A Travellerspoint blog

January 2009

The three way border of Peru, Columbia and Brasil

Tabatinga- the place were we were ripped off royally

On the Amazonas lies a famous three way boarder of Brazil, Columbia and Peru. It is an invisible line between these countires and you can walk freely between the three. Leticia in columbia is really cool whereas Tabatinga where we choose to stay was a dump. It did not help that we were fooled buy this so called guide who although he initially was very helpful totally ripped us off (could go on all day about it but not worth it) and it was not the nicest of experiences. Anyway, Tabatinga had nothing...we were struggling to find a place to eat (everywhere looked manky) and there was no internet or nothng there. We decided to waste no time and fly out the next day to Manuas in the jungle where we were planning to do our jungle trip.

We were advised by our so called guide to take a taxi to the airport as it is very far and to be there three hours before. Well the taxi ride took ten minutes and we of course he had arranged for a ridiculous price for the taxi. anyway, we arrive in this airport hall and it is empty and it is not even the size of our apartment at home. The three hours beforehand turns out to be bullshit and so we sit down to wait. There is NOTHING in this airport- one little shop which is not even open. Anyway, K reads this book called Alive which is about a palne that crashed full of Uruguayan rugby players (not the best book to read ahead of flying) and finally people start to arrive. Soon there is an announcement by a girl in portugese which we of course dont understand. We have been told that everyone in Tabtinga understand Spanish but it turns out that nobody speaks English and we can only find one guy who barely speaks Spanish. Finally it becomes clear that the plane is somethng like 7 hours delayed becasue of bad weather. We have no choice but to wait in the very exciting airport and something like 10 hours after we arrive in the airport do we get to leave it....We are not too happy to see that the airplane is tiny with propellers. The flight was very bumpy and as K is reading the book (martin has already read it) we are convinced this is it...We are very happy to reach Manaus to say the least.

Posted by kmandmc 08:35 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Iquitos- stuck in the jungle with street kids!

In order to get to Brazil and the Amazonas we needed to fly to the north of Peru to a city called Iquitos. Despite its size (600,000 inhabitants) it can only be reached either by boat or by plane. Our plan was not to spent long there but to get the first available boat to the border of Brazil.

As we get there on a Saturday we are informed that there is no boats until Wednesday and no other way to get out but fly which would be too expensive. So we have to face the fact that we are stuck in this jungle city for a lot longer than we expected. We quickly realise that it is a pretty run down place but we will really come to enjoy it despite its scruffiness. Best of all we are finally off the gringo trail as there are very few gringos around!

As it is Saturday when we arrive we decide to check out the place and we get to a bar called the Yellow Rose of Texas where we have a few beers. All the staff are lovely and we also get harrassed by a lot of street kids selling stuff. They turn out to be very charming and for the next few days they become our friends in Iquitos. As the waiters finish their shifts we are invited to go dancing with them and of course we say yes! The nightclub turns out to be great- not a gringo (well very few) in sight and a place of full of peruvians dancing the most amazing salsa. Myslef and Martin feel like stiff gringos but everyone is really nice to us and we have a great laugh.

For the next few days Martin is quite sick (travel belly AGAIN...) and we take it easy and just hang around the town. As said before the street kids become our best friends and as soon as we step out of the hostel they run towards us shouting our names and want to hang with us (well also get money out of us of course). Unfortunately we dont get to take pictures of our new found friends because although they are very sweet and all that we had a feeling that a hug from them could mean that our cameras would dissapear. So it turns out that the place we intended to spend little time in turned out to surprise us as the people in Iquitos were lovely and for the first time we really got to hang out with locals.

On Wednesday morning we took a crazy mototaxi (a moped with a little carriage behind it) to the river where we caught an early speed boat that would bring us to the three way border of Peru ,Columbia and brasil 10 hours later on the Amazonas river.

Posted by kmandmc 08:20 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Rafting in Peru


storm 20 °C

Finally we got our asses in gear and organised rafting. We went with Susan and Chippy to a river that runs by Macchu Picchu but whose name escapes us, minor detail!!. Together with Chippy we formed the left side of the raft. Susan opted for another boat! Martin took the lead, Chippy in the middle and Karolina was the powerhouse at the back.

It was brilliant fun. The rapids reached a class of 4 plus (we were told). Although it was really exciting at no stage did we feel really at risk but then again, we were not in Chippy´s wet suit. At the toughest stage we hit a few tough rapids and lost a man overboard. That man was Chippy! At the same time Martin was left horizontal with the water hanging over board meaning only Karolina was left paddling. Martins only grip was his foot in a foot holder. Eventually he regained his hold in the boat and managed to save Chippy´s paddle....they are really expensive you know as they do not have factories in Peru to make them!! Chippy was left hanging on to the boat until finally and heroically he was pulled on board by his Austrailian rafting partner!!

Here are a few pics. It was a great experience and I would recommend it. Next time we try it will be in New Zealand....

Where is Karolina??


Martin is obviously working very hard...

Yeah.. we made it...

Posted by kmandmc 16:33 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

The Inca Trail- with a twist!

So it is time for us to do the epic Inca trail. We have been looking forward to this for months. A little bit less excitement now that we still have sore legs after the Colca Cnayon and everyone telling us how difficult it is....

Anyway, we meet our group the night before the trip for a briefing. Our guides Oskar and Saul seem very nice and the group which mostly consists of Irish likewise. Anyway, how come the Inca trail is full of Irish- most Irish we meet are interested in partying...and then the Inca trail!! Hmmmmm Although we have this guy in our group from the Uk living in OZ that straight away is telling us he will be trouble. He is storming out of the place because they missed that he wanted an xtra large mat and not an ordinary mat!! Yeah, that guy needs a life when that is what he gets upset about. Anyway, at the briefing we are told that because of a planned demonstration by farmers we will need to be picked up at 3am in the morning (instead of six) to avoid the demonstration. Yippey- NOT.

After about 1 hours sleep we get up for three to wait to be picked up. Surprise surprise...they are a full hour late. Luckily Susan and Chippy who are also staying at our hostel are entertaining...well as entertaining as one can be at 3 in the morning- and that is a big compliment.

So we head off in the bus and arrive at the village closest to where the trail starts as the sun is about to rise. As we drive along with our bus we are met by some sight- there are big rocks all over the road. Just before this we have picked up our porters (they are called Chetskis which means Inca runners in Quetchua which is the Inca language still spoken here). These are all tiny men who will turn out to do superhuman things as they carry all our stuff. We can not talk enough of how impressive these guys are....Anyway, the chetskis are ordered out with the guides to clean the road of the stones and like little ants they clear it within minutes. They jump back on the bus and just a few meters away we are met by an unwelcoming group of locals. Hundreds of farmers and locals are blocking the road and we are ordered to get off the bus and walk the last big as it would be dangerous for us to continue in the bus. As we begin to approach them we very quickly realise that this wont be easy. The farmers are desperate in every sense of the word- the are very poor by the looks of it, very angry and very drunk and there is no way in hell they will let us through. We quickly run back onto the bus and from there we watch as our guides try to reason with them and also as they are kicked and abused by some of the farmers. We are then ordered to reverse the bus (no choice as roads are very narrow) and go back where we came from. The Chetskis are also ordered to put back the stones. All in all this was pretty scary and not much fun to expereince....there would not have been many seconds until it could have turned into something nasty.


Waiting around on the Machu Pichu railway for the demonstrations to be over

Anyway, we are told by our guides that it is too dangerous to go ahead as the famers tell us that we will be attacked if we try to break through so we have to wait until they tire (or get polatic drunk and fall asleep)....for how long they are not sure but normally they should be tired by the afternoon. We have very little choce but waiting around and as we drive back we see loads of stranded groups just like us and they have even blocked the railway that goes to Machu Pichu. As we wait around we are approached by Peruvian TV and some of the guys in the group get to do interviews. We are offically famous!!!


In late morning we see some tourists starting to walk by us with all their backpacks and they inform us they will try to sneak up the other way and chance it as they might now be too tired and too drunk to put up a big fight. This sounds dodgy to us but as we wait and they don´t return we make a decision to give it a shot. Thing is this would involve an extra 10km of walking in mountains and we are already very late...Anyway we set off and we have to walk through fileds with bulls, cross a river with strong current and we finally come to the spot where the farmers are standing (although it is at the opposite side of the river). They are blocking the road with very tall and sharp sticks of wood and look quite intimidating. It does not calm us when all guys are ordered to the front in case of a fight. Anyway, Saul, one of our guides start negotiating with them. It turns out that his brother ran for Mayor of the area (Ollantaytambo) the year before and he is from the area and known to them. After some discussions it turns out that they will let us through if we all give them a small tip. It probably should be added at this point that they were all pretty drunk and probably just wanted money for beers. Finally we are trough!!! Although we still have 10k to walk until we even reach the beginning of the trail. The plan originally was to walk for seven hours on the first day which is the quivalent if about 15k. It will turn out that we will end up walking for 8k more on the first day and many hours more....The fist day is supposed to be the easy day,mostly flat ground but when you add the extra distance it ended up being very tiring. But hey, at least we finally reached the Inca trail and we were on our way. We reached our first camp as the sun was coming down and had a fabulous meal in a tent that was set up by the chetskis. During the trail we will continously be amazed by the things that is brought for us and the food that will be served. Three course meals for lunch and dinner and snack times with popcorn and biscuts and tea. Personal bowls of hot water for each individual ahead of each meal to wash and we are woken up on in our tents with hot tea every morning. We can go on and on about it but it really is truyly amazing. It is like five star luxury only that we are staying in tents...

Camping in the clouds

Ghost stories

Anyway, the other thing worth mentioning apart from the fact that the nature on the first day is really breathtaking. It sounds like a cliche but it truly is. We also got to get entertained by our troublesome friend. It took about five minutues or so into our walking and he started complain that it was difficult. Well, he said he felt sick but....Anyway, he did not join us for dinner and early the next morning he announced he was going to return. This meant we would loose our guide Oskar who would have to go back with him. The plan was for them to meet up with us again on day four in Machu Pichu. we were sad to loose Oskar as he seemed like a really good guy. Mostly we felt sorry for him as he would have to walk and hang out with the grumpy fecker. It is no exaggeratoion- rarely have we met anyone as miserable.


Our schedule was out now so it meant that we would have different target camps. Having never done this before it made little or know difference to us other than it would be a harder,longer trek. Day two is notoriously the toughest day. It was mainly uphill- SERIOUS uphill! We reached 4200 meters and the air was thin up there making it all the more difficult. The last few meters were bloody hard but totally worth the pain. However, we made it to the top and we had rain for about 10minutes only. It was great having the two scots there as they were fit and we just followed them. It should be mentioned here that Susan is a freak as she smokes 20 a day but don´t tell her dad and she was super fit too. The summit is known as Dead womans pass, aptly named as it looks like a giant tit! Impossible to get a hand on it though!

We made it to the top!

Once we made it to the top we were met by an incline of anynumber of meters, i.e. 2 hours downhill. Downhill in general is tough on the knees and this was no different. The steps were original Inca steps meaning they were rugged and not uniform. So watch your step please!! We were due up at an ungodly hour the following day so we all hit the hay after another splendid dinner.

Day three was much the same. The same aul gang, the same aul amazing scenery, the same aul amazing dinners BUT there was a place to buy beers. We did this in earnest. We presented our tips to the chetskis and said our goodbyes to them. They were (tiny) legends. A good few beers were had but we were curtailed by another 4am start.

Last supper (and beers) with the gang

The final day we got up at 4am. The control opened at 5.30 so to have brekkie and pack up the sleeping bags etc. We had a 2 hour trek to the sun gate in Macchu Picchu all through eally heavy mist. The mist whic was at strak contrast to the mountains offered some unbelieveable views.

Early morning mist

Martin in the clouds1

Martin in the clouds 2

After 3 really good days it was obvious the weather was going to be crap on the last and most important day. From the sun gate (which is where you get the first view of Machu Pichu) all we could see were fluffy white clouds. It was unfortunate but we will no doubt download pics from Flickr and pretend they are ours!! We continued into Macchu Picchu were we would wait for quite a while for the weather to clear. Nob Jockey Moany hole was there to meet us as he had recovered from his near death sickness. Within minutes he was moaning again and after about an hours worth of rain he left. To come all this way and then to leave because of rain is uncomprehendable. What a twat....Anyway, too much airtime for him already. The weather cleared somewhat and we entered Macchu Picchu. It is a natural wonder to be honest. It blew both of us away, even if the clouds did mess with our pictures. It should really be said here that although Machu Pichu really was fantastic it was the journey there that blew us away and Machu Pichu was just the icing of the cake ( a cloudy one).

The "disappointing" views of the sungate

Machu Pichu- as good as it gets!

What makes excursions and treks like this is the group. We were so lucky as the rest of the group were fantastic. We had from Team Ireland: Susan, Chippy, Majella, Colin and Crea. We also had two gay scottish lads (okay, they were not gay...in case they ever read this!!!) Paul and Michael, two Danes in Marianne and Rolf and also a Red Liverpudlian named Dave. It was great to hang out with all these guys although difficult to loose them once we got back to Cusco as we constantly bumped into them....and drank with them!!

The Irish flag on top of Machu Pichu

Our Team....





Posted by kmandmc 16:03 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Surrviving the Colca Canyon

30 °C

One of the main attractions while being in Arequipa is to trek the Colca Canyon. It is actually the second deepest in the world and is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Anyway it all sounded cool to us but we felt we had very little time as we wanted to spend some more time in Cusco so we were humming and haawing about it for ages until we decided feck it we will do it. So we booked with this crowed called Land Adventures that sounded good for 3 days and two nights. They all told us how fantastic it was but nobody told us this would be a killer....

We are told we will be picked up at 4am. Afer only a couple of hours of sleep we drag ourselves out of bed and wait in the courtyard in the hostel......for 1 hour and 15 minutes!!! Grrrrr...not happy campers at all. On the bus we zzzzzzzzz.

We arrive at the Mirador de Condor (viewpoint of the condors) at about 8am. There are a lot of tourists around all hoping to see the Condors. We are looking over this incredible canyon and that on its own is worth the trip and the early morning rise. We are incredibly lucky the see 4 or five of these unbelievable animals- they really are something else. Massive! One flies over our heads as we are getting back into the bus and had Martin managed (which he did not) to get the camera out in time it would have been the best picture ever...Hmmm

The path

Next we arrive in the village of cochabamba where we meet our tour guide Vladimir. Our group consists of an Irish couple called Michael and Sarah and an Cyprian couple called Andreas and Lenny. Turns out that Lenny has got a severe bout of altitude sickenss and will have to see a doctor. While we have a dodgy lunch of Alpacha meat they go off with Vladi to find a doctor. It all takes much longer than expected and we see all other groups go off while we wait around. finally vladi comes back with this local girl called Marissa who is a local guide and says to go ahead with her as it is getting late and he will follow with Andreas. So off we go...

Views of the Canyon...


Now to say that we strolled down that mountain would be a gross lie. Before we headed off we were told it would be a 6 to 7 hour walk mostly downhill (the last hour or so would be uphill). After about a 30 minute stroll we were told in no unceratin terms that we were in a hurry so we began to practiacally run down that mountain. That would be fine had the downhill not been at a 45 degree slope (that is bloody steep) with ridiculously steep drops on one side and mountain on the other and very narrow. Given that it was all loose stones we did a mixture of falling and sliding down the rocks! We were in such a rush that we nearly failed to appreciate the unbeleivable beauty of the place. Ater more than 3 hours of sliding down rocks we made it to a bridge and Marissa seemed satisfied that we had made up a lot of time so she told us to take it slower up the hill. The lads (Martin and Michael) slagged her that she was late for a date so that was why we were in such a rush! It took her a while to appreciate the jokes!

Another Colca Canyon view...

We were relieved that we could take it a bit slower. Sarah and Michael had just done the inca trail and climbed up and down El Misti and said the Inca trail is a stroll in the park in terms of the pace we were keeping. Our legs were like jelly and then we saw the hill we had to climb to get to our lodgings of the first night which was in a village with a local family. Half way through the mountain uphill we meet a lady who is the lady of the house we are staying whith and she has come to meet us. We thought that meant we must be really close but no way. This lady was 53 years of age (looks older like most Peruvian women in the countryside). She put us to shame and as we struggled up the hill she was running up it like a young girl. Very embarrassing. The lady and Marissa came into their own right and started showing us the plants and fruits of the area. Only as we actaully arrived in the village did we begin to appreciate how isolated they live. To bring anything to the village that does not grow naturally is such and effort. Only human or mules can go there and it takes practically a day to go to the nearest village and back for anything. Once we arrived to the village and the home of the family the beer we had tasted so much better after the effore we realise it takes to get it there. And....those beers were well deserved. Once we sat down having the beer we realised the views were something else. It is an amazing feeling realising how remote you are when all you see is mountains everywhere.

Having a well deserved beer at the village the first night

Martin unloading the rations...

Karolina (on the left) and Karolina (the donkey on the right)..

Sunset from the village

Just as we arrived it was getting dark quickly and there was no sign of either Vladi or Andreas. Now although Andreas looked much younger and certainly acted it he is 50 years old and many stones overweight so we were worrying that if we struggled to get here on time there was little chance he would. After a while Valdi comes running in the dark and says he had left Andreas at the bridge and that he had come to fetch a mule to collect him to get him up the mountain. Now, the weight of stuff the mules carry is amazing and they say they can carry up tp 100kg no problem (martin got to feel the weight of stuff they carry as he helped Mauritus the man of the house unload his mules- see pics). Thing is that andreas would be a lot heavier than that...I think even Vladi was concerend the mule would not make it. Mauritius had obviously been prewarned by Vladi as when he left he asked Vladi what the name of the fatso was forgetting that we understood Spanish!!! Very funny...Anyway, after an hour or so Andreas and the mule come back..not sure which looked more tired!

We have a delicious meal prepared in ancient inca ways and in a really old style stove and kitchen. It really felt like going back in time. The family were very friendly and it was a fab expereince to get to stay with a family rather than an owl hostal. Afer a few bevvies and great food and company we fell into bed. It was very hard to imagine that the next day would be even more difficult.

We woke up early the next morning to help prepare an Inka breakfast. Karolina was given the task of frying corn on the stove while Martin was grinding it down - old style. The result was this big thing that looked like goo. we were told to eat it but none of us were convinced that this was actually edible as it had not been put into an oven yet. And it did not help that Vladi turns out to be a big joker. So we tuck into this very strange food (kind of like eating doe) which tastes quite good but weird all while Martin is loudly messing saying that there is no way this is edible and urging us all not to eat it. Turns out it is the way it is eaten...ooops Martin.

Karolina the Inca housewife..

So after a lot of doe in our bellies we start walking down hill again down to an oasis where there are pools from water from the mountians. On the way we were picking fruits that we had never heard of and shown amazing plants that heal all kinds of illnesses including the famous san pedro cactus. Anyway as we get to the Oasis we are very hot and dying for a swim. Then it strats getting really cloudy and not very warm. But the setting is somethng else and it feels like paradise. We have a gorgeous lunch and hang out for a good while.

The pool at the oasis

Lazy lunch at the oasis


Then the walk up from where hell begins. It is nearly impossible to describe how tough the walk up the hill really was. K thinks that the effort involved can only be likened with running a marathon (although she of course never have ran a marathon-she imagines it is as tough). By the time we reached the top our legs were like jelly and every step hurt a LOT. K never thought she would make it. Martin of course walked up it like he had dynamite stuck up his bum:-). Despite the effort the feeling afterwards is fantastic and although it might not sound like it we did get to see the most unbelieveable nature. Totally worth it. When we reached the top we were told that Marissa our guide is the champion of the yearly run that locals and guides do the circuit we did. It took us like 9 hours to do the whole thing. Turns out she does it in just over 3 hours. No wonder we were wrecked following her. So it turns out we have been outdone by an old lady and a young (chubby) girl......

We have the most amazing shower in a lovely hostel and after dinner we had a few beers and a great laugh. Needless to say we were absolutley wrecked.....oh the pain!

Next morning we had some time to kill and Marissa comes up with the idea that Karolina, Sarah and Lenny (who has now rejoined us and feels much better) dress up in local Peruvian women´s clothes. The clothes are really fab and consists of wearing layers and layers of skirts ect. Sooo heavy and it is hard to imagine that some women wear this on a every day basis. We were hurded out on the main square and stirred up some comotion amoungs the locals and tourists alike as we were walked around and shown off in the town like sheep. A lot of pictures were taken and Martin was both shocked and equally horrified and delighted to see his wife turn Peruvian. We had a great laugh doing it and a lot of giggles were had!

Martin and his Peruvian missus..

All the girls....

Posted by kmandmc 10:59 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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