A Travellerspoint blog

Puno and Lake Titticaca

The floating Islands and Bolivian borders!


I now know that Cusco has two bus stations !!! One for freight and the other for buses. Seems the taxi driver thought we wanted to post ourselves Puno so once we found the right bus station we got the bus from Cusco to Puno. This was the first day bus we've got and probably the last. the day buses aren't as nice as the night ones but they're definatley alot more interesting. I've got used to people getting on the bus and selling jelly, popcorn and non-descript chunks of meat on sticks and other tasty snacks but this bus went the whole hog when we got a lady with a bag of roast lamb the size of her and a meat cleaver. you tell her how much you want to spend and she hacks away at the bag and gives you a chunk as well as covering the rest of the bus in little chunks of meat, at one point i thought she was going to serve me up!!!! tasty though...
Puno is a bit of a weird one where as in every other city we've just got a taxi to the Plaza del Armas, Punos is dead!!! everything is off the main square and they have like a mini Plaza del Armas where everything is hidden???? there is one street with all the bars and resturants with the hostles very tackfully hidden down back streets, but it litteraly is just one street everything else is resedential. at the bus station a woman called betty had very kindly given us a hefty discount of a hostel we just didn't know it yet. after looking round for a hostel we stumbled on the one she had offered us called 'Hostel Maison' we then realised we had been given a 30 soles discount EACH!! the owners didnt seem too happy but still gave us the room at the price after we took the key and ran!!!
Seeing what the town had to offer we quickly tried to book the floating islands and our bus out of there but as it happend it was harder than we thought. we ended up getting dinner at one the the 20 soles meal del dias and having a few drinks in a reggae bar, can't remember the name but its on the main strip. Worth going to if you're at a loose end the grafiti on the wall is wicked, the beer is cheap and its all done in black light....... most of the tours to the islands leave at 9 in the morning so we just walked down to the harbour and booked one from a small tour operater on the front. It's better than booking in town because they charge you for a taxi and it's only a five minute walk. Make sure when you book they give you the entrance to the islands in your price, we paid 15 soles each for the tour including the floating islands ticket, in town they try to charge 25 and then you have to pay entrance at the islands, RIP OFF! Tourist tax is a joke!!!!! The islands are cool though, they explain how they make them and how they live and give you a bit of history but after that its just becomes a bit of a tourist trap. They sell the same stuff you can get in puno just 3 times more expensive, and then moan when you won't buy anything!! There is an optional extra of getting on the the supposidly traditional straw boats accros to the market islands but after seeing that the one they were putting us on was simply plastic bottles wrapped in straw we decided against it. They charge an extra 8 soles for this pleasure and then tell you they have no change...... and then bring a power boat over to drag it back, really traditional!! Apart from the feeling that if there were no tourists they wouldn't even have them any more its well worth going to see, as the village itself is huge and really impressive. Even if you only see it from the boat and the views are stunning !!!
We lucked out being there on a saturday aswell, as they shut the whole town down and turn it into a massive market. You can get everything from puppies to car parts, literaly!! Even managed to find a litre bottle of jack daniels for £13, steal!! That night we ended up going to a chifa rersturant and learnt that if you order chicken soup with rice it means you get chicken rice and chicken soup... We did wonder why the waitress asked us if we were sure we wanted two lots, she then stood back and gloated as we struggled to even finish one dish!
Note to self, Buses don't run on sundays!!!! They run like a ghost service so we ended up at the station for about 5 hours waiting for the bus to go to Bolivia. The only other option is to get colectivos (local mini buses) to the boarder but then you have to get another from the boarder to Cocacabana and apparently they don't always run so you can end up stuck!!! We met two Aussies called Dom and Jess who were in the same situation as us. They thought they were leaving earlier on a different bus but turns out the two companies just sell the same bus at different prices, then combine them!
The boarder crossing is probably the funniest we've done yet. They get you off the bus, make you pay for the privalage of leaving the country and then make you walk over the boarder, shouting at you if you try to take a photo!!! Turns out that visa thingy they give you when you arrive in Peru is important after all, if you're smart enough to hide it in such a good place you can't find it you have to pay 5 soles to each official working to get a new one. Luckly there were only three people working that day! If you do lose it though just do it at the border, as if you do it in town they charge you a straight up 50. Once you walk accross you go into another shed to get your Bolivian visa, Dom one of the Aussies we met on the bus had a Maltise passport but according to the officals in Bolivia, its NOT part of the EU even though the passport says European Union on the front and he got charged 150 Bolivianos to enter.... sucker punch!!!!

loz x x x x

Posted by Lulu-Bug 08:26 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cusco and The Inca Trail

I'm engaged!!

all seasons in one day

We arrived in Cusco super early with no clue of where to stay. We made our way to the main Plaza and searched for Hostels. After an hour or so we found one that seemed ok and checked in... Got some boring stuff done like washing etc and explored the local market. Found some new horrors like cows faces and boxes of chicken feet! In the evening we met up with Dounia and Mehdi, a French couple we had done the Colca Canyon with. That night, we discovered we were wrong about the first Hostel! It was freezing and had the scariest hallway to the bathroom(think The Shining). There was also a power cut for 3 hours, so we decided to move on first thing the next day. We moved to the Hostel D and M were at, and we were so glad we did! Really nice old building with tonnes of character, cheap rooms and balconies that overlooked the centre of town. Spent the next two days wandering around Cusco, paying our final balance for the Inca Trail and generally getting organised for the big trek.
Friday 16th March we got picked up early by Peru Treks. Turned out an Aussie couple we met on the Colca were also in our group, along with a mixture of Canadians, Americans, Brits and Dutch people. Its a bit of a drive to the start, but the scenery was really pretty. The start of the trail was quite easy, with plenty of stops. A lot of people had over packed their bags and were struggling quite abit (they hired porters on the second day)! Im glad Loz had my roll mat and sleeping bag! Just before we reached the lunch campsite, we stopped in a local Andean 'bar'. They make the own Chiccha (beer/ale) by fermenting corn, it tasted a bit like Hoergarden beer, and most the locals were wasted. The first lunch was a taste of things to come and was absolutley amazing! Fresh avocado salads, soup and a main, washed down with Coca leaf tea (good for the altitude!). After lunch the trail got a little steeper but nothing too hard and we arrived at the campsite to find our tents all set up and dinner nearly ready!
On day two we awoke to breath-taking views of the valley and a huge brekkie! We had heard this day would be the hardest and it definatly was! For the first two hours we walked slowly uphill on a path. After, we tackeld 2 hours of uphill steps (some huge) before stopping for brunch. This was followed by another hour or so uphill steps to 'Dead Woman's Pass' which is one of the highest parts of the trail. The altitude makes it soooo much harder and you feel like you cant catch a breath. This part was made harder still as you could see the top the whole way and didnt seem to get any closer! It was great to get to the top though, and bloody freezing too! After this, we set off downhill to the campsite. The downhill was hard, as again, it was steps! Major jelly legs. Reached the campsite in time for lunch and a well earned siesta! Up again for a snack, then we sat and met all the porters and chefs whcih was interesting. You wouldnt beleive how much weight these guys carry and how quickly they do the trail (the record is 3 and half hours). Yet more food in the evening and some yummy veggie options too.
We awoke to day three after a very uncomfortable and cold night, as the campsite was so high and it had been stormy overnight. A mixed day of up and downhill trails, topped off by a descent down 2000 Inca steps - Ouch! There is plenty to see along the way though, like Inca temples and tonnes of waterfalls. The third campsite was crazy and on the side of a step hill. The most memeorable part of the third night was the cake the chef cooked! How he baked a full Gateau on the side of that hill with a camp stove I will never know!
Day four we set off at 3am to que to enter the Machu Picchu trail for 5.30am. We were the second group through, which was good as it was pissing it down. An hour of walking in the rain and we made it to The Sun Gate and our first (albeit misty) view of Machu Picchu. After another 45 mins walk, we arrived at the lost city of the Incas, just as the clouds and rain cleared! It is truly beautiful there. We of course stopped for a few cheesy group piccies at the view point aswell. Loz and I then made our way over to Huayna Picchu which is the mountain that over looks the whole city. Only 400 people are allowed to climb up a day due to accident levels. We were told it would take an hour, so were chuffed when we got to the top in 35 mins! The path up to the top is so scary! Huge, slippy steps and a 1000m drop off the side... Needless to say I was a little tense! But it was worth it, the views from the top are stunning, and it is so peaceful up there too. We explored the top levels for a bit then found a shady patch to chill. Then, completly out of the blue, Loz got down on one knee and proposed to me! It was the happiest moment of the trip and my life so far! That mountain will always be such a special place to both of us now and we were on cloud 9 climbing back down! We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the ruins then made our way to the town below Machu Picchu to celebrate with the rest of our tour group (16 in total). We were so lucky to have such a good mix of people in our group, as some groups looked like they had had a terrible time! We had to get a train then a bus back to Cusco that day. We ended up in the Mini bus with most of the group and the driver was a total maniac! He spent the three hour trip laughing and joking with our tour guide and drinking whiskey! I was relived to get back to our hostel that night and a comfy, warm bed!
We spent the next three days in Cusco, hanging out with new friends from the trek, having brekkie in bed and even treating ourselves to a posh engagement dinner! After we had eaten and drank our way through Cusco (i would recomend the choc fondue at the chocolate musuem!), we decided it was time to move on south to Puno.....

Posted by Lulu-Bug 09:16 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Arequipa and The Colca Canyon

An 'easy trek'

all seasons in one day 26 °C

The sandboarding was amazing, well worth taking the time to do. They rag you out in to the desert in 9 man dune buggies, at times taking you almost vertical and at the last minute whipping it round so you dont roll...... who needs theme parks. They take you out until you cant see anything but sand and then give you a wooden board with velcro foot straps and let you ride down the sandunes. If you do the last run of the day too you can see the sun go down in the desert. Also you end up driving back at night which is sketchy as hell and you cant see a thing ..... niether can the driver.
After the sand boarding we got the night bus to Arequipa, the ride was alright but wasn't the best bus we've been on again get the ticket from the station ..... we will learn at some point. after Huacachina, Arequipa is a little daunting all the bus stations are together its a little like a bus super station??? We just grabbed a taxi straight to the Plaza Del Armas, the taxi driver liked the beatles but only had one song we heard it 4 times. the Plaza Del Armas is the town square basically the architecture is something else especially at night almost worth just going to arequipa to see it. just standing there as well and a hostel will find you lucy went off to look whilst i stayed with the bags by the time she got back i was inundated with flyers. If you shop around you can get a good price though.
The markets are meant to be some of the best in peru, they were huge !!!!! Definatley worth going to see especially the food ones. A little like the ones in Huarez where you can literaly buy anything. Theres a huge monastary you can go into as well which is like a city inside a city but we were a little deterd when we found out it as 60 soles per person to go into and then you had to pay for a guide ... not very christian..... theres also a park zoo thing at the top of town that has a view point where you can see most of Arequipa from. After a bit of deliberation we decided to do the Colca Canyon, its meant to be an easy hike, they lied....... thought lucy was going to kill me at some points as i had told her it would be an easy walk in the country side. Its bigger than the grand conyon and the people that live there believe they are born from a volcano and have a devil rock. we did the two day hike because we were running short on time, turns out its just the three day compressed into 2 days.
On the first day you drive out and go to the highest point to see the condors hunting. The views are stunning then its some more tourist tax to get into the canyon itself, 70 soles. we shopped around to get a good deal on the tour however the less you pay the less english you guide talks, luckly we were with a french couple who could speak fluent spanish and english. Seven hours on the first day split by lunch in your guides village, where the chillies are HOT (kinda made the mistake of saying i didnt think the first batch were so he burnt my mouth off with some others). Its insane though how many times the climate changes as you desend and assend the canyon. You finish at an oasis at the bottom of the canyon. Its a little like a prison camp but a bit prettier. We found a scorpion in one of the huts but the pool was really nice. Then its a two and a half hour slog up a donkey track at 4 in the morning on the second day to earn you breakfast, though when you hit the top its the best feeling in the world. They take you to hot springs on the second day as well as a little reward again expect tourist tax but well worth paying for. On the drive back you go up to a snow topped mountain for a snow ball fight as well, a chance to get our own back on the guide although i think he definatley won.
When we got back to town we figured we would actually look in the guide book at the hike to compare it with the Inca and found out this trek is for experiecned hikers and should not be taken lightley, also much to Lucys relief its alot harder than the Inca although we would both needed the 4 days we had to recover before it..... snoooze. When we got back we headed straight to Cusco on the night bus, we managed to convince the guy who sold us the bus tickets to give us a lift to the bus station as well. We almost managed to convince the bus guy to put an english movie on as well but instead we ended up with it in spanish with Spanish subtitles too, luckly the movie was called 'Ice Quake' so we weren't that bothered.

loz x x x

Posted by Lulu-Bug 09:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Pisco, Paracas and Huacachina

More sunburn and crazy peruvian festivals


So the bus ride from Huaraz was interesting! 8 hours to lima and another 5 to Pisco (should have been 3 but the bus driver kept picking up locals for extra pocket money). We, or maybe more me, were super excited about Pisco. I'd read it was a popular beach resort and was looking forward to a swim... How wrong I was! Our guide book was printed in 2006 and there was a huge earthquake in 2007 that destroyed 80% of the bulidings. So all the places of interest and hostels i'd circled had gone! Nevertheless, we made the best of our day there, and found a nice hostal. We decided we'd had enough eating out so bought some food to cook in (a great thing about most hostels is you can use the kitchen for free). Its almost as much money to cook yourself, but it was nice being in the kitchen again! Met a nice couple and played cards for a while. The next day, we both bought new caps, and dying from laptop envy, purchased a nice little blue Acer notebook laptop of our own! It was cheap and it is so much easier to stay in touch... This blog would never get written on my i-pod!

We moved on just before lunch down the coast an hour to Paracas. We had heard the backpackers scene had moved there since the earthquake and i'm so happy we went! We found a great little hostal and moved into a room next to another English couple, Becca and Tom. After a quick explore (i got a braid and feather put in my hair to match all the other travellers!), we went out for dinner with B and T. I had my first 'Cerviche' experience (raw fished soaked in lime juice) and it was bloody lovely! Then we headed for the beach as there was a small music festival. It was bizarre to say the least (although i did enjoy the Whitny Houston impersonater). The locals were certainly in a good mood and the free beer was flowing all night!

The next morning we all got up early for a boat tour of the balletas islands. They're referred to as 'the poor man Galapogos' but I wasnt disappointed. Tonnes of local wildlife and lots of very cute penguins! Although the smell was a bit overwhelming, it was a great morning. Spent the rest of the afternoon and next day hanging out with B and T, cooking and drinking beers and Pisco sours. We had abit of an ant infestation in our room, which was annoying, but I guess it'll happen in a few places with this heat!

We moved onto Huacachina yesterday after saying our goodbyes to new friends. This place is a beautiful oasis in the desert! It truely is peaceful and serene and I could spend hours relaxing by the lagoon. We went on an epic sand dune trek to the top, which was so hard but worth the stunning views across the dunes, and running down after was super fun! 45 mins up, 2 mins down! Im beginning to wonder if Peruvians have a thing for avocados, having had my 10th starter of avocado in a row last night! Today, we have been swimming in the lagoon, which is supposed to have healing properties...?! Later, we are going sandboarding and dune buggying, which looks terrifying (you can hear people screaming as they drive off!). Then we're off on an overnight bus to Arequipa that will take 12 hours.... Wish us luck!

x x x Lucy x x x

Posted by Lulu-Bug 10:43 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

eco truly and huaraz

hare krishna and altitude sickness......


The eco truly village was something else really impressive what they have acheived there, almost totaly self sistanable. Although prison beds, compost toilets and 30 degree heat don't mix as easily together as you would think. There is a real sense of peace there tho well worth going to see and it breaks up the long bus journey out of Lima. We even got to help build some of the new Truly's, the huts they live in there. We went on a long walk and over one of the sand dunes found a hidden cave and there was a massive mural of Narasimha, one of the hare krishna protectors. Had a really good time there only real regret was that we couldnt stay longer. they do yoga every morning for about 2 hours which we obviously joined in with ...... im more flexiable than i thought however sufferd the next day for going at it so hard... well the chill out at the end. All the food there is grown and prepared there, hope you like sweet potatoes and lentils! Everyone volunteers for 3 hours a day if you dont want to build you can work in the feilds, kitchen or painting but only until about two then the afternoon is yours and its right on the beach. if you want to you can go and see them worship each day and they do it twice a day once in the moring at about 4 and again at night before dinner. they dont try and force their religion on you insted just inform you of why and what it is they believe in what they do. theres loads of chanting and music and i found it really intresting to see and even went to the one at 4 in the moarning, lu stayed in bed. they are really welcoming there and make you feel right at home. The buildings are really impressive and there are loads of amazing mosaiks and paintings around the complex. all in all i really enjoyed our time there deffinatley not going to become a krishna but if they can create a place like Eco Truly im alrite with them doing what they do.

Whilst we were there we met a girl called kitty who was heading up to Huaraz in the mountains and decided to tag along as she spoke fluent spanish which made it really easy. We ended up in a hostel called Andes Camp and Lodge a bit of the beaten track but cheap and Frank the owner is sound, couldnt seem to do enough to help us. On the first day up there we went hiking to the Wilkawain ruins, pre inca, and the monterry hot springs. The runis were a waste of time not really that intresting just expensive to see, we spent all of 5 mins in there but the hike was amazing we came across a kids summer camp or something, ziplines, the works even paint ball....... the hike took about 3 hours but we weren't rushing. we got ambushed by a load of local kids wanting buiscits and then chased because they thought we hadnt given them enough, cheeky bastards. the hot springs weren't quite what we expected but they were nice. They were brown and smelt like rotten eggs but once you were in it was ok! We found another local dish as well called Chifa basically just mucky rice but its good and you get huge portions. the next day i went to colcacolcha?? lagoon not to sure if thats how its spelt but the views are amazing and there were literally just 2 locals up there had the whole place to myself. Lu stayed in town as she was pretty burnt from the previuos hike! If you end up in huaraz make sure you go to the market as well its nuts and is split in to two,one side they just have guinea pigs cut in half and pigs and other types of meat hanging everywhere and the other half is just loads and loads of brika brak stores, i managed to get a soap box with barny on it, small things and all that. Spent the rest on the night drinking in the hostel again and playing shit head there dosent seem to be much of a night life up there apart from at the weekend but the hostel is cheap and you can have your own music on. the viewing point is really impresive as well although you've got to be carful up there we went up with Frank, the hostel owner, and a police car follwed us as apparently people gut mugged up there quite a bit. Well worth the risk tho just dont take anything you can have stolen or just a bigger knife! the buses up there are all in the same part of town so it makes it easy to shop arround and get the best prices although some of the buses are PIMP you can save quite a bit just going semi cama instead of cama, thats what the buses are graded in. When we got on the bus to leave, we got finger printed and filmed... Can't say theyre not security consciuos!

we headed to Pisco

loz x x

Posted by Lulu-Bug 09:26 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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