A Travellerspoint blog

Nasca desert and travel rage

Night buses are torturous

38 °C

large_2795318E2219AC68171D1364D131723C.jpglarge_180_268542742219AC681701963F95FB4CAC.jpgNasca desert and travel rage
I sat with my friend in tears on the sofa in the hostel, simultaneously laughing and crying after suffering horrific food poisoning and travel sickness. Every five minutes one of us was in the toilet, and the rest of the time we were sat with stomach cramps, trying to sip powerade and discussing the night bus ahead. At this point I have to say I HATE night buses. Night buses are the worst invention in the world and South America is NOT the place for them. I spent ten hours with someone's head in my lap, swaying and trying to grip the seat so that I did it fall into the aisle as we were swung around the worlds tightest corners. There was no fresh air at all, and so much condensation from people's horrible breath was on the windows that I actually thought we might be driving through clouds. I was heaving into a plastic bag while the room spun around me, hot tears streaming down my face while Brad slept like a baby. There is never enough leg room, you can't read because the bus is moving too much, you can't listen to music because there's always some idiot making announcements like you are on a plane. They take everything out of your bag and search you before you even get on the bus, the toilets are only set up for number ones which are sprayed all over the floor so your socks get camp in strangers urine. You're always told that you are half the distance away from your destination than you actually are so there's false hope and you are forced to use the air conditioning which doesn't work and the windows which clearly DO open are forbidden to be opened. So towards the end of my journey I was sat vomiting water through my nose in the toilet which had the one open window on the bus. For these reasons I HATE night buses.
Arriving in Nasca
We arrived At the he hotel at 7.30 am, got showered and headed to the pool. Now this is the first pool we have had access to during the whole trip, and the first bit of hot weather. So when we realised that the sun wasn't over the pool we weren't scared off. The British United in moving sofas from outside peoples rooms to the middle of the pavement, in the only patch of sun wearing our shorts, shirts off desperate for the tan. It was hot, sunny gorgeous views and we were all really happy. When the sun was out enough, we went over to the pool and because there were leaves and dead flies in it, Brad and I cleaned it with the pool net. We swam when it was hot enough and we all sat around soaking up the sun. Brad left early to go to the plane ride to see the Nasca lines, but I couldn't go because I still felt sick and we've been told that the plane ride is bumpy so people often vomit. We had a Pachamanca ceremony at 2pm, where Brad and I took part. We had to thank Pachamama for the food, which was buried cooking underground with hot stones.
That evening, we just sat by the pool (which has a concrete slide) drinking beer and listening to music. We went to the hotels restaurant for food, where we had to wait over an hour for our drinks alone and one terrible meal came out at a time. We passed the time by singing James blunt over and over with the lyrics on someone's phone and that scared off some of the other customers- BONUS!
The next day we went to the Nasca desert to see the famous lines. We drove through where there was absolutely nothing at all around us apart from sand dunes and mountains and lots of dust. Apparently it hasn't rained there in hundreds of years which is why the lines are mostly intact. We saw the hands and the tree from a view point and I was surprised by how small they are close up. We then went to a place where we would dune buggy.
Dune Buggies are Amazing! Our driver took us extremo thanks to our guide so we went flying round bumping up and down in this big metal buggy in the middle of the hot desert in huge sand dunes as far as the eye could see. We stopped to go sand boarding which is so scary the first time you do it but incredibly fun. I had to lay with my elbows tucked in on the board, face forward holding onto these big thick straps and we were warned to keep our legs up off the sand or we would get burnt. No worries then! And to slow down we were told to put our feet down in the sand. Once I was off I was so scared but it was really fun picking up speed and flying down this immense hill. The next dune we were able to try standing up and it went well for me until halfway down where I got stuck, fell over and had to struggle to get myself back up. I must have looked like an ant under a magnifying glass but I didn't really burn so I just thought it was funny, and eventually managed to finish off on my bum. The final dune was gigantic. We had to go face down laying on our fronts and it must have been threes times as big as the first one. I nearly backed out being scared of heights and seeing how steep it was. I got into position and the guy went to push me too early so I got a bit freaked out and just shouted 'just go just go push!' Because I didn't want to back out and regret it. My feet were in the sand nearly the whole time but I felt like I was going a hundred miles an hour. When I looked back everyone at the top of the dune looked tiny and I felt so extreme! The buggy ride back was like a roller coaster and we went on huge dunes! When we got back to the hotel where the others were waiting, we saw a big swimming pool so I got changed and jumped straight in. We had some food and drank piƱa coladas before going to the pisco winery where the trouble started. We had a ten minute tour then started drinking 20 to 50 percent alcohol, and started to feel a bit merry. On the coach ride to the hotel after the pisco I bought beer from the window as a lady came up with them, and we all drank beer having a silent disco on the coach. By the time we arrived at the hotel we were a bit drunk (50 percent alcohol is strong! And we were all for the top ups) so we decided not to go with the rest of the group, but to seek out a beer and a burger. Around an hour and a half later we were eating one burger at a time, with ice cold chips, cold buns and raw meat for two of the boys. Then Brad found a big black hair in our chips and had a heated discussion in the kitchen so we paid and left. We did not pay for the hairy chips. But we did get some free pisco sours and managed to drink some mojito's too. Back at the hotel, we sat in one of the rooms drinking beer, which led to sitting by the pool drinking beer, which led to jumping in the pool, which then led to the hangover I am suffering now as I write this. Yesterday was the best day of this tour apart from MaccuPiccu and I definitely have that holiday feeling.

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 06:53 Archived in Peru Tagged desert nasca_lines Comments (0)

Hot springs and Arequipa

15 °C

The last couple of days have been mainly travelling. We visited colca canyon yesterday to see the condors when the sun came up. We left at 6am and drove up through the side of a mountain, through a tunnel where apparently the locals don't like to go because it is so dark and they believe trolls may live there! We got up to the canyons viewpoint at eight, and within fifteen minutes saw condors flying quite close to us. They were huge black and white birds that we were told eat carcasses of other animals. They are more scroungers than hunters. The view was picturesque, and some of the mountains were so close to the clouds that you could see the clouds shadow on the peak.. We took a walk along the track beside the canyon for half an hour then went back to the coach. The weather was really cold but sunny. Later that day, we went past a town where two locals were offering tourists pictures with eagles and a llama. We were told that these eagles are captured as chicks, their wings are clipped so that they cannot fly, and their feet are tied to their captors with rope so that they are forced to so this all day. They work every day and would never survive in the wild after this cruelty. I was disgusted as people walked up to have their picture taken with these birds which are forced to climb on them over and over. It is absolutely shocking and I think something should be do ego make people ore aware of how irresponsible it is to support these heartless people who exploit their wildlife.
The afternoon was better as we went to the hot springs, which look like swimming pools. The first spring is 80 degrees, but filters down into several other pools at varying temperatures between around 25-40 degrees Celsius. Our pool was pool number five, and surrounded by mountains and chilly winds we stripped off to our swimwear and slipped into the 38 degree water. It felt amazing! After travelling and living in a tiny flat with unreliable showers which have tepid water on a good day, it was like being in a hot bath. We all really enjoyed it, and to make things better we were offered beers at the poolside. So we sat drinking and boiling for an hour before we went back to the hotel feeling really relaxed. I would definitely recommend these hot springs because although they are not very pretty, and don't look natural (plus there's that eggy scent of sulphur) it feels great on your muscles after a stressful journey.

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 06:51 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Trekking through hell and a perfect ending

Finally in dry shoes!

10 °C

It's been an eventful week since Ollayantambo. The lares trek lasted three days and was exhausting. We started off at some hot spring which looked more like swimming pools and were not very clean so none of the group went in. Wile the porters cooked us our first lunch, we went for a walk in a big zig zag up a hill. Lunch was soup, omelette and coca tea before we started walking and the heavens opened. Luckily we had our trusty ponchos which made us look like human condoms with the hoods up. The walk was not easy . It was cold, high altitude walking on a smAll rocky muddy pathway on the side of a mountain, and our guide stopped to talk painfully slowly about coca leaves and various other pointless things. I found myself struggling to keep up and morale was getting low in the group as we worked our way up through the long cold track. There were no toilets and no coverage so the poncho had to double as a tent to cover me peeing in the bushes. At base camp, we were given bowls of hot water to wash with and my feet burned when they were finally submerged. We got set up in our sleeping backs with our travel pillows and headtorches, then went for dinner with the group in a big tent before using the squat toilet abut a mile away and then going to bed. That first day we had walked for four and a half hours in the cold relentless rain with no chatting, no joking and a general sense of misery.
Things looked a bit brighter in the morning when we set off for the longest day of the trek. We put on our cold wet shoes, ate breakfast and headed off in the sunshine with a forced smile fixed on all of our faces. This did not last long. The sunshine clearly had better places to be, and throughout the day the weather got worse and worse. We spent seven and a half hours trekking uphill in hail, rain, and wind with mud rushing downhill over our feet. Our walking sticks sunk into the mud, our clothes were saturated and our fingers burnt with the cold. My toes were like ice and there was nothing enjoyable about this day. It was simply miserable, and the worst part was knowing that we still had hours to go in sopping clothes. Again, we re ached base camp, set up our sleeping bags and got changed, and luckily enough the rain started to tire out as we reached camp. We met two Andean children, and gave them a recorder and some bananas which they seemed quite happy with. There was however a horrible surprise to come. Fist I have to explain that we were told we would have a working flushing normal toilet on day two. I was looking forward to that all day as I battled the elements because it was a touch of normality and a little home comfort. As we arrived at camp I was told I had to wait for the toilet as it was being set up. My hopes were dashed and I was filled with a burning rage that I had been led on all this time, and I saw two porters setting up a toilet tent which could blow over I a light breeze. The toilet was a stool with a hole in the top, over a bin liner. Words cannot describe how furious I was because by this point I think I was just cracked! So later on when dinner started fighting its way out of me, I couldn't bring myself to use the sewidge back, and instead wandered over into a sheep pen with my bin liner shoes on over my socks. It was not a great day.
Third day lucky! We woke up and it wasn't raining for a start. Then, we had pancakes at breakfast and a cake made by the chefs to celebrate the trek. We put on our damp clothes and soaking shoes with a little bit of excitement knowing at today was the last day and it was all downhill. The walk was four hours long but less strenuous, and today we went with the assistant guide so we had more time to take in the view which was very pretty. We had snow capped mountains around us and the path was surrounded by trees and a lake. We actually stopped at one point where our guide showed us a small stream and a few if us climbed trees there- that was a nice little break. It didn't take that long to reach the end, and I think we all felt relieved and proud that we had managed to finish. We ate lunch with cockerels and dogs around us, and played football with the porters. After lunch we gave our tips (which we had been advised on before). Our guide told us how to split it up but we did it our own way, giving each of the guides their own envelope and one for the porters and chefs because it was difficult to distinguish who did what, and everybody was out in the cold. We found out later that the chefs took a larger portion which we were quite annoyed about. All in all, the trek was ok, but I wouldn't do it again. It seemed a bit like walking through a loads of hills and mountains with no real destination and it was really hard work.
We took the train back to maccupiccu village where we checked into our hotel and had a nice hot shower. We instantly felt better. Then we went to a restaurant called India Feliz for dinner which was strange. I ordered a vegetable omelette with garden vegetables, and it came as an omelette with watermelon, rockmelon, cauliflower, a whole lime in wedges and a few other strange fruits and veg that typically don't go with omelette. It was good to be back with the some of group again and we had a laugh before getting an early night.
On the day of Maccu Piccu we had to get up at four for the bus. We met downstairs all looking a bit tired and some people tried to force down some breakfast (I stuck with herbal tea an a spoonful of yoghurt) and we were ready to go. We walked in the dark to the bus stop and got on a little bus which took us thirty minutes to the entrance. Our guide was very adamant that we should try to get inside before the other tourists so we raced into the line and power walked up the endless stairs to a viewing point on a big stone. She told Brad and I to stand there for a picture, and she went round the back of us with our friend. I remember thinking that he could have waited for his picture but when I looked round they were holding up a banner saying 'marry me Kirsty'. He was obviously really nervous because his voice went all wobbly as he got down on one knee and gave me a speech and asked me to marry him. I was speechless! He put the ring on my finger without waiting for me to say yes which is a good job because I couldn't get my words out anyway. I nodded and gave him the thumbs up and now we are engaged! We both were crying and hugged and luckily we have it all on video :). Since then, we have not been up to much. I have been enjoying a couple of free days in Cuzco, Brad tried guinea pig for the first time and we went on a night out to celebrate which was loads of fun but ended in an awful hangover. That takes us up to now.Our group is sitting in a broken down night us waiting to be rescued on our way to our next destination. Wish me luck...

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 07:48 Archived in Peru Tagged trekking Comments (0)

Horse riding and the sacred valley

...horse riding. So we got saddled up on our horses with our guide. Mine was a grey and black girl named Sapphire who was used to following the leader, so whenever Brad or Victor's horses came close she would turn round and try to scare them away. At one point she even kicked Brad's horse in the face and I was so scared that I would fall off, especially because our guide didn't look like he was paying much attention, and the horses shoes were slipping on the rocks. I did feel quite sorry for them and although it was a great experience and I enjoyed trotting, I'm not sure it's very fair on the horses so I don't think I would do it again. We saw the temple of the moon, where every year there are people from all different religions who come to pray and do ceremonies because it is believed to have very good energy, and is an old Inca temple. At the front of the temple, there are three steps to symbolise past present and future. It also symbolises the spiritual world and the snake, the present time and the puma, and the afterlife and the condor. This is also related to the Andean cross which we have seen throughout Peru. This temple is situated inside a cave and when there is a full moon, the gap at the top of the cave will allow moon light to enter, which is when some of these ceremonies occur. After riding our horses back, we went home and then out to dinner in a traditional Peruvian restaurant.

Today we went for lunch in Cuzco at jacks cafe. I have been ill for about two weeks with a bad stomach so I have been trying to eat less but I was starving so I had a veggie breakfast which was avocado, haloumi, beans, toast, potatoes with coriander and scrambled egg with a lemon ice tea. It all tasted beautiful! I was I'll afterwards and my stomach really hurt but I needed to load up on carbs for the upcoming Lares trek. I went with 5 other people from our group including Brad which was nice, and I also picked up some camping trousers from a shop and am made up! Finally I have my zip off trousers I feel so cool! We had to go back to the hotel by 1pm to catch our two hour bus to the sacred valley in Ollantaytambo. On the ride, I saw a little teacup pig by the side of the road with some other pigs which was so cute, and I had my music turned right up with the sun shining on the bus. Finally I have got that real happy holiday feeling and am just so excited for the adventure ahead! After arriving at our new hotel, we all took a walking tour of the town, where we saw lots of dogs, mountains all around us and narrow cobbled streets where the walls are still original from the time of the incas. We learnt that the building were built in a trapeze shape so that the could withstand seismic activity and there was a small stream running down the side of a street which brings water from the river and that was also made in the time of the incas. We then took a long hike up to where the people used to store and dry their food high up on the side of a mountain. We saw how during the time when the Spanish were coming, the people rushed their work to get it finished as they knew something was going to happen, and there was a similar effect to plaster over the brick walls which were more rustic looking and less aesthetically pleasing than the ones down In the village. The hike was steep and the ground was covered in rocks and large slippery stones, so it was quite difficult, and if we slipped there was a sheer drop so it would be very dangerous. Along the way we managed to pick up a street dog who walked with us to the top. He was shaggy and small, and when I sat down finally he came and sat with me. We managed as a group to make it to the top to the storage a which look similar to English castles in a way, as the stone has large windows carved out where the town would be watched over. It was extremely windy up the top, and Brad didn't look to comfortable with it. The view was indescribably beautiful. The mountains surrounding us varied in height, with some being snow capped and below we could see the cliff side, and a small town with inca terraces. Once we made it to the bottom, we went home and then out to a restaurant called 'hearts cafe' which is a great restaurant near our hotel. It supports single mothers and children in the local area by donating its profit, and provides the children with two hot nutritionally balanced meals each day so people if you ever eat in the sacred valley you have to go there. Now we are in the hotel and just resting and getting ready for our first day on a big trek tomorrow!

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 17:10 Archived in Peru Tagged landscapes buildings people sacred_valley Comments (0)

Dancing, herding, hiking

Lake Titicaca, Puno and the floating islands

Homestay Day:

What an amazing day! We got up at 6.30, got washed and packed and had eggs for breakfast. We were told by our guide to wait downstairs for our transport, with only our daypacks and food for the the home stay families. When we left the hotel our transport was waiting- eight tuk tuk bikes with drivers in front. They were all decorated individually with stickers, flags tinsel and of course big noisy car horns which were constantly beeping. Because there are sixteen people in our group, we looked like a big tuk tuk crew flying down the street, overtaking each other and holding up traffic. It was hilarious! We took a ferry to out first island which was Taquille island. The local men there wear special hats to show if they are married, or single, and when they get married they wear a belt made with their wives hair! The woman has to live with them a couple of years so they can see if they should marry, and if they get on really well she lets him him cut her hair and he makes that belt from it. It's a big heavy belt and acts as a support when men carry heavy things, so the hair symbolises the wife's support. Also, on the woman's wedding day, she wears a skirt for each of her years of age (all made by her partner). The island people are mainly pescatarian because their sheep and other animals are precious and only for special occasions. While we were there, a little boy came over to Brad, tried to read his map and then was curiously grabbing his beard. We were all laughing and they talked a little bit in Spanish, so Brad found out the boys name was Miguel. the walk up the island's steep side was very hard in he altitude and it was impossible to catch our breath. We had quinoa veggie soup, omelette and coca tea for lunch, with 'moonyah' which is a plant which grows on the island, smells like mint and helps you breathe when you rub it in your hands and breathe in with your palms close together. When we left the island, we took the ferry for an hour and Brad convinced the driver to let him drive the boat. I had a go but I don't think it has power steering answer were swaying all over the place. It was loads of fun; the weather was on our side as we went to Amateri Island.
Here we met our home stay families. Our lady host was called Binita- a 24 year old woman who lived with her Mum and Husband. We followed her uphill to her house, where she showed us our room which was simple but nice- 3 beds, lots of blankets, a table with a patterned embroidery tablecloth and some carpet. We walked back together down to a small sports area where we met our group and their families for some games of football and volleyball (gringos vs locals). We won the first game, but got smashed toward the end as the altitude was taking its toll. Brad got hit in he face with a ball too which was pretty funny. Our group walked up to get some drinks in a local bar, which was tiny and had a hobbit size door to the toilet so I literally had to bend in half to get in. I had hot chocolate with baileys which was a nice comforting drinks, and Brad had a beer with the boys. Our families picked us up and it was pitch black. Binita shone her flashlight in front of us and we were struggling to keep up, then out of nowhere we saw flashes of lightning and heard thunder before a torrential downpour of cold rain followed, making it even more difficult to see. It's not like we were walking down a path- there were muddy parts, parts made of rock, parts you could fall off and a huge amount of puddles the whole way. On top of that we had to climb a load of slippery rocks to get to the house. We got into the kitchen and sat around the table drying near the fire. It was quite awkward because we only had a little sheet with a few words from their language and some translations. Binita and Brad were able to speak in Spanish and I did try but I just couldn't get the hang of it and they just laughed at me whenever I spoke and Binita patted my back. She would have been more subtle if she ruffled my hair but that was funny. For dinner we had vegetable soup and vegetables with rice which was filling and I had to force it down out of politeness because even though it tasted good I was stuffed. After dinner, I got dressed up by Binita's mother as a local. I didn't want to wear my jacket because it was soaking wet and cold but the man toldme to wear it and didn't understand what I was saying so I had that as a bottom layer. The next layer was a tunic with embroidery around the front. On top goes a big wraparound skirt and then an embroidered tunic and a big tight belt. Brad sported a brown embroidered poncho and his wooly Peru hat so we were good to go! We walked up to the disco hall and it was pitch black to we could see hundreds of stars decorating the sky. Inside the hall, locals and our families grabbed us for a dance (Brad was first up with Binita) and it was hilarious! Basically, it's sort of sideways jogging and swaying holding hands. It started in small groups and then we were a kind of conga line all holding hands and jumping around together. I was knackered but I couldn't stop laughing and smiling the whole night because we must have looked mental!
The next day, we had a toast commonly made by locals (fried), some bread rolls and coffee. Our family didn't eat with us. After breakfast, we helped to herd the sheep. Basically, the Grandma opened their gate, and they all ran up some stairs with us following. Ther were around 35, 4 of which were lambs and we had to chase them with branches around the paddock. We thought we had to keep going like a sort of sheep P.E. lesson but the old lady kept saying 'no mas' which we worked out meant we had to stop. They all started munching on the grass so we realised it was time for their breakfast. We stood around for a while watching the sheep eating. I think maybe we weren't very good sheep herders because when it was time for them to move again the man came and took us for a hike so it was left to the pro's. We sat at the meeting point and I made friends with a little boy called Alexander who apparently was four, and just sat next to me chewing beads. He was alright. Another woman came up spinning wool, and I was told they do that to make the wool thinner. Brad had a go but it was more difficult than it looked. We set off on our hike, all covered in sun cream and wearing our hats with big bottles of water, all excited to reach the top. Around 5 minutes later we were all exhausted and struggling to breathe, sweating and frantically rubbing moonyah in our hands, wondering how we would make it. As a group we persevered and it was good to have time to chat with other people. All around us on the steep uphill walk, we cloud see green inca terraces as well as sheep and once we were high enough we could see the island's edge on the sea. At the top we came to a temple which is only open once a year for the people who live on the island. There, they have a big celebration and give offerings to Pachamama or Pachapapa (the two different mountains). They offer llamas and pray and celebrate all day, as a way to bring good fortune for their crops and animals for the rest of the year.
After that, we had lunch and left the island. The next stop was the floating islands. These islands are made from reeds, and the first one we went to had six tiny reed houses, all made by the families. Each little house fits up to seven people inside which looks like an incredibly tight squeeze. The island was anchored in by a big wooden stick in the water, and the people that live there will live off the island mainly, drinking the water around them while at the same time using it as a toilet and shower. They also take eggs that are about to be hatched from the water birds, then domesticate the hatched birds until they are big enough to eat. We were shown by a local man how the islands are made, and took a ride on a small reed boat which they sometimes use. The island felt quite steady (I imagined it to feel a bit like a giant lilo) and we noticed that we saw little kids and older people, but no teenagers. This may be because teenagers go to school in Puno. After that, we went back for a night at the hotel before a big day trip on the bus to Cuzco. Another seven hour bus ride!
We have been in Cuzco now two days. Yesterday, we went horse riding in the Andean mountains. This time it was just Brad, Victor and I. We first did a walking tour Nd saw the local markets which were packed! I bought a hat for my sunburnt head and we went for lunch. We were collected from the hotel for horse riding, and it was a twenty minute car drive up past the white christo...

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 17:09 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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