A Travellerspoint blog

Day 97 – 108 - Bikes, Wine and the Cone of Puuuu

Travels through Mendoza & Pucon

The last few days in Santiago were crazy! We finished up our Spanish classes on the Friday having learnt very little more, and speaking even less, but in theory we had covered what we wanted – go figure.
Mindy came home on Friday night and had our whole weekend planned out, which was a little bit of a relief as we weren’t sure what else we had to check out in Santiago. We started the weekend with a death/heavy metal concert - noiiiice. We got there at about 1am and by about 1.05am we were all ready to leave – Mindy included – the problem being that her mate’s band (a Pearl Jam tribute band) weren’t due on until 3am.  Luckily enough they were pretty good, but with ringing ears and sore throats we left the club half way through their set at 3.30am.
Saturday morning we headed off early to the fish markets to grab all the ingredients we could muster for cerviche and then packed up and headed out bush (that’s into the country for you English folk) to hang with Mindy’s best mate from school, her girlfriend, Katy and Carolina. The weekend was fab and in true Chilean style all we did was eat, drink and make merry. We ate lunch after a swim in their pool (oh my god, their house is a playhouse – the bar has every spirit under the sun in it and must be worth thousands) at about two, had some more booze, a little nap, and then started cooking dinner about 11pm. P1040345.jpgP1040355.jpgP1040365.jpgBy this point it was freezing, and I was rugged up like a little old nana, but it was worth it as we guzzled down even more choripans (god I could live on them) and mounds and mounds of meat. Soooo good. So after a few more drinks, some random Karaoke, P1040371.jpgand too much trying to understand drunken Spanish, I decided to call it a night about 4.30am (Lee put in the hard yards for another couple of hours). So on Sunday we had a lazy start, ate some more and then headed back to Santiago in the afternoon.
It was really hard to say goodbye to Santiago and Mindy the next day, she has been so good to us and looked after us awesomely, (I had a little cry – attributed to lack of sleep and too much accumulated boozing I am saying) but we were really excited to be spending the next four days in Mendoza with Tommy and Clare. After an eight hour bus ride and border crossing we rocked up to sweltering conditions in Mendoza – I’m not sure we’ll be cut out for Perth summers. So it was straight to the hostel and beer with Tommy and Clare. The four days were brilliant, and getting to have celebratory drinks for their engagement was the icing on the cake. P1040391.jpgSo we drank for the four days. We started with a bikes and wine tour through the Maipu valley which was awesome. Hitting up as many wineries as we could in eight hours and sampling all the oils, chocolates and of course wine that we could find. P1040432.jpgP1040421.jpgWe also managed to fit in some white water rafting which despite not lasting nearly long enough was a definite highlight, if not just for Clare’s constant giggling the whole way down!
After saying a final goodbye to our buddies (they’re now off to Asia for Loz & Jacko’s wedding  )we headed back over the border into Chile, with another massive bus ride, and ended up in Pucon, 22 hours after we left Mendoza.
Pucon was Lee’s idea, I hadn’t done much researching on the south, but given that the town is centred on climbing its active Volcano (billowing smoke and everything!), Lee was hooked. And fair play, it turned out to be one of the funnest things we have done so far. After a false start on day one when weather was poor, we managed to start our climb on the second day. The walk was brilliant!!! We started with the chairlift (cheating I know, but everyone did it) and then had a four hour climb up to the summit through the snow and ice. DSC_0047.jpgDSC_0085.jpgDSC_0086.jpgDSC_0105.jpgWe didn’t find the climb particularly challenging though it was tough enough to claim a few victims along the way (maybe I’ll have to admit that all the trekking Lee’s making me do is paying off after all!). The toughest part was constantly thinking you were within spitting distance of the top, only to round the corner and realise it goes on and on. So after four hours of wandering through the ice – learning that you need to space your legs when walking in crampons as falling can be both painful and humiliating – we reached the smoking summit of the Volcano. It was so stunning, the view over the whole valley was magical, with more snow capped mountains and volcanoes in the distance and forest and lakes in the foreground, only to be reminded that you were standing on a smoking volcano crater by toxic fumes wafting over you. DSC_0115.jpgThe stench was awful, so when the wind changed you were hopelessly trying to close eyes, mouth, nose and anything else you could find to avoid the burn and smell. But the best bit, and the funnest thing, ever was the decent. I must admit, the whole way up I kept thinking – I don’t like the idea of coming back down this slippery slide, but they must have had the same thoughts. They rigged us up in all this waterproof garb, strapped a spoon on us (one of those snow spoons you buy for €3 in France) and literally pushed us down the mountain. It was BRILLIANT!!! What took us four hours of sweating to climb, took us an hour of pure unadulterated pleasure getting down. My stomach now aches from laughing so hard. BEST THING EVER!!!DSC_0125.jpg
So after three days in Pucon where we rode bikes around waterfalls, climbed volcanoes and once again drank a little too much, we headed south and are now in a cute little town called Valdivia which is famous for its beer and German heritage – wouldn’t you know it.DSC_0141.jpgDSC_0137.jpg
From here we have a packed couple of weeks where we are again crossing the border back to Argentina to see Bariloche and its beautiful lakes and mountains, back across the border to check out more of Chile and some of its islands, and then down to the very heart of Patagonia on the Navimag where we will sail through the glaciers before hopefully mustering up the energy and courage to trek them. Should be awesome.
Anywho, love to all and keep us updated, we miss all the news!
Love Em & Lee xx

Posted by LeeEmma 15:45 Comments (0)

Day 55 – 58 - Machu Picchu

The trek of a lifetime!

Day 1
No one loves an early start, and especially not with a cold shower, but not much could dampen our spirits as we were about to begin the trek to Machu Picchu! The beginning consisted of a one and a half hour trip to Ollantaytambo, a quick stop to buy poles and ponchos, before heading off to kilometre 82 to begin the trek.
Your brief history lesson in this paragraph, so feel free to skip to the next one if you like! The trek takes in three and a bit days of the original trail the royal Incas took from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Cusco was the centre of the world for the Incas and some think that Machu Picchu was their holiday destination, being only around 110km away. Not hard to imagine when you see how stunning it is, but unproven none the less. So all Incan roads lead to Cusco (pretty much). When we were in Ecuador we were on the Inca trail there, one that they had built to lead to Cusco – despite it being thousands of kms away.
DSC_0001.jpgBut being the gringos that we are, we began at km 82 of the 110 odd to Machu Picchu. The first days walk was pretty light. He told us it would be about 12 kms and would take about six hours, but being the speedy Gonzalez’s that we were we smashed that. It was a pretty flat walk with gorgeous scenery and within an hour and a half we had reached the lunch spot well ahead of our porters. While we sat around and waited for the porters to make our lunch (tough life I know) we sat and watched some of the locals and the kids with their dogs, and the hordes of tourists of all ages and abilities streaming past. The early stages of day one can feel pretty busy with the whole 500 they allow on the trail starting out at the same point around the same time, but you all slowly find you rhythm and spread out. After a delicious lunch which consisted of asparagus soup for starters, and chicken, chips and vegetables for main, we continued on what we expected to be our next 4 hours walking.
The walk was lovely, and despite Helen plodding along behind, we made good time and hung together as a group. Day one was meant to be our “practice” day and gave our fearless guide Carlos an indication of how we would travel the rest of the day, and given the pace being set by Lee and Glenn, I think also a bit of a scare. We only passed one set of ruins on day one, the ruins dedicated to Pachamama (mother earth) called Llactapata but they were very impressive, even though we were getting drenched at this point. We were sort of lucky with the rain, we only really saw brief onsets of it, but when it did rain, it was hard. We arrived in our campsite at about 4pm that afternoon and were greeted by our porters and a cute little camp all set up and ready for us to use. We were all perched on grass terraces next to a heavy stream and there were horses grazing on the terraces and wild Gladioli growing in clusters. So idyllic. So idyllic in fact that we had to celebrate the end of the first day with beers and some self congratulation. P1030693.jpgAfter a gorgeous tea of popcorn and hot chocolate the food onslaught continued and we undid all of the hard work we had done that day. Glenn constantly commented on how impressive it was that they could cook us three such amazing courses with just a few pots and a camp stove. You would have to agree.
So after a nice and gentle day one, a few games of cards and some awesome food, we hit the hay for a good night’s sleep. Day two had the reputation of being a killer so we would need our rest – plus, that was the only way I could justify going to bed at 7.30pm.

Day 2 – Dead Women’s Pass
And so it begins. The day nightmares are made of. Today we would have to cross dead women’s pass which would mean climbing 1200m vertically over a distance of 12kms, with some patches of down thrown in just for good measure.
Sleep had been pretty hard to come by the night before, with the sleeping mats providing little comfort and several parts of the body going dead throughout the night. But despite that, waking up to some hot coca tea and a bowl of fresh water outside the tent was a pretty nice touch.
P1030694.jpgWe had a great breakfast of porridge and pancakes and then started on our merry way around 7am. The first part of the day consisted of a climb to 3400m (we had slept at 3000m) which was expected to take about 1 hour. After the first bit of uphill I started to lag so in went the headphones and some motivational music. I made friend with some of the porters along the stretch, which I thought had to do with me singing along to my music, but Lee pointed out it could have something to do with the singlet I had on and the hunch I had when I walked. Would have to remedy the low cut top pretty soon. So after an hour of walking uphill through the jungle I reached the meeting point and the others, who had beaten me by a clear 15 minutes. The view from the first stop was stunning and looked straight down the valley to the clouds rolling around over the hills. Helen came in with the guide about 45 minutes later and we set straight off to the next point. Once again going at our own paces we climbed up 300 meters vertically over the space of about an hour (for me, about 45 for Lee). We overtook quite a few groups while we climbed which made me feel a little better for not being able to keep up with ours. There was quite a long wait at this point as Helen and the guide trundled behind, but from here we knew it was only 500m and 2 hours up to Dead Women’s Pass and then straight downhill to our campsite. We could do it!!!
I went at my own pace and ended up taking it all in as I went. It was a really hard stretch, but the constant stopping and distracting music helped make things a little easier. Lee flew up it and consequently found it a little tougher. Not half an hour tougher though, which is easily what he managed to do it in quicker than me. But it was sensational making the top. From here we knew that the hardest part was over and that we were only a mere day and twenty odd kms away from Machu Picchu. Since they had all been waiting for me for about half an hour we took a few quick snaps and then flew down the other side to avoid the rain and howling winds. We continued downhill for about an hour, all the while with the campsite in view, and spent the night under the shadow on a massive waterfall with a view to die for. For those of you who have done the timings, you’ll notice we arrived at the camp at about 12.45pm which made for a very relaxing afternoon in our stunning surrounds. Lunch, a sleep, dinner and then more sleep topped off day two and very excited little campers only one more days walk away from our main goal.DSC_0020.jpg
Day 3 – DAY 3 ROCKS!
A good night sleep was getting even harder to come by as we suffered a freezing night on even harder ground than the night before. The 5.30am wakeup call was even a blessing as we’d been awake for most of the night. P1030733.jpgWaking up with slight facial oedema (apparently I also suffer fat face at 3700m which is not that higher than Cusco) we opened our tent to be greeted by the most magnificent view of the valley and mountains. The whole place was stunning and quickly made us forget the tiredness and slight achiness enveloping every muscle in our bodies!!!!
We set off at 6.30 to begin our first ascent of the day in which we’d have by far the longest day, but also the most Incan ruins and most ups and downs. We climbed up the hill for about half an hour before coming to the first ruins of Ruinkurakay. Runkuraqay was most probably a lookout post and halfway house for Incan travellers which had the same stunning views as our campsite had had the night before. From here we climbed further up to the top of the mountain which continued the incredible views. I was starting to gather some fitness and closing the gap between the others, lagging only by about ten minutes to their every hour now, and soon I was to become fast walking buddies with Denise. The team then powered down to Sayacmarca which was a gorgeous set of ruins set in the side of the cliff (which had some pretty crappy steep drop off steps to climb up and back down) and got a little more Incan history. P1030757.jpgNot soon now until lunch and we were pretty much needing it. Di had started an international incident at the top of the pass where some Saffa moron had thrown his walking stick so he could climb up a hill, which hit Di, so one of his mates decided to throw it off the side of the cliff – so we had had to endure a half hour long whinge which made us hate pretty much all of them. We then experienced more moron Aussies who had decided it was a race to the ruins, had gotten there, thrown their stuff against the walls of the ruins (they’re ruins you idiots, show some respect) and paraded around with their shirts off. Needless to say some of the lack of sleep was starting to show and we had to vacate the area quickly before we had to see any more pure stupidity.
Lunch was another gorgeous treat, despite being at 10.30am. We wolfed it down and then set off for the next part. Stories vary on what is the hardest day of the four day trek. Some say day one as its hard to get started, some say day 2 as you have to conquer dead women’s pass, and some say day three, purely because its the longest. Knowing we had about another six hours to walk was dzunting, but the terrain was incredible. We wandered only slowly upward along little incan paths which were overhung with trees making it very cool and refreshing. Then we climbed down through a tunnel in the hill down to a ridge and walked along the top of the ridge for about an hour whilst looking down to the valleys below which were stunning. Then we reached the ruins, just as the heavens opened. We hid under the trees while we waited for the rest of the party for about an hour which worked out perfectly as it was just enough time for the rain to peter out. From there we wandered down, the toughest part had begun. The Incans were odd in some respects, they weren’t tall people, yet they made some ridiculously steep steps. Going down, especially given our recent downpour, was a trial and it soon became obvious that the only way to avoid aching knees and bums was to run and hope for the best. So we ran the last hour or so down towards the nights camp. Coming up to camp was another awesome treat. Two sets of ruins were carved into the hill below us, with masses of terracing at really steep angles. From there you could view all the way down to the Aguas Callientes town and river below, so we sat for a while admiring the view and quietly praising ourselves for a job almost done.
By the time we headed back to our nights camp, most of the hoardes had arrived and we found our camp over towards the edge – squished into the smallest available area. It wasn’t too bad, we were pretty delighted with ourselves, so with a beer, some food, and a disapproving look at the showers, we hit the hay.
Lee’s version of Day 4
Today we went to Machu Picchu. It was cool. It was made by the Incas. They were cool. Almost as cool as dinosaurs. Here is a picture of a dinosaur.dinosaur.jpg
Emma’s version of Day 4
Today was amazing! We had a very early wake up (3.30am) which was probably the most welcome wake up I have had the whole time. It had rained constantly through the night and we woke up about midnight to find a massive puddle at the bottom of our tent soaking through our sleeping bags. Miserable is probably the best word to describe it, as we had to spend the rest of the night huddled in a ball cradling our clothes so that nothing else got wet. So we woke up at 3.30am had a quick breaky and were off. Despite reaching the checkpoint gate at 4.30am and it not opening until 5.30am, we were still third in line behind the d*ckhead aussies and the Swedes. P1030783.jpgAfter watching the queue grow steadily over the next hour and people standing in the pouring rain, we were through, and the boys took off. Lee, Glenn and Carlos were tasked with securing us Huanya Picchu tickets which was an almost impossible task, so ran the two hour hike in just under 45 minutes. Di, Denise and I took off on a mission after them, and Helen and Deb secured the back as they had no desire to climb the mountain. So we powered. I was starting to come into my own, keeping the pace and overtaking. Eventually at the sun gate we overtook everyone and led the pack. The main reason for this is that the weather was still shocking and where we were supposed to be having an incredible first view of Machu Picchu, we were engulfed in cloud. So we continued flying onwards down the 6km path and eventually rounded a corner to be confronted with the most magnificent postcard perfect picture of Machu Picchu! It was stunning! Exactly how you imagine it, but bigger and surrounded by cloud making it so magical. We didn’t have long to stop and admire though as we had to race on down to the boys and made it to them in just over an hour. Impressivo!!!!!P1030793.jpgDSC_0112.jpgDSC_0113.jpgP1030846.jpg
Nothing really prepares you for it, it’s just such an iconic view, but nothing is lost by having seen the photos millions of times before. Actually standing there is too incredible! After meeting up with the boys who had done an insane job of securing 6 of the final 12 tickets, Carlos took us on a guided tour for two hours. Our first 20 minutes was perched on a rock overlooking the ruins, as Carlos gave us a history lesson, but then the heavens opened and we began to wander around the rest of it. By this point the lactic acid build up, constant rain, and wet to the bone feeling was dampening all our spirits and we were very close to calling off the 10am climb of Huayna Picchu. Luckily we carried on though and began the hour long climb up the mountain. By now the legs were feeling a little stiff, but more worryingly, we were very quickly ascending a mountain on very small and slippery steps. My mind kept screaming “stop going up – you’ve only got to try and come back down!” So on hands and knees, and at times gripping tightly onto a steel rope against a sheer thousand meter drop off, I made it to the top (I’ve stopped writing about Lee now as he made it up with no worries whatsoever! But we were definitely rewarded with a stunning view of Machu Picchu appearing through the clouds, and showing off the shape of the condor in its outline. DSC_0167.jpgIt took me about two minutes to admire the view (a safe distance from the edge I might add) before starting the horrifying climb down. And it was horrifying. Every step that I had done on my hands and knees was done as almost a bum slide and the drop offs seemed even larger than they had going up. But we survived!!! Getting down was a massive achievement, but signalled pretty much the end of the Machu Picchu experience. DSC_0196.jpg With only a brief walk around the ruins left, we had to catch the bus and head back to Aguas Calientas (Machu Picchu city) to head home.
Mahooooosive highlight and something we’ll never forget. Lee’s love of the Inca’s is getting bigger every day though. We’re going to have to leave Peru soon or I’ll be usurped.

Posted by LeeEmma 17:45 Comments (0)

Day 80-96 Santiago - Rapa Nui & Valpo Baby

Life is just one big party!!!

As with all good times, the more fun you´re having, the less you´re writing. So apologies for the lack of communication.

We arrived in Santiago on the 22nd, after a very uneventful 23 hour bus trip. Well slightly uneventful, we missed our first connection because three different people told us the bus left from the terminal we were in, when in fact it didn´t so when they realised they stuck us on another bus and we chased down the first one. Anywho.....problems averted and we began the 21 hour leg from Calama to Santiago. We were pretty scared about meeting up with Mindy (friend we´d met in London through Phil) because despite our few lessons in Cusco the speaking in Spanish thing was pretty much a no go, and understanding was sporadic at best. But we need not of worried, apparently saying "Si" to everything is the way forward and we´ve been going great guns!

Mindy picked us up from the bus and we couldn´t believe it when she took us back to her apartment in Santiago. It’s a ten minute walk from the very center of Santiago, has the strongest shower I have felt in years, and a rooftop pool. We were in heaven!!! So after spending the afternoon settling in and relaxing, Mindy came home from work and took us out for a few drinks. Bear in mind that this is a Monday night, but we ended up finishing the evening at 5am. Nasty, but so much fun - watching Pedro and Mindy dance to every style under the sun. The next day was pretty similar, we took full advantage of the awesome location and brilliant apartment, and then Mindy took us out again for another 5am finish. Ouch. On the 24th we were spoilt rotten and Mindy´s family took us in for a home cooked Chrissy dinner. It was so nice and they were so good to us. We had even gotten to the stage where we could understand them and get a few points across. Definitely still speaking Spanglish though!!! We also headed out again after tea to Carolina´s house and had a few drinks before calling it quits at a very early 4.30am. OUCH!!! I haven´t partied like this since Uni!!

The next morning - Xmas day - was a pretty tough wake up at 6am, but knowing that in a couple of hours (eight I think) we would be on Easter Island (Rapa Nui - Isla de Pasqua) softened the blow somewhat.
We arrived to gorgeous sunshine and the obligatory lei thingo (that flowered necklace) and were whisked away to our hostel. I should mention right now how expensive Rapa Nui is and get it out of the way. Where we have been paying $20 a night max for some pretty nice places in South America (for both of us) our stinky, horrid hostel room in Rapa Nui was $60. Extortionate!!! Anywho - that’s over now.

After a few big nights with Mindy we were up for the relaxing side of Rapa Nui and we got it. The place was dead when we arrived (Xmas will do that to a place) so we chilled, slept, went for a brief walk, watched the sun set (which it does at 9:30pm) and then called it quits. DSC_0547.jpgDSC_0541.jpgAs it turns out there isn´t a lot to do there, so of the four full days we had, we spent three on the beach (and got massively toasted) and one cruising around on a scooter. DSC_0491.jpgThe scooter was brill, bringing back all the fond memories of Fiddy - ah Fiddy, we miss you - and was an awesome way to see the Island. For a full day we hooned around the Island visiting all the major sites (there are about ten I would hazard a guess at) and marveling at the Moai. DSC_0457.jpgDSC_0477.jpg5DSC_0451.jpgThey are cool, so grand and magical - a sight to behold. And defo a once in a lifetime thing, not only is the place over the top expensive, once you´ve seen them, they´ve been seen. (I was always great with words). But not to take away from it, it was lovely.

We flew back to Santiago on the 30th, all rested up and browned up, to have a gorgeous family meal with the Alvarez´s and then head out for some more drinks. Glad we rested up.

Then we hit New Years - whoa, what an experience. If being with Mindy for almost a week had taught us anything, it’s that we´re not the best drinkers anymore, and that partying does take away the need for Spanish. Pros and Cons!!! The worrying thing was, Mindy had been speaking very slowly and we were just understanding her, how were we going to cope with the others (eight Chileanos with not a word of English between them), and second most worrying thing - we didn´t have accommodation for NY so we would have to pull an all night - no escape.

So at 4pm on the 31st we loaded into two cars with a few packs of beer and began what should be one and a half hour North journey to Valparaiso. Four toll booths, two U-turns, three pee breaks and four hours later we rocked in to Vina del Mar, the little town next to Valpo. From here we grabbed some booze - mountains of warm clothing - and headed into Valpo on the bus. Valpo was heaving!!!! It’s incredible; about 100,000 people head here for NYE to watch the fireworks which span the whole bay from Vina around to Valpo. At about 11.30pm we grabbed a crazy taxi, driven by Yoni´s brother and headed up to the top of the Cerro to watch the event. It was stunning and if our camera had any skills it would have captured the 20 pontoons letting off massive fireworks around the bay, in sync, for over twenty minutes - but alas, we´ll have to be content with our memories which are being drowned by beer more and more every day!!!P1040257.jpg

The night from there gets a little messy. We headed back down into town where we crammed ourselves into the main square with thousands of others to listen to live music, jump around screaming "eh eh eh eh eh" and make new friends.P1040271.jpg Pepe was one of those, as apparently Chilenos don´t do personal space so we got to know them all really well. Lucky we now love them!! After the music stopped (I think we´re at about 3am now) we went scouring the place for somewhere else to party. It was at this point someone let us know that we didn´t have accommodation until 5pm the next day - oh the pain. Luckily we found an awesome party going on in a crumbling down house with tiered gardens and danced into the light of day. It was at this point - about twenty liters of booze into the night - that we heard the first English from the group where they exclaimed to me “You are a very bad dancer" and to Lee "Your Spanish is very bad". And these guys liked us - thanks.

The house stopped the music at 8am so we trundled off to the market to have mariscos (seafood soup - apparently gives you strength after a big night on it). P1040291.jpgKnowing we didn´t have accommodation for the next seven hours we headed back to Vina to lie on the beach and catch a few shut eyes. From here the day/night blurs. We eventually got to our accommodation at about five after crashing on the beach under umbrellas to hide from the blurring sun for a couple of hours, and then everyone slept through until the next morning. Not sure what really happened there. Anyway, on the Saturday we checked out the town, wandered, and then did some kayaking in the harbour. Note to self, sitting in a wet kayak with a cream mini skirt on - not a smart idea! Feeling a little more revived after the freezing water we started to teach some drinking games and headed home for a BBQ and more booze. P1040295.jpgToo much booze. At 4am Lee and I left the nightclub we´d progressed to at some point and left the others partying away hard.

We chilled a bit more on Sunday, had some more BBQ action and then headed back to Santiago arriving home about midnight. God these guys are tough! All of them had to front to work the next day! But we had an awesome time and they are such amazing people. Chile is going to be left with very fond memories!!!

So we came to the decision that we weren´t going to leave just yet! We were going to try and get on a Spanish course for a week to improve our Spanish (which is pretty good given we´ve done so little speaking) - which we did. Three days in and two to go. We´ve cemented our past tense, and are facing up to the future tense tomorrow. Then we´re fully equipped. We also managed to fit in the Santiago sightseeing at last, and checked out the Concha y Toro vineyard yesterday. So good that we´re going to head over to Mendoza on Monday to meet up with Tommy and Clare and check out what Argentinean beef and wine are like at the source - mmmmmmm!!!

So sorry for the lack of correspondence, we´ll be partying a little less in the upcoming weeks where we check out Mendoza, the lakes and volcanoes district of Chile, Patagonia and the wild ice lands, and then start back up the other side. Oh, and we´re only three months in!!!

So, love to all, we miss you and keep us up to date with all the goss. Despite the tans and the beautiful 30 degree days we´re jealous of the snow!!

Lots of love
Em and Lee

Posted by LeeEmma 18:34 Comments (1)

Feliz Navidad

....we want to wish you a Merry Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all that jazz. We´re feeling a little sentimental and missing you all very much so thought we would send a festive blog.
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We´ve been in Santiago in Chile since the 22nd, after catching a 24 hour bus from San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile on the 21st. It has been brilliant. Despite a small hiccup at the bus station where our pidgeon Spanish and the phone made things very difficult, we have had a fab time, with Mindy looking after us too well. We might not be able to move on. After almost three months of luke warm showers that manage but a trickle and beds which.......well beds might be the wrong word for them............lumpy matresses, Mindy´s apartment in the center of Santiago is heaven. It is an awesome flat and even has a rooftop pool on the 21st floor with views all over Santiago. Awesome!!!! The only problem is that Lee and I are a little out of practise on the party front and have struggled with the last two nights ending at 5am. Not sure how Mindy then manages to get up and go to work 2 hours later!!!!

But despite Santiago being very European-esque, clean, beautiful, warm and full of really lovely people, we miss you all loads. Rest assured we´re being well looked after though and tonight we´re crashing the Alvarez family Xmas before flying out to Easter island tomorrow (Xmas Day).

So in the dulcet tones of one Mr Lee Tamplin, " Feliz navidad, do do dooo dooo, Feliz Navidad, do dooo dooo dooo, Feliz Navidad, do doooo dooo dooo, Feliz Navidad, do dooo dooo dooooooooooo..............we want to wish you a Merry Christmas, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas... (you get the gist - he really won´t stop singing it).

Love you all loads,

Lee & Em

Posted by LeeEmma 08:41 Comments (0)

Day 61-66 - Arequipa & The Colca Canyon

Arequipa’s a keeper!

After two of the worst travel days EVER, Arequipa has been a life saver!
We left the volunteer house on Thursday night about 6pm ready for a 10 hour bus trip to Arequipa. The bad mood was already brewing, I was sad about leaving Cusco and packing all our stuff was taking its toll, even the maccas run we did did little to lift the spirits.
But we got on the bus still loving each other, and ten hours later at 5am with no sleep under the belt, we still loved each other. But we made a poor choice. We were in the lounge of the bus terminal, fully aware that 5am would be way too early to get into a hostel and not loving the thought of being stuck with our bags for another 6 hours, we jumped on another bus to head straight out to Colca Canyon. You would think that a month in one place would have given us time to research the next part of our trip, but then you wouldn’t know us very well. We had done no pre planning, except for reading what appears to be our very outdated guidebook, but thought that getting to Chivay “ever more bustling with gringos, eager to use the town as a base for exploring the Canyon” – as described by the Rough Guide - would be a good start. So another four hours on a local bus, on back roads, passing over 4800m in altitude and we arrived in Chivay. What a cr@phole. P1030927.jpgSorry, I know it’s quaint, but it’s no bustling tourist hub, and after a brief walk around town with our lovely guidebook, we realised that in the three years since the book was published, two of the hostels, and all of the travel agencies had shut down. Woo Hoo!!!
So we finally followed the woman who had been pestering us about her hostel into her place and paid the measly sum of 20 soles (about 7 dollars) for the room. It wasn’t bad for the money, so after a quick omelette (complete with long black hair in it) we caught up on a few zzzs. Things did seem better after a sleep and we headed out to the natural springs for a quick relax before tea. They were lovely, full of tourists, so we knew we were in the right place at least.P1030925.jpg It lifted the mood a little, until we went to the bus station to work out the plan for the next day. 4am!!! 4am our bus would leave for Mirador del Condor – a popular lookout place for condors in the Canyon. Despite my hate of early mornings, that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that to get to the next place after that, Cabanaconde, we would have to wait for the next bus which comes along five hours later. Lee was then dragging me on a seven hour trek, and we were going to stay in Cabanaconde until 9pm when our three hour bus headed back to Chivay. It’s the day dreams are made of.
So we set off. Three thirty am, after a night of no sleep, we went down to the station and boarded the first bus. Our bus was surprisingly quick, so lucky for us we arrived at the canyon lookout at 5.30am. The view was gorgeous, but given that it is the second biggest canyon in the world, bigger than Grand Canyon, we were left a little confused about what a canyon actually is. DSC_0004.jpgIt just looked like two mountains that had come together at the bottom with a river. Anyway, impressive, but after about half an hour of looking into it, we were done. Only another four hours till our bus got there! But at 9am, after a good sleep on the rock floor of the lookout, DSC_0011.jpgthe Condors arrived. DSC_0022.jpgAlong with about a hundred tourists! Thankfully we saw some though, and even better the bus came pretty soon after, so by 9.30am we were on our way to Cabanaconde. We had had this thought, that since Cabanaconde was the start of the canyon that maybe that had taken over from Chivay, and when we arrived there, it would be the bustling hub. We were wrong! The town was dead. About ten people got off the bus, the only gringos being Lee and I and then they all evaporated into thin air. DSC_0024.jpgThere was no one around; it was literally a ghost town, with no cars, no people and no idea of what we should do! So we grabbed some food from the only place we could see, and began the walk down the Canyon. Two hours down – five hours up. I keep telling Lee I don’t like walking, but he doesn’t seem to believe me.
So off we started! I got about an hour in when my knees and motivation packed in, so I pulled up under a rock (it was stinking hot) and let Lee carry on. Three hours later he was back, exhausted and feeling sorry for himself. Apparently whilst the view along the canyon was nice it wasn’t worth descending and then re-climbing over a thousand metres! (Also found out that no one attempts down and back in one day). BEST DAY EVER! ;)
So we reached the top of the canyon two hours later, thirsty, and with so much time to kill before our bus that it was criminal. We read for a couple of hours, drank a coffee in one place and then ate dinner in another, all the while seeing about three people. It was like a scene out of a deserted horror movie. I have never been so grateful to get on a bus and back to my hostel room.
But the next day saved it. We woke up – after actually having slept – jumped on a bus, and four hours later were in Arequipa. Arequipa was /is gorgeous! It was supposed to be a one night stopover before heading onto Lake Titicaca, but it’s so nice we have stayed another day.
Apart from catching up with Maddy and Andrew which is always such a spirit lifter (they’re really good value and full of great travel stories – like Maddy having been in hospital four times now since being in South America) . We had a great wander around the town in the afternoon; the town is gorgeous with all its colonial architecture.
Today has also been a ripper. We wandered around the monastery for a couple of hours,4DSC_0083.jpgDSC_0060.jpgDSC_0055.jpg planned more of our Moroccan courtyard layout, saw a frozen Inca women who they found mummified on a volcano (two of Lee’s favourite things, Incas and Volcanoes, he was in heaven) ate some good lasagne and are now resting up. It’s been a life saver. Tomorrow we are off to Puno to see the floating islands of Titicaca, and we’re rested up and happy. All good.
Let the adventures (both good and bad) continue!
Em & Lee
xx

Posted by LeeEmma 15:42 Comments (2)

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