A Travellerspoint blog

Cuckoo in Cusco

going mad and spending money

semi-overcast 20 °C
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First of all, our sincere apologies for the crap titles of each entry. They make you put a title on every entry (and every photograph, if you've checked those out). We're completely out of creativity, and titles are harder to come up with than you might think.

We arrived to Cusco early morning the day before yesterday via an overnight bus from Arequipa. Woz referred to it as the Overnight Gringo Bus to Cusco – it was rammed with Americans/Aussies. Despite having arranged a taxi to collect us with the hostel, no one was there with our name on a sign. *sigh*

The same was true in Arequipa. If a taxi driver does collect us in future, we’ll feel very spoiled. To save us negotiating a price with drivers, we’ve tried to book them through our hostels, but have so far been unsuccessful. Perhaps our buses have been arriving late and the drivers can’t be bothered to hang around. <<shrugs>>

While we were waiting to leave in the departure lounge in Arequipa, an Australian girl whipped out some weird traditional-looking guitar thing and sang Hallelujah and some 90s hit for her friends. It was massively cringe worthy. Was incredibly pleased she wasn’t American.

We’ve both let our guard down when it comes to drinking water. We have been boiling tap water for coffees and teas, but I’m not entirely certain that it helps. We’ve also become suckers for the juice stands, but while the juices are tasty, they use tap water when they blitz the fruit. This has resulted in a bit of dodgy tummies on both our parts.

We haven’t cracked open the Immodium yet, but tomorrow might be a different story. I told Woz that...well, I’ve had worse, but - he interrupted me and said, “But you’ve gotta be careful when you fart, don’t you.”

I reckon that’s the Quote of the Trip so far.

We had a super good meal tonight! This was our first decent meal since we left Lima. We’ve now tried lomo saltado, a quinoa crema soup, and alpaca steak. There were a few other typical dishes thrown in, but I don’t remember their names. I’ll be honest, I still don’t miss beef and other red meats. The lomo saltado tasted like Mongolian beef...and it was served with rice and some chips.

We both would like to try cuy (guinea pig), but the cheapest we’ve seen it priced is S./50 for one serving. That would be more than what we paid in total for supper tonight (including three courses each, a coke each, a coca tea each, and the tip). We’ll probably sack it off.

We’ve booked our Machu Picchu stuff. We have [sort of] settled on arranging everything independently rather than booking through a travel agency. We’re only taking the train/bus rather than going on a trek. I’m a little bit disappointed in myself for not having gotten in shape so that this wouldn’t be an issue. The treks sound amazing and they cost the same or less than doing it independently.

For example, you can do a Jungle Trek which involves some hiking, a zip line, some mountain biking, and accommodation by camping or staying in hostels. Most meals are included, as are all of your tickets into Machu Picchu (plus a guide) and the train back down the mountain. It takes either: 4 days/3 nights or 5 days/4 nights, and it costs less than what we’re paying for just:

• The train to/from Aguas Calientes
• The bus to/from Machu Picchu
• Hostel for two nights in Aguas Calientes
• Groceries to make our own meals

Our reasons for going solo (in order of importance):

• I’d likely complain the whole trek about feet/legs/butt hurting, being out of breath, wanting a shower, being unfit, etc.
• We have days left over to travel in another country
• We can go our own pace
• We can say that we did Machu Picchu without the help of a tour agency

Other notes:

• We paid this hostel (Dream Hostel, such a romantic name) S./14 to wash 3.5 kilos of our dirty laundry. They smell sooo nice!
• We’re paying Peru Rail US$296 (return) to go up the bloody mountain to see Machu Picchu on the 20th November.
• Police chased a man away from us today while we were in the main plaza. He was looking for some ‘donations’ for a charity.

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Posted by alexis.johnson 08:05 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

La comida de Arequipa

sunny 21 °C

Quick one to let you know how supper went...

We ate here:

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...for S./3.50 per person, as I'd mentioned before.

You get what you pay for.

The starter was a chicken broth soup with noodles and some bits of chicken feet/legs or something I wouldn't normally find myself eating on a Wednesday evening. However! We were feeling quite proud of ourselves for trying new/interesting/native foods. Woz's soup also had a bonus (a hair), and mine had a mysterious floating black ball. Woz reckons it was a giant peppercorn.

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The main was broasted chicken, and it was decent. Mine was mostly bone and gristle, but Woz had a decent portion of meat on his plate. It was served with a small salad, some reheated rice, and mushy chips.

We received tea at the end of our meal, which was the highlight by far. It tasted of aniseed and was super sweet, just how I like it.

We paid up, but quickly made our way back to the square to eat some queso helado. If your Spanish is worse than mine, that means 'cheese ice cream,' but don't be alarmed - there doesn't appear to be any cheese involved. Just super amazing homemade style ice cream with cinnamon sprinkled on top. We shared one yesterday and it was frigging tasty. Today, we had one each.

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Additionally, we bought some lovely crusty rolls today that set us back S./5 for 6 normal baps and two really tasty quinoa stuffed croissant type deals. They were fresh out of el horno and had little bits of spicy peppers in them as well.

It's not all been bad, but I thought I should share the details of this restaurant meal I was so looking forward to. We'll have to splash out a bit more if we want a treat in the future!

Posted by alexis.johnson 16:17 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Arequipa

...our favourite so far!

sunny 22 °C

Arequipa is fantastic.

We’re staying at El Albergue Espanol. It’s a quiet hostel with polite staff who speak enough English to prevent me from attempting Spanish too often. The showers are hot and powerful, and the beds have squishy down duvets. And, we’re paying half of what El Dorado was charging in Ica.

The first night we stayed in a private double with a private bathroom, but we moved into basic twin with a shared bathroom as soon as a room was available. This has saved us quite a bit of money. This room doesn’t have a telly, but the beds are just as big and just as comfortable. Neither one of us mind sharing a bathroom with the other travellers (although Jose advised us not to; I think he was feeling protective).

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We left our towels in the first room, and requested new ones once moved, but the hostel owner explained in Spanish that we were only allowed one towel.

I must have asked the same question in about three different ways – I was so confused. Why would we get two towels in one room, but only one in another? There are two of us? There was a lady in reception, and she handed me the one towel as the man directed her to.

I told them both thank you as I headed back up to our room. It wasn’t really a big issue; we brought our own travel towels anyway. The lady from reception was in front of me as I went upstairs and she motioned for me to stop on the stairs. I did, and she sneaked around the corner to grab me another towel off of the line and put her finger up to her lips. Shhh.

Legend.

Our first day here was a bit of a write off. We’d just come off the overnight bus from Ica, had a load of laundry to see to, and I puked up breakfast. I’m not sure if it was down to something I ate, the lack of sleep, or the altitude. I felt better as the day went on...and I got out of doing quite a lot of our laundry. (Muahahaaa!)

We probably spent about six hours (Woz says eight) washing, rinsing, and watching our bloody clothes dry in the sun on the roof terrace. It’s a shared space, and we didn’t want all our skivvies blowing around while people were trying to have lunch. It was a nightmare. We have clotheslines to hang up in our room, but there was only one small window and there was no sun or breeze getting in.

In Cusco, we’ll probably pay a few soles to get our laundry washed/dried/ironed for us. And we’ll go do something fun. Or maybe we’ll just sit in our room and be lazy. Either is better than doing laundry in your sink.

Yesterday, we ventured out to the main plaza which is l u s h. There are fountains and pigeons and everywhere seems tidy and clean. The buildings around the square (and the plaza itself) make up a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s stunninG. (with a BirminGham G)

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Young American girls are wandering around commenting on how ‘Americanized’ it feels. “I mean, did you, like, see the tights in that store? They were cute, but everything is totally Americanized here.”

Since when did tights become American?! Warren and I think it feels more Continental...which makes more sense as it was the flipping Spanish that colonised Peru.

Oh, we also walked to some lame bridge that WikiTravel recommended. If you’re into busy concrete bridges with traffic everywhere, this bridge would be right up your street. I took two photos and we turned around and went straight back towards the plaza.

We tried to visit Parque Selva Alegre, but it’s either out of season or only for rich people to use. We walked the perimeter, but all of the gates were closed and it was totally void of human activity.

I did see some llamas inside though. They were tied up, but seemed pretty content. This was the most exciting thing we saw at the park. Some man walked by and said ‘Hace carinoso’ or something similar in our direction...which I think is probably quite creepy.

Maybe he was talking to the llamas.

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We treated ourselves to ramen noodles and shared a knockoff brand Coke for supper. It was a welcome break from cheese and tomato sandwiches! Tonight, Warren’s promised me a proper meal from a restaurant. It looks like you can get a whole three course meal for S./3.50 to S./8 on Calle Bolognesi.

Something I learned about Warren: he eats his broth before his noodles. I guess we’ve never had the opportunity to share a pack of super noodles before now. I eat my noodles first, and have justified it in this way: it’s better to fill up on the good stuff (noodles) before wasting precious tummy space with salty water (broth). I suppose I’ll forgive him this one error; he has other positive qualities.

On a slightly different note: watermelon is not always the sweet, innocent fruit it’s made out to be. If you eat a whole box of watermelon chunks as a late evening snack, you’ll probably wake up with the poops in the morning.

Just a word of advice.

Posted by alexis.johnson 15:45 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

And the rest of Ica...

...to make up for the city itself!

sunny 25 °C
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Right then, let’s catch up!

To be honest, I wanted to title the last entry “Ica...it’s Icky,” but thought that might be insulting. Whatever. It’s honest, and that’s what I am.

Ica itself didn’t have much to offer. Our hostel was...well, I already explained in our last entry. We hadn’t booked anything in advance, so resorted to walking around with all of our kit popping into hostels and hotels as we came across them. We checked out the price of one other, but it was over three times our budget for accommodation.

That’s how we ended up in El Dorado Hostal. It was S./60 for the night rather than S./100...and while I grew to like and respect the receptionist, I had a feeling she pulled that number out of her bumbum because we were foreign tourists.

Ah well, we live and learn.

We did book a half-day trip to Las Islas Ballestas which was IMMENSE! It only cost S./50 per person for the transportation (about an hour, tops) then we paid S./5 per person for entrance...and another obligatory S./1 for a life jacket.

It was a little intimidating at first as our driver and the other tourists spoke only Spanish, but we were lucky enough to have a guide on our boat that spoke clear English, and we’d somehow been seated right at the front where he was speaking.

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Straight away the boat stopped as el capitan had spotted some dolphins (!!!). We rode on for about 20 minutes before we saw el candelabro appear in front of us on the side of an island. It wasn’t as obvious as we thought it’d be, but still super good. Apparently no one knows what it’s for (similar to the Nazca Lines), but some reckon it was made by pirates to help with navigation. This was my favourite explanation.

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Another 20 minutes brought us to the actual Islas Ballestas where there were a shit tonne of birds. It was absolutely amazing. I’ve never seen so many birds all in one place. There were a couple species of penguins (in their natural habitat, what?!), a whole island covered in a type of cormorant, gulls, huge pelicans, Peruvian boobies, and obviously, a load of bird shit.

This was pretty exciting actually, as I’d learned about the Guano Wars in a Latin American history course at uni. And here it was. All this bird shit that started a war!

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You could smell it. No word of a lie.

We also got to see lots of sea lions! One highlight was a sea lion trying to get onto a rock and failing. He kept leaping into the air and splashing right next to the rock. Okay, it sounds boring...but it was funny. Furrealz.

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I’m a bit gutted we didn’t get there a couple weeks later as we’d see lots of baby sea lions on a beach that was pointed out. It was totally empty, but they said in a few weeks it’d be packed with females giving birth and males fighting over space and the ladies.

And finally, we saw some fishermen that were diving off a little boat dressed in scuba gear. The most interesting thing about this was that their boat HAD MY NAME ON IT. It’s like they knew.

It also had some dude’s name on..like Juan or something. I reckon it was probably a sign that I shouldn’t have married Warren and instead found a handsome Latin American man whilst travelling.

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I disagree with fate, though. I mean, look at how handsome he is?!

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At any rate, after we got back to Icky Ica we decided to get the heck out of there for the afternoon, and got a taxi to Huacachina for the afternoon. The guide book recommended backpackers stay here instead of Ica (as there was sweet eff ay to do there), but we foolishly didn’t heed their advice.

Huacachina was really lovely. It’s an oasis (now artificially pumped with water) in the middle of massive sand dunes. There’s loads of hippy-like vendors and backpackers roaming around, families and children having a play in the water, paddleboats, proper little row boats, sand boarding, dune buggy rides, and lots of shops and trendy hostels.

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Go to Huacachina, people. Forget about the bus terminal in Ica – it’s worth paying the taxi fare to/from Huacachina rather than staying near the terminal.

After chilling out around the water for a bit, we decided to treat ourselves to a drink. Warren got a little coffee, but as it was fricking one million degrees, I opted for a refreshing jugo de papaya. The waiter delivered it to my table, and I very smugly stated, “I made the right choice.” Warren’s coffee looked like swamp water and he didn’t have near enough milk to hand to make that bad boy palatable.

Lo and behold, I had one sip of my beautiful, ice cold, sunrise-in-a-glass, and my face (and stomach) were turned upside down. “I didn’t make the right choice.”

Papaya juice tastes like puke.

Sincerely. I felt like I had a tall glass of orange bile in front of me. I couldn’t even smell it after that. Woz generously offered to help me get rid of it, so we were chugging it down without breathing and chasing it with water.

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Warren thought it was hilarious after my snotty little comment about making the right choice.

Ugh.

Well, that was the only disappointment in Huacachina. Overall, a really nice day in the Ica region (outside of Ica itself).

We returned to Ica, caught an overnight bus to Arequipa (first class – it was amazing), and arrived here to Arequipa at around 7 in the morning.

Posted by alexis.johnson 15:57 Archived in Peru Tagged birds oasis huacachina ica islas_ballestas Comments (1)

We're on our own...in Ica

semi-overcast 18 °C
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This morning, we had to say goodbye to Jose, Elio, and Lima. We got a long-distance bus from the city centre directly to Ica. It took us about 5 hours, but we were super comfortable in the posh seats (on el primer piso) and there was plenty of entertainment!

We were lucky enough to watch Tooth Fairy 2 starring Larry the Cable Guy as well as the smash hit Jack + Jill starring Adam Sandler...twice. Some really great cartoon/comedy dubbing. Sort of really great. Sort of...not great. It was terrible enough to be funny, and it's always weird/good to see how people react to films you think are shite.

A meal was provided - there was a tuna sandwich and an apple. Oh, and an Inca Cola (our fave). Annoyingly, I didn't realise there was food included in the price of our ticket. We'd splashed out on two bottles of Inca Cola when we got on the bus, and I'd just finished an apple that Jose had packed for us. We enjoyed the 'free' meal anyway!

I've managed to dig a few Spanish words out of the depths of my mushy pea brain, and the people of Ica seem to enjoy my struggle. We've been giggling quite a lot trying to find grocery stores, get a room booked, and schedule a tour of Paracas/Islas Balletas. I say 'we', but I mostly just mean the Peruvians.

Warren is forever reassuring me, "You did well there, Lex." He's been rattling off a list of all of the things we've managed to achieve so far in the few hours we've been on our own.

If you're interested, and I expect that you're not, here's what we did today!

- survived the journey to Ica
- found a hostel
- booked hostel, paying twice of what we were hoping to pay
- sorted out some wifi
- booked our trip for tomorrow
- taught vendor how to say 'sea lion' and 'mermaid' and 'sand board' in English
- asked where the supermarket was...but didn't understand
- walked around the main plaza and bus terminal, until we found a supermarket
- nearly bought Stu a tin of tuna labelled 'FANNY'
- purchased our TravelEssential groceries (juice, cheese, tomatoes)
- booked overnight bus to Arequipa (with chicken this time!)
- bought bread from an old man selling it on the street
- paid old man twice of what he asked...by accident

Oh, and we also washed our socks and underwear in the sink. They're spread out all over the room on our clotheslines. I won't even tell you what the clotheslines are attached to...just in case my mom is reading. We're super safe, Mom! Promise!

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The windows are closed, but they may as well be open. We can hear every taxi beep its horn, and every restaurant blare traditional sounding music. Hostel is otherwise an acceptable standard. There's no toilet seat, and Woz's pillow is more closely related to a cinder block - I don't really mind. My pillow's lovely.

I did have a twosie without a toilet seat though. Interesting. Oh, if you're wondering, I haven't had the opportunity to use my shewee yet. I keep forgetting it's there. Maybe in the morning.

Buenos noches!

Posted by alexis.johnson 18:19 Archived in Peru Comments (3)

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