Sorry about the long delay for any South American blogs, we have been very busy and have been doing a lot of travelling around without prolonged access to the internet. I am not going to go through everything we did on every day in any of these South American blogs, firstly because I don't have time and secondly because I don't want to bore you with all the shit stuff and put you off reading about the good stuff.
I arrived in Lima on the 23rd february and spent 3 nights by myself before Ric joined me, along with his friend from Madrid, Meike. During this time I explored Lima with two English girls which I met in my dorm room and found that it was just like any other major city. Not too much to report apart from the fact I managed to start improving my Spanish without Ric by my side.
Once Ric and Meike arrived we headed straight to Arequipa on an overnight bus... It was by far the best bus any of us had been on. We watched films (in English), were served two meals, had seats which were just as good as
any hostel bed and even played Bingo!! Once in Arequipa, we were amazed by how beautiful the place was. They call it the White City and you can definitely see why, all the buildings and even all the roads were white and the place in general was very clean and actually felt very European. We stayed for 4 nights there in the Wild Rover, 3 nights of which were pretty quiet but the final night was not quiet at all. We started in the hostel bar having a few drinks with the girls who I had met in Lima, who had arrived that morning and with some other people who we had also met that morning in the hostel. Everything was pretty calm until happy hour started and 2 double whisky and cokes started costing the equivalent of 2 quid. By the end of that hour, everyone was on the bar (most of the lads shirtless, for no reason at all), having shots poured down them and dancing to retro 90's tunes. Everyone that is except Ric who had saw two local girls in the corner not joining in with the festivities. He went over and was entertaining both of
them quite happily. However, what kind of best mate would I be if I didn't go over and 'wing-man´him, just in case he wanted to get with one of them, so I did. With the dutch courage that I had through all the alcohol I had consumed, I moved in with the best Spanish i could muster. Granted the only reason it worked was because they were laughing at my broken sentences so much, but in the end Ric did get what he wanted and managed to pull the local Peruvian, who in fairness was pretty fit! The mistake he made in his drunken state was inviting them both to lunch the next day.... This was not good, not only were we both hungover but I also was no longer confident enough to speak the local language, meaning that for most of the lunch I didn´t say a word, making the whole thing pretty awkward.
After Arequipa, we decided to move on to Cusco which was to be our base before we went to Machu Picchu. The plan was originally to just go to Machu Picchu on the train for a one day tour as we thought any other
option would be too costly or too time-consuming. However, after Meike had spoken to a few German girls who were also at our hostel, we realised that it would be just as cheap and a lot more fun to do a 4 day jungle trek up to the ruins. The very next day we got up at 5am and left to start our trail. The first day of the trek we mountain biked at 4350m above sea level for 70km. The first half of the trail was absolutely horrible, it was so cold that no one could even feel their fingers, so braking became a painful yet essential experience. The second half was not so bad though as the altitude decreased and in fact it was a hell of a lot of fun, especially being able to ride through rivers and spray each other with the river water in the process. That night we stayed in the mountains with a local farming family. It was a really humbling and interesting experience, Ric helped the family to cook dinner by peeling about 50 potatoes and I went fruit picking for cocoa beans, oranges and passion fruit. We then all tried to
catch one of the chickens so we could eat it, but after a massive FAIL on the part of everyone in the group, it was left to the father of the family to catch it, ring it´s neck and pluck it before it was cooked ready for dinner that night... talk about fresh food. After dinner we made a fire and all sat around it drinking Pisco Sours. The next day was definitely the hardest day of our travels so far, we walked for 9 hours in total (uphill a lot of the way) and some people in the group even had to get a bus for some of the way because they were finding it so hard. Our reward for the day however was finishing the trek in some hot springs... well deserved relaxation after the day we had. We stayed that night in Santa Theresa which pretty much only exists for the purposes of travellers heading to Machu Picchu. They had a really shit bar there, so most of us went there and had a bit of a dance off/pole-dancing comp/chicken limbo face off with another tour group that were also heading to the ruins. It was actually really funny, and we all had a cracking night. The last full day was pretty easy-going in comparison, which was a good thing given we had all been out the night before. We spent the morning doing some zip-wiring over the mountains... so much fun and Ric got over his fear of heights. He was even quoted as saying that 'By the end he felt there wasn't enough danger involved and it was too easy'. That afternoon we did a few more hours walking before arriving at our hostel at 5pm in Aguas Caliente. After dinner everyone was in bed early, ready for the next day when we would finally be scaling Machu Picchu.
The trek up the mountain to reach Machu Picchu started at 5am as we wanted to get there for sunrise. It was really tough, especially since we were all so tired but that moment when you reach the top and can see the ruins is truly indescribable. I can honestly say it was the proudest moment of my life and made the whole 4 day trek completely worth it! The ruins themselves were really amazing, and the architecture and the reasons for the Incas building Machu Picchu is incredible. I had heard so much about Machu Picchu before coming but I can now honestly say for myself that it should be on everyones 'Must do before I die' list. We paid a bit extra and also decided to scale Wayna Pichu... being up there at 2720m above sea level was special, especially being able to look down upon Machu Picchu and see the typical view for myself that people only ever see on postcards or on pictures.
I really enjoyed our first stop in S. America and would love to come back to Peru one day and learn more about their culture. The country itself is very different to what I expected and Machu Picchu, in particular, is an experience I will never forget.
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