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Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon

a travel blog by The Happy Couple


Well the honeymoon is officially over. I can't carry it on alone and Joanne has gone home.

I hope this blog will be blessed with more brevity than the last one because I just can't be bothered spending so much time on it. The last one exhausted me.

Must focus on summaries.
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Leaving Lonely Lima

Lima, Peru


There I was on Lima, on my own, still travelling, but no longer on honeymoon. So this is the new blog (or new trip on the same blog, to use the terminology of this website): leaner, meaner, and less likely to keep me as busy as a part time job. At least that is the intention and this entry, the first test of that is not beginning well, so without further ado...

Lucy and Zdenek had actually arrived in Lima later in the day after Joanne had left, but we didn't meet up because they were tired and I was already drunk, but agreed to meet the next day. I thought it would be nice to see people I know to help ease my loneliness. However the backlog in the (old) blog was also weighing heavily on me; because of the frenetic pace of the last bit before Joanne left, it was over a month behind: the longest ever, so I blogged all day, before going to meet them at the waterfront.

I had barely been outside the hostel, so it was nice to see somewhere different, and the waterfront was very nice, and more upmarket than I would normally have gone, but I thought I could do with a treat. After a couple of cocktails in the restaurant they had eaten, we went to a club next door. We managed to get in for S50 for all three of us instead of the S100 each they started at; locals were all getting in free! Drinks were very dear inside, so a bottle of Pisco seemed the cheapest option. It was a big mistake.

Almost the next thing I remember is waking up in the reception of the hostel. I later found out that I had been sleeping in my underpants, in the middle of the dorm floor when my room mates came back, at which point I got up, looking confused, and wandered down to reception holding my trousers. Great. Joanne is gone a day and I'm already nearly killing myself with booze and making a complete fool of myself. The day was spent in bed, hardly able even to eat.

The next day I realised I had to get out of Lima. I hadn't read the newly acquired guidebook (with the bits of Chile the couple still needed torn out) at all, so after eating a lovely big cebiche for lunch in a place called Punto Azul, I bought a ticket to Huanchaco where Lucy and Zdenek had gone, really by default, so I could leave without thinking. Partly because it's difficult to buy bus tickets in Lima, because there is no central bus station, partly because the hostel only sold those, and partly because I felt like spoiling myself, I bought tickets for the legendary Cruz del Sur, the company consistently recommended in the guide books, by tour companies, and hostels all over South America; they also cost consistently twice what we usually paid, but some people swear by them: I think they are too scared to try anything else. It was crap! I couldn't believe it. They had told me it was cama, but it was worse than most semi-cama we had been on. OK they gave you a blanket and a sandwich, but that doesn't make up for depriving you of business class luxury! And it was another sweatbox of an overnight bus.

OK, this entry is not concise enough, but I'm learning. From now on I won't mention buses at all, except maybe bad, OK, or good journey.


permalink written by  The Happy Couple on November 22, 2009 from Lima, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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Huanchaco, Peru




permalink written by  The Happy Couple on November 23, 2009 from Huanchaco, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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Fever and Chan Chan

Huanchaco, Peru


I arrived at the hostel in Huanchaco, expecting to find Lucy and Zdenek already there, but they had actually stayed at another place the previous night, but two girls we had met in Sucre and then again in La Paz were there: Natasha and Sylvie. Lucy and Zdenek arrived later and we went out and got drunk. It seemed like a nice little town, with traditional fishing boats, which surf the waves, lined up along the beach. However it was still cold. I hadn't been able to believe how cold Lima was, after coming down from the mountains, but we were now even further north: eight degrees south of the equator, just coming into summer and it was still cold! Another thing I prefer Asia for: South America always seems to be cold!

The next day I woke feeling really ill and assumed it was an unfairly disproportionate hangover, but by the time I had eaten breakfast it was clear that I had a bit of a fever as well: I just could not get warm, then in the evening, after spending the whole day in bed, I was burning up. Lucy and Zdenek were both feeling ill as well; yesterday's cebiche on the menu del dia was suspected. It put me off cebiche mixto a bit and I decided to switch to fish cebiche.

After spending the whole day in bed, I felt much better the next day; well enough to visit the Chan Chan ruins anyway, which was the one single thing to have persuaded me to follow Lucy and Zdenek here: I had found a website listing the “Best six” ruins in South America and Chan Chan was on it. Meanwhile Natasha had become ill with what sounded like the same as I'd had. The food in this town didn't seem to be up to the standards of the rest of the Peruvian coast thus far.

Chan Chan was nice, though not as impressive as the website had led me to believe. It is huge, which makes it impressive, but it's also very ruined, because it's a whole city made of adobe, which after all is just mud. After I arrived in Huanchaco someone had told me that they were reconstructing it after a tsunami, so maybe that had happened after the website was written. Again, the reconstruction did seem a bit excessive, but without it, it would probably all just be a pile of mud, so what else can they do?

That evening I stuck to cooked fish, and had an excellent dish called chita a lo macho, which is a rather plain fish I don't know the English for covered in a mixed seafood sauce. Delicious and very filling. And the food at the slightly more expensive place seemed safely fresh and clean! The weather continued to be cold and cloudy. What's the point of a beach town when you have to wear winter clothes all the time?



permalink written by  The Happy Couple on November 25, 2009 from Huanchaco, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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Am I Really Goofy?

Huanchaco, Peru


Zdenek and I had agreed to go for a surf lesson, which started quite early. As usual it was really overcast so I didn't think any sun cream would be necessary. Typical: finally I get to a beach town and it's never sunny! There was about 45 minutes of "theory" before we headed out into the water. The guy who was giving us the lesson owned the surf school with his brother and claimed that together they had developed their own technique, unique in the world, for beginning to learn to surf.

To begin with he said he had to determine whether we were each "normal" or "goofy", the former meaning that you stand on the board with your left foot infront and the latter, your right foot infront. Any time I've tried a skateboard, which has the same distinction, and the few times I tried to surf in South Africa it seemed much more natural to put my left foot forward, so I was fairly sure I'd be normal. To test us, he asked us both to stand with our feet together then pushed us both forwards. I put my right foot out to steady myself and Zdenek his left foot. Normal he said pointing at Zdenek and goofy, pointing at me. I didn't think much of his test or see the relationship between what you do on a surfboard and his test, but I accepted that he was the professional and proceeded to learn to stand up goofy.

The surfboards were enormous and Zdenek and I had to carry one between us, while our teacher managed to carry the other one on his head. The surfboard I owned but hardly used in South Africa was pretty big, but it was nothing on these things: they were like boats. The instructor asked us to paddle out just next to the pier, which provided enough shelter to prevent waves that were too big. There he took up position behind us and counted down to the time we should stand up. He was also there to give us a push when the wave arrived, making it considerable easier to catch the wave than it is when you have to paddle up to speed and time it on your own. This was the first time in Huanchaco I had been on the beach, never mind in the sea, that's how unbeachy the weather had been, so it was a nice surprise to discover that the water was absolutely full of otters, which I hadn't even realised you could find in salt water. The instructor told me that they are called lobos de marina in Spanish.

Anyway his special technique seemed to do the business because I managed to stand up briefly the first time before falling quickly off, but the second time I stood up quite easily, despite the fact he had not chosen a very strong wave for me, which meant that I was standing on the surfboard, more or less motionless in the water. Of course I lost my balance quite quickly and fell off, but the fact that it was possible demonstrates just how ridiculously large and buoyant these boards were. Third time and he chose me a good wave again, allowing me to surf, standing up, almost to the shore. Easy peasy! Zdenek was doing quite as well initially, but was soon standing up on almost every wave. The badly chosen waves and some slips meant that I was standing up well on maybe half of the attempts, which was much better than my previous record in South Africa, where I twice managed to slip off as soon as I started standing up, and apart from that caught a few waves lying down. Maybe the instructor's technique was something special, or maybe surfing is just really easy on gigantic surfboards when you have someone else pushing you onto the waves. It was fun anyway.

Only when I was taking my wetsuit off did I realise how hot my face seemed, at the same time noticing that the sun had actually been out for the entire time we were on the water, and I had no sun cream on. We went had lunch in the quite expensive ceviche restaurant next door to the hostel, but this time I stuck to pescado and steered clear of the raw mariscos. It was delicious as always. After lunch we had the option of returning to use the equipment to practise on our own, but I was already having to shelter in the shadows to prevent my reddening sunburn from hurting, so I had to give it a miss. Zdenek didn't bother either.

I spent most of the afternoon and evening looking for places I could sit without being in the sun, but the entire hostel seems to be designed to point at the afternoon sun. I suppose they were thinking of sunsets, but the roofs really should come down lower to offer some protection from the afternoon sun, since sunsets tend to be quite low on the horizon anyway. You can't get warm in the mornings with the sea breeze and everywhere being in shadow, then you can't escape the sun in the afternoon when you are burnt. When the sun was low enough for me to venture out we sat with Natasha and Sylvie, waiting for their taxi to arrive take them to catch their bus to Mancora. Meanwhile I sat on my nice Chinese sunglasses and broke them. I guess I am goofy after all.


permalink written by  The Happy Couple on November 26, 2009 from Huanchaco, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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Chill Out, Not Burn Out

Huanchaco, Peru


The day after the two girls, Lucy and Zdenek left as well, also to head to Mancora. It was sad to see them go, but at least it gave me an opportunity to avoid socialising for a bit and catch up on the blog. So that's what I did. That day I spent almost the whole day just sorting through the countless pictures from Machu Picchu and deciding which should be uploaded, only taking a break to eat ceviche at the restaurant next door again, this time trying another fish from their large selection. In the evening I had the entire dorm to myself, which would have been nice and peaceful were it not for a loud American couple Lucy had complained about the previous two nights when they had been playing loud music on the patio until really late. This time they came out to the patio, expecting to have it to themselves, but I was sitting there quietly blogging. They sat and covorted for a bit and the girl sang really loudly and tunelessly. When they realised I wasn't going to leave they eventually went back into their room, and when I played Fuck The USA by The Exploited as loud as my laptop could manage, they went out. I hope it was the reason they went out because when the returned later on she was still singing tunelessly at the top of her voice, eventhough it was after midnight.

Meanwhile the town was getting really busy. Up until then it had been a really quiet town with very little going on, but now it was Friday, lots of Peruvians were arriving from Trujillo and the beach started to fill up with people playing games and drinking. Outside restuarants, people were leaving their car doors open while they ate, so that they could blast out their own (usually very poor) choice of music. Lucy and Zdenek had arrived on a Sunday and told me that it got really busy at the weekends.

The following day was the same, with the exception that the noisy Americans left, singing tunelessly right up to the last moment. Someone must have told her she could sing at some point, but actually it was just really embarrassing. I blogged all day, this time having lunch at the vegetarian restaurant next door. The town continued to fill up with Peruvians and the beach was absolutely packed, and every resturant had at least one car outside with the doors open, blasting out music. In the afternoon I finished the blog up to the point where Joanne left. It was all very sad going over it again.

The next day I started thinking that I, too, should probably move on and realised that I didn't need very much of the South American guidebook anymore, so I ripped lots of pages out to get its volume and weight down to more sensible sizes. I started a new blog for me travelling on my own. Then went back to the ceviche restaurant for lunch. All week I had been waiting for crab, which they told me is only available on the weekend. I wanted crab but I wasn't sure whether to order ceviche or cangrejo reventado. I was still feeling a bit nervous about ceviche from things with shells, but wasn't sure what the other dish was; the dictionary on my phone said that reventado means "done in"! I ordered it anyway, and it was indeed "done in". It looked like the crab had been cooked whole then smashed up in the plate. It was actually very nice but a lot of hassle to eat.

I got some information about leaving and decided to go the following evening to Chachapoyas. I went into Trujillo to buy my ticket. I had been planning to go South again to Huaraz where I had heard there are fantastic mountains, but a few people at the hostel had come from there and told me the weather was awful, and I didn't have the gear for trekking in several feet of snow. My other choice had been to follow the others to Mancora, but it's just another beach town and I thought I had already spent enough time at the beach. It was going to be a whole week that I had stayed in Huanchaco, the longest time in one place of the whole trip, but I had really needed to relax for a bit after Joanne left, as we had been moving so fast to try and fit everything in before her flight. Anyway my "First Time Around the World" book advises that you should slow down and chill out from time to time or else you will get to stressed and burn out. We had been going fast for nearly a year and I needed a rest. Anyway I had to catch up on the blog. And this last day was because I needed to do washing!

After disappointing sunsets for the whole week I was treated to an incredible sunset that night. I spent about an hour walking up and down the beach taking loads of photos. What a nice finish! And how lucky I stayed the extra day.

That night the dorm filled up with noisy Americans, who thought it was OK to put the light on and make noise whenever they wanted, as if only American interests mattered; a bit like their foreign policy, really.

The next day I sat and watched seagulls diving into the sea to catch fish. I felt recharged and not quite as miserable as when Joanne left. I had come to South America primarily for mountains, the jungle, and ancient sites, but the fact we had to move so fast meant that we had mostly only had time for cities, which aren't anything special. Now mountains looked out of the question because of the weather, but there were ancient sites near Chachapoyas and I was planning to meet up with the others again in Ecuador for a visit to the jungle, which we had heard was cheaper than doing it in Peru.

That night I got a collectivo into Trujillo and caught the overnight bus to Chachapoyas.


permalink written by  The Happy Couple on November 30, 2009 from Huanchaco, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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Chachapoyas, Peru




permalink written by  The Happy Couple on December 1, 2009 from Chachapoyas, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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Spanish in Ruins

Chachapoyas, Peru


When I unpacked a bit at the hotel in Chachapoyas I realised that I had left On the Road on the bus. Having carried it since the second week in Thailand I wasn't going to lose it without having read it, so I ran back to the bus station only to find it all shut up. The bus had arrived very early and I supposed nobody would be at work yet. After some knocking I found a side door and went though. There was a guy on our bus, cleaning it out, but he claimed not to have found my book, even when I gave him specific instructions to find it, and I returned to the hotel dejected. I continued unpacking and immediately found the book.

The tours to Kuelap all seemed to be leaving at 7am and two guys who had been on my bus, Nigel from New Zealand, and Daniel from Switzerland, had already booked up, so I decided to join them, which meant I would only need to stay one night, though the tour was 45 Soles, which was a bit more than I had expected. Maybe it was worth it to avoid the hassle and extra time involved in finding it on my own. After staying still for one week I needed to get moving again! I had first heard about Kuelap on a website called something like "Six Must-See Ruins in South America", though Chan Chan had been there as well, and I hadn't been all that impressed with it.

The drive took a couple of hours and the driver was a maniac, hitting and killing a dog without stopping at one point. I had forgotten to ask whether food or any entrance fees were included in the S45 ticket, so of course they weren't. The ruins are definitely a bit more impressive than Chan Chan, though certainly no Machu Picchu. It's basically a fortress city at the top of a hill, built by the Pre-Incan Chachapoyas civilsation. It's quite large and it would certainly be easy to repel an attack, however when the Incas invaded the area, they simply carried out a seige, cutting the Chachapoyas off from their water supply and took the city in a few days; good builders but not very good tactitions apparently. Unfortunately the guide only spoke Spanish, so I didn't follow too much of what he said; maybe I understood about half, maybe a bit less, but both Daniel and Nigel spoke good Spanish, so they translated a bit for me when I was really stuck, though I felt too guilty to ask most of the time. I thought my Spanish would improve after Joanne left but, in fact, I had been speaking less because now I was spending more time with people who spoke much better Spanish than me (it was Zdenek before), and I was beginning to feel like I was getting out of practice.

After the tour Nigel, Daniel, and I went out for a few drinks, and discussed the possibility of doing another tour the following day. They had both heard that the third highest waterfall in the world was nearby, though it wasn't in my useless guidebook at all; later I discovered that this is because it has only recently been surveyed and confirmed as such. After a good few drinks, a couple of local guys wanted to join us and tried to insist that we dance with them. They were both very drunk and extremely tactile, but when I told Daniel I suspected they might be "creepy homosexuals" he told me that this is just how people are in South America; he is married to an Ecuadoriana and living in Quito, so I suppose he knows what he's talking about. Nevertheless I made my excuses as soon as possible and left for my hotel!




permalink written by  The Happy Couple on December 1, 2009 from Chachapoyas, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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Pedro Ruiz, Peru




permalink written by  The Happy Couple on December 2, 2009 from Pedro Ruiz, Peru
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World's 3rd Highest Waterfall

Pedro Ruiz, Peru


Nigel, Daniel, and I met up for breakfast and agreed that we didn't want to shell out so much money for another tour, so we decided to make our own way to the waterfall, Catarata Gocta. First we had to catch a collectivo to the nearby town of Pedro Ruiz, which is on the main road and where we would be able to catch buses to elsewhere. By the time we got to town Daniel had persuaded me to join him in a jungle tour in Peru rather than Ecuador, after all we were already quite close to the jungle. He had been working as a translator in the jungle of Ecuador and assured me that my information was wrong and in fact Peru was much cheaper, indeed, he had come to Peru to take a tour in the jungle to avoid the expense in Ecuador. Of course everyone knows that it's cheapest and best in Bolivia, but Joanne and I'd had no time for the jungle. In town Daniel and I bought tickets to Yurimaguas and Nigel bought one towards Huanchaco, and we left our big bags at the ticket office.

After a bit of lunch and some difficulty, we managed to get cheap transport with one local in a taxi collectivo to Cocachimba, the town nearest to Catarata Gocta. The driver told us that he would wait for us to return if we were prepared to pay for the empty seat too, on the way back. Considering we were well off the main road and transport would not otherwise be easy to get we agreed immediately.

Even from where he dropped us, reportely a two-hour walk from the falls, you could see it quite clearly. It is pretty high: 771 metres apparently, and the water falls from a cliff at the end of a plateau. The scenery was quite pleasant and it was much hotter and more humid than it had been at the coast. It felt like we were at the edge of the jungle and I started to feel quite pleased about the decision I had made. It was an easy trek, through trees and past some nice birds on the way. When we bought our entrance tickets, though, the woman in the office had made us sign a disclaimer because we had refused a guide. It was ridiculous: she was worried that something might happen to us without a guide, but it was just a stroll.

As we got closer, we lost sight of the top part of the falls. I need to look it up, but I'm sure they are cheating to have the falls in two sections like that; it can't be a 771 metres drop in one go. The water hardly touches the bottom though: it just mist by the time it has fallen there, because there's really not all that much water going over the fall. It looks, from the erosion, like it might be more impressive in the rainy season, but a high waterfall really can't compete with a large volume waterfall like Iguazu Falls.

Then it was a quick ride back to town, where Daniel insisted we eat again. He was definitely a bad influence: I had been eating healthily and steadily losing weight I think, since ceviche became available but now we were away from the coast it was back to menu del dia and the three course cheap meals with chips. Normally I would only eat twice a day when eating like that, but Daniel seemed to be fixated with the idea that you need three meals a day, so I had now eaten four menu del dias in two days. Uh oh!

Then it was overnight to Yurimaguas. Daniel was not impressed with the bus. Certainly, it was one of the cheap ones, but usually I find them more comfortable because they hasn't added all the extra "leg supports" and so on to make it more luxurious, which only really get in the way.


permalink written by  The Happy Couple on December 2, 2009 from Pedro Ruiz, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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Yurimaguas, Peru




permalink written by  The Happy Couple on December 3, 2009 from Yurimaguas, Peru
from the travel blog: Michael's Lonely post-Honeymoon
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