Peru, Bolivia, Chile · 29 Days · 31 Moments · October 2017

Southern Peru

13 November 2017

24. We ate breakfast while sheltering from a brief shower, then went back into the site to climb up the mountain. It was very steep 600m incline, supposedly offering superb views over the whole of the Machu Pichu site. We were obviously a little dubious as we set off due to the thick cloud, but we went for it anyway. It was knackering! The hardest part of the trek so far, but it's not everyday you're at a world wonder, so we cracked on despite not being able to see anything over the edge of the path. The last stretch was along incredibly steep, narrow stone staircases leading out onto the top of the mountain and a few viewing platforms. The small group of people who had made it to the top were all waiting for the fog to clear, even just for a second in order to grab a few photos. When the cloud did break slightly, a large cheer would go up, followed by group booing as the site disappeared just as quick again. It was a really fun atmosphere up top and we were very happy to have made it!

11 November 2017

21. After a last group dinner, Susamo gave us all our instructions for the next morning and we all went to bed like it was xmas eve. Alarms were set for 3.30am as we had all planned to meet at 4. We couldn't believe it when we woke up to absolutely torrential rain that night though as the weather had been perfect all trip! You couldn't have made it up! Everybody was up and ready to go by 4 though and I was hoping my genuine fake NorthFace jacket from Kathmandu was up to the task of the thunderstorm! By 4.30, we made it to the bridge, signalling the start of the final trek up the hill to Machu Pichu. At 5am the bridge opened, giving us one hour to get to the top before the site opened at 6. The trek was over 1000 steps, straight up. It was absolutely knackering and very sweaty after the morning downpour. Me and Emily stayed together and made it up in 45 mins, meaning we were right near the front of the queue which was already starting to grow quickly as the buses were right behind us.
20. Actually, Tyler and few hungover others had managed to hitchhike a section of the route, which was hilarious! That afternoon the sun was really going for it, making the three hour walk along the train tracks into Aguascalientes quite tough. It was a beautiful walk though, to me it kinda felt like an extended scene from the Walking Dead, although most other people seemed to reference Stand By Me? The scenery had now completely changed and was looking very Machu Pichuey which was obviously very exciting! Giant rock walls rose from the ground all around us and as it turned out, people up at Machu Pichu would have been able to see us at certain points, we were that close! By mid afternoon we had made it to the very strange town of Aguascalientes, our final stop before going to Machu Pichu the next morning. The town felt like a kind of Disney world, with everything feeling very fake, from the hundreds of shops and restaurants to the ridiculous inca statues and pristine streets.

9 November 2017

19. It was about a third of the way into the vertical bridge that I started to question my recent life choices. My legs were starting to turn to jelly and the staff weren't helping by jumping up and down and swinging the around very fragile bridge from side to side. By half way I had composed myself and allowed my eyes to stray up from my feet and take in the amazing views. I'm not sure I'd repeat the experience, but I'm glad I did it! Next was one more line being spun around and then the really cool last line, going head first in superman position. I was the first one up this time, showing everyone how it's done! It was hilarious watching Emily next, who got a little carried away with her arms out, meaning she didn't have enough speed to make it to the other side and therefore she had to be 'rescued' by the staff member! It was a really fun morning though and by lunchtime we had been bused back to join the rest of the group who had made it to Hydroelectrica by foot.

7 November 2017

15. Once again we were up and out of our tents early, not until 5.30am at least this time and we had a much easier day planned. There were definitely a few sore legs as we set off that morning on our 4 hour hike through the jungle. It was a much easier walk however, predominantly along dirt roads where we stopped often to sample the locally grown avocados, passion fruits and coffee. We even had a face painting session with some berries Susamo had stopped to pick. By lunch we had completed the days trekking and that afternoon we were all driven the local hot springs. I've never been so happy to rest my weary legs and the hot water was bliss, definitely a much needed treat! There was more though as that night Susamo had planned a party for us. We were given our inca tequila shots and basically all got drunk, dancing around the fire until late. Tyler and Patrick in particular had sore heads the next morning, good job me and Emily had signed up for the zip lining!
13. Unbelievably, despite my serious concerns, after sleeping for 12 solid hours Emily woke up feeling a lot better. She managed breakfast and set off on our marathon day. We first had to walk 4 hours up to the Salkantay pass at 4650m, before descending down another 5 hours into the jungle where we would camp at 2800m. It was a long day that we took very slowly at first while Emily eased back into things. I needn't have worried though as she smashed it, as did the rest of the group. The views up to the Pass where incredible and it was hard to believe we were in the same area as Machu Pichu, as the snow capped mountains surrounded us. By the afternoon the mountains disappeared as quickly as they had appeared and we were walking through a scene from Lord of the Rings. Shortly after lunch, the scenery changed once more into dense jungle, something closer to Jurassic Park! It was a long day, but a brilliant day, with so many stunning views. Of course as usual, pictures don't do it justice!

4 November 2017

12. Emily, who had been feeling better for the last couple of days, suddenly became very unwell. In the afternoon we were given free time to walk up a very steep hill to Humantay Lake, but it was another hour trek going up to 4200m and Emily wasn't going to make that! So as Emily got into bed for the afternoon, I set off on the afternoon stroll. It was incredibly steep and very tough, but the view of the lake at the top was well worth it. The glacier melted down the mountain and into a waterfall that ended up in the crystal clear lake. I didn't spend too long up the top though as I wanted to get back down and see how Emily was doing. I needn't have hurried though as she was still fast asleep. In fact, she pretty much stayed asleep right through the evening and night as she couldn't stomach food, not good when you have to trek 22km at over 4000m the next day! To make things worse, that night the temperature got down to -2 degrees and we had to be up at 4.45am to start trekking again!
11. We spent the rest of the day 'preparing' for our trek. I rented some dodgy old boots, we had our team meeting at 6, packed our bags afterwards and set our alarm for 4am the next day. Getting up was fairly easy that morning as excitement had taken over. One of our guides, Judie, came and met us at our hostel and walked us to meet our fellow trekkers where a large collection of buses had gathered to pick up all the other travellers mad enough to get up this early for a trek! After a couple of hours we were into the Salkantay park where we stopped for breakfast. Another hour driving through some spectacular scenery, along the cliff edges and we had made it to our stopping point. The views were already amazing and we hadn't begun walking yet. We all introduced ourselves to each other and were given the safety, 'we're all family talk' by our guide Susamo. After a gentle 2 hour hike, we made it to our first campsite, at 3900m. We had our first delicious lunch and then things took a turn!
10. It was Monday, we had done nothing for 2 days in Cusco, but we're determined to have a more productive day! Emily was feeling better, so first thing we headed to the hospital to try and get me a yellow fever vaccine. The hospital was absolute chaos, but we queued amidst the carnage and managed to get the correct receipt. We even managed to then find the vaccinations building, however the hospital didn't do yellow fever vaccinations on Monday, so we were told to come back tomorrow. Nearly a success! The rest of the day was spent in the inca museum and then the beautiful Qurikancha, the old inca temple of the sun, complete with a very gothic church from where the Spanish had invaded and made it their own. The following day we were even more productive. Getting my yellow fever jab was easy (thanks mostly to Emily's excellent Spanish!) and only cost me about £12, then we went and booked our trek. 5 days, climbing up to 4650m at the highest point, I had to go rent some trekking boots!!

1 November 2017

9. We arrived in Cusco on the Saturday morning having both had a poor nights sleep on the bus. As seems to be the way after an All Hands experience, both of us had managed to become ill, mine only being a cold which had cleared by the time we got to Arequipa, however Emily had been slowly feeling worse. The altitude in Cusco almost certainly didn't help, 3450m is very high! I was taking altitude sickness tablets at 2500m when I trekked in Nepal to put it into perspective. With this in mind we decided to take it easy for a few days before setting off on the 5 day Salkantay trek which ended up at Machu Pichu. It was supposed to be a challenging trek that we needed to be rested for, so instead we slept most of the weekend away and took in some of the sights of Cusco. Sunday was a nationwide census, so the whole town came to a stop, making us feel a lot less guilty about not being very productive! As with Arequipa though, Cusco was a beautiful city, with so much to see.

31 October 2017

32. A few from Halloween and with that it's onto Bolivia!

29 October 2017

31. The last of Machu Pichu, I promise!
30. The next day we pretty much slept (I watched the walking dead of course!), ate junk food and I even rested my aching body in a hot bath! That evening we went for a couple of drinks with Micheal, Martym and Leike which of course turned into quite a lot of drink and a decent night out! This of course meant that Halloween was mainly spent in bed, watching more box sets and resting up some more before we were due to get the bus further south towards Bolivia the next day. There was time to go for a stroll around Cusco that night to take in the Halloween celebrations which were completely crazy. It was nothing like the UK as it seemed the whole of Cusco was out, with all the kids in costumes and parades going past. We watched the craziness for a while, got some food and then prepared to leave to Cusco after around 12 days. There's still a lot to see though....
28. Overload of pictures!
27. Therefore we took loads of shameless pictures, some posing, some not, all in search our 'perfect Machu Pichu' picture. We could have stayed for hours longer, re-walking around the site and taking loads more pictures, but our legs were starting to give out, so after a good hour of trying to really take it all in some more, we headed for the exit. It seems most people had the same idea as the queue for the never ending supply of buses most have been over 200m long. We were soon back in Aguascalientes though where we met back up with Tyler, Cody, Moira and Connor and had a few beers reflecting on what had been a brilliant trek and an amazing day. We stayed and had dinner with Tyler and Cody before saying our goodbyes and heading for the 8.30 train back to Cusco. The trip was a further 4 hours, and by the time we got back into bed in our hostel, we had been up for about 22 hours. When we woke up, we checked into a hotel for a much needed day of relaxation!!
26. Walking back down actually provided some of the best views of all. It was pretty cold up top and obviously very cloudy, but as we came down it started to clear and we were able to stop at many openings to take in the whole site in all of its glory. Overall it took us about 3 and a half hours to go up and down the mountain. By this point we had been up about 9 hours and were knackered! It had been a long but incredible 5 days and our legs were really starting to feel it! By the time we got re-entered the site, it had started raining again. We sheltered as best we could while the rain slowed. This time the rain seemed to have done the trick though as the cloud cover really disappeared for a while. We returned to many of the same photo spots as we had been to in the morning, only this time the site looked incredible. The eerie morning mist had gone and been replaced with spectacular views.
25. The cloudy view from the top and the queue of people trying to get a picture!
23. More pictures of ruins!
22. We were literally one of the first to set eyes on it that morning. It was incredible to see, far too much to be able to take in at 6 in the morning especially as the clouds shrouded the whole site. In a way it made it kind of eerie, mystical almost. I couldn't believe how empty the site was at that point allowing for a few sweaty early pictures as it felt like we almost had the place to ourselves. We tried our best to take it all in for half an hour before we all met back up as a group for our tour with Susamo. For the next couple of hours we were given a tour of the site, walking in and out of the ruins, being told all about the old inca culture. Emily was obviously finding it all very interesting! It really was incredible, again, something that my words couldn't begin to do justice. By the time our tour finished and we said goodbye to everyone, the park had really started to fill up. We stepped outside to have breakfast and summon up the strength for Machu Pichu mountain!

28 October 2017

18. Lots more pictures of Zip Lining!!
17. Instead of trekking in the proper Peruvian heat on the 4th morning, a small group of us were minibuses off to zip line, something that neither me or Emily had done before. I was a mixture of excited, nervous and very hungover, but fortunately I wasn't the only one! We arrived early morning, were given our 'safety' talks and signed the document saying that the company weren't liable for our deaths and then we were off. The first line was 110m above the canopy, reaching speeds of 65kph. The veteran of the group, Rich, volunteered to go first as the rest of us hid from the task. Seeing him arrive safely at the over side gave me some confidence, but I still let Emily go first! I needn't have been nervous though as the experience was an amazing rush and provided unbelievable views of the surrounding scenery. By the third line, Emily was going backwards and I was hanging upside down. Next up however was the vertical bridge, a wobbly contraption suspended over a very high gorge.

27 October 2017

16. More pictures of the jungle, hot springs and partying. Zip Lining on a hangover next!

26 October 2017

14. We made it to the top! The whole group: Myself and Emily, Tyler and Cody, Leike and Martym, Connor and Moira, Runa, Michael, Skye, Rich and Cathy, Mike, Jose, Patrick and the Chilean couple!

22 October 2017

8. Our final day in Arequipa was another relaxed one. We went to the local market in the morning which was massive and completely manic. Both of us enjoyed smoothies sat with the locals watching the hundreds of people go about their shopping before we walked to the local park. It was a beautiful day and we pretty much just sat and watched the world go by for hours. In the afternoon we decided to go take a tour of the cathedral. It was well worth the £3 each as our tour guide told us all about the Cathedral, then took us upstairs to see the 'priceless artefacts' that had been donated over the past 400 years. The organ was the largest in South America and the bells weighed over 5 tonnes each, so that was pretty impressive. Certainly worth seeing! The views from the top of the cathedral were amazing as well, far better than the actual viewpoint across the city. That evening we got on the night bus, said goodbye to the beautiful Arequipa and headed off on the 12 hour trip to Cusco.
3. The next morning we were treated to a delicious breakfast at the Hostel, then spent the day chilling by a different hostels pool. It was a beautiful place to spend the day, waiting for our evening sand boarding adventure. We met a nice Dutch couple, who we would later share a taxi to the bus station with and the day flew by. At 4 we jumped into the giant, rollercoaster looking vehicle pictured and headed out into the desert. 2 hours literally flew by as we were thrown around the sand dunes in the giant vehicle. Then we were taken to several different sand 'peaks', given what were effectively snowboards and told to lie down head first on them. Our guide gave us a few words of advice, basically keep still and hold on tight, before pushing us down some massive drops! It was so much fun, although a little painful when I bailed off at full speed or when we went over a small bump! Still, it was something else that I had never done before ticked off the list!

20 October 2017

7. After a few really busy weeks, we decided to have a slower day in Arequipa. Emily showed off her professional business skills to a couple of guys who were chatting rubbish about the world of work at breakfast. She obviously hates me pointing it out, but the poor graduates definitely had a thing or two to learn from her! I then played a few games of pool against them while Emily caught up with Martha. In the afternoon, we had planned to go on a walking tour, but managed to miss that and so instead headed up to the viewpoint ourselves. It wasn't particularly impressive, but the city of Arequipa really was picturesque along the way and we could get a better glimpse of the mountains in the background. That night we cooked ourselves some steak back at the Hostel and chilled in front of a film. Emily of course fell straight asleep, leaving me to eat the litre of ice cream and enjoy the film by myself!

18 October 2017

6. Another successful bus trip (I even enjoyed my on board chicken curry!) and we had made it to Arequipa by early morning. Our hostel let us check in at 10am which was a bonus, however we immediately decided to go for a walk before we went straight back to sleep. The city was really beautiful, very different to anywhere I had seen in Peru. It felt very Spanish, with so many churches built around the central cathedral and Plaza de Armas, the central square. It seemed like the sort of place that people could easily spend a lot longer than they had first planned in. After a fantastic afternoon nap, we went for a another walk, this time to find somewhere nice for dinner. After Emily nearly losing her bank card (luckily re-tracing steps worked a wonder this time!) and a stressful hour of wandering looking for somewhere we could decide on, we eventually ended up at both of our number one choice...McDonald's!

17 October 2017

5. We took lots of pictures of sand!
4. Not only was the sand boarding really fun, but the views were also spectacular. We were literally in the desert and couldn't resist messing about in the sand. It was a really good time to go on our trip, as we got to see the sunset over the dunes, very instagram, traveller pic worthy scenes! By the time I had finished making sand angels, I pretty much had sand in every...well it was everywhere! We got back to our Hostel and did our best to de-sand ourselves before our next night bus. With only enough time for a quick beer with Will, an English guy who now lived in Peru, it was back on the road, this time the 12 hour bus to Arequipa. We had been told about Arequipa by one of the Peruvian staff members back at All Hands. It was supposedly Peru's most beautiful city and we planned on spending at least a few days there to chill and not take another bus for a while!
2. We made it to Trujillo by evening though and spent the next day walking around the city. It was nicer than Piura, but not too much to shout about. We saw the cathedral and treated ourselves to a huge amount of Chifa (Chinese food!) before we fell asleep in the freezing cold Hostel (see pictures of us blanketed and feeling sorry for ourselves) while waiting for our next night bus to Huacachina. The bus took nearly 12 hours to Lima, then a further 5 to Huacachina. The trip was far more comfortable than the buses in Asia though, more like taking an aeroplane, with food, reclining seats and TVs, so we felt fine by the time we got to our destination. The long journey had been well worth it as we had arrived at what seemed like a real life mirage, plonked in the middle of the desert. This was the home of sand boarding, but first things first, we had a chilled evening by the lake and a couple of drinks before bed.

15 October 2017

1. So we'd said our emotional goodbyes and we're on the road. All Hands had arranged a mini bus to take a few of us back to civilisation and after 2 hours we were back in Piura, which to be honest none of us really liked anymore than living in tents in Puerta Palache. It was a nothing sort of city, big, busy, hot with no real character. However, we did stay with a nice lady called Carolina for the night. It was a 5 minute walk from the shopping mall where we tucked into proper American style burgers and got caught up in a nationwide earthquake drill. We both enjoyed long, hot showers (always such a treat after an All Hands experience) and had a proper nights sleep in a comfy bed, another treat! Carolina treated us to the weirdest lunch of cold mash, egg and tuna, followed by duck and then gave us a lift to the bus station in the afternoon. Little did we know that Carolina drove like a maniac, honking her horn at anything that moved! A real Peruvian experience!