Location: Amersfoort / Amsterdam, Netherlands
Yep, we made it back home, safe and as sound as when we left!
After 24 hours of travelling (Cuzco to Lima, then Lima to Amsterdam via Bonaire) W's parents and Jacco were waiting for us at the airport. The flights were super smooth, and we landed exactly as planned. The 7 hours we spent waiting at Lima airport were the worst part of the trip, and even that wasn't so bad. We had even managed to talk our way in to an upgrade, the only snag that they could not cancel W's (special) vegetarian meal. So close....
Wen's parents were so kind to prepare us a yummy dinner back at our own house (which looks even more wicked after being away so long!!), and helped us drink the Chilean wine and bottle of nice Pisco we brought home. Fantastic way to get over any jet-lag, since we now managed to fall asleep just fine at around 1 am!
It is weird how normal it feels to be home again. It is al so very different, yet so familiar as well. At this point, it seems impossible that we have actually been away for 2 months. Going throught the immense amount of pictures, will probably help a lot to fully realise the whole trip that is now behind us. It's been an amazing experience.
Location: Cuzco, Peru
Well, well, we zijn zo ver... home time looms as we enjoy our last day in Cuzco.
We bowed to the pressure of "you have to see this" and went to Machu Picchu yesterday. We opted for the one day trip which gave us plenty of time to enjoy peruvian buses and trains, oh and MP itself. Up with the lark for a 4am pick-up, then a bus, then a train, then a bus. And then a queue (even at 9am) to get in to Machu Picchu. Amazing how much it feels like a day at Alton Towers / Efteling. Such a shame that the impressive beauty of the site is taken over by the large amounts of tourists (ourselves included). Especially when some of them only take photos when told to by the guide, this meant (of course) that we instantly put the camera away (for 20 seconds at least). That said, it was really good to have a guide explain the significance of the ruins, the locations, and the surrounding mountains. What a beautiful place for an Incan summer house! Apparently planning permission can be tricky though. Fussy people!
All in all, we were glad we went to see it (definitely unique and the biggest, most intact Inca site) and yet a little disappointed by the lost magic. Example being, Huayna Picchu (young mountain in background of photos) is only open to 400 visitors a day so by the time we were there at 9am it was already fully booked. A shame.
Highlight of the day was talking our way on to a train 4 hours earlier than the one we were originally booked on (the only one still with places as we were told). So nice just to chat to people who then work with you in a friendly way, while we saw some foot-stamping, demanding tourists left behind to take the later train. Odd as our carriage was only two thirds full.
Today we are just hanging out in Cuzco and avoiding packing until the last possible moment. Great to come home, great to have such good memories, sad to leave it behind us. See you soon! And thanks for being with us (in spirit at least) on this trip!
Location: Uros Islands& Cuzco, Peru
It´s really happened... we reached our final destination for this trip: Cuzco. Weird!!! Once the "navel of the world" and centre of the Inca empire, now the same thing apparently for travellers. The good side of this: it feels really familiar and we´re having by far the best food of the last two months!! See how many kilos we can put back on before flying back on Friday. So no worries, Mark!
Before getting on the train from Puno to here, we spent a morning visiting the floating (reed) islands of the Uros people, who have been living on these islands since 1100. Fascinating to walk on spungy ground (not unlike a bouncy castle), which is just held in place by rope and some long eucalyptus poles. We had a really good explanation into the life of the people on the islands and the chief of one of the islands we visited gave a demo of how it was built. Impressive stuff! We took a traditional reed boat to a second, larger island (with public phonebooth!!!), where Roland almost took a swim when taking a walk over an old bit of reed. Makes us wonder when they decide an island is up for renewal??
We took the train to Cuzco because it is supposed to be one of the most beautiful train journey in the country. We realised we´re starting to get spoiled by the sight of yet another group of llamas on the altiplano. Yawn! ;-)
Still a beautiful trip, and with nice company which made the 10 hours fly by. Despite being in backpacker class, we still had waiter service. Didn´t have that on a bus yet!
In Cuzco, we managed to get in to hostal Niños after all. Run by a Dutch couple who use all of the income of two hotels, a hacienda and appartments to feed, educate and support 500 street kids. We´ll go and visit the project itself tomorrow (www.ninoshotel.com). Staying in the hotel is no hardship to make a contribution. It is a beautiful colonial building in the centre of Cuzco.
We like Cuzco a lot more than we thought. It is cleaner than any other city we visited and the touts are not as persistent as we were warned. This morning, we walked to the site of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced very much like Sexy Woman in a Jamaican accent). Very impressive that so much is left of the old Inca buildings and the scale of the stones used (biggest one about 3 times our height!). How on earth did they get them up there, and so neatly stacked without the use of cement??
Now only 3 days left. And yes, we will go and visit Macchu Picchu after all on Wednesday!
We hope we are not boring you with all our reports yet. We really are looking forward to telling stories in person again! (you have been warned...)
Location: Puno, Peru
Just a short message. We crossed our last border before returning home. Still by the Lake (Titicaca), but now on the Peruvian side in Puno. Tomorrow we´ll go and see the floating reed islands, hopefully without sunstroke (heeehee, Jacco...).
We also just wanted to share some of the pics of the bikeride down the World´s Most Dangerous Road. We just received the link for them: http://www.shutterfly.com/pro/GravityBolivia/Ju... (password: photos). The pics of our group start on page 13 and stop around page 22. If you´re thinking they turn to black and white after a while, that´s only the dust...
This Saturday we take the (slow but apparently beautiful) train to Cuzco, our last stop before flying home! Boo.... although looking forward to seeing people again! And our own, comfortable, bed and bath....
Location: Coroico & Copacabana, Bolivia
It´s been a while since we let you know what we are up to.
First up, we BIKED DOWN THE WORLD´S MOST DANGEROUS ROAD!!!!!! And survived without falling off once, even Roly. The start point is at La Cumbre (4,700m) and the end was near Coroico (1,100m): serious downhill!! The first 22 km is on asphalt before the fun (i.e. dangerous bit) starts. The next 40 or so km is on dirt road, we mean dirt, dust, dirt, and more dust! What makes it dangerous though, is how narrow the road gets at points. So narrow that it is impossible for a lorry and a bike to pass at the same time! The trick is to go down as fast as you can until you hear the "bolivian radar" - beep, beep! - and then pull over next to the big drop (ravijn) and let the truck or bus go by until the dust clears enough so you can bike on. Along the way we saw the skeleton of a bus that had fallen down two weeks earlier, biked through some (cooling) water falls, and some big puddles! Apart from that it was mostly dust all the way. Great fun! Especially as we had very good guides - amazing how dangerous other bikers looked - and a welcome beer at the bottom!
After this, we went on to Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The Lake is massive, it seems more like a sea than a lake. Odd if you realise that with 3,840 m altitude it is the highest navigable lake in the world. We noticed the altitude pretty quickly though when walking up to our amazing hostal with views over the lake. The best room so far!
Copa feels more like a seaside resort than anything else, including donkey rides, pedalos (waterfietsen), and a very old-fashioned fun fair! Above all, super relaxing.
A short boat ride away is the Isla del Sol: birthplace of the Incas. We spent two days (1 night) on the island, even more relaxed. We started by the (very steep) Inca Steps in the south and walked to a very basic hostal in Challa (half-way up). Next day, we were up in time to see the sunrise (honest!) then walked on to the Inca ruins in the very north of the isla. Well worth the effort of walking.
We are now having another lazy day in Copa before leaving Bolivia (boo!) and crossing over to Puno in Peru. Odd to realise that we only have two more stops before flying home. Looking forward to seeing everyone again, and the comfort of our own house.
Location: Jungle & back in La Paz, Bolivia
We survived the jungle and are back in La Paz for a day! With only a few mosquito bites.
From La Paz we flew into Rurrenabaque in a tiny little Cessna airplane (19 seats....). As scary as this sounds, it was one of the best flights we have had and with amazing views over the white peaks, especially the landing on a mud-runway. Felt very Indiana Jones. Funny to have people waving you in in shorts. Amazing heat and humidity the second we stepped out of the plane (and this is dry season...).
We spent a day in the small trading (and now tourist) village Rurre, suddenly feeling we were in Jamaica instead of Bolivia. Such a shame to have to wear long sleeves etc. all the time, when it is finally warm! We witnessed a protest "march" on motorbikes to complain that there had been no "luz" (i.e. electricity) for 3 days.
Next day, we were picked up from the hostel to get on our boat to Chalalan, the only (eco-)lodge actually in the Madidi National Park. The cost of this is having to face a very bumpy 6 hour journey on a small boat, with several tricky bits: white water splashing over the sides and people jumping out to save us from flipping over; guides (and R!) needing to push the boat where it got stuck on the bottom. The river is running really low in this dry season.
At Chalalan, we got a private cabaña, complete with hammock, deck chair and of course the necessary mosquito net. Very cool! Just amazing to hear the jungle sounds around us. Especially at night and in the mornings, when the howler monkeys started roaring (the first morning W thought it was a silly siren or something, urging us to get up).
While at Chalalan, we did some fantastic walks on their own (thematic) trails and saw a host of jungle creatures, including prehistoric birds, a poisonous frog and non-poisonous snake, macaws, tucans and many other birds, 3 types of monkeys and some caymans (kaaimannen) -little crocs in the same lake we took a swim in. Last ones only at night though, from the safety of a canoe and with a torch to light up their bright eyes, burning like fire (R still didn`t fully recover from his jungle fever.... ;-) ).
The last night, we had to witness and join in a traditional celebration, including a coca ritual (offerings to mother earth and chewing the coca leaves) and the complicated local dance. R loved the second part (dancing) especially!
The boatride back to Rurre was surprisingly smooth after the trip there (down-river this time). Which cannot be said about the VERY bumpy flight back to La Paz.
Location: Sucre & La Paz, Bolivia
Here we are again, this time from the world´s highest capital (Bolivia´s 2nd... very convenient), La Paz. After landing at the highest commercial airport in the world... Can anyone guess the theme of these travels? ;-) (sorry, it must be the altitude...)
Before flying out from Sucre, we spent some time at a refugio an hour away from the city in the middle of nowhere. Just mountains, trees, streams and charming cabañas with their own fireplace inside. Wicked! Super relaxing and nice to be in a smog-free zone and just SOO beautiful. First day we got to see the inside of the cabaña mostly, since we were both not feeling great. Dodgy tummies again. Amazing the curative power of a flat coke & great care of our hosts.
Second day we did some walking around the property. At night we got a mini-course on astronomy from the Peruvian/Bolivian Patrick Moore, and got to see Saturn, the moon and a part of the Milky Way through a telescope. SOOO cool!
We had a choice between a 14 hour busride (at night) to La Paz, or 40 mins flight. Tough choice. Weird to fly again. Especially, with no life jackets! (yep Jacco, W also always checks)
Tomorrow, we head to the Amazon basin in Madidi National Park for 4 days. We´ll be staying at an eco-lodge, run by an indigenous tribe, the Chalalan (not to be mistaken for the song..): http://www.chalalan.com. Looks great!
P.S.: More captions on the last pic in the Salt Plain section please, otherwise Jacco is going to win too easily!
Location: Potosi & Sucre, Bolivia
Thank you soo much for all the great messages. Really nice to read them and know that you are enjoying the website.
We´ve done a couple more "dangerous pursuits" the last few days (sorry, Felicity..). First of all, we visited the silver mines in Potosi. We did a private tour in the end, so we could take the time we wanted to see different things and not need to go down any further than needed. The lower 2 levels can be up to 40 degrees, whereas the outside temp is just above 0. The work methods and conditions in the mine have not changed much in the last 200 years. Altogether very impressive to walk/crawl/scramble through the mine and see the miners at work. Unbelievable to think that these guys do this from the age of 15 until they basically get too sick to work or are one of the lucky ones who come across a rich source. Before going to the mine, we went to the "miner´s market" to buy gifts for the miners: drink, coca leaves (which they chew all they) and dynamite!! We felt and heard, but luckily did not see any of the dynamite being exploded.
After visiting the mines, we went straight on to Sucre, the official capital of Bolivia, in the south still (apparently, they just have 2 capitals...). We get a lot nicer feeling about this city than of Potosi. A lot easier going and cleaner. People actually seem happy here. Just wealthier as well, which helps. Still we struggle every now and again, walking past begging people. Especially the very young and very old. Hard to say what´s best to do (give or not?).
Yesterday we went on a mountainbike-trip up to dino tracks (mostly funny, though real) & down to the 7 waterfalls (that is, in rainy season! Now about 2 pools left). Tricky to go up-hill (quite high up still), especially with trucks going by with very old exhausts and needing to give a bit extra gas. Better once we were off-road. A lot more fun going down on a dirt road, even though over far too quickly. Next stop: the most dangerous road in the world by La Paz.... (sorry 2, F.).
After a 40 min. scramble to the "falls", we braved the freezing waters and took 2 dives (one necessarily, to get back to our clothes...). BBQ afterwards in the huge garden of the hacienda and a veggie option for W. And a very sad R. after hearing about England´s loss...
Today is a weird day in Sucre. Regional elections are taking place today, and for some reason this leads to hardly any cars in the streets. Lots of children playing instead. Really nice atmosphere actually.
Moving on to a refugio with nice cabañas about 30 k´s from here tomorrow. Apparently nice walks and free astronomy lessons as well as our own fireplace in the cabaña!!!!
Location: Potosí, Bolivia
Arrived yesterday in the highest city in the world (4,070 m.) after a tough 6 hour busride through some stunning mountain scenery. We came to the conclusion that "Bolivia" means "dusty, bumpy roads" in ancient Inca language. Linguists all around the world will soon thank us. Apparently, only 5% of all Bolivian roads are paved, and these all seem to be in the city centres.
Potosí itself, in the south of Bolivia, was established by the conquistadores to exploit the local mountain/mine: Cerro Rico. Countless thousands of slaves died in or due to the mines, while the Spanish made their fortunes. You can really sense this legacy as you walk around. Especially the divide between rich and poor. This theme continues today, as we heard from the recently elected Bolivian president, Evo Morales (first indigenous pres), who was here yesterday to speak in the main square to close the campaign for regional elections. Very impressive!
Apart from that, we are planning a trip to the mines tomorrow before heading on to Sucre (a bit further east).
Today´s higlight was playing out the Holland - England clash on a fussball table in the middle of a small square after paying some very interested local kids 20 ctvs for the privilage.