Absolutely Epic Peru

Trip Start Jan 18, 2013
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Trip End Aug 06, 2013


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Flag of Peru  , Lima Region,
Friday, May 31, 2013

As promised, here is the EPIC entry - one the basis that Peru truly was epic in every way.

I start in Lima, where I arrive at lunch time from a short flight from La Paz. I arrive at the hostel and have a wander to get my bearings. I decided to treat myself to my first haircut in 6 months, and pop to the local ATM to pick up some currency. Here the curse continues, as the machine decides to gobble my card. Good start. After another small fortune on the phone to bloody travelex, and a trip to Western Union for some emergency funds, I stop by the supermarket for a much needed bottle of wine, and plan to pickle away my troubles. I end up joining a nice Australian couple - Brad and Cassie - and we proceed with said pickling, until I retire to bed somewhat happier.

The next day, I have arranged to meet up with Jake, one of the guys on my Peru tour starting that day. I'm slightly late for this owning to leaving all of my valuables at the hostel - again, well done Karen - but eventually get to the hotel and find him. At 19 yrs old, I am expecting a small snotty teenager, but instead am confronted with a giant bond monster of a thing, possessed by the need to find good coffee, and find it NOW (apparently he's a bit of a coffee nerd, and has struggled with this over the past few days). He is to become my drinking buddy over the next 3 weeks - us Brits must stick together after all. We finally source 'acceptable' coffee, and decide to try do some paragliding. Unfortunately we weren't able to, due to the weather conditions, so instead we head for a beer - what else are we to do? 3 pitchers later, we roll up to our briefing pretty tiddly, and get told off for being noisy - oops. We meet the rest of the group briefly - a variety of ages and origins - it should make for an interesting trip!! We'll learn soon enough how lucky we are, and what a great group we have - but for now, we're dismissed for the evening. Of course, we head back to the bar... A few jars later, we run into Andrea and Shayna from our group - now to be known collectively as "The Callys" (from Cali - obvs.). They've found cheaper beer than us, so we pitch up and carry on. This turns into Pisco Sours, and we roll home a few hours later, following the need to leave the bar due to some over boisterous dance moves from Jake - whose next move is to resume the position of 'The Condor' on The Callys, and allow them to drag him home - this is to become a recurrent theme. We manage to deposit Jake back to his room - still in 'Condor' form, and get to bed.

The next morning, I give Jake's room a knock, and find him STILL condored on the bed and feeling pretty ropey. We head for breakfast and eat the equivalent of about 20 eggs each, before crawling onto the bus for our first journey. Always good to start with a hangover! We head to Paracas in the heart of Pisco country - not more Pisco!! We arrive in the evening in time for sunset and a few pics - it's a small, but beautiful seaside town with not too much going on. We all head for dinner and a few drinks, including some pretty suspicious cocktails. We manage to drink the restaurant out of beer, before heading back to bed. In the morning we take a trip to the Ballestas islands - dubbed The Galapagos of Peru, here you can see all kinds of wildlife, including pelicans, penguins, sea lions, sea spiders and much more. I spent most of this trip trying not to chunder, which was not helped when the captain gave me alcohol soaked cotton wool to sniff!!

After chundersville at Ballestas, we're back on the bus and on our way to Nazca. We stop at a Pisco winery for yet more alcohol, and also Huacachina for some sand boarding and sand buggies. Sand buggies are awesome!! You are well strapped in before the driver takes you on a veritable roller-coaster ride through the desert. Sand boarding was fun, but probably not quite as much as back in San Pedro. After this, we head to our next over-night stop and have a relatively quiet one for a change (subject to a couple of beers by the pool of course).

The next morning we checked out a pre-inca cemetery full of dead guys, before taking a light aircraft over the Nazca lines - which was amazing, but again slightly chunder-inducing. In the afternoon we relaxed, before our lovely guide Maruja decided we needed to polish off a bottle of Pisco before getting on the night bus. This, for me, was a bad idea, and the start of my downfall, which was to last a few days...

After a restless night on the bus, I was in a pretty bad way by the time we arrived in Arequipa. I decided to push on and book rafting for the afternoon, which was an error that cost me 30 dollars that I will never see again, since I had to bail out and opt for curling up in a ball all day instead. Things don't improve en route to our next stop - Colca Canyon - and I spend another day of woe on the bus, followed by another night in a ball whilst the rest of the gang enjoyed the local thermal baths. Thankfully, I am feeling a little better the next day in time to watch the amazing condors take flight over the Canyon (note: ACTUAL condors - not Jake plus several Pisco's). I even manage to force down a 'colca sour' - basically pisco sour made with cactus fruit. Yum. That night, I join the group for dinner and Peruvian dancing at a local restaurant.

The next day, we head back through the canyon to get to Puno. It's been snowing over night and looks like an entirely different landscape, so we get out and chuck a snowball or two, before getting stuck in a tail back due to an over turned petrol truck. Fortunately The Cally's come to our aid with emergency bus beer to get us through the trauma. We finally arrive in Puno that evening, grab an early dinner, and take a mental note of a 'Coffee Mixology' bar that we intend to visit on our way back through (at the request of the coffee crazed Condor, of course).

Feeling properly back on form in the morning, we head out to Lake Titicaca - first stopping at one of the reed islands to have a look around and meet the local Uros community. We learn how these islands are made, and get to have a ride on a reed boat. Maronna even gets to dress up in the local Garb. Next, we stop for lunch on Taquile island and learn about how men wear different hats depending on whether they are single or not, but sometimes married men wear the 'single' hats anyway - cheeky buggers! Finally we head to the place where we will pair off for a home stay with a local family. When we arrive, there is a procession of locals playing music, who lead us to a school playground. There, we meet our families, play some football, and get dressed up in the local attire for some dancing. All the while, a storm is coming in, but that doesn't put a stop to our activities. Finally, we're lead to our accommodation for the night. It seems that Jake and I drew the short straw, and ended up walking for 40 mins, still in our costumes, in the dark and driving rain, to get to our destination. We arrive, and our host, Belinda, makes us some dinner before basically leaving us to it for the night - at 6pm. Thankfully I have my iPad, so we manage to eek out the evening with several games of monopoly, before giving up and going to bed at 8pm. I spend the night needing a wee since the toilet is outside, and the dogs fighting are giving me the willies! In the morning, we get to help Belinda - accompanied by her gorgeous son Andre, and the 2 dogs - walk the sheep and donkeys to the field. When the sheep get a bit unruly, Belinda dumps little Andre on the side of the road to leg it after them - he's not phased by this whatsoever though, and just sits quietly taking it in. I go join him whilst Jake is left with donkey duty, which he seems to take to quite well. After lunch, it's time to say goodbye to our little family, and head back to the group - such and interesting experience to see how these people live.

That afternoon, we head back to Puno intent on hitting the 'Coffee Mixology' bar to see what it's about. It turns out to be more of a a 'Nitrogen cocktail bar' with a side order of karaoke. A few of us get into the spirit of things, but before long it's the standard last ones standing - i.e. The Callys, The Condor and me. We have a good dance, several too many nitrogen appletinis, and then head back to the hotel to crash.

Next stop - Cuzco! We spend the day traveling to get there, so not much time to check it out until we return after the Inka Trail. However, we do manage to track down some rotisserie chicken (this has been a mission for several days now), and then meet up with Olly and Isolbel (from La Paz) in the evening, to sample Guinea Pig, drink Pisco, and play some serious Jenga. One too many Pisco's are had (as normal) and I have to pack my precious 2kg of Inka Trail wares at 1pm in the morning, feeling pretty fuzzy. Ah well - I ain't going to have a shower for 4 days anyway!

Our last day before the Inka Trail beings is spent in the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo, where we get our first real taste of the Inka sites to come. We are taken to the major Inka site in the town, before The Callys, The Condor, Bente, and me decide to tackle a smaller site on the other side of town. We can't find the entrance to the path, and end up being sheparded through some random woman's garden full of chickens and told just to 'walk up' the hill - even though there is no apparent path. In the spirit of adventure, we decide to give it a go, but are half expecting to be hunted down by the locals any minute and sacrificed to Pachamama! We finally make it to the top, and find the actual path to come down - a nice bit of last minute training for the trail! We have 1 victory beer to celebrate our adventure, and get an early night for the big trek ahead.

In the morning, we say farewell to The Aussies - who have decided just to chill in Cuzco for a few days, and The Callys and Jake - who are on an alternative trek (what will I do without my partners in crime for a few days?! Well, as it turns out, have a few days off the booze!). I am kindly left in the possession of Aussie Merilyn's walking poles, with a strict brief to get a photo with them at the sun gate when I get there. And we're off! We start the trek at around 10am, accompanied by our fantastic lead and assistant guides - Luis (who decided to call me 'Sandra' for the course of the trail), Jesus and Evert. Our remaining group is joined by 4 more - Tara from Canada (who has convinced me to climb Kilimanjaro next yr now!), Clement 'The Machine' from Oz (on account of energy and capacity to eat his dinner plus 5 people's leftovers), Claudia from Germany (good gal), and other Tara (miserable bitch with mysteriously changing sore ankle, who did her best to try bring everyone down with her - why people like this come on group trips I will never know!!).

To to briefly summarise the trek is difficult, but I shall try...it involved 4 days a 3 nights of relatively challenging hiking, through the most amazing Peruvian scenery, and passing many fascinating Inka sights. The 2nd day was the most challenging - hiking up Dead Woman's Pass, and involving more stairs than I would wish to consider. We had a lost of tummy upsets, but with the exception of Miserable Tara, everyone remained in good spirits and kept trooping on. Each night we camped, but the equipment provided was good and it was relatively comfortable. The G Adventures team truly treated us with fantastic service, and incredible food - especially considering the amenities available. We even got Pizza for breakfast one day! Highlights were getting to the top of Dead Woman's Pass, Luis taking myself, Tara (nice) and The Machine on a little side adventure, and the amazing views of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. Low lights were standing in human poo in the bushes one night, and overcrowding at Machu Picchu taking the shine of the last day a little. Otherwise, a thoroughly unforgettable experience!

After the trails, we are reunified with the group, and head back to Cuzco to celebrate - and attempt the 24 hr challenge (as you get up at 4am on the last day, you have to try and stay up partying until 4am the next day). To my understanding, we were about an hour short of target, owing to a certain Condor deciding it was time to take flight, it took about 4 of us to carry The Condor home that night - but much drinking, dancing and merriment was had beforehand, so it was a dam good innings, even if we were an hour shy of our target!

In the morning/afternoon, waking up to find mysterious Gatorade at the bedside (which later turned out to be from Andrea The Gatorade Fairy), the realisation dawned that Jake and I had decided to book ATV riding (quad bikes) for less than an hour's time. With no time to eat, I threw on some different clothes (since I'd woke up in the ones I went out in!) and off we went, feeling VERY roped indeed. Still-drunk ATV riding turned out to be a very bad idea, when jake managed to roll his bike, and bend the brake lever (which he was charged for) - we'd also not dressed at all appropriately, and spent 2 hrs freezing our tits off, just wanting to go back to Cuzco and feel sorry for ourselves (which we eventually did). That night, we all went to as a group for a nice meal, but ended up having to bail early as I was feeling so sick from not eating all day that I couldn't face my dinner!

Our final destination was the Amazon for 3 days. We flew there from Cuzco and the took a small boat out into the jungle. There, as well as finally getting a bit of relaxation time, we got to partake in a number of cool activities to spot the local jungle animals and vegetation, including a day trek, caiman spotting at night on the boat, and a night walk to spot spiders - which I actually managed to get through without having a heart attack!! We saw all kinds of things including parrots, toucans, monkeys, wild boar, caimans, turtles, big rodent things (can't remember the name!), butterfies etc. Our accommodation was cool little jungle bungalows, which you could only light using candles - suffice to say i just about managed to survive without setting ours alight! On the last evening, 2 down due to sickness, it was left to Andrea and me to put on a good show and stay up drinking with a random bunch of Canadians, which of course we did in style.

The next day, we returned to Lima for the last night of our tour. We had one last family meal, before a few of us returned to the scene of the first night's crimes, for some obligatory frivolities. This time, we managed to partially corrupt Kristina with some Pisco and Salsa dancing, before Jake graced us with one final Condor episode, calling time on the night at roughly 5am.

Finally, our epic Peru tour had come to an end. Godamit Leeroy, it was unforgettable. How much we did in 3 weeks!! Feeling very sad, we all said our goodbyes throughout the course of the next day, and made our way to the airport to go our separate ways. For me, this meant Quito - on to Ecuador for the next part of my adventure!

THE FAMILY

Maruja
Known For: Being our truly wonderful guide, Pisco Sours and Salsa!

The Aussies (Kevin, Merilyn and Barb)
Known For: Secret afternoon beer time and evening wine consumption.

The Canadians (Rob and Kristina)
Known For: Being too fit they put the rest of us to shame. Asking all the right practical questions to get us through the tour in one piece.

The Danes (Birgitte, Pernille and Bente)
Known For: All being nurses, secret condor video footage, and being generally good girls of all ages!

"Mary and Joseph" (Maronna and Josephine)
Known For: being "my friend!", llama sacrifice gesticulations, and ass-kickings

Tracey and Charlie
Known For: keeping me alive on dead woman's pass with lucozade tablets, well timed Darth Vader impressions, and looking fetching whilst throwing shapes in local Peruvian dress

The Callys
Known For: 10 soles beers, fabulous poses, beer showers, and being the bestest ever party gals

Jake
Known For: being The Condor. Enough said.

Me
Known For: Well, I will let the rest of the group decide that!
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