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Published: December 28th 2008
22 September 2008
We leave Johannesburg, South Africa, for Sao Paulo, Brazil (GMT -3). Flight time 10h40.
Arrive late afternoon in Sao Paulo and is shuttled to Hotel Marriott where we have our first Caparenia.
We're very jet-lagged and a little drunk after our 2nd Caparenia. Have a so-so dinner with red wine.
Hit the hay...
23 September 2008
Up early to catch our flight to Lima, Peru (GMT -5). Flight time 05h40.
We're now 7 hours behind South Africa, at sea level. Wait around the airport for our flight to Cusco.
Have a light lunch and our first Peruvian beer, Cusquena. Learn some basic Spanish from our phrase book.
Have trouble getting our boarding passes from the 'ATM like' machine because we have to enter the 1st 3 letters of our country and the machine can't find South Africa. After asking for help the attendant types SUD for Sudafrica or something like that and BOOM... there we are.
Boarding passes in hand we hop onto our 01h00 flight to Cusco.
Arrive at Cusco which is 3310m above sea level. Don't immediately feel the altitude. Too excited!
We are met by Paul, an unknown female and our
driver Daniel. Only Paul speaks English. As we enter the van, we are given a present, a glass ornament with a 3D bride and groom inside on a pedestal with LED lights flickering in different colors. A very nice and welcoming touch!
On the way to the hotel we get our first real glimpse of Peruvian life and Paul tells us a bit about Cusco. We also realize that people in Peru drive more crazy than in SA, only slower and therefor less dangerous. Still.... When we arrive at the hotel, we are welcomed with flowers & a card in our room. The Marqueses Hotel is an old Spanish mansion converted into a hotel. The wooden floors, doors, balconies and almost everything else is beautifully carved into unique masterpieces! Gorgeous!
After some time in 'awe' we freshened up and walked into the square where the locals were celebrating Youth Day. A local restaurant usher met us in the streets and showed us the menu and escorted us to the restaurant. Friendly and persistent. We enjoyed some wine and a light dinner, excluding a local delicacy, Guinea pig. It was a rather long day of travel and we decided
to head to bed early.
24 September 2008
We woke up to the strange noise of a different town's morning rumble. Very excited for the day ahead we got dressed in seconds and in the dining area for breakfast. A variety of fruit is displayed, muesli with yogurt, hard rolls and egg served on the side. The waiter gave me quick instructions on how to make the coffee, as it comes from the insulated pot as a thick black ooze. You then add boiling water and milk & sugar as you like. It still was strong as a BULL!! Phew! The cup was small but I did not go back for more.
Coca tea is also suggested to help acclimatise to the altitude. The dried leaves are served in a small basket or you can enjoy the tea from a bag.
Mr Smith, our guide for the Inca Trail , met us at the hotel at about 10h00 and we went off to the Urubamba 'Sacred Valley' Tour. The road winds up the hills of Cusco and after an hour we arrived at the Llama farm (for tourists). The different types llama & alpaca are in fenced areas
and visitors can go in and feed them. The llamas are still used today for their wool, meat and as pack animal. The locals also explained how they use the different ingredients to make dye to colour the wool. They use the fungi from the cactus to make red dye. They also demonstrated the weaving technique.
We carried on in the small town of Pisac and visited some ruins and terraces. The ruined village is built in the shape of an eagle with the sun temple in the centre. The terrace were used for agriculture in the 1430's. The government is now restoring all these sites, one small section at a time. The water canals still work, and flow up and down the valley to feed this village. Lunch was a buffet affair at the Spanish villa type house restaurant. We continued to visit the Ollantaytambo town and ruins. These ruins was built in the shape of a Llama and has many terraces for agriculture leading up to the incompleted temple area. This town also have many storage areas on the opposite hill and is a great structure to keep wheat cool for up to 3 years! We returned
via a different road back to the hotel at about sundown.
This night, our guide also met us to explain the trekking expedition and what we can expect.
We enjoyed dinner at a different restaurant, Papallion and had some pizza.
Afterward we did some shopping for our friends and retired to our room for final packing & rest.
25 September 2008
This morning we were up before dawn (well, the city is rather noisy) and we finished our packing and had breakfast before anybody else. Our guide, Mr Smith, met us at about 09:00 and we headed out towards the Inca National Park. The road winds through dusty villages and mountain passes. The driver & guide had the windows open for fresh air, but all we at the back got was dust!
We stopped in Ollantaytambo for some supplies and Ferdi & I got some change for our $100 bills for tips to our porters & chef at the end of the tour.
We arrived at 12:00 at km82 and met our porters, unload the supplies, have lunch and start. Lunch was a picnic affair with LOTS of avo, buns and salads to build your own burger
The start of the hike was along the valley for a good while and then ascended into the mountains with Patalaqta Qentimarka ruins in the valley below us. A typical 'watch out' town that acted as gateway for incoming visitors or attackers.
At camp we take a couple of photos of the surrounding area and the village kids are very interested in the video camera & Ferdi's shooting techniques.
After freshening up we enjoyed a 3-course dinner consisting of vegetable soup and Mash with Broccoli Egg stew. Our first peaceful night in the Andes!
26 September 2008
06h30 wake up call with coco tea served in bed. Ah, life sucks! We feel rested and pack up and ready for breakfast. Porridge made of Quinua (a staple wheat source) with grated apple and then followed with an omelet and toast. Phew! Apparently we have a tough day to burn lots of calories.
Our day starts along the steams and winds gradually steeper and upwards. We pass through a couple villages and visit a family and deliver a present from a lady from the UK that gave the baby her name. Not sure what it was.
a trout farm which is a very good protein source for the locals, as they are not allowed to hunt or set traps in the National Park.
We stop en-route for lunch with our chef & porters in the mess tent, followed with a 1hour siesta. 'When in Rome, do as the Romans.'
From there we had another 2 hours of steep uphill to cover and altitude started making funny with my hubby's tummy. There are many moth-like-butterflies and Humming Birds (big & small). It is strange how the smaller humming bird are more territorial than the bigger one's, chasing them away from 'his' bushes and nectar.
We reach camp at about 15h25 with congratulations from the porters all round.
I needed to wash my hair and Ferdi helped me hold the water bowl for rinsing. The one porter, Raphael, was very intrigued by this funny ritual and stood and stared through the whole event. The locals apparently do not need to wash their hair, as it doesn't go dirty. The oil control is totally neutral.
Dinner was again a lovely 3 course affair which was a bit of torture for Ferdi as his stomach was turning
hectically already. With only the mention of his situation, we had many remedies, including coca tea which helps for everything. The night was rather tedious for him as he had to run to the loo many times, and it started to rain during the night.
27 September 2008
We wake up before sunrise at about 05h00 and shortly after we have coca tea brought to us in bed. One of the porters had brewed Ferdi a very strong herbal remedy with a couple leaves in a can for him to drink. He only had some toast to line the stomach. We had a couple Imodium that had to be taken after every trip to the loo... so he ran out of that rather quickly.
The start was very slow and we got into the pace soon ("pole pole" as they say in Tanzania). At about 09h30 we reached the neck of Dead Woman's pass at 4215m. This was our first of three peaks for the day. The clouds started hovering over us as we reached Sayagmarka on another hill top. We quickly picked up the pace and hurried along to the lunch spot about 15min away. We make
it just in time as the rain & hail come down. All the porters, cooks, guides sheltered with us in the tent - a lovely mixture of body & food smells combined as our chef prepares lunch.
The rain soon subsided and we got dressed into our rain gear to finish the last bit of ground to camp. The rain stayed away just enough for us to start getting warm and tempted to take the layers off! But alas! The rains started again and we quickly headed onward. Just as we arrived at camp at about 17h00 the rain stopped and we could dry out our rain gear, have a quick clean and ready for dinner. A lovely spinach soup followed with spaghetti.
28 September 2008
A sight we will never forget, waking up to a brisk gorgeous morning in the Andes. The previous night's precipitation left snow caps on the mountains in the distance and a shimmer to the valley below. Ferdi & I held each other and could not believe we were really in this magical place. We felt so close to God and our hearts felt warm with gratitude.
The next hour before breakfast
was spent walking along this whole camp to gaze in awe and capture this amazing moment of our campsite on a pinnacle surrounded by the gigantic gracious Andes.
After breakfast we said our good-bye's to our porters and chef with a tip in an envelope for each (between $80 - $120). This whole morning was a hectic steep downhill of steep steps (about 2500 in all).
We visit Intipata (agriculture ruin) and enjoy a snack break of Oreos & fruit. We then continued further down more steps and more steps, and yes, more steps.
The next site we visited was Winaywayna, which was a religious centre for the Rainbow gods. The seven windows of the circular temple look out onto a valley with numerous waterfalls. This is also where the Cusco colourful flag comes from, the seven colours of the rainbow - which is also now used as the international gay flag.
From there we headed to the Sun Gate, Intapunku, at a quick pace. The last couple step up to this gate was rather steep, but the pleasant sight of Machu Picchu in the distance was a relief and a victorious moment when all pain was forgotten.
Some smiling congratulatory photos where taken before almost collapsing for some lunch and loads of water. It was realy hot, and as we were near the rain forest parts of the Amazon, the humidity was also very high.
We continued down the winding path towards Machu Picchu passing the day visitors coming past us to visit the Sun Gate.
At last we entered the upper area of Machu Picchu, we were greeted by the amazing 'post card' view before us. A total photo frenzy ensued as we tried to take it all in. Mr Smith then guided us into more detail of the site and how it was covered by forest and invisible from both the valley and mountains. The stone used for building was broken, then carved into precise pieces with puzzle-like angles to build structurally sound buildings without the use of cement. Machu Picchu's main purpose was for religious gatherings and astronomy. The houses were mainly for priests and their servants. The terraces was built for the foundation of the village and flowers were planted there.
The holy rock is a massive piece of stone carved into a type of column standing on an altar, ontop of
a pyramid like structure overlooking the whole of the village.
The big green mountain pinnacle behind the village has also some ruins and terrace all the way at the top. There is a path that lead up there, but we were too tired to go up, and permits are limited.
We expected the area to be more crowded, but apparently most people visit in the mornings. Mr Smith continued to other sights and temples, houses, llamas, plains and building technique which was all fascinating & a bit overwhelming.
We then made our way to the bus area for the ride down the pass to the town below, Aguas Calientes, for pizza & Cusquena cervesa (local beer). Great cold beer! Afterward we got our stored luggage upstairs from the restaurant (where the porters left it for us) and headed (rather swiftly as we were running late) to the train station for the 3 hour ride back to Cusco.
We met Ridge & Tayra on the train. They're from the UK and has been traveling for a year, most recently the western parts of South America and were now on their way home. We were all very tired but still
we kept on chatting and making jokes... and then Ferdi dropped his wedding ring on the floor... in a silence we all hear the ring rolling towards the back of the train cart. The ring hardly hit the floor, when Ferdi was on all-fours searching for it. I kept calm, as the ring could not go anywhere except into somebody's pocket (and that's not likely to happen here). Shortly after the scramble started a guy came up to Ferdi and gave him the ring that he picked up from next to his bag. Very relieved, we chatted on until we got to our stop.
Mr Smith in the meantime had fallen asleep and the conductor came to call us, as he expected us to get off there. Very nice of him. In the scramble to get of the train we didn't have much time to properly say goodbye to Ridge & Tayra. Mr Daniel waited for us on the platform and helped with the bags.
The road transfer was quick and very soon we were at the hotel, showered and in bed.
29 September 2008
At 07h30 we were awake and talking about the whole trip and missing
the mountains terribly.
After breakfast we walked with our very stiff legs into town to do some more shopping for friends & family.
Andina Travel was so kind to check us in for our domestic flight to Lima beforehand, so we could hang around longer in town. The transfer took us to the airport, where we said our goodbyes to Paul & Mr Daniel. On checking in, the metal detectors did not like the buttons on Ferdi's cargo-pants and set off every alarm at every check point. He was unimpressed, having to hold his beltless pants up with one hand (and without any underwear on) with the other hand in the air while being scanned. At last we got on the plane and a smooth ride into Lima.
On arrival we checked some luggage for storage overnight. We then had to find a map and a taxi and a hotel and some entertainment for the night. After a bit of 'stil stuipe' and irritating 'humphs' we decided to call the next Green Taxi into Lima's centre, which had the museums and square that we could visit.
The taxi driver however could not speak a word of English and
somehow we communicated with 'yes' (si) and 'no'. He took us to a budget hotel, Hostel Bonbini, which was two blocks from the square.
On check in we tried to communicate to the desk clerks to arrange for us a taxi for pick up at 04h30 so we could check in at the airport at 05h00. Again we did not understand a word, but they very eagerly said 'si' and 'gracias' and disappeared behind the counter. We loaded our backpacks off in the room and found the right sentence in the Spanish phrase book to ask for booking a taxi. Again we were answered with 'si'. So, we left it there and prayed that it would indeed happen.
We headed for town, visited the Cathedral, looked like real tourists on the plain (taking photos of ourselves) and did some shopping. We forgot these people are a bit smaller than us, so the shirt sleeves are a bit short. We went back to the hotel to drop off the shopping and freshen up for dinner. We walked down some corridors and found a really quaint restaurant, Vermona, where we enjoyed western food & lovely wine. We retired early tsince we
had to get up very early.
30 September 2008
The alarm wakes us in a jolt at 04h00. Even though the night was rather noisy and the city don't ever realy sleep, we felt rested and got ready for checking out etc. Down stairs at reception there wasn't a soul to be seen. Even after a couple 'hello', or even "perdonome's" and "porfavor's" there was still no movement. The front door and gate was locked. We could however see the taxi outside with a driver fast asleep. Ferdi managed to put the outside lights on and off and wake him up. He then rang the bell and woke up the hotel manager. Oh my hat! We got a little bit anxious there. The taxi then had to get his motor started which sounded like a lawnmower with emphysema.
So we headed off towards the airport and the taxi's engine died every 200m and the speed humps feels like gigantic rocks we are hitting, as this so-called-vehicle had zero suspension. At last we arrived in one piece at the airport. We checked in and got to the lounge area for McCafe pancakes (the bakery of McDonald's) Some security exercise
moved the whole of this departure lounge into a small corner for some official to move through, but we couldn't see a thing. When security checked our hand luggage the officers found the 650ml Pisco that we bought in Cusco and they confiscate it! Very sad & angry we passed through to the terminal! :o(
We watched movies the whole flight. We connected in Brazil where we had to kill 4 1/2 hours. On one of Ferdi's trips to the loo he saw a security officer man-handling two Asian looking guys, shoving them around and pushing them up against the wall with their luggage open on the counter. There must have been drugs involved or something.
After some snacks, we read some books, did some window shopping and then at last we could board the plane. We both slept like babies.
01 October 2008
We arrived in South Africa at 07h20 where Konrad met us in the terminal. We quickly re-packed at home and headed to Magaliesberg, Whispering Pines Lodge for 2 nights of pampering in the spa. On arrival at the lodge we enjoyed a 60min sport massage for our very stiff & sore carves. We then
enjoyed some champagne in the tub...
02 October 2008
There's a knock on the door and the watch says 10h30.... yikes! We slept like babies and missed our spa appointment for 10am! Half dressed we hurry to the spa for a Hot Stone massage for both, an Indian Head massage for Ferdi and an Aromatherapy massage and a facial for me. We took some Brazilian chocolate (Gronoto) for our beauty therapists, the 'Golden girls', to say sorry for being late. Much appreciated!
Very relaxed and extremely hungry (as we also missed dinner the previous night) we order lunch and quaffed champagne as we sat outside overlooking the pool & grassy lawns. After lunch we relaxed a bit in the room, reading and then taking a nap. Peter then came to check if we would be joining them for dinner later. So, we freshened up and ordered a lovely 3 course dinner (french kisses and all!)
03 October 2008
This morning we had some more champagne with breakfast and walked a bit in the gardens. We then had our last spa treatment and Ferdi had a Back, neck & shoulder massage and I had a Hair & Scalp
treatment. It was rather sad leaving this very beautiful place where we were spoiled absolutely rotten!
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