Published: December 18th 2008December 18th 2008
How cool is that?!
Random. One word that sums up the last month or so of my travels. I'll give you all a warning that this blog is a double-header, so to speak, so it's going to be a lot longer than my previous blogs, although I'll break it into two separate blogs so you can read them in your own time without me boring you senseless. But it'll be worth sticking with it as I'll tell you all about my deviousness of lying to my parents (hence why I haven't done a blog for a while) and also the brown pants moments that I referred to a while back.
As I previously stated I ended up getting to Cusco, Peru, three days before Anna and Mark arrived. I must admit I was a bit worried and thought the days would be spent either on the internet surfing pointless websites, or lying on my bed, hugging my knees and pining for my mates. Luckily, neither of these happened and I met some wicked people in my room. The first night I actually ended up on a night out with an Irishman (more about them later) and a Hawaiin lad. Like I said,
Campsite on the second day
random. It was an ok night but I was over the moon with the fact that in Cusco, it benefits the clubs to have gringos in there. Therefore, they give you free drinks to go into their clubs! How does that work? I didn't care to ask and took full advantage of this mystifying yet amazing deal throughout my stay there!
The following day I went out with some cool people for a meal and plucked up the courage to eat the local speciality dish - guinea pig. Mmmm, lovely. Actually, they cook them whole and they don't look dissimilar to when Hans Solo is frozen in carbonite in Return of the Jedi. However, they obviously don't have a gun on them or Princess Leia to save them. I actually ate guinea pig samosa-style. It was ok and to be fair I wasn't that bothered as I'm of the opinion guinea pigs are crap pets anyway.
I should really describe Cusco a bit more as it really is a beautiful city, if very touristy. It has cobblestones streets, markets and restaurants everywhere. It's constantly busy and I was hounded by women everywhere I went offering me a massage.
I considered having one but not one of them offered me a "happy ending", more fool them, their loss...
I had a good night out the day before meeting Anna (and Julia and Maria, hush your gossiping, it's not Anna my ex-girlfriend, but my Mum's best friend’s daughter and I wouldn't be stupid enough to go out with one of those now would I?! Oh, wait...), meaning when I did meet her at stupid o'clock in the morning at Cusco airport, I looked more haggard than Keith Richards. It was weird but good to see someone from home and I know Anna was excited about her venture, even if she was to be stuck with two blokes for 10 days.
That afternoon Mark also arrived at the hostel and we had a few drinks and a good catch up. This led to annihilation-ville that evening for all three of us, although Mark came off worst. If you've seen the picture on my facebook page you know what I'm talking about.
The next day was a welcome to Annaworld day. We needed to pay the rest of our balance for the Inca Trail in cash. Anna's cash card didn't
Us and the Aussies
work and mine was maxed out from drawing out the $200 dollars I needed to pay. Panic! We phoned around, tried all our back up cards and panicked a bit more. Eventually Mark saved the day with one of his (many) credit cards.
That afternoon we went quad biking (more on my earlier and not so amazing exploits on a quad bike later) and it was awesome. They were manual quad bikes which made it difficult, particularly for, (sorry Anna), Anna. Now I won't make any sexist comments about driving, but it was comedy gold. For those of you that know Anna or indeed her mum Jeanette, let's just say the word "dizzy" springs to mind. Anyway, we rode around the mountains that overlook Cusco and the scenery was truly amazing. It did have its incidents though, including being chased by rabid dogs snapping at our heels (I crapped myself) and also Anna getting stuck on a hill and myself accidentally pulling a wheelie and nearly killing myself. To finish off we rode through Cusco and it was brilliant, if a bit scary. By this time, I'll give Anna credit, she managed to get out of reverse.
Oh, well I'm
I like this one, albeit very cheesy
on the subject of dizzy Anna, that night, whilst discussing mass murderers (as you do), Anna came out with the belter and her best "Annarism" that her ‘favourite’ one was "Dr Harold Bishop!" Now, I don't know who is familiar with Neighbours, but that is one hell of a plot line!
The next day we wandered around and Anna and myself booked a bus to go to Lake Titicaca (stop sniggering at the back!). Now this was a massive risk as it meant us getting back from the Inca Trail on time, changing and then getting on a 7 hour bus to Puno that night. It meant we had half a day to do the lake then jump straight on a bus back to Cusco. Easy. If there wasn't the constant threat of road blocks and Anna missing her very expensive flight home!
Inca Trail/Machu Picchu
There is so much I could tell you about the whole trek, but I'll do my best to condense it. We were introduced to our two guides, David and JC (Not the JC, I'd be surprised if the second coming chose to be a tour guide in Peru! Having said that,
Uros, floating island
Doesn't she have terrible dress sense...and the little girl!
JC the first was a carpenter in Israel?!!) and they were really cool, informative and funny.
There were 16 in our group and also 21 porters and a chef. These porters or "chaskis" were unbelievable. They carried a ridiculous amount on their backs, yet powered past us to camp. Some of them were nearly as old as my Grandad!
The first day was pretty easy and the campsite we arrived at had fantastic views of the valley. The three of us stayed in a tent that night which led to me having a horrendous night’s sleep. Buckley, I agree, camping is shit.
So, to day two, the most difficult day, and for me, my grumpiest day - I need my sleep! It was all uphill and at stupidly high altitudes it nearly killed Anna and me. I chewed on cocoa leaves (a form of, legal mother, cocaine) which are meant to help...did they bugger. The views on the way were spectacular, although I was knackered and couldn't wait to arrive at camp. When we did arrive it was a huge relief and the stars that night I really cannot describe. Beautiful, just beautiful and mind-blowing.
The third day was
Yes, very cheesy. Al, got the biffy look yet do you reckon?
pretty easy and most of it was downhill, although it did rain quite a bit. The three of us did a bit of extra trekking to another Inca ruin which was well worth it as we saw a huge rainbow which dominated the valley. The campsite that night was really cool as it had a bar and we treated ourselves to a few deserved beers and got to know the group a lot better.
We got up at 3.30am the next morning to ensure we were one of the first groups at Machu Picchu. I'm so glad we did because the first view from sungate was awesome. I have so often in these blogs run out of superlatives for some of the things I have seen - and I have again sorry. It's not just that the site is amazing, it's the whole surroundings and scenery which are truly magnificent. It was a great sense of achievement once we got there and the standard cheesy pictures were taken by everyone.
Five of us from the group also signed up to climb Wayna Picchu, the huge mountain which overlooks the ruins. Actually, looking at the spelling of it, it
sounds like a cross between a bloke from Essex and a pokemon character.
I doff my hat to Anna at this point, the only girl to have the bottle to climb the mountain with us. She is pretty fit to be fair, although she turned into a little girl for the first time on the way down the dangerously steep path back down the mountain. I found this extremely funny and left Mark to look after her. Come on, I'd already spent 4 bloody days talking and walking with her!
Overall, Machu Picchu lived up to the hype and it is an experience that I will never forget (unless I get Alzheimer’s).
We risked it and it paid off, massively! Anna and myself got on the earliest train possible back to Cusco, showered and shaved (you should've seen Anna's beard after 4 days trekking!) and got on the 7 hour bus to Puno, home of the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. For those not in the know, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, standing at 3,812 metres. It borders both Peru and Bolivia. (Thank you wikipedia!)
On the way the bus
Quad Biking, Cusco
The threesome (stop giggling)
broke down. At 3 in the morning! In the middle of Peru! It was cold. We were broken and worried. Our luck eventually changed and the bus got going again and we arrived in Puno around 8am. We got some breakfast and booked a half day tour to Uros, the floating islands on the Lake.
Again, it's difficult to describe what we saw. It was fascinating. We visited two floating islands of reed which actually housed families. It was super-weird, but what an experience. We even got to go in a boat made of reed to get to the second island. It was also a beautiful day and I am so glad that we decided to risk going in such a short space of time.
We actually managed to get back to Cusco so we could have one last night out, which turned out to be really good. The following morning we said our goodbyes to Anna. It was brilliant to see her and she had a massive effect on our trip. I will forever remember her snorting laugh, her ridiculous Karl Pilkington-esque comments, and her face on descent of Wayna Picchu. Great memories. Thanks Anna.
Don't know why I'm so happy?
a few more days in Cusco, which began to feel worryingly like a second home so we booked our flight from Lima to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Oh, I also booked my flights to Rome, Glasgow and Bristol. If you are interested to know why, it's all in the next blog along with a great gun-point mugging story or two, so get reading. Well, leave a comment on this one first and then get reading.
There are more photos below