Tuesday, November 10, 2009

End of the Road

After a 5 day trek, we were so tired and slept in until well after 8:00am.We went to Jack's Cafe for amazing breakfast.Lisa, along with her Kiwi friends, Cam and Jodi booked a night bus to Bolivia for tomorrow night. It made me quite sad to not be going with them, as I've had an amazing time. Bolivia sounds amazing from what all the other backpackers have been saying. However, I am out of money (had to dip into my line of credit a bit at the end) and my work tells me they miss me very much. Hehe.After Lisa came back, we headed back to the police station to see about getting my official report for my stolen camera. We took a taxi there, went to the office. There were 5 people in the office. I handed them my citation, and the one guy in the office took charge. He was VERY rude, was not nice or polite to Lisa at all. He said the case has been closed because we never showed up on the days specified on the citation. Lisa explained to him that we DID show up in the 3rd, the first day specified on the citation, and were told that it wasn't ready, and that they didn't know when it would be ready. One of the girls went upstairs and got the official report, which was actually typed up on the same day we filed it, Oct. 31. He insisted that we didn't come, we insisted that we did. We told him that we were told that it wasn't ready, and that we could come back anytime and get it. He was insistent that his people would never say that, that we had to come at the specified times. He further said that when anyone comes to the office, it's recorded in a log book, and there's no record of us in the log book. Lisa fought with him, so hard, I could see her stress level going up! When we were there the first time, one of the people even wrote on the back of our citation a phone number that we could call. At that time, Lisa asked if it would be worthwhile calling first, then he said no, probably not, better to just come down. We pointed out the phone number, but was insistent that his department was perfect, and that we didn't come. The first time we were there, the guy also told us that we could come by anytime, it was open 24 hours and collect the report. However, today this guy was saying no, we had to come at the specified times on the citation. We didn't show up at any of the three times, so they closed the case. He even berated Lisa for speaking perfect Spanish but not reading the citation, which, apparently, says that we have to show up at the specific times on the citation. Yet, not one person, none of the police at the airport, nor the people in the office when we originally went, told us that....they ALL told us we could show up anytime and get it.Anyway, I guess they have a lawyer there at the times specified on the citation. When you go in, you are essentially cross-examined to make sure the story is true. No one told us that we had to be there at the specific times. I said to Lisa that it appears we're getting nowhere, so don't worry about it. Lisa was awesome, though, holding our ground and not giving any. And this guy was totally rude to her. I owe her a few Pisco Sours at the bar tonight. But, hey, Lisa got some more great Spanish practice. She remarked to me afterwards that her Spanish was just spewing out, she didn't even have to think about she was saying, it was just coming.So, on my Christmas wishlist this year, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 camera. :-)Well, there's not much more to report.We're meeting up with some of our trek group tonight at an Irish pub here in Cusco. Some shopping will be done today.I fly from Cusco to Lima tomorrow at 4:45pm, then I get to hangout at the Lima airport for 6 hours or so for my flight back to Toronto, then to Calgary. Back to work on Friday....gotta pay for my trip now!There will probably be no more journal updates.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Machu Picchu

Up at 3:30, we all met at the main square at 4:00 and started the hike up to Machu Picchu. You can also take buses, but they don't start leaving until 5:30, and odds are you'll get up there too late to get a pass to Huayna Picchu.It's a steep climb and really hard on my feet. After 4 days of trekking, they were screaming "leave me alone!". The hike up also included lots and lots of stairs, which are very exhausting.We got the entrance gate about 5:15, and waited outside. The site doesn't open until 6:00. When I arrived, there were maybe 25 other people waiting as well. As we waited, more hikers were showing up. Around 5:40, one of the workers started handing out tickets to Huayna Picchu. They only allow 400 people every day, 200 at 7:00am and another 200 at 10:00am. Our guide told us we have to take the 10:00am time slot, so we could do our guided tour of Machu Picchu with him. We got our 10:00 time slot no problem, then exited the line and waited with the rest of our group for our guide. Shortly before 6:00 the buses started showing up, out guide was one of the first ones. At 6:00, the gates opened, we waited for the line to clear a bit before getting in line. One other couple from our group took the bus as well (he had injured his knee yesterday during the hike), and they ended up getting passes to Huayna Picchu anyway, so we didn't need to be in that big of a hurry.We got back in line, and ahead of us was this old lady from the other group. She just asked her guide if she should climb Huayna Picchu, and he told her no, not to do it. A second later, the dude handing out tickets to Huayna Picchu had ONE PASS LEFT. He was going down the line, trying to get rid of it. She stuck out her entrace pass and said she'd take it. A moment later, another guy came up and wanted it. She took the LAST HUAYNA PICCHU PASS, despite her complete inability to trek, and just after her guide told her not to, taking it away from this other guy, who wanted to go up with is buddy, who had a pass.Cesar (our guide) took us on a 2+ hour tour of Machu Picchu, showing us everything important, explaining how the Incans broke apart the stones and how they had engineered the water systems, and how they knew about astronomy, and they had designed buildings and windows so the sun would shine through at the just the right angle during summer and winter solstices, etc. Very interesting.At about 10:30, we headed for the Huayna Picchu entrance gate and did the very difficult and steep hike up Huayna Picchu. It gives some amazing views of the Machu Piccu and the surrounding mountains and valleys.We hung out on top for a bit, then back down and hiked up to the Sun Gate. There were 8 official entrances to Machu Picchu back in the day. The Inca Trail that everyone hikes is one of them. The Inca Trail comes up over this pass, at a gate called the Sun Gate, then down to Machu Picchu. The people doing the Inca Trail don't get to see Machu Picchu until the last day, when the come over the pass and pass through the Sun Gate. And, let me tell you, the view from the Sun Gate, looking down at Machu Picchu, is amazing.After the Sun Gate, about 2:30, I decided to make the hike back down to Aguas Caliente. Lisa and Kieran wanted to rest their weary legs for half an hour before heading down. I headed down, went back to the hostal where our bags were stored and had a shower at the hostal (cost me 10 soles!), then picked up our train tickets, and met Lisa and Kieran shortly after 4:00 and we went to a restaurant for expensive pizza, but were famished.We headed to the train station at 5:40 for our 6:10 train to Ollantay, where we got off and got on a bus back to Cusco. Got back to Cusco about 10:00pm. Lisa and me headed back to the hostal, checked in and went to bed.Machu Picchu didn't disappoint. I had two highlights on my South America trip, Galapagos was top of the list, with Machu Picchu second. Both the Galapagos and Machu Picchu were way beyond my expectations. What a way to start the trip (Galapagos) and a way to end the trip (Machu Picchu).If I were to recommend Machu Picchu treks, I would recommend doing the Inca Trail, not Salkantay. Salkantay isn't as much of a trek, as there's bus travel during parts, and you're staying in towns and hostals for part of it. During the Inca Trail, you're taking an actual trail, built from stone by the Incans hundreds of years ago, into one of the official entrance gates of Machu Picchu at the time. It would be awesome to come over the pass at the Sun Gate and see Machu Picchu in front of you. The stone path needs to be maintained nowadays, but it was discovered after Machu Picchu was discovered. Unfortunately, you need to book it months in advance, which is not necessarily possible when one is travelling for a year....you simply won't know where or when you'll be there. That's not to say I didn't enjoy Salkantay, it was very good, but it would be way cooler to get to Machu Picchu the way the Incans did.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Salkantay Trek Day 4

So hot last night, down in the valley is much warmer than up on the mountain. Lisa and me got up around 7:45, packed, and breakfast was at 8:30.Started hiking around 9:30. Sunny and hot today. It was about 2.5 hours hiking on a road to the train station at a hydro-electric plant. On the way there, we saw a massive waterfall coming out of the side of the mountain, we suspect the runoff from the hydro-electric plant. Also along the road, we entered the Machu Picchu park border. As we were registering, there was a massive boom and the ground shook beneath our feet. Dynamite in the area!We had lunch at a restaurant at the train station, then hiked along the railway fro 2.5 hours to Aguas Caliente. Nice walk up the valley, steep canyon walls on either side, and a roaring river. But walking along railway ties is hard on the legs and feet, so that part of it wasn't particularly pleasant.We got to Aguas Caliente around 4:30, checked in to our hostal, at 5:20 we went to the train station to get our baggage. The horses turned back last night, so all our baggage they were carrying had to be brought here via bus and train. The cooks brought them up on the train.I showered and used internet, then at 7:30 we all met at a restaurant for our last supper together.Aguas Caliente is a massive tourist town. It's the town closest to Machu Picchu, and is very much like Banff, huge expensive hotels, expensive restaurants, shops selling everything that are hugely overpriced. Some of the lodges here are like the ones you'd find at ski resorts in Panorama.Tomorrow we're getting up at 3:30am for a 4:00am hike up to Machu Picchu. The mountain that you see behind Machu Picchu in all the typical photo's of Machu Picchu is called Huayna Picchu, and they only allow 400 people to climb it every day. You have to get to the top early to get a ticket to climb it, and we all want to.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Salkantay Trek Day 3

Up at 5:30 to coca tea, breakfast around 6:20 and we started hiking at 7:20. Down the valley into nice cloud forest, very green.We hiked to a bus that was waiting for us to take us the lunch spot, we got there about 1:15, then drove on to Santa Theresa for the next campsite. Crap campsite, essentially in someone's yard in the town of Santa Theresa, ugly and dirty.As we pulled up to the campsite, they were butchering a cow. Lots of good pics! They even found a baby cow (perhaps 2 inches long) inside. They didn't know she was pregnant, or they probably wouldn't have butchered her. Some local came along and bought the four hooves and feet for 5 soles.There's also this crazy monkey at the campsite. Loves to jump around and just get in the way, but doesn't like kids too much, as all the local children like to harass him. He'll often jump up on an adult to get away from the kids.We got setup in our tents, and about 4:40, drove to the hot pools just outside of Santa Theresa.WOW!!! Very surprised by the hot pools. I expected some small, muddy pools, but instead was treated to this huge pool resort with this massive warm pool (almost olympic size), and a smaller, much hotter pool, with a small cold water pool, fed by a natural waterfall off the mountain. It's a huge complex, very touristy, tons of people around, both gringos and Peruvian tourists. Although not very trek-like, it was a nice surprise.We got back from the hot pools about 7:30pm, had a snack, then supper. Then Kieran and me walked to town and hit a small bar/restaurant for a couple of beers. We got back to the campsite about 12:30. Once again, not very trek-like, but whatever.Very nice day again today, coolish, cloudy and no rain.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Salkantay Trek Day 2

Up at 5:00am with coca tea (the same plant they make cocaine from) delivered to our tent. We packe and had breakfast (pancake) and then a family get together where we learn everybody's names, including the cooks and the horsemen. It was a cool 8 degrees last night in the tent, according to Lisa's thermometer.About a 3.5 hour hike up the Salkantay Pass, at an altitude of 4750 metres, then the down the other side for 2 hours to lunch.After lunch, we hiked down into the valley of cloud forest, much warmer and lots more vegetation, very green.We got to camp about 4:30, I bought a beer and put it in the stream to cool off. Very nice campsite tonight, in a farmers yard, a little toilet and even a (cold water) shower.This morning, everybodys shoes were still soaked from the rain yesterday. Some people just sucked it up, others put plastic bags over their socks to prevent their socks from getting soaked. Me, I hiked in my Crocs! Crocs are amazing. All day, everybody kept asking me how my feet were...."Fine, gracias!" It was a super nice day today, nicely cool, mostly cloudy, and no rain.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Salkantay Trek Day 1

Up at 4:00am, put our big packs in storage at the hostal and waited for our pickup, which came at 5:00.Took a bus to Mollepatta, where we got the horses packed with our stuff and headed off maybe around 9:00ish. A total of 14 of us in the group.Lots of shops to buy water, snacks, soda, chocolate, beer, etc. on the way.After 3.5 hours hiking, we stopped for lunch, which was awesome. The chef did a great job of a hot lunch.After lunch, it started raining and hailing and we hiked through the storm, our shoes getting soaked. Even people with waterproof shoes were soaked.While we were hiking, we were talking to our guide about Salkantay versus the Inca Trail. He mentioned that horses are not allowed on the Inca Trail, so you have to either carry everything yourself or hire a porter to carry your stuff (including extra clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mattress). Of course, porters have be hired to carry all the food, tents and stuff like that. Lisa's friends, Jodi and Cam, chose to carry everything themselves when they go on the Inca Trail tomorrow.We got to the campsite about 4:30ish. The tents got setup in a huge shelter, which was cool. We got to eat in the shelter as well, out of the wind and the rain.Based on first day, this tour is pretty good, including really good food. The prices for Salkantay ranged as high as $475, and we paid $190, so we weren't sure how well it would be run.We had tea around 6:00pm, then supper around 7:45 and to bed after 9:00 sometime. Supper was amazing, a chicken drumstick with fries, rice and some veggies. Very tasty.A family lived at the campsite and had a little store there. There was also a cat, very friendly, who loved to hang around the tourists and sit on their laps and stuff. At supper, the cat was really aggressive at trying to get some chicken. He jumped up on Thomas's lap and started trying to get his chicken leg with is claw, meanwhile Thomas is freaking out, holding his chicken leg way up in the air, trying to keep it away from the cat. It was hilarious. Finally Thomas managed to swipe the cat from his lap, and he's like "Man, I almost lost my chicken."When we started the trek, another smaller group from another tour agency was also starting their trek. They had a really old lady from Brazil in their group of 7. We hadn't even walked out of the town of Mollepata yet, not even a kilometre into it yet, and she was already huffing and puffing and WAY behind the rest of her group. She would literally walk no more than 5 steps (going up a slight incline in the road) and stop for 10 seconds and catch her breath. Her group had to wait for a long time for her to catch up, even at the very start of the trek. We hiked past the other group as they were waiting for the old lady and continued on. The other group (minus the old lady) passed us again on the way to lunch. A few hours later, as we were getting close to the lunch place, a motorcycle drives by with the old lady on it. Hahaha. She was the laughing stock the whole trip. The guide of the other group had to call a friend of his and ask him to come with his motorcycle and drive the lady up the mountain. The other group had to wait for over 30 minutes at the lunch spot before they could eat, waiting for the old lady to show up.After lunch, after the road had ended, the old lady was on a horse. Unfortunately, the horse can't do certain, rocky parts of the path with weight on him, so she had to walk a lot of it. When we stopped at the campsite, one of the guys in the other group who had walked ahead was LIVID that this old lady was even allowed to come on the trek. The other group had to wait 1.5 hours before they could eat supper, waiting for this old lady.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sacred Valley

Up early, Lisa didn't sleep hardly at all last night. I slept awesome. Up about 7:00am, we went to Scotiabank to take out money to pay for our Salkantay trek, then back to the hostal for breakfast, then waited for our pickup for the Sacred Valley tour.First stop was a market for everyone to buy stuff. I'm looking for ideas for gifts.Next was Pisac, site of a very impressive Inca ruin. When the Spanish arrived in the 1500's, it's estimated that there were about 16 million Inca people. In 1803, the first official census, only 2 million Inca's remained. The Spanish were deadly.Next was a delicious buffet lunch. To walk-in customers, the buffet costs 38 soles, but it was included in our tour, that we paid 45 soles for.Next was Ollantaytambo for another very impressive Inca ruin. They were amazing stoneworkers, so precise. And the manpower needed to move the stones from across the valley would have been humoungous.Last was a stop in Chinchero where we got a demonstration of traditional Inca weaving with alpaca wool and how they get the different colours.Back to Cusco about 6:30, went to the Salkantay tour company and paid up. Then we went to a camping store and rented sleeping bags and bought a few snacks for the trek.Lisa and me went to Jack's Cafe for supper at 8:30, then to bed at 10:00. Our Salkantay pickup is between 4:30 and 5:00 tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Dealing with the Police

Slept awesome, up about 7:25, Lisa slept until about 7:45. Usually she's up early.We met the others in our group for breakfast shortly after 8:00, then left for the airport at 10:00 for our 12:30 flight.When we checked in, the lady at the counter asked us if we changed our flight (we did), then she asked us if we had paid the change fee in Cusco. The change fee was $80US each. Lisa lied and said yes. She asked us if we had a receipt for the payment, Lisa said no. She accepted it, and took her a bit of time to get things figured, then we got our boarding passes and they took our luggage. Cam and Jodi had accidentally bought a return ticket to Lima instead of Cusco, so when they checked in, they said they were going to Cusco. We went to a restaurant in the airport to kill some time, then we headed through security. There was a guy from the airline there checking our boarding passes, and Lisa and me thought we were busted. They were looking for Jodi and Cam, though, because their flight was back to Lima, but when they checked in, they said Cusco. They had to go back to the ticket counter and pay the change of $80 US for each of them.It was a very quick flight to Cusco.Back in Cusco, we checked in to the same hostal (Procurador del Cusco), then Lisa and I took a taxi to the plaza where the police station is, and where my citation said to go. I need to get the official typed copy of the police report. When we got there, I showed the citation to various people, and they pointed us in the second floor. We found an office with three people in it, I gave the citation to a woman in the office. She looked at it, said something in Spanish, handed it to another guy, who looked at it and gave it to the third guy. After skimming it, he tried to give it back to the woman, but she wouldn't take it. They talked for a bit, then one of them asked us to have a seat outside the office. Lisa said that none of them wanted to deal with it, that's why they kept passing it around. After a bit, one of them went upstairs then came back down and told us (in Spanish) that it wasn't ready yet. Lisa asked if we came back tomorrow night if it would be ready. He shrugged his shoulders and said maybe or maybe not. Lisa remarked that the police at the airport said nothing has ever been stolen from the airport before. He rolled his eyes and said it does happen a number of times per year. He then asked if the police at the airport charged us anything when we were there. (Nope.) He said that was good. I guess there's probably some corruption in the police force yet.We headed back to the main square, did some shopping for day tours of the Sacred Valley tomorrow and bought a tour for 45 soles.At 7:30, we met up with Kieran and Jodi and Cam. Kieran has a Salkantay trek lined up for $190 US. He hadn't bought it yet, but he had a recommendation for this tour from a guy in Huaraz that he did the Santa Cruz trek with. We headed over to the tour company and checked it out, and we were happy with it, so we signed up for it. It's a 5-day, 4-night trek and goes out on Nov. 5.Headed to Jacks Cafe for a gringo supper, then the fice of us went to a bar for a 2-for-1 happy hour drink. Got back to the hostal after 10:00 sometime.Lisa got an email from Jason today. Lisa had emailed him about the Colca Canyon, and how we did it ourselves without a guide, and where we stayed, and how easy it to find the paths. Well, I guess Jason and his dad got lost in the canyon and wandered around for 12 hours. They would have been for sure wandering around in the dark, I guess Jason had to carry both his and his dads backpack, his dad was having a rough time of it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Amazon Tour Day 3

Up at 6:30, packed, had breakfast and headed back to Puerto Maldonado on the boat at 7:45. Got back to town about 9:45, checked in to our room and lounged in the pool.Had lunch at noon, awesome steak. There's a three-toed sloth that hangs around the lodge, he moves so slow.At 1:00, we went to Sandoval Lake, a very cool jungle lake with lots of wildlife. We saw Watsons (clumsy chicken-like birds), a black caimen, howler monkeys, other smaller monkeys and tons of other birds. We went around the lake in a small wooden paddle boat.Got back to the lodge about 6:00, watched TV until supper at 7:30, and then to bed around 9:00, watched TV until 10:00 then fell asleep.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Amazon Tour Day 2

Up at 3:30, at 4:00 left on the boat for the clay lick, about a 1.5 hour boat ride up the river.The parrots and macaw's here can't eat the green fruit, it's toxic to them. So, they have to come to the clay lick (an eroded cliff along the river that exposes some sort of clay), to eat the clay, which gives them the minerals they need to eat the fruits safely. Lots and lots of brightly coloured macaws, red/blue ones and light blue/yellow ones, the parrots very green. Very timid, they just hang out in the trees until they feel it's safe to come down. We waited for over 30 minutes, and they weren't coming down, so Sonia, our guide, took us on a jungle walk for 45 minutes or an hour. Periodically she would take her binoculars and peer back at the clay lick. She finally said that the birds are getting ready to eat, so we headed back. Sure enough, just as got back, the first of the macaw's started eating, but the parrots (which are more scared than the macaws) were nowhere to be seen.We left the clay lick about 8:00, went back to the lodge for breakfast, then some rest time. The lodge has a resident macaw that they are rehabilitating. He's not tied down or in a cage or anything, he just hangs out in a tree at the lodge, and is very friendly. I went over to his tree, and as I walked over, he was eyeing me up. He was probably 25 feet up, on a branch. I stood under the tree with my arm raised, he sized me up for about a minute, then decided to make his was down. He can't fly yet, so he climbed down in the rope with his two claws and beak. Took him about 2 minutes to get down. He climbed on my arm, and he loves to be rubbed on the back of his head. After a few minutes, I tried to get him to go back, but he wouldn't. So hung out with him for a few more minutes, then tried to get rid of him again. This time he was more willing to part with me, and he climbed back up into the tree.At 11:30am, headed to a cascade for some swimming. The cascade was super muddy, Lisa wouldn't even go in. The shore was all muddy as well. Because it was so muddy, we moved to a different swimming area on the Tambopata River, with a beach. The Tambopata River is quite murky too, but nice and cool, and Lisa swam too, despite the stories of the orifice fish and the threat of piranhas.We went back to the lodge at 1:30 and had lunch, some rest time, then did a jungle hike at 3:30. Our guide, Sonia, explained a lot of the plants in the jungle and what they're used for.At 7:00, we had a boat trip to look for caimens, similar to crocodiles. At night, they hang out on the banks of the river, and you can see their red eyes reflecting in the spot light from the boat. We'd go up to shore, but they'd usually retreat into the water when we got close. One little guy didn't retreat, we came right up to him, and Sonia tried to go on shore and catch him, but he skirted into the water pretty quickly.Big storm approaching, lots of lightning, this evening.Had supper at 8:15, chicken cooked in a bamboo shaft. With my diahorea, my appatite comes and goes, so didn't eat much tonight.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Amazon Tour Day 1 - Camera Nicked

Up at 7:00, showered, packed, had breakfast, checked out and we got a taxi to the airport shortly after 8:00am.At the airport, we went to the Star Peru check-in counter, Lisa made a remark about reading a book while in the Amazon. I remembered that I didn't pack my book, so put down my camera and shoulder bag, asked Lisa to hold my passport, opened my big backpack to get the book, then zipped it back up, gathered my things, asked Lisa for my camera....she didn't have it. Gone. I immediately started looking all around me, opened up all my bags, it was nowhere. We went outside to see if the taxi was still there, he wasn't. I'm 99.9999999% sure that I didn't leave it in the taxi. The camera was on my neck from the time we left the hostal to the time we reached the Star Peru check-in counter. Lisa remembers seeing on my neck when we were walking to the taxi, and didn't see it sitting in the taxi when we got out at the airport.When we originally got the airport, there was no one at the Star Peru check-in counter. As we walked up to it, a local was guiding another tourist to the check-in counter. As I opened my backpack to get my book, the local walked back past us. He saw an opportunity, grabbed my camera and walked off without Lisa or me seeing anything.Lisa and me checked-in, then went to the iPeru tourist counter and the information counter to see if anyone brought a camera in, nope. We then headed to the police office in the airport to file a police report. They spoke no english, surprising for the most touristed city in Peru. So Lisa had to explain everything in Spanish. They were quite skeptical, they said nothing has ever been stolen at the airport before. They kept asking us if maybe we left it in the taxi (nope!), and they didn't know what to do. They kept talking amongst themselves, and they couldn't find any appropriate paperwork to report it. We sat around for quite a while before they found something official to write it on. And they kept questioning Lisa as to how it happened. It took about an hour, but we had arrived at the airport very early, so had the time. When we were finally done the police report, he gave us a piece of paper and told us we have to go to the tourist police station in Cusco when we get back from the Amazon to pick up the official, typed copy of the report. The Peruvian National Police now have my fingerprint on record as well. Haha.Anyway, I was disappointed, but I didn't let it get me down or ruin my trip. I have all of Lisa's pictures, plus we spent 3 weeks travelling with another guy, Jason, who had a great camera and took lots of great pics. The only backup I did of my pictures was about three weeks into the trip, in Baños, when I gave a copy of all my pics to Kirsty to take back to Canada, so I have those. The moral of the story, make backups of your pictures often! It took only a few seconds for this guy to snatch my camera.With the police report done, we went through security and boarded the plane. Coincidentally, Lisa's friends from New Zealand, Cameron and Jodi were also on the same flight (coming from Lima).Super short flight, less than an hour. No sooner did we get above the clouds and we started descending again. It's hard to imagine it's a 20 hour truck ride from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, considering how short the flight is.At the airport in Puerto Maldonado, our guide was holding up a sign with all our names on it, so we got in the mini-van, whisked off to the tour office, paid the remainder of our bill, then had a 3.5 hour boat ride up the Tambopata River to the jungle lodge (Wasai). We arrived shortly after 4:00pm. So hot, the temperature in Puerto Maldonado when we landed was 35 degrees. The jungle is just as hot.On the boat ride, saw lots of capybara's (sp?), the largest rodent in the world, hanging out on the banks of the river.We got settled into our cabins, they are AWESOME!! The best beds we've had all trip. And a huge hut, overlooking the river.There are five of us on the tour, me, Lisa, Cameron, Jodi and an older, but cool, Aussie woman, Jane.At 6:30, we went for a jungle night walk to see all the creepy crawlies that come out at night in the jungle. Saw huge cockroaches, massive grasshoppers, gigantic tarantulas (bigger than my hand, including one that had a bunch of babies running around), tiny tree frogs, other poisonous spiders with huge spider webs, moths, butterflies, plus all the strange noises of the jungle at night. It was pretty awesome.We had supper at 8:00pm, very good food. We were informed that we are getting up at 3:30am tomorrow morning, so we all went to bed around 9:00.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I have travellers diahhrea. :-( It started yesterday.Bus ride to Cusco was long. I think I slept in short fits. The bus was also COLD and I had shorts on and a t-shirt and a light jacket to try and keep me warm. But, this was my last long bus trip of my travels. Lisa is not going to go on the cheap for night bus trips anymore, though.We arrived in Cusco about 8:00. We ignored the touts at the bus station offering accomodation and bartered for a taxi to the Plaza de Armas. A woman approached us at the plaza and offered accomodation for 15 soles each at her hostal, just a block from the Plaza de Armas. That's cheap for Cusco, so we checked it out and it was fine. We checked in, I showered, we had breakfast, then we went to South American Explorers club so Lisa could get free internet and we could checkout trip reports for Salkantay and Lares Valley. Then we headed to Scotiabank and took out some US dollars so we could pay the balance of our Amazon trip. We paid half before leaving to South America.Then we went to all kinds of tour companies looking at trek options, either Salkantay or the Lares Valley. We weren't sure which one we wanted to do, but after hearing opinions, we decided on Salkantay. It's a a 5 day/4 night trek that ends in Machu Picchu. It's a less travelled alternative to the Inca Trail, and you don't have to book it months in advance.At 1:00, I went back to the room and slept, after the crappy bus sleep, and Lisa went shopping. She bought a long sleeve shirt for the Amazon. Later in the afternoon, after I woke up, I went shopping, bought some long pants for the Amazon and bought a fake ring and a birthday card for Lisa. Her birthday is Nov. 18, so I won't be here for it, but decided to get her something silly. Men in South America can be very forward toward women, and she has often joked about getting a fake engagement or wedding ring to travel with. So I got her one for her birthday.When I got back to the hostal and met Lisa, she told me that while she was shopping, a local approached her and said "Hey beautiful. You want me to take my pants off so you can look at it?" She just ignored him.At 6:30 we went out for pizza and I gave her her birthday present then. After that, we went for ice cream, then I went to bed shortly after 8:00.There's soooo many tourists in Cusco, and soooo many touts offering massages, rooms, food, treks, etc., it gets annoying after a while. Lots of high-end shops too, selling jewellry, art, fine clothes and fabrics, fancy restaurants, high-end hotels. It really shows the type of tourists that come to Cusco, they have lots of money.They're also really pumping halloween here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Colca Canyon Trek Day 3

Up at 4:30, pàcked and started hiking at 5:00am. Everyone else at the resort had the same idea.The hike up the canyon walls was about 2 hours, including a breakfast break. When we stopped to have some breakfast about half way up, a bunch of people passed us, but we beat everyone to the top, passing them again once we started going again. Lisa and me are awesome!It was another hour back to town. When you reach the top of the canyon, you can see the town, but you have to navigate all the terraced fields to get back. Lisa and me got to the edge of town, but couldn't see any paths to actually get to a road. Lisa ended up asking a local (she told him that we're a little bit lost) how to get back to the town centre, and he was nice enought to let us pass through his yard and out his front gate, then pointed us in the direction we needed to go.Back at the hostal, we had breakfast, showered, repacked, bought a bus ticket back to Arequipa for 11:30am.Long bus ride back, including a one hour stop in Chivay. We got back to Arequipa about 6:30, then turned around and bought a bus ticket (overnight) to Cusco (30 soles, $10US). We had supper at the bus station, used the internet for a bit, then got on the bus.They had a super bad movie on the bus, American Ninja 2. It was so bad, it was good, even though it was all dubbed in Spanish.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Colca Canyon Trek Day 2

Up at 6:00am. We wanted to beat the tour groups to the oasis. We had breakfast at 6:30, pancakes, yummy. We noticed that the tour groups got crepes for breakfast, whereas Lisa and me and the other independent couple got pancakes.We were the first to leave at 7:00am, paid or bill (118 soles for the both of us, including the room, lunch, supper, breakfast, two beers, two pops and three bottles of water), about $40US for both of us.When we left, the lady gave us both big hugs.The hike to the oasis was up, up, up, about 2/3 of the way up the canyon wall before descenging back down again. Saw another Andean Condor.Got to the oasis about 10:45, 3.75 hours of hiking. The map showed it as 5 hours.The oasis is actually four different resorts at the valley bottom. From high above, at the top of the canyon,you can see the swimming pools. The oasis is also, literally, an oasis. Waterfalls emerge right from the rock of the canyon wall, everything is green, in stark contrast to the desert surrounding it. The resorts are set on a more flat area just a bit down from the waterfalls. We picked a resort called Paraiso, which had good rooms and a nice pool, only 10 soles, including use of the pool.When we arrived, we were the only ones at the whole resort. Around noon, tour groups started to arrive and invaded our serenity.We relaxed by the pool and in the large grass area for most of the day, soaked up some sun. Lisa and I played some chess.There's a stark contrast between the greenery of the oasis and the red, dry walls on the other side of the canyon. It's very remarkable.Supper was at 7:00pm, vegetarian spaghetti. Yay, no rice!Lisa and me are going to get up about 4:30 tomorrow morning to start the long trek back up the canyon, before the sun comes up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Colca Canyon Trek Day 1

I was sound asleep when I heard a THUD. Then Lisa...."Oops. Oh no!" I awoke from my slumber and asked "What's wrong?" "I just broke my bed" was the reply. One of the slats underneath the mattress fell to the ground, leaving a big dip in her bed. She couldn't sleep with it that way, so she turned herself around and slept with her head at the foot of the bed for the rest of the night.Woke up early, before 7:00am, went for breakfast (free), used the internet for a bit, took our big bags to storage at the hostal and started off on our Colca Canyon trek shortly after 8:00. We're hiking to Lluhuar Lodge today, which has a natural thermal hot spring and trout fishing. It's not in any of the guidebooks, I just found it on the internet.The hand drawn map we had showed the hike was 5 hours. We arrived in just under 4 hours, but it was ALL downhill, into one of the deepest canyons in the world. We descended about 1200 metres into the canyon today. Saw an Andean Condor as we were leaving Cabanaconde into the valley.Got to Llahuar Lodge. AWESOME! The beds are made of bamboo on top of rock with a mattress on top. The floor of our hut is just a bunch of small stones. The flush toilets are plunked right into the ground. We paid 15 soles each for the bed at the Lluhuar Lodge.Lisa and me had lunch, then headed down to the pools, right beside the river, and soaked in the luke warm waters with a bit of algae.We were the only ones at the lodge all afternoon. We had it all to ourselves. Late in the afternoon, lots of others started showing up, mostly organized treks with a guide. There was one other couple that came down independently.Earlier in the afternoon, I bought a couple of beers and put them in little canal to cool them off (no electricity here). As the sun started to go down, we sat at the edge of a cliff and drank our beers, then headed to the dining area for supper.Supper was fresh caught trout, and very good. The man and lady that run the place are sooooo friendly. They totally go out of their way to make sure you're happy.About 14 people ended up at the lodge tonight, all but 4 are with an organized tour. We're so glad we did this on our own.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Off to Cabanaconde

Got up, didn't do much in the morning. Lisa mailed a postcard and used the internet, I sat in a coffee shop and used the free wifi while having a machiato (or however you spell it).Around noon, we checked out and took a taxi to the terminal terrestre. Arequipa is the first Peruvian city that has a proper bus terminal. Bought a ticket to Cabanaconde for 1:45pm, it arrives in Cabanaconde around 7:30ish.Along the highway, saw wild llamas. The road also goes over a pass of 5000 metres, the higest point we've been yet. Lisa had a headache as we climbed the pass in the bus, which went away as we descended the other side.On the bus, we got befriended by a local with a hostal in Cabanaconde. We decided to check it out when we got there, it was only 10 soles a night, just over $3.We arrived about 7:30, checked in to buddies hostal, then went for supper (4 soles), and bought some snacks for the trek we're doing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Up after 8:00. Both Lisa and me slept like rocks. We took our time and headed out for breakfast after 9:00 sometime. We were going to have breakfast at the hostal, but the cook was off today, so we walked to the Plaza del Armas. A huge parade in the plaza this morning, tons of people. We picked a restaurant (actually, a woman was outside, saw us and suckered us into her restaurant), it had a 2nd floor balcony overlooking the plaza. We had breakfast while we watched the parade go by.Arequipa is a beautiful city. So clean and well maintained, infrastructure seems in tip-top shape. My favorite city so far. Apparently Arequipians also consider themselves culturally superior to the rest of Peru.After breakfast, we found a Scotiabank (no fees for Lisa to withdraw!), shopped in a little market, I bought a leather cowboy hat for $8 US, Lisa bought a belt (to hold up her pants, she's losing weight) and a bracelet, got some info on treks into the Colca Canyon. We're going to go it alone, but wanted to get some maps and info on the towns and accomodations.Around 1:00, headed to the Santa Catalina Monastery, built in the late 1500's, and some nuns still live there today. It's a huge complex, and very interesting, a great was to kill a couple of hours in the afternoon.We then walked down to the the river (nothing interesting), Lisa saw a "big box" store that said "Everything is Cheaper" on the side. Just for kicks, we went in just to see what it was like. Very much like a Superstore, we ended up buying new earbuds for our MP3 players, and some buns, cheese and ham to make a late lunch. I also bought 1 litre of fresh milk, something I've been missing for a while. We walked back to the hostal with me chugging milk (very creamy, definately not 1 or 2 percent), and had sandwiches on the rooftop patio of our hostal. I finished about 2/3 of the milk, and I had to make a mad dash for the toilet. Holy cow, it totally went right through me.We hung out at the hostal, Lisa uploading pics, and me doing researching on Colca Canyon.Around 8:00ish, we walked to the square and had a dessert.Finally, clear blue skies have found us! Not a cloud in the sky, amazing weather.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nazca Lines

Up at 7:30 after about 4.5 hours of sleep, had breakfast in the hostal (free) and we left for the airport at 8:15. We stopped at the bus station on the way out of town and booked a 1:15pm bus to Arequipa for this afternoon.Nazca is quite nice in the day, our hostal street is just under construction right now. The rest of the town is quite well maintained.We got to the airport and climbed into a small 6-seater Cessna, the pilot and 5 tourists. We had the option of going up in a 20 seater, but not everyone gets their own windows on that plane.The flight lasted about 35 minutes, the pilot would do incredibly steep banks so everyone could get good views of the lines. It was kind of sick inducing, making my stomach a bit unsettled. Lisa took some meds to help, as she's prone to sickness in small planes.The lines were kinda cool, but the flight itself was the best, seeing the barren landscape, where nary a cactus even grows, the red rock hills scattered among the sand.Back to the hostal about 10:00am, I showered and Lisa slept. I walked around town, had a rreal breakfast at a restaurant and back to the room about 11:30. Lisa and me checked out, went to a restaurant so Lisa could eat, then walked to the bus station for our 1:15 bus to Arequipa.Bus ride spectacular, all desert, so dry, at times huge sand dunes were covering road signs and parts of the road, sometimes turning a 2 lane highway into a single lane. Vast stretches of beach too, South America must surely have some of the longest stretches of beach on the planet.Arrived in Arequipa quite late, 10:30pm. Asked a taxi driver to take us to the Plaza del Armas in the centre of town, where hostals congregate. He said that it would be a bit dangerous to be wandering around at night, and took us to Hostal Baviera, even when we asked him to take us to a couple of others. This hostal is about 1.5 blocks from the plaza. Lisa checked it out while I waited outside with our bags and the taxi driver, she bargained a bit (her first time) and saved us 5 soles each on the price of the room. She came back downsstairs to the taxi, gave me a thumbs up, and we headed to the room and went to bed with ear plugs in. 25 soles each for the room.

Friday, October 23, 2009

To Lima and Nazca

Up about 7:30, packed, showered, had breakfast, walked to the bus company (Z Buss) and left at 9:30.Bus trip to Lima was 7-8 hours. Desert the whole way, very dry, not much vegetation. At one section, the highway travels the cliffs of steep sandstone hills, the road cut into the cliffs, withthe sandy hills plunging into the sea. It was quite spectacular.Lima was a big, busy, dirty city. Kind of reminded me of Bangkok. It seemed to be total chaos. We arrived late afternoon, and Lisa had expressed no desire to spend anyttime in Lima. Jason was meeting his dad in Lima, so we said goodbye to Jason, and it's just Lisa and me again. Lisa and me asked about buses to Nazca, the next one leaves at 6:45 (25 soles, just over $8US), so we had just over two hours to kill. We had something to eat, then Lisa called a hostal in Nazca to see about reserving a room and asking if it was ok that we would be arriving at 3:00am.While we were at the bus terminal, we ran into Fiona (from our trek) and Alyssa (American girl who told the story about the donkey being put down). They had both taken a night bus from Huaraz to Lima, and had to wait 12+ hours iin Lima for a bus to Arequipa. If we would have taken the night bus, we would have been in the same boat.Remember a bus driver in the compound backing his bus into another bus.The bus left shortly after 7:00pm. Managed to get a couple of hours sleep on the bus. Arrived in Nazca about 2:00am. When we got off the bus, a guy approached and asked us if we needed a place to stay, holding out his card. We said now, we had a reservation. He asked where, we said Hostal Alegria. He said that's the hostal he works for, and said it was just a block away. He then asked if we were the ones that called and reserved a double room. Lisa said yes, so he started taking us there. Except he didn't stay on the main road, where I knew the hostal was, turned down a side road. He said that the room we reserved was actually taken, but he had another similar room at another hostal. So we followed him down this decrepit, dark, gravel side street for a few blocks to Hospedaje Yemaya. 50 soles for the both of us (about $8 US each).Once checked in, he sold us on a flying tour of the Nazca Lines for this morning, 240 soles. We went with the 5 seater plane versus the 20 seater. After that, headed to bed to get a few hours sleep.Lisa remarked to me before bed that she never would have walked with that guy had she been alone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Errand Day

Up about 8:00ish, tried to shower but there was no hot water. So I went for breakfast. An American girl was having breakfast, we were talking, she just got back from the Huayhuash trek, she said that one of their donkeys had to be put down. Apparently he refused to move. They took everything off of him (loading up the other donkeys even more) and he still refused to move. The guides then told the tourists he would be put down. The next day, they showed the tourists the ear of the donkey and they all had a moment of silence.Lisa and me started off an errand day. Took laundry in, I booked a flight from Cusco to Lima for Nov. 11, Lisa and me changed our Puerto Maldonado to Cusco flight one day earlier, to give us more time for Cusco/Machu Picchu, bought bus tickets from Huaraz to Lima for tomorrow at 9:30am.When we got back yesterday from our trek, we got the same dorm room as before. We hads left some groceries in the room (bread, peanut butter, jam) when we left for the trek, assuming the cleaning staff would throw them out. When we got back, they were still there, neatly arranged on a table. There was another older guy in the room now, and he has been taking our groceries upstairs to the kitchen and making sandwiches. Haha.At 7:00pm, met the French couple (Albine and Thomas) and Fiona at a Chifa restaurant for supper. Fiona had a bus to catch, Albine went back to their room, but the rest of us continued to party, drinking a bottle of pisco that we bought for the trek that didn't get drank. Me, Lisa, Jason and Thomas headed to the Gecko Bar and ran into Kieran again. We stayed out until after 11:00.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Santa Cruz Trek Day 4

Up about 7:00, had breakfast and started hiking sometime after 8:00. We had a short hike today, only 2.5 hours to the pickup point. We got there about 10:30, the mini-van came shortly afterwards with some people just starting the trek. They'll do it reverse of what we did.As they unloaded, our donkeys showed up, all our stuff was loaded on the van and we were off and on our way back to Huaraz.On the way out of the park, we had to buy or show our park pass. Sine I lost mine, I had Lisa translate so that they could find me in the records for Oct. 16. I provided my passport number, they found me and he was happy! I didn't have to buy another park pass.Got back about 4:00, and we all made arrangements to meet for a beer at 7:00. We walked back to the hostal, showered and repacked and cleaned up, then met everyone at the bar/grill at 7:00. Had a beer and supper and back to the hostal about 10:00.Lisa has travellers diahhroea. I've been good so far.The trek was awesome. It's easily comparable to anything in the Rockies in Canada.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Santa Cruz Trek Day 3

Wake up call at 3:30am, got up, packed everything, had breakfast and we were on our way at 5:30. It was a 2 hour hike to the pass, up and up and up. The mountain range looked formidable, but cut in the rocks at the top was a trail with a sign indicating the pass, Punta Union, and the elevation, 4750 metres. Then down and down and down. Amazing views all the way down, glacier capped mountains. As we were descending, we passed a half decomposed donkey, presumably slipped and fell to its death.We hiked to a refuge, got there about 1:30, just outside of the park boundary, where we had the option of renting a dorm bed in the refuge or camping outside in the tent. The dorm beds were 10 soles (about $3 US). Just after we arrived, the rains started coming again. Lisa and Jason didn't want to sleep in a damp, wet tent again, so we decided on the dorm beds.A bunch of us played cards in the afternoon, supper at 6:00. We were allowed to use the big kitchen table at the refuge instead of using the kitchen table tent, which was awesome.At supper, our guide told us we get to sleep in tomorrow morning, breakfast would be at 7:30.Since we're in the same national park as Laguna 69, we could keep our park pass and not hjave to pay again. During the trek, I was putting garbage wrappers in my pocket. When we got to the refuge, I threw all the wrappers into the trash can in the toilet. Anybody that has been to a 3rd world country knows that the sewer systems typically can't handle toilet paper, so you always put you used toilet paper into the trash, not the toilet. At supper, I started looking for my park pass, then realized that it was in the same pocket as the garbage I was collecting, so my park pass was probably in the garbage can in the toilet, with all the used toilet paper.After supper I went into the toilet, shut the door, took the lid off of the trash can, and stared into, seeing everyone elses used toilet paper. I considered digging through it, but just couldn't do it. If I had a pair of rubber gloves maybe.After supper, a bunch of us played Time's Up, then to bed about 8:00.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Santa Cruz Trek Day 2

Wake up call at 3:30am, everyone got up, packed everything, including the tents. We had breakfast, and were hiking in the dark shortly after 5:00am.We hiked about 9 hours today, including snack and lunch breaks. Hiked to this awesome lake with a glacier at the head of it, chunks of ice floating in the lake.Also saw the Paramount Pictures mountain, unfortunately it was partially obscured in clouds all day.Got to camp around 2:00. Everything was setup for us already. Shortly after we arrived, the rains came, including thunder and hail. We had lunch, played cards, then had supper at 4:30. And, we're doing the same drill tomorrow, getting up at 3:30 am tomorrow morning. After supper, a few of us played Times Up, a super fun game taught to us by a French couple and a Swiss girl.The guide told us that tomorrow would be a hard hike, over a pass at 4750 metres. He also said there is snow, perhaps 10 cm, and it's very dangerous, especially for the donkeys, as they sometimes slip and fall to their deaths.To bed around 7:00ish.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Santa Cruz Trek Day 1

Up at 5:30am. Didn't sleep much because I slept until 1:30 yesterday. Packed our things, Kieran is planning on doing the Huayhuash trek instead of the shorter Santa Cruz.A taxi picked us up around 6:20, which took us to a mini-van at the tour company, then it was about a 3 hour drive to the national park. I´t's the same national park as Laguna 69, but we are starting in a different part of the park. When we got to the trailhead, the guide wasn't there yet, so we sat around for more than an hour waiting, while all the donkeys got loaded with all the gear and camping equipment. There are 11 of us on the trek.We left about noon, the hike goes up this amazing valley with steep mountains on either side, scraped by glaciers long ago.We hiked about 4.5 hours to the campsite, the crew had some of the tents set up, but not all. And it had just started to rain, so we ended up setting up our tents in the rain. Then we all hung out in the food tent, drinking coffee and tea, then had supper around 6:30. After supper, our guide informed us that we're getting up at 3:30am tomorrow to get to the next camp before the rain starts, which is usually mid-late afternoon.We groaned at the thought, but went to bed right away, knowing it would be a very early day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bad day

Woke up about 8:30am. Not feeling to good. I just laid in bed and tried to sleep off the hangover until about 1:30 in the afternoon. Then headed to California Cafe for some bacon and breakfast, then did some shopping. Bought a "Goretex" jacket, a fleece top and some gloves for our 4-day trek tomorrow.Pretty much a nothing day.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Laguna 69

Up at 5:30, ready to go at 6:00am for our Laguna 69 hike. A mini-van came to pick us up at 6:30. 15 of us in the hostal signed up for the hike.2.5 hour drive to the trail head, inside Huarascan National Park. Along the way, I realized I didn't bring my camera!. Fortunately Kieran saw that I had left it in the room and grabbed it for me.About a 2.5 hour hike to the lake. The hike was awesome. The lake is at an altitude of 4600 metres, the highest we've been yet. I was fine with the altitude, except near the lake, it felt like I was wearing lead shoes and had to stop every 20 paces and recover my breath.There are lots of cows in the national park, and all the meadows are covered in cow patties, which is kind of unfortunate. It kind of ruins the natural splendor of some of the meadows.Laguna 69 is a glacier lake, awesome blue colour to it. The lake is surrounded by mountains covered in glaciers. We hung out at the lake for about an hour, then headed back to the waiting mini-van. We got back to the hostal about 6:00pm.We went to a chifa (Chinese) restaurant, then went out drinking, since Kieran is going his own way tomorrow. We got back to the hostal about 1:30am, I think, and had to wake up the person running the hostal to let us in.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Didn't sleep much on the bus, if it all. Seats weren't nearly as comfortable as the other bus.We arrived in Huaraz around 6:45, I think, as usual, when we exited the bus compound, we were immediately surrounded by people, trying to get us to go with them. We asked a few people where we were on our map, got some helpful hints, and started walking, searching for Hostal Caroline. We had to ask a few locals as we went along, making sure we were on the right track. We eventually found it, arrived at the hostal about 7:30, just in time for the free breakfast.After breakfast, we signed up for a day trip to Laguna 69 and got information on the Santa Cruz 4 day trek, one of the most popular ones.Huaraz region has the highest mountain ranges in the tropics, lots of peaks over 6000 metres. Ther mountains are covered in snow and glaciers and are brilliant against a blue sky. That's why Huaraz is such a trekking mecca.We considered doing Huayhuash, an 8 day trek, but time is running out.Lisa slept in the room for most of the morning, Kieran, Jason and me walked around town. Kieran is trying to find a company doing the Huayhuash trek, but it's low season and not too many going out.In the afternoon, we went shopping for food for tomorrow, Lisa bought a cheap iPod knockoff and we had a late lunch at California Cafe, a gringo hangout with gringo prices.To bed early for all of us, we have to be ready for 6:00am for our Laguna 69 trip tomorrow.Huaraz the city is nothing special, but very busy with lots of locals all doing their thing. For tourists, it's just a launching point for treks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stupid Cat!

Stupid Cat!! It started meowing in the middle of the night, waking me from my deep sleep. It went on for half an hour or more. When it started, and I was half awaking from my slumber, I didn't know where I was and thought it was Samantha.Up about 8:30, had breakfast. We had a nothing day today, but are heading to Huaraz on a night bus tonight.We walked around, changed lots of US dollars to soles, read, used internet, had an awesome piece of chocolate cake. Lisa and Jason tried to buy bus tickets for the bus trip to Huaraz over the phone, but couldn't, so they had to take the bus back to Trujillo to buy us all tickets.It was quite cool and cloudy today. A beach resort at low season is a somewhat depresseing sight.Peruvians LOVE 1980's pop music. I don't know what the fascination is.Lots of Americans travelling in South America. Hardly any Canadians. That's quite a different from Asia.At 7:00, we went for supper (pizza), then caught a taxi to Trujillo at 8:00, and the bus left for Huaraz at 9:00.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trujillo and Huanchaco

Bus arrived in Trujilla about 10:00am, late. Once the sun came up, I discovered that this part of Peru is a desert. Very barren, dry, sand dunes, rocks, very little vegetation, it kind of looked like Mars.The bus arrived at the company bus terminal, and we were trying to decide where to stay. Some guy at the bus terminal told us Trujillo is expensive, it's cheaper to stay at Huanchaco, a beach resort village about 15km away. We decided to head to downtown Trujillo to see the main square, eat, then get a taxi to Huanchaco. The dude offered to drive us, and we told him we wanted to be dropped off at the main square, but he dropped us off at a restaurant, and told us to go eat there, and the square is two blocks away. It was kind of an expensive restaurant, he probably gets a commission for taking people there. We ate, then stood outside the restaurant trying to figure out where we were. A nice teacher lady came up and offered to help us, in English. She pointed the way to the main square, so we trudged off. Trujillo has probably the nicest square I've seen in South America so far, and all the buildings on the streets surrounding the square are all nicely painted with various bright colours. There's also a huge statue in the middle of the square.With Trujillo seen, we caught a taxi to Huanchaco, a beach town near Trujillo. Stayed at La Casa Suiza, Lisa and I got a double roomo for 30 soles (15 each, about $5 us each). Very nice hostel.After checking in, we headed to the beach for a while. The water is very cold this time of year, and even the air temperature wasn't that warm, just warm enough for laying on the beach. Kieran was the only one brave enough to swim in the icy waters.Huanchaco is a total surfing town. It's low season, many of the shops and restaurants are closed this time of year, but there was still a handful of surfers (both local and westerners) braving the surf in wetsuits. Huanchaco is supposed to be one of the best surf places in South America.The hostal we stayed at has a resident cat. The cat is the spitting image of Samantha, except one ear had a cut in it. It reminded me of my cat. I got an email today from my roommate as well, she says Samantha misses me.After the beach, we went for lunch, then all did our own thing. I spent time on the internet. We also took laundry to the local launderia.Around 6:30, we all went for supper at a fresh seafood restaurant. I had very good fresh fish.When we went to pick up our laundry, the laundry girl was waiting for Lisa. She knew that Lisa spoke fluent Spanish and English, and the laundry girl was taking English lessons, and needed help with some of the english phrases that she didn't understand. It was pretty cute.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Time at Kuelap

Woke up, had breakfast, took our time. We decided to head back up to Kuelap, as we've nothing better to do until our taxi pick-up at 4:00 this afternoon. We didn't want to hike all the way back up, so we had everyone in town trying to find a taxi for us. The principal of the school nearby moonlights as a taxi driver, so he left school (he wasn't teaching a class at the time) and took us up to Kuelap. Got there maybe 10:30ish and stayed until about noon. When we were there late yesterday, we were the only ones on the whole site (except the guardian). Same thing this morning, we had it all to ourselves. As we were getting ready to leave, a few more were trickling in and some of the small tour busses were starting to arrive. We expect Machu Picchu to be a very different experience, a tourist haven.Much of Kuelap is still overgrown and not been restored. They are working on restoring bits of it. Tourists apparently didn't start coming here until very recently, only within the past 10 years.We headed back to Maria about noon, Lisa jogged most of the way. I tried to keep up, but it was hopeless. I got back to the hostal around 2:00, showered, packed, and we had lunch. Our taxi dude came around 4:00 and took us back to Chachapoya.When we took the taxi to Maria yesterday, Jason used an FM transmitter to play his iPod on the taxi drivers radio. When we arrived, Lisa asked him if he liked the music, and he enthusiastically said "Si!". So, when he came and picked us up today, we weren't in the car more than 5 minutes, and he was asking for the music again! I think he was also fascinated with the "magic" of how it worked.We found a bus company and booked a night bus to Trujillo. Only 10% of Peru's roads are paved, and the Panamerican, along the coast, is probably the best road to travel such a big country. The bus left at 7:30pm, and is due to arrive in Trujillo at 8:00am tomorrow morning.The bus was sweet, very comfortable and we even got a meal served to us. The bus cost 60 soles (about $20US).

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Slept in a bit, had breakfast at 9:00, then hired a car to take us to Maria, about a 2 hour drive. We're on our way to Kuelap, an old Inca ruin at the top of a mountain that's not on the tourist trail at all. Maria is the nearest town to the ruins. Awesome road and scenery all the way up. Our taxi driver was from Maria, so he was familiar with the roads, and was racing along the edges of the cliffs, around corners. I thought Kieran was going to faint, he was genuinely scared that were were going off the edge.Maria is a tiny village, but has a few hostals because of the ruins. He dropped us off at Hospedaje El Mirador, a nice place for such a small town, 15 soles each (about $5 US). We liked the guy, so we made arrangements with him to pick us up tomorrow at 4:00pm to take us back to Chachapoyas.We had lunch, then started the hike along the road to Kuelap. Our taxi driver told us it was a 40 minute walk, so we figured we had lots of time. We started walking at 2:45.After 40 minutes, we still weren't half way there. When we saw a sign that said it was still 5km away, we knew it would be a long trek.We finally got to the gate entrance at 4:30, and bought our tickets (12 soles). It was still another kilometre or so from the gate to the ruins itself. By the time we reached the ruins, it was 4:45, and the custodian of the ruins told us they close at 5:00. Kieran, upset, dropped to the ground and said "Senor!" I raced inside to see as much as possible in my 15 minutes. At 5:00, I ran back to the entrance, and the custodian told us that we could have another 30 minutes. So off I went again. I returned at 5:25, they were all looking for me, yelling my name, Lisa was blowing her whistle. They custodian got a radio call telling him to close the place up about 15 minutes ago, and they'd been looking for me every since. Oh well.Before leaving, Lisa asked if we could our tickets again tomorrow, since we bought so late in the day. We were told yes.We left the ruins at 5:30 and started the walk back. I got very dark on the way back, fortunately Lisa and I both brought our headlamps with us. On the way back, in the dark, we saw a tarantula walking the road! I've never seen one before, that wasn't behind a piece of glass. Cool!!!When we got back, we had supper, then a couple of big beers, then to bed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hello Peru

Up at 6:45. We had to catch an 8:00am ranchero to La Balsa, the border town on the Ecuadorian side. It's a 1.5 hour ride. A ranchero is a big truck with seats in the back and no sides on it.At the border, we got our Ecuadorian exit stamp, walked across a bridge over the river separating the countries, into Peru and got all our paperwork done and our passport stamped.Once the formalities were done, we hired a collectivo (taxi) to St. Ignacious. There was an older local couple that wanted to go with the taxi too, so we split the fare with them. Both of them rode in the passenger front seat and the four of us road in the back seat. It was a 2 hour ride. Jason had a package of crackers, and he offered the lovely couple in the front seat some. They grabbed the whole pack and never gave it back, and ate all the crackers themselves. Haha.When we got to St. Ignacious, I was surprised to see....tuk-tuks! Lots of them. When the driver dropped us off near a restaurant, a few tuk-tuk drivers drove up trying to get a fare somewhere.We had lunch in the restaurant, and when we came out, we were descended upon by taxi drivers all offering to take us to the next town (Jaen). They were so persistent, but they all offered the same price, 15 soles per person. Kieran, who loves to bargain in his broken Spanish, insisted on 13 soles person, but they wouldn't take it. We finally walked out of the collectivo area, with the intention of going somewhere else to get $13. Then one young guy broke rank and gave us 13 soles each. We would pay for it later! Along the way, he stopped to pick up a local, which would have meant 4 people in the back seat of an old Toyota Corolla, not comfortable. He told us that unless we pay $15/person, he had to pick someone else up to cover the cost. We relented and said we'd pay 15 soles. The ride from St. Ignacious to Jaen was about 3 hours. Along the way, we were stopped by two guys toting machine guns, who were obviously not police or army. They started spewing stuff in Spanish, but Lisa just kept her mouth shut. The one machine gun dude looked in at us after his speech, we all had dumb looks on our faces, so he let us continue on our way. Lisa remarked afterwards that they were looking for "donations" to help fund road repairs and other road work.When the boy pulled into the collectivo area, we were immediately surrounteded by 5 tuk-tuks. Lisa convinced the driver to take us to the bus depot instead. That wasn't any better. At the "bus depot", there were no busses, only tons of collectivo taxi's and masses of tuk-tuks. When we emerged from the car, they swarmed us. I have no idea how Lisa handled it, but they were all talking to her, telling her different stories....the next bus to Chachapoya doesn't leave until 10:00....there's a roadblock, you can't get through until tomorrow morning....finally one tuk-tuk driver pulls up, upset with everyone else and says "These people are visitors to our city. They just spent hours and hours on the bus. Quit telling them lies and tell them the truth." He told us we could get through, it's no problem.We left the mayhem of the "bus station" and walked down the road, looking for a bus company that we asked some other locals about. They kept pointing us down the street. We kept walking, and finally found it. They have a bus, but it doesn't leave until 10:00pm, and it gets to Chachapoya at like 1:00am, which is no good for us.We walked to a restaurant for something more to eat (almuerzo....again...yuck....), then emerged, and some guy in a mini-van pulled up offering us a ride to the next town, Batua Grande. It was getting late (5:00ish), but we really wanted to reach Chachapoyas tonight. We accepted his offer. His mini-van was really run down and old, as most cars here in Peru seem to be. He picked up other locals on the way.We arrived in Batua Grande after dark, and managed to get another collectivo taxi to take us to Chachapoyas.In Chachapoyas, we got a "posh" hostal for about $10 US each, hot water, TV, free wi-fi. Hostal Revash, right in the centre of town, across from the main square.My first impressions of Peru.It's obviously not nearly as wealthy as Ecuador. I sometimes judge a countries wealth by the number and types of vehicles on the road. In Ecuador, there are a lot of personal cars, and almost all cars are new. Here in Peru, no one has cars. 99% of the cars on the road are taxis and tuk-tuks, and busses and trucks making up the rest.Lots of kids on the street selling stuff. Very similar to Vietnam.Tons and tons of tuk-tuks. Like, I mean tons! I was shocked. Peru could potentially put Thailand to shame when it comes to the number of tuk-tuks on the roads.Harassment. Anyone in the service industry is desparate, and when they see us, they see dollars, and they all converge on us, trying to get us to go with them or buy something from them. Very similar to India in that respect.I expected Peru to be very much like Ecuador...but it's not. My head was spinning at the end of the day.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Goodbye Ecuador

Up about 7:45, packed, had breakfast at another restaurant, then to the bus station to catch a bus back to Loja, then get on our 12:30 bus for Zumba, near the Peruvian border.After Vilcabamba, the road turned to mud from the rain. The bus couldn't make it up!!! He was slip-sliding all over the place. He tried three times, before finally backing down the hill and then stopped and waited. After 20 minutes, he said he was turning back and going back to Loja and started driving. Noooo!!!!! There were about 10 people on the whole bus, so a bunch of locals told the bus driver to stop, they'd pick up a camioneta (truck) instead. They hopped off the bus, and a truck came fairly quickly, and they were off. We discussed what to do and decided to flag down the next bus or camioneta that came along. The bus driver said they'd cover the cost of the bus fare on the other bus. We waited about 30 minutes, and another bus came. We flagged it down, and got on. As we came to the part of road that our first bus couldn't make it up, we crossed our fingers. This bus had a lot more people on it, it was heavier and it made it up! A bit further, we came to a spot where another bus had gone off the road and was stuck in three feet of mud. I hope that doesn't happen to us!AFter dark, the bus ride was pretty crazy. The bus raced along the edges of the mountain, right along the edge of cliffs, teeny bridges, so small, when I looked out the window, I couldn't even see the bridge, just the raging river below.We finally made it to Zumba about 9:00 I think, well after dark, and got a taxi to the "best of the worst" hotels.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Up around 8:00, packed, went for breakfast, to the bus station and asked some bus companies if they are running tomorrow. Everything is normal, all bus companies have their normal schedule. We want to get to the Peru border tomorrow, so we bought a ticket from Loja to Zumba for 12:30 tomorrow afternoon. Zumba is the closest town to the border, still about 1.5-2 hours away. Then we bought a bus ticket to Zamora to see another part of Parque Nacional Podocarpus today. My Rough Guide says the bus ride from Loja to Zamora is worth the price alone.Lisa got an email from Kirsty, there's apparently protests in Peru too, and she's having problems. She booked a 3 day white water rafting trip and it got cancelled because of protests.The drive to Zamora was awesome. Massive waterfalls, one after another after another, at the edge of the road, huge ferns, etc. Everything you'd expect in a rain forest!Our hostal in Zamora is bottom of the barrel. There aren't that many choices, and Kieran wanted cheap. I've stayed in worse, but the other three were not happy. Jason and Lisa wouldn't even sleep in the bed, instead opting to sleep in their sleeping bags on top of the bed. Cockroaches, mold, dirty floors, piss on the floor of the bathrooms. My bed linens were very clean, though, so I didn't mind.We hired a taxi to take us to the Podocarpus, got there about 2:30, and asked him to pick us up at 6:00.Beautiful rainforest, Lisa and I showered under a massive waterfall. With all the rain that has fallen over the past few days, the rivers are swollen. It rained all morning and stopped when we got to the park, then it started again when we got back.When we got back to town, we went for local food (again...it's called almuerzo, usually soup, then rice and chicken parts, or a tough piece of beef or a small fish, and a bit of veggies....it gets old very fast, but it's super cheap).So, our hotel and both meals for $8 today!Back at our room, to distract us from the cockroaches and piss and mold, I had a small bottle of local alcohol I bought before the Galapagos, so we drank that. There's no toilet seat on the toilet either, so Lisa has a tough time squatting over the toilet bowl.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Playing in the Mud

Up about 7:30, all of us (me, Lisa, Jason and Kieran) went for breakfast, then Jason needed to mail his Panama hat he bought, went to the supermarket for hiking food, dropped off laundry, withdrew some money at an ATM, converted some of it to soles (the currency in Peru). Wé'll need some when we go across the border at some small town in the middle of nowhere. We plan on not using one of the popular border crossings.About noon, me, Lisa and Jason got a taxi to Parque Nacional Podocarpus. It was raining when we started and the trail was super wet and muddy. Super nice vegetation, trees, shrubs and everything is green. At the top, it was rainy, misty and cloudy and couldn't see any views. It was a massively hard climb, we were literally climbing vertically in some parts. We actually thought we were lost, Lisa and me were going to turn around after three hours and go back because the trail was neverending up. Jason said "let's just go up this one last hill and see". Which we did. Lo-and-behold, that was the top (the paramo),a nd the trail finally started descending. On the way down, it stopped raining and clouds started to clear and we got some views.We finished hiking around 4:30, and went back to the ranger station, covered in mud. A truck came up, it was the ranger park woman. The taxi driver didn't stop at the main gate for us to pay our park fee ($10) when we came in, so when she found us, she asked us to pay. She then offered us a ride back to Loja, which was awesome, because we would have had to walk 8km to the main highway before flagging down a bus, taking probably 2+ hours extra.We rode back to town in the back of the pick-up, and got dropped off in central Loja, close to our hostal.We picked up our laundry, then back to the hostal and showered. Another girl (Deedee, from Holland) came into our room and asked us if it was safe to walk around Loja at night. We said ya, we thought so, and then invited her to join us for supper, as she was travelling alone. She would meet us back at our room at 7:30 this evening.At 7:30, we went to Parrillada Uruguay for supper. Awesome food!! I don't know if it's authentic Uruguain food, but my steak was superb.At supper, Deedee mentioned that Friday is a holiday, and most bus companies weren't going to be running busses. We had planned on heading to Peru that day. We decided when we got to the bus terminal tomorrow, we would inquire.After supper, we went for ice cream, then to bed after 10:00.One other note, yesterday on the bus, Lisa taught me how to conjugate verbs! I'm getting more smarter!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

To Loja!

Got up, tried to shower, but no hot water. Sad.Lisa and I met Jason and Kieran in front of the tourist info centre and asked about Loja again. The lady and Lisa are becoming very good friends! Good news!!! The buses to Loja are running, the roadblock has been cleared! The indigineous people and the president of Ecuador met yesterday in meetings in Quito, and apparently the president has said that he'll repeal most of the controversial parts of the new water bill or something.We went back to the hostal and packed and arranged to meet Jason and Kieran at the bus station at 12:30.We got a 1:00pm bus to Loja, and arrived there around 6:00. Uneventful bus trip.Got to Hostal Londres ($5 each), went out for pasta for supper, then walked around town, then ice cream, then to bed.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Hiking in Cajas

Up around 8:00, had breakfast, then to the tourist info centre to inquire about the highway to Loja. Still blocked.Lisa and me waited for Jason and Kieran to meet us at our hostal at 10:00am. They got there abou 10:10, we raced to the bus terminal (via taxi) to catch a 10:20 bus to Parque Nacional Cajas. Ended up the 10:20 bus that the tourist info centre told us about does't exist anymore, so we had to wait until a 10:45 bus.It took about 1 hour to reach the park entrance, the bus dropped us off. We paid our $10 park fee to the rangers. They were very excited to see us, and super friendly. They gave us all maps and brochures of the park, asked us how long we wanted to hike for, and recommended a couple of hikes. We did hike number 3 on the map, Valle de Quinas. Very beautiful, it's so high, the vegetation is very tundra like, like you'd see in the high Arctic. We started at an altitude of 4068 metres and our highest point was 4142 metres. It was cold near the top, and cloudy most of the hike, and on and off rain (usually a mist) all day. The altitude kicked me hard. It was hard to go uphill for any sort of time before I was huffing and puffing. I was also slightly dizzy a few times, I was certainly feeling the high altitude. We finished the hike in about 4 hours, the map and the sign said it was a 7 hour hike.We flagged down a bus on the highway to get back to Cuenca, went back to the tourist information centre and asked about Loja again. Still blocked, but she mentioned that there was an indirect route we could take, through Machala, to get to Loja. We went for ice cream, then arranged to meet up with Jason and Kieran at 8:00 for cuy (guinea pig).We went back to our hostal, Lisa showered, then I had no hot water. We walked to Jason and Kieran hostal at 8:00, then to El Maiz for the Ecuadorian specialty, guinea pig (cuy). The waiter said it would take about an hour to prepare, which was fine with us. He said one guinea pig would be enough for all four of us to sample it. We also ordered a regular meal, Lisa got goat. She's being especially experimental with her food tonight!The waiter brought out the cuy when it was done cooking. He brought it out before cutting it up, so we could take pictures. He obviously knew we were tourists trying it for the first time. There was one tooth still in the mouth, it was weird to see.After taking pictures, the waiter took it back to the kitchen and brought it back out cut up. We all grabbed a piece. Lisa loved it. She gorged on it, couldn't get enough. Me, Jason and Kieran, well, we had trouble with it. The skin was like leather, and it was hard to get any substantial meat off of it. Furthermore, for me, I just couldn't get it out of my head that was a guinea pig. Kieran just kept remarking that we were eating vermin, and he wasn't fond of it.After we paid our bill, Lisa asked how it's prepared. The waiter told us that when we ordered it, the guinea pig was still living. They are raised at a farm that the restaurant owner has. When someone orders cuy, they break the neck of the guinea pig, then have to boil it and roast it, and that's why it takes so long to prepare.Afterwards, we went to a microbrewery to hopefully sample some good beer, but they were all out of their home grown beer, except their stout, which is dark, like Guiness.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Around Cuenca

Up at 7:30, had breakfast, then went for a walk in search of a better hostal. Ended up choosing Hostal Majestic (named Casa Naranja in our old guide books), $5 each, but that doesn't include breakfast, and it looks cleaner and the showers look better. The guy at the other hostal was very nice, giving us maps of places to see, areas to stay away from, etc. We felt kind of bad leaving, but since I don't speak Spanish, Lisa had to play bad cop.After getting to our new hostal, we walked all around town, flower market, Cathedral Nueva (huge church...there was a huge mass going on there when we walked in), soccer stadium (trying to see if we could see a soccer game), some Inca ruins, the university, had Mexican food for lunch, spent lots of time on the internet, had ice cream, and later in the evening met up with Jason (from Black Sheep Inn) and another guy, Keiran (Irish) for french fries and a beer.We checked in at the tourist information centre in town, the roads to Loja are still blocked.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Cuenca Try Number 2

Up about 8:00, Lisa and me walked around looking for someplace to have breakfast. Lisa bought a couple of newpapers to see what she could find out about the road closures and protests. Over breakfast, Lisa read the papers. There's numerous road closures around Ecuador (including the one we were on), but the paper didn't mention anything about anyone being shot yesterday. One person did die (and numerous injured) last Wednesday at a different road block, and the worst of it was happening on the road between Puyo and Macas, where indigineous people have blocked 3km of the highway by covering it in rocks, dirt and trees. That would explain all the riot police Lisa and Jason saw in Puyo on their bike ride. Apparently the indigineous people are very upset, and are talking war, they have tied red ribbons to their spears.We headed to the bus station and inquired about getting to Cuenca again. The road is still closed, but they said the best way would to take a bus towards Guayaquil, and get off at km26, stand by the side of the highway and wait for a bus going to Cuenca. It would be an extra 2 hours (at least) on the bus trip, but we decided to do it.The bus left at 10:30. Beautiful scenery, the highway snakes along the edge of the mountains. As we were going through the mountains, the bus suddenly stopped. The local woman beside me stood up, said something to me in Spanish, with an upset look, and slapped her hand on her leg, in frustration. I said, "No hablo español" and looked at Lisa, who asked her. Road block!!!!Fortunately, this road block was just construction and we were on our way within 20 minutes. There were lots of more stops for construction. Of course, all the hawkers know where the stops are, so when we pull up to one, they all flock onto the bus, selling water, juice, bananas, ice cream, chocolate and various other snacks. At some stops, locals have even setup little BBQ's, and are selling BBQ meat on a stick.When we came out of the mountains to the plains, it got very hot, lots and lots of banana plantations and some huge Dole factories.At km26, we got off, and waited by the side of the road. I'm sure all the locals were wondering what the heck these two whities were doing here, standing on the side of the highway. Haha.We waited about 20 minutes, and a bus for Cuenca came by, we flagged it down, and it stopped for us. We were soon climbing the mountains again, road stops periodically for construction. They are upgrading all their highways right now, so much construction.The highway passes through Parque Nacional Cajas, and it's beautiful, very high, ragged mountains and lakes, with most of the park at an elevation greater than 4000 metres.We finally got to Cuenca about 7:00pm.When we got off the bus, a local sold us on his hostal, Casa Sol, for $6 each, including breakfast. It ended up being a big dive.We went to Cafe Eucalyptus for an awesome supper, on the way back, we ran into a big fiesta outside Santa Domingo church, lots of people, dancing, tons of fireworks, a priest was the DJ, and he was a dance king too, picking randoms (both locals and tourists) out of the crowd and dancing with them. It was hilrious. They also had this huge, 30 foot structure made of bamboo. It was also covered in firecrackers and fireworks. Near the end, they lit it on fire. Now, there are no safety laws or anything here, and we were about 10 feet away from this structure. As soon as they lit it on fire, sparks and booms and smoke was everywhere, everyone got scared and started to back up. I was scared! Fireworks started shooting off this thing in all directions, into the crowds, up in the air, into buildings (including the church), it was awesome bbut totally scary!After that, went back to the hostal and to bed.

Friday, October 02, 2009

What Happened on the Way to Cuenca

Up at 7:30, showered, had breakfast, then Lisa ad me walked to the bus depot, saying goodbye to Kirsty. Kirsty is nearing the end of her travels, so she's off to Cusco (Peru) in a couple of days to see Macchu Pichu, then back to Canada. Lisa and I are headed to Cuenco.We caught a 9:00am bus from Baños to Ambato, then a bus from Ambato to Riobamba, then another bus from Riobamba to Cuenco.Beautiful scenery, huge mountains, deep valleys. They cultivate everything here, right up to the tops of the mountains, and on steep angles, greater than 45 degrees. It's crazy.It's about a 6 hour bus ride from Riobamba to Cuenca. At Zhud, about 4.5 hours into the trip, traffic started to get backed up. Our bus driver was aggressive, and started to pass all the stopped traffic. There was lots of road construction. We leap-frogged ahead a kilometre or two, then were forced to stop. There's nothing moving up ahead, and no one knows why. Some of the locals on the bus were making calls, the bus dudes were on their cell phones. After 30 minutes of the standstill, stories started to emerge that the police had shutdown the highway. Our bus dudes announced they were turning around and going back to Riobamba. All the locals on the bus got upset, and most got off and started walking. We didn't know what to do. It was late, about 5:00ish, not much sunlight left, and the other backpackers on the bus (3 others) decided to stay on the bus with the few locals that didn't walk. Lisa and I were discussing staying in one of the small town near here, and catching a bus the following day. Lisa started talking to a local woman on the bus, who said this part of Ecuador is unsettled right now, and it wouldn't be recommended to stay here. Then we heard that someone had been shot on the highway ahead.....Now, I'm going to backtrack a bit. When we were on the plane either going to or coming back from the Galapagos, Kirsty picked up a local newspaper, and there was some stories about protests over water rights in Ecuador. Some indigenous groups are upset over something about water in Ecuador, and there had been some protests in some of the Ecuadorian cities. Furthermore, when we were at the Black Sheep Inn, the two Americans (the ones that didn't have enough money to pay), were heading south to teach English in Loja, but they was also stories that the teachers are upset over some changes to the education system, and they have been trying to organize a strike in some Ecuadorian cities.Back to the present, and another woman showed up on the bus, she said she just walked 60km to get to our side of the roadblock. She started walking at 11:00am that morning, so the road had been shut down since at least 11:00am.We decided to stay on the bus and go back to Riobamba, as there's no saying how long the road would be shut. The bus driver was FLYING back to Riobamba, and we made it back in record time, got back about 9:00pm. At the bus station, one of the couples on the bus recommended Hostal Oasis, so the 5 backpackers taxi'd there. The taxi driver mentioned that protests have been happening since Monday.Very nice hostal!Lisa and I discussed what we should do tomorrow, and we're not sure!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mountain Biking

Bloody hell. I was woke up at 5:30am by a marching band and what sounded like a cannon firing, over and over. It finally stopped after 6:00, and I fell back asleep.Up around 9:00, had breakfast, then met Jason at 10:00 am and rented mountain bikes. We biked from Baños east out of the mountains toward Puyo, on the edge of the Amazon basin. Awesome scenery, lots of waterfalls, including Pailon Del Diablo, an awesome thundering waterfall, where you can actually climb in behind the waterfall.Kirsty and me made it to the 40km mark (about 4:00pm), where the road then starts to climb. The seats on the bikes were terrible, and my ass was killing was me. Lisa and Jason decided to continue the uphill road to Puyo. Kirsty and me caught a truck back for $2 each.Kirsty and me waited for Lisa and Jason at the hostal, they got back about 7:00pm. They ended up paying $20 to get back from Puyo. They arrived in Puyo just before dark, and Lisa mentioned there was lots of police in Puyo, with riot gear ready (like those big shields). We had noticed a significant police presence in Baños today too, they're all over the place. We were curious as to why.The four of us went for gross burgers and beer, then we used Jason's Macbook to transfer pictures between memory cards. I put a copy of all my pictures onto Kirsty's memory card (which is actually mine, that I loaned her), and she's going to take them all back to Canada, so I have a backup.Around 6:00pm, while we were waiting for Lisa and Jason to get back, the band and cannon started up again. Kirsty was outside, and she came back to the hostal and remarked that it was firecrackers, not a cannon. It sure is loud, though. Obviously some sort of fiesta.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Steak in Baños

Up early, 4:40am, and walked to the road in front of the Black Sheep Inn. We waited and waited and waited, but no bus came. The bus finally rolled by at 6:15. $1 for the bus ride to Zumbahua. In Chugchilan, the bus stopped, and pigs were loaded onto the roof of the bus, squealing and kicking, as they were dragged by a rope around the neck to the roof.In Zumbahua, had to switch to a different bus. Packed, Kirsty and I had to stand. Bus was also super tiny, when Lisa stood, she had to hold her neck crooked. We also got charged tourist prices. All the locals were paying $1.25, he charged us $2.50 each. Lisa confronted the bus dude, and everyone else on the bus was behind us, asking the bus dude why we were paying more, and the bus dude didn't have an answer, finally telling Lisa he'll talk to us at Latacunga, when the bus stops. At Latacunga, Lisa had a talk with the bus dude, and ended up getting $3.00 back, so the bus cost us $1.50. Lisa couldn't be bothered to try and get the extra 75 cents back. The bus dude totally assumed that we didn't speak Spanish, and could get away with it. Fortunately, Lisa is totally fluent in Spanish.We had to change buses in Latacunga, then do yet another bus change in Ambato.Arrived in Baños around 1:00ish, went to Plantas y Blanca Hostal and stayed in a 4-bed dorm for $6.50/night.Walked around town, I bought an Ecuador soccer jersey ($9), we checked one of the hot pools. This town is like Queenstown in New Zealand, very picturesque and full of adventure activities.We napped for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Then met Jason (from Black Sheep Inn) for supper for awesome steak, then to bed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Waterslide of Death

Kirsty and me decided to do a "nothing" day, Lisa decided to do a hike from Quilatoa back to the Black Sheep Inn with four others from the hostal. They left on a rented truck with a guide at 9:00am.Kirsty and me lounged in the yoga room, listening to music and reading all morning, had a cheese plate for lunch (there's a Swiss trained cheese factory out here in the middle of nowhere), then played a round of disc golf, the highest disc golf course in the world. Great course, very steep, and hazards include sheep, mules, cows and pigs.Lisa got back around 3:00, then a bunch of us wanted to do the waterslide. The waterslide is made out of concrete and starts at the tp of a hill and goes down into a pond. It's steep, with twists and turns. You go down on a plastic mat. Andres (owner of the Black Sheep Inn) said it's the highest solar powered waterslide in the world. I went first. HOLY CRAP! AWESOME! It was so good, I had to go a second time.A bit later, some of us did the zipline, which was fun, but not nearly as exciting as the waterslide.At 7:00 was supper, then we paid our bill, as we have to catch a 5:00 am bus tomorrow morning.There's a younger American couple at the inn, and at supper time, they mentioned to Andres that they don't have enough money to pay. They've been splurging, having wine with meals, staying in a private room, wanting to do a horse trek the following day. They asked Andres if they could pay with Paypal. Andres was quite upset, because they were specifically told that they HAD to bring cash (there's no bank machines in Chugchilan, and the inn doesn't accept credit cards). So, Andres kind of reemed them out, telling them they have to make some decisions considering their financial issue. Andres ended up letting them pay with Paypal, but it was an issue. Everyone else in the inn thought it was a "typical American" thing to do.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Black Sheep Inn

Up about 8:30, had breakfast.At 9:30, Lisa, Kirsty and me left for the cloud forest hike. We are situated on the east side of the last mountain range before the ocean, so hot coastal air rises up the mountains and produces the Andean Humid Forest. It's an ecological reserve, but there's no control in the area.The hike goes up over the paramo (3500 metres), then down the other side. When you're up on top of the paramo, you're above the clouds over the forest, so it's way cool. As you descend down, you can walk under the canopy of the cloud forest and explore. We had lunch (provided and packed by Black Sheep Inn) under the canopy at the edge of a steep ravine, and watched the clouds roll up the valley toward us.We hiked back via a different route, amazing views.Got back around 3:15, showered. At 4:30, some children from Chugchilan did a dance presentation (for tips). It was real good.There's so much to do here, zipline, Waterslide of Death, Fred Flinstone weight room, sauna, hot tub (which is funny), yoga studio, volleyball court, horseshoe pits, disc golf.Kirsty's camera "lost" most of her pictures. Another guy had his Macbook Air, so we checked her memory card, her camera moved most of her pictures to a different folder. I used his laptop to backup all my pictures to a 2nd memory card.7:00 was supper, then read, then to bed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Quilatoa is sooooo windy. It howled all night lng. I had dreams of the roof blowing off of our hostal. It was cold last night too, but they provided lots and lots of thick blankets.We got up about 6:30, they said that's the only time of day to see the two sisters ad Cotopaxi without clouds, but it was quite unimpressive.Back to the warmth of the bed and slept again until about 9:30. We got up, got breakfast, packed, then sat around, played cards and whatever. We're heading to Chugchilan, but the only bus rolls through between 1:00 and 2:30 in the afternoon.Around 11:30, we backpacked to the lodge where the bus wuld stop. We waited in that lodge, got some tea, played chess.This town is quite depressing. It's sooooooooo windy (and apparently always like that), cold and dry. It's nice to move on.About 1:30, we moved out to the road and waited. The bus rolled up about 2:00. It was packed, no seats, and there's cement, pop, building materials, bananas and everything else a local might need packed in the aisles. A sheep was tied down on the roof with all the other baggage, two other sheep were stuffed into the rear baggage compartment.We had to stand, cramped, for part of the rid, but eventually seats became available. The road was dirt, potholed and rutted, sheer cliffs, very exciting.Got to Chugchilan and walked the half kilometre to the Black Sheep Inn, an eco-tourism resort. The dorms are $32/night. That includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.We did a short hike to the plateau, a plateau overlooking an impressive canyon, about a 2 hour hike, with nice views all around. There's lots of hikes to do around Chugchilan.Supper (family style) was at 7:00. It's all vegetarian, and quite good.The toilets here are amazing. They are dry composting toilets, you go poop or pee, drop in the toilet paper too, then put in some "dry stuff", and it all composts, and they use it on their fruit trees. The toilets also have great views, I have another entry for my Worlds Greatest Thrones website!After supper, I read, ten to bed around 10:30ish.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Up early, about 7:00, showered and had breakfast. Not in a hurry, the first bus to Quilatoa doesn't leave until 10:00am.Walked to the bus depot around 9:30 and almost had to stand on the bus, we arrived just in time to get the remaining seats. 2.5 hour bus for $2. The guy (local) sitting beside Lisa had bad armpit smell.Got to Quilatoa (elev. 3850 metres) around 12:30 and a little boy convinced Lisa to come to his parents hostal (Hostal Pacha Mama), $12 each, includes breakfast and supper. It's pretty cold here, gaining lots of altitude.We wandered around town, which is nothing more than one street and maybe 20 buildings. Lisa and Kirsty each bought a sweater from the local market, then we ate.Quilatoa is a tiny village, population 50 people. It's a tourist place because of a crater lake. Most hostals are just extra rooms the Quechan locals have in their homes. You're really staying with the locals here.We then made arrangements for horses to take Kirsty and me back up from the crater lake. $5, and so touristy, but oh well. Lisa decided to hike back up. The three of us hiked down, about a 30 minute hike, quite warm on the way down, out of the wind. Once down, we waited for our horses, then went back up. My horse was nursing a foal, Lisa figured she was not being fed enough and she was pretty slow getting me back up. I was the last out of about 12 horses to get back to the rim.We then visited a local artisans shop and bought some small paintings, then hit the local supermarket and bought some Oreos. You can find Oreos anywhere on this planet, along with Coke and Heineken.Watched a game of handball.About 5:00, back to the hostal, wrote in journal, played cards and made protest signs supporting the new elephant statue at the Calgary Zoo. ("We support all elephants!", "Keep Ganesh at our zoo!", "Equal rights for all gods!")Electricity and running water only in the evenings here. He turns it on for us to shower, but it was off all other times. We collected quite the mix of pee in our toilet. Fortunately no one had to poop.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Slept awesome last night. Woke up about 8:30, 10 hours sleep or something.We got our laundry, had breakfast, then we (with Rafael) took a taxi to the southern bus depot to catch a bus to Latacunga. Rafael is going to Riobamba. Bus depot is brand new and is amazing. It's like a brand new airport.Caught a bus to Latacunga (elev. 2800 metres), 1.5 hours for $1.25. Buses to Latacunga leave every 5 minutes.Found a hostal (Hostal Tiana) that we happened across while looking for some listed in our guidebooks. $10/night, includes breakfast. Had some lunch, then wandered around town. Huge market, I bought a light jacket, because I didn't bring one. $12. Lisa tried to buy jeans, but none would fit her properly.Then we walked around town, seeing some other somewhat uninteresting sights. They have some pretty nice urban parks here, though.Back to hostal, I used internet and whatever. We had an amazing hot chocolate and started planniing out what we wanted to see in Peru. I need more time!