A Travellerspoint blog

AGUAS CALIENTES/MACHU PICCHU

Almost speechless !!!

sunny 23 °C

(Writing this a few days after Sunday 22nd and Im still gob smacked by how impressive it was !!!)

Really didnt think I wouldve been as impressed as I was with Machu Picchu - and now cant stop thinking about the fact that I didnt really even want to do MP or Peru to start with, could easily have missed them out !!! Doesnt bear thinking about

I have never seen anything like this before, EVER !!!

We headed up just after 6am to try and avoid the crowds - and Percy, our guide gave us a brilliant tour for about three hours. Now I know everyone says these organisedtour guides are a waste of money but I have to say I would have been wandering around lost if it wasnt for good old Percy - feel like I learnt so much more having him with us, couldnt have imagined doing it alone. Luck continued to shine on us in the shape of the wather - it was just a perfect day; my only grumble wouldve been about my sore legs from yesterdays little trek. By teh end of the day I could hardly walk.

Cant really describe how amazing Machu Picchu was - all I can say is you really need to see it for yourselves.

Thankfully we missed most of the crowds so it didnt detract from the experience too much. I also succumbed to peer pressure and did the hike to Intipunku ( The Sun Gate) which was a struggle with my sore knees but definitely worth it - the views from up there made it all worthwhile. Besides, the 72 year old from my group made it look like a piece of cake so there was no way I was going to wimp out. My camera battery died just as we got to the top so Im relying on fellow travellers to provide me with some photos to prove I made it to the top.

Also met this Canadian guy who was suposoed to be doing the Inca trail but ended up in hospital on an IV drip the day before it was due to start - he'd just gotten out the day before ( Saturday)and hiked up to the Sun Gate as a consolation. Have to say I dont know how he did it - but I take my hat off to him.

Everything else was a bit of an anticlimax really - we had a slow stroll back down, then some lunch in Aguas Calientes before the dreadful train journey home. I so couldnt recommend the train journey home to anyone - it just detracts form the whole experience. There were also some obnoxious Germans behind us who gave Marlene and Graeme a hard time for trying to get their rucksacks down - wasnt nice at all.

Staggered back into our beds at the hotel in Cusco around 10.30pm, with the prosepct of yet another early start tomorrow to travel up to Puno.

Said goodbye to the two Canadians and the lovely English couple who were finishing their tour here in Cusco. That left me once again at the mercy of the Ausies !!!!

Best day so far - cant wait to show folk the photos !!

Posted by Sparkster 20:20 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

AGUAS CALIENTES

My new found love for trains - NOT !!!

sunny 23 °C
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Up at the crack of dawn and away to Aguas Calientes ( or Machu Picchu Pueblo) by train in order to see Machu Picchu.

Really wasnt impressed with the train journey at all - took 4 hours to get there on a busy train, and to be totally honest it wasnt that fantastic view wise ( although I didnt have a window seat!!). Thought I saw much more when we were in the bus crossing over the mountains the other day. Met a lovely Australian called Cathy from Canberra on the train - she'd been over in Argentina visisting her pen pal for the first time in 23 years ; and she'd never flown before or been outside of Australia

I was even more pissed off when, after eventually arriving in Aguas Calientes around 10.50am the group decided that it was best to leave Machu Picchu until the following day. Swear I came close to a strop - complaining that I'd gotten up early specifically to get to the ruins today, not to hang about in hot bloody thermal baths !!!

AC has very little going for it in my book - its basically just a town to cater for those coming to see Machu Picchu. While some of the others went to sample the Hot Springs just outside the town I agreed to join Marlene and Heather on a trek to the Mandor falls.

This turned out to be one hell of a walk/trek - most of it was over train tracks, resulting in us having two near misses with trains chundering along the track. The second near miss resulted in me being skimmed by the passing train as I breathed in ( Im not being dramatic honest !!) - and in all the calamity I managed to lose my hat ( thankfully not one of my new wollen ones but my bog standard sun hat !!).

As if that wasnt exciting enough we got to the falls to discover they were less than spectacular - well, they were okay but not exactly in the same league as say Angel Falls. It did feel jungle like though, and it was incredibly humid so it did feel like we were really trekking LOL !!!

Ate Guinea pig for dinner - really wasnt nice ; like a very greasy rabbit or duck. Definitely wont be having it again !! Can still see its little skinned face starring up at me - yuck !!!! Enrique redeemed himself and got a whole whack of brownie points by secretly arranging for a cake for Mary's 71st birthday ( I tell you, the woman is an inspiration to anyone and everyone !!).

I got stuck into not so cheap Sangria with Angus and ended the night quite merry - first proper piss up since Ive gotten here. Got soaked on way home as raining quite heavily, and bought a replacement hat in preparation for tomorrow. Apologies for all the drunken texts and photos I sent wearing the damn thing - well at least I thought I was cool !!!

Posted by Sparkster 20:53 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

CUSCO

Pumamarca


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Friday 21st November ( Not even been away a week yet, seems like so much longer !!!)

Well today was definitely the best so far - we ended up spending time at a local community project in Pumamarca, about 6 km from Cusco. Could sit and wax lyrical for ages about it as we were all really moved by what was going on there.

We went shopping in the local market first to buy stuff to take with us for lunch - bread, cheese, tea, chocolate and some markers for the teachers to use. The market was HORRIFIC- but probably just because I was feeling queasy and the smells of all those foods didnt do it for me. I was also traumatised at the buckets of little chickens waiting to be bought, killed and eaten. There was even a bucket of live frogs - waiting to be blended into a cross between an energy drink and a unisex viagra - just gross !!! I didnt hang about to see it being made, as the skinned frogs legs looked bad enough.

Up in Pumamarca we got to meet and spend time with lots of the children who were at the school ; which was originally the heart of the project. All the kids were so enthusiastic about meeting us and more than happy to spend time with us. I couldnt get over how cheerful they all were, despite some of the deprived conditions they're living in. And they seem to be following a really advanced curriculum - the 3 and 4 year olds I met first were all writing numbers. Despite me not being able to speak much Spanish, they managed to let me see their work and tell me their names. I so so regret not being able to communicate better with them - am learning Spanish as soon as I get home LOL !!!

I was also a bit lax at taking photos of them as I didnt want the day to take on a 'Stop and Stare at the Zoo' type thing - but all the kids were more than happy to pose for photos and then grab cameras to check the results. Im going to try and get copies from Marlene, one of the Canadian woman who was snapping away next to me.

One of the classes put on a little show of traditional Peruvian dances as a way of saying thank you for our gifts - was fantastic, as were their attempts at impressing us with their English ( way way better than my Spanish)

It was just a brilliant experience, and one thats certainly left me thinking I'd like to look at volunteering in the future. Spoke with a few of the volunteers who were all giving glowing reports, and it certainly semed to be very very well run with the volunteers being totally at the heart of the project and therefore valued and respected accordingly.

Bought heaps and heaps from the shop thats just been set up by the local mothers - a kind of co-operative where they sell their handicrafts, get a percentage back and the community benefits from the rest. Anyway, you can all expect a handmade Peruvian friendship bracelet with a ticket explaining which mother made them when I return !!!

Bought my second hat as well - couldnt resist it, bit more expensive than the other one but its for a great cause.

We had the afternoon free but I wasnt feeling 100% - and I was still a bit overwhelmed by the Pumamarca experience so I slept for a bit ; did venture out late on and wandered around Cusco. Went into the Iglesia de Santa Teresa, because Id missed the Museum of Religious Art ( yeah, I was trying to have a cultured afternoon and go look at some of Tinto's paintings !!) and a service started the minute I arrived. Typical me didnt have the heart to walk out mid way, so I ended up standing at the back joining in with the locals.

Watched some older teenagers dancing in the square outisde the church before heading back for dinner - quite impressive more advanced versions of the dances we saw this morning ; all the kids seemed to be really into it, and picked up quite a pace as the dancing went on.

Wasnt really in the mood for dinner as I hadnt eaten anything all day and still felt dodgey, but we went to a lovely restaurant and I attempted Tacu Tacu - another Peruvian dish, consisting of fried pork-flavoured beans and rice topped with chicken, onion, salsa and a fried egg. Given my dodgey stomach not the best of choices but I managed about half of it.

Here's hoping Im going to be in better shape for tomorrow - got a horrendously early start !!

Posted by Sparkster 20:12 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

CUSCO

The Sacred Valley, Pisac, Urubamba and Ollytaytambo

sunny 25 °C
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Thursday 20th November ( I'm losing track of the days here - its bizarre !!!).

Sorry if this is sounding like a diary here - Im trying to keep it up to date mainly just so I can remember everywhere Ive been. Believe me, already after less than a week in its getting extremely difficult !!!

I woke up after a crap nights sleep and all I really wanted to do was stay in bed ; this whole altitude sickness thing is something ese ( maybe its just psychological but I woke up feeling really dodgey, like being semi pissed, but kept drinking the tea and the water and soldiered on ... the power of positive thinking eh ??? ( I can hardly believe Im writing this LOL - Mr Positivity himself )).

We crammed loads into today - doing a 180km round trip that took in the Scared Valley, Pisac, Urabamba and Ollytaytambo. Also blessed with sunny weather all day - surely its got to rain soon LOL.

Have to say I wasnt overely impressed when we stopped at a community project to feed Llama's and Alpaca's ( there is a difference - just dont ask me what, I wasnt paying attention). I also wasnt really in the mood to barter and buy bargains at Pisca market, but when we reached Ollytaytambo at lunchtime I was speechless. It was magnificent - the town sits right infront of the remains of an Inca fortress which totally dominates the skyline. We walked up it after lunch - so not the best of ideas, as by then the hoardes of tourist buses had arrived and my stomach was churning yet again. Found myself struggling to keep going up the steps so god only knows how I'll manage Machu Picchu. One of the group kept reminding me that I was unfit and not suffering from altitude sickness. I'll refrain from saying what I thought of that little juicy comment LOL !!!!

Was also extremely windy at the top so together with feeling a bit lightheaded anyway it wasnt the best of combinations - the views were worth it though, and I think I irritated the Aussies by constantly asking them to take my photo ( some habits die hard I guess- was just like being on holiday today at points !!!). Have to say the guide books dont do this place justice, but the scores of folk lining up infront and behind us to ascend it did take a little away from the experience.

Saw bits of the infamous Inca Trail , as near Ollytaytambo is where most people start from - so grateful Im not doing that, this way is definitely the best. Dont think Id' have coped - and thats without any rain !!!

We were at our highest today at around 3700km and as we twisted and turned our way back to Cusco in a round circle trip we got great views of the mountains and the snow covered glaciers that towered a good 2000km higher than us. Tell you, that wouldve killed me - my dizzyness kept coming and going, although it was bearable, just. I caused a great deal of hilarity on the bus by trying to unsucesfully take photos as we bumped our way through the valley. Quite a few blurred efforts I have to say, and a twisted neck/arm/shoulder from trying to get the best position.

I loved the journey back to Cuso, as the sun slowly went down. We stopped in what I thought was the middle of nowhere to take photos of Mount Veronica and I couldnt believe there were three children sitting selling woollen hats and other knitted bits by the road. Still cant fathom out how they got there !!! Anyway, couldnt refuse buying one - primarily cause I dont think they had much of a market, but also because they were the least pushiest I'd seen all day ( we were hounded in Pisac and Ollytaytambo - especially by a little boy who was trying to sell a water bottle holder !!).

So, I have what will probably be the first of many hats - which was remarkably cheap at 6 Peruvian Sol ( okay 10 really, cause I couldnt think to take the change !!). Sure it will come in handy for T in The Park 2009.

Really knackered when we finally got back to Cusco around 6.30pm - we came in through the back way, so I was able to see much more of the poverty Id' been expecting to see. Quite sobering, some of the houses were almost uninhabitable in my book.

We didnt go out as a group tonight - despite Enrique's best efforts, so I found myself out with two Australian couples, supposedly for a light snack after our fairly heavy lunch.

After a little pressure and a pisco sour to wet my appetite, I was persuaded to try the Alpaca - going for a grilled brochette. To be honest it was suprisingly good, quite a distinct taste and not in the least bit fatty. Didnt allow myself to think that 12 hours earlier we'd been happily feeding them on a Llama farm !!

Yvonne succumbed to the pressure fromone of the many local artists trying to sell their wares and bought two painted canvases - didnt have the heart to tell her that the one of his daughter 'Alicia' was exactly the same as the one on the restaurant wall !!!

Just incase you're all wondering how Im doing with the old souvenir buying, I managed to buy nothing apart from my hat today - impressive or what ??? Long may it continue.

Not having much success uploading photos - can just about manage it from my phone, but dont have a lead for doing it from the camera. Will try and take the odd one of two from the phone in future.

Tchau !!!

Posted by Sparkster 12:58 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

CUSCO

Much more like what I was expecting in Peru !!!

sunny 26 °C

Flew from Lima to Cusco this morning ( quite a bumpy flight at times - didnt like it !!) - will probably need to write more here later, just that I am totally shattered and think we're all suffereing a bit of altitude sickness or soroche tonight ( apparently its to be expected when you travel up to over 3400 metres).

Quite a bizarre feeling - I felt like I'd been on an afternoon drinking session, bit shaky, out of breath, and disorientated, and I could hear my heartbeat getting faster and faster as it tried to pump the blood round my body and make more red blood cells. Other folk were feeling dizzy too, and complaining of headaches - apparently we'll adjust to it over the next few days as we get used to the lack of oxygen up here. Refrained from my Pisco Sours tonight - but it took willpower ( youre advised to take it easy and eat lightly/refrain from alcohol for first few days - what a hardship it was !!!)

Cusco is a much nicer place than Lima - far more Peruvian in my book, although its definitely touristy, and we've been hassled all day by hundreds of locals wanting us to buy everything from Cocoa sweets to woollen jumpers. Im finding it hard to refuse the kids - theyre so cute.

We have a new guide now - Enrique, and our 4 other friends have joined us - a couple from East Anglia and two Canadian women. Have to say I havent really spoken much to them today. That takes us to 13 now, although its just the 9 of us that carry on after Machu Picchu

Did a whack of ruins today - so many infact that you start to get complacent and think 'Oh god, not another ruin' when in reality they're quiet astounding when you think how ahead of their times they were in terms of design etc.

Much prefer this hotel - the Hotel Cusco Plaza, not least cause you can get Wi-fi access in your bedroom. It has a lovely atmosphere and a nice indoor courtyard where we've all been drinking our Mate de coca ( Coca leaf tea) to help combat our nausea/altitude sickness. It really does work !!!

Im going to have to try and get some photos on here - its going to get really boring for you guys reading this without even the odd photo to break it up. Will try tomorrow ( Im already feeling like I sound like a sad anorak here LOL)

P.s. Played it very safe at dinner tonight and had another local chicken dish - those stupid Aussies went for LLama and Guinea Pig !!!!! Im not joking disgusting

Posted by Sparkster 21:40 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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