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Gone walkabout


PERU | Sunday, 31 August 2014 | Views [1015]


We were sad to leave Bolivia but excited to visit our last country in South America- Peru. 
Our night bus to Cusco allowed us a few hours on Puno to visit the floating villages . These really are extraordinary but you do get the feeling that the whole thing is a set up for tourists. 
We are told the indigenous live on the islands but as we were the last trip of the day we watched as they jumped into their motor boats ( hidden behind the reeds) and headed for home. I know I sound sceptical but we still enjoyed the trip and were entertained watching a couple of Japanese being pressured to buy overpriced trinkets.  The floating islands are remarkable in the sense that they are entirely built from the long reeds that grow in the bays surrounding Puno. Layers and layers of reeds are used to form small islands upon which small reed huts are erected for basic housing. History tells us the indigenous people escaped from the Puno mainland and built these floating islands so the marauding Spaniards couldn't reach them. Well, it worked. They still exist today.
We arrived on Cusco at 4.30 am and found a hostal for a few more hours sleep. 
Cusco is a charming vibrant tourist town. We do a fabulous free walking tour and move ourselves to a more upmarket Guesthouse that has hot water !!!!! and a great breakfast and clean white sheets…..luxury for $50 bucks a night. We love exploring Cuscos market and plazas and people watching…haven’t seen this many tourists for a long time. Most people seem to herded around in tour groups.
We are so undecided as to how to get to Machu Picchu so we do the rounds of a few agencies. Salkantey is a rigorous trek that we are leaning toward but after a few days in Cusco enjoying the lovely city, walking tours, museums and the inca culture we decide to head to the Sacred Valley and inch our way to the pinnacle of this trip Machu Picchu. 
Pisaq - a lovely village with a permanent artisan market is our first stop on the local bus. We drop our bag at a hostal, eat a quick "Menu " (daily lunch ) for 1.80 two coarses at the market and head up the steep trail toward the fort 4 km up hill. 
 The Incas really knew how to use every inch of land. They were skilled builders and engineers using rock as their main building material. The never ending terraces and trails reach skyward as we huff and puff our way from one spectacular vista to another. The sun gate, sun and moon temple, aqueducts are all spread over a huge site. Up and down we go along trails and through tunnels, until we reach the entrance where most visitors start. ( those that choose the easy bus option, that is). Here we see many hundreds of holes in the hillside which are tombs that the Spanish conquistadors raided. Some still have skeletal remains but no golden jewellery or relics remain. The Spaniards cleaned up everything. We see a small arrow with a sign saying Pisaq! Great, a shortcut back down the mountain to town. The wind had whipped  up and we galloped down like a couple of mountain goats. After 10 minutes or so we come across a local man with his load on his back. After the usual greeting of 'hola, buenos tardes' he offers us some coca leaves. Now this is a first as it's usually us doing the offering. We each take a small handful, fill our mouths with the dull tasting green leaf, and part ways continuing the fabulous hike with no one to set the pace but ourselves and taking a break to enjoy the pan piper music wafting through the valley. The coca kicks in to help us enjoy the hike more!
  Funeral Caves
Next stop Ollantaytamo ( or Ollanta for short) further along the valley this pretty town is in danger of being loved to death as most trains for MP leave from here.
Our gorgeous hostal is beside the river and we head up to the impressive ruins perched above the town . There are some serious tour groups here and we partake in one of our favourite pastimes tour group evesdropping. Now don't start thinking we are freeloading on other peoples tours but it is almost impossible not to pick up some great  tidbits when the groups stop next to you. We manage to climb as far as allowed ( watch out for the whistle blowing guards if you put a foot wrong) and scope out some great hikes for the next few days. 
Hey Leeanne we should walk up there .......
We climb to the opposite mountain to visit the grain storage ruins and the the ultimate hike to the Canteras (quarries) where the great Incan stones were pushed down the mountains. This was a serious hike of 15 km of which 6 k was uphill. More huffing and puffing boy were these guys seriously fit we have spectacular vistas of the sacred valley, gigantic sleeping rocks which never made it down the valley and an impressive stone wheel. We enjoy our avocado and boiled egg lunch with a view to die for and rustle up the energy to return to town. 
are you sure this is the path????
The time has finally come to head to MP. The weather is perfect, it is free entrance for Peruvians on Sundays so we head off using the die hard travellers route via hydraelectrica and a 3 hour walk. This trip normally entails numerous bus / taxi changes but as luck would have it when we get to the square to wait for the bus an excited taxi driver tells us he has two passengers already for the complete trip. He wants to fill his car so we negotiate a discounted price which is still too high but is comfortable and very quick.  The two shy Japanese boys jump in and we are off on another beautiful, thrilling, cliff hugging, journey. We are both in hysterics laughing at these two as we ride along negotiating death defying gravel roads, listening to them going "aawwh" round every corner with their 'you beaut' Canon cameras and GoPros clicking away
It is only 28 km from Ollanta to MP by train but they want a whopping $80 - 120 for the pleasure. Our route is 5 hours by car and 3 hiking but it feels like an adventure and we are happy with our decision to hike days but enjoy the comfort of hostals at night. We pass the beautiful Salkantay mountain winding up and over the Andes and down to Hydroelectrica where we walk for 3 hours along the railway line to Aguas Calliente- or Machu Picchu Pueblo. After hunting around for a reasonable room and purchasing our tickets for the next day we are excited and set for an early start . 
Machu Picchu Mountain is behind me
Watch out Coggo
 the things you see!
We opt for the bus up to Machu Picchu so we can enjoy the site without being too tired. It still means queuing up at 4.30 am for the first buses at 5.30. We are inside just after opening at. 6. We climb straight up behind the caretakers cottage and wait for the sun to rise. It truly is a spectacular sight.
As with Iguassu Falls - Machu Picchu does not disappoint. The location alone is spectacular, perched on a ridge high in the mountains, surrounded by dense jungle it emits an ethereal spiritual quality. The beauty of being an independent traveller allows you to find secluded spaces to sit, watch and contemplate at your own leisure. We spend the whole day on the site hiking to the Sun Gate ( where the Incs trail enters the site), the Inca Bridge,
Inca Bridge
chilling on high terraces and feeding the llamas bananas which they are allowed.
We are truly grateful and satisfied with our experience. we walk down the mountain on a high and shout ourselves a few Pisco Sours to celebrate. Next morning we retrace our steps walking out along the rail lines, taxi and bus to Cusco. A freak storm hits just before we arrive in Cusco and we go from 30 degrees to about 5 and there is even ice or snow on the cars. We were intending to get a night bus to Arequipa that night but decide to have another night in the lovely guesthouse and sort it out manyana.
Arequipe is a lovely white city and we arrive the day before Arequipe day, so of coarse there are parades and music and parades and drinking. The town reminds us a lot of Sucre in Bolivia. We organise a few forward travel arrangements and enjoy the festivities.
Sitting in the deepest v canyon in the world a few hours out of Arequipa. This is Colca Canyon. People come here to either catch a glimpse of the flying condors or trek down into the canyon. We choose to do both. After getting picked up at 3 .15 am we drive up into the mountains for 3 hours to the small town of Chivay at the head of the Canyon. Breakfast is a stale bread roll and tiny portion of cold scrambled egg. Coffee 'sorry, no milk here'. Next stop Cruz de Condor where the condors are gliding effortlessly through the slipstream. Unfortunately 500 or so other people are doing the same thing . Everyone with cameras clicking away! The condor is worth seeing, especially if they fly close to the viewpoint. With a wingspan of an incredible 3 metres, and standing 1.2 m tall they are huge creatures. They mate for life and amazingly if one partner should die the other bird will soar to heights of 7000m and then plummet to earth in a suicide dive. How romantic.!!!
so we're going down there ????? and back up again ?????????
An hour down the road we meet Nelson out guide for the next 3 days. He points to the bottom of the canyon and tells us we will have lunch there. 3 1/2 spectacular hours straight down ...eeek. It is hot, yes hot and we are all glad to finally cross the river to our  camp for the night. Accommodation is basic dorm beds with 'tipica' Peruvian meals dished up. Locals grow fruit and veggies in their small villages at the base of the canyon . Electricity is a new convenience to these people . A  crude road is being painstakingly cut into the mountainside .Landslides are common, earthquakes also occur causing damage to buildings and roads.  Cars will eventually replace the traditional mule transport which is such a traditional part of Peruvian mountain life. The 2 Nd night is spent at a beautiful oasis, swimming and relaxing. 
rest these feet
 The next day it's time to head back up to the top . Nelson, our young guide, wakes us at 4.30 am to start the long uphill climb. Head torches a needed for the first hour until the sun peaks over the distant mountain range. The scenery comes to life as the morning sun lights up the canyon. Another magic moment. We reach the top, feeling exhausted and relieved, just before a group of locals with mules make their way past us . Some gringo tourists are riding mules, camera around their necks, not sweating  a bit. Leeanne and I are dripping as we sit at the top finishing our last water bottle, still mesmerised at this awesome canyon below us.
Back to Arequipa and a night bus north to Nascar, straight aboard a small 5 seater plane, and a 30 minute joyride. We are about to see the world famous Peruvian pre Inca lines. Gigantic lines and various shapes of birds, monkeys, astronauts, and compasses cover the flat desert plains only visible from the air. Many theories about their origin and meaning still leave us mystified as to what they really represent and how and why are they here? 
This sight seeing wonder done, we travel further north through Peru’s desert wasteland until we reach Huacachino, a real life desert oasis town. Sitting in the middle of vast sand hills is a small water hole approx. 200m long. The town is built on its shoreline inside a bowl of 100m high sand hills. Gotta see this place to believe it. Apart from the oasis, sand boarding and buggy rides are the main attractions here. For about $12 we get a 2 hour ride in a V8 purpose built sand buggy taking us over and through the surrounding dunes. Great fun and totally exhilarating, giving us a much needed adrenalin rush! We stop the buggy on top of enormous sand hills, look over the edge, jump on a sand board and slide down to the bottom…really fast. Biggest sand hills I have ever seen and so steep. The next day we climb to the top and agree it was a lot easier in the buggy.
Once again we move on north in an attempt to reach the Pacific coast for our last week in Peru. Our time is nearly up in this action packed country. We skip straight through Lima (capital city) and get a connecting bus up to Huanchaco, a surf town we have been dreaming of for months. It is still winter here but with the sun setting most days we manage to soak up some rays, chill out and relax for the next week. Our hostel, Casa Amelia, is a perfect choice. With only 3 rooms, communal kitchen, cold beer and friendly people, we settle in way too easily. I find a board shop up the road and negotiate a good price on a board and wetsuit for the week. The waves here are so consistent, with the swell coming up from the South Pacific, hitting the small point and providing perfect left-handers towards the jetty. The locals are good surfers and know the break so well. They whistle, they joke, they joke, they laugh lots. This place is really a surfer’s dream town. Most travellers we meet here all seem to have the same opinion. Our host at the hostel is a Dutch bloke that arrived here 2 years ago and hasn’t left. He manages the hostel, surfs every day and shares a beer with fellow travellers. Not a bad life! 
WE buy veggies and fruit from the market, cook, do yoga and chill with some great people.
Our time here in Huanchaco gives us time reflect on our last month in Peru. We are happy we have visited and explored many of the famous world heritage sights and Natural wonders on offer, taking in the contrasting natural landscape of the Andes to the vast desert plains, and meeting and communicating with local Peruvians, some very traditional and others very western. 
We often think about home, we think about our kids, our family and friends. It is countdown time. We will see them all soon.  The time is right! 
What a ride…. after 2  + years on the road it is time to hang up the backpack for a while and become “Australian” again. We are satisfied and satiated by this journey, it has exceed our dreams. Our lives are forever improved and nourished by the places, experiences and people we have encountered during our travels. We are truly grateful. Our love for each other is immense! !
Old dude backpacker
best saleswoman.......of coarse we bought the weaving.
Erotic Pottery

Tags: arequipe, colca canyon, huacachina, huanchaco, machu picchu, nazca, ollantaytambo, pisac, sacred valley



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