Week 24: Lima, Huarez, Yungay & Santa Cruz Trek. Peru

Leaving for Lima  I opted for a local bus just because  I still refuse to use the popular Cruz Del Sure company. The bus man said no tourists usually take this bus and was quite confused as to why I would choose it ( I quite enjoy the chaos of it all).  He let me sit next to the driver’s seat for the journey so happy days. There was stunning scenery en route as we drove through the desert we got to see some of the Nazca lines. After chatting away to the bus man he offered for me to stay with him in Lima because apparently Lima is v dangerous.  My track record in dangerous cities hasn’t been fantastic so I will have the pepper spray at the ready. I was getting some creepy vibes off bus man so declined his generous offer and took a seat in the stuffy bus.

Surprisingly the bus was alright and the time went v fast. This was my longest bus to date; 24 hours!! I got chatting to the cutest Peruvian man and we shared some oranges and crackers for the journey. He sells peanuts for a living and promised me a few kilos on the house when I return to Cusco. When we got off the bus he kindly brought me to a hotel, 8 euro for a private room just what the doctor ordered.

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Lima
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Lima

I had awful expectations of Lima but was pleasantly surprised. I paid a visit to the artsy suburb of Barranco on the sea front where  I treated myself to delicious seafood and ice cream. This place has really cool vibes and gorgeous cafes and restaurants a different world to the chaos of central Lima. I decided I couldn’t hack being phone-less any longer and invested in the highest tech gold Samsung (no more cherry mobile for me). Delira with it!  I mainly hung out by the beautiful plaza where there were a ton of armed guards which I figured was a safe spot. It was a fantastic day for the freebies where I was given free chocolates, cakes , bread and pisco in a number of different bars and restaurants. I finished off the day by meeting up with a lovely girl; Martiza who I met in Chiloe 5 months ago.

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Cathedral in Lima
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Hanging out of these lads for the day

Next stop Haurez home to the Cordillera Blanco. I decided to give couch surfing another go. Carlos picked me up from a cafe and seemed nice. His ‘house’ unfortunately was not so nice… You could smell it a mile off. It was in the sticks of Haurez and evidently a very rough neighborhood. His house consisted of one room filled with cats and dogs. The place was covered in poo and flies. I could hardly breathe.My bed for the night was the concrete floor. I immediately decided that the next day I would set off and do the Santa Cruz circuit a 4 day route in the mountains. In fairness to Carlos his hygiene might not have been his strong suit but he was a mountain guide and gave me lots of useful info. My friend Lourenso encouraged me to do this trek solo saying it was almost impossible to get lost and a complete waste to do a tour. Carlos also said the same. So it was time to take the tent out of the cobwebs. Carlos’s other job is he makes Craft Beer in Haurez (Sierra Andina). He took me for a private tour and tasting; amazing beer. So all wasn’t bad with Carlos just his house and especially his cats who were crawling on me all night. Disgusting!

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Carlos giving me a tour/tasting of Huarez’s local craft beer; Sierra Andina. Amazing beer

To get to the start of the Santa Cruz trek I had to take a tuk tuk and then 2 local buses. So it was a 5am start. I successfully arrived in a place called Yungay. The bus driver told me to wait 1 hour and we would make the 3 hour journey to the starting point. So I decided to go find breakie in the local market. By accident I ended up ordering sheep intestine soup; a Peruvian delicacy. I had a lovely experience chatting to the locals. It’s so interesting seeing the style in the different regions of Peru. The woman in Huarez are the height of fashion and have the most fantastic hats.

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Local woman in Yungay
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Sheep intestine breakfast
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Brunch Peruvian style

When I got back to my bus man he said senorita we have to wait for more passengers. I went back to the market for more grub carb loading for the huge trek ahead. 3 hours later we eventually set off with a very flustered driver. The drive was spectacular as he drove into to depths of the mountain. The van wasn’t feeling too healthy and 2 hours into the drive one of the wheels fell off!! I wasn’t even surprised and the driver managed to secure the wheel  temporarily. We had to make the dreaded 2 hour journey back to  Yungay to a garage where the van needed serious help. No one was budging for the afternoon.

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Trying to stick the wheel back together

The driver offered me a spot in the mechanics house to pitch my tent. I decided to make the most of my time in Yungay and found the most amazing cemetery. I got chatting to the park ranger and explained my situation and he told me this was the perfect place to camp while I waited for the bus the following morning. Obviously camping in a cemetery isn’t the ideal but this was a particularly beautiful one. With tent pitched and settling down with a snack a Peruvian family came over and said it was way too dangerous to camp here that at night it was filled with drug addicts etc etc. They couldn’t believe I was alone so after a game of volley ball, a photo  shoot and lots of chat they insisted on taking me home and adopting me for the night.

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Campsite for the night
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The most beautiful cemetary in Yungay
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Not the worst place to get stranded

There was about 20 of them in the family and they lived in this farm shack. A true authentic experience. The little kids were giggling with me in the house and it was a novelty for everyone involved. I’d say there was about 8 of them per room and some poor fecker was kicked out of their room and I was given a bed. Such a luxury for the night and a huge step up from Carlos’s smelly dungeon.  The mam couldn’t stop feeding me and I was served the largest portions which I obviously wasn’t complaining about. At 5 am the following morning I was woken to the smell of fish and little did I know this was my breakfast. A mountain of rice, 2 whole trouts and homemade camomile tea. A breakfast of champions for the challenge ahead. What amazing generous people.  I wish I had a way of thanking these people for taking me in and plumping me up.

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My adopted family in Haurez
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Maria (from my adopted family) with one day old puppy

I eventually made it to the start of the trek (second time lucky) and set off with my ludicrously heavy back pack. There was 1 other american couple doing the trek so I tried to keep up with them so I wouldn’t get lost but they were way too fast for me and after a few minutes they were nowhere to be seen. So true to nature I  got lost after 9 minutes and ended up in the house of a man with dead guinea pigs on the roof? I eventually got back on the main route after an hour of trying to figure it out. I was going good guns for a while. This famous route was surprisingly quiet with absolutely no tourists with only the occasional local. At one point I got lost again luckily after a while I saw this kid called Joseph who pointed me in the right direction. He was obviously looking for some kind of a payment. I offered him a banana but he refused and settled for the last of my chocolate bars ( Fiona Spain they have been life saving).  Joseph has good taste, a kid after my own heart. We said our good byes and minutes later Joseph was back with his comrades who obviously got wind of the freebies….

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Day 1 trekking Santa Cruz
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Absolutely nackered! Completely jel of these pig’s siesta!
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The locals in Santa Cruz
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On day 1 you walk through the most beautiful villages

I kept trekking for the rest of the day where I was told by Carlos to walk 1 km further past the main campsite there was another more scenic campsite. I took his instructions on board and pitched my tent. I didn’t realise I pitched my tent in a field covered in cows and their poo. That’s all I needed was more poo . The poo was actually the least of my problems… What I didn’t realise was the state my tent was in and the poles completely snapped. I managed to squeeze into the tent and tried to get shelter under a tree but to no avail. After a few hours the rain got stronger and stronger and my sad excuse of a tent started to fill with water and my sleeping bag became absolutely drenched. It was one of the grimmest moments of the trip so far. I half considered walking in the dark and figured it would be a better than lying in a pool of rain but I abandoned ship on this idea because I had no flash light. I endured the night and got up at 5am to get an early start for the challenge of the next day. I was completely alone for the first half of the day and luckily found a guide who pointed me in the right direction. At this stage I was really worried about my sleeping arrangements. Typically people do the 50km trek in 3 nights which is what I had planned because I was carrying all of the equipment and was quite slow. With the tent out of action I knew I would only last 2 nights maximum.

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The saddest excuse of a tent!  😦
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Some of the views on day 1 of  Santa Cruz
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The place is filled with the most amazing trees
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Not a sinner in sight
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Views from my ‘tent’on night 1 (with a brewing storm en route)

Despite the challenges, day 2 was stunning with beautiful views of snow-capped mountains and lagunas. Scenery like this reminds you why you put yourself through the elements it is so worth it.

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Some serious views in Santa Cruz
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Stunning Laguna (or lake  I’ve no idea what the difference is)
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Not too shabby!
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Breath taking scenery!

With strong sunshine on day 2 I tried to try out sleeping bag and tent and just like that it started snowing! Typical Andean weather. I walked for about 10 hours on day 2. I considered sleeping in the toilets (wooden huts) but then figured it might be an issue if someone wanted to use them and of course the obvious issue of smell so decided against. Just as light was closing in I thought I was having visions but saw the most perfect cave. It was as if all of my problems were solved, there was this beam of light shining on it was like someone was watching over me. I set up camp (albeit wet) and slept (with the cows) solidly for the next 11 hours. An amazing cosy sleep.

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My magical cave!
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View from the cave
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Dins camping style. This was carried in a plastic bag and  consumed for the next 3 days. I ended up loosing all my cutlery trying to wash the pot.  Next time there will be no washing!

Day 3 started off a little rough. A guide I met the previous day told me you can’t go wrong and all you have to do is go straight and follow the lake. I did exactly this which involved me having to cross raging rivers. I figured this couldn’t be right but couldn’t see any other option. I ended up destroying my boots on one of the river crossings. I changed into flip-flops for the remainder. It was scary because they were quite deep but I wanted to continue because I couldn’t face turning back. On one of the crossings I lost one flip-flop, my hat and sunglasses. I scrambled up onto a cliff and amazingly to my left I saw the most obvious pathway!!!!  A terrifying experience only an idiot like me would make. Once on the pathway I knew I was home and dry and enjoyed the rivers from a far. The views this day were amazing and I had them all to myself. It’s hard to believe beauty this spectacular is so un spoilt by tourism. I loved this day maybe because I knew a bed awaited me at the end and not a cave filled with cow shit. There were moments I questioned my sanity and why I was doing this to myself and all I had to do was look around and I would instantly understood. This place is special if you come to Peru you need to see for yourself the photos don’t justify it.

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Every turn you take there are the most beautiful waterfalls
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A nice reminder of how far I had come
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Day 3 views
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Laguna day 3 of Santa Cruz
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The colour of the lake completely changes as you walk!

Santa Cruz I will never forget you. You were almost impossible to get to and to complete but your beauty compensated for the pain you put me through. Now for a much-needed shower, sleep and most definitely a DRINK. I promise Una and Dom no more solo hiking!!

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Delighted to be saying adios to the mountains! I think it’s time for a beach!

 

 

 

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Week 23: Cusco & Machu Pichu. Peru

A fantastic start to the week with my debit card arriving. I had kind of resided to the fact that I was going to be stuck in Cusco for ever. It certainly was an interesting experience living with so little.

The next day I told the hostel owner I wanted to leave and spent the day planning Machu Pichu. I wasted no time and decided to go the next day.  I originally didn’t want to go with a tour and wanted to camp myself but was unable to find anyone to come with me. My track record with camping and trekking alone hasn’t been fantastic so dying to get as far away from the hostel as possible I  booked a tour. I was lucky enough to to get chatting to this random lad Andy who organises  tours on the cheap. I opted for the Salkantay trek which is 4 days and 5 nights of trekking. If you want to trek the original Inca trek you need to book months in advance and it’s a lot pricier. I ended up meeting Andy the suspicious tour guide for ice cream and exchanged the dolla bills.  We got on like a house on fire and I somehow managed to rope him into coming back to the hostel to cook us all a Peruvian feast. We had the famous peruvian dish aji de gallina,  a chicken stew made with cream, cheese, chili and peanuts, topped off with Peru’s amazing olives. The food scene in Peru is amazing.

I stayed up all night with excitement until it was time to leave at 4am. In the height of it all I never asked Andy for a receipt so had no evidence I paid at all just praying all was legit.

Our group was all English speaking expect for 2 Argentinians. I’ve got so used to speaking spanish all of the time I feel kind of guilty speaking in English now so was delira to have the Argentinians. They were also the best  craic. The rest of the group were nice and featured a very serious German couple, a quiet French couple, two extremely annoying Americans and my camping partner Marie from France.

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The gang!

Our first days trekking was fairly easy going. After lunch we trekked up to Lago Humantay which was a bit strenuous because of the altitude. The weather was a bit rotten but didn’t take away from the amazing scenes. En route down I ended up creaming myself (due to lack of poles and lots of mud) and destroyed the one and only outfit I brought with me .

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Lago Humtantay
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The colour of the water completely changes the higher up you up
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This place was so mystical
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Cliff edge at Lago Humantay

In the height of my excitement I failed to pack a few essentials  one being; money. Thankfully I found 20 sol in a pocket (5 euro) which was to keep me going for the next 5 days! The first issue was water. 1 water cost 10 sol and they advise you not to drink from the streams especially if you have a weak stomach. So to avoid dehydration I stocked up on the juices and teas at  meal times. One night it was celery tea on the menu and I went a little overboard and drank over a litre of the stuff. Crazily my pee stank of celery for the next 2 days which was a little alarming and disgusting. The obscene amount of tea I drank at dinner meant I didn’t need to drink much during the day. It also meant at least 4 loo stops in the middle of the night. This is v annoying but you also get to see the amazing stary sky’s.

The first night of the trek was absolutely baltic and reached minus 7 degrees. I have to admit it was fairly luxurious having the tent pitched for you, gear carried and meals prepared. This is definitely not something I’m used too and I kind of felt guilty about it. The first night I was freezing because I managed to loose my hat, fleece and raincoat and what clothes I had left were soaking wet. The following morning en route to breakie I managed  to find my clothes sitting in a pool of mud and water outside. Fantastic!

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Morning views from the campsite

Day 2 was a toughie. My roomie Marie was renting a horse for the day. She is an amazing person she was diagnosed with arthritis at the age of 11 and had a hip replacement 3 years ago. This was her first ever trek. Day 2 featured really steep inclines and we had to cover 23km. The scenery  was stunning and we witnessed the most amazing avalanche. 2 weeks earlier sadly two tourists were killed doing the Salkantay trek caused by an avalanche of rocks. On this occasion it was snow and for the duration of the day we saw and heard about 6 more mini avalanches. Memorable stuff. At the top of  the mountain we preformed a traditional quecha (Peru’s version of Irish) ceremony with rum and coca leaves. We offered them up as sacrifices to Pachamama ( a Peruvian god). I was the only taker for the remainder of the naggin  of rum delira I polished off the bottle helping with my daily fluid requirements. This was my favourite day of the whole trek and the sun dried off all my mucky clothes.

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7am trekking, Day 2 Salkantay
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Amazing avalanche on Salkantay Mountain
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Witnessing live avalnches
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Amazing clouds
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Me on cloud 9

This trip is worth doing for the food alone it has been outstanding. Chef Rapheal is a genius amazing what food can be produced over 4,000m high.  Everyday we get a two course lunch and dinner. Needless to say I got v overwhelmed at meal times. The next day we walked through the valleys this was easy-going and we arrived in Santa Teresa where there was an option to go to the local hot springs. It was a 40 minute walk or you had to pay 15 sols round trip on the bus. I opted for the 40 minute walk obviously because I was v v low on funds.  Everyone else exhausted from the walking opted for the bus. The guide was really concerned about me getting lost ( I wonder why?) and going alone and told me I had to take the bus. This is why tours are so annoying! The bus man took pity on me and let me ride for free, a true gent.

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Myself, Ozzy and the two Argentinians
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View of the valley

Here is a stunning laguna we saw during the trek. Sometimes it’s hard to believe the colours are real.

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Laguna on Salkantay trek
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Me at the laguna

The hot springs were amazing we had 2 1/2 hours of pure heaven chilling with the most amazing back drop of mountains. That night we had a bonfire and a boogie fueled by the surprisingly delicious Inca tequila. The next day I was somehow booked into do zip lining it was included in my package (good man Andy). The  zip lining was amazing particularly when we got to go upside down. What wasn’t so amazing was the final suspension bridge which I was the first in the group to tackle. The guides were all very blazay about the whole thing. A lot of the lines are just supported by chunks of wood. The guide kept saying vamous amiga (let’s go my friend). I figured the bridge was simply just for crossing the river. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was strapped onto the side of the bridge and I started to slowly walk, at the beginning all was fine and I enjoyed the views . After a few steps the gaps between the bridge got bigger and bigger and the bridge started to sway violently. The raging river beneath me seemed to be getting more aggressive. Even though you were strapped in if you fell you would be left dangling with no one to help. The bridge seemed to go on for miles and the further I went the more unstable the bridge became. It kept swaying from side to side and this got worse as more people got on the bridge. My body froze and my heart started pounding and I couldn’t even turn around. All I could hear was the river and a man screaming amiga mas rapido. I was clearly holding up the whole group. It was such a horrible feeling. It was the closest thing to a panic attack I could describe my legs were shaking so badly I couldn’t move. I rarely get nervous or scared and I don’t know what came over me. Maybe because there was no prior warning and I figured it was just a scenic stroll over a wooden bridge. I eventually made it to the other side after coping on.  Never again! I was too terrified to take any pictures.

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Monay day 3 Salkantay
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Over the moon with the donation of Philadelphia (forgot how good this stuff was)

The next day was Machu Pichu! At this stage the money was non-existent what little I had left was the tip for the guides. The night before Machu Pichu you stay in a place called Aquas Calientes we stayed in a hostel and I got the honors of sharing with the Americans.  Our final meal was dinner in a restaurant, conveyor belt kind of stuff not a patch on Rapheal’s cuisine. I was still hungry after, I had brought crackers and wafers as snacks and obviously they had turned to dust. So my second dinner consisted of wafer and cracker dust.Wake up call was 4am. We were given a packed breakfast the night before which I obviously dipped into immediately. Rationing snacks is not one of my  specialties.

The trek up to Machu Pichu is fairly steep and absolutely mobbed with people.  En route up as I was de layering I found a mysterious breakfast  sitting on a rock. I tried to locate the breakfast’s owner but couldn’t. I took it as a blessing and devoured the breakfast which got me up to the top. You feel like you know Machu Pichu because of the iconic postcard photo but seeing it in the flesh it pretty memorable. It really is a wonder of the world. I had about 5 hours on top to explore before making the 3 hour walk back to Hydroelectra to catch the bus back to Cusco. The 3 hour ride back to Cusco was treacherous but beautiful. Some of most amazing scenery but the roads kind of reminded me of death road in Bolivia. I was the lucky divil who got to stand for the journey…

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6.30am view over Machu Pichu
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Views of huanapichu
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AMAZING
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The 3 hour train track route from Aquas Caliente to Hydroelectrica

On my last day in Cusco I went for one final explore of the markets I think they have been my favourite of South America so far. I could spend hours so exploring them.

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This woman thought me how to make soup using sheep’s head and legs…..
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This cutie sold the best cheese
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This needs no explanation. This section of the market sells offal

When I got back to the hostel my new phone (an early birthday present from Una)  decided it had enough and refused to turn on. There was no reviving her. There’s obviously major room for improvement in Bolivia’s electronic scene. After some emotional good byes to Karen and the hostel I set off of for Lima, the food capital of Peru. Just as I was leaving one of the girls came to me with a package of clothes saying a random woman just dropped them in saying these were for Roisin. I genuinely have no idea who gave them to me. If ever there was an example of the kindness of strangers this is it. I now have a nice leopard skin number. Absolutely delira with my new wardrobe!

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Volunteers at the hostel. From the left; Diego, Milka, Unknown German, Bane, Agoose, Kent (owner), Me, Brenda, Another unknown German and KAZ

 

 

 

 

 

Week 22 Working in Cusco, Pisac & 7 colours mountain. Peru

So there is a first for everything and on this occasion  it was busking. After a quick practice in the square Ekkie (my new hippy friend) persuaded me that I could play the tambourine. When I realized we were going into proper restaurants with our monstrosity of a duo act I almost lost my life.  It probably was the most mortified I’ve ever been. I was on tambourine duty while Ekkie played guitar, accordion and sang (terribly). In fairness he can play guitar player but the singing is very hard to listen too. A rendition of Zombie by the cranberries was an uncomfortable experience. I tried to drown out Ekkie’s terrible singing by shaking my tambourine. The worst part was when  Ekkie went around asking people for money shaking my hat (I refused this part). I’d pay just to get rid of us. I genuinely have no idea how Ekkie has funded 5 years of travel with this act!

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Learning how to play the tambourine in the Plaza, Cusco
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Smiling on the outside dying on the inside

We went to about 4 different restaurants and made 24 sols (a lot considering the calibre of music) . Out of all of the money Ekkie didn’t give me a penny! We went for ice cream after and he wouldn’t  even pay for the 20c ice cream.  I managed to find a coffee shop that constantly offers free coffee (obviously it’s become my local). Ekkie angrily asked the owner to change the music voicing that reggae and pop music are the cause of the world’s problem. A tad extreme and considering we weren’t even buying anything v unreasonable.  At this stage I wanted to nip Ekkie in the bud. I was also questioning my sanity and wondering why I was hanging out with a hippy like this. It was probably out of desperation and delirium (amazing what a lack of money can do to you)

At this stage I needed to get rid of the hippy asap. I ended up texting him telling him I didn’t want to see him again. He got v deep and upset but it was a relief to be hippy free. He tried to convince me we could make truffles together to sell in the square. Given the state of his hygiene he would probably poison half of Cusco. Going into the square now is serious danger zones for fear of bumping into hippy. Anyone I see with dreadlocks or a guitar I run a mile.

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Hasta Luego Hippy

Ekkie asked me to go camping to a nearby place called Pisac. He wanted to share tents. He smells so bad I couldn’t bare it. Ekkie ended up bailing on Pisac because of the man flu which was great. I was only delira to be flying solo. Pisac is gorgeous and has a famous craft market. I spent the day strolling around the beautiful town. Pisac is very popular among the hippy community no wonder Ekkie is a fan.

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Small town of Pisac
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Pisac, Cusco
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Pisac’s transport system

I somehow  ironically ended up in this hippy cafe just because I was trying to flee from the rain.Overhearing the conversations was unbelievable everyone was hippy and talking about good vibrations and energy and all that jaz. Not able…. The owner was so zen he forgot about me, probably because I didn’t fit the scene. 1 hour later the worst soup of my life arrived (obviously it was the cheapest thing on the menu). It was miso, seaweed and tofu just what you need on a dodgy stomach.

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Hippy buying mango in Pisac
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Amazing collection of street food, Pisac
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I couldn’t have asked for better mates in Pisac

I spent the entire journey home trying not to be sick before just about making it to Mc Donalds for the free loo. It was horrific, the nicest guy from the bus offered to pay for a taxi to take me home because I was so unwell. When I crawled back into the hostel I was greeted by angry Karen. She had the flu so told me I had to work the night shift for her from 12 pm until 6 am. I decided to try get some shut-eye before the shift. I’m so exhausted from work that somehow I managed to sleep through my alarm.  I  was woken aggressively by Karen angrily shaking keys in my face. It genuinely was like a scene from a horror movie. Nobody wants to be woken up by that face. I got through the night and obviously not a mutter of thanks from my new mate Karen the next day.

I had my first homemade ceviche of South American. We all chipped in and the owner of the hostel showed us how to make it.  Peru is one of the most famous places in the world for Ceviche (raw fish cooked in lime juice and spices). It was very nice but I’m not sure I’d be craving to have more. Work is improving slightly and I’ve made mates with the best Mexican gal and Argentinian girls. I really like working at reception you get to meet lovely people and I can practice Spanish. Best of all Karen is acting scrooge up at the breakfast so I’m left alone. I met the nicest Argentinian women who gave me a large donation of clothes and a lovely French girl gave me a few mangoes. There are still lots of gems out there.

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Kent, the hostel owner making Ceviche

Apart from trekking to Machu Picchu one of the big things to do in Cusco is to climb to 7 colours mountain which is  really high at 5, 200m . I decided to do this on my day off. The 3 am wake up call is a bit rough the mountain is a 3 hour trek from Cusco. It’s extremely touristy and there are tons of locals trying to sell their horses to bring you up the mountain. It seems pretty cruel because the horses are puffing and panting because of the high altitude. It’s really bad the locals want you to fail just so that you pay for the horse. I ploded along slowly by foot until I reached the top.

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The start of the trek up to rainbow mountain
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Horses on rainbow mountain
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Glaciers on 7 colour mountain
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Views of the valley on top of rainbow mountain

The climb itself is pretty steep and the high  altitude is the biggest challenge. I’m also in terrible shape so I found it fairly tough going. The top is spectacular I’ve never seen anything like it. I trekked for a while to find a quiet spot at the top as I felt pretty unwell at this stage. I had to puck a few times and then I was right as rain. I  don’t think I’ve had puck scenes as good as this one (and I’ve had my fair share on this trip).

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The top!!
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Relief to have reached the top of rainbow mountain

So the money situation remains the same and the waiting of card continues. I am getting used to tight budgeting. I’ve become a regular at the market now for food and surprisingly the daily budget of 2 euro goes a long way. Homemade haircuts are also on the menu complements to my Mexican friend, Brenda. She kind of butchered my hair but the standards are extremely low at the moment that I don’t even care.

The war rages on between myself and Karen. There is one shower in the entire hostel which obviously is a bit of an issue. I ended up grabbing a quick shower at 6am one morning (the only time it’s available). Somehow between the shower and my room I ended up loosing my bra. Typically it was found by Karen on the breakfast table as she was eating her pancakes (god only knows how). There were angry Spanish words exchanged and I couldn’t stop laughing. Of all the people to find it had to be Kaz!!!!

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The volunteers luxurious living quarters, Brenda (Mexico) and Bane (Argentina)
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The lucky one who gets the top bunk. There is barely enough room for your head. I wake up regularly banging my head against the roof.  grim grim grim

It’s not all bad and I hope I don’t sound like I’m moaning (too much)! In between the bad times I’m so lucky to be able to enjoy some of the amazing sights of Cusco.

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Views of Cusco from the Christo Blanco
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Full moon in Cusco
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Cusco at night

Week 21: Working in Cusco. Peru

With my debit card cloned in Bolivia, I am currently living off a few dollars for the foreseeable future. The money situation has been really tough. Spotify even had to be cancelled and I’ve had to resort to listening to Spanish radio instead which is fairly bleek.  Most people bring a few backup cards but obviously I did not. The new debit card is currently intransit to Cusco from Ireland (Ta Brian).

I decided to give work away another go. This is the site where you work and get bed and breakie for free. I figured it would be the perfect solution to my money problems. The postal service is painfully slow in South America. Una sent me a Christmas pressie to Chile and it only arrived yesterday (3 months later…..). I pray to god the card decides to show up sooner than that.  My first work away experience was exceptionally bad with me chopping up trees with an axe in the woods with a lunatic called Yuan so I figured anything would be a step up from that.

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A throw back to Yuan with his machete in Argentina

Myself and my new-found son, Kayden decided to travel to Cusco together. We arrived at the terminal by the skin of our teeth but just in time to get the bags checked onto the bus and even time to enjoy the lounge!!! (Cruz del Sur are like the Emirates of buses). We  got to pick if we wanted chicken or beef, I couldn’t believe the luxury of it all. After a while they called for our bus and when they looked at our tickets they refused to let us on and kindly informed us that the bus had gone (with both our backpacks). They told us we would both have to buy another ticket for the last bus of the night.  I pulled the nino card again and even managed a few tears explaining about my recent robbery thinking they would do the trick and they would have some sympathy. They were as cold as ice.

Kayden had  wisely left all of his money in his backpack which was now en route to Cusco . While all the arguing was going on the last bus had left, leaving us stranded. I had also stupidly left all of my remaining dollars in my backpack too.  A local women heard about our situation and advised us to sprint onto the nearby  dual carriageway to try to flag down this local bus. She has contacted the bus driver to come back. We were eventually  thrown onto this local bus and the prospects of a beef or chicken dinner were quickly diminished. Thank you so much to that kind stranger. We were both relieved and pissed off to be on the bus and prayed our bags wouldn’t be robbed in Cusco. I immediately felt sick and spent most of the 12 hours pucking.  I had to wear all of Kayden’s clothes on the bus because I got some fever, similar to what he had in Colca Canyon. When we arrived in Cusco we had to go on a goose chase to hunt down the bags , thankfully they were all in tact.

Anyone going to Peru please NEVER use Cruz Del Sur, an expensive and horrible company.

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Myself and my apparent son (Kayden), traumatic bus survivors in Cusco. Ignore my horrific sunglasses they were the only ones on sale!!! (Dom if they make it home they will be your pressie they are right down your street)
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Beautiful streets of Cusco

The following morning I was put straight to work at 5.30 am for breakfast duty.  All of the volunteers in the hostel are from Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru so  its was pretty tough at the beginning understanding what was going on but obviously good for the espanol. First day of work  was a disaster. Karen, 19-year-old Peruvian girl who works in the hostel made life miserable from the get go. She blatantly ignores me when I say hello. The next issue was when on breakfast duty I had to make pancake batter and used 3 eggs instead of 2.  I also  made the batter with milk as opposed to water (shocking). There were killings when she saw the size of the pancakes I was serving. She warned me only to give mini pancakes to people because the ingredients were expensive. I wanted to throw the batter on her and fry her up. You would swear she was milking the cow herself. The breakie is so scabby it would actually make you hungry. So when eagle eye wasnt  watching I would  slip people an extra few pancakes. I think its safe to say Karen isn’t my biggest fan (at this stage the feeling is certainly mutual). In between flipping pancakes I had to sprint to the bathroom to be sick the altitude really has me in bits. Back on the mauldy coca leaves.

Feeling a little sorry for myself I was just went to bed and spent the evening eating chocolate, what I didn’t realise is that I ended up sitting on a bar of chocolate melted the entire bar and it looked like explosive diarrhoea in the bed. I made a botched up attempt of getting rid of the evidence, failed and made it worse. . Karen my new best friend got the honours of cleaning up the mess.

There was world war 3 over the milk one of the mornings. Karen likes to keep a judgemental eye on me especially when it comes to the food (God forbid I ate too much). I asked Karen to buy more milk  because we ran out. She blatantly told me that there were rations on milk. I was absolutely mortified telling people we had no more milk. I was half tempted to legged out and buy it myself only eagle eye was watching!! Later that morning I saw Karen milling into a miky hot chocolate!!! Another one of the girls went mental at me because I threw out some of the batter  (obviously under Karen’s instructions). I will ever look at a pancake  in the same way again.

One of the days I met up Kayden, the kid from Canada. It was such a relief meeting a friendly face. We had a great day together. Two of our main tasks of the day were buying matching sunglasses and paying a visit to Cusco’s Mc Donald’s (usually my worst nightmare but I made an exception on this occasion). I have never seen anyone more mesmerized by a Mc Donald’s menu. We were the guts of a half an hour investigating it. The staff loved us.  I had to ask in Spanish to the manager was there any chance Kayden could buy one of the staff’s Mc Donald’s hats. After a few compulsory photos the staff were happy to see the back of us. The nino has guaranteed me a free big Mac and chocolate sundae in Vancouver good enough reason to go.

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Stunning cathedral in Cusco
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Who would have thought that 18 year old Kayden was the one to keep me sane
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Take care my son!

People watching in the square is one my favourite things to do.  I got chatting to this hippy  Peruvian lad and we bonded over chewing coca leaves. Ekkie has been travelling the world for the past 5 years funded by his guitar playing. We got into a fairly heavy convo about mediation and the likes (not exactly my scene). So after hours of talking and explaining my lack of money situation Ekkie suggested I start making truffles to sell on the street. He said one of his mates could  hit me up with the chocolate. The second suggestion sounded like  a winner I could play the tambourine with him and go busking in the restaurants!! So the jewellery making was short-lived but maybe the music industry could be my calling.

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People watching in the Plaza de la Armes
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This gent glued my last remaining shoes together! A life saver
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This gals face summarises how I feel about work

I got promoted to working on reception. I had to provide tourist information in Spanish to everyone, a bit of a joke really. I hadn’t a breeze! That being said It was miles better than having eagle eye criticise my pancakes so I wasnt complaining. Cusco really is a gorgeous spot with beautiful architecture and an amazing eating scene. It is very touristy but still has lots of character.  I’ve been spending most of my time around San Pedro market where you find the cheapest most delicious eats.

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Local Cusco Shops
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Maize is absolutely everywhere here
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The pomegranate’s are out of this world here!
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This local fruit is called Tuna and comes from the Cactus plant; It’s divine

Easter Sunday consisted of a black Jesus being paraded around the city for the entire day and locals throwing flower petals at him. If you had been selling flower petals on Sunday you would have made an absolute mint. The people in Peru are very religious so it was a huge affair.

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Easter Sunday, Cusco
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Local women selling rose petals to sell on the streets of Cusco
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The parade went on almost all day and night

Meeting Ekkie couldn’t have come at a better time he has been showing me all of the cheapest eats. He too is on a v tight budget. We found this amazing vegetarian restaurant which has become my local. You eat like  a queen for 1 euro.  He’s definitely one of the funniest fish I’ve met on the trip so far!

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Ekkie doing his thing! (3 instruments at once)

Hopefully work mext week is a little bit more forgiving. I’m booked in for training with Karen where she is going to show me how to make the beds so that should be fun. Something to look forward to I suppose. My goal by the end of the work gig is to get a smile out of Karen and a shower out of Ekkie (he’s v v smelly).