A Travellerspoint blog

Lima - Pisco

overcast 25 °C

We arrived in Lima late Tuesday evening and were picked up by the Green taxi company who our hostel owner had recommended so that we didn´t get into a random taxi and have all our belongings stolen - nice!

The first morning, Francis (hostel owner) gave each of us a map and told us all the exciting things to see in Lima, where we could get buses and how much it would cost in a taxi. He also crossed out the places where we couldn´t go unless we wanted to be robbed (of all of our belongings!) and this included most of Lima!! We were confined to a few blocks around the main square and the area where the hostel was situated but luckily that´s where all the sites to see are.

Laura says - Francis is lovely, every hostel needs one of him in it, I don´t think he sleeps! He´s always booking buses or taxis for someone or sitting them down with a map telling them where to go & how to get there. He is a big rounded jolly man who laughs heartily every time he informs you "Go in this part & they will steal everything from you, even your shoes, ha ha ha ha ha ha" bless 'ím.

Laura also says - What every hostel DOESN´T need is the guy from Nevada who is extremely well read on conspiracy theories who talks at you for about an hour every night about 10 feet mummies with 2 rows of teeth that the FBI are covering up & also informs us that apparently there were no passengers on the 9/11 flights.... fascinating!

We took a taxi with an Ozzie couple (Jodie and Warren) and set off to see the Inquisition Museum and the Monastry. It took us a while to find the museum but after many wrong turns, asking and not understanding directions and stepping into the forbidden zone for a brief moment, we chanced upon it.

It being a public holiday, there was a massive queue outside so we joined it but were soon picked out and led in to join the english tour. Not sure how they knew we weren´t natives, perhaps because we towered over all the peruvians (except Laura of course!). They are seriously short!! As is Laura, ha ha ha!!

Laura says - to put it another way, J9 looks like a freak!

Anyway, the museum was only small but quite interesting and you got to go down and see the cells where they kept those who didn´t believe or want to follow the catholic faith which is why most people were arrested.

Lauras dig - Please see above very informative explanation of the Spanish Inquisition! ha ha ha
(yes I´m still bitter about description of my driving an automatic car & the added insult regarding my height).

After that we went for a bite to eat. None of us speak any real spanish so we ordered what we thought we understood and it wasn´t too bad. We each had two courses and it was 5 soles each, about $1.50 = 80p!!! I like it it here!

We then skipped off to the monastary and saw the catacombs where over 70,000 people were buried. Lots of bones everywhere. Lovely building though!

We then decided to try the bus and after grabbing dessert at a road side stall a kind man told us which bus to get and it dropped us pretty near to the hostel.

Day 2 was spent in more museums learning about peruvian history in spanish which is a little difficult when you don´t speak it... We managed at the first museum but decided to get an english guide at the second museum and learned a lot more!! It´s all quite interesting really, the mummies and the treppaned and deformed skulls were my favourite exhibits. There´s also an awful lot of ceramics, and I mean a lot!

Day 3 we went to a nearby archeological site where they had uncovered a temple in the middle of the city. Apparently Peru is covered with lots of sites like these - at the moment they have found over 100,000 and yet only 3,000 are protected by the govt. It seems they just have too much history to uncover and they can´t afford to do it all!

We then decided to go and see another which was out of town. After much walking we jumped in a cab and then a collectivo - collectivos are little private mini vans that race around town competing with each other to get the most passengers. A bloke shouts out where the van is going and you jump on. Obviously we didn´t have a clue what they were saying so we just jumped into random vans and hoped for the best and luckily, each time we weren´t too far wrong!!! It´s fun but you have to get in quick as they drive off really quickly and you can still have one foot out the door as you are hurtling down the street!

The second site we saw was massive and there wasn´t much info in english so we had a quick wander round and headed back. They are really impressive sites but there´s still quite a lot to uncover so you never really see a full temple, just one side whilst the rest is still under the sand. We are looking forward to seeing Matchu Picchu which is all uncovered!

And that was Lima. A bit mental really. We didn´t have anything stolen but you are warned constantly to watch your belongings which makes you feel a little on edge! The people we did meet were very nice though and although I´m sure we paid a little more on the buses than the peruvians, we are only talking a few pence so you can´t really argue. And we don´t speak spanish so we couldn´t argue if we wanted to...

Laura says - much as you have to keep your wits about you & the unerving fact that some of the restaurants have an armed guard on the door, the people here are really friendly (just before they steal your camera - only jesting). There is a huge amount of poverty here hence the petty crime. Many of the shanty towns have no electricity, water supply or sanitation. The locals which we´ve actually chatted to (I say chatted but it´s a lot of nodding, pointing & mumbling "Bueno") are very welcoming & seem to find it very entertaining that we don´t speak Spanish. They have always got a smile for us though (probably because they´ve just overcharged us! ha ha).

Laura, just can´stop herself today, says - As predicted there is very little English spoken here, we came armed with our phrase book which has been invaluable. I´m actualy quite impressed with how we´ve got by so far. Only yesterday J9 managed to book us an extra nights stay at the hostel we´re in which seemed succeful, not sure why they handed her toilet paper though?????

We took a nice posh bus down to Pisco, we even got lunch! On arrival in Pisco we were instantly mobbed by people wanting us to stay in their hotel. We chose one, jumped in a cab and were pleased to find that it was nice and clean and they had cable TV!

As this is how it works in Asia I didn´t really think twice about it but Laura said she felt a little unsafe getting into a taxi with 3 random peruvians and she has a point! So, when the lovely Jose from the local tourist agency asked us if wanted to book the next week of our trip so that we didn´t have to worry about buses or hotels we agreed.

We also booked a trip to the Ballestas Islands, which are described as the poor mans Galapagos and also the Paracas Natural Reserve. It wasn´t the most interesting of trips. You take a speed boat out and circle the islands looking at all the birds, penguins and sealions and get a good whiff of the guano (bird shit). It really stinks!

Laura again - Equally as stinky is the fish factory you have to drive past on the way to the port. We´re still pondering on the theoretical question "would you sooner work collecting the Guano from the Islands or in the fish factory?".

Then you come back and go off to the reserve where you look at some pink flamingoes through the guides binoculars (there were only 5 of them) and then you walk and see a cliff formation called the Cathedral and then you pay for an expensive lunch and then you come back. Not bad but not great. If you don´t get to do this on your visit to Peru then don´t worry, you´ve not missed an awful lot!

Pisco is also not the most exciting town. There´s a main square called the Plaza d´Armas (it seems every town has a plaza d´armas!) and that´s about it. We were told, again, not to wander more than 3 blocks from the main square but that wasn´t going to happen anyway!!

Laura, having her final word, Says - Pisco is also the name of the traditional Peruvian alcholic drink which, of course, we had to try. Pisco Sour is a bit like tequilla but mixed with lime & egg white it´s really nice & is now officially my new favourie drink.
On braving the tradtional food subject: we have also tried Ceviche - raw fish marinated in lemon & chilli served with unpopped popcorn (bit odd but ok) & boiled yucca. It has a really nice flavour but they gave us such a lot & there´s only so much I can swallow before the thought of it being raw fish really starts to get to me.
I was up for trying ´Cuy´ too which is guinea pig. I had imagined it would be served in some form of stew but I´ve since found out it is presented still in the shape of a guniea pig, either on a plate or with a skewer up it´s bum..... mmmm? maybe not then.

So, that´s our first week in Peru.

Next stop, Huacachina, Nazca and Arequipa

Posted by J9travels 17:37 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Las Vegas

sunny 24 °C

From Flagstaff we took the old Route 66 through to Kingman where we stayed one night (nothing going on there on a sunday) and then on to Las Vegas.

We arrived late afternoon at the Stratosphere, our home for the next 5 nights. The place is big. Downstairs is all flashing lights of the slots, every corner is taken up by some sort of gambling opportunity, it's madness!

We ate early dinner and then went down the strip for a walk. It's longer than it looks and it took us about an hour to get down to the Ballagio where we planned to go for birthday (mine) drinks. Unfortunately all the bars in there were closed for private functions so we went across the road for a margherita and to crowd watch. We got a bit more than we bargained for when this massive SUV hit a van, slid across the road straight into a palm tree which crashed down on top of the car. Luckily nobody was hurt, only the tree.

The rest of the week we did what everyone does in Vegas, ate, drank and gambled (I lost all of $5 and Laura won $20!).

Laura Says:
Petty values in Vegas terms, we know, but you can't win much when you've nothing to gamble with in the beginging.

We drank in Coyote Ugly and the Big Apple in New York New york. We had a posh birthday meal in Tao in the Venetian (the same night Britney Spears came in but we'd left by then!).

Laura Says:
Coyote Ugly night was great. We managed to make friends with a guy from Ohio who bought us drinks for the rest of the night (shame we didn't meet him earlier, we'd already spent about $30). We left the New York New York hotel about 5.00am & managed to get lost in our own hotel lobby trying to find the elevators - no, not cause we were drunk, because it's sooooo big!
Managing to stay up till 5am drinking also gave J9 the perfect opportunity to contact all those loved ones that she thought had forgotten her birthday on the Monday "to discuss"!

We saw all the free hotel displays including the Fountains at the Bellagio (impressive), the earthquake at the Mirage (rubbish) and the pirates show at Treausre Island (pretty good).

We had a blackjack lesson at the Hilton but we were still to scared to actually play with real money.

We ate all you could eat buffets at the Monte Carlo and Stardust and stole as much as we could for breakfast the next day!!

We also did a horse ride in the desert which was a bit rubbish. I think my horse was about 80 as it kept tripping up the whole way.

We rode the roller coaster at the New York New York and the Xtream at the top of the Stratosphere - you are already 800ft up and you sit at the bottom of the tower and get shot up into the air at 70mph and then drop back down again. 3 times. It was good!

Laura Says:
To give you idea of the speed of the roller coaster at NY NY - when I got off my hair was straight!!

So that was Vegas.

We went back to LA and dropped the car off which was a bit disappointing!! Then we caught the greyhound back to San Fran and chilled there for a few days. We had a night out where a very dull swiss guy bought us our drinks all night, which is the least he could have done seen as he was so dull.

Laura Says:
My god was he dull. I don't think you realise the sacrifices we make for free drinks!

Then we caught our flight here to Miami. This place is full of beautiful people so Laura and I fit right in. It was about 85 degrees yesterday but today it's raining so I am spending a lot of time here in this internet cafe!!

Laura Says:
Not only are the people round here beautiful they are dead skinny too. People keep staring at my hips like I'm some sort of freak

So, that's it for the USA for now.

Next stop, Lima, Peru.

Posted by J9travels 11:57 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Grand Canyon

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Grand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage Site, encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins. The Canyon, incised by the Colorado River, is immense, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 15 miles at its widest

We were picked up by Rob, our guide, at 7am and set off for the Canyon, about an hours drive from Flagstaff. On the way we picked up Letrice, an older lady who was also accompanying us.

We arrived at the Canyon and took some photos as we drove to park the car. It was a lovely sunny day. It had said it would rain but the blue skies gave us confidence.

Rob kitted us all out with all our gear, including rather heavy backpacks and walking sticks. I laughed and said I wouldn't need the sticks but Rob told me that they really help lessen the pressure on your ankles and knees when walking down and aid pull ourself up on the walk back out of the canyon. Really glad I took them!!

The walk down was nice and slow paced as Letrice was a little slower than the rest of us. We stopped numerous times to take picutes - it's a really impressive place, the scenery and colours are amazing and it is sooooo big.

We stopped to have lunch and whilst tucking into our chicken wraps a rather large spider came to join us. Rob informed us it was a tarantula. Then it's mate turned up too and I decided that lunch time was over and moved on!

They were big spiders.

We got to our camp about 3pm and set up our tents. Then Laura and Rob went further down the canyon to collect some water whilst Letrice and I waited at the top for them - it looked too steep for me and it would have taken Letrice about 3 days to climb down and back out!!

It had started to cloud over a little and we did have a few spots of rain which gave the canyon a totally different appearance and resulted in a number of rainbows.

That night, Rob cooked Teriyaki tuna with courgettes and mash potatoes on a small gas fire and we finished off with chocolate pudding. No beans and sausages for us!!

No showers either and only a pit for a toilet which smelled like nothing I've ever smelt before and was surrounded by flies. It was the bush for us then, good job we only needed to pee!

As there's not that much to do in the Canyon after dark we were all in bed by about 9pm. At around 11pm it started to rain and didn't stop.

We were up around 7am for breakfast (choc chip pancakes!) and then we cleared everything up and set off walking about 11am. The rain was still coming down hard and we were all a little achey from the day before so the going was a little slower!

Laura and I made quite good time but unfortunately Letrice was more than a little slow and Rob had to wait for her. We managed to get to a spot where we'd stopped the previous day on the way down. We decided to stay here and wait for Rob so that we could get the car keys off him. We figured it would be warmer here than higher up in the carpark. We waited for just over an hour, getting colder and colder as time passed. When Rob rounded the corner we were absoltutely frozen and soaking wet. We grabbed the car keys and off we went.

The last bit was the worst for me. It was really steep and there were quite a few points where if you stumbled you'd be an obsolute goner. I don't know why I didn't notice this on the way down but it just seemed much higher and steeper climbing back up!

We got to the car, changed into some dry clothes and then sat with the heating on waiting for Rob and Letrice. They emerged about 2 hours later!!!

It was a really good trip. Even the rain didn't spoil it that much!

For the next 2 days we could hardly walk!!

Next stop, Las Vegas!

Posted by J9travels 10:48 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Santa Barbara - Palm Springs - Flagstaff

We got wheels

sunny 26 °C

So, we picked up the car and we were off, almost. As main driver, Laura got to take the wheel first. It didn't start smoothly!! Not having driven an automatic before she didn't know not use both feet on the pedals, there's no clutch on an automatic so your left foot becomes redundant. Using your left foot on the brake and your right foot on the accelerator results in a lot of bunny hopping... It wasn't until after nearly hitting the Porsche behind us and the car hire bloke offering to drive as around the states himself that he mentioned just using the one foot for the brake and accelerator and everything went smoothly. Obviously I should have mentioned this too but was just too excited to be sat in a car to notice!

So, we were off. We took the Pacific Highway up through Malibu, missed the turn to Santa Barbara and nearly ended up in Pasadena. This has nothing to do with my awesome navigation skills I hasten to add, it's just that we didn't have a proper map and the road signs in the states don't mention the nearby cities you want to get to, they only mention roads. So, on a main highway, you'll come across hundreds of signs saying 'Red Rock Boulevard' or 'Ashton Road' without the slightest mention of which town they are in...

Anyway, 8 days later we arrived in Santa Barbara. OK, 4 hours later (only 2 hours longer than it should have taken us!)

We stopped off at the Tourist Office and got a map of the area, found the hostel and then I drove Laura to the doctors again for her poorly ear (deafness). I love driving!

That night we partied with the locals at a bar down the main street and got followed home by a guy from our hostel who was slightly strange to say the least.

Laura Says:
It may seem that the only people we meet on this trip are ALL strange. I would just like to assure you that they're not but it doesn't make such interesting reading to write about the normal, nice people.
That said I wonder if we get a mention in anyone else's blog????

We spent another day in Santa Barbara walking around, Laura saw the sights and I went shopping. Bought 3 CDs for our new car as the radio here is awful. Best of Eurythmics, Keane and Monty Python soundtrack - awesome!!! They were cheap!

Laura Says:
The idea of having a Monthy Python CD in the car doesn't bare thinking about. Can you imagine J9's continuous hysterical laughter whilst driving round America?! Luckily it was The Full Monty CD, so I only had to listen to her rendition of Tom Jones instead.
Normaly I would've just edited the above paragraph for her but seeing as I had to endure complete humiliation at the start of the blog, re: my driving, I thought it best to point out her mistake :-)

The next day we headed for Palm Springs, another 5 hour drive. It gets a little bit hectic when you drive on the city ring roads because the 2 lane highway suddenly changes into a 6 lane highway and nobody her indicates so you have no idea what anyone else is doing until they cut you up.

Palm Springs

As there are no hostels in Palm Springs (far too posh) we opted for Motel 6 which ended up being cheaper than our hostel in Santa Monica. What luxury to have our own room, with TV and a clean private bathroom. And there was a pool outside too, it felt 5 star to us!

Laura says:
You will notice the facilities do not include a kitchen... ho hum, take outs for 3 nights then.

We hung out in PS for 3 days. We went to the Joshua Tree National Park and did a little hike and saw all the smog coming in from LA obscuring the view. We then spent a good couple of hours at the hotpools with all the old people.

The next day we rode the rotating cable car up to the top of Chino Canyon (8,516 ft) and had walk around there and then drove to another park and had a walk around there. Lots of desert here.

And that was Palm Springs.

We drove to Phoenix and spent a night there so didn't see any of it and so won't comment on it. Doesn't look too exciting though.

Then we took the scenic route up to Flagstaff through Prescott, Jerome and Sedona which was stunning.

And then we were in Flagstaff, ready for our Grand Canyon trip.

Posted by J9travels 13:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Venice Beach and Santa Monica

It gets worse before it gets better

sunny 21 °C

Venice Beach

So, after a week in the heart of Hollywood, some much needed R&R was called for and we headed for Venice Beach, only to be disappointed again!!

Another place that looks totally different when you see it in the magazines. It's a bit like Blackpool but weirder. And that's all I've got to say about Venice Beach, even the policemen we got chatting to that live there think it's a shit hole. I'll let Laura fill you in.

Laura says:
mmmm, harsh words J9.
I have to admit the real appeal for me, to visit Venice Beach, was the mention of it being home to the infamous 'Muscle Beach' - a kind of outdoor gym where buff men work out - what more reason could a female singleton have to go to a place, I ask ya?
OK so admitedly no one had actually described Muscle Beach like this to me but that was the picture I had in my little dreamy head.
Try aging over tanned leathery looking men in speedos sweating collectively on a Sunday morning...... I know it's not a pretty description but think yourself lucky, you didn't have to see it!

Santa Monica

Only a couple of miles up the road and things vastly improve. The beach is nicer and the loons have dispersed somewhat.

Our first stop was the omellette parlour for a massive breakie and then we had a wander around the area. Lots of nice shops and bars and restaurants that we won't be going in. I like it!

Despite it having a lovely beach, and it being deserted and the sun shining, we haven't actually done any sunbathing. We've been far too active and cultured for that!

We've hired bikes and spent 5 hours riding up and down the beach road. We were promised that it went on for 18 miles but it seems that the nice bike hire man was a little confused because it seemed to stop after about 1.8 miles. We tried in vain to ride around and find a new route but the 4 lane highway was a bit off putting and we didn't have our helmets on so we turned back and headed in the other direction! This time we tried to cycle to Malibu but again, the cycle path runs out just before you get there and turns into a SUV clogged super interstate. Oh well, we still managed to spend about 5 hours cycling around and getting sore buttocks.

The bikes were handed back and we went to play on the original Muscle Beach (the one down the road in Venice is the new sight), swinging on the bars and rings, or in Laura's case, watching me acting about 8 years old whilst she struggled to reach the rings. The little legs don't help.

The next day was Getty museum day. Just up the road but obviously it took us 2 buses and about 3 hours to get there. Again the bus driver was lovely and pointed us in almost the right direction when we got off the bus and it only took us 30 mins to find our way to get the tram to take us to the top of the mountain where the museum is. Nothing is easy here without a car...

Nice museum though.

And that's about it for Santa Monica. Our hostel was nice apart from some shitbag who kept stealing our food, not the brocolli or the grenn beans, but the nice big slice of choccie cake and the cookies. The things that you are really looking forward to eat... I did call them a rude word but this is a family blog so I'll leave our reaction to your imgainations!

I also got into a fight with a girl in our dorm, well almost. She kept putting her suitcase and her 2 other bags by my bed and not her own. I moved them and when she came in and moved them back I politely pointed out that it was blocking the way to my bed and the girl above me and was generally causing a mess and that she had ample space by and under her bed.

She in turn pointed out that she wanted her bed area clear....!!


I got a little cross at this and said that this wasn't possible and to please move her stuff. She ignored me and turned her back. So I grabbed her bags and put them by her bed.

She didn't like this and she told me not to touch her stuff. I said I wouldn't have to if it were not in my way and again pointed out that in a hostel room where there are 8 people, you sometimes have to forego the space that you are used to at home and SHARE. I was quite stern but didn't raise my voise too much.

Her response was to storm out!!!! For the rest of our stay we played a fun game of moving her bags back and forth.

Laura says:
I was very impressed with the way J9 handled the witch, she was very adult & calm about the whole thing....
To add a more interesting twist to the tale, I had actually swapped beds with J9, on arrival, giving her the bottom bunk & I was on the other side of the room on the top bunk. Therefore, when a note was placed on her bed for her to come to reception to discuss the situation it read: 'Laura Pagden, please come to reception as soon as possible', so anything J9 did was under my name anyway!
I din't mind though, the guy on reception had a smirk on his face the whole time, I think he found it pretty amusing.

Luckily we checked out the next day and hired our car, hooray!!

Next stop Santa Barbara

Posted by J9travels 14:45 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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