A Travellerspoint blog

Iguazu

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We were up at 6am on Saturday as we had a 7:30am bus trip to El Calafate airport for a 2:40pm flight to Iguazu via Buenos Aires. The bus ride was very comfortable as we managed to score our front seats on the 2nd level again.  We had a few hours to wait at the airport but got on our flight without too many hassles. After transferring in Buenos Aires we jumped on the next plane to get to Iguazu where the famous Iguazu falls is. We caught a 20 minute taxi to the town of Puerto Iguazu where our hotel was situated. After checking in I found that tripadvisors number 1 cheap eat restaurant was just 300m down the road, Italian style pasta, perfect. I had some delicious ravioli and salad and Dad tried a couple Empanadas, they were a hit. They're relatively similar to a pastie but they sound better, haha.

The hotel breakfast was reasonable but was let down by some pretty average coffee. At least the fruit salad was good. We walked around the corner to the bus station to catch a bus to Iguazu falls. This was a straightforward process as I'd done a bit of research and also got some information from the lady at the hotel front desk. Once at the falls we got our tickets and started looking around the park. The park is enormous, which is not a bad thing because it helps disperse the 10,000 or so people that visit each day. We walked along a couple trails and then caught the little train up to the 'devil's throat' as this appeared to be the thing to do. We had to wait a while for the train and then it was a pretty long walk to the viewing platform, especially with the crowds as this was the most popular section. The view was pretty amazing when we got there, the power and size of the falls is hard to fathom. We caught the train back and then I investigated about doing a boat ride. Despite receiving some dodgy directions multiple times we made it just in time for the 1pm jungle ride and boat trip. I really enjoyed seeing the jungle from the open air truck and even spotted a toucan which had been on my wish list. The boat ride was pretty cool and got up close to the falls, even going under a few times so everyone got soaked. They did provide us with dry bags though so at least our possessions stayed dry. After getting back to the main section of the park we walked a few more trails which provided another different perspective of the falls which I loved. We got back to the hotel and I had a swim in the pool while Dad relaxed with a beer. Unfortunately our nearby Italian restaurant was closed but we found another place which we were pretty happy with apart from the fact I picked out about half a block of cheese from my Caesar salad, very strange.

Monday morning we went for a walk to the triple frontier which was only a few kms from our hotel. The triple frontier is a viewpoint of a river where you can stand in Argentina and see Paraguay and Brazil on either side of the river, about 50m away. Pretty cool to be so close to 3 countries. After packing up we made our way to the airport to fly to Buenos Aires. There was a delay for about 90 minutes due to the water on the plane. We were a tad concerned but as we finally boarded it was just that they needed more water for the bathroom, so nothing to do with the engine, phew. We caught a taxi to our accommodation in Buenos Aires and I was pretty happy with our flash apartment overlooking a park right in the centre for about $100 a night. Pretty happy to call it 7 out of 7 with my hotel bookings. We walked to a nearby restaurant where I got empanadas and Dad got the world's cheesiest anchovie pizza. It was quite amusing given my cheese struggles the night before. We grabbed a few supplies from a local supermarket on the walk home as we had to provide our own breaky for a change.

Tuesday morning we took it easy as our free walking tour didn't start till 10:30. I planned to do both the free walking tours as I wanted to see as much and learn as much about Buenos Aires in the short time we had there. The first tour was called Recoleta which is an old suburb of Buenos Aires. The guide explained how the city is a relatively young city as it was founded in the 1600's when the Spanish came. It rose to prominence after its port was established and became a thriving economy. The city was aiming to become the "Paris of South America" with a lot of its 1900's architecture. The city is certainly a quite nice looking city and the tour took us through some really fancy areas. We stopped at a cafe for lunch and then continued on with the tour as it normally took over 3 hours and we were quite a large group. As we stopped at a Falklands monument the guide mentioned how the Falklands war was still quite a touchy subject amongst Argentinians as they had never experienced war before it and were told by their government they were winning until almost the end. There was also no support for veterans when they returned which led to more suffering. After the tour we tipped the guide as that's how the 'free tours' work. Luckily I gave Dad a refresher in currency conversion otherwise the poor guide might have ended up with 50 cents from Dad, gypsy. We caught an uber back to our apartment where Dad relaxed and I set off on the city center walking tour. I found this tour quite interesting aswell as the guide gave a good explanation of major historical events and famous buildings. The guide talked a lot about Evita and how she is still very loved in the city. The guide finished the tour at the Presidential palace and we saw the guards marching. It was sad to hear about Argentina's terrible inflation which was 54% over the past year. It means if you had retired with a million in the bank a year ago that's now worth half that, very scary. I got back to the apartment around 6pm and Dad and I had a Quilmes beer which seems to be the most popular beer. It seemed like a pretty basic lager but still alright. I'd researched a good Argentinian steakhouse for our last night as steaks was what Argentina was famous for. A short uber ride found us at Parilla Pena which only opened for dinner at 8pm but was full by 8:30, definitely a popular place. The best part was it was clearly a very low proportion of tourists so the prices were reasonable. Shortly after we sat down they brought over some empanadas, bruschetta bread and normal bread, on the house, amazing. We both got the rib eye steak and asked for it to be cooked medium as I'd read they tend to overcook steak. The steaks were delicious and we accompanied it with chips, a salad and a nice bottle of cabernet sauvignon. A great dinner to end the trip on and made more enjoyable by having a chat to some nice Germans sitting next to us. We ubered back to the apartment and watched a bit more 'Inbetweeners' before bed.

I was up early to check how freo went in the AFL draft but then was luckily able to go back to sleep for a few hours as we didnt have too much planned today. We didn't have to be at the airport until 1pm so fitted in a quick shopping trip to buy some presents. The walk back was a bit rushed as paying for a couple items took a surprisingly long time. We packed up our stuff and after paying the apartment owner took another uber to the airport. The uber was a young guy in a beaten up old little Fiat which barely fit our stuff in. It was concerning when we got stuck in traffic for a while and also when he stalled the car, haha. We then got out onto the main highway to the airport and found out his car could not go above 80km/hr despite the speed limit generally being either 100 or 130. Nevertheless we got there with enough time and began our hellish long haul back to Perth. We had a short flight to Santiago, then a 7 hour wait, then a long flight to Auckland and then 2 more 4 hour flights to Melbourne and finally Perth. As least it will be great to be home and see family. We were both definitely ready to head home after 4 weeks away but really enjoyed the experience of the seeing the amazing sights south america has to offer.

Posted by KevinandErin 05:50 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

El Calafate and El Chalten

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Tuesday morning ended up being a touch stressful as despite being packed and fed with plenty of time there was a sudden shortage of taxis to take us to the bus station. We failed to flag one down but luckily the b&b lady managed to get through on the phone and we were still at the bus station with 20 minutes to spare. The trip took to El Calafate in Argentina took over 5 hours as we had to have our passports checked and stamped on the Chilean and Argentinian sides of the border. As there were no outstanding warrants for our arrest we were allowed through. Our hotel was only a short walk away and after checking in we wandered into town to get cash out as Argentina definitely seems like a cash economy. The atm's were pretty insane as not only was the maximum you could get out less than $50 but they charged $10 in fees, Dad lost the plot, haha. A crazier thing was that an option on the screen was to get $2 out, which still would have attracted a $9 fee, madness. We the did a small supermarket shop as Dad had become quite accustomed to having agua con gas (bubbly water). After dropping the stuff back at the hotel we walked back into town to a craft beer bar/restaurant called 'La Zorra' that i'd found on trip advisor. They had happy hour from 4-6pm which meant some pints were $2.40, incredible. Even better the beer was actually good, especially the American ipa. We ended up getting food there aswell as fancy hot sandwiches, burgers, salads and pizzas were all between $5-7 each. After dinner we headed back to our nice hotel and headed to bed.

Wednesday morning we went out to the lobby and were surprised to see a large array of pastries and sweets aswell as cereal, fruit and toast for breaky. The hotel is also a pastry school so that must be why they have such an assortment of pastries. Not that Dad or I really took advantage of them as we're not sweet tooths at the best of times, let alone for breaky. We walked up to the bus station as we had a bus booked to Perito Moreno glacier about 1.5 hours away. The glacier is one of the only ones in the world that is in a state of equilibrium and not retreating due to climate change. It is 30km long, 5km wide and 170m deep and one of the major tourist attractions in the area. The glacier is in the Los Glaciares National Park and is really well displayed with many walkways to view it from and a very clean environment. We also took a boat ride to get up close to the glacier. Like most things the boat ride was cash only but funnily enough the ticket guy actually had an eftpos machine but was saying it didn't work, how unfortunate. I don't think many taxes are collected in Argentina. The glacier was well worth a visit and really was awe inspiring to see it up close. After getting back to the hotel we went back to our craft beer pub for a couple more delicious $2 pints and ended up having dinner there again. Once again it was a pretty early night as we had a bus to El Chalten at 8am the next morning.

Thursday we were up and organised and out the door by 7:30am. We were thrilled with our seats on the bus as we were the front of the 2nd level which meant we had an uninterrupted view out the front window and more leg room, brilliant. The trip took about 3 hours and the last 20 minutes was pretty spectacular driving into El Chalten looking at all the snow capped mountains in the background. We got to our apartment and were pleased to have a bit extra space to what we were used to. After a supermarket visit for supplies we set off on a hike up to a couple nearby lookouts on a mountain. It only took us about 1.5 hours and we got a few photos. It got extremely windy while we were walking which concerned us a bit for tomorrow as we had planned a bigger hike towards Fitz Roy mountain which apparently gets quite steep at the end. We'll just take it easy and assess the conditions tomorrow. After a hike Dad tried a couple happy hour beers and then we went back to the apartment to cook up our leftover camping food. Asparagus soup and cheesy risotto. Bit less weight in the bag for Dad which will help as we've only got 15kg for checked bags for our next flights.

The plan today was to hike up to the Fitz Roy mountain lookout which was about a 23km round trip from our apartment. Luckily the weather forecast was good for a change with sun and only light winds. We set off at 8:30am and were on the mountain trail by 9am. The first 4 or 5kms were steadily uphill but nothing too taxing . The next 4 or 5kms were reasonably flat and offered some great views of the mountains, particularly with the sun  shining and blue skies. The last 1-2km were very steep and mostly climbing on loose rock which meant it took about an hour. Overall it still felt quite safe though, particularly without the extreme winds that we'd had on other hikes. Also the trail was very clearly marked with sign posts and distance updates. We made it to the top around midday and were treated with spectacular views of Fitz Roy mountain and the adjacent mountains. We sat up there for a while eating our lunch and getting a few photos. The trip back down the mountain was definitely quicker but we obviously still had to descend carefully on the steep sections. Despite being pretty tired once we got back to the apartment it was nice to have had some good weather and be able to enjoy the hike more. Not carrying a massive backpack was also a bonus. We walked back to Dad's happy hour beer spot and I tried the ipa aswell. I was once again impressed with the craft beer quality and we ended up staying there for dinner with both of us getting quesadillas. We then watched some 'Inbetweeners' back at the apartment before going to bed. Big travel day tomorrow heading up north of Argentina to Iguazu falls, Buenos Aires and warmer weather.

Posted by KevinandErin 15:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Torres Del Paine 'W' Trek

10 °C

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We got up at 4am on tuesday after just finishing the Inca trail the day before, rough. We had a 6:50am flight from Cusco to Santiago which went pretty smoothly and had us in Santiago by midday. We rushed through passport control and headed over to check in for our flight down south to Punta Arenas when we were delivered the bad news. The flight was overbooked and we'd gotten bumped off because we hadn't done the online check in which was pretty cruel. We waited for a while and they managed to get us on another flight, unfortunately this one had a stop though. The stop wasn't too bad though as we got to stay on the plane, it just took longer obviously. We got to Punta Arenas and amazingly still managed to make our 8pm bus to Puerto Natales. The bus took around 3 hours and after a short taxi ride we were at our b&b by 11:30pm. We weren't too exhausted because we'd gone forward 2 hours in time so it was only really 9:30pm for us. Despite messaging the guy at the b&b months ago, messaging him again 10 hours ago and calling him and speaking to him 3 hours ago to inform him of our arrival time, when we got there he was asleep. We just kept calling the phone and ringing the doorbell for ten minutes until another guest let us in. Once we informed the guest of the situation he went and woke up the guy who was mildly apologetic and showed us to our room. After a much needed shower we headed to bed.

Wednesday we got to sleep in till 7:30am before getting up for our breakfast of cereal, toast and yoghurt. We had a busy morning planned as we had to get supplies for our 5 night camping trek in Torres Del Paine. First stop was the supermarket and we found some good camp food options, including packet soups, cheesy risotto, bean stew, rolls, avocado, bananas and instant coffee. Next we went to a camping store to get a small gas bottle for Dad's little camp stove that he bought online. We also got some slip on wetsuit material shoes which we were thrilled with and would have been very handy on the Inca trail. Having a lightweight, portable, comfortable, quick and easy footwear option for after hiking is super handy. We packed all our stuff needed for the trek and were able to leave some extra clothes and other items in a bag in storage at the b&b as we were coming back there next Monday. We took an extremely cheap 7 minute taxi to the bus station ($3) and then got tickets for the midday bus to Torres Del Paine. We were at Laguna Amarga after a few hours where we had to pay the entrance fee and fill out a form. Next was a short shuttle bus to Las Torres where we had to register to stay and show proof of pre booked campsites. After that was a short walk to our camping area where we had to register with them and choose a campsite. We chose a site on a platform and set up our tent. After showers Dad cooked soup and then the bean stew on his the camp stove. After dinner we wandered over to the nearby refugio which is like a fancy hostel with a big restaurant and bar. Despite being gypsy campers we were still allowed in and bought a couple beers while enjoying the amazing scenery out the window. We slept pretty well on the platform despite the guy at the registration saying it wasn't as comfortable. Must be the good blow up mattresses.

Thursday we had a pretty big hike planned up to the Torres (towers) and back which was about a 15km round trip and with a climb over over 800m. After a muesli bar and black coffee breakfast we set off with our daypacks. The beauty of having 2 nights at the central (las torres) campsite was we didn't have to take our big packs with us and could leave our tent set up. The hike up was fairly steadily uphill but not too bad. We reached a point on a mountain called Windy pass which was appropriately named. Definitely needed to watch your step there to not end up rolling down the mountain. We had a short break at Chileno campsite where a lot of people stay as it's obviously closer to the Torres. We kept trekking through a nice area surrounded by trees for about an hour. The last 45 minutes up to the Torres was pretty tough going as you were climbing up rocks and boulders, some parts it was a bit tricky to know which way to go. When we finally reached the Torres the weather turned bloody awful and the mist covering the mountains didn't make for very good photos. The weather was genuinely freezing with rain and high winds just to make it worse. Needless to say once we'd eaten our avocado and vegemite rolls we went straight back down the mountain. The way down was a bit tricky with the slippery steep rocks so we just took it easy. We kept walking all the way back to our campsite and went for showers. We decided once again to flout the camp rules of cooking in the designated area and Dad started heating our packet soup on our stove next to our campsite. Dad suggested I sit next to him on the bench (which was attached to the wooden table and with a bench on the opposite side) to help block the wind. Despite sitting down carefully we found out 150kg was too much for the poorly designed table and bench and we tipped over and ended up on our backs. Luckily neither of us were hurt but the flame from the camp stove had suddenly increased and I was worried we were going to set the whole camp on fire. I managed to turn the flame off under Dad's instruction and once we were back on our feet Dad proudly said he didn't spill a drop of soup. We were pleased to escape the incident unscathed and figured that's probably why they want people to cook in the designated area. After soup and cheesy risotto we walked over to the Refugio bar to have a few beers and use the expensive internet. The rain came down really hard while we were there and made crossing the little river to get back to our tent almost impossible. I ended up walking all around onto the road to get back to the tent without getting wet.
 
Friday morning we slept in till 8 and were slow to get moving as we knew this was our easiest day, or so we thought. It was only meant to be around 14km along the river but having our big packs on was going to make it a bit harder. By the time we packed up the tent, our stuff and got ready it was a 9:45 departure. The morning routine was made a bit trickier by the random absence of water from all the taps around the facilities. Once we got going we were optimistic about the trek but were noticing the difference of 20kg on our back rather than 5kg. The hike had a decent amount of uphill for the first few hours but nothing too difficult. The numerous river crossings were particularly difficult due to the heavy rain overnight and sometimes took over 5 minutes to inspect the best place to cross and then go one by one. Often with Dad throwing his walking pole back to me to assist me across once he was across. We stopped up a mountain for lunch and chatted to an Australian lady who told us we still had around 4 hours to go which concerned us given things were pretty tough with the big packs. The next section around mountains was pretty dangerous as we unfortunately got to experience the famous Patagonian winds. They seemed to intensify as we got to a tricky spot up a mountain. A few times we just tucked in next to a rock or tree and held on to wait for the wind to settle. Not fun at all. We made it to Refugio Cuernos and our map told us it was only another 40 minutes to Frances. This turned out to be complete bollocks as it was close to another 2 hours. We later saw another map which did actually say 2 hours but it was odd there was such a difference between maps. The last section somehow still included plenty of up and down mountains, dangerous winds and tricky river crossings. Definitely not the easy day we'd been led to believe. So much for a stroll along the river. Once we got to Camp Frances we were pretty buggered so after setting up the tent we hit the showers. Amazingly the showers were pretty good which made a nice change. We grabbed a few beers from the bar just before it inexplicably shut between 6 and 8pm. After our drinks and another cheesy risotto we were in bed by 8pm.

Saturday we were up around 6am as the plan was to drop our packs at camp Italiano 30 minutes away and then walk up Frances valley to the Britanico lookout. Then we would come back down, pick up our big packs and walk the last 8km to Paine Grande campsite. We made good time and were up at the Frances lookout at 9:30am. The views of the glaciers, mountains, trees and river were amazing but unfortunately the winds got quite strong again. Given the lookout was still a couple hours away and a more dangerous climb we decided to pull the pin and head back to Camp Italiano to get our packs and have some early lunch. It just wasn't worth the risk getting blown off the mountain, considering the view wasn't going to be that great anyway with this weather. We trekked on to Paine Grande and did the last 8km in 2.5 hours. It was definitely easier trails as there wasn't so much traversing mountains with cyclonic winds and almost impossible river crossings as there were yesterday. We got in pretty early and sat in the restaurant for a while eating a meat and cheese roll as we waited for the weather to clear a bit. We tried to find a more sheltered spot for our tent but Dad was concerned about the wind and cold and bit the bullet and hired a sleeping bag. After showers I cooked soup and paella in the kitchen on our little stove. We then headed back to the restaurant to share a bottle of red before heading to bed after another tough day despite not completing the full trek we planned. We were hoping for better weather tomorrow but the forecast looks grim again. I actually looked up the average forecast for November and apparently it averages between 5 and 16 degrees and has 3 rain days for the month. We've averaged between 1 and 10 degrees and after tomorrow we'll have had 5 rain days, haha.

Sunday morning might have been out lowest point yet. Despite everyone saying how the weather in patagonia always changes we hadn't really found that, it's been pretty bloody cold, rainy and windy the entire time. Trying to pack up the tent while it was blowing away from us, our packs were getting rained on and we were so cold our hands didn't work really tested our resolve. Once we got on the road we were greeted by strong head winds and teeming rain in our face, this was going to be a long 12km to Grey campsite. There was a brief moment of solace where we watched a fox play with someone's thong like Didier playing with a toy, funny boys. The walk to Grey was pretty tough, at least when we wetr struggling to survive the cold and wind we didn't notice the pain in our shoulders from the packs as much, little wins. The track to to Grey wasn't too bad, still a fair bit of up and down mountains but nothing dangerous at least. Once we got there around 1:30pm we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a bed in the Refugio. To my amazement not only did they have 2 beds spare in a 4 bed dorm they only cost about 30USD each after they deducted the cost of our camping, crazy. We felt we had a new lease on life with this news and after lunch and coffee in the restaurant we did the half hour walk up to the glacier lookout. It was awesome to see a glacier up close and we got a few good photos despite the standard rain. We came back for showers and then drinks and burgers in the restaurant. I somehow got the world's most generous serving of Havana club rum and coke and we had a good chat to a young Belgian couple about their travels. We had an early morning planned for tomorrow as we had to trek back to Paine Grande where we'd come from today to catch the boat back to the bus to get back to Puerto Natales. Long story short we were in bed by 8pm and thankful to have some decent shelter and warmth.

We were up early Monday and pleased to not have as much stuff to pack up as usual. After a quick coffee we were on the road by 7am to do the 3.5 hour trek back to Paine Grande to catch the boat at 11:30. The weather was surprisingly not as terrible as usual and we managed to do the hike in a bit over 3 hours compared to the near on 4 hours we took yesterday in the awful conditions. We made it with plenty of time for the boat and boarded for the 30 minute journey to Pudeto where we then transfer to the bus back to Puerto Natales. The boat trip was by far the most overpriced thing we'd come across in South America as it was about $50 each, cash only. As we were getting off I saw the captain counting up the money, I reckon he was about to retire. We were back at our B&B by 4pm and after a shower headed out to see if we could get our washing done that night. Luckily there was a place around the corner that could do it and we could pick it up after dinner, perfect. I reckon they would have needed to buy a new washing machine after washing our stuff it was that dirty. I found somewhere nearby for dinner and we were both extremely impressed with our nachos and chicken and vegetables. The best meal we'd had so far. Great flavours, good quality and fair prices for a tourist town. After grabbing our washing we packed our bags and headed to bed as we had an 8:30am bus to El Calafate in Argentina.
The 'W' Trek hike was certainly an experience and we were proud to complete it given the conditions. We saw some amazing scenery and learnt about our own resolve when the conditions got really grim. Onwards to Argentina and hopefully better weather.

Posted by KevinandErin 15:46 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Inca trail to Machu Pichu

18 °C

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The bus journey was a bit nerve racking as it maneuvered around mountains and cliffs on some pretty thin roads. One stretch in particular was insane as buses and trucks coming the other way had to reverse a bit and then try get past us without toppling down the hill. It was nuts.
We stopped at a shop after a couple hours where Dad got a good hiking pole for only 8USD, bargain. His knees were thanking him later. We then continued on to the start or the Inca trail where there were about 10 other groups. We had get a ticket and show our passports at the gate as it's strictly controlled that only about 180 tour participants can start the tour each day.
The first couple hours of the hike it was quite sunny and I was thankful for my sunscreen. Apparently this area has one of the highest UV ratings in the world so it's pretty easy to get burnt. The hike wasn't too bad as they ease you into it on the first day. There was heaps of chances to stop and look around and amazing views for photos. We stopped for lunch around 1pm and were treated to a sit down lunch the cook had prepared for us. The porters and cooks are amazing at setting the big tent up, carrying heaps of our stuff as well as preparing all our food and water. We just have to carry our daypacks.
The walk after lunch to our camp for the night took a couple hours but wasn't too challenging.  Sure enough the porters had packed up from lunch and then rushed past us to have all our tents set up for when we got there. The awkward thing is that they clap us when we arrive, I felt it was a pretty undeserved clap given what they'd done. We had some pre dinner snacks of popcorn and hot chocolates which was a bit odd but I went with it. Dinner of veggie soup and fish was pretty good and after a briefing of tomorrow's plans we headed to bed before 8pm.

We were up early again Saturday at around 5am in preparation for the hardest day of the trek. They bring a cocoa leaf tea into the tent each morning to help get you motivated. Dad particularly needed the tea to warm up as it turned out his +5 degree rated sleeping bag didnt cut it and he had to sleep in all his clothes not to freeze. If only i'd suggested to get a warmer sleeping bag months ago, haha. After breaky we set off on our hike which involved an incredible amount of stairs. We were going from 3000m altitude at camp to over 4200m at the summit where we'd stop for a break before lunch. Despite acclimatising pretty well to the altitude it was still genuinely hard to breathe going upstairs for hours on end. After the summit we headed down the mountain a bit for a lighter lunch as you shouldn't eat too much at high altitude. Despite feeling pretty sore from the climbing we then had a couple hours going downstairs which was harder on the legs but the nice bonus was you could actually breathe and even have a chat to people. We arrived into camp around 4pm and had a well deserved rest. Later on we had some pre dinner snacks and then dinner. Some of the crew had bought some rum from a pop up stand on the mountain which they enjoyed at night but Dad and I avoided it as we didn't want to jinx our good acclimatising to the altitude. I found it funny that the same little stand up the  mountain sold cigarettes. I'm pretty sure my lungs were struggling enough without adding a pack of gaspers into the mix. Another early night in bed by 8pm as it's another big day tomorrow.

Another day, another 5am wake up and once we had our tea and breaky we were off. Today we were walking 16km which is the longest day but not as much uphill as yesterday. Despite it not being as brutal as yesterday it was still surprisingly difficult as there was a fair bit of steep uphill and steep downhill. We had a break after a couple hours and i had a Peruvian passionfruit which was as big as an apple. They taste a little different but are still delicious. After a few more hours walking we had an awesome lunch of soup, thin strips of beef, veggies and chips. Amazing how the cooks can prepare it all while they're up a mountain. The weather started getting quite windy and rainy while we were in the big tent having lunch and it almost felt like it was going to blow over at one stage. We were a bit nervous to start hiking again but once we did the rain wasn't too bad and considering the weather had been pretty good overall we didn't mind. We explored some Inca ruins along the way which was interesting and a great spot to get photos from. The last 3 hours of hiking before we got to camp was the best scenery yet. It was through the Cloud forest which looks like a rainforest but you're up on a mountain looking across to other mountains and with fog in the sky which all added to the aesthetic. It was spectacular. Unfortunately Dad's old hiking boots didn't survive this part of the trek as one of the soles fell off. If only i'd suggested to him to get new shoes a few months ago, haha. We got into camp around 4pm again and I went for a shower for the first time as this was our first chance. It was cold and not the best facilities as you'd expect but it was still nice to get a bit cleaner. Dinner was delicious soup, chicken, veggies and quinoa and small apple pies for dessert. Definitely the best food day so far. We then thanked our porters as most were heading off and we gave them tips. They'd definitely earnt it but it would be nice if the tour company also paid them a bit better and didn't just rely on us topping up their income.
Another early night as tomorrow we're off to Machu Pichu.

On monday we finally deviated from the normal 5am wake up, unfortunately it went the wrong way and we had to be up at 3:30am. Not even time for breaky today as we had to walk 5 minutes to get in line for the opening of the last section of the trail which occurs at 5:30am. Getting ready was a struggle as it was dark and raining and we were pretty stiff, sore and tired. Our group  was one of the first in line and ate our packed breaky and chatted while waiting. Once we were through the checkpoint we still had another 6km to walk to the sun gate where you can sometimes see Machu Pichu. Unfortunately the cloud and fog cover obstructed the view so we headed onto the classic spot where people get pictures from. The cloud cleared up and we got a few good pictures before being allowed to explore the upper part of Machu Pichu. After a coffee at the cafe we headed onto the main part of Machu Pichu and had a guided tour from Jose who had been our main guide on the whole trek. Despite lightly raining throughout the tour it was spectular to see the amazing Inca city up close. We even learnt a few interesting things about the history of it like how when the Spanish invaded in the early 16th century the Inca's destroyed the trails to protect the city even though the city's roughly 1000 inhabitants had left. The city sat uncovered for over 350 years before an American rediscovered it in the early 20th century.
We then caught a bus down the hill to a small tourist town where we had lunch as a group which was really nice. A 1.5 hour train ride and a 2.5 hour bus ride then had us back at Cusco at 6:45pm. We were pretty rushed as I raced up to the nearby laundromat to see if they could get our laundry done by 9pm and Dad headed into town for shoe and sleeping bag shopping as we were heading off to Patagonia for more hiking at 4am the next morning. I also had to run into town to get money out to pay the hotel as their eftpos machine wasn't working.
Amazingly we achieved all this, got cleaned up and met the rest of the gang at the UFO Asian restaurant as they were going there on my recommendation. We wanted to see the group one last time before we parted ways. I got the ramen with chicken this time which was excellent. The group enjoyed the food and also marvelled at the terrible pranks on tv as the 'Just for Laughs' show was on again. After dinner we headed to bed.
I really enjoyed the experience of hiking the Inca trail and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. It was also great to share the experience with Dad. We were also mindful of the fact that it's the group that can make or break the trip on a tour like this and we were thankful we had an awesome group that provided plenty of laughs and support along the way. Aside from one cranky old female sociopath from the UK who made life difficult for everyone and was genuinely unsafe when walking near cliff faces we couldn't have hoped for a better group. Even the troublemaker certainly made the trip even more memorable.

Posted by KevinandErin 16:45 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Santiago

sunny 23 °C

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We flew out of Perth at 11pm on Saturday night, bound for South America. Our stopover was in Sydney where we unfortunately had 6 hours to wait. We were kept entertained by an 18 month old sports news feed playing on the tv. We pondered whether we'd gone back in time and if we had, we figured it was probably worth putting a few bets on recent sports events. We also marvelled at a larger guy sitting across from us who ate a whole packet of Tim Tams within half an hour. Amazing. The flight to Santiago took 12 hours and even though I didn't manage much sleep I did enjoy the Diego doco and an aussie environmental doco called 2040.

We had made the call a few days earlier to stay at an airport hotel and avoid going into the centre of Santiago due to the ongoing protests in the centre. The protests are mainly due to inequality as despite being a wealthy South American country their median salary is less than half Australia's despite prices seeming quite similar. Also the healthcare, welfare and aged pensions are supposedly very inadequate.
It was just aswell we did avoid the city as we watched a fair bit of CNN at the hotel and the protests showed no signs of slowing down. Monday involved a large scale strike and looting was rife. We watched on tv as people smashed windows of car showrooms and pushed cars out. Even suoermarkets were set on fire, crazy.

The hotel was great, large bed each, good gym, pool and spa which I made good use of. The breakfast was impressive and included cereal, hot food, bread, pastries and an enormous array of fruit and juices. We did venture to a nearby shopping mall on the Monday which luckily was not on fire. I found a couple little presents for Emily and Dad found the craft beer section. We got a few beers and a huge roast chicken for dinner/lunch the next day. Back at the hotel we were treated to an earthquake, which while common in Santiago, was big enough to cause a number of staff to head outside and inspect. All good luckily and we got back to our craft beer tasting and watched Chile's newest and most popular reality show "Riots in the city". Unfortunately that's not a show yet but the roling CNN coverage was just as good. We also watched some "Inbetweeners" that id brought on a usb which is quite funny.

The next day after another big breakfast and gym session we headed back to the airport on the free shuttle to fly to Cusco. Dad had paid a little upgrade for our seats and we managed to score 1a and 1b, not bad. I've certainly never been served first or been first off the plane before. While waiting for our bags a guy came up and recognised Dad, turns out they used to work together on Barrow island. This guy had set aside a month for trekking around in Peru and in the jungle but hadn't planned to see Machu Pichu. He also didn't have any altitude tablets and wasn't phased by the prospect of altitude sickness. Classic Aussie traveller. We got to our hotel feeling pretty tired but not suffering too many effects of the high altitude at Cusco which is 11000 feet above sea level. I found a good cheap Asian restaurant on TripAdvisor which happened to be 40 meters from our hotel. The food was delicious and very reasonably priced. We immediately agreed to go back tomorrow.

I was worried breakfast wouldn't compare well to the place but it was actually really nice. More low key buy still great fruit options, bread, eggs, juice and best of all these little fried banana pancake balls. They were awesome and I decided I'd have to make them at home for Erin and Emily. We walked to an interesting art museum which had a heap of cool ancient artefacts. There was gold, silver, copper, wood and ceramics. Amazing how the Inca people used to make this stuff between 500 and 1000 years ago. Next stop was the main square and the Plaza de Armas. This was good to see but unfortunately where a lot of hawkers hang out. We took it pretty easy in the arvo, I even went for a massage at a day spa as even though i think my lungs had acclimatised to the altitude I don't think my legs had. We went back to our Asian restaurant 'UFO' for dinner. We were the first ones through the door and so had to wait a bit while he set up. We saw the chef searching on YouTube to play old "Just for laughs gags" which is like candid camera and it's infuriately terrible. It was actually on last night in the restaurant but we logically assumed he'd chosen the comedy channel and it had later come on, because who in their right mind would choose to watch it. Obviously this guy did, luckily he can cook tasty Asian food. I had the vegetarian ramen and the vegetarian curry which turned to be a bit much but was great value at about 11aud all up. We had an early night which turned out to be a mistake as were both awake at 3am.

We managed to get a bit more sleep and and headed down to breaky around 7:30. To my horror the pancake balls didn't appear to be on the menu. After seeing there was also no mango juice I was starting to wonder if this day could get any worse, haha. Luckily the scrambled eggs were good and we both had heaps of delicious fruit. I was shocked to learn that the big bowl of what I thought was mango that I had yesterday turned out to be papaya. I'd even bragged to Erin about how much mango I ate, turns out I was living a lie. Well I made up for it today, luckily Peru is the world's biggest exporter of mangoes so they should be able to replenish the stocks. We then set off on a short hike up to Sacsayhuaman which is a citadel (small city) on the northern outskirts of Cusco which was the historical centre of the Inca empire. It was first built in 1100 and involves dry stone walls carefully cut to be put together without mortar. Some of the stones apparently weighed up to 200 tonnes so it's unfathomable how they got them in place. The whole area was awesome to look around and provided amazing views over Cusco. We also hiked up to a nearby statue called Cristo blanco. We headed back down the hill back to the hotel feeling confident that we'd hiked over 200m up in altitude and had coped pretty well. It is amazing how short of breath you feel after walking up a set of stairs but we recovered quickly after a quick rest. Later in the arvo we walked into town to get some more cash out and also have a look around the markets. We had our meeting for our trek starting tomorrow at 6pm and a lady gave us an overview of the tour. Another tour group arrived back at the hotel as we were talking and gave us a few helpful hints as they had just completed the trek. Afterwards we headed back to our usual haunt, the Asian place across the road. Once again the food was delicious and cheap and unfortunately once again "Just for laughs" was playing. Words really don't do it justice how pathetic and unfunny the so called 'pranks' are.

We headed back to our room to sort out our bags and be ready for breaky at 5am tomorrow morning.

Posted by KevinandErin 18:39 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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