A Travellerspoint blog

Blog 3 - first bit for Peru

Peters Blog for Peru

Border Crossing into Peru

To get across the border we took a colectivo taxi. This cost 4,000clp each but is the easiest and quickest as the driver assists you through the border customs processes and takes you on into the town of Tacna in Peru. While waiting to get into a colectivo Valerie spoke with a fellow passenger (Chilean) who had done the trip several times so was able to reassure us. We wanted a 180 visa so as our Spanish is poor we wrote on a post-it note that we wanted 180 days and it was given with no problems. On arrival in Tacna our new friend also guided us to an ATM as we had no Peruvian Soles. Which without we couldn’t buy our ongoing tickets.

We didn’t stay in Tacna. We just caught the next available bus on to Arequipa which cost S/.38 (about A$15) for the two of us. (The exchange rate at this time is about 2.6 Peruvian soles to the Aust dollar) As is often usual, there was a very helpful man on the look out for us! He saw us checking out our bearings and as he spoke some English asked where we wanted to go and quickly offered to guide us to the correct bus company that was leaving in just a few minutes…. Naturally, he received a commission from the bus company and then wanted a small payment for his assistance. There was another English speaking gent (ex school teacher) who ran the shop next to the bus company who had lived in the States for some 16 years who explained how these guys worked. He said some are rouges but many actually do provide for a quicker service and therefore deserve their commissions and tips but there is no obligation to pay but we did. We were soon on our way on our 6 hours trip to Arequipa.


We arrived in Arequipa about 6pm and it was getting dark. Not sure where we were going to stay, we approached a couple of backpackers who were leaving and asked where they stayed and if they would recommend it. We then went outside to get a taxi and gave him the address but he stated he didn’t know it and suggested another place. We enquired about the price and it was much higher than our budget so we declined and he suggested another place called the Piccola Daniela which was central to the Plaza and was within our budget at S/.50 per night for a double with breakfast, TV and private en-suite.

On our first day we walked around the central area of the city and got our bearings. The city is called the white city, because many of its buildings are made sillar, a volcanic stone that shines due to the sunny weather. They also claim the finest of food but we didn’t find it better than Chile. In fact I got sick after eating in one of the restaurants.
As a result of its colonial and republican architectural heritage, represented in churches, convents and mansions, the UNESCO declared the city centre a World Heritage Site. It is the second largest city in Peru and is surrounded by three impressive volcanic mountains, the Misti, Chachani and the Pichu Pichu.

We booked a four hour tour on our second day which toured the Plaza de Armas, the central historical areas, the Mirador and Plaza de Yanahuara, an alpaca Zoo, the Valle de Chilina and volcanos, a bit of the country-side areas, including La Mansion del Fundador, and an old floor mill.

The Founder’s Mansion was built not long after 1540 by the early Spanish invaders and is an outstanding example of sixteenth century Arequipan civil architecture, built mainly with thick walls of ashlar stone. I could see myself living in this style of accommodation only they would still need to install modern bathroom facilities for me.

The next day we met up with Tania, the sister of our friend Yovana and visited her place. Tania looks just like her sister so she was easy to recognise. She took us back to her place for some lunch and assisted us with our ongoing tickets to Ayacucho. The next night we met her again for drinks and dinner. We started our drinks at a bar called Peace and Love which was just outside our Hotel. This placed rocked all night and was run by a young couple who fitted into the hippie era. It claimed to be happy hour all the time on vodka, rum, tequila and mojitos. They down-loaded all types of music from the net and played it nice and loud. You were requested to select songs of your own choosing too! The management drank and danced with customers all night. At one stage the male of the partnership sculled two bottles of beer at the same time. He then tried to get me to try this feat, but I declined…. Yes getting old but I did enjoy a few beers there. It opened at 7 and closed when the party finished. Met a great young bloke name Jake from the States who was learning to teach English in Arequipa and he had had a few as the photos show. It is always good to speak a bit of English as my Spanish is still really poor or should I say non existent but slowly improving…

Arequipa to Ayacucho via San Clemente

Tania put us on our bus to our next destination which was great of her. However, the taxi driver had a problem getting to her address but eventually made it by asking several people on the way. Needed our Tom-Tom here but unfortunately sold it with our van back in Australia. Our bus departed about 8pm and arrived in San Clemente about 6am. We book a cama seat which reclined well and had a bit more leg room so we were able to sleep a bit. Only I had contracted Typhoid fever (Not that I knew at the time – I just thought I had the runs.) and need the loo a few times even though the sign on the door said urinal only!!! When you have to go - you have to go! At one of the few stops I did manage to get off the bus and find a squat toilet.

San Clemente is a small stop place where we were to catch a collectivo onwards to our destination of Ayacucho. Here we first encountered the little 3 wheeled taxi. These brightly coloured vehicles had either lawn mower or scooters motors??? But they could take three people in the rear seat and were cheap. We were approached as normal by the driver of a soon to be departing collectivo and after a little negotiation over the price we were on our way. I managed to get the front passenger seat so had a nice bit of leg room so a comfortable journey. We made it to Ayacucho, however the bus terminus (if you could call it one is a bit out of the city centre. On arrival we telephoned Karina, another sister of Yovana and she came in a taxi with a friend and collected us. Took us to their place and we had a little lunch. I only had rice as was still suffering with my situation. We met her brother “Koko” and together went looking for a suitable hotel. (One with WiFi and hot water!) Soon we found one that wasn’t too expensive, again with the help of another friend of Yovana, Sonya, who worked in Iperú tourist office. Then walked back to Karina’s place and just needed to get a taxi to take us back there with our luggage, as I didn’t feel much like walking much more. The Hotel “Tres Mascaras” cost S/.60 (A$24) per night and looked good. It had lots of character and a very noisy parrot that said “Hola” and squawked a lot of the time and the lady running it was very nice; however it took some time to discover how to get the hot water running, but the WiFi never worked very well. We also discovered that on the trip that Valerie’s camera was lifted from her bag.


The city of churches! Ayacucho has 33 churches in total and as they say one for every year that Christ was on earth. This city is also known as Huamanga. We stayed four nights but never did much touring as I was recovering and we were just getting as much local currency out of the banks as there would be no banks further out that didn’t charge fees. Also as we had limits on the daily amounts we could withdrawal from the ATMs and we then needed to convert it to low denominations as where we were going there would be difficulty in changing S/.100 notes (A$40).

We did a bit of shopping in preparation for the cold of Ccaranacc. I got a scarf and Peruvian beanie. We also purchased a Satellite phone, a chip for my mobile and checked out getting an internet USB modem. Then on the Friday, we met up with Karina and took a taxi to the bus terminal for our collectivo ride to Huanta.

Again I managed to secure a seat in the front so had good views of the mountains on our trip. On arrival in Huanta we went to Yovana’s father’s house and Prudencio made us most welcome. We went shopping for a gas stove and food supplies to keep us going for our first week. Stayed that night in Prudencio’s house and the next day Karina and Prudencio arranged to hire for us a station wagon to take us all, our existing purchases and a table and two chairs to Churcampa where we purchased a gas bottle for the stove and continued on out to Ccaranacc.


Well Yovana and Remy’s yellow house looked just as it did in the photo we had seen. It contained 11 mattresses and 3 bags of blankets and about 20 straw mats so the next day we would try and make it our home. However the inside needed a bit of a clean as it had been empty for a long time. That night we slept in a Peruvian three quarter bed with a straw mattress in Prudencio’s other house in the village. The next day we cleaned the three upstairs rooms and made up a very large comfortable bed by putting two stacks of three mattresses together and then our double sleeping bag on top. We added 4 blankets, put mats on both sides and we were ready for the cold nights in our own space!

Our huge upstairs bedroom had three windows that opened onto the plaza so we have a wonderful view of the morning sunrise and all the daily activity of the village including the building of the new casa municipal “Community Hall”. Each day and normally very early in the morning the farmers wives or children would drive their goats, sheep, donkeys, cattle and pigs through the main streets past the plaza to their various pasture areas for feeding and then in the late afternoon bring them back home to be locked up for the evening. Outside in the plaza is a stone church built in 1710 that has gone through some renovations over the years but still looks like it was built in the period.

A brick maker is busy making mud bricks 6 x 13 x 16 inches. He chops up the straw and mixes it into the mud and then stamps it all into his mould. Then a minute later rocks them out of the mould to dry. One by one he continues all day. Then when they start to dry he turns them all onto a side and trips off the excess straw. A week later he carries them to the wall he is making.

Also, on another corner of the plaza a new house is being built, so each day I watch the builders at work. This is going to be a three story house and they are using real bricks and lots of steel in the reinforcing so I look forward to seeing it finished.

Sometimes you would see the donkeys loaded with chopped wood for their evening fires and I would think if only we had a nice big fire place!! But in reality they were going home to a much smaller un-rendered mud house with probably only with an earthen floor and the fire would be one just for cooking the evening meal. Nothing romantic about it at all! Just subsistence living! Those ladies without donkeys would often been seen carrying bundles of wood on their backs.

The mud walls of our house, rendered inside and out, are about 20 inches thick so help to insulate against the cold wind but still with no heating we sometimes need a fifth blanket….. There is power to the house and running water to the back yard but it is usually only for one hour per day between 6:30 and 8am. However, for some reason we haven’t discovered yet, there is normally no water on Sundays? The upstairs ceiling is 6’6” so I can’t walk under the light fittings else I will knock the globe out of it’s socket and the doors are only 5’8” so I need to duck through every doorway normally, except the outside front doors which are normally about 7 to 8’ high.

We have since cleaned the windows so have a nice clear view of the plaza and tidied up the back yard so it is neat. When we arrived you could hardly see out the windows and the grass was more than a foot high so Valerie arranged for a lady who had animals to cut the grass. The payment was just to have the cut grass for her animals. Valerie talked to the gardener who maintained the plaza and town square to borrow a few tools and I soon had the three fruit trees in the back yard pruned and looking good. Off the back yard are two mud rooms that were untidy so we cleaned them. One room was a traditional kitchen and we used it once only to cook some corn (Mote – boiled corn). I think we over cooked it but maybe we will try it again, however I’m in no hurry to do it again as it didn’t taste too good. We cut and stacked all the bits of wood in the old kitchen and it’s ready to use should we decide to do it again.

The satellite phone we purchased has to be used on the window sill upstairs to get good reception and the laptop is put on another window ledge to use the internet USB modem service but unfortunately the reception is only just good enough to be able to read plain emails and do simple internet research sometimes but it is not always reliable. Pictures and videos are impossible to open and we can’t even use Skype which is a real shame. However, it is better than nothing in such out of the way place that you can’t find on Google Earth! Oh, and the mobile phone is only usable when we walk on the other side of the plaza on the high corner and probably up the hill near the primary school.

Normally each day we fill the water bottles from the tap in our back yard and take them down to Prudencio’s house where he has a kitchen set up and here we make and eat our meals. We would like to set up our own kitchen in our house but the rear wall of that room needs to be re-plastered, and before that can be done we need to get the rear wall of the house rendered with cement so that it won’t cause the inside plaster to break away again. We have been told that the water is drinkable from the tap but we still boil it before we drink it.

We have requested two local builders / handy-men to undertake the work but both are busy and we just need to wait. Unfortunately, it’s a task I couldn’t do without a bit more knowledge, some able assistance and the tools. When we get it done we need to get a bench made with a sink fitted, a tap piped from the garden tap into the sink and we can move our kitchen supplies up and it will be great. Still we will need a kitchen cupboard and table but they won’t be too hard to obtain. The most difficult item to get is the toilet, wash basin and shower. The back yard is very small so it would be difficult to put it out there however there is an area inside the house where they can go. Again we just need to get someone with the knowledge and time. In the meantime we need to walk about 80 metres down stairs out the front door, turn right down the street around the corner and down the next street to our drop pit toilet. We manage with a bucket during the nights for our quick visits, which we need to empty every day. Our bath is a sponge bath using a kettle and saucepan of hot water so daily showers are not an option yet however Prudencio will soon have a toilet and a cold water shower available but if it is still only between 6:30 and 8am then I don’t think I will be using it.

We walked down the mountain to a very much smaller village called Ayapata (about 12 kilometres) with Prudencio as he has an orchard (“chakra” the name given to a small farm) by the river and Remy and Yovana have their half built hostel. Prudencio is 83 years old and managed the walk down quite well. I was suffering with a sore back and with the altitude and as it turned out I was also suffering with the effects of a strain of typhoid. I had been vaccinated in Sydney prior to leaving Australia but apparently there are strains not covered by the vaccination? So after a very short stay I was taken back to Huanta and to the hospital where I was examined and subsequently treated for the Typhoid. I think I preferred this to staying longer in the chakra as the moskas (I think they are a type of fruit fly) were eating me alive as well. These are like mosquitoes but smaller and you can’t hear them but they do leave an itchy calling card. They are breeding in rotten fruit in the orchards but love a diet supplement of human blood whenever it’s available. I don’t know if they carry any diseases? They are also in Ccaranacc but not quite so plentiful!

The hospital in Huanta was real cheap and no waiting time at all. However, you do need to buy all the drugs, needles, etc that they need to treat you. Again these are cheap on Australian standards. The facilities and services may at first sight seem a little backward but they took a blood and stool sample and had me diagnosed within two hours. I was given a thorough inspection, put on a drip for loss of fluid, and then moved to a bed for observation. After that provided with prescriptions and allowed to go home. Anyway, I got over the weakness but the pain in my back has kept coming back.

We returned a few days later to Ccaranacc and Valerie addressed a meeting of the locals and informed them that we would be available to teach English if they wanted it. They did and soon we were teaching four times a week in Ccaranacc. We now teach two classes of primary school students every Tuesday, Thursday nights in the community centre to adults and on Saturday evenings for students who went away to a high school during the week. There is not high school in Ccaranacc. We now have kids saying ‘good morning, mister, good afternoon, Miss, how are you?’ when ever we see them in the streets. It is a great feeling of achievement! Still we have a long way to go and so little time to make a difference.

Valerie celebrated her birthday so we had a party. Made ‘cancha’ a type of popcorn and ‘chicha’ which is a drink made from boiling black corn, pineapple and sugar… We added salt to the popcorn and it substituted as salted peanuts. Purchased 3 crates of beer and with a bit of soft drink which was bought by guests had a good night. Local musicians played and we danced till after midnight. One of the locals brought along a CD player and we listened to Peruvian music and not traditional folk music all night. We managed to find a shop in Churcampa which made cakes so we had a nice birthday cake too. We just managed to give a small piece to everybody. There were a few party gate crashes who politely ask if they could join in, as is apparently normal in such a small village. We should have invited them! But the town has about 300 inhabitants, just a few too many to fit in our place.

Last week was a festival the anniversary of Peru’s independence so the community had the school band play music, a flag raising ceremony and the towns-people all took turns in marching past the flags and community centre. We were both also requested to march so we did so too and everybody clapped. This was followed by free beer and soft drinks and food for all. I might add that we were invited by the mayor to be his special guests. Our teaching in the community has provided us with a status of special people?

Back to Ayacucho for medical treatment

My back has kept getting sore so we took the opportunity of school holidays to go back to Ayacucho to see a doctor about it. The doctor says I have arthrosis in the spine, some worn disks and some vertebrae compacted and one is out of alignment. Anyway it seems like I need about 6 weeks of treatment!!!!! The treatment is 4 days a week so too much to travel back and forth and no services closer.

The treatment consists of 15 minutes of infra red lamp followed by some electro therapy, 15 minutes under an ultra sound machine and then a thirty minute massage. All nice and easy! Just hope it takes the pain from the back for good. Not really confident but if you don't give it a go you'll never know. The back is one of those difficult areas to diagnose and treat. I think it will be for at least 3 weeks then go back to Ccaranacc and back to normal life and if it persist then I will be back for another 3 weeks? It upsets our teaching program but nothing much we can do about it. We have just heard that there is a chiropractor in Ayacucho so we may also go and see him. Get a second opinion! So far two weeks of treatment and a second appointment with the doctor and I am more unconvinced that the diagnosis is correct as when I check on the internet I don’t get the same information for methods of diagnosis or treatment!!!!

We have booked a room in a Hostal for a month from the 2nd of August so that I will have time to seek the medical treatment I need and as the internet is a bit better here I should be able to complete my tax return online. Always difficult getting copies of documents but we will see how I go. Just a room with en-suite, table for us to work on and a TV with 100 channels in Spanish, but we can cook our breakfast in the kitchen on the roof. It costs S/.450 (A$180) a month so it isn’t a bad rate compared to the S/.60 (A$24) a day we were paying for the first week for slightly less facilities.

I had my first haircut in Peru yesterday and it cost me S/.5 (5 Peruvian sol) Bloody expensive at A$2. A good job too! I am very happy with the cut. Valerie had her hair cut, permed and coloured and it costs A$26. Again, a real great result. Not sure how long it will last but we are both happy with it. A nice dark, browny red. The perm has put a lot on nice body into it and she looks really different. I will have to put a photo up on our blog soon so you can see it.

I was rushed to hospital last night (Sunday 11 August) but discharged after an hour. We were out with friends in Ayacucho having coffee, and just after I felt real dizzy and started to sweat. I sat down on a stool and next thing I knew is that I had vomited all over myself and the floor of the restaurant. I had passes out and somehow stayed on the stool while I vomited. I had food poison is the guess and probably from the “coffee con leche” which was a cup of warm milk (with cream floating on top) which you poor a bit of strong liquid coffee into. The friends we were with were two doctors (my cardiologist and her husband - we are helping her with her English) and two Peruvian-Australian missionaries. Anyway, they called and ambulance and took me to hospital. (Would you believe the ambulance cost less than S/.6 (A$2.40)? I wasn't in the hospital long, as I had vomited all the poison out and recovered quickly. No cost except for the bottle of fluid with electrolytes and carbohydrates that cost S/.9 (A$3.60) which we had to buy from the hospital pharmacy and I had to drink at least a third before they would allow me to be discharged.

We have been in Ayacucho for two weeks as I have arthritis in my back and in pain most days after just walking for a small time. So I have been going to a clinic every day for treatment. So far the treatment does not seem to be working. I will see the doctor tonight and see what else can be done. I fear I might just be getting old and have to live with pain killers...

A bit of touring while we are here today (14-8-13) to Quinua (an artisan village – but we didn’t buy anything as to us it all looked like dust collectors) and then we walked up to a monument at Pampa de Ayacucho which is the site of a significant battle in the region many years ago. This was followed by a visit to a Wari archeological site which is a site established before the Incas arrived to the region. It is an on-going site which is still uncovering more buildings and artifacts so when they finish it should be a great site to visit in the future. Unfortunately I can’t tell you more as everything was in Spanish! Even the guides only spoke Spanish.

(15/8/13) I visited a chiropractor and he confirmed the arthrosis in the spine and a pinched disk so he manipulated the back and it seemed better than the clinic manipulation, however he wants me back for a further 10 appointments? The first visit was S/.30 (A$12) and follow-up treatments will be S/.25 each (A$10). If, I could speak the language I would have told him we are only in town for the weekend before he had a chance to recommend the 10 treatments! My back still getting sore after walking around town for about two hours and not carrying anything! Second visit was much the same except I was requested to also hang from a rafter. 20 times for a count of 20! Even though I have lost weight (down to under 86kgs) my arm muscle is too week for me to hold my own weight for a count of 20 for more than 13 times. I can’t do a chin up anymore either. Age is no excuse, is it?

Thinking I might need to put an exercise routine into my daily life. Maybe I need to try to improve my diet but a little difficult here as much of the stuff I don’t like. I guess if I had to say the one thing I don’t like about Peru is the choice of food I seem to be able to choose! Again it gets back to understanding the language so I can order more wisely.

Went to the bank ATM again today and withdrew the normal S/.1,000 (A$400) to build up our cash for our return to Ccaranacc (no banks there) and then inside to change the denominations down to S/.10 and S/.20 notes from the S/.100 that the ATM issues and got robbed!!!! Yes, inside the bank! After handing over our ten S/.100 notes, the cashier fed in a pile of small denominations into a note counting machine that counted out the right amount but several times a damaged note needed to be removed and more notes fed in. Anyway, as the machine counter displayed S/.1,000 so I didn’t count them till I got back to our room. It was then that I discovered the theft! With our poor Spanish it would be too difficult to even try to recover our loss of S/.100 (A$40). I always count when they count manually but with the machine showing the right figure I didn’t this time. I’ll not make this mistake again!

Well another day (Saturday 17 August) just a lovely lazy day just like you may have at home sometimes when you take it easy and do nothing. Porridge for a late breakfast, the cleaner in the Hostal made us a lovely veggie soup for lunch, read more emails checked on the web for various information, we watched two movies on TV. One was in English with Spanish sub-titles and the other in Spanish but was all action so no language was needed to follow the plot. Then we jumped on a local bus and went into the centre of Ayacucho (about 2 – 3 kilometres) (cost A$0.28 each) and had our dinner. Great spaghetti bolognaise for me and lasagna for Valerie. Then, we did a little shopping and jumped on another bus back up the hill to our Hostal. I had decided to skip the chiropractor treatments for the weekend and see how I go.

Monday 26th August. Didn’t go back to that chiropractor, but tried to make an appointment with another that spoke English but couldn’t get one, so gave up and will live with the pain. Maybe I will be able to get some good pain killers but every one provided so far hasn’t worked! We have decided to go back to Ccaranacc this Wednesday so need to seriously prepare our English teaching lesson plans and get this blog up with a few photos. Also Ccaranacc is celebrating with a three day festival that starts on the 28th. So it will be goodbye to Hostal H and the lovely family (Angel & Christina and their son and daughter, Luis & Flore) who run it. Their hospitality has been great as they have shared meals with us and we have cooked for them too. I was going to cook a roast llama with lovely roast veggies but they couldn’t get anyone to repair their gas oven in time so we cooked rissoles and a Spanish omelet with rice. They seemed to have enjoyed it.

Well the day we were meant to leave Ayacucho is delayed as our friend needs us and Valerie decides I need to see a doctor again because I have an annoying cough that has persisted for more than a week. So of to the clinic again! S/.45 to see the doctor and then he says I must have an x-ray so that’s another S/.25 and then he writes up the prescriptions as now I have bronchitis. The first is prescription is going to cost S/.36 each tablet and I need 10. That’s S/.360 [A$144 – A$14.40 FOR EACH OF THE 10 TABLETS I NEED!] Sorry too expensive (mucho caro!!!!) So Valerie goes upstairs and sees the doctor and tells him we can’t afford that so he provides an alternative that should also fix me up. This is still expensive but there is a generic available for S/.103 so we except but they are out of stock. Fortunately, we are going into the centre of town to have a farewell and birthday celebration dinner so we find a pharmacy with stock. Now I hope it will work!

Had a great dinner! I had Alpaca for the first time and it was fantastic! This was followed back at the hostel with a further two bottles on good Chilean wines before we hit the sack.

To be continued……

We arrived back in Ccaranacc on the Thursday the 29th of August and in time for one of the biggest annual Fiesta that Village has. It was in full swing. There were two brass bands playing music all day and till the early hours of the morning. This was matched by two large 3 by 4 foot speakers on the town hall balcony blasting away till 5:30am! It was great to live in the very heart of the village!!!! The mother/mother-in-law (MIL) had moved back into the house we are staying in while we were away in Ayacucho. She had set up a bar and kitchen downstairs and had taken over a spare bedroom and put friends or family in another room. She traded till late and everyday from 6:30am. So there was about one hour of quiet time in the four days.

We met a Julio and two ladies from Lima who we spent most of the next few days with. The girls are looking for foreign boyfriends and the bloke would love to study in Australia. Fortunately he spoke a fair bit of English so I really enjoyed our time together. We have since contacted each other via Skype and will catch up with them in Lima next year.

We danced and partied as much as we could but couldn’t match the Peruvians. They can drink, party and dance like none that I’ve known before. It finished on Monday and today the Tuesday the friends mother-in-law moved out at about 6am. Peace and quiet at last had returned to our way of life and we prepared to commence teaching again as it was Tuesday morning only to be greeted with a familiar sound of “good morning mister, good morning Miss”. It was about 9:30 so we asked why the kids weren’t at school and were told there was none today so good news as we could relax and get ourselves organized again.

Rats… Yes while we were away in Ayacucho for the month trying to get my back fixed the rats moved in. Each night as we would have our dinner one could be seen in the next room eating at Prudencio’s seed grains. So we purchased a big rat trap and I tried to catch them. First night I put the only cheese we had on the trap nothing!!! Two nights later it ate the cheese but it eluded the trap. Out of cheese (we didn’t buy much then as it is very fresh and very salty however, it does improve with age so now we buy a bit more each week)! It’s unfortunate, that it is the only cheese we can buy in Churcampa at our weekly trip to the markets. Anyway, then I tried to push a seeds onto the rat trap but it wouldn’t go on very secure and nothing happened. Next I tried some pumpkin flesh and two nights later bingo, we caught our first one. This one was much smaller than the one I had seen eating the grain on previous nights. However, excited in my new career as the unofficial “apprentice rat catcher” for the village of Ccaranacc I set the trap again, with cake this time. Two nights later another success! Still a small one and not the big mother of a rat I saw eating Prudencio’s seed grain so I try again. This time with pumpkin again! No luck again so I will try cake tonight! It’s Friday the 13th so it may be unlucky for the rat this time. Ouch! The trap went off while I was setting it and hit my thumb hard. Well, I carefully set the trap again and placed it near the grain and the pile of boxes in the corner where I can sometimes hear it. Success! Yes the big one is caught. Friday the 13th was unlucky for this big rat! I will keep on setting the trap to be sure there are no more but I think I have the one I wanted to catch.

(Update 28/9/13) – Another rat is back – a clever one as it prefers bananas and biscuits so I’ll have to be smarter as I like my biscuits and Bananas too!) Well two nights running I set my trap and this time with his (my) favorite banana as the bait. As banana is soft and easy to eat without setting off the trap so I tie it on with cotton hoping that it will provide the resistance or catch in its teeth. No such luck he is still eating it without being caught! We come back to Prudencio’s for lunch and I am startled by some movement in the dark as I enter the dark kitchen. I flick on the light just in time to see it scuttle across the floor out behind the boxes we know it to be living. I see another banana has been eaten through! I am angry so I say to Valerie that I have had enough and we are going to move all the boxes buckets and bags of seeds now and get this rat! I find a good strong stick with a solid stomp on the end like a hockey stick a I carefully begin moving objects making barriers and I place the buckets and bags etc on the floor further away from its hiding place. Then, I see it running along the wall to my first barrier and I swing my stick sending it into the air. I hit it again and then a third hid makes sure it is dead! I note Valerie’s expression as she once kept pet rats in her hours in France. I carefully remove the rest of the boxes and empty out it’s nest of chewed up paper and when finally convinced there are no more I clean up the area and pack everything back in the corner making it a little more difficult for rats to build their home there without a fair bit of effort.

Would you believe the very next day a mouse drops down the wall of the next room and runs between my legs and behind the same area and out of my sight. I set a mouse trap and the next day it is caught. Hopefully this is the end of this story!!!!

Chess championships

It’s Sunday the 15th of September and we visit Churcampa for our weekly market day and we tried to use a phone to call Australia (The Tax Office – ATO) but are informed there is no power in town and won’t be until at least 7pm that evening. So we finish our shopping and are heading out of the market area when we spot a game of chess being played. We watch until it is finished and then we started walking on towards the waiting taxis to go back to Ccaranacc but are called back and offered a chance to challenge the winner. They play for big stakes! A Sole (about A$0.34) per game. I accept and it’s a tough game and many locals stop and watch the game. He is a good player and plays with much confidence. I think he is winning. I am nervous! I get a chance to take his queen for the loss of my own and take it. It turns the tide of the game as I am able to get my rooks out earlier and I win the game. Lucky I feel. I refuse to take his money but accept to play a second game. Again, it’s a tough game but I win. I see the disappointment in his eyes as about 10 people had stopped to watch but I shake his hand and congratulate him on a tough game. Time to gracefully go home while I am ahead but I offer to play him again next week. We continued to meet and play most market days as we all seem to enjoy it. Unfortunately, we missed our games on our last two weeks as he wasn’t there. Maybe it was due to the rain!

Power blackout & Romantic dinner for two

We arrive back in Ccaranacc to find we are also without power. We were going to attempt to phone the ATO again with our 5 minute phone cards. We don’t hold out much hope of getting to speak to someone and get things resolved in 5 minutes but we will try. No luck the phone company here does not recognize the 6 digit phone number provided. So we will have to go back to Churcampa again another day when the power is on again and try there.

Well the power is still not on here so we find some candles and take the opportunity to have a romantic dinner. Sorry no music or wine but some off the shelf warm beer will do and we finish with chocolate. It is a lovely night and the two “church” candles burn softly while we enjoy our dinner of delicious vegetable soup. Just as we are finishing the power comes back on and we leave the dishes and go back to our place to sleep. We try our internet again but not enough signal so it’s good night!

Christening the commencement of a new house

It’s Tuesday morning the 24th of September 28, 2013 and at six am the music of a drummer and flautist can be heard. We it’s our day to teach at the school so we get up and prepare ourselves for the day. But on arriving at the school the principal informs us that they have had to change their program and we are not needed for this week. On our return to the village plaza we hear the music is still playing just down the street so we go to investigate. A new mud brick two story house is to commence and the foundations are being laid today. We are invited to join the festivities and so we do so. However, this requires half the men in the village to lend a hand and carry very large and heavy stones to place into the foundations that have been dug out. I do my best to explain that I can’t carry the rocks or do any of the physical work expected of the others. A Peruvian activity like this requires the hosts to provide food and drink for the workers and guests. As I couldn’t work I provided a case of beer which I’m sure was appreciated – especially by the workers.

The house is completed in 3 weeks; however the finish is mostly completed by a few workers. When it’s time for the roof the village turns up to assist again. It’s time to celebrate and again the owners put on another party. Naturally we attend again, being the community minded citizens we are. Too many people on the roof for me to help by the time we arrive so we just enjoyed the party side and watched the blessing of the house by both the religious faiths in town! The night concluded by as many as possible going inside the house and eating, drinking and dancing till we made our departure. The party continued long after we left as the music could be heard at our place.

Visit to Mayocc for its fiesta

Prudencio and a nephew called back to Ccaranacc for an overnight visit and fortunately we had a half pot of soup available and just making a large broccoli cheese dish so had a enough for a good meal that evening and some chocolate to finish it off. The next day we went down to Prudencio’s orchard as his nephew had never seen it and then on to Mayocc for it’s fiesta but found it very disappointing in comparison to the one held recently in Ccaranacc so we found a Moto taxi and returned to Ccaranacc.

The end of our teaching

On our final day we held a small reading play for the students to consolidate their learning and then presented a book to the teachers of both classes with the hope that they will continue to teach some English and also awarded the same book to the best student in each class. After which the students al thanked us for our teaching. In the younger class teacher had each student come up to the front of the class one by one and hug and kiss Valerie and the girls hugged me and the boys shook my hand. It was a moving moment! I’m sure they will miss us as we will miss them.

A day in Ccaranacc.

In summary, our time here this year is now over, so I’ll provide you with a brief of how a typical day might have gone. I’ll mix a few days to cover the most significant of my memories.

We would wake about 5:30 – 6:00 am listening to the roosters crowing; the donkeys braying and the early locals talking as they would pass beneath our upstairs windows on their way to their various activities. We wouldn’t get out of bed at this “ungodly” time as it was usually cold and we had no need to, but would quietly listen to the sounds of the world around us wakening; as the sun would soon shine through our windows and brighten the large room in which we lay comfortably snug; on a stack of six mattresses (three side by side) on the floor; inside two sleeping bags zipped together (making it into a double) and under two, three or four thick blankets depending on just how cold it was.

I might add that the donkeys and roosters would also have brayed and crowed all through the night. It appears that they don’t know the rules? I know this, as I am at that age when I need to get out of bed almost every hour and go to the toilet, so I get to hear them as I lay back in bed and go back to sleep.

The village would come to life soon, as all the people with sheep, pigs, cows, goats and donkeys would need to take them out to pasture to feed on the grasses, each night bringing them back to a yard by their house. Sometimes, I would get out of bed and watch the parade of animals be herded by the little old ladies; and watch how quickly they would snatch a feed or two of flowers and leaves from the town park as they past by. To identify their animals the owners would tie tags of different brightly coloured wool through their ears. How they got to choose which colours’ each owner would use I didn’t find out, but they looked enchanting.

We would get dressed, take our night bucket with us and go downstairs, out into the street down three houses to Prudencio’s place, where there is a kitchen and toilet which we can use. Earlier on during our stay we needed to go past another house and around a corner into another street to a “drop toilet” but a month ago water was connected to Prudencio’s house and a flushing toilet and cold shower installed. Now we almost live in luxury! If only, we had hot running water. There is also an outside wash trough with a tap, where we do our dishes whenever the water was running. Unfortunately, the supply still isn’t available all day and you never know if you would have water or not, so we always have three large plastic containers of water kept filled and in the shower there was a large bucket kept full so we could still flush the toilet when necessary. Also in the toilet was a bin for the toilet paper as here in Peru you can’t flush the paper down the toilet as it will block their plumbing so every day another small chore is to burn the used paper.

Our breakfast normally was porridge with fruit and since our last trip to Ayacucho when we purchased a blender, we would have a fruit smoothie. Other mornings we would make toast (I made a two pronged toaster from bending a piece of hard thick wire in half and pushing a cork from one of our few bottles of wine over the prongs to prevent them parting and providing a place for my thumb) from the stale buns which we would buy on the Saturday and enjoy them with honey, jam, vegemite or with eggs. Also we would make simple pikelets and have them with honey. Often we would take a cup of tea out into the plaza and sit there admiring the birds, the garden and surrounding mountains and greeting people as they walked by.

After breakfast on each Tuesday it was time to prepare for teaching English in the local primary school. We taught two classes, one with 19 and the other 14 students with ages between 9 and 13. Our first class was at 11 o’clock and the second at 11:45 and both were for 45 minutes. Fortunately the teachers re-enforced our teachings, as did a few parents so some managed to learn very well. Hopefully, the re-enforcement will continue, so when we return next March they will still know it all and maybe we can teach a little more.

On other days our mornings would be consumed preparing our lessons; learning more Spanish; trying to check and respond to our emails; doing more travel and “international living” research; preparing meals and doing laundry and other domestics.

We were on the very fringe of internet and satellite phone service so Valerie could phone France and then family or friends would phone back and they would chat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t call Australia with our “Claro” phone service and could only phone Australia using telephone cards which only allowed a few minutes each time. We couldn’t make phone calls using Skype due to the poor reception but were able to text back and forth to Australia. We did receive phone calls from a mate in Perth and that was great.

No washing machine here, so laundry was done in a plastic trough on the floor and using a bucket to rinse. We had a wire over our back yard so our clothes line worked as well as any. No ironing was ever needed.

As mentioned above, we have been researching “international living” options as there are many countries where the cost of living is much cheaper than living in Australia or France and as we are travelling through many of these countries we will be seriously looking at the possibility of buying or renting property, becoming a resident for a portion of every year and remaining “Permanent Tourists” This nomadic retirement is appearing more affordable and easier than you may think…with the right information and conditions we can continue to explore the world for less than the cost of living in either of our home countries. We may spend a month or two in our home countries every year or two and move between several other base countries which are cheaper for the remainder of our lives.

Our lunch or dinner menus would consist of either a sandwich, soup, spaghetti, Cauliflower cheese, an omelette, a dish of spicy huancaina sauce over potatoes, various lentils, fried rice or steamed veggies (thanks to our mate Phil for sending us a steamer). As we had no refrigeration when we made more than one meal quantity, it always became the next meal also. However it was usually cold enough for us to make flans and jellies which would set nicely over night. Sweets were not normal but on our last trip to Ayacucho we did buy 11 blocks of chocolate and a few bottles of wine so we were able to ration one block per week. A bottle wine was always consumed over two nights to make it last longer. There were some wines available in Churcampa but we were advised they weren’t drinkable! So never tried them.

Our afternoons would be much like our mornings; however it was the warmest time of the day so it was also the only time when we would wash ourselves in Prudencio’s kitchen. We would heat the largest saucepans full of water and get our small basin and each take turns in changing the water or pouring water over each others head when we washed our hair.

Just after 3pm each school day many children would pass and say “Good afternoon”, “how are you?” which was always a great feeling as we would respond in English. Sometimes we would go for a walk around the village; go around the corner and down the hill where we could buy 6 fresh eggs for S/.2 (A$0.77). Not a bad price!

Late in the afternoon the women would bring there animals home again, usually they would also be carrying or have on the back of their donkeys cut grass for the animals that evening or chopped wood for cooking their evening meal. Also you would see the men folk returning from their work with shovels or picks over their shoulders.

Some days, when there was a community project, which meant there would be a group of men, you would often see them stop at one of the little shops and buy a few beers and stand in the park drinking. The custom of drinking here is unusual as they would only have one glass between them. Normally a plastic cup provided by the shop when they purchased their beer. The custom is, that the man with the bottle would pour himself a half cup and pass the bottle on to the next person; he would then drink his cup and pass it on the man he gave the bottle to; who inturn would do the same for to the next man. As there was no public toilets that worked nearby, they would just urinate in the park and keep on drinking till they were drunk or used up all the money they had on them.

The evenings were normally cold and there was no heating so we didn’t stay up too late. We did have some movies on our computer so sometimes we would watch one or if the internet was working we would research a little or check and respond to emails but normally it would be early to bed.

Sundays were always different as it was market day in the nearby village of Churcampa. This village was about 11 kilometres away so we would catch one of the Moto-taxis or taxis that would drive out hoping to collect a fare. The fare was S/.4 (A$1.54) each if you shared but if we were too late and had to phone for one then the price was S/.10 (A$3.85) for the two of us. There was no flag-fall!

The trip would take about 30 minutes as the road is very windy and not very wide. The drop off the side was normally greater than 200 metres so my nerves were tested when we would need to pass another vehicle or a mob of sheep, goats or cattle.

The market stalls lined a road in Churcampa and we would normally walk up the top of the hill checking out the produce we needed and then walk back down buying as we went. A few of the locals from Ccaranacc also sold produce there, so we would speak to them and naturally many other locals were also there purchasing their weekly needs too!

After our shopping we would sometimes have a Chinese meal then meet with a local teacher whom we would teach English. Then we would grab a Moto taxi and go back home to Ccaranacc.


On the road again

Well it’s the end of October and we leave Ccaranacc. We clean the place and put everything back how we found it; call for a Moto taxi and go into Churcampa where we catch a collectivo to Huanta. We spend the night there with Prudencio and then early next morning catch a Combi to Ayacucho.

For the next week we stay in Ayacucho with the friends we met who have the Hospedaje “Inti Punuy”. We get more cash from the bank as our funds were getting low and there may not be the same bank in Cusco. We do a bit of shopping, buy some medicines that I need and catch up with one of Prudencio’s sons, who is studying at a local University. I also had a haircut and my first shave in a barbers shop! Cost me only S/.2 for the shave, so was excellent value as I had about two weeks growth! No cuts either!

We also weighed ourselves and shock horror I am only 80 kilos fully dressed. I was 92 kilos on the 4th of December last year, was 86 on the 9th of August this year and now lost a further 6 kilos since then. I think I was 96 kilos when we left Perth. Travelling must be good for my health. We should be able to claim some of the costs against our health funds or Medicare! The advantage of having no large mirror is you don’t get an opportunity to see how thin you look and with no scales you can’t see what living this lifestyle does to you. No problem. But I think we need to get back to drinking a little more wine….. Just to keep the body healthy as I don’t want to loose any more!

We depart Ayacucho for Abancay on the way to Cusco and arrive late as the trip was on a road with a lot of road works. This day started well as I found a taxi real quick and we left in good time not to have to rush. However, it unfolded differently, as there was a police check just near the point where we needed to catch our bus so the taxi driver we took from the hotel wouldn’t drop us off at the right place, so we had to walk carrying our gear the last few hundred yards. Then when we arrived there was no one in the office but several people outside waiting. We waited too! Fifteen minutes after our departure time, many small buses like the one we were to catch drove quickly out of a nearby compound and straight past us and into the street around the corner. We were then told to follow a lady after the buses. Which after putting back on our packs again, we tried to keep up with her! A good distance later we catch up to where some of the buses had parked and then after a bit of talking by this lady to several drivers, we were instructed to follow a another driver over the road and into another side street where he had parked his bus. Great, only 30 minutes late but we are at least on our bus. But it’s not got enough passengers to depart so our driver leaves us to go find some more. Finally, after another hour we depart. Initially the road was sealed and we had the front seats we had booked so all was well. Then the bus got a flat tire. But that wasn’t too bad as they were quick to change it and nearby there were workers planting a field of potatoes who we talked to. It was also a chance to use the bushes…. I was able to take a few nice photos of the mountains and some of the villages we past through.

We arrived in the small city of Andahuaylas about two thirds of the way, quite late and were told we had to change buses to take us on to Abancay and that we were unfortunately on the wrong bus. These buses have no advertising on the side and the driver never checked our ticket! Anyway they would take our tickets and issue us one of theirs at no extra cost as we had paid well over the normal price anyway and they would recover the cost from the company we were meant to travel with. However, we could no longer have our good seats but had to travel at the back of the bus and the next leg of our journey was going to be mostly on rough roads. We were bumped and rocked for most of the next 4 hours arriving in Abancay about 6:30pm.

We grabbed a taxi and headed to the hostal recommended by Lonely Planet and Valerie went in and negotiated a good price and we had a nice room. Next day we toured the main street of the city and we noticed that they had closed off the street our hostal was in. The local school was using it for its running and cycling races. After watching a little, having an ice-cream and a little a look around, it was back to the hostal to collect carry our packs to the next block to catch another taxi to take us to another bus terminal to catch another bus to Cusco. Naturally, the bus was late leaving but it was comfortable even though the road again was in a state of maintenance and repair and much of it unsealed and rough.

We arrived in Cusco and were approached by a woman with a hostal brochure, offering a good price for a room and as it looked good we caught a taxi there. It was okay; however Valerie negotiated a better price than what was offered, as we were staying for a week and it is the start of the low tourist season. We still needed to change our room the next day as the shower tap was very difficult to turn off and the curtain kept falling down.

Next day was Sunday and we walked around Cusco, purchased a good day pack and some other last minute items for Valerie’s trek (chocolates, nuts, dried fruits, etc.) and in the evening we attended the meeting at the office of the trekking company Valerie was going to walk the Inca Trail with. All went well and we returned to our room for Valerie to pack. In the morning I saw Valerie off on the bus for her adventure. I then went searching for a school to improve my still very basic Spanish. The course had started that morning and as I was too late, I just missed that day and started on the Tuesday. I struggled but I have improved a little.

Valerie returned about 9:30 on the Friday night, tired and happy with her trek. After confirming she was well and ready to move on we phoned a bus company and reserved our tickets to Puno for 8am on Sunday morning. Next morning I put her dirty laundry in to be done and walked to the terminal and pay for the tickets while Valerie checked and responded to her emails. That evening we caught up with some of her walking mates for a few drinks, some games of darts and pool.

Sunday morning was an early rise, goodbye to the Hostal Tu Hogar, Cusco and on to Puno. The owner of three “Marlon” hostals was promoting his Puno hostal at the station and it looked good and the price was discounted right, so we booked with him before we boarded the bus. This also meant we would be collected from the bus terminal on arrival and taxied direct to the hostal. The Bus ride was a pleasant one and we arrived in Puno about 4pm and yes we were taken direct to the hostal and it was the best accommodation we had stayed in since we arrived in South America. We stayed another night and then it was over the border and into Bolivia.

The border formalities were straight forward and easy enough. No fees, just the filling out of two forms then a couple of stamps on the forms and in our passports.

Hopefully, I will get our Bolivia story to you by Christmas as the way we are travelling we may spend the full 30 days as stamped in our visa in Bolivia!


Posted by wherethehellrwe 15:45 Archived in Peru

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.