A Travellerspoint blog

Lima to Cusco - Day 21

Taking the easy route - flying to Cusco

19 °C

Our flight to Cusco this morning was at 9am so another early start. The plane was tiny, 2 by 2 seating, and the flight attendant was taking pictures of the inside of the plane before we set off, which I thought was weird? The flight was only an hour, in comparison to a 21 hour bus journey that we could have taken, and the scenery was beautiful from the window - looking out over the Andes with its rolling brown mountains followed by taller snow capped mountains.

The landing was fine, even though it was in a small valley with a tiny strip. As we taxied, I saw McDonalds and Coca Cola welcome signs, which reminded me nothing was remote any more. As we steeped off the plane, I think I expected to be 'hit' with the altitude, I'm not sure why, but I felt fine.

Some advice - know how much to expect to pay for things, particularly around the external transport routes, as the taxi man tried to charge us 50 soles (£12.50), when it should have been a third of that. We managed to get him down to 20 (£5) so not too bad in the end.

Cusco is much bigger than I had imagined, more shops and restaurants and definitely more cars - there are so many cars! I think I had just seen pictures of the historic side of town but of course there is much more outside of that.

Our booking at Pariwana hostel was on recommendation and it was a good one. This is definitely the biggest hostel we've stayed in so far, taking up 3 floors around a courtyard area. Downstairs is a reception, a travel information desk, bean bags and day beds to sit on, ping pong and table football, and a trolley to get free hot drinks. Upstairs were dorms, but also a computer room with sofas and chairs, a tv room with cushions, a communal kitchen and a bar and cafe area that doubled up as a breakfast room. Up to the third level were more rooms, mainly private like ours. Like in Buenos Aires our room was large, clean and nicely decorated.

Quickly I became very cold, even though the thermometer said 19 degrees. I had to put the thermal long sleeve tshirt and leggings I'd bought from uniqlo under my jeans, tshirt, thin jumper and fleece, but I was still cold. The hot drinks helped a little, but I was freezing all day! Andrew tried the coca leaves in hot water that didn't do much either.

We had a walk around the town during the day, not really taking much in but it looked very nice, then after dinner at the hostel we got into bed under a sheet, a big duvet and two thick blankets. And, you guessed it, it was still cold...

Posted by staceywaugh 09:24 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains planes hostels airports Comments (0)

Lima - Day 20

Foggy Lima Town

27 °C

After our 3am arrival we didn't get much sleep before having to get up for breakfast, so when we were given scrambled eggs and strawberry jam (not for eating together!), it made us feel better about being awake. We also had to start taking anti-sickness tablets this morning in preparation for being at altitude in Ollantaytambo and Cusco and throughout Peru and Bolivia...it should be interesting to see whether or how we react.

We only had one day in Lima so we got up and out, only to find that there was thick fog and mist rolling in from the sea, which meant you couldn't even see the top of a ten storey building.

We walked towards the sea, but we have no idea what the view out was like?!The Miraflores area in Lima seems built for tourism, an area where visitors can feel safe in a city that doesn't have the best reputation. There were police and street cleaners everywhere, a nice promenade with sculptures, flowers and paved walkways.

We walked down some steep steps in the cliff to get down to the sea. There were enormous birds in the water, alongside so many surfers, and we sat and watched for a while.

A surfer guy told us it would be a good day for us to learn surf as we wouldn't burn our skin...obviously the Buenos Aires tan, if ever there was one, has faded! Down the opposite end was a pier, just like at the English seaside, but unfortunately they don't just take anyone on their Peruvian piers - Andrew was turned away for wearing shorts.

So we tackled the long walk back up some more enormous steps in the cliff side and out of breath and sweaty, we headed to a shopping centre to cool down. Inside was a big supermarket, so we had a wander round and saw this, which made us giggle:

We had lunch of falafel and chicken pittas and iced lemonade at a Turkish cafe called Tarboush and had a look in the shops. Around the square they have clothes shops that look like jumble sales, piles and piles of non-descript cheap clothing. Andrew was looking for another vest as it had been so hot, so he rummaged through the piles for ages pulling out women's vest after women's vest, to find nothing! I think he was a bit addicted in the end, trying to find a cheap deal.

Back at the hostel we had an email to say that in Ollantaytambo, the town we were supposed to be staying in when we flew into Cusco the next day, there had been a flood that had knocked out all the water to the hostel and some of the electric and communications. This was the first time we had to juggle our plans and we were worried we wouldn't be able to change our hostels around, but luckily it was a simple swap - we'd go to Cusco first and then Ollantaytambo to see Machu Picchu. I was concerned about the altitude as it would be worse for us starting off in Cusco, being higher than Ollantaytambo, and I was sad we couldn't go to Machu Picchu on Valentine's Day as planned, but obviously these were very minor things in comparison to the poor people of Ollantaytambo having their town and homes wrecked by floods!

That night we went for dinner at a Chifa restaurant in the square. This is a type of Chinese cooking in Peru that apparently uses Peruvian ingredients as substitute for those originally used in China that can't be found here. I didn't notice a great deal of difference taste-wise to be honest and I would have thought any traditional cuisine of another country in a new country would have to substitute some ingredients? So I assume I have oversimplified the description of Chifa! Anyway, we had steamed dumplings to start, I had an enormous three roast noodle dish and Andrew had a massive pork and rice dish. With drinks, the bill came to £15 - the start of the cheap food in our South American adventure.

We didn't make the most of Lima, mainly because we were tired, so after a walk around the tiny market in the square, we headed back to the hostel. On the way, we went down a street packed with bars and restaurants with people shouting and pestering for you to come in - it felt like being on the strip in touristy Spain or (closer to home for me, from my 'getting people into bars' days!) Ayia Napa, the only difference was instead of young men and women it was just old men. I think maybe they need a trip to Europe to see what works, or better, maybe just lose it altogether?

Posted by staceywaugh 13:43 Archived in Peru Tagged art birds fog funny mist pier seaside Comments (0)

Buenos Aires to Lima - Day 19

A smack in the face and a long, cold night...

31 °C

The power came back on at 7am, waking us from our sweaty, broken sleep. It was going to be a long day. We showered, did some planning we missed yesterday and checked out of the hostel.

We wanted a big lunch as our flight wasn't until later that night, so we went to a cafe around the corner and ordered a huge pizza to share. Andrew got a little more than he bargained for though. He leant down to put the iPad in his bag under the table at the same time the waiter delivered our enormous pizza on a massive metal tray, and the waiter ended up smacking him in the face with the pizza tray! I shouldn't laugh, but it was really funny, so I did!*

We took a taxi to the airport and it poured with rain as soon as we arrived. We spent our last Argentine pesos, as you can't change them, on an orange juice and a cake each at Starbucks and then waited. But the thunder and lightning came and so did the delay to our flight, leaving us cold at the departure gate with no money to buy snacks or drinks. After 3 1/2hrs of delay we boarded our flight to Lima, getting into an even colder plane, which meant me stealing a second blanket and wrapping it around my head just to keep warm while I napped. The moral of this story is always wear appropriate clothing to the airport, especially for a night flight - three quarter length leggings are not.

We arrived at the hostel - the House Project in Miraflores - in Lima at 3am, the owner opening the door in a tshirt and boxers in the darkness, so we're not sure what the hostel is like, but the room is warm and has a bed so we couldn't care less!

  • Andrew was not harmed by the pizza tray in this story :)

Posted by staceywaugh 09:15 Archived in Argentina Tagged hostels airports pizza Comments (0)

Buenos Aires - Day 18

Power cuts and Roadworks aren't fun...

31 °C

We'd planned for a lazy day researching the rest of the trip, uploading photos and just generally relaxing as tomorrow we were heading to Peru. Early afternoon, the fan that had been keeping us cool in the 30+ degree heat stopped spinning and the music playing in the hostel went silent. Our first power cut.

The receptionist said this happened a lot and couldn't tell us when it would be back on, with the words 'F***ing Buenos Aires'! This didn't look good. A couple of hours later the power can back on, a massive sigh of relief echoed around the hostel as the fans began to cool everyone down. But this was short lived when maybe half an hour later everything went off again.

Andrew cooked early in a the semi-dark, then we went out for a walk to cool off and had a cold beer. Back at the hostel - after helping an older lady with a walking stick up the stairs with her dinner so she could eat in the light on the terrace - it was still 30 degrees at night, and we had to choose between the heat in the room, or open the windows and deal with the city noise.

At 1am we were still awake, with the windows open, and an almighty noise came from outside. A machine began ripping up the road in front of our hostel and throwing the dirt into a truck. Who starts roadworks at 1am in the morning?!!! There were no signs of this stopping, so we closed the window, put ear plugs in and eventually fell into an uncomfortable sleep.

It's not all fun and glamour this travelling malarkey!

Posted by staceywaugh 08:18 Archived in Argentina Tagged power_cuts roadworks Comments (3)

Buenos Aires - Day 17

Palermo, Recoleta and more steak in San Telmo

32 °C

Palermo and Recoleta were the areas to explore today, in the hot sunshine. We went into the subway, paid the ticket office and went to the platform - the signage was not clear down there and the subway was hot. We walked up and down trying to find the right platform and eventually a nice Argentinian man helped us find our way. Not only was the subway hot, it was dirty and the trains were spray painted and shabby. Not what I was expecting when the city itself was so lovely. We've think we might be 'Subway Spotters' as we said down there "We've been on the subway in London, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and this is the worst by far". Oh dear... Look out for a new Subway Blog coming soon, where Andrew and I travel the world riding the tubes!

Not to go on, but also unlike any other subway I've been on, here they have people selling things - a pack of scissors with safety pins and a cotton picker, a set of 12 colouring pencils...just what I need when I'm on the tube. Start selling pocket tissues or hand sanitiser and I might be interested!

Palermo was a nice area, with lots of cafes and bars, but not much in the way of sightseeing. We decided this must be more of a nighttime place, to come for drinks and food. We walked through another park, much to Andrew's pleasure (!), and rather than get on the tube again, decided the walk to Recoleta wasn't that far.

It was! We dodge the sun as we continued walking, seeing statues of Eva Peron and large museums along the way, but by the time we got to Recoleta we were tired, hot and sweaty. There was only one thing for it - ice cream. We asked for two of the specials, which were about £2 each, maybe less, and they were massive. Dulce de Leche and Fresa (toffee and strawberry), delicious and really cooled us down :)

Next stop was the Recoleta Cemetery, which I'd been really interested to see. Eva Peron is buried there and I'd heard it was completely different to our idea of a cemetery, although I didn't really remember why.

We bought a map from a woman at the entrance, the money goes to the upkeep of the cemetery, walked through the pillars and it certainly was different. It was row after row of mausoleums, on paved ground, making for an off white, grey and black setting. Such a contrast to our generally small grave stones laid out on green fields, surrounded by trees and a little old church. It was an amazing but sad sight, and almost immediately I felt a little uneasy about walking around there and especially about taking pictures (thanks to Andrew we have some for you!).

Some of the tombs were impressive - tall, white marble monuments with statues of angels on top, black marble buildings with glass cross-shaped frontage.

Others were worn down through time and lack of care, and patched over with wood. I was expecting gravestones but these were like a little house, with a door for relatives to enter in, sit and be with the loved one, buried inside somewhere. We saw inside a few, which was ok on some - just a seat and a tiny alter, with candlesticks on top - on others it wasn't. The coffin was in full view and worse, maybe, there were what looked like recent notes and cards for 'mum'. It felt strange to be viewing all that as a tourist.

Down a narrow set of tombs we found Eva Peron's family mausoleum. It was a lot smaller than I had expected but there were many plaques as tribute to Evita and flowers left there for her.

We decided to cheer ourselves up by visiting a busier part of town, which had nice places to shop but was also home to one of the most beautiful book shops in the world, El Ateneo. We thought it must be the most beautiful, but nope, there was a sign saying their was one better in Holland and that the fifth best was in Glasgow. Maybe we can be bookshop spotters instead of subways?

On the long walk home we noted a strange thing that had happened today. I must be looking a little tanned (although I definitely don't seem it), and I was wearing my sunglasses (blue eyes are generally a giveaway!), but I was asked for directions in Spanish three times! Obviously I couldn't help, but it made me feel quite good to be mistaken for one of their own!

Tonight we dined on more steak! We'd been recommended a restaurant in San Telmo called Gran Parrilla del Plata and it didn't disappoint. It's set in an old butchers shop, with pictures on the wall to prove it, the same tiled walls and bottles of red wine everywhere. The waiter was learning English and wanted to practise on us, which made it an easy night for us language wise. We ordered a bottle of Malbec and a rib eye steak each (we didn't want to compare to the one we had in Puerto Iguacu) with patatas bravas - they're like small roast potatoes with a tomato sauce, Steve Waugh ;) Along with it came three dips, chimichurri, provencale and another that I can't remember the name of - it was all delicious!

Afterwards we had drinks in Plaza Dorrego, watched the tango dancing and listened to the musicians...

Posted by staceywaugh 13:26 Archived in Argentina Tagged trees ponds subway cemetry evita steak geeks Comments (0)

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