A Travellerspoint blog

La Paz

Feliz Navidad

sunny 25 °C

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We reached La Paz on a coach, in the centre at friday afternoon rush hour! Not just any friday but the friday before christmas!!! It took ages just to get into the city centre as the traffic was pure madness! The bus dropped us off quite a way from the Wild Rover Hostal, where we had reservations, and a taxi didn´t think it was worth his while to take us there so we walked with backpacks an´ all!

I was completely shattered when we arrived at the hostal to find Jackie (the lady who we met on the inca trail) looking shattered too. Apparently having no sleep due to the bar being next door to her dorm.... no if you run a hostal with a bar and fairly young clientel and a middle aged lady wants a dorm room it would probably make more sense to place them in a room away from the bar!!!????

We later learned that there was no place away from the bar, that the bar was extremely loud with a crowd of people who obviously thought seeing La Paz consisted of frequenting the irish owned hostal bar every night, all night!!!

Alan, myself and Cullen (who had travelled with us on the bus to La Paz) were a bit hungry so found a british owned curry house....... it did live up to expectations...... just like anywhere in Bradford yum yum!!!

Unfortunately I felt really faint after the meal and needed Alan to lean on while we walked back to the hostal..... all very dramatic ha ha..... I even needed a break half way at the interesting Plaza Pedro D Murillo (home of El Presidente.... and the flags were flying)!!

The beds at the hostal were super comfy and above the bar noise we managed to get a few winks!

Alan, though, had been up all night with the runs.... bless!

Well breakfast was quiet due to everyone still recovering in bed. Jackie informed that someone had rolled her over in the wee hours of the morning to check who she was and Cullen informed us of sick all over the bathroom near his room!!! Jesus..... you would think we were on a school trip!

We decided to walk the whole of La Paz 3 times over to find a nice hostal big enough for four of us.... Alan, Cullen, myself and Keiran (who was joining us christmas eve)! We managed to find a hotel with a self contained flat at the top with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and a living room.... perfecto!

Later on we headed out to the cinema to watch whatever film was in English. Back at Wild Rover the bar didn´t look inviting so we headed off to bed!

This time it was my turn to be sitting on the toilet all night, we had obviously eaten something really bad!!!!!!

The next morning we left Wild Rotter (whoops sorry Rover) and headed to our penthouse, among the market madness!!!

After getting a few christmas provisions Alan and myself were shattered.... whatever bug we had had taken its toll so we just flopped on the sofa and watched numerous christmas specials of friends!!!!!

At 8am Keiran woke us all up on christmas eve so after a brief catch up over a cuppa we hit the market stalls!!! The whole of the surrounding streets were market stalls, it was complete chaos but great fun.

We managed to get some great bargains, vegetables, fruit, christmas cards with llamas on (class) and even a christmas tree complete with lights (Steph had to have one)!!! Although Alan and myself still felt weak we were having great fun (inbetween running to the toilet) bartering and chatting with local vendors. Alan even managed to buy a whole chicken, intact with head, feet and heart yummo!!!

Later on that evening we had a meal at Sol y Luna before some drinks at Olivers travels. The owner was completely pissed and a bit of a prat but we had a few drinks to bring in christmas!!!

Merry Christmas.......... Feliz Navidad

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Alan got straight to work with the christmas dinner while the rest of us sat around drinking and talking.

We pulled the table out of the kitchen and placed it in the living room before decorating it with christmas napkins and party hats!!! Along with the christmas tree it all looked very festive!

Well the meal was fantastic, salad and brushetta for starters, chicken and the works for the main and the sweet was put to the side for later as we were stuffed ha ha!!! Well done Alan (and Cullen for the salad and sweet)!!!!

Alan and myself phoned everyone at home to wish them merry christmas........ it was so nice to chat to everyone (some had been on the booze already ha ha....... but it was 9pmish so they had a good excuse ha ha)!

Then Mark (an ozzie we met in Huaraz) turned up with some friends and a cake that said merry xmas Alan and Steph. I thought this was really sweet! So we had lots to drink and some cake!!!

Alan and myself exchanged christmas presents....... I received quality streets and Alan got pringles!!!!!!!!!

I managed to drink three bottles of wine all to myself while Alan had few beers........ we all enjoyed ourselves, complete with party hats!!!!

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!

Boxing day....... Alan watched football all morning while I had a bit of a lie in...... not due to a hangover ofcourse ha ha!!!

We did the typical thing on boxing day, had left overs, watched tv and ate chocolates!

Later on we managed to drag ourselves out to sol y luna for dinner to say goodbye to Cullen who was leaving the next day!

A few more drinks were had.......... well it was christmas!!!

Posted by stephyd 12:29 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Copacabana

At the Copa Co!, Copacabana Music and Passion were always the fashion

all seasons in one day 26 °C

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As the bus drove around Lago Titicaca we realised just how bloody big the lake was, passing plenty of farms and a flock of flamingo's!

We reached the border for Bolivia, just before Copacabana! Alan and myself were really excited as we have heard so many nice things about Bolivia and Bolivianos!!!

It all went smoothly as the immigration officers only seemed interested in the fees from American tourists!

5 hours after we left Puno we arrived in Copacabana, on the edge of Lago Titicaca. Immediately we warmed to Bolivianos who gave us directions to the Hotel Cupula (even the hostal touts waiting at the bus stops) and even better they were correct!!!

Hotel Cupula was great.... we were given a room with a fantastic view over the lake with a balcony..... this surely wasn´t backpacking!!!???

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We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the small town and bumping into fellow travellers we had previously met.... the gringo world is small!

In the evening we had a fantastic meal at La Cupula Restuarant.... I recommend the Mousaka!!! The temperature suddenly turned cooler but fortunately we had a nice comfy, warm bed....... luxury!

After a nice breakfast in La Cupula we walked down to the beach front (well it is a beach but not quite so fancy to call it a beach front and the water is bloody cold!) to catch the boat to Isla Del Sol. The boat was somewhat simple with wooden chairs and many leaky windows BUT for 10 Bolivians each way musn´t grumble!!!

The weather in Copacabana was rainy and cold but two and a half hours later as we reached the north side of Isla Del Sol the island lived up to its name and the sun shone!

Isla Del Sol was very important to the Incas as it is the place where the sun was actually created..... according to Incan Beliefs.

We arrived at Cha'llapampa where we bought provisions (chocolate) and bought our tickets to enable us to view the ruins and museum (for 10 bolivians).

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The museum was a bit of a dissapointment... although it did have a few artifacts from Marka Pampa, a lost city under Lake Titicaca (they don't know much about it but have found ceramics and ruins under the water)!?

It was then a walk across the beach where we some how obtained a 10 year old guide, Oscar!

Our guide took us to the Piedra Sagrada (Sacred Stone) and then onto Chincana Ruins.

Chicana, overlooking the beach, was pretty impressive. It had a room in the shape of the andean/incan cross and a natural well!

Near Chincana there is the Mesa Ceremonica where it is believed sacrifices (human and animal) took place.... nice!

Titikhar'ka, the most important to the Incas, is a rock resembling a Puma is also near. This is where the sun supposedly first appeared..... it was pretty hot!?

After taking many pictures we had to leave Oscar (and the other local children interested in the crazy gringos) as his mum would be mad if he ventured south!

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So we were on our own again and had to tackle the 'one path' walk across the top ridge of the island towards the south!

It was a gorgeous walk that took about 2 hours, we saw many flowers, sheep and the famous 'lake titicaca sail boats'!

We reached Yumani and needed a cold drink, we also ordered sandwiches but half an hour after ordering they informed us there was no bread. Oh well, with no more time to spare we wandered down the Escalera Del Inca towards the boat that would take us back to Copacabana!

The crew gave us a chance to stay for 15 minutes to have a look around Pilko Kaina Ruins on the southern tip but the majority voted against it. We would have liked to see it but the majority ruled!!!! It looked pretty from the water anyway!

After a busy day we had a meal in La Cupula, too tired to venture down the hill, it was nice again!

Mmmmmm a nice lie in before being a little adventurous and heading into town for breakfast and very nice it was!

We then headed up to Horca Del Inca, an incan made astronomical gate on the top of a hill. During the winter solstice the sun shines through the gate!

It was a bit of a climb but well worth it purely for the views over Copacabana and Lago Titicaca. Flamingos were even in sight on the edge of the lake!

We spent a while up there, taking in the views and tranquility before clambering down over the rocks.

A visit to the cathedral was next on the agenda, the bell tower at the front of the cathedral being very impressive. I also liked the simplicity of the cathedral ceiling and windows! Next to the cathedral there is a room where people light candles to thank Camarin de la Virgen for her miracles........ for example helping someone to buy a house or a motorbike ...... those sort of miracles!

This led Alan and myself to the Cerro Calvario. It was a bit of a climb (especially in the heat of the day) to a site that was dedicated to Camarin de la Virgen. Locals bought minutures of what they would wish for, say a car or a boat, and throw it off the side of the hill with a bottle of beer for good luck (obviously the Virgen was partial to a beer or two)! As the result of this tradition there was glass and broken plastic everywhere, it was a bit of a mess really. Alan and myself had bought a minuture hostel (in the hope that the Virgen would be nice to us and let us have a real size one somewhere nice one day) but couldn't bring ourselves to throw it off the side!

In my haste to descend the hill (due to my bladder being full from the 2 litres of water I drank on the way up... doh) I slipped and hit my cocyx on a nice jagged rock..... ouch!

Limping we arrived back in Hotel Cupula for a shower before we headed into town, with some friends, to the big smoke and the Cafe Bistrot where we had a meal that was half the amount for twice the price of La Cupula!!

I still have the little hostal in my backpack, waiting for the oppurtunity to make the wish!!!!!!!!

Posted by stephyd 14:08 Archived in Bolivia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Puno

Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands

sunny 25 °C

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We left Cusco for Puno and Lake Titicaca with Cruz Del Sur, the gringo bingo bus (the bus that makes you play bingo.... well its good to practice counting in spanish)!!!

It happened to be Cullens' birthday, an american amigo who was also travelling from Cusco to Puno with us! This seemed to cause great excitement with the Cruz Del Sur guy who, after noticing the birthdate on the passport, sang happy birthday over the microphone on the bus ha ha!!

Puno was just a working city with very little except Lake Titicaca, so we would stay only a few days here! We decided to stay at Inkas Rest Hostal where the owners were very nice indeedy who, after hearing about Cullens birthday celebrations, proceeded to ply us with numerous shots! This was at lunch time!!! After 4 or 5 we decided we better head for food before we were sozzled ha ha! A little later we arrived back to find a birthday cake waiting at the hostal which I thought was very nice and even though it was neither Alans or my birthday we had to have a slice, it would be rude not to!!!

Much later we found ourselves in a good bar with a few cervezas...... surprise surprise!!!!

The next day Alan and myself had an early start to visit the Uros Floating Islands and Taquille Island!

After leaving Puno the boat shortly arrived at one of the floating islands on the massive Lake Titicaca. The Uros Islands are made completely with reeds and do literally float! The Ayamari people do still live on them (apparently) and speak little spanish (but enough to sell the odd gringo a miniture reed boat or two)!

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The people welcomed us with a traditional dance before greeting us off the boat and on to the squidgy reed island!! It was a little touristy with woman selling numerous artisans in their big skirts and pom poms in their plaited hair BUT it was good fun and everybody was very friendly!!

Walking on the islands was a little weird, it felt like you could put your foot straight through to the water..... but no one did!!!

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As we crossed to a second reed island we passed an old woman rowing, in the most inefficient and awkard position of standing tall! They all seemed to like this position!!???

The second island was very similar with more artisans to sell but no hassle all the same!! We also saw a tame Heron that would chirp around the island asking for food ! Not too sure if it gave anything back in reply to the Locals people feeding it though ?

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It was then onto Taquille Island.... a little further on Lake Titicaca.

We must have been travelling on one of the slowest boats ever made and so it seemed a life time to arrive.

Ayamari people also inhabit the island (like all of Lake Titicaca) and as we stepped onto the harbour jetty we could see many of the locals, all dressed in their traditional clothes!!

The walk around the island to the main plaza took us past many terraces and small farm buildings! It was extremely pretty in the bright sunshine and one thing we noticed was the cleanliness. The place was litter free which was unusual for Peru! The people obviously were quite proud of their island!

We reached the plaza to find it extremely touristy, not in any particular way only that there were more gringos than locals!!!!!

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Kids consistently tried to sell their 1 sol bracelets. One little girl put a bracelet around my arm and tied it in the tightest knot she could in the hope I would give in and just buy it........ but cold hearted me ........ and the fact that she has to learn that gringos are not just the bank of Peru...... let her relunctantly untie the bracelet! They were giggly and nice enough though!

The town Hall seemed quite posh and a few important men, in traditional smart dress, piled out with briefcases..... obviously the guys who made all the decisions here!

It was then time for Almuerzo......... we would have prefered to spend the time wandering around the island but I must say it was a very nice almuerzo, even though it was a little pricey at 12 sols!!!

After the food we walked past more farmhouses and down the inca steps to the port on the other side of the island. As we looked from the very top step we could see a procession of gringos like army ants. A pre toddler was perched precariously on the wall selling bracelets... obviously put there by some money scheming adult!!!

We descended the gringo steps and boarded our boat. The port was a hustle and bustle of both locals and visitors, it was very colourfull! As we sat on the roof of the boat, waiting for the other passengers, we watched local kids playing and woman fishing.... so this is where everyone was!!

Well that was Taquille Island, we both thought it was very touristy and unfortunately we didn't seem to see that much at all!

The boat took just as painfully long on the way back but it made time for a decent snooze ha ha!

Lake Titicaca and the islands had been sunny all of the time but as soon as we came near to Puno the rain hit, suddenly and very hard!!! It seems the lake has its own micro climate!

Later on we visited the local bar again but not too many cervezas as we had another early start and a border crossing......... Bolivia here we come!!!

Posted by stephyd 07:59 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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

Who what where when and why ??

rain 10 °C
View Around the World on Taffski's travel map.

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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)

Cusco B

The centre of the Incan (now gringo) Empire...... Part Two!

sunny 15 °C

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After the Inca Trail we felt very lazy and chilled over the next few days! We Walked past the famous Incan wall of Cusco, with the 15 edged stone and a guy dressed Like an Inca (apparently) standing next to it ready to charge for photos, and the many women hawkers asking if you wanted a massage (pronounced massakeeee..... didn´t know Cusco was the health spa capital of Peru???) everyday towards the Plaza de Armas.

At the Plaza we drank many coffees at our favourite coffee place 'Cappucino'. We also visited a few of our favourite restuarants '2 Nations' and the fantastic Indian restuarant (the only one in Peru I think) mmm!

It was all very relaxing but we did manage to squeeze a city tour into the hectic schedule!!

We started off well with the same guide as the sacred valley tour. Alan and myself couldn´t help but giggle at his over exaggerated pronounciations and funny anecdotes (he reminded us of Manwel from the tv show Faulty Towers ha ha)!

The tour started at Koricancha where inca ruins were mostly destroyed by the conquistadors and a 17th century church built on the site with the stone and the gold that completely surrounded the inca site! It must have been pretty impressive at its time but now the church was the main feature!!

It was then onto Sacsayhuaman (not pronounced sexy woman but over exaggerated Sacsayhuaman!!!!)

Saccccccccccccsayyyyyyyyyyhhhhhhhhhhuamannnnnnn was huge and very impressive (a bit like it´s name!).

A birds eye view would show you the zig zag walls forming the shape of a puma! The sheer size of the stones were amazing! There were three intact doorways ..... huge doorways..... very big for small Incans!

Next was Qenko, not that grand but it was cool to walk through the caves (that ran through the stone rock) that had carved stone chairs beneath!

Puca Pucara (red fort) was next at the top of the valley....... not much was left of it but it had spectacular views of the valley, it was thought to be a resting point for incan soldiers!

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Opposite was Tambo Machay, a slightly steepish climb led to an incan bath used for physical cleansing and purification! So I ofcourse dabbed the old stuff over my face and will forever look the same..... if only I had visited when I was 21!!!

They apparently use the Tambo Machay water in Cusqeña, the local beer, so we downed a few later at KM0 (a local bar)..... all in the act of cleansing and purification.... but of course :)

Posted by stephyd 12:23 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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