Monday, 4 March 2013

Back home !!!!

The awesome falls


Hot and humid

Sorry about the delay but I am now home and it has been an adventure in itself but more of that later........Our chill time in Mancora was lovely, we even ate in a posh restaurant with fabulous food and some lovely Argentinian wine. We enjoyed walks along the beach and eating lovely vegetarian food. But all too soon it was over and we were off on the travels again.

On 20th February we left Mancora , in a minibus, for the airport in Piura and got to Lima about 8.30 pm. Our transport was waiting and we literally slept and then had breakfast and left for Lima airport again the next morning. Our flight to Iguassu was nearly 4 hours and there is a plus 2 hour time difference. When we got to Iguassu, in Brasil there was no transport-our hostel did free airport transfers. A lovely taxi guy rang the hostel who said it wasn't booked.

When we got to the hostel things just got worse, the guy said he had never heard of Pacarama, the booking website. When he checked there were no rooms. Eventually he found the e mails and realised that they had confirmed the transfer..........but still no rooms!! Eventually he found us another hostel, although more expensive. Joe came and picked us up and took us to hostel mango rosada -the pink mango. We were the only guests and he and his wife Gisella had been running the hostel for a year. These things happen for a reason and we would not have got much rest in our original choice. It was quiet, clean and comfortable with a huge Jacuzzi bath in the room and we quickly dropped our stuff and went in search of food. Pizza and beer have never tasted so good. Our plan was to see each side of the Iguassu falls on the next two days.

The hostel was quite away out of town but a good local bus was close by. We then got the bus to the falls, and paid our entrance. There is a 1.3km walkway that gradually reveals the fall and it is stupendous. Those of you on Facebook have already seen the photos..........At the very end you are on a walkway over the falls getting totally soaked by the spray. It was boiling hot, about 35 C and the humidity was about 90%. We loved it and it was so well laid out, the highlight of the trip for me.

We got back to town exhausted and decided not to spend the next day going to the Argentinian side of the falls- it was 2 hours drive each way and a 9k walk in the heat. We just went into town and then lazed by the pool. One of the advantages of independent travel-just going with the flow........  Next day up at 4.15 to get out next flight, 3 down 2 more to go. We flew the short hop to Sao Paulo and stayed in the Parnaby, an airport hotel with free shuttle. It was luxurious by our standards, but a corporate hotel and we could have been anywhere in the world. We enjoyed the pool and had a buffet dinner and then a buffet breakfast and ended up paying as much in extras as we did for the room!!

We got our flight from Sao Paulo and I was disappointed with Singapore airlines, everything at check-in was geared for their first and business class customers. The food on the flight was pretty average and we arrived in Barcelona tired and ready for a chance. Ibis budget doesn't do flexible check-in and with an international mobile phone congress on we ended up in a smoking room!!!GROSS.   After a nap I had to get out and went and sat at a cafe drinking red wine and eating tapas.........ah Spain.  We had a bottle of wine and some nice Chinese food -lovely after months of chicken and rice!!

Wednesday we flew Barcelona to Newcastle with Easyjet ( a low cost UK airline) and the customer experience was so much better than the previous flight with Singapore. Met my old boss and her husband returning from 2 nights, as a birthday treat for Karen's 50th.

It was wonderful to see Amy at Newcastle airport and Imogen came in on her way home from work. I have loved the trip but 10 months is a long time to be away from home. Would not do the same length of trip again, I missed the girls too much

Back home and it has just been constant hassle, my tenant left in January and her idea of clean and mine or totally different, so have had to clean from top to bottom. Needed a new mobile and that hasn't been straight forward either. But the most difficult part is coming home to find that my phone was disconnected and she has taken my number...........25 years with the same one........... BT can't reconnect me till Thursday so I have really struggled with no landline and no Internet. Thankfully got a laptop today and using my neighbour's wi-fi , which means I can use skype for calls. 

It feels really strange to be in one place and not having any planning to do but I am sure it will feel better soon. Got good news at the dentist today, my tooth doesn't need to come out PHEW.

 Met up with loads of my ex-colleagues at Karen's birthday party and know that retirement 4 and a half years ago was the best decision I EVER made.

Talking of decisions Chris and I have just been travel buddies for a long time now and in December, when he thought he would come home to help out with family problems, I realised that would be a good opportunity for a natural break and for me to continue on alone and possible meet someone new. He didn't return home but it was the impetus we needed. Everyone assumes we are a couple, I gave up explaining that he wasn't my husband and we have had a blast over the last three years but time for pastures new. Our travel plans may overlap in the future -we both have the Great Wall on our list.

So what next?? Well, a holiday with the girls in France over Easter, then a short house-sit for some friends. Spain for four days in May with my best friend and June 2nd off to Australia for 6 weeks to see the rugby. Amy and Carl are getting married in December and I want to spend Christmas at home this year. I would love to sell my house this year and no idea where I want to live.

My next big trip will only be 3 months and will either be China, Tibet and Nepal or Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Northern Thailand and not till 2014. Hope you have enjoyed these blogs, for me they supplement my daily journal and will make happy reading some time in the future.

I have a new mobile number 07581200375 and will have a landline by Thursday-I hope.

Best wishes

Norma xx

Friday, 15 February 2013

A holiday within a holiday........

Our plans to visit archaeological sites from Chiclayo were interesting to say the least. We booked a trip, with an English speaking guide just for us.........or so we thought!! The bus arrived nearly one hour late and when we enquired about our guide things didn't seem quite right, when he turned up he was the guide for the whole group and spoke limited English. So he would do the chat in Spanish first and then again in a briefer or scripted English. There then ensued a 5minute debacle where we were trapped on this very hot bus, with a bunch of Peruvian tourists just wanting to head off while i told him we didn't want to go and were going back to the office to get our money back. He kept refusing to let us off and never said a word in English. Now remember we speak Spanish and the reason for wanting an English speaking guide is these trips are unusually all day and it is very tiring concentrating. I have never come so close to hitting anyone in my life. Anyway eventually he saw sense and let us off.

The manager was very professional, apologised and gave us a refund. By law in Peru every business has to have a complaints book and one of the staff tried to tell us they didn't have one but again sense prevailed and I wrote my concerns-in Spanish. By this time it was 11.30 and back at the hostel Silvestro booked us the same tour for the next day with a better company!!

So we went to the bus station and booked our onward ticket and got a "micro" to the beach. The temperatures in town were about 35 C, so a bit of sea breeze would be welcome. Not before we were roasted in the micro, these are the local forms of transport, when new they are quite comfy and efficient, as they get older they get dirtier and less comfortable. But for less than 50p for a 30 minute journey its the only way to travel!!

Pimentel wasn't the pretties of beaches but sipping a cold Cusquena negra was very welcome. we had ceviche and chicken for lunch and then wandered a bit, it was clearly aimed at the South American tourist, cheesy tat for sale and even cheesier bars decorated with plastic flowers.

Next day , 10 minutes early, (unheard of in Peru) our English guide and the bus arrived. Orlando was lovely, had a good sense of humour and we set off happy. It was a great day , our first visit was to see 25 Huacas , these are S America pyramids. Then to a small town for lunch, delicious goat with rice. 

We then went to Museo Tumbes Reales which holds the collection excavated from the Huaca at Sipan. There is the Senore de Sipan and El viejo Senor de Sipan. Great grandfather and great grand son. It is fabulous, look at google images, silver gold and turquoise jewellery and body ornaments. Orlando really made it come to life guiding us round the museum as he told the story of how the excavation developed. We then went to Sipan to see the actual site but it is more than an hour away on bad roads and for me was a bit of an anti-climax. The museum is not near the archaeological site due to local politics.

We just chilled the next day and then set off for Mancora. This was our final destination , other than a Lima airport hostel. I was not really looking forward to it as had read some stories about the rowdiness etc. It is a surfing venue. 

We booked a small family run hotel, just on the edge of town-the centre gets party crazy. Margarita was a lovely host and it was clean and very comfortable. We went into town and it was manic, streets full of South American chavas, music so loud the ground was vibrating and hordes of young people getting wasted, and not just on alcohol. We later found out that there was a 3 day holiday in Ecuador and hundreds had poured over the border for a cheaper holiday. Mmmmm........thankfully it has quietened down a bit and it is good to go into town at night to eat.

We had 9 nights planned for Mancora and next day set off to find a relaxing place, with a cool room for sleeping ( our first hotel was like a sweat box). Eventually we opted for Mancora Kites, and I am sitting beside the pool writing this. We are 2 minutes from the sea, have a lovely big room, we get sea breeze which helps with the heat and we have outside space int he shade too. Perfect for relaxing, and all for 120 soles a night-£30 including breakfast-not bad considering this is high season and one place wanted 500!! 

Chris went diving yesterday, today I had a cookery class with a lovely man called Martin, he and his wife do classes in Spanish, salsa and cooking and also have a home stay. It was good , we went to the market and got the ingredients to make Arroz con Mariscos-not difficult to make but good to cook in the home of a local and it was delicious. First time I have eaten sea snails and they were good.

Chris dives again on Saturday and Monday he is doing  night dive for the first time. Our main occupation here is lying by the pool, a walk along the beach into town and reading books. I feel really tired and think it is because we have stopped. 

But next Wednesday it is off again on the last little leg. 5 flights in 8 days, one last bus journey THANK GOD and then off to Brazil to see the Iguazu falls and then home via Barcelona getting back 27th February.

Till next time , which will be the last missive from South America. I've had a fabulous 5 months but am ready fro home now........or am I as I look at the blue sky and sea and sand???????

Take care 

Cheesy bar Pimentel

Burrowing owl-Sipan

Tamale for breakfast yum-with chilli salad

Pina colada Happy Hour

Diet coke happy hour!!
Norma xx

Friday, 8 February 2013

Back in the desert

Hello, we had a mixed last day in Huaraz. The trip to the glacier ended at 5,000m and you then had to walk uphill, the exertions of our walking in Yungay got the better of us and after a horse ride halfway we just looked at the glacier from afar. It has receded about 800m in 8 years due to global warming.......... On our last night we had a wonderful meal in a pizza restaurant, the service was good and speedy and everything came at the right time and was beautifully cooked and very tasty.

Our daytime bus to Chimbote was fine, fabulous views as we climbed over the mountains and then a beautiful valley full of fruit and avocado trees...............heaven............We got a VIP bus onward to Trujillo, not before we had a lunchtime snack. We went into the bus station cafe and despite a menu on the wall the waitress got irritated when we asked if there were any sandwiches.........when she started drumming her fingernails on the tray we walked out-she clearly thought that was fine!! 

A little snack bar next door were much more accommodating. We hadn't booked in Trujillo we just pitched up at the Hostal Colonial and got a nice big room for 80 soles. Trujillo is quite a sophisticated place, and ,although a nice setting, the cafe in the toy museum charges European prices for coffee!!

Our first full day was to rest and I had a manicure and pedicure for the princely sum of £4. Then we just chilled, had a fabulous salad for lunch and gorgeous chocolate brownies and coffee after dinner in a little cafe on the square. We had planned to leave the next day but stayed on and visited El Brujo, a pre Inca site where they found the grave of "The lady of Cao". This whole area has Huacas, sacred pyramids, and the museum and site were one of the best we have visited.

Yesterday we had breakfast with a lovely American couple in a beautiful courtyard, I know 7th February and having breakfast outside with shorts on!! I had a traditional Peruvian breakfast, with Tamales.

We left Trujillo and are now in Chiclayo, further north. We got a taxi from the bus station to Hostal Amigos and got the usual chat from the taxi driver, do you have a booking? I know a good Place! Yeh where you get commission and we get charged extra. The hostal is very clean and comfortable and there is a veggie cafe over the road. Last night we had fabulous veggie food in the Hare Krishna restaurant, I had lightly Indian spiced veg in a yogurt sauce with rice.

Tramping in the Cordillerra Negra

Jan our 4 year old guide!!

Posing in Huaraz

Two grumpy old men

The pyramid of the Lady of Cau-El brujo
From here we want to visit 2 more archaeological sites at Sipan and Sican. We go to the former today and we have booked an English guide, although our Spanish is good it is tiring listening and translating for a whole day. At Sipan there was a warrior king buried, and there are museums with gold artifacts is Peru's Tutankhamen  We hope to organise a half day horse riding too. Then we will head off to the beach..........

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Lima and the Cordillera Blanca

I prefer flying to long bus journeys and our trip from Ayacucho was so easy. It felt like coming home getting to the first hostel we stayed in on our trip-Iqueque in Lima. Decided that whilst in Lima should get my tooth checked out. I started the trip last April with an infection between the roots of one of my molars and had the same sensation again. In Bolivia I just bought some antibiotics as did not fancy visiting a dentist there. Found a super clean clinic in Lima and for 20 soles got an X ray and an opinion. Yes, there was a little pocket of infection but no worse than before and as I had no pain no need to panic. The dentist thinks it will need to be extracted but that can wait till I get home and she gave me some antibiotics to take if it gets worse. 

We finally made it to the Museo de Nacion and it was a huge disappointment, hardly any signposting and we nearly missed the best bit!! Very little was labelled and the highlight was meeting two other travellers and a Peruvian couchsurfing host!!

Each time we get to a busy hub we have to take opportunities to enjoy a few a cup of Starbucks coffee( I know corporate USA and all that but trust me it tastes like nectar after some of the stuff we have drunk)........a proper haircut.....he even washed it first.......LUXURY.

We had a trip to Miraflores, to see the sea, this is where the other half stay in Lima, prices are more than double to the centre. We shared the trip with an English guy who was travelling on his own for 6 weeks while his partner went skiing. We had a lovely salad lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

We booked an overnight bus with Cruz del Sur-the best buses in Peru- and arrived in the Cordillera Blanca at 7am. Huaraz, the main hub, is a big busy town surrounded by snow capped mountains. Our hostal Haton Wasi, is a bit out of the centre , which means most of the time it is quiet.Breakfast is very good and served on the terrace and it the cloud is right overlooking the highest mountain in Peru. It has a veggie restaurant, which is a godsend!! 

We got on the local micro and for 50p went to check out Yungay, we wanted to spend a bit of time up the valley in a quieter place. We found a lovely little hotel and booked for 3 nights and thought we arranged a horse riding trip........

From Huaraz we did along day trip to the ruins at Chavin , they pre-date the Incas. Our guide was Peruvian and made loads of jokes, some of which I did not understand. He spoke so fast it was hard to keep up sometimes. There is so much more than the Incas in Peru but most of the government investment goes to Cusco and Machu Picchu

In Yungay we stayed at the Hotel Rima Rima with Julian, we arrived mid-morning and got sorted and he said our horse riding was at 3pm. We had a lovely set lunch of salad, barley soup, and chicken in a sauce all for 5 soles........£1,25. At 3 pm we set off walking from town, fabulous views of the valley and it soon became obvious that something had been lost in translation and we were only walking!! We saw some stunning humming birds. We walked with Julian and lovely little boy called Jan. He was 4 and chatted non stop, but we walked 3 hours and he kept pace with us. 

We walked to the campo santa, sacred place which is the buried town of old Yungay. An earthquake, in 1970,  in the valley set off an avalanche that buried Yungay and 20,000 people were killed and the town completely buried. Julian lost his dad and oldest brother. They rebuilt the town further west in a safer place. 

The next day we were up at 6am and left at 6.30 on the local micro and walked in the Cordillera Negra, on the other side of the river Santo. It was beautiful, flowers at every turn and wonderful bird life. In all we walked about four hours, and by 11 the heat was pretty powerful. The views of the mountains were stunning.

We set off to check out Caraz in the afternoon, but it was a grimy town, with dirty hostels and we came back pretty sharpish. Lovely as Yungay is, the people are really friendly as it is not a tourist town, there is not a lot of choice for eating, especially in the evening.

Friday we had arranged to set off at 6am and walk to Lago 69, a walk with a 600m climb from 4,000-4,600 m. The trip up in the car with Raul, our guide took till 7.45 and we set off walking. We started in a lovely valley with the mountains towering above us. Luckily it was quite cool most of the time but it soon started to become a challenge. Walking on the level at altitude takes an adjustment but climbing is something else, we walked slowly and deliberately , taking stops for coca tea, until we reached a flat ridge and we thought we had arrived!! No way, another one and a half hours and a steeper climb lay ahead. The last stretch was torture and I felt light headed and sick so stopped and slowly descended to get some oxygen in my system. I was 100m from the summit. 

Chris continued on and made it to the top to see the beautiful green lago 69, he said the last 100m took him for ever and he thought his lungs were going to bust. The descent was easy, nearly all down hill. It was a fabulous day, the highest walking in my life and the memories of the views will be with me for a long time, snow-capped mountains, glaciers and stunning waterfalls.
Monument to the last battle that defeated the Spanish in South America

Important policeman............two phones-who said men can't multitask

Ayacucho at night

Highest mountain in Peru

Local bakery-they made 5-600 buns a day!!

Yesterday we had breakfast in Yungay, some local avocados and fabulous bread and then reluctantly said goodbye to Julian, he had been a wonderful host and walking guide. Back to the same hostel in Huaraz and we had a bit of fruit salad in our veggie restaurant and visited the local museum. As it was my birthday in the evening we had a nice meal, first a cocktail Maracuya sour, then rabbit with a mustard glaze and finally chocolate cake. It was a nice night but as usual Peru doesn't quite deliver, Chris ordered filet mignon cooked medium and it was rare. When they returned the plate with the meat cooked everything else was cold!!

Today we are off  to see a glacier close-up and then tomorrow head off at 9 am towards the northern coast, first stop Trujillo.

We have very little time left but hope to fit in a week of chilling by the sea before 20th February when we leave Piura for Lima and the start of our trip home.

Till next time
Norma xx

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The perils of eating partly cooked Fish!!

Well we got to Pisco and the hostel was good and there was water in the pool, which of course makes it a mecca for holidaying Peruvian families. Pisco is an odd sort of place, still recovering from the 2007 earthquake that destroyed 80% of the city, close enough to the fish meal factories to have an awful aroma when the wind changes direction and with a "beach" that is so dangerous that the locals don't use it. We were one of only 5-6 other foreign tourists and took great care where we went in town. I arrived with a bit of a delicate stomach and left with a worse one.

The absolute highlight was a trip to the Ballestas islands, which had so many seabirds you could hardly see the rock, the air was pungent with the smell of the sea lions and there were cute Humbodt penguins. We shared our trip with a boatload of Peruvians so it wasn't quiet. We left from Paracas, which was a place we had thought about staying in but it wasn't great and a local lad said not to go in the sea as it is full of chemicals and it irritates the skin!!

After our boat trip we thought we would have a quiet lunch, we had spotted a huge cruise ship and guess what............they were spending the day in Paracas. It had left Florida in early January and was a 5 month round the world cruise. 90% of the passengers were American so prices in town were inflated!!  We met one guy who was on his 41st cruise, he was 87 and still quite sprightly  Chris tried a couple of times to stop the Yanks getting ripped off by rubbish exchange rates but I think it is a international pastime. So our quiet lunch ended up in a little cafe full of local workmen -always a good sign about the food. We had lovely freshly cooked fish with salad.

Buoyed by this we went the next day to San Andres , which made Pisco look good, and had a fish fest. Mine was a whole fish and as i got to the centre it wasn't properly cooked............and despite having it cooked was sufficient to make me ill. We were leaving the next day for Ayacucho and a 6 hour bus journey, so filled myself with Imodium. This worked fine for the journey, although when we got to 4,000m I had a weird episode with probably a drop in my blood pressure. 

We got to Ayachucho about 6.30 in the evening so our plan was to just find a clean bed for the night, and we got a taxi to Hostal el meson which fitted the bill at only 45 soles per night (£11). Only when we were registering did I realise that the taxi driver had picked my pocket. He had insisted on the bags going on the back seat which meant I was in the front, and with the excuse of helping me with my seat belt twice lifted a little credit card wallet. It only has between 25-30 quid in cash but also my Nationwide debit card. So I cancelled the card pronto and we went to sleep tired and fed-up.

 Ayacucho is a lovely town with a difficult past, for 20 years cut off from the government in Lima and with a terrorist organisation running the place. It is beautiful with fabulous colonial buildings and little courtyards at every turn. The people are cheerful and really friendly. We had thought about staying in our little cheapy but when the cleaning staff started at 6am , making a huge racket knocking on doors etc and we found our room being cleaned before we checked out we decided to move on.

We have stayed in a lovely little place half a block from the main square, called Hostal Markos. It is quiet, up a little cul de sac, the gate gets locked at night and at the end of the lane is the local baker. They have a wood burning oven and make between 5-6,00 little bread buns every day. It is ready at 4pm and till about 9 there is a steady stream of people buying bread. It is a cross between a bread bun and pitta, when you open it there is a huge hole. I like it but it is not Chris' favourite.

Saturday night we went to see the "Peruvian Michael Jackson", on the basis that if it wasn't any good it would be a good laugh. First there were 2 local bands and as the first ones got to the stage I turned to Chris and said this will be a Coldplay song et voila!! MJ was brilliant he did about 10 songs, changed costumes and had all of the moves a great night. 
By late Saturday I was still feeling ropey and Chris started to be ill as well and by Sunday he was much worse. We think the problem with the fish was bacterial and I then gave it to him. It is easy to do when you spend all your time together and share water bottles etc!! Luckily we had some antibiotics that we had bought in India and they started to work within about 12 hours-evidence of bacterial rather than viral causes. We both missed a city tour we had booked. We did however see a fabulous display of local dancing about 20-30 different groups, all in different costume danced around the main square, it is a once a year event so we were privileged to see it.

Yesterday we just took it easy and the drugs have done the trick, so today we went on a visit to Wari about 45 mins from Ayacucho. Our guide Julio was lovely, really knowledgeable and spoke clearly and slowly so we could understand. The site is pre-Inca from 500 BC and is huge and less than 10% has been excavated, so great ceramics and mummies have been uncovered. The whole site is covered in cactus plants making excavation even harder. He picked us 3 different types of tuna (prickly pear) to try white, yellow and red, my favourites are the red with nice juicy flesh but loads of hard seeds. 

We then went to a memorial to a battle that ended the Spanish occupation of South America and down to a little town Quinua which is fanous for its ceramics. The trip cost us less than £10 and we went by taxi as there are so few tourists around.

Tomorrow we have to be up at 5.15am for our flight to Lima. Three days in the big city before we are off again. Hopefully the national museum will be open as it was closed for refurbishment when we were in Lima in September. From Lima we are mountain bound again to Huaraz in the Cordillera Blanca and hoping to do a little bit of trekking, as here there is no infrastructure to do it.

I'm staggered that people continue to read this blog-I can see how many views per day-and hope you enjoy news of our travels. 
Pictures to follow tomorrow when I get faster internet and  are a selection from different places.

Till next time, take care.
Impressed..........yeh but the sand at the end of the access ramp was a bit of a let-down


Waiting to fly over Nasca


Humboldt penguins

Peruvian Michael Jackson

Cute or what??
Norma xx

Monday, 14 January 2013

Best laid plans of mice and men..........

Well we left Tacna on the bus headed for our Arequipa and I felt a little disappointed that the Dakar was so close and we wouldn't see our great surprise we crossed its path 3 or 4 times between Tacna and Arequipa. It was only some of the road sections, not the exciting sand stuff, but you got an idea of the sheer scale of the whole event. 

So that was surprise number 1, the second was Arequipa. We had flown in and bused straight out in October, not liking the noise and the pollution , but we stayed in the centre and the main plaza was absolutely stunning. We only had one night and managed to find a lovely, if expensive, veggie restaurant. We stayed in the "Amazing" hostel and it did not live up to its name!! It was okay, clean and comfortable for one night.

From Arequipa we thought we would have 3-4 nights in a place called Camana, find a hotel with a pool and just chill........mmmmmmmmm NOT!! It was a Peruvian beach resort, the hotel we thought of was hugely overpriced. So we crossed the road to sit down and re-group in one of the many roast chickens cafes. We had finished our chicken lunch when Chris realised he had left his small man bag on the bus!! He returned about 15 minutes later with the bag but minus his mobile phone and camera. The latter wasn't too bad, there were only a few photos on it and it was quite old. The phone then resulted in a hour of finding numbers to ring Virgin to alert them, he has a pay as you go SIM so could have had a huge bill. We found one of the downsides of Skype, when you ring a company with one of the automated systems, you know the type press 1 for this and 2 for that, you can't respond using skype.

I went to the tourist information and a really kind guy took me to the only other hotel in town with a pool, not a bad place but the pool had no water was relatively new and only 80 soles so we decided to stay just one night and move on to Nazca the next day and cut our losses.

Some towns in Peru have a central bus terminal but in others the companies are scattered about , Calama was one of those. We eventually booked a Cruz del Sur bus to Nazca, leaving at 6pm the next day........all of the bus companies told us there were no daytime buses. So we decided we would have to spend the next day in Calama and find something to do. We opted for a Chinese meal, the Peruvians call it "Chifa" and it is one way of getting at least some vegetables with a meal. As we left there was a bus office with, guess what a 10.30 am bus to Nazca........Ten minute walk back to Cruz del Sur and a little white lie that we had changed our plans ( they gave us a credit note) and our bus was booked for Nasca. Hurrah one little ray of sunshine at the end of a bad day.

We are staying in the Nasca trails hostel, the owner Jaun was in London for 5 years and he speaks  English with a very " British colonial" accent. Its a little way from the centre but it is clean and comfy, lovely breakfast and speed wi-fi........our needs are simple.

Nasca is quite a lively little place and we have had a couple of lovely set meals. nothing flash some home-made soup and then the ever-present rice with meat and a little salad. These places charge 5-8 soles ( £1.25-£2) and it usually includes a soft drink too. Turn over is fast and the food is always piping hot, although the main course usually arrives when you are halfway through the soup. There was loads of noise and buzz on Saturday, the Miss Nasca competition was on. We are 5 blocks from the plaza and it sounded like the music was next door.

Yesterday we flew over the Nasca lines and it was stunning, I was a little nervous for two reasons. Firstly there have been a few crashes in recent years........and secondly there are tales on the internet of horrendous motion sickness due to the small planes, the wind and the swirling around to see the figures. Chris was his usual laid-back self, it will be fine!! I took 2 travel sickness pills and only had a small breakfast and it was fabulous. I decided not to take photos, there are fabulous ones on-line and just enjoyed the flight and focused on seeing the figures. There a fascinating phenomenon and if you google, Nasca lines you can see the images and read a bit about them.There are all sorts of theories about why they were created. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip and well worth the $80 we paid. We booked it through our hostel and it was all very slick and well organised. Phew!!

Today we leave for Pisco, booked for 4 days in a hostel with pool.............and hopefully some water in it. Then we are taking a bus up to Ayacucho. Its up in the Andes, a bit off the usual gringo trail but after nearly 2 weeks of desert in Chile and Peru a bit of green will be good. We haven't booked anything but have found a really good website called Pacarama which has hotels/hostels etc in South America. We hopefully will be able to walk etc and enjoy the mountain view. Ayacucho's claim to fame is two fold, it has 33 churches, one for each year of Christ's life and is a place people go for Easter and it was the base of "Shining Path" a terrorist group in Peru. 
But first Pisco, which sadly was devastated by an earthquake in 2007, and a trip to the Islas Ballestas. It is called the Peruvian Galapagos.

Take care wherever you are.
No photos this time , check out google images for the lines!!
Till next time 

Norma xx

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

First blog 2013

Firstly apologies for the gap between blogs, don't know where the time has gone!! Secondly a very Happy 2013 to everyone and hope that this year you make all of the things you want to do happen!! 

Christmas was quiet but nice, we had a BBQ on 24th ( on the balcony as it was raining) then Christmas day was dry and sunny. We had a lovely breakfast, then I went to mass, a walk along the Lake and then in the evening our planned meal. It was very simple but beautiful with fresh, local ingredients and not the hassle usually associated with a Christmas Day meal. We loved our time in Villarrica, we cycled 25k one day and the views were stunning, we had a trip to the Thermas at Conaripe and got sunburn ! We got a local bus to a place called Nancul and walked for a few hours, and didn't see a soul. It was good to get some exercise after the period of bad weather we had experienced in Pucon.

We got the bus to Santiago and 11 hours later, ( not my favourite mode of transport), we were back in busy Santiago. We had another apartment, we use either wimdhu or airbnb to book them, and were tired so had take-away pizza and crashed. Since Santiago the weather has been fabulous, this is summer SUN SUN SUN.

New Year's Eve was lively there was live crazy Latino music in the main street and then at midnight we watched the fireworks from the 33rd floor of our apartment block.........they were fabulous. New Year's day was pretty quiet, the locals were still drinking till mid afternoon. We spent some time in one of the parks and then had a nice lunch.

On our last day we decided to try the outdoor pool in Parque O'Higgins ( named after Bernado O'Higgins, of Irish descent), our last attempt had been foiled by the weather but also it was about £15 for a swim. This pool is where the ordinary locals go, very basic, very cheap but the water was cool and refreshing. We had a  nice meal in a family-run Chinese and that was Santiago.

Our last stop in Chile was Iqueque, and this time we flew to save spending 2 days on buses. Iqueque is a seaside town built with lots of European influence, many of the streets are English surnames, and given its terrain the early houses were built of wood with balconies-it looked like the wild west. 

We stayed in a very basic and crazy "hostal" and if hadn't been that we paid up front we would have left and found somewhere else. The family lived in the house, and lived their lives in a goldfish bowl and the paying guest were around the edges. The owner was a very loud and bossy ex teacher. Breakfast was chaotic and there was no privacy, after the 3rd time that someone just barged in the room Chris went and told her that if our key was not on the hook it meant we were in the room and to wait till it was on the hook which meant we were out. 

We went paragliding in Iqueque and it was awesome, I felt a little nervous as we drove up above the town but once we got there it was only about 15 minutes before we were harnessed and ready to go. The takeoff was so smooth and thanks to Chris we have some photos-I decided not to take my camera!! Did feel a bit motion sick but it was worth it, the wind was really swirling and I wasn't able to make it to the beach to land but we landed in the big sand-dune. Chris made it to the beach but his landing was pretty bumpy.

Sunday 6th January and we left Chile for Peru, we got a bus to Arica and then a little mini-bus to Tacna. The border crossing was pretty straightforward  stamped out in Chile, back on the bus and 5 minutes later stamped into Peru. Tacna is not a tourist destination and we have had three nights here.After the crazy woman in Iqueque this is a lovely clean and comfortable and organised hotel.......and it is cheaper than the hostel. 

We went to the tax-free zone to look at cameras and MP3 players but didn't buy anything. Yesterday we did a day trip into the countryside........well the desert........ and saw petroglyphs, tried local wine and pisco. We came back to town and were searching for a vegetarian Chinese place for lunch, but instead found a lovely fish restaurant  full of locals with a great menu. Lunch was delicious.

Today we are off again, this time to overnight in Arequipa before we head north up the coast of Peru. Hoping to have 2 nights in Camana, in a hotel with a pool. The Dakar rally is here today but just too complicated to get to see it. 

Our route up the coast will take in Nazca, to see the Lines,  ( which we ditched from the itinerary in October) second time lucky. Then up to do some wildlife stuff and maybe some snorkeling and diving. We will get back to Lima for a few days and then head further north, visiting some pre-Inca ruins and maybe ending up just short of the border with Ecuador. That is the outline plan anyway. 

So back in Peru, which I prefer to Chile and Argentina, it feels different and not too westernised. Our money will go much further here, our 4 hour trip yesterday was a tenner, so we can do much more. The downside is less posh.......toilets without seats etc but nothing like the grime of India so it is manageable.

Lots more adventure to come but I know that these last 7 weeks are going to fly by and in no time we will be flying back to the cold of February in the UK but looking forward to being re-united with my lovely girls.
Me taking off.......

Best wishes

Chris in full flight........looking relaxed

Beautiful volcano Villarrica

Christmas breakfast

Fireworks from Torre in Santiago

Moorish inspired casino espanol on Iqueque

Day of the Kings-live angels as part of the Christmas tableau

He is meant to be one of the shepherds but I think he is a grumpy old angel!!
Norma xx