Lima

We had heard mixed reviews of Lima and were not sure what to expect from our short stay before continuing up the Peruvian Coast. Despite the perpetually grey skies and crazy traffic we enjoyed our time in the city. Strolling along the beachfront cliffs of Miraflores, we took in some beautiful views of the city and the sea as well as lots of interesting and amusing sculptures.

 

That night we headed out with some new friends from our crazy night in Huacachina. Luckily, it didn’t end up being a big as going out in Huacachina and we were in bed by midnight, ready for our bike tour the next morning.

On our last day in Lima we headed out on a bike food tour of the city which included stops for ceviche, craft beer, gelato and some delicious Cival. The tour also included a strange boat trip around the harbour on a leaky old boat.

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It was then time for one of the toughest journeys of our trip, 19 hour bus ride to Mancora. To make matters worse during the bus ride the first state of origin game was to be played.

Huachahina & Paracas

It was back on the Peru Hop bus, next stop the Nazca lines. Most tourists prefer to visit them from the sky. Not us though, we would much prefer to stop in the middle of the highway and view them from a tiny, over crowded platform. #Budgettravellers
Covering an area of nearly 1,000 sq. kilometres, there are about 300 different figures, including animals and plants. Even from a tiny platform they are pretty impressive.

 

That night we arrived to the tiny oasis town of Huachachina. The town is built around a small lagoon in the middle of the desert and surrounded by some mountainous sand dunes. The town was built as a resort town for the Peruvian elite but has seen better days. Arriving from Arequipa we headed to a BBQ organised by the Peru hop team with all you can drink cocktails for one hour. Needless to say this ended quite badly for all involved and woke the next morning nursing sore heads.

 

Fortunately, this was soon blasted away by a crazy ride in a dune buggy through the surrounding sand dunes. We were sure we had the most insane driver and this was confirmed after he nearly power-slid into a group of people at one stop.

After a white-knuckled ride through the dunes we reached the top for a specular view over the oasis. It was then time to hop on our sandboards and slide our way down. We were given a candle to rub wax on our boards to speed up the slide but Jen must have used the wrong end of the candle stick because when she went to slide she somehow managed to get stuck halfway.

The next stop en-route to Lima was the sea-side town of Paracas. We enjoyed a short tour by the Peru hop bus of the surrounding national park and spent the rest of the afternoon wishing we had bypassed Paracas. To fill in the time we enjoyed reading whilst relaxing in hammocks in the sun.
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Arequipa

Our next stop in Peru was the beautiful city of Arequipa. The city is surrounded by some impressive volcanoes and the city itself was filled with white dazzling buildings made from volcano stone. We spent a few days relaxing in the city before it was off on another trek. This time a three day trek to the Colca Canyon.

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The trip started with a 3am wake-up and then it was off on the bus with the rest of the group. The road to start off the trek passed through a high mountain pass of over 5,000m and we needed a few emergency stops for those affected by the altitude. Luckily, no stops were needed for us.

The first day’s hike was down into the canyon itself, a short 7km hike but in that time we descended over a 2,000m to reach the canyon floor. At 3,191m Colca Canyon is the third deepest canyon in the world. We reached our “basic” accomodation at around lunchtime and settled in for the afternoon.
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The next day was a short walk along the canyon floor to our “oasis”, which was actually just another primitive set of cabins but this time it included an idyllic pool to relax by. To fill in some time, our guide thought up the idea to take us done to the river to pick some oranges.

 

 

The last day of the trek was by far the hardest. We woke at 4:30am to begin the climb back out of the canyon guided only by the light of our head torches. As the sun rose we were treated to some spectacular views but Jen was in no mood to take in the scenery and was determined to make it to the top in record time.

After a brutal 3 hour climb straight up without any breakfast we finally made it to to the top and it was time to enjoy a traditional Peruvian break fast of white bread, jam and tasteless scrambled eggs before starting our journey back to Arequipa. On our way back, we stopped by the Tambo hot springs where we soaked our aching muscles.

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Cusco- Part Two

Rainbow Mountain

When we returned to Cuzco we enjoyed one day of rest and relaxation before taking on our next big trek, Rainbow Mountain. It was yet another 3am start. This was a one day 15km trek from 4,300m up to 5,035m. The trek was through a vibrant green valley up to Rainbow mountain itself. The mountain is stripped with many different colours  due to the unique mineralogy in the area. At the top it was a beautiful view of the many different colours as well as the surrounding glaciers. As we descended back down the mountain, we realised how many people has been struck down by the altitude and the track now had a lot of vomit. It was at this point Jen realised she had finally acclimatised to the high altitudes.

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On our last day in Cuzco, Tristan went on a mountain bike ride with one of the workers at the hostel and Jen went out for coffee and a well deserved snaky muffin.
That night we hopped on yet another overnight bus to Arequipa.

Cusco- Part One

Cuzco- Salkantay Trek & Machu Picchu

We again arrived early in the morning to Cuzco on an overnight bus and were let into the hostel to pass out on a couch in the common room. The people working at the hostel were kind enough to put some blankets on us as we attempted to catch up on some sleep.

When we woke we headed out into the city to try and take on the tour operator gauntlet to find a guide for our Salkantay trek and then onto Machu Picchu.

Cuzco is one of those strange South American cities filled with so much history and culture contrasted with modern western influences. The main plaza has some amazing cathedrals and ancient buildings built with ancient Inca stones and then behind those ancient stones there would be a KFC or Starbucks. The streets are filled with locals going about their business in traditional dress, leading alpacas and then massage hawkers and people hassling you to buy a pair of sunglasses.

We eventually settled on the tour operator ‘Salkantay Trekking‘ and enjoyed a day of relaxation in Cuzco before it was time to head off on the trek. That night to celebrate our success at bargaining, we treated ourselves to some of the best Pisco sours at the Pisco Sour museum.


Salkantay Trek

Day 1

We left Cuzco at 4am in the morning and took the bus to the beginning of the trek. It was a relatively gentle hike of 7km to our first campsite. For the first night of the trek we were staying in some amazing glass igloos that gave us a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.

After dropping off our bags we headed up to Humanity Lake which was 4,200m high. At the lake we joined in with our local shaman to make some prayers and offerings to the gods for safety on our trek before returning to the campsite.

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Day 2

The next morning we were up early at 5:00am to take on the hike to Salkantay Pass which stood at 4,650m. It was a gruelling 3 hour trek but at the top we were treated with perfect sunshine and great views. We were also treated to the not so great view of a fellow hiker engaging in a bit of naked Tai Chi.

It was then a tough 17km descent to our next campsite from the heights of the mountain pass down to the upper part of the Amazon jungle.

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Day 3

We enjoyed a peaceful sleep-in until 6:00am before getting up to begin the next leg of our trek. This was meant to be the easiest day of the trek but a combination of our tired legs from the climb the day before, a rocky gravelly path and Jen’s sore foot and knee meant this day was probably one of the hardest. We followed a tiny path that was cut into a hillside following the course of the river. Recent mudslides made the track very treacherous and sections of the track only had some sticks in place to keep large boulders from crashing down on us.

Along the way we sampled some passionfruit from the nearby plantations as well as some freshly brewed coffee. The night before we had been promised some thermal hot springs to sooth our aching muscles but when we reached camp these hopes were sadly dashed and we had to settle for the next best alternative, beer!

Day 4

The final day of our trek before we reached the town of Aguas Calientes started with a 2 hour climb out of the Santa Teresa valley. At the top, we had our first (very) small glimpse of Machu Picchu as well as seeing the first archeological site of the the lost city of the incas.

After enjoying the view it was a sketchy two hour slip and slide down a muddy path before we reached the town of Hidroelectrica for lunch. Three hours laters walking along the train tracks we finally reached the town of Aguas Calientes!

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Day 5

The good news, it was finally time for the highlight of our trek, Machu Picchu! The bad news was that as we woke to our alarm at 3:30am we were greeted with the sound of pouring rain. Rather than walking up the stairs to the entrance of Machu Picchu we decided on the soft option and caught the bus. This involved standing in-line from about 4:30am until the first bus finally departed at 5:30am.

When we arrived we had a 2 hour tour of Machu Picchu, during the whole tour the rain did not stop and clouds did not look like they were lifting so we retreated to a coffee shop to try and get dry and a bit of warmth in a our bones. We debated whether it was worth sticking around to see if the cloud lifted our heading back down. As we had paid $50USD to climb Machu Picchu mountain Jen was in firm favour of staying as she hated wasting money and eventually convinced Tristan to head back into the rain.

It was the right call and as we climbed the mountain the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and we were rewarded with some truly magnificent views. When we returned back to the ruins the sun was out and we got some great photos including a “jumping shot” of Tristan which a nearby guard made us delete as it was “disrespectful”. Jen was super annoyed as it had taken her over 20 shot to get the perfect jumping shot.

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They allowed us to keep all the failed attempt ‘jumping shots’.


We finally returned to Aquas Clients and enjoyed some celebratory beers and pizza at finishing our trek before passing out on the train back to Cuzco.

 

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Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca- Copacabana, Isla Del Sol & Puno

After surviving death road and the altitude of La Paz it was time to head to the more chilled out Lake Titicaca. Set between Peru and Bolivia at 3,808m the great lake provided some of the most spectacular scenery of our trip.
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Our first night we spent in the tourist town of Copacabana, on the Bolivian side of the lake. We spent the night in the strangest place that included a garden in the bathroom and hammocks and a tree house in the room. It had the most amazing view across Copacabana.
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The next day we headed for a night on Isla Del Sol, a large island in the middle of the lake home to several traditional communities. There are no vehicles on Isla Del Sol and as we hopped off the boat and began the arduous trek to the top of the island we soon began to realise why it is considered to be the birth place of the sun. As the sun and altitude began to take their toll we were grateful to find some beautiful accomodation with a view over the lake.

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That night as we recovered from our sunburn by enjoyed some beer and pizza as we watched the beautiful sunset.

The next morning we caught the boat back to Copacabana and then it was on the bus and across the border into Peru. Our first stop in Peru was Puno, a city on the Northern shore of lake Titicaca. We spent the night in Puno before heading off early the next morning on a tour of the Islas Uros, some unique floating islands in Lake Titicaca just off the shore from Puno. These islands are made entirely from reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. There are communities that live on these tiny islands and they also use the reeds to build their homes and boats. Despite the feeling of it being somewhat of a Tourist trap, it was incredible to see how the Uros people have lived for centuries. That night we went out for a delicious three course meal with wine and of course some sneaky Pisco sours before boarding our overnight bus for Cusco.

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La Paz

La Paz- Death Road, Cholita Wrestling

Coming from the beautiful city of La Paz it was quite a shock to the system as we rolled into the gritty, sprawling, bustling metropolis of La Paz. To make matters worse, just before boarding the overnight bus from Sucre, Jen was struck down by the dreaded Bolivia Belly. It made for a long and uncomfortable night but fortunately Tristan was able to sleep all the way through.

We arrived into La Paz at 8:00am, Jen was delirious but she somehow managed to struggle to the hostel and luckily they had a bed available for her to collapse into. With a sick wife Tristan did the only reasonable thing and abandoned her in the hostel after he drugged her and took off for a night at the Cholita Wrestling!

Bolivian women dressed in their traditional garb tackling, dodging, slapping, choking and jumping on each other was quite a sight to behold. Tourists and locals alike packed into the stadium to witness the beautifully dressed women turn into fighting machines.

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After two days stuck in bed, Jen climbed out of her death bed and took on one of the biggest challenges of the trip… the world’s most dangerous road! 61km of downhill mountain biking heading down from an altitude of 4,700m to 1,100m. The track was no wider than 3.5m at some places with a sheer drop of 1,000m off to the side and some nice loose gravelly rocks to make things interesting. We rode through mist, waterfalls, small villages and a drug checkpoint on the journey to the bottom. It was dramatic and beautiful scenery that we didn’t have much time to appreciate as we hurtled down the track. Exhilarated at the end we enjoyed a nice cold beer and a trip to a wildlife sanctuary before heading back to La Paz.

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Our last tourist stop before leaving La Paz was to take a ride on their spectacular public transport system the Mi Teleferico, which is a gondola network operating at over 4,000m above sea level. It provides amazing views of the city but unfortunately the heights were just a little to much for Tristan and he began suffering from short term memory loss at the highest point in El Alto. He had to be reminded constantly where he was and what he was doing in such a strange place. At the time Jen was convinced they needed to catch the next plane home because her husband definitely had early onset alzheimer’s. 

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Sucre

After crossing through the salt flats and into Bolivia we hopped on an overnight bus to Sucre. Tristan was having a week of Spanish lessons whilst Jen was spending the week relaxing in the AirBnb Apartment, watching Netflix and going out for coffee.

Sucre is a beautiful city filled with cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings. The central markets were filled with an amazing array of produce and this was where Tristan enjoyed getting his fresh juice every morning before heading off to class and then returning in the afternoon for a cheap lunch.

On the final day of his lessons, Tristan’s teacher took the class out for lunch at one of his favourite restaurants. Tristan decided to order what his tutor was having “De-ubre” even though he was not quite sure what it was. He asked the tutor what the dish was but the only explanation he could get was that it came from a cow. After he had eaten every last bit of the meal Tristan got home and discovered that he had just eaten cow’s udder.

Before departing Sucre for La Paz we headed to Cretaceous Park, a dinosaur theme park filled with life-size dinosaur models and preserved dinosaur tracks.

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Eating like the locals at a steakhouse! Jen blames this place for her ‘Bolivia Belly’.

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Coffee and hot chocolates every day!

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Beautiful streets of Sucre!

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In front of the dinosaur footprints.

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