Published: December 10th 2011September 22nd 2011
So after 14hrs from Guayaquil with Emma & Martin, we landed in Chiclayo. After 5hrs of a layover, we got another night bus for 16hours to Lima. After being so rested getting to Lima, we decided to wait there for 3 hours and hop on a 22hour night bus to Cusco. Cruz Del Sur all the way, bed buses with wi-fi and dinner. We landed in Cusco around 11am. We thought it would be really easy to find a nice hostel there but there was none to be had. The few nice ones very full and the rest were all kips. We stayed in the wild rover hostel, which seemed nice. But we were naive. We were awake all night from the noise and got no sleep. We realised here you sleep during the day and stay up all night. We checked out the following morning and found nice hostel 3 doors up. Paddy’s Irish bar on the square kept us sane with good food and cheap beer. We had decided that we didn’t want to do the 4 Inca Trail Trek, so we looked into other options. We went for the 2 days/1 night option. We got a bus for 2 hours, then a train for 2 hours to Agua Caliente, at the base of Machu Picchu. The train journey was amazing, an old style carriage, through the Andean peaks.
After a night in Agua Caliente with Hank our Dutch/Australian friend we got up at 4am the next morning for the famous hike up to the entrance of Machu Pichu. We couldn’t see a thing, torch in hand we looked for the giant mountain. It didn’t take long for the sun to come up, as it did we could slowly see the mountains from behind the clouds, it was an amazing vision. The climb was tough but we got to the entrance at the top of Machu Pichu just on time, after an hour and 15min. Machu Pichu was like nothing you could imagine. The most amazing scenery that would whip your breath away. The ruins were hiding behind the clouds until around 8am when they were revealed we were even more inspired. The shear awesome and size of it was unreal, the quality of the buildings and carving of the stones so that they fitted perfectly together was beautiful. First time in a while we were actually speechless. After a tour of the ruins and a cuppa, we climbed Winya Picchu, a mountain beside Machu Picchu that takes a 40min each way. The ruins here are quiet small but none-the-less still impressive for the fact that are built on the steep peak of the mountain. The view from here of Machu Picchu and surrounding mountains was spectacular. Just as we began our descent down to Machu Picchu, a big storm started up along with lashing rain, so getting down the steep steps was quite a challenge. But nothing was to spoil the day for us. Once again we walked around the sites, taking it all in. Even with 200 odd pictures, they could never describe the sheer scale of this important Inca site or true quality of it. After a ciggy and a bottle of coke, it was time to hike back to the village of Agua Caliente to catch our train home. After leaving at 4.30am & 10.5hours of hiking, we landed back. We knew sleeping would not be a problem tonight..!! After another bad dinner, we headed for our train and bus back to Cusco.
We had decided we would head off the next morning at 7am, so we wouldn’t be hanging around, to Puno, a small town beside Lake Titicaca. It is the world’s highest navigate-able lake. It is on the border with Bolivia. We could not believe when we got to Puno, it Carlsberg did towns, they definitely didn’t do this one, the worst town we have being in in the whole trip. Unfortunately though it was late evening and we had no choice to stay the night. We went straight to a travel agent and booked our bus out of there the next day while also booking a tour of the floating islands. The floating islands are exactly as they say they are, floating. Huge blocks of reeds (rushes in Ireland) are cut through the roots and dragged into position. They drive steaks into each block then using rope, they tie the blocks together. They tie weights, usually rocks to the blocks and drop them into the water and these stop the islands from moving. Once they are secured, the tie bundles of reeds, about 5/6 inches in diameter. They lay a layer of these across the newly formed island. They repeat this process about 10times, each time laying them diagonal to the previous layer. Every year, they have to add more bundles to the island as old bundles rot away underneath. Each island is abandoned every 40 years as the smell from rotting reeds gets too much. They take what the can off the island and then burn it. It takes one year to build an island completely. There are about 5 houses on each island, with each island having a president who they select every year. Because they are so small, families fall out with each other. When they do, they decide to go their separate ways, literally. The cut the island down the middle and push them apart. But usually after a local wedding or fiesta, which lasts about 5 days and they are always drunk, they make up and decide to push the islands back together and tie them up. The houses on the islands are constructed of reeds and are on stilts up from the blocks, so they are well clear of the island and leave room for laying more bundles every year. When we got to one of the islands, we were given a presentation by the president and shown how they construct the island and how they live there, what they eat and survive. They have no toilet on the island so they must row the reed boats over to a neighbouring island if they are stuck. Obviously smoking is not allowed on the islands. None of them have safety barriers or edge protection so kids could very easily go over the edge in to the lake which is 15metres deep in this area. After the presentation, members from each family grab you so that they can show you around their house, which consists of 1 small room with a double bed and sometimes a single mattress beside it for the children. Sometimes the houses are not even big enough to fit a double and single mattress. After a tour of their homes, they bring us outside where they try to sell us handcrafts and knitted products at large inflation rates. Tourism is their main income so obviously everything is inflated and bargaining has to be done. We brought a knitted wall thingy, displaying Pacha Mama (mother earth) and all the Inca believes. After singing traditional songs to us, the women rowed us in their huge reed boats to the capital island, where they had to pet pink flamingos and a hotel and restaurant. Two of the kids came with us, about 3 and 4 years old. The 3 year old took a likening to Jonny and kept coming over for hugs, and had a big snotty nose but luckily Jonny had a tissue. After that, we headed for the main land and were never so happy to get a bus out of there and on to Bolivia.