Published: July 2nd 2008June 5th 2008
Getting a boat.
We arrived safely in South America for an all too short stop off in Colombia, mainly in Cartagena and the surrounding area. We we got there around midday and the heat was almost unbearable as we stepped off our plane, and lugging our bags round the city at midday was a bit of a challenge but we managed to find a room with aircon only to realise at 2am that is was party night for the locals and the hotel was above a nightclub. Not much sleep happened that night!
The nicest part of Cartagena was the old town within the city walls with cobbled streets and boutique shops, which has kept most of it’s charm despite the number of tourists. We stayed for one night before checking out and took a bus to Santa Marta then onto a small fishing village called Taganga for a couple of days. It was not as beautiful as some other beaches we’ve been too but it was much more relaxed and we had a nice chilled out hostel to stay in. The town had a Caribbean type of vibe and we met with loads of people and went out drinking late.
Dodgy flight over Colombia - pretty country though!
The beer and sea food was fantastic and cheap. Time was not on our side so we headed back to Cartagena where we realised that we had to at least try to get back on track with the budget and stayed in the more grotty part of town, although we met load more friendly people at the hostel. We went out and got drunk!
Next day we had to get our flight to Cusco in Peru via Bogota and Lima, on a plane that had propellers! It was a steep and bumpy take off, but the scenery below was amazing. The plane landed and we went to get off only to be told that this was not Bogota, this happened another 3 times, the plane just kept taking off and landing at different airports on the way, like a bus, and no one could understand why we thought this was weird, especially since our ticket just said Cartagena - Bogota! Anyway after the 3rd bumpy take off I almost threw up, I must have been green because Steve got the sick bag out! Finally arriving a Lima we had a 6 hour overnight stop at the airport before leaving
The town square.
After little to no sleep we arrived in Cusco first thing in the morning, freezing! We didn’t realise how different the weather would be, needless to say we weren’t prepared. We managed to check into our hostel which was probably the coldest hostel in the world. The showers were cold too just to top it all off. Cusco has this massive problem where nearly every hostel you stay in is freezing, they don’t do heating and it’s also rare to have hot showers anywhere.
The city of Cusco is very high up, it sits at 4200 meters above sea level so the air is thin and walking around can be quite difficult. The town itself is a lovely place though. Quite large and very well looked after. The tourist element is in full swing and it’s impossible to walk down any street without being asked fifteen times if you’d like a massage or if you want to eat in a restaurant!?
The weather is odd too, the temperature during the day is around 20 degrees and you could walk around in shorts, but as soon as the sun goes down it gets
San Blas. The part of town we stayed when we first arrived.
freezing in fact during the day even if you stand in the shadows it’s freezing too.
We hung around the town for a few days getting acclimatised to the height ready for our trip to Machu Picchu. The classic 4 day Inca Trail has been booked up for months (we tried booking in Feb and the earliest we could get on a trek was October!), so we scouted round and decided that we would just get the train to Aguas Calientes and go up to Machu Picchu ourselves.
We arrived the day before and went to the tourist office to find out if there was anything else to do in the town and they told us of mountain you could climb that had a great alternative view of Machu Picchu, apparently it was quite a tough climb but being that we were now experience climbers - we decided to go for it anyway! And it was FREE!
So, we started off towards the mountain. The first part of the hike was fine, just lots of walking up hill over stones and little bridges. Then a wooden ladder about 10 feet long. Fine, we got over that and carried
Our train journey to Machu Picchu.
on, then another slightly longer ladder. After about 20 mins we came across the mother of all ladders, it was roughly the height of two houses and it was almost vertical! At this point we considered not going any further, but some how we went for it. Half way up looking down wasn’t a good idea and eventually we made it to the top. Kelly was a bit of a wreck and was unsure whether she wanted to carry on. We went a little further and guess what another huge ladder... after much discussion/argument we went for that one too. Continuing on there were huge stone steps. At one point we went round a sharp corner to find a group of other climbers coming down. Kelly was stuck half way up a rock face and they were stuck half way down, so we had a chat. They told us that the climb was to get much, much worse and this put Kelly into “we’re turning back now” mode. After much squeezing and manoeuvring about we got past them and carried on. We had another ‘chat’ about carrying on, and even I was unsure at this point - maybe we’d bitten
We are climbing to here.
off more that we can chew!
The higher we got the more and more tiresome it became but the terrain wasn’t harder. The group we had met were pulling our legs. Once out of the jungle part we were climbing back and forth up the mountain - again Kelly wanted to turn round. But eventually I reached the top and shouted down to Kelly that I had arrived - just in time too as Kelly was about to give up!
The view from the top was amazing and truly worth the hike though. A few more people joined us at the top and we sat relaxed for a while before heading back down.
The next day we decided not to hike to Machu Picchu (we’d done enough hiking!) and got the bus up to the site instead. As we arrived about 6am in the morning we got a fantastic view of the site being lit up first thing as the sun rose over the mountains. We spent most of the day walking around the site and I decided to climb the Huanya Picchu (the larger of the two mountains behind Machu Picchu). Although tough, it wasn’t as hard
First thing in the morning, we got a view of the sun coming up.
as the climb the day before, but once again the view of the surrounding mountains was breathtaking.
Later in the day we jumped back on the train and headed back to Cusco, went out for a few drinks in the local Irish bar and crashed in a hostel, not before trying the local delicacies of guinea pig and alpaca for dinner!
Next stop... Bolivia!
There are more photos below