Friday, 15 February 2013

A holiday within a holiday........

Our plans to visit archaeological sites from Chiclayo were interesting to say the least. We booked a trip, with an English speaking guide just for us.........or so we thought!! The bus arrived nearly one hour late and when we enquired about our guide things didn't seem quite right, when he turned up he was the guide for the whole group and spoke limited English. So he would do the chat in Spanish first and then again in a briefer or scripted English. There then ensued a 5minute debacle where we were trapped on this very hot bus, with a bunch of Peruvian tourists just wanting to head off while i told him we didn't want to go and were going back to the office to get our money back. He kept refusing to let us off and never said a word in English. Now remember we speak Spanish and the reason for wanting an English speaking guide is these trips are unusually all day and it is very tiring concentrating. I have never come so close to hitting anyone in my life. Anyway eventually he saw sense and let us off.

The manager was very professional, apologised and gave us a refund. By law in Peru every business has to have a complaints book and one of the staff tried to tell us they didn't have one but again sense prevailed and I wrote my concerns-in Spanish. By this time it was 11.30 and back at the hostel Silvestro booked us the same tour for the next day with a better company!!

So we went to the bus station and booked our onward ticket and got a "micro" to the beach. The temperatures in town were about 35 C, so a bit of sea breeze would be welcome. Not before we were roasted in the micro, these are the local forms of transport, when new they are quite comfy and efficient, as they get older they get dirtier and less comfortable. But for less than 50p for a 30 minute journey its the only way to travel!!

Pimentel wasn't the pretties of beaches but sipping a cold Cusquena negra was very welcome. we had ceviche and chicken for lunch and then wandered a bit, it was clearly aimed at the South American tourist, cheesy tat for sale and even cheesier bars decorated with plastic flowers.

Next day , 10 minutes early, (unheard of in Peru) our English guide and the bus arrived. Orlando was lovely, had a good sense of humour and we set off happy. It was a great day , our first visit was to see 25 Huacas , these are S America pyramids. Then to a small town for lunch, delicious goat with rice. 

We then went to Museo Tumbes Reales which holds the collection excavated from the Huaca at Sipan. There is the Senore de Sipan and El viejo Senor de Sipan. Great grandfather and great grand son. It is fabulous, look at google images, silver gold and turquoise jewellery and body ornaments. Orlando really made it come to life guiding us round the museum as he told the story of how the excavation developed. We then went to Sipan to see the actual site but it is more than an hour away on bad roads and for me was a bit of an anti-climax. The museum is not near the archaeological site due to local politics.

We just chilled the next day and then set off for Mancora. This was our final destination , other than a Lima airport hostel. I was not really looking forward to it as had read some stories about the rowdiness etc. It is a surfing venue. 

We booked a small family run hotel, just on the edge of town-the centre gets party crazy. Margarita was a lovely host and it was clean and very comfortable. We went into town and it was manic, streets full of South American chavas, music so loud the ground was vibrating and hordes of young people getting wasted, and not just on alcohol. We later found out that there was a 3 day holiday in Ecuador and hundreds had poured over the border for a cheaper holiday. Mmmmm........thankfully it has quietened down a bit and it is good to go into town at night to eat.

We had 9 nights planned for Mancora and next day set off to find a relaxing place, with a cool room for sleeping ( our first hotel was like a sweat box). Eventually we opted for Mancora Kites, and I am sitting beside the pool writing this. We are 2 minutes from the sea, have a lovely big room, we get sea breeze which helps with the heat and we have outside space int he shade too. Perfect for relaxing, and all for 120 soles a night-£30 including breakfast-not bad considering this is high season and one place wanted 500!! 

Chris went diving yesterday, today I had a cookery class with a lovely man called Martin, he and his wife do classes in Spanish, salsa and cooking and also have a home stay. It was good , we went to the market and got the ingredients to make Arroz con Mariscos-not difficult to make but good to cook in the home of a local and it was delicious. First time I have eaten sea snails and they were good.

Chris dives again on Saturday and Monday he is doing  night dive for the first time. Our main occupation here is lying by the pool, a walk along the beach into town and reading books. I feel really tired and think it is because we have stopped. 

But next Wednesday it is off again on the last little leg. 5 flights in 8 days, one last bus journey THANK GOD and then off to Brazil to see the Iguazu falls and then home via Barcelona getting back 27th February.

Till next time , which will be the last missive from South America. I've had a fabulous 5 months but am ready fro home now........or am I as I look at the blue sky and sea and sand???????

Take care 

Cheesy bar Pimentel

Burrowing owl-Sipan

Tamale for breakfast yum-with chilli salad

Pina colada Happy Hour

Diet coke happy hour!!
Norma xx

Friday, 8 February 2013

Back in the desert

Hello, we had a mixed last day in Huaraz. The trip to the glacier ended at 5,000m and you then had to walk uphill, the exertions of our walking in Yungay got the better of us and after a horse ride halfway we just looked at the glacier from afar. It has receded about 800m in 8 years due to global warming.......... On our last night we had a wonderful meal in a pizza restaurant, the service was good and speedy and everything came at the right time and was beautifully cooked and very tasty.

Our daytime bus to Chimbote was fine, fabulous views as we climbed over the mountains and then a beautiful valley full of fruit and avocado trees...............heaven............We got a VIP bus onward to Trujillo, not before we had a lunchtime snack. We went into the bus station cafe and despite a menu on the wall the waitress got irritated when we asked if there were any sandwiches.........when she started drumming her fingernails on the tray we walked out-she clearly thought that was fine!! 

A little snack bar next door were much more accommodating. We hadn't booked in Trujillo we just pitched up at the Hostal Colonial and got a nice big room for 80 soles. Trujillo is quite a sophisticated place, and ,although a nice setting, the cafe in the toy museum charges European prices for coffee!!

Our first full day was to rest and I had a manicure and pedicure for the princely sum of £4. Then we just chilled, had a fabulous salad for lunch and gorgeous chocolate brownies and coffee after dinner in a little cafe on the square. We had planned to leave the next day but stayed on and visited El Brujo, a pre Inca site where they found the grave of "The lady of Cao". This whole area has Huacas, sacred pyramids, and the museum and site were one of the best we have visited.

Yesterday we had breakfast with a lovely American couple in a beautiful courtyard, I know 7th February and having breakfast outside with shorts on!! I had a traditional Peruvian breakfast, with Tamales.

We left Trujillo and are now in Chiclayo, further north. We got a taxi from the bus station to Hostal Amigos and got the usual chat from the taxi driver, do you have a booking? I know a good Place! Yeh where you get commission and we get charged extra. The hostal is very clean and comfortable and there is a veggie cafe over the road. Last night we had fabulous veggie food in the Hare Krishna restaurant, I had lightly Indian spiced veg in a yogurt sauce with rice.

Tramping in the Cordillerra Negra

Jan our 4 year old guide!!

Posing in Huaraz

Two grumpy old men

The pyramid of the Lady of Cau-El brujo
From here we want to visit 2 more archaeological sites at Sipan and Sican. We go to the former today and we have booked an English guide, although our Spanish is good it is tiring listening and translating for a whole day. At Sipan there was a warrior king buried, and there are museums with gold artifacts is Peru's Tutankhamen  We hope to organise a half day horse riding too. Then we will head off to the beach..........

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Lima and the Cordillera Blanca

I prefer flying to long bus journeys and our trip from Ayacucho was so easy. It felt like coming home getting to the first hostel we stayed in on our trip-Iqueque in Lima. Decided that whilst in Lima should get my tooth checked out. I started the trip last April with an infection between the roots of one of my molars and had the same sensation again. In Bolivia I just bought some antibiotics as did not fancy visiting a dentist there. Found a super clean clinic in Lima and for 20 soles got an X ray and an opinion. Yes, there was a little pocket of infection but no worse than before and as I had no pain no need to panic. The dentist thinks it will need to be extracted but that can wait till I get home and she gave me some antibiotics to take if it gets worse. 

We finally made it to the Museo de Nacion and it was a huge disappointment, hardly any signposting and we nearly missed the best bit!! Very little was labelled and the highlight was meeting two other travellers and a Peruvian couchsurfing host!!

Each time we get to a busy hub we have to take opportunities to enjoy a few a cup of Starbucks coffee( I know corporate USA and all that but trust me it tastes like nectar after some of the stuff we have drunk)........a proper haircut.....he even washed it first.......LUXURY.

We had a trip to Miraflores, to see the sea, this is where the other half stay in Lima, prices are more than double to the centre. We shared the trip with an English guy who was travelling on his own for 6 weeks while his partner went skiing. We had a lovely salad lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

We booked an overnight bus with Cruz del Sur-the best buses in Peru- and arrived in the Cordillera Blanca at 7am. Huaraz, the main hub, is a big busy town surrounded by snow capped mountains. Our hostal Haton Wasi, is a bit out of the centre , which means most of the time it is quiet.Breakfast is very good and served on the terrace and it the cloud is right overlooking the highest mountain in Peru. It has a veggie restaurant, which is a godsend!! 

We got on the local micro and for 50p went to check out Yungay, we wanted to spend a bit of time up the valley in a quieter place. We found a lovely little hotel and booked for 3 nights and thought we arranged a horse riding trip........

From Huaraz we did along day trip to the ruins at Chavin , they pre-date the Incas. Our guide was Peruvian and made loads of jokes, some of which I did not understand. He spoke so fast it was hard to keep up sometimes. There is so much more than the Incas in Peru but most of the government investment goes to Cusco and Machu Picchu

In Yungay we stayed at the Hotel Rima Rima with Julian, we arrived mid-morning and got sorted and he said our horse riding was at 3pm. We had a lovely set lunch of salad, barley soup, and chicken in a sauce all for 5 soles........£1,25. At 3 pm we set off walking from town, fabulous views of the valley and it soon became obvious that something had been lost in translation and we were only walking!! We saw some stunning humming birds. We walked with Julian and lovely little boy called Jan. He was 4 and chatted non stop, but we walked 3 hours and he kept pace with us. 

We walked to the campo santa, sacred place which is the buried town of old Yungay. An earthquake, in 1970,  in the valley set off an avalanche that buried Yungay and 20,000 people were killed and the town completely buried. Julian lost his dad and oldest brother. They rebuilt the town further west in a safer place. 

The next day we were up at 6am and left at 6.30 on the local micro and walked in the Cordillera Negra, on the other side of the river Santo. It was beautiful, flowers at every turn and wonderful bird life. In all we walked about four hours, and by 11 the heat was pretty powerful. The views of the mountains were stunning.

We set off to check out Caraz in the afternoon, but it was a grimy town, with dirty hostels and we came back pretty sharpish. Lovely as Yungay is, the people are really friendly as it is not a tourist town, there is not a lot of choice for eating, especially in the evening.

Friday we had arranged to set off at 6am and walk to Lago 69, a walk with a 600m climb from 4,000-4,600 m. The trip up in the car with Raul, our guide took till 7.45 and we set off walking. We started in a lovely valley with the mountains towering above us. Luckily it was quite cool most of the time but it soon started to become a challenge. Walking on the level at altitude takes an adjustment but climbing is something else, we walked slowly and deliberately , taking stops for coca tea, until we reached a flat ridge and we thought we had arrived!! No way, another one and a half hours and a steeper climb lay ahead. The last stretch was torture and I felt light headed and sick so stopped and slowly descended to get some oxygen in my system. I was 100m from the summit. 

Chris continued on and made it to the top to see the beautiful green lago 69, he said the last 100m took him for ever and he thought his lungs were going to bust. The descent was easy, nearly all down hill. It was a fabulous day, the highest walking in my life and the memories of the views will be with me for a long time, snow-capped mountains, glaciers and stunning waterfalls.
Monument to the last battle that defeated the Spanish in South America

Important policeman............two phones-who said men can't multitask

Ayacucho at night

Highest mountain in Peru

Local bakery-they made 5-600 buns a day!!

Yesterday we had breakfast in Yungay, some local avocados and fabulous bread and then reluctantly said goodbye to Julian, he had been a wonderful host and walking guide. Back to the same hostel in Huaraz and we had a bit of fruit salad in our veggie restaurant and visited the local museum. As it was my birthday in the evening we had a nice meal, first a cocktail Maracuya sour, then rabbit with a mustard glaze and finally chocolate cake. It was a nice night but as usual Peru doesn't quite deliver, Chris ordered filet mignon cooked medium and it was rare. When they returned the plate with the meat cooked everything else was cold!!

Today we are off  to see a glacier close-up and then tomorrow head off at 9 am towards the northern coast, first stop Trujillo.

We have very little time left but hope to fit in a week of chilling by the sea before 20th February when we leave Piura for Lima and the start of our trip home.

Till next time
Norma xx