Lima to La Paz: 30 hours by bus, mosquitos and winging it at the boarder crossing

Over 30 hours in coaches over 3 days and I survived to tell the tale! Apart from a mozzie attack which makes me look like I have some medieval disease – they had some fun with my face. After having a bit of a stomach issue and a weird headache, I was unenthusiastic about the first coach journey – it was a 16 hour overnight job and I was praying for some much needed sleep. Luckily, I got some even with a few small children behind me who eventually collapsed in a heap. Had a day in Lima to sort myself out a bit and then got an Uber to the bus terminal. It was dead cheap! Used Cruz Del Sur again. The seats recline a bit and there’s a good foot rest, so it makes sleeping a bit easier. IMG_2710IMG_2712I arrived in Arequipa the next morning and got a taxi to my budget accommodation fairly close to the main square. I was able to get into the room (thankfully!) and then took myself off to the little laundry place I used before. I went to a few places including the cathedral and an archaeological museum about the sacrifice of young Inca children as some had been found at the top of one of the mountains. I enjoyed exploring the town again. The sunset was a good one to see from a rooftop. IMG_2713IMG_2714IMG_2716IMG_2720IMG_2734IMG_2743After a quiet evening, the next day was a 6hr coach back to Puno. The scenery was great again. Arrived in the evening and tried to get an early night before the early start the next day. Cue the mozzie attack!Final day of coach fun. This would be the most interesting as it was a Bolivian bus company instead of Peruvian (didn’t rate them as good) and it was time to cross the boarder. An early start and I was at the bus terminal at 7. I had to exchange a voucher for an actual ticket, and fill out a few immigration forms. It took ages to get through the exit office – a good hour! After getting the passport sorted on the Bolivian side, it was back on the coach. IMG_2751IMG_2759IMG_2767IMG_2768However, there was a bit of trouble when not everyone got back on – there were a couple who had been sitting in front of me who did not show up after the boarder – I think they had some trouble. But the bus driver was quite prepared to drive on without them, despite the outbursts of other travellers. Some people got off the coach to help look for them and got left behind too! It was surreal. The bus driver continued to Copacabana which wasn’t too far away. Then everyone seemed to get off – I had been in my own little world. So I got off too and asked someone which bus I had to get on to go to La Paz. I was directed to another bus by a lady with a clipboard. There were another couple of people looking equally confused. I confirmed the destination with the driver and a few of us got on the bus which was definitely nicer than the last. The bus set off going further round Lake Titicaca. The bus pulled up in another town where we were asked to get off again, but left out large luggage on the bus. It appeared that we had to cross the lake by boat, but couldn’t be on the bus. So a few of us had to pay for a little speedboat to take us to the other side while the bus went across separately. It was definitely an adventure! IMG_2771IMG_2773I had no idea what I was doing but just went along with it using a few choice phrases and charades to help. Back on the coach and onwards to La Paz eventually arriving late afternoon. Walked from the bus terminal to where I was staying (thank you Google Maps) and found something to eat – was starving! Rewarded myself with a glass of wine and met some friendly Canadians. What a mad few days!

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Cusco & a smidgen of The Amazon

After the epic trek and some much needed sleep, it was time to head to Cusco and spend a day or 2 there. The main square is stunning and full of colonial architecture. It was the capital of the Incan Empire until the Spanish conquest in the early 16th Century. Visits to the Cathedral and the Dominican Priory, as well as the Church of the Society of Jesus and the Inca Museum made for a busy and inspired day.  The Dominican Priory was built on old Inca stones – it was odd to see the contrast between the two ages. An earthquake in 1950 exposed the original architecture after some of the colonial work was damaged.IMG_2576IMG_2227IMG_2568IMG_2577IMG_2606IMG_2578IMG_2590Went to another Monestary which was 16th century and had lovely old frescos. It’s started to rain so was a good opportunity to get inside.

It was quite a long day in the end! And managed to sort some laundry out which was amazing. Went out for a great dinner where we made our own Pisco Sours. I, unfortunately and without realising, volunteered to drink a shot of neat Pisco – this is not recommended unless you are in need of a ‘pick-me-up’. I had visited Pisco en route to Nazca and had visited a local vineyard which made the wine and the spirit. We got to sample a few of the wines and see how it was all made.IMG_2617IMG_2618
Then off to bed! It was an early start the next morning to get an internal flight to the Amazon. Unfortunately, the flight got cancelled due to a fault with the plane, but the airline put us up in a 4* hotel for the night so I didn’t complain too badly! I was able to get a 1 hr full body massage as well which did my poor quads a favour as they were still quite sore. That evening, I had a massive headache for some reason – I think it was due to just exhaustion and a bit of dehydration but wasn’t too worried. Enjoyed sleeping in a luxurious bed!

The next day was another attempt to get the same flight to the Amazon – so it was only a 1 night stay instead of a 2 night but was definitely worth it. Wandering through the jungle in wellies trying to spot some exciting wildlife was fun, and we learnt a lot about the different plants.IMG_2624IMG_2628IMG_2644IMG_2646IMG_2651IMG_2654IMG_2657IMG_2673

Lake Titicaca and the floating islands/homestay experience (again!)

Being the tired tit that I am, I accidentally deleted my previous post **rolls eyes**, so here I am rewriting it.
So, after a 7 hour coach journey with a punctured tyre, we arrived in Puno which is a town on the edge of Lake Titicaca. We witnessed the most amazing procession through the town in the evening as it was the start of the Easter festivities. IMG_0899IMG_0900IMG_2064IMG_2069Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world – half of it is in Peru and half in Bolivia. It sits at 3810m above sea level.  Some parts are shallow and some are deep. The clouds look as though they are almost touching the water. IMG_2209IMG_2092IMG_2105There are floating islands on the lake which are mainly made out of reeds. They grow in the shallow parts of the lake. The reeds are also eaten. A reed is cut and pulled out of the lake and the stem is peeled black like a banana skin.

The floating islands have the ability to up and move when ever they want – the islands are ‘anchored’ using a large stick which is planted heavily into a shallow section. The inhabitants make their living out of fishing – there are 5 different types of fish. The fish gets traded in Puno. IMG_2114IMG_2119IMG_2123IMG_2149Went to island called Taquile for a practice walk. We climbed to the top and it was so steep – got quite out of breath quickly which surprised me! The altitude is still something to get used to. Had a wonderful trout lunch – freshly grilled. Picked up a hat in the market place. IMG_2155IMG_2157IMG_2164IMG_2168IMG_2169IMG_2159IMG_2160IMG_2161IMG_2162IMG_2171Then got a boat to another island where we would be staying in the homes of the locals for a night and helping them out with their daily chores. It was an amazing experience. We played a football game and did some Peruvian dancing – I’m not convinced that I suited the costume very well! Bianca and I helped to make bread, manage some sheep and gather some food for the cows. This required picking a load of crops and carrying it up a hill which was tiring! The family were amazingly hospitable and it is great fun to see how you can get along without speaking the same language. It was a constant game of charades. I felt very humbled. The people are happy and content with what they have – a lesson for us all to learn I think! I’m definitely going to be appreciating what I have from now on.IMG_2173IMG_2182IMG_2202IMG_2188IMG_2189_Copy(1)IMG_2193_Copy(1)IMG_2195IMG_2201

The Inca Trail

An early start in the chill was our introduction to the 4 day hike to Machu Picchu. A bus took us 45 mins from Ollantaytambo to the start of the trek. It only costs around 300 soles (£75) to actually do the trek which isn’t a lot! After a bit of organising, we set off with our guide leading the way. There is a weight restriction on the amount of luggage you can take with you as there are porters who carry it for you to the campsite – they are absolute machines as they carry around 20kg on their back, leave after you leave, and arrive at the campsite before you do – I felt so inadequate! They are absolute machines and legends! It’s 44km over 3.5 days, which I know doesn’t sound too far, but dealing with altitude, varying weather conditions and steep ascents/descents makes it the challenge.IMG_2316IMG_2320IMG_2322IMG_2323The walk itself was only 11km but was up and down hill a bit. Reached an altitude of 3100m having started at around 2650m. It gave us a good idea of what to expect over the following days. We were fortunate enough to see a few Inca ruins along the way – they suddenly appeared out of no where and the views were stunning.

The food was amazing and continued to be for the whole trip – we were definitely spoilt! I was used to eating cold baked beans out of a tin, not having amazing soup and a plate of rice, beef stew and veg, along with “Happy Hour” which consisted of several cups of tea and cheese crackers and jam. Early nights on all three evenings was a necessity as we were all so tired.IMG_2327IMG_2336IMG_2344IMG_2352IMG_2358IMG_2394IMG_2395The second day was much more of a challenge – the morning was all about climbing. Went up 1000m to 4200m and reached Dead Woman’s Pass in under 5 hours. It was such an achievement – a hard one both physically and mentally. The altitude affects the lung capacity more than you may think although the recovery is a quick one. I also had a couple of odd dreams too. The rain came down when we started the descent so it was poncho time! It made the steep steps quite slippery. We had to keep ourselves motivated and the reward at the end was great. I thought I’d be a lot worse and find it harder than I did. The spin classes have clearly paid off! IMG_2369IMG_2372IMG_2375IMG_2376IMG_2379IMG_2383IMG_2390Day 3 was another early start – this was going to be the longest day (16km) and mostly downhill which isn’t easy sometimes – down 1000m to 2500m. My quads were starting to feel the burn on this day. I didn’t use walking poles on the second day so relied entirely on leg power. We started uphill which was ok but I was definitely slower – tiredness was beginning to sink in. The group tended to separate a bit depending on the different paces, but we all met again at various points. Going down was a huge challenge – I slipped over a few times down the wet steps and near some steep cliff drops which was frightening. Now have 2 elegant bruises on both bum cheeks. I ended up getting frustrated with myself that I kept on slipping over or coming close to it so got a bit emotional. But as the day went on, I grew in confidence and was fine by the end of the day – it takes a while to adjust to focus on where you put your feet. Everyone else was feeling the fatigue too.IMG_2411IMG_2420IMG_2421IMG_2425IMG_2437IMG_2438IMG_2447IMG_2451The final day – we were woken up at 03:30 to get through the final checkpoint as early as possible. This meant waiting in a line at the checkpoint for an hour in the dark. But it would be worth it. The views along the way were incredible. You were never tired of the scenery around you – 360 degrees of mountains, waterfalls, luscious grass – almost jungle like in parts. The walking on the last day was great in comparison. Easy up and down with some narrow parts. We finally reached the Sun Gate and had the most incredible view of Machu Picchu as the clouds cleared and the sun was rising. Another 45 mins on our feet and we made it! It was hard to take it all in. Of course, we were all shattered by this point and had to contend with a huge amount of tourists. Walking around the site made me realise how massive it is in comparison to other Inca ruins we had visited along the way. We explored the major temples and wandered around.The sun was fairly fierce and it was so early in the morning.IMG_2483IMG_2488IMG_2498IMG_2528IMG_2535IMG_2539IMG_2545IMG_2548IMG_2549IMG_2557IMG_2561_Copy(1)

Things I have learned to love and appreciate:

1) Oxygen

2) A toilet I can sit down on

3) The power of the legs

4) Face wipes & deodorant

It was the most amazing journey and I valued that more than visiting the big site itself. It suddenly hits you once you’ve completed it. Sitting in the town afterwards having a celebratory lunch was great fun. Back to civilisation – aka Wi-Fi!

Arequipa and Chivay

After an 11 bus ride to Arequipa, it was time to get some laundry done and explore. The main square is pretty with a lovely white cathedral and buildings which were built from volcanic ash. The altitude is slightly higher now. It is slightly cooler, but the sun is still fierce. 2017-04-IMG_17732017-04-IMG_17752017-04-IMG_1774I return here for another night en route to Bolivia which I’m looking forward to already as there was a bit to see. I only managed to fit in the Sainta Castelina Monestary which is 16th century and almost like a small town in itself. It was filled with little streets and squares as well as the cells of the nuns. It is still used today. 2017-04-IMG_17892017-04-IMG_17932017-04-IMG_1805

After a little wander around, it was good to have a hearty meal – I had some alpaca which tasted lovely. IMG_1842
The next day, it was off to Chivay and the journey was further up in elevation. I didn’t feel too bad. We reached almost 5000m in elevation. Some others had bad symptoms – tingling fingers and lips etc. I learned about different natural remedies which could help with the symptoms of altitude sickness. These included coca leaves which can be chewed or made into a tea. IMG_1852IMG_1856IMG_1859IMG_1861IMG_1868IMG_1874IMG_1879IMG_1885We passed by some rocks which we could make a wish at and spotted lots of lovely wildlife including llamas, alpacas and flamingos. We stopped for lunch which turned out to be massive! It was a buffet full of local produce and was yummy! I was so full that I couldn’t eat anything in the evening, although that is meant to be an altitude side effect too. Temperature dropped even further in the evening.

The next day, it was a trip to the epic Colca Canyon – no picture can do the scenery justice. It went on for ever and was all the way around. An early start meant a good chance of seeing condors too (which I did and they were massive!). Condors are becoming rare to see as the locals are eliminating them for scavenging and killing little llamas and alpacas which obviously makes them lose money. Lots more alpacas and llamas en route too. It’s the 2nd or 3rd deepest canyon in the world. Did a bit of a hike along the ridge to see how the altitude affected the lung capacity – it definitely did and I caught the sun yet again! I think I’m just going to have to accept that I’ll have to wrap up even though I’ll be boiling hot. And yes, I did reapply! But there was no shade. It’s amazing how fatigued you get with altitude. In the afternoon it was a trip to some amazing hot springs for a bit of a chill out time. But another semi large lunch meant no dinner again. It wasn’t needed. However, Aloe Vera was…IMG_1957IMG_1959IMG_1962IMG_1978

Lima to Nazca

Leaving Lima seems like such a long time ago even though it was only 2 days ago. Exploring the Miraflores district as well as the Domingo Convent were both nice things to end on. Climbing the top of the bell tower in the convent gave a good view of the scope of the city and the convent itself reminded me of Seville – I did read that the tiles were exported from Seville so that may have been the reason!2017-04-IMG_14702017-04-IMG_14752017-04-IMG_14762017-04-IMG_14772017-04-IMG_14852017-04-IMG_14862017-04-IMG_15142017-04-IMG_15222017-04-IMG_15272017-04-IMG_1531Then moved to Paracas where there was a gorgeous sunset. The coach journey provided amazing scenery and comfort – I’m using the same company a few times so that was useful to know. Still a tad sunburnt – the sun is very strong!! Had a nice fish dinner (ceviche & Pisco sour) as right by the coast and chatted away until the late hours.2017-04-IMG_15482017-04-IMG_15452017-04-IMG_15532017-04-IMG_15552017-04-IMG_15582017-04-IMG_15622017-04-IMG_15502017-04-IMG_1534The next day, it was off on a boat to see some wildlife on the Ballestas Islands which included sea lions and penguins. Also visited a local vineyard which made Pisco wine as well as the spirit used in Pisco sours.2017-04-IMG_15802017-04-IMG_15972017-04-IMG_16082017-04-IMG_16312017-04-IMG_16352017-04-IMG_1642
Some of the wine was really nice! Then off to Huacachina to do some sand boarding in the most amazing dunes that seemed to go on forever! I was a little tentative as I’m not amazing with throwing myself off from a height but had to remind myself that it was only sand. The buggy ride was great fun.

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​​​Then a long ride to Nazca where I went on a biplane and saw the most incredible Nazca lines. The different shapes were sometimes difficult to see but ok once you got used to it.2017-04-IMG_17052017-04-IMG_17112017-04-IMG_17172017-04-IMG_17222017-04-IMG_17302017-04-IMG_1736Then onto the Chaucilla cemetery where a lot of mummified remains of some of the Nazca tribe exist. This was only discovered 40 years ago and grave robbers had ransacked the tombs beforehand. It was interesting to hear some of the history behind this particular part of Peru as well as learn a bit about the dry landscape and how it contributed in preserving the bodies. 2017-04-IMG_17462017-04-IMG_17492017-04-IMG_1751The fields of cacti have replaced the crops. Bugs that feast on the cacti are used to make lipstick! Mining is also a massive boost for the economy, as well as tourism.

About to catch a night bus……#lexit out.

Lima: hot, hectic and a heck of a lot of honking

Arriving into Lima early this morning, I was greeted by a warm breeze and a lot of voices eager to transport me here, there and everywhere. Thankfully, I’d already organised a transfer to Milaflores (although in my error, I’d made it for yesterday rather than this morning – doh! But managed to sort it out without having to pay any extra 😎).

The next thing I seem to notice as I got in the cab was that everyone seemed to be in a rush – it was 6am, granted, so the familiar rush hour traffic full of buses carrying school kids and businessmen falling asleep didn’t feel quite so out of the ordinary. But the amount of noise was insane! Endless honking of horns made it seem that everyone was completely stressed out! No one seems to allow anyone to pull out or want to indicate or allow pedestrians to cross the road when it is their right of way. I have been almost run over quite a few times.

After making it successfully to the place where I was staying, I was greeted by lovely Peruvian women who couldn’t speak much English, and I have to confess that my Spanish is a tad rusty. When I say “rusty”, I of course mean “can’t speak much whatsoever”. I was able to briefly sort myself out and then headed out to explore. Did a bit of Miraflores and then decided to go more towards the city centre. Realising it was a good 5 mile walk after looking at trusty Google Maps, I got on a bus and hoped for the best as it was heading on a straight road towards the old town. A bus did only costs 1,25 soles which is the equivalent of 40p. Please take note TFL! It took about 20 mins obviously taking mad traffic into account – I did see a prang or two en route.

Got off at the Museo de Arte de Lima  and had a bit of a nosy. Also the pit stop for the loo and wi-fi came in handy. It was an impressive building and grounds, and contained a lot of historical items from the Inca empire, Spanish rule, and the eventual independence.2017-04-IMG_13712017-04-IMG_13772017-04-IMG_1384I particularly liked a painting of the enthroned holy trinity painted in the early 18th century.2017-04-IMG_1380
It reminded me a bit of the painting of Charles I by Van Dyck, both slightly different in meaning though.

Then I walked over to the historical bit which was another mile away. I came across the magnificent square and popped into the Cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace – both impressive buildings and date from the mid 16th century.2017-04-IMG_14182017-04-IMG_14152017-04-IMG_14142017-04-IMG_1416A quick lunch and a good walk around and I was knackered! It had got to around 27C in the middle of the day and I was melting. 2 lots of sun cream applied and I still got burnt! I thought the sun must be fierce but then realised I had grabbed my factor 15 instead of 30 on the way out this morning *facepalm*. So lots of after sun will hopefully do the trick.

The buildings are amazing – all very colonial and a variety of bright colours. I like the little wooden balconies that protrude outwards.2017-04-IMG_14192017-04-IMG_14242017-04-IMG_1449Navigated back to where I was staying (via a quick walk along the Miraflores coast) and had a much needed shower and watched an episode of Homeland. Found a little place to grab some food nearby and it was amazing – was hungry after a long day!2017-04-IMG_1464Think I’ve done enough walking for today. Now for sleep as it’s 6 hours behind London here! Yawn!