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Monday, July 26, 2004

Alrighty then, where was I?
Ah yes..

Quito to Lima (Peru)
Brief return to Quito for a night before flying to Lima.  Started feeling ill around lunch time.  By 7pm I was asleep on the floor of Quito's international airport waiting for flight to Lima.   Arrive Lima 12.30am, expecting deserted airport at that time of night.  Instead encounter the busiest and ugliest airport I have ever seen (in middle of renovations).  Have trouble getting peruvian money (ATM dispenses USD, probably because we pressed the wrong button, but possibly becuase it hates me) and have trouble finding bags.  1.5hrs after arriving we finally squish four people into very small taxi , after beating off other taxi drivers with a stick - well nearly.  Still feeling very ill.  Drive through horrible suburbs to hotel - past young children begging at 2am - to find that it actually wasn't our hotel anymore.  Finally get to right hotel.  Throw up. Sleep.

Lima to Puno
Peru tour starts next morning with another flight, this time to Juliaca and then bus to Puno on shores of Lake Titicaca.  Small tour group of 12 people from all over world.   All good except back at altitude, something like 3,800m.  Makes us all feel a bit woozy.  Think I feel well enough to eat lunch, and throw up again.  Woo hoo.
Next day is boat ride to islands of lake for indian homestay.  Rugged.  Very basic lifestyle.  Have trouble walking up hill to house of homestay, poor little indian gal "Celia" has to keep waiting for us to gasp our way up the hill.  Altitude sucks.  I blame my weakness on not having eaten for two days, and secretly start panicking about Inca trail.  Stay in room with dirt floor.  That night they dress us up for dancing.  As I am 5foot 11, and they are all about 4foot 2, I feel like giant in land of very short people.  But they are happy short people.
Return to Puno the next day via floating reed islands of Uros.  These people live on beds of reeds that float.  Not sure how they stop the islands from floating away, or how they go to the toilet.  But again, they seem to be happy floating island short people.
Puno is typically Peruvian in that all buildings are unfinished, something to do with tax breaks.  This means city resembles one large building site.

Puno to Cuzco
Next day have bus ride from Puno to Cuzco - 7hours.  Bus shows two movies on the way, "The Sixth Sense" (good, even on second viewing) and "Daredevil" (terrible, even with Jennifer Garner in tight pants.  Very close to the worst movie I have ever sat through, and if I had have had a choice I wouldn't have sat through it.  Briefly considered throwing myself from bus to escape). 
Arrive in Cuzco, slowly getting used to altitude as manage to walk around city without dying.  Perhaps there is hope for Inca trail.  Cuzco is freezing (as was Puno), two days before we arrived they had snow for the first time in 20 years, and even during the dry season.  How lucky are we.
Cuzco is gorgeous colonial town, many existing buildings built on original Inca foundations that have proved to be earthquake proof.  Those Incas sure know how to carve rock.  Go out for dinner and celebrate that I can now eat almost normally again.  Mr R tries the local speciality and tucks into Guinea Pig.  It's all I can do to stop from throwing up again, stomach still a little queasy and the view of those little paws and eyes and ears didn't help.
2am that night I think Mr R is regretting the guinea pig as he expels matter from every orrifice.  I too am unwell again.  Thus begins the unhealthy obsession of each member of our group with one another's bowel movements, as he is not only member of tour to fall ill overnight.  There are some things you just shouldn't share.  Next morning he manages to drag himself aboard bus for tour of secret valley, cause if he doesn't prove he is ok the guide won't let him do Inca trail next day.  That and he wont be able to find the secret valley on his own. Ha.

Stay night in Ollaytantambo after visiting Inca sites there and in Pisac.  Wow.  Wake up very early for bus transfer to Km82, start of Inca trail.  Get about 10 minutes down the road before stopped by landslide over road and train line.  Maybe nobody will ever get to Machu Picchu.  Many Indian Porters and tour boys get out of bus thinking they can move 10 tonne boulders.  Girls are smart and stay inside bus where they can't be crushed by falling rocks.  Eventually bulldozer comes to clear the way, and we drive through farmer's back paddocks (I kid you not) to km82 point to start trail.  It's raining - some dry season.  We buy wooden walking pole in hope it is going to get me over 4,200m dead woman's pass, and to stop the many locals from waving wooden poles at me.  Those things are dangerous.  I'm sure I'm not the first to think I am going to be the dead woman.

Start of Inca Trail.
We check in for trail and get our passports stamped and take a photo of bright happy faces.  Our local guide talks to check in office, and then declares that the trail is closed because of the aformentioned snow, dead woman's pass is closed with 80cm of snow.  Oh no.  He offers alternative route that apparently follows the river.  We have no choice.  Our tour guide tries to convice us that it is for the best, but we are all dissapointed.  Day one we walk on the regular trail for about 4kms, including a pretty steep hill which our tour guide tries to convince us is just like dead woman's pass except that you have to walk up that for 3 hours not 10 minutes.  That made me feel better.  The upper trail branches off and we take the path of safety.  We do spot a condor that day, which is very rare, but it is a long way away so it is hard to appreciate it's size.  Lunch is our first clue of what an amazing job the porters do on this trip.  There is a dining tent with tables and chairs and then a three course lunch.  Delicious.  There are little short guys carrying full size gas bottles on their backs, that run past you on the track.  And that afternoon when we wander into camp (very easy day of only about 6kms) our tents are all set up and we have a three course dinner.  I decide I can handle hiking like this!

To be continued.. when I have some more time..I still havent got up to the tarantulas!!

 


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