Categories
Journal South America

[Peru] Day 8, Way to Puno

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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Categories
Journal South America

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

Categories
Europe Journal

A chaotic second time in London

This was my second time in London, though the first one being described on this blog, because this experience really has to be shared, as it was quite traumatic for me in a good and a bad way, since the first minute… Some of you are already used to my “misadventures“, my Interrail is probably one of the best examples (and some about Peru that I also have to write…), so here’s another one!

Last Friday, January 18th, exactly one week after my 30th Birthday! I decided to treat myself with a trip alone somewhere! So, London it was! Cool destination, just “right there”, cheap and perfect for a weekend escape! Let’s do it, I thought…

So, after making sure I would have a couch to surf, I missed my surfing times quite a lot, I booked my ticket! Almost everything assured for a great weekend! Until…, the day I had to travel…

First problem: taxi driver arrived late, and it was quite tight with time for my flight. According to the taxi call center, it was my fault because I booked the taxi just two hours before… yeah, because Cork is huge and they have a lot of bookings…, yeah right.. Not sure if I’ll use their services again…

Squirrel at Hyde Park
Squirrel at Hyde Park

Arrived at the airport, actually on time and with a nice discount because I booked the taxi online (cheaper not better), I went to the gate…, so far so good until…

Second problem: flight delayed 2 hours. I immediately texted my host, and I let him know I would arrive late… My last experience to London was the same, delayed flight, and with that in mind, I booked the bus for two hours after the expected arrival just to play safe! Nicely done, Gil! Thinking ahead! But…

Third problem: the flight was delayed ANOTHER 2 hours! FUCK!

Arriving in London, everything white! Actually, it was gorgeous! London is really beautiful when in white, but I still had to go to the city center…

Fourth problem: Obviously, I couldn’t use my ticket (easyBus), because I was way too late for that one! They could have a more permissive option, but again…, cheaper not better! I had to book another bus ticket, through another company which actually was cool, if not…

Fifth problem: The bus stop that was nearest my host’s place wasn’t the one I booked the ticket for, because the lady gave me the wrong information…, I had to get a taxi to get there…, but…

Sixth problem: The GPS gave the wrong information regarding my host’s place, I spend 30 minutes trying to find his house at 2 am in freaking cold London! But I did it, and it was fine!

Next day in London was a relaxing day, I’ve been there before and I just wanted an escape, so no running to see everything, no disappointment for not seeing everything either. I just did what I really like, getting lost in a city and enjoy it! I did it! Saturday was a cool day!

I went home quite early, and I spend the whole night at home just reading, not even going out to the crazy Londoner night life! I have a lot of night life in Cork, I was there to relax!

Sunday, just a walk through Hyde Park, breakfast with my host, and a lot of chat! That’s one of the things I love more about hospitality websites, the social part where we get to know real people with real stories, very relaxing time and quite interesting…

Did I say relaxing? Oh…, wait…

Seventh problem: easyBus let you take any bus between one hour before your booking schedule up to one hour after it. I managed to take the bus before mine, just to play safe, so I could get on time to the airport. I thought the traffic could be an issue…, and I was right! We were stuck in the middle of the highway in direction to the airport! AAARRGGGG!!!

However, since I left London quite early, I managed to arrive on time to my flight. No problem here, let’s go to the boarding gate…

Eighth problem: Which boarding gate? The boards had information regarding one boarding gate, then it disappeared, then it changed to another gate…, arrggg…, let’s see what happens next…

Being at the actual gate, my father called me to tell me he saw in the news that they were canceling a lot of flights in London due the bad weather. Which bad weather? It wasn’t even snowing! And the snow outside was like 1cm hight?? I told him that I was already queueing to the gate, and that it was everything fine…

Ninth problem: Now the interesting part…, all of us, at the queue, got a text from ryanair informing that the flight was delayed 2 hours… CRAP! But we waited there for a while, until…

Tenth problem: On the speakers, they informed us a BIG list of canceled flights…, and guess which one was the last in the list? Cork! And it gets better…, we had to get outside the lounge area, really outside the departing area, to get reallocated to a new flight. I had a feeling that this wasn’t over yet…, so I run!

Eleventh problem: NOOOOOO!!!! What a HUGEEEEE QUEUE!!!!! And it got even bigger! The queue was, probably without exaggeration, more than 3 thousand people! In front of me was like 100? Yeah, I was almost at the beginning of the queue, not that bad…

I have a lot of problems, but being awkwardly sociable isn’t one! I talked with everyone around me and I managed to get entertained during the whole time I was in that queue (which is going to be another problem listed below). Doing that, I was comfortable enough to ask them to take care of my luggage while I had to go to the toilette…

Twelfth problem: Diarrhea! Oh, it gets better and better! Luckily enough, I was so stressed that I did what I had to do in a few seconds, and I went back to the queue… They had my luggage there, with an iPad inside and a Nikon D5100… I left some expensive stuff to some stranger I had just met… Between that and having to go to the back of the queue, I decided to trust them, after all, I trusted my life every time I did couch surfing. In my opinion, we should trust others! Nothing happened, and I am glad I trusted them.

Thirteenth problem: No cellphone battery! There were sooo many people there, that even for the sockets people queued, I couldn’t even charge my phone! I had low battery, but it was enough to call my brother and ask him to try to find me another option to get back to Cork and to let my manager know that I wouldn’t work the following day…

Fourteenth problem: The first two hours we just moved two meters… No joking, really! It took us two hours to move two meters, because Ryanair thought one person to handle with 3000 customers was enough!!! Is this normal???? At some point, they added two more guys, and the queue started to move a little bit faster.

A chaotic second time in London - Pinterest
A chaotic second time in London – Pinterest

It was actually quite funny, people around me were with a really good sense of humor, making fun of the whole situation. London stops with a few flakes of snow, while the nordic countries keep working with REAL snow, the fact that Ryanair being the only company there with a queue, because the other ones took care of their customers, says a lot about the situation. We even drunk beer while in the queue!

Then, the different kinds of sense of humor, everyone was relaxed there (except a hungarian guy), what could we do? Only wait and see what happens…

Fifteenth problem: We spend 5 hours and a half in that damn queue! Just to get another flight ticket! It was insane, and I don’t want to think about those that had to check out their luggage and arrived later to the queue!

The stories around me were even scarier, some people were INSIDE the aircrafts when they got to know that their flights were canceled, for TWO HOURS!!!! And they had to pay for the refreshments while stuck inside the aircraft…, for TWO HOURS! Yeah, I was one of the lucky ones among them…

My new flight was scheduled for 9am, while the original one was scheduled for 9pm the day before! Exactly 12 hours “delay”, if we can call it a delay… No rest at all, I was lucky to have a proper dinner before this whole mess, so no hunger as well, just a wasted night at Stansted Airport…

Sixteenth problem: Again at the queue to the boarding gate, our flight was delayed again, but just half an hour. And while there, my brother texted me letting me know that it was snowing A LOT in Cork! Thank you bro! When someone is stressed, and without sleeping, let them know that they might face even more problems! Well played!

But no, snow in Cork wasn’t an issue. Guess the main issue was lack of de-icing liquid, and apparently that was not the airport’s fault, but the airline company that should ensure that they would have enough for these kind of situations. Ryanair is a cheap company, and they really don’t care about their passengers. They didn’t add new flights to the board to replace the canceled ones, they just moved their customers to the next available flights. They are cheap, and sometimes cheap is crap.

I didn’t work that day, I was exhausted, grumpy, and stressed. Better to avoid people when in this mood…

Ryanair? I’ll avoid them in the future, and cheap is definitely not the way to do it.

Categories
Europe Reviews South America

2012 Review and 2013 Goals

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 🙂

Categories
Journal South America

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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Journal South America

[Peru] Day 5, Ollantaytambo

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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Cusco and Sacred Valley

Isn’t getting easier…, during the dawn (4am) I had to knock my neighbors door and ask them to shut the fuck up! First in spanish, they didn’t understand which I thought it was due my Portuñol but according to Ramón it was ok, and then in English. Damn Argentinian people! We got rid of the Brazilians, then the Argentinians… Despite that, I had a better night of sleep. Well, I really recommend that hostel to spend a few nights, but definitely avoid the rooms near the breakfast area! Casa Grande, and read the feedbacks, it’s always important to read them and judge by yourself through them. My opinion is that it was good enough for the price we paid for, I would rate a 3 out of 5 stars.

Tranvia de Cusco
Tranvia de Cusco

We had to wake up early due the excursion we had booked for the Sacred Valley, it is impossible to compare this guide with the one we had the day before, this one was just really bad and without facial expression! We had to say it is a joke after his jokes, even when we told them in his native language… How bad is that???

The general feedback about these excursions is that we went to places that otherwise we wouldn’t go, mostly because of lack of knowledge about the places. All of them totally worth the visit, but not running like we did AGAIN. This guy was so terrible that he menaced us, the tourists, that he would leave us behind if we arrive late. Well, it wasn’t nice, but everyone was on time… Did I already mention how bad the guy is?

The first stop is what I call the total dispensable highlight, it was clearly a stop to get money from the tourists. A market, in the middle of nowhere, and famous for something that I really didn’t care much about. The 15-20 minutes we spend there, we could use way better at any other of the stops. Well, at least I took some photos to llamas and to the landscape, which is always stunning in Peru!

Llama
Llama

Then we went to Pisac, the town, another stop for shopping but interesting one. Apparently that’s the Silver city/town of the Sacred Valley or even Peru, I can’t reckon the details now. The market is pretty cool, as the town itself, again…, a pity that we had very few time to enjoy it. After that was the archeological site, and that’s when I started to be really pissed of! We had half an hour for a site that requires at least 1 hour! We didn’t have even time to go to the ruins itself! As I said before, otherwise we wouldn’t go there anyway, but it was the kind of excursions that I really hate and that I barely can enjoy, having to run to “enjoy” the very few minutes I have is not properly my definition of having fun… Ah, and this was also the place where I and Tajana got the first sun-burn…, only on the left side, since we were hiking in the mountain, and it was just for half an hour! The sun burn was pretty ugly though, the following days I had to put cream on it, I think I never had such a painful sun burn in such short period!

Pisac
Pisac

Then time for some lunch, a big self-service feast, where I ate like an animal! Well, here I don’t have much to talk about, just that we ate a lot 😀 After that was time for one, if not the one, favorite places I have visited in Peru! Ollantaytambo! However…, we skipped it 🙂  Why? Because the three of us were more than pissed of with the tour, with the guide and with the very short time we had to enjoy the sightseeing places, and since we had to go to Ollantaytambo the day after we decided to postpone the archeological site for the next day as well. We had the Cusco ticket, why waste it on a flash tour when we could enjoy it on our way? What have we done? We booked the hostel for the next night, in Ollantaytambo, and we went to the Hearts Café, more than a café though 🙂 Worth reading the linked page for more information! A very cosy place, good food and good mate de Coca 🙂 I will leave the photo about Ollantaytambo site for the next post, now just one of what happens when it rains there 🙂

Raining in Ollantaytambo
Raining in Ollantaytambo

We thought we got delayed and when we returned to the meeting point…, no one there! Oh gosh, did we just miss the excursion? Now what??? Oh, wait, that guy was in the bus with us…, and that one…! We are safe! We almost called a taxi to take us back to Cusco, but I am glad we didn’t, the next stop was the best of the excursion, in my opinion obviously.

Chinchero, 3,732m above the sea level! A very beautiful and cozy town, where we learned how to dye alpaca wool! I sooo regret not filming that, was really amazing to see in a slice of seconds wool to change from white to orange, purple, red and yellow! They use/used (probably they don’t use the artisanal way anymore) cactus bugs to dye wool! From all the photos I took there, the one I choose to post here is from that same workshop we had, imagine how impressed I wasn’t with that! Also, it was there were I bought an alpaca blanket for myself 😀

Dyeing alpaca wool
Dyeing alpaca wool

Tired like hell, all of us, and back to Cusco! I think I slept the whole trip back to the city, probably more than one hour :X But still willing to enjoy the few hours left we had in Cusco, therefore after the arrival we went for a walk where I took some time for myself and photo-shooting in Cusco at night. Not much time alone…, but enough for a few photos (which I am looking into them now and check if the time worth anything :P) And time for a nice dinner at the Plaza de Armas, before going to bed 🙂

Kid in Cusco
Kid in Cusco

Some kids approached me asking me to take some photos of them, at night and kids moving was a funny challenge, I wasn’t expecting any good result from that and the kid got “blurred”, but I like the effect of it anyway 🙂 Not a good photo, but funny for me 🙂

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Journal South America

[Peru] Day 3, Cusco and surroundings

Arrrrgggg, it is SOOO annoying when you wake up with other people making noise! What a huge lack of respect towards other people, brazilian people having breakfast and being really loud, the people in the next room with an alarm beeping every 10 minutes, during more than one hour. What an awful way to start a day!

Breakfast, not so loud, and then going straight to buy the Cusco Tourist Ticket, buying some souvenirs and another walk through the city center, mostly around Plaza de Armas, and then a very NOT relaxing lunch before the excursion! Damn, we really had to eat fast because we didn’t go earlier to the restaurant…, I think we ate a pasta dish in around 10 minutes, that was bad 🙁 But worst was gathering the people who joined that excursion, that was disorganization 😀 Even some people were missing, and waiting some time for the bus, etc…, some waiting time that we could have used for a more relaxing lunch :X

The first stop, was still in Cusco, for the three of us was the Museum of the Temple of the Qoricancha while the rest of the group went to Convent of Santo Domingo which we had to pay a fee to get in…, well, we didn’t care that much about churches so we used our free time for the Museum, which was quite interesting!

The second stop (now it will be harder to say if if was the second or the third, but I’ll try to mention all of them) was the Archaeological Park of Sacsayhuaman, or how some tourists say (according to the guide), Sexy Woman…, this is probably one of the most important archeological site for the Peruvians, its history is amazing and shocking, imagine what the conquerors didn’t do there… Despite the high altitude, 3701 meters, I am still in shape to run, due the limited time we had to enjoy the place, and visit the other side of the archeological site 😀 The same I can’t say about my fellow travelers, cof cof 😛 Age is catching up with them 😀 And then…, the first of many choclos…, no more corn…, please…, the put corn in everything, apparently they have around 500 different species of corn just in the Sacred Valley…

Sacsayhuaman
Sacsayhuaman

The stop after that was Tambomachay (the order of my photos is helping to find which were the stops :D), again we didn’t spend that much time there. We heard an explanation about the place, at least the guide was really fun and clear with his explanations, but we didn’t have enough time to enjoy none of the places where we have been.

Tambomachay
Tambomachay

Then another short stop in Puca Pucara, the Red Fort. We had ticket for this place, but no one was there to control it…

Puca Pucara
Puca Pucara

After Puca Pucara, the stop before the last one, Qenko. This place was quite interesting, if I am not mistaken, there are several theories about that place, one as a mortuary place and another one as a surgery room. Apparently, the Incas were quite advanced regarding curative technology. This room is placed under a massive rock, with a path in S through that same rock. We went there already at nightfall, therefore the light wasn’t the best and the place at that time seems quite scary.

Qenko
Qenko

And after that, we went to a Alpaca factory,  obviously the main intent was to sell, but there we learn how to differentiate between Alpaca, Alpaca baby and synthetic fiber. The best part was when we left the place, where a kid was selling postcards… with our photo!!! The guy took a photo of us at the first stop, still in Cusco, and he tries to sell us a postcard at the last stop! Damn, they really try to sell everything!

Then back to Cusco, time for dinner at a pizzeria (very traditional :P) where we ate Ceviche! This is very traditional, and can be really delicious! The best ones I had it was next to the beach, but that’s a story for another post 😀 At that restaurant, the best was definitely the dessert! Oh gosh, we really considered going there again just for the dessert! Was really good! After an amazing ending, back to the hostel and sleep, a bit later than the two days before…, at 10pm 😛

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Journal South America

[Peru] Day 2, Cusco

Time for wake up, early according to Peruvian time, normal time according to our brains…, packing the very few stuff we had unpacked, leaving stuff behind that we didn’t need (not my case, but some old trainers were left behind by someone not me :P).

Arriving in Cusco, the first altitude effects…, seriously, this isn’t bullshit nor a myth, it is something real! The moment I left the plane I felt dizzy, difficulty to breath and I start panic out…, I never felt like that, and the biggest problem was that I knew I couldn’t control it. Panic! Well, but we had to do our stuff, and arriving in Cusco without a hostel booked, nor anything planned we had to do something. We catch the first taxi that seemed to be safe enough, at the airport only official taxis can park so it isn’t that hard to get a safe taxi. And sometimes, that also has its advantages, in our case the taxi driver was a tourist organizer or something alike. Apparently this isn’t that strange, our taxi driver in Lima had also deals for tourists and planned excursions.

Well, according to Tajana’s book, which I totally recommend – Frommer’s -, we asked the taxi driver to go to some hostel, but according to him we had to walk a bit uphill because cars can’t go to that road, so he recommended another hostel. Obviously… He also helped us with several organized excursions, which we accepted. No plans for Cusco, so now we have several! We won with that, he obviously won with that, a lot… And it was in between talks about tours and excursions that we had our first Mate de Coca! Naturally sweet and tasty! I like it a lot 🙂

Rainy Cusco
Rainy Cusco

According to the taxi driver, the books, the several articles I read, the testimonials on traveler’s websites, etc, we should rest the first day in Cusco to let our body adapt to the altitude, and obviously we did that…, or maybe not…, we really walked a lot to find where we should go in the next day to buy the sightseeing joint ticked for Cusco and surroundings. We had a light lunch, just soup with Pisco Sour as a starter, on a very nice restaurant which we also had dinner in that same day…, mostly because the city was infested of American teenagers and it was harder to find a quiet place. That one was good for lunch, and even better for dinner!

After dinner…, bed time! Such babies, going to bed around 9pm…, and I wish I had a baby-night as well, but the noise during the dawn was fucking unbelievable! Brazilian bikers being really loud since 5am or so next to the breakfast area, which was also next to our bedrooms… Also, that night was a bit cold, at least for me…

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Journal South America

Peru – Getting there

I take a while to write…, but I do end up doing it 🙂 I’ll describe every single day, and to avoid really long posts, I’ll avoid to write in the same post the events of more than one day. And starting by breaking the rules…, Day 0 and Day 1!

Going to Dublin, after the several days I spent packing, I had to unpack hours before boarding…, the train! I was over-packed, a t-shirt per day, extra-shorts (????), pants for sleeping (wtf?? why not just underwear??) and probably more stuff that I left behind. I don’t remember how much, but it was a considerable amount of stuff… Then, meeting with Tajana at the train station and heading to Dublin, with a huge anxiety visible not only by my face, but also through my fingers, which I nibbled almost until bleeding…

Arriving in Dublin, the first night, a night in blank with Pedro, a friend of mine who lives in Dublin. Easy night, obviously I didn’t want to repeat the experience I had in Wroclaw…, then to the airport!

Oh gosh, not sleeping and having to wait at an airport is pure pain, I was hoping some quiet 16 hours to Lima, and hoping that the night in blank could be recovered on flight…, not really…, starting with a very slow check-in… Air France is a nice company to fly with, but a not so nice to deal with, the hosts at the check-in area were REALLY slow and annoying! After several minutes, she said she couldn’t check us in for the second flight, that we had to do it in Paris… considering that we only had one hour for the transfer…, guess what? And I should not forget to mention the tiny plane that took us to Paris…

Different terminal, hopping the bus, having to do another check-in, another queue, almost boarding, pre-vacations stress! Niceeeee! And the cherry was that due to the check-in problem, we had a 12 hours flight from Paris to Lima totally apart from each other! Isn’t that great? 😀 Thank you Air France, for the amazing service with transfer flights from partner companies!

Regarding the second flight, my first trans-oceanic flight, I had a great seat! Ramón as well…, Tajana not so much. But still, the airplane was very comfortable and with a lot of entertainment for the 12 hours we spent inside it. The headphones weren’t good, I had to use the Apple ones instead, but we had several movies, games, tv shows, music, etc at the distance of a simple touch, with individual touch-LCDs. I can’t complain about that, nor the food, if I am not mistaken, we had a main meal and two snacks, plus the “self-service” snacks and the huge amount of free Häagen-Dazs I ate during that flight! Yeah, it was an easy 12 hours flight 😀

Arriving in Lima, what a difference! Coming from Winter and arriving in Summer, the reddish sky, the heat, the dust, being 5pm but almost night, in Summer? They don’t have a DST timezone…, pity 🙁 And no money! All the ATMs at the airport were without soles, a not so pleasant experience…, but well, everything can be solved! A side-note, it was the first time I arrived at an airport and I had a taxi driver waiting for us 😀 Pity it wasn’t my name, but well, it was a funny and snobbish situation. And very handy!

School Bus in Lima
School Bus in Lima

Going to the hostel, and getting “robbed” for the first time. I only realized how expensive the taxi was when we came back to that hostel for the last days…, but I’ll write about that later. Yeah, the taxi was expensive (for Peruvian standards)! We did the check-in, at the hostel, then a short walk through the neighborhood, I was quite afraid about the possibility of being robbed at night, that I left the camera at the bedroom, but I totally regretted it a few minutes later 🙁

Not long after we went for that walk, we came back to the hostel, after all it was around “1.30am” on our heads, while in Peru was just 8.30pm…, going to sleep, because the next day we had to fly again…

Regarding the hostel, it was REALLY warm! I slept without sheets and with the window widely open, and that didn’t make me feel unsafe, almost all the houses around have a sharp metallic grid around the yards or the houses themselves for protection. The neighborhood seemed safe, but seeing that everywhere…, I don’t know… Our bathroom was really small, to shit I had to widely open my legs, or sit perpendicularly to the toilet…, and the shower…, that wasn’t a shower, that was a hole through where the water fell. Yeah, it was bad and we returned there…, my stupid idea! I still can’t forgive myself for that, how could I forget how bad that hostel is???

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Europe Reviews South America

2011 Review and 2012 Goals

Last year I wrote the 2010 review and 2011 goals, which turned out to be surprisingly good therefore I’ll do again this year and see what happens.

Unpacking for 2012

Some highlights about 2010:

I’ll keep this goal, to go abroad, but now with a slight difference I won’t make such a big deal of it.

Considering that I am now working in Ireland, I can tell this goal was successfully achieved! The best part is that I really didn’t make a big deal out of it, it happened almost by chance. I tried unsuccessfully several times to get a job abroad and at some point it was more important just to change my job, when I gave up with the “abroad” idea this chance appeared and I didn’t let it go, again 🙂

Another thing that I want to change is my blog’s name, but for that I need that something changes in my life, something worthy.

Look Left looks like a name’s change 🙂 And I guess I can say that something really changed in my life! 🙂

I need to do something meaningful with my life such as volunteering and helping those that really need it!

Not yet…, but I was part of the Movember Team, I believe that’s a start 🙂 And I just realized that I never wrote about that…, shame on me! I should do that ASAP!

My goal for this year is getting a way of self-sustain and invest sometime to learn something that I can earn money working at home and anywhere, this doesn’t mean that I will quite my job but that I want to get a Plan B.

I totally failed with this one…, postponing it to 2012!

I will keep writing in English

Mission accomplished! This one was easy, and I believe I improved my English quite a lot 🙂

My feeling about 2011, before I (re)read the 2010 review and 2011 goals’ post, was that half of my year was again a total disaster…, but now I think that the whole year was a huge success! Every single step I did was in the same direction, even if I didn’t realize it by then, quoting Steve Jobs:

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.
So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

And I am already feeling like it!

A more deep review about 2011, despite the pre-set goals, 2011 was really another big year like all my latest years. In January I started actively searching for a new job, and because of that I gave up of some opportunities I had, it took me several months to get it maybe because of the crisis, maybe because of my lack of experience, maybe because of my CV. I don’t really know. Normally this kind of things leads to frustration, and at some point I lowered my goals and I decided  to”just move”.

May was the month that everything changed, and I say quite often that if someone told me in May that I would go to Peru in less than a year I would think that person was crazy or just trying to upset me…, and now I am preparing a trip to Peru in less than two months!

10th June, Portugal’s day and the day I left Portugal again! New country, still in Europe. The fourth country I lived in in less than 5 years! I am still amazed by how much my life changed, and eager to keep doing it! I’m only sorry for not starting this life earlier, because I am really loving being me just right now!

I miss my nephews’ birthdays, but as a present I brought them to Ireland, their first flight trip! Well, both are too young and they might forget about it soon…, but I was with them for at least a few days and that’s the more important thing.

In October one of the most important person of my life passed away, after almost three months it’s still hard for me to accept it…, but life’s goes on.

I am back in Portugal now, for Xmas and NYE, returning to Ireland today! Again, looking back I can say the year was a blast again! Some very bad things, some really good, but in general the good ones were the majority.

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 🙂

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?

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!

World Map

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 😀

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.

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

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Europe Journal

A few days in Amsterdam with friends for the first time!

Amsterdam is like the European Las Vegas, “our” sin city where everything can happen…, or at least most of the people hope so.

Unfortunately the city is mostly known for the drugs and sex liberation, probably more than half of the tourists go there because of that same thing which, as I said, it is really a pity.

A few days in Amsterdam with friends for the first time!
A few days in Amsterdam with friends for the first time!

This trip to Amsterdam marked my 16th country, Netherlands and not Holland as some say. As usually, I had no clue of what to expect and it was a huge surprise when I saw that amazing city. From the moment I saw its map, until the end. I was amazed by that city and by its beauty!

The city has around one hundred canals and about one thousand bridges, it’s really impressive just by looking to the city’s map. It’s culture and lifestyle are quite impressive as well, several museums for all tastes, parks, tours or just my favorite thing to do, getting lost. The city seems to be quite safe, however for some reason I don’t know I didn’t feel that way, the only “problem” are the bikes…, for the first time I felt more scared of bikes than cars, they are really crazy…

Regarding the bikes, that’s like a dutch landmark already, but in my opinion also part of the junk. There are way too many abandoned bikes parked through all over the city, which isn’t nice at all. Maybe for some nice photos, but…

For the first time on my life, I slept on a boat! And no, I was not drunk and I didn’t end up in a random boat…, we rented two floating boxes (some people might call that boats as well, without engine) for the three nights we stayed in Amsterdam. It was a weird feeling, once in a while the “box” moved a little bit, probably when bigger boats passed by, the specific rules about how to use the toilet and the sink, the fact that we had to pass through two other boats’ decks to reach ours, the neighbors, etc. It was really a nice experience, something I never experienced before! Now I am looking forward for a real boat experience, not a floating box 😀

About the cultural part, the city is not that big, but a lot of stuff to do, some “neighborhoods”, some parks, some museums. About museums I only went to the Anne Frank House, considering the fact that I never read her diary, it was really a shock for me! Knowing part of the story is one thing, being there and seeing how they “lived” and watching her father’s interview after her death…, that was tough. But prepare yourself for a long queue, or try to visit during lunch time, probably fewer people…, we “only” waited 20 minutes…

One detail about the trip, I should keep in mind before another “short” flight not to drink two pints before the boarding…, or else I might need to go to the bathroom twice in a very short period and I might not be able to…

The Amsterdam’s airport is huge! After the landing we were inside the plane “driving” for almost 20 minutes before we reached the gate, take that into account when you plan to go there! After the landing, you still have to wait a lot of time before you can exit the plane.

Next stop: Portugal!

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Europe Journal

Oslo

And another country to my list, the 15th, Norway! And I already have the flights booked for the 16th and 17th 😀 The 17th will also be my first country outside Europe 😀

Oslo is an amazingly expensive city! Really nice and organized, but soooo expensive! I think this is a nice introductory note, so let’s start from the beginning because a trip starts the moment we wake up…, or at least when we should wake up 😛

Our flight was scheduled to 9.25, or something more or less like that, from Dublin. So, we had to wake up early to drive there and we agreed to start our trip at 5am. Well, I was late because I let myself fall asleep (again), but I wasn’t the main reason why we started our trip later…, the car was broken! What an amazing start, having to catch a flight 300kms away from Cork and our only mean of transport was broken! The driver’s brother managed to help us with that, and we had to head really fast to Dublin! No time to stop not even…, to pee :X

We arrived at Dublin Airport really close to the gate’s closing time! Trying to find a place to park, after pre-paying the park, and then running like crazy to the check-in area! Passing through security was also challenging, my ticket’s bar code wasn’t being recognized by the scanner, and I was really getting nuts! Time time time!!! We had to run to the gate, and guess what? The flight was delayed…, nice…

Then the flight itself, was also quite interesting and quite disturbing. Maybe before this part I should talk about another trip I had recently, but I didn’t write on my blog.

A few weeks ago I had to flight to Portugal, for reasons that I don’t want to write here, and the returning to Cork was quite interesting. The plane was landing, and I already could see my house, when the plane started to go up again! Back to the clouds! Was quite strange, everyone was looking to each other, until the pilot said that because of the wind we had to wait around 10 minutes before trying to land again. The second try was successful, but with a lot of turbulence, and a woman on my row just fainted! Guess what? When the plane landed, we had to wait for the paramedics…

This didn’t happen this time…, but wasn’t better either! A woman on my row, again, was the whole flight crying and shaking because, apparently because she was afraid of flying but I really don’t believe it…, wherever, she was REALLY annoying!!! But then…, she had very good reasons to avoid flying…, the landing was the worst I have ever had! The plane kinda of jumped upon the first impact on the track, not the smoothest landings…, not at all…

Noruega
Norway

After 45m by bus from the airport to Oslo city, we had to meet with our host. We used airbnb instead of couchsurfing or hostel, in this case was way more private than any other option and way safer! Well, I was saying…, we had the wrong number, an “extra” 1 which was easily identified and solved, but we only got it when we were at the expected meeting point! It was kind of funny, because I heard the whole phone call from both sides, our host was close to us but we didn’t know who he was…, I got it when I heard him replying to my phone 😀

The next steps were quite straight forward, visiting the house (and the cats living there), some basic shopping for breakfast (and extremely expensive), and then starting our tour 😀 First stop, tourist office! And that’s when I got my new nickname…, TomTom, I was never good following a GPS device, but old school maps never let me down 😀

After buying our Oslo Pass, we could really start our tour in a very relax mode! Nothing important to do, just enjoying our time over there! So we headed to the Opera House, some walking and night sightseeing, some time to process my internal GPS to find the easiest way to the Ice Bar and there we went! The Ice Bar is really nice, and expectedly cold! Even the drink glasses are made of ice, we could felt it melting on our lips, and to grab it we had to wear gloves! Really nice!

After the Ice Bar, we tried to find another pub, but we ended in a different one on a balcony, really nice one but also could…, this time because it was really cold outside 😛 Alcohol is really expensive in Norway, and it was kind of hard to pay around 13€ for a pint…, but well, we were there to enjoy!

A small, but very important, detail about this trip…, I carried a teddy bear with me to Oslo and I took photos of him everywhere! Every single touristic spot, or nice landscape the teddy bear was there! Why the teddy bear? Let’s say that’s a private joke 🙂 And that I am not ashamed to carry with me a teddy bear and take photos of him even inside a pub 😀

 Second day

This one had a funny start, time changing due the DST, we were awaken by our friend and she said that was already 10 past 10…, damn…, we were late…, we toke a fast shower, fast breakfast and when we just finished it I looked at my iPhone and the time was exactly 10 past 10! So, basically we virtually didn’t spend anytime at all 😀

That day was planned to be the Museums’ Day, first was the Norsk Folkemuseum which, in my opinion, was a too fast visit but to do everything we had planned it had to be that way. Then was the Viking Ship Museum, quite small but totally worth to visit! There you can see one of the Norwegian’s icons (if not THE one), and I have to say that I was impressed with that, it’s truly a magnificent ship (and others in bad shape)! Teddy bear was here, by the way! 😀

Then we walked a bit to the next and last two museums we visited, and the ones that made me dream and still dreaming about traveling! The Kon Tiki Museum, and this was REALLY impressive! The museum itself is nothing special, ok, it’s really impressive but not the kind of stuff you are waiting for when you go to a museum, but the story of it…, oh gosh, it’s really amazing! I’d love to write about it here, and probably I will soon in a different blog post, but the best is to go there and see for yourselves, it’s really amazing!

Next to the Kon Tiki museum is the Fram Museum, this one was my choice and I had just an idea of what I should expect, however it totally blew my mind as well! These norwegian guys are totally nuts! And thinking that I am portuguese and that for some reason I might have some adventurers blood running on my veins, this is really way more than I was expecting! Here the story it is a blast, but the ship itself, where you can visit from inside and you really see its majesty a few centimeters from you and that you look up and you only see the hull, it’s really impressive! Another museum that I really recommend to visit! With the Oslo Pass you can get it all for free, and please do it!

After the museums, we headed home but I ended stopping at the Vigeland Park, here was time for a little bit of fresh air, fun and more creepy photos to the Teddy Bear…, some people really looked at me with that odd thought of “What the hell is he doing with that?? Is he mental??” Well…, I might be 😀

After the cultural day, time for the chill out night! One of us had a list of pubs to visit, and therefore we headed to one of them…, which happened to be closed. Sundays…, I think that’s kinda of expected. Funny thing, someone tried to rob me…, maybe that wasn’t that funny after all, but in a few minutes after I was waiting for a great dinner, with an expected visit… A guy, norwegian I believe, just joined us at our table. The guy started to speak in a language that wasn’t familiar to us, most probably norwegian, I think that guy was a freeloader trying to get a cheaper meal or even free…, no luck, Oslo is too expensive to be nice 🙁

After the dinner, we headed to a second pub which happened to be… also closed 🙁 We ended in another pub just for a pint or two, and then home. Huge day, everyone was really tired.

Third day

… and the last one 🙁 Pity, Oslo is really nice. Since we had a very short day, we decided to do the islands trip, and since the Oslo Pass doesn’t allow free rides with the touristic boats…, we did our free tour with ferries 😀 The small isles next to Oslo, about two 45 minute trips to visit those isles without leaving the ferry. However, was the day that I shot more photos. And again, creepy photos with Teddy bear…

Back to inland, we enjoyed the very few hours left in Oslo, we crossed a park on our way home, we packed and we left to the airport. The flight was again quite interesting, Halloween night with sound effects done by one guy of the crew. Crazy people…

Back in Ireland, time to check if the car was could start, which after some prayers started to work at first try! And back to Cork, where I fall asleep in a few minutes and where, apparently, the driver was so tired she had to stop several times :X Shame on me, but I barely noticed whatsoever :X

PS: After several days upon our trip, the driver (which had that awful start with the car), finally managed to get her iPhone work again after a “phone-bath” minutes before the problem with the car! That first day was really tough for her, but everything ended well 🙂

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Europe Journal

Cliffs of Moher

And another place in Ireland 🙂 This country has really amazing landscapes, and today we went to one of the candidates for the 7 Wonders of Nature, the Cliffs of Moher!

This is starting to be scary, once again my huge luck is surprising me and those around me…, we planed to go to the Cliffs of Moher during last week, a great sunny week (for irish standards)…, however everything has to end and also the good weather. Today we started our trip around 9am, a rainy day was ahead and as everything in Ireland we shouldn’t postpone this trip because the weather will always be unpredictable. Ok, let’s go! Cliffs of Moher!

Rain, rain, rain all the way…, and I was all the way barging about my huge luck and that we would have a great sunny day at the Cliffs… But before the cliffs, we had to make a stop for gas and food (fast breakfast) were we met an American guy hitch hiking also to the Cliffs. He asked us for a ride, but we were already 3 and a dog…, so we said no. But on the car we decided “let’s help the guy”…, we has already gone 🙁 Pity….

Back to the road…, rain, rain and more rain…, oh wait…, some sunshine… now some real sun and just cloudy…, oh there’s the cliffs and a blue sky!! Yep, it happened again!

The cliffs are great, but to be honest nothing that surprising. Just some cliffs, quite high though, but nothing too impressive. In my humble opinion there are way more impressive things in Ireland, but I still think it’s worth the trip!

The path is quite easy to do, always close to the scarps but nothing too challenging. We had a situation with some cows and Kaja (the dog that was with us), which forced us to run a little bit close to the edge (that was funny :P) and tens of photos! We didn’t go until the end, after a while we decided to go back and go for some food, after all we didn’t have any lunch and it was already almost 4pm. And when we decided to go back…, who did we find in the cliffs?? The american guy that asked for a ride!

Apparently today someone died (or disappeared) in the cliffs, Steve (the American guy) told us that they were looking for a guy that decided to do part of the trail alone…, the typical situation that you tell your friends “I am just behind you” and that everything goes wrong… Hopefully everything is ok with the guy, we had no more news about that.

Back to the car, which we paid 18 euros for parking… tip for those driving there: Do NOT go to the park with a car full of people, every each of them will pay 6 euros while nobody is checking for the tickets at the cliffs entrance!

Well, we gave a ride to the american guy to a town which I don’t remember the name, but before that we stop for “lunch/dinner”. While there, he asked us if he could go with us all the way to Cork! Well, no trouble at all! And the guy has an amazing life-story, it is always great to meet new people even better when they are such unique!

The way back wasn’t that exciting, some stops for photo shooting to the sunset, and nothing more than that, just that Steve might be now camping at the University College Cork’s campus 🙂 Good luck with that!

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Europe Journal

Kinsale

This Sunday I went to another town nearby Cork, a place mostly know by its restaurants and gourmet food, also by its history and the Flight of the Earls. As usually, I should had read about the town before going there, but sometimes the surprise its kinda of nice.

I went with my flatmate there for a photo-shooting trip, I heard about the food, I knew that’s a town by the sea so it only could be a nice place for some photos, and it is! My surprise was reading everywhere spanish names, restaurants, streets, etc. Not knowing anything about Kinsale, it was like a surprise and feeling that something really important happened there, my curiosity made me google for it and learn somethings about the Spanish and Irish history.

The town is definitely a place to return, next time for dinner at a good restaurant and to visit the town itself, this time we tried to find the Charles Fort and we spent some precious time doing it, but it worth it!

We were 5 minutes late, the doors for the last visitors closed minutes before we arrived at the fort but we managed to shoot some photos from outside, which is really great as well! I don’t believe we missed that much from inside, but I still want to visit it someday soon. Something that I truly recommend is walking from the town to the Fort through the coastal path, part of that path is just for pedestrians and it is really nice.

However, now I am a little bit sick due the strong wind we got there…, I heard that the hurricane passed through Ireland (way weaker) during this weekend, which explains the strong wind on both days…, and thanks to that, I am now like a snail…, though, I am already planning my next trips 🙂