A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: AoifeNagle

The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

Where ´the weather is like the women´ and ponchos are your new best friend

rain 13 °C

Landing in Cusco was the start of a few weeks above 3000m. Cusco sits at 3400m and is the historic capital of the Inca Empire and also referred to as the ´Navel of the world´. Cusco is built for tourists and has great cafes, bars and restaurants all serving western food. It also has a Starbucks and McDonalds who in their defense have been well designed to fit into the architecture and of the main square.
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I only had a half a day in Cusco to get supplies for the Inca Trail, put in a Christmas call to home and get to our trek briefing. The next morning we were picked up at 6AM ready or not! After a quick stop for brekkie we arrived at KM82 which is the starting point for all 500 people allowed to start the trek that day. Of the 500 approx 200 are porters though sometimes it seemed like porters outnumbered the actual trekkers. For example there were 4 of us in our group and we had a guide, a cook and 4 porters. I´m guessing for bigger groups the ratio isn´t as high.
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Day 1 of the trek wasn´t too difficult, one or two uphills and the rest was Andean/Peruvian flat which means up and down. Lots of people had advised me to get a poncho for the trail as it can be very rainy and misty and especially as we were coming into the wet season. I told them that I have a really good rainproof jacket that would be perfect while actually thinking that I wouldn´t be caught dead in a poncho, it would be like asking Paris Hilton to wear Pennys/Primark/Target! After about an hour it had started to rain and I realised I had made a schoolboy error and left my rainjacket in my main bag with the porters who were miles ahead already. Cue Aoife, tail between her legs buying a lovely purple poncho (inspired by Deborah Gallagher´s Tellytubby outfit) which became one of the most important pieces of gear over the rest of the trail.
Plastic Fantastic
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We lost one of our tour group on the second morning. She had cracked/bruised a rib when we were sand boarding and was just finding the up and down too painful to keep going. So two donkeys were hired, one for her and the other for her gear and she set off with the owner back to KM82. Day 2 is widely agreed to be the most difficult and I would have to agree, 5KM uphill and 4KM down starting at 3016m and climbing up to Dead Woman´s Pass at 4200m. That combined with the rain made it quite hard but my trusty poncho was again a lifesaver. I have thankfully put in some long, wet and cold days in the hills in Ireland and Scotland so I felt pretty comfortable for most of it. I met some very unhappy campers on the way up the last climb which I could understand as the weather was not playing ball by offering some decent views to ease the pain. After a quick picture at the top taken by a lovely Waterford girl I made my way down the other side, thoroughly enjoying the downhill!
Looking like a drowned rat at 4200m
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It cleared up later in the campsite and the sunset views were absolutely stunning.
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The porters and cook on the trek were absolutely fantastic. The porters each carry 25kg of equipment and pretty much run ahead of you so that lunch and camp is setup when you arrive. We were woken up with a cup of tea in our tent every morning and the food coming out of the kitchen was delicious! The stove was also useful to dry out boots!
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One of our porters, Caroline and our hilarious guide
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Day 3 was Christmas Day HOHOHO! There were a few Santa hats on the trail and even Mr Claus himself beard and all. The morning started off raining and popular opinions at to why the weather was so bad were that ´Baby Jesus didn´t get what he wanted for Christmas´ or ´Santa is hungover´. Thankfully the weather cleared and we got some gorgeous views and time to explore the ruins along the trail.
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'Santa' coming up the trail
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That night one of our group either picked up a bug or got food poisoning because at approx 9PM he started vomiting so violently near our tent I thought he was going to puke up his stomach. This continued intermittently for about 3 hours until he was finally cleared of whatever was making him so sick. Obviously I felt very sorry for him but I also selfishly was praying to every GOD there is that I wouldn´t get the same thing he had as we had eaten the exact same dinner. Counting my lucky stars I woke up at 4AM the next day with stomach contents intact. It was POURING rain however and that combined with how early it was, it was hard to be in good spirits. Along comes our saviour the cook who plonks this in front of me brekkie and made my morning.
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We had to wait for about an hour and a half (along with all other trekkers) at the checkpoint until it opens at 5.30AM and then we were off. I have never in my life witnessed such a large group of people walking at such a consistently quick pace in silence. It was freaky! We arrived at Sun Gate where if there was good weather we would have seen our first glimpse of Machu Picchu..it was quickly renamed Cloud Gate..
The weather was so bad it was actually funny!
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And finally we were there..it was cloudy and rainy but we had made it!
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We went down to the main entrance to meet the rest of our tour who had come up from Cusco the night before. The weather was starting to clear and after a really good tour of the ruins it was actually sunny and I managed to get a few decent shots.
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It’s hard not to be awestruck by it all, when you consider its age, altitude and quality of work, just amazing really. It reminded me of the scene in Avatar when they are on the mountains floating in the clouds..it felt like that when we were there with the clouds floating through that it wasn´t connected with the rest of the world.

After soaking up as much Machu Picchu as possible we took a bus down to Aquas Calientes to get some food and catch our train back to Cusco. Our guide reckoned the last day was the hardest because we got up at 4AM and didn´t get to Cusco until 9AM after a 3hour train journey..AKA a lonnnnng day but totally worth it.

The trek and Machu Picchu itself have definitely been a highlight of the trip. I was very very happy to be outside getting some exercise and of course what better place to do it then along the Inca Trail.

Up next is the Amazon and Lake Titicaca then Bolivia bound..

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Years.

Lots of love

Aoife
xx

Posted by AoifeNagle 12:47 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Peru fast tracked

Lima to Cusco via Pisco, Ica, Nasca, Colca Canyon and Arequipa

sunny 25 °C
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Hi everyone

So after meeting the tour group in Lima (there´s 7 of us including the guide) we headed for Pisco which is a 6 hour drive south and home of the Pisco Sour, my new favourite drink.
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After enjoying a few said drinks with dinner the next morning we headed for the Ballestas Islands which Lonely Planet describes as the ´Poor Mans Galapogos Islands´. We got a pretty good look at some sealions, penguins and various birds. Definately doesnt compare to the Galapogos but a whole lot cheaper! Interesting fact about the islands is that over 5 years, approx 3 metres of guano (birdshit) builds up on the surface and 300 people spend 3 months scraping it all off and collecting it to be brought back to the mainland for fertiliser..surely that would have to make the list of top 10 worst jobs! The smell from the boat was bad enough, I can only imagine what its like on the islands...
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After that we drove to Ica which is a small town built around an oasis in the desert called Huacachina. We hopped into a dune buggey and the driver spent the next hour doing his best to make us cry/laugh/puke up our lunch. In between ramping off dunes we stopped to do some sand boarding. Way harder then it looks but seriously good fun. I still have sand coming out of my ears!

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Wasnt entirely convinced of the cleanliness of the oasis but figured it might be my only chance to swim in one so took a quick dip. You can see my head somewhere in the middle of this picture.
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After Ica we drove to Nazca, a pretty much unknown city until 1939 when a small aircraft flying over the area discovered the Nazca Lines, bascially grafiti scraped into the earth up to 130meters in height. There are various images, a dog, a condor, a monkey and a spider. The best way to view them is on a flight so that’s exactly what we caught early one morning to get the best weather.
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You can just about make the the shape in this picture
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Our tour guide advised not to have breakfast as we were flying on a very small 6 seater plane and I was very glad of the tip as I wasn’t feeling very well towards the end of the flight. Cue the pilot to excitedly turn around and say ´Do you want to do zero gravity??´ I was at the back of the plane furiously shaking my head saying ´No way!´ however all five others were like ´Yes please!´. Damn you democracy! So praying to god that I wouldn´t throw up the pilot flew the plane up and then essentially dropped us out of the sky so were at zero gravity for a few seconds. Thankfully my stomach didn’t let me down and it was actually really cool and we asked him to do it again.

Also in Nazca is they Chauchilla Cemetry located in the middle of the desert. Grave robbers starting looting these tombs in the 1950s and since then approx 20 have been fully excavated and are on display. Even though they are essentially exposed to the elements with only a wooden shade over them they are still incredibly well preserved due to the dry climate as the picture below shows. Checkout the dreadlocks snaking around the left of the cloth..maybe the world’s first Rastafarians??
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From Nazca we took our first night bus to Arequipa which I had been really curious to experience because I had heard so much about them. It was pretty much as described, very like a flight with a bus hostess and a meal served but with seats that reclined way further. I slept very well for most the 10 hours thankfully. No one else did though so I’m very glad to have inherited the bus/train/airplane sleeping gene zzzzz
Arequipa is Peru´s second largest city nicknamed the White City due to many of the buildings being built using volcanic rock which dazzles in the sun. It has a gorgeous main square and cathedral and the entire city is located in the shadow of the 5822m volcano El Misti.
Cathedral lit up at night
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Main Square
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We went to visit Juanita, an 11 or 12 year only Incan girl who was sacrificed on top of a 6300m mountain over 500 years ago. She was discovered in 1995 after being dislodged from her tomb by the eruption of a nearby volcano. Due to the altitude she was essentially frozen and as a result is incredibly well preserved. The whole story is pretty fascinating especially when you think they had to climb a 6000m peak in sandals. No pictures were allowed but there are lots online if you Google it.
We went out dancing in a local pub/nightclub in Arequipa. A local rockband did some really good covers. Later in the night after the band had finished and the disco started, I was busting out what I thought were my best salsa moves only to be told by a local that ´you dance weird´…my ego is still recovering..

Up next was an overnight in the Colca Canyon. Hadn´t really done much reading into this area so didn´t really know what to expect. What I found was absolutely stunning views of the Andes, they really do make you feel very very tiny. Pictures really don´t do it any justice but here is a sample
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We stayed in a tiny village in a gorgeous chalet type hotel.
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We drove early along the top of the valley to a lookout where condors are regularly spotted surfing the thermal air coming up from the valley. I didnt really know very much about condors however i learned that they are vultures with a wing span of up to 3.2 meters ie feking big.
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Hi Ho Hi Ho its off to Cusco I go. Will have just enoght time to get some last minute supplies before starting the Inca Trail..can´t wait!
Lots of love to everyone
Aoife (and her seriously dented ego)
xx

More pictures here...

Beep Beep
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Posted by AoifeNagle 10:43 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima to the Galapogos and back

Its amazing what you can do in a week..

overcast 25 °C
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So im back in Lima after a quick jaunt up to Ecuador to visit the Galapogos islands. I booked it completly last minute, only a few days before I left Melbourne and really only as an alternative to spending a full week in Lima. I´m so ridiculously glad that I did though - amazing is a word that is overused these days but the Galapogos truly are amazing. It was a 2 hour flight to Quito from Lima and after landing at 12.30AM I had a 1.5 hour wait in a queue in immigration eventually arriving at the hostel after 2AM only to realise my phone was MIA assumed left on the plane..FAIL! There was no sign of it at the airport when I went back the next day so im taking it as a sign from the gods that I wasn´t meant to have it on this trip. So.. after a minor sulk onwards and upwards to the Galapogos! Took a quick flight to San Cristobal airport which is one of 2 airports on the islands and there I was met by our lovely guide Roberto.
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We were then taken to our beautiful catamaran the MC Anani which has a bar, sun deck, jacuzzi, lounge area ie pretty freaking posh. Got a whole room to myself complete with sculpted towels!
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The food onboard was also absolutely class..pretty much 3 courses every meal, we also had a waiter who would make whatever cocktail you liked whenever you liked..flashpacking!!
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Over the next few days we sailed around the islands going snorkling and for walks with Roberto explaining everything along the way. Sealions were draped over every rock in sight, loads of marine iguanas, blue footed boobies (birds), turtles, tortoises, galapogos penguins, crabs, albatros, mockingbirds..the list is endless. I never thought the day would come but I became one of those people who take 50 million photos of the same thing..its impossible not to though, you can get so close to everything and the animals act as if you aren´t even there. Many of them have no land predators so see no reason to bolt when a person is closeby.
Having a siesta
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Mocking bird
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Blue footed boobies
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The baby sea lions were crazy cute
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My highlight was definitely swimming with the sea lions. They love to play so while we are snorkling had great craic swimming around us and having a look. I got some great video but the blog isn´t liking the format so once I figure that out ill put it up. We also went to the local ´post office´ where whaler ships used to stop and pick up letters and bring them back to Europe and vice versa. The tradition has been kept up to this day so left a letter there for home and picked up two postcards, one for Westmeath and one for Laois which I will post when I get home. Hopefully a fellow Irish will pick up mine some stage in the future and return the favour.
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We got to sea the giant tortoises in the Charles Darwin centre - bleedin´massiv´ but very cute. Apparently Steven Spielberg used them as inspiration for ET
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Was very sad when the trip finished as I know there is a huge amount more I didn´t get to see. However all good things must come to an end so I flew back to Quito and grabbed a cab to the hostel. I had every intention of getting an early night as I had to be up at 4.30AM for my flight back to Lima however ended up going out with a crew from the hostel and was out dancing until 2AM. I was not a pretty sight at the airport a few hours later..

Cant believe ive only been a away just over a week, crazy what you can get done! Very over airports and flights after 7 in the past week so im glad to be switching to buses!

Got to go as i´m being stared down by a retiree who wants to use the computer..I think I could take her but then again she could be studing martial arts in her spare time...

There are more pictures in the gallery section

Lots of love

Aoife

x

Posted by AoifeNagle 07:40 Archived in Ecuador Tagged islands galapogos Comments (0)

First stop Lima

2 nights and 2 days in Lima, Peru

overcast -20 °C

Hi everyone

Just a quick update..everything going well so far. Flights to Lima were very non eventful, was so knackered from the last week organising I slept for most of them. Just had time Saturday evening to grab dinner and my first caipirinha cocktail yuuuum. Took the bus into the city on Sunday to explore the sights and did a bike tour this morning.

Loving so far:

  • Lima locals, super friendly and helpful and incredibly patient when trying to understand my pigeon Spanish
  • Being approached but not harassed by the taxi men in Lima airport
  • Francis the legend hostel owner in Miraflores who spent 30mins going through the whos who and whats what of Lima
  • Eating a local dish, Ceviche, which consists mainly of raw fish and not getting sick
  • Being asked by a local if all Irish have red hair..Lesley Bell where are you when I need you!
  • Local tipple Pisco Sour, buenisimo!

Not so in love with:

  • Cars CONSTANTLY beeping for no apparent reason
  • Having essentially a curfew because Lima is not a place to walk around alone after 9PM (even the locals warned me)
  • My shockingly poor Spanish

Flying to Quito, Ecuador tonight to catch my Galapogos cruise in the morning dahhhling. See a pic below for my home for the next few days...travelling is tough..;-)

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Will post again after the cruise

Lots of love

Aoife xx

Few more pics below

Who needs Coca Cola when you have Inca Kola!!
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View from San Cristobal
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Candles at San Cristobal
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Bike Tour
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Bike Buddies
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Posted by AoifeNagle 14:14 Archived in Peru Tagged lima Comments (1)

On the road again..

Moving back to Ireland via South America and New Zealand

I'm currently surrounded by loads of stuff that I have to pack into two boxes and a suitcase ready for pickup tomorrow morning..hmmm..very much looking forward to being on the plane Lima bound!
When we left in 2009 the original plan was to stop in Oz for maybe 6 months, work and travel a bit and then head home via New Zealand and South America. Soooo i'm slightly late however sticking to the original plan (albeit with NZ and SA arseways). My route is below but at a high level I will be in South America for 3 months, back to Sydney for my brothers wedding then on to New Zealand for 10 days then back to Ireland after a stop in London. Altogether about 3 and a half months.

Most excited about: Inca trail, mountain biking down death road in Bolivia, the Salt Flats, sampling some yummy Chilean and Argentinian wine and of course trekking in Patagonia which has been on my bucket list for about 10 years.
Least excited about: Trying to remember which cable charges which fekin' device, missing Christmas at home, missing the Pearses second winning season

I fly out this Saturday the 8th Dec, then two nights in Lima before heading to Quito to catch my Galapogos cruise (as you do..)

Will keep everyone posted!

Love and hugs

Aoife

x

Posted by AoifeNagle 18:29 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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