And it was all going so well!

By , July 28, 2010 2:37 am

The holiday in Peru has been fantastic so far! That was, until Saturday.

On Saturday morning, just before leaving Puno to go on a 9 hour coach journey to Cuzco, I had a fried egg for breakfast. It was a lovely egg, cooked perfectly by the lovely owner of the hostel we were staying in – a soft runny yolk to run all over the bread I had sat it on.

Within 2 hours I was making the toilet on the coach (thank goodness it had a toilet!!) home. Every last bit of that egg came up, over the course of several hours and several trips to my new second home on the coach.

It was a very unpleasant day!

On arrival in Cuzco (which is lovely by the way) we had to head straight to Peru Treks to pay the balance of our 4 day trek to Machu Picchu. They insist on you paying 2 days in advanced to ‘prove’ you have been at altitude (Cuzco is at 3200m) before going on the trek. Many people suffer from altitude sickness in these parts and some of the trek is over 4200m – which is pretty high.

So we duly paid (not before I had used the ‘facilities’ to throw up whatever was left of the egg – which wasn´t much by this stage), confident that I would get over the bug and be fine and dandy to go on the trek Monday morning.

Well that didn’t quite happen. I thought I was getting a little better on Sunday, having not thrown up all day, but that all went pear shaped in the evening when I dared to try and eat something! An hour later, up it came. Although both ends of my digestive system were now involved in this ‘getting rid of the egg’ situation.

I was sick into the night and it became quite clear that it would be foolish for me to try and go on the trek. So we decided that I would stay in Cuzco and Nic would go on the trek on her own – it would be silly for both of us to miss out on such an exciting trip.

So here I am, stuck in Cuzco but feeling a little better. Still feeling weak through lack of food (it’s been nearly 4 days now and I’ve managed one bowl of soup – although I feel like I could eat OK today).

Yesterday was interesting – having seen Nic off in tears at 5am to go on the trek I decided I needed to see a doctor, at least to get a certificate or whatever so we could claim some of the money back from insurance.

The owner of the (fantastic) hostel we are staying in called the doctors, and within 20 minutes two of them turned up in white coats! Literally I was taken away by the men in white coats (although, having said that, one of them was a woman). Once outside they looked confused as the ‘ambulance’ they had arrived in had vanished! ‘Must have been called on an emergency’ they said, so they proceeded to hail a cab to get the three of us to the medical centre.

Blood tests (and ‘other’ tests) done, it was confirmed that I have a paracitic infection – basically food poisoning I think. Thankfully not the more serious salmonella as I thought it might be. Still, it’s knocked me out for a few days that’s for sure.

So loaded up with various drugs (4 different types!) and re-hydration drinks (the nicest I’ve ever tasted actually – tastes like strawberry milkshake!) I was driven back to the hostel to feel sorry for myself.

I’ve just booked the train to get to Machu Picchu on Thursday so will hopefully still meet up with a no doubt exhausted Nic on her arrival at Machu Picchu, so we can at least enjoy our 10th wedding anniversary as we had intended!

Here’s hoping!

Looks can be deceiving

By , July 25, 2010 10:47 am

Today we embarked on a 9 hour bus journey from Puno to Cusco. Our backpacking days are long gone so we splashed out on the “tourist bus” which was infinitely more expensive but provided us with a comfy bus that stopped every couple of hours to see the sites (if only briefly!)

The first stop was really nothing special. Personally I was just glad to use the toilet! The next stop was marginally better as we walked behind a small town square to find the remains of an apparently important Inca temple. Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot left to see and you needed a great deal of imagination to appreciate it.

By the last stop i was kind of over it and just glad to stretch my legs. We were told we were stopping at a very important and truly spectacular church, but when I stepped out of the bus I almost got straight back on again. From the outside it looked just like all the other churches we’d seen – fairly plain and ordinary, certainly not like all the European churches we have seen on our travels.

But it just goes to show that looks can be deceiving. When I stepped inside it really was the most spectacular church interior I have ever seen. Every single inch was covered in either beautiful paintings or gold leaf columns and statues. When the Spanish invaded Peru they were a little more respectful than the British discovery of Australia and in order to get the locals on side they combined the Andean cultures with their desire to introduce Catholicism. So this leaves an interesting mix of styles that cannot be viewed anywhere else in the world.

Unfortunately no photography of any kind was allowed in the church so I don’t have any pictures of the inside (I will post one of the outside when I get a better Internet connection), but maybe if you google “Andahuaylillas church” you might find some pictures.

Everything comes at a price!

By , July 24, 2010 9:54 am

Cough up Nic!

We are finding this holiday a little more expensive than we thought it might be as we are being charged for taking photos! Many locals make a living from placing themselves strategically in tourist hotspots, dressed in traditional dress, and are ready to pounce for tips at the first sign if a camera.

I think the results will be worth it in the end though! All of the photos on these blogs are from my phone, we’ll get the proper ones online when we get home.

On the Gringo trail

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By , July 24, 2010 7:05 am

Usually when we travel we try and get off the beaten track and travel under our own steam but unfortunately for this trip, if we want to see everything we are interested in, we have to succumb to the guided tours. This is fine for some aspects of the trip as there is no other way of doing it, and I spent many hours researching the companies that would fulfill our needs, so we should be traveling with like minded people. However, today we had to join what can only be described as the most touristy tour we have ever been on!

Puno is not the picturesque lakeside town I had imagined it would be so in order to appreciate Lake Titicaca at it’s finest we had to get out to the islands. The original plan was to do a homestay on one of the more remote islands but as we struggled to get out of bed yesterday there was no way we were going on any great adventure.

So bright and early this morning we were herded onto the Gringo bus and dumped on a boat destined for Uros – the floating reed islands of Peru.

Colourful Locals

We decided to do it because even the lonely planet acknowledges that despite the cringe factor there is nothing else like this in the world and it really should be witnessed at least once. So once you got past all the different camera wielding nationalities and found a quiet corner you could take a moment to enjoy. That moment was soon interrupted by a souvenir wielding local who was trying to fleece you for all the Soles you have.

Once we had endured the local women’s performance of a song in Quechuan, Spanish and the worst performance of twinkle twinkle little star I have ever witnessed we were herded back on the boat bound for the next island.


Taquile was not as unique as Uros but did provide us with some nice photo opportunities once we had let the hoards pass. We even got a glimpse of the snow capped mountains of Bolivia.

Trips like this also provide you with enforced down time (2 hours on a small boat that doesn’t look entirely sea worthy!) so I have succeeded in finishing my book and have written this blog, which will probably be the last for a few days as the next stop is the trek to Machu Picchu.

Into the abyss. And out again!

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By , July 23, 2010 12:59 pm

OK. So first of all a few thing’s I’ve noticed about Peru;

1. It’s really, really high. Pretty much.
2. Potatoes. They’re everywhere.
3. Driving. It’s bad. And we’ve been to some countries where bad driving must be taught at school. Peru is REALLY bad!
4. Hot water bottles. They have never been so appreciated!
5. You burn really easily, even when it’s 5 deg c.
6. Everyone wants a tip.

We’re having a fantastic time, cramming enough in without feeling too rushed. We’re currently recovering from our 2 day trek into (and out of) the Colca Canyon – the deepest Canyon in the world.

It was hard!


It was also incredible and something I’d recommend to anyone coming to this part of the world. It started off in Arequipa where we took the first day traveling to various spots an the way to our first overnight stay at the top of the canyon. This included some amazing landscapes sculpted by volcanoes and earthquakes over the years (the area is both earthquake prone, the last major one being in 2001, and also volcanically active) as well as stopping at our highest point so far at over 4900m. It literally can take your breath away!

We stayed in a small town called Caboneconde in a lovely little hotel at around 3800m, see ‘Dressing for Dinner’ for an idea of how chilly evenings are around these parts!

Local transport!

The next morning saw us starting the trek to the base of the canyon over 1200m below us. The decent was spectacular and also pretty hard going on the loose and dusty ground. Luckily we had mules to take our luggage down so all we had to carry were cameras and water!

At the bottom of the canyon are various hostels in the oasis. We, however, were camping. It was beautiful, particularly after a refreshing dip in one if the pools!

After an afternoon relaxing and an evening dinner over candle light in the cold night air, it was time for bed as we were due for breakfast at 5am!

We started the trek back out of the canyon at about 5.45am, in the dark with torches.

It wasn’t long before the sun started to rise though – and so continued our 3 hour hike. Seemingly near vertically!! It was a good job we started early because although the nights are cold, the sun is really intense. Sun burn and dehydration are both serious and common at these altitudes this close to the equator, so it was good to get a head start whilst it was cool.

It was a long, tough slog out of the canyon, but we held our heads high as countless people passed us on mules (which they had hired for a princely sum at the bottom of the canyon having realised it was going to be a very tough climb out!. Someone at the bottom of the canyon must have been making a pretty penny that’s for sure!!)

Nic and I made it out in just under 3 hours, which is about average I think.

We had a HUGE lunch and then were straight on a transfer to Puno, from where I write this. In fact, I am writing this on a boat on Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake in the world at 3800m don’t you know).

More on Puno and Lake Titicaca later…

A nation after my own heart

By , July 23, 2010 4:26 am


I had 4 types of potato on my plate at lunch yesterday. Yes, you read correctly, 4!!! The Peruvian staple is potato (and rice) and what the Peruvians can’t do with a potato is not worth knowing about! And yes, it is pretty common to have both staples served with dinner. This came with great excitement to me as I discovered recently that the Aussies are  not a nation of potato lovers. When I had my work colleagues over for Christmas in July most of them were satisfied with one roast potato, which came as a great shock to Aby and I (a fellow Brit), who would happily eat at least five roasties with dinner!

So for lunch I had alpaca steak with chips (just like Grandma used to make), baked sweet potato, a slice of potato bake and some tempura battered mashed potato!

The reason for this carb overload was necessary. It was our buffet lunch on our return from the canyon. It was a well earnt lunch as the alarm went off at 04:40 for our ascent out of the canyon. 2 hours and 55 minutes later we made it to the top, but boy was it a tough climb! I could’ve done with lunch then, but we had to visit the condors and the hot springs first. So by lunch time I really was famished and the Peruvian buffet did the trick!

Dressing for dinner

By , July 22, 2010 11:56 am

Dressing for Dinner...

The term dressing for dinner took on a whole new meaning tonight as we donned our body warmers, wind proof jackets, scarf and hats!

We thought it was cold in our house in Sydney but out here is even colder, despite the fact that we are in the tropics!

I thought we were being paranoid as we were shopping in katmandu but I can to you now I’m glad of every penny (or should that be scent?) we spent!!


By , July 22, 2010 11:54 am

Colca Canyon

We’ve been on the tourist trail for 3 days and this place has already exceeded my expectations! For those of you who spoke to me in the lead up to this holiday, you will already know that I was excited but also a little apprehensive! It was more nerve racking than your average holiday for a number of reasons:

1) I have never been to this corner of the globe before and have desperately wanted to visit since year 7 there was a lot riding on it.

2) I planned it all so if anything doesn’t go according to plan it’s my fault. And believe me there is very little room for error!

3) We didn’t quite get round to the strict training regime I imagined back in February so who knows how we’ll get on with the trekking!

But so far so good! I am currently sitting in my hotel in Cabanaconde, having wound our way over the Andes, acclimatizing before our descent into the canyon tomorrow!

We haven’t felt too bad due to the altitude. We had a couple of light headed moments when we moved too fast at the highest point of the Andes crossing and we are also feeling the breathlessness but no Ill effects!

I am also checking off my wildlife spotting. So today I saw llamas, alpacas and vicuñas in the wild then preceded to eat an alpaca steak for dinner! We didn’t see any condors today but I was pretty chuffed with the humming birds!

The longest day of our lives?

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By , July 18, 2010 12:41 am

Well we eventually made it to Peru! We landed late last night in Lima, had a few hours sleep and are now back in the airport to head off to the first part of our trip – Arequipa. Luckily thus is just a short flight!!

We spent 33 hours traveling to get to Lima, leaving Sydney on Friday morning – and after all that time in the air, landed in South America on………….. Friday evening! Weird.

So we’ve gone from being 9 hours ahead of the UK to lots (I forget exactly how many but hopefully you’ll understand!) of hours behind!

One thing I do know is that we are most definitely in South America! The noise, smells and absolute chaos which is the road system is just what I imagined it would be!!

So near, yet so far…

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By , July 17, 2010 3:56 am

So I breathe a sigh of relief as I sit here in an airport in chile, as it means I have almost reached my final destination. I have to breathe a sigh of relief because we almost didn’t make it out of Sydney!

Despite living here for nearly 4 years there is always a sense of nervous anticipation when you walk through customs but today it started at check in when the lady behind the desk asked Graham where his visa was. Answer: “in my passport at home”. Whoops (or words to that effect) went through our minds as the kind lady went to check the system to see if he was registered electronically.

It was the longest 5 minutes of our lives! I had the phone on standby ready to call friends who have a key to our house, but thankfully the SOS call wasn’t needed.

We took off on schedule from Sydney on a beautiful cloudless winters day and 2 hours later landed in Aukland in the pouring rain! It was the first leg of our 3 leg trip to Peru over with and we thought they’d accidentally taken us back to Manchester!! You know the weather – dark grey clouds and drizzle.

It was a quick change around in Aukland and we were on our next leg to Santiago in Chile (where we are now). This was a fairly long haul flight at 11 hours but we made it.

Now we’re in the middle of an 8 hour stop in the airport before our last short hop up the South American coast to Lima in Peru. And it doesn’t stop there! A quick night’s sleep in Lima then we fly straight out the next morning to our first proper stop in Peru, Arequipa. What a trip, hope it’s all worth it!!!!!!

Photos will have to wait until we get back as my poor little phone can’t deal with writing and photos at the same time. I also haven’t taken any yet!

Keep checking back to see where we are and what we’re up to!

Nic and Gra x

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