After all that hiking it was time for some chilling at the beach and partying. I was off to the party town of Mancora. Sadly there wasn’t a direct bus from Huaraz to Mancora so I had to have a stop over in Trujillo. There really wasn’t much to do in Trujillo but i made friend with an American guy named Daniel at the bus station who was also heading to Mancora. We checked out the church and went to the markets where i saw the coolest thing ever! They had these chickens that were cut in half but still had their organs in them but the cool part was you could see different stages of the egg developing. I would have no idea how they cook them or eat them but was pretty cool to see. We then headed to Macca’s and played cards for hours until it was time to get on our bus.
We arrived at the party town of Mancora at 6am. Thankfully we had managed to get a booking at the famous Loki hostel. This hostel was like a resort. If you are heading to Mancora you def need to stay here. Isabel was also staying here and Dan had a few friends he had met earlier in his trip so we had a little group going. That night it was time to party!! The Loki is a party hostel and has events/parties every night. That night was a beer pong tournament. Isabel and I were undefeated champions. Isabel was amazingly good at beer pong!! I got a few good shots in but she was definitely carrying our team. The night consisted of a lot of drinking and dancing.
The next night was a Jungle party. Pretty much was a repeat of the night before. Lots of drinking, beer pong, dancing and running around on the beach. It was a fun night but I was dead the next day. Partying back to back really takes it out of you. Other than partying there isn’t too much to do in Mancora except kite surfing and surfing. As I can’t do either of these I got a bit bored. We did do a day trip out to this pier where you can go swimming with turtles though. I didn’t actually get in as it was freezing and once you were in the water you couldn’t really see the turtles. But if you do decide to go in def hire some snorkels or goggles so you can see the turtles. It was pretty funny watching everyone freak out though as a giant turtle swam past them.
After a few nights of partying it was time to head off to another party town…. Even though I wasn’t really in the mood to party any more I had a few days to kill before my flight to the Galapagos so just followed Daniel and the boys. Little tip about Mancora: If you really want to party it is better to go here on a weekend.Even though everyone here is a backpacker and don’t work during the week the weekends seem to have more on and there were a lot more people on the weekend.
After 2 very long night buses* with lots of people being sick and a quick pitstop in Lima I was finally out of Cusco and in Huaraz. I had made friends with a girl from Denmark named Christina on the bus, who I had actually met doing spanish classes in Cusco, and we set off to find a hostel. Sadly the really popular one (Churup Guest House) was booked out but we found a pretty nice room in the hosetl next door so wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t planning on staying in Huaraz for very long. I decided I would do the Laguna 69 day trek and be done with it. Christina and I walked around to a few different travel agencies to hear about the different treks and things you could do and I somehow was convinced into doing a 5 day hike called Santa Cruz!! At one point I was even considering doing the 10 day Huayhuash trek that had something crazy like 10 mountain passes. Thankfully I came to my sences and opted out of that one but Christina decided to go a head with that one.
After an aclimatization hike that was way harder then I thought it was going to be we were off on our long trek. The first day was the worst for me. It was so hot and I had been sunburnt the day before and it just felt like we were on a slow incline the entire time. I was really regretting my decision to be on this trek. My group consisted of 3 german girls, a swiss girl and Dave a guy from america. I had also run into Isabel a chick I met on Isla del Sol but she wasn’t in my group but we saw her quite a bit.
The second day was a lot easier then the third even though we had to do a massive hike up half a mountain. A good section of it was nice and flat and the scenery was amazing. We saw a beautiful lake and were surounded by snow topped mountains. It was also a beautiful sunny day and didn’t rain once. We got to camp at a really beautiful spot at the base of the mountain we were going to have to climb the next day. A little tip: Bring some cards and books or some other form of entertainment for the evening. It rained most nights so we had to hide out in our tents all night.
It was finally day three and time to tackle the mountain pass. We woke up to pouring rain. Poor dave was suffering really bad from altitude sickness. I hadn’t slept well the last 2 nights and felt like a zombie. We started the long zig zag up the mountain. I wasn’t finding it too bad and reached what I thought was the top in no time at all. I then realised we were only a 1/4 of the way up…. The rain turned to hail and then to snow. After a few hours of climbing we finally made it to the top, 4750m! Poor dave was struggling. He threw up before we even started climbing. At one point they tried to put him on a donkey but they are only supposed to carry 25 kg!! His “rain coat/poncho” plastic bag had ripped and he looked like death. Suprisingly he made it to the top after several more spews and started to feel instantly better as we started going down. I found the decent way harder then the climb. The rocks were so slippery and it is so hard on your knees. I thought once we got to the bottom and I had falen into a huge puddle of mud we would be done! But no! We had to keep walking in the pouring rain for several more hours. I was well and truley over it by the time we got to camp.
The forth day was supposed to be a nice short easy day. The home stretch. It actually wasn’t too bad until right at the end where you had to walk up 1,000,000 steps!! Maybe a slight exageration but that is what it felt like after no sleep and 3 days of hiking. We were finally at the end of the Santa Cruz trek but for some reason we had decided to add on the Laguna 69 hike to the end of our trip.
The hike up to Laguna 69 was awful. It rained the entire way and my legs were so tired from hiking the last few days. The hike just kept on going. Every time I though we would go around a bend and see another huge montain infront of us. The lake was beautiful once we got there but i thought the one we saw on the santa cruz trek was just as nice and we probably didn’t need to go all the way to lagona 69. If you don’t have the time to do the Santa Cruz trek the def go but if you are doing the Santa Cruz trek i wouldn’t bother unless you are super keen on hiking. But really if you are super keen on hiking and have the time you should do the Huayhuash trek. Kirst and Christina had the most beautiful photos from that trek! It is deffinitly the better trek but it is really really hard so only do it if you are fit and enjoy hiking.
*Night bus in South America can be pretty hit or miss. There are a few good companies that most people stick to that give you meals and movies in english and your chair pretty much turns into a bed if you go first class but they are quite expensive. Cruz del Sur is the one most people opt for but this is purley a tourist bus and it is very rare to see locals on this bus. You also have to book ahead. I only splashed out for a fancy bus once as it was a 20 hour bus trip and went with Tepsa first class. It was really nice and had wifi, a power point, good meals, a lazyboy style seat. The movies were still in spanish but I had my tablet so it didn’t really bother me. If you are going to go for the cheap buses make sure you bring some ear plugs as they blast spanish movies and music all night, and warm clothes!! I don’t know why but the buses are FREEZING.
Donkeys carrying all of our gear
Our hiking group
The paramount mountain
Our campsite on the second night
On top of the mountain!!
At laguna 69
It was finally time to go and see one of the most famous sights in South America – Machu Picchu. I had almost started to dread coming here as i had spent so much time in Cusco and had heard all the different ways and hikes and could never make up my mind on what I wanted to do. I finally decided I wasn’t going to do a hike and would go the budget option with less walking. Kirst decided to do the 5 day Salkantay trek which is cheaper than the actual Inca Trail and you can book it a few days before the trek (although I have heard rumors that this might change soon and may have restricted numbers like the Inca Trail). Tip I forget what number: Wait till you get there to book any treks (unless you want to do the Inca Trail) as you will save yourself A LOT of money! I think Kirsten got her trek for US$215. My budget way came to about $90 but was done in 2 days.
My budget trek started with getting a mini bus to Hydro Electric. This was the 2nd scariest ride I had ever been on in my whole life, the first being the taxi trip back! For over an hour (only took us 30 mins on the way back….) you are driving along a one way dirt road with hundreds of blind corners and a cliff face on one side. How we didn’t crash I will never know. When you finally arrive at Hydro Electric you then start off on a walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. It is quite a nice walk and there are loads of people doing it so its hard to get lost. The walk took us about 2 hours. I had made friends with a girl on the bus so we decided to find a hostel and stay there the night so we could head off bright and early the next morning. Like the responsible person I am I went to bed pretty early as the idea is to be one of the first people up there in the morning. To do this you have to leave at 4:30am to get to the bridge gate when it opens at 5:00 and then pretty much run up the stairs to be the first in line at the gate for when it opens at 6. I was up and ready to go but the girl (I don’t even remember her name) I was supposed to walk up with was nowhere to be seen…. I finally found her and was trying to get her out the door when she saw some boy that she was talking to that night and decided she wanted to stay with them. I was already so late that I took off without her.
The walk up the stairs is a killer!! Some people smash it out in 30-45 mins but it took me an hour to get to the top. When I got there I was drenched in sweat! All the other walkers were already up there and inside the ruins so I just looked like this gross sweat mess next to all the people who took the bus up. The ruins really are amazing. Although I wasn’t there right when it opened there weren’t too many people there that early. I stayed for a couple of hours and checked out most of the buildings. As I didn’t do a tour I didn’t really know what most of the buildings were but I would hover around other groups to try to listen in on their tours. I would prob recommend getting a guide as I am sure there its lots of interesting stuff to know about Machu Picchu. It was then time to start the long walk back. Walking down the stairs was worse than walking up and the long walk along the rail road really sucked as my legs started cramping. After a very long day I was back in Cusco and had finally been to Machu Picchu!
Walking along the railway
Me at Machu Picchu
It was finally time to head to Cusco – a place I had always been excited to go to after watching the movie The Emperor’s New Groove. I don’t know if this movie was actually set here but the main guy’s name was Kuzco and I’m pretty sure it is based in some South American country… So after another crummy bus trip with no sleep we were finally there. We had booked into the hostel that Cesar was working at called Millhouse. It was a pretty cool hostel. We didn’t have too many plans for Cusco but we knew we had to go to Machu Pichu. It was at about this point in the trip that I started to realise I had no idea what I wanted to do on this trip as I had made 0 plans. I decided it was time to give Spanish lessons another go. I enrolled into a week course that was just up the road from the hostel. It was a good school and I did lessons for 4 hours a day but would lose interest around the half-way point. I also wasn’t very good at doing my homework (some things never change). During this week I didn’t really get up to much. Would go to school and hang out at the hostel and wander around Cusco. Cusco is a really cool city and very pretty but definitely one of the most touristy places we had been to so far.
After my week of classes I decided I would volunteer at an after school project that some of the girls at my school were at. I rocked up on Monday and got assigned to the youngest kids group. I then sat upstairs for an hour or so playing games with the kids but understanding nothing as my Spanish was still pretty shit. We then went outside and I stood there for an hour swinging the skipping rope. Then we all had to go upstairs and listen to the guy that ran the project talk for 2 hours about I don’t know what as it was all in Spanish. I think all up I was there for 5 hours and didn’t understand a word that was said. I went for one more day and then ended up bailing. It was a really good project but if you didn’t speak Spanish it was a bit of a waste of time as you really weren’t much help.
Kirst and I finally decided it was time to start doing something in Cusco. We went out to the secret valley and checked out the Moray Inca ruins. We didn’t know this at the time but apparently it is thought that these were used to test out different crops at different climates as they have a temperature difference of 15 degrees between the top and bottom (thanx Wikipedia). We then went for a hike through the village that Kirsten had found online. It was a really nice walk, not too strenuous and beautiful scenery. The walk ended at an awesome salt mine that looked like Santorinie.
View over Cusco
The salt mine
After arriving at 5 am and being told there was no room in the hostel we wanted to go to (there was def room the guy was just being a douche bag) we were left wandering the streets of Arequipa. Thankfully we found a hostel not to far away that did have rooms but unfortunately it was one of the chain party hostels, Wild Rover. There are a few of these chain party hostels around South America and they are great if you want to party but they do seem to attract a certain type of clientele.
We spent the day exploring the city. Arequipa is one of the prettiest cities that we went to on the trip. It has some beautiful churches and everything is made out of this white/grey stone. We went to a museum there that had this amazing display about a mummy they found in 1995. She had been preserved so well as she was frozen and was thought to have been killed between 1450 – 1480 as an offering to the gods. It was so interesting to learn about the human sacrifices and ancient beliefs and the coolest part was you got to see her! A must do if you go to Arequipa!
We decided to book onto a 3 day 2 night trek into Colca canyon. Colca canyon is one of the deepest in the world and is thought to be 2 times deeper then the grand canyon (thankfully we didn’t hike the deepest part). We started the trek off insanely early to make it to the top of the canyon in time to spot some Condors. After 30mins of staring into the sky we finally saw one. Unfortunately it was so far away we couldn’t really appreciate how big and ugly they are. We were then back onto the bus and off to start our hike. Most people had signed up to do the 2 day one night hike but thankfully we chose to do it in 3 days. You do the exact same track you obviously just have more time to do it on the 3 day hike and i think it was only like $10 more. Our group consisted of a German guy, Tim, and his dad, kirst and me.
The first day was pretty shit. Although it was all down hill I discovered that going downhill is worse than going uphill. It was so hot and my knees were so sore as were my big toes! We finally made it to the bottom and into some shade when all of a sudden Tim’s dad went white and started making a weird noise and then suddenly collapsed. It was so scary I thought he had a stroke and we were at the bottom of the canyon! Thankfully he had just fainted and came too pretty quickly after our guide put some smelling salt/oil thing under his nose. Thankfully we were only a couple of meters away from our accommodation.
The next day wasn’t too bad. A bit of up and a bit of down and we arrived at our accommodation with plenty of time to lie by the pool and work on our tans. After a bit of R&R it was time to tackle the third day… the uphill climb out of the canyon. I decided to wimp out and get a mule…. Tim and Kirsten did the hike but Tim’s dad and I had a sleep in and then jumped on some Mules and got carried out of the canyon. Yes it was lazy but it was very fun and also CBF walking when I can pay for a Mule!
Condor flying over the canyon
At the bottom of the canyon
End of the hike looking over the valley