Those of you who are connected to me outside the blog will be aware already, but I did not pass away travelling through the Andes in Peru. Despite the drivers best attempts I lived to tell the tale but unfortunately the story telling stopped there. Writing regularly is hard enough as it is when trying to find the balance between experiencing the world and telling others about it, but for myself the loss of one of the most inspiring people in my life was a little too much to bare. Just after arriving in Cusco and booking my trek to Machu Pichu I received the phone call telling me Nan had passed away quite suddenly. Since then I haven’t written a word and I regret that utterly as it’s the opposite of what she would have wanted. However, I’m back in the position where I can write again freely and will be making amends.
So where have I been and where am I now? I guess the shortened version would begin on the Salkantay trek where I was trying to combine the hardest climb I’ve ever attempted with the need to grieve. Fortunately the people on the trek with me were a huge help and we pulled each other through the difficult times and came out on top, rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in the world.
From there I travelled East to the Amazon Jungle where I was surrounded by wildlife, sunsets on the river, tarantula hunts at night and some superb, authentic Peruvian food.
Next up I travelled south to Lake Puno at the border to Bolivia. I took a day trip out on the lake to witness one of the oldest colonies in the Andes who settled on the lake and made rafts and have lived there ever since. Although tourism has had a dire impact on the authenticity of the tribe, it was interesting how different their way of life is compared to our own.
A long bus trip later I found myself at the Salar D’Uyuni. This epic four day trip via the volcanic landscape of the Andes reaches its climax at the legendary salt plains where all perception of distance is blown apart.
Soon after I arrived in Mendoza where I fell in love with the Malbec. I took a bicycle out to the wineries and thoroughly enjoyed some of the finest wine produced in South America.
Finally I took a bus through the mountains to my point of departure in Santiago. By this point I pretty much sat around and did nothing but look forward to Australia and finally meeting up with Hattie in New Zealand. South America will always be one of my favourite places in the world, particularly Brazil, but I still felt like I barely scraped the surface. Who knows? I’ll probably be back again for a longer stay.
I flew in to New Zealand and met Hattie at the gate. Not much needs to be said about the reunion; it was amazing to finally be back together. We shipped over to Waiheke Island where we enjoyed a few days relaxation before the flight to Australia…
That’s another story in itself.
Yesterday I began a 21 hour bus journey from Lima to Cusco. I’d taken long term coaches before and although I’d heard about how brutal this famous route is, I decided against taking a knockout pill that I’d been given by the Aussie girls in Brazil. What a disastrous decision! The twists and bends are complete unforgiving and once you finally manage to get to sleep, the driver decides to kick it up a gear and see what g-force he can get you retching at. Thank god the majority of the mountainous sections were at night as well otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d have soiled myself with the constant danger of hurtling of the tiny cliff-edged road.
I had found in Brazil that coaches dragged on a bit due to the insistence of companies to take breaks every two hours. This eventually led to every coach journey being at least an hour late. I was worried that the same might be true in Peru but it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. Peruvian coach companies don’t take breaks at all in fact. A few meals are provided as well as a selection of drinks and snacks to purchase. Obviously this means that there’s no need to step outside the coach for 21 hours, you’ve got everything you need right in your seat! Call me old fashioned but I’m pretty sure that’s how conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis come about.
In addition to this, the waiter in charge of meals and the shop sits right at the back of the bus and is also in charge of DVDs. Unfortunately there’s no speaker at the back of the bus so he insists on putting the volume on maximum, temporarily deafening anyone in the near vicinity of what I can only assume is the “Treble Master 3000”. The woeful Spanish dubbing didn’t help. Imagine Stephen Hawking changing his language settings to Spanish and then narrating Apocalypto. It was truly awful.
Anyway, rant over. There has been a silver lining to the whole experience. I woke up this morning as we drove through the mountains with the sunrise hitting each crest and river in turn, each bend bringing a different perspective on the landscape. Having had the sunset over the barren landscape surrounding Lima I can’t believe how much the land has changed in a few hours. The lush greens and rolling streams certainly made the hardships of coach travel a lot easier. Once again I’m heading deeper into a country that I’m sure I’m going to be coming back to at some point.
So after a long period without writing (or publishing anyway) I can now continue from a brand new point. The last time I wrote I was just leaving LA. Since then I’ve spent time in Costa Rica, Brazil and Argentina. The world cup took its toll on my time to write but it was absolutely worth it and some day I’ll catch up and tell the story. For now, the next part or my journey began in Peru.
Waking up this morning I realised I had so much admin to do that I was in danger of not achieving anything substantial during my time in Lima. My debit card had been skimmed in Rio and the asshole had stolen all my money. I had just started the long process of getting it back. I had also not made any plans for the west coast of South America past landing in Lima and departing from Santiago a few weeks later. However by four o’clock I had worked out my route for the next two weeks and begun proceedings with the bank so I set out for my first taste of Peruvian culture: a ruin dating back to 500AD, and only ten blocks away from my hostel.
The structure is absolutely incredible. That something can last so long and only be discovered a few decades ago is remarkable. Learning about the discoveries the archaeologists had made over the last 30 years concerning the Lima people was also fascinating. Scattered around the ancient temple are various cemeteries and tombs, some of which contained children sacrificed to the gods during times of despair. It’s a haunting thought that hundreds of years ago there were human sacrifices being made in the very spot I was standing.
It is estimated that the structure would have taken two hundred years to build by an entire community. Considering that the Lima people were conquered by a culture from the Andes in 700AD this indicates that the Lima culture would have had a very short time to enjoy the product of their hard work.
After leaving, I wanted to go see a much more modern wonder, the famous lightshow at the water park a short taxi ride away. Unfortunately a football match at the national stadium caused appalling traffic and we were forced to head back to the hostel.
For the rest of the night we sat around the table with a fantastic guitarist and I played the cajon for the first time which is basically a box with a hole in it. It’s simple but incredibly effective at recreating the sounds of a bass drum and a snare. As a result you can improvise away, playing along to anything that needs a beat. It was the sort of night that I hadn’t had in a long time with all the partying and drinking that comes with the world cup and I was grateful for it. The other outcome of the night was my decision to take up something whilst I’m away. Glen the guitarist, travels with his guitar, a clarinet, a mouth harp and a didgeridoo. If he can accomplish that then surely it’s possible for me to lug around a Cajon. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.