Puno and Lake Titicaca

So on Wednesday I got the early morning bus with Cruz del Sur to Puno. The bus wasn’t as nice as the ones I’d been on before and it didn’t redeem itself with it’s movie choice of Miss Congeniality. By the afternoon I had arrived in Puno and got a “taxi” (actually a three wheeled motorbike which was a new experience) to my hostel. After a one hour walk around town I had caught all the main “sights” of the town. I’d be curious to know whether it manages to beat Slough in the excitement stakes (though this week it is hosting the APEC summit which means the town was full of policemen). Anyhow like Slough there are more interesting sights nearby in this case consisting of lake titicaca (which means Grey Puma in Ketchua the local language) which I went on a two day tour of.

The tour started early in the morning and was great. First we went to the floating islands near Puno which are made of reeds and mud and are artificial islands that have existed since inca times. Additionally part of the reeds are edible and we got to eat some of them. They have a subtle flavour and are generally similar to the banana. After that we went on a further three hour boat journey to the island where we were going to stay the night and we had an unfortunately late (but tasty) lunch before going to watch the sunset over the island which was very beautiful. After this on the way back to my accommodation in the presidents house I got lost and had to ask for directions in Spanish. As I was staying in the presidents house I assumed this was going to be a trivial process but there were 7 communities on the island and so there were 7 presidents and they were unsure which one we were staying with and neither were we. In the end we figured it out and were taken back to our accommodation.

After that we had dinner and then dressed in a poncho to go to a traditional dance festival which was very interesting and we danced around the fire which was fun. Then the next day we went to another local island with overpriced souvineers for a morning walk followed by lunch. After which we took the boat back to Puno. Back at the hostel I had the pleasure of reading my favourite magazine: Teen Vogue, it is the only magazine I’ve ever read which stops articles in the middle and then starts another article. It also has so may ads that the contents doesn’t finish until page 60 of the magazine! I went out with people from my hostel first to get a meal for only 2.5 soles (US$0.87) and then for considerably more expensive drinks in town. I had a Pisco Sour which is a traditional Peruvian drink and it was considerably better than the ones I have had before.

Today I have just arrived back into Arequipa for the night before heading onto Tacna and the Chilean border tomorrow.

Cusco

So after a bus ride from Arequipa that at 10 hours was entirely too short, and on twisty and bumpy roads we arrived in Cusco yesterday. I say the bus journey was too short as we then didn’t get enough time for sleep on the bus and it arrived to early in the morning, though admittedly it was streets ahead of Vietnam Railways arrival into Hanoi at 4.30am last year.

Cusco is really the tourist centre of Peru and it is a beautiful city, it is an old town, with very narrow streets and it is fun watching the taxis charge at each other before one gives in an reverses out again. Really its a city for walking, even given the height of 3500m. Apon arrival first we went to the South America Explorers Club to pick up a walking map. After getting that and a cheap lunch we had a wander around the centre and visited the very beautiful cathedral. There was even a free and very good audio tour of the cathedrals (I’m something of a fan of audio tours, they tell you a lot more than just wandering round on your own)

After that we went to dinner at a place called the Bagdad Cafe and had some excellent food. However in mine, which was a local speciality that was basically pork soup there was a chili. Unfortunately even though the dish was fairly spicy I didn’t realise it was a chili and thought the spice was in the sauce itself and it was a sweet pepper. So I took a big bite and then my mouth was feeling incredibly spicy. This was to an insane extent and I downed most of a bottle of beer, had some bread, and also quite a bit of sugar, as well as a 500ml bottle of water to return the level of spice to a sane level (i.e that of a medium curry like a Chicken Tikka Masala).

Then this morning I had a bit of Diarrhea, probably due to the spice, so I’ve stayed at the hostel while my friends go up to see some Inca sites nearby. I am already feeling a lot better though, and am shortly going to get some lunch.

Rest of the time in Lima and Arequipa

So I spent another couple of days in Lima with my friends. My friend Danny was supposed to arrive at 11pm on Saturday night, but his plane was via Miami so was unsurprisingly 2 hours late. (Flightstats.com gives Miami airport a 30% on time rating with American Airways who he was flying with.). Then my other friend Jamie’s flight was on time so I didn’t get much sleep that night.

After procrastinating getting out of bed we went to the supermarket and then to a museum on pottery called Larco Hererra, this museum had a lot of interesting stuff from the Incas and before in Peru, it also had an interesting collection of erotic pottery. This was especially interesting as it didn’t just refer to fertility and also showed purely pleasureable sex.

After that we headed to the city centre and had roast chicken for lunch (along with cake this is one of the most popular dishes in Peru). We then looked around the city centre and went to the San Francisco church on a gudied tour around the building which included a look around the catacombs where they used to bury the dead in Lima.

The next day we tried to book our bus ticket with Cruz Del Sur to Nazca, unfortunately they had sold out so we went to Arequipa instead at 7.30pm. In the meantime we went to the national museum which included some more pottery and an interesting exhibition on the bloody history of Peru in the late 20th century. This was fairly unbiased and was critical of the government as well as the marxist rebels. After that we went to Miraflores to see a pre-inca pyrimid and headed down to the coast. Miraflores is the rich part of town and the buildings remind me of Singapore.

After that we headed back to the bus terminal to get our bus to Arequipa. The bus was quite good, but we only got “semi cama” seats, unlike the cama ones I got in Argentina with Via Barroliche. The first film was Charlies Angels Full Throttle and only in Spanish, though we saw Ratatollie the next day, which was also shown with English subtitles. It was pretty good. Its also cool that Pixar seems to convert all its films into Spanish as Wall E is also translated.

Then we arrived in Arequipa this morning and had a look around the town, it has a lot of white buildings made of silar which are very beautiful. We went to the Santa Catalina monestory which was good but expensive ($10). I had a good time as I went on a guided tour which my friends didn’t want to as it was extra ($7). Then for supper I had guinea-pig which is a local speciality.

Tomorrow we are up at 6am for a bike ride before it gets too hot so I’m now off to bed.

Jungle and El Soberbio

The short version is that the Jungle wasn’t very good and it probably made me sick and then El Soberbio was full of kind helpful people who helped me get better. If you really want to know more gory details you’ll have to wait as I need a refund for the advance payment for the trip out that they insisted on (I should note that in general the Argentinians are honest and don’t pull tricks like this, of course I still shouldn’t have agreed to it.).

On the way I did go on a boat trip to Saltos del Monica a set of waterfalls in the middle of the river Uruguay which was amazing and we got really up close and personal to the waterfall. I also got some really cool sunset pictures as it was just getting dark when the boat got back to shore. Some even came out well without the sunset mode being on on the camera.

Then I got the bus back to Buenos Aires with Via Bariloche again (arranged by my hotel) and that included a free transfer to the bus terminal at San Vincente so I’m not complaining. On the bus we saw a crappy Disney movie and then an endearing and sometimes irritating French film.

One thing I did learn from the French film was that words that refer to life’s pleasures such as sex and alcohol are generally the same in every language! Modern words such as computer and air conditioning are the same but that’s not the same thing.

After dinner we saw another Hollywood film called “Licence to Wed” which was a cold dark thriller (OK it was a romantic comedy). It starred Robin Williams and was set in Chicago and was pretty funny and enjoyable.

Then this morning I got back to Buenos Aires on time, which was a surprise but I have several things to do today.

The Iguazu Falls

So I caught the bus with Via Bariloche to Puerto Iguazu which was about £30. The bus was very comfortable; much more so than buses in England. After dinner they played a Disney movie called Game Plan about American football (and ballet) which was quite bad but still fairly entertaining; it contained the worlds most mature eight year old it was worse than Gossip Girl’s 17 year olds who act like 21 year olds in maturity. It also contained the worlds most predictable love plot (it hasn’t actually happened yet as I’m writing this but it’s sure to — in the end they went on a date.).

We arrived in Puerto Iguazu at 1.30 pm which was 2 hours late so I didn’t have much time at the waterfall yesterday. I went up to see the Gran Diablo falls at the top of the Iguazu system. You had to go on a walkway a long way (1100m) to get to the waterfall. First you were tempted by a haze of spray from above the trees and then once you did you got the most amazing view of a waterfall that I’ve ever seen. You can’t even see the bottom due to the spray and there is a permanent almost circular rainbow in the spray. After spending 15 minutes at the waterfall and taking lots of photos (sometimes a bunch of spray came up from the waterfall so I carefully protected my camera from that.)

After that I then got a boat back downriver to the centre of the complex. This went on quiet waterways and let you see birds flying overhead as we went which was a relaxing end to the day.

After that I went back to my room and cooked myself some dinner as I have a stove there. I had bought food in the supermarket to do so, it was great fun afterwards washing the stuff up with a cloth and cold water. I also didn’t get food poisoning as of 8am as I write this. Then after dinner I watched some TV, they had some American TV with subtitles in Spanish so I could actually understand it!

Then this morning I got up really early at 6.30am so that I’d have lots of time at the waterfall. I left just 7am and had to run to get the bus as I was given the wrong time, I had to do this past the bus station attendent with a whisle yeah when running for a bus I’m really not going the bus way and it’s totally safe anyway (they’ve literally done this when the bus station is empty.). After I got on the bus after passing through immigration I was told where to get off for the waterfall which was very kind of them (unlike the attendents the bus drivers are all really nice). By 8am I was at the park in Brazil. Unfortunately even though I am here really early unlike the Argentinian park the damn place didn’t open until 9am! The other problem with Puerto Iguazu itself is that they don’t have any obvious foreign exchanges fortunately it wasn’t a big issue though I had to get some Brazilian currency from an ATM making my bank very rich; guys I hope you’re happy, you’re the only ones who are with the cash issues here.

After that I went and had a look at the paroramas of the waterfall from the Brazillian side of the falls and they were absolutely awesome. Even though I’d seen the Gran Diablo the day before they were still incredible. There were several viewpoints and by quick-marching off the bus I managed to have several of them to myself. There were a few other people around though so I got some shots of me in front of the waterfall (which my friend Jamie will love :p). As usual you will need to have a Flickr account and be on my Flickr friends list to see those pictures though my others will be generally viewable.

From there we got a bus to the border and then a taxi to the falls on the Argentinian side with some other English people for $7.50 each which for a 50 minute ride wasn’t bad at all.

Then after I got back to the Argentinian side I had lunch and drowned a wasp which got in my drink (they were everywhere). I then went on the upper trail which was only OK though the view at the end was really good.

After that I headed down the lower trail to get up close and personal with the waterfalls which was also well worth seeing there was a lot of climbing to keep me fit too. I also went on a boat ride into the heart of 2 waterfalls which was fun but very wet! Pictures will come from back in Buenos Aires.

PS I hope everyone back in the UK (and elsewhere) has had a good summer so far, let me know in the comments what you’ve been up to.

PPS there’ll be no more posts until I’m back in Buenos Aires as i’m heading into the jungle and there is no internet there.