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From Prisons to Mountain Bikes, La Paz rocks!!!!!!!!!!

La Paz - Bolovia

overcast 15 °C
View Map 2 - 22 La Paz to Pucon & Map 2 - 21 Puno to La Paz on krystalmat's travel map.

Sunday the 4th of January

Matt typing

After a great nights rest we packed our gear and headed out the door of the Inka´s Rest Hostel with smiles on our faces. This place really was a fantastic hostel and had a great feel about it.

We headed to the bus terminal in Puno and hopped on our day bus that would be taking us through to Bolivia. Just under 4 weeks have been spent in Peru and I can safely say that we have got our monies worth! From the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, to the Colca Canyon to Cusco and more and more and more.

We hit the border after a couple hours in the bus and went through the normal process. Exit stamp form one place, entry stamp into another, money exchange and we were done! First impressions of Bolovia was quite nice as we stopped at a small town on the edge of Lake Titicaca (Bolovian side) called Copacabana to change buses and have some lunch. We hopped into a lakeside restraunt and each ordered ourselves fish with rice and saled and chips all for a whopping AUD3.75! I immediately liked Bolivia!!!

Once back on the bus we headed South for La Paz with a brief stop in between to catch a ferry across Lake Titicaca before arriving into the highest city (3660M above sea level) in the world around 6pm. Next thing on the list was to find a place to stay for the next 3 or so nights. One thing we have done pretty much the entire trip so far is just rock up to the the city where we are going and find somewhere from there. It seems better and also sometimes cheaper and so far we have had so problems (fingers crossed) We found a place within 10 minutes which had private rooms, private showers, and breakfast for AUD10 per person. Again I thought to myself I like this country!

Once settled in we headed out for some dinner to a local pizza place and had a couple of drinks before turing it in for the night and to Mon´s delight watching some English TV!

Monday the 5th of January

Up and at it today with plans to do a city tour of La Paz of some sorts so after some breakie we headed out and found ourselves a tour company that offered what we were after. Once sorted we had some time to kill before the tour started so we headed towards San Pedro Plaza where we were hoping to find some information about visiting San Pedro Prison. San Pedro Prison is the largest prison in La Paz and holds approx 1500 inmates. Inside there are 8 sections which vary from top class to 1 star (which the prisoners have to pay for themselves), plus restraunts, and lots of other small businesses all that are run by the inmates themselves. This gives them an income while they are inside which helps them pay for what they needs while doing their sentence. Also while inside alot of the times there wives and kids will stay inside with them rather than be thrown on the street or worse whle the husband is doing his time. There is also alot of drugs being produced and sold (mainly cocaine) that is widely known about but ignored as the money it brings in is too good to refuse. This prison is a different to any other prison in the world as it allows tourists to be taken through (limited daily) and shown prison life within the walls. Sounds like a stupid idea huh?? So when we were approached in San Pedro Square and asked if we would like to go in what do you think we said??? Hell yes!!!! So we went to the bank, cashed up (its an expensive tour but where else are you going to be able to visit an active prison in the world!!) and were taken into the entrance for registration and a quick briefing.

Once we signed in and were told that cameras were not allowed but you could take as many pictures as you wanted once inside and away from the guards we were taken through the gates and introduced to our guide (a prisoner who can speak English) and our 2 bodyguards. For the next two hours we were taken through the sections of the prison, shown cells, businesses, and many other things that were all a completely new experience to all of us. Not once did any of us feel unsafe as I believe the people inside really respect us coming through as it is a source of income that they can get through us.

Once we finished our tour we were taken into a cell and sat on the bed for a quick thankyou from our guide. I asked him why he was inside the walls and he expained that like about 80% of the inmates in here it had something to do with drugs. From here of course he wanted a tip plus a small amount for each camera that we used while inside. Once satisfied with our offering he led us to the exit and we were free!!!! An awesome and strange experiece for all of us which I am sure I will not encounter again. Unless I go back to La Paz that is!!!

We quickly had a bit to eat and then got back to our hotel for our 2:30pm pick up for the city tour that we had organised early in the day.

Firstly we headed out of town and were taken to a place called Valle De La Luna (Valley of the moon) which was a short drive out of La Paz. Once here we were taken around the site that was a maze of canyons and pinnacles that had been eroded over time. It really reminded Krystal and I of Cappadocia in Turkey and was great to wonder around and enjoy the frsh air away from the hustle and bustle of the city. From here we made our way slowely back towards La Paz but before hitting the centre we made a quick stop at a view point that gave us an awesome look out over the city. La Paz itself is an amazing place as it is pretty well plonked in 3 canyons and from above is one of the best cities I have ever seen.

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After a couple of snaps we headed into town for a quick walk around and then taken back to our hotel about 7pm. The tour was fantastic and our guide was one who enjoyed his job and really had passion about the place. It really makes the difference in good tours and great tours I believe.

Once back at the hotel the day didnt stop there. We headed back to the travel agent and arranged for the following days activities which included Ted, Mon, Krystal, and I booking ourselves to mountain bike the wolrds most danerous road, and Sharon to head out on a day tour to some famous ruins (I will let het explain them to you cause I havent a clue). Finally we were finshed for the day and we headed to a nearby restraunt, had a couple cervesas and some great dinner before heading to bed excited about what we did that day and what was on offer the following day.

Tuesday the 6th of January

Agian another early get up (this trip was clearly not designed to be a sleeping holiday) and we were in our van ready for a day of mountain biking by 7am. After driving for an hour or so we had to stop at a checkpoint before we were allowed to finish our drive to our location. After an hour or so of waiting and watching every other tour company pass by we were starting to get a little concerned. Then to add to our thoughts a traffic partol officer walked past me, Ted, and another guy on our tour and chuckled something in Spanish. ´´What did he say?´´ I asked. ´´You are not going anywhere, your driver does not have his licence with him´´ the fella translated to us!!! Great now what are we going to do we all thought. So after another hour or so our driver finally makes it back to us (I think he got a cab back to the city or something) with his licence and we were back on track. it actually worked out well for us as we were so far behind the rest of the tour groups we had the road to ourselves.

Ok so a quick run down on ´´The Worlds Most Dangerous Road´´ The road was built in 1930 and is called Yungas Road. The length of it is approx 61kms and supports dropoffs of up to 600m with little to no rails. Also the road is single lane, unsealed, and is often in fog, rain, or both! It was said that up to 2200 people since 1992 have been killed on this road, plus another 22 mountain bikers to be thrown in there!!!!

Back to us now and once we were kitted up with our bikes and gear we were on the road and ready to go. The first part of the ride was great as it was all on sealed road and smooth sailing for 30 minutes or so. We could pick up some great speeds and zoom past trucks at our leisure. We stopped off for a break and quickly loaded the bikes back on the van (uphill section, only do downhill on hoidays!!) before stopping off at the beginning the Yungas Road. The good thing about this section is this is where the old road and the new road seperate. In 2006 after 20 years of construction a replacement road was opened to public leaving the old road as only a route for mountain bikers and minimal traffic. From here it started to get fun!

We headed off on the dirt/stoney road and bounced our way all the way to the bottom. 3 hours (something like that) of bouncing, braking, lots of braking, and resting we made it to the bottom of the road. In between the start and end we were riding on sheer cliff edges, admiring the views, and concentrating on staying on our seats.

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The ride was amazing and the weather again stayed kind to us as it has so far the whole trip really. We were also shown the spot where in 1983 a bus went off the edge of the road and killed 100 people which is said to be the worst ever accident in Bolovias history. Something that needs to be pointed out is Krystals grit and determination! About 1/2 way down she was very very close to hopping in the van and hang up the gloves form the mountain bike but powered on the make it to the end. Pure guts by the girl I have to say! I also had a part in it as I said that she would not be allowed to wear the T-Shist that you are given at the end if she didnt ride the whole way down!!!!

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Once we cleaned ourselves up we headed to a local hotel for a buffet lunch (5pm mind you) and then made our way slowely but surely back to La Paz along the new road before finally arriving back to the hotel about 9:30pm. Sharon patiently waiting for us bikers to return and we all headed out for a late dinner, some drinks and our final supper of the holiday!

Wednesday the 7th of January

Pretty boring day this one really. We had our breaky with the five of us before a sad (only brief this time) goodbye to Sharon and Ted. Sharon cried again which was a given and was predicted by Mon and Krystal earlier that morning!! From there we went to the bar and chucked a huge party as the parents were now gone!! No only joking I have to say that it was an amazing 3 weeks for the 5 of us and something that we will all remember I am sure.

For the 3 of us today was really a catch up day on all the boring stuff. Some shopping for USB memory sticks (we need another 16GB for pics), arrange our Uyuni Salt Flats Tour and night bus, basic supplies, some touristy stuff, internet, and relaxing.

Before we new it we were picked up from the hotel at 6pm, taken to the bus terminal and put on the overnight bus for next destination, Uyuni

Take care all

M and K

Posted by krystalmat 12:25 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Bye to Peru

Cusco, Puno, PERU

overcast 17 °C
View Map 2 - 20 Cusco to Puo on krystalmat's travel map.

- Krystal typing -

Wednesday the 31st of December

Woke up late morning after a well deserved good nights sleep, feeling sore all over we managed to make it to breakfast just before noon. The 5 of us then went to check out one of the many muesums that Cusco has to offer. We decided on the regional history muesum, and spent all of about 20 minutes in there - not skipping any sections! Was a bit on the ordinary side, luckily enough we didn´t have to pay for entry as it was included in our super pass type ticket.

Deciding it was to soon for lunch we all headed off for a massage each. We parted with 12 australian dollars for an hour long massage, not bad! I think Matt and Dad jumped 12 foot in the air each time the masseuse touched their carves!

On our way to our fav lunch spot we bumped into the Kiwi guy Keiren from the inca trail, so he tagged along and we arranged to catch up later in the night for some new years eve drinks. After that we wandered around town for a little and hit some internet cafes. Before heading back to our hostel to play some cards. I napped as I wasn´t feeling the greatest (felt like poo on a stick actually) and was going to stay in if it wasn´t for my need to see Matt finally eat a guinea pig!

We headed out to the main square, found a place that promised us guinea pig but were disapointed come ordering time. We were out of that restuarant in a flash as Matt and Kiwi were determined to eat a little rodent! Found another place, placed our orders and all was well! 20 minutes later out came a baked whole guinea pig - two little front teeth and all! After a few happy snaps (see below) the poor little bugger was taken back into the kitchen to be chopped up! Out came all our meals which were all yum, and around went the guinea pig for tasting, but mum gave it a miss! It actually tasted pretty nice, very similar to chicken, but I wasn´t a fan of the smell - the smell didn´t seem to bother Matt and kiwi as they both polished off their halves.

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After a few drinks we decided to move on to a bar that over looked the main square. We walked around the main square rather than through it as we were not so keen on getting hit in the head with one of the hundreds of stray fireworks going off! I was feeling very ordinary by this stage, yes - a party pooper on new years eve and headed back to the hostel with mum. Everyone else stayed out and scored some awesome seats that over looked the ameture and professional fireworks for the count down before calling it a night.

Thursday the 1st of January

Happy New Year!

5:30am get up on new years day - yuck! We were down at the bus terminal ready for our 7:30am tourist bus to Puno, which is approximately 8 hours away. We´d arranged a tourist bus rather then a local bus as their are quite a few sites to see between the two towns.

The first stop off was to visit a old Andean Sistine type Chapel called Andahuaylillas. Now I´ve seen a fair few churches these days so wasn´t exactly running to the entry, but the church turned out to be quite different. It was full of gold and doll type statues of chirst and mary etc as most south american churches are. But the interesting thing was that it had a giant gold sun at the top of the altor. Our guide said this was a type of marketing for the spanish to try and get the local people to convert to christanity, as they believed in the inca sun god.

Next stop was Raqchi, also known as the Temple of the God Wiracocha, which was the biggest temple in the inca empire. It was a rectangular temple about 90m long by 25m wide with a central wall about 20m high. Only the cental wall still stands along with ruins of the columns, but it was pretty impressive to look at. There was also about 100 or so store houses where the incas used to store their food, they reminded me of the huge gas and oil tanks you see back home, but they were also in ruin states as the incas tried to destory everything once they knew the spanish were coming.

We stopped off for a buffet lunch, before continuing along to a muesum before arriving in Puno at about 5pm. As soon as we arrived we organised a a two day tour out to the islands of Lake Titikaca - the highest navigable lake in the world, at 3812m above sea level. It´s also the biggest lake in south america and is pretty famous for it´s floating islands that are constructed by the locals our of the reeds.

Anyway we arranged a two day tour to start the next day, visiting the floating islands before heading to Isla Amantani for the night and then a visit to Isla Taquile.

We grabbed some dinner and then updated this baby!

Friday the 2nd of January

Woke up early again, we were mini bussed out to the jetting to catch our boat. The weather again managed to come through with the goods despite being wet season and allowed us to get a pearler of a photo of the lake.

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After driving through some reeds we arrived at one of the many floating reed islands and were taken ashore - (if you can call it that!) First steps out of the boat felt kind of like walking on a tramperlean, it was quite spundgey, but the further you walked from the edge the more stable the island felt. The islands are home to the Aymara speaking Uros indian tribes, who created the islands in an attempt to isolate themselves from the agressvie Collas and Incas, and they´ve lived there ever since.

The islands are built using many layers of the buoyant totora reeds that grow in the lake, they pretty much use these reeds for everything, making their houses out of them as well.

We wandered around the island for a little, we popped our heads in one of the huts and to our amazement saw a TV inside hooked up to a huge car battery! Was very surprising as these people live VERY basicly.

We jump on a boat (made out of reeds) and headed over to another floating island got a quick snap with the president of the island!!!

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then jumping back on our motorised boat and curising for a couple of hours to the natural island of Amantani. Once we arrived we were divided up into groups and given a local family to stay with for the night. Our new family took us in and made us some lunch. The lady their had two little grand children 3 and 4 running around, they were a characters with very runny noses!

We caught back up with the rest of the group and were taken on a walk to the two highest peaks of the island, mother and father earth, where the locals have their religious ceremornies once a year. We thought the second highest peark was high enough for us, and from there we had awesome views out over the island and the lake. We could see heaps of little terraces going up the slopes of the island. And as it turns on the Incas got the idea of the terraces from this island.

We headed back to our new family, had some dinner and then were dressed up in traditional clothing before being taken to a hall where a local band was playing traditional music and we all had a boogie Peruivan style!

Saturday the 3rd of January

Early get up once again! Ate some breakie and said our good byes to a temporary family before handing over 3kg of sugar, 2kg of rice and a heap of lollies as thanks for having us. We then boarded the boat headed for the island of Taquile.

There wasn´t alot to do here, and the weather was starting to turn a little. We grabbed some early lunch then headed back to the boat for a long journey back to Puno.

By the time we arrived back to our hostel it was pelting down with rain, and fortunately every hostel room had a TV and DVD player, with a huge selection of ENGLISH dvds. We sat down with the doona and watch tellie for the rest of the afternoon, it was heaven! Before heading out for some chinese and then and early night, ready for our early bus to Bolivia the next day!

Posted by krystalmat 10:54 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

3 little Inca's ready for a trek

Cusco Peru, Machu Picchu Peru

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Map 2 - 25 Puerto Natales to Ushuaia on krystalmat's travel map.

Friday the 26th of December

- Matt Typing -

After a nice lazy morning we headed out into town to arrange what we needed for our Inca Trail hike that begins tomorrow. Once satisfied with our purchases we headed off for some lunch and then bolted back to the hostel out of the rain to arrange our bags. It has rained pretty much non stop for the last 3 days so we are quite nervous about the upcoming days out in the elements!

Once back at the hostel we packed our daypacks with what we needed and then sent the rest of the gear into the storage room as we wouldn't be needing them for a fews days time.

Once sorted we headed off to our pre departure meeting for our trek that Ted had somehow convinced us that it was taking place at 6pm. Once there we were informed it was actually 30 minutes later so a quick drink in the bar and we were back on track. Once the meeting begun we met our guide (a wanker) and the rest of our group. We had 8 trekkers in total plus the guide and our porters. In our group we had 2 Poms, 2 Yanks, us 3 and a Kiwi. A great mix and nice and small so all was good. From there we were given all the ins and outs before heading off with many thoughts running through our heads about what we were in for and met up with Sharon and Mon for some dinner.

After dinner we headed back to our hostel for a good nights rest and as we new we were going to need it!!!

Saturday the 27th of December

IT'S TIME!!! Day 1

Up at 5am ready and excited we hopped out of bed and to our delight the rain had stopped. How long for only time would tell. I jumped in the shower knowing this was going to be my last one for a few days only to be met with some nice icy cold water! Once I finished shivering and 6am came around we were collected by our minibus and on our way. We picked up the remaining trekkers and headed out of town for an hours drive to a small town in the Sacred Valley called Ollantaytambo. Once here we hopped out grabbed some breakfast and picked up some final supplies that we might need along the way before jumping back in the bus and driving onto the beginning point of the Inca Trail, Km82

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Here is a link for a map of the hike that we completed.

http://www.andeantravelweb.com/peru/treks/incatrail-02-atw.jpg

Once off the bus we headed to the control point, had our passports checked and we were ready to cross the Vilcanota River and begin the famour trek. Now before I write anything further I have to admit to all people listening that I weakened to the fact of carrying all my own gear and have also called upon a porter. For months I have been Mr tough man who doesn't need a porter but I am going to swallow my pride and accept that a porter was a good idea from Ted and Krystal. That being said lets continue!

Once across the river we walked for a couple hours passing along the way some small villages, some ruins, and enjoying the beautiful landscape that surrounded us. The walk was nice and relaxing and was a great way to begin the hike. Soon our guide advised us to take the next right where we would be having a break for lunch.

Now this next bit of the experience was quite amazing! For those of you reading who has done the trek I am sure you will agree with the way you are treated by the porters in your group. We crossed a small river and were taken to our lunch spot. Here we were greeted with smiling faces from our porters and a drink put into our hands. After 15 minutes of relaxing lunch was called and we were treated to 3 courses of food and coca tea. The food was fantastic and we all filled ourselves probably a little too much considering we had to hike that afternoon but the food was so good! 20 minutes rest time later and we were back on the trail and on our way. Now this is where it gets really cool!

After 30 minutes walking a voice from the back is called 'Porter!' we turned around and there were our porters running up behind us with 20 plus Kgs on their back! Now on their back I am talking the following: Tables, chairs, tents for sleeping, tents for cooking and eating, pots, pans, food, drinks, stoves, GAS CYLINDER, plus whoever hired a porter to carry their gear. These guys are amazing. Plus half of them do the trail in sandels!

We hiked for another couple of hours and with the last hour or so consisting of a steedy incline which finished us all off before we retired to our campsite for the night at approx 3300 metres above sea level. When we arrived what were we greeted with? Everything completely set up and ready for us. All our tents assembled, our gear inside, the smell of dinner and smiling faces!

We ralxed for a while, played some cards, had a 4 course dinner before hitting the sack knowing that tomoorow was the be the hardest day of the trek.

So far we are alive, coping and having a blast. So far!!!

Sunday the 28th of December Day 2

'Buenas Dias' Coca Tea? This was our alarm at half past 5 from one of the porters as they passed a nice warm cup of tea through the tent to each of us. This was also the call that told us we had 30 minutes to have everything out of the tents and ready for breakfast. Again we were treated to some great food (it is hard to remember that we are in the middle of the Adeans with food like this) and once finished we collected our gear and prepared for our departure.

3 and a half hours of hiking was what took place next. 3 and a half hours up!! Not one bit of it was an decline and I can tell you this bit was pretty tough. I was doing well until we hit around 3900 metres above sea level and then it got hard! the last 300 metres up was slow going but finally we all made it to the highest point of the trek, 'Dead Womens Pass' Standing at an impressive 4207 metres above SL we all let out a huge sigh of relief and enjoyed the moment! The views up here we amazing and even though there was quite alot of clouds around you could still make out the huge mountains that continued on everywhere you looked.

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After 30 minutes or so up top we were then hit with 90 minutes of knee jarring steps back down to our lunch stop. Most groups stop here for the night and set up camp but with the company that we have gone with they continue on to really punish you on day 2! I think I prefer the up parts as my kness were really feeling the pinch and I was relieved when I saw our tents up and ready for a break. We relaxed here for an hour or so, had another great meal before heading off again with the 2nd pass on the menu. This pass was not as difficult but did consist of 90 minutes or so straight up until we hit the peak at approx 3900 ABSL. Another pass accomplished and another sigh of relief! From here we started back down again and after an hour or so we finally made it to our campsite (everything again set up and ready for us by our wonderful porters) and well fell in a heap and got the hiking boots off as quickly as possible!

We had some time to relax so we played some cards between the three of us and after a while a porter of ours became interested and sat with us to watch. We chatted to him (as well as we could with our Spanish) and listened to what he had to say about being a porter. Soon dinner was served and then off to bed for a well deserved sleep!

Day 2 was now out of the way and Machu Picchu was that much closer. Knowing that this was to be the hardest day we were very releived and excited about what was coming up!!!!

Monday the 29th of December Day 3

Again we were woken by our porters with some tea and this morning we were blessed with a beautiful morning. So far on the hike it has rained twice. Once when we were sleeping on the first night and again when we were sleeping last night. I can safely say we have been blessed so far considering it is wet season!

Once sorted and fed we headed off for what was to be a pretty short days hiking. After a couple of hours we made it to the 3rd and final pass where we had great views in all directions. From here we had a break then began the final decent to where we would be camping for the night. 3 hours and some very sore knees later we arrived at our campsite around 1pm and knew that we were that much closer to the final goal. We could nearly smell MP as we were staring straight at the mountain that it was hidden behind. Patience had to play a role though because we knew we had to wait until the morning for the final 6kms to be walked. Instead we treated ourselves to a beer or 5 as the final campsite has a bar and even a shower!

After a few hours relaxing we headed off on a massive 5 minute walk to an ancient city called Wiñay Wayna. The ruins were fantastic and even more so because me and the Kiwi walked around it with a beer in hand!

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We spent an hour or so wandering around and enjoying the peace and quiet as we were the only ones there before heading back to camp for a couple more drinks before dinner.

As tonight was our last night we had to say goodbye to our porters as they would not be coming with us for the final part of our trek. After dinner they all came out and we thanked them and passed on a tip to them all for their awesome efforts over the past three days! Without these guys the trips would have been nowhere as good as what it has been. Once the formalities were complete we hopped into bed as 4am was to be the following mornings wake up call.

Tuesday the 30th of December Day 4!!!!

This morning we woke up to the sound that we were dreading. Rain!!!! Over the past three days the weather has been brilliant and we were hoping itcould last just a little bit longer. We cleaned up our gear for the final time, had some breakfast, and we were on our way!

We walked to the first check point (there are 6 or so along the trail) and had to wait for 30minutes until 5:30 came around when the gates to the final 6kms open. The rain was still coming down and the clouds were low so we were a little concerned about what we were in store for over the mountain (Krystal a little more than me). Once the gates opened we were on our way and after an hour or so we finally made it over the top of the final mountain and stood smack in the middle of the Sun Gate. Well thats what its called but we could see all but 10m in front of us!! By now the rain had stopped but there was still plenty of cloud so we had no views whats so ever! From here we hiked down for another 45 minutes towards to lost city of Machu Picchu until finally we were greated with our first views of the site. It was amazing! Even through the fog it was everything and more of what we were hoping and something that will stick with us forever. Again the clouds swamped the site so we headed down into the city for our guided tour by our guide.

The tour lasted for an hour or so until he finally winded it up (which was a good thing) and we said our goodbyes to him and were then set free to roam the site by ourselves for as long as we wanted to until our train departed back to Cusco at 6pm. With perfect timing we caught up with Sharon and Mon who had arrived at MP that morning and the five of us and Kieren the Kiwi walked around some more enjoying this unbelievable place. As we continued on the weather improved 100% and we were treated to beautiful sunshine and perfect photo ops which we took great advantage of.

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After a couple more hours we were all pretty well ruined and we decided to head down to Aguas Calientes the town at the base of MP and where you get the train from for some lunch and relaxing. Sharon and Mon had to get an earlier train so they headed off to the station while Ted, Krystal, Kiwi, and I had a couple of drinks before catching our train at 6pm.

After 4 long hours of both but and train we finally arrived back to Cusco very very tired and hanging for a bed and shower. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and made our way back to hostel, had a shower then crashed out like a light!

I can safely say that this has got to be one of the best things I have ever done and even though I had been looking forward to it for so long it didn´t let me down one bit!!! Now for the next part of our adventure!

Speak soon

M and K

Posted by krystalmat 14:15 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Xmas in Cusco!!! Plus some Incan ruins thrown in.

Cusco Peru

rain 16 °C
View Map 2 - 19 Arequipa to Cusco on krystalmat's travel map.

- Matt typing -

Monday the 22nd of December.

After another night bus we arrived into Cusco about 7am feeling surprisingly pretty good and ready to hit the ground running in Cusco. This has been a place that we have both been really excited about as 1, its the gateway to our Inca Trail trek and also it was originally the meeting place for us to meet with Ted, Sharon, and Monique.

We hopped into a taxi and headed into town to try and find a hostel for a couple of nights while the others finished their Kumuka tour. After a bit of stuffing around we managed to find a basic little place (nice and cheap) very close to T, S and M so all worked out perfectly. We hung around for a little in the hostel and waited for them to arrive (they had a flight from Arequipa) beofre meeting up again and heading out for some breakie.

From here we went on a mission to organise the next few days with tours, pay our Inca Trail money, arrange places to stay for new years and so on. Once completed we all felt relieved and ready to do some Incan exploring!

As T, S, and M were already on their tour we managed to speak with their guides and booked on the same trips as them so we could all head off together. Firstly we headed off on a city tour of Cusco where we visited the main square (Plaza De Armas) and then the De Le Compañia Catherdral. From here we vitised our first Inca site the Coricancha which was a huge temple used for religious ceremonies and so forth. before the Spanish invasion this area was covered with gold walls, floors, and statues that unfortunetely was far to tempting to be left alone and was taken from the Incan´s. From here we left the main centre of Cusco and headed out to three different Incan ruin sites called Sacsayhuamen, Qenko, and Tambo Machay. I really enjoyed these places as it was great to finally see these amazing places in person and appreciate the skill they displayed and technique they used.

Once we completed our tour we headed out for some dinner before calling it a night and ready for some sleep after not getting too much the night before on the bus.

Tuesday the 23rd of December

This morning we woke us refreshed and ready to get into a new days exploring and on the menu today was a day trip to the Sacred Valley. Again we managed to book ourselves on the same tour as the others so we wandered over to their hotel about 8:30 and were greated by our guide for the day. We headed out of town and after an hour or so stopped off for some shopping at one of the local markets which was perfectly placed for all the tourists buses to stop and have a look.

I got sucked into a purchase... do you think it will fit?

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We spent 1/2 and hour or so before continuing along to another market town, shopping again then onto our location for lunch.

After lunch we drove into the heart of the Sacred Valley and it was amazing to see the size on both left and right of the bus of the mountains that were surrounding us. From here we entered the town of Ollantaytambo and enterede the famous ancient city for some afternoon exploring. These ruins were by far the most impressive we had seen so far and our guide took us through the entire site for a 2 hour talk on everything about it.

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One of the things that really makes you wonder about the Incans is how they managed to get some of the stones that they used in their buildings actually to where they needed them. At one point we were staring a a stone that weighed about 65 tonnes about 100 metres up the hill. The most impressive part of it though was that due to the colour of the stone itself it was different to the others in that area so it had to of come from another mountain kms away!! We wandered around some more took far to many photo's and then headed bac to the bus for our journey back to Cusco.

We arrived back into Cusco about 6:30 and headed into town for a couple of drinks in the main plaza. We sat on one of the balconies and enjoyed relaxing and watching the world go by below us. After a couple of drinks we headed out for smoe dinner and then Krystal and I headed out for a couple more drinks in the main square before heading home.

On our way home we had to work our way through the 1000´s of people that had come from out of town to sell their products at the huge xmas market that was to take place tomorrow. It was amazing and was also very sad to see all these families with their children sleeping on the streets no doubt knowing tomorrow could be a huge day to them in regards to living standards. We found a street seller who had lollies for sale and bought a heap and walked through the square offering them to all the children and wishing them a merry xmas. They were so happy and we were flocked and before we know it everything was gone but there were many smiling faces around us. From here we headed back to the hostel for bed about 1am.

Wednesday the 24th of December

Woke up this morning and packed our stuff up to move into our new hostel with S, T and M. Originally today had meant to be the day we were supposed to meet up with them but seems te tour they were on wored out with us it all worked out much better! We meet them at their hotel, filled an entire cab with me and 5 bags and drove up to San Fransisco Plaza. Once sorted in our rooms we headed out to have a look at what te market had to offer that we saw being prepared the nigt before. Unfortunetely it was raining and all the street sellers had to cover up and try their best while battling the elements above. After some hectic monouvering we got out of the market and headed out for some lunch. From here Ted and I decided that it would be best if we left the girls for the market and we headed upstairs to the bar to have a drink and watch the events from above. Afer many Cubre Libras the grls met up with us with some dditional extras and we all had some drinks before heading out for some dinner in the main square. After dinner Krystal and I headed out afterwards to an Irish bar to meet up freinds while the others called it a night and eaded back to the hostel. Maybe they were excited about santa coming!! We had a couple of drinks and then headed nto the Plaza for the 12 o'clock Merry Xmas with each other. We were confronted with about 1000 locals shooting fireworks in every direction possible and the skies were lit with colours and smoke! A very different moment for both of us so we decided to buy some ourselves and get into the festivities of it all. This was funny because neither of us have any idea how to us fireworks so thankfully a few locals helped us out proberly to avoid us killing ourselves and then after some playing we handed the goods onto some kids who took delight in shooting what was left of our fireworks through the windows of the main church on the plaza!

Thursday the 25th of December

MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL!!!!!!

Woke up this morning feeling a little ordinary (I think it was the coke, couldn´t have been the rum) but I wasn´t the only one in that situation!!!! After a merry xmas passed around by us all we had some breakie and then headed out for a walk around town. We strolled through some more markets and then headed back into the main plaza which has turned into the central point for us to arrange our next move. From here we headed down a couple of smaller streets to try and find a different kind of tourist attraction which was the 12 sided stone. The attraction to this is exactly what is is called. It is a stone that has 12 angels around it. Sounds pretty freakin boring I can hear you saying but when you see the size of these stones the Incans used and the precision of the cuts in this stone to make it fit where its placed its pretty darn impressive!

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After our stone viewing we heaed for some luch looking over the square then hopped into a cab and made our way up to a viewing point that overlooks the city of cusco. We had planned to spend the afternoon up there and relax but due to the weather we only managed 30 minutes before the clouds opened up and we were back in a cab and in the hostel before we knew it! Decided this was a good excuse to play some cards, relax and enjoy xmas with one another.

Headed out for our xmas dinner around 7pm and after a couple of venue swaps (service is not always the strong point here) we all had a great meal and enjoyed a xmas day that I am sure in yeares to come we will always remember. The only sad thing was, was that I am still not a pround guinea pig eater! Not having luck with our location choise but I am still on a mission for it and will not be leaving cusco until I get my hands on one of them!!!

Speak to you all soon

M and K

Posted by krystalmat 11:24 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

City of the Ice Madien

Huacachina, Nasca, Arequipa, ECUADOR

overcast 24 °C
View Map 2 - 19 Arequipa to Cusco & Map 2 - 18 Huacachina to Arequipa on krystalmat's travel map.

- Krystal typing -

Monday the 15th of December

After finally getting a decent night´s sleep we were up fully engergised ready to take on the massive sand dunes that surrounded the little oasis town of Huacahina!

We hired some boards and eyed off a dune that didn´t look too difficult to board down - ie the one that wasn´t vertical! Slowly we began our little trek up, not the smartest idea going boarding at 11am in a desert town when the sun is beaming down, but not too worry! Made it half way up and thought we better have a practise run. That was fun, but what wasn´t fun was climbing back up again! Made it to the very top this time and thought we better stay put for awhile and admire the view. We found a little slope similar to a half pipe if you like just behind us, was much better having shorter runs, with shorter climbs back up!

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After about an hour of sand boarding we decided it was time for an ice cream (2 of 4 for the day!) and headed down the main dune on our bums back to the town.

Got back to our hostel and discovered we had sand EVERYWHERE!!! I think Matt turned the hostel pool into a fake beach when he jumped in.

For the rest of the afternoon we just relaxed near the lagoon before catching a bus 2 hours further south to Nasca.

Once we arrived in Nasca we were greeted by a pack of seagulls - 4 men trying to convince us why we should stay at their hostel. We tried to lose them by they were like a pack of wolves! Finally decided on one, he arranged for a travel agent to come to the hostel and we booked our flights for the next day over the famous Nazca lines.

We headed out in town for some dinner and tried our first pisco sour - grape brandy served with egg white, lemon juice and sugar. Tad bit on the sour side! Had another round and some dinner before calling it a night, ready for our 7:30am flight.

Tuesday the 16th of December

Happy Bday Big Kev!

We were up pretty early and out on the tarmac by 8am ready for take off!

I´ll give you a quick spill on the Nasca lines for those of you that dont know of them.

The Nasca lines are a group of pictures mostly of animals, that have been drawn into the desert floor on a flat area between Nasca and Palpa. The figures can only be seen by the air, and were created by the Nazca culture between 200 BC and AD 700, although there has been alot of conspiracy theories that aliens created them!

So we were up in the air in our litte 6 seater plane quizzing around each of the main figures twice at an incline of 85 degrees. The drawings were impressive, it´s hard to imagine how the Inca people could have drawn them from the ground with no airal help. But not just that, since there were no planes back then, of what use were the lines if they could only be seen for the air?

The figures of the animals (monkeys, spiders, birds, etc) were very symmetrical and consistant in scale.

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Mid flight I had to reach for my vomit bag, but managed to keep everything down, which was good as I think it may have started a chain reaction! 35 minutes later we were back safe and sound on the tarmac.

We headed back to our hostel for some breakfast, but my stomach must have still thought we were in the air so I headed to the bathroom!

We had organised a small tour out to the cemetry of Chauchilla, which is where we headed next. It was 30km out of town and dates back to pre-inca times. The reason for heading out here was that there were thousands of tombs where families were buried, but the strange thing was that everyone was mummified (rich or poor) and buried with artifacts that they could use in their next life - similar to the egyption way of thinking. Some of these tombs had been opened up and you could walk around and peer down and see mummies sitting their in the featel position. It was quite eery!

After heading back to Nasca and wandering around for awhile we soon realised there wasnt a whole heap to do in town. Sat on the net for the next couple of hours (I may have researched engagement rings!) before heading on a little pub crawl and eating some awesome chinese.

Headed to the bus station and caught a night bus destained for Arequipa.

Wednesday the 17th of December

We arrived in Arequipa around 8am and managed to check into our hostel, freshened up and headed out to organise our trip to colca canyon. After checking out a few travel agencies we decided on a 3 day trekking tour that went to the bottom of the canyon (and unfortunatley you have to climb back up!).

We wandered around the main square and were both impressed! Arequipa has been the nicest city we have visited so far in South America. We´re not very big fans of cities, but it was quite nice, especially since it´s the second biggiest city in Peru. The city itself is known as ¨the white city¨ because of all the stone colonial buildings constructed from white sillar stone. We decided it wouldn´t be a bad idea to stay an extra night.

For the rest of the afternoon we ate cake and got our blog up to date before having some dinner and eating some ice cream in the main square. Called it a early night as we were pretty knackered from the night bus.

Thursday the 18th of December

After a really good nights sleep we jumped on the net and found an email from my parents saying that we should catch up earlier and join their tour, as it turns out their tour was them travelling around independently with a heap of vouchers. So we managed to change our trekking tour of colca canyon to the same as theirs and planned the big meet up for following day!

We headed to Museo Santuraios Andinos as we had heard there was a mummy found about 13 years ago on the top of one of the near by volcanoes, Ampato, that dated back 500 years to Inca times. We were shown around the museum for about an hour, we got to see a number of artifacts from her scarifical burial plus others from some of the other 20 children that have been found in the area.

The Incas believed that the mountains were gods and they used to scarifice children at the top of these mountains believing that this would keep the mountains happy and prevent them from getting angry and erupting! The build up to the scarfice of the children was a huge deal for them. An unblemished child was selected and then often travelled up to 3 or 4 months journey walking with the high priests to the top of the mountains to perform the scarifical ceremony.

We walked through the last room where Juanita (the name they had given to the mummy) sat frozen in a glass walled case. We´ve seen a few mummies now in our travels, espeically in egypt, but this was definately the best preserved that we have seen. Her skin on her arms was in such good condition, it looked quite spooky looking at her as it almost looked like she still had expression on her face.

We bumped into two canadian girls we´d met up with a few times while in Ecuador and Peru and decided to hang out with them for awhile. After grabbing some more cake (Arequipa has an abundance of yummy cake stores) we headed out for some happy hour drinks and dinner and then made out way to the casino! Luck wasn´t on our side though.

Friday the 19th of December

The big meet up day!

Woke up this morning knowing we were going to catch up with my parents and sister. Was quite a strange feeling being on the other side of the world and then suddenly bumping into them! We'd arranged to meet them in the main square at 10am, and there they were! Mum was actually sobbing when she saw us!

Within a couple of seconds you soon feel like no time has past in between, same as it was when we caught up with Matt's parents in Turkey.

We headed to a cafe for them to grab some breakfast as they were fresh off their night bus from Nasca. We tried to get on their prearranged city tour however the guide sucked and wouldn't let us join! So we decided to do our own city tour ourselves and went and checked out the Monastery of Santa Catalina which was built back in 1580 and is over 20,000 square meters.

After that we headed to a roof top terrace restaurant for some mojitos and rum and coke! And some Alpaco steak! well Matt and Dad had some steak.

Saturday the 20th of December

Today be began our two day trip to Colca Canyon. We jumped on a little mini bus and headed out to the main town of Chivay. After about a 4 hour drive and a couple of stops along the way to check out some Alpacos and Llamas we made it to the smallish country town where we were to spend the night. After having some lunch Matt and I headed out to the hot springs for a little dip! It was a pretty average day, cold and rainy, but we still braved it and headed straight to the outdoor spring first. The water temp was beautiful, steam was coming from the water while light rain fell and we looked out at the jagged landscape. Soon the water temp didn't seem as nice so we headed inside to the indoors spring and sipped on a cervesa and pisco sour before heading back to town.

Caught up again with Mum Dad and Monique and found that they were all not feeling the greatest because of the altitude. We were all about to head out for dinner at a restaurant that had traditional dancing and music but little Monique wasnt up for it and decided to stay back. So the 4 of us headed out to watch the show.

Sunday the 21st of December

Woke up this morning ready for our 6am pick up for the drive out to the canyon. Again we stopped off at some histroical sites and viewing points on our way. We arrived at the canyon and went for about an hour walk along the top edge peering down below. The canyon is the second deepest in the the world (and more than twice as deep as the grand canyon), another nearby canyon beats it by 163m, but it is more often visited as it is your best chance to see condors. Which we were lucky enough too, but they were so far down the canyon we couldn´t tell what type of bird they were! The canyon is 3191m deep, so you can imagine it was pretty impressive especially since the width of it was pretty narrow.

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After an hours free time we jumped back on the bus and headed back to the town of Chivay for some lunch, then made the 4 hour journey back to Arequipa.

We had some dramas on our arrival back in Arequipa, as the tour agency where we had booked our canyon tour from, and where we had left our big back packs was closed - and we were booked on the 8:30pm night bus to Cusco! Our old hostel managed to get ahold of one of the guys who worked there and they sent someone around an hour or so later to open it for us. So once that was sorted we were back on track!

Headed out for some dinner and cake once again, said bye to mum dad and monique as they weren´t coming with us, they were getting an early flight the next morning to Cusco, and then headed to the bus terminal.

Posted by krystalmat 13:16 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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