A Travellerspoint blog

The lost city of the Incas

On top of Machu Picchu

sunny 16 °C

Unfortunately (or fortunately) Aine had a tummy bug for the week leading up to our arrival in Cusco so we decided not to do the 4 day hike and opted for a 2 day tour of the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. The tour of the Sacred Valley took us to the ancient city of Ollantatambo where we got a feel for what the Incas were capable of.
Ollantatambo.. see buildings on cliff behind Seamus

Ollantatambo.. see buildings on cliff behind Seamus

On the same day we got the train to Aquas Callientes (located at the base of Machu Picchu) as there are is no access by road although there are roads in and around the town of Aquas Calientes. At 5am we got up to get the bus up the unnaturally steep and windy road. We arrived as . It was too steep for me to even consider.

Words can not adequately describe this place so we won't bother!!!! Enjoy the pics....

Seamus AKA Tommy Tiernan waiting for train to Cusco

Seamus AKA Tommy Tiernan waiting for train to Cusco


Dawn mist lifting

Dawn mist lifting


More mist n people

More mist n people


mist through window

mist through window


early morning mist

early morning mist

there it is over there......

there it is over there......

sontes and mist

sontes and mist

they sure knew how to build....

they sure knew how to build....


nice walls eh

nice walls eh


the ahppy couple

the ahppy couple


Im going ot climb that

Im going ot climb that


Sun temple

Sun temple


rear end view

rear end view


kinda steep

kinda steep


view down to MP

view down to MP


I made it!

I made it!


MP with road up

MP with road up


dont push me over

dont push me over


steeper

steeper


even steeper

even steeper


nice stone work WP

nice stone work WP


I climbed it

I climbed it

Posted by Loodersatlarge 07:41 Archived in Peru Tagged machu picchu Comments (0)

Bolivian salt flats and highlands

Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama

all seasons in one day 7 °C

Jeep on salt flats

Jeep on salt flats


The pretty girl behind us in the line at La Paz's military airport asked us where we were going. Seamus' eyes lit up (she was very pretty) . We told here we were going to Uyuni. She told us she was going to dance at Carnival in Orouro. Seamus' eyes nearly popped out of his head! Orouro is the 2nd biggest carnival after Rio and many would say it's the best. Unfortunately we were flying past Orouro but we had fun imagining this girl in her sparkley bikini and headress with 100,000 similar dancers, and thats not including the punters.

We boarded our ex military plane where all the luggage was stored up front behind a curtain. We landed an hour and a half later saving us a 12 hr bus journey (which is supposedly very unsafe and terribly bouncy during the rainy season - December to February).

Uyuni (where we were hoping to book a tour into the great salt plains of Bolivia) was an old mining town which was deserted on our arrival. It wasn't helped by the torrential downpour that started as we touched down. We were dropped in the ´main area´of the town (Christ what a hole - I thought to myself). I went off to an internet cafe and Aine minded the bags under an awning of one of the many booked out hotels. As I tried to book an hotel Aine spoke to a dutch couple briefly, and they too were seeking accommodation. She directed them to a hotel across the street and off they went. I returned not having any luck and Aine said that we should try the hotel across the street where the Dutch couple went. As luck would have it the Dutch couple got the last double room - well done Aine! We settled for a twin room, very basic but as it was only for one night so we sucked it in and it only cost $5 each.

We went to scout the deserted town and all the tour companies were closed for lunch - so what could we do but have our lunch also washed down by a couple of beers. As we waited for the tour agents to open ( time meant very little to them as it appeared that opening/closing was when it suited them), another pretty young female stopped in front of me and we chatted briefly. She was french (Nathalie) and after some dialogue I asked her would she be interested in joining our group for the salt flats tour and she said she would. The dutch couple that Aine, so selflessly, gave 'our' room to, also were looking for a tour and we got talking and they too were interested in joining up to go on one of the tours. Our minds made up, we went with Quechua Tours and as we were 5, we were short one person to fill the jeep. They said that they would find a sixth person and so we left.

At 10.30 the next morning, the dutch couple, Jasper and Helena, Nathalie and us met at the tour guides office. We discovered that the 6th person was Leonardo, an Argentinian. Excited, but not expecting too much we set off in our Toyota Landcruiser 4 x 4. It seems every tour company uses this type jeep as it's preffered choice of transport (Cathal Ryan will be pleased!). First stop the salt plains, which is why we came to this lonely bleak spot in the first place. Dioni, our driver, was laid back and left the 6 of us to get to know each other a little better. By the end of the trip we would all be inviting the others to visit our respective countries with promises of free accommodation when ever they chose to visit. Aine and I are sorted for Amsterdam and Berlin (where Nathalie hopes to settle when she finishes her travels) and even Argentina should we choose to visit again in the future!

Moody Sky

Moody Sky


IMG_2411

IMG_2411

Try to imagine the salar as a sea of salt, or indeed a salt desert. It's like a blank page, a plain of possibility stretching white to the horizon which then blurs seamlessly into the sky. When you look into the distance you see purple and blue hills and islands that appear to float on colliding light. Of course this is the wet season so there was a layer of water covering the salt plains. It was like an Alice in Wonderland moment, driving in minature across a gigantic mirror, with sky above and sky below.

IMG_2415

IMG_2415


Salt hotel

Salt hotel


I have her in the palm of my hand

I have her in the palm of my hand


We arrived at the edge of the salar at 1pm and all 6 of us got out of the jeep and climbed onto the roof rack. It started with a "WOW" at the first sight of the vastness and mind bending landscape that stretched to what appeared to be infinity. We left the salar having watched the sun disappear over the horizon in kaloidiscopic transmutation, acompanied by the most spectacular display of both forked and sheet lightening as if playing a fanfare to bid us farewell. It had all 6 of us transfixed as our jeep floated to the edge of this magical world to lay our heads down in mutual thanksgiving for what the universe had bestowed upon us. Of course this was after 1 million more "WOW's". That night we stayed in a building made of 'Salt Blocks'. The beds were even made of salt blocks. Basic, but did the trick.

All the colours of the rainbow

All the colours of the rainbow

Aah

Aah

Fee Fi Fo Fum

Fee Fi Fo Fum

I could just eat you up

I could just eat you up

Seamus, sun and salar

Seamus, sun and salar

The second day, under strict orders from our guide, Dioni, we rose from our very basic sleeping arrangements at gray dawn and shivered as we nursed mugs of tea or Nescafe. Then we repacked ourselves into our Land Cruiser, and off we went.

Salt crystals

Salt crystals

Salar

Salar

Jumping Jacks

Jumping Jacks

Still grumpy from waking, I wondered what possibly could merit such an early morning now that the highlight of the trip, the unbeatable Salar, was over. My cynicism was checked, however, as sometime later we crested a rocky hill and descended towards brilliant blue water cradled beneath snow-tipped red mountains. Around the lake was a fringe of white, like ice, which made what was in the lake more surprising: for there in the midst of Bolivian moonscape, stood thousands of pink flamingos. Of course it was not ice but potassium and other minerals that created the environment for the microbes upon which the flamingos were feasting and from which they get their pink colour.

Whoosh.jpg caption Flamingos in flight as sun setsSunset

Sunset

Girls n beer

Girls n beer

Silouette

Silouette

Fame!

Fame!

Days two and three followed suit with more wonders. The landscape was ever-changing and never expected: the water and the rocks, first were red, and then turquoise and green with minerals and microbes. We glimpsed wild guanacos and vicunas, and socialized with their domestic counterparts the alpacas and llamas

Sundown

Sundown

IMG_2689

IMG_2689

Hmm beer

Hmm beer

IMG_2710

IMG_2710

Nathalie Aine Leonardo Jasper Helena

Nathalie Aine Leonardo Jasper Helena

Llama Crossing

Llama Crossing

Get your rocks off

Get your rocks off

Over the course of our trip we wandered over lava-flow formations, the source still puffing benign wisps of smoke into the stunningly blue sky. We romped between wind-carved boulders, looming like dinosaurs or petrified giants in a sweep of nothing. We visited the surreal lakes - Laguna Colorada, Laguna Blanca, and Laguna Verde. We visited geysers puffing in pastel light at sunrise which appeared etheral and breakfasted with our feet dangling into thermal springs.

Album cover

Album cover

Lake and Mountain

Lake and Mountain

IMG_2829

IMG_2829

Lunch on the go

Lunch on the go

Balancing act

Balancing act

IMG_2895

IMG_2895

The gang

The gang

Rock tree

Rock tree

Lago Colorado

Lago Colorado

Eventually, our trip had to come to an end and having soaked our weary bones in the thermal baths we set off to the border between Bolivia and Chile, our eventual destination being San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. We arived at the border, which was in the middle of nowhere about 4,000 meters above sea level. We all said our goodbyes, wishing that the magical journey would not end there but alas our time in Bolivia had come to an end and we really felt like we got to know Jasper, Helena, Nathalie and Leonardo over the 3 days. It was with a feeling of loss that we said our farwell, but we know that our paths will cross again in the not so distant future.

What the..

What the..

Bubble and squeak

Bubble and squeak

Gorilla in the mist

Gorilla in the mist

Martian landscape in early morning

Martian landscape in early morning

Sunrise

Sunrise

Breakfast is ready Pancake Day

Breakfast is ready Pancake Day

IMG_3093

IMG_3093

Ahommm

Ahommm

What a place

What a place

Farewell at Bolivian Chilean Border

Farewell at Bolivian Chilean Border

Get back in your box

Get back in your box

IMG_2428

IMG_2428

SOS Stamp out Scour

SOS Stamp out Scour

Posted by Loodersatlarge 04:08 Archived in Chile Tagged and mystical magical moments Comments (0)

If it sounds too good to be true..........

semi-overcast 6 °C

Got back to Cusco safely from the jungle and as we intended leaving for Copacabana, Bolivia the next day, we decided to book an overnight bus. Having done research we found that there were no bus companies running direct services to Copacabana. When we got back to our hostal we met an Irish couple and found out that they were travelling to Copacabana that night on a direct bus which they had booked earlier that day. I told them that we couldnt find a direct bus but they said they called to a tour agent and they were told there was a 'special tourist-bus' going non stop from Cusco to Copacabana and they had booked it so they were very hopeful everything was as explained to them. So yours truly went to this very same agent and explained that we were looking to travel the next night to Copacabana. No problema! said the lovely lady, there is a 'special tourist bus' that goes direct leaving at 10.30pm and arrives Copacabana at 9am next morning. I said that we were told there were no direct buses and that one would have to change buses and wait at border for custons etc.

She assured us that this 'special tourist bus' would stop at border and customs would check us through with minimal disruption. We then asked would there be cama beds on the bus which flatten out to 180 degrees and she said all the seats are 180, so no need to worry. In fact as we had travelled on an upper deck previously on an overnight bus I asked could we get seats on lowerdeck as the windy roads can make you travel sick. She said there was only one level so I need not worry about sickness. Again we asked if the bus was non stop and she said it was a 'special tourist bus' going only to Copacabana . So we handed over the 110 soles each (36 euros) and got our reservation.

The following night we arrived at the bus station at 10 pm and discovered we were booked onto a double decker bus. I said "ah well she couldn't get everything right". As I checked our bags on, the bus stewart was handing out tags for luggage and I said "Copacabana" and he went to another pocket for other bag tags. This should have rang alarm bells. Went onto bus, no 180 degree seats, only 140 degrees. When the stewart came on the bus I asked him was the bus direct to Copacabana and he replied, "no, bus go Puno, you change bus half hour before border and another bus come and take u to Copacabana". This was just getting worse by the minute. There was no point in trying to explain to him as he woud only blame the agent from whom we bought the tickets. I also noticed price on tickets were 70 soles (23 euros). The cunning travel agent had made 80 soles (26 euro) on us.

I think what she meant by a 'special tourist bus' was a bus for 'special' tourists and boy did we qualify as 'special'. 'Special' in Peruvian must mean fools, idiots, gullible gobshite, in other words, looders..........

We just looked at each other and laughed. She was so nice as she lied blatantly to us. We said 'another one for the blog' and settled in for our 'special' bus journey.

And 'special' it was. We tried to settle in for the night and though the heating was on full we managed to nod off. After an hour and half I woke up sweating and had to go to driver and mime how hot the bus was and that i was sweating. Thank God he understood me. Along came the attendant and walked past me and opened the door to the toilet and commenced to spray some air freshener inside. He closed the door and then sprayed at will up the aisle. He stopped beside me and smiled and said 'esta bien?'. He thought I was complaining about the smell!!!! Of course goody two shoes, Aine, came to the rescue and explained that I was too hot in her perfect little spanish. He went off laughing and a few mins later the heating fans stopped. Aine turned her back to me and off she went to sleep. I, being agitated from the heat, nodded off also......some 3 hours later. I awoke again at 4.30am with a sound of a bang. The bus pulled over off the road and i could hear the driver banging at the rear of the bus, metal on metal. After 5 mins in he gets and carries on. God only knows what we drove over?????

I nodded off again, (by the way, Aine didn't even wake up at the sound of the bang,) and awoke for good at 5.45am. The Attendant gave us notice that we would be reaching our destination at 7am approx. Thats when i started to write this blog.

Our destination....... middle of nowhere, somewhere close to the peruvian/bolivian border. I decided I had enough and if we were asked to get off the bus and stand around waiting for some form of transport to take us the rest of the way, I was going to start a sit in and not budge til at least we knew we had sufficient and reliable transport. I ventured to look out the door of the bus and there were our bags on the ground having been taken off the bus. We went outside and I tried to say that I needed to know what was happening with our destination and the bus started up and took off.

Stranded.... within 1 min about 20 minibuses appeared and all pulled in. Aine did her magic and we loaded our bags onto the roof of one of them and sat in. A woman explained to us that the minibus would wait till it was full, which could take up to 30 mins and then go to the border, some 7 miles away. We waited and the bus filled up within 15 mins, with all locals carrying their trades and wares, and off we went. She explained we would have to pay 5 peruvian soles to get to the border, where we would have to disembark, go through customs on Peruvian side, walk 600 yards with all our luggage and then go through customs on Bolivian side. Where we should then look for transport to take us the remaining 10 miles to Copacobana. I was definitely miffed then, after being sold a load of codswallop by the pretty, smiling agent in Cusco, which should have cost 70 soles each but was now ever increasing. Oh yes, and the lady also told us it should cost only 30 soles for our entire journey! Robbed again!

Got to the Peruvian border and we were hauled in by the customs and they wanted to know about our drugs!!!!!!!!! Things just couldn't get any worse. Aine tried to explain to them that I too was a policeman from Ireland and we didn't have drugs. He asked us to take out all our money we had, peruvian, american, bolivian, argentinian and euros. We lay them all on the table and Aine thought they were just going to pocket everything. But thankfully they didn't and they let us on our way. Afterwards one of them even agreed to stand in for a photo with me.

Across the border and then we had to get another local bus to copacabana. It was a daewoo of some sort and on its last legs, puffing out smoke like a small factory. We were the only gringos onboard and all the locals crowded in around us. I picked up a small boy and put him on my lap as it was crowded. All the locals were laughing at me as was his mother and granny. They were trying to say that if i had hair i might even look like his father. The whole bus erupted into laughter. We eventually made it to Copacabana at 9.15am. Then of course we learned that our lodge was a further mile out of town. Another taxi and another 10 bolivianos.

Never Again Please.

The moral of the story...............if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

Posted by Loodersatlarge 17:34 Archived in Bolivia Tagged to cusco copacabana Comments (0)

Lapping it up on Lake Titicaca

Copacobana and surrounds

sunny 16 °C

Sunset on lake Titicaca

Sunset on lake Titicaca


The day after our night on the town in Copacobana (not too groggy) we went into town and wandered around and visited the few attractions that are to be seen. Again, many stalls selling all sorts of everything, fruits, flowers, hats, clothes and the necessary innards which seem to be the norm for these parts. We visited Copacabana Cathedral, completed in 1619, which is one of the oldest churches in Bolivia and is a fine example of Moorish style architecture. It houses the statue of La Virgen de la Candelaria (also called the "Dark Virgin"), reputed to have miraculous healing powers.

Aine wanted to climb the imposing hill of Cerro Calvario which overlooks the town. Of course without a map we set off and as is not too unusual for us, unknowingly, we took the tougher side to climb, a tough up hill climb with some scrambling - Aine´s favourite.....not!!!!! It was a strenous 45-minute climb. When we got to the top there were magnificant views over the town and out over the lake. There are fourteen stations of the cross along the way, where it is said that "Gringos stop and pray for stronger legs and lungs". The islands of Isla de Sol and Isla de Luna were visible as was the peninsula that sticks out from Copacabana. Of course this looked like it might be a pretty walk, so we decided that that would be our exercise the following day.

After our little bit of excercise we needed some retail therapy so we dropped into a co-operative shop which sold authentic hand knit and crocheted items. Needless to say purchases were made which are modelled below!

Seamus modelling Winter Spring collection scarf

Seamus modelling Winter Spring collection scarf


Winter spring baby alpacha poncho collection

Winter spring baby alpacha poncho collection

The next day saw us up bright and early to start our walk, but as is all too usual for us, we dilly-dallied and it was nearly midday before we commenced our 20 km walk to Yampupata. But we were rewarded with magnificant weather and views along the way. All around the lake the local farmers have toiled away where they have crops of potatoes growing and not a weed in sight. We passsed plenty of farm animals either lazily grazing of asleep in the sunshine. We passed by a few small villages and stopped once or twice to have a ´conversation´with a local. Aine was being tested greatly as to how much she had learned along the way. We even passed by, what appeared to us as, a wake of somesorts: it looked as if the immediate family were kneeling in front of the local tiny church praying and keening out loud and when we passd by we saw what must have been the Shamen at the rear of the church performing some kind of ritual......

The wanderer

The wanderer


Spuds galore

Spuds galore


Perfectly tended fields

Perfectly tended fields


The faceof experience

The faceof experience

We also met a man on the roadside who had postcards from everywhere in the world, including Ireland, and we had to go through each one individually! We arrived in Yamputata and decided it was too windy for the boat crossing to the island so we got a taxi home which we shared with an old man and then a mother and two kids who all sat in the boot. We just love Bolivia!
The end of a perfect day

The end of a perfect day

Posted by Loodersatlarge 17:30 Archived in Bolivia Tagged copabana Comments (0)

Cusco

semi-overcast 15 °C

What can you say about Cusco? After all the dust in Lima, Nasca and Arequipa, arriving in Cusco is like arriving in an oasis surrounded by lush green mountains. situated near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cuzco Province. In 2007, the city had a population of 358,935. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around 3,400 m (11,200 ft).Cusco was the site of the historic capital of the Inca Empire and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO. It is a major tourist destination and receives almost 2 million visitors a year. It is designated as the Historical Capital of Peru by the Constitution of Peru.

Tha main man in Cusco's main square

Tha main man in Cusco's main square


they sure knew how to build....

they sure knew how to build....

Peru has three broad climatic zones - coastal desert, mountain and jungle. Cusco has a subtropical highland climate. Its climate is generally dry and temperate, with two defined seasons. The dry season lasts from April to October, with abundant sunshine, and occasional nighttime freezes. The wet season lasts from November to March, with night frost less common. Although frost and hail are common, snow is virtually unheard of.

On arrival at 7am off the night bus at our fabulous family run hostal we were offered coca tea to help with the altitude. The tea is not very pleasant - smelling a bit like boiled seaweed so its best to hold your nose and drink it down!

Cusco city was a real surprise. It is full of Inca architecture and boy did those men know how to build. Many of the buildings dating from Inca times still survive and even better, are still in use. There are no disused buildings here. Almost every building contains a business of some sort or other and it´s great to see that this is still very much a living city. The buildings are generally of grand proportions with massive exterior walls and foundations built at a slight inward angle and comprising enormous stones which are all carved exactly to fit into each other. And no two stones are the same size or shape. This must have been the centre of the universe for stone masons around the middle ages.

You pop your head inside a door and suddenly you are in the middle of a cloistered courtyard. Very elegant.

We stayed a couple of days in Cusco to acclimatise ourselves to the altitude and to soak up the atmosphere. Everywhere there are stalls and shops selling fantastic local handicrafts made from Alpaca, or baby alpaca, as the sellers are keen to inform you. Gloves, hats, scarves, shawls, blankets, table centre pieces, you name it, they will knit or weave it. And then there are the stripy colourful trousers which ever backpacker seems to be wearing. Seamus seems very keen on them so watch this space...
mama carrying child

mama carrying child

The San Pedro market in Cusco is where all the locals buy their everything. We could have spent a whole day there. Well, actually we nearly did. You can find everything here here from freshly squeezed jungle fruits, to women working on sewing machines altering garments, breads of all shapes and sizes, corn and potatoes of all shapes and varieties, to our favourite section which had a big sign overhead stating "Innards". Despite the closeness of the food section to the innards section, we enjoyed a delicious hearty lunch of a cauliflower stew and rice for the equivalent of 1 euro. Rip off!

Spot the thief in the background!!!

Spot the thief in the background!!!


hand made breads in the shape of hats

hand made breads in the shape of hats


various types of beans and spices

various types of beans and spices


just one of the many heads on display

just one of the many heads on display


no animal is sacred!!!!!!

no animal is sacred!!!!!!


guess what these are??? sometimes Aine says I should grow a pair......

guess what these are??? sometimes Aine says I should grow a pair......

By the way, we have decided that we are going to blame Peru for the potato famine as this is the home of our favourite staple - the humble spud - having over 3000 varities of this knobbly tuber. Even the local Inca art museum has a very sexy looking 1500 yr old ceramic spud which resembles a Piccasso-esque reclining nude.

Outside the market women from the highlands (what do the men in this country do?) are selling their veg, corn, chickens and live guinea pigs (yes, you read that right) to anyone who wants to buy. Guinea pig, or cuy as its known here, is a real delicacy. You choose which little g piggy you want, have a good feel of it´s haunches etc and then they will bag it up for consumption later. We have yet to try it....but knowing us it´s probably only a matter of time!

Footnote
Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire (13th century-1532). Many believe that the city was planned as an effigy in the shape of a puma, a sacred animal. Under the Inca, the city had two sectors: the urin and hanan. Each was further divided to encompass two of the four provinces, Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE), Qontisuyu (SW) and Qullasuyu (SE). A road led from each of these quarters to the corresponding quarter of the empire. Each local leader was required to build a house in the city and live part of the year in Cusco, but only in the quarter that corresponded to the quarter of the empire in which he had territory. After the rule of Pachacuti, when an Inca died, his title went to one son and his property was given to a corporation controlled by his other relatives (the process was called split inheritance). Each title holder had to build a new house and add new lands to the empire, in order to own the land his family needed to maintain after his death.

Posted by Loodersatlarge 16:11 Archived in Peru Tagged cusco Comments (0)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 49) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 10 »