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.

Hardcore sand boarding in Huacachina

Huacachina is a Laguna in the middle of an expansive desert. The drive there was beautiful as sand dunes and coastal lines met.

The first day we climbed the closest sand dune where you sank in to every step so it was quite literally one step forward half a step back. We finally reached the top as it threatened to rain and collapsed two panting messes barely holding it together. A few photos and a discussion about how amazing South America is that you can be one minuet scaling a snowy mountain the next on a surfers beach and then here!

That night we went for a few cocktails with our new French mates and then headed back to our hostel Desert Nights, where we tossed and turned in a 10 bed dorm where at least half the residents were snoring and the temperature must have been well in the 30 degrees without a fan. The mosquitoes had an all you can eat buffet wherever you dared poke a limb out in the hope of lowering your body temperature. After hours of angry half consciousness we moved to the sofas where I had an all out fight with the sheet on the overly small sofa as I tried to get comfy without having an inch of skin available for the ever attacking army of mosquitos. That was definitely a war I lost as come morning I was sleep deprived and with a dot to dot on my face. That day was spent by the pool eating nachos mentally preparing for our sand boarding sunset tour.

Despite everybody’s advice we opted for the professional stand up boards rather than the tourist option of descending on your belly. A choice we were instantly unsure about after an adrenaline filled buggy tour we arrived at the top of our first dune where my belly did somersaults just looking down the steep drop. We seemed to be the only idiots choosing to board who hadn’t previously snowboarded and with no one to teach us the basics we threw ourselves off the edge managing to stand for seconds at a time before we picked up to much speed and tactfully threw ourselves on to our bums. We got only marginally better as the dunes got extremely more dangerous and the fake boarders dropped like flys giving in to their fear. Still we carried on naively. The last dune I was almost sure was a joke it looked like an absolute death trap, the people at the bottom of the hill were so small they looked like raisins in the distance. My heart absolutely pumping I accepted my fate and used my fool proof tactic of bruising my bum. Arriving at the bottom full of adrenaline and ready to go again. Next was Daisy’s turn where she came flying down the dune at a dangerous speed bent so low to the floor you couldn’t see her amongst the sand storm she was creating. Suddenly she is absorbed by the sand storm and you just see her board spiralling and bouncing off the floor as she is dragged with it. Everybody held their breath as she reached the bottom and somehow managed to rise covered in sand but apparently unharmed! With sand in her eyes, ears and mouth she hobbled over an absolute trooper. The pain only worsened during the day as she picked an entire deserts worth of sand from her nose. After showers that felt like sand paper we left in a taxi where the driver and his family (who were in the taxi with us for a discounted price) reassured us we were lucky to leave with “our legs not by our elbows” we laughed the entire way with the lovely family. Next stop Cusco

Ladies of leisure in Lima

Lima is a culinary maze and we have definitely over indulged in our gluttonous stay. Walking through various neighbourhoods stopping to share a plate in every interesting looking place trying to fit in many different dishes a day. One afternoon after a free breakfast we wondered the 5k across Miraflores to the other end of Barranco stopping at a place called “Bao” serving up some very mouth-watering delicious steamed rice buns filled with a range of different succulent meats and pickled veggies.

Next stop was to try Aji de gallina a traditional chicken and walnut stew said to be the best in “Las Mesitas”.

Next stop was “Barra Mar” where we tried another Peruvian speciality, Causa, potato, avocado and fish beautifully presented as a tower.

Despite my ever growing appetite during this trip, I can safely say there has only been two occasions where I have felt like I have completely overdone it. And fallen in to a food gouch so extreme I can no longer walk or talk only undo my trouser buttons sigh and hope the moment will pass. This was one of those occasions. To Daisy’s great amusement I walked 10 very slow steps and flopped on to the local park bench with an uncomfortable look on my face. In some kind of self inflicted food coma. After a few self pitying moments we decided the only way to solve this dilemma was ice cream! So a place we had seen with cues round the block became our next victim. Where we asked to try almost every flavour before making a purchase and flopping on to their sofas to indulge once more.

Still heavy with food we opted for a bus back unable to carry the excess weight back home. On the journey back I honestly thought this was us done for the day and that there was no way we would be hungry again for dinner. How wrong I was. A few hours later I was ready to go again and with it being the Chinese New Year and all the talk of the amazing Chinese/Peruvian collaboration dishes we couldn’t help ourselves and headed out to “Wa Lok” a highly rated restaurant. The food was expensive but we couldn’t resist and ordered the prawn and scallop dumplings and the stewed tofu to share.

We waited an age for the food and when it did come out it was very lack lustre and Luke warm. Leaving us underwhelmed.

The next day we were trying to cut costs before our extremely expensive reservation at restaurant central, number 6 of the worlds best. Breakfast was the free kind and we whipped up some cheep pasta for lunch. A quick wonder around town and a catch up of chefs table and we put on our most sophisticated outfits and set off. The food was like nothing else I’ve ever tried. After being shown to our table we were presented with a pleasant looking palette cleanser made with some very subtle Peruvian Fruits and a home made edible flower ice cube.

Next they bought an entire loaf of amazingly soft dense purple looking bread with a melt in your mouth it’s so soft butter cream and a herbaceous pesto.

The first of our eight course tasting menu was the sea bass and clams, which felt like an incredibly balanced ceviche where acidity and sweetness came together in the most complimentary way. The plum sauce was to die for and you were left with a subtle nutty hint at the end.

Next up the scallops and seeds, served with a new to us Peruvian vegetable, where they had appeared to have frozen and charred the meaty part and flaked the seeds from inside. The sauce packed a punch of ginger and lime.

Next was the tubers, thinly sliced and pickled yucca and potatoes so colourful and precisely cut and plated. Sat on a smokey creamy substance.

Next was the cured duck an absolute explosion of flavour and my favourite dish! The duck was beautifully crispy the squid perfectly cooked and the absolute balance of texture needed. Served with a bread type pitta I had to ask was edible. Now I’m the sort of person who only knows duck to be covered in hoisin and wrapped in a pancake at my local Chinese so this was amazing and definitely the best duck pancake I’ve ever eaten!

Course number five was named vegetable diversity and was a combination of flavours and textures I’ve never tried leaving me feeling a little bit confused but delighted. So thin they were almost see through vegetable noodles on an intense coffee broth and served with artichokes crisps. Tasting slightly bitter and earthy in all the right ways.

Next the beef cooked for 14 hours, it actually melted in my mouth! The sauce was rich and tasty with some sort of foam. The burnt corn purée was super creamy with chunks of all different coloured corn, lurking like little hidden surprises.

The first of our two deserts the Frozen Pomerose (whatever that is) was a beautiful bright pink frozen substance covered in a herby green dust sat on a sweet cream with some apple flakes.

Dessert number two was cocoa from the mill, let’s just say I didn’t know chocolate and honey could taste soo good.

Lastly they presented us with some chocolate Bonbons beyond words. Throughout the entire meal the service was effortless the staff topped up our wine at exactly the right moment and the chefs came and explained every dish we were presented with. The evening was a type of sophistication I would love to get used to and I left a very happy full lady! Lima has been some of the best food I’ve ever eaten from the local classics to the Michelin stars they know their way around a kitchen!

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.

Hangovers in Huanchaco

After a night bus to Huanchaco we arrived spaced out and sleep deprived. So now starved and needing a coffee hit we headed off in search of somewhere to fit the bill. Some fruit and coffee later and we decided to head to Chan Chan an archeological sight near by. Safe to say it was not our cup of tea and without a guide to explain what we were looking at we ended up just discussing in depth what out next tattoos would be whilst wandering aimlessly and taking funny photos.

Which was not a good idea and just ended with us being escorted out.

That night we were surround by pissed up surfers and decided if you can’t beat em join em… this was a bad idea as hours later after rounds of blind Jenga we were loaded in to a taxi by a rather sensible 18 year old who wanted to make sure we got home ok. Despite this we only managed to stay in the taxi for a few seconds before we bundled out horrified by the price. And opted for a stagger home instead only stopping to devour burgers with the locals looking pretty classy with mayonnaise down our chins and Daisy’s bleeding knee. The next morning feeling like I had just been dragged out of a lamas arse and with a serious case of dry mouth I just about managed to drag myself out to the balcony. So I could die with a nice view at least.

That day was spent staring off at the walls of various cafes as we ate like bottomless pits, swearing we will never drink again.

Next stop Huaraz for some mountain treks!

Mooching in Mancora

Our flight back to the mainland was a turbulent death trap most of which was caused by our coffee shakes. The flight operated like a bus where once at Guayaquil we disembarked with only half the passengers as the others stayed aboard for the next stop Quito. We got straight on a night bus to Tumbes Peru and against all advice crossed South America’s most dangerous boarder at night. We hopped off the bus at immigration where there was a power cut and we stood in the dark the only light the bored staffs phones illuminating their faces as they scrolled social media, until the systems rebooted. Finally we were cleared and got back on our bus and drove through a refugee camp with Venezuelans sleeping rough and in tents. The boarders all over South America have seemed overwhelmed with refugees. We swapped busses in Tumbes and boarded the only bus leaving at this time of night. A bus run by some very obviously coked up men. At least 5 of them were wedged in the cockpit chain smoking and aggressively chewing on god knows what! So 2am tired and pissed off we arrive in Mancora with nowhere to stay.

Mancora is the Peruvian equivalent to Palomino (Colombia) but minus the power cuts. It has a laid back hippy vibe that bubbles over in to a party town at night. The beaches are long stretches with only a scattering of bodies.

There are plenty of food options and we have tried the £2 set menus all over town. Whole bbq fish, Chinese inspired Peruvian classics and ice cream coffees to die for.

We’ve spent our days lazing on the beach soaking up the sun or covering ourselves in mud at the mud baths trying to calm the sunburn. This being the only time it is acceptable to roll in the mud sober.

We have leisurely nibbled our way around town enjoying the slow paced lifestyle after our jam packed Ecuadorean escapades. In the evening we have enjoyed a few beers or pisco sours watching the town come to life, but quickly sneak off to bed before our minds become hazy. Being the good girls our friends back home didn’t think existed.

Throughout our stay I have been discussing ideas with a local tattooist and tonight before our night bus my ideas shall come alive.

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.

Bike rides in Baños

Baños has a small town feel to it buried high up in the mountains. The first night our hostel was lacking in dorm beds so we were upgraded to a private room and all for the same price as I cheekily suggested, proving my mum was always right when she said don’t ask and you won’t get. That night I ate a two course meal and drank half a bottle of wine, whilst Daisy sat across the table from me feeling ill but politely nodding along to my tipsy ramblings.

The next morning we rented bikes and set off on a 17km bike ride along a busy road with no helmets and in the pissing it down rain. We passed four beautiful waterfalls before arriving at Pailon del Diablo. Where we stared mesmerised as the crashing water resembled the flames of a fire and the spray the smoke rising in thick patterns before hitting the rocks. Now soaked to the skin from the ride we resembled drowned rats. And opted for a lift back in a pickup where we squelched in our shoes and my jeans felt at least two sizes smaller making me feel as though I had been sectioned in my own clothes.

Now absolutely starved we rode around town in search of some lunch. I got distracted by a veggie looking place, nearly dropped my bag, slammed on the brakes so hard that I nearly went over the handle bars. It Was a close shave but a great find of Avo burrito! So was totally worth the bruised shin.

That night we went to a vegetarian restaurant called Healthy Cafe the food was to die for. We ordered two different curries and both were amazing and even better washed down with a bottle of red. So now drunk, full and ranted out we stumbled home.

After an unproductive day we went for dinner in an amazing Spanish place Tascos! The tapas were amazing and all the surrounding tables, us and the owner friendlily conversed between courses. When we got back to the hostel we found the place a complete mad house, the already strange residents were even stranger with the addition of beer pong and brightly coloured wigs. They couldn’t understand us brits being sober and kept trying to pressure tequila shots on us, until we locked ourselves in a dark room and tried to watch a film that was intermittently interrupted by strange shadows opening the door.

The next morning we went to Casa Arbol for some not so high adrenaline but super cheep swings and zip lines. With lots of time to kill before our night bus we went for some Chinese massages where I was manoeuvred like a piece of meat being aggressively rubbed up. So now sufficiently tenderised we headed off to the city ready for our flight to the Galápagos Islands.

Quilotoa and Cotopaxi

An early start at 6am and we set off for Cotopaxi the second largest active volcano in the world.

And then on to Quilotoa an amazing volcano with a lake in its centre.

There is not much I can say about either of these that the photos don’t say themselves.

Cotopaxi is huge and intimidating whilst stood at the base, but the higher we scaled the more energised and giddy we became. Dressed like creepy Arabs layered up with sarongs and headbands we must have looked a real sight!At 15953feet we shared a coca tea wishing we had the time and equipment to continue to the top! Because we certainly weren’t lacking in enthusiasm.

Quilotoa is one of the best views I have ever seen so calm was the water and silent were the hills, it’s crazy that this place wasn’t roaming with tourists but we were grateful for the lack of an audience after we boldly left the group behind and descended down in to the volcano, only to run out of time and have to scramble back up panting and seriously debating an air ambulance.

The bus drive back we jumped out at a roundabout and switched busses to one going onward to Baños. Following the always room for one more rule I sat on the floor by the drivers feet and talked taxes with the driver.