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.

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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.

Hiking in Huaraz

When we arrived in Huaraz we basically piggy backed a ride in a taxi, with a couple who had made a reservation before turning up at 7am, unlike us. We checked in to our room in Raju which had no window to the outside world meaning we managed to sleep until 11! Waking up delirious and disorientated we went on a hunt to soothe our bellies, we shared some street food, then wondered around town looking for a wall plug for what felt like the millionth time. Turns out electronics don’t last out here. Missions fulfilled we went to head home only to realise we didn’t have a clue of our hostels name and had walked beyond our sense of direction. Now feeling like absolute prats and wondering how we always manage to end up in these situations, by absolute chance we stumbled cross our hostel that was not in fact named Abdul as daisy thought or frow as I had thought. That evening we befriended an Irish lad staying in our hostel and grabbed some cheep dinner and beers together whilst discussing unsolved scuba diving accidents, shark attacks and other dark interesting story’s. I believe our interest in these subjects might have scared him of ,as once we got back to the hostel he agreed to a cup of tea and just disappeared with his tea going cold.

The next morning at 5 am we set off on our tour to Laguna 69. The buss journey was long and we drifted between conversation and sleep. We set off at an optimistic pace the moment the doors opened gawping at the already fantastic views. With dominating cliffs and mountains looming in every direction.

After trecking for a few hours where you would scramble up vertical hills and at the top be greeted with amazing flat fields full of cows and scattered Laguna’s. Only to have to scramble up again. Where I was unsure if It was the views of the altitude that were taking my breath away.

It was definitely the altitude as the last 1km dragged, we stoped regularly to catch our breath only to loose it again instantly. The view that greeted us at the top was worth every achey step!

Huge icy mountains surrounded a lagoon so amazingly blue it didn’t look real, the sort of thing you see a photo off and assume is edited.

It is here that we all chose an individual rock and drifted off feeling peaceful and accomplished.

The walk back was an absolute breeze despite the headaches. We chewed some coca leaves supposedly good for altitude and headed back to the city arriving at 8pm. We ate a rushed but beautiful Indian at Chilli Heaven, the portions were huge which was definitely necessary after a full day of hiking surviving only on snacks.

Next stop Lima.

Glorious Galápagos Islands

Well what can I say the Galapagos are everything I thought and more. I constantly feel like I am staring in a nature program but I have yet to perfect my David Attenbourr voice.

The early boat was like a giant sleepover as we were lulled to sleep by the calm of the ocean. And within minuets of stepping off the boat here you are surrounded by sunbathing sea lions and crabs and lizards by the dozen. In the bay the odd penguin pops up to say hello.

The lonely planet describes the Galapagos as the only place on earth you can have a staring competition with wild animals and loose and boy were they right. You are so outnumbered by fearless wildlife you feel exactly as you should, a visitor.

On Tortuga beach the sand is white and the sea a clear blue as the waves come out they bring with them swarms of baby sharks in water no deeper than my ankles. Turning to face land you see proud iguanas parading down the sand unfazed by our presence. The rocks are covered with bright red crabs and there are sea lions on every bench peir and empty boat throughout the islands.

A trip to a lagoon and you watch birds soar on the waters surface to catch their prey as the fish dance out of the water taunting them.

Snorkelling in even the closest bays and you come face to face with giant sea turtles gliding along elegantly so close you could touch them, and sea lions playfully pivoting around the piers.

Waves crash against the majestic remains of volcanoes out at sea. The water trickling between the cracks and flocks of birds rest here between meals. Every glimmer in the ocean has your head snapping round as you catch a glimpse of a rays signature wave or a turtle rising for breath.

Under every rocky cave lurk schools of sharks. The penguins dart through your line of vision teasingly too fast to keep your eyes on. It feels like a scene off Finding Nemo as the colourful fish go about their day seemingly unfazed by our presence.

Pelicans sour above us at all times and these animals can all be found side by side looking like the oddest gang you’ve ever seen. The island itself looks like something straight out of a cartoon with dark volcanic rocks, mangroves, huge cactuses, lava tunnels and craters the size of entire towns.

The cars slow down and drive around the giant hundreds of years old tortoise, giving them the respect they rightfully deserve.

Patty house the cheapest accommodation we could find is just out of town but Patty herself is lovely and like a kind aunt she advised and arranged our days for us, sending us off on her selection of death trap bikes. We must be known on the island as the two blond boy racers always cycling in circles on squeaky bikes calling for directions to town… again.

In the evening a street not far from town is teeming with life as the restaurants join their tables and chairs together in two long columns occupying the whole road and dish out some of the best seafood! Entire fishes, giant paella’s and mountains of shellfish at decent prices mean we have dined like kings and every day here feels the luckiest on earth.

We have only been here four days and we haven’t wanted to even blink scared we will miss something incredible.