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Seven weeks in Peru

PERU | Thursday, 15 September 2011 | Views [451]

Today(Thursday 15th) is my last day in Peru before I head off to Bolivia tomorrow.

Peru highlights:

Arrive at Lima airport and was granted entry in to the country without any problems - woohoo. It would have been very anticlimatic had I been turned back. After more than ten years of wanting to go to South America I finally arrive to only be turned away, that would have put a bit of a downer of the trip. But as as it was I had no problems. I caught a taxi to my hostel and Men At Work's 'Land Down Under' came on the radio. That was nice of the radio station to make me feel at home.

I stayed in a hip and happening area called Miraflores which geographically is a lot like Shepherds Bush, London. It has a triangular park with loads of shops either side and at the one end there is a roundabout. I was realy excited about being in Peru, South America, and had fun exploring the very large city. The city was very exciting as it was Independence Day and many festivities were going on.

A cheap excursion was a night at Park Reserva where there's a waterlight show put on with food stands cooking typical local food. There were about 7 or 8 different fountains spread around the park and all lit up in different colours culminating in a show at the main fountain put to music. Think of the Bellagio in Las Vegas but in colour.

I also met some of the locals through couchsurfing and had a good night out on the town with them. Of course they thought my name was hilarious, until I produced my passport they thought my name was a nickname.

Went to an optician and bought a new pair of frames and put my old lenses in them so I had glasses again. The frames are pretty cool and only cost about $40 compared to $150 or more back in OZ. Happy days.

To get to Cusco I decided to take the cheaper option by taking the bus. I wasn't looking forward to the trip as I learnt it's a 22 hour journey. But to my surprise the buses were similar to that of first class on a plane. Large seats that recline to become a bed, plenty of leg room, cabin crew and movies. It was the easiest 22 hours I've ever done on a bus. The view through the mountains was spectacular as well. I don't ride a motorcycle but Im aware that travelling by bike you're able to experience and get a feel for your surroundings a lot more and as I was looking out the window I was thinking, one day I'd like to return and do the journey on a motorbike.

So I arrived in Cusco feeling a bit funny I must say. The locals say that it´s normal to feel a bit of altitude sickness for the first day or so. I had a headache for the first two days but I got stuck in to the coco tea and I was ok from then on. Cusco is 3400 metres above sea level.

I stayed with a family in Cusco for two weeks as I went to Spanish school. As the taxi took me to the address of my host family, he pulled up outside a house with a rainbow flag, not that there´s anything wrong with that, but I did wonder what I was in for . But the driver was premature and the address we wanted was a few doors down. I later saw the rainbow flags everywhere and learnt that it's Cusco's flag and not gay pride.

There were six lovely chicas from Barcelona staying at the same house as me and through them I met a chick from Barca whose first name is Africa. We joked that if we got married she'd be Africa Africa.

Cusco has some great nightlife and lots of bars have live music. I spent many a night at Siete Angelitos on alternative rock night.

Being a toursit hub for many people going to Machu Picchu there's alot of people on the street trying to flog something. I met a local lass called Marisol (Sea and sun)who was offering massages. We got chatting and she told me she was studying English. She gave me a book of hers full of poems she'd written and she asked if I'd translate a few into English for her. Sure, no worries. I was able to translate the majority of it but I asked my Spanish teacher for help with the parts I was having trouble with. The poems were love poems and very open and revealing. After we finshed my teacher was on the phone and mentioned to her friend about the poems. She read the poems to her friend who informed us that they were lyrics to songs by a Mexcan rock band called Alison. We checked it out on youtube and sure enough the poems were word for word. Very funny. I thought I'd met a super sensitive wordsmith, but no. Not to worry, Marisol and I formed a good friendship anyway.

I had a weekend away in Puno and Lake Titticaca and saw the artificial islands that have been made from weaving reeds. Spent the night with one of the local families on Isla Amantani and dressed up in the local costume for the evening's fiesta. Very fun. Very warm and sunny during the day. My nose got sunburnt like a mofo. Nights were freezing though.

Finally made it to Machu Picchu - Rock ON.
Machu Picchu was pretty damn good. It,s a four day hike up to the site of the old Inca city. Fck that for a joke. I took the train. I'm sure the Inka's would have done the same had there been a train back in the day.
I went rather early in the morning along with 1000 other poeple. It was a warm sunny, clear day which meant we could see the surrounding mountains which were amazing. The day before had been cloudy and the mountains were covered by cloud , so I was lucky.
Went on a tour and learnt about the signifibance of the different buildings. And then met a shaman and we had a spiritual ceremony by the inca bridge where he performed some cantations and with some insence burning. I had positive thoughts on some coco leaves and then we buried them in the mother earth.
Took a few photos too. Including some shots behind me. usually we see the citadel but never what's behind the camera. There's more terraces, if you,re interested.
Went to the jungle for a few days with a German lad I met at school. Which jungle? Why, the one and only Amazon jungle. Oooh, I'm so hero. My mate Cristof, a bit cash strapped, suggested that we travel by truck. He'd done it once before and knew where we could organise a ride. The catch was that we'd be riding on the roof of the trailer. I thought why not. It,d be an adventure. It would only be for seven hours I was told. It's a commen practise and the localas loaded boxes and bags up on the roof full of goods as well as loads of blankets and warm clothes. To travel to Peurto Maldonado we ,d be passing through some very high altitudes (it was the Andes after all) and we knew it was going to be very cold. But fck me, I wasn-t prepared for how freaking cold it did get. It wouldn-t have been so bad if the journey had been seven hours but we learnt that it,s a 12 hour journey but our truck driver drove so freakin slow it took us 18 hours.
We left about 3 in the afternoon and arrived 9 the next morning so that meant we endured the whole night out in the elements. It was no adventure. I,d brought along a blanket for Cristof and I to share but we were like a married couple. As he rolled over to try to get some sloeep he took the whole blanket with him and then I,d have none and I wrenched the blanket back off him.
It was cold, damn cold. But as we were on the roof and travelling at speed the wind chill factor made it even colder. We climbed to 4950 metres above sea level and the fog crept in and I did my best to keep spirits high by telling jokes. Cristof assured me when we got to the bottom of the mountains and closer to the jungle the weather would warm up. But it didn,t. It was freaking cold the whole way. I was wearing three pairs of pants and five tops and still I froze. The other people on board it seemed brought there whole linen cupburd to keep warm, you can-t beat experience. To add insulit to injury, there were two girls who were on the roof with us but didn,t like the cold so decided not to continue after we had a dinner break four hours in to the journey. When we arrived in Puerto Maldonad they were there waiting for us to collect their goods. That was heartbraking to think we could have arrived a lot earlier. Anyway, a part of me was glad to have experienced it and even more glad when it was over. That's something I won't do again. Not unprepared anyway. Next time I,ll have a sleeping bag and ground mat, fck it, Ill have a tent. That'll do the trick. Needless to say we caught the bus back.
From Cusco I went to the town of Arequipa and spent another two weeks at Spanish school. The town is next to a huge big dormant volcano - very impressive.
I stayed with a local woman and her four children. Upon arrival just the woman, Martha, was home and together we set up the spare room for my time there. Martha was very bubbly aned a lot of fun. Within 30 minutes of arriving we were having a lot of fun together. The writing desk that was on the rood wouldn,t fit through the back door so as a laugh we tied some sheets together and lowered the desk down the front of the house and in to the front door. Ha, welcome to Arequipa.
I quite enjoyed my two weeks at school here. I learnt quite a lot including what a video pub is. One of my teachers is in the process of building a video pub which is code for brothel. Brothel,s are illegal or require alot of beuracacy to get permission so instead people build what they call video pubs. It,s a pub where people come to drink with big video screens but really this space is used for pole dancing. Because the pub is a bit out of town there are some hotel styled rooms for the ¨female staff¨ to stay in rather than have to travel back in town. What the women do in the rooms in their business. And that.s how they get around the brothel problem.
An interesting thing I noticed in Arequipa was the rubbish collection. The rubbish truck played loud classical music to alert the residents that it was coming so they could quickly put out their rubbish if they'd forgotten. Certianly makes a change form the crash and bash sounds we get in Australia.
An interesting experience was when I went to a bull fight. It was very exciting as I'd never been to one before. Thankfully, this was a bit different to the brutal fights in Spain. These were cows and there was no killing or blood - just matadores showing their skills in dodging the charging cows. The matadores looked very macho dressed in their suits except for the pink blankets they often used to attract the bulls. THe matadores did a really great job and it was obvious that there.s some real skill involved. The funny part was when it was time for the cow to get back in it,s pen and the crew trying to get the cow to leave the pen. Usually it wouldn,t want to leave no matter how much it was prompted. In the end someone would have to throw a rope around its neck and the cow would be pulled back into the pens. After the show the party started as a live band started up and people were free to drink and dance in the ring well in to the night.
For the weekend I went away to visit Colca Canyon - a canon that stretches for 400km to the Pacific Ocean. It was very impressive and at one part of the canyon we were able to stop and view condors flying about which was pretty exciting. The tour involved some trekking and as Im not that keen on trekking (hence taking the train to Machu Picchu) I chose to do the more direct trek to our lodge where we'd be spending the night. The other option was a 7 hour hike, where as my hike was a three hour walk which meant arriving at the lodge earlier and having more time to relax in the pool. Only four of us chose the shorter hike and we set off with our guide in good spirits. Unfortunately, it didn, turn out to be the easier, softer way that I,d hoped. One of the women with us suffered from vertigo. Our path was a winding track 1200 metres down in to the canyon with steep drops off the edge of the track. This woman was adamant she couldn,t continue and in the end the guide and I had to stand either side of her holding her arms to help her down the track. Five and a half long hours later we arrived down the bottom by which time shadows from the surrounding mountains had covered the pool. It was a good day of exercise - exercise patience. I was covered in dust and my shoulders were very sore from carrying my backpack for so long. After a quick dip in the pool and a filling meal I slept well that night, I tell you.
News that the group had to trek back up that same track wwasn,t welcome news especially for vertigo woman. We set off at 5am and to my surprise I did very well. Up until this point I had quite conveninetly avoided doing any trekking thinking I would struggle as Im not the fittest man in the world. But I powered up the steep winding track passing others as I went. I had my mp3 playing some hard and fast rock tracks and that helped to inspire me up the mountain. I was the third person out of about 16 people to make it to the top in 2 and half hours. I was well proud of myself. Vertigo woman had troubles again and took four or more hours and subsequently missed the bus for the rest of the tour.
After a hearty breakfast in the town at the top of the canyon we went to some hot springs to relax our sore muscles. The sun was out and the pools were a warm 30 degrees. It was a very good way to relax after such a hike.
Wouldn-t you know it I lost my 2nd credit card whilst in Peru. I had to organise with my brother to wire me some money. The problem for me , and I,ve met some other people who have made the same mistake, is that the ATM's do things here in a different order to what Im used to. Im used to swiping my card and then putting it back in my wallet , or inserting my card and then receiving it back before the money is despensed. So Im used to the receiving of the money as being the last part of the process. Here in Peru the card is returned after the money is despensed and so withut thinking I took the money and walked off forgetting my card was still in the machine. When my new card arrives from Australia , I won't be making that mistake again.
Another interesting thing about Peru is that in the smaller towns eg Cusco, dogs walk the streets like humans. There are doga everywhere just roaming free and the funny thing is they look both ways before crossing the street - pure hilarity.
 
Peru has been very good for the budget, it,s so cheap here. Things like transport, accommadation and meals are just so much cheaper than Australia. A 120 dollar room in OZ costs about 25 here. It,s very easy to eat a very filling two course meal for less than 3 dollars. To catch a taxi in my home town of Canberra you need to take out a second mortgage to afford it. Here I never paid more than 3 dollars. And the food is so tasty and filling. My favorite was the soups. They were full with meat potatoes and vegies - so much food - that you needed a knife and fork to eat your soup.
Next stop is Bolivia which I,ve heard is even cheaper. About half the price of Peru. I can,t wait. I-m going to be spending six months there doing volunteer work. Im looking forward to the volunteer work and staying in the one town for a long time, becoming somewhat of a local rather than a tourist - looking forward with nervous excitement.
Goodbye Peru, hello Bolivia.
Laugh Spaceman

 

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