A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Taffski

Welcome to the Jungle !

It was time to loose some altitude so we headed back to sea level..... well..... jungle level anyway since Bolivia no longer has access to their sea !

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We arrived early in the airport (stupid fools that we were) and waited for our flight to Rurrenbaque..... a small town in the Amazon Basin one hour (by plane) North of La Paz.

We boarded our flight and were in the process of getting our safety instructions.... when.... the pilot informed us that we had to leave the plane as there was rain in the jungle.... and we couldn´t land the plane... so we had to wait !

We went back into the airport and had another coffee as we waited for any news.

We flew with a small company called Amazonas (who have small aircraft too.... 19 seater jets where you can see out of the pilots window if you´re cloase enough to the front.... no terrorism here !!!!)

40 minutes later we were back on our plane.... however.... our route had changed !

We were now flying into another airport .... Reyes.... some 45 miles to the North of Rurre.

Ok.... beggers can´t be choosers and we were told there would be a transfer bus waiting for us to take us into Rurre when we arrived.

The flight was nice and the views of the Mountains, rising and then suddenly descending into a lush green rain forest below with winding rivers all over, were fantastic.

Unfortunately... the windows of the plane were scratched to feck.... so no photo opportunities!

We could however watch through the pilots window as we started to descend into the Jungle..... Literally !

All I could see was trees.... more trees.... and we were heading right for these trees !!

Where the feck was the runway ???

Was there a runway ???

As we got closer to the trees (we could now see the birds perched in their top branches !)

I was starting to worry a bit !

However, suddenly from within all this vegetation... a dusty track appeared... people were scattering across the "runway" as we got a little closer

(we reckon it must have been a short cut for the locals or something!)

We bumped down suddenly (narrowly missing a few "slower" locals) on the dirt and the brakes were applied!!

We´d made it....

where exactly......

we weren´t too sure....

however we were alive and in the jungle !

They opened the door and were greated with our first (of many) gasps of Hot, Humid, sticky Air.

Definately different from La Paz that´s for sure!

We got out at some small little building and watched as the pilots unloaded the plane and then reloaded it for the departing flight... no waiting around here !

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The airplane took off again and we were left (alone) on the side of the runway...

in a small shack of a building...

waiting for a bus ????

Hmmmmmmmm.....

welcome to Bolivia I kept reminding myself!

It´ll just be a bit delayed I thought.

Bus.... what bus ???

There were no representatives of the airline in this shack and we were stood with 5 other gringos.. wondering if there actually was a bus.... whether we were actually in Reyes (Bolivia still for that matter!) or whether we´d just been flown in as replaments for some other unfortunate gringos whose ordeal as hostages would finally be over.... It was our shift !

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After an hour or so.... Remember.... this is Bolivia.... a rickety old chicken bus rambled down the dusty track towards us....

Whayhae....

it was heading to Rurre and we all jumped on !

An hour later and minus my eye balls... they´d been wrenched out of their sockets by some rather well placed and what seemed some lackluster attempts at trying to avoid them by our driver (who was all of 16)....

we made it to Rurre !!!

Welcome to the Jungle !

The town itself was small and rather sleepy in nature.

We grabbed our "new" Lonely planet for Bolivia and looked up where to stay...

We decided on Hotel Beni as the LP told us it was "very Nice"

How wrong could a comment ever be !!!

Small... dingy.... not secure at all.... HORRIBLE !!!

We stayed there that night as it was getting late and even though downstairs the Karaoke was thumping till 6 am.... we all slept like babies that night.....

Welcome back to sea Level !!!

It was New Years eve.... first priority... find a new hostel !

We walked around and finally found an oasis in the Jungle Town...

Hotel Santa Ana was literally two blocks away from the centre of town.... however, it was light years ahead of the other "accomodation options as recommended in our "New" Lonely Planet Guide book" (this was something that would reoccur many times here in Bolivia !!!)

Feckin Lonely Planet !!!

Anyway, We got a double room with En Suite... Kieran got a nice single room.... they were clean.... had clean sheets... the bathrooms were clean... there were hammocks loosely arranged around the entire hostel !!! What a great place and we immediately booked in for 2 nights!

Mwy Tranquilo !!!

Ok.... we put on our glad rags and headed into town for the New Years Partying!

Options...options.... Local bar full of (really really) pissed guys having a good time and singing Karaoke.... or Gringo bar... more expensive, full of gringos and the Wanna-Be Locals ???

We opted for the gringo bar and headed to the Mosquito bar.

Cocktails and booze was consumed in equal measures and before long we decided to head to the Monkey bar (another gringo haunt) as there seemed to be more people there.

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Having dodged a few of our own personal firework displays (as put on by the local kids who seemed to revel in throwing firecrackers at the gringos) we made it to the relative safety of the Mosquito bar.

Here we settled in for the night and ordered a bottle of Champagne.... it was Hogmanay after all !!!

This almost broke the bank at 100 Bolivianos (7 pounds sterling !)

I was going to enjoy my stay in Bolivia.... I could definately say that !

We were handed our some grain by the owner of the bar.... this was a local tradition in Bolivia where at the start of the New Year you were to throw the grain up in the air to ask for a good harvest year to come.... well why not !??

With Champagne in one hand and our grain in the other we all huddled together on the Dance floor as the count down started.... Ocho... Siete... Seis... Cinco.................. Uno..... Faliz Ano Nuevo !!!!

Balloons were dropped from a big bag above us... the Champagne cork was duely popped and I managed to soak nearly everyone else (or so it seemed)... we were all jumping around and wishing everyone happy New Year.... and then sparklers were handed out (where as .... like we were all 5 years old again... we proceeded to right our names in the air using our new found fireworks :)

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It was the end of a Great 2007 for Steph an I.

We´ve travelled to 4 continents... sailed between 2 of them.... visited some of the most pristine and special places on the planet, seen some fantastic Wildlife

and most importantly....

We´re still loving travelling and the whole experience!

One of the most important decisions we´ve made... and I wouldn´t change it for the world !

Posted by Taffski 06:54 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Tiahuanaco Ruins

A day trip to the 3000 year old Ruins

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We´d arranged to go and see the Tiwanaku (or Tiahuanaco) ruins as part of a day trip as it was only 35 Bolivianos for the full day trip with an English Guide (that works out about 3 pounds each !)

It was an 8am start (which wasn´t too bad) and by 9am (Bolivian Time remember !!!) we were heading off towards the ruins.

The People tht originally occupied the site were reckoned to have been there about 600BC, however, it´s not too clear what happened to them before the Ayamara and then the Inca Peoples decided to populate the site.

The Temple itself was added to around 700AD, before a "natural Phenomenon" (aka El Nino and an Large Tidal wave.... so they reckon from Titikaka) wiped the site out in what they reckon was about 1200AD (how they knew this I´ll never know !!!)

Anyway, the reason they can tell that it was definately impacted by something was that most of the monuments that stood upright were laid flat, however, they were quite a few meters away from where they were supposed to be as if they´d been lifted up and washed some way down stream .... so to speak.

The whole site was covered by silt and mud and so most of the formations and statues (although the Gold and relics etc. were pillaged by the Spanish and some religious zelots.... makes a change eh ???? !) were left relatively intact and in their final resting place (until we found them that was and put them back wher we thought they were!)

We pulled up to the site some 2 hours later where we found two museums side by side. We payed our entrance fee to our guide (who reliably informed us he´d buy the tickets) and went in.

The first was the most interesting with lots of pots and atrifacts from the site (those that remained) whilst in the second there seemed to be only one thing.... a massive megalith of Pacha Mama !

It was a great statue and used to be situated in the middle of La Paz, before it was returned to the Museum and even had a few gun shot marks on it from various revolutions!

The strange thing though, yet another annoying thing about Museums down here, was that we weren´t allowed to take photgraphs of it!

Why not ????

Not because it damaged the monolith or anything so logical, but again, because it´s copyright was to be maintained by the museum...... far be it that tourists would take their photgraphs around the world and publicise the little known artefact....

Oh no.......

Nooo......

"we can sell postcards"

of the site if tourists aren´t allowed to take pictures !!!!!

I give in.....really I do !!!!!

Anyway, it´s a cool monolith and I´d love to be able to attach a picture of it to show you......!

Having been led around the museums we were then led around the actual site itself.

One of the interesting facts was that the site itself used to be right alongside the shoreline of Lake Titikaka some 3000 years earlier and now the Lake itself was some 4 kilometres away !!!

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We were led around the Akapana Pyramid, which consisted of seven distinct levels up to the top level (where we were assured lay the remains of a pool where it was reckoned water was used to reflect the stars in the sky by the Incas)

Unfortunately.... much again like many sites in South America.... we couldn´t go walk up to go and see this pool as the Guide had a plan and we were encouraged to follow him to the next site.... The Temple Subterranio!

Before we got there though we were given a good bit of information as in the Lower corner of the Akapana Pyramid a Jaguar Skull and entire skeleton had recently been discovered.

The Skeleton was found in one of the Irrigration tunnels on the side of the building as if the Animal had been trying to hide, or something, in the hole to try and survive whatever the terrible disaster was that did, unfortunately, kill it!

Very interesting indeed we thought as this indicated either the animal was tame or that they roamed around the temples !!!

Also it reaffirmed the idea that a natural disaster took place at the site some years earlier.

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The Subterranian Temple hadn´t been dscovered by anyone prior to it´s excavation.

Hence the Religious zealots hadn´t had a chance to damage and destroy the Human faces that encircled a great statue of Viracocha..... one of the Original and most interesting of the Inca Gods (well.... ???)

An interesting fact about the heads that adorn the entire outer walls of the temple is that they are all of different "looking" peoples ! Honest.... some white, some black, some red.... large lips, small thin lips, one type of hat, a different type of Nose etc. etc.

And every one was different !

As if to indicate that either the original peoples of the site were a hotch potch of peoples from around the world or the people that were there were aware of these different looking people.... cool !

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The Statue of Viracocha was of a white man (yep..... white) and he has a clearly visible beard on the statue (which was said to be Red !) The Stone is red, however, they reckoned it was painted white... well his face was originally anyway?

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So.... once again....... somewhere else in the world.... a God Turned up some 3000 years ago.... cultured the local population and the guy was white, had a beard and once again... dissappeared on a "boat" only to return again before another Natural disaster happens !!!

Anyway, We were then shown the Kalasasaya (where Evo Morales was Inaugarated) and the sun gate through which the Rising sun can be seen on the Summer Solstice.

Then we walked over to the far side of the site where we were allowed to view the Sun gate for a few minutes.

This was one of the monuments that was thought to have been horizontal on the main site, however, had been washed downstream some distance (and broken in two I might add!) by whatever "natural" disaster had happened some years earlier. The Archaeologists had relocated the monument to where they thought it was located.... however.... to me it looked out of place where they´d put it!

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It was then that we were invited to go to a touristic restaurant for lunch.

We declined and headed off to Puma Punka ! (We´d made sandwiches already as we´re getting used to this side of the tours by now !!!)

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I´d read up about Puma Punka earlier and had wanted to specifically detour to see the smaller site on the South West of the main site.

The rock formations and sculptures were said to be very different from those at the main site and we weren´t dissapointed.

There are hundreds of broken rocks and sculptures at the smaller site, however, they all seem very different and the shapes, patterns and geometrical shapes on them all are very different indeed.

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On the large rocks on the floor seemed to be indentations ready to "plug" in other rocks with which they would build the temples or walls or whatever.... it was really fascinating. Also there were other rocks with small holes running along them where the wholes were exactly equidistant from one another !! Again.... different and cool !

Not to mention the Doorways, Triangles and other assorted shapes littered around the site !

I loved it !

Anyway, we hung around the site waiting for our bus back and (in True Bolivian fashion) the bus turned up some 20 minutes late ready to take us back to La Paz.

We arrived back in La Paz around 4pm and thanked our Guide (by asking him to provide us with our tickets as we wanted them as a momento :) Which he finally did !) and then we headed back to the hotel ready to catch our flights to the Jungle the following day !

Posted by Taffski 10:28 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

The Inca Trail........ Part I

Who what where when and why ??

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We´d spent roughly four days waiting for our Inca trail passes to be processed, the time being well spent (Steph thought) shopping for xmas presents amongst the numerous Shops and market stalls scattered all over Cusco.

We´d Decided to go with Pumas Trek Peru in the end.....

Reasons....

well.....

Kind of difficult that one. More to do with them being accredited and on the cheaper scale for the trek than anything else.

I´ve written a full inca trail review here on the travellerspoint website regarding agent selection etc. so I won´t go into the specifics (but should you wish to read it here´s the link to the Wiki Travel Guide.... most of which is the same as the post)

http://www.travellerspoint.com/guide/Inca_Trail/

We had a curry in the Indian restaurant in Cusco the night before we left (which was marvellous) and then after a cheeky in the KMzero bar by the hostel... packed our bags for the next 4 days of walking!

We awoke at 4am and even managed to get a coffee from the Night watchman at the hostel.

5am and we walked down to the San Blas square where we were told we´d be picked up by the tour agency. It was daylight already so it was no problems and we happened to bump into clare (an American Lady who was also on our trip and also at our hostel) as we walked to the square.

Our "pickup" consisted of the tour agency secretary walking up the hill and telling us we had to walk down the hill to Plaza San Francisco.... no problem, however, the first thing that differed from what we were told.

If we´d been told to go to Plaza san francisco.... no problems... we´d have walked down the hill ourselves... without our accompanying body guard.... however....

We arrived at the plaza and our bus was waiting for us.... together with a group of 8 Israeli´s....... shite !!!!

I won´t bother explaining why this was seen as a bad thing by Steph and I, however, if you´ve read our earlier entries in south America or ever backpacked down here you'll know what we mean

anyway... our opinions turned out to be totally wrong which was nice!!!

Another one for the "forming an opinion of someone all too quickly !!!" Almenac.

Clare managed to forget her passport (the original copy) and so we hung around for another 15 minutes while she caught a taxi... for which she payed herself to go back to the hostel and then back down to Plaza SanFrancisco.

Finally we were all on the bus, our porters included, and we trundled off towards Ollantaytambo... some 2 hours away!

Here, as per usual, we were treated to a 20 minute "refreshment stop" where we were informed that the purchasing of a Locally made walking stick was "necessary" or at least were invited to purchase something from the numerous stalls and hawkers milling around the plaza.

Steph and I did our usual and hid in the corner coffee shop and began chatting with the owner who turned out to be very interesting and at the ripe old age of 70 had decided to emigrate to Peru to help the local people and open a coffee shop....

"game ol' burd"

Anyway, Steph topped her Chocolate supplies up and we then headed off in the bus once again towards Km 82 (where we were due to start walking!)

Once again we were greeted by a hord of locals selling "necessary" hiking sticks.

We now met our "Grade B" guide (Grade B being fluent in English and spanish we had been reliable informed)

Now Hernan was a nice guy....

......but his English was pretty shite!

And I mean really pretty poor... especially his pronounciation.... This was something he and I could work on for the next 4 days I thought, however, a grade B guide he was not! another little "white lie" surfaces I thought.

There was going to be quite a few of these "little white Lies" it would turn out!

We hoped this wouldn´t affect the commentary we´d been promised at each of the Archaelogical sites ?

So... our little group was formed...

Myself, Steph, Clare, Hernan.... and Jackie !!!

Jackie was 58, Australian (or English Origin), was travelling around the world on her own and a lady..... well.... lets just say with a mind of her own ;)

I´m sure she won´t mind me saying that :)

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So.... It was Lunchtime as the (In) "Famous Five" set off on the Inca trail..... four days and 40 Kms to go !!

As we started the walk a guy holding an Antique camera rushed in front of us..... I was quite intrigued as to his camera as it was definately something from the dark ages that surprisingly seemed still to be working !

We´d find out the results and his reasoning in four days time !!

It was an easy start to the trail.

We were all chatting away and Hernan was trying to explain some of the upcoming highlights (which I have to say Clare and Jackie tended to ignore and this wound me up a bit!... OK the guy wasn´t brilliant at English.... but that didn´t mean he was stupid! Steph and I listened and tried to decipher what we could!)

The trail rolled alongside the river for the first few Kms and after a couple of hours we stopped for lunch.

Now.... this was another area where "you get what you pay for" once again turns out to be OH so true !!!!

We sat under some trees and waited.

We were first to the Lunch "site", however, we sat around.

Other groups passed us and went for their lunch, however, we had to wait.

The rest of the people (8 Isrealis a Brazilian and a Korean) also with Pumas Trek Peru (with a different guide though) arrived....

and still we waited.....

This was wierd!

1 HOUR later.....

our porters carrying all their gear rushed past.....

The Tent was hastily erected in the middle of a field, the cooks started cutting carrots and the kettle was put on!

OK, it was time for Lunch...... It was 3pm !!!

We were all invited to sit in the flimsy and hastily erected tent.... ALL 14 of US !!!! Squashed into the small tent that was now starting to flap around in the increasingly strong wind that was the prelude to an immenant downpour!!!

Steph and I spotted this and huddled under a big tree with a wall for protection.

We sipped our soups under the cover of the tree (which was surprisingly good and keeping us dry) as the other 12 struggled to keep dry as the tent flapped around.

Soup was spilt, Coca tea was dropped and Spaghetti was splashed as the guys in the tent attempted to eat whilst holding down the edge of the tent.....

Steph and I were somewhat smug in our little natural cubby hole :)

Clare and Jackie soon joined us and soon after the Porters were left to tidy up the camp site as we were behind schedule now and needed to catch up (or so our guides informed us!!!)

With Bin Bags and ruck sack covers wrapped around our bags and an assortment of rain Macs, Tarpaulins, Ponchos and once again bin Bags wrapped around both ourselves and the porters we trudged in the mud and rain along the remainder of the track.

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We did pass by the Llaqtapata ruins as we walked though. It was far below us and we didn´t get to visit the site, however, even in the dismal conditions the site nonetheless looked impressive as we surveyed it from high.

We camped that night at Wyllabamba.... 3000 metres above sea level.

It was a nice little camp site and by the time we arrived the poor porters had rushed up ahead of us and set up the tents etc.

Steph and I had one, and Jackie and Clare had one.

We had afternoon tea (coca tea and Popcorn) and chatted to the Israelis and the Brazilian and Korean. however, this time it wasn´t under a tent but rather under a more permanent structure with a roof and seats etc...... Oh the Luxury !!!

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The camp was in a small village next to the Wyllabamba archaelogical site and since it had stopped raining by now, Steph and I dropped our stuff and walked around the site.

Upon our return it was tea time.

Soup, Beef, Chips (yep...chips.... but they were cold) and salad.

Before we ate we witnessed a little ceremony and song by the Israeli Guys and Gals as it was Hanukkah.

They´d even brought with them a little candle holder and candles, so we were witness (my first time i have to say) to a little bit of Religion whilst on the Inca Trail.

The Israelis were nice enough to explain the reasoning behind the festival to us "Non-believers" and it was generally a nice evening all in all.

After a cup of coca tea we all headed off to our pits.... however..... the weather had cleared and we were all rewarded for our initial days efforts by a beautiful star lit sky.

Early to bed....... unfortunately...... Early to Rise !!!

Posted by Taffski 13:24 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Inca Trail........ Part II

Dead Womans Pass..... or would she ???

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We were awoken to a tap tap on the Tent door, which was also accompanied by a cup of piping hot Coca tea.

A nice touch and more than made up for the 5am wake up call!

Our backpacks were packed and we headed for Breakfast whilst the porters packed away our tents..... which was an entirely new experience... Luxury or what !

It was a lovely morning and the weather seemed to have changed for the time being from yesterdays downpours.

We got some Maize porridge (which was surprisingly good although it was easier to drink it than spoon feed yourself it), the obligatory bread & Jam and Pancakes.... WHAT ???

Yep.... feckin Pancakes !

First time I´d had pancakes whilst camping that´s for sure ! They were warm and nice too which made it all the better !

Then it got better........... How ???

We got a goody bag each !

WOW !!!

We got a carton of juice, an apple (unbruised which was something!), a chocolate buscuit thingy and some coca sweets !

OK.... so you get some shitty things happen to you by not paying for the most expensive trip... however.... the cheaper ones also manage to treat you every once in a while (which was nice!)

We headed off at 6:30am sharp with Jackie and Clare rejuvenated and leading the way with Steph an I close on their heels and Hernan... well... somewhere behind us ?? Not too sure where though !

We soon hit the Uphill section of the Trek !

We´d been warned about Day 2 being a stiff ascent, however, it was about 8:30am already and the sun was baking us as we trapsed up the trail.

It was funny (well... sort of with Heinsight!) as we struggled with the steepness of the ascent combined with the altitude issues associated with breathing. However, you were intermittantly reminded that it could always be worse....

As a Porter Loaded down with a 30 Kilo Backpack trapsed past you!

Brought you down to earth anyway as our packs (assuming you had a large one that was) weighed anything from 2 to 10 kilos at most! even with our sleeping bags and sleeping mats)

Jackie started to feel the effects of the Altitude and the walking a bit later on up the hills. Fair enough I suppose as this isn´t a trail for the un fit (as we were finding out !!!)

Some of the Israeli Guys had decided to bring virtually their entire backpacks with them and hence had packs weighing (I reckon) maybe up to about 20 Kilos !!! And they knew it !!

Injuries were starting to Surface and one of the Israeli Girls decided to hire a porter for the remainder of the hike up to Dead Womans pass.

As we pointed out to her.... better to pay a little extra and get there than not to get there at all !!!

The Israeli Guys weren´t having any of it though and struggled on upwards!

Steph and Jackie decided to swap bags as Jackie was struggling.

We finally arrived at what we thought was the summit...... it was a flat piece of land called Llulluchampa, however, after a brief restbite and buying some more water (which incidentally was getting more expensive the further up the trek you got) Hernan informed us that the hardest section was yet to come and that it was another 2 hours or so walking to reach "Dead Womans Pass"

Jackie Revelled at this (both the time remaining and the name of the pass!)

It was steep going and Jackie and I took our time getting up by taking regular breathers every 50 or so steps.

Steph and Clare headed off ahead, whilst I held back with Jackie.

It was a lovely walk (apart from the altitude, steepness and the trek itself) and the views back down the valley were amazing. It sort of gave you hope that you´d eventually get to the Pass and have a rest......

Eventually..... we made it.

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Jackie and I were down to having a break every 20 steps or so (which was quite slow I know) however, we all made it and had a photo with the lot of us when the poor Israeli guys and their full backpacks stumbled to the summit also !

We were at Warmiwanusca. It was the highest point of the trek at 4,200 metres and boy did we know it !

After some biscuits and some backslapping we headed downhill towards our camp. It was at 3,800 metres and having held back to ensure Jackie was safely up the hill earlier, I hammered it downhill on my own ahead of the others.

Late lunch was had at camp and then we had the remainder of the afternoon to relax and chill out (or recover as we called it!)

It had taken it toll on some of the guys though and knee injuries and back injuries were sprouting up amongst the whole group.

That night the Israelis lit another candle before we had our supper (chicken and rice) and we hit our sacks early.

It was a cold night !!!

Steph had managed to swindle my sleeping bag (which is warmer than hers) and so at 5am when our Coca Tea arrived.... I had already been half awake waiting for some warmth to relieve my frozen toes and fingers !!!

The same routine again was followed this morning, and we headed out after brekkie about an hour after getting up.

It was however, only a half hour (albeit steep) ascent to the ruins of Runkuraqay.

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The Ruins themselves were covered by mist and so the whole vista was somewhat mystical in appearence.

The Mountain side fort was only a small site, however, was presumed to have been used as a staging area for the inca runners (or messangers) that used to traverse the trek daily passing goods, produce and messages along it´s length.

They covered up to 14 km each if the land was flat and 10 kms if the land was undulating. The messages were passed from one to another at each check point and this meant a message could get from Cusco to Machu Pichu in less than a day...... which is no mean feat these days either !!!! :)

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Half an hour later, we´d reached the summit of yet another "Andean Flat" (i.e. It´s Not FLAT !!!)

Here we headed downhill after a quick buscuit break and towards the Citidel of Sayacamarca Perched on the hillside in the distance.

The Ruins were a Military base and where the Soldiers were based primarily (like an Army barracks!)

Because of it´s locailty, the soldiers could easily reach either side of the sacred valley within a days walk to assist or act out whatever function they were required to perform.

We then continued walking until we reached the Sacrificial site of Phuyupata Marca.

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This was one of my favourite sites as you looked down onto the site as you approached it. Firstly it was in the shape of a heart with the two rounded ends heading towards Machu Picchu and the West. It also had some fountains and a Sacrificial Stone Platform at the side of the ruins. Here was where the Llama or Human Sacrifices would take place and the fountains running along side the Platform would run red with the sacrifical blood from it´s victims !

At the top of the platform the Priests would offer whatever it was they had (normally the Hearts of their frshly sacrificed victims held aloft as an offering) to the Mountain Gods... all of which were clearly visible in the distance !

An Intersting place indeed !

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Hernan had explained most of this to us in Spanish (just Steph and me as Clare and Jackie had decided to carry on ahead and not bother listening to Hernans Pigeon English account of the site.... Unlucky Them !)

Anyway, from here on was the step Section we´d heard about. The route roughly consisted of 3000 steps heading downwards towards our camp site for the night.

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The Steps were cuite steep and luckily for us it wasn´t raining as they were pretty slippery when dry, never mind wet!

Steph an I soon reached a fork in the path and decided to head up to Winawayna as opposed to heading down directly to the camp site.

This was a great decision as there was hardly noone else at the site and it looked pretty much as it had been for the past 400 years or so. Plants still crept up it´s walls and the buildings still looked like it was the first time someone had looked on them for a few millennia.....or so it seemed anyway :)

I loved it !

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We climbed up the steps to the top of the terraces and then headed back down having sat and scanned the surrounding mountains and the Machu Picchu Valley and it´s associated train down below us !

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We then headed back to the camp site and srrived just in time for tea.

The camp site was different in that there was a shop that sold beers and also somewhere to have showers!!!!

This was luxury and Steph and I had a shower and a beer before we had a posh tea on a big table in the camp site.

It was buffet style and very nice and afterwards we had a formal (and dead cheesy I thought) "ceremony" where we passed over our "tips" to the porters.

I hated this bit and wasn´t too enamoured when we were asked to say something again......

Luckily one of the Israeli guys stepped up to the challenge and gave a thanks on all our behalfs!

We hit the sack after a few more beers (nothing compared to some of the other groups though who partied until the early hours of the morning !!!)

Our decision was rewarded the following morning, when, whilst it was still dark we were awoken with our customary Coca tea.... at 4am !!!!

Today was the Final walk and we were all queued up by the entrance gate to Machu Picchu at 5am (which is when it opened!)

It was now a race to the Sun gate..... or so it seemed for most of the people on the Trek.....

Steph and I on the other hand continued to take pictures of the views and the Plants etc. as we sauntered up to the Sun gate with Jackie and Clare.

It was especially rewarding when we saw all those that had shoved and ruched past us earlier down the path sat at the sun gate...... except there was no sun !!!!

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Sunrise seemed to have been postponed today and the mist seemed to have blocked out the view down to MAchu Pichu !!! All that rushing for nothing it seemed :)

Steph, Jackie, clare and I all sat down and laughed as the other groups all then filed down the remainder of the path towards Machu Pichu ready for the mist to rise.

Our guides didn´t seem too fussed at our Lack of a view anyway !

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The mist did rise... eventually.... however we´d already walked down to the site (where we could see nothing) and gone to the Entrance gate to get our tickets stamped (which was a requirement... and seemed specially strange since we´d already entered the park once !!!)

Anyway, Hernan then sprung it on us that he was leaving us there and we were to join the Isrealis and the Brazilian and Korean´s guide for the tour of Machu Pichu....... hmmmmmmmm

So Hernan´s tip suddenly got smaller as we shaked hands and he headed off back to Cusco... early !

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The Other Guide was alright anyway, and his English was a little better than Hernans so maybe it wasn´t such a bad thing after all.

The tour itself turned out to be a pretty much "formal affair"

Whereas, we were taken to Point A

Given a 3 minute talk on Point A

Moved to Point B

Given a 3 minute talk on Point B

Asked if we had any questions...... which invariable couldn´t be answered.

Move onto Point C.....

baaaaaaaaa

Or so it felt !

Such a dissapointment, however, Luckily Machu Pichu Itself came to our rescue and the Site Purely from a Size and Visual point of view more than lived up to it´s Newly adorned title of one of the "UNESCO Seven Wonders of the New World"

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We headed to the Sun Temple.

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We then headed to the Three Windows.

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From here to the Sacred Rock where we got a group picture !

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We were also reliably informed that we weren´t allowed to touch it ???)

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What ???

It´s a feckin Rock I thought !!!!

Stupid Rules !!! This was to be the start of our run in with Machu Pichu regulations and those that upheld them it turned out!!!

So of course... stone was touched !!!

I was told off and allowed to continue on my way.... However... had I received the Stones Energy and was Stronger and more spiritual as was supposed to happen.....

What do you think !!!!

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That´s one thing you´ll find about these sorts of places.... and not Just Machu Pichu..... the Pyramids, Uluru etc. etc.

Some New Age Hippies always seem to cling onto the fact that the site is "Special" and as such... only the "initiated" i.e. those that choose to think like an Idiot can achieve a higher state of Consciousness and as such tap into the "Power of the Rock "

ARRRRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!

I hate these people and funnily enough (me being a closed persona ) didn´t manage to tap into the "power" of the Rock !!!! Damn !!! And to think I used to think I was the Messiah reborn and "special"!!!!

Damn !!!

Ah well......

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After visiting a few more sections of the Ruins (which were magnificent.... as Ruins !!!) We were invited to walk around the site until we then headed down to Aguas Calientes on the bus where we could pick up our rail tickets back to Cusco... via a bus journey also !

Firstly we headed straight back to the "Sacred Rock".......

"Stop !!!!"

What....

we (or rather I) was informed that the Whole site was indeed a "One Way" system .... which meant you weren´t allowed to double back on yourself !!!

Feckin Shite Rules !!!

We walked ahead and around as to back on ourselves and made it to the Viewing Spot overlooking the Site where we´d been realier in the day.

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Anyway, everyone immediately ran off in the direction of Huaynu Picchu... the Rock Behind the ruins in the "classic" picture of the site! We decided to head for the viewing spot at the start of the site....

It was time for the Welsh Flag Shot !

Steph got the Camera ready and I got the Flag out...

Snap...Snap.....

"STOP !!!!"

What ???

"You can´t take a picture with a Flag in it.... in fact Flags are not allowed here !!!"

What the F*** ???

"What about feckin Animals ???"

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"If you don´t remove your flag then you´ll be escorted from the site!!"

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Luckily we´d managed to get off two shots before the "Security" had so nicely informed us that you weren´t allowed to take pictures with a flag at the site !!!

Who the feck comes up with these damn rules I thought !!!

We managed to smuggle in a quick shot of the car too whilst we were there..... no security issues there though !!!

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Anyway, Steph and I had been told that Apu Machu Picchu (Machu Picchu Mountain) was a better walk and gave you a different perspective of the site.

This we did... well.... we walked two thirds of the way up and then decided we´d head back down and (minus all the crowds from before) would climb up Huaynu Picchu Also !

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This was no mean feat I have to say as both walks are quite tiring !

I was absolutely shattered by the time we reached the Top of Huaynu Picchu, however, we were rewarded by being two of only four others at the Summit and also by watching a Condor Gliding in the Updrafts right next to us as we´d climbed up !!!

Brilliant !

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The View of Machu Picchu was different and gave you a better perspective of how big the site was as all the terraces that clung to the cliff sides surrounding the main site were more easily visible.

We headed back down, jumped on the bus and headed to Aguas Caliented (or Machu Picchu Pueblo) where we had a coke and a sandwich with the rest of the guys, before we headed back onto the train to Ullataytambo.

Here we got on a bus and before you knew it we were back in Cusco !!!!

What a trip !

It was eventful, beautiful, testing, and some times tedious, however it was well sowrht doing the Inca Trail purely to see all the ruins leading up to the Climax Machu Picchu.... which we both agree.... definately lived up to the Hype.

Posted by Taffski 09:29 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Arequipa and Torre Muerto

The second largest city in Peru and a day trip to one of the best archaelogical sites we´ve found so far!

sunny 22 °C
View Around the World on Taffski's travel map.

Arequipa

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We caught the night bus from Nasca and ended up in Arequipa at 8am the following morning. We got a taxi to the hostel and since it was early we hung around the hostel for a while and had some breakfast.

Arequipa itself was hot and the sun was shining. This was a nice and straight away we bumped into 2 Canadians that we´dmet in the Hostel in Quito.

We spent the rest of the day wondering around Arequipa as it was a lovely city and perfect for idylling the hours away on a hot afternoon.

We popped into one of the museums to see one of Arequipa´s claims to fame.... the Ice Maiden Juanita.

Her grave was found in 1995 at the top of Ampato Volcano at a height of 6,380 metres.

She was only 12 to 14 years old at the time of her death and she´d been sacrificed some 500 years earlier.

Since she was at the top of a mountain and the ice had covered most of her body, she is one of the best preserved mummies in the world.

The visit itself consisted of a short film where we got to see the actual moment she was discovered (which was cool) and then we got a guided tour around the museum looking at some of the artefacts also found at the top of the mountain. The cloth was particularly interesting as it looked almost new and like one of the shops outside had just popped one of their blankets etc. into the museum for the hell of it! However, this stuff was actually over 500 year old !

At the end of the museum tur we got to meet the lady herself.... face to face so to speak!

She was tiny !

That was perhaps the most striking thing you found about her when you saw her encased in her new Glass Box (as opposed to her ice box the previous 500 years!)

After we popped out with Geoff and Ainsley (the Canadians) for a Chifa (Chinese food.... which I loved!) It´s both cheap and good for you and, although Steph wasn´t overly impressed, they cooked it in the wok at the front of the restaurant... which is always a good sign!

We then popped for a few beers with a few other backpackers and having played pool in the token Irish bar in town hit our sacks!

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Today was Monestaria Catalina day!

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45 Soles (about 8 pounds!!!!!) just to get in to the place!!!

What..... ????

That´s perhaps the most we´ve had to spend whilst in Peru to get into a site! And this was a working Monestary.... not too sure where all the money was going !

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Anyway, having been co-erced into paying to go (reluctantly I have to add) by Steph we wondered in.

There wasn´t an English speaking guide available for about a hour (it was lunch time) so Steph and I popped to the lovely little restaurant at the centre of the Monestary and then returned to the entrance to see if there was a guide available.

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We met our guide (who was nice and spoke good English) and then we started our tour.

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We started at the Locuturios (where the Nuns could communicate with the outside world and themselves... god forbid!) Since there was about 200 nuns with about 300 servents in the place at it´s peak.... this could be a busy place!

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We learnt a lot about the way of life of the nuns and how they were pretty much self sufficient. Also how the rich and influential Arequipenians (people from Arequipa) would pay to get their daughters signed up to be a nun as they would be well educated up to the age of 15... where they could decided whether or not to continue with their cloistered lives ??? Easy choice I reckon.... however... each to their own !

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The place was made for Photgraphy!

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Honestly.... the light... the colours.... the shapes.... the buildings etc. etc. all added up to two hours of clicking around the place!

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The colours you can see in the pictures are not the original colours as it was originally all white. However, later on the colours were spruced up a bit and we´re left with a collection of vivid blues, whites, oranges etc. etc.

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We tipped our guide (well as she was good and only got paid from her tips!) and then headed off to catch up with Aisnley and Geoff over a few beers...... again!

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On our way out we wandered into the Art museum in the monestary. I found this place very interesting as (for a change) not all the work was of a similar ilk and based on the Classical Religious paintings from Europe and in fact some had adapted themselves to form a new style of painting called Arequipenian (similar to the Cusco school of artists) where the painters qould combine classical paintings or religious imagery and blend in older native themes based on the Inca or Ayamara faiths and beliefs.

I found this painting particularly interesting anyway.

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But not a late night tonight.... oh no..... Tommorrow was going to be a day of adventure !!!!!

Torre Muerto

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We got up about 7 and headed off the bus station for about 9am.

As we arrived we luckily were just in time to catch the bus to Corire...... the only 3 gringo´s on the bus we jumped on and it immediately sped off into the desert.

After 2 hours and watching the film "The Labyrinth" (with David Bowie.... sainging in Spanish though... very strange !!!) we arrive Corire.

It was a tiny little town... literally in the middle of nowhere and so since it was about lunch time we settled into an Almuerzo (lunch menu of the day) at the corner restaurant.

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It was perhaps the best Almuerzo we´d had in a long time.... as it was a Sunday and it was only 5 soles each ! The Lamb in the Stew actually had meat in it which made a big difference and since we were all once again.... the only 3 gringos inthe whole town and most of the town was in the same restaurant as us eating Almuerzo... we decided it was a good choice :)

We then got a taxi to the start of the walking trak up to the site of Torre Muerto.

With Hindsight... we should have got a taxi to the top of the site, however, it was a nice walk and so we started to walk in the hot sun! and how hot !!!

Remember.... Torre Muerto literally translates to Death Valley..... and it was a desert !!! Mad dogs and Englishwomen and all that :)

Anyway, we walked to the Entrance gate to the site and no one was in to let us pay our 3 soles entrance fee !

We headed up the hill having glanced briefly at the ancient map inside the entrance building to have a clue as to where we were supposed to be heading.

On the way we passed a small restaurant (come shack) and we had to take a picture of the washing line outside !!! Makes a change from Socks and pants anyway we thought :)

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about 45 minutes later and minus about 3 pints of sweat... we finally made it to the first of 3 viewing areas.

We all got excited as we scoured the white rocks sitting in the sand on the hillside....

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This ones´got an etching... we all ran over to look....

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And this one....

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And this one.....

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etc. etc. etc......

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In fact... there´s over 3000 seperate etchings and engravings scattered all over the site.

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And what made it better... since there was no guide... no gringos.... in fact...no other people at all at the entire site.... it felt rather special to us all !!! As if we were discovering these things for the first time ever !!!

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The engravings got better and better as we wondered through the site.

Humans.... LLamas.... Shapes... patterns.... snakes.... parrots..... Aliens ??? Yep Aliens...... this place was fascinating indeed !

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indeed.. the whole area is world renowned for it´s high UFO sighting ratio !!!

Interesting indeed...... ,)

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The engravings were on the White Volcanic Rocks... spewed out from a nearby (well relatively.... some 500 miles away) volcano some 300 years ago.

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The Engravings themselves are thought to come from numerous races and times ranging from 3000 to 100 years ago and from races such as the Wari... to the Ayamaras.

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After spending about 3 hours investigating only a fraction of the entire site... the sun had gotten the better of us and we decided to head back into town and catch our bus back to Arequipa.

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We arrived early and the bus was full until the 5:30 pm bus... so we got some juices and sat in the central square until it was time to leave.

As we leaft we had a great sunset and arrived in Arequipa some three hours later.

It had been a great and unexpected day and a day that since we´d tried to get and organised trip out to see the site (and failed as they don´t run them!) a sweet success as we´d managed to visit the oplace all on our own.... which is always the sweeter.... well I reckon so anyway !

We spent the next day just chilling in Arequipa in the lovely hot weather and bought a few christmas presents and the like... including some pottery work with a special pattern on it.....

you guessed it...... Some of the patterns from Torre Muerto !!

Posted by Taffski 17:34 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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