January 27, 2006

Cusco - Part Dos

So, I´m back in Cuzco for the last two days and have been having a great time! Left the Sacred Valley and had waht could only be described a a spiritual bus journey back through the mountains to Cuzco. Now, I know some of you may feel you´d had some your own epiphanic moments in the back seat of one of the Dublin bus fleet, but this bus trip will remain forever burnt into my memory. The beauty of the valley is unimaginable, and as we wound through the hills it disappeared and then came back into view several times. At this time of year, the light is constantly changing as the rain-clouds shift and the sun breaks through. Before I arrived here, I was disappinted that I was visiting during the rainy season, but having seen how the scenery is transformed during a rain-storm and how the mists swirl around the mountains I have changed my mind completely.
Anyway, arrived back to Cuzco to an email from Bridget and Julie who had survived the Inca Trail and were anxious to pass on their experiences! I collected my backpack from LOKI and moved my kit and kaboodle to the hostal where they were staying. We were just about to head out the door for some food when this Spanish guy´s head appeared at the bedroom window!! He has a friend in tow who was looking slightly more embarrassed and was hanging back. We went out to talk to them and discovered that they had just booked in and were looking for some people to hang out with for a while. We all ageed to meet up in one of Cuzco´s Irish pubs later that night. Christian, the Spanish guy, is a real character and none of us knew what to make out of him to begin with (he´s from Barcelona and is a very interesting guy). His friend, Niall, is from Tallaght and had just met up with him on the road.
Last night, the girls left for Arequipa so I went out with the guys for a few drinks. Because it was Australia Day the town was full of Ozzies all covered with paint and creating general havoc! I got daubed by a KIWI who was attacking random tourists and covering their faces with green and yellow stripes. Everyone looked ridiculous!
Cuzco is a great spot because you just meet so many different types of people here from ALL walks of life. Everyone talks to everyone. Last night I spent hours chatting to a Canadian who just travels around the world selling stocks and shares, I met a lot of Australians and Kiwis, some Dutch people, a German who is studying in Brazil, the list goes on. People just walk up to you and say "hi, how´s it going, I´m "whoever" - everyone´s a traveller with stories to swop and every night is just so interesting!
Yesterday, Bridget and I went for a walk in the artists area of the city (San Blas). She took me to see an artist that she had met a few days previously. His paintings are amazing, and I´m having a serious tug of war trying to decide if i¨m prepared to fork out $250US for one called "El Matramonie des Pumas" (I think..). It would be a great souvenir to have and a really nice addition to my future home....but its so much money!!
Today, I´m on a shopping trip to get all my essentials for the Inca Trail. I start tomorrow morning at 4a.m. GROANS! It´s not going to be a pretty sight. In fact, it could be awful! Me huffing and puffing up the first leg of the trail with a face that would make milk go sour. Not a morning person, me. Although, in Arequipa I met a 65 year old couple who had just done it. Harry had a hip replacement and Genna had Asthma, so if they managed it, there might be hope for me! Hehe. Ive no idea who I´m doing the trail with. As long as it´s not an assload of rich Americans I dont mind. I cant really be responsible for what I might end up doing to one or two of them who happen to be on the wrong ledge at the wrong time saying the wrong thing. I mean, at this altidtude Im not really thinking straight! But, we have a quick orientation meeting tonight at 7 so hopefully I will find that there are some Argentinians or Dutch coming along.
Out of range now for the next few days - the trail is going to take 3 nights and then im spending a night in Aguas Calientes on the way back down. I fear that I might have a pretty bad hum coming off me at that stage and I could, in fact, be turned away from any hostals, but we´ll see how it goes!
After that, I´m meeting Bridget and Julie in Puno and we´re going to travel through Bolivia together, which I´m really looking forward to!

January 24, 2006

Exploring the Sacred Valley

Since my last entry I decided that I´d like to get out of Cuzco for a couple of days, into the Sacred Valley of the Inkas. Over a week is too long in one place, and I might as well see as much of this area as I can while I´m here. So, yesterday morning I got on a bus headed to Pisac, which is about 30km from Cuzco. It was one of those crazy collectivos, which cram as many people into them as possible and the drivers all look like they´re smoking the funny stuff! The journey down into the valley was awesome, in the real sense of the word. Pisac itself is tiny and was pretty quiet when I arrived. I sussed out Ulrike´s Cafe (on Pablo´s recommendation - remember Pablo, the tour guide in Nazca? So far, all his suggestions have been spot on!) So, I just spent about an hour in Ulrike´s finishing "A Beautiful Mind" and had some Apfel Strudel (Ulrike, of course, is German ).
Seeing as there wasnt anything much happening in Pisac and it would have cost be a $10 taxi ride to see the ruins up in the mountains, I decided to hop on the next bus and move on to Urumbamba. I checked into a hostal there which was a KIP! The water stopped working in the taps, toilets and showers after 8! Not only that, the guy charged me 30 soles which is robbery, and THEN the gansgter gave me fake coins in change!!! Just spent the evening wandering around the town and had some pizza in a little restaurant on the Plaza dÁrmas. Was hoping I´d bump into some other backpackers, but there were none in sight, so it was an early night.
This morning I got the bus to Ollyantambo - this is my favourite of the three towns. It´s actually at the foot of the Inca Trail, so as it happens I´ll be coming back here again on Saturday with my tour group, but we´ll just be passing through. Found a great hostel here! Much nicer room and it´s only 15 soles! Walked to the top of the Incan terraces here today - outstanding views of the valley! The sun stayed with me for the morning and mid-afternoon, but it´s pouring here now! Went back to the hostel for some sustenance, and was really looking forward to the Creme de Tomate soup and chicken sandwich I ordered. Was SLIGHTLY more disappointed with the gelatinous gloop ( that had pretensions to tomato soup) which was placed in front of me, not to mention the weary looking chichen sandwich which looked like the chef had sat on it before it came out! The girl who runs the hostel is very nice though, and we had quite a long chat.
So, tomorrow it´s back to Cuzco. Might try to do some horseback riding here in the valley before I leave. Have two more nights in Cuzco befoire the trail. The night before last was great fun - I ended up in an irish bar with a guy from Belfast and another lad who is Irish but grew up in England. (He ended up wrecking everyone´s head!!) A Dublin girl joined us aftrer a while, and even though she was from Dalkey and had a bit of an OCCENT, she was good fun. Later, we met a guy called Joe and his Peruvian girlfriend who were really lovely! It was a late night and to top it off I had three little guys about 9 or 10 trying to rob me as I was leaving the bar!! Had to hop into the nearest taxi! Unbelievable!!

January 21, 2006


Had a pretty good last night in Arequipa.After discovering that the travel agents messed up my bus ticket, decided to blow $84 and fly to Cuzco. As it turns out, it was pretty lucky that I did because the tour companies up here are taking their final bookings for the Inca Trail. I just got in by the skin of my teeth - booked the trail with a company called United. Mice who are quite expensive, although I managed to charm the guy into throwing in my sleeping bag for free! So, I now have 7 days or so to while away in Cuzco before I can do the trek. That´s actually a good thing because I will have acclimatized well at that point.
Went out with my new Peruvian friend, Mayda, in Areuipa the night before I left. SHe had just split up with her boyfriend and was feeling really low, so we went out for some Pisco Sours to drown her sorrows. Spent a good bit of time with her while I was in Arequipa, she´s a lovely person and I will definitely keep in touch with her. While we were in the bar, I heard "Ebaleen, is that you?", and I turned around to find one of the women from my tour group to Chivay who was out with her husband. What a coincidence!
The flight up to Cusco was very comfortable and very quick- just a half an hour. It´s raining here and very cloudy, which is a pity, and I´m really hoping we get some suhnshine for the Inka Trail! Booked into my hostel which is on possibly the steepest street in the world! No fun climbing up there!!! The place itself isnt as nice as the other hostels Ive stayed in so far, although there are WAY more backpackers there and they organise things every night. last night was BBQ night, for example. I´m sharing a room with a girl from Dublin and a guy fromLondon. Rowana had her passport and all her money stolen in Northern Peru and she cant get out of the country now until she´s issued a new passport, which takes 7 weeks!
The two Irish girls I met in Nazca called up to the hostel last night to see me, which was a nice surprise! They stayed around for the BBQ and we had a few drinks. They are heading off on the Inka Trail this morning but I´m meeting up with them again on Wednesday before they head to ArequiPA. Now it seems that our plans are more or less coinciding, so we´re thinking of travelling through Bolivia together, which wwould be great. They are really sound girls.
Cuszo is VERY touristy and there are hundreds of people all calling you to buy something or come into their restaurant. It can start to wreck your head a bit after a while. Engaged in my first big of haggling this morning! Was buying an alpaca jumper because its pretty cold here at night, and I managed to get 8 soles off the price.
So, I´m not really sure of my plan for the next few days. I think Ill stay put in Loki Hostel anyway, because it´s so cheap. Need to start budgeting now because Ive been lettig ppl charge me waaay too much for things, plus Ive had to pay for a lot of tours, etc which hit the pocket quite hard, so after Cuzco I´m going to take it easy for a while. Thinking of taking a bus out to the Sacrd Valley for a couple of nights, maybe staying in Pisac. It´s meant to be quite nice out there. Have to be back in Cusco for next Friday as we leave to start the Inka Trail at 4a.m.!! UGH!!

January 19, 2006

Mice and Condors

What an amazing two days I have just had! I will hardly be able to put into words the things I have seen, but I´ll try.

Well, I'm back in Arequipa today and am staying for one more night before heading to Cusco tomorrow. I loved Arequipa and will be sorry to leave here - it's a much more authentic Peruvian city (if you know what I mean) than Lima. It's not without its tourism, of course, but the people here make you feel like less of a tourist - they are very helpful and friendly, and are just going about their business. It's the kind of place, you can just get up and wander around at your own pace, you aren't constantly watching your back here, and the flavour of Southern Peru is much more tangible here.
Anyway, for the last 2 days I was able to sample rural Andean life at its best. Was collected at 7am on Tuesday morning by Raoul, our tour guide. Our little minibus began its steep climb into the Andes on asphalt for the first 100km or so. After that, we had a bone-rattling 2hour journey on dirt track full of potholes all the way to Chivay!! It was easy to forget about the pain in your ass though once you began to focus on the scenery passing by outside the window! We passed shanty towns with no running water, mountain dwellings made entirely out of stones that looked like they were about to collapse at any minute, groups of vicunas and llamas, cherubic Andean children (I have somegreat photos of them!), and towering cliffs. I tried NOT to think about how close Miguel was driving to the edge of the cliffs!!
Along the way, we stopped for a serious sugar hit and some coca tea. Apparently, the ways to beat "soroche" (altitude sickness) is to keep your blood sugar high, your breathing even, and drink lots of cocoa tea! Thankfully, I didnt feel any of the effects of it, apart from some breathlessness. Everything small becomes an effort at this altitude! At our highest point on Tueday, we reached 4,900m about sea level!!
Chivay is a little jewel of a town nestled in the mountains. It's barely a town, more like a little village, but amazingly it has an Irish pub! If you saw Chivay, you would find it funny. They barely have a bank and a pharmacy, and right in the thick of it sits an Irish pub. I didnt actually make it there myself, but I heard from some backpackers that I met yeserday that it is a good spot, although the Irish man who originally opened it has sold up and moved to Arequipa to work as a tour guide.
After we checked into our little hotel, a group of us went for a 7km hike into the mountains - it was breathtaking. We passed ancient Pre-Incan terraces and Raoul told us about the history of the place. The traces of the past are everywhere - there is a sort of heavenly or mysterious air to the place. Thunder rolled loudly as we climbed and you felt like you were walking along the roof of the world or something.
A couple of hours later, we arrived at some thermal baths. The heavens had opened and it was POURING rain, but it didnt matter. The water was gloriously hot and gushed into the baths from the mountains above - apparently,due to its volcanic source, it{s full of minerals so its great therapy for the skin. We spent over an hour there witht the rain pounding into the baths!
I felt completely envigorated afterwards, and I was STARVING! We went for dinner almost immediately and I spent the night dancing, which was very memorable. Turns out I{m not a bad salsa dancer! Really enoyed myself!
Had a very fitful sleep however, and was very tired the next day. NOt only was my roof leaking and water trickling into my room, there were also a band of mice engaging in their own festivities on the roof above. The fact that it was galvanise amplified the sound of their little scratchy feet and I didnt get a wink of sleep cowering under the covers!
5a.m. start on Day 2. Was NOT in the mood for trying to make conversation with my tour group (I was the only English speaker which, although good for my Spanish, was difficult at times.) After breakfast we began the journey to Mirador del Condor (this is a very high viewpoint into the Colca Canyon where the condors live)
ALng the way, we stopped in these tiny little Andean farming villages to say hello to the locals and take photos. Raoul showed us some ancient Pre- Incan burial chambers constructed high up in the crevices of the mountains which were daubed with a red colour which had amazingly retained its hue throughout the millenia! The colour was believed to ward off evil spirits. All arund huge mountains towered above us, and it was easy to see why the people believed that the mountains were gods. The mysticism of the place couldnt but impress you - it was like being in another place, another world.
The Colca Canyon is stunning. The photos I have cannot begin to capture what it is really like. We trekked alng the edge for about 45 mins, straining to see the bottom. It{s the second biggest canyon in the world, but I heard a lot of people on the tour agreeing that it is more beautiful than the Grand Canyon. We had to wait patiently for about 2 hours for the air to heat sufficiently for the condors to tke flight. They fly using the thermal air currents, and if the canyon is cloudly they may not appear at all. Luckily, the sun was out and we eventually got to see the majestic birds as they rose, wheeling and surfing the air. Sheer beauty!
So, I leave Arequipa tomorrow. I'm expecting Cuzco to be much more touristy, but Im looking fwd hugely to it, and hope to do the Inca Trail. Also, I might be meeting up with the Irish girls I met in Nazca. I got an email from them yesterday - they are on the trek at the moment, but will be spending a few days around Cuzco afterwards, so hopefully our paths will cross again.

January 17, 2006

Adventures in Arequipa

Okay, the title may be a bit misleading - havent really had any adventures here, per se!
Arrived here very early yesterday morning after an excruciatingly uncomfortable 10hr bus journey from Nazca. Its good enough for me really opting for the cheaper transportation. I could have booked a very nice "semi-cama" for only a few soles more, but I thought I´d brave it out. When I boarded the bus in Nazca, the smell hit me! I was greeted by a sea of grumpy, half-comatose Limean faces (with a few frazzled looking tourists thrown in). Once I located my seat number, I had to wake up the old Peruvian man who looked like he´d just died in the aisle seat. I felt bad initially, but after an hour sitting beside him, I was fantasizing about doing all sorts of horrible things to him!!
The smell was definitely memorable! :) There was no relief for 10 hours as the windows were locked, and to make matters worse, he seemed to be suffering from a dose of incessant flatulence. Ugh. I tried my best to get some sleep and wished I´d taken some sleeping tablets or something to aid the process. I was a shadow of my former self when I emerged from the bus squinting in the sunlight hours later. I managed to negotiate a taxi fare and get to my hostal in one piece, whereupon I collapsed into bed and slept like a baby until 5 in the evening.
The hostal I´m staying in here is my favourite so far. It´s an old colonial building and is run by a family who are very helpful and pleasant to talk to. My bed is SOOOOO comfortable adn I have my own bathroom. BLISS! There is a rooftop where we have breakfast in the morning and I have even been able to wash my clothes and hang them on the roof to dry. Have met a lot of travellers there, adn even bumped into a Dutch couple who I was staying with in Nazca!
Last night, myself and one of the girls who runs the hostal watched The Shining and The Matrix with spanish subtitles, and it was great because I learned a lot of new words!! I´ve also made friends with the cat called Misha who is a beautiful black creature with liquid yellow eyes who could gives lessons in the art of relaxation.
Today, i did a tour of the Santa Catalina Monastery which is a very impresisve piece of architecture here in Arequipa. Spent a few hours with an English guide, and then just wandered around in ythere taking pictures. Very serene place.
Tomorrow I leave early in the morning to do a 2 day tour of the COlca Canyon - we will be at 3500m and Ive been told it will be very cold there! Now Im glad I didnt throw away my chords and jumper in Nazca!! Met three really nice peeople from Australia who are staying in the hostal and I think they will be on the tour with me, which will be cool.
ANyway, thats all for now. Will check in again when I get to Cuzco.

January 14, 2006

A Not-So-Savoury Adventure!

Feeling a little bit blue today. EVerything was going great, had a very enjoyable day yesterday, and then boom! out of the blue, this morning I wake up and I´m on the verge of tears. It could possibly have been meeting up with two Irish girls from Kerry yesterday (Julie and Brigid) - had lunch with them and spend most of the day chatting. It was a relief to talk to someone who actually understoond me, for a change. Even the other English speakers I meet have difficulties - probably with either the speed or pronunciation of my English. So, for a few hours yesterday I was able to relax for a while and not make much of an effort.But I think the real catalyst was a not so savoury adventure I had in the desert last night!

So, due to my tummy trouble, I spent a few days in Nazca waiting for it to settle before I got back on a rickety looless bus again! Initially, I think the hotel staff assumed I was travelling with the Irish girls Julie and Bridget, but when they left it became more obvious I was in fact a solo traveller. In predictable fashion the male members of the staff beat a path to my spot beside the pool to try their luck and "help me with my Spanish" :D. On my last night there, they invited me to go to a fiesta that was taking place in the town square. ALL the hotel staff were going, they said. So this was one of those decisions you are frequently faced with as a lone traveller:-

Do you play it safe and pass up on a local cultural experience OR do you go for it, take a risk and step outside your comfort zone?

In a heartbeat, I opted for the latter. At 10'clock that evening a knock came to my door. Pablo, the hotel chef, buffed and gelled to pick me up. When we got downstairs Andrea, the head waiter was waiting with a taxi running. Red flag #1. "Why are we taking a taxi guys? The plaza is right over there....". They assured me we would back to the fiesta, but first they wanted to take me to their favourite karoke bar. Now, as any of you who have been to Nazca will know, it is a tiny little place with maybe 3 or 4 bars tops, so I still couldn't fathom the necessity for transportation. But, I decided to trust them and hopped in the car. Minutes later, we were speeding out into the desert leaving the twinkling lights of the town behind and heading into TOTAL blackness. Red flag #2.

After about 15 mins, we arrived at what can only be described as a shed in the middle of nowhere. It's only connection to civilisation were the electricity cables running up to it. Inside in the gloom, there were empty chairs and tables, the faint glow of a tv in a far corner of the room and a vest-clad sweaty looking barman hanging over a counter. As I walked through the door, I looked over my shoulder and watched our taxi leaving clouds of dust behind it as it sped off back in the direction of Nazca.

Four beers later, I was starting to relax and I was having a pretty good laugh with my companions Andrea and Pablo. I was a little anxious about the fact that it was nearly midnight and we were missing the party back in town. They kept assuring me that after the next beer we would definitely go. Just as I thought we were gettign ready to wrap things up, the door swung open and a group of about 10 local farmers entered the bar. I don't exaggerate when I say that they stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of a woman, a white woman, a blonde woman in this their local watering hole. They stared, they muttered to each other, they stared some more. Eventually, after what felt like hours, they moved to some tables, ordered their drinks, sat down and continued to stare. At this point, Andrea thought it would be a fine idea for us to dance to the pop karoke that was blaring from the tv. Despite my loud protestations I was yanked to the floor and whirled around in full display of my boozing male audience. I was starting to get reaaally uncomfortable. This, my friends, is well outside your comfort zone!

Thinking then that I was fair game, various men took their turns coming up and trying to bargain with Andrea. My limited Spanish allowed me to pick out what sounded like a few derogatory comments, and when they started laughing together I thought to myself "That's it, you need to get the hell out of here - now."

I asked once nicely if we could leave. I was told, sure after the next beer. I asked nicely twice. Still no luck. Then I got mad. I demanded to be brought back to town. "Relaxxx senorita, you must dance, you must drink". Not least disturbing was the fact that by now by two male companions were themselves now nicely toasted and starting to get just a bit too frisky. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I did something I would NEVER normally do. I stood up, looked Andrea square in the eye and I said "If you dont take me back to the hotel RIGHT now, you are not going to have a job tomorrow". I cringe even thinking that I had to say that to anyone, but it worked!

30 mins later we were back at the hotel. I scurried up the hotel stairs in the pitch darkness to my room. Just when I thought the night was finally over and I was safely back, I heard drunken stumbling footsteps on the stairs behind me. Pablo, seeing me back to my room at the end of the night. Drunk and pretty harmless really, he was chancing his luck one last time. I managed to persuade him that irresistible as he was, I was nobia (spoken for) to someone back in Ireland. With a parting hug, he shuffled back down the stairs and I gratefully went to my bed, locking the door firmly behind me.
Leaving Nazca today for Arequipa, but the bus doesnt depart until almost 11. Having to check out of the hotel at 12a.m. meant that I have had to pass some long hours today. I´m hoping that once I move on to a new place I will feel better. It helped to talk to my family today who were on-line at the same time as me, although it did result in some silly tears being shed. Feeling better now though.
Tummy trouble seems to have settled for a while. Something to be very glad about! especially while travelling. Hopefully, I can just crash out on the bus and sleep. ALthough, you have to be careful about everything - when you travel solo you are on constant high alert - double checking everything, not falling into too deep a sleep in case someone steals your bags! There are few times when you are not always thinking/assessing/scoping things out. With a bit of luck, the bus will be a lunatic/thief free zone. Arriving in Arequipa at 7:30a.m. tomorrow morning - not sure if that´s a good or a bad thing yet. We´ll see when I get there. The hostal I´m stayng in sounds pretty good and its only $7 a night - great!
Nazca has been an experience - came in contct with some real characters here. They are a very friendly, warm people who really want to portray the best side of their country. Okay, so the men can be a little irritating when they perceive that you on your own - they can turn into pests, but you can get those in any country, right? :D
So, I say goodbye to four long relaxing days in Nazca - probably a little too long to spend here as , apart from the Lineas, there´s not much to see here, but it was good to chill out in the sun for a few days.

January 13, 2006

Suffering Ceviche & Other Stories

Okay, so it seems I may have been somewhat hasty giving myself the all-clear on the ceviche front. Have had some "digestive disharmony" in the last while that has been, well, less than pleasant. Needless to say, the prospect of a 7 hr bus journey on a loo-less rickety bus all the way to Naza became a bit worrying! Glad to say, Immodium saved the day (for a few hours anway )
The journey down here to Nazca was beautiful - the landscape changed all the time which made the 7 hrs fly by. More on that in a while.
Leaving Lima was a bit of a hair-raising experience. To begin with, the day before, I walked for 4 miles in the sweltering heat to the bus depot I THOUGHT I would be leaving from (i.e. in the safe part of the city) only to discover when I got there, that the loo-less rickety ones leave from a depot in the heart of the lions den. Ugh. So, to be on the safe side I booked a taxi for the following morning to take me there. The driver thought I was genuinely off my head going down there alone, and kept calling me "the crazee lady". After fleecing me for the price of the fare, his conscience must have got the better of him, and he insisted on coming in to the station with me and waiting until he was sure the bus would be leaving on schedule. He kept saying "Find some white ppl" which really put my mind at ease!

I met a Canadian couple who seemed anxious to huddle together with me in a corner, and the taxi driver (cant prnounce his name without producing a lot of phlegm) shook my hand and left. I was grateful to him. Anyway, as the bus navigated (and that really is the operative word - I have never seen such crazy traffic in all my life!) its way out of the city, we passed some of the poorest neighbourhoods I have ever seen. People ran alongside the open windows of the bus, shouting trying to get us to buy water and fizzy drinks trough the windows. The bus had to make another stop downtown, and we had to drive into a sort of warehouse whereupon the gates were locked behind us (apparently, the Cruz del Sur buses get jumped somtimes. Hehe. Great! Very reassuring!)

The bus was INSANELY HOT while we were stuck in Lima traffic. I had to take off everything I could - boots, socks, any superfluous layers! Once we got out on the open road though, the wind started to blow through and it was fine.

The landscapes on the way down here were spectacular. Initially, we drove along the Pacific ocean for miles and miles, passing miserable looking shanty towns. There was something really at odds with the scene - you would expect to see millionaire golf clubs or beach resorts along these gorgeous stretches of beaches. Then we left the coast and drove through miles of desert, which was very very beautiful - big eagles soaring overhead and no signposts anywhere. The people use rocks placed high on the mountains to spell out the names of their towns and villages. There was something really unique about it - instead of being barked at by neon signs saying "Turn left now", "Keep right", "No overtaking", you had to look to the ever-changing cleavage of the sand for guidance. Also, it struck me that it{s very in keeping with ancient Nazca tradition of drawng lines in the desert...

We passed through an oasis along the Rio Grande, which just appeared as a sea of green in the middle of the desolation. In that town, just as dusk was falling, we saw a big group of the townsopeople all sitting on chairs in front of a big TV (presumably one of the only TVs in the town). Everyone was having coffee or eating and just wathcingTV together. there was something very touching about it, and again, it just reminded me of how different our lives are. We have everything, but for that reason we are cut off from our neighbours - we dont really need them or want to spend tme wiith them, which is pretty sad really.

About 2 hours from NAzca we stopped in a town called Ica for a bathroom break. There was all these crazy old Peruvian women with giant plaits and skirts hogging the women{s loos, so I was sent in to the mens. It was very funny!

When we arrived in Nazca, all I had to do was literally cross the road from the bus station to the hotel, which is a little piece of paradise. Have ended up staying 4 nights here, I just dont want to leave! Met some very interesting people here, especially a Peruvian tour giude called Pablo.At first I was a bit wary of him, but after spending two days talking and swopping stories with him, I realised he is one of life{s true gentlemen who believes in living life and meeting new ppl, and he wants ppl to get the best from his country. He has given me a lot of helpful advice for my onward jounrye to Arequipa and Cuzco. He had loads of little interesting tit-bits of info - for example, the word "gringo" comes from the time whent he Americans were building the canal in Panama. The workers there used to wear a sort of green uniform and the locals really resented their presence there. Hence, the word "gringo" (green-go). I thought it was interesting, anyway. He also told me A LOT of fascinating stuff about the San Pedro cactus which is used in a shamanic Peruvian ritual (too long to go into, but I was riveted). Anyway, Pablo left today to go back to Lima, which is a pity. :( Another older man arrived today from Devon- he looks like Captain Birdeye and seems a small bit mental, but also good to chat to - has been everywhere!

SO, the tummy trouble continued over the last couple of days, last night being particularly memorable, and the 7a.m. stomach-churning flight over the desrt this morning really helped it! What did Ev do? She threw up in the airplane! HURRAY! what an ambassafor for Ireland I am! It was opkay though, it was only a little puke into a plastic bag and no-one notced except the lovely Dutch girl I was sitting beside - we both ended up having a great giggle over it. AND I WASNT THE ONLY ONE! Met a canadian girl in the pool today who said she threw up too, and her throwing up caused the guy beside her to throw up! Lol!

The flight ove the lines was amazing, indescribable and it was totally worth the early morning regurgitation. The lines are fascinating because their exact purpose is unknown. The Nazca people etched giant pictures of various animals and shapes into the desert 1500 yrs ago. Ay eye level they are virtually indecipherable, and obviously they couldnt be seen from the air back then, so local ppl think they must have been used in some weird ritual for collecting water or something. It all sounds vaguely drug-induced to me!

After the flight I had to crawl to bed until the nausea abated. Ugh. Dragged myself downstaits for some breakfast at about 10 and that seemed to help a bit. Then, I just sat in the shade by the pool for the rest of the day until I felt well enough to swim. And that was today - tough day!

January 10, 2006

Discovering Lima - Part Dos

Well, I´ve stayed a bit longer in Lima than originally anticipated! What was going to be 2 nights has turned into four, partly out of necessity, but also as I began to feel a bit more familiar with my surroundings, I thought it might be nice to stay on.
Lima is a beautiful city, and it´s a bit depressing to see how poor its inhabitants are. The highlight for me was probably visiting the Fransiscan church and catacombs. It´s not in use by the friars anymore, which is a pity. One interesting thing that our guide pointed out to us were the bends in the walls. He explained that because Lima often experiences earthquakes, many of the buildings are constructed from adoebe, which doesnt fall under pressue, but bends.
Today, I walked to the San Isidro district - I tried Ceviche, which is a local delicacy, and it was delicious. I was a bit iffy about eating raw fish, particularly with all the food and water warnings for tourists, but it hasnt had any bad effect hours later. Because I walked an 8 mile round trip today, I got roasted. Well, my arms did anyway. Wont be forgettnig my sunblock again! It´s typical, the day before I have to haul a 75 litre ruckscak around, my shoulders get fried!
It´s now about 8 oclock at night here. Although it´s the summer, it gets dark quite early here, and darkness descends very quickly. The sunsets are amazing. This evening I stood in the PArc dAmor at the top of Miraflores and watched the sun, a giant ball of fire, sizzle into the sea. The colours that it left in the sky were so beautiful, and of course my camera has run out of battery!
It really hits you how lucky you are when you visit a city like Lima. We are so educated at home - I suppose sometimes we think we´re not because we are constantly comparing ourselves to our peers, but when you come face to face with the people here, you realise how different your life is. And they treat you like you are royalty because they just see a giant ambulant dollar sign (with very sunburnt arms ) . You pass little orphans on the street who look so miserable and you´re afraid to pull our your wallet in case it invites an avalanche of little Peruvian waifs al with their hands out.
Have a touch of a sore throat today, so I went to a pharmacy first thing this morning to try and nip it in the bud. I didnt really know how to ask for lozenges in Spanish, but whatever I did say, I sent the pharmacist and the cashier into hysterics. I probably asked for spermicidal cream or something, by accident!! Hehe
Well, its back to the hostel now, to re-pack, charge my various pieces of equipment, (naturally, the plugs in the room dont work!) and book a taxi for the morning. I´m a bit nervous about havnig to go to the bus depot in downtown Lima, but fingers crossed everything goes according to plan.
Nazca, next stop!

January 8, 2006

Discovering Lima

Day 2 in Lima. Today was a little more interesting, as I began to find my feet and meet some feloow travellers. It's 8"30 now and I'm back in the hostel and will be ready for bed soon I think. It's taking me some time to adjust to the heat here and catch up on some ZZZZZZ.
I slept the sleep of the dead last night - I suppose reading half a book before bed helped, but whatever I did it worked! Felt infinitely better this morning. The minute you wake up here you feel the heat; you open the windown to provide some relief and even more suffocating air greets you! The teeth-shattering shower assisted in the wking up process, of course!
Breakfast in the hostel was a pretty dismal affair - some breadrolls, jams and nescafe. Wait a minut e! Aren't we in South America here - the home of good coffee! It hit the spot though, so I wont complain.
Met a guy from South Africa, a girl from Boston who is studying for her Masters here, and 2 girls from Oz who had braved doiwntown Lima by themselves! Spent most of the morning chatting to them. My tour bus arrived late, but it was worth the wait. I'm really glad I decided to book it - they took us to Lima Centro and downtown Lima, and we visited the Fransiscan Monastery, the PLaza de Armas, the catacombs as well as lots of pretty parks, ending up in LarcoMAr, the more upscale shopping district of Lia, at about 7.
Was starving after a long day with no food, so ate like a king in a pretty cheesy tourist joint called Tony Ramones! Finally managed to get a camera case as well, although now it seems that my memory card is acting up and I dont know why!I left ,my camera manual at home, which was stupif now I realise! Groans.
I think I'm going to stay another night here, not because there's anything much more to see, but just because I havent prganised anything else yet, and Sunday *tomorrow* probably isnt the best day to do it. I think I'll head for Nazca next. Hopefully,it will be a little more relaxed than CRAZY LIMA!
Today in downtown Lima, the soldiers and guards flanked our tour group. The taxi drivers literally drive at you shouting "Senorita, TAXI TAXI!!" YOu get used to uit after a while, but only when you're back in the relatively safe confines of Miraflores. Downtown Lima, you are almost sure to get mugged apparently!

January 7, 2006

On The Road At Last

Well, I made it! I arrived below the equator in one piece and minus Enrique! (more on that later..) I've finally found a few spare minutes and some energy to sit down and update the blog. The last few days have been an assault on my body and senses, and I slept like a stone last night finally.
Leaving home was harder than I thought it was going to be. I choked up when I had to say goodbye to my family, as the reality hit me that I might now see them again for a vry long time. As I drove to the airport in the dark and fog of the morning, I had some difficulty working up ANY enthusiasm about what I was doing. \\\
But that didnt last long... :-)
I slept for most of the 7 hr flight to NY, in an effort to charge the batteries for what was ahead. Getting through anything in the States is pretty effortless - everything is signposted, and people, for the most part, want to help.

Arrived at my hostel, Jazz on the Town at about 3 in the afternoon. The website described it as "cosy"...hmmm. It was very cramped, sharing a tiny room with 3 others (although I didnt mind - I met some cool ppl there). The hostel has no communal area which is a big drawback and its very very small. One thing I did like was that the rooms are ensuite. \
Anyway, headed straight out to explore mid-town, armed with Anne's subway map (THANKS ANNE! Proved to be invaluable to someone with limited time!) Managed to see Empire State, Rockerfeller Centre,m Radio city, Grand Central, Chrysler Building and Times Sq all in the first night. Popped into an IRish Bar called O'Quilligans just off Times Sq in the hope of meeting some other backpackers. Ended up chatting to the barman, who, of course, was IRish and it turned out that his Dad does business with my uncle! Small world. He couldnt do enough for me after that! A good first night in the Big Apple.
The seond day, I got up early and walked downtime. The weather was bright, sunny and COLD! As I walked along the water's edge towards battery park, I couldnt stop smiling. The realisation that I was finally "doing it" sank in! Visited Ground Zero, World Financial Centre, queued for AGES to get on a ferry to the Statue of Liberty, saw Wall St., Trinity and St. Pauls Churches, Brooklyn Bridge, Bleecker St., Washington Sq. Gdn and lots of other stuff. Spent the evening back in the mid-town area. When I got back to the hostel, some new ppl had moved into the room, so chatted to them for a bit before crashing out exhausted.
Final day in NY - I went to the Met and walked all around Central Park. Checked out the shops uptown and had to fight really hard to keep my credit card in my pocket! Later that afternoon, made my way back to JKF forthe 8 hr flight to Lima.
Was looking fwd to just getting some rest on the flight, but ended up sitting beside this overly-friendly Peruvian guy, ENRIQUE, who just wouldnt shut up. At first, I think he was just trying to be nice, but then he became a real pest, and when we landed he started following me around the terminal, and suggesting that I stay at his "friend's hotel"..where, naturally he was also staying! He even wanted toi tell the driver who was picking me up at the airport that I was going with him instead. YIKES!!! I managed to give him the slip by going to the bathroom and then legged it to the arrivals hall where,, thankfully, the driver was waiting!!
Lima is crzy! No traffic laws, by the looks of it. I'm in the Miraflores area, which seems safe enough, but have been warned by shopkeepers, etc not to venture further afield unaccompanied. I've booked a tour for today downtown, which hopefully will help me to get to know Lima a little better. The hostel isnt bad - overdescribed on the net, of course, but the staff are helpful and its relatively clean, so I'm not complaining.
Not having the langauge is a drawback but I'm getting by. Tomorrow I hope to go to Nazca where I'm going to stay in a hotel which operates flights over the Nazca lines.
So, that's about all for now. It's great having free internet here = makes a change to $1 for 10 mins in NY!