Parting in Paraty

Next stop after carnival was Paraty a place a little further down the coast. Paraty is beautiful and less busy than Rio which was a welcome change. Despite this we still managed to check in to probably the busiest party hostel with a hoard of drunken Irish cheering at any given opportunity. They were very entertaining for a short while until there already thick accents became thicker as they slurred their words and one began rambling political contradictory bullshit to people who weren’t listening whilst his friend tried his hand at beatboxing spraying the unfortunate audience with spit whilst another tried desperately to control his drunken friends shushing then every few minuets. A girl then came from another table announcing “by the way your friend just got his dick out”. This was my cue for bed. Where I lay on a ridiculously high top bunk in an overly sweaty dorm cursing the Irish as their voices boomed through the walls making my earplugs feel like megaphones. The next morning and after a sweaty Muay Thai class I was happy to see our new friends check out, and with only two broken hours of sleep we got a bus to Trinidade a nearby beach town with breathtaking views and a natural water slide a short walk through the jungle.

Waiting for the bus after a lovely day we met a man with a puppy and the cutest kid ever that hung off me trying to communicate in broken Portuguese.

The next morning we must go our separate ways, setting off on a new adventure volunteering. Daisy will be in Ubatuba learning to surf and I will be in Boisucanga teaching English.

Crazy Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

Carnival was as you can imagine crazy. The streets are full of drunken people in tutus, Lycra and covered head to toe in glitter. Everywhere there are huge trucks driving the streets with samba bands blaring their anthem. Whilst hundred of people try to sell you beers, caipirinhas and snacks. To one side you have beautiful beaches the other sky scrapers and you are surrounded by chaos.

We were lucky enough to have an apartment just out of it all, which became our sanctuary for the long hangovers we have become unused to. After not drinking for soo long we have become complete lightweights and after a few caipirinhas we are stumbling home slurring our words and downing water. Amid the drinks and dress up we did some of the classic tourist attractions Christ the redeemer was so high up one gust of wind and the clouds consumed the statue making it invisible and two seconds later they would part giving us a great view.

Sugar loaf mountains were amazing the view is priceless from the top and we stayed up there for hours taking it all in.

The botanical gardens were beautiful and we didn’t realise we had arrived on woman’s day until the tickets were free. Winner! We walked around the greenhouses dripping in sweat in the mid day heat.

The stairs in Lapa were very colourful and full of drunken youth dragging out the carnival as long as they could as us tourists stepped around them trying to get the perfect picture.

All in all Rio has been a blur of beautiful beaches and strong cocktails. And I would love to do it all over again but I’m not sure my liver would survive.

Climbing Colca canyon

Now don’t ask me why but for some reason this entire trip we have found new ways to torture ourselves, having ditched the hangovers in favour of a more healthy lifestyle, we seem to end up on some ridiculously intense hike every few days. This time the Colca Canion Trek which thank god we decided to do in three days rather than the very rushed suicidal two days.

The first day we met our group just us and two other girls travelling together who seem to be equally sarcastic and crude. We had actually met them in Huacachina but never got beyond pleasantries but now we got on instantly as we decended in to the canyon. The walk was only a few hours but every step down I knew would be a step up and as the hours passed the dread grew.

We stopped for lunch at a very basic place with no electricity, hot water or apparently enough food as the portions were tiny and we ate our way through nearly all our snacks just to keep us going till dinner. Dinner was also pathetically small so before we could get hungry again we climbed in to bed. A long sleep followed by a slow morning and we set out along the canion to Oasis our next stop. So a few hours later and we arrive at our new place where the portions were slightly bigger and the pool an absolute dream after walking in the mid day heat.

We all flopped around in the shade and relaxed the day away. Exchanging embarrassing stories for hours. Again there was no electricity so after dinner and a few giggles we stumbled in the pitch black back to our room and called it a night. The third and final day started with a 4am wake up. Still pitch black and on empty stomachs we started the climb up out of the worlds second deepest canion. I cursed the people who reccomended this treck every time it looked like we were about to reach the top but didn’t.

Despite the complains we were right at the front and managed the vertical climb in 2 hours rather than the suggested 3 and got to the top red faced, sweating but some of the first to make it. Yay. But it’s never over when you think it is and we still had to walk from there to breakfast which we devoured in seconds before piling on to the bus, that seemed to go on forever stopping at various view points or to see lamas whilst I nearly pissed myself. The last stop was the hot springs my favourite way to finish an intense walk.

Slow paced Pisac and a brief stop in Bolivia

So a brief stop in slow paced Pisac where we stayed only one night worried that any longer and we would end up being shamanic healers, going vegan and growing dreadlocks. The stop although breif was very enjoyable as we aimlessly wondered the market bartering with the owners over various trinkets we don’t need or have space for, eating more coconut energy balls than must be medically advised and discussing the effects of crystal healing. The next stop was Puno and lake titicaca and after a night bus there we were disorientated and unsure of what tour to do, so we made a very rash unusual choice and decided to cross the boarder to the Bolivian side of the lake because once upon a time someone told us it was better over there. So more busses and a new stamp and we are in Bolivia. Where the oat banana cake is to die for. We stay one night scaling the nearest mountain for sunset only for it to start raining just before and unprepared in our T-shirt’s we returned without having seen the sun actually set. Worth it for the view tho!

The next morning we embark on our dirt cheep tour of Isla de la Luna and Isla del Sol the two must see Islands. We spent more of the day on the painfully slow boat than we do on either island but both have amazing view points and the lunch was lovely at the cliff edge restaurant that sold only trout in a variety of different ways. Once back on the mainland we eat yet more cake! And then boarded our bus back to Peru only 30 hours after we arrived which warranted us some very dodgy looks from boarder control.

Lost in a Landslide

After 4 gruelling days of jungle trekking and endless stairs we were more than ready to embark on the short 3 hour walk to our bus back to Cusco.

We began watching the journey that had taken us days whiz past our eyes. But it could never have been just a five hour journey now could it! We hit a line of traffic and very reassuringly our driver instantly muttered that we weren’t getting home tonight and to stay in the car as it was still dangerous outside. We awaited his return for all of 10 minuets before walking up ahead to see what the commotion was. A landslide covering the only road back!

There we could see our bus driver lording over the pile seemingly shouting orders but doing nothing. Whilst all the firemen stood around watching a simple bus driver throw his weight around. The only equipment they seemed to have bought was a long rope we used for a giant game of tugawar with a tree, needless to say the tree won. About an hour in the firemen all rounded up and dispersed having been absolutely no help. So now with no authority apart from a few scruffy bus drivers and some eager to get home passengers we began to shovel mud handfuls at a time off the edge of the cliff. Scrambling with the branches of trees trapped in the mess as they tore our hands to bits only for the cuts to be instantly plastered with mud. The rocks were a group effort as we rolled them out of the road. Headlights turned on to illuminate the muddy faced hills have eyes looking people we had now become, as we continued clawing at mud for hours. As night fell the genius opportunists from the surrounding towns started appearing in the crowds selling hot chocolate and sandwiches, a car pumped up the techno and with the car lights peering from either side of the mound it began to feel like a party gone wrong.

The hours passed and rumours spread from the other side that there were busses turning around and heading back to Cusco, so we checked the driver would wait whilst we went to see, we sacked in the digging and crossed. Waded through a few rivers only to find we were too late all the busses had gone! Now soaking wet, covered in mud and damn right pissed off we retraced our steps returning to find the bus no longer there. So now completely stranded in the middle of nowhere with a very temperamental landslide that could go again at any minute. We decided our best bet was to try to walk back to the town we had stayed in at the start of our trek. This happened to be a lot further that we remembered and we seemed invisible to passing cars as we stood in the middle of the road desperately waving our hands around. Finally we got picked up by a lovely family who cleared the back seats of any possessions before letting 4 smelly wet Brit’s clamber in to the back. We arrived at gone 3am and everything was closed as we wondered town banging on any door looking vaguely like a hostel. We did manage to bag some bread rolls and cans of tuna to tame our rumbling bellies and eventually as we almost gave up and had started eyeing up doorways, we found an open window pushed it open with a timid “hola” and managed to get the hostel owners to let us in. I almost hugged the guy with relief but I’m glad I didn’t as a wet muddy faced stranger hug at 4am would have only got us turned away. I don’t think any of us even said good night before we fell asleep surrounded by crumbs and tuna cans. I had an ice cold shower in the morning where I washed the mud dreadlocks out of my hair and scrubbed and soaked my hands only to find the mud was stubbornly unremovable and remained there for a few days despite how many times I washed them. We payed for another bus back to Cusco only to stop at the same point, turns out the landslide fell again just before we got there, and even 24hrs on the only machinery was one spade and the only authority was a set of new bus drivers. We only waited an hour this time before finally crossing. Three hours later we got back to Cusco and march straight up to the tour company to give them a piece of our minds only to be called liers and have water thrown at us.

But not about to let this taint a great week with some amazing people we went back to Organika and ate till our tummies were sore. All finished off with the biggest pancake known to man. Nothing like some good food to numb out aches and tame our tempers. Goodbye Cusco.

Marching to Machu Picchu

So after lots of debate we decided on the inka jungle trail to Machu Pichu where you are promised not only ancient ruins but a side of adrenaline along the way with mountain biking, zip lines and hot springs included. So we haggled on the price, recruited some friends and set off. The first day after a short drive we were geared up with protective clothing and half decent bikes and sent down the mountain promised that although it was 58km over half was downhill. This didn’t stop us peddling till our legs went numb as we each tried to keep up with the figure in front. As we swerved giant rocks and passing cars whist splashing through rivers that snaked over the roads. At the start we were high up in the mountain with crisp cold air but as we descended in to the jungle we were hit with a hot humid tropical wall of heat and minuets later the rain began, the clouds fell around us making visibility tough as we wound our way down. But almost as sudden as it started a very clear line in the road where one side was soaked and the other bone dry marked the leaving of the rainy area.

And two hours later we arrived to meet the van soaked through and hearts pounding ready for the first of our quinoa soups. That evening we relaxed at our accommodation playing cards before a very disruptive nights sleep as parrots, cockerels and crickets all competed for our attention. At least once during the night we were convinced our tour guide had turned in to a ware wolf clambering around on the roof.

Day two after a very early breakfast we set off on our 21km walk with absolutely no idea how far that really is… VERY FAR! We walked along a powerful whirl-pooling river and through the dense jungle where we weaved between towering plants and tornadoes of mosquitos before coming across a family who clearly lived here in this dangerous nowhere. They prepared an array of strange jungle fruit for us to try, most of which was politely accepted but discreetly spat back out as the the warm substances resembled my vomit. We then bought some 100% natural fruit ice lollies which were absolutely delicious and set off on the worst part of this journey. What felt like a five hour walk up an impressively sized mountain whilst we all sweated and questioned if we were there yet like the annoying children we never grew out of. During the journey we stopped at every given opportunity as the guide explained the many medicinal purposes of the plants surrounding us. The view from the top was amazing and we were grateful for the breeze so high up.

We stopped of at monkey lodge where we tried a few local spirits infused with random herbs and snakes, ate chocolate doused in honey and watched some parrots bathe (not in a creepy way). The walk down was spent not nearly as out of breath but with toes cramped up in the front of our shoes as we walked vertically downwards towards lunch yet another quinoa soup set menu! More walking and a very questionable cable car to cross the river that was operated by two jungle dwellers who pulled us across in twos and grunted for payment before we finally arrived at the hot springs where we calmed our aches and washed the sweat away in a bath full of strangers. Before eating multiple chicken sticks and heading to dinner. A scramble of a buffet as we tried to load up on enough carbs to fill out constantly rumbling tummy’s.

Day three was the zip lines as we all anxiously geared up and threw ourselves off the side of mountains soaring at incredible speed to the bottom where the next line awaited. The last was done upside down with our legs in the air as we resembled monkeys. We then walked 11km on our already blistered feet following the train tracks all the way to lunch. A quick game of cards and we began the last 3hrs of our journey to Aguas Calientes our last stop before Machu Pichu, where we spent the night exchanging foot massages in preparation for the 4000 stair climb awaiting us the next morning.

Finally the day had arrived with a 4.30am pitch black morning walk as we headed to the steps of doom. We all split up choosing our pace, as we climbed and climbed and climbed panting in unison with the surrounding strangers only stopping to down water and comment on the intensity. We managed the supposedly two hour climb in an hour proving the stairs were not as never ending as we once thought. Once in we were herded straight to the entrance of waynu pichu a mountain that has surely earned it’s name from the moans of the people stupid enough to climb the thing, and extra we had added on before we knew what leg pain was. On the way up we wondered what we would possibly see through the wall of fog surrounding us but as we struggled on one foot in front of the other we watched the clouds rise around us with such speed that it looked unreal and once at the top the view now clear reminded us why we had chosen this torture. As we cracked open our well prepared tuna salads and sat amongst the ruins enjoying the sunshine.

The decent down ruined our knees but not our spirits as we laughed at bad jokes and ate any snack in sight. That night we feasted like kings in the market diner for little more than £1. Ready for the trip back the following day. Where clean clothes and dry shoes awaited us.

Cold Cusco and Rainbow Mountain

Cusco is a city buried high in the mountains teeming with culture as people dance in the squares and sell alpaca items by the dozen. At 3399m above sea level the altitude has you loosing your breath at every step as you wonder the cobbled streets looking for the next vegan restaurant of which there are millions. The first night we enjoyed an amazing tuna salad and a vegetable quinoa crepe at “Hanz” the food was amazing and only the start of what was to come.

“Chia” our next vegan discovery had a salad bar included in a dirt cheep set menu meaning we visited here twice the second time to show our new hostel friends.

Our third and final discovery was Organika and by far the best where I tried my first Alpaca steak with carrot purée and a peppercorn sauce whilst Daisy enjoyed a very pretty goats cheese salad. Both washed down by some very colourful lemonades. One with beetroot the other mint.

During our stay here we decided to visit the infamous Rainbow mountains (montaña de 7 coloures) which involved a very early start where we were bundled on to a bus in the pitch black and pouring rain to drive hours before we stopped for a very disappointing breakfast. Once released from the bus we were pointed in the direction of the mountain which involved a three hour climb to over 5000m above sea level where rather than the promised mountain of 7 colours we saw only one, snow! We reached the top at the same time as a snow storm. What luck. So after a quick shivering wonder around hoping for it to clear, we gave up and scrambled back down to the cover of the bus.

On the rout back my face started to turn a familiar red and radiated heat. Turns out I must be the only person in the world who can burn in a snow storm. Great.