusco itself is a lot more picturesque (but consequently more touristy) than Lima. There´s a strange mix of colonial architecture in the balconied buildings and grand churches that surround the square (which in turn have been built/adapted from original Inca buildings) and Inca walls that still line many streets, having been built with impossibly large stones). You´ll also be pleased to hear that Cusco boasts the highest Irish pub in the world and two German eateries (which Patricia ´co-erced´me into going to. Good Kasekuchen apparently...).

And so finally on to Machu Picchu. Despite the best efforts of tour operators/staff at hostels, we managed to get a reasonable train deal to Aguas Calientas, the closest town to Machu Picchu. Although works have meant the train journey was cut short (we started the journey at Ollantaytambo, roughly halfway between Cusco and Machu Picchu), it was by far the highlight of the trip, slowly travelling through Andean valleys in a special ´Vistadome´car, whose skylights helped to remind you that there was still some sky, however little of it, as well as the mountains towering up on either side. In some ways, it was more exhilarating than Machu Picchu itself, precisely because I didn´t expect to be exhilarated.

What was at the end of the line was far less exhilarating, though. Aguas Calientas is, in short, a shithole. We got off the train to be met by street hawkers and venders which continued ad nauseum until we found somewhere we could lock ourselves into. I don´t think I´ve ever seen a town so devoted to tourism in its tackiest, most exploitative incarnation. Anywhere you go, you have to repeat the endless mantra of ´No gracias, I don´t want an alpaca hat/three course meal/Inca doll´. We found a reasonable hostel away from the centre which, although cheap, meant we were in an area that resembled whichever country the US is bombing at the moment ("Mmmm, political" says Patricia). However, this isn´t to say I slept anymore than I would have done if we had set up camp in the middle of the artisan market, having to listen to some guide loudly tell the family next door about their tour of Machu Picchu the next day. Anyway, up at four to be greeted by crowds of people who had exactly the same idea, then queuing and more queuing, then bussed up to the site for about 6.30. Although many tours were loudly in full swing by this time, we found a spot away from the crowds and enjoyed the quality of the morning light (which, in all seriousness, completely transformed Machu Picchu). I was suitably impressed, although Patricia´s verdict fluctuated throughout the day, from describing this ancient Inca site as ´just a bunch of stones´to conceding that the craftmanship required to build it was ´quite good´. Although I think she´d agree with me that the highlight of the day for her was watching two Alpacas in the throes of passion (well, one at least - the other wasn´t so willing), then being able to stroke the perpetrator (no, not like that...you and your filthy minds...).

Anyway, time to go. If you want to hear me rant some more about Machu Picchu, then let me know. Otherwise ignore me and I´m sure I´ll tell you anyway. Off to Puno and Lake Titicaca (no sniggering at the back please) tomorrow morning - hopefully I´ll update this more regularly than before.

I´ve asked Patricia if she wants to write anything, but she´s turned away from her adoring public I´m afraid - just a "hello" to tide you over...

See you soon,

James and Patricia

Posted by Patriciah6 18:34 Archived in Peru Tagged travelling_with_pets Comments (1)

Wot a palaver!

Hello there.

As you can probably tell from the distinct lack of exclamation marks (apart from the one above), this is not Patricia speaking. I´m afraid Patricia isn´t available at the moment, having lost interest in blogging, claiming (in her words) that she´d rather "dance than blog". So, while she does an interpretive dance about eating street food in the corner, I´ll let you know how it´s been for me so far. It´s James, by they way.

My journey began in a typically upbeat fashion. Having had around three hours sleep the night before, I was looking forward to sleeping on the flight, only to find my flight had been cancelled because of mechanical problems. So began my queueing marathon - firstly three hours to change my reservations, where the hard-faced woman behind the counter told me that a flight would be leaving at about 1pm that day to New York, then another hour in order to wave goodbye to my rucksack, then finally an hour at the gate, being told at the end that the flight was full and I wouldn´t be able to get on a flight until the next day. And then two hours for hotel vouchers and four hours to not have my bags returned to me by the short staffed baggage handlers. So I spent my first night of ´proper´travelling in a cramped hotel room, listening to the thump of music at a nearby Hindu wedding reception.

I managed to get on the flight the next day. However, reader, I won´t bore you with the details of a boring flight, and boring stopover in Miami. Do you remember when I mentioned that I "waved goodbye to my rucksack"? Well, that took on a new significance at Lima airport at 4.30am when I discovered that AA had lost my bag and I was left to file a complaint about it entirely in Spanish, which went a little beyond my vocabulary of ´cerveza´, ´baño´and ´puta de madre´...(although the last phrase came in useful at a couple of points...)

Anyway, enough of these problems. My first impression of Lima was the weather; I always expected everything in South America to be dramatic, so was a bit taken aback when I came out to feel limp drizzle on my face, not unlike the kind in London on a Wednesday afternoon in November. Despite the flaccid weather, it was an interesting taxi drive through the less salubrious districts of Lima, watching the dilapidated buses go by and shadowy groups of men assembling on the street corners...

So here we are, at the uniquely named´Flying Dog´Hostel in Miraflores (the posh part of Lima that resembles a large building site...). Our room overlooks a small park, dotted with palm trees, and with a rather grandiose colonial style church adjacent to it. However, the traffic outside is probably the most entertaining thing to look at. Peruvians appear to have a rather unique approach to driving, particularly in terms of how aware they are of other cars and pedestrians, so it´s always fascinating to watch the considerable amount of near-fatal misses that take place in any given ten minutes at the junction below our window.

Anyway, the other travellers are becoming irate at me hogging the only computer in the hostel. So I better sign out before someone throws something at me or makes me drink a pisco sour...

See you all soon,

James (and Patricia)

Posted by Patriciah6 05:26 Comments (1)

Ecuadorians

all seasons in one day 21 °C

Hola chicos y chicas!

it`s me again. writing my 3rd entry.

yesterday, Tuesday was my second day here in Ecuador. Since Monday afternoon I am staying with some guys doing couchsurfing. they are great. actually, i spend most of the time with their ecuadorian girlfriends. yesterday I met up with them in the center of the town. one of them sells clothes and the other one has her own publishing firm. they are very proud of their country and as I am eager to find out about it they decided to take a couple of days off and show me around.

we went to a lot of churches, Quito has one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen... seriously... full of gold. everything is gold. crazy.

then we went into the presidents palace. it has only recently been opened for the public so even they haven't seen it. it was so funny with the 2 girls. they were so keen to always take pictures of me and them and us everywhere and anywhere... with or without flash... even when not allowed. we also talked a lot about the political and employment situation in ecuador. it made me realize how privileged we are.

and my Spanish improved dramatically... from 0 to 100 in 2 days... but I had no choice if I want to talk to them... ;-)

after that it started raining (not just rain but thunderstorm as it does every afternoon here...) and we went back to the house and they cooked me a feast while the guys cooked some Nigerian food. I love the Ecuadorian food though, it is very tasty and reminds me a lot of german food...hahaha...

we had some wine and danced.... lots of fun...;-) I should really work out how to put the pictures up soon...

today I was very tired and we watched the football and Germany lost. I was so annoyed and sad. especially because they all came out to support Germany. It was so sweet of them. we went to an Irish Bar in the middle of Quito with lots of Germans there and me with my new Ecuadorian and Nigerian friends.... crazy global world we live in... ;-)

now some of the guys went clubbing but I am too tired and tomorrow I will also start on my trip with "Be the Change" to the rainforest so I need to have a proper rest....

hope you`re all well guys... keep in touch!

Patricia

Posted by Patriciah6 21:42 Archived in Ecuador Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Ecuador here I am!

all seasons in one day 19 °C

Hi everyone,

this is my first blog entry from abroad. from quito, Ecuador.
I arrived here late last night after 24 hours travel from London via Houston, Texas. Houston, Texas was very funny...I met some really nice girls on the plane and got to my hostel. it was a really great hostel, only stayed there for one night as I'm couchsurfing now. with some locals from Ecuador and from Nigeria. the two girls from Ecuador are really lovely, for the last 5 hours we shared lots of laughter and they gave me a lot of information about what to do in Ecuador etc.
when they realized that I am travelling on my own until Thursday they spontaneously decided to take me around Quito tomorrow. One of the girl owns a shop and the other one is a publisher. Their hospitality is amazing. they just stop working for a day or two to show me around.... if only i was that easy back home... ;-)

I love my trip already and all my worries dispersed....

hope you're well and keep in touch!!!!!!

hasta luego,

Patricia

Posted by Patriciah6 19:32 Archived in Ecuador Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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