Honeymoon in Peru

Posted by: Kerto Comments: 0 Post Date: November 27, 2017

Why Peru?

I feel the need to start from the beginning – turn back time a bit, quite a bit in fact, to the year 1992…this is so that you understand why Peru in the first place.

During my time in Tartu Art College, part of our curriculum was to get some real time teaching practice in, which we did…but during one of those times, we assisted some mentally challenged young people. All I can remember from that time was this haunting other-worldly music which was playing at the background! I asked about the music and nobody knew…but I had to know… I had to be able to listen to it again! I asked someone if I could make a copy of the tape, they were happy for me to borrow it but I still didn’t know what it was. Apparently that music helped the students to stay calm and focused. I later learnt it was Andean music!

Just a bit more background… Estonia had been part of the big USSR those days so there was no way to ever get out and visit those other countries we learnt about in our geography lessons…so Andes was just another one of those never reachable places. To be honest, most of us were very happy in Russian times and the fact we couldn’t get out, didn’t seem a problem somehow. So, this far away country, with its angelic and almost surreal music was to remain something of an unreachable dream, alongside most things abroad those days…

Lets turn the clock forward to about 2006 when suddenly a piece of music somewhere on telly or radio reminded me that time again – ANDEAN music!!! I searched the internet and found a very long list of Andean songs, the very same ones I’d been listening to in 1992! My heart jumped for joy…! Visiting the country though, still never even crossed my mind.

Fast forward another 10 years, 2016 and somehow the destination Peru could now be on the cards simply because it suddenly occurred to me we CAN now actually visit Andes!!! WOW!
Somehow deep inside me this concept seemed a bit unwelcome, as it may just not live up to everything I’d sensed through this angelic other-worldly music…!? I decided to bury that thought and make the most of it!
Nothing ever lives up to what we expect anyway, so here goes – mission Peru = POSSIBLE!

The video below is of the original music I heard in 1992, so you can play this whilst looking through the images below…

Lima

I almost took and instant dislike to Lima, just to save time…I was wrong though as parts of it are really beautiful, especially the sea front, by which you can walk for miles. Little did we know that this was to be the start of our ‘get-fit’ holiday!

You may be wondering what all the fire engines and injured people are all about? Well, we were joking with Chris saying if we didn’t have mobile data streaming cost issues, we would have gone live from Lima on that day as they had an earthquake drill! Fortunate timing indeed…

Altitude

Having never been higher than about 1000m we took on the challenge of going from Lima (sea level) to Puno (3850m) as we didn’t know what to expect…. So after a short 2 hour flight we landed and almost immediately started having some weird ‘side effects’. 

Our lips turned somewhat lilac and we found some difficulty in breathing. When we exited the aircraft, we found our legs were like jelly – all strength had disappeared somewhere! We were trying to figure out if we were OK, and apart from intense weakness in our muscles and inability to get our breath back at ever the smallest exertion, we were fine!

On our journey from Puno to Cusco, we had to go over the highest point on our journey: 4350m. I was apprehensive about it and quite rightly so…the uncomfortable side-effect started appearing when we got to about 4000 meter mark – I started feeling like I was boiling from inside ie I just couldn’t cool down! This lasted about 1-2 hours but it was so bad we actually had to buy a really light t-shirt for me to help me cool down even a tiny bit. This helped a bit but not a lot…after about an hour, the effects blew over so I can only presume it was altitude-related as other people in the bus didn’t seem to have such effects.

Juliaca to Puno

Another little story… So far so good, everything had gone as planned. Up until when we had to catch a bus to Puno which didn’t arrive. We went to acquire (which was interesting on its own as neither of us speak Spanish!) what’s happening as the bus was supposed to leave at 8:30 am and we were told there won’t be a bus before 12 noon! Fortunately there were other people in the same boat, a couple of them Spanish speaking perfect English! Great…anyway, long story short we ended up spending a couple of hours in the town before we got back to the bus station where we were informed of a general strike and road blockades all over the place! So that’s what was going on – a blessing in disguise really as they didn’t send a bus out fearing for our safety apparently. They said we might have ended up being thrown bricks at!

Lake Titikaka

One of Chris’ bucket list, so it had to be done!!
Another destination with plenty of culture and character! There were times I really didn’t know where to point my camera as it was all so magnificently different. We stayed at Amantani isla
nd where we were accommodated by the local indigenous people who didn’t speak a word of English…it was interesting but I think we just about made ourselves understood by the help of our English to Spanish App! It didn’t help with a tiny thing called muña though! It’s their equivalent of peppermint – so used to make tea, not to spice up your soup (yes I made that mistake!).

One thing I can never forget about the night in their indigenous hut was the sheer weight of the blankets we slept under!!!! As it was at high altitude (3690m) and we found it difficult to breathe in the first place even without the blankets, it was almost impossible to find strength to turn over under that enormous weight of 5 woven covers. Mind, we needed all of them as it was cold over night and the hut was not well insulated less alone heated! I could go into an awful lot more detail and how the screaming donkeys woke us the next morning but I’d never finish writing this otherwise…

See my comments regarding sleeping problems under “personal benefits”

 

Cusco

My favourite city of Peru (well, of the ones we visited of course). Full of character and never boring, Cusco is very rich of colour. This place offers a huge variety of opportunities for any budding photographers out there…somehow everywhere you point the camera, you’ll see something worth capturing!

Aqua Calientes

Pretty much everyone who wants to visit Macchu Pitchu, also visits Aqua Calientes, that’s because this is the last railway station before MP and the only way up is by bus, hiking or even a car (but we didn’t see these because there are no cars in Aqua Calientes!).

A story you may appreciate…as we checked in our hotel I discovered we finally had a suite with a bath in it – YESSS! I said to Chris, come what may I will have a bath today! By this time I’d been looking forward to a good bath pretty much since we arrived in Peru. So, as I was examining the bath, I discovered they had removed the seal which holds the plug watertight and enables the water to actually stay in the bath. They had also screwed the overflow cap on permanently so to make sure you are not even tempted to have a bath…but when you are determined, nothing can stand in your way! So we put our engineering thinking caps on and came up with a solution – a blue carrier bag twisted into a ‘rope’ which we then tied around the base of the plughole to make it almost watertight – well, good enough to fill the bath anyway! Voila, mission accomplished! 🙂

PS. The images below are clickable, notice the rainbow?!

Ollantaytambo

Quirky little town mainly serving all the tourists visiting the sacred valley, and we were no different. The slideshow below will give you just a small taster but nothing can really compare the real experience of being there…
You will notice from one of the B&W images where the table casts a shadow on grass below that the sun was pretty much right above our heads.
And yes we had to climb yet another archaeological site…did I mention were were pretty fit by then!? Having landed at an altitude, this seemed quite easy as it was lower than Puno (3,827 m) where we started our ‘altitude training’…!


Sacred valley

Maras Salt mines. This place is incredible! The scale of it is so big, the images don’t do it justice once again!
The local families (as long as the wife and husband stay married) own a plot each, which they tend to and harvest the salt from which forms valuable extra income for the family. If the weather is too rainy, the families have to tend to their plots with great care or they could simply lose the ‘crop’ for that season due to everything being flushed away.

Our guide explained to us how these plots have been built and maintained over hundreds of years and the flow of the salty water (which by the way is 4x saltier than a sea water!!!) is constantly monitored and new routes put in place to get the most out of these natural resources. Another one of the human’s great engineering feats!


Pisac market and Archeoligical site

So, having arrived at Cusco, we were greeted by our local tour guide who was going to show us the town a bit later on but we learnt from her that we have 1 full day in Cusco, which isn’t planned out yet so we could do what we wanted! She suggested the sacred valley of course and told us about the best places to visit…what she didn’t tell us though was the way to do it all in 1 day!!! So we figured the best way to be able to fit all that in 1 day not speaking the lingo was to hire a private tour guide. After some googling we found “Cusco Local Friend” who were so brilliant we actually wanted to give them 6/5* on TripAdvisor for the job they did for us!

I could tell a lot here but perhaps the most memorable moments were after we purchased a couple of CD’s from Pisac market (if you’ve read my original “Why Peru” story above, you would understand why I had to buy some music with original Inka music on it) and our tour guides were more than happy to play the CD’s on our way to various places. The tracks on the CD’s were traditional, so the same ones I’d been listening to in 1992! – the music matched the mountainous scenery beautifully! It was a magical moment which brought tears to my eyes….there was a real sense of the past meeting the present – FINALLY I WAS HERE!!!

Morey Archaeological site

I could tell a lot here but perhaps the most memorable moments were after we purchased a couple of CD’s from Pisac market (if you’ve read my original “Why Peru” story above, you would understand why I had to buy some music with original Inka music on it) and our tour guides were more than happy to play the CD’s on our way to various places. The tracks on the CD’s were traditional, so the same ones I’d been listening to in 1992! – the music matched the mountainous scenery beautifully! It was a magical moment which brought tears to my eyes….there was a real sense of the past meeting the present – FINALLY I WAS HERE!!!


Llama sanctuary

Macchu pitchu

Wow, just wow is all I can say for this place really!! As much as you have seen the images and may have heard your friends’ experience of this place – nothing will really come close to feeling sheer awesomeness when there! It’s just magical. Even as a tourist following our guide you really do get a sense of being somewhere really quite special! The high altitude and seeing the tops of the mountains at a distance makes you feel immense awe of the place… As we visited it quite early in a day, we had the chance of seeing the tops of the mountains in the vapour clouds which made my images that extra bit special.

After we got back down, it started raining so we got lucky with the weather once again!


Amazon jungle/rain forest

This part of our holiday was definitely at the top of my fears list! It was just too big a quantity of unknowns. When we were heading to the jungle on a boat, I mentioned to our tour guide that I don’t like bugs. His face was a picture and he asked “well what are you doing in a jungle then?”. OOPS!! Never mind, I’ll get over it!
Well, I tried…but there were occasions where I literally freaked out. One of such times was in the middle of the very first scary night in our open-walled hut! We had mosquito nets, so that was OK as long as you didn’t need to visit the loo in the middle of the night…No such luck here! I waited as long as I could and then pulled up all my courage to make my escape to ‘the jungle’. I figured if I make it quick and don’t show my torch too much, I’ll be fine – wrong! I squeezed myself out underneath the net of the bed but then I noticed this light from the corner of the room, oh shoot – I’d left the cover off my phone so the screen is switched on and is now draining the battery! “I need the camera on the phone tomorrow so I need to go and shut that cover”…what came next was completely unexpected, and had I been fully awake and had there been SOME light around me, I’d have seen the amount of bugs congregating around my phone which was playing the “jungle app” I’d installed before the holiday to help me go to sleep!!! As I touched the phone cover to close it, I had a number of creatures jump all over my face and my undressed body! I screeched and threw the torch somewhere about 5 metres away! That was another big mistake! I had so much adrenaline running through my veins it took me hours to go back to sleep after that incident!

For a more real experience, click on the track below to have it playing as you look through the images of the jungle below… These are real jungle sounds I recorder whilst there.

Sorry for the image titles! I don’t pretend to be a wildlife photographer hence my vast lack of knowledge in naming the spices…! Please feel free to write in and comment if you can identify any of the below.

So here’s another little scary story (well I was scared at the time). One evening our guide invited us to join him in the jungle in dark! Well, that in itself I didn’t find too scary as we had torches. And he had told us if we felt brave enough we could turn our torch off one by one for a few seconds…hmmm, I said to him I don’t like that idea!
Anyway, time came for us to go. There were only 5 of us and each of us had a torch so I was ok for a while, until we just kept going…and kept going…and kept going…deeper and deeper into a pitch black jungle!!! I’d uttered my concern a few times “can we go back yet?” – this was ignored as many times as I dared to speak…
Ok yes we could just about see where we stepped etc. but when suddenly our guide demanded for ALL the light/torches to be switched off, I found my finger just didn’t want to listen to that command and my light stayed on. Until I heard “switch all the lights off now!” for about 5 times…by which time I had to give up and DO SO!!! And to my horror, it stayed for MINUTES!!!!!!! By now it seemed I’d been standing in pitch black in deep jungle for hours if not weeks…yes I was scared but I tried to calm myself down by thinking we have a guide with us who by the way had just found a scorpion which was about 1 meter away from us, hence the orders to switch off the lights!!! You can see why I was so reluctant to do so: there was no way on this nor any other planet I was going to switch my light off knowing there was a deadly scorpion just a few feet away from me…!!! He wanted to show this beautiful creature to us in dark, under UV light! As we did see it but gosh, I’d have stayed in the hut had I known what was coming! But hey, I’m quite proud about having gone through that now – feels quite an achievement somehow!

Visiting Amazon jungle farmers

This part was most interesting to see and learn how locals have a plant to cure literally everything! We tasted a few interesting plant leaves and their fruits, a few of which lingered on the tongue for quite a bit longer than expected…!


Personal benefits

‎I must admit I was quite concerned about my inability to sleep in new beds and up until this trip I’d never been able to sleep on the aircraft so a 15 hour flight presented quite a challenge! But I was determined I was going to enjoy this holiday no matter what! And low and behold I was able to sleep everywhere throughout this trip, even on the planes!
Majority of people don’t have an issue with sleeping in various places but I’ve had this problem since 1999…

‎So here’s my little secret ie what I did to make sure I get at least some sleep… A few weeks before our holiday I downloaded a little app called “Nature sounds ” relax and sleep HD and I trained myself to go to sleep with the forest and bird sounds playing at the background. It’s really good as whatever the background noises, it will help and mute them so you don’t pay attention to them. I also noticed that I became familiar with the sounds so at the back of my mind it made me feel safe and secure with my familiar sounds wherever I was!

‎Another thing I did was to make sure I took melatonine every night just to help me stay asleep with time difference!  It’s a natural hormone our brains produce to help us sleep but you can’t get it in UK.

The third thing I used was a 100% herbal tablet called “Sleep aid tablets” (with 3 ingredients: extracts of Hop Strobile, Valerian & Passion Flower) which is actually an anti stress remedy but I’ve found it amazingly effective lowering my anxiety (regarding inability to sleep) over the years. So there you go: if I can sleep everywhere, trust me – you can too! We just need to find a combination of thing that help us in this.

Another major benefit was that we ended up quite fit on that holiday! We had done so much climbing at altitude, at first it was very straining but by the time we got down to Macchu Pichu, we were up it like rats up a rope! 🙂


And finally, the ‘pros and cons’

 

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