A Travellerspoint blog

Inti Raymi Festival

sunny 27 °C
View Around the world in 365 days... & Where we're going! on monkeyboy1's travel map.

It seems like I haven’t written a blog in some time because we’ve been busy doing lots of fun things and have been away from t’internet. After visiting a cemetery in the Nazcan desert and seeing some anorexic looking people we travelled to Cuzco on a gruelling 15 hour endurance bus ride that I wouldn’t like to repeat again.

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Cuzco was the centre of the Incan empire and the continents oldest continuously inhabited city, after the Spanish invasion it became a bit of a backwater but now it’s back and is known as the cultural capital of the Americas. One of the reasons we travelled to Cuzco was to see Peru’s biggest festival, Inti Raymi (festival of the sun). For Christy’s birthday we checked into a 400 year old hotel which was built by the conquistadors and enjoyed the festival in style. For 10 days before the festival the city is totally filled with parades and celebrations. It seems like everyone’s involved and the whole city parades about dressed in awesome costumes, dancing, playing music and having a great time – it was really nice to see everyone getting involved and the feeling of community spirit. It all comes to a head with the main celebration, the festival of the sun, which is attended by everyone and their dog. We got to see all the parades close up but the main festival was so busy we had to sit high up on a hill and watch from afar. Unfortunately some people in front of us on the hill stood up enraging everyone behind who, on encouragement from a stupid American, started throwing rocks to make the people sit down. Some of these started landing near us and some on our heads so we decided to run away before they got so hyped up the mob started to crucify people. I don’t think we missed that much as we couldn’t see very well from there and the parades in the city definitely had a better atmosphere to it anyway. The festival was a photographers dream and I got a bit carried away, here are some (lots) of the photos ....

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Ok, no more I promise!!!

Posted by monkeyboy1 14:19 Archived in Peru Tagged photography Comments (0)

The dangers of hiking

17686 kms travelled so far

sunny 27 °C

After the detective work we decided that we needed a rest and went to live up in a lodge in the mountains.

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The lodge was right up in the hills and surrounded by small villages, you could see the locals, dressed in their traditional clothes walking around ushering cattle, donkeys and occasionally pigs (on leads!) around.

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It was a great place to relax, the scenery was amazing and their 2 little dogs were good company too!

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The first day we went for a trek up a valley, at the opening of the valley there was a gate and on the other side 6 mean looking bulls and a friendly donkey that looked like he wanted to get away from the nasty bulls. We debated entering the arena but decided against getting mauled and instead crawled over a dry stone wall and walked up the valley on the wrong side of the river. After a while we realised a path would be better and decided to cross back into bull country. The river was quite fast and there was no bridge so we had to cross Indiana Jones style, across a thin fallen tree. I got across but Christy ended up ripping her trousers open exposing her bum for all the locals to see. We walked up the valley for a few hours but the weather started to turn. We turned back but not wanting to expose ourselves anymore to the locals we decided to leave crossing the river and risk the bulls by returning that way. The bulls turned out to be not that bad which gave us confidence and when we saw the friendly donkey we didn’t hesitate in walking straight up to it to make friends. Unfortunately the donkey seemed to have issues and wouldn’t leave us alone, it seemed to fall in instant love with us, maybe it was Christy’s exposed buttock that excited it or maybe it was just lonely with all those bulls. Either way it kept following us at way too close quarters nudging us and bucking. All I could think about was a you tube video I had watched where a man got raped by a donkey when he was going for a pee in a field - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRm8okHhapU&feature=related - so I told Christy about it which turned out not to be the best calming idea considering the donkey did look as though it might turn romantic on us. It got to the point where Christy was standing on a rock above me begging me to hold the donkey back, I was trying to hold the donkey back with a small twig and every time I prodded at it, it bucked a bit more, but didn’t back off. I was left wondering how I could hold back the beast from ravishing both of us and wondering why I was held accountable for calming the animal, after all a degree in ecology doesn’t cover how to stop donkey attack. I didn’t want us to get into the newspapers again, especially not for being sexually abused by a donkey in the Andes and in Monty Python style I could see no other option but to run away. Run away we did into the bushes and luckily the donkey didn’t follow us, but we had to walk all the way back clambering over trees which took longer.

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By the time we got back the rain had stopped and we were greeted home with a nice rainbow and a cup of tea from the owner who assured us that donkeys do not rape humans.

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The next day we decided to trek the other valley, we got about a mile into the walk, I fell into a mini river and we got eyed up by what looked like a rabid dog and that was enough to crush whatever small motivation we had for exercise and we decided that drinking wine would be a better idea. So we went back to the lodge, brought a litre of wine and spent an excellent afternoon sitting at the edge of a beautiful canyon drinking wine, eating pies and photographing the hummingbirds, not a rapist donkey or rabid dog in sight.

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We stayed at the way inn for a few days and then travelled to Nazca where we are now. Earlier today we took a flight in a tiny 6 seater plane over the famous Nazca lines. I remember reading about the Nazca lines when I was little and it was fascinating to see them, and to wonder about how and why they got there. The plane banked full right and left so that everyone got a good view and by the time we landed everyone was a bit green but glad they had seen the lines and not thrown up in the plane. Tomorrow we’re off to check out a cemetery in the desert which sounds awesome, more bones!

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Posted by monkeyboy1 16:10 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Peruvian Law and Order

sunny 25 °C

We set off for the intrepid trek and got back by the next morning. Christy was struck down with altitude sickness at the base camp and spent the whole day at the campsite being ill. I hiked up to a lake high in the mountains, it was a test to scramble up at the end at that altitude and it felt like my head might explode. It was strange to think that I was at around the same altitude as at the top of highest mountain in Europe. The lake at the top was beautiful and well worth the headache!

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When we finally got back to base camp Christy wasn’t any better so we decided that it would be best for her to go back the next day to recover. We had a very long and cold night in the tent and woke up to ice on our boots. We then walked back to Huaraz and rested for the next few days recovering.

Whilst Christy was recovering I amused myself by playing Columbo. When we were first dropped off for the hike I realised that I had forgotten the plate which attaches my camera to my tripod and it was therefore useless. So, I asked what I thought was the agency driver to take it back to the hostel for me. He agreed to do so and left his driver’s licence as security, along with his number plate details. When we got to the hostel it was not there so I contacted our trekking agency who then said that they had no idea who the taxi driver was and that they just grabbed him from the street. Thus started the epic tale of the tripod. I went along with the hiking agency man to the main police station. After much handshaking and waiting we were admitted into the hub of police activity in Huaraz, which consisted of a small room which was half filled with boxes of red wine and a few very jolly looking officers. We sat down on wonky chairs and waited for the police commissioner to finish his demanding work of looking through an album of football photos. Once he had finished this important task he turned to us and we discussed what had happened. He decided the best move would not to be to ask his force of several hundred traffic police to look for the taxi, but to ask us to stand on the main crossroads (next to where the police stood already playing with their phones, blowing their whistles for no reason and chatting amongst themselves) for two hours trying to find the taxi amongst at least 1000 other taxis. So we did that and by the end my head was filled with number plates, but not the correct one. We gave up for the night and the next day the hiking guy did some of his own private investigation and found out the taxi drivers cousin’s address. The following morning we went and collected the police commissioner and, in a taxi paid for by me (apparently Peruvian police cars are not for hunting down criminals, but for more important business like doughnut and ice cream collection), drove to the cousins house, picked him up and then tried to find the house of the taxi driver. The cousin wasn’t sure exactly where he lived and everyone on the street seemed to know nothing and denied everything. So we gave up and as we were walking back towards the station I spotted the number plate of the thieving taxi and we hailed it down. It wasn’t the same taxi driver and it turned out that 4 people shared driving the one taxi. Either way it was a lead and we were all chuffed that at least we now had a free taxi which we could finish the investigation with; the taxi driver didn’t share this enthusiasm with us. We all piled in, me, Christy, trek man, police commissioner, and cousin. The taxi driver took us to a house next, unfortunately the thief wasn’t there but a small girl was so we apprehended her and crammed her into the car. We then drove up to a market where another woman was also piled into the car, along with a sausage dog and a rare breed of pig. By this point the car was struggling to get up hills with the weight of everyone in the car. We then drove back to the very first house we had knocked upon and been told he didn’t live there, only to find out the woman must have forgotten that her husband indeed DID live with her, an easy mistake to make and one that didn’t seem to bother the commissioner. After some time the tripod stealing taxi driver appeared from the house, he was drunk and apparently had been for the last 4 days at a party which explained the absence of the tripod. We piled him into the car too along with my tripod and headed to a cafe where over a coke the police commissioner explained that he would give me back my tripod in exchange for 50 soles for his hard work, the taxi driver was set free and law and order was restored in Huaraz. Police work at its best!!!

Posted by monkeyboy1 16:04 Archived in Peru Tagged educational Comments (1)

Hola Peru, guinea pig stew

16698 kms travelled so far

sunny 25 °C
View Around the world in 365 days... & Where we're going! on monkeyboy1's travel map.

We’ve said adios to Mexico and we’re now in Peru. I’m sitting in our room looking out over the most stunning mountains, which make up part of the Andes range.

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It seems that all around where we are staying at the moment is beautiful; one of the mountains near where we are staying is in Paramount Pictures logo you see at the start of their films, another one was voted to be the most beautiful mountain in the world and the film ‘touching the void’ was filmed here (possibly the oddest name for a film and most likely to be ripped off to make a gay porn movie, but nevertheless a very good film anyway).

On arriving in Peru we spent a few days in central Lima and we were surprised at how cold it was, there was a blanket of fog over the city the whole time which blocked out the sun, but to be honest after the scorching Mexican weather it was a nice change to be able to wear a jumper and not drip sweat everywhere. It turns out that on the coastal areas it is winter and therefore cold, but in inland areas it is summer, so we now we are in Huaraz we have nice blue skies and sunny weather again.

We were a bit suspicious of Lima, after hearing stories of it not being that nice, but we were pleasantly surprised as it had a fair bit to offer and seemed fairly safe and the people seemed much friendlier than those in Mexico. We visited the main monastery on the first day and went on a tour around it and into its catacombs, which housed the bones of 25,000 people all laid out right in front of us on display. They had separated them out so one room would have hundreds of skulls and the next femurs etc, inside a well they had even made a pretty spiral display out of several hundred bones which although aesthetically pleasing I wondered what the owners would think if they knew that hundreds of years after their death they would be made into a bone kaleidoscope.

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Either way we gawped on whilst the guide lady tried to whisk us along to distract us with the equally fascinating sculptures of Jesus, it didn’t work. Lima seemed to have an excess of skulls, our rather grand hotel had 3 skulls in a box in reception, if you look closely at the photo you can also see a child’s (or midgets) foot in the front of the box, nice!

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Everything is really cheap here which is definitely a bonus, you can buy a three course meal with a drink for £1.20 (we actually saw a set meal today in Huaraz for 60p!), it’s edible and pretty good stuff – yesterday I munched on a guinea pig which was good, it tasted a bit like chicken, but more picky as it was mostly bone. I am working my way through pets as food sources, watch out kitties! Anyway, just as importantly I can buy a big bottle of beer for 40p too which is definitely a good thing :)

We looked around various museums over the next few days and wandered around the city which was great. On the second day we decided to be brave and go and get a haircut as both of our hair was getting a bit wild. After all, compared to Korea, what could go wrong?! We found a hairdressers just off the main street and went in, they said the price was 20 soles which is about £4 which didn’t seem too bad. Christy got a bloke who could speak good English cutting hers and I sat waiting for him to finish before he cut mine. Unfortunately, he called over a giant ape of a man who I presumed was the security guard and asked him to cut mine. He looked like he would be happier working in an abattoir or beating small children to death rather than styling hair but I decided to give him a fair chance, after all the other option was to turn him down and offend a man who could kill me in 10 seconds flat. I showed him what I wanted and he set off on the longest hair cut I have ever had, or wish to ever have again. I think maybe he actually did work in an abattoir and had wandered off the street because he seemed to have no idea how to cut hair, first he buffed up my hair up into some kind of square shape, a bit like Bart Simpsons, and then he proceeded to cut my hair with a cut throat razor (yes a cut throat razor, I have no idea what was going on there), twisting small clumps of it and hacking off the top section. Naturally this took some time and left my hair uneven all over, nearly balding in the centre with longer bits around the edge like a wild maverick monk who doesn’t like to do things by the book. With his creative juices in full swing no one could stop him and he curled the front of my hair with curlers and poured some kind of perm fluid over the curlers. By this point I had already given up all hope and had mentally decided that it would be better, safer and more amusing, to let him do his worst and I could just shave it all off afterwards. After one and a half hours he had finished and he revealed his masterpiece, which would have been welcomed into the Tate modern on account of it being a load of crap. Short in the middle, long at the sides with a permed front, just what I wanted. Poor Christy had her hair massacred too and we sat looking a bit dazed at each other, at last we had found a worst haircut than you could get in Korea, this was the holy grail of shit hairdressers. Then Dr Abbattoir brings out a bill and declares that Christy owes 50 soles and I owe 70 soles. Apparently as Christy’s hairdresser had combed her hair that cost an extra £6 and the perm, which I had never asked for and combing was an extra £10 for me. We refused, gave them the 20 soles we agreed on and then ran away as fast as we could before Cut Throat Razor man chopped us up and put us into a pie. So, we experienced our first Peruvian gringo rip off initiation, and survived with nothing more than bad hair, which all considered isn’t too bad.

After Lima we caught the bus up to where we are now. We were dreading the buses as we had been told lots about the crazy driving, but once again we were really surprised as it was the best bus journey ever. The seats went all the way back to almost horizontal position, we got a meal, internet access, films and a blanket, along with a bus driver who didn’t go over the speed limits or go crazy around corners, all that for £10 for a 8 hour bus journey. Peru keeps getting better!

More exciting than buses and hairdressers combined, we have booked a trek starting tomorrow, the main trek around here is the Santa Cruz route, but apparently its full of gringos so we have opted for an alternate route which takes us past lakes, over snow topped mountains and through small villages, and apparently it’s really quiet so we won’t have to hike with a million other people. The trek is for 4 days, about 65km and the highest point is around 5000 metres (the highest mountain in the UK is Ben Nevis at 1344 metres, we're touching the heavens here!). We are going with another couple and we have a guide, porters and a cook. The company organising it are hiring us tents and equipment so I don’t have to worry about bringing anything apart from the real essentials for trekking; a bottle of rum, a pair of pants, a camera and a novelty hat with a propeller on the top to ward off evil spirits and jaguars. I’m really looking forward to it and it will be great to get out there for a few days and explore where no man has ever explored before. Wish us luck, adios!

Posted by monkeyboy1 19:46 Archived in Peru Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Top trumps

Mexico under review....!

sunny 36 °C
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I got this idea from Mr Ed, a fellow ex-teacher from Korea, who is also travelling at the moment. When we leave each country I am going to do a top trumps card with my ratings of the country, when we get back we can have a giant game of top trumps. In the words of Mr Ed "admittedly, ratings will be totally biased, grossly opinionated, highly unreasearched and hugely generalised (e.g. I'll be basing the friendliness of entire nations on a scale of 1 to 10!) but Top Trumps are well wicked." So, here goes for Mexico:

MEXICO
Natural Beauty ----------- 7 (nice jungles and beautiful beaches)
People --------------------- 4 (met a few great Mexicans and ex pats, but generally, where were the smiles?!)
Sights/Activities ---------- 7 (lots of activities but quite expensive and very touristy)
Food ----------------------- 4 (some was delicious but often we felt a bit cheated)
Cost ----------------------- 6 (not expensive but not cheap)
Shopping ------------------ 6 (lots of hassling, but good souvenirs)
Architecture -------------- 10 (awesome temples and colonial cities)
Transport ----------------- 7 (Good buses but quite expensive)
Price of beer ----------- c.90p

Overall Impression ------ 7

Finally, here are some final Mexico photos from Mexico Zoo which I took on the last day. Adios!

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Posted by monkeyboy1 12:31 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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