Escape • Explore • Enjoy

While the bodies still can and we still have our marbles!

Month: August 2018 (page 1 of 2)

27/8/18 Intrepid Day 1 – Meet Up

The Awkis Dream Hotel is where we met up with fellow Machu Picchu adventurists.

Seven from the States, one from Australia and the two of us from New Zealand made up the United Nations.  There is an Irish fella co-sharing part of the journey however, will separate to go trek the actual Inca Trail where as we are doing the Quarry Trail.  Our one is a little off the beaten track and still climbs to over 4450 metres in altitude, just less traffic congestion.

Even more unbelievable is that the lass from Australia is from Melbourne and named Bronte.  The friend of Naya’s who we met and spent some time with was also a Bronte from Melbourne, Australia!

Our local tour leader Frank took us on a Cusco walkabout, giving some historical narrative at different parts of the route trodden.  Mostly around the San Blas area – a smaller market similar to San Pedro; San Cristobal Cathedral; ending up at the Choco Museum.

Arrr, a chocolate museum where we learnt about Cocoa, the finest ingredient that you can include when making the finest chocolate.  Better than anything you purchase in a local supermarket.

The aroma’s were thirst quenching and part of the tour allowed for a complimentary drink.  Claire had the floatiest marshmallows that wouldn’t sink under the surface; and I tried chili flavoured chocolate. It bought water to my eyes that no matter the water consumption, I had to wipe the tears away for a tissue or two.

There are 10 cacao varieties that exist in the world and 6 can be found on the Peruvian territory.  Mainly in areas known as “eyebrow of jungle” lying in-between the mountains of the Andes and the lowlands of the Amazon.

We learnt that both the flower and the fruit grow directly from the trunk of the plant and that the best chocolate for your health is the darkest, with the most cocoa percentage.

As our tour came to an end at the Choco Museum, I happened upon Cocoa Chocolate flavoured condoms.  Now, how can one not be confused to determine when you actually tasted the cocoa part of the rubber?

Even more funnier was Bronte the Australian, owning up to having purchased 3 packs that contained 10 cocoa condoms in each!  Then quickly added that she had purchased them for friends back home in Australia!!

It was enough to have everyone adding their two cents worth of banter and jib, it kind of brought the group together in rapport.  As if we had known each other for longer than the couple of hours we actually had.

And set the scene for what was likely going to be a fun couple of days hiking towards Machu Picchu.

We know that a friend of ours tried to innocently enter New Zealand after visiting Peru, with packaged Cocoa tea bags.  Only to be stopped at border control and given a thorough detention and questioning.

Although she was let off with a warning, she is now flagged on the Whanganui Computer as a drug trafficker because you are not allowed to bring Cocoa into NZ in any shape or form.

We can only imagine what is going to happen to Bronte as she tries to enter Australia.  They have a more stringent border security.

If they were in-fact really gifts for her mates, ahem!



Up the Opposite Hillside

The White Jesus looked so tiny from the viewing point we had ascended to.

We could also make out the giant Condor monument close to where we were staying in the distance. Squinting of course.  The eyes aren’t as good as what they used to be!

The White Jesus

Can you find the Condor monument?

We were up the opposite hillside and the monument that towered above us was Mirador Cusco.

It was an impromptu decision to climb up to it after we had ventured down back streets to the bus terminal, to book an overnight bus to Puerto Maldonado.

Flash overnight buses

Mirador Cusco Monument – zoomed in

Up to Mirador Cusco monument we go

Road blocked off for a wedding

Mirador Cusco

The eyeballs were darting and scanning in all directions, it was just as a spectacular view from this side as it was the other.

There was more shanty living on these slopes as well.

Shanty Community

The bus terminal from Mirador

The flip side was the stuff you see when you throw away the map and go off the beaten track.  Getting lost too can be fun.  We did trying to find the damn bus terminal and instead, turned up at the freighting part of the business.  We had to trust the pigeon-English directions from the guard.  Google maps was hopeless to try and cheat as we had no connection.

We got there.

Wedding Car

Fresh fruit can come to you

A childrens playground

Inca sun water fountain

Jamming it

Shifting house!

The Inca Leader Pachacuteq monument

As we did when we arrived at a roundabout back on the flat to stand beneath another towering bronze monument of the Inca Leader Pachacuteq.  It’s 11.5 metres tall, weighs 22 tonnes and one of his outstretched arms points towards the heart of the old imperial Cusco.  He was ‘the man’ during the time of the Inca, an important Peruvian identity.  He looked authoritative yet graceful.  And someone who you could be attracted too.

Inca Leader Pachacuteq – 11.5 metres tall, weighs 22 tonnes

As was the man who was using crutches because he had one leg.  We shadowed him crossing the roundabout for safety.  People slowed for him.  They weren’t for us before he arrived!

Sometimes there is greater enjoyment in the journey versus the destination.

Most times!

Ground Shake

The shaking lasted for about two minutes.

It was just after 4am and we both came too simultaneously.  Naya came down from her upper level. We were already five floors up.

And we were spooked not having a damn clue whether it was a pre-cursor to a larger one or whether it was the major one and that there would be following after shocks.  It would be fair to write that we panicked and got dressed, stuffed stuff into backpacks and were happy to vacate the building.

A simple message on face back about it being a bit of a ground shake and we were able to learn from friends back in NZ that the quake epi-center was near the northeastern border between Peru and Brazil – 248 kms to the north of Puerto Maldonado.  Thank goodness the 7.1 magnitude was deep.

Shallower and it would have been a different blog narrative, if any at all!

The building codes here are – well, there aren’t any.  And by the many types of exposed construction sites on the go, it isn’t hard to imagine the consequences if the later had occurred.

The building we are staying at – on level 5

We wondered how the overhang was costructed!

Fear and anxiety don’t just abate because the sun comes up.  It stayed with us for the remainder of the day.  Getting out for a walk helped somewhat.  So too did cooking tea for Naya, Bronte and the two new airbnb arrivals Ejler and his mate Juan.  As did the bottle of red (Brent) and Russian Vodkas (everyone else) and, the karaoke and dancing around the apartment until they (Naya, Bronte, Ejler and Juan) decided to go out.

The San Sebastian Condor monument

The San Sebastian Condor monument is massive

Dinner with Claire, Bronte, Juan, Ejler and Naya

Not us oldies.  We had a cup of tea, watched some YouTube music to settle the nerves before hitting the fart sack.  But do the nerves ever settle?  Over time perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Holding a tarantula was enough to give the heart extra palpitations!  Add the fact that we are going to Puerto Maldonado to do it after Machu Picchu skips one or two now we have had the ground shake.

Life has to go on.

Notwithstanding, cheers to all those who sent “stay safe” and thinking of us messages.

They were comforting and, certainly helped.

Jesus Re-visted

Just a day of wandering, wondering.

The hump up to the Jesus Statue seemed more easier than the other day.

A hearty 15kms or so of preparation with Machu Picchu on the radar.


Tickled Senses

You will always remember a place that tickles all the senses at one location, be it smell, taste, touch, sight or, sound.

A place where you can witness the day to day life of the people and, be entertained for hours.

Venturing into the Central Market of San Pedro was the place.  It’s purpose, to provide the freshest products for the locals.  Hidden among the aisles, a large number of stalls host entire sections dedicated exclusively to fruit, vegetables, meat, spices, maze, natural remedies, exotic products, and the like.

You knew the spice that overpowered all the rest but kept you guessing which one.  Each one combed into a cone shape inside an old coal sized sack or smaller portions sized out into cellophane packaging.

Likewise the different types of maze corn cobs – again, some were whole and some were kernelled into piles.

Every part of whole beasts having been butchered were on display.  Right down to the front teeth and mouth.  Featherless chickens lay stacked in a pile just along from the two lifeless pig carcasses waiting to be dissected into eatable portions.  Minced meat and sausages shared the same counter.  There was no coverage nor refrigeration for any of the meat.  The swirl of flies glistening in the suns rays must have been in paradise confused at what to feed on first.

The smell of food being prepared by the ladies with the secrets that only they know teased the nostrils and we sat down to eat a bowl of chicken soup with noodles and pickled vegetables.  It was delicious.  It also allowed us some conversation time with a young American girl who shared her tales of traveling solo for three weeks.  She worked in the Chinese relations area and isn’t certain about her future given the repercussions from tweets from a person not worth mentioning.  Being off the grid had some consolation moments, giving us a tip to definitely take and wear layers where we were heading.

I gave her one – drink a can coke every three days to flush out your system and you won’t get sick.  Immediately leaving the market, we headed to the supermarket directly across the road and did just that ourselves.  It was day three for us!

We had consumed a pineapple, orange and prickly pear fruit drink made fresh on our arrival to the market.  Should be okay.  Even if the lady behind the counter washing the vessel in the bucket using water straight from the tap. It didn’t deter us neither.

Time will tell.

Claire bartered for a small change purse, something locally iconic, not too big.  A reminder that we had visited that left a grin on the dial long after we lost the tickled senses.

We wandered some more back streets before again walking the distance home.

Tomatoes and avocado for tomorrow’s breakfast. Directly from the San Pedro Market.


Sexy Woman

Naya’s relations turning up was the alarm clock we needed to rise and shine after hitting the sack at some ungodly hour of the morning.

Surprisingly, we awoke with no hangover considering all the abuse we had given our bodies over the past 60 hours – jet lag, altitude, coca tea, forgetting undies, pisco sour, Alpaca and dancing like no one was watching!

It was Naya’s actual birthday and they had turned up with a Pineapple cake to share and, cooked us another local dish of chicken, stuffed chilli,  and yuka (a potatoe root from the jungle).

A couple of young Canadians rocked up for the airbnb hospitality in-time and “happy birthday” was sung again.

The remainder of the day was spent recovering, napping and, mapping out the next days activity – exploring Cusco.

The next day, Bronty escorted us to her favourite eating place for our second breakfast.  We didn’t give it a second thought as the day of exploration involved a bit of ground under the boot soles.

Sidewalks and roads are cobbled and rubbed smooth from the centuries of wear.  We happened upon the spot where thousands of pics have been snapped, the Inca stone with twelve sides.  The craft of yesteryear at how the Inca people mastered the art of construction is mind boggling considering how old the architecture is.

Care was taken as we navigated the narrow sidewalks.  Size of midriff does matter as to who gives way.  Being mindful of the traffic is also important as a wing mirror can easily bruise a butt cheek or groin.  Depending on the direction of the vehicle.  Smaller steps were taken so as to ascend the step upward direction we were stepping.  Breathing became rapid.

Cusco is just an unbelievable crisscross maze of streets and alleys.  As is the wiring to electricity and the many different establishments standing shoulder to shoulder.  Signage dangled from above.  Hawkers peddling their wares for a sol or two were temperamental compared to Thailand – they weren’t in your face.

We wandered through the old quarter of Cusco, San Blas with colonial houses built with walls of Incan stone.  Up up up we went.  The orange half round shaped roof tiles became more prominent and widespread, as far as the eye could see.  Bronty’s escort transitioned into accompanying us as it wasn’t her intent to have joined us on our little meander.  She was quickly becoming familiar with what a ‘Ruru’ meander was, inspiring her with “one more set of steps”.  We reached a point where she said “stuff it, we might as well go to the Sexy Woman” … it was always our intent, we just hadn’t communicated such.

They refer to the site near the big Jesus statue with arms extended overlooking Cusco (a smaller version of the one in Brazil) as the Sexy Woman.   It’s real title is Sacsaywaman.  And, the view standing under the big J of Cusco was just spectacular.  Just a sea of orange.

Returning back down, we descended down steps with a larger gradient than on the way up.  Some of the residences certainly were shanty type abodes.  Walls made of mud; roofs held down with blocks; washing hanging from anything as long as the sun’s rays could be absorbed.  Being grateful for what we have at home wasn’t hard to swallow.

We were soon back in the Cuzco city centre, the Plaza de Armas of Cusco.  It used to be the Inca Empire capital before the Spanish conquest.  They basically decimated any remnant of the empire to re-construct the circumference with temples, churches and mansions.

Today, tourist restaurants, jewelry shops and travel agencies occupy the lower buildings. Cafés and bar the upper.

We rested the legs rehydrating above the multi-cultural crowds.  Children in school uniform dotted the plaza and we made the decision to walk home.  Bronty continued to accompany us, versus taking a taxi.  Still holding confidence in my ability even after my map reading had us back track a couple of streets a couple of times!

We arrived home having explored.

But it didn’t stop there.  We ended up going out for a cheap and cheerful dinner with Naya, Bronty and the Canadian lads Adam and Nick.  Then Naya drove us up to the Big Jesus again to view the city at night.  The colour of orange glowed from the city light noise.  And it was just as spectacular as the day light view.

Cusco is a city to be placed on your list of destinations to visit if thinking about pointing your nose towards South America.

Whether to holiday or … to live!

First Impressions. And Seconds, Thirds and Fourths – Part 2

Arriving back to the apartment, Naya and Bronty invited us to join them for dinner.

Tomorrow was Naya’s birthday and so they were going out to celebrate.  We’d had six hours sleep during the day and got confused that it was the next day after our arrival.  We had arrived only twelve hours before. Cripes, surely the coca tea had left the body!

Flagging down a taxi ride was as simple as putting up your hand right out the front door.  And cheap as, arriving at the venue in the heart of Cusco City.

The huge wooden doors facing a cobblestone plaza were like ones you see on a castle, constructed during the 17th century.  We were committed to dinner and a little apprehensive about what was on the other side.  This wasn’t the intrepid adventurer’s type of eating place when one is on a budget.  We had to duck our heads through the door part of the larger doors, and into “The” Fallen Angel Restaurant and “The” Luxury Guest House, we entered.

This was a place where OMG and HF held hands.  Before we even sat down, first impressions were that we were going to be eating crackers for meals the rest of the trip.

Naya is friends with the owners whom we were introduced to.  They sat with us for dinner which was at an old claw-foot bath tub turned into a fish tank with a glass table top.  The fish swimming just did their thing.

Drinks were ordered, and placed in front of us was a Pisco Sour.  It’s a traditional beverage that all tourists have to try and the alcohol volume concoction is sipped.  A new high enlightenment.

We ordered off the menu.  Well, we didn’t, as our meal was ordered for us, being another traditional dish – Alpaca.  But before we placed our napkins, we were invited to tour the place.

The artwork placement was a combination of ingenuity and frenzy creativity, with over 150 pieces exhibited by several artists in a rotary way.  People who stay often purchase pieces.

The guest house has 5 eclectic, colour themed rooms that are individually decorated with whimsical touches, loft sleeping areas and kitchenettes.  Actors Susan Sarandon and Antonio Banderas have signed the guest register.  On separate occasions of course.

Returning to our bath tub table, we were in awe.  It was beautiful and so I asked how much if we upgraded from our airbnb.  We would be going hungry the remainder of the trip!

And then the entrée, main meal and dessert cuisine arrived.  To sum up, it was authentic Peruvian dishes with flavours constituting the pillars of Peru, with flavours from the Coast, the Highlands and the Jungle of Peru.

The alpaca wrapped in bacon medium cooked, was similar to a glazed ham taste. Not a morsel was left on the plate.  Actually, for all three servings.

We learnt that there are over 3,000 varieties of potatoes grown in Peru.  Spuds used to be poisonous and over time have become domesticated so as to be able to be consumed.  The varieties differ depending on the altitude.

And the dark purple corn we saw in the supermarket earlier in the day?  Well, it’s not used for general consumption, but brewed to make drinks.

Another first to try for another time.

An extra dessert was brought out with a candle in for Naya to extinguish in one puff.  And as we bid our farewell to the owners and a folder with the bill arrived, they had heavily discounted the experience, meaning we didn’t need to eat crackers nor go without food all together.  The remainder of the adventure.

This was a totally unexpected and surreal encounter on the first day of our arrival.  It felt like we had known Naya and Bronty for years.

That was, until they took us out some more.  To the Wild Rover Backpackers Hostel.

Dancing on a table as others did on the bar was another OMG and HF first.  We danced like we were 22 years of age again, knowing full well in the morning, we would feel like 102 years of age.

Except, it was already the new morning.

What first impressions could possibly be in store for us on day 2.

First Impressions. And Seconds, Thirds and Fourths – Part 1

The elevation of Cusco is 3,399 metres above sea level.

The elevation of New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki /Mount Cook is 3,724metres.  The only concern we had was whether we would succumb to the effects of altitude sickness which entails headaches and vomiting for which you can get at both altitudes.

By the time we scaled up the five flights of stairs to reach the airbnb accommodation, our elevation in Cusco was higher again and we were certainly breathless!

We got our airbnb host Naya out of bed.  So too her Australian friend Bronty.  That was after we buzzed every apartment because we couldn’t remember the apartment number so decided to use initiative and buzz them all hoping one would answer with a warm welcome “Hola” and click open the apartment entrance door.

Naya served us up a cup of Coca tea. Hot water infused with raw dried leaves from the coca plant.  The herbal tea is native to South America and when consumed, it helps with altitude.  Yay, our first try at a drug because if you tried to bring the tea back into New Zealand, you receive the rubber glove treatment from NZ’s border security.

We think it was working as our breathing returned to normal inhales and exhales. Either that or we were high and not from the altitude neither!

We met a brother and sister from Brazil who were airbnbing it at Naya’s as well.  And Bronty was from Australia so it was a multi-national cross pollination of elevator pitch conversation.  More sips of the coca tea and we had the world pecking order sorted out!

There was no hallucinating when I went to take a shower to realise I didn’t pack any extra pairs of underpants.  I only had the ones on I was wearing.  And they were two and a bit days worth of wear.  Which was a second concern.  Going ‘comando’ (not wearing any) at this altitude would have shriveled anatomy already wrinkling.  Fortunately, Claire loaned me a pair.  The things we do to make the best of a situation, moving right along.

We retired for some shut eye.  Six hours later, still no effects of elevation and perhaps still the effects of the herbs.  We needed to stretch the legs and so Naya gave us directions to a shopping centre and so, off we trod.

Dwellings were a combination of urban cosmopolitan and shanty.  There isn’t a maintenance plan to upgrade uneven surfaces – whether footpath or roads.  Dog shit lies where if fell from a dog’s arse and sometimes a pack approached so pretending to throw a stone deterred getting rabies.  Traffic was manic and the smell of dumped litter from a condensed population was evident.  The citizens of Peru are short and we think we saw our taxi driver from the airport over 100 times since exiting our abode.

The last paragraph was by no means a criticism.  It was what we experienced in the twenty minutes it took us to reach the Mall.  More importantly, with open mindedness, there is beauty in the genuine rawness of another countries heart.  It helped us to bend our belief system away from the one we left behind a couple of days ago.

Except we found in the Mall itself, a so westernized world with all the brands and label shops.  It seemed out of place yet, we had to maneuver so as not to have a head on with hordes of people shopping, it was crazy. I too found the stand in a shop to purchase half a dozen pairs of undies.  A label I’d not heard of before.

The dark purple coloured corn in the fruit bins of the supermarket had us wondering.  Soon, we were to be told it’s purpose.

But first, there was getting back out of the Mall and into the real world.

Did I mention that the toilet paper used to wipe one’s bum is placed into a bin beside the toilet itself.  Only the poo’s and wee’s get flushed.  With practice, the habit with come.

We certainly didn’t want responsibility for backing up that system!

New Zealand to Peru 19/8/18

As we tried to check onto our first flight departing at Christchurch Airport, the screen didn’t recognise our booking reference number. Eeeeeek.  We proceeded to the check in attendant.

“Mr and Mrs Ruru – your check in counter is with Jet Star.”

We found the Air New Zealand attendant very courteous and obliging. Us dickheads will be reading the small print better going forward.

We encountered no further bugger up’s on our behalf for the remainder of the air time – Chch to Auckland to Santiago (Chile) to Lima (Peru) to Cusco, our final landing destination. In fact, we acknowledge Elaine our travel agent from Selwyn Travel – the meal with Jet Star, the empty aisle seat on the Pacific Ocean long haul; and again on the short haul; and lastly, the front seats to Cusco. The little bits of customer service beyond our expectations given it took us just on 30hours after initial lift off to final touch down were lovely.

Across from me on the opposite aisle seat as we prepared to depart Auckland on Latam Airlines, was a toddler, perhaps 2-3 years of age.  He wasn’t cooperating with his Dad to be safely buckled up. They were Spanish and spoke limited English.  Now, some folk may have rolled their eyes at the thought of what the next ten hours flying was going to be like.  Not me, I hooked out the sick bag and quickly drew a Kiwi illustration and handed it to the youngun.  A Kiwi, followed by a horse, a car, a cat, an aeroplane, a llama, and eventually a figure off the screen game on the console screen in-front of him.  Within ten minutes after the last illustration and lift off, he was asleep.  Buckled in.

Sometimes we don’t need to speak the same language to assist fellow humans when in need.  Except, when it was our turn for shut eye, the little fella woke up and was wide awake.  We got through it!

The transition time spent on the ground in-between flights is all part an parcel of the journey.  We embrace just people watching and, aren’t shy to strike up conversation with total strangers.  It made the time fly!

We landed into Cusco under the cover of darkness.  After clearing border security, we hung around the airport for sunrise before doing charades with a taxi driver to take us to our airbnb host.  Having it written down certainly helped.  And, you definitely put your life in their hands as we pushed our way into traffic like the car was stolen.  It took us some time to eventually locate the residence.  The key was to stay calm and backtrack to the airport to use wifi worst case scenario. It wasn’t needed and again, we got there.

Travellers in a foreign land.

Except there is a great quote “There are no foreign lands.  It is the traveller only who is foreign.”

Our adventure had truely begun.

Hello August

Dreampt it, designed it and now, it’s not long to go do it.

Hello August … we have waited patiently for you to arrive.

« Older posts