A Travellerspoint blog

Cusco and the Inca Trail

sunny 26 °C

So after booking our Inca Trail some time in the summer (to ensure that we got a place) October finally came around and it was time for us to head to Cusco so we could acclimatise for the altitudes that we would be climbing to during the trail.

We arrived in Cusco 3 days before our hike was due to start. Those Incas certainly knew what they were doing when the built this stunning city. Cusco is positioned at 3600 meters above sea level, in a large valley. So when you first arrive the City quite literally takes your breath away.

The hostel that we booked called Casa Hospedaje LLaqtayay, was a very small, family run house, positioned up the hill, slightly out of town. When we arrived the Lady owner, Sonia, greeted us all with a very warm smile and a cup of coca tea; she immediately made us feel at home and advised us of the best way to avoid altitude sickness. Which included eating no red meat, fat or dairy for 24 hours when we first arrived.

The next 3 days flew by as we took in the sights of this wonderful city. The weather was warm and sunny so we spent hours just walking around the town. Craig managed to gather a small fan club of 6 year old children who were delighted when he took their photo and showed them their picture on his digital camera. On the second day we decided that we were out of the danger zone for altitude sickness so when we had lunch we decided to get a jug of Pisco Sour - which was a great idea while we were drinking it. But when it came to walking up the hill to (Sexy woman) some of us began to feel a bit the worse for wear - a pounding headache ensued. So we ended up jumping in a cab up the hill to the Inca ruin and then being a bit naughty and skirting round the outside of the queue for entry and viewing the ruin from a distance (without paying a penny). This resulted in some Chinese tourists being very irritated with us and shouting at us while waving their expensive entry tickets at us - oh well :-).

The other major activity that we took part in during our time in Cusco was shopping for Alpaca wear. There were literally hundreds of stalls where you could purchase brightly decorated knit wear - including leg warmers, jumpers, socks, gloves, scarves and of course traditional style Peruvian hats. We took it in turn trying on various ridiculous looking clothes and laughing at each other (and occasionally buying some of the items).

On the day before the big hike we decided between us that as we would probably be given only very basic food for the next 4 days and also needed to carb load so we treated ourselves to a large lunch at Jack's restaurant. We had delicious hamburgers and chips, followed by chocolate brownies and lattes - yum! Now we were ready for 4 days of walking up mountains.

The pre-hike briefing that we attended at SAS Travel offices allowed us to meet the 15 other people that we would be spending the next few days with - a mixture of American, Scottish and English faces. We also met our guides, two young Peruvian guys, who gave us our kit bags that the Chuskies (Porters) would be carrying for us, with strict instructions not to fill them over 10Kgs. So we hurried back to the hostel so we could work out what we could fit into the bags.

We woke up at the crack of dawn so we could have one last shower (well the girls did, Craig didn't bother) and were picked up by one of the Chuskies (Porters). Who took all 4 of our bags and carried them like they were full of feathers. When we got on the coach we all fell asleep and so soon arrived at the start point of the walk, where the Chuskies loaded up their massive backpacks and we all stood around feeling nervous about what awaited us.

The first mornings walk took us on a gradual up hill climb, where we saw our first glimpse of the Inca's legendary trail and one of the first small Inca village ruins, on a backdrop of snow capped mountains and fast flowing rivers, with warm sunshine on our backs. The pace was pretty comfortable, which meant that we had a chance to chat to the other people on the hike. Amazingly it seemed that everyone in our group was really nice, not one annoying Mr Bean type to irritate us for days - result!

Before we knew it we arrived at the spot where we were going to have lunch. We were greeted with a round of applause from the Chuskies - which was pretty embarrassing as the Chuskies had ran up the mountain, with all our stuff on their backs, so they could arrive before us and set up a tent to eat in. The food then presented for lunch was pretty unbelievable considering it was cooked with what they had carried with them and cooked on a portable gas stove. We were given fresh quinoa soup followed by a chicken curry, rice, a vegetable salad, jungle potatoes and banana with Dolce De Leche for dessert. We were all amazed with the high standard of the cooking - perhaps the visit to Jacks wasn't really necessary after all.

The afternoon walk was a little tougher - with a more steep climb, plus we had a little rain, but we were enjoying ourselves, the scenery was amazing and the company wasn't bad either. At one point we had to jump to the side of the path as 4 llamas stampeded past us, quickly followed by a lone donkey - rush hour in Peru!

We arrived at our camp site for the night to be greeted by another embarrassing round of applause from the Chuskies and another amazing dinner cooked on a portable stove. At dinner Kerry made an impact on the rest of the group when she announced that she hoped that she would be able to "crack walnuts between her butt cheeks by Christmas, with all the walking". For a moment there was nothing but silence, but then lots of laughter quickly followed - the banter had begun and we spent the rest of the evening chatting and laughing with our group.

Our first nights sleep in the tent was not a good one, Jo realised that only time she had slept in a tents was when she had spent the day drinking cider at a music festival. Trying to sleep stone cold sober on a hard floor of a tent is actually fairly difficult. So when we were woken at 6am with the sound of "good morning, time to wake up, here's a coca tea", none of us jumped out of our tents. But the view that greeted us when we did eventually poke our heads out, was amazing; we were surrounded by mountains and a early morning, lilac sky. We were then given a hot breakfast of pancakes and porr idge, again prepared by our amazing Chuskies. As we got ourselves ready for the days hike the Chuskies hurried around and packed up the tents and sleeping bags and started up the mountain so they would get to the lunch spot before us - these guys seemed super human!

In our briefing we were told that day 2 would be the most physically demanding part of the walk and they weren't wrong. We walked up several hundred meters, literally up through the clouds, where the temperature dropped considerably and we became more than a little breathless due the thin air. The highest point was through Dead Woman's Pass - whose name had made Jo a little nervous as she imagined having to walk right on the edge of a mountain, which had resulted in a few woman falling and dying. Thankfully the name actually comes from the shape of the mountain, which looks like a woman lying down. On the downward decent from Dead Woman's Pass the few hundred steps that the Incas had left as a path began to take its toll on our knees and so we were glad of our walking poles, which eased the pressure on them a little. By lunch time we were all feeling pretty weary, so the large amount of (delicious) food that we then consumed meant that most of felt like an afternoon nap. But that was not part of the plan so before we knew it we were being told by Eddy (the Group Leader) that we had to get going - which meant climbing up another mountain.

By day 2 we had all worked out that Eddy (our group leader) was Peru's version of The Fonze. He had the big hair, the tight T-shirts and the cheesy lines. Unfortunately unlike the Fonze he took himself very seriously and very much liked the sound of his own voice. When we arrived at an Inca ruin he would launch into a half hour lecture about the "amaaaaaazing Incas" and the "evil Spanners (Spanish)" - he also had a very strong accent. We soon learned that once he started talking we should get ourselves comfortable as we would be there for a while. The assistant hike leader, Caesar, was a completely different character, very cool and calm and a little shy. He obviously found Eddy quite irritating and would role his eyes when Eddy came out with one of his tall tales.

By early evening the weather had closed in and it started to rain just as we arrived at an Inca ruin, which meant that Eddy had to cut short his evening lecture. That night, after our dinner the Chuskies made us a delicious hot fruit cocktail, which was made even better by the large bottle of dark rum that Eddy produced. After a long day of walking up a and down Inca steps a hot rum cocktail was the perfect tonic. To spice the evening up a little more we started playing a drinking game, which made us all very giggly, it was a great night with fantastic company. Having spent the last couple of days together we had developed some really good friendships, everybody felt at ease with each other and there was non stop chatting. We all got on particularly well with one couple called Rosa and Mike. Craig and Mike were having lots of man chats as they strode up the mountains together, it was a real bro-mance and the girls all really liked Rosa as soon as they met her and also enjoyed taking the piss out of the boys together.

When we woke up on the third morning the rain had cleared and so we could see the beautiful mountain range that we were camped in front of. This day was described as "Unforgettable" when we booked the trip, so our expectations were high. But we were not disappointed, the views that we saw for the next few hours were indeed unforgettable, absolutely stunning. Pacha Muma (Peruvian Mother Nature) was smiling on us and the day was perfectly clear so we could see mountains and valleys for miles and miles. We also learned what an "ecological toilet" was as there were no proper toilets on this part of the trail - which resulted in us becoming "tinkle buddies" this meant one group would wait at the top of the path and stop anyone coming down, while the others did a pee. Only 2 days before we didn't know the other people on our hike and now we were tinkle buddies!

The time flew by, despite our legs being tired from the previous two days of walking and before we knew it we were near our final camping spot. We arrived at an Inca Ruin just before midday, which over looked a beautiful, lush green valley with our campsite a couple of hundred meters below. Although we should mention that Craig and his new best buddy Mike arrived about half before everyone else as the pair of them seemed to climb and descend the mountains twice as fast as anyone else - so much so that Craig got the nick name "mountain goat" for his ability to use his spindly legs to get around mountains with such ease. When we all arrived we sat in the sunshine, on the Inca Ruin taking in the scenery and reflecting on what we had just seen and experienced. It was a pretty wonderful feeling.

After a half hour we headed down to the campsite for our lunch, which left the afternoon free for us to do whatever we felt like. One of the options was to take a 30 minute walk to a waterfall. Although we were all very tired we also hadn't showered in 3 days so most of us felt that this was a good option so stuck our bathing suits on and were led to the waterfall by the head Chuskie Riccardo. When we arrived we were a little underwhelmed by the waterfall as it was very small, but Riccardo was determined to make it better for us so stripped down to his pants and proceeded to try and redirect the water flow by placing a bolder in the water - he wasn't very successful but the girls found it very entertaining watching him in his white pants in the water. After quite a bit of giggling we decided to take the plunge and get into the water, which was freezing; straight from the top of the snow capped mountains. The benefit was that the cold water did help sooth our tired muscles a little, plus make us smell a bit better, so definitely worth it.

On the last evening we had one last amazing meal prepared by our Chuskies - they even made us a cake. The slight downer of the evening is that we had to decide what tip to give the Chuskies for all the work that they had done - which was definitely deserved but was a very difficult topic to discuss between a group of 15 people. It took us quite some time to decide on what was an appropriate amount to give each, but we got there in the end.

The final morning we were woken up at 3.30am, which was horrid early. But as we had Machu Picchu to look forward to nobody complained. We had breakfast and then made our way to the queue for the checkpoint, which we appeared to be at the back of. We therefore didn't make it to the Sun Gate (the point where you can first see the city) until gone 7.30. But when we got there the view was totally unbelievable, we had seen several Inca ruins over the past 3 days, but Machu Picchu was huge! To think that this city had lain undiscovered, covered in forest until only a hundred years ago was mind boggling.

We walked the final 500 hundred meters into the Machu Picchu and were greeted by literally hundreds of tourists. After 3 days of only being with our hiking group of 15 and the Chuskies it was quite a shock to be surrounded by so many people. They were pushing and shoving and shouting, it was quite irritating, especially as we had just walked the Inca trail to be there and they had just caught the train up the mountain. But nevertheless walking around the ancient city was a fantastic experience, it's just a shame they let so many tourists in each day.

Eddy had advised us to go see the Inca Bridge, which was a 30 minute walk away from the centre of the city. So we made our way through the hoards of people to the bridge. The path to the bridge took us to a much quieter area of the city, where we could view it from a peaceful distance. The Inca Bridge wasn't anything particularly special but the walk there and back gave us a great view of the city without being pushed and shoved by the other tourists. Plus it had the added benefit of allowing the girls to get very close to some llamas that were grazing on the ruins. Kerry and Jo liked the llamas so much they decided to at first touch the llamas and then straddle a sitting llama- the llama didn't look very impressed but the girls certainly enjoyed themselves.

We had to get the 1 O'Clock bus back down the mountain as we had a final group lunch in Aguas Calientes (the nearest major town to Machu Picchu). After lunch the four of us, plus Rosa and Mike had arranged to stay in Aguas Calientes for the night as there were hot springs in the town (hence the name). So we stuck our swim suits on and made our way to the hot springs. The water in the hot springs was more than a little yellow, but we were all so tired and desperate just to laze in some hot water we got straight in. A very nice man then came over and took our drinks orders from inside the pool, so we drank ice cold beers in a hot mineral water pool, with big smiles on our faces. We could see the mountains in the distance and then it started to rain so steam started to rise up out of the water - bliss.

The 6 of us headed back to the hostel just as it started to get dark, bought a bottle of rum on route and then arranged to meet in Leia's room for a little party. Leia put on a lovely spread of cheese crackers, Oreo cookies and various other snackets and Craig played some tunes on his I-pod - us Essex people know how to throw a party! Aguas Calientes had quite a few bars so after drinking the last of our rum we hit the town- we managed to find a bar that was willing to give us 5 Pisco Sours free (yes 5 drinks free!) if we bought just 1. So we all got quite merry on far too many Pisco's and then proceeded to dance like crazy people in a near deserted night club that we found. The DJ in the nightclub was so impressed with our dancing skills he let us pick the tracks, so we ended up busting some moves to classic tracks like YMCA, Wham, Salt & Pepper, Vanilla Ice and various other 90's hits. We were soooo cool!

We eventually got back to the hostel at gone 3.30am, which meant we had been awake for 24 hours, as we had been woken at 3.30am the previous morning to hike to Machu Picchu. It had been absolutely fantastic 4 days and our night in Aguas Calientes was the icing on the cake. We'd seen some stunning scenery, visited one of the wonders of the world, made some fantastic friends and faced some challenging walking.... And loved each and every second of it!

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Posted by BakeJoBond 05.12.2011 12:40 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains hiking peru cusco inca_trail incas Comments (0)

From Lima (Southend on Sea) to Huacachina The Oasis

sunny 33 °C

We had an unusual LAN flight from Medellin, Colombia to Lima, Peru; which involved our plane landing in Quito, Ecuador, letting all the Colombian passengers off and letting a whole load of American tourists on, (while we sat there wondering what was going on as we had forgotten about the scheduled stop off). As we waited in the queue at passport control at Lima we felt a little culture shocked- the airport was big, white and shiny and the room was filled with the sound of English and American voices. We were in Peru - home of Machu Picchu and many a package holiday.

We made our way to the taxi rank where we negotiated a price to take us to our hostel in Miraflores. As we sped through the city at about 11 O'Clock at night again we were reminded that we were in a tourist hot spot - with American style fast food joints on every corner.
We arrived at our hostel, Casa Wayra and were met by the owner as we got out of the taxi. Which was a good job as the taxi driver tried to increase the price of our ride as we didn't have the correct change for the fair (the ATM's tend to only give you large notes!). The owner of the hostel basically told him to jog on (in Spanish).

The owner guy then escorted us into the hostel and asked us to pay (which is never what you want when you first arrive in a hostel). But we duly paid him and he showed us to our room, where Kerry had been waiting for us, after arriving from London a few hours earlier.
The room was basic and slightly odd - it appeared to have been converted from a previous use and so there were doors that wouldn't open and windows in strange places. But it was clean and the beds were comfortable. We chatted with Kerry until the early hours and then eventually fell to sleep.

We woke up late to a breakfast of white bread and butter (which seemed to be standard fair in South America) and discussed what we wanted to do for the next few days. After looking at the Lonely Planet and the Cruz Del Sur Coach Timetable we decided to break up our journey from Lima to Cusco with a little stop in Huacachina. The Lonely Planet explained that this small town was home to a smelly oasis in the middle of gigantic sand dunes, which promised to be a "sandy gringo playground where we could lose ourselves for days". As the journey from Lima to Cusco was meant to take about 23 hours we thought that any chance to break the mammoth coach journey up should be taken. So we headed to Cruz Del Sur coach terminal and were amazed when we got there - the terminal had computerised screens telling you when the next bus would leave glamorous air hostess types behind the desks of the counters waiting to assist you with your ticket purchase and even a bag check in area - this was not like Colombia! We quickly and easily booked our tickets to Ica (5 mins from Huacachina) and also our onwards tickets from Ica to Cusco for 24 hours later.

We boarded our double decker coach, looking (again) in amazement at the huge cream leather seats, TV screens and the general sparkly newness of the vessel. Leia and Craig were sat directly at the front of the bus - with nothing but glass between them and the tarmac. As the bus started its journey a short film was shown about the rules of the bus - one being that the toilet onboard was for urine only and if a number 2 was required you were to ring the bell above your head so the driver could stop the bus.... we all preyed our stomachs would behave!! The journey took us along the Peruvian coast line at dusk, which resulted in a stunning sunset across the baron landscape.
At about 8 O'clock at night we arrived in Ica and again negotiated our taxi ride. Our driver was a very smiley man, with broken glasses, who told us that he knew good places to stay in Huacachina, which was a good job as we hadn't booked anywhere. So after a short 10 minute taxi ride he took us to a hostel (that we suspected his brother owned) and finding we could get 2 twin rooms for only £6 each a night we decided to book.

We dumped our bags and headed out to explore the town (which looked pretty small). We found the "Oasis", which thankfully didn't smell as bad as we thought it might and as we walked round it we came to a very popular looking restaurant, called Desert Nights so of course we decided to have dinner there. We ordered chicken salads (the first vegetables we had had in days), which was delicious and decided to sample the local cocktail of Pisco Sours - which was so good we ended up ordering 2 jugs! The result being that we were all pretty giggly by about 12 O'clock, when the waiter/barman dude came over to us and started making conversation, before we knew it Kerry was wrapped in a Alpaca blanket because she was cold, we were being given a free beer and then being ushered to the local bar called The Pub, with free drinks vouchers by the barman/waiter and a couple of other gringos we had picked up on route. The night then proceeded to follow the course of Jo being chatted up by a Chilean Grape Buyer and the other 3 laughing as she gradually tried to move away from him... it was a funny night.

The next day we woke up to brilliant sunshine and to find that we were literally surrounded by sand dunes (we couldn't see them in the dark when we arrived) so after deciding that we were going to do a "sunset sand boarding a buggy tour" and paying about £10 for the privilege we went to chill around the pool - but didn't go in the water as it looked pretty dirty - but we did try to throw it at each other (standard behaviour).

After probably too much sun it was time to get ready for our sand boarding tour. We were instructed to cover our legs and to wear shoes. We turned up at the tour to find a slightly annoying group of loud Canadians were in our group so we proceeded to try and get in a different buggy to them - which we luckily achieved.

Our driver then gets in to the buggy - he didn't look old enough to drive and also had a striking resemblance to an Ewok. Plus our buggy had sharp pointed objects coming out from the back of the seats in front, which wasn't great considering that we had absolultely no leg room. But there was no backing out now - so Ewok Boy starts up the buggy and drives us up into the sand dunes. What occurred next was that we were driven at high speed over massive sand dunes - launching into the air on several occasion, which resulted in Kerry, Jo and Leia screaming their heads off and Craig grinning like a Cheshire Cat. It was really really scary but also really really fun and funny. After what felt like hours of high speed buggy action we eventually came to a stop near a group of dunes right in the middle of the desert. The scenery was amazing - not building in sight, just miles of golden dunes in every direction.

Ewok Boy then distributed our sand boards and took us to the edge of a dune. As we all had very limited experience on a board he instructed us that on the first decent we should just lie down head first on the board - he then pushed us through his legs down the dune -which meant more screaming from Kerry, Jo and Leia and more grinning from Craig. We spent about half an hour going up and down the dunes around us - and by the end we were all just about able to stand up on the board.

We then got back in the buggy and thought that we were going to be taken on another high speed ride but after only a couple of minutes we came to a halt - we were told that we were now at the "big ones". We soon fond out this meant the big dunes - as we looked over the edge of the first dune we all felt a pang of fear - it was about a 50 meter drop to the bottom. Leia took a big gulp, layed down on the board and went for it..... she then proceeded to career at high speed and slightly out of control down the dune. But when she got to the bottom she stood up, turned round and gave us all a big smile. So we all followed.

The final dune was a beast - at least a 100 meters high and very steep. But as there didn't seem to be any other option than to board down it we all gave it a go. Although Kerry's attempt was slightly thwarted as she went about 10 meters and then came to a stand still and had to be given another push to get going down the sand mountain. We were all shaking a little by the time we got to the bottom as it was a pretty nerve racking ride to the base, but thank fully we all made it down in more or less one piece (although with a few bruises).

We then got back into the buggies and were of course treated to another high speed buggy ride (and more screaming from Kerry, Jo and Leia). Then finally as the sun started to set we arrived at the top of a dune that looked over Huacachina and we sat there and watched the sun set, which was beautiful. We arrived back at our hostel with big smiles on our faces - the high adrenalin £10 tour was definitely worth the stay in Huacachina!

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Posted by BakeJoBond 18.11.2011 06:09 Archived in Peru Tagged oasis desert peru sand surfing sunshine huacachina ica Comments (0)

Cartagena, Playa Blanca and Mad Medallin

all seasons in one day

So after 3 restful days in Tayrona National Park we decided to move on to Cartagena. We had high expectations of this city - it is meant to be one of the hightlights of the country. We arrived and made our way to our hostel 'Media Luna' in a cool part of town which felt vibrant and lively. The hostel was in a huge, beautiful, old colonial Spanish Building with a bar that had a balcony over looking the street and amazing views from the roof. It was however very young and full of gringos! So by 10pm we felt like we were in Magaluf so we swiftly made our way outside to find the real Cartagena and we wasn't dissapointed- Beautiful architecture, amazing colours, helpful and charasmatic people, amazing restaurants and bars with live music and latin dancing!We spent one night in a bar listening to a cool Colombian band and the day just wondering the streets of the old town.

We then decided to make our way to Playa Blanca for a last hit of beach time before Peru. We ended up being talked into taking a tour there - big mistake! We found ourselves squashed onto a boat with 500 Colombians, on a floating Spanish Butlins they where Salsaing in the isles, Kariokeing and creating there own 'Colombias got talent.' The weather turned to rain and the air conditioning was set to -10. With Mojito hangovers Craig and Leia thought they might not make it- much to Jo's amusment! The journey was all worth it though as after 6 HOURS (we were later told it should have been 45 mins) We reached beautiful Playa Blanca, a gorgeous stretch of beach on the Carribean coast. We found some hammocks to rent at Hugos Place right on the beach and spent 2 days and 2 nights chilling, topping up our tans, swimming in the warm turquoise sea and chatting to fellow travellers. Bliss!

We finally plucked up the courage to leave paradise on the Butlins Boat and made our way to Cartagena bus station and onto Medillin! Again the bus ride was very comfortable and we slept like baby's all night, 13hrs later we reached the huge, modern Colombian City.

Medillin is less pretty than Cartegena, Santa Marta and Bogata and has very little colonial architecture left. It is much more modern with a metro service that runs though the city, lots of shopping and office blocks. It was a Colombian national holiday when we arrived so it was busy and there seemed to be things going on everywhere, we looked- cool old guys playing guitars in squares and markets selling all sorts of things. There were sooooo many bars and clubs to visit too - this was once the Cocaine capital of the world and the party vibe is still very much evident. All in all Medllin was much more cosmoplitan than any other place that we had visited in Colombia but we kinda missed more basic, old style Colombia that we had fallen in love with.

Leia and Jo decided that they wanted to take a day trip to Guatape, which is a small town about 2 hours from Medallin, with a large stone (Penol), which once climbed by means of hundreds of steps has amazing views over the surounding hills and lakes. Being the world travellers that we are, we decided to make our own way to Guatape (without booking a trip). Which was perhaps a little over confident with our levels of knowledge of the Spanish language! So Leia and Jo made their way to Guatape, which in the end took about 4 hours. The town of Guatape itself was pretty, with brightly painted Spanish style buildings, but the "El Penol" was no where to be seen! After asking a few locals in very broken spanish we kinda realised that we needed to get another form of transport to Penol. But didn't realise that there was also a town called Penol! So we ended up on a coach going past the big stone to the town called Penol then having to get a Jeep back to the stone, so after about 5 hours of travel we actually arrived at the big stone and my God was it big! By this time it was about 5 O'Clock and it was also beginning to pour with rain, but as we are Wolrd Travellers we made the rather foolish decision to climb the steps of the Penol to check out the view from the top. As we started to climb the rock we began to realise that we had made a mistake with our decision. The steps were VERY steep with no rail to hold onto and the increasingly heavy rain was making them very slippy! We reached the first viewing point after about 15 minutes of climbing, both of us shaking with fear. So after taking a few pics we decided to make our way down (and skip the view from the very top). By this time the light was really fading and so at times we could barely see where we were going as we decended the steps - it was very very nerve racking! Leia said it was like she was living her worst nightmare. But we somehow made it down in one piece- both of us shaking with fear and the cold (we were soaked). We were pretty tired so decided it was time to make a move to get back to Medallin - but were then told that all the buses back were full until 8.30 (over 2 hours later)! We could not beleive our luck! There was no choice though so we sat eating a greasy dinner of different fried meats, fried egg and rice, with a bean soup on the side. Nice! We made it back to Medallin by about 11 OClock, very cold and very tired. But it was definetly an experience, which we will both remember.

We spent our final day in Colombia going up the cable car, which provided us with amazing views over the city, defintely a highlight of our stay in the city.

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Posted by BakeJoBond 29.10.2011 19:03 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park (aka Paradise)

sunny 30 °C

So after a 20 hour, overnight bus journey from Bogota we arrived in Santa Marta in the afternoon. The trusty Lonely Planet led us to La Brisa Loca hostel, which is right in the centre of Santa Marta, in a traditional Spanish Style building. The vibe is very relaxed and we feel at home pretty quickly.

In the evening we decided to do as all English people do and go down "to the front". Unfortunatly Santa Marta's sea front isn't one of it's stong points and after a pretty average dinner we wonder around trying to find where all the action is, with little success.

The next morning, just by chance, we met a couple from Slovenia, that like us wanted to spend the day at the beach. So we shared a taxi with them to Bahia Concha. But this was no average taxi ride... the driver had a sound system in his taxi and he wanted to use it. So we spent 45 minutes listening to various classic tunes like Shaggy's Mr Lover Lover, UB40 and Bad Boys Bad Boys - all at top volume with Mr Taxi Driver doing the occasional dance move (with Leia joining in). Plus the road to the beach was just a dirt track, so at points it looked like we wouldn't even make it there and at one point we all had to pile out of the taxi so the car would get through the mud. It was hillarious!

The beach was amazing though, so beautiful and very peaceful, with hardly another soul there, apart for some local guys trying to catch fish. The Caribbean Coast did not disappoint.

That evening we asked the hostel where was good to eat and where was good to dance. So we ended up having a lovely dinner and Lupo and then we went to a bar for a free salsa lesson - which Leia and Jo loved but Craig wasn't so keen on and pointed out several times that it wasn't even proper salsa!

When we got back to the hostel we bumped into the Slovenian couple again and after a few drinks decided that we would go to the Tayrona National Park together the next day.

I don't think any of us were totally prepared for the walk that we would have to do when we got to the Tayrona National Park. Luckily we all had our walking boots on as we had to walk through a very muddy, uneven path going through the jungle for about 3 hours until we got to the beach where we wanted to stay. It was hard work! But my god was it worth it!!! The Cabo San Juan beach was simply stunning, so so so beautful and completely unspoilt. The area is protected so there are very few buildings there.

We arrived at about 5 O'Clock and got straight into the sea. We then drank beer and ate a picnic on the beach with Enes and Ursa (the Slovenian couple). Bliss!

We went to sleep in hammocks, with the sound of Colombian "salsa" music in the background. The next coupld of days were spent lazing on the beach, all of us totally amazed by how beautiful it was.

The 3rd night we slept in the hammocks which were on the top of a little island that over looked the bay. A storm came in and from our hammocks looking out at the ocean it felt like we were in the middle of the storm-amazing!

On our final day in the National Park we decided to do a walk up to Pueblito. Which is an ancient native village about 2.5Km in land and up hill. The walk was a little challenging, especially for Leia and Jo who felt that they were going to die most of the time as the walk involved walking over various rocks, with sheer drops the other side. Luckly for us Enes and Ursa (and Craig) were experienced walkers, so their confidence ensured that we made it through ok. The village was cool, but the journey there was more of an experience.

We decided to get the boat back to Santa Marta, rather than do the 3 hour walk back. Although we nearly needed to walk as Jo and Craig ran out of money and it was only because they accepted US dollars that we had money for the boat. Lesson learnt there. The boat droped us at Tagana (a sleepy fishing village that has been invaded by tourists and isn't so sleepy anymore!) We had a little walk to try and find an ATM and decided quickly that we were very glad we chose to stay in Santa Marta rather than here!

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Posted by BakeJoBond 11.10.2011 14:29 Archived in Colombia Tagged beaches paradise santa colombia marta tagana tyrona Comments (1)

Bootiful Bogota

semi-overcast 18 °C

So after much worrying about what would await us in Colombia we were all very pleasantly suprised by Bogota!

Our "boutique hostel" called Casa Violeta is in the heart of Bogota's Candelaria district is very very cool, with modern art pieces on the walls and cold showers ;-). The surrounding district is amazingly pretty, with colonial architecture, cobbled streets all in the backdrop of mountian tops and clouds (due to the high altitude).

We spent our first afternoon wondering around the streets, taking in the views and people watching (and being watched by people). We also took in a bit of culture - popping into one of the city's art galleries, which had an impressive collection of impressionist art. Leia and Jo nearly got chucked out though for setting off the alarm and using flash photography.... you can take the girls out of Essex....

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Posted by BakeJoBond 02.10.2011 19:50 Archived in Colombia Tagged art colombia bogata Comments (2)

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