A Travellerspoint blog

3 Day Tour Salar de Uyuni, Lagunas Coloradas, San Pedro de A

“The desert is the environment of revelation, genetically and physiologically alien, sensorily austere, esthetically abstract, historically inimical....It's forms are bold and suggestive. The mind is beset by light and space, the kinesthetic novelty of aridity, high temperature, and wind. The desert sky is encircling, majestic, terrible. In other habitats, the rim of sky is broken or obscured...In an unobstructed sky the clouds seem more massive, sometimes grandly reflecting the earth's curvature on their concave undersides. The angularity of desert landforms imparts a monumental architecture to the clouds as well as the land....”
PAUL SHEPHARD
Man in the Landscape
A Historic View of the Esthetics of Nature

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Day 1 Salar de Uyuni

Our group piled into our 4x4, our bags on the roof in a tarp. Excited for this adventure but boy was it cold! I thought desert, sun, hot...silly me. Good thing I bought gloves and some long wooly alpaca socks in town! In our group we had a newlywed young Japanese couple,Satoshi and Yumiko, a single Japanese girl Erina and a 26 year old Argentine boy from Cordoba named Carlos. Carlos and I became fast friends with our shared interest in house music, designers, and photography.
The first stop on the tour was an old rusted train in the Salar.
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I would tell you about it but our guide looked about 15 years old and didn't speak a word of English and seemed mad at the world. The wind was whipping and cold.
IMG_2314.jpgIMG_2469.jpg IMG_2471.jpg See more photos in the gallery!
Back in the truck we went on to the salt flats which I have been looking forward to for months! Seeing the photos online is magnificent!. I was hoping to see them when it rained because it looks as if you're walking in the sky! (google photos of Uyuni). When we finally got there we were a bunch of happy kids eager to play, like in the first snowfall of the season. We climbed the little salt mountains and posed for fun photos playing with the distance. IMG_2300.jpgIMG_2433.jpg IMG_2371.jpgIMG_2431.jpg
We went to Isla Pescado, Fish Island which was covered with cactus, truly beautiful. IMG_2386.jpg IMG_2364.jpg
The Salar is vast. All you see for miles is clear blue sky and flat white salt with a hexagonal pattern throughout...IMG_2440.jpgI don't know why, our guide was just there to drive us apparantly.
We stopped at a spot with salt blocks. It went without saying between Karl and I that we would write DAN so that way he was with us in Bolivia as well. We placed his poker chip upon the blocks.IMG_2450.jpg
We didn't get tired of taking photos there. IMG_2463.jpg
We stayed until the sunset and playfully made shapes with the shadows. IMG_2500.jpg IMG_2504.jpg
When the sun set the temperature dropped drastically. The wind was fierce and biting. By that point we were ready to go...but where was our 4x4?
We got picked up and driven to our accommodation for the night. A hostel made of salt. IMG_2552.jpgThe floor crunched as if walking on the icy snow. We sat atop pillars of salt and had our dinner at the salt table. Still not well I decided to just have a little rice and veggies. Now left to share a bathroom with 30 other people, it was going to be a looong night. In case you're wondering, walls made of salt don't retain heat very well. The temperature was below zero. We had electricity for an hour until 9:00 so we all scrambled to charge our cameras in the 4 power strips. I was actually looking forward to a forced nights sleep. In the salt desert, the middle of nowhere, under a blanket of stars...silence..

Alas..despite my sleeping bag, alpaca socks, base layers, and 25 blankets, it was still to cold to sleep. Maybe tomorrow...

Day 2 Lagunas Coloradas

I am getting used to waking up early on vacation and considering we went to bet at 9pm, 6am was a luxury. I couldn't sleep so I was counting the salt grains until it was time to get up. We ate our breakfast of pan con dulce de leche (bread with caramel)...not easy to eat with gloves by the way. Drank our coffee with powdered milk and set out for our next adventure.

There are no paved roads through the desert. It is really incredible to see nature just as it was put there, untouched by man. Incredible. It looks a bit like the surface of Mars. It takes the whole day to cross the desert. Our group was quiet, mostly tired. So we just took in the scenery.

Once again amazed by the lack of awareness or safety standards. The driver and his young wife had a small baby no more than 8 months old, crawling around the front seat while the jeep crossed the bumpy surface. IMG_2668.jpg The baby held onto the gear shift. I was waiting for us to go sliding into reverse. Good thing he wasn't strong enough. But it baffles me that it isn't common sense that maybe that would be dangerous, forget about carseats and seat belts...wouldn't it be reflexive to hold your child in a moving car? Or maybe that an aerosol spray can filled with toxins maybe isn't the best toy? Again maybe this is me in me Westerness...Coming from the land where the government decides what is safe for us and makes laws to protect us whether we like it or not. Maybe I'm wrong...the baby didn't fall out of the open car door when daddy left him on the front seat to go and do something else. I had the same reaction in SE Asia where they drive with babies on the front of motorbikes, no helmets. That said, I know we American's overdue the safety thing. Babies survived for centuries without all the childproof latches and knobs that are impossible for adults to even open.
But I digress...Where was I, oh yes. Loooooong quiet car ride through the desert with nothing but my thoughts. We reached the first laguna. It was so picturesque with hundreds of Flamingos (or flamencos). IMG_2618.jpgCarlos and I had a little competition who could get the best flying flamenco photo. Not so easy! It was quite cold and windy so we were happy to get back in the warm jeep. Though putting on and taking off layers just for a few photos gets old fast. More lagunas, more flamencos, more desert. IMG_2667.jpgWe saw the Arbol de Pierdas (tree of stone) IMG_2713.jpgand then finally made it to Laguna Colorada where we would be spending the night. We dumped our bags and hiked though the wind or a view of the lagoon. The red color is due to some microorganisms that inhabit the lagoon. The altitude is nearly 5000 meters, 15,000 feet. The air was thin and bitter cold. We returned to the hostal. The hostal was a refuge, even more basic than the first hostel. This one makes the ones at Machu Picchu look like 4 star hotels. We shared a room this time with our whole group. IMG_2724.jpgMy bed was a paper thin mattress resting atop a slab of concrete. Karl kept saying that he is now prepared for post Apocalyptic life. The bathroom was by far the grossest I've seen. Not sure if it was mud or excrement on the floor, didn't care to find our either. You had to fill a bucket of water from a filthy barrel to flush. I was praying that I didn't need to go.
Determined to have fun and survive the night we got a few bottles of red wine, plugged the ipod into a mini speaker and had a semi nice dinner of spaghetti with a gummy consistency. He huddled around the wood burning stove and made the most of the night. We took a moment to look at the stars. I have never seen so many in my life. Would be great to sleep under the stars, just not in Bolivia.
Another poor nights sleep. Colder than the first I slept with a hat, gloves and coat too. Not the year of summer I had planned on...

Day 3 Lagunas Verdes
4:30 am wake time.... ugh. We decided to have breakfast later and just roll out into the jeep. Nobody said a word for about an hour. We arrived at the geysers which was really cool to see.IMG_2786.jpg The landscape is truly amazing in Bolivia. Freezing we piled back in and went to the Aguas Calientes (hot springs). Karl was eager to jump right in. IMG_2801.jpgI couldn't bear the thought of removing 25 layers getting nice and relaxed and then freezing getting out, like when Peixe, and I went skiing in Vermont and ran from the snow to the hot tub. Getting in is great! Getting out, not so much. I opted to put my feet in which was really nice.
We finished at :Laguna Verde. The incredible green color is due to sulfur and copper in the water. When the wind blows the lagoon goes white. IMG_2810.jpg
That my friends ends our tour. On to San Pedro de Atacama Chile.

But wait, do you really think we made it out of Bolivia that easily? Half of our group leaves to head back to Uyuni. Our driver drops us off at the frontier to wait for a bus. No other information. We congregate with the rest of the confused gringos as the locals chuckle at us. They call for a group of four so Karl and I and the Japanese couple volunteer thinking we're free early.
Wrong. We go to the other bus which appears full until they pull down a row of seats from the center aisle. We joked that they would make a second level above our heads to fit more people. All seats full but one, we sit, we wait, we exhange tales of drunken tour drivers, and broken down jeeps...wondering when we'll move. We watch a jeep run the border from Chile. Nothing happens. Shocking. IMG_2820.jpg
Chaos, confusion, disorganization. Bolivia. There is so much potential for tourism and bringing up the economy there but it seems they want to keep the tourists away. For all the splendor that the Bolivian landscape offers, not one of us is in a rush to recommend it to our friends.

We crossed into Chile and everyone clapped. Not far into Chile we reached a paved road that even had a yellow line down the middle and a guard rail. We were so excited. We began to descend and the sun grew brighter, the air warmer, our smiles bigger, IMG_2823.jpg

The town of San Pedro is very cute but not very interesting. It is a hippie tourist town, Market, cafe, tourism shop, repeat. It would have been fun to rent bikes and explore the desert near the volcano. But we needed to get to Calama so Karl could make his flight in the morning. IMG_2821.jpg

We got on the bus as the sun was setting. Looking out the window of the bus was the most beautiful scene...the volcan draped in pink clouds. Subtle color changes in the sky and the mountains. Breathtaking. IMG_2835.jpg
Wish I had more time here. It is my last day here with Karl, tomorrow I am on my own, with no set schedule. Strange feeling not knowing where I will go ...back to San Pedro to explore the desert or on to la playa en Vina del Mar...

Choose your own adventure...

Posted by jackiekslp 05:58 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Copacabana/Bolivia

Were on a road to nowhere

sunny

6 am at our hotel in Puno
Daniel, our travel agent from Cusco who arranged our tour shows up. Initially I thought it was so nice of him to come all the way from Peru to make sure all our transfers went smoothly. We took a taxi to Copacabana, the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. He left us in the main square while he went to organize our tour. He returned later to say that we missed our boat and would have to pay 20$ more for a private boat and he would be our guide. Except he really didn't know much about Isla del Sol. The Island has spectacular views of the lake. According to Daniel it was only a place for the Royal Incas and the legend says the first Inkas came from this island, Remarkable that suck a beautiful scenic lake has untouched natural coastline. Had that been in the US there would be man made beach, water sports and resorts. Refreshing to see. I wasn't feeling well because of the altitude and still ill from the Trucha in Cusco so I slept the entire 2 hour boat ride back.

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Daniel then told us we could have an hour for lunch. The town is very much geared to tourists so we just ate at any cafe. We met up with Daniel again who was trying to organize our trip to Uyuni. He dragged me to an internet cafe so that we could plan together. I was impressed by his ambition. Karl was worried about the time for the bus, with good reason. The bus came and went without us on it. Daniel told us he thought a taxi would be faster. In reality he never booked our tickets. We were supposed to be on the nice tourist overnight bus to La Paz with fully reclining chairs. Daniel tried to convince us that a rusty dirty cab with holes in the seats was the way to go. We told him we paid for a bus, we want a bus. As there were no more buses, we were screwed. Left with no choice we got into a cab only to get out five minutes later to take a two minute ferry ride. The bout was about a kilo away from sinking. When we arrived at the other side there were no taxis. Standing with all of our bags in the middle of a dodgy town, we have no choice but to wait for Daniel to return. He points across the square to a van. Pleased as it was a step up from the taxi we ran across to get in. As we were getting in a mad rush of portly townspeople pushed there way past each other to get in. This had to be a joke. There wasn't even a spot for Daniel. Enraged, we got out of the van and found Daniel and demanded our money back. All he could say was “excuse me friends”.. I found a large empty bus and pleaded with the driver in my lousy Spanish to take us to La Paz. He said it was a private tour bus. The tour operator was sympathetic to our situation. It was a tour of all Polish people with a Polish guide and a local guide. The guides took us under their wing and allowed us to ride to La Paz with them. I demanded Daniel give us our money back. He have us 60$ and a handful of Bolivianos and insisted he didn't have anything more, he was just an employee sent from the agency. The guides said to give up any hope of recouping our money since he is Peruvian and doesn't have money. So whose situation was worse, the stupid Americans who overpaid for a tour in Cusco? Or the Peruvian tour guide now stuck in La Paz Bolivia with no money a looooong way from home? I don't believe he was a bad person who tried to steal from us, in fact, he didn't give up yet! He talked to some locals and insisted there was a 10pm bus that we could catch to Uyuni. Reluctantly we got in a cab with him to the bus terminal, what if he was right? We had to take the chance. Sure enough there was no bus and we wasted another hour, rather than checking in to the hotel with the Polish tourists and their helpful guides we were chasing Daniel around a chaotic city. We got in a cab without him and headed back to the hotel. You guessed it ...booked. Luckily the hotel next door was available.
There are only night buses from La Paz to Uyuni which meant we lost a day of travel and were stuck in La Paz. The next morning we searched frantically for another way. There was a flight! Yes but one, at 7 am ...missed it. There was one train! Fully booked...have to book a day or two in advance and it doesn't run every day. Karl thought there was a chance we could take a bus to Oruru and someone may not have kept their reservation or maybe we could bribe them...We scrambled to get to the bus. It was a local bus that took its sweet time pulling away and stopping in the town for what seemed like forever. Feeling light headed from the carbon monoxide filling the lower level of the bus, I hunkered down for the 3 hour ride. We got to Oruru 40 mins after the train left. Given the choice I'd spend the day in La Paz over Oruru but now we were stranded there until the next bus to Uyuni at 9 pm. We chose to stay near the bus terminal and get a hotel until the bus came. Still not feeling well all I wanted to do was rest. We'd now paid for an additional 2 hotels and buses to get to Uyuni all because of Daniel. We napped, Karl ate, killing time for what seemed like forever. Nine o'clock finally rolls around. We wait in the terminal where people are laying on the floor, mangy stray dogs are wandering. Luckily the bus was not full so we took our own rows. The seats were semi-cama (partially reclining) and not too uncomfortable. We had been warned and read stories of the perils of this road to Uyuni, numerous flipped buses, drivers overtaking on blind turns, countless accidents. Unpaved roads, through streams. I didn't care. I just wanted to sleep and wake up in Uyuni. Armed with sleeping bag, eye mask ear plugs I was prepared. The road was to bumpy to sleep. Gazing out the window at the zillions of stars, I daydreamed of what a good nights sleep would be like. My vacation was more exhausting than working.
The bus was scheduled to arrive at 3 am. It didn't get in until 4:30. Some people got off. We were told to sit back down. Thinking there'd be another stop, we were baffled when the bus didn't move and the remainder of the people slept. Karl an I looked at each other confused and annoyed. We had arranged in Oruru for a taxi to pick us up and take us to a hotel at 3am. I mustered up the nerve to ask one of the sleeping locals in my terrible Spanish what was happening. They told us the bus terminal didnt open until 8 am, that it was dangerous to walk around at that hour and that we should sleep on the bus. Freezing now as I had packed my sleeping bag thinking we were getting off, I stared out the window. A bus pulled up with gringos on it! I was elated to see backpackers! We made them let us off the bus. It was daybreak. We met a tour operator who took us to her office. Karl was frozen , dressed in shorts so she covered him in 2 sleeping bags while I chose a tour. At last after 2 days of trying to get there it seemed we would have a tour. Not without a hitch though. Right before boarding she told us we needed to go to the immigration office to have our passports stamped. Two doors down we walk in and the expression on the man's face was not reassuring. “Tienes Visa?” “Uh...no?”
It turns out American's need a Visa for Bolivia upon arrival and its 135$. Only for Americans. Fantastic. The guy who organized my flights and my other Visa's (also named Daniel) failed to mention this one. What's even better is Uyuni was not our point of entry into Bolivia. We had gone in through Copacabana the previous day. They looked at our passports and let us go. Never even stamped it. Now we're holding up the whole group while we march through town to get money from the ATM to pay the American tax. Luckily it just delayed us and we were able to go on the tour. If we lost another day I can't imagine how livid I would be. As it was Karl would be lucky to make it to his flight.
All in all our frustration with the chaos and disorganization of Bolivia is not so bad. We lost some time and money but no one was hurt...

The girls in our Titicaca tour told tales of being driven in a taxi to the middle of no where and threatened to be left there if they didn't pay 200$. Another said her necklace was ripped off her neck while sitting in a taxi with the windows open.
Well I guess by comparison we were lucky..

Posted by jackiekslp 09:02 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Lago Titicaca

Peruvian side

sunny

At first glance from the shores of Puno, I didn't see what all the hype was about. We boarded a tourist bus where we saw an Argentinian couple that we had met in Peru in the Sacred Valley.. The boat ride was relaxing and we dozed off since we had to be up at 6am. The first island we visited was the Floating Island of the Uros people. They are a small tribe that have their own language but also speak Spanish and Quechua (Inka). We were socked when we stepped onto the island. It really was just floating. We sat around as the President of the island gave us a demonstration of how they build the island from the roots of reeds and how they have to make a new reed “floor” every few months as the old one degrade. Its pretty amazing how they made this island. There are 8 families living on this small island. The guide joked that if they didn't get along they could get a saw and break away to their own island. They live in reed houses, some of which have television. They make their living making handicrafts so we bought a few things. We then took a ride in a reed boat which is remarkable sturdy!
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We sailed on to the next island. Taquile. Again the native people have their own language and customs. The guide explained how the different colors of the knit hats we to show if the men were married or single or an authority figure. The women wore full black skirts and black shawls over their heads. The size of the colorful yarn pom poms told if the woman was married or single (full = single). The island had beautiful views of the Lake. The clouds were little cotton balls lingering in an otherwise blue sky. They looked as if you could grab them.IMG_2137.jpg We had lunch with the people from the tour.. A very nice group of people from all over sharing stories. A polish couple I may meet up with in Argentina. On the menu trucha or omelet. Still sick from my last trucha experience I opted for the boring. The locals performed a dance for us. During the second dance they pulled people from the group. Karl got picked to my delight. Dancing with a little girl barely over 3 feet. Quite a sight!. Getting back into town we decided to go for a quick bite at the first place near our hotel in Puno since I still wasn't feeling well. It was a pizza place which was anything but fast food. Nor tasty. We called it an early night since we had another 6am wake up. No nightlife in Puno which was alright by me.
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Posted by jackiekslp 08:54 Comments (0)

Lares Valley Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu

Four Grueling Days of Mountain biking and hiking through the Jungle

sunny

I was very disappointed that the Inca Trail hike was fully booked. I didn't realize that you need to book 6 months in advance. Determined to hike there rather than take the train, we found the Lares trail which is a 4 day trek through the mountains and the jungle..finishing at Machu Picchu.

Day 1
I can't believe that I have not slept-in once on my 'vacation'. The van picked us up early and we met the people we would spend the next four days with. I was the only girl in my group. We had a crazy (but lovable) 28 year old Kiwi astronomer named Kristian, two 26 year old Brazilian's from Sao Paolo Caio and Fernando, and a 23 year old Argentine named Franco. We were really fortunate to have a great group of people who all got along well. We began the day by driving up to the mountain top. We were literally in the clouds, on top of the world. We met our guide Jimmy and chose our bikes for the day. The brakes and suspension were awful! At least they gave us helmets. The first hours of the ride were not very exciting and we didn't earn our lunch because we barely cycled at all as it was all downhill. The scenery was beautiful and it was nice to zone out and be lost in my thoughts and away from it all. I haven't had my blackberry at all and am surprisingly ok with it! I had previously considered surgically implanting it in my forearm.
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After lunch the weather took a turn for the worse. The tropical rains and hail came in and put my Gore-tex jacket to the test. Now if only I bought the pants too!. After a few hours of riding in the rain my pants were soaked and my shoes had puddles in them. The roads were very dangerous, steep with sharp winding turns. The rain added another element of danger to the mix. The majority of the groups bailed and took the bus back. Not ours..we persevered. The rain stopped just in time for us to get to the off road portion of the trail. It was essentially all rocks and had more holes than the FDR. It was a VERY uncomfortably ride and very difficult on the body. By the end of the day we were sore all over.
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We stayed in a tiny town called Santa Maria. The accomodation on the trek is very 'basic' as they call it. It's a far cry from the Raffles I'll tell you that. There was no hot water in the shared bathroom which was outside. I used my silk sleep sheet there! I wasn't taking any chances with bed bugs.
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Day 2
The worst of them all. After we made it down the mountain, they decided it would be a good idea to climb back up. The inclines were steep and difficult. The path narrow and rocky with nothing to protect you from death. One false step and you're tumbling down the side of a cliff.
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This would Never be allowed in the US, no guardrail, no tow rope, no waiver signing away your life. At some points our guide even left us alone to navigate our way through the jungle. The hike may not have been so bad if it weren't for the heat, the humidity, and the millions of mosquitos. It was oppressively hot and we became dehydrated quickly. The mosquitos were unbearable. Not even a DEET bath could keep them away. Everyone was covered head to toe in bites. They swarmed around you the minute you stopped moving..I have been in the jungles of SE Asia and Costa Rica and have never been biten like this, We hiked for 7 hours that day and received our prize of the hot springs at the end. The aguas calientes felt amazing after the intense hike. Though the mosquitos were vicious there too. After the hot springs we went to our next hostel in Santa Theresa. Another dingy place. Camping would have been a better option. We went to the local discoteque. The entire town is about a block long so you can imagine what their club was like. If you cant here is a little sample...

We really had a great group and got to know each other on the hike so we had a fun night out on the 'town'. We didn't get much sleep because outside our window at 4:30 am there was a melange of stange sounds. There was what sounded like a monkey fight, some loud music (Billy Joel and Queen), roosters, and assorted other sounds. Coupled with a hard bed it wasn't a restful night.

Day 3
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The third day of the hike was not as intense. Not nearly as many steep climbs. We did however traverse some frightening bridges that swayed and had loose and missing boards. The raging river below was daunting.
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The heat was worse today. We walked along a railway for the last few hours. IMG_1862.jpg IMG_1861.jpg

We arrived in the town of Aguas Calientes and finally had a hot shower.
IMG_2040.jpgOur group decided to go out for Mexican food for dinner. Their mexican food is very different than ours. The quesedilla was a massive calzone. After dinner we went to bed straight away since we had to be up at 4 am to begin the ascent to Machu Picchu.

Day 4

Alarm went off at 3:30. Rough. Our group met outside the hotel equipped with flashlights since the road and the trail was pitch black. The air was fresh and chilly and the stars were plentiful. The trail was steep and dangerous with just the light of a flashlight to guide you. The guys plowed ahead. I was having difficulty breathing with the altitude so I went at my own pace. What a great sense of satisfaction when finally reaching Machu Picchu. We went early to catch the sunrise but there was none that day. It was cloudy and raining at 6 am. The ruins are unbelievable. The pictures do not give an accurate sense of how massive and incredible this site is. Words cannot describe the feeling being there after a 4 day trek.
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While the rest of our crew climbed Waynapichu, Karl and I broke away to make a private memorial for Danny. We climbed down to an area off the path. It is difficult to find a secluded area without tourists. I asked Danny for a sign to let me know where he would like to be. At the site we chose there was a lizard crawling on a rock. Danny was an animal lover and cared for several lizards. I took this as my sign. It was an emotional moment for us but I can't imagine a more perfect place. He finally had the chance to travel with me and the three of us could be there together like we had planned. We buried a picture so we will all be there together forever. I know he is with me now watching over me.

Posted by jackiekslp 19:43 Archived in Peru Tagged bicycle Comments (1)

Cusco, Peru

Takes my breath away...literally.

sunny 22 °C

After a cozy one hour flight on LAN who provided drinks and snacks, which is shocking these days when airlines are cutting costs everywhere and charging for carry-on and all sorts of other things. We arrived at the airport only to be swarmed upon by tour operators, one of which jumped in the taxi with us. I pre-booked a hotel the night before but apparantly it was not very central so he took us to the Royal Inka I which is right near the Plaza de Armas (there's one here too). This was the hotel that a friend of a friend owns that I was going to stay in so it all worked out. The hotel is beautiful and I realize that I feel much more secure having a hotel that I can leave my valuables behind without worrying about them being stolen at the hotel or on the street. You can't put a price on that. The good news is the dollar is strong here 1$ = 3 Sol. Karl got a 1 hour massage for about 8$!!

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We went to have dinner and Karl began to complain that he wasn't feeling well. Despite drinking coca tea, he was having the telltale symptoms of altitude sickness. Headache, light-headedness, nausea, vomiting. You need to spend a few days acclimating to the altitude before doing any trekking. Cusco is settled 11,300 feet in the Andes. You feel it even when going up the stairs it becomes difficult to breathe. We sat down to dinner and Karl got worse. I was feeling great and bragging about my strong constitution. I ate my quinoa and spinach and vegetable soup and Karl just pushed his food around unable to eat. Shortly after eating a wave of dizziness hit me and I felt like I was going to pass out. We left the restaurant to get back to the hotel and rest up but I couldn't make it, I had to stop and sit down. Everything was spinning and I felt disoriented. Surrounded by a beautiful Plaza bustling with life and all I wanted to do was get back and go to bed.

The next day we woke up feeling better but kept up with the coca leaves anyway. Had a nice breakfast at the hotel platanos, mango, huevos. Feeling strong we set out to enjoy the city. Cusco is a beautiful, historical city with many Plazas with stone archways, and terraces with a European feel. There is a wonderful blend of both Inka and Spanish architecture. The weather was stunning and the Plaza was bathed in a warm glow.

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Peruvians are very religious people. The plazas are filled with iglesias, cathedrals, and monastaries. The churches are very ornate and beautiful. The Peruvian people are devout Catholics who also hold traditional Inka beliefs honoring the Earth Mother.

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The city is very cosmopolitan mixing peoples from all over the world who come to see Machu Picchu. Tourism is the main attraction. The locals are very persistent in trying to sell you their wares, similar to Thailand. Old people and young children dressed in native garb holding lambs calling "photo". As I learned in Asia, these children are often exploited to earn money for the family, often missing school to roam the streets. Until all hours of the night young children will run up behind you and yell 'boo' and then try to sell you a small trinket. I know better than to give money to them now.
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There are dozens of markets all selling the same mass produced crafts. We went to numerous markets through out the city. At one point we wandered so far off the tourist path that we were the only "gringos" in the local market. This is where the local people buy their food and goods. We weren't brave enough to sample the offerings. Reminiscent of the markets in SE Asia, they have raw meat and things that I could not identify or even bare to look at with flies swarming and an awful stench.

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But this is the way the people live...I am clearly a city girl who doesn't like to think of what her food was before hitting it makes it to the supermarket shelves.

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We continued to wander way out of the Plaza. It was here we saw the real Cusco. The buildings were dilapidated, garbage everywhere, mangy stray dogs wandering around.

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At one point we were going to cross the road when a man told us "Dangerous" so we decided not to tempt fate and headed back to the Plaza. After walking around the city we had a rest, went for dinner and I convinced Karl to go salsa dancing. He needed a drink first so we hit the pub. There was a club with free salsa lessons so we went there. He actually tried to dance! After the lesson we went to another club with salsa music. It was so great dancing with people who can dance! And dance I did. Six hours straight of salsa, cumbia, bachata, reggaeton and house music. We ended the night at a club that only the locals go to. Once again the only gringas. We got home around 4 just in time to sleep for three hours before hiking Sacred Valley! One of these days I'll get some sleep. Until then there is too much living to be done..

Don't forget there are more photos in the gallery. I will likely post a picasa weblink so all the pics are organized into folders.
xoxo

Posted by jackiekslp 20:32 Archived in Peru Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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