Our South American Trip

Written in emails by David. Edited by Deborah

 

8 September 2007  Papeete     (Note - we have hundreds more photos if you would like to see them - DVD of photos done (too many to fit on a CD) and a video under way)

 

We enjoyed Papeete - t shirt weather, only occasional light shower and warm. Stayed with a SERVAS host for a couple of nights. They welcomed us with leis of perfumed flowers. We arrived Saturday evening. Papeete closed down on Sunday afternoon with only the churches (with the women in white all wearing hats and the men with white shirts and dark trouser) and McDonalds doing any trade. We are eating a lot of fish - mostly tuna in different ways - raw fine sliced sashimi with sauces or cooked with garlic or simply fried with salt and pepper. Delicious. The buses are called trucks and go frequently between town and the airport. You pay when you get off and need change. Everything is expensive except the buses - about $2 per trip. Internet costs about $18 per hour.

 

9 September Took the ferry to Moorea - real surprise - we were given senior prices without even asking - Deb bought the tickets. Stayed at Fare Maeve, had a room, a single ring gas cooker and a fridge and bathroom. Was $140 a night - very cheap for Moorea - and very friendly. Had free bikes. Second day we biked to the lagoon and swam and sunbathed - or in my case kept in the shade (still got sunburnt!) while Deb stayed in the water and talked to people. Deb is having a ball with her French conversation - so I am often left trying to figure what is going on. But my French is improving.

 

Next day we hired a car and drove around Moorea, stopping often to sample local fruit juices, sorbets. Drove up to a high lookout looking over both bays - very beautiful. Took the last ferry back to Papeete, met our Servas hosts by the Roulotte (food stalls) on the waterfront. The women had sushi and sashimi, Hervé had a chow mein and Deb and I had seafood steaks - great variety and tasty. Hervé took us out to the airport and we joined the long line waiting to check in for the flight to Easter Island.

 

13 September Our hostess on Easter Island or Rapa Nui (which is part of far away Chile) Ana collected us from the airport and drove us to Ana Rapu. Our room is a bit rough - no hot water in the hand basin and the shower takes some adjusting - but is only $US40 per night for a double which includes breakfast. Bought food for lunch at the supermarket. Deb had a long sleep - I had a 30 minute nap then dealt with the internet. In the evening we went down town and had dinner at another Roulotte - a sort of chicken filet burger, with green beans, other beans, tomato, lettuce, a can of sprite and a piece of banana cake for under $US5 each. We talked to an airconditioning engineer from Santiago, Francisco, who was overseeing installation in some new hotel rooms - when completed next year they will be $US600 per night! The face of Rapa Nui will be changing again. We had a quick meal then went to a movie called Rapa Nui, (loosely) about the Bird Man competition and raising the statues. The film was made in 1994 with Kevin Costner as one of the producers. There were some well known Maori actors in the film. We enjoyed it so much that we later bought a copy to lend to friends. Everyone spoke French in Tahiti - here it is more of a struggle as everyone speaks Spanish. Tomorrow we plan to hire a car and drive around the island - distances are further than you think. So far - so good - seems to be the phrase of the trip.

 

We have had our first, but not our last Pisco Sour. Very tasty.  (Since coming home David has had several tries to reproduce the taste but so far none of the drinks has emulated those in South America.)

Hired a car to drive around the island. Took along Linda, a 68 year young American, Patricio a Chilean and his 6 yr old son, who are staying at Ana Rapu. The car was an almost new 4WD Suzuki Vitara. Needed the clearance, as there is only one sealed road on the island. The rest are more like ski field access roads. Drove the south coast stopping to view numerous moai or statues, then to Rano Raraku the quarry, one of 3 main extinct volcanoes that this island is formed around. Many moai in various stages of construction. Spent 2.5 hours there, climbed up and into the crater, wonderful views. One view towards Tongariki, was a group of 15 moai on the coast which face inland. These had fallen over during a tsunami in 1960 but a Japanese company funded the restoration and putting them back standing up. When Deborah turned around and saw them it made her think of another WOW moment when she first saw the Acropolis in Athens in Greece.

 

Drove to Anakena, the only beach on the island - like an oasis with white sand and palm trees. There were also moai - one being the one Thor Heyerdal raised with a number of locals using ropes and levers - took them 20 days. More moai, then to Ana Te Paho an extensive inland cave. Back down the other coast to Hanga Roa, the town we are staying in. Did the rough coastal roads on the three sides of the island - it is roughly triangular - a long day of slow driving.

Next day joined another Chilean couple from Ana Rapu, Carolina and Patricio and had a lift in their car down to Orongo, another must-do area as it is associated with the birdman cult that came after the moai. It is between a volcano rim and the sea - very picturesque - steep cliffs that the birdman had to scale with the first sooty tern egg of the season so his chief could be birdman for that year. He first had to swim quite a way from an off-shore island where they nested. The weather has been kind to us - after heavy rain in the night we thought it might be a rest day today - but it was sunny with little sign of the rain today. Another delicious fish meal, with another pisco sour.

Walked about 1 hour to a Chilean national day celebration. Didn´t know exactly what to expect, as all the notices were in Spanish. Well worth it as we got free food, wine and entertainment. Dramatic dancers in Chilean costume - large spurs on the men’s boots. Got a lift back to town. Going to Karikari, a high energy dancing and singing Polynesian show tonight then off to Santiago tomorrow. A kiwi couple staying at our lodgings were mugged in downtown Santiago after a meal. Two young doctors, a lot fitter and stronger then Deb and I - attacked by four guys from different directions, cut off his back pack and checked him out for cash but paid less attention to his partner who was carrying the money. Santiago is supposed to be relatively safe, but I don´t think we will be going out tomorrow night. Then off to Quito.

 
18 September, 2007

 

We had an uneventful flight to Santiago and were met by a driver from the hotel holding up a sign with my name on it - felt almost like a film star. Was slightly surreal being driven along a 120km/hr 3 lane motorway after the slow driving on rutted roads around Rapa Nui. Felt a bit unsure about going out for a meal- even though we were assured that as it was their national holiday all the muggers would be off the streets. We snacked on food and beer we brought with us from Easter Island, on the theory that it was all the same country (Chile) so we wouldn´t be prosecuted at the airport, and it worked!

Was cold in Santiago and next morning we saw why - it is almost surrounded by mountains, many snow covered. Walked to virgin statue, took cable car to top of the park, had great views over Santiago. Took a bus back to the hotel then a taxi to the airport. Unfortunately it was still the national holiday, the army were preparing for a big parade and had closed many streets. This delayed our taxi so much that we very nearly missed our flight!

19 September Quito in Ecuador was warmer. We managed to find a place to do our washing - about $2.30 to wash, dry and fold about a dozen different items. We were approached by some trainee tourist police and Deb arranged for them to give us a free tour around the old town in exchange for our correcting their English. Deb was of course in her element and I enjoyed being paid much attention by two attractive young policewomen. We saw a couple of beautiful churches and an impressive museum. All the signs were in Spanish, so it was very useful to have our personal translators.

 

We had arranged to meet a SERVAS day host and her husband at 6pm in a hotel - turned out it was the most expensive in Quito and we were hardly dressed for the occasion. We waited for 15 minutes, feeling embarrassed, then left. It was getting dark and Deb asked a policeman the way to walk home (I knew it, of course). He looked concerned and said we should take a taxi. Taxies were all busy, but another friendly policewoman stopped one for us - her "por favour" could not be refused by the driver. When we got home we didn’t want to go too far for a meal, so ate at a local street barbeque - corn cob and a skewer with sausage, onion, banana, chicken and a different sausage. Delicious.

Cashed some more travellers cheques today - limit of $200 per day - and only one bank of the 3 we tried would do it. ATMs work, though. Took a taxi to the bus station to get the bus to Otavalo - taxi $2, bus $2 each for a 2 and a half hour ride. The country is hilly with some erosion and scrubby plants. Further along there were acres of tunnel houses for flowers, one of Ecuador’s main exports. The bus was modern, although the only airconditioning was the open windows in the roof. Food vendors hopped on and off the bus - ice cream and snacks of many kinds. We were dropped on the side of the road but managed to get a taxi (as we were outside the area of the trusty Lonely Planet map) - $1 to our hotel which turned out to be an old mansion, very comfortable. Walked down the street towards the market, came across a mariache band playing in a square - our first live music in South America - Deb spotted it was a rally for a candidate for the elections at the end of the month! The market had a great number of stalls - bit like the arts centre market multiplied by 10. Bought a poncho and a couple of shirts - bargain for everything. Walked back and heard some more live music - a 5 piece band with mostly local instruments - drum, charango (small 10 string guitar), two local front facing flutes (one doubling on pan flute, one doubling on violin) and guitarist. Great sound - bought the CD.

 

Deb has had US$230 stolen - not sure where most of it disappeared, but it appears it was on Easter Island. Our back packs were gone through on the bus on the way to Otavalo. We put out packs on the rack above our seats. Deb’s was opened, her purse opened, her change purse with about US$40 in it stolen then everything closed up again. My back pack was gone through as well, but I had my money on me. There was a commotion on the bus - someone must have seen something going on. The conductor came through from the front and told Deb to open her pack. Everything seemed to still be there and everything was closed up -we didn´t discover the theft until later. We should have locked our back packs and kept them with us under our feet. This has shaken Deb quite a bit. We are now writing down each day how much money we have and what we have spent our money on!

Saturday today - the big market day, even more stalls, tourist flock in (why we stayed last night). Bought some small detailed paintings. A lot of the stuff looks the same, and some is obviously mass produced - maybe in China, but difficult to tell. Off back to Quito shortly, hope to meet up with the brother of the local Kryolan agent (who is currently in Germany) and visit the makeup shop.
 

Our faith in human nature has been somewhat restored. We were well looked after by the brother of the Kryolan makeup agent in Quito. Saw the old shop - a well organised room in his mother’s house, and the new shop, supposed to be opening shortly. Then they drove us to the statue of the Virgin, with great 360 degree night views over Quito, then for a meal.

 

Sunday we finally connected with Sylvia and her husband Ernesto, SERVAS day hosts. We went to their home for a delicious lunch. Sylvia is a talented artist - great paintings and sculpture. Also discussed macadamia nuts and the forthcoming elections with Ernesto - sounds chaotic, with (I think) up to 36 parties with 18 candidates each - choose 18 politicians! The parties are known by numbers - we have seen a lot of advertising for No 7 party - which is run by the guy who exports Ecuadorian bananas - one of the richest people in Ecuador. Also some for 12.32 - obviously a coalition.

24 September We have joined our group for the trip to the Galapagos. Quito has been a bit of a trial - still get a bit breathless after climbing the 40 steps to our room (it is over 3000 metres high) and the worry of pickpockets has taken the gloss off. Our joining hotel, Sierra Madre is in the new town, wider streets, generally feels safer. About three times the price of Hotel Chicago, a family run hotel, where we were before and which we recommend to budget travellers.

The wildlife in the Galapagos is amazing - and I am not talking about the group of six blonde belles from Brighton, England who were part of our party. The five quiet kiwis could not compete (also Aussies, Swiss, and American). The four islands we visited in our 31metre yacht are the southern islands - some rough weather motoring between them, mostly 5 hours at night. Landings are from a dingy, wet (into the water) or dry (stepping onto slippery rocks) then a walk of an hour or so - detouring around sea lions or iguanas who slept anywhere, looking at colourful crabs and birds - frigate birds, blue-footed and masked boobies, hawks and albatrosses and tiny finches and more. Then maybe some snorkelling, either from the beach or the dingy. I needed a wet suit - the water was unexpectedly cold, but seeing sea turtles, rays, sea lions, sharks (friendly) and a fair number of colourful fish made it worth while. Deb had a snorkel from the beach one day and enjoyed it but was uncertain about going deeper. The last day we visited the Charles Darwin Research Centre to see the land turtles but it was not presented well. It felt a bit like visiting a horrible, sterile concrete zoo. They are doing good work in turtle conservation, but we saw nothing of Darwin’s work. Deborah was renamed Charlotte Darwin by one of the Brighton Belles as she was forever asking questions as our two guides’ level of information and English were not up to scratch.

29 September Today in Quito everyone is voting, and the shops are closed. Ecuador has been dry for the last two days - could not buy a wine with our last meal with our friends from the Galapagos tour, even though we assured the restaurant that we weren’t going to vote. Some of our group ordered liqueur coffees and got away with that!

Our last day in Quito was voting day. We were walking back to the old town when we came across an official building with cops, security and lots of young keen volunteers. Deb was keen to find out what was happening so found a guy who spoke English - it was a call centre collecting voting information from around Ecuador. Shortly after the ex-president of Peru, Alejandro Toledo came in, along with one or two observers from the EU. We waited around for a while longer, the party went out, and he thanked us as he went past. Nice guy.

30 September Flew to Lima, arrived about midnight, got a taxi to the youth hostel in Miraflores by the sea. The staff were not particularly welcoming and made doubly sure we knew when checkout was later the same day. The building was amazing - must have been an old Spanish mansion and had a high mural, glassed-in terraces out to the garden and swimming pool. A bed that would fit 3 people no trouble.

1 October Took a taxi to our joining point hotel for the tour. Walked down town and posted a parcel back to NZ, containing souvenirs, gifts and clothes we wouldn't be wearing for the next leg. Cost us $US115 for about 6 Kg! had to go air mail - no option for surface. It took 11 weeks to arrive and some postcards took about 9 weeks by which time we were well and truly home!

Visited the Lasco museum with an amazing ceramic collection and some erotic pots. Met our group at 6pm. Eleven plus Armando the leader. Mostly Aussies, we are the only Kiwis, the odd Pom and one Japanese. A good crowd. Had a group meal - negotiated two free drinks each, we had a pisco sour and sangria. One of the group from Oz (Australia) has a Peruvian mother and Yugoslavian father so he has been invaluable when we need a negotiator. Next morning we walked around Limas Plaza Major. Watched a changing of the guard then saw through the cathedral with an excellent guide. Took a cab to the Museum of the Nation, saw some of the early history of Peru and started to get ceramiced out. 

2 October Back to the hotel then took a bus to Pisco. The place is a disaster area. About two months since the earthquake. We were staying in one of the few hotels to survive and we were the first group through. The roof of the hotel had moved some degrees and that had to be fixed and electricity had only just been restored. There were no restaurants operating - we ate in the hotel with a limited but delicious menu. This was a town of 50,000 inhabitants mostly involved in the tourist trade, hotels and restaurants everywhere. They are talking about rebuilding somewhere else, away from the fault line but the damage extends for a long way - I think they would be better to use concrete instead of mud to build the brick walls.

Next morning we took a bus down the coast to the Ballestas Islands then on to an oasis and to Nasca. We had a buffeting boat ride to the islands, saw a wide variety of sea birds from the boat, sea lions and our first sea wolf. Had our best Pisco Sour at the port and watched the guy making it. Back on the road we saw lots of desert and sand hills, some long tents in the sand where they raise chickens for meat and eggs. They have a diet including hormones and antibiotics according to our guide - we have not eaten pollo since! At the oasis some of our group went off in a sand buggy to sand board. Deb and I walked around the lake then found an internet cafe. Then bus to Nasca. Where there are wells and irrigation you come across green fields in the sand - mostly growing vegetables for export - artichokes, onions, peppers, asparagus. They use a lot of manual labour from sowing the seed to harvesting. Have only seen one tractor.

The Nasca lines are another enigma. Huge designs in the desert which can only be viewed from high above. Quite how or why they were made no-one knows. One theory is that the Nasca people were trying to attract the attention of the gods as they were suffering a drought. I think they failed, as it is one of the driest places on earth. We took a flight in a small plane about 1000 feet up and saw them pretty well. Saw some pre-inca graves, with mostly mummified shamen (with long hair) sitting in their tombs with artefacts and food and sometimes slaves.

5 October After an 8 hour overnight bus we arrived in Arequipa. Were able to have a shower in our hotel, then went walking around the town. Saw a nunnery dating from 1580 - many cells each with a sitting room and a number of kitchens. They had a pleasant life. Arequipa is built of a white volcanic stone. A large volcanic cone is close to the city, about 5000 metres high - called El Misti, roughly translated as 'sir' - you don't want to upset a large volcano. Most of these towns were built by the Spanish and have a large central square with a church or cathedral on one side and usually administrative building on the opposite, with fancy buildings around. Statue of a victory or bronze bust of male explorer in the middle of the square.

Bus to the Colca Canyon. On the way we stopped for essential supplies, snacks and coca leaves. These are sold with a small stone which is compressed ash. Chewing this with the leaves releases more of the alkaloids so it is more effective against altitude sickness. Also makes your mouth go numb. Off on our comfortable Mercedes minibus, with a stop for some coca tea. On the way we went through a national park and saw Llamas, Alpacas and Vichunas, beautiful animals. The pass is over 4000 metres high and we stop there to make a shrine to the gods, piling rocks up and adding a wad of chewed coca leaves. Down to Chivray where we had a swim in a hot pool quite a complex. Later Deb and I shared a meal as we were a bit crook with the altitude, despite Coca leaves and Diamox. The show at the restaurant was excellent with local dancers and musicians. Then we were offered a hottie at our hotel! Didn't quite compensate for the dodgy hot water in the shower next morning though.

Next morning we visited a little town called Coporaque, built in the Spanish style. We climbed up to some pre-inca graves, starting at 3500 metres and finishing at 3800. Deb and I were the slowest, but enjoyed it with the great views. I was really tired afterwards. The Colca Canyon has wonderful stone terracing for agriculture and small villages every few miles. It has only been easily accessible for about 30 years so I think that is how the terracing has survived. Most of it is pre-inca, some inca and some only about 600 years old. We visited the local market several times and Deborah bought a beautiful royal blue felt hat with commercial embroidery on the brim in the same style as the local white (non felt) hats which all the local women wore. Then along to Cabanoconde where that evening we helped a local woman prepare dinner for 15, except the guinea pig which she prepared herself. These are not pets, but farmed for food. They live in a block cage against the house and are fed kitchen scraps. They are fed to honoured guests and paying guests like us. Most of us had a morsel, my first and quite tasty. Deborah was set to grinding the flour with mortar and pestle which she found quite hard. Later all the women in our group were dressed up in the local costume and had photos taken. They had electricity, two bulbs inside and one by the kitchen which was against the house cooking on a stove fuelled by animal dung. The house itself was one large room with a high ceiling and made of mud bricks.

Left at 7am next morning to get to the condor lookout. Got there at 7.30 but the condors were still in bed. We finally saw some about 9.30, but mostly at a distance. After a few more stops for views and photos we left on a six hour drive to Puno on Lake Titicaca. Driving in South America has been a bit hairy, generally pedestrian crossings, double yellow lines and speed limits are only obeyed if really necessary, horns are blown at anything that might be hazardous. We have seen two accidents that happened a few hours earlier, one was a collision between a bus and a truck on a straight piece of road that killed I think 8 people.

Tomorrow we travel by boat to the Lake Titicaca islands.

8 October, 2007 Well Lake Titicaca is huge. The shallow part around Puno, 2 to 3 metres deep, is where the reeds grow and the floating islands float. Our intrepid group arrived at Isla Des Uros after 1 hour’s motor boating, got an interesting demonstration on how the islands were constructed, then we had a full on selling spiel from the islanders.

Next we motored 3 hours to a solid island, Amantani, where we were met by our host for the night, in traditional costume. In our case a 21 year beautiful Peruvian Indian woman Aleja. We walked to her home for lunch where we met her sister in law, mother, father, brother, 6 month old niece and there was another younger male, probably a brother whom we saw at breakfast the next morning. 7 people plus us and our local guide, Angel, who also stayed there. It was lucky the guide was there as he could translate for us over lunch.

The house was two storied, built in sections around a courtyard with a tap for water. There was a new small building with flush toilet which worked and a shower which had not yet been commissioned. Our bedroom was upstairs on another side of the courtyard. The walls had been whitewashed and there was a certificate to say it was up to standard for guests. The kitchen was a single storied building mud brick building forming one side. We helped peel some small lumpy potatoes with deep eyes. They said there are over 400 types of potato on the island - over 600 in Peru. I think they are mostly small and lumpy. Makes us appreciate the work done by Russell Genet and other NZ potato scientists. After a lunch of delicious soup then a rice and corn dish we walked up the hill and some of the travellers played soccer on a narrow concrete area.

Then we walked up to the top of the island, 4,200 metres. It was getting dark and we had a hairy walk down - I had Deb’s torch which needed cranking all the time, shone mine behind me so she could see and use her hiking sticks to help her along. I gave my sticks to the guide (who didn´t have a torch) and led the way down. Made it OK and later that evening after another delicious meal we dressed up in traditional costume and went to a dance. The local islanders asked all the tourists to dance and the evening took off. Good local band.

Next day we said farewell to our hosts and set off to Taquile Island. There are three official languages in Peru - Spanish and two pre-inca languages that have survived - Quechua and Aymara. Quechua is the first language of the Amantani and Taquile islanders. Our attempts at Quechua were always met with a friendly smile. Anyway we landed at Taquile and climbed a track around the side of the island. The town square where the men knitted was supposed to be a feature, but the men mostly seemed to be sitting in the sun chatting. The women back on Amantani were always either spinning with a hand spindle or knitting, even when walking up or down hill. David bought a typical hat from our hostess Aleja on Amantani. There were about 800 vertical metres of stone steps mostly straight down to the main port at the end of the path. Was pleased that it wasn´t at the start. Then 3 hours by boat back to Puno. There was a brief hailstorm when we were going out for a meal - the first rain since Quito. I bought a soft alpaca jersey with a zip neck from a woman on the street for about $US12. Very pleased with it.

11 October 7am departure for the local bus - 6 hours to Cuzco. Stopped on top of the pass - about 4600 metres - for photos and to view the local handicrafts. It was noticeably greener on the new (eastern) side - corn and other vegetables growning. Arrived at Cusco - narrow streets but seems pleasant. Main square is spacious and has a fountain, not the bronze statue. Went for a group meal then bargained for a group town tour for the next day - got down to $US5 each for a half day bus trip with a guide.

Took some washing out to a laundry - they charge by weight, about $1.50 per kilo.10am our guide took us to a coca shop where we had a sweet coca tea with sugar and lemon - took away the bitterness of straight coca tea. They also sell coca ice cream which is a dark green. After that we went to the Inca Museum. The city tour was excellent - saw one church and four Inca sites around Cuzco.

Free day today, collected our washing and decided the bag we bought yesterday was not suitable as it could not be locked, so walked downtown looking for a place to buy locks - something like Ferreteria (they don´t sell ferrets) and finally found a little shop to buy a bag and Deb also bought a jersey - about $US9 each, so we were happy. Did the cathedral - actually three churches side by side - and another museum in the afternoon. There is a large painting in the cathedral of the last supper, pride of place in the middle of the table is a dish with a cooked guinea pig, on its back with its legs in the air!

Next day we went by local bus to the Sacred Valley. The rest of our group have left to hike either Inka Trail or Laures Trail, so it was just us and our guide. He brought along his wife, Idania, daughter Maliya about 3-4 yrs and daughter Itani 8 months. Maliya was a real chatterbox. We went to a local community, about 30mins by taxi into the hills and saw how they dyed the wool, spun it and wove by traditional methods. I was just wondering where we could buy something when everyone opened up a bundle of weaving - and there was only Deb and I to buy. It was all beautiful and we eventually chose a piece for about NZ$70. Visited Pisac market, bought a small piece of natural turquoise, on to Ollantaytambo. A large Inca site, full of tourists. No guides available - was a case of BYO, and ours was saying goodbye to his wife and family.

14 October Next morning 7am our guide gave us a tour around the town and explained many things about Ollantaytambo. We were in the main square and Deb asked about the flowers which are an emblem of Peru - whether any birds sucked the nectar. Just on cue a hummingbird flew down and performed for us! The first one we have seen. Had breakfast then took the train to Agua Callientes.

Had a walk around, bought a few things for lunch, bought another book on Machu Picchu, read it then went to the hot springs and soaked away a few hours. Early night as we will catch the first train to Machu Picchu, get there before the crowds. Deb hopefully realises her dream of many years.

16 October, 2007 Machu Picchu is amazing. After our 5am breakfast with our guide we caught one of the first buses up the zigzag road. Deb worked out it costs $US109 return from Ollantaytanbo each for the visit- transport; train and bus (privately owned) plus entry fee. The buses are 40 seater and a fleet of 20 run up and down the road continually from 6am. Anyway it is a great site, wonderful views.

This next paragraph is from Wikipedia: Machu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Pikchu, "Old Peak") is a pre-Colombian Inca site located at 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley about 70 km (44 mi) northwest of Cusco. Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu is probably the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire. It was built around the year 1450 and abandoned a hundred years later, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Forgotten for centuries by all except for a few locals, the site was brought to worldwide attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. It was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

It is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. After a tour by our guide decided to climb Huayna Picchu or “young peak” for the view down on Machu Picchu. A good 200 metres mostly straight up - got the heart pounding for all the 50 minutes it took, and was well worth it. The site is supposed to look like a condor from above, but an Aussie that I climbed with decided it looked like a koala - and she could be right.

Started back to Cuzco at 1pm just as it started to rain- we had a beautiful sunny morning.

18 October. Saying farewell to our guide this evening, after a free day spent mostly shopping and one museum. Then off to the jungle - half hour plane flight to Puerto Maldonado (road takes two days), then a one and a half hour boat trip down the Madre de Dios river to the Ecoamazonia Lodge. The river is wide and muddy - there are a number of gold dredges working to recover the gold carried down the river. Visited Monkey Island with a guide. Saw spider monkeys and small Tamarind monkeys and several other species. They came right up to the group as the guide feeds them bananas. That evening we went out in the boat and saw Caymans - a type of small alligator.

Next day we were up early, set off at 6am for a boat ride, jungle walk (birds, butterflies, trees, tarantula, insects), canoe through a waterway (more birds, butterflies etc) a canoe around a lagoon (turtles, birds etc) then we saw a 60 year old 6-7 metre anaconda - it curled around a tree and looked back! Then an 8-10km bush walk, climbed a staircase to the top of a tree, finally back at the lodge for lunch. In the afternoon we walked around the botanical gardens at the back of the lodge and encounted an amorous tapir and noisy Maccaw birds.

6.30am start and back on the boat for the trip to Puerto Maldanado - 2 hours this time as we were against the current. It was raining a little when we left then absolutely hosed down - lucky the boat had a canvas roof of sorts - also lucky that we weren’t scheduled for a jungle walk that day. Flew to Lima.

20 October. Lima is having a census today, the town is closed down. Everyone stays at home until their form is collected. We went for a walk down to the coast - the only time I have felt safe crossing the road - no cars. Fortunately we bought some food last night at the super market as there was nothing open for lunch and I don’t think there will be much open for dinner - will probably get something at the airport.

22 October. The end of the holiday and the start of business for me. I fly Lima to San Francisco overnight this evening, visit Ben Nye then fly to San Francisco (2 nights) and visit Kryolan, then back to NZ. Deb flies Lima to Santiago for 4 days in Valpariso then returns via Easter Island (one day) and Tahiti (3 days in Moorea). We have just heard that our cat, Possum is very ill, so we are waiting to hear from the Vet. 

 

Well that is all from me and that is all from her.

 

 That’s what he thinks – read on!

 

                                                 From Santiago to Moorea

 

David headed north to Los Angeles and San Francisco while I flew south to Chile again.

 

I went straight from the airport at Santiago by bus to Valparaiso on the coast. I was booked for four nights into Casa Aventura on Concepcion Hill. The steep hills are covered in old mansions and there is an open air art museum on the sides of houses on Bellavista Hill. It is a very funky, somewhat rundown area but has immense charm for the visitor.

 

I went and spoke to an English class about New Zealand at the French high school. As I had no props I used my Kiwi and Tuatara T-shirts and NZ money as illustrations!  I visited two houses which belonged to a famous poet Pablo Neruda who loved the sea. The first was high on a hill with views of the sea from every room and his favourite house which was right on the coast, south of Valparaiso. 

 

Twice I very carefully checked the price of a meal but when I came to pay the first time a 0 turned out to be an 8 and the second time a 1 was a nine! The second time I had even said the numbers to the waiter but he denied that he had agreed so I had to pay up! I had an afternoons shopping in Santiago including buying a luscious bottle of very expensive red wine and some very nice and relatively cheap jewellry.

 

27 October I arrived back on Easter Island on schedule. A Kona Tau hostel representative was there but told me they had a lot of students so they were sending me elsewhere. They said same standard and same price! However when I arrived at Residential Cortez Aguila there was no hot water and no towels in the room. It appeared to be a very extended family site with about six homes and some rooms to rent.

 

I met Francisco whom we met on our way through again and had a couple of meals with him. I enjoyed wandering past the Moai which have always fascinated me because of their long ears like mine!

 

28 October. My final stop was in French Polynesia again. As I arrived late I had arranged to stay at Chez Fifi opposite the airport. The next day I took the 30 minute ferry for the island of Moorea. I met Paul and Rachel from NZ at the start of their one year world trip who were heading for Camping Nelson too. . Corinne, whom I had met swimming at the lagoon on our first trip through, picked me up and kindly agreed to take the others. She then offered to take us all round the island the next day. I spent my last day at Corinne’s house with her lovely children and friends. The photo shows Corinne and her husband, Moana, their daughter Kanalëi aged 7 and son Kamalani  aged 3.

 

On my birthday (31st October) a fellow NZer also called Deborah did some snorkeling with me to give me confidence and her friend Mia cooked up a great meal in the evening. As it was Halloween some of the children had slipped notes under our doors reminding us they would be coming round that evening so we all obliged and bought some sweets! Back on Papeete I was met by the Barbeau family who had hosted David and I on the way through. I had a threwover for Isabelle’s sofa. In exchange she gave me two gorgeous pearls which are now earrings.