Trip Start Aug 25, 2006
19Trip End Mar 27, 2007
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Much to our delight, we arrived in Mendoza (Argentina) in the middle of their wine festival, when locals dress up in traditional costume and there are many local wines and dishes to taste and markets to tour. Our pockets liked the fact that a 3 course meal with wine cost the equivalent of ₤2.50! From Mendoza we did a fantastic day trip up into the Andes which were, of course, spectacular, with many glacial mountains and views of the highest peak (Aconcagua, 6000m a.s.l)
The highlight of Argentina was paragliding. We were driven up a very dodgy looking track (narrower than the vehicle) with a sheer drop to one side (sorry Mum!), up to a height of over 2000m. Once clipped into a harness attached to an instructor, we had to run off the edge of the mountain until we took off (trust me, this was more appealing than driving back down that blessed track!) The instructors skilfully caught thermals with the chutes to lift us at 5m/s (pretty quick!) up to 2600m. We flew so close together that we could have a chat mid air and Rich was able to video me on his camera , including video evidence of my screams as the instructor took me through some acrobatics, at one point spinning me to a position vertically ABOVE my parachute!
On 8/3, we flew up to Lima (Peru) and across to Cuzco (still Peru!) which is 3200m a.s.l. The air was very thin and we soon discovered even getting out of bed makes you breathless! After a couple of days to acclimatise, we did the 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu City. What an experience! We climbed up to 4200m (the same height from which we did our skydive in New Zealand!) and enjoyed some beautiful, if challenging, hikes via a number of archaeological sites from the Inca times (approx. 600 years ago). Although the people of that time are referred to as the Incas, the "Inca" was in fact the King. The weather changed from hot sun to pouring rain in seconds. Whilst we passed no towns, we saw families living in the hills in very remote and poor conditions (but somehow still able to get supplies of water and coke to sell to us!) All were dressed in traditional clothes complete with plaited hair, tall hats and transported by mules. We took stickers to give to the children which they loved
The last week in Peru, we enjoyed recovering and resting our aching muscles and joints in Cuzco. We spent a fortune by local standards, bartering and buying local handicrafts from the markets. Our record meal was ₤1.50 for 3 courses plus wine (and fantastic food at that!) The colours and costume and tradition in Peru are so typical of our expectations of South America. We have been moved and humbled by the kindness of the locals who have so little and we have been left with lasting memories of our favourite country in South America.
Having heard some concerning stories about backpackers being taken hostage in Venezuela (although we were reassured that you would be returned, it was just your money they wanted!) and armed hold ups in Caracas, we decided to modify our route, so have used the time in Peru and have a couple of days in Madrid on the way home. It seems incredible that our trip is coming to an end! We would like to thank all of you who have followed our progress with interest, shared our ups and downs and kept in touch throughout the 7 months. Special thanks to Tracy and Colin (aka Judes and David) for looking after everything on the home front. ♥☺☼♥