A Travellerspoint blog

The end of bolovia

Tell you all a story 'bout the decos and the thief in the night


The drive to potosi was very weird, we stopped for a cook group lunch and spent our time moaning about the heat - man it was hot!!! Then ten minutes later it was snowing and then before we one it there was a huge storm, then rain. Just strange.

On arrival in potosi we were faced with a carnival f marking bands and dancers and amazing costumes.  It was very flamboyant and went against the shithole description that we'd been given of potosi.  

Long drive days take their toll and I was feeling proper rubbish when we arrived in potosi so I bunked off that night and stayed in the hotel with a bag of crisps
And a cheese roll for company.  It was actually quite nice to have some time to myself for a change.  Quiet time is very rare on this trip!  When everyone came back from dinner we watched a documentary about the local mine that we'd be visiting during our stay.

The next day I was back on form and ready to see the sights of potosi.  At 8:30 I went back to the truck to retrieve my left bag and spotted a very drunken man staggering about. This was more like what we had been warned about.

Potosi is a mining town and home to the "mountain that eats men". Over the life of the mining industry in this town it's thought that 8 million people have died in the mines.  It's very old fashioned but home to silver, tin and zinc so very much the source of income for most of the locals.

After a quick tour of the royal mint museum which was quite
Possibly the most boring thing we've done so far (I dont do museums), we headed off to pay a visit to the mines.  On the way we stopped at the miners Market where the local miners go each morning to buy supplies for their days work.  This includes mining equipment but also coca leaves which they chew to surpress appetite through long shifts in the mines, alcohol, the 96% stuff - there is a huge alcohol problem in the mines due to poor working conditions and dynamite!  We were talked through it all and then encourage to buy gifts for the miners. Most of us bought coca leaves and drinks but some bought dynamite and fuses, anything for a photo with some explosives.

We took the tour through the mine, it was pretty nasty in there and we didn't even go into the worst parts. We sat with he devil tio, who the miners worship. They visit daily and share coca leaves, cigarettes and alcohol with tio. They believe if they keep the devil happy, he will give them a good days mining.  It's a bit weird sitting in the mine with a papier mâché model of the devil covered in alcohol and with a fag in his mouth, but each to their own I guess.

Owing to the carnival and it being a Sunday there were no miners in the part we went to, so our guide decided to make use of our dynamite and explode some whilst we were in there. I admit I was a bit freaked out by this, I didn't fancy being one of the men eaten by the mountain and we were pretty slow moving in there.  Anyway I lived to tell the tale and I can tell you
It was one hell of an explosion. You felt it right in your gut. We had to get out after that because of the dust that the explosion creates, so that pretty much concluded our tour. We found some people outside to share our gifts with and then headed back to the hotel.

On the drive back to the hotel we saw the true effects of the alcoholism in the town. There were drunks everywhere and one particularly bad one who'd taken a fall and split his head.  This town was vile.

In the interest of avoiding the town and having some fun all the girls decided to go buy Christmas decs, wine and choc and go decorate the truck.  We had so much fun that afternoon, lots of singing and dancing on the truck and general girl bonding. We were on there for hours.

Eventually we decide to take ourselves to the Chinese next to the hotel for some grub.  This is where I had my bag stolen.  Annoyingly I had taken my camera and phone to get pics of the truck and lost the lot.  All of my pics of ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, of which there was 2000, gone in an instant.  

The police eventually came and took me and Claire the guide to the police station on the back of their mopeds.  That was an experience in itself and I might have actually smiled for a couple minutes.  We gave our report  (not easy as none of the police spoke english) and were told to return the next day to collect a report number and document.

The next day we returned and we saw the true carnage of potosi.  They were releasing the prior nights arrests, most of whom were still more drunk than I've ever been.  The police station itself was horrible, bare bulbs and corrupt policemen everywhere. We even got a glimpse of the corrupt lawyers who got a mention in marching powder.  Needless to say they managed to "lose" our report and after scouring loads of notebooks we started again.  We had to pay for the report which contains barely any of the information we gave them and then we could finally get the hell out of there.  Everyone was waiting on the truck for us so we left straight away.

I spent that day on the truck mourning my photos.  Totally gutted.  I can't believe all of my memories of those countries, and some of the best times of my
Life could be taken so easily.  This was going to take a lot of getting over!

That day we were driving to uyuni in preparation for the salt flats.  It's another small and rubbish Bolivian town.  Most people headed straight for the extreme fun pub to drink the most random of drinks out of even more random cups. They need to be explained, not for everyones ears!  I borrowed some money and headed off to replace my purse and start getting things organised to claim insurance and get my things back. I did manage to make t or a couple drinks later, but a quiet one compared to some of the others.

The next day we headed off in jeeps to the salt plains, the biggest in the world.  We'd had a lot of rain so we were very lucky in that we could play taking
Perspective pictures on the dry salt and taking reflection shots on the wet stuff.  We had a
Lot if fun messing around, just what I needed to bring me out of my robbery blues.

On the way back our jeep broke down 5 times, we honestly though we'd never make it back home. It was pretty freaky for a while there.

Anyway, all the excitement of the day took it out of us so we retired to the hotel pizza place for some dinner before an early night.  Some long drive days ahead of us off roading, so we needed to get some sleep.

Final day in bolivia is a drive day and one that can't end soon enough.  We've just passed more flamingos and I've dulled because I cant take pictures to share with everyone back home.  I've had some great times in bolivia, but it's by far my least favourite place in south America and I can't wait to leave it behind and hit the red wine regions of chile and Argentina. Some fun times ahead!!!

Posted by selson 19:30 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

Arriving in bolovia

Titicaca from the unpolluted sode


The drive to the Bolivian border should have been a short one but owing to the fact that the crossing is in the middle of nowhere and that map reading skills are not in abundance we got lost. As it happened it was a very welcome detour.  We were continuing to follow our way around lake titicaca which is shared by Peru and Bolivia, and or detour took as past hundreds of flamingos who have currently migrated from chile. Flamingos are amazing so I was loving seeing them. Yet to see them in flight though. Maybe later in the trip.  We also found a town in mid celebration of something or other and got stuck behind a band and lots of dancers. They seemed a little shocked to see us.

Anyway, just when we'd lost all hope of finding the border and our other truck we turned a corner and were faced with the border, my third overland crossing and the eighth of my
Whole trip. The novelty is definitely wearing off. We checked out of Peru, stocked up on Peruvian sublimes, the best choc we've found so far and then  took the short walk through no mans land to entrance to Bolivia. Apart from a couple rude bolivians pushing and shoving it was very easy for the passengers. They didn't want to let carmen, our truck through so there was time for boredom to kick in, for us to wedge a frisbee on the customs roof and spend some time climbing about to retrieve it and for us to dress chris as Santa, Claire in grass
Skirt and coconut bra and me as a random blue wigged freak. I'm not convinced they really wanted to let us in. But we needed to play with the stuff on the other new truck. 

Eventually they let us and the trucks through and off we headed to copacabana (not the Brazilian one). Copacabana is a very small town on the Bolivian side of lake titicaca. The nice unpolluted side.

First night we had time for dinner and drinks. The most amazing homemade chilli, my
Lizzie would be proud :-) 
The next day we headed out for the isle de sol or island of the sun. The boat looked nice and we fought for our spot on the top of the boat.  Bad decision.  It was absolutely freezing and we were stuck there for the next 2.5 hours. I have never been so cold. 

On arrival at the island we took a walk up to some inca ruins where we had lunch and were shown more random far fetched animal shapes in the ruins. We then had the option to take a 3 hour trek across the island. Im glad I did it, it was pretty hard going in places, (I don't think I'll ever get used to walking hills at altitude), but the views were absolutely stunning, the sky was bluer than I've ever seen and the lake was perfectly clear. Beautiful.

After the hike we took the long boat ride back to copacabana before hitting a bar and watching the sun set with a huge ice cold beer.  

Next morning we took the drive through to la Paz, the end of this leg of the trip and where we would say goodbye to some amazing people.  We were not really looking forward to this.
This journey was not without a story though. Shortly after the crossing we hit a road block. Loads of bolivians stood blocking the road over whatever issue it was they had that day.  Apparently it happens a lot. We did some off roading for a little while before coming across a massive ditch that we needed to cross. We all had to abandon trucks and find stones and rocks o fill the ditch to allow the trucks to cross. Some of the locals helped us out and in no time we'd  made our path out of there and were racing back to the trucks before the road block moved and blocked us again. All very exciting stuff.

On arrival in la Paz we were immediately made aware of how crazy this city is. The city is make overpopulated, especially compared to what we had seen so far and the place was teaming with Market stalls and people everywhere you looked. 

We had all been looking forward to doing some shopping for warm clothes in la Paz as we'd heard it was the cheapest place and we needed to be prepared for cold weather in Patagonia. We weren't disappointed with the amount of clothes on offer but we were surprised when faced with some quite rude vendors who were clearly fed up with bartering tourists. It was hard work but we got everything we needed and saw a few things we definitely didn't want to (dried llama fetus being one good example). We had a four course lunch for £2 including drinks before heading back to the hotel for our death road cycle briefing.

I was freaking out a bit by the bike ride as it's not really
Something I'd normally chose to do but the briefing put my mind at ease a little and before long I was fully signed up with all my safety equipment ordered and ready to go!

The next morning we had an early start as we were being collected for the ride at 6:30am.  We took the long drive up to the top of la cumbre where we would start the cycle ride. We were told a little bit about the road on the journey up there but
Most of the scary stories were saved for after the ride on the way back up the road. We were given all of our safety clothing though so we were set to go when we reached the top. We were introduced to our bikes at the top. The first time I have ever ridden a proper mountain bike with dual suspension and hydraulic brakes, it took a bit if getting used to, but we had time to cycle around a little before the start.  We were given some instruction on the safest way to ride the bikes and take the corners and were told how the day would work. The 64km ride would be split into 15 sections and we'd stop at the end of each to all catch up with each other, we were also told that at any time we could get on the van and abandon the ride if we weren't comfortable with the ride. I knew my stubbornness would never let me do this.

Just before we started we followed local tradition and gave offerings to packs mother (mother earth) for a safe ride. This involved sprinkling the local 96% spirit onto our wheels, then the floor before finally taking a sip ourselves. That stuff burns. It's wrongness in a bottle, as we'd also see in potosi later in the trip.

So off we went. The first part of the ride was on relatively used roads so we were facing traffic but this part was on Tarmac so not to challenging. It was however absolutely freezing as we were above the clouds. Within minutes I couldn't feel my hands, which happen to be quite important on a downhill bike ride.
A couple legs into the ride and we hit the cloud and that's when the sleet came.  My goggles fogged up and I could see nothing at all.  Then came the rain, by now my goggles had unfogged but now I couldn't see for rain.  It had also soaked through my "waterproof" trousers and my legs were freezing.  By the time we finished this leg we were through the cloud but we had lost a few riders to the van and everyone still cycling was very uncomfortable. Proper teeth chattering cold.

At this point we hit the original part of the death road so we ha to pay our toll and make a decision as to whether to complete the uphill part which was an unofficial part of the ride. Only the most testosterone pumped of the group did this part and the rest of us took the opportunity to warm up and dry off for a little while.

Only one person made it through the whole uphill section but at this point we all biked up again and got ready for the hard part of the ride, 3m wide, winding road complete with hairpin bends, landslides, many crosses marking where people have died, the roughest terrain complete with "baby head" rocks and worst of all sheer drops on one side the whole way.  This was not for the feint hearted. 

It was ridiculously hard on your arms, your hands cramped from holding the brakes the whole way down (5 hours in total) and there was the constant fear of breaking too hard or hitting a baby head and coming off and over the edge.  That said, the views were spectacular and there was something brilliant about the ride.  I dont think I stopped grinning the whole way down.  I absolutely loved it!!

I was ready to get off though when we reached the bottom.  And thankfully at our final stop
In coroico, we visited an animal sanctuary, where we were first given a cold beer, a buffet lunch and then taken on a tour to see the monkeys who were totally free and climbed all over us.  

We had the option to go off to the zip lines but i stayed back for more monkey time. I got some amazing photos of those guys. They'll never be seen now but I had so much fun taking them, it was the best day in a long time. 

The following day we were all feeling the effects of the previous days riding so after a slow start most of us barely managed to go very far.  

I was a little bit obsessed with going to see San pedro prison having revelry read the book so we took the short walk there.  It was a lot smaller than I had expected but there was the
Longest queue outside, I guess of friends and relatives trying to pass food and money through the gates to the prisoners who were eagerly waiting in the courtyard.  It was a bit strange being able to see them all through the gates and seeing the home of all the corruption that I had read about.  Soon enough on my trip
I'd find myself in a Bolivian police station and see this even clearer but that's another story.

After the prison we took a life threatening taxi ride to the lunar valley.  Five in a cab and we were forced to have two on the front seat before hairing around the city. It wasn't much fun. Lunar valley is this weird load of rock formations not the outskirts of the city, a bit like being on the moon (hence the name).  It was good to see but we were all a little tired to appreciate it properly.

All that was left to do in la Paz was to have a little farewell party to say goodbye to those leaving us.  A great night drinking the strongest caiprinhas I have ever tasted (they beat marcelos!) some sad goodbyes and then to bed before the long long drive to potosi the next day.....

Posted by selson 19:25 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

Final day in cusco and puno

A short an uninteresting blog to keep you going


Our final day in cusco was very slow starting owing to aching muscles and tiredness after the trek. We managed a wander around the centre for a little while before grabbing another amazing toasty at jacks and then heading back to the hotel to meet up with the inca trail guides for a football match, community trek vs classic. Obviously I didn't actually join in but it was nice to see the more local parts of cusco and to sit in the sun for a couple of hours. 

We had a quick meeting back at the hotel before heading out for final farewell drinks for the guides. Unfortunately they never made it out but we still enjoyed the local bar that they directed us to, before heading home ready for the long drive to Puno the next day.

The drive to Puno literally took all day and we arrived after dark to a nasty hotel in what seemed like a rough part of town. It's fair to say that none of us liked it so we only made it out for a quick bite before returning to the horrible hotel for an early night.

The next day we were to take a boat ride to the floating islands of Uros. We were surprised in the morning by some local transport to take us to the dock where we'd pick up our boat to the islands. The crew had hired a load of local pedal powered tuk Tuks for the journey. It was great fun and the reactions of the locals to 35 gringos being cycled around their town was great.

We picked up our boats and started the 30 minute boat ride to the islands.  The islands have become a little bit of a tourist trap but were originally created by the uros people to escape te mainland when the Spanish invaded. The islands are made using the roots of the reeds which are gathered in small sections and held together by stakes. On top of the roots they place the reeds themselves and then they anchor the whole structure so that it's static. There is a group of them and each is relatively small with maybe 10 people living on each.

When we arrived at the island we were greeted by the local women and it was explained to us how the islands were built and the lifestyle that the inhabitants live. After this we were split into small groups and taken into one of the homes.  

The houses are small with only a bed and a couple of benches to sit on. That said, some of them are quite developed and have solar power to enable the husbands to watch the football. 
The wives told us about the crafts that they produce, with the women mainly producing tapestries and the men making little replica reed boats which they then sell to visiting tourists.  

After the talk we were asked if we wanted to dress up in the local clothes. I jumped at the chance and before I knew it I was dressed in a bright yellow full skirt, a waistcoat and had pompoms around my neck. The locals actually tie the pom pins in their hair and it indicates their marital status.

Once we were all dressed we were given the chance to buy some of their craftwork before heading out on a boat trip around the islands on a reed boat.

After the boat ride we returned to the island to return our clothes and say our goodbyes to the local women. They waved us off from the islands with a rendition of row row row your boat and then we were on our way. 

Time for a quick lunch of the local speciality, trout, before heading back to the trucks to make our way to the Bolivian border.

Posted by selson 14:02 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Cusco and machu picchu!



We were told cusco would be amazing but I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. We arrived to find an amazing colonial hotel awaiting us. In comparison to some of the places I've stayed along the way this would be a little but of luxury before the inca trek. 

We arrived at the hotel just in time to head out for dinner. Following some disastrous group meals, this time lonely planet was consulted and we found an amazing little restaurant called Los Perros close to the hotel. Not only did I have an amazing burger which came pretty close to Ferg burger in nz, but it was just a really nice place to chill. After sitting there for some time we met the crew in paddy's for a quick beer before heading back to stock up on sleep before the trek.

The following morning we had our inca trail briefing. This is the first time we were to hear exactly what the community trek would involve. It was a bit disappointing to hear that we wouldn't actually trek to machu picchu but we still had some tough trekking ahead of us and we'd still see everything we wanted to anyway.  Our lead guide Smithy was so enthusiastic he managed to excite even the most pessimistic among us.

We were handed our bags (lucky 13 for me) and we were all set to go shop for those things that we forgot to bring for a long hike. Three pairs of socks and a good look around cusco later, we found ourselves in the chocolate museum. Oh my god it smelt
Amazing and the hot chocolate was the best ever!!  

That night was a quiet one as community Trekkers had a 5:30 breakfast start so early to bed. We managed to squeeze in a visit to jacks cafe for a wicked
Toasted sandwich and then a final visit to the main square for a look at the view of all the
Lights in the hills that surround the city.

So the following morning the time had finally come to leave the drago crew behind for five days and start the experience that most of us had been waiting for! We boarded the bus and headed off for our first inca ruin, saqsaywaman which was on the hill overlooking cusco. This is where we first learned about how the incas built the structures. It's amazing how they managed to build anti seismic structures (the Walls were build angled inwards) and perfectly interlocking stones let alone transport them to the sites. It's fascinating stuff and I admit I've become a little bit of an inca geek along the way.

The next ruin was Pisac, this ruin was much bigger and the first one we would see with the incredible terraces that the incas built into the hillside for growing crops. From a distance they look like steps in the hillside but on closer inspection they are much bigger and enables the incas to grow food. The terraces here were huge.  They are classed a world heritage site so are no longer in use, but if they were to put them back to use apparently all of the food shortage problems in Peru would be resolved.

This is the first time we would have to stretch our imaginations and see the animals in the structures. This one supposedly was shaped like a llama, but we would eventually see pumas, condors, faces the lot. Some more easy to see than others.

Once we'd done the ruins all that was left to do was to drive to A little town and have lunch and pick up Alberto our other guide before heading to buy ponchos before making our way to the start of our first trek. 

On arrival at the start point we were greeted by our 7 porters who would be responsible for looking after the horses and llamas who would be carrying our bags and tents and setting up camp for us each night. We also met our cooks here. There were three of them and we'd find out
Later that they were amazing cooks. Food was not going to be an issue on this trek! 

So with horses and llamas loaded up off we set for the first of our hikes, a half day hike to our first stop. 

The first hike was from around 3300 metres to 4000 metres. The scenery was absolutely amazing and whilst the hike was tough as our lungs are not as cut out for altitude as the locals, and the hike was very steep, the excitement of it all overruled and we had an amazing day. As we approached our camp, we could see our row of tents ready and waiting for us. Guess this is what's it's like if you
Pay or the posh tents at glasto. 

By the time we reached camp the sun had gone and it was absolutely freezing, time to don as many clothes as possible and get into my sleeping bag for a little rest. Next thing I know there's a man outside the tent calling us for afternoon tea. Sarah and I had both been sleeping so we dragged ourselves half asleep to the dining tent where we were greeted with a long dining table, lamps and hot chocolate and crackers. We were only in there long enough to make our drink before i heard a little trump. I obviously thought it was Sarah but then Herman stuck his head in and asked for directions to the toilet. Very childish but this was very funny at the time. I guess you had to be there. It was during the laughter that I deteriorated ad got sick. Not sure if it was the altitude or the ongoing south American tummy bugs that are going around but I was forced to head to bed and miss the first dinner.  That was a rough night but Sarah was brilliant, the squat loos weren't but we made it through.

The following morning we were woken up by the chefs who came to each of the tents to deliver us a cup of tea and then again with a bowl of hot water to wash with. So lovely when you still feel a little rough. 

 Owing to feeling pretty nasty, I took advantage of the ambulance horse and let it carry my day pack for the day. A wise decision as this was the hardest walk where we would reach 4800 metres, higher than the classic inca trail and higher than we'd been so far. 

After a breakfast of porridge and toast we left the porters to pack everything away (theyd
Leave after us every day and arrive at camp and be set up before us) and began what we'd been told would be the toughest day of the entire trek as we'd e climbing for about 5 of the 10 hours. They weren't wrong, this walk was hard. The terrain was tough as it was all loose gravel and uneven and was as steep as a very steep thing.  I had managed to bag myself a nice set up with Sarah in front pacing me and ryan (a nurse) behind plying me with medication and applying sun cream. They were amazing that day. I don't think I'd have made it up there without them.

The saving grace was that we knew we were walking towards a glacier and when we eventually reached the pass we were faced with a thing of beauty. The most amazing glacier and snow capped mountains. It was absolutely stunning and I quickly forgot the pain of the trek and amazingly also completely got over my
Sickness. I loved it at the top there.

The downhill was even harder than the uphill, the terrain was slippery and I can't remember the amount of times I saw lieve or team japan fall over. My time would come later :-) that said, I was over feeling sick ad was ready to start enjoying myself. Poor Sarah had to put up with my conversation for the next 4 days, but there was a lot of
Laughter and team Sarah quickly got a reputation for itself.

After about an hour into our descent we saw a tent and a dining table set up in the distance. This was our lunch spot. This was one of my
Favourite memories of the trek and one that makes me realise why I chose the community trek over the classic. We were in the middle of nowhere, with not another tourist is sight eating our four course lunch with nothing but the glaciers for
Company. I can't explain how incredible it was. It was bloody freezing though, but nothing hot juice, a Nice bowl of Ginger and veggie soup, Pasta, pears and sandwiches wouldn't fix!! So
Much food and I hadn't even mentioned the snack bag we were given each day, with fruit and chocolate or biscuits.

With bellies full we continued our descent down to camp. Tonight we were to stay at a school which is part of the community project. Normally we would have done something project related on the trek but we didn't have time which was a bit of a shame but if I'm honest I was way too tired! We picked our tents, sorted our stuff and chilled for a while. The boys played a game of football with the porters and some of the locals and the rest of us chilled out, looking through the stalls that some of the ladies had set up outside our tents or just watching the football.

Once the football was done, the porters set up the dining tent and we headed in for afternoon tea. This time it was popcorn and hot drinks, accompanied by smithy's game of ambitious, which is a little like yahtzee. We played through to dinner, where we were faced with another amazing 3 course meal, complete with the best chocolate pud ever! 

That night was also the start of pant-gate. It's a long story, but I think the pants never did get claimed.

The following morning we went through the same routine, had quinoa porridge and headed out for the next and final hike before machu picchu. This hike didn't reach the same heights as the previous day and was only
3.5 hours climbing. We were told it was easier than the previous day. They lied.

This was the hardest walk I've ever done. It was so incredibly steep and at times felt really unsafe. We were walking almost vertically on very slippery terrain again with a sheer drop on one side. Breathing was also almost impossible due to the altitude. Those hours were the longest hours ever. 

When we eventually reached the pass it was all worthwhile, the views were stunning, beautiful lakes and waterfalls and rivers the pain immediately disappeared again.

Downhill was awful. It was equally as steep and I took many tumbles. One particularly bad one saw me landing on two rocks which left me with a huge purple
Bruised in my bum and some cuts too. It's fair to say I couldn't get off the steep stuff quick enough and was very happy when I hit the flat again. 

We had lunch at another school, sitting on the tiny childrens chairs. We were fed another four course meal but this time it didn't touch the sides. Soup, fried chicken and pork rice, passion fruit and sandwiches aplenty! After lunch we basked in the sun for a bit and watched Luke entertain the kids with his gorilla impression. They loved it, but eventually we had to leave.

The final part of the trek was really nice, we followed re river through to our final destination, the treat we'd all been waiting for, the hot pools.  What we hadn't appreciated was that we were actually camping next to the hot pools, so we arrived and literally jumped straight in. It was so nice to ease the aching joints and was quickly followed up by afternoon tea, dinner and wine :-) pudding today was jelly which the chefs prepared and
Left in the river to set, amazing idea, they were too good.

After dinner we had to say farewell to the porters who would not be travelling with us the next day and hit the sack as we had a 3am start the next day.

3am wake ups are horrible, we had no pampering this morning, we would get breakfast at the hotel when we arrived. They were even taking the tents down whilst we were still in them.

After a 3 hour bus ride we reached our final stopover before machu picchu the next day. We were staying in a nice hotel. We had a lovely breakfast of pancakes before saying goodbye to the chefs and Alberto our guide. Only smithy would
Come with us tomorrow. We spent the rest of the day looking around some more ruins with smithy and checking out the markets. 

So finally it was the big day. As we did the community trek we didn't take the usual
Route to machu picchu via the sungate, but instead we took the machu picchu train. It felt like we were cheating but we later found out from the others that the sungate option involved queuing with 200 other tourists for an hour before the big rush to get to the sun gate for the 10 minute view of sunrise. The picture look amazing but I'm very glad I took the other option.

We were all quite excitable on the train. A 90 minute ride and a short bus journey and we were at the gates. We got our passports stamps ad began the walk to see the amazing ruins. It's quite possibly the
Most amazing sight I've ever seen, it really does blow your mind. I can't explain it properly here but I have photos to share

We had a tour of the city before heading for the tough hour long hike up huayna picchu the tallest and closest mountain overlooking machu picchu. The view from the top was worth the climb. It was amazing and I decided then not to bother with the sun gate, this was better than anything I'd see from there. I felt very lucky to climb it as numbers are very limited.

When we finally finished our tour we all headed back down to Aguascalientes the town nearest to the site for a well deserved beer. 

It was a long journey back to cusco, but we were greeted back at the hotel by a very excitable
Jonny and Claire. It was like coming home. And home had been proper christmas'd. We even had our welcome home wine from christmas cups. It was a great end.

Those of us taking on the 24 hour challenge headed straight to the pub to say our goodbyes to the tour guides who were amazing. It really felt like leaving friends behind. I honestly thought I'd fail the challenge but Sarah and I along with smithy and jimmy were the last men standing and headed home after a brilliant night at 5am.

Posted by selson 18:42 Archived in Peru Comments (3)

Raqchi homestay

Homestay fun and tummy troubles


So today was homestay day, I'd been looking forward to this day since the sand dunes. Unfortunately I had terrible
Tummy trouble all through the night and the 12 hour truck journey to raqchi. I don't want to give all the gory details but this is my journal so I feel the need to share a little of what I had to go through. Let's just say that there were only two official toilet stops so the rest of the time I was either in agony or losing my dignity in the middle
Of the Barron landscape. My fellow travel companions know and have seen and heard too
much. I think I was feeling worse about that than the actual tummy problem itself.
Whils this was all going in with me we also had some others vomiting and one one who passed
out so was on the oxygen for an hour by the roadside. Seriously it was like death bus. We had people sleeping in the aisles, everyone crashed out and sick buckets aplenty. Quite possibly the worst 12 hours of my life. And I thought doing my business in a tent at Glastonbury was bad.

Anyway enough toilet talk, but I needed to set the scene for how we all felt when we arrived in raqchi to meet out families who would e hosting us for the night. It wasn't good. But they were all lovely. We were divided into groups of four or five and each of the mama's picked a group ad took us back to their home where we'd stay for the night.

As we were a big group of five, we had two mama's, which we would eventually find out was actually mama and daughter. Our mamas were Maxine and julia and they were so lovely! I was sharing with Clare, grant, Ryan and big chris. Not the best sleeping situation with two serial snorers and a mix of girls of testosterone charged men. Clare
and I were a little worried for a while there.

What we weren't expecting though when the metal gates opened though was a large courtyard and three bedrooms for us to split into. We also weren't expecting a fully functioning bathroom. Things were getting better already.

After a very quick dump of bags we were ushered into the dining room for dinner. It was lovely. We had a corn soup starter followed by spaghetti with chicken and then a little dish of unidentified hot liquid which tasted a bit like custard. Mama then brought us some fresh mint and chamomile to make tea.

After dinner they brought out some traditional clothes to dress us in. The guys all had ponchos and wooly hats, the girls had more elaborate clothes. They all differed slightly but they were mainly made up if really full skirts which tied at the frog and back. We then had a woolen jacket which had bright colours embroidered on the elbows and pockets. Next was what we were calling our baby pouches. Fabric that they fold up and carry things in, either something they've farmed, some pottery that they've made or their babies. To top the outfits off we all had hats. Some were like top hats and others were completely flat discs which were placed on your head and tied under your chin.

Once we'd donned our new clothes we took the long walk back to the main square to see one of their ceremonies and to join in with some dancing. The ceremony was all related
To the coca leaves. The locals eat many coca leaves, but at re start of each day they carry out a ceremony. The women start by sorting  the coca leaves. They then all pick six of the best leaves and take three in each hand. Three for the mountains and three for the mother earth. they then say a little prayer for each, blow them and then put them into separate cups. Once everyone has done this, they then take turns to blow three times into both cups. Once this is complete the contents of each cup are offered to the earth and buried in a sacred place. We all carried this out and then the ladies came round and welcomed us all with a hug or a handshake. Then the music started and we were to all join in an dance around. Much fun was had teaching them the hokey cokey before we finally called it a night and headed back to our homes. 

We were woken at 8 the next morning with the biggest and tastiest breakfast. We started with a little bowl of fruit that was topped with quinoa and dulche de leche which they put on everything here. Next there was quinoa pancakes, jacket potato and boiled egg. Finally there was bread and jam. Amazing.

After breakfast we were taken to another mamas house for a pottery demonstration. This town is famous for it's pottery and they showed us how to make a simple bowl made from volcanic ash. After the display Sarah had a go at making one before we were given the chance to buy some stuff. We all went a little bit shopping crazy and the truck is now rammed with local goods.

Following the pottery we went back to re main square to look around the Market and to go visit the ruins.

After much more shopping we
headed back to our houses for lunch. Anther huge feed. Starter of bean ceviche, a mix of beans, cheese, red onion and herbs dressed in lemon juice. Then another soup, this time veggie and quinoa with a whole potato in the middle. After this we were given alpaca steak with potato and corn and a salad. Finally this was finished up with fruit and tea. It was explained that it's normal for the locals to eat three main meals a day, I guess due to the manual nature of their work. 

Lunch was the end of our stay. All that was left to do was to head back to the square and say goodbye to the mamas. They gave each of us a present of a little bowl that they had made. It was so lovely. As we were heading back to the truck one of the mamas decided she wanted to try the drivers seat. I've never seen a little old lady enjoying herself so much. Honking the horn and pretending to drive it was very funny.

I'm not sure if I have any more homestays on this trip but I hope so as this was an experience that I won't forget.

We're now heading towards cusco to prepare for the inca trail which starts the day after tomorrow, exciting!!!

Posted by selson 15:15 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

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