A Travellerspoint blog

Cuzco - Lake Titicaca - Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Train journey onboard the Andean Explorer, for a full day traversing the high Andes to Lake Titicaca.

Alarm at 4.30 am.  Into breakfast at 5.15 am.  And on the mini bus at 7 am for the 10 minute ride to the railway station.  Our carriage is gorgeous and we are all sitting in lounge chairs with little lamps on our tables.  AND, the best part, we are facing the way we are going!  The train left at 8am and it is full.

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We were given a cup of tea and then a snack of museli and fruit.  Some entertainment started in the club car - a fashion parade, dancers and a band.  People from the others cars descended on the place and it was pretty crowded.  We decided to stay put and enjoy the scenery and have a little snooze as we had a pretty early start this morning.

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Just before lunch we arrived at Asociacion de Artesanos, which is the half way point between Cusco and Puno and at 4319 metres above sea level, is the highest point we will reach.  Lake Titicaca is not quite that high.  We all hopped off to stretch our legs and take some photos of the stunning scenery.  The stop also provided another shopping opportunity.

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Back on board and lunch was served.  A glass of champagne first followed by quite a nice meal.

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Then it was time for serious sleeping and most of our group had an afternoon nap.

Then there was another performance by the band and Happy Hour in the club car.

The scenery has now changed and the mountains and crops of corn and quinoa have given way to plains with grazing cattle, sheep and llamas.

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We were given a champagne and orange and then high tea which was a cup of black something which tasted quite nice and a small snack.

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We passed through Juliaca which is the most depressing town I have ever seen.  It makes India look like Paris!  All the streets are unpaved and are full of puddles and mud.  The market is located on both sides of the railway track and the driver had to keep blowing the whistle to tell the people to get off the track as some of them set their stalls up on the track.  I'm not sure why they do that because every time the train comes through, they have to move!

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The trip took 10 hours which seemed to go pretty quickly.  I must admit that train travel is very relaxing.  The maximum speed reached was about 40 kms, but most of the time it was just doing about 20 kms.

The train stopped right at the road where our hotel was and we hopped off, hopped on the bus and took the three minute ride up the hill to our hotel.  Apparently we all have a view of the lake from our rooms but it's dark and we can't see and tomorrow we have another early start so we won't be able to enjoy the view.
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We arrived in the middle of a thunder storm and saw some fantastic lightning.

Our main luggage stayed on the train and went to the main terminal (wherever that is) and was delivered to our room about an hour later.

We have another really nice room(s), with a lounge room and dining table, a separate bedroom and a bathroom.  We have had fantastic accommodation wherever we have stayed in South America.

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Another early start tomorrow so into bed.

Posted by gaddingabout 03:50 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cuzco, Peru - Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Free day at leisure - dinner Scenic Free Choice - El Tupay Restaurant

semi-overcast 18 °C

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We have a free day today so no alarm. We had a late breakfast and then wandered down to the main square as we had to pick up Phil's ring at 11 am. They did a really good job and while we were there, I suddenly remembered that I had my broken gold bracelet in my purse so I asked them to fix it too. Lili said to come back in an hour and charged us 70 soles for the repairs, which is about $35 AUD. Pretty reasonable we thought. We wandered around taking photos of the square and some of the locals.

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Isn't she a cute little thing. Two things have struck us. The Peruvians are a very short race and yet, all the stairs are even huge for us! Also, while trying on Alpaca jumpers, the arms are so long for me, so what must they be like for them?

On our way back to the jewellers, we came across this guy and I had my photo taken with him. It cost 10 soles, ($5 AUD) and Phil is still moaning!

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We had a very light lunch at our favourite Italian restaurant as we have a dinner this evening.

The weather was slightly overcast this morning but when the sun came out, it was hot. Then the clouds rolled in and it got quite cold and then started to rain about mid afternoon. Seems to be the weather pattern here.

We did probably our last bit of souvenir buying and came back to the hotel to prepare for our departure tomorrow and have a rest. Patricia and Jenny2 are both in the clinic receiving oxygen. Poor things. I think they both had an upset stomach which is probably exacerbated by the lack of oxygen. I don't know that for sure, but I am so glad that the altitude has not affected me. Phil is taking altitude sickness tablets. Tomorrow will be the test because Lake Titicaca is the highest place we will be going - 3810 metres above sea level.

John and Sharon came to see our room and then we went to visit theirs. It is small but very, very cute. Just the sort of room you would imagine in a monastery. If we had been given a room like that, I would have been very happy too. They have a great view of Sacsayhuaman from their tiny little window. We also had a look at Josh and Mary's room. It is different from John and Sharon's, but cute too.

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Phil had an afternoon nap and I tried to catch up on my blogging. We all met just before dinner to hear the timings for tomorrow. Apparently there is going to be some sort of strike in Cusco tomorrow which means that at some stage the roads will close. So, we will be going to the station a little bit earlier as the train leaves at 8am. Breakfast starts at 5am, bags out at 5.45am and meeting at 6.50am in the bar area.

We had a lovely dinner in the El Tupay restaurant in the hotel. During the dinner we were entertained by these two singing popular opera. Very nice. Phil and I had Chateaubriand. It was delicious and cooked exactly how we both like it. Poor Jenny2. She was in the clinic overnight with altitude sickness and a tummy upset so she was on chicken and rice!

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Into bed to be ready for the train trip of a life time, from Cuzco to Puno through the Andes.

Posted by gaddingabout 04:20 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cuzco, Peru - Monday, 6 April 2015

Tour the city - the Cathedral, Casa Concha and Koricancha (Sun Temple) and the ruins of Sacsayhuaman Fortress

overcast 18 °C

Up at 6.30 am and into breakfast which was crowded but had everything imaginable. We sat with Jade and Jenny1.
Some more photos of our lovely accommodation.

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This is a 300 year old tree in the main courtyard.

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We met at 9 am and started our walking tour of Cusco. It is quite lovely walking through these lovely old streets.

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Our first port of call was the Casa Concha to see exhibits excavated from Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham. We weren't allowed to take photos but were able to photograph the old murals on the outside walls.

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We then toured Koricancha, the Sun Temple and weren't allowed to take photos in there either but there were quite a lot of opportunities to take photos outside.

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Then the bus arrived with Freddie our driver and we drove up to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman fortress with a stunning view over the city. We had a group photo taken in front of these huge rocks. Sections were first built by the Killkie culture in 1100. They had occupied the area since 900. The site was added to by the Incas from the 13th century when they built huge dry stone walls. This site is at an altitude of 3701 metres.

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We then toured the Cathedral in the main square - the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, which is located in the Plaza de Armas and was completed in 1654 almost one hundred years after it was started. We weren't allowed to take photos in there either but there were three different sections inside, with a black Jesus. He is black because of the discolouration from the candle smoke. There is also a painting of the last supper, painted by a Peruvian artist, which shows Jesus and his disciples eating guinea pig!

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End of tour and we arranged to meet with Yashi at 4.30 pm so she could take us to a jeweller who she knows to see if they could fix Phil's Turkish puzzle ring that snapped a few weeks ago. So, we went alpaca jumper shopping and Phil bought a black baby alpaca jumper which is really nice. I couldn't find a style that I liked but I'll try again tomorrow when we have a free day. I bought some baby alpaca scarves which were quite unusual and nice.

We had a very light lunch at an Italian restaurant and by the time we were to meet Yashi at the fountain in the main square, it was pouring rain. I had my rainbird jacket and Phil had nothing so because he wouldn't pay 5 soles for a rain poncho, he got wet and cold. Then he decided to buy one, but he was already wet and cold! Men! We couldn't find Yashi so we walked up to the jewellers and this time it was open. We had been there previously with Yashi and it was closed. Even though the jeweller couldn't speak English we got across what needed to be done to the ring and then Yashi arrived confirmed what we wanted. We are picking it up tomorrow.

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Later on we went back to the same restaurant for a pizza dinner and it was still raining a bit. It is quite cool.

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I was attacked by mozzies or sand flies or something nasty at the Manatee Farm on 30 March and they are itching like mad and still driving me crazy. I have run out of first aid cream and just need some good old calamine lotion but the chemists only sell cream which doesn't seem to make much difference. I have about a dozen on each leg. Going crazy!

Posted by gaddingabout 03:51 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Machu Picchu - Cuzco - Sunday, 5 April 2015

Train and coach to Cuzco

semi-overcast 16 °C

Had a very relaxed morning as our train wasn't leaving until 1.37 pm, so after breakfast we did a recce to the station so we'd know where to go later. We wandered around the town centre taking photos and went into the local church and found a statue of a black Jesus.

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We did some shopping in the local markets and raced back to the hotel to check out by 11.00 am. We then had a couple of hours to kill until the train departed, so we walked through the markets again. It is now raining quite heavily. Thank goodness the markets are covered. We had a juice at a small cafe and watched the passing parade. Fascinating!

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Of course, everything with Scenic is First Class, so instead of waiting on the platform for our train, we had our own private waiting room. As Amparo was handing out our seat allocations, she was advised that we had a carriage all to ourselves and we had free seating, so we all sat facing the way we were going! The train left precisely at 1.37 pm! In a country where you wait a while for service etc, the planes and trains leave precisely when they are supposed to. Quite amazing!

Train travel is so relaxing and we just love it. We were given a small sandwich and a drink and then the fun started! This guy came dancing down the aisle and started dancing with the women and posing for photos. Then the Peru Rail staff conducted a fashion parade of all the beautiful Alpaca clothes they sell. They looked really nice on the model but I don't think anyone bought anything.

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Before long we were disembarking at Ollentaytambo and the group was divided into three and we boarded mini buses for the two hour ride to Cusco. It wasn't too bad driving along, chatting and looking at the scenery. We stopped after about an hour just to stretch our legs but it was also a photo opportunity. Where isn't in this country!

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Before too long we were driving through the streets of Cusco and eventually arrived at our hotel, the Belmond Hotel Monasterio. We entered through this huge wooden door and were confronted by this scene. My goodness! Then we were served a refreshing drink by this guy. They closed the big wooden door and as it was Easter Sunday, I thought we wouldn't be let out until we had been converted! Only joking!

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Actually, if we didn't know it was Easter, you certainly wouldn't know it here. There is no Easter bunny or Easter eggs. They do celebrate a holiday and go to church on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection and then spend time with their families.

We received the keys to our rooms and as we headed off in the direction of our room the Guest Services Manager jumped up and carried our bags and escorted us to our room. That's a bit odd I thought, but then I realised why - we have the best room in the entire hotel. We have our own private courtyard with a fountain, a lounge room, a huge bedroom and a huge bathroom with a bath and blinds that reveal a private garden out the back! I think I have died and gone to heaven! And the best part is we are here for three days.

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As we are at a higher altitude now, a small amount of oxygen is pumped into the rooms. We haven't been affected at all by altitude sickness, but a lot of the others have, in varying degrees.

After settling in, we went down to the bar for a snack and as Amparo had warned us, the helpings were huge. We ordered one club sandwich for two and it was more than enough food. We had dinner with Bryon and Annie and John and Sharon. Their rooms are quite small and no one else seems to have a bath. Lucky me.

This is some of the art work in our room.

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Into bed and floated away on the magnificent goose down pillows.

Posted by gaddingabout 12:28 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Sacred Valley - Machu Picchu - Saturday, 4 April 2015

Train journey to Machu Picchu, world heritage site - Lost City of the Incas.

Well, it just keeps getting better and better!

Big bags out at 8.00 pm last night for transporting to Cusco when we arrive on Sunday night. We have to "pack down" to our carry on, for our train ride to Machu Picchu.

Meanwhile, the alarm went off at 4.45 am, into breakfast at 5.30. They weren't quite ready for us, with the lights hardly on and some breakfast items were there, but there were no serving spoons and not many staff to ask. Anyway, it was good that we could have something to eat before our travel began.

At 6.30 am we congregated in the foyer and dragging our carry ons behind us, walked through the hotel grounds to the railway station where we boarded our train for the journey to Machu Picchu.

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The train was modern and clean and it was just lovely travelling along beside the Urubamba River. There is also a road that runs right beside the train track and it is quite weird to see cars and trucks driving right beside the train. Our first stop was at Ollentaytambo where other passengers got on and then we continued on for about an hour and a half where we passed through some fabulous scenery. The Andes mountains are breathtaking. We were served morning tea on the train.

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When we arrived at Machu Picchu, we hopped off the train, and joined the queue with hundreds of others to board the buses that would take us up the mountain. We had a bus to ourselves which was nice. We were the last on the bus and had to sit in the back row. Then we proceeded up the mountain on a very narrow winding road. It just went up and up and up and the scenery was wonderful. Huge mountains everywhere.

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There are lots and lots of people queueing and it has been said that the main threat to Machu Picchu is the tourists. So once we showed our passports to the guard on the gate (for what reason I don't know) we started to explore this magnificent place.

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This person didn't fare too well on the mountain. It was a sobering sight.

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It was very hot when the sun came out. I guess it was because we were so close to the Sun God. We went everywhere. We climbed up and down and up and down and up and down. Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca site 2430 metres above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. It remained virtually unknown to the outside world until being discovered by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911. Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. It has also been voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.

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We had a buffet lunch at the only restaurant on the mountain and it was lovely food, but it was a bit like "feeding time at the zoo"!

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After lunch about five our group decided to go back to the hotel and the rest of us started the climb to the Guardhouse. It wasn't as bad a climb as we thought it would be and as it started to rain, it cooled it down quite a bit, but we had to be extra careful as the rocks became a bit slippery. Once we arrived at the National Geographic photo site, we all had our photos taken and then our guide asked us if any of us wanted to go to the Sun Gate. "Where is it" we asked and she pointed right up on top of the mountain. "No thanks" we all said, so continued on with our tour.

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It was a bit hairy going down as the path was narrow with uneven rock steps and a sheer drop on one side. I think we were all glad when we reached the lower levels.

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On the way to the Ceremonial Rock we saw this llama.

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The Ceremonial Rock is in perfect line with the mountain behind.

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The sun finally came out and we took some lovely photos of a rainbow. The Incas believe in duality and even with rainbows, the brightest end is the male and the pale end is the female. Because the male is bright to attract predators to keep them away from the female and the babies.

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On the way to the exit, we came across these two llamas. They were going to walk down this path regardless who was in the way, and walk down it they did!

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Back on the bus for the ride down the mountain and Amparo was waiting for us with our room keys. Our room is right at the end of the building and is overlooking the river, which rages all the time. She said those of us at the front would hear the river all night and the ones at the back would hear the train, which stops at 11pm and starts again at 6am!

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The view from our room.

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We met in the dining room for dinner at 7 and sat with Josh and Mary. The food was simply delicious and all of us really enjoyed our meals. As we were eating our dessert, Mary's glass of ice cream exploded at the base and crashed onto the plate. We think it was a sign!

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Finally into bed and after a 4.45am start and climbing all over Machu Picchu and the sound of the river, we were asleep in no time.

Posted by gaddingabout 11:59 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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