A Travellerspoint blog

Miami - Orlando - New York

The End

overcast 16 °C

Well, that's it. It's all over. I've arrived back in Blightey and my year travelling around the word seems but a distant memory!

We had a lovely time with the girls (Claire and Michelle).

Chilled on the beach in Miami. It was the first time that they had both stayed in a hostel and I have to say, after the initial shock of having to share a room with total strangers, making their own beds, and the beds actually being bunk beds, they soon settled in and became travellers (almost!)

Hired a nice big 4x4 Trailblazer and drove up to Orlando. Here we stayed in a motel 6, but in order to save money, all four of us stayed in one room so it was decidely cosy! We spent the week in Orlando getting lost on the highways, visiting Disney World which thanks to Michelle we all got in free. This turned out to be a very good thing as the rides at MGM and the Magic Kingdom are rubbish, no thrills and spills here. Just nice calm rides for all the children - BORING!! We did see a lovely firework display at the Magic Kingdom though, which was nice!

As the weather wasn't too great the beach wasn't really an option. We did try one afternoon but when the sun went in after only 30 mins and then Claire decided to sunbathe with all her clothers on so we headed home.

When a friend of Michelle's came over to spend the day with us we decided to head to the tatooist. 3 out of 5 girls got tatoos....

We also saw a lot of movies: Deja Vu - very good. Stranger than Fiction - good but not as funny as the trailers promise. The Holiday - lots of bad over acting from everyone.

And then the girls went home, I went to spend a few days in New York where I had lunch with the lovely Tim McCann in Pastis (lovely restaurant) and spent far too much money in the shops, and Laura went to Washington.

So that's it. All over for me. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and I thank you for taking the time to read it. I've had an amazing year and can't believe it's all over already!

Laura is still out and about, currently in Toronto I think. She will hopefully keep us all updated via email.

Thank you and Good Bye and See some of you soon!

Janine

I've uploaded some new photos too on:

http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/J9travels/

Posted by J9travels 12:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Cusco - Jungle - Cusco

sunny 24 °C

We arrived in Cusco on the early afternoon and set out to book some trips to Machu Picchu and the jungle.

We found a good jungle trip for 6 days/5 nights which meant that we had to squeeze Machu Picchu in over the weekend and ended up not really seeing much of Cusco or the Sacred Valley...

Machu Picchu
Awesome place! Most people will have heard about and seen pictures of it so I won't go on too much about it.

We were there early before most of the tourists arrive and the weather was good all morning so we had about 5 hours strolling around the ruins. We had a guide for the first 2 hours and were then left just to wander. It's a really amazing place, it really took my breathe away. It felt quite mystical to me, so high up in the mountains away from everything. Loved it.

Manu Jungle
An awesome trip despite me cathing the lurgy from Laura and having to spend a day in bed and not being able to venture too far away from the toilets!

The Manu Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site in the southwestern region of the Amazon Basin, encompasses approximately 5 million acres ranging from high alpine grasslands and cloud forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes to lowland rainforest.

Peru's national park is home to 200 species of mammals, including 13 different species of monkeys, the endangered giant otter, the caiman and the jaguar. It also boasts the largest concentration of birdlife in the world with an estimated 925 species.

This is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world, not to mention being home to several ethnic groups such as the Matchiguengas, Yine and others, which often have very little contact with westerners.

Day 1 - Long bus ride into the jungle along the only road into the jungle which felt like the bumpiest road in the world.

Arrived at our first stop for lunch and then went white water rafting (Grade 3) along the Alto Madre de Dios river - awesome!

Night at Erika Lodge where we meet the rest of our group and where the electricity gets turned off at 9pm so we all have an early night!

Day 2
5am start. Breakfast and then 5 of us go off into the jungle to swing through the canopy on the cacble zip lines. Another great experience. The guide flicks a giant ant off of Laura's shoulder - if they bight you you go all numb and someone says it feels like you are having a heart attack... They are really big too!

Back in the boat for a long trip up the river to our next camp ground near Boca Manu. Lots of birds and monkeys to see and a few white caimans (alligators)

We have another walk in the jungle at Boca Manu and see lots of spiders and other large insects.

Day 3
4.30am start. Another long boat journey up the Madre de Dios river and we enter the Reserve Zone where we have to sign in.

Our camp for the next 2 nights is nice but the water from the shower is the same colour as the river, brown. You don't spend a long time showering in the jungle cos you don't really get clean but you do get eaten by mozzies!

We take another walk through the jungle and then take the wooden catamaran out onto the lake where we see black caimans and lots more birds and monkeys but no giant otters.

I get sick and spend a lot of time in the toilet.

Day 4
I am in bed or in the toilet all day feeling really dreadful. The nice guide gives me some jungle tea and some tablets for my symptoms which do nothing! Find a grasshopper the size of my arm in the room as I decide to get up and take a shower. Climb back under the safety of my mozzie net and wait for Laura. Grasshopper manages to disappear in this time. We eventually find it under the other side of Laura's bed and ask our guide Jose to get ride of it. It is HUGE. Wrong.

Day 5
I'm still sick but manage to make the short walk to the river to see if we can spot the Giant Otters and we do!!! There's a family of about 5 and they are fishing and eating and playing and fighting and we get up really close. They aren't giant but they're pretty big!

In the afternoon we are back on the boat heading back to Boca Manu. We stop off at the village where the lads play football with the locals. The locals hardly break a sweat, the lads are dripping at the end of it but at least they win!

Day 6
Fly back to Cusco in small 12 seater plane. A little scarey I have to say!

And that was the jungle. Another great experience. Couldn't live in the jungle though, too many abnormally large insects!

And being sick whilst in the jungle is not a good experience!

Laura says:
When it's summarised like that it sounds like we were in & out of the jungle in no time at all!
It really was an amazing experience, regardless of the 40 odd mozi bites I ended up with despite applying 85% deet, the showering in brown water, the nightly killing spree of some rather large cockroaches in our cabin just before bedtime (I let J9 deal with that bit) & the sound of distant howler monkeys & animals creeping around behind the cabin in the pitch black.
Luckily I have managed to perfect the ability to sleep absolutely anywhere as I think the jungle is the only place I know which is noisier at night than during the day.
The only bad nights sleep I had was when I woke from a nightmare that I had a huge spiders web around my bed. Unfortunately I awoke to find it wasn't a dream but reality (well to me the mosi net appeared very web like). It was so real I woke J9 up & told her we had to leave! It was only when she asked why that I realised how ridiculous I sounded. The jungle really plays with your mind!!!

We flew back to Lima and then back to Miami. The weather is still good here in Miama and Claire and Michelle have arrived so we have just been chilling on the beach and I have started to eat again after 7 days so all is good.

Next stop Orlando

Posted by J9travels 08:57 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Puno

sunny 25 °C

Puno was nice. We only spent 2 nights there and it was alive with local election activity, lots of people marching in the streets behind bands and flag waving supporters.

We went to the floating islands which were nice but now they seem a little touristy. It's obvious that no one really lives on the islands anymore, they just come in in the morning with all the wares to sell to us and then go back to the mainland after all the tourists have gone home. Interesting to see how they make these islands though.

We also went to the temple of Fertility which is a stoned walled garden with lots of large stone penises erected (snigger) within it. We sat on a few as it's meant to be good luck and because it was very funny. Laura and I are now both expecting twins. I wanted a bit of luck but wasn't expecting a miracle!!!

Laura says:
A little girl of about 8 approached us as soon as we entered the gates & became our guide, whether or not we wanted one she wasn't going anywhere. She spoke very little English & just kept saying "pene" & I kept repeating it after her, it then dawned on me we had just been saying "penis" over & over again to each other, what an interesting conversation that was.

And I think that's it for Puno.

Can you tell I'm getting bored writing this blog now?

In fact is anyone still reading it...?

Laura says:
I'm reading it but only cause I have to!

Next stop Cusco

Posted by J9travels 08:48 Archived in Peru Comments (3)

Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

Way up high

sunny 26 °C

Arequipa

After a realatively painless 8 hour night bus journey (apart from Enrique Inglesias blaring from the speaker above my head, soon put a stop to that!), we arrived in Arequipa and headed for our hostel.

We had breakfast and then decided to head straight out and explore the city.

We went to the Santa Catalina Monastry which is in the middle of the city and yet so quiet inside. We spent a good hour or so in there, walking around the little cobbled streets and seeing where the nuns use to live and eat and, erm, pray. A very nice place but no nuns around the day we went.

We also went to the museum where Juanita is.

Juanita (also known as "The Ice Maiden") was discovered on the top of Mount Ampato near Arequipa, Peru, on September 8, 1995 by Johan Reinhard. She was 12 to 14 years old when she was sacrificed and is believed to have died about 500 years ago.

Although she was frozen in the frigid temperatures on Mount Ampato, her body was discovered because a nearby volcano had caused Ampato's snowcap to melt. The undisturbed site of her burial included many items left as offerings to the gods. Two other children's bodies were discovered near her.

As of August 2006, scientists have become worried that increasing humidity within her display case will cause her body to decompose within five years. The problem with the humidity control was noticed by a tourist (who was actually a scientist at the Smithsonian Institute) who reported the problem. Further testing will help scientists determine whether the problem can be corrected.

Really interesting although it´s hard to get a good look at her as she´s in the double glass case which is kept at below freezing so that she doesn´t thaw!

We had an awful late lunch on the plaza des armas, well mine was awful. I´d ordered spaghetti pesto and what came out was not something that resembled spaghetti pesto!! An interesting bright green sauce with my pasta swimming in the middle of it! We were also serenaded by peruvian pan pipe muscians - I swear these blokes follow me around. Every time I sit down a pan pipe group appears out of nowhere. Straight out of a Fast Show sketch!

We then had a quick look in the main cathedral and then retired for the evening.

We were picked up early the next day for our trip to the Colca Canyon. It was long drive up into the mountains where we reached the highest point of 4800m. A lot of people suffer from altitude sickness and despite drinking coca tea and sucking on coca sweets which are meant to relieve symtoms, both Laura and I felt a little weird and had headaches. It´s also a bit harder to breathe, especially when walking around. Very strange!

By the way, a little info on coca tea:

Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is a tisane (tea) made using the leaves of the coca plant. It is made either by submerging the coca leaf or dipping a tea bag in hot water. The tea originates from the Andes mountain range, particularly Peru.

The leaves of the coca plant contain several alkaloids including cocaine; in fact, they comprise the sources for cocaine's chemical production, though the amount of cocaine in the leaves is small, around 0.001%, in order to make a kilo of cocaine more than 100 kilograms of coca leaves are needed.

Owing to the presence of the stimulant alkaloids, the coca tea provides a source of energy simillar to coffee. The tea is often sold commercially in filtering bags, each of which usually contains approximately one gram of the leaf. As coffee can be decaffeinated, the coca tea can also be decocainized; however, after undergoing such a process it will still contain a minute quantity of the drug (5 milligrams per tea-bag). When the cocaine is removed, the amount of cocaine is small enough for the product to legally sell in the USA according to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. In the 1980's the tea was used to wean cocaine addicts off of the drug

Laura says:
And in the 2006´s J9 appears to be weaning herself onto it, she orders a cup everywhere we go?

It´s nice!

Anyway, we stopped at various points along the way to Chivay, the main town in Colca where we would be spending the night. We saw lots of wild vinucas and alpacas which are both part of the Lama family. Vinucas are very rare and quite endangered so their fur costs a lot of money. Alpacas are 10 to the dozen so everything you might want to buy in the area is made of Alpaca wool. You can even have Alpaca steak for dinner (I didn´t care for it, it had a strange taste, a bit like liver even though it´s a steak).

Chivay was a cute little town nestled in the valley. We had lunch, had a kip (to ease the altitude sickness!), spent a couple of hours at the hot springs and then we spent the evening watching some traditional dancing and music - obviously peruvian pan pipes featured heavily!

We were up at 5am the next day to get to the Canyon and see the Condors. At first we thought we might be a little out of luck as we only saw one circling way below us in the canyon. However, after walking up the the main viewing section, 3 massive condors appeared and put on a great show for us. They came right above us, circling around for ages. A great sight.

After that it was back to Chivay for lunch and then the long journey back to Arequipa

In the evening we met up with Maeve, who had been on our tour, for a drink and a bite to eat and arranged to meet up the next day so that she could help us buy our bus tickets as she spoke excellent spanish!

The next day we met Maeve, bought our tickets, and then went for a wander into the suburbs of Arequipa. It´s a really pretty little town. Most of the buildings are made out of sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock, which gives the town a really beautiful appearance.

We walked around and then headed for lunch at a posh restaurant that the Lonely Planet recommended. Here we ate guinea pig. Yes, guinea pig!!. Well, we made Maeve order it, Laura had chicken and I had steak but we all shared although I have to admit, I didn´t eat all my guinea pig. It´s their local dish and is usually only eaten on special occassions!! Obviously we had lots of fun taking pictures of it. We ordered the half portion but it came out with it´s head and legs and skin on it. Not the most attractive plate of food I have to admit. It looked like a fried rat! But, it wasn´t too bad, it tasted a little bit of bland chicken! At least we tried it! Afterwards, Maeve, being a student medic, turned it over and started pointing out the liver and the lungs and the brain - nice!

The afternoon was spent shopping for Alpaca goods.

Next stop Puno.

Posted by J9travels 15:12 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Huacachina - Nazca

A desert oasis and some squiggly lines

overcast 24 °C

Huacachina

Our next stop was Huacachina, a little oasis in the middle of the sand dune desert just outside of Ica.

Our rep, Jose, took us to Ica on the local bus - luckily it was only an hours ride as the local buses have seen better days. We jumped out at Ica which was noisy and hot and jumped into a cab and headed straight for Huacachina.

Amazing place - it´s literally a small lake surrounded by palm trees, a few restaurants and hostels and MASSIVE sand dunes.

Our hostel was a lovely little place with a pool out the back and a 200 metre sand dune starting in the garden! We chilled by the pool for an hour and then it was time for our dune buggy experince.

And what an experience it was!!! 8 of us climbed into the dune buggy and strapped ourselves in tight and off we went. It was awesome! Basically they drive you all over the sand dunes at high speed. These buggys can go anywhere and everywhere, up vertical sand dunes and then down them. Our driver was obviously the nuttiest driver in Peru. We were at the front with the driver so, as he paused at the top of a vertical dune, we got the full experience and fear of it!!!

At one point he took out his mobile as if expecting a call and continued to drive with one hand and pretended to nearly crash into the other buggies, that was a bit scary!

We stopped off at the top of one dune (100 meters high) and out came the sandboards. Now, I wasn´t great at skiing as I don´t really like going fast down a steep mountain when I´m not in control, so you can imagine how I fared at my first try at sandboarding!!

Luckily, despite Laura being a whizz at surfing, she was as shit as me at sandboarding and went down the first slope backwards, all the way!

Laura says:
Not only did I go backwards, I spun round half way down & sat on my behind with my legs facing the wrong way round. Jose had to come & rescue me (with that ´Women! look in his eye).....
Why am I admitting all this?

The second slope was even longer and steeper (600 meters) and inside I was crying! But, not to be a chicken I did it, I just went more horizontally down it which seemed to work and I didn´t fall down. Laura also got the knack of it and by the 3rd slope we looked like professional sandboarder dudes!!

We also had a go at body boarding down a really really steep slope (1000 meters) which was cool.

Then it was back in the buggy for more sand racing - the driver and Jose didn´t wear seat belts and I have no idea how they managed to stay in their seats as the rest of us were thrown all over the place, seat belt chaffing could have been a problem if it had gone on too long!

The most fun we´ve had in Peru so far!!!

Laura says:
I dunno that it was the most fun? I think the most fun was having to go the long way round to the lagoon from our hostel to avoid being harassed some overly friendly Peruvian called Carlos who kept trying to kiss us & dance with us in his mini market/pizzeria, now that was fun!
I can still hear his pleading voice "Laurah, Hanine why no dance?"

Back at the hostel, we celebrated our sand boarding skills with a few beers and decided to extend our stay so we could have a day by the pool!

Nazca
3 hours down the highway we arrived in Nazca, home of the famous Nazca lines.

We were picked up by our rep who took us to our hostel and told us that another guy would pick us up in 10 mins to take us on our city tour!! Luckily this meant up to the cemetary at Cahuachi as there didn´t seem to be a lot in Nazca to look at!!

So, we jumped into another random mans car and headed out. The site is pretty impressive, there our 12 tombs that you can look into and see the mummies, some of them still have their hair which is really really long and all in plaits and dreds. a lots of the tombs were robbed of their ceramics and the mummies destroyed in the process but you still get a pretty good idea of how they buried people, all bound up in the foetal position, with offereings of ceramics and food for the gods.

Then we had a quick trip to a ceramic shop where they showed us how they made all their pots and I bought one. I am going to have so much tat from my travels it´s untrue. I just can´t resist though!!´ And then taken back to the hostel by another bloke... They call it tag repping!

Laura says: After the ceramic factory we were ushered through another gate where Juan, an ex-miner, showed us the art of gold processing, in the form of a lot of make shift toys & rather impressive noises which he had perfected so well you really felt like you were in amongst the machinery (not). The display lasted a good 4 minutes & when he soon realised we weren´t interested in buying any gold earings he donned sun glasses, a hat, whipped out a guitar & belted out his rendition of Frank Sinatras "I did it my way", for tips. Multi talented is Jaun.

The next day we went to fly over the Nazca lines in the tiny 6 seater planes. On all the photos I´ve seen, the lines look really impressive, but to tell the truth, I thought they´d be bigger and clearer! My photos just look like I´ve taken 20 pics of the sandy ground.

The Nazca Lines are an enigma. No one know who had built them or indeed why. Since their discovery, the Nazca Lines have inspired fantastic explanations from ancient gods, a landing strip for returning aliens, a celestial calendar, used for rituals probably related to astronomy, to confirm the ayllus or clans who made up the population and to determine through ritual their economic functions held up by reciprocity and redistribution or, a map of underground water supplies.

There are also huge geoglyphs in Egypt, Malta, United States (Mississippi and California), Chile, Bolivia and in other countries. But the Nazca geoglyphs, because of their numbers, characteristics, dimensions and cultural continuity as they were made and remade through out the whole prehispanic period, form the most impressive as well as enigmatic archeological group.

The Nazca Lines are located in the Pampa region of Peru, the desolate plain of the Peruvian coast which comprises the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana), Socos, El Ingenio and others in the province of Nasca, which is 400 Km. South of Lima, covers an area of approximately 450 km2, of sandy desert as well as the slopes of the contours of the Andes. They cover nearly 400 square miles of desert. Etched in the surface of the desert pampa sand about 300 hundred figures made of straight lines, geometric shapes most clearly visible from the air. They were supposedly built by an ancient civilization called the Nazca.

Laura says:
Or there´s the one about the UFOs.

We were up in the air for about 30 mins and the pilot would tilt the plane this way and that so that everyone could get a good view. Luckily I hadn´t had breakfast otherwise I´m sure I would have seen it again! I also got to sit at the front as co-pilot which meant I had an awesome view.

The rest of the day was spent hanging about as we weren´t due on the night bus until 10pm.

Next stop Arequipa

Posted by J9travels 14:26 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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