A Travellerspoint blog

Passing through Peru

needing a change of scene


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This last week has felt pretty different to the rest of our trip so far. We think its because we got bored.

After our Colca Canyon trip, we felt that we needed some time for rest and relaxation. So naturally we stopped in whatever town we found ourselves in to try and do so.
So we ended up having another 3 days in Arequipa. We had a few coffee dates, played some more monopoly, and drank rum and coke in the evenings. Sounds idyllic right? Well it probably is, except doing this while already on holiday, means already we were doing a lot of book reading and card playing, and so we got a bit sick of it.
Though we did eat the best "French/Peruvian" food, 3 course meal for only $4 each!

Solution - we thought we'd have another change of scene and move onto Lima. Only hitch - another night bus.
On arriving to Lima, not horribly sleep deprived by some miracle, we turned up at our hostel, which quickly became our most hated hostel of our entire travelling history.
We couldn't check in until 1pm (which soon became 4pm), there were only 4 toilets (combined with showers) for the entire hostel - so sometimes we waited an hour just to pee!, the 6 boys in our room had forgotten that their mums weren't here too, and so we could barely get to our beds, let alone close our bedroom door.
So we thought, fine, lets go for a walk around Miraflores - the fancy suburb that most tourists stay at. At this time of year Lima is affected by sea fog, and it sure was in full swing today. We didn't find the sea until we practically fell on top of it. But we had a nice walk, and it was nice to see the ocean for the first time in 2.5months.
Our days in Lima passed in a similar manner - get up, have breakfast in the bar that smelt like vomit in the hostel, go for a walk along the ocean, have turkish wraps for lunch, and then for a lack of a better idea, go to the english movies (here it costs only $5!). So we ended up seeing Captain America (good), and the Return of the Witch (terrible).
As we hated our hostel so much, we didn't really find our time in Lima relaxing, nor enjoyable, nor did we meet anyone over 21 / sober.

So off to Huaraz we went. We weren't really sure if we wanted to go hiking, but we just needed to leave Lima, and didn't have a better idea at the time. Enter night bus. This one I did not sleep well on at all.
As Huaraz is a small mountain town (only 100 000), Richard insisted on walking to find our hostel. We got to within half a block of the hostel before we realised there was no sign, and we did not know what number. And so we had to go pay a visit to a nearby hotel and ask if we could use their internet to google where on earth we were meant to go, as no-one had ever heard of our hostel.

Eventually it was found, and miraculously our room was ready and waiting so could fall straight into bed. Spent that day more or less just sleeping.
The next day Richard was still a bit sick (having picked up something from Lima), and so we just chilled. The highlight was utilising the kitchen and making bacon and avocado sandwiches for lunch!

At this point we thought we should seriously sit down and figure out what we wanted from the rest of the trip, given that the last week had been so rubbish. We got out a calendar, thought about everything we wanted to do in Colombia and Central America, then regoogled the flights to the Galapagos - which last week had been so ridiculously cheap...
Galapagos flights now 4x the price. Cheaper to fly Lima to Bogota, saving us 8.5 nights on a bus in the next probably 3 weeks.
Then, to hike or not to hike - weather constantly cloudy, not overly impressed by views thus far. And the thought of going around 6 different supermarkets to buy food, and risk another leaky tent.. ugh! Could not be bothered.

So we arranged to go on a day walk as our last full day in Huaraz to Laguna 69 - supposedly the highlight of the area. Then we booked flights for 2 days time to Colombia, and a bus for the following day back to Lima - during the day this time, and finally a better hostel for that night.
Feeling excited about our travels again!

Laguna 69 confirmed that we had made the right decision for us.
Picked up before 6 in the morning, 3 hours on the bus to start walking. Track ran up a previously glacial valley and then at the head climbed to an alpine lake surrounded in morraine wall. It was meant to take 3 hours up, 2 hours down , and 2 hours free time at the top.
It took us 2 hours to get up there, and it was cloudy and spitting on and off. Some crazy Oz/Irish/NZ/English boys went for a swim in the lake - sadly NZ and English were by far the biggest wusses.

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Richard once again chasing waterfalls

It was nice enough just chilling up there, laughing at the selfie sticks and crazy poses that came out. But it was also bloody cold.
After an hour and a half up there we were cold enough that we walked back down 'early'. Luckily most of our group was also freezing so they came too. We still had a 2hour wait at the bottom before the bus could return with everyone.
We think the Ausangate ruined us for other Peruvian hiking.

That night we had the most delicious fajitas / Indian food. Definately the highlight of the day!

Now we are back in Lima - we survived the day bus back. Honestly not sure which was worse - night or day. We travelled for 3 whole hours through the traffic of Lima to get to the bus terminal, and then another 30min in the taxi to our hostel! Never ever ever want to live in a big city!!
Today we will probably just while away the day, maybe wander down by the beach (we are staying 2 neighbourhoods south of last time), before getting our taxi to the airport.
Pretty excited to get to Bogota, as my old friend from my last visit to the Galapagos might come and get us from the airport!

Posted by VGH on tour 06:38 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Arequipa and the Colca canyon

a week "relaxing" and "sleeping"


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We thought it was high time we had some sleeping time, to relax and recharge.

So with that in mind, we had planned to have 2-3 days in Cusco making carrot cake at our hostel (we spent the ENTIRE tramp around Ausangate dreaming about making carrot cake), drinking coffee and playing cards. And maybe getting a massage or two.
As our hostel closed, we lost our kitchen access, and so had to kiss good bye our carrot cake dreams....

We did still spend an enjoyable few days drinking coffee and rum, and playing a lot of cards, and enjoyed listening to some incredibly odd chat in our new hostel. I found myself in the weird situation of having to translate between the ozzies and the mexicans too. Still cannot explain rugby to save myself in spanish. I can't even remember the word for ball half the time.

We decided to move on slightly sooner than hoped as our hostel was expensive, so we got ourselves a semi cama night bus. Man we should have got cama. Semi cama means the seat reclines to 160 degrees, and cama 180 degrees. In Argentina there had been no real difference between the two and your ability to sleep.
Here semi cama claims 160 degrees, but actually means 120 degrees. No sleep for us. Dulp!

Arrived in Arequipa to our hostel exhausted, and were lucky enough to check in about 8am, and slept for most of the rest of the day.
Wandered town long enough to discover some excellent saltenas (like juicy meat filled pastries), which we both spilt all the way down our clean shirts, but otherwise discover that there isn't much to do here.

Though we did find excellent coffee and play some more monopoly and do some more crosswords. AND THERE WAS CARROT CAKE!!!

Next day we got thoroughly bored, and so booked to go on a tour of the Colca Canyon for 3 days. They suggested we would want to bring our own snacks for between meals, and so we thought 10 museli bars for 3 days should be sweet right?

Our tour began at 3am.
When it was first described to us, I thought I'd misunderstood (as it was in spanish right). But no, 3am start, 3 hour drive to Chivay (a town at the top of the canyon.

Here we had the world's smallest breakfast - 2 pieces of puffed up bread that were about the size of my hand. All 14 in our group were left hungry.
Then we drove to the view point for condors - saw about 6-8 of them. It became apparent that the locals kill off a llama every few days to keep them in the area. They have a 3m wing span!

Got some sweet photos though - Richard was right in his element stalking the huge birds.

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After this we started our descent into the canyon proper. Apparently the Colca canyon is the 3rd deepest in the world - after one in China and another in Nepal. (according to our guide the internet is wrong in claiming its the second deepest after another canyon nearby. who knows what is true)
We were to descend 1000m into the canyon for our first night. At the top, we were warned to expect small portions of food for the rest of the tour. Awesome.

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Wandering down the canyon was hot - 35 degrees perhaps? Our guide, Marcos continued his amazing "facts", and informed us that 20 years ago the canyon was only 23 degrees during the day, but the aliens had caused global warming and now it was much hotter.

We reached our night time destination by lunchtime, and settled in for a hungry wait for a disappointing feed. All were left hungry and hanging out for dinner, which wasn't for another 6 hours.
Whiled away the afternoon in hibernation mode, and after another tiny meal for dinner, paid a horrific $1.50 per banana for some substance.

Next morning we had a leisurely start at 7am, with a small breakfast and some more purchased bananas. The morning was spent with a short uphill walk, some more bananas bought, before dropping back down to "The Oasis" for the afternoon.

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Looking up the canyon

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Final view before the Oasis

Here there was a pool where we swam and the boys played volleyball.
Richard tried to show off his rock climbing talents and scale the rock in the pool. Apparently it was very slippery as he fell over backwards and into the water. Everyone else who saw it thought he was diving deliberately, until they realised I could hardly control my laughter.
Turns out it wasn't quite so funny after he pointed out he'd cut up all his toes on his foot and now could hardly walk.

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Our tour group

The pool lost its interest about 2pm when the sun left the canyon, and so we spent the rest of the afternoon in hibernation - really hard to be motivated to do things when everyone is starving and tired.
The highlight of the evening was dinner - we had a cocktail, and one of the Dutch guys in the group decided he didn't want his dinner and ordered something else, so Richard and I got to share a whole extra meal. First time we'd been full since leaving Arequipa.

Marcos then broke the bad news, that he felt we needed to leave the next morning at 4:20am (rather than the normal 5am) to climb 1000m back up out of the canyon. Naturally this was met by complaints all round.

Next morning it quickly became apparent as to why. Marcos moved like a slug. Our whole group was having to count to five between footsteps, for risk of falling over the person in front of them, as Marcos leading the way was so painfully slow. We walked for 1.5 hours like this, before he finally deemed it light enough for us to walk at our own pace. By this point I was ready to kill him, and freezing cold. He claimed we were now halfway up.
Richard and I set off at a descent pace, and we were at the top 30 minutes later. We had to wait for a whole hour before Marcos arrived.

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View point of the canyon terraces

After this it was breakfast time, some hot pools - which were really nice! And then the buffet lunch.. oh thank god! it was nice to be full for a change!
Then the long drive back to Arequipa.. On arriving we thought we'd check out getting a flight to Lima, as they are advertised all over town for $40-50 bucks, but turns out thats lies, and its more like $80. Dulp!
By the time we got back to our hostel we were so tired that we just cooked some 2 minute noodles and went to bed.

For what was meant to be a relaxing tour, ended up being sleep deprived and hungry for 3 days.
So for now, we will spend today and tomorrow eating and sleeping, before embarking on another night bus to Lima, and then on to Huaraz. Hopefully Richard's feet will heal soon.

Posted by VGH on tour 08:12 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Ausangate and the Rainbow Mountains!

Finally the rainy season is over...?


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What is required for an epic adventure?
- A hand drawn map (yes because it was better than all the topographical ones for sale!)
- Employ a local horse + horseman to carry all your food and tent, leaving you with just your clothes
- A perfect weather forecast for the first time in over a month
- The excitement of not having to carry the food you buy, and so taking TINS tramping

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So with that in mind, having hired a BRAND new tent, organised food for 3 people for a week, charged up the camera, the voodoo stick (aka water purifier) and been in touch with a local horse man, we caught an early morning bus from Cusco to TInke, 2.5hours away to start our adventure.

Cafetono (our local guia) met us off the bus and took us to his hostel, where we made a plan of vaguely where we would camp each night, and that yes we could do it in 7 days. Sounded great.
Then the hiccup happened, when we got down to costing. We had negotiated the day before (through the local tramping club), that we would pay X amount per day for him and his horse, and we would provide the food and the gas. Fine. But in the costing he was charging himself out, AND his wife for an extra 0.5X, AND wanting us to pay for him to bring his own tent along (another 0.3X), which the day before we were told was always included.
When we asked why he wanted his wife to come, it became apparent that in the middle of the tramp, there was some big (?) tourism meeting happening in a small town where we would be camping, and he wanted to go, but felt he couldn't leave us by ourselves - god forbid if we got lost! We got pretty upset with him, as we didn't bring the money to pay for his wife, or the tent, or have enough food and gas for a whole extra person for a week, nor could we buy it in Tinke (population about 100-200)! Especially as we thought it had all been sorted yesterday. Eventually we negotiated that we would do the tramp in 6 days, and but pay for 7, and he would provide extra food for his wife.
Problem mostly over!

So we packed up poor old Machu, our horse, with the food, the tents and headed off on our way, Cafetono, his wife Lori in tow. It was a pretty nice day, only a bit of high cloud blowing around the top of Ausangate. Starting altitude 3800m.

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First afternoon (by the time we got going it was lunchtime), was all about gradual uphill, mostly on rural roads, that might see a car once a week.
We arrived in Upis late afternoon, and set up camp in the backyard of their small house. Altitude 4300m. A bit later a Japanese couple turned up, with a cook, horseman, guide and THREE horses in tow! Soon enough they had table and chairs, a cooking tent and all kinds of other stuff up for them. We were shocked, but turned out that we were the abnormal ones. Didn't see them again.

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the voodoo stick in use again

There was a nearby hot pool, and so we went to take advantage of this - japanese onsen wins by miles! But it was still pretty nice to have a soak.

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As it gets dark and below 0 by 6pm, we were cooking dinner for the 4 of us by 5:30 - 3 course tramping meals are always exciting when there are vegetables and tins involved! Richard had even found tinned chicken this time!
In bed, "sleeping" before 7pm. Needed full thermals and the beanie to keep warm. Daylight next seen at 5:45am - seriously daylight saving would be great here!

Day 2 shaped up to be another stunner - not a cloud in the sky. Shook all the ice off the tent, made porridge for breakfast, loaded up Machu and headed off for our first 5000m pass.

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Wandering up was actually surprisingly easy, breathing not feeling too bad - nothing like walking to the pass of Salkantay (4600m) with a full pack on. Reached Arapa Pass by early morning, and had some fruit (yes you can bring this when you have a horse!)

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Machu and Lori on top of the pass

Headed down the valley, to the lakes below, where we spotted a variety of birds - some HUGE white and black ones (look like lost albatross), some trout in the lakes, and a bunch of long tailed rabbits. Apparently this is normally where they would camp for the night, but we got there before midday, and so decided to hit another 5000m pass to make the following day shorter.

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Chasing birds

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Token couple photo

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Looking up at Ausangate

Stopped for a spot of lunch part way up the next pass - hello 2 minute noodles. Sadly the voodoo stick seemed to die at this point, for no apparent reason, and we were pretty worried that we had flat out broken it in 2 months! As we had no other means of treating water now, except for boiling, we were a little worried we might run out of gas / get sick as we'd get lazy about it. Luckily as we were walking around a mountain covered in glaciers, there was actually plenty of pretty clean water running around.

Getting over the second 5000m pass was a little more hard work - it was much more straight up, than a sidle. But at the top we had a pretty sweet view of red/green mountains for miles.

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After going over this pass, was the first and only time I was really grateful to have someone else who knew where they were going - up until then the trail had been ridiculously easy to follow. But at this point, instead of going down the valley like I thought we would, we turned a sharp right, and cut a hard right across the valley and dropped into another one. Our hand drawn map wouldn't have helped us there!

Made camp for the night beside a small stream, cooked another early dinner. Richard showed off his coordination, by managing to trip over his own feet and send Lori's dinner half flying. Luckily they had a heap of food that they weren't sharing with us, so we didn't feel so guilty about this, as they were eating more than us (we were dividing all our food by 4)
Another freezing night, yay for thermals!

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Day 3, again was a stunner, not a cloud around. Set off around 7:30 for our 3rd 5000m pass (apparently 5150m). But before we went over the pass, we went past a hotel. Yes a hotel. Apparently you can pay $2000USD and stay in luxury and do a similar loop to see the rainbow mountains.
Up on top of the pass, we got our first glimpse of the rainbow mountains in the distance.

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On top of the pass

Climbing down the otherside was reasonably steep, 1000m drop, and we weren't looking forward to having to do it again on the way out. Made camp at a nearby tarn after only 2 hours of walking!
Clouds had started to turn up by that point, but were generally light and fluffy and non threatening.
Headed off to rainbow mountain after a spot of lunch, leaving Lori to look after camp.

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Final accent to the view point. Richard ran up this, just because he could

Man did we get a surprise at rainbow mountain. After only seeing the Japanese group in 3 days, along with the odd local, suddenly there were 30 people standing on the view point! You can do day trips / 2D/1N trips from Cusco to specifically see the mountain, and so thats where they had all come from.
But the rainbow mountains were as good as google had promised, and we spent some time just chilling and staring, until the freezing wind that had picked up drove us off the tops.

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Cafetono borrowed our 'map' to show other guides that he met up there, and he was pretty stoked that he knew more than any of them.

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(Rainbow mountain has apparently only just been discovered by tourists in the last 6 months, and so unless you are a local, navigating off the Ausangate loop to the mountains is an unknown, as was proved by a german group we saw, who's guide came and asked Cafetono where they were meant to be going. This group had 5 horses for 5 people!)

By the time we got back to the tent, we were a little worried that it might rain/snow/both, and it was pretty breezy.

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Richard built me a multipurpose cooking facility, and good thing too, else I don't think we would have managed to cook anything the way the wind was going!

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Again in bed by 6:30 - no hot drink tonight as it was just too cold in the wind to manage heating the water. Braced for snow overnight, but it never arrived.
Awoke in the morning to perfectly clear skies again! Wohoo!! Cafetono headed off to his meeting thing, and Lori took us back over the pass, and a sidle around the valley to Ausangate Cocha - a glacial lake. Only took us 4hours, and so meant we spent the afternoon lying in the sun at the lake on a rock reading our books. Until the wind picked up again and drove us into our tents as it was so cold!

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That evening we had to wait for Cafetono to come back before we could cook - not ideal as its waay to cold to cook after dark. Luckily he arrived about 15min before sundown, just as we had decided to stuff it and get on with it anyways. On this night we had 2 other fully guided groups, with about a million horses between them, and one lone Israeli, who was doing it himself. Somehow, we got all the horses tied up beside our tent for the night. Man those guys have some gas!

Day 4 we were up early, as the weather was looking less than perfect - there was a bit of cloud blowing about. First on the agenda was our highest climb to 5200m (from 4200m where we had slept). Was a bit of a slog, but felt surprisingly ok at the time.
On the top had a pretty sweet view of the glacier (which has spent the whole night crashing down large lumps of ice!), and on the other side a funny red coloured lake.

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Headed down into the valley below - goodbye 1000m just climbed, and passed stone houses (not dissimilar to those at M.P. but people actually live in these!), and turned up the next valley.

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Here Richard found a waterfall which he went to a lot of effort to photograph for you.

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Though we were walking progressively uphill, it got progressively colder and colder with the wind. By the top of the final 5000m pass we were in full thermals, beanie, windfleece, overtrousers and raincoat and only warm when walking. Saw some mountains that looked like they had been sketched, and a massive avalanche come down off a distant mountain.

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Coming down the pass, we got hailed on, and generally we just wanted to keep moving, as we could see sunshine in the distance. Once we had been walking for 7.5hours since breakfast with only a museli bar, we knew we had to stop for lunch, or we wouldn't make the final 2hours to camp, hail or no hail.
Richard again created a sweet cooking shelter, while I wrestled Machu to get lunch off his back. By this point we had given up on Cafetono and Lori to do anything to help us except load the horse each morning. It felt a little like we were taking them tramping, as we did pretty much everything for them.

Lunch downed, and back on the road again. Eventually out walked the hail, and set up camp beside some more hot springs. Sadly, these ones did not have proper flow into the pool, and so we had to settle with dipping our feet in. But sooooo good.
Fed and watered and in bed before 7 yet again, but had a nice clear night and a hard frost (even though we were only 4300m again).

Final morning started off with small disaster. The stove fell over while cooking porridge and we lost the lot. No breakfast for anyone except some left over crackers - thats what happens when you try and spread food for 3 to food for 4. Lori was pretty grumpy about it, but what could we do? She wasn't even meant to have been there!

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Fortunately it was only 3 hours walk back to town. Here we had been told the buses came for Cusco every half hour. After waiting for an hour we wondered if it was a joke. But then a bus did turn up, so we hoped on. And it stopped and waited there for another 20min. Then we drove for 10min to the next town, and waited for another 30min. Great.
All in all, what took us 2.5hours to get to Tinke, took us 5hours to get back to Cusco. And I had needed to pee since waiting for the bus, but not wanted to go looking in case we missed it. Not fun!

On getting back to Cusco, we got to our hostel (a day early, and had no way to contact Ludwig the owner to warn him). There were signs all over the doors saying no vacancy, and noone answered the bell when we rang. Not ideal, as he had all of our stuff in storage. After 30min we gave up and found another nearby hostel (almost double the price for an 18 bedded dorm). But at least they had a bathroom! Then headed back to our original hostel, and managed to get in, but Ludwig was not around with his keys. Learnt that he'd had a family emergency and was closing the hostel as he needed to return to Germany. After another hour of waiting we gave up in search of food - at this point it was 4:30, and all we had eaten all day was a few crackers and some lollies - no lunch as on the bus.
Finally got hold of our stuff a bit later on, and returned to our new hostel. Surprisingly, an 18 bedded dorm is pretty quiet, though we were ready for bed before 7 and awake at 5am this morning. Dulp!
Fortunately, the voodoo stick just seemed to not enjoy the cold, and so after a bit of charging its good to go again!

Now looking forward to a few days of coffee and rest, before heading off on our next adventure!

Posted by VGH on tour 06:21 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Different types of fun - Salkantay trail + Machu Picchu


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For those of you who have not heard of the fun scale, it features as below:

Type one - Fun at the time, and fun afterwards. E.G. catching up with an old friend and having a great chat
Type two - Not fun at the time, but fun afterwards. E.G. Slogging up that mountain with a heavy pack on, retrospectively satisfying, but at the time you want to die
Type three - Fun at the time, not fun afterwards. E.G. when Nicola has 2 coffees and feels sick all afternoon
Type four - Not fun at the time, or afterwards. E.G. Walking 20km with a 15kg pack on at altitude, AND climbing/descending 2000m, beside a road.

The morning of Salkantay we were picked up by a tour operator at 5am, who had agreed to drive us to the start of the track (public buses stopped 15km before this), even though we weren't on their tour. We were pretty skeptical as to whether they would even turn up as they had been a massive pain to deal with the day before. And once they did pick us up, they were confused as to who we even were - they thought we were Jonothan and someone, and then we proceeded to visit a bunch of hostels that didn't have anyone we were meant to pick up at them.

After a few hours we made it to the track end (after a breakfast stop for the tour group at Mollepata), and we set off on our way. We still had about 2 hours of walking along the road to do, but very little traffic on it. At this point it was warm and sunny. WIN.

Soon after passing the road end, the clouds started to come down and we began to climb towards the 4650m pass (having started at 3400m that morning). Not long afterwards it began to lightly rain, and so it was time for full rain gears..

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Somehow, we managed to catch up with a tour group who was on their SECOND day after a total of 3.5 hours of walking, towards to the top of the pass, who were only carrying day bags.
As we got higher we could definately feel the altitude with sustained tachycardia (rate of 120 while walking) and dyspnoea. Even though we have been at altitude for a month. Didn't slow us down too much though.

Apparently there is a nice lake you are meant to be able to see up on the pass... we saw the morraine wall, and a bit of a mountain, but mostly all we saw was cloud.

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Descending into the valley below, in the hope we would out run the cloud, it just got denser and denser, and with it darker (even though it was 3pm), until we could barely see 20m. The terrain was a mixture of rocks and swampy ground, and so nowhere really to camp.
When we got down a bit lower we asked the first local we saw where we could camp. He just pointed further down the hill, and said near his house. Great! Where might that be? If it was more than ~10m off the track we were never going to see it.
After another 40min of walking downhill we saw some buildings, and a guy with a donkey, so we asked if we could camp there, and he said yes. The ground was pretty boggy, but we had a shelter that we could cook in out of the fog (kind of). It was pretty creepy there as we knew there must be other buildings nearby as we could hear whistling and the occasional chatter, but never saw anyone, except one man who appeared out of nowhere to check the shelter, and a dog which crept around just out of our torch light.

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The fog, when it had cleared a bit

As it was dark and cold by 6pm, we were sleeping by 6:30pm. We walked 22km and changed 2000m in altitude (1200m up and 800m down)
Day was type one fun until the pass, after which it was type 4.

Day two we awoke at 6am when it got light, and were surprised to see blue sky. WIN! And then discovered that the tent floor was not waterproof and everything that was on it was wet. DULP!

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On getting up, we saw that the tour group we passed yesterday, who camped more or less on the pass, would have been snowed on overnight.
Made for a cold but pleasant morning of walking (though everything was wet), and we started off down the track.
The track became increasingly muddy and ruined by donkey trails, until we reached Collepampa, where we had to cross a river and turn right down the next valley.
By the time we reached the junction it was hot. We had descended 1000m, and now we found there was going to be a road, all the way to our campsite for the night. Great.
Managed to jump across the river to the walking track, but this seemed to undulate stupidly 200m up, 200m down for no good reason, while the road remained fairly steady (though there was no way back across). It continued to get hotter and hotter, and our map was so hopeless it that we regularly came across places which apparently didn't exist on our map.

Did see a cool waterfall, and some crazy yellow birds with funny looking lumps on their heads.

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Finally we made it to La Playa, where we would camp for the night, and by some miracle, it had not rained since that morning. We met a tour group in the camp ground (though we camped in a lady's backyard next door) and had a beer and chatted to them about their tramp. Apparently they had all booked overseas, and were meant to be doing the Inca trail, but the company screwed up, and so this was compensation.

Overall the day was type 4 fun. Descending 2000m on rocky trails over 23km beside a road is not something I want to do again.

Of course, overnight it poured with rain, everything wet again by morning.
Up at 6:30, and surprised to see the tour group was already gone. They were planning to walk the same way as us, over an 800m hill to some ruins and then drop down to the hydroelectric station to catch the train to Aguas Calientes. We were sick of getting wet all the time, and so figured we would do the same, but walk the extra 10km of train track as we didn't want to pay $60USD for a ride. It meant we were lining ourselves up for another 24km day with 1600m altitude change, but we were pretty sick of it by then, and we had already walked 45km in 2 days, so figured how bad could it get?

Heading up the hill was not too bad for a start - gentle gradient, saw some more crazy yellow birds, and got followed by a pack of dogs. The rain stopped too which was nice. The last bit of the track decided that more of a straight up approach was better, and so it got pretty hot.
Finally the downhill arrived, and we got to Llactapata, some old ruins, where we actually caught up to the tour group (after us walking for 3 hours!)
Wandered around these for a little bit, saw a HUGE bee, and decided to keep moving.

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About 10 min down the hill we came out to a lovely flat area and a lodge, which allowed camping. At this point, the sun was shining and it was hot. We made an instant decision to stay, as we had great views of Machu Picchu from here.

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So we spent the afternoon finally drying out, and playing monopoly, and then at night time we had a great full moon.

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Only downside were the strange people who ran the place, who barely acknowledged our existence.

Day was type one fun, with a small amount of type 2 fun on the climb up.

By some miracle it did not rain ALL night! AND we awoke to clear skies. So we took the time to dry the dew off the tent before setting off downhill.

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The walk was pretty straightforward today, just ridiculously hot. When we reached the train tracks, initially we were excited, as it promised to be flat. It is in fact slightly uphill the entire way, and hard on the feet, so on arriving in Aguas Calientes we were feeling pretty hot and bothered.
A shower was like the best thing in the world. It had been so hot and humid over the last 2 days, that everything that was sweaty would just not dry at all. YUCK

After a good wash we wandered around town, and got a huge fright at the prices of food. $20NZD for a pizza! Eventually we found the set menus which were a little more manageable. The highlight was that all the restaurants have 4 for the price of one drinks, and so we tried a few different cocktails, and played some more monopoly to pass the afternoon.

Next morning was time for Machu Picchu! As we had seen sunrise/set over it from our last campsite, we were not in a massive hurry to get up there. And we decided that as it had been so hot, we really didn't feel like walking up 400m vertically to get there when there was a perfectly good bus for $15 each. So we were up and in Machu Picchu by 7:30AM, and wandering round.
All in all, we had had low expectations of M.P. and so it by far exceeded them. It was great to see the different ruins and admire the views.

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By 10:30 it was starting to get REALLY warm, and the hoards were arriving, and we had seen all we wanted to, so bailed out. Walked down the hill - even that was hot. Man did we feel sorry for all the miserable looking people who were walking up. They looked so hot.

We weren't sure we could face walking back down the tracks to the buses in the heat, and so looked at getting a train all the way back to Cusco (in April they had 2 for one tickets), but there were none for our afternoon. So we headed back. It was actually ok walking out, as slightly downhill the whole way.
Luckily when we reached the road end there was a minivan going directly to Cusco (rather than having to change somewhere part way). It was only now we found out that the bus takes 6.5hours to get to Cusco! And so we wouldn't be back until 8:30 at night!! At this point we hadn't eaten since noodles at 6am, and had missed lunch, and would now miss dinner until Cusco.
Man we were hungry by the time we got back to Cusco. Luckily Ludwig at our hostel had set up our room with all our things, and then it was off to smash some dinner. I think the pizza stayed on the table for <5min before it was all gone.

M.P. + Salkantay overall - M.P. was surprisingly cool, we didn't expect to enjoy it so much.
The tramp to get there was variable. Partly crappy because we did 2 big days at the start (tour groups do this in 3 days), and because we had bad weather for a lot. But walking beside a road is not really my thing, and so maybe we should have just caught the train in...

Now we are back in Cusco, and off to visit the local mountaineering club to find out about a different tramp that promises rainbow mountains... The weather forecast now tells us it will be fine forever - maybe the rainy season is finally over?
In the mean time, we have had coffee, a massage and finally sent some of our excess crap home!

Posted by VGH on tour 10:48 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Bye bye Bolivia and more storms

rain
View Taking on latin america on VGH on tour's travel map.

Our time in La Paz ended with an evening trip up the cable car to El Alto, to watch the sunset. Was a pretty sweet form of public transport, though not much of a viewing space except in the cable car to watch the sunset.

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On the way back to our hostel chased some street art...

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Hung out in the hostel that evening, and met a girl from Lithuania, whose poor boyfriend had been admitted to hospital, found to have an arrhythmia (?from dehydration due to food poisoning) and was going to have to spend the rest of their holiday below 3000m. (La Paz is at 3600m). Was really gutted to hear this for her as they had all kinds of sweet tramping plans which now won't work. And the final kicker was she did not have travel insurance, so it was going to cost her an arm and a leg to leave Bolivia with her boyfriend. Bummer.

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Nighttime view from our room

The next morning we got an early cab and then bus to Copacabana. To get there, the boat gets loaded onto a barge to cross part of lake Titicaca and hauled across a strait which is probably 300m wide. Looked pretty cool, and lots of jokes were made about the barge sinking (we were put in separate passenger boats). Met ourselves an Irish Kiwi, who it turned out lived 3 blocks from us in Sydenham.
Sadly on arriving in Copacabana we lost our new friend, and though we thought we would find him later, it seems we never did (Copacabana is tiny).

The afternoon was filled by going for a walk around the nearby peninsula. We were adopted by a local puppy who took us for our walk - always stopping to check we were ok, and when other scary tourists approached he would sit right back beside us, just to make sure they didn't get us. It was hilarious, but so cute. We lost him at the end of the walk - apparently ducks were more exciting to chase. But by that point he had already walked us for 2 hours!
Unfortunately, we did not consider the sun on that walk. Now I have an incredible ponamu tan line (spiral included!)... hopefully it will go away soon. Double unfortunately, the only clean high necked T shirt I had at this point was the one from Death Road - so I ended up looking like a sunburnt super enthusiastic tourist! Doh!

That evening we wandered around town - checked out the sunset, and the nearby huge cathedral - like waaay out of proportion to the size of town!
Had the world's slowest service to get our hands on some delicious trout. Learnt that apparently the trout (also introduced) here kill a native frog that can grow to 50cm in size!

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Next morning headed out on a boat to Isla del Sol, a nearby Incan island. All was going well in the first ten min, until one of the pull start (yes!) 75 horse power engines broke down and we did some circles for a while until it got up and running again.
On arriving on the island, we were promptly charged a landing fee, and then headed up the Incan stairs to the ridge line (4000m, def feeling acclimatised now), where we found a room for the night in a hotel that wasn't quite finished and so really cheap. Best decision ever was to leave the big bags back in Copacabana.

Once we were settled we decided to go for a short walk along the track. So took some water and sunscreen, and figured we'd be back by lunch....
2 hours later we found ourselves at the northern end of the island and some incan ruins, and absolutely starving! We'd been charged a track fee of about $4 each, and so decided to make the most of it, as the ticket appeared to cover the rest of the island. Needless to say we were less than impressed when another lady tried to charge us an extra $3 to do one tiny section of track. This seems ridiculous, but we were really really short on Bolivanos at this point as we were leaving the country the next day, and so we didn't have this going spare.
Luckily we found a short cut that skipped her out, and no-one tried to check the 'ticket' she was selling again (though our other one was checked several times). We have since decided she was a fake and just out to make money.
Fortunately, we found some sandwiches just after skipping this woman, which made the thought of walking all the way back along the coast a bit more bareable!

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So after 4 hours of walking, and 16km later we were back at our hostel and feeling a little tired. Remainder of the afternoon wasted watching the donkeys and playing yet another game of monopoly deal.

That night met an english girl and ozzie guy, and had some more trout with them, while watching yet another thunder storm.
This storm was even better than most as it completed in the morning with incredible hail - so much that when we got back to Copacabana it looked like it had snowed!!

By now we had only 10 Bolivanos left to our name (about $3), and so decided it was high time we left Bolivia, so got an afternoon bus to Puno in Peru. Once again it rained most of the way.
The highlight of Puno was the Chinese food and a decent hot shower, but otherwise we decided not to stick around as it was still raining the next morning, so bused to Cusco.

We spent an unreasonable amount of time trying to find somewhere to stay in Cusco that wasn't going to cost us $40NZD to stay in a dorm with 16 other people! Eventually we settled on a quirky wee place called Frankensteins, and the guy here has been great at looking after us. (and only costing us $17 for our own room!)
Wandered the town over the next 2 days - eating chocolate crossiants, and drinking real coffee. Met up with Ruben and Roos again for a walking tour of town, though all but Roos gave it up in about 5 minutes. Instead we stayed at the coffee house with Ruben and drank 2 real moccas each over the course of several hours, just hearing about each others travels.
Oh god did I suffer from 2 coffees later - felt incredibly buzzy and ill for about the next 8 hours. Cannot handle 2 coffees.
Sadly had to say goodbye to Ruben and Roos after lunch, as they were heading off to see churches and things, where as we were in the hunt for camping gear and a siesta.

Today we are meant to be organising ourselves for tramping food and picking up the tramping gear, but its pouring with rain, so motivation lacking.
Hypothetically we are going to do the Salkantay trail tomorrow and walk 5 days to Machu Picchu.. but right now we'd just like the rain to stop.
I guess time will tell!

Posted by VGH on tour 07:59 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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