A Travellerspoint blog

Guinea Pig

Cuy al Horno


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Just a quick entry to announce that we did try the local delicacy of "Cuy al Horno", oven baked Guinea pig last night.

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Tasted ok, once we both got past the fact that it looked like a giant hairless rat road kill, and that all its organs, face, claws and teeth were still included. Certainly was a unique flavour, that neither of us will be rushing to order again I don't think. We were in a restaurant with only one other couple there, and I think the woman was a vegetarian judging by the looks that we were getting, especially when picking up bits of carcas and taking photos of each other. It even smiled for the camera.

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As for taste, it kind of tasted a bit like rabbit, but there wasn't a lot of meat to eat, and we both spent most of our time poking at it, trying to avoid the slimy bits. The skin was like rubber. Wasn't too bad though, and we're both still alive today.

Posted by calumfife 11:17 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cusco - Machu picchu

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We travelled to Cusco on an overnight bus with one of the cheaper companies on offer. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake. We got on the bus in Areqipa at about 8pm and the bus was due in at cusco about 5.30am. No sooner had we started moving than a video came on the TV screen, which we were sitting very close to. For the next hour we had to endure a Peruvian brass band commercial - a not very good Peruvian brass band - blaring out at us and jumping about inca ruins on the screen. Not a good start, as we were both knackered. In addition to this the bus was absolutely freezing, and there was a draft coming through the window, for the entire journey. There was also a big fat woman who was a couple of rows back snorting and grunting in her sleep which was extremely annoying. The worst of it was yet to come though. When we arrived we got off the bus and found a hostel and went straight to bed, having had next to no sleep on the bus. When we got up to go have a look round the city Jenny realised that her phone had been knicked from the bag. Someone must have reached under our seat to get it, because it was on the floor the whole time, at our feet. So the first place we visited in the city was the police station. Got a report, which was like pulling teeth. Took the officer about 30minutes to write 4 lines of notes on what happened. Having acheived this we had to go to the bank to queue for an hour and pay them for a copy of the police report, then return to the station with the receipt. A total hassle. Anyway, afterwards, we went and got a bite to eat.......during which we realised that the cameras had also been stolen from the bag. Couple of idiots. So we had to go back to the police station to explain this. Needless to say the officer thought that we were trying an insurance scam. He did believe us in the end, and we did get our report a day and another trip to the bank later. Not a good start to Cusco. We have chipped in together and bought a new camera between us.

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Cusco is at an altitude of 3,500m (11,500 feet). At this height, everything is such an effort. Both me and Jenny have suffered quite a lot from altitude sickness. Both had really sore stomachs. The locals say that coca tea, made from the leaves of the cocaine plant abundant here, is the antitdote, so we've been drinking gallons of the stuff.

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Also got some pills from the pharmacy. Apart form all of this Cusco is a really nice town. Loads to do and see.

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Lots of locals clad in traditional gear with llamas or alpacas in tow. Jenny is using up most of the memory on our joint camera taking pictures of the llamas and alpacas.

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We have not done too much in Cusco other than try to aclimatise to the altitude. Just been taking it easy.

The initial plan for me was to be to do the traditional inca trail up to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately I wasn't organised enough to get on one of the tours. You have to book it 3 months ahead, not 3 days as I imagined. Don't think we'd have managed given the altitude sickness anyway. Instead, we took the lazy way up, by train and bus. Train costs an absolute fortune.

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Jenny was struggling a bit on the journey and had to hang her head out the window for most of the journey here, again because of the altitude. We stayed last night in Aguas Calientes, the town from which you take the bus up to the ruins. It's a bit of a dump and overpriced.

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There are hot springs however, which we went to yesterday afternoon. They also serve the local beer by the litre which is helpful, although expensive.

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This morning I dragged Jenny out of bed at 5 am to try and get the first bus up the hill.

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Managed to get the second one and arrive not long after the sun was up. The place is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately we had to wait quite a while for the cloud/mist to lift before getting a proper view. Thankfully it did lift, and turned into a really nice day. I had very high expectations of the place, and wasn't disappointed. It's incredible. Wandered about the ruins for a most of the morning. Decided not to pay for a guide. Did a bit of evesdropping on other English tours, lurking about in the background pretending to be interested in something else. Although Jenny was impressed by the geography of the place, don't think she was that impressed with the ruins because they are only 500 years old, and "the Romans probably had electricity 500 years ago". She was impressed with the llamas/alpacas roaming about the place though, so we've got even more pictures of them after today.

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Killing time just now waiting for the train back to Cusco. We've been waiting until both of us felt a bit better before trying the local delicacy of oven baked Guinea pig (or Indian Rabbit). Think tonight could be the night though. Probably going to head for Lake Titicaca tomorrow. It's another 500m higher which is worrying on account of the altitude sickness.

Posted by calumfife 11:58 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

South America

Peru - Lima, Pisco, Huacachina, Arequipa

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Landed in Lima on the 26th of April. Very excited about being in South America, always wanted to come to Peru. It hasn't disappointed so far. Lima was nice enough, although only spent one night there before heading south to a small town on the coast called Pisco. We went there to do a bit of wildlife stuff for Jenny. There is an island just off the coast which is dubbed "the poor man's Galapagos islands", and seeing as we don't have a spare 1000 pounds to go there we settled for the 5 pound boat trip out to the Islas Ballestas. These are islands which are basically made from bird shit, and they absolutely stank, a far cry from the Galapagos. We saw loads of birds, sea lions, and there were a few penguins. All in all was a pretty good trip. Spent one night in Pisco and drank a few Pisco sours, the local drink made from White grape brandy, lime and egg white. Quite nice.

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From Pisco we headed further south and a bit inland to a desert oasis called Huacachina, near Ica. This place was amazing. Basically just a tiny wee lake surrounded by palm trees, surrounded by huge sand dunes on all sides. We got pretty drunk on our first night and met up with an English couple who we ended up travelling with to Arequipa. We also did a sand boarding trip with them the next day. Sand boarding's basically the same as snow boarding but warmer and softer. We got taken off into the desert up these enormous steep sand dunes in a dune buggy. The drive to, from and between the different dunes was probably the best part of the whole trip. The driver was a lunatic. Was great fun.

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The sandboarding was good as well, although we never managed to actually stand on the boards. We got taken to the top of these really steep dunes and went down on our fronts head first. Got sand everywhere, and bruises all down my elbows from clinging to the board, was well worth it though.

After this we headed much further south to Arequipa, a 12 hour overnight bus away.

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Arequipa's quite a big place and there's plenty to do. It's flanked by a big volcano and mountains. On our first day here we went to a museum, our first cultural experience for a while. The musem exhibits "Juanita" who is a frozen 500 year old mummy, an inca sacrificed girl found on the volcano beside Arequipa. Actually quite interesting, even Jenny found it interesting. The frozen body was pretty creepy, perfectly preserved in the ice, with face and hair and teeth and apparently organs all still in tact. No eyes though. Spent quite a long time staring at it thinking it might move or wink at me.

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We decided to do a bit of trekking into the Colca Canyon which is a 5 hour bus trip away from Arequipa. We arranged this through the hotel that we were staying at. We paid for a guide called Alain to take us there and cook for us. He was a bit strange but funny. He didn't speak very much English, so I got a chance to put my Spanish to the test. I can now have proper lengthy conversations with people which is helpful.

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Colca Canyon is the 2nd deepest canyon in the world. The tour started by getting the 5 hour bus at 1.30am to the canyon. It was horrendous. The bus broke down every hour or so, and we sat while the driver fiddled about with the engine. It was freezing cold, and there was a phantom farter sitting somewhere close to us who farted every 20minutes or so....and the windows didn't open. It stank. Not a good start. When we eventually got to the canyon we had to descend down into it which was very very vry steep and took about 6 hours, the last few in the blazing heat. We did see 2 condors which was good. We went on the tour with the English couple that we had met, Sally and Peter.

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Peter did not enjoy the walking. From about 2 hours into the tour until the end he spent most of his time sulking and whinging. I didn't think it was all that bad, although it was hard work. We stayed our first night at a tiny little place in at the bottom of the canyon. It was amazing. It had no electricity and we stayed in bamboo huts.

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It had natural hot springs which we went in after dark and looked at the stars which was incredible. We had a go at fishing with bamboo rods, but didn't manage to catch anything.

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The owner of the place had a net, so he caught fish which we ate that night. The next day we hiked up the side of the canyon and walked to an oasis where we stayed on our second night. This took about 4 hours, 4 of which Peter spent moaning. The Oasis was similar to the place we stayed on the first night, although it had a swimming pool. Was absolutely freezing though, so didn't bother with that. After another day's walking we were all feeling pretty tired. We had not slept much, given that for the 2nd days hike we had to get up at 5am. We both had blisters and our legs were very sore. When Alain told us that we were having to get up at 3am the next morning to hike out of the canyon, up about 1000m, that didn't go down to well, especially with Peter. Anyway, instead of walking we decided to pay a little extra and take mules up. Needless to say Jenny enjoyed this a lot. It was quite good fun, although surreal and scary at the same time.

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The path up was so so steep and rocky, and the mules seemed to like going right to the edge of the sheer drops. It was also dark the whole way up because we set off at 3 am. The whole canyon was lit up by the full moon though which was quite cool. All in all the tour was really good.

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We went out last night in Arequipa with Peter, who had finally stopped whinging by this stage, and Sally, and had a really nice meal and few Pisco Sours, before they got on the overnight bus to La Paz. We on the other hand are taking it easy and catching up on some sleep, before heading for Cusco probably tomorrow. From there we will hopefully be able to do some sort of trek up to Macchu pichu.

Posted by calumfife 12:58 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Isla Bastimiento - David - panama city

last leg of central america

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Isla Bastimiento was amazing. It was nice because it was nowhere near as resorty as some of the other places that we've been. Most of the hostels were run by Europeans and the islanders themselves just went about their normal stuff. We stayed in a kind of ramshackle place on our first night there. It was an old wooden place that was on stilts over the waters edge. You could see the water through the cracks in the floor boards in our room. It also had a little pier with a thatched roofed bit at the end where we sat on hammocks and had a few ron y cocas that night.

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Turned out that we couldn't stay there longer than a night though, cos there was a bunch of dickheads staying in a house nearby that played the same crap song over and over again all night, so we moved to another place, which was nice too. We spent our first day on the island trying to find Wizard beach, which was on the other side of the island. Unfortunately there was a sign that pointed in completely the wrong direction which firstly sent us up to the top of a hill to a graveyard, then we asked directions and ended up in the forest for an hour, before coming across one of the locals who we followed the rest of the way through the undergrowth.

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Wizard beach was very nice. Typical tropical beach, palm tree lined with hardly anyone on it, crystal clear water, really sunny. Was great.

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Next day we hired snorkels and headed to another beach, Red Frog beach. Was very nice too, although there wasn't that much to see under the water, and we had to take turns at going in because of thieves nicking bags, of which we would get first hand experience the very next day.

Next day we returned to Wizard beach to do a bit of snorkelling there, and luckily only packed enough money for the day, and sun tan cream. We both went in together 3 times and the snorkelling was absolutely incredible. There was a coral reef literally just off the beach. It went out quite far and was shallow right out from the beach to about 50 metres then there was a sheer drop to about 30/40 feet open water. The wall of coral at the edge was brilliant though. Saw so many weird colourful tropical fish, big and small. Was getting braver and more confident each time we went out and going further and further from shore. On our fourth foray, whilst we were in, somebody stole our bag....and our clothes. Don't imagine there is that much market for a sweaty hearts strip in Panama though, so good luck to him getting rid of that, and the half used sun screen. Whilst all of this was going on on the shore I was having my own little adventure in the water. We saw an octopus which was pretty exciting, because they're so shy, and were heading back to shore. I was swimming a bit off the edge of the coral in deep water and Jenny was over the coral in the shallows. I saw something swimming below me out the corner of my eye, and thought it was just a big fish, then realised that its head was too big for that, about the same width as my body. Then I traced it back and noticed the dorsal fin, and the pointy tail. It was a shark! It was also about 4/5 feet long and swimming in the same direction as me, diagonally below, only about 8-10 feet below. I have never swum as fast in my life, screaming shark through the snorkel. I had no fins on which made me panic even more, splashing about like a lunatic. I basically swam right over the top of Jenny, and had she not grabbed me I would probably have swum right out the water and up the beach, into the forest. Turns out it was probably a nurse shark, which apparently are pretty harmless, but at the time I couldn't get out of the water fast enough. Was quite cool at the same time though, and once I'd calmed down, wanted to go back to the edge of the coral to see if I could peek over the edge and see it. Jenny was the voice of reason though, and we called it a day at that. With all the excitement of that, the bag stealing didn't really bother me as much as it might have.

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Spent 4 days on Bastimiento and then got a water taxi back to the mainland and headed south to a place called David. Not a lot to say about David other than we thought we'd stop there to break up the long journey to Panama City. It was a dump.

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We then headed for Panama City where we spent a couple of days before flying out to Peru. Panama City was ok. Not quite as nice as I was expecting. The old colonial part was pretty-ish, although pretty delapidated.

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We stayed in a rundown old hotel in a pretty grubby part of the city. The main street was quite interesting, really busy with people trying to sell all kinds of stuff. Not sweaty Hearts strips though. The main attraction to Panama City was the canal, which was good. We timed our arrival perfectly to see a massive cruise liner going through Miraflores lock, being lowered to sea level. The history of the canal is interesting and the boat passing through was interesting initially, then got a bit boring after a while. There were a lot of fat Americans on the boat doing a lot of whooping and waving. Equally, there were quite a few strange people on the shore cheering and waving back. If I was to go back, I think I would take some rotten fruit and eggs to throw, which would be more entertaining.

Having spent a couple of days in Panama City we said farewell to Panama and Central America, and got on a plane to Lima, where we are now.

Posted by calumfife 17:27 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Cahuita - Puerto Viejo - Panama

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Cahuita on the caribbean coast in Costa Rica was a great wee place. Only a one street town, but all the places to eat were really good, fresh fish all the way. Also it was just on the edge of a national park, with great beach and tons of wildlife. We went for a walk to the point, about halfway through the park, through rainforest all the way. Saw howler and capuchin monkeys which was exciting.

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The Capuchins were coming down out of the trees to steal food from the tourists. One of them took an overly keen interest in the water that Jenny was carying. She had a brown trousers moment and ran for the sea. It was more interested in the group of fat american 'monkeys' with bananas in their bag! Monkey eventually got a banana off one of them after jumping up at them and kicking the bag. They have very sharp teeth so he wasn't arguing. The reserve was literally crawling with insects and crabs and lizards. The ground would russel about with every step which kept you on your toes, and then we would hear monkeys crashing about above us. Was great. There were also lots of massive spiders in the trees just above us and I had a few panick attacks involving furiously rubbing my hands through my hair after feeling like I'd walked through their webs. Was all good fun though. The insects in Costa Rica are all about 20 times the size of anything at home, and they have banana spiders running about the place. We got told that if you got bitten by one of them then you would have to get to the hospital within 10 minutes or that was that.....which was nice. Doing a lot of shaking of clothes still and searching about the toilets before using them.

When we were in cahuita we stayed in a hotel right on the edge of the forest and at night you could here the howler's grunting at each other. Was a bit disconcerting at first because I didn't know what it was. We spent a couple of days here and then moved on to Puerto Viejo, another caribbean town, just down the road from Cahuita.

Puerto Viejo was a bit bigger but nice as well. We stayed in a hotel run by an old german couple of hippies who had two dogs, one called Mr Nice aka Howard Marks. They also had three cats and some frogs. Was really nice. Basically spent our time at the beach whilst here. Met up with James and Sarah again and did a bit more drinking with them which was a laugh, may try and hook up with them in Australia.

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There were lots and lots of big crabs scuttling about in Puerto Viejo, in the forest and sauntering about in the road. Was fun to watch them dodging in and out of, and under, traffic whilst having a drink. Puerto Viejo is the hotest place we've been yet. Absolutely unreal. Couldn't escape it. Had to get out of bed at about 8 or 9 because it became unbearably sweaty. We were drinking gallons and gallons of water and ron to keep cool.

After a few days here we headed accross the border into Panama, where we are just now. There was the usual carry on with everyone trying to rip us off. Once we had negotiated them we had to get a boat through the mangroves from Changuinola to Bocas Del Toro which was pretty smart. We arrived on an island called Isla Colon part of the Bocas Del toro archipeligo yesterday. Seems pretty nice although we were just told that it costs $20 to get to the beach, so sod that. Think we're going to go to a less touristy island tomorrow, Isla Bastamiento which is supposedly paradise, can't wait. Think I might buy a Panama hat whilst I'm out here to cover up the shocking hair cut that I got in Nicaragua. Got it cut buy an old man with a pair of children's scissors. It was a very scary experience involving a lot of spinning of the chair. He basically cut the front with a ruler so I was getting a slagging about it because I looked like a monk, so I tried to cut it myself with Jenny's nail scissors, which was probably a mistake. Look even more of a special case now.

Posted by calumfife 13:44 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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