A Travellerspoint blog

Blog 5 - Bolivia to Iguazu, Ushuaia and back to Peru

Bolivia

We arrived in Bolivia on the 19th of November. Bolivia has the highest percentage of indigenous people in Latin America and is also one of the poorest and cheapest countries to visit. However, we saw much development at the micro level. Many new houses were being built almost everywhere we went. And tractors were replacing the bullock for ploughing some of the fields. Still much of the agriculture is primitive. All the areas we pasted through now had electricity and like Peru toilets and laundry troughs had been built outside. Probably still cold showers but progress.

Our crossing was through the Yunguyo route and a small village called Kasani and on to Copacabana. We waited one and a half hours in Copacabana before hoping on another bus to take us on to La Pas. This was considered the easiest and safest route to take, however it did cost a little more. We then travelled to the little town of San Pablo de Tiquina where we all had to get off the bus and hop on a small boat while our bus was ferried across the lake on a barge. We had to pay 2 bolivianos each to get across to rejoin our bus. We arrived in La Paz and then took the advice of a fellow traveller and found our hotel. It was called the Majestic but was basic for the B150 we paid but it was close and central. Being close was good as we had to walk along the busy, unevenly paved, narrow and hilly streets to get there.

The next few days were busy visiting the French Consulate sorting out issues back in France and checking out the tourist shops to buy Christmas presents for Valerie’s family and getting our bearings and getting accustomed to a new currency. We then booked a bus back to Copacabana where we took a trip on Lake Titicaca to the Island of the Sun.

This was an enjoyable day but I found it a bit boring and ordinary compared with Cusco and Machu Piccu. But the weather was good the both ride good once the fumes of the motor were blown out of the cabin.

We then travelled back to La Paz where Valerie finished her Christmas shopping and posted it to France. My Net book computer had been working very slow for some time so we found a computer repair place and had all programs removed and reloaded and put in an extra Giga-bite of RAM hopefully to speed things up a bit. Paid our money and got a different version of XP so hasn’t worked as good as the original since. Bit it is working a little faster just with a lot of fixes necessary way too often.

Saturday the 30th of November we headed to Sucre. This is the official capital of Bolivia. We enrolled in a week of Spanish lessons here. I managed to learn a bit more but as soon as I am out of the classroom I quickly seem to forget it again!

Sunday the 8th of December we caught a bus to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, our departure point for Paraguay. Most of our time here was just spent looking around the city, which was very nice; taking in the latest movie releases and getting my visa for Paraguay. Originally we were going to depart from here by train but as I was required to present a ticket all the way to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, we changed it and travelled all the way by bus – again. Getting the visa took a few days back and forth travel – originally by taxi and eventually we discovered the bus numbers and took the much cheaper option.

On the 12th of December the night came when we had to depart Santa Cruz. With my passport with my newly issued visa therein, we departed for the bus terminal. Departure time was scheduled for 7pm but we left at 8:10pm. Not too late for a bus in South America! They immediately served our dinner – Chicken and rice and a bottle of soft drink. Valerie got her vegetarian meal (salad, eggs and rice) as requested. The bus was an old one and although a “semi cama”, meaning the seats reclined, they were closer together and lower so no room for my long legs under them and when the seat in front was put back, the only place for my long legs so it was into isle.

At 4am we arrived at the exit point of Bolivia so had to disembark and get our passports stamped out of the country. We changed the remainder of our surplus currency here into Guarani, Paraguayan money.

Paraguay

About 2 hours later we were required to get off the bus again as we had arrived at the Paraguayan immigration luggage inspection station. After the highly trained drug sniffing dog had sniffed our entire luggage it was time for a physical inspection of every piece of luggage. Naturally, being tired and having to open everything up was just the tip of the iceberg! Getting my very full backpack closed again was an issue but I managed. Back on the bus and a few kilometres on and we are stopped again and several customs officials come on board looking under the seats and at items of hand luggage while two other re-examine the contents of the luggage compartments. Two people are taken off to open their luggage again. Again nothing appears to be wrong and we head off again. An hour latter we arrive at the official immigration centre where our entire luggage is again removed from the bus and we have it examined again. We also go to the immigration centre and get our passports stamped into country.

On our way again; and seven more times the bus is stopped and a customs officials and or policeman board the bus and examine one or two items of luggage and then the bus is allowed to continue. We finally arrive at our destination of Asuncion at 9pm after 25 hours of travel. We get a taxi to a hotel and a good night’s sleep is had.

Paraguay is a little known land-locked county in the centre of South America and very few tourists visit it but as it is on our direct route to Iguaçu so we decided to make the effort to travel through it and see for ourselves. Asuncion is bloody hot this time of the year so I was very pleased we had an air-conditioned room. We didn’t really do much here. Just enjoyed the city, the food, managed to withdraw some US dollars and change them for Argentinean pesos at a better rate (we think) and drink a few nice local and real cold beers. Caught up with a few emails and cooked a few tasty vegetarian meals in the kitchen. Our accommodation is central and near the Plaza de los Heros, is where a military guard protects the remains of Mariscal Francisco Solano Lopez and other key figures from Paraguay’s catastrophic wars. Again we took advantage of some good local wines available and also enjoyed a few Argentinean wines.

Our departure was on another bus and via the eastern most city of Paraguay, Ciudad del Este thought Brazil (Foz do Iguaçu) and into Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Here, I obtained my visa for Brazil and then we could travel back into Brazil to officially visit their side of the falls.

We visited the falls on the Argentinean side on the first day (Saturday the 21st of December) and took a tour which included a truck ride through 5.5 km of jungle to the river where we boarded a speedboat to take up right up to the Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s throat) Canyon and the very wet close-up to the Argentine side approaching the San Martin Waterfall, the 2nd biggest one. We got very wet from the spray. They don’t actually take you under the falls otherwise the boat would fill with water in seconds. That would be no good as I wouldn’t be able to tell you that we had a wonderful day… We concluded our day with walks taking hundreds of photos from the tops of many of the falls. The number of falls varies depending on the season up stream but reaching 270 during the very “wet” months and a minimum of 150 during the dry days. During flood seasons the volume of water exceeds 6,500 cubic metres per second flowing over the area.

We planned a bit more of our trip and rested on the Sunday and arranged for our first activity on the Monday morning would be to be a visit to the Brazilian Consulate to try for a visa to Brazil. I copied my latest bank statement and tax assessment onto a memory stick which were needed and I tried in vain to be able to find and print out a visa application in our Hostel. The hostel’s printer did not work!

We arrived at the Consulate and were given instructions and told where we could go to print out the required information. However, a power outage was to prevent us doing anything – even getting a visa if we had all the documents necessary. We went back to our hostel and had our breakfast. Great, just finishing breakfast and power returned. We went the address as instructed but only to find it closed; but typical of South Americans, a man seeing our disappointment directed us to another one where I completed my application and printed out the required documents. Then I had to buy a return bus ticket to Brazil and back to the Consulate - on the way visiting a backpacker hostel to use their glue-stick to paste my photo to the application. Handed it over to the Consulate official at 10am, paid the required fee and told to come back at 12 noon. Arrived at noon only to find the internet was down so nothing could be done but wait. We waited an extra hour and walked out with my visa. I had a 90 day multi-entry visa issue from today.

So back to the bus station, change the ticket to the following day and buy one for Valerie and ready to go visit the Brazilian side of the falls.

That night we shared some nibbles and two bottles of red with a young couple from England ( Fred and Emily), then they purchased two more bottles and as we had arranged to cook steamed veggies for our dinner, so we shared it too as there was plenty! A great night!

Christmas Eve, the 24th of December we went into Brazil and saw the other side. Not as good as the Argentine side but you do get to see more of the bigger picture. After arriving we discovered all the ATMs we tried and we tried all three cards we had with us and none of them worked. So this meant we had to actually use our credit cards and not just withdraw cash which is our preferred way of paying for things. No problem I have a 28 degrees debit/credit card so shouldn’t be any fees so I used that to get us into the park. After the park visit it was time to take a helicopter ride over the falls. This time my 28 Degrees card was rejected so I had to use my ANZ visa card! It worked so up and away we went over the falls. Unfortunately we both got stuck in the inside seats so a little difficult to take photos as good as we should have been able too. But we both saw and experienced it from the air. We had had a bird’s eye view! Now we have seen as much as we could it was back on the bus and over the border again and back into Argentina.

Upon arrival at our hostel we had a nice cold beer (left in the fridge for us by Fred and Emily) and started to prepare our dinner and we were invited to join the manager and other guests for a communal dinner by the empty pool. We agreed but they were not to start till 10:30pm. Normally way past my bedtime! We shared a few bottles of Champers and I was the first to say goodnight “buenas noches” at just after midnight. Valerie kicked on for at least another hour and several went to bed about 5am.

Christmas day was just a quite day. A little reading, chats on Skype to friends around the world and lunch cold meats and Ice-cream with banana shared with other guests and the manager.

Boxing Day was just another nice day walking around the town and checking out the border of the three countries – Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

We shifted to another Hotel on the 28th of December as it had a pool that actually had water in it and we would be able to swim each day for the next 5 days. Would you believe it rained and was cloudy for each of those 5 days! However, it was still hot and so I did enjoy a swim or 4.

New Years Eve was had at the hostel with the owners and other guests and was a great evening but if more of the owners and guest spoke English or if my Spanish was better I would have enjoyed the night a lot better.

On Friday the 2nd of January, at 12 noon, we took a taxi over the border into Brazil to the main bus terminal to catch our bus to Florianopolis on the Brazilian coast
Brazil – bus ride

The bus departed Foz do Iguaçu at 5:30pm and as it was only a Semi Cama with seats too close together for my long legs so only a little sleep was had - again. Again the temperature was set at 19 or 20 degrees so it was cold. When we arrived in Florianopolis at 9:30am and it was raining! So we decided to jump on the next bus to Porto Alegre. This didn’t departed at 10:30am, so just a quick stop and we were on our way again.

When we arrived in Porto Alegre, it was still raining! We spoke with another couple who had booked their accommodation and said it was an expensive city; and as it was a large industrial port city we decided not to stay here either. We went and found out when the next bus left towards Uruguay. We purchased a ticket and waited at the bus terminal till 23:30. Then, we were on our way again, this time, over night to the border town of Chui.

Uruguay – more bus travelling

We arrived there at 7am. We visited the immigration office and had our passports stamped and followed two fellow passengers through the town across the actual border which ran through the main street, till we found the bus station where we purchased our ticket to La Paloma! We were going to go to the little beach town of Punta del Diablo but one of our new friends said it would be very, very busy and expensive and difficult to find accommodation this time of the year if we hadn’t booked. He suggested we take the bus a bit further to his little beach side village - so La Paloma it was! We had to wait till 9:30am for the bus to depart so time to get some Uruguayan pesos from the magical ATM. A little breakfast and we were on the road again! We finally arrived in La Paloma! At last it was going to be time to stop and relax in a small seaside village and enjoy a bit of Uruguay.

There were tents under all the forested areas opposite the bus terminal! Not a real good sign. Our young friend said goodbye as he was home and wanted to go for a swim. We checked with the tourist office and they marked on the map where to find the nearest back-packers! We put on our packs and walk there, only to find it almost full but for two bunk beds in the smallest six bed dorm I have ever seen! It had a tiny window, in a very hot room; and with the four packs already on the floor, no room to more with ours on the floor too! And this was available at the small price of US$25 each! This would be the worst room and most expensive we had to sleep in since arriving in South America.

My research had shown this country not to be so expensive but it was Christmas holidays and all the Uni kids and as many people as possible flock to the coast to relax and party or maybe just to party! We didn’t find it relaxing so we left our packs there and walked the town trying to find anything better. No luck, so we had an early dinner and walked a bit more and didn’t find the beach came up to my standards. Waves would be good for surfers but lots of rocks in the area we saw. We went back to the bus terminal and booked our tickets to Montevideo. Back to the hostel and one beer and we went to managed to get a pedestal fan into the doorway of the room and went to bed at about 9pm! This was the 4th of January, the first time we had been in an actual bed for 60 hours!. The three boys in the room partied late and then when they finally came to bed, were noisy as drunken blokes are and stumbled over the packs in the dark! But being tired we both still managed to catch up on some well needed sleep!

We breakfasted, and caught the bus on to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. We arrived and took a taxi to the Hotel Ideal. After checking out our room options we booked in went for our dinner. Next day we checked out Montevideo we found the city to be very old and tired and many of the buildings in various stages of crumbling down and the city very dirty. Nothing impressed us so we decided we would move onto Colonia Del Sacramento for two days.

After talking with the tourist office at the bus terminal we walked to the ferry terminal and booked our tickets to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We then walked the 4 blocks to the Hostel el Espanol as recommended by the tourist office. The Hostel was expensive again and not good value for money at A$53 per night but our choice was limited so we stayed.

We dined out again and had one of our worst meals ever. Also, we waited for more than 40 minutes to get our poor meal. Then still to charged an added table fee we were much less than satisfied.

Previously I had read that this was city not to be missed. I don’t agree. This is also an old city still with cobbled streets with a few old buildings dating back to 1745. The city was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 to smuggle goods across the Rio de la Plata into Buenos Aires. Again, I was un-impressed but we lunched in the tourist area and enjoyed a nice meal. One rip-off custom of Uruguay was that they would charge you a fee for the use of their table, and cutlery over and above the cost of the meal on the menu and then add on their non obligatory 10% tip! Naturally, this still does not go down well with me. Why don’t they just all agree to include all costs in the price of the meal? Then those tourists on budgets don’t get an unexpected shock at the end of the meal.

Back to Argentina

Next day we left Uruguay and went back to Argentina. We took a taxi to our apartment. It was nice but again they missed the plot as there were no breakfast bowls, toaster, wine glasses, salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl, knife for cutting veggies, toilet brush, etc. Just missed so many basic items that you need when staying in a self contained apartment for a week. But still better than a back=packers for a week.

We walked around some of Buenos Aires, took a hop on – hop off bus trip and saw some tango dancing, and all we wanted to see. We even took in a movie. The most enjoyable sight I enjoyed was the area known as La Boca. It is an old colourful, roughhousing area which is now a tourist Mecca by day.

However, everywhere there were cracked footpaths, graffiti and large rubbish bins on the inner city streets. The bins were due to the large number of inner city apartments. There were also many beggars and a lot of poverty existed which was evident by the number of garbage “recyclers” climbing into the big bins trying to edge out an existence. Then the many huge palaces or mansions around the city highlight the wealth that also exists in the city.

When walking down the Street of Florida there were many people calling out “cambio - cambio”. These were money changes who would change US$ for a rate much better than you could change in the official cambio. We got 10.3 pesos for each US$. The official rate was 6.7. Since then the Argentine pesos has dived further and I was told 11 pesos was being paid for a US$. (When we first arrived the A$ was worth 5.89 pesos but by the 10th of February it had fallen further and A$1 was buying 7 pesos.)

We booked our bus and headed south down the east coast of Argentina to Puerto Madryn. Here, Valerie wanted to see some seals, penguins and dolphins in the wild. This area is also visited by whales during their breeding season but not now. I caught up with some emails, visited the doctors as I had caught a cough that wouldn’t go away and Valerie did her tours. It was a pleasant seaside town where you could retire if you liked the cold. It was the middle of a southern hemisphere summer but only just warm. Too cold for me and we were still travelling south.

Next stop was Rio Gallegos, where would change buses again and go over through Chile and cross over the Strait of Magellan by ferry and back into Argentina again. Sometimes the current runs too fast for the ferry and by the time we arrived this was the case. So we waited about 1.5 hours and then it was all- aboard. Bus and passengers! It took about 30 minutes to cross. Then, it was back on the bus and on to Ushuaia. We took a bus out to the Tierra del Fuego national park and walked around the most southerly Argentine National Park for a day. It was very beautiful in a rugged manner and most enjoyable and if equipped would have been great for us to camp there. There were many campers in the region.

The next day we enjoyed a boat trip on the Beagle Channel to check out some islands, rock cormorants, some sea lions and fur seals, the Les Eclaireurs light-house which was build in 1919. We get off on Bridges Island and are shown two archaeological sites of the Yamanas people. These aborigines wore no clothing. Bloody tough I say, as this was as warm as it gets and it was somewhat cool. It was a pleasant, interesting and relaxing day.

Now we have been there and done that, it was now time to head north back through Chile and to Argentina, through Rio Gallegos to change onto another bus and on to El Calafate.

El Calafate was a small town on Lake Argentina into which the ‘Perito Moreno Glaciar’ flows. This glacier is in the southern part of the “Los Glaciares National Park”. It is a reserve of some 600,000 hectares created in 1937 and recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1981. We bussed it the 50 kilometres to the reserve and walked around the board-walks and then took boat to the face of the Glacier. Well up to about 100 metres from the face as it keeps dropping large pieces of ice the size of houses and they considered it not safe. One of the signs reads that 32 people have been killed by the ice between 1968 and 1988 and on witnessing the size of some of the pieces, if a boat was near the wake would surely rock it. This glacier has a front of 5 kilometres and rises 60 metres above the water level. The brochure mentions the Andean (huemul) deer, the Patagonian skunk, the guina wild cat, grisson, red foxes and pumas the Torrent duck and Upland geese but we don’t see any of these. We did see the magellanic woodpecker and watch one of them hammer on the trunks of trees and quite a few guanacos from the window of the bus. After four nights it was on the road again.

This time it was up Ruta 40 with an over night stay in the Hotel Belgrano to Bariloche (25hours on a bus). The road we took is a bit of a rough road which many bus companies don’t take due to its condition. It is the longest road in Argentina and is akin to Route 66 in the US or travelling the Nullarbor in Australia. However, it is no longer all dirt and is just a different way to go other than to go back up the way we came down. But the scenery was nothing to write home about. Much like the route going down to Ushuaia only we went north now instead of south but a bit slower due to road conditions!

San Carlos de Bariloche

I was last here 22 years ago and in that time it has grown into a very touristy town with prices to match. Bloody tourist – they ruin everything! Every thing was busy and I didn’t feel relaxed. We arrived about 8pm and it was still light so after getting a map from a tourist office we walked to our hostel. Only to discover that I had got my dates wrong and we were not booked in until the following night. However, the chap there rang another place and they had two beds left so we walked further up the hill to this place.

That night we cooked a half packet of noodles we had with us and put two large beers in the freezer to consume after. While enjoying our beers some young ones came in with enough pizza mixture for about 8 pizzas. Valerie managed to offer some beer for a bit of pizza so we shared their pizza and shouted three additional bottles of beer to share. We only stayed four days, we did a volcano tour into another National park and this time we saw a black glacier. However, it was raining again so no real good photos. We took a local bus out to a high point called Cerro Campanario and took a chair lift to the top. Had lunch there and came back down after taking lots of photos of the surrounding lakes and mountains. We walked around the lake and tasted a bit of the local chocolate and planned to cross back over the Andes into Chile again.

Back into Chile for a quick trip – 1st to the 12th of Feb, 14

So the border run was on again, caught the bus as usual up and over the Andes into Chile and down to a place called Puerto Montt. It was rained most of the time we were there but this was only two days. The place looked tired and it just was not as interesting as I had remembered it from some 22 years ago. The train doesn’t run to here anymore, there is a disjointed collection of the old and new buildings and the old really looks just old and with little maintenance done on the houses and the dismal rainy weather the place had no appeal at all.

So we jumped on another bus after just two days and went north to Chillan with the hope also of some warmer weather. Unfortunately with the cloudy skies most of the way we didn’t see the snow capped mountains but otherwise it was a pleasant ride through the countryside.

When we arrived we took a taxi straight to the train station to book our train ticket to Santiago as we had tried the night before to book our tickets on the internet but couldn’t finalise it and we knew there were only a few seats left.

After getting our tickets we went to our accommodation that we had booked. It didn’t sound too good from the internet but when we got there it was great and so was the owner. We found it a nice place but as we had already booked our train ticket we had to go the next morning. You can never believe all you read on the internet!

Next day we took the train from Chillan to Santiago. We would have liked to take one from Puerto Montt but it is no longer running. It was a good and comfortable ride. We arrived at an outer suburb and caught the subway into the centre of Santiago where we had booked our hostal. It was dirty, had no towels, the mattress was too soft and the receptionist refused to give us our 10% discount for carrying and presenting our “Get South” book on arrival so we checked the internet and found a furnished and equipped serviced apartment for just a few dollars more and moved the next morning after getting to complain to the management and getting our 10% discount.

Caught up with our friends Federico and Barbara for drinks and just relaxed for the week before we were on the road again. Having an equipped kitchen was great as we were able to buy curry paste and coconut milk and enjoyed some great curry dinners. Also, there were plenty of nice wines, champagnes and chocolates to enjoy. Just because we are backpacking, we can still take a break every now and then and enjoy a bit of the good life….

Back into Argentina 12 Feb 14

Well time to try the Argentine wines so back into our chauffeured driven vehicle (bus) with reclining seats and back over the Andes into the wine regions of Argentina and the city of Mendoza. Would you believe it was also raining here so we only stayed for four days and also our accommodation was really crappy? The rain leaked trough the roof onto the fridge in the tiny kitchen and covered the path to get there. The only dry place to eat was in there lounge room and our bedroom had no windows so was dark and smelly. We were pleased to be on our way again.

Next stop was Salta. Here again we chose to book into a service apartment as it was almost my birthday and we would like to enjoy more wines and good food. Again, as we had stocked up on Curry paste and coconut milk we were able to enjoy another curry and Valerie blew the budget and purchased a very nice “Chandon” champagne to celebrate. From here we toured (11 hrs) the nearby (390 kms round trip) region of Cafayate, viewing the mountainous scenery, visiting a few small villages, a winery and enjoyed a small sample of their wine, enjoyed a traditional lunch (an on table BBQ) and experienced a bit of local Carnival culture. This is in part, besides the wonderful costumes, dancing and music the great playful spraying of water, flour and white foam onto all who walk by. I must be getting old as I don’t find it fun anymore but I’m sure I did when I was younger…..

Back to Bolivia

On the 24th of February we took another bus to La Quiaca and walked across the border back into Bolivia into the town of Villazon and immediately caught a bus to Uyuni to see the world's largest salt flats at 10,582 square kilometres. It is located in the south-west Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes and is at an elevation of 3,653 or 3,656 metres above sea level (Depends on which brochure is correct). We took a tour out for the day to ‘Incahuasi Island’ where we checked out a pub made from salt(Not operating when we were there), had a picnic lunch on the Island and took some more photos and then came back again. Check out the photos on the blog.

We then took the overnight train from Uyuni to Oruro as we were informed it was Carnival time and it was one of the best in Bolivia and was on during the coming weekend. A very noisy train but it was comfortable. We arrived early in the morning and we needed to find accommodation. We teamed up with a Spanish – Chilean couple and checked out several places – none very good but we booked into the best of what we could find at a very high price as it was Carnival that weekend and most places were full and all charged double or more for the Carnival period.

We purchased our Carnival tickets – had to buy for the two days even though we were leaving to go on to La Paz the following morning. Again some great costumes, music and dancing some as good as that you would find in Rio and again many young ones with that bloody foam spray to drench you. Gringos are a preferred target. Hugh water pistols were also being used to help get you in the mood…….. The (po) “not happy” mood….. Unfortunately, that afternoon a bridge which the people danced and paraded under collapsed and killed 5 people and injured about 60 others. It was packed with onlookers wanting a free advantage point. This meant the show stopped for the rest of the evening.

We left early the next morning and when in La Paz checked into a younger set hostal (Pirwa Hostel) near the bus terminal. Saved on the taxi fare to our previous hostel and this one did have a king size bed and En-suite.

Unfortunately they didn’t advise us of the all night parties. We managed to last through the first one by joining in but the second night we only lasted till midnight and thankfully being tired managed to get some sleep.

Again the Carnival was happening here. This time we were just trying to cross the road to get back to our hostal and we were set upon by about 6 or so sprayers. This time Valerie wanted revenge so we hassled with a young sprayer taking his spray can. I stupidly gave it to Valerie (while I retreated to clean my glasses as I couldn’t see anything) who proceeded to seek her revenge on everybody with a water pistol or foam spray. She was out numbered about 1,000 to 1 but she fought a fantastic battle and got totally soaked. When I recovered I noticed the spray can she was using had almost no spray left. I purchased a new can and swapped it with her now almost useless can. She continued to get drenched and fight back with everyone while we headed back to the safety of our room. I followed on quietly behind.

We stayed just a few days to check out and buy a Samsung 10.1 Tablet so we could keep in touch better and as the battery in my net-book computer was failing and it was going to be hard to buy a new one till we get to Lima.

Back to Peru 7-Mar-2014

We left La Paz and returned to Peru and when we arrived in Puno we were immediately approached by a keen salesman and we purchased our tickets to the Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca. This is the highest navigable lake on earth, which is more than 3,800 meters above sea level. It is 196 kilometres long, extending from western Bolivia to south-eastern Peru.

We then took a taxi to our accommodation, which we were sold while we were at the bus terminal. We needed more Peruvian Soles so a quick trip down to the main Plaza informed us that Carnival was still alive and well here and that they also had the mighty water pistols and foam spray cans. The ATM didn’t work so it was a quick dinner and a retreat to our accommodation. Naturally we did manage to take a few more photos before our retreat.

Our next destination was Colca Canyon. This is some 4,000 metres deep and Andean Condors, which have a wingspan of up to 3.2 and are usually seen flying or gliding every morning up the canyon on the thermal currents. They are claimed to be the world’s 4th largest flying bird.

The bus picked us up at 8am next morning to take us to the wharf for our trip to the Floating Islands on Lake Titicaca. It was a good trip and we enjoyed it.
The people who live on the Islands are called Uros. The purpose of the island settlements was originally defensive, and if a threat arose they could be moved. The largest island retains a watchtower almost entirely constructed of reeds. About 500 years ago they lost their original language. When conquered by the Incan empire, they had to pay taxes to them, and often were made slaves.
The Uros use bundles of dried totora reeds to make reed boats (balsas mats), and to make the islands themselves. The larger islands house about ten families, while smaller ones, only about thirty meters wide, house only two or three.
The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what makes it exciting for tourists when walking on the island. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster.
Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle. The Uros islands at 3810 meters above sea level are just five kilometers west from Puno port
It was and interesting tour.

We booked our bus for our next destination – Colca Canyon on the internet that afternoon and it was a most efficient service. They collected us at the Hostal at 6am the next morning and on the way stopped at several sites for us to take photos. The area we travelled through is call the Patapampa and is about 4,800 mtrs above sea level. So were able to see lots of vicunas in the wild and some high altitude lakes (4,174 mtrs) with flamingos. We were also able to see a series of volcanoes and snow-covered mountains such as Sabancaya, Ampato, and El Misti, where the origin of the Amazon River is located, which has a length of around 6,800 km to its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean.

We also booked our accommodation online too, so when we arrived in Chivay (3,600 mtrs) our host was there with a taxi to meet the bus. Talk about “Fantastic service”! She took us to our accommodation and informed us of the tour and transport options in the area. We booked what we wanted and went for a walk around the village.

Next morning bright and early we enjoyed a tour to view the Canyon (It is Peru's third most-visited tourist destination with about 120,000 visitors annually, with a depth of 4,160 m, it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States.) and the Condors. There was a lot of cloud in the canyon so actually seeing the condors was easier with the white background. Still getting a photo was difficult but not impossible. You just had to have a bit of patience. One of the mountains in the area (Mt Nevado Ampato) is 6,265 high. I wouldn’t have wanted to climb it. But in my younger days I may have taken on the challenge.

The following morning we took a bus to the village of Cabanaconde (3,287 mtrs), where we proceeded to walk down to a small village of Sangalle (2,180 mtrs) at the bottom where we had arranged to spend the night. It was a long and hard walk down. Thankfully we didn’t walk down the full 4,160 mtrs. That’s the distance from the highest peak to the lowest point. Still we had very sore legs. Next morning we rode mules back up to the top. Not easy (As the stirrups we had on attached to our saddles were made for people with very small feet) as keeping our balance was difficult and with a very narrow and steep path made hanging on to the saddle a life and death issue, but much easier than us trying to walk (climb) up and out.

Nazca Lines

Our next adventure was to view the Nazca Lines. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Peru is located in the tall, dry plateau between the Palpa and Nazca towns. The Nazca lines are the main rival for Machu Picchu as the most visited tourist attraction in Peru. The Nazca lines are giant images printed and can only be seen from the space (or a $35 plane ride) They were created between 200 BC and 700 AD the figures range from simple lines to stylized spiders, monkeys, fish, llamas, lizards and human figures. The lines were created on such a large scale that it wasn’t until the 1920′s, when Peruvian airlines started to fly from Lima to Arequipa, that they were recognized as figures. The images are believed to be the result from visits of outer space-men who came to earth millions of years ago, but some believe that this line is part of a religious ritual. Who Knows?

So, we flew over them, took heaps of photos and then headed back to town where we caught the first of our buses to Ayacucho, where we are now.

Back to our little village to teach some more English in a few days. Will be there for a month before we head to Lima..

Posted by wherethehellrwe 16:01 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Ccaranacc

Les jours passant, nous prenons peu à peu nos mesures et nous familiarisons avec le mode de vie qui sera le notre pendant presque 4 mois et demi. Les premiers temps nous sommes épuisés et la (parfois les) sieste est de rigueur ! Couchés avec les poules et levés tôt car à 6h30 il nous faut remplir les bidons d’eau pour la journée, l’eau n’arrivant que pendant 1 heure à l’unique point d’eau de la maison c'est-à-dire dans le jardin. (Généralement entre 6h30 et 7h30 mais parfois de 6h à 7h !) La plupart du temps nous nous recouchons pour une petite demi-heure bien au chaud sous les couvertures car si les premières semaines suivant notre arrivée, en plein soleil il faut chaud (voire trop chaud car à plus de 3000m, le soleil tape !), dès que le soleil se couche (vers 18h !) et jusqu'à à peu près 8h30, il fait froid !
Nous passons nos premières journées à faire du nettoyage et, du fait de l’altitude, le soir venu, ne faisons pas long feu… !
Après quelques temps nous nous sentons mieux et, même si les efforts violents ne sont toujours pas de rigueur, parfois le soir après diner, au lieu de nous écrouler, nous regardons un film sur le petit net book que nous avons emporté avec nous.
Puis un matin, sans raison apparente, j’ai à mon tour la diarrhée et me sens fiévreuse et très affaiblie. Or le jour est mal choisi car je suis sensée préparer un petit texte en espagnol, dictionnaire à l’appui, afin de proposer de donner des cours d’Anglais gratuits aux gens du village qui le souhaitent.
Et je dois lire ce texte lors de la réunion municipale, qui aura lieu le soir même en présence de nombreux villageois ! Bref, ca tombe mal…
Néanmoins, un doliprane et une longue sieste plus tard, la fièvre étant tombée, je parviens à écrire un texte, et me recouche jusqu’au soir. La réunion venue, j’attends patiemment mon tour et lorsque moment me semble approprié, lance un «j’aurais quelque chose à dire…» et c’est partit… D’un coup, je me sens mieux et entame le discours que j’ai préparé… Lorsque j’ai terminé, tout le monde m’applaudit et les membres du conseil nous proposent de passer le lendemain matin vers 7h afin d’en discuter plus amplement. (Merci le théâtre !)

Deux jours plus tard, Peter est à nouveau pris de diarrhée mais contrairement à moi, ca ne passe pas… Epuisé, il est obligé de s’allonger à plusieurs reprises et est par moment pris de vertiges…
Le surlendemain, il se pense capable de descendre quelques 1000m de dénivelé afin d’aller voir la chakra du père de Yovana (sorte de verger).
Le chemin étant en très mauvais état (il semble avoir été raviné par les fortes pluies et s’est éboulé par endroit) et Peter étant obligé de s’arrêter par moment, son dos le faisant souffrir ou un vertige le prenant, nous mettons un peu plus de 4h à descendre.

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Lorsque Yovana & Rémy apprennent l’état dans lequel se trouve Peter, ils insistent par téléphone afin qu’il aille à l’hôpital (à environ 1h30 de là). Apres des analyses, la doctoresse m’apprend que Peter a la typhoïde et est déshydraté suite à la diarrhée, d’où les fameux vertiges… Peter n’a pas son carnet de vaccination avec lui mais je suis formelle il est vacciné contre la typhoïde et a même eu une injection supplémentaire avant de partir d’Australie afin de booster son vaccin. C’est pourtant bien la typhoïde, il s’agit manifestement d’un type de typhoïde non couvert par le vaccin… D’ailleurs, après vérification sur internet, il semble que le vaccin contre la Typhoïde n’empêche pas de l’attraper et Peter est loin d’être le seul à en avoir souffert…
Il passe quelques heures à l’hôpital sous perfusion afin de se réhydrater et recevoir un antibiotique pour combattre l’infection.et après une nuit passée chez le père de Yovana, nous décidons de rentrer à Ccaranacc.
Apres 10 jours de traitement, pas d’efforts, et un petit « régime » (pas de fruits ou de légumes crus, produits laitiers ok si pasteurisés à l’exception du fromage), il semble peu à peu retrouver des forces. Néanmoins il lui faut boire en quantité suffisante sous peine de voir les fameux vertiges ressurgir…

Au fil du temps passé à Ccaranacc, nous sommes amenés à donner des cours d’Anglais à l’école du village à deux groupes d’enfants, puis un soir de semaine après le dîner aux adultes, auxquels vient s’ajouter un autre cours à Ccaranacc le samedi soir à des enfants du collège de Churcampa et un cours le dimanche en début d’après midi aux professeurs de l’école maternelle de Churcampa (que nous monnayons en échange d’une douche chaude ! Néanmoins chaque Dimanche l’unique chambre de l’hôtel ou il y ait de l’eau chaude est occupée et vu la température ambiante (il y fait un froid glacial !), notre courage fond comme neige au soleil…).
Le quotidien, les différents cours à dispenser ainsi que leur préparation, les moments consacrés à l’étude afin d’améliorer notre espagnol, la contribution à la vie locale telles que les différentes activités du village auxquelles nous participons (faire le pain le samedi matin dont la plupart ira à Churcampa pour être vendu), aider à ramasser le maïs, l’égrainer et le trier… etc., les différentes fêtes du village telles la fête de l’école, la fête du travail ou la célébration de l’Indépendance du Pérou… sans oublier les moments passés à discuter avec des gens du village font de nous des gens bien occupés !
L’occasion nous est également donnée d’assister à la fabrication de briques d’adobe (terre séchée) ou a la construction de la Casa municipal, sorte de maison communale.
Sans compter l’aménagement de la maison de Rémy et Yovana, afin de pouvoir nous y établir plus confortablement qui nous prend aussi du temps. En effet pour cela, il est nécessaire de trouver quelqu’un qui puisse réparer et consolider le mur endommagés par les intempéries ce qui n’est pas chose facile… Nous envisageons d’y installer ensuite une cuisine, c'est-à-dire d’abord un plan de travail avec un petit évier mais également afin de pouvoir également y poser notre table de cuisson, puis des étagères ou un placard pour y poser vaisselle & nourriture, et retourner à Huanta pour y rapporter une autre table et des chaises. Bref, nous avons du pain sur la planche…

Néanmoins, si le confort est extrêmement rudimentaire, ( toilettes à 80m de la porte d’entrée, pas de douche et pas d’eau chaude, connexion à internet très lente et limitée…), le paysage est superbe et les relations avec les gens y sont très riches !

Posted by wherethehellrwe 15:48 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Blog 4 - Peru - 2nd half

Peters Blog for Peru – 2nd instalment.

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.

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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!

Cheers

Posted by wherethehellrwe 15:47 Comments (0)

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.

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.

Ayacucho

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.

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.

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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!

Cheers

Posted by wherethehellrwe 15:45 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Oooops....

Encore une fois, le temps file, les journees, les semaines et les mois passent tellement vite que nous n'avons cesse d'accumuler le retard... Cela fait deja pres de 2 semaines que nous avons fete nos 1 an en Amerique du Sud !
Jevpensais d'abord vous faire un resume depuis que nous etions arrives a Ccaranacc... Finalement, je vais vous mettre le texte (puisque nous avons essaye autant que possible de tenir a jour notre "journal", mais sans les images parce que cela prend enormement de temps ! J'entends deja les protestations monter ! Je vous mettrai donc les photos des endroits que nous avons prefere a la fin.

Posted by wherethehellrwe 15:33 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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