general travel trip reports

the south america round-up

kitten fishing in santiago de chile
mendoza, argentina
the southest i’ve ever been
arriving in patagonia
parque nacional torres del paine
around the park
into bolivia
hot-tubbing bolivian style
my very first geyser (a.k.a. i can see why safety fences are sometimes a good idea)
through the altiplano
hotel de sal (yes i licked the walls)
salar de uyuni
uyuni, bolivia
lake titicaca
cusco, peru
inka trail – day one
inka trail – day two
inka trail – day three
inka trail to machu picchu
lima, peru
screaming slugs – the highlights

general travel

screaming slugs – the highlights

The Screaming Slugs came to South America too, and were alarmed by most things they saw there.

A cactus on an island in the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia


In the middle of the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia


At Machu Picchu, Peru


In a Richard Serra installation at Toronto Airport, Canada

general trip reports

lima, peru

After all of the encouraging words we’d read about Lima, we weren’t particularly looking forward to spending any time there. A guidebook I’d read before leaving basically suggested: “If you spend only a couple of days there, and see the main sites, you might not hate it.”


Armoured vehicles with sub machine guns by Plaza de Armas, the main square in downtown Lima

And maybe there’s not much there to see if you’re keen on going to museums and art galleries and general tourist attractions. But it’s not that bad. The main thing that tipped it into favour for me was the food – we ate so much fantastic cheap food there.

But also the Museum of the Inquisition.


Museo de la Inquisicion (Museum of the Inquisition)

It had excellent mannequins on display. I’m sure it was probably educational too, but with all the plaques in Spanish, and us too impatient to wait for an English tour, we just wandered round on our own at managed to get a rough idea what the plaques were talking about with our rudimentary Spanish skills. And admired the mannequins.


Museo de la Inquisicion (Museum of the Inquisition)

The San Francison Church and Monastery is also worth visiting, mainly for the Catacombs beneath. According to the Internets: “Originally constructed in 1546, it is one of the oldest churches in South America. It also served as the first official Catholic cemetery in Lima, at a time when the dead were laid to rest in catacombs beneath the church, itself an echo of an old Roman custom… Bodies were brought here, covered in quicklime, and soon reduced to skeletons. It was a quick and sanitary way to dispose of the bodies. Over 25,000 people were buried in this tomb.”

As such there were huge piles of bones artistically arranged in the Catacombs – mainly thigh bones and skulls, as they last longest.

general trip reports

inka trail to machu picchu


And the clouds cleared, and as they descended from Inti Punku there was light! And sun!

To beat the crowds to the gate we were up at 4am and queueing to get stamped onwards. Light was already appearing in the sky as we walked towards Inti Punku, and soon headlamps were discarded as I managed to find a quiet section of trail with noone infront of behind, and could pretend I was meandering along on my own. From Inti Punku we caught our first glimpse of Machu Picchu as the sun rose. Well, that was the idea. The sunrise was a bit unspectacular with all the clouds around, but at least we could see Machu Picchu.


Structures built around the natural rock – a common theme in Incan building

As more and more people started arriving at Inti Punku from both directions, we started our descent down to Machu Picchu. We pass people who had caught the train and bus to Machu Picchu, and were wandering up to see the view – including one teenage girl who is complaining vehemently about the fact she doesn’t want to hike up “another thousand feet”.


Lurking llamas

Arriving at Machu Picchu is a bit surreal, it’s an image that I’ve seen so many times before, it really does feel like wandering around in a postcard. After dropping off our packs we get a tour around, and then spend a few hours wandering round on our own as the day gets warmer and sunnier. I can smell the soap on the people who came here from Cusco that morning. And there really are llamas wandering round acting as lawn mowers.


Views of Machu Picchu and the neighbouring mountains

Finally all the people get too much for us, and we escape down to Aguas Calientes, and spend an afternoon in this tourist village that hugs the train tracks, lamenting the loss of our cook. The journey back to Cusco that night is all a haze, as the train and then coach rock us back and forth in our sleepiness, before spitting us out in Plaza de Armas to catch a taxi to our hostel.

general travel trip reports

inka trail – day three

Another 6am wakeup, with Alex feeling slightly better than last night. We attempt to transfer more of the load to my bag, which is difficult given that it’s filled to the point of explosion with the sleeping bags. We then start the slog up towards the second pass, stopping to look at the Runkurakay ruins along the way.



We stop at the second pass and take silly photos, momentarily excited with the fact we have clear views, and are surrounded by snow-capped mountains – the highest, Mount Veronica, sitting at 5682m. Wandering onwards we stop at the Sayaqmarka site, and then off along some of the more beautiful sections of trail – unfortunately it’s becoming cloudy though. Or atmospheric. Yes, it was becoming increasingly atmospheric.


I stare majestically off into the distance at the second pass

After crossing another pass things start to get even more atmospheric though. So atmospheric that small drops of water start to fall from the sky – in a casual way at first, then with increasingly more committment. Starting downhill, we reach Phuyupatamarca ‘the town above the clouds’ and wish it really was above the clouds, as then this rain would have no way to get to us – as promised, its the most impressive ruins we’ve seen so far along the trail, but as the rain gets heavier we don’t stop to admire them for too long, and keep heading down.



We then hit the ‘gringo killer’, a section of staircase even steeper than the descent from Dead Woman’s Pass yesterday, as we descend from Phuyupatamarca at 3650m to Wiñay Wayna at 2700m. We’re all getting soaked through, and just want to get down and dry, as the stairs seem to last forever, and the clouds only occasionally part to give us tanalising glimpses of a view. Down down down, down down down, drip drip drip.


Happy wet trekkers

Finally we reach Wiñay Wayna (Quechua for ‘forever young’, named after a pink orchid which grows in the area). It isn’t as bad as it had sounded in the description we were given (hot showers, and a … discotheque?), as everything is spread out over terraces on a very steep hillside. Although there are hundreds of us crammed into this campground, you really wouldn’t know it – especially as everyone just wants to dive into their tents and get warm. After afternoon tea we wander out to the bar/discotheque, and are amused at the dodginess, before returning to the food tent at 7pm. After dinner there is cake (cake!) and speeches, and songs (a rousing rendition of Beatles – Help! from us is countered by a Quechua song from the Chaskis).


Wall close-up

Then we go to huddle in our tents. The rain has stopped, but we still feel damp, everything drips, and we lie in our sleeping bags hoping the rain and clouds stay away tomorrow – as tomorrow is our push to Inti Punku (the Sun Gate), and Macchu Pichu.