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After the physically exhausting train to Machu Picchu, the only thing left to do is...get an hour long, full body massage

Arequipa, Peru


We arrived in Arequipa our first stop in Peru, without any expectations at all. So were delighted to find ourselves in a really chic, cosmopolitan city with trendy bars,restaurants and a lovely central plaza. Jack one of the boys we were travelling with from Lake Titicaca spoke Spanish and so found us a sweet deal at a nice little guest house right in the centre...and most importantly, on the same road as said bars and restaurants. The next six days were absolute bliss...they passed in a whirwind of amazing food, frozen lemonades, fruit smoothies, lounging by a nearby hotel pool, and sleeping for hours and hours on end.

There were three restaurants by our hotel which we frequented so many times the staff would probably know what our starsigns are and as children what we wanted to be when we grew up. We celebrated our first night in Arequipa by dragging Steve out with us to Deja Vu, a local bar and then hitting the next bar down which (completely against our will, obviously) the bar staff encouraged us to get up and dance on the bar to an audience of admiring locals...who said white people can't dance? It is here that we should probably note that the local men from Arequipa were definately the most outrageously pervy that we had encountered on our whole trip. Just walking down the street it felt as though they hadn't seen a Western person before and they were cat calling and wolf whistling all over the show. Far from an ego boost it got so annoying that on one night when we went for drinks without the boys with us we had to cut and run early because they would feel it acceptable to come and sit with us and ask us a string of annoying questions. While we politely told them to go away, we cooked up a plan. Instead of English we would pretend we were Swedish so there could be no common ground for conversation. We put this plan into action with a rather amorous young man who had plonked himself down next to us and started chatting away in his broken English. We stared at him and then firmly just said "Swedish" really loudly expecting that to be the end of the awkward one sided exchange. Of course it being us, he piped up with "Ahhh I studied in Stokholm for a year..." and then proceeded to speak Swedish to us with a massive excited grin on his face. The only Peruvian in Arequipa who has studied in Stockholm for a year and speaks the language fluently?? Probably. An extremely awkward few minutes followed where we decided it was too late to come clean and so completely blanked him until he went away. Cringe.


On the third day we decided to drag our chubby over-indulged asses to the Santa Catalina Monastery where we spent a couple of hours in near total silence....a first for the trip. The monastery is huge and was built entirely from sillar, which is a volcanic stone. The buildings themselves are really pretty, styled with colonial architecture, even though the Nuns who originally lived there slept in very basic quarters. The whole place radiated tranquility....well, it did until a group of balshy German tourists descended and started talking really loudly and pointing their camcorders in our faces. Bar that interruption, we left the Monastery feeling calm and peaceful, but definately glad we aren't nuns.

We said goodbye to Steve, Jack and Ned as they headed to Colca Canyon and we stayed in Arequipa. On the fourth day we booked a bus and had planned to leave under no circumstances (even though deep down neither or us wanted felt ready to say goodbye)...until a lucky twist of fate saw Tay fall victim to Peru Belly and that made the prospect of 9 hours on a boiling hot bus with no toilet something of an impossibility. We say that Tay's Peru Belly had been a lucky twist of fate, but if truth be told we had been feeling a little dodgy for the whole time in Arequipa and had both secretly known the real cause behind the upset stomachs....frozen lemonades. A delectable iced drink made almost entirely of local tap water. We are ashamed to admit that despite the negative effect it had on our bellies, we had at least one and sometimes two of the heavenly beverages a day and just pretended to be ignorant to the fact that tap water was most definately the bum trigger. Plus they bought us two more days in Arequipa. Happy days.

People kept telling us that it was dangerous to travel by night on the buses in Peru so we opted for a butt-numbing 9 hour trip by day to Cusco from Arequipa to avoid the overnight travel. To say it was the sweatiest, most uncomfortable 11 hours we have ever experienced on a bus, is an understatement. There was absolutely no air, the bus was crammed with people who at most times had to sit in the aisles and to top this off....they played what can only be described as mildly pornographic Peruvian films at full volume as the rides entertainment. Muchos awkward. However it was all worthwhile when we finally arrived at the Loki Hostel in Cusco. Ahhhh the beds were amazing, the building itself was like a Shakesperian theatre complete with wooden beams and courtyards and the shower was the best we have experienced on the whole trip to date. We went to meet Cilla in the Plaza de Armas, and by chance caught sight of Steve loping past on the opposite side of the square. Queue embarrassing public display of excitement and shrieks of "Steve! Steve! Stephen, over here!" as we ran across the plaza to jump on him. Turns out they had done Colca Canyon and were now also staying in Loki, so we felt it neccessary to join them that night at Mythology, one of the many back-packer friendly clubs off the main plaza.

Cusco is absolutely full to the brim of backpackers....imagine the one place where everybody visits in South America, without exception. It provides the base for day trips and treks to the infamous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and so is a must-visit destination on the Gringo Trail. This means that the hostel was lovely and had a really raucously fun bar and clientele, but also that there are really good restaurants and cafes aimed at making tourists part with their money. However, apart from its loveliness, the large amount of backpackers that pass through Cusco, means a HUGE number of street hawkers who every two seconds will appear from nowhere to offer you some hideous sunglasses, horrifically bad paintings, or in most cases, a massage to help you recover from your trek. We spent four days just chilling out in Cusco, visiting a couple of museums (more Inca pottery than you can shake a stick at) and enjoying the amazing food at backpacker haunt Jack's Cafe. It was time for us to make a decision...the Inca Trail was an impossibility because the trek was fully booked, and the alternative treks can be particularly tough (we weren´t loving the sound of 'tough' at altitudes of 4000 plus metres) and can take up to 6 days. So we're afraid we took the lazy option and decided on a day trip instead, so handed over the eye-wateringly overpriced 200 US Dollars and booked ourselves a train ticket.



It was an early start with a 5 am pick up, and a fairly hair-raising bus ride to the train station, but we got up to Machu Picchu in one piece at about 10am. Luckily for us, it was an absolutely gorgeous day, blue skies and no clouds meaning our first view of the 'Lost City' took our breath away. We've since seen photos from friends who trekked it and were smug to discover that their photos are covered in mist and fog, so despite not having trekked, we managed a better view of the site. We had a two hour tour round the site from a suspicious looking guy called Jose who didn´t deem it entirely inappropriate to take calls on his mobile during the tour. We´re pretty sure they were personal calls too, and not even business related. "Hi honey, yeah, yeah, I know. I´ll be home at 5, can you pop a chicken kiev and potato waffle in the oven for me? Ta love." You know, that sort of thing.

Once the tour was over we thankfully wandered off on our own and felt like we appreciated it so much more having time to ourselves to nose around, climb all over it and finally, take a mini power nap on the quiet side, next to the most amazing view over the valley. We´ve since learnt that the patch of grass we napped on was prohibited, but considering we got eaten alive by sandflies, we feel karma has already had its justice. The views you get from the city are absolutely amazing, and the ruins themselves are equally as impressive. The only downer is that they looked more ´manicured´than we had expected...we kind of had an Indiana Jones theme in mind with wild vines hanging everywhere, but in reality the lawns are well kept and the ruins are so well maintained they almost look new. After rounghly five ours of lost city action we got the bus back down to the slightly grubby little town of Aguas Calientes, had an average overpriced dinner and then headed back to the train station. When we disembarked from the train we looked for our guide who should have been holding up a sign with our names on to lead us back to the bus. Jodie managed to spy the name ´Helon Pailor´ on one of the sheets. Tay managed to overlook the similarity to her own name and decided that definately couldn´t be related to them. That was until she saw Helon Pailor´s companion happened to be called ´Jade Kooter´. Too much of a coincidence. What a hilaaaarious misunderstanding. We arrived back at 2am, absolutely exhausted, although probably not as exhausted as we would have been had we trekked for four days. Ha!








We were really sad to leave Cusco, but luckily on the last night there managed to bump into Aiden and Tom our two favourite Bristolian boys from Puerto Madryn who accompanied us on our final hurrah of Cusco´s nightlife. We love you Cusco!



x


permalink written by  JodesAndTay on April 27, 2010 from Arequipa, Peru
from the travel blog: Jodes and Tay escape to SA
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Now these photos do remind me of the smugs adventures - lots of pubs and clubs again!! Photos amazing - I am soooo jealous!!! Do they really dress up the dogs in Cusco??
Love Mummy T xxxxx


permalink written by  Pat Taylor on April 28, 2010


Exactly - are you missing the steadying influence of Mr Rausa?

permalink written by  Father O'Doode on April 29, 2010

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