Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Germany - Hamburg.

Back in Germany, where the bread is best. It's summer here, which is a nice change for me. Last 2 times i saw Germany it was winter, and it was getting difficult to believe that this place ever gets a summer. With summer comes my allergies, which is a little but shit. But tolerable. It's often a warm, sunny 25 deg. here. I was lucky enough to be lent a bike for the duration that i am here. Riding about on a bicycle is fun, because it's so flat, unlike Wollongong. So you hardly ever need to change gears. The seat is jammed in though from years of rust, an currently not adjustable, and was last set to short-arse height. Hopefully a drop of oil every day, and it might penetrate through.

I visited Sandra in Mainz/Wiesbaden 2 weeks ago to collect my laptop and phone. I'm SMS-able now, email me for the number. Sandra is doing great, and we had a nice 2 days together. In the afternoon i practised making pizza again for her, me, and the people she lives with. Which was fun to make, and nice to eat and everyone enjoyed it.

Having technology around again makes me feel like i am no longer on holiday, but there is little to do here also. I'm in the process of making some fire-sticks again, not sure if i will just use them for fun, or for busking, or to sell them. This kind of thing is not popular here, but that can make it all the more spectacular since it's rarely seen.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Milano.

Now i am in Milano, with Davide and Rowan (and Davide's parents). This is the best hotel i have ever stayed at. Beautiful house, lovely staff, amazing food, comfortable rooms. 4 floors with a bathroom on each one. Ok, it's not a hotel, this is Davide's parents house. It is actually not as large as it sounds, it's a rather narrow building, yet tall and with a basement as traditional in Europe.

The weather here is sunny and fantastic. I am a little allergic to something growing around here, which is the only thing spoiling my time. The food is unbelievable. Try to imagine the best food you have ever eaten, now multiply that by about 15 million. The food in heaven is probably like the food here, but maybe not quite as good. While here i have eaten pizza's that are so large that they don't fit on the plate, and they came about 6 minutes after ordering them. And they were great. The only better pizza i have eaten was Davide's mum's home cooked pizza. They have a wood fire oven in there basement, for cooking pizza, and make everything themselves, even the yeast for the pizza dough they make themselves!

The coffee here is like drinking golden nectar straight from God. Nothing compares to this.

Milano eating habits: Milano is the home of fast food, but not what you are thinking. Fast food here is quick to order, quick to serve, quick to eat, quick pay and quick leave. Breakfast in a cafe is so fast you don't even sit down. In fact, it's quicker just to open the glass cabinet and get your own croissant/sweet bread/pastry, etc. Get as many as you like, stuff one in your mouth with your left hand, while your right hand is reaching for another one. in between mouthfuls of bread squeeze out the word espresso!, she'll make it for you and put it right under your nose when it's done. Don't worry, she already loaded the coffee machine the moment she saw you across the street, your coffee is only 6 seconds away from being in your hand. Oh you want a macchiato? ok, 9 seconds then. When there is only one sip of coffee remaining, you have already slapped down a 5 euro note on the counter. As you put the cup down your change is waiting in a shallow bowl for you. And you're out the door yelling out Ciao! as you go. This is Milan.

Lunch and Dinner are only different in that you actually sit down. A table of 5 people can each order a full size pizza each, and expect to have them on the table before you have finished munching down your 4th grissini (bread stick). It's best to eat it while it's still hot, don't wait for everyone's pizza to arrive, no one will wait for you if you happen to be last served.

Milano is also home to those expensive brand labels of clothing. So expensive you don't own any, unless you got it from the markets for $5 (but you know it's not real). I saw a backpack in a shop selling for 600 euro ($1000 AU). I asked what is inside the backpack to make it soexpensive. Nothing, was the answer, the backpack is Armani! This is Milan.

Milano is also host to Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting of The Last Supper. This painting lives here permanently and never tours to other museums. Why? because it is painted on the wall of a church. Directly on the wall. It can never be moved. Unfortunately, you have too book in advance to see it, as it's quite popular. If you want to book tickets, use this link. If you can't wait to get in, you can see a zoomable virtual tour of the painting here.

In the main square is another church, the Duomo, which apart from beautiful stone work and architecture, has a life-size, solid gold statue of The Madonna (not THE madonna) on it's roof. It's almost been stolen three times, once with a helicopter, but no-one has ever taken it. There are nice people with big guns on the roof now, but you can still see it, and it is an amazing thing to see.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Madrid, Spain.

I am only here for 3 days, waiting for a flight to Milan, Italy to spend time with my (Italian) brother Davide. Madrid was the cheapest location for a departure from Peru. I don't much like Madrid. There is nothing wrong with the place, it's beautiful, clean, spanish people are nice. But it kind of has that just-another-big-city feel about it. The streets are filled with party goers all friday and sat night, which is typical. Lots of tourists here too. There is nothing i'm that interested it. Visited one art museum which was great, but being a rainy weekend, it has become a popular thing to do for the masses of tourists, and i hate such places in such conditions, so i'm skipping the other two, which is a shame because there is some Picasso and Dali in there. But i did see a Rembrandt (but was not much impressed with it). Goya is much more exciting with his ability to capture an emotion, using obviousness. So, a boring blog this time, sorry. I will be in Milan, Italy tomorrow, so more exciting news from there. =)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lima, Peru, and leaving South America.

This time of year (winter) in Lima is really shit. It's not cold, but the sky is overcast constantly like a London on a nice day. Not seeing the sun for a few days, after having nothing but sun, is a drab way to end the trip. Plus Lima is boring. It's a big city, and there is nothing much here but expensive prices. I did my last tourist shopping here but regret not doing it in previous cities where the prices where half and the variety better. Still, after a good look around i found better prices, a little off the tourist tourture streets. This is nothing like La Paz (capital of Bolivia) which i would go back to any time!

Still the airport is nice, and i flew out bound for Mardrid, Spain, via Equador. I had a huge argument with the check in security, they were not going to let my camping stove on the plane. They said it was dangerous, but i demonstrated (with much frustration) that it was completely empty of fuel. In the end, i begged them, which still didnt work. After asking them many times what precisely is the problem with the stove, they said that because they can smell fuel inside it, there is a gas of the petrol still there, and this could pose a fire hazard on the plane. Annoyed, i said that a cigarette lighter contains more fuel than what is residual inside this stove. They didn't care. So i conceeded and suggested that i fill the stove with water. An empty stove might contain some petrol fumes, but if it is willed with water, there is no room left for any gas, right? So they said ok. I think they realised that i wasn't going to leave the counter until i got a positive result. Hopefully the water wont damage it too much, but it's better than leaving it behind. Next time i won't even tell them i have it in my bag, that was just ridiculous.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

son of a bitch...

Right when i have only 8 days until i leave, i was the the fool-end of a theft scam. Clever, and very fast, here's how it goes... A guy jumps out of a little taxi and starts running, he runs past you, and as he does he drops his wallet. You pick it up and yell "Hey!" but he keeps running. You drop your bags, and chase him for a few meters (in this case, maybe only 10) he turns around, sees you, checks his wallet, and is grateful for your honesty. Your friend (minding the bags) has stepped forward to watch what is going on, and takes their eyes off the bags for about 10 seconds. In this time, someone has grabbed a little bag (likely to hold your camera, passport and extra money) jumps into another taxi (there are millions of little taxi's here) and is gone. You return to your bags not even noticing what has actually happened for about a minute, and then realise you are 1 bag short since 2 minutes ago.

I was lucky though, the most important things in the bag was my MP3 player, a little USB memory stick containing useful stuff to me, and my little travel diary/notebook. Also lost half a kilo of really nice cheese and a brand new unopened jar of Nutella, which was expensive. Did not lose any money or my passport or anything like that (yay!) but lost juggling balls, and a jumper, and umbrella, and other useful stuff.

It is a good scam, very fast. Shit though, that it gets honest people. If i was a bastard, i may have just picked up the wallet and taken it. Probably was empty anyway, or full of rubbish.

I am now about 320km south of Lima, kind of in the desert, but also at an oasis, in a small place called Huacachina, which is near Ica. It is weird to see a lagoon and palm trees around it, just like in those really old cartoons you used to watch. That stuff is real! It's very touristy here, which i don't like. But i'll be in Europe soon, so i don't care. I have had a great time here so far, and i know there is no escaping the tourist ending of any trip.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Seeing some Amazon jungle

There is only 2 weeks left for me in South America, and then i fly out of Peruand into Madrid, Spain (was not the original plan, but i did not plan for my travel agency to become bankrupt during my trip here). Why do i always get bad luck with return flight tickets? I was going to fly from Rio to Germany, but now i cannot confirm if the ticket is still valid, plus it was a shitty airline anyway (BRA), so in a way i am glad to fly with a different carrier.

I'm in Pilcopata, which is inside the Amazon basin, and is sitting on a river which runs along a huge national park. The same park that wants US$20 per day for entry, plus a licensed guide (another US$80 per day). You can see much of what the park has to offer without entering the park. Plus, i now learn from the locals here, that the area of the park nearest the river is combined National Park and cultural zone. Which means that people live and work in this area, which means you can enter it on the sly quite easily and take local guides who only charge 50sol a day for a small group of people (a saving of 83%, and the money stays in the local community, not going to the big cities where the locals here will never see any of it.)
I am staying at the Amazon Hostel, which is currently being run by a Canadian on a volunteer program named Lauren. Speaking English and Spanish, she has been invaluable in hooking me up with local guides in the area, as lonely planet does not cover this area much. I took over the kitchen here a few times as most peru restuarant food seems to be a diet of fried chips, fried egg on bread (no butter or sauce or anything) and a sliced cucumber with strangely prepared chicken. So i made popcorn, pasta, pumpkin soup and tomato salty pancakes (proving to be a hit everywhere i go now!).

I have been to a local private zoo and seen spider monkeys, little woolly monkeys, giant (1m long!) guinea pigs (native here), macaws (large colourful parrots), and a Tapir (image of Tapir yawning, and one from side) which is a large animal, with an elephants nose, but much much smaller, vegetarian, very friendly. I fell in love with this little wooley monkey in about 3 seconds. Its the size of a cat, and wooley like an all over body afro. It plays like a puppy and squeekes and chirps. Climbing up and jumping off tables onto your head, only to climb down again and start the game again. The tail is strong enough to hold its entire weight and is demonstrated against your arm, so amazing. The Spider monkeys are called that because of the way they look, and the way they walk. Its a bit odd to watch them at first, so very lankey, with very long legs and arms and a tiny head. They take a few minutes to get to know you, and they like to play to. They play a bit rougher though, but it is all fun.

A walk through the jungle was on a bad day, and didnt see many animals. Did see a distant flying Toucan. There were more shy monkeys in the area. A pink spider. Velvety butterflies. We also found the poo and foot prints of a 50kg armadillo and those of a puma. ALso in the area is a private orchid collection of native orchid flowers. Again, most were not in flower, just the wrong time again. The amazong is very nice though. Reminds me a lot of the Northern QLD rainforests, but different bugs, and very large rivers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Breakfast Popcorn!

The Lonely Planet (it's a book, Mum) tells a tale about the most amazing sunrises in the world in a place called Tres Cruces (means: 3 crosses) in Peru, overlooking the amazon basin. It does not say much more about the place, but between may and July spectacular visual effects are found in this region with the sunrise, colours, distortions, double images, halos. It's supposed to be amazing.

Getting there was a little tricky. Its 13.5km inside a national park where it is (apparently) US$20 to get in, per day, per person. No truck or bus goes there unless you pay for a very expensive tour group from Cusco, something i am not interested in. So i made my way by local transport to a nearby town called Paucartambo, which was a shit hole town. Was stuck there the night as nothing leaves town in that direction after lunch time... which i thought odd. So the next morning i was in the back of a truck. Yes, back where the cargo gets loaded in. Sharing the spare with about 12 others, and about 20 sacks of potato, and a bag full of puppy. Someone bought a puppy, and you get a bag for everything here. So it was a bag of puppy. They don't eat them, it is a pet. They do eat guinea pigs here though. At the market in Cusco, for a joke, i took a friend and we went to the Guinea Pig market. There was many large crates filled to the brim with live, squeeking guinea pigs. I asked how much they were. "8!" was the response. And much to my friends horror i then asked : is that each, or per kilogram? "Each" naturally. (8 sol is about 2 Euro, or AU$3.25)

So the truck was bumpy and rough, and tight on space. But it arrived me to the drop off point for Tres Cruces. It would be a 13.5km walk from here to the lookout point. There is only a lookout here. No village, nothing. I had about 2 handfulls of rice and some tea, and some soja meat. An ill prepared Jade. Wanting to avoid paying the park entrance fee, we snuck past the office as quickly as one can carrying 14kgs at 3800m altitude, and walked all day to the lookout. Met no one the entire day, and the lookout was empty except for a large building with huge windows all facing east. Set up camp, and went looking for water and found a river about a km away. Sitting around the river was a Faerie forest. Tres and plants and a forest floor decorated by faeries (fairies). It was truely amazing (sorry, no camera). Anyone looking at this place could not help but believing in faeires after this. So we walked around the forest and got water that looked like champagne from the river. The whole time feeling like being watched from the trees. Got back to camp and made tea, dinner and slept.

The morning sun awoke me, and the colours in the sky were amazing. It was a sunrise in my top 5 sunrises, but sadly not as amazing as the Lonely Planet suggested it would be. Minutes later, a park ranger is knocking on the tent (i always find it funny when people knock on a tent) and asked if we had tickets etc. I smiled a lot and said yes to every question, pretending i didnt really understand, but was keen to be helpful. He said to stop by the office on the way out, and then left on a motorbike. For breakfast, there was some left over dinner (rice and flavour, nothing else) and popcorn. I got a small bag of corn kernals in Cusco, eager to make popcorn. So popcorn breakfast it was! And it was good.

Of course, on the way out, we just snuck by the office, and got back to the highway, and began walking and waiting for a ride, to take us further north, and into the amazon. Met an old friendly guy who said that today is saturday, and i won't find any cars going north, only south (back to Cusco). He was right. So i walked 13.5km to get to the highway, and walked that distance again, until finally a car stopped.

It was a 4WD, with two tourists in the back who had obviously paid a lot for there trip. The driver spoke great english, and explained that he would like to take us some distance, but showed us his rear tyre. It was near on ready to explode. He didnt want to risk the extra weight. I told him, thanks for stopping, and that i didnt want to be the source of any bad luck with that tyre. His spare tyre got a puncture sometime earlier. I was out of food at this stage, and didnt know what i would eat tonight, but he gave us 7 buns of bread. Wow! very nice. 4km more, and i found about 5 dwellings, in the middle of no-where. There was an old guy, very old, and his dog. He was collecting firewood. He had no teeth. Only he lived there. He let us put up the tent inside a building, we had the whole building to ourselves. Seems like this place was some sort of truck stop, or hald way point between the last town and the next. Probably was very popular when people went by horse or donkey, and the roads were shit. People probably got a hot meal and a place to sleep. Now it was a nothing place. Just another bend in the road as trucks went right by, ignoring it all. He lived alone here, grew the weirdest pumpkin i have ever eaten (Looked like a melon, tasted like a cucumber, but had the insides of a pumpkin). I shared my bread with him, left him some flavour packets (stock cubes) for cooking, and a little bit of money. He was a really nice guy.

IN the morning, i was walking for a little over an hour, and we were met by a german couple touring the entire north and south continents of America in there own camper van, which they brought over on a boat from Germany. WoW! talk about luxury. They had been on the road for 2 years in this thing. They had to go back to germany almost a year ago to get a new truck, but they pulled the camper box off, and just put it on a new Merc. The road was rough, but it got me the 60km into the Amazon Basin, where im surronuded by birds and pawpaw and bananas. The monkeys are here too, but they are shy to come out. I'm now planning a river boat trip further north, were there are no more roads. I have saved hundreds of dollars going it alone and maknig the best of local transport, it has been so great.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Walking to Choquequirao ruins.

Machu Picchu is expensive to visit. A day entry ticket, and return train fare is about US$110. This gives you a few hours in the huge site. If you want to stay over night in Aguas Calientes, and see the ruins on two consecutive days, you need two day entry tickets, and 2 one-way train fares, now you're looking at maybe US$140. Which is ridiculous, and the price goes up every 6 months or so. Yet every day hundreds of people pay this stupid high price. I cannot understand why. Sure the ruins are amazing, but i'm not paying such a stupid fee.

Choquequirao (pronounced; Cho ke ki rao) are fairly recently re-discovered ruins (9 years ago i think) and are about 150km west of Cusco, near a little town called Cachora. The following details how to get there, and what to expect, based on my recent visit.

First, take a bus from Cusco to Abancay, make sure the driver is aware that you want to get off at the road (turn off) to Cachora. This will cost 15 sols (The Peru currency is a New Peru Sol, roughly 2.6 to an Aussie dollar, 3 to a US$, and 4 for a Euro). If you ask around in Cusco, you may be able to find a mini bus that goes direct from Sanfransico Plaza in Cusco to Cachora itself for the same price. This saves you getting from the highway down the hill into Cachora.

At the highway, it is either a 14km walk along the road, or if you get there in daylight, and find the walking trail down into town, more like 4 or 5 km. You can get a lift down the road also if you are lucky, you may have to pay a tiny fee for this. Stay the night in Cachora. You brought a tent with you, so you can camp either anywhere out of the way for free, or at a hostel grounds for about 5sol for 2 people. Taking a room may be about 8 sol per person. Cheap. You will be asked if you want to hire mules (donkeys) for your trip. The deal is this: 1 mule (or more if you are a lot of people, lot of gear), plus a guide and a horse as a backup, or for emergencies. Everything is 20sol per day, and they expect a 4 day trek. Mule, guide, horse, that is 60sol, for 4 days, 240 sol. Do you need this? No, that is what this blog entry is all about, going solo, with no mules. However, it is a difficult walk, with severe and long up and down hill stretches. I thoroughly encourage you to read this link at I_Need_To_Know, which details the trail somewhat, but i found this a little outdated, and lacking important detail. After the first day of walking you will probably change your mind and want a mule. You will have difficulty finding one, but you can just keep asking everyone you come across if they have a spare mule. However, if you are keen to do the trek without paying any money, keep reading.

Cachora is a long town, with two main parallel roads running through it. Take the East most road, and head north towards the huge snow peaked mountains in the distance. If you feel lost in the first 2km, simply ask locals if this is the way to Choquequirao. After 2km, you will find a huge blue sign saying you are entering the Choquequirao park, and to turn left. Go left. After abot 50 meters you will get to a 4 way intersection, with no sign. Take the straight-ish way, which is too small for cars. It goes down hill. If you go Left here, i believe you go the long way around to the same trail. The trail here is not marked clear, keep going down towards the river. Always take the down trail. Its quite steep down, and the trail is really shit and damaged here from water erosion. Cross the little bridge across the river. Keep walking. You cannot get lost now, it's impossible. After 4 or 5 km from town, you will come across a Hostel called Colmena. It has a large sign and a huge wooden gate. You could even stay here at your first night, instead of Cachora. Keep walking. You will see that every km is marked with a white marker. They go all the way to the ruins at 32km away. This walking trail is the shorter way, and meets with the original trail at about the 6.5km point. After you crossed the bridge over the river earlier, it's all a gradual uphill walk for the first 11.5km. You are walking at an altitude of about 2800m.

11.5km you arrive at a lookout called Capuliyopc. There is nothing here but a seat to rest on, and a shelter to stay under. The view is great though. The next part of the walk is severe, steep down hill, until km 15.5 where it flattens out at Cocamasana, which is another lookout. Walk another 500m and you will see some small dwellings. You can camp here if you are sick, exhausted. You can also buy cold Gatorade and water from the newly installed solar powered fridge which went in on the day we were there. No facilities. Water is available, you will need to treat it or filter it.

Its steep down again until km19, arriving at Chiquisca. This is a camping site. There are fruit trees here and facilities like water, shower, toilet. You can camp here if you are really tired, you still have more down hill to go though. Treat water here.

Steep down again, until you arrive at the river, Rio Apurimac. The campsite here is impressive, called Playa Rosalina. There are newly built rooms and kitchens here. They were not ready yet, but will be soon. Will be a very nice place to stay when its ready. The water here is drinkable. All faciliaties, shower, toliet etc. You can camp here for free if you are tired or have run out of daylight. Or you can start your climb if you are feeling fit.

Cross the bridge and begin the climb up. Steep uphill trail. You will be swearing and wishing you had a mule now. Arrive at Santa Rosa at km 24.5. Really nice place, the people here live here. You can buy drinks. Camping is free. The family is sweet and nice to talk to. If they are harvesting sugar cane, you might be lucky to get a free cup of fresh sugar cane juice. God never made a nicer drink than this. If this place is full, you can keep walking 600m more uphill to Alta Santa Rosa (upper Santa Rosa) where camping facilities exist. Again, treat the water here. The locals drink it straight, but you should be more careful. Upper santa rosa is larger, but not as homely. This is a great place to spend the first night, if you can get here in one day. Camping is free, so support the locals by buying drinks from them.

Next day you can either pack up and take your tent and gear further, or leave it all behind, and walk pack free. At Km 28 is Marampata, it's all uphill and steep to get here again. You can Camp here too. Water here is fresh, but treat or filter.

From here, there are no more horrible steep parts. But the trail still has its ups and downs. Next stop is Sanchupata, 29.5km. You can see the ruins in the distance now. You can camp here too, but there is not a lot of level ground. It is nice grassy ground though, not rocky. But why stop here when you are so close. There is a new building here with toilets and what looks like a single room to sleep in, not finished when i was there. Water available, treat or filter.

You will cross 2 rivers along the trail. When you are almost at the ruins you have the option of going to the ruins camp ground (all facilities, treat water before drinking), going down to the lower ruins, or up to the upper ruins. I will leave the rest for you to see for yourself. You can enjoy the ruins in one day, getting back to your camp in Santa Rosa before it is too late. But if you want to stay a day or so, you will have to walk back and forth (not too hard), or simply camp at the ruins. Ruins day entry is 11sol per day. Bring insect repellent with you to the ruins.

There is little info on these ruins. It's hard to know what to do, where to go. I will tell you that if you follow the thin aqueduct all the way up to the very top of the hill, it goes through a bizarre forest that looks like something from a dream, but if you keep going further up, it goes nowhere. There are more ruins than you can see though. Often walking a little further will bring you to more ruins that you could not see before.

Coming back. It takes 5 hours walking with your pack and no mule to get from the river back to the top of the hill at Capuliyoc, including a 1 hour break somewhere. If you are taking the shorter walking trail back into Cachora, you leave the main trail, and turn down at about the 6.5km point (after the 7km marker). Every intersection, always take the down trail, or the left trail. After you cross the little bridge again, you have about 3 or 4 km of steep uphill back into Cachora. You are tired at this point, so it will be the hardest part in some ways. Sleep in Cachora, and get a share taxi, or mini bus back into Cusco for 15 sol each. Takes 4 hours to get back. Screw walking up that hill again back to the highway.

There is plenty of water along the way, but you need to filter or treat with pills. There is no need to lug 10 litres of water between each point. a litre or half per person is ok. There is no electricity anywhere here. There are no dangerous animals, but mozzies and this other biting insect come out in the evening, and are annoying. You will see odd snakes and huge spiders, but both are only interested in getting away from you. The people here may be able to sell you drinks. If you are short on food they will probably give you some of theres, but you should not offer money for it, you should (if you can) offer something else like some of your food, lighters, spices, coffee, matches, something in return. We made nice spiced tea in return for a cup of fresh sugar cane juice and made good friend with a family. Don't litter. Take your trash out with you as much as possible, When you buy a drink from a place, you can often leave the empty bottle with the place you bought it. Camping is free, so buy something to say thanks.

This is a tough walk because of the steep walking trail. Take as light a pack as possible. Consider bringing a knee brace, its hard on knees. The ruins are great. Every day people walk the trail, from 4 to 40 people per day. But still, you can feel like you are one of the first to see it. And you will save heaps of money compared to Machu Picchu.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cusco

Cusco is the city nearest the infamous inkan ruins of Machu Picchu. When the Spanish came through here, they did not find it, which is a bit strange considering what other places they did find that were much more remotely positioned. Of course, no one was living there at that time. Machu Picchu is famous because of its size, age, and the quality of the ruins. Its almost a complete city in itself. I have not visited it yet, but i have seen a scale model of the entire site at the museum here, it is unbelievable. The stones are all carved to fit into each other like a jigzaw puzzle, there is no cement or motar between them to hold them together. The shit thing about Machu Picchu and Cusco city is the price. Because 100's of tourists come here each DAY, the price of everything is stupid expensive. Just getting to the ruins by train, visiting for a few hours, and returning, costs minimum $120 US dollars. And there is no real alternatives. It's almost the train or nothing. Hiking there costs min 300$ and takes 4 days, and it's booked out 3 months away. You cannot hike alone, it's illegal, and checkpoints exist along the way to make sure that you don't. However some clever people have found an alternative hike that you can do solo, but takes 8 days, and there are no other ruins along the way, and you need to know what you are doing, otherwise you need a guide, which will cost more than the train.

a few years ago, another ruins site was discovered. 45km away, this new site looks to be larger than machu picchu. The good and bad news is that there is no road there, you need to hike for 2 days to see it. Good because it is not as regularly visited ofcourse. I have a map, and plan to head out there tomorrow, i'll be back in 5 or 6 days, and then i will consider whether i can afford to see machu picchu.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Altitude Sickness

Altitude Sickness is really shit. It affects people in different ways. I have a constant sinus infection, mild. But it's really just the altitude playing games with me. Headaches above my eyes, and blood when i blow my nose. Taking sinus relief medication has no effect. When i go down to a lower altitude (below 2800m) it goes away within 12 hours. If you ever go to a high altitude place, be aware that odd things can happen to you. Try to put up with it, ride it out as much as you can. Altitude sickness is only annoying at 3800m. Above 4km it starts to get serious, but you never know until you go.

Now i am inside Peru. So far have only seen one town, Puno, on the edge of the gigantic lake Titicaca. The border crossing was very easy; stamp, stamp, bang, bang, passport, gracias, walk across the border and get back on the bus. The bus has to cross empty for some reason. After crossing i was informed that this place is the best place to change money. I came with only about 3 dollars in my pocket. The money change place laughed at me, and then changed it. I'll get money out of an ATM later. =)

Prior to entering Peru, I was in the last town in Bolivia, Copacabana (not the same Copacabana that Barry Manilow sings about, that's in Brazil) also on Lake Titicaca but the far south end. This is Bolivia getting pretty touristy now. Everything has two prices, local price and Gringo price. One needs to be wary of everything you buy, or go for a walk away from the tourist streets and buy the same for local price. Its still not nearly as bad as India though, where the difference between whitey-price and local-price can be 100x.


Here there are 2 islands about 17km away. Isla del Sol, and Isla de la Luna. Island of the Sun, and of the moon. It is said that maybe 5000* years ago, in the age of Lumuria, the sun was first seen to rise on this very spot. The island is now inhabited by tourist hotels and resturants. Not so appealing. Of all the island boasts about, there is only one set of ruins worthy of a look, but only just. A labyritnth ruins, complete with one entry and one exit, false doorways, dead ends. It was quite interesting to walk around. As some of it has broken apart, it is now not possible to get lost inside. Plus, there was a roof on it once long long ago, and it would of been quite dark inside.