Friday, August 30, 2013

Fantastic tour from Puno to Cuzco, Peru - great for Mum and son

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Three days ago we booked tickets on a tour which was to take us from Puno to Cuzco, and with us seeing some wonderful attractions on the way.
We were up at 5 a.m. and at the terminal at 6.30 a.m.
We had booked front seats, but when we got there Inka Express refused to give us what we had been promised.  We had seats 27-28.
We also discovered we had no entry fee included in the ticket, and we had paid top $$.
This annoyed me.
I raced around, and found the guy who sold me the tickets.
I did a bit of ranting and raving, and he was great.
He went to the staff and got us the correct seats.
Finally, we left Puno at 7 a.m.
It was a lovely, and cold bus!

Our first stop was Pucara.
I learnt a lot.
The museum and historic church.
We learnt that 90% of the houses are not finished, and this is to avoid tax.
When a house is finished, they place bulls on the roof.

My son saw this as an educational day.
Here he is looking through a magnifying glass at a tiny carved Inca skull stone.

The wonderful thing that was also there was the Vicuña enclosure, and my son was able to feed them.
One jumped up - he really liked him.

The old church was great, and opposite this was a small market - with good prices.

Next stop was La Raya.
This was a top point where two mountain areas met at the Andies.
It was super touristy.
They were there for the money, and the products were triple the price.
We paid to have my son hold this lamb, but at the same time it was lovely.

He has such a love for animals, and I adore this photograph.

The snow capped mountains were pretty awesome in the background.

Sicuani was the stop for our buffet lunch.
This was a lovely restaurant, but it was very "touristy" and there was a market area at the back.
I loved this hat - should have bought it!

At the back was an old railway station where the main train passes through.
Opposite were a couple of bulls - thankfully tie up.
Then there were the sheep with their lambs.
Some were, and some weren't tie up.
My son ADORED them.
He petted, and had them lick his hands.
After 1/2 hour we left, but he wanted to go back again.

We then went to the market area.
This is not a good shot, but there are the traditional hats they wear in this region.

We then stopped at Raqchi.
This is an Inca village.
There also stands a church, but the tour was running a bit late so we went directly to the church.

The temple was quite interesting.
We learnt there were 7 columns.
The number 7 represent the 7 colours of the rainbow.

My son decided it was run and climb time, and so where the houses were, he enjoyed it like a maze area.

Then if you see the round thatched roof.
This area was used to store the grain.
260 round storage areas.
Well set out.

There was another housing area.
The man with the corn husks and stems was collecting them for his fire at home.
But he used the chance to walk around and beg for money, and have photos taken.

Then we met this lady walking through with the firewood.
She sat on the rocks to take a break.
Si I sat down and tried a bit of my Spanish to talk to her.
She was so lovely.
She didn't mind one bit that I took photographs of her, and loved looking at them.
She was a beggar, and she was also pretty filthy.

She was such a lovely woman.
I felt so  happy we were able to give her some money and talk to her.
I love the old people of South America.
I love to help the needy.

We then walked to the area where more ruins were.
Around the top ran a brick wall: 3 metres high and 2 metres wide.

When we went to leave, we lost one of our group.
For 20 minutes the tour guide raced around to find her.
There were several unimpressed people on the bus when the girl finally emerged from her happy time.

Lastly we went to Andahuaylillas.
This is a church which is said to be the South American Sistine Chapel.
It was unfortunately being renovated, and restored.
There is also a no photo policy inside.

The market opposite is set on the edge of a beautiful square.
The flame trees were the biggest I have seen.
I was just too tired to take photographs - I can't believe that but it is true.

We finally arrived at Cuzco.
Here we were able to finally a lady and her son who had help inspire me when I was planning this life adventure.
I used to read her blogs in the early days of my trip.
She would inspire me that 'it can be done'.
And now we would finally be able to spend time with them.
I have only been 'on the road' 13 months, and they are in there 5th year, and they have now made a home in Peru for the past 2 years.

Lainie also interviewed us if you would like to take a look:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Uros & Amanati - Lake Titicaca, Bolivia; and a near mishap on the lake in a storm

We were up at 6 a.m. to catch an 8 a.m. boat to Uros, and Amanati Island.
We believed we had a tour guide, but when we got on the boat, there was none.
So we sat and waited.
The boat was loaded with local groceries, and we finally took off.

We took about 1 hour to get to Uros.
It was a lot more touristy than I remembered last time.
I did want to buy a cushion cover to go on my colourful hammock I have bought.
The problem was the prices.
Way higher than the prices in the Artesian stores, and about 6 times more expensive than Bolivia.
But memories are memories, so I haggled the prices down, and bought it anyway.

My son enjoyed running around the squishy island.
He kept his safe distance from the kids as he was frightened of head-lice.
They were pretty snotty, and I was more concerned about him catching their head colds.

We then had a lesson on the reeds, and how they made the island.
We then got to taste the reeds.
A bit like celery.

We then headed off to Amantani Island.
The storm started fairly soon afterwards.
It was clear the young driver was not that experienced.
He started following one boat.
Then he made a mad cut to the left, and followed a different boat.
the waves were soon crashing over the boat.
He would speed up and slow down.
He had no idea how to drive through the waves.
Next thing it was like going out to sea, except it was a lake.
He went way out, and went to cut in hard to the island.
The steering wheel came out as he turned to hard.
The boat was going in circles and he had no idea how to get the steering back.
I raced for life-jackets as the boat felt like it would capsize, but the first two were broken.
I then tied one to my son.
He was screaming, and I prayed out loud and hard.
It was a scary few minutes until they started to steer the boat from the rear with the motor.
There was a guy at the front pointing left or right, as we tossed about on the sea.
They had to manoeuvre the boat between a small rocky channel, and the boat in front crashed into the rocks and did severe damage.
As we came in, the men madly ran and grabbed ropes, and pulled us in.
We dashed off the boat.
We were given a host lady "Maria", who ran ahead of us in the rain and up the steep path toward her home.
About half way up the hill, I couldn't breathe with the altitude.
She tells me to wait, and dashes into the bushes, and picks me a plant to smell.
It is "Muña", and it smells great!
As soon as we get in the house, she throws some in a cup of hot water with some sugar, and makes us some tea.  We are so cold and stressed, we both love it and drink it up.

It is 2 p.m., and we have had no lunch.
She tells us 40 minutes, so we go and settle into our room.

We don't last long.
We are just too cold.
So we head back to the kitchen, for more tea, and to sit in front of the fire.

Lunch was served.
First we had potato soup with quinoa.
My son loved it.
We then had 5 types of potato, fried cheese, and salad.
I had no hope of eating it all.

After lunch we ended up having nothing to do.
Firstly though, she suddenly appeared with bags of things for us to buy.
Hays, headbands, leg-warmers, gloves and toys to name a few.
They were all about double to triple the price of the stores.
I felt trapped.  We selected leg-warmers and finger puppets.
When I went to pay, she also over-charged for the accommodation.  It was not by a lot - only 10 Soles, but it was still not so nice, and any tip I would have left, went out the window!

It was pelting down with rain.
The storm outside was amazing, and the wind was whipping through the trees.
We filled our hot water bottle, and crawled into bed together shivering - with all our clothes on.
We fell asleep.  I woke as people walked up and down the path with stocks from the boats.
My son woke later when it was dark.
We went downstairs to find the whole family had eaten, and my son missed meeting the children.
She asked us to return in 1/2 an hour.
Her husband Martin, was busy preparing the vegetables.

Now there was a reason we had returned to the island.
We wanted to go to the traditional "fiesta", and dress traditionally for the dance.
So I was surprised when she came to our room to "dress" me.
The skirt and belt pulled my tummy in, so I couldn't breathe.

We LOVED the dance.
There were two halls.
At first we went to a hall of students.
But they ended quickly.
Our boat group (we didn't know at the time) we not told about the dance, so we were unfamiliar with anyone.
My camera flash wouldn't work so my pictures weren't happening.
Everyone left and I was so deflated.
But then we went into the next hall.
It was a huge and welcoming group.
I think our hostess was not happy we went into the second hall.
We quickly made friends, and danced and dance.
We had a fabulous time!
In the end our hostess joined in.
My son danced with a little girl.
We danced together.
It was such a great memory.

UPDATE: We just received some photo's of our night from Natalie of UK. Thanks Natalie!
Here they are :)

Next morning at 5 a.m. we woke to the locals going to market.
Then the ladies came down sweeping the path.

We were so early, we had to wait for breakfast.
We then walked down to the dock with our host.
My son and I had talked, and we both agreed we refused to get back on the same boat, even if they said it was fixed.
We arranged a boat to take us to the mainland.
From there we had a minivan take us to a local town.
I have no idea of the name, but this is where the markets were.
This was a real local and rural market.
The ladies had regional hats on, and would laugh and smile and talk to my son.

I was surprised at how little some ladies had to sell.
A few potatoes, or vegetables etc.

We then moved inside to the back section.
It was local and traditional clothes for sale.

Here a near blind man sells the coloured crochet petticoats, and underskirts.

The bright skirts were glorious colours.

Many yarns for knitting and embroidery were for sale.
Everything is bright and gorgeous.

I have had a really hard time not buying more fabric.
Lovely designs, and so many colours, and these are local prices too, not tourist prices.
This is not a place Gringos are seen.

Then there was the many foods.
Here coca leaves are sold.

My son sits down and has a jelly.
I think I worked out it cost about 20 cents.
By now we are getting an audience.

I loved the back area with the one-made cheeses.
They rest on straw, and they are so cheap.
But we are heading off tomorrow, and I can't eat a whole cheese.
So I leave.  A little depressed.

We wait for about 1 hour for the mini-van to fill.
We then travel for about 1.5 hours back to Puno.
It has been a wonderful end to a terrible arrival on the island.

UPDATE AUGUST 2013: We first visited Uros an Amanati 22nd April, 2013.
Please read our other blog for more information - it was a VERY different experience!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Isla del Sol - an island of warm hospitality. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, South America

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Today we were meant to go to Isla del Sol on the 8.30 a.m. boat, but we had a late dinner and slept in.
So we took the 1.30 p.m. boat.
This was great as we had met two Australians, and they were the same as us, so we were able to chat to this couple on the way there.
We started out on the top of the boat.
The guy started handing out life jackets.
I was surprised he didn't give my son one, so a kind girl offered him one.
There weren't enough life jackets to go around though.
Within minutes it was freezing.
So we headed downstairs - where our friends were.
There was a family in the seat in front, and soon the two boys were talking and playing together - mind you he was German.

As we approached Isla del Sol, I was amazed to see the snow capped mountains in the distance.
Along with a traditional boat, this was great.
When we arrived I wanted to go on board the reed boat, but my son wasn't interested - drat.

We huffed and puffed up the rocky stairs trying to find accommodation.
We tried about 10 places, and we even tried to rope a single girl in with us.
The trouble was there were triple rooms; rooms with no bathrooms; and everything but what we needed.

Eventually about 1/2 way up the hill to town, we found these huts.
Tiny with a double bed and an indoor bathroom - yeah!
95 Bolivianos with breakfast was a good deal.  It was called Palacio Hostel Isla del Sol.
It soon became cold, and as there were no lights, we grabbed a flashlight, and headed out for dinner.

Many donkeys laden with bags of cement or dirt wandered up the hill.
You had to get out of their way.
They were not about to get out of my way I quickly learnt!

We selected a restaurant overlooking the wharf.
It was safe, and my son would run up up and down from the wharf to the table.

We then met up again with our Australian friends.
So we decided it was "wine o'clock".
An time for a pizza.
Soon I was wishing I had bought a beanie and gloves - it was freezing!.
We did however bring our tiny hot water bottle, so the kind lady at the restaurant filled it for us for free.

We headed back to the bedroom.
Soon we were tucked in bed with all our clothes on.
We played a few games, and had an early night.
It was full moon, and to see the pink of the mountains and the moon in the sky out of our window was a million dollar view.

Next morning we were given breakfast in the "museum".
I was impressed at the array of old pots and antique finds on display.
My son enjoyed the reed seat and other items while we waited to be served.

Now I was pretty impressed with how nice these Islanders were.
Friendly and welcoming to tourists.
It was no trouble for the owner to go and get a rug, and have my son on the donkey.
She had the loveliest long hair, and came with pompom hair ties that were woven for me to buy.
I haven't seen these for sale in the general tourist markets, and they have a bit of a memory, so at $3 I snapped them up.
They will hopefully become curtain ties, or hang off our hammock we have bought.

By 8 a.m. the sun was warm, and we were hot as we started our hike to the north of the island.
Now if you are reading this, wanting to go to Isla del Sol, don't do what we did.
Get the boat to the south.  It is downhill not uphill.
We were exhausted!

We had a stop right at the top of the island.
You could see both sides.
We picked a nice place for Coca tea, and Cocoa for my son.
All around was the lake.
I love the traditional sugar pot.
The lady said I could buy it, and I kick myself for not doing so.

We got to the very top of the island and placed a stone on the tower.
We then discovered the path ended.
We were lost.
We had nearly 2.5 hours to go, and the boat went by 1 p.m.
We were not going to make it.
Several others joined us.
There is no signs.
We all missed the main path.

So we headed back south again - I am still very upset at missing the north with the ruins.
I now want to go back and do it all again !!

So we wandered back a little more slowly - down the hill.
Next thing a lady comes along with 2 llamas - out of her property.
She wants to show me her wares, so she hands the reigns of the llamas to my son.
Off she goes and brings out all these lovely table cloths.
Alas, none of her cloths were the size I wanted, so 15 minutes later, she retrieves her llamas from my son - who has been wandering up and down the lane.

We head back and have a lovely long lunch in one of the cafes overlooking the wharf.
I then get the bug that I "need" a tablecloth.
Why I have no idea!
So I manage to find an amazing one - finely woven and beautiful colours - and big.
We negotiate price, but then when I try to get an extra 10 B off and go back, he then hikes the price way up again.
So we call his wife, and she agrees to the low price she had originally set.
I am now really pleased I bought my cloth.
It was the shop in the distance (very unhappy man owner).

We wait around for the boat back.
The local ladies sit and knit.
Life is slow and happy on Isla del Sol.

I also found out a boat goes at 10 a.m. to Isla del Luna and this is a great trip.
Now I really feel I have to go back and do it all over again.

Also, this is an inexpensive day.
Accommodation, boat ride, dinner and wine came to just over $40 AU - bargain.

We recommend Paradiso Isla del Sol Hostal.  They have several huts, some with indoor private bathrooms.  This includes towels, hot showers, toilet paper, and breakfast.  Not to mention the million dollar view of the lake, and of course the friendly family who looked after us so well.