UNESCO in the Closet

UNESCO in the Closet

We, travel bloggers, often write about our amazing experiences, how lucky we were handling some situations, how knowledgeable we are when looking for the best ways to get from A to B or how to find the best accomodation. Only great experiences… But lately I’ve noticed a few articles pointing in another direction, after all, traveling isn’t only a peaceful sea, sometimes we also have to deal with heavy storms and we have to find the way to keep sailing and get to a safe port.

Another thing I notice a lot, is solo female travelers asking for safety tips, which countries are safer for women to travel solo (or even a group of women). Safety, safety, safety. Who doesn’t want some peace of mind while traveling? After all, that’s why so many people travel, to have some peace of mind.

But what if…, you’re illegal?

I mean, not that you did something wrong. Not that you’re being hunted by INTERPOL. I’m not even talking about crossing borders illegally.

What if…, you are just illegal.

[TWEETBLOCK text=”Tweet this”]What if…, the person you are is breaking the laws of some country you want to visit?[/TWEETBLOCK]

How can one feel safe, when he/she is that way? Born this way?

There are so many places in the world I want to visit, and life is so short. Of course one can’t see everything. But why would I have to scratch from my Bucket List so many places, just because I could face imprisonment, of even worse, death penalty, for loving someone? For solo travelers this should be fine, not that we would be advertising to the world our sexual orientation, that doesn’t even make any sense. But…

What about couples?

Imagine that you can’t be with your loving partner when on holidays? That doesn’t sound right, right? So basically, a gay/LGBT person has two options:

  • Don’t go there.
  • Go back to the closet while in there.

This doesn’t sound right either to me…, but this is the world where we are living in…

I combined two lists together to see how much one can miss in the world, just for not being legal. The UNESCO World Heritage List, and the list of countries where homosexuality is illegal. These two lists together made me realize which wonders are theoretically unreachable for so many people.

Egypt

Wow…, where should I start? So many amazing places there! But certainly, the only remaining ancient World Wonder is known to everyone, if you don’t, you shouldn’t even be in this blog! The Pyramid Fields, from Giza to Dahshur, a UNESCO World Heritage.

Giza Egypt
Giza Egypt ©Sue Kellerman

India

Another World Wonder, now one of the new ones, who never heard of Taj Mahal? And India is just the country that has more UNESCO Heritage! I was so surprised when I saw the list, such a place full of history and heritage, for sure in so many people’s Bucket List…

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal ©Ville Miettinen

Morocco

Another country full of heritage, and a lot of amazing places to visit, and not only UNESCO sites. One can experience so much in Morocco, the Medinas, the desert, the amazing beaches, contact with the nomadic tribes. And so much more!

Place Moulay Hassan
Place Moulay Hassan ©Ángel Hernansáez

Singapore

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting to see this country in that list. I’m highlighting it here because I bet most of you would think that Singapore wouldn’t have such discriminative laws. Regarding this list, even though it is a small country, it has its Botanical Gardens listed as UNESCO World Heritage.

ONE
ONE ©Sheu Hau Chow

I could highlight so many other countries, so many amazing places that make it hard for some people to visit just because they were born illegal79 or 81 countries where being gay is illegal. 26 of those that don’t have any UNESCO World Heritage site listed, but I bet they have so many amazing things to see, and so many amazing locals to meet. Covering a total of 226 listed UNESCO Heritage.

The list below is only regarding countries that have UNESCO Heritage and also have anti-gay laws. Numbers not always put things into perspective, maybe listing wonders will?

Afghanistan

  • Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam
  • Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley

Algeria

  • Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad
  • Djémila
  • M’Zab Valley
  • Tassili n’Ajjer
  • Timgad
  • Tipasa
  • Kasbah of Algiers

Bangladesh

  • Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat
  • Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur
  • The Sundarbans

Barbados

  • Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison

Belize

  • Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Botswana

  • Tsodilo
  • Okavango Delta

Cameroon

  • Dja Faunal Reserve
  • Sangha Trinational

Dominica (See)

  • Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Egypt

  • Abu Mena
  • Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
  • Historic Cairo
  • Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
  • Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
  • Saint Catherine Area
  • Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley)

Ethiopia

  • Simien National Park
  • Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela
  • Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region
  • Aksum
  • Lower Valley of the Awash
  • Lower Valley of the Omo
  • Tiya
  • Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town
  • Konso Cultural Landscape

Gambia

  • Kunta Kinteh Island and Related Sites
  • Stone Circles of Senegambia

Ghana

  • Forts and Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions
  • Asante Traditional Buildings

Guinea

  • Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve

India

  • Agra Fort
  • Ajanta Caves
  • Ellora Caves
  • Taj Mahal
  • Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
  • Sun Temple, Konârak
  • Kaziranga National Park
  • Keoladeo National Park
  • Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Churches and Convents of Goa
  • Fatehpur Sikri
  • Group of Monuments at Hampi
  • Khajuraho Group of Monuments
  • Elephanta Caves
  • Great Living Chola Temples 12
  • Group of Monuments at Pattadakal
  • Sundarbans National Park
  • Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
  • Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
  • Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
  • Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi
  • Mountain Railways of India
  • Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
  • Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
  • Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)
  • Red Fort Complex
  • The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
  • Western Ghats
  • Hill Forts of Rajasthan
  • Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area
  • Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat

Indonesia (Aceh Province and South Sumatra)

  • Borobudur Temple Compounds
  • Komodo National Park
  • Prambanan Temple Compounds
  • Ujung Kulon National Park
  • Sangiran Early Man Site
  • Lorentz National Park
  • Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra
  • Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy

Iran

  • Meidan Emam, Esfahan
  • Persepolis
  • Tchogha Zanbil
  • Takht-e Soleyman
  • Bam and its Cultural Landscape
  • Pasargadae
  • Soltaniyeh
  • Bisotun
  • Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran
  • Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System
  • Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil
  • Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex
  • The Persian Garden
  • Gonbad-e Qābus
  • Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan
  • Golestan Palace
  • Shahr-i Sokhta
  • Cultural Landscape of Maymand
  • Susa

Iraq

  • Hatra
  • Ashur (Qal’at Sherqat)
  • Samarra Archaeological City
  • Erbil Citadel

Jamaica

  • Blue and John Crow Mountains

Kenya

  • Lake Turkana National Parks
  • Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest
  • Lamu Old Town
  • Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests
  • Fort Jesus, Mombasa
  • Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley

Lebanon (See)

  • Anjar
  • Baalbek
  • Byblos
  • Tyre
  • Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)

Libya

  • Archaeological Site of Cyrene
  • Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna
  • Archaeological Site of Sabratha
  • Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus
  • Old Town of Ghadamès

Malaysia

  • Gunung Mulu National Park
  • Kinabalu Park
  • Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca
  • Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley

Mauritania

  • Banc d’Arguin National Park
  • Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata

Mauritius

  • Aapravasi Ghat
  • Le Morne Cultural Landscape

Morocco

  • Medina of Fez
  • Medina of Marrakesh
  • Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou
  • Historic City of Meknes
  • Archaeological Site of Volubilis
  • Medina of Tétouan (formerly known as Titawin)
  • Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador)
  • Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida)
  • Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City: a Shared Heritage

Myanmar

  • Pyu Ancient Cities

Namibia

  • Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes
  • Namib Sand Sea

Nigeria

  • Sukur Cultural Landscape
  • Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove

Oman

  • Bahla Fort
  • Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn
  • Land of Frankincense
  • Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman

Pakistan

  • Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro
  • Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol
  • Taxila
  • Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore
  • Historical Monuments at Makli, Thatta
  • Rohtas Fort

Palestine/Gaza Strip

  • Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem
  • Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir

Papua New Guinea

  • Kuk Early Agricultural Site

Qatar

  • Al Zubarah Archaeological Site

Saudi Arabia

  • Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih)
  • At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah
  • Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah
  • Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia

Senegal

  • Island of Gorée
  • Niokolo-Koba National Park
  • Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
  • Island of Saint-Louis
  • Stone Circles of Senegambia
  • Saloum Delta
  • Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes

Seychelles (See)

  • Aldabra Atoll
  • Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve

Singapore

  • Singapore Botanical Gardens

Solomon Islands

  • East Rennell

Sri Lanka

  • Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
  • Ancient City of Sigiriya
  • Sacred City of Anuradhapura
  • Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
  • Sacred City of Kandy
  • Sinharaja Forest Reserve
  • Golden Temple of Dambulla
  • Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

St Kitts & Nevis

  • Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

St Lucia

  • Pitons Management Area

Sudan

  • Gebel Barkal and the Sites of the Napatan Region
  • Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe

Syria

  • Ancient City of Damascus
  • Ancient City of Bosra
  • Site of Palmyra
  • Ancient City of Aleppo
  • Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din
  • Ancient Villages of Northern Syria

Tanzania

  • Ngorongoro Conservation Area
  • Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara
  • Serengeti National Park
  • Selous Game Reserve
  • Kilimanjaro National Park
  • Stone Town of Zanzibar
  • Kondoa Rock-Art Sites

Togo

  • Koutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba

Tunisia

  • Amphitheatre of El Jem
  • Archaeological Site of Carthage
  • Medina of Tunis
  • Ichkeul National Park
  • Punic Town of Kerkuane and its Necropolis
  • Kairouan
  • Medina of Sousse
  • Dougga / Thugga

Turkmenistan

  • State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv”
  • Kunya-Urgench
  • Parthian Fortresses of Nisa

Uganda

  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
  • Rwenzori Mountains National Park
  • Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi

United Arab Emirates

  • Cultural Sites of Al Ain (Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oases Areas)

Uzbekistan

  • Itchan Kala
  • Historic Centre of Bukhara
  • Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz
  • Samarkand – Crossroad of Cultures

Yemen

  • Old Walled City of Shibam
  • Old City of Sana’a
  • Historic Town of Zabid
  • Socotra Archipelago

Zambia

  • Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe

  • Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas
  • Great Zimbabwe National Monument
  • Khami Ruins National Monument
  • Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
  • Matobo Hills
Sources:

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Back to Europe from Peru

Back to Europe from Peru

Last post about Peru, I promise!

Jet lag, that strange thing that people talk about. How to avoid it? I have no clue, most of the tips I read say the same “Try to stay awake / go to sleep early according to the timezone of your destination”. So, before going to Peru I avoided to sleep to be able to sleep most of the flight to Peru and wake up on time for “breakfast”. It didn’t work. The way back, I had to sleep the moment I sat, because in Ireland that would be 2am! I slept, but it didn’t help with the jet lag anyway.

So, how did I manage to fall asleep fast? 2 bottles of wine! The small ones, of course, the wouldn’t serve a 1 l bottle just for one person 🙁 What a shame…, so, I got drunk and it was easier to fall asleep!

But before that, they served the dinner, to help me sleep I watch part of a movie while I was trying to ignore the fact that the plane was full of babies hoping that they wouldn’t start a crying orchestra and present us with their premier. We were lucky, or their parents also gave them wine… I kind of hope they actually did it.

After sleeping a few hours, when I woke up I checked the seat screen to see where we were, and for my surprise we were in Canada (?!?!???!) Basically, the flight went up north, and then from there just in horizontal to Amsterdam, they must have their reasons not to cross the Atlantic as I would expect…

First stop, and back in Europe! Amsterdam!! I think we only had to wait 2 or 3 hours, I am not sure about details now, and I remember that we went to some girly moments again for shopping, and I bought I book that I still didn’t open (one year and a half after). Funny thing, I remember that I said “If I open a book more than once while I am in a bookshop, it means that I want that book”. Let me scratch that rule, it couldn’t be more wrong.

Again, another security check. I think airports should be more organized, doesn’t make much sense to force a transfer to pass again through security. And it happened again in London… 3 flights, 3 security checks, 1 ticket booked. Non-sense.

The flight to London was with some turbulence and lateral winds, not a big deal, but not a peaceful flight. The approximation was not that smooth either, though the landing was totally ok.

Arriving at London City Airport (LCY), and having a preferential service! That was cool, someone picked us to pass all the lines because the time between our flights was quite short, with a woman guiding us through all the processes we had to pass (security again, etc).

And the last flight! Which wasn’t that straight forward either. I sat, on my place, I start reading and then… “Would you mind to change to another place? That seat is damaged.” Argggg!

Arriving in Dublin, then three more hours by car to Cork…, Tajana driving, me sleeping 😀 And this was our trip to Peru, an awesome and unforgettable trip! An amazing country that I truly recommend, not only for the touristic places, but for the whole trip itself.


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Back to Europe from Peru

A walk through Lima city center and Barranco district

Lima and Barranco

Waking up not too early this time and going again for “Internet Hunting”. We went to the place we’ve been the day before, but it was closed in the morning, and even though there were several other internet places, also closed, we decided to go to the airport and have it done there, but again, no success. I don’t remember in detail, but I think that KLM doesn’t have offices at Lima Airport, or they were closed, I am not sure now.

Plaza Mayor, Lima
Plaza Mayor, Lima

Ok, let’s go to the city center, probably there we’d be luckier… And just a small detail, the taxis are extremely pricy at the airport. It is cheaper (but probably not safer) to walk a few meters more, and take a taxi outside the airport parking lot.

So, before going to the city-center we had to check-out at the hostel, on my notes I have a line saying “Tajana broke the map’s glass, and the guy’s reaction”. I have just a vain idea that she broke the glass of some board with a map, but not sure what exactly happened…, but well, that could have been funnier to tell if I weren’t that lazy writing these posts…

View from Barranco District
View from Barranco District

And now yes, we went to the city center, the not-so-beautiful city center of Lima, but it was there that we finally managed to check-in, and as I wrote before, the issue was indeed the passport’s validation date. We had our breakfast there, at the Plaza Mayor, and by that we were already tired of that city center. Not interesting for us, and not that nice to waste our time, so, we decided to go to Barranco for a walk.

Barranco District is a very well-organized and enjoyable district in Lima, very close to the sea on the top of the cliff. We walked around for a while, the small streets towards the beach are really nice and with several small cafés eager to get tourists like us, but we ended up inside a Starbucks :X No comments, please 😛 In Barranco we really felt safe, but it also looks like an expensive area to live, the housing is way better than any other part of the city we’ve been to, the traffic is way better as well, and it seems organized.

Street from Barraco to the beach
Street from Barraco to the beach

We then took our taxi, and we went to the airport passing through the hostel to pick up our luggage, at the airport we had a snack before our departure and some girly moments to buy more souvenirs and some sweets to the office! And back to Europe 🙁 It was nice while it lasted…


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A walk through Lima city center and Barranco district

Going to the beach in Lima, a full day to relax

Going to the beach in Lima

Finally!! I can write “waking up a bit late”!!! I don’t remember at what time exactly, but if I wrote that in my notes it means that it was kind of significant 😛 After a shower on a mega-tiny bathroom with a “shower” that was basically just a hole in the wall. Yeah, Lima was the place where we had the worse conditions. We weren’t expecting anything fancy, but after 14 days on vacations in places where we indeed had low expectations, we were expecting something better in Lima. That, or not forgetting that we have been there before… Then breakfast!

We decided to hire a taxi and having another beach day, we have been quite warned by the taxi driver about thieves and robbery, and to take extra care with the camera even inside the taxi if the window was open. Nice start…

Old motorbike
Old motorbike

The sea-side landscape is quite cool, basically a huge brown-sandy cliff, the big towers on its top and the beach and sea-side route by the shore. Quite interesting to see the amount of signs saying “tsunami escape route”.

Arriving at the beach was scary, and when I say scary I actually mean S-C-A-R-Y! The amount of guys attacking the taxi and trying to take us to their zones was impressive, at first we really didn’t understand what was happening there, we just saw more than 20 guys around the taxi trying to open the doors and yelling to go with them! Then we understood what was happening and we just picked one guy to force the others to leave. Basically, these guys they get paid by commission, the amount of people the serve they get money for that.

Old mini-bus
Old mini-bus

A wonderful sunny day at the beach, eating ceviche without having to leave the towel is awesome! Ceviche is a very good dish and perfect for a hot day, very refreshing and tasteful!

Swimming there was also strange, two meters from the shore and we already need to swim!!! The safe zone is quite short, and that mostly because the area of wave breaking is also very close to the shore. We stayed there until sunset, and since we saved the taxi’s phone number we decided to call him again, the amount of times we read about taxi safety in Peru kind of pushed us to take these kind of precautions…

Old school bus
Old school bus

Going to the parking lot area, waiting for the taxi, we passed by a bunch of drunk kids that barely could walk straight, for a fraction of a second I thought I was in Ireland, but no, it was too warm outside 😛 And back to the hostel!

To avoid problems, like our way to Peru, we decided to do the check in online, and that was a pain…, first we barely could find an internet place. When we found it, the internet was like the internet we had in Europe in the 90’s, extremely slow. It wouldn’t be such a drama, if the modern websites wouldn’t be like they are… From Europe we also had people trying to do the online check-ins, but the Air France website never gave a warning that the passport validity date was “required”, only an error. If we missed any other detail we would get the proper warning, but not that one. We took a long while to figure that out, since the internet also was slow to return the error messages…

And that being done! Time for a late dinner, pizza! And going to bed, to that hostel…


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Going to the beach in Lima, a full day to relax

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Arequipa, the charming city in the south of Peru

Arequipa, the charming city in the south of Peru

Waking up early in Arequipa…, it is strange to write this about every day of my vacations, which kind of vacations do you wake up early every day? Oh, jet lag…, right… Well, we went back to the creperie for a breakfast, and after that a “girly moment” of shopping! Souvenirs and etc!

Old style cars
Old style cars

We tried to go to a museum, but if I am not mistaken, we had to wait for the next tour, so we decided to skip it and we went to a Monastery, the Santa Catalina Monastery, such a beautiful place! A pure village in the city center, but a cloister… Nowadays it is mostly a touristic place with just a few nuns living there, but its history is quite interesting and worth reading a bit more about it, but not as much as to visit the place!

Santa Catalina Monastery - Window view
Santa Catalina Monastery – Window view

Lunch, was again at the arabic restaurant! Two days in a row eating at the same places, and both days with non-Peruvian food…, but it was really good! We went then for a walk throughout the city center, with a nice ice cream to cool that heat down!  And more “girly moments“, we found a very nice market with several hand-made stuff, quite cheap comparing with european prices!

Our time in Arequipa was almost done, time to catch a taxi and going to the airport, and when we thought that the adventure was almost ending…, things also can happen at the airports 🙂 Starting with a manual search through out luggage, and when I say “manual” I actually really mean that they opened our bags and start digging through our dirty underwear for a few seconds until they gave up. Then, we found out that we had to pay an airport tax that was not included in the ticket price. WHAT THE HECK??? Almost 10 Peruvian New Soles! And then, we had to wait until they decided to open the gates…

Santa Catalina Monastery - Roof view
Santa Catalina Monastery – Roof view

When they announced the gates, we could proceed to the x-ray area, and then, more fun happened 😀 Ramón indeed over-packed, and he had a huge bag just for souvenirs and one of those was detected by the x-ray 😀 He literally had to unpack it just because of a piece of dust-gatherer 😀 Oh, that was a funny moment that I have on video 😀 We just had to wait more for the departure…

Sunset at Arequipa Airport
Sunset at Arequipa Airport

Arriving in Lima, and going to the hostel. I totally forgot how much they robbed us the last time with the “scheduled” taxi, and again, the same mistake! 30 soles… And, if I wasn’t enough pissed of with that “deal“, they forced us to pay in advance, the only hotel in our whole trip that required a pay in advance. Oh, I was really pissed of! And then, a very bad sleep night, hot, bad bed, and etc….


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Arequipa, the charming city in the south of Peru

Back to Arequipa from Mollendo

Back to Arequipa

Again, more than a year ago and when I read my notes I think “wow, I don’t remember this happening”. But while I read them, I get some flashbacks and it is quite cool to remember details that were already forgotten 🙂

The 13th day, we were in Mollendo and it was time to get back to Arequipa, from there we would fly back to Lima which meant that our vacations were close to an end.

Old bus in Arequipa
Old bus in Arequipa

We couldn’t sleep more than 8 am, so we just went for a breakfast, an ice cream after it and a last walk through the town. Time to take the bus, so we went by taxi to the bus terminal and preparing for a few more hours in a bus… This time, I made sure I went to the toilet before 😛

The bus was really old, quite like expected, and the trip took about 3:3o hours to Arequipa, with several stops in each of them people tried to sell us stuff. Seriously, some of those stops were in the middle of nowhere, and people there waiting to sell stuff? Some of those people even got inside the bus, to sell, and were with us until a few stops later they just hopped of. I think at that point of tiredness, I was already too “annoyed” with everything, according to my notes an “asshole” (quoting myself) as all the time changing the roof door to get air, either closing it or opening it. It was a sauna inside the bus…

Restaurant yard in Arequipa
Restaurant yard in Arequipa

Arriving in Arequipa, we just took a taxi to the hostel we were thinking to stay. I believe we made a booking before, I am not sure now about that detail. Crossing the city was a huge surprise! What at first sight seemed to be another very ugly city, like almost all the other cities we passed through before, the city center is really beautiful! And the hostel, was another pleasant surprise, a mini-hotel with just a few rooms (I am not 100% sure, but I think it was the Casa Andina) very cosy, nice and very close to the city center!

Plaza de Armas - Arequipa
Plaza de Armas – Arequipa

We were starving, after that long trip, and so we went for a walk trying to find any restaurant, so, instead of keeping with the traditional Peruvian food, we tried an arabic restaurant that totally is worth all the money we spent there! I don’t remember if it was expensive or not, but I didn’t care, it was really good! After that, we did a small tour through the city center, just to get familiar with the place.

Plaza de Armas - Arequipa
Plaza de Armas – Arequipa

At night, time for dinner! And again, not Peruvian food…, we went to a creperie, and again, the money was well spent! And before going back to bed, I bought two books for the rest of the trip, I kind of “devoured” the book I had with me in just a few days…, one of the books I bought was the Kon-Tiki, which took me back to our adventure in Oslo a few months before 🙂 I really should write a full post about Kon-Tiki, a story that really impressed me! And time to sleep!


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Back to Arequipa from Mollendo

Catarindo Beach, a hidden gem in the south of Peru

Another early wake up, and another beach day was ahead of us! Really eager for that, if I reckon properly, we decided to go to Catarindo Beach because we say a photo of that beach and we asked where it is, so there we go! That’s something that I really enjoyed about our vacations, everything planned on the spot, everything enjoyed without too planning 🙂

We had a nice breakfast, oh those papayas were H-U-G-E! Like the size of a pumpkin, I never saw papayas that big, and that taste…., that juices… Now I miss Peru 🙁 Well…

Catarindo Beach
Catarindo Beach

After the breakfast, we just took a taxi to the beach, and getting there was really cool, a nice bay so no wind, and fewer waves. Great to enjoy another very relaxing day! It was really a vacations day, lunch at the beach, a nice barrack just for us, and at first a bit worried about how to get back to the town…

Catarindo Beach, a hidden gem in the south of Peru
Catarindo Beach, a hidden gem in the south of Peru

The water was cold, but not as cold as the Portuguese Atlantic coast, and it was not that warm outside as well. I’d say that was just perfect, nice weather not too hot, nice water not too cold and no wavy 🙂 Hell yeah, vacations!

Going back, at first we thought about going by taxi, but, would we get a taxi there? The taxi drive said that was easy to get a taxi back to the city, but that was a bit outside and we were kind of in the desert. Taxis? Where? It was easy to realize that every car was a taxi, kind of funny to see people taking the “taxi” board from the trunk of their cars and suddenly, their own cars become taxis! Enjoying a relaxing day at the beach, and even getting money to pay their own trip, genius! But we decided to walk back, the weather was really cool and we had nothing else to do, why not enjoying a walk of a few kilometers to the town?

As I said before, we were kind of in the desert, so we had to cross part of that as well, walking. It didn’t take much time, but I am not sure how long either 😛 We saw a few people doing jogging through that area, it is really a peaceful place, and running on the cliffs by the sea should be awesome! Desert in one side, Pacific Ocean in the other side 🙂

Getting back in town, we were tired! Beach is a like a hard job, but more enjoyable 😛 We just had a dinner, I believe it was on an Italian restaurant? Maybe… And then, shower and bed! That shower had so much sand, I think we took part of the beach with us 😛

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Mollendo, the perfect place to relax away from the crowds

Mollendo

Early wake up! It was a huge difference, what we thought being tireless, guess it was really altitude sickness getting into our bones! It is hard to describe how different we were feeling, so much energy and so way better than the days before, that indeed was a big factor on our decision to skip the Colca Canyon. Probably it was a mistake, I guess I’ll never know that, but by then it seemed to be the best decision, vacations is not only running around, some relax time is also important and it is impossible to see every single place.

Pacific Ocean, view from Mollendo
Pacific Ocean, view from Mollendo

So well, we decided to go to the beach! Our first swim on the Pacific Ocean! But not before some “travel issues”. Ramón and I woke up early, we knocked Tajana’s door but I guess she was taking a shower, she didn’t hear and we assumed she was still asleep. So, let the girl rest! We went to buy some sun-cream, and we did the huge mistake of having breakfast without Tajana, obviously she was not happy with it…, after everything solved up, we went to the beach, but now it was Ramón’s turn to stay behind, I have no clue why… We tried to call him, but no battery on his phone, oh dramas dramas, there ain’t a good travel without good dramas 😀

Big Waves
Big Waves

Time for beach!!! Renting some chairs and a beach umbrella! 😀 And being flooded all the time, the waves were strong but it was a real fun for us! We even had a crazy funny guy that approached us saying the he is from INTERPOL 😀 After a few hours, our deserved and more than wished lunch by the beach!

After lunch, we went for a walk, the hotel and back to the beach. This time just me and Tajana, I think Ramón decided to take a nap 😛 It was a whole afternoon of reading, sun and waves flooding our feet! Just pure awesomeness! After a while, Ramón ended up join us, so the trio was completed again!

Sunset at the beach
Sunset at the beach

It was a long and amazing day, going back to the hostel for a shower to take out that Pacific salt 😛 We had a very nice dinner, another walk through the town and back to bed! This time not feeling sick, but really relaxed! VACATIONS!


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Mollendo, the perfect place to relax away from the crowds

From Puno to Mollendo

From Puno to Mollendo

Here it is, the longest day of our holidays! Probably longer than the flights themselves, it was a long and challenging journey from Puno to Mollendo.

Again, it rained during the whole night, and again that feeling of being lucky during the day! Probably that’s how the rainy season works in Peru 🙂 We had the bus tickets Puno > Arequipa booked the day before, so we just had to go to the terminal and enjoy our trip on our “first row seats on a panoramic bus“! Arequipa, here we go!

In Peru we have to pay taxes for everything, even after having the tickets already pre-paid. Guess that we’ll never know if having a ticket actually means going on a trip… Oh well, again, we had to pay some additional tax after the bus ticket prior to our actually trip. This “tax” kind of made our schedule even more tighter, no time to go to the bathroom! Thankfully, the woman at the ticket counter said that the buses have toilet, uffff! Six hours is a long trip 🙂

Getting to the bus, and we started to realize that something was wrong…, where was the panoramic bus promised by the guy at the hostel? And what about the seats, wasn’t it supposed to be first row? So, we got a very old bus, smelly, dirty and that leaked water from everywhere! Great! We weren’t pissed off because of the old bus, we actually really wanted to try a “chicken-bus” (which wasn’t also the case), we were pissed off because the guy promised something that was way far from reality! Well, cultural shock, I guess…

Due to our “not so first row”, I barely took photos during that bus trip. So, unfortunately I don’t have photos to show (only one that I stole from Tajana). Again, we were again in Juliaca…, and because of the Carnival, the bus had to go through a different route outside the main road, and that according to the natives inside the bus, the driver picked the worse way… It was kind of funny and scary at the same time! Just see the photo below, we actually passed through that “road”!! As I said on a previous post, Juliaca is a flat city and when it rains the streets become rivers! This is almost true, we actually thought we would get stuck there and Juliaca doesn’t seem a nice place to get stuck in!

Juliaca River Road
Juliaca River Road

The way to Arequipa was quite traumatic for me, as I stated before, I had to time to go to the toilet before getting to the bus, and I was told that the bus had a toilet inside, which actually was not a lie. The woman just forgot to mention that the toilet was closed for some reason that the driver didn’t want to explain. So, basically I was 6 hours inside a bus, passing through amazing landscapes and desert areas, REALLY desperate to pee!!

Another detail about that trip, supposedly it was an express bus, without stops. And actually, no stops to let people exit, but the guy was stopping all the time to let more people in. At each stop, a lot of people complained with the driver, which was kind of fun 😀 But my head was too busy to panic out with my “primary needs“. I had to ask the driver to pee, but instead of using the polite way, I actually said “I need to piss now!” and as expected, the driver said I should hold a bit more. Everyone laughed, and even some people asked the guy to let me go out to pee. He didn’t.

I actually even considered to pee inside the bus, I was almost at a “I don’t care” point of no return, but…, we were in Peru, in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t know what to expect, probably the driver would throw me out of the bus, and I really didn’t want to take that chance. I just kept holding it…, and then, something strange happened to me. My brain started to trick me, it was a very weird trip, my brain actually made me feel like totally wet, like if I had peed myself! I didn’t. So every few minutes (probably less than minutes) I was checking if my pants were actually wet! It was really insane, I never felt anything alike in my life! Guess that in Peru I tested my whole digestive system. And I guess it works!

Arriving in Arequipa was even more painful, the city suburbs are like all other cities and towns in Peru, looking really awful and not appealing to stay at all. We were tired of that, and I was in pure desperation for a toilet! Mind that we were 6 hours inside a bus, and I had to drink water as well… What a challenging trip… And getting to the bus terminal wasn’t easy either, we passed through good part of the city suburbs until we stopped, and knowing that we were close my brain was pushing harder to “release“. The moment we start turning to the terminal, I just jumped to the door! I had to be the first one to get out!!! Well, guess that Ramón didn’t realize my desperation, and he asked me to take care of the luggage the moment I went out…, you might guess my reaction 🙂

Finally, outside the bus! Running to the toilet!!! And…, I had to pay to use it AHAHAH!! I didn’t care at all! Not going into much details, but it was really hard to pee, and it actually hurt! 😐 I really never felt something alike before… After that, my mood totally changed! We went on a relaxing mode, we ate something and we were deciding what to do next!

Atacama Desert, mountains
Atacama Desert, mountains

We were tired of traveling, and we really were needing two or three days of pure relaxation, so, why not going straight to Mollendo? Changing our initial plans, we postponed Arequipa! How to get to Mollendo? By bus, about another 6 hours…, or by taxi… And, fuck it! Let’s go by taxi!

Atacama Desert, driest place on Earth
Atacama Desert, driest place on Earth

Two hours from Arequipa to Mollendo, 200 Peruvian Neuvos Soles, about 60€ for a 130 kms trip! Not bad at all! Now I managed to take a few photos, and we crossed part of the Peruvian part of Atacama Desert! It is indeed fantastic, and quite curious at the same time, along the road we saw several parcels of terrain well-defined for different owners. Don’t forget that it is a desert, and Atacama Desert is the driest desert on Earth, so, why having parcels there? I didn’t understand that, but I also didn’t ask.

Atacama Desert
Atacama Desert

So, in one day we went from the 3800 meters high, from the highest navigable lake on Earth, going down to the 0 meters of altitude (sea level) and passing through amazing green landscapes at the Andes, passing through the second biggest city in Peru, passing through the driest place on Earth, a desert, and seeing the Pacific Ocean! What a day! Ignoring the “primary needs” issue, it was indeed a memorable day!

Arriving in Mollendo
Arriving in Mollendo

Arriving in Mollendo, time to pick a hotel! We were all tired, and everyone with low tolerance, so picking a hotel was not as easy as expected, but we ended up at a very good place very close to the beach! After that, a walk through the town and going for dinner, and finally having a very deserved ice cream! Then, bed time!

Sunset in Mollendo
Sunset in Mollendo

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[Peru] Day 9, Lake Titicaca

Uru people

It gets very surprising to read my tiny travel book where I write all the topics, not in detail, about my travels. But some times, mostly when I write my posts more than one year after the events, some details would be handy…, oh well.., apparently I had to take a shower in the dark right before going to the port because the electricity went off. Sorry, I just have a small idea about what happened, I remember that I had to take the shower with the door widely open to get some light 😛

View to the Uros Islands
View to the Uros Islands

Just after the breakfast, we got inside a mini-bus and we did a “tour” through Puno city to collect some more passengers for the lake-tour. Getting inside the “fast boat”, according to the flyer, but in reality the boat was quite slow. Well, it was a very international tour as well, people from many nationalities and I even managed to speak a little of portuguese with a brazilian couple.

Uru people
Uru people

Our first stop was at the Uros Islands, the Lake Titicaca‘s floating islands. The main purpose of these islands was defensive, it was “easy” to just move in case of danger like invaders (Incas, and so on). And apparently, the people living there are quite shy and afraid of strangers, we met a few that explained us how they support the islands, how they get from the islands all they need. Bedding, food, agriculture, housing, boats, and “islands”. It is quite interesting actually, those islands are quite “green” and recyclable, almost all they use there is made by the reeds they harvest from the lake. We even ate some of those reeds, what they also call as the bananas of the lake.

Uru kid with plastic gun
Uru kid with plastic gun

After the introductory explanation, we were presented by a tour on one of those boats made of reeds, just for the fun. The kids were really cool, very relaxed and totally into playing with the tourists like us, afterwards I heard that most probably those kids and adults weren’t inhabitants of Uros Islands, but instead, most probably people from the Puno. As I explained before, the inhabitants of Uros Islands are quite shy and very reserved regarding strangers, which makes sense to get other people to show the “invaders” a bit of what the Islands are. Better that, than disturbing those that actually live there, I wouldn’t feel comfortable either if some stranger came to my house just to see how I live.

Reeds boat
Reeds boat

Second Island, I believe it was Taquile Island (my notes aren’t that precise…), according to what I read on Wikipedia it is most probable that this was the Island since all the main characteristics on this island match with what we saw and heard. One detail that I remember, is that I’ve been explicitly told that we should not take photos to the natives because they believe it takes part of their soul, unless they give us their permission. Well, what happens when you ask? They ask for money 🙂 Guess even the soul has its price after all. We had lunch there, a walk through part of the island and don’t forget the high altitude, even few steps seemed harder than normal.

Taquile people
Taquile people

Going back to Puno, the very long boat trip on the not so fast boat 🙂 It was nice though, we were also quite tired that day and the view was astonishing 🙂

View of Puno from Lake Titicaca
View of Puno from Lake Titicaca

Back in Puno, we went to the hostel and we booked our trip to Arequipa for the next day, and then dinner! Again, another romantic dinner with Ramón, this time with a candle :O Tajana was still feeling sick, and at night after a tiring day, it was expected that her organism asked for some rest. We went back to the hotel again quite soon, at 8pm… I started to believe that this was not jet lag, but just aging… 😛

[Peru] Day 8, Way to Puno

Raqchi Ruins

And again, a few months later…, this must be the trip that takes longer to report…

Day 8, our way to Puno! We had to wake quite early, though the jet lag was still helping us with that, and we went by bus from Cusco to Puno. But since the way to Puno has a lot to see, why not using that opportunity to actually learn and live more about Peru? So, unlikely of what you might think, we actually took another touristic bus…, but this time the guide was actually really good! A pity I didn’t write down his name, because he deserves to be recognized.

 

Sistine Chapel of the Americas
Sistine Chapel of the Americas

Our first stop in San Pedro de Andahuaylillas (link only in Spanish), also known as the Sistine Chapel of (South) America. I wouldn’t rate as high as trip advisor, but probably worth a stop with a good guide like the one we had, it makes the difference. The place itself I didn’t find it much intriguing, but the story behind it is indeed interesting.

Old woman in Raqchi
Old woman in Raqchi

The next stop was indeed a MUST SEE place, that we hadn’t plan to visit before our travel. The village’s name is Raqchi, I think everything there is a must see, and the amount of theories makes that place one of the most interesting places I’ve seen there. The architecture is a mix of architectures used by two different people, the Incas and I believe the Quechua (don’t trust this, I am not sure about the details). The main street is also quite impressive, apparently during the Winter Solstice, that street doesn’t have shadows due to its orientation with the Sun. How those guys did that?? As I said, I was really impressed by that village. But like everything nice, there is always a but…, and the but here are stupid tourists (not me, this time). While taking photos, I was bugged all the time by the same woman telling me that I should give money to the natives, even if I was not pointing my camera at them… but we’ll get there in a later post…

Raqchi Ruins
Raqchi Ruins

And lunch time! We had a buffet, and for dessert some people also had llama spit! Annoying animals, and they got it! Not so funny though…

Selling stuff at 4300m
Selling stuff at 4300m

The third stop (not counting with lunch) was at the 4200 meters high! I really felt the altitude in my head and in my whole body! It is an insane feeling of a very strange tireless hard to describe… And again, photos and paying for photos… This time we made clear that we had no money, they joined us anyway for the photo (see photo) and after, guess what? Asking for money… That place is Raya Pass, and as you can see through that link, the train passes there. Something I found odd was the amount of graveyards by the road to Puno, some quite far away from the nearest town. I didn’t ask, I don’t know the reason.

We've been there!
We’ve been there!

The last stop before Puno was Pucará, an archeological site quite destroyed by the catholic church (I’ll refrain from personal opinions here). The Museum is nice, but for me the ruins are more interesting to walk around, also the church (architecture, of course).

Pucará Church
Pucará Church

On our way to Puno we passed through a city named Juliaca, I remember we commented how dirty that place is and the look of “under construction” that it had/have. We were far from imagining that we’d have to pass there again… That city is a “hub” city, that city exists because of its airport that is in the flattest area “near” Puno, and the reason it looks like under construction is because there is a hole (not just one) in the Peruvian law that if your house is not fully built, you don’t have to pay a house-tax, so, it was odd to see a lot of buildings that from outside they were not even painted, and that we could see that from inside they were almost luxurious… Smart people 🙂

Road in Juliaca
Road in Juliaca

Arriving in Puno, taking care of the basics. Hostel and thinking about the next day. About the hostel, our first choice was closed, so we tried the second one that had also a tourism agency, therefore, we planned the next day to Lake Titicaca. These being solved, time for health! Buying carbon pills to help our system to recover, and it helps 🙂 Just one thing missing: FOOD! Tajana was really feeling sick, so I had a romantic dinner with Ramón, we both ate, I couldn’t even look at his plate! I really don’t mind trying to eat different things, but the way that they served guinea pig it really looked like a rat in a plate. Not that way…, not that way…

Clouds close to the ground (at 4200m)
Clouds close to the ground (at 4200m)

We were really tired, waking up early, probably still some effects of the jet lag… so going to sleep at 20:45…, another long day was ahead of us…

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Aguas Calientes, the Machu Picchu Pueblo

We spent the night in Machu Picchu Pueblo, also known as Aguas Calientes, and we had heavy rain during all night, but really heavy rain! After all, it was the end of the rainy season, so not that surprising for us…, but still, heavy rain… Probably it was due the weather that the next morning we had no water, therefore, no shower which we had the night before, so no big deal about it, but we had to brush our teeth with bottled water…, not so fun but part of our experience in Peru.

Train in Machu Picchu Pueblo
Train in Machu Picchu Pueblo

After that, we had a nice continental breakfast, or at least that’s what they call it, the problem here were the toasts that weren’t toasted…, strange but ok, we were hungry and we had a long morning ahead. Again, following a recommendation of the book we had, we did a small trekking to a waterfall, which we didn’t see because it was already too late and we had to pay to get in. According to the book, the highlight there wasn’t even the waterfall, but the butterfly and birds sanctuary, and the best time to see them is during the first hours of the day…, that we spent sleeping… However, while at the entrance I saw my first Hummingbird! And also some huge and amazing butterflies, I really wonder what we’ve missed… I also broke the 1000 photos barrier that morning…, and this was just the seventh day.

Birds and Butterflies' Sanctuary
Birds and Butterflies’ Sanctuary
Urubamba River, also known as Sacred River
Urubamba River, also known as Sacred River

After that, lunch time! A family size pizza for each one of us! And for a starter, a special coffee to Tajana…, the way they served the coffee was already strange, hot water apart from highly concentrated coffee, she had to mix it. While she was pouring the concentrated coffee, I saw something strange with the solution but that no one else saw, so I thought maybe it was my imagination… However, she didn’t drink it immediately, and while we were talking I saw something really strange with the infusion, I saw like “particles” moving, and I told her to stir the coffee and see what it was. A butterfly inside it! BONUS! Obviously, she didn’t drink it.

Regarding Machu Picchu Pueblo, it is quite americanized now. According to some locals, they are trying to change the pueblo itself to get tourists to stay longer, because nowadays there isn’t much to do there, and even the small trekking don’t have any information how to follow the path, we got to know about it through the awesome book Tajana has. If you eat out, don’t get surprised by the prices, by Peruvian standards it is quite overpriced and the bills already include servicio which means the tip. Unlikely anywhere else, you don’t have the option to give or not the tip, it is already included.

We went for a small walk, through the markets and we went to the train station for a coffee before our return to Poroy. In my notes I have a line saying that Tajana and Ramón were stressed with the boarding, and I actually reckon that something happened there, not sure if it was with the coffee or what, I really should have had written this post months ago…

Our return tickets were just to Poroy, if I am not mistaken the reason was that according to the railway website the section between Poroy and Cusco was closed under maintenance, but…, we were lucky! Inside the train, we got to know that the section after Ollantaytambo was also closed, so we got a bracelet that would allow us to go to Cuzco! Even that train trip was surprising, at some point we stopped for a while next to an old house, I guess that’s not that uncommon since the people living there were already waiting for us. Some people threw food overboard to the people living there, so did we.

Arriving in Cuzco, tired like hell and under some rain, we then got the taxi to the same hostel and we got the same rooms…, even though we asked to changed, but it was just one night anyway. We had a light dinner, and back to bed!


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Machu Picchu Pueblo

2012 Review and 2013 Goals

Peru

I don’t write for a while…, a long while…, and this has to change. So, first goal for 2013: get my blog back to life!

I am doing this “reviews” for the past years, and reading my last review and goals, I surely need to do more and planning is not one of them. I think I still plan too much considering the amount of things I (don’t) do.

About 2012, I still want to learn or do something that pay me the bills, or at least let me travel and pay for my travel addictions. It’s easy to say “freelancing”, but harder to do it. I love my current job, and now that I have more free time I should invest it in other ways rather than pubs 🙂

FAIL! However, I don’t regret failing with this because the reason was not only the pubs, but the people I’ve met! Thank to these new friends that were such an important part of this year.

But I am going to get this “old” goal back to life, so second goal for 2013: Learn or do something that pays for my travel bills.

About the volunteering, I won’t do it in 2012 for sure, probably small projects or campaigns like the Movember one. Volunteering is still a life goal, but I am sure that I won’t be able to do it properly in 2012, I want to take 4 or 5 months off for that and since I just got a new job that I really like, I’ll postpone it a while. Probably I’ll do it in 2013, who knows?

I knew I couldn’t do it in 2012, and I didn’t. Movember is still Movember, and I can only support this cause (maybe I should also consider taking my health more seriously). This year wasn’t half the fun, and probably in 2013 I’ll collaborate differently (but still with the mustache).

Learning Spanish! I don’t know why I never did this before in a very serious way! I know some Portuñol, I have the advantage that the Portuguese grammar and vocabulary are really quite similar with the Spanish one, and with a good level of Spanish I’ll have almost half of the world as an easy “target” to conquer!

FAIL! Damn it! I am getting depressed now! However, due to my new (and great) friends, I am getting better with understanding French. Maybe I should invest in french instead of spanish, no? I am not going to make a goal of this this time…

Travel! That’s not a goal, it’s rather a lifestyle 😀 Until now I only have one big trip planned, to Peru, but I am looking forward for bigger days in Ireland because I want to explore deeper that country. I don’t believe I’ll do another big trip in 2012, maybe to Greece with my parents (if I manage to convince them…), but nothing more than that. But well…, already thinking about 2013 😀 Planing travels is really addictive 😀

Ahhh, another big fail! Regarding Ireland, not about traveling.

Peru was awesome, and I need to get back to describe the rest of the travel on this blog. I also went to Greece, last-minute decision and extremely spontaneous! It was great to decided, ask for days off and book flights in just two hours! 5 days in Greece was sooooo few, and I knew it way before hand 🙁 Greece and the friends I made there have a very special place in my heart! I don’t know when, but I’ll go back to visit you guys again 🙂

I also been to London, for the first time, to visit a friend. I am actually going back to London in three weeks, weekends are not enough to enjoy that city properly, most probably I’ll go there more times (it is so easy to go from Cork).

And Portugal, this year just for weddings, three! What’s wrong with people, everyone getting wed now??? Well, still great to come back to Portugal and this time I managed to travel a little bit with my family as well, and see long time friends 🙂

However, this Christmas I stayed in Cork…, not alone though, I brought my parents here for the first time 🙂 My mom’s first flight! I didn’t take them to Greece, but I did it to Ireland. It was great to have them here and comforting at the same time, because now they know that I am actually really well here.

Sports, I need to do more sports…, I started with the gym a few months ago, but I’d rather do more outdoors. After March I might apply to kayak lessons, and keep doing hiking. I’ll try to organize one or two hiking trips, Ireland is quite nice for that.

Oh, no…, another huge fail! I actually kept going to the gym, this year I even changed gym twice…, but I also managed to “recover” those 8-9kgs I lost the year before…, this is definitely a goal to 2013! And I am going to go even further, I might even consider to attend to the Cork half marathon! (This is not a goal)

And I think that’s enough for goals, few but possible to achieve! Everything else is bonus 😀

Ah, so funny….

Well, goals are just good to keep us motivated, not to make us feel frustrated if we can’t achieve them. This year ended up to be one, if not the one, of the best years of my life! I achieved so many things that make me feel so good that I wouldn’t dare to write it down. For the first time on my life, I could do “magic” helping my parents and give them exactly what they were needing and they couldn’t do, money wise speaking. I traveled to a new continent. I did my first transatlantic flight. I went back to Greece, after several years just “thinking about that”. And much more other stuff. But regardless everything, the best was and it still is, the friends I met on this road.

I failed all my 2012 goals, but I achieved all those lifetime unwritten goals. Who cares about goals, if life can be so great anyway? I didn’t fail anything, I just didn’t do it yet 🙂

A day in Machu Picchu

A day in Machu Picchu

Peaceful night, at last! Some noise of the trains passing, but considering that the hostel is IN the train station I think that’s kind of expected, but even that didn’t disturbed me much. For the record, the hostel’s name is El Albergue and I recommend it! Really cool accommodation and certainly the best place to be when you need to wake up early to take a train to Machu Picchu 🙂

Starting the day really early, I think the train was around 6am, and my belly starting to give unpleasant signs…., first “discharge” of the day… But well, with some extra space, a proper breakfast was the best thing to fill the blank 😀 And with a special companion, a very cool cat that was all the time begging for fondling 😀

And my belly again…, starting with a chemical war…, totally like rotten eggs… TMI? So wait for it… Time to board, a 2 hours long to Machu Picchu while my belly was urging to have full attention, once in a while I had to walk a bit far away from other people… seriously, not funny! The worst was when I had to go, again, to the toilet…, damn!!!!!! WHY IN THIS DAY??? Yeah! That’s right…, diarrhea!!! Machu Picchu day, the highlight of the whole trip, that day that all of us were looking forward…, and the day that my belly and ass decided to betray me!! You can’t imagine how I panic with that! WHY IN THIS DAY???

Train in Ollantaytambo
Train in Ollantaytambo

Ok…, relax…, maybe it was just another discharge, better now than later…, let’s go to the hostel, check in and leave our luggage there! Machu Picchu is waiting for us!!! Ah, wait…, I had to go to the toilet again!!!!! Oh, this was nasty…, and disgusting… I asked where the bathroom is, and they receptionist directed me to a room in the floor above, the bathroom window was to the hostel’s hall, but the floor above… And it started again! Sounds, smelly waves of not-so-fresh air…, and people laughing… What? Wait? What?? Tajana and Ramón could hear me like if they were next to me, even though they were in the hall (floor bellow), and when they talked I really thought they were next to me in the room! Ok, hopefully that won’t be our room… Then I looked to my side and…, no toilet paper! Can it get worst than that???

A few kilo lighter, perfect for a trekking day! We headed to the bus terminal to Machu Picchu Archeological Site! A side note, Machu Picchu Pueblo, former Aguas Calientes, doesn’t have cars, they way to reach the town is by train or trekking…, that’s why the train tickets should be booked months in advance, the buses just do the route Machu Picchu Pueblo <-> Archeological Site.

Road to Machu Picchu, view from Huayna Picchu
Road to Machu Picchu, view from Huayna Picchu

We had two options, walking up-mountain, or bus…, we decided that we didn’t want to get tired before the main highlight, so we went by bus,  a few minutes later we totally regretted it! The view is SOOOOOO amazing! And doing that by bus, so fast, it’s almost a sin! At least that was relaxing, after the moment we boarded into the bus and that I realized that I didn’t know where the Machu Picchu tickets were!!!!!! Seriously, I think I had several heart attacks during that morning! I found them, they were safe, and we did it!

The view from the bus to Machu Picchu
The view from the bus to Machu Picchu

M-A-C-H-U     P-I-C-C-H-U!!!!

I believe I wrote this before in another post, but in Peru they try to sell every single thing! It is really annoying! And guess what? A lot of guides trying to make us hire them for the day, or just a few hours! One of them even offered a “one hour guide tour” since we had the tickets to the Huayna Picchu part, we refused it, obviously.

Getting in to the Archeological Site, running across the ruins to the Huayna Picchu entrance and starting one of the three hardest hours of the whole trip! Another side note, Huayna Picchu is part of Machu Picchu archeological site, but they sell tickets apart to limit the quantity of people per day to the mountain. 400 a day and the last entrance is around 11am. The reason for this is obvious when you get there, it is a hard trekking, dangerous and slippery. Also, people might get lost there, or too tired that they even can’t return, therefore they close it at 1pm.

Part of the trail to the top
Part of the trail to the top

In my opinion, that was the highlight of the whole trip. Machu Picchu itself is amazing and worth to visit, but Huayna Picchu…., breathtaking! A photographer’s paradise! One of the most amazing views I had ever seen, after we did it we were tired like hell, but happier than ever! If you can, go to Huayna Picchu and prepare yourself for a very challenging trekking and equally rewarding one!

What I am going to write next might contradict what I wrote before, but we saw shoeless people, kids (who bring kids to such slippery place, with amazing scarps??) and even people with already some age, obviously in very good shape as well 🙂 I lost the count of how many photos I took that day (but I’ll get to know the number as soon as I organize my aperture library), but it is really hard not to think about catching every single view and moment of that day!

View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu

We did it to the very top passing through a very small tunnel! And at the very top… BUGS! Damn bugs, I kind of freaked out with them and I really didn’t enjoy any moment there, I didn’t even took time to breath that view, so I run away to a few meters down…, and I was left alone! I waited…, I called them…, and no sign of Tajana and Ramón. Where were they? I had to climb those few meters that I run down again, and there they were! Enjoying their lunch and not caring at all if I was ok or not! Bastards!

Temple at the top of Huayna Picchu
Temple at the top of Huayna Picchu

The trekking has two paths, the “big one” through Wayna Picchu (the big mountain) and the other one smaller which I don’t remember nor I can find the name (after checking the photos, I found it, the name is Huchuy Picchu), Huayna Picchu is the name of both parts, I think. And Wayna Picchu itself also has two ways, the bigger one and the one just to and back from the top. We did the bigger one, to the Gran Caverna, if I can recall, they estimated 40 minutes to the cave from the top, and 1h20 from the cave to the exit…, and yes, it is pretty accurate! We thought not..

But to get there, we had to jump a fence that the security guy put there to avoid more people to go to the long path, he kind of argued with us but he lost all the arguments when we told him that we just saw him let other people pass…, we did it! 40 minutes walking down, and it is hard! Your legs literally start shaking and you barely can control them when you stop. Through that path, we even had to go over wooden stairs, and climb some as well, always down…, and we knew we were going lower than the exit way, which means… we had to climb again….

Entrance to the Gran Caverna
Entrance to the Gran Caverna

We did it to the Gran Caverna and we had to (re)start the climbing again…, we were really exhausted and kind of frustrated, we though we were in better shape…, and actually we were, just not for that altitude, which makes life way harder! We did it to the end, and within the estimated time. It was definitely my biggest challenge (and accomplishment) ever! 3 hours hiking/trekking at 2400m high and with diarrhea! I did it, and I finished it with clean underwear, if you know what I mean 😡

Then a 45 minute relax, eating cookies as a lunch, Ramón even took a nap! How great is that, on a 7 wonder? 😀 We walked around the ruins for a while, but both quit quite early, I stayed longer and I went to the very top, to take a photo to the most known perspective 🙂 I walked alone for a while, trying to enjoy that 7 wonder…, but after Huayna Picchu it is really hard, I wish I had two days for Machu Picchu, I would enjoy it properly, nowadays it seems that it was just a dream and that I never been there…

Classic view of Machu Picchu
Classic view of Machu Picchu

The day was almost over, or at least our bodies were…, I actually left the site way before than I thought I would, I wished to see the sunset from there…, but yeah, it was really exhausting, one day wasn’t enough for the whole area 🙁 Back to the main entrance to meet with Tajana and Ramón, and back to the town by bus, where Tajana met another american guy with another amazing story…

Llamas in Machu Picchu
Llamas in Machu Picchu

Arriving back to Machu Picchu Pueblo, I had to buy a t-shirt, I miscounted the t-shirts to take with me to Machu Picchu so I was one t-shirt shorter…, well, I didn’t miscounted, I just thought I could reuse one…, like if after a trekking a t-shirt would be usable again…, newbie…, after that the hot shower and a dinner out. Around 8pm we went back to sleep, we were all dead…

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[Peru] Day 5, Ollantaytambo

Moray

Finally, an almost perfect night! We barely heard noise, which considering the previous days, it tasted like heaven! But…, and everything has a damn but, early americans complaining about the breakfast in a very american way, “A breakfast without eggs?? And who the fuck eats olives on breakfast??” Well.., heathy people eat olives, and healthy people don’t start the day with a cholesterol bomb…, just saying…

As agreed with our taxi driver on the second day in Cusco, we had a planned and private tour scheduled for this day, we had to wake up early (actually the day before we decided to reschedule the tour to two hours earlier because we really wanted to enjoy Ollantaytambo) and we had our taxi driver / tour guy waiting for us! He wasn’t our tour guy though, but he organized everything.

Packing everything into the “taxi” luggage (in Peru every car can be a taxi…, how delightful), and heading to our first stop which was Moray. That’s a known place, but I believe it isn’t that touristic yet, it wasn’t an easy way to get there, and not everyone hates their car like our driver…, the guy really didn’t care much about the holes on the street, nor how fast he was driving in a dirt road…, well…

It is starting to be repetitive, but all the landscapes are really breathtaking! Everything is so amazing that it is so hard to capture those moments and views with any camera, even worst when you have a cheap camera like I did… I don’t believe photos can describe what my eyes saw, just being there! Which is also a pity, is that it is already possible to see the destructive effects of tourism 🙁

Moray
Moray

Moray is a very interesting place, and the best is that very few people were there, and when I say very few I mean to say less than 20! And it is priceless when you can enjoy a site without having to run for the next stop, nor having to wait for other people if you get tired! Excursions like the day before…, please…, don’t… Ah…, wait…, we had more after that 🙁

After Moray, we went to Maras’ Salt Pounds, yeah the view is always great, yeah you also can see Salt Pounds in Europe…, but not pre-Inka Salt Pounds! Damn, those guys were really advanced! It is such a pity that the Spaniards (and the Portuguese :() destroyed part of those wonders 🙁

Maras
Maras

Just to remind, that the roads to reach these two places are really in bad shape, but I am sooo glad we did that! After that we head straight to Ollantaytambo, and I was really eager for that place! The day before we skip the archeological site, this day was the day!

We left our stuff at the hostel, unfortunately Tajana had to stay there…, the altitude sickness was starting to give the first serious signs…, and I and Ramón went for a late lunch, and what a lunch… I don’t recommend that place to eat! I just asked for some thing light, a salad, and after a lot of time we were served…, and I had the wrong salad. I don’t like to be picky, but it had happened before with me several times and I was not in the mood to get the wrong dish this time. I sent it back, and I asked what I have ordered…, but the guy didn’t trust me and went back to double-check with the other waiter if I really had order what I claimed. Seriously??? Guess what? The second salad was similar to what I’ve ordered, but not exactly what was in the menu and that I was paying for. Ok, no more bitchy mode, I just ate. When we were paying, Ramón realized that he also didn’t get what was in the menu!! Nice view, bad service! I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it in the train station road by the river!

Day of light rain, cloudy sky awful for nice blue-sky photos…, but not that bad that it could end 😛 We went to the top of the ruins, and again, I was soooo glad we skip that part of the tour the day before! I lost the track of time, but we enjoyed it twice or more the time the tour guide gave to the group to explore that site!

Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo

During the walk, what I thought it was the food taking effect, now that I am writing this I know that was already the altitude sickness. I have a small note-book where I write some topics about the day to help me write my blog post, and I wrote that the food was taking effect, needless to say what I am referring to, right? 🙂 During the following days I noticed that it was really the altitude and travel sickness…, this was the first sign 🙁

It was time for a snack / dinner at the Hearts Café where we met with Tajana again…, but we forgot about the time-detail on women perspective…, we had to WAIT! 😛 (and she’ll kill me for this one :D) Yeah, that’s really a cool and cozy place, totally it’s worth the visit 🙂 On what concerns my sunburn…, oh gosh, that hurt a lot! I had to buy sun-cream for the following days, and a cream for the sunburn. What half an hour can do to one…

This was the 5th day in South America, we had very tiring days and the jet lag forced us to go to bed earlier than normal. Now that we (or at least me) were starting to get into the timezone, we were forced to go to bed way early, the next day was THE day! Waking up isn’t a problem when you know you’ll have the time of your life!

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