Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 29th-La Paz, Bolivia

Spent the day today touring the witches market and going through the coca museum.

Then shopping for booze for our last night of partying before I catch the train to the Uyuni desert tomorrow.

January 27th- Puno, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia

Well, I made it through the border check pretty smoothly.

We rolled into Copacabana, Bolivia (not to be confused with Brazil) and stopped for lunch on the beach. 17 restaurants on the beach. All serve one dish. Trucha. Which is Bolivian Trout. You can get it prepared 5 different ways, but it´s the same fish.

Then we headed toward La Paz, the Bolivian capital, around 1pm.

We stopped again at 2. To pay a toll i thought. But then we were asked to show our passports and shuttled onto a dock.

So everyone was wondering why they were loading us on a boat and what would happen to our possessions which were still on the bus.

Turns out. the bus was ferried across the lake to meet us on the other side.

So about dinner time we descended down into the valley toward La Paz and checked into our hostel.

I hit my room and found my 4 roomates all napping. 2 Aussies. A brit. And a German.

So we hit the town together for a memorable first night.

Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26th-Trying to get to Bolivia

I woke up early to exchange my bus ticket for a seat tomorrow. In hopes that I can work things out with the Bolivian Embassy.

I spent the morning putting together all the required items:
1. Application
2. Passport
3. Passport photo
4. Proof of hotel reservation
5. Proof of financial solvency
6. Return Plane Flight
7. $135 US
8. Proof of immunization for yellow fever.

Then after waiting an hour at the embassy with all my paperwork the ambassador basically said:¨looks good, you can take that to the border with you and they will issue your visa¨. REALLY. What is it you do exactly?

Anyway, so I think I´m good. Hopefully things go smoothly at the border tomorrow.

January 25th-Back to Puno

We caught the boat back to Puno today after a great lunch and a tour of Taquille Island.

On the way I was informed by some American teachers living in Paraguay that my entry into Bolivia may not be as smooth as I hoped.

Evidently they have this policy they apply soley to Americans called recipricocity. Which basically means ¨George Bush treats us like crap so screw you rich American¨.

If you don´t believe me, feel free to link to the Bolivian Embassy site via the US embassy consular sheet.

Anyway, the short story is that I have to meet with the embassy in Puno prior to entering Bolivia. Since my bus is due to depart at 7am tomorrow (monday), I´m pretty much SOL.

So I´ve rebooked my bus trip for Tuesday morning and hoping I can get everything squared away with them tomorrow.

January 24th-Lake Titicaca

We started our tour of the lake by visiting Uros, which is one of the floating islands. They were originally built when the Uros people fled their enemies near Puno by paddling out into the lake and constructing houses supported by reeds laid on top of each other.

They still live this way, but it has less to do with persecution and more to do with tourist dollars and tradition.

They are constantly laying new reeds on on the ground since the reeds on the bottom of the island are constantly rotting and sinking into the lake.

After visiting this island, it was off to Taquille to tour some inca ruins and meet our host families who we would be staying with for the night.

I was paired up with a nice couple from Bogota, Columbia. Adrian and Karina.

Friday, January 23, 2009

January 23rd-Cusco to Puno

Woke up this morning early to catch my bus and almost tripped over one of my roomates (i think he was) who passed out on the floor. i snapped a pic of him before i left.

Then a 6 hour bus ride to puno which is on lake Titicaca.

Strolled around the city in the afternoon. Tomorrow morning I´m catching a boat to the Floating Islands and staying the night with a family that lives on one of the island lakes.

January 22nd- Cusco

Went out to see a latino band play last night with some people from the hostel. Hit the booze a bit too hard. 2 for 1 mojito night.

Woke up this morning missing my jacket which contained my mp3 player and headlamp.

Fortunately, i went back to the bar and recovered the jacket with headlamp, but mp3 player gone. So no music or audiobook for awhile.

Oh well.

Also, got my teeth cleaned (how interesting).

Tomorrow catching a bus to Puno (Lake Titicaca), so I think I´ll be good tonight.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 21st - Cusco

After a short run at 12,000 ft. I was off to shop for Ojotes, or local shoes made out of car tires. I was so proud to return and tell the hostel tour director of my new shoes I bought for $2.75 and then she informed me that locals only pay $1 for them. Dammit.

After that, I finally found a dentist that would do a cleaning for $10 US. I needed the help of the hostel worker who made the appointment for me in her dad´s name. So tomorrow at noon I am Pablo. Much better than the $25 that they wanted to charge me when I tried to make the appointment in my broken spanish.

Then I arranged my trip to Lake Titicaca for Friday. And then off to La Paz Bolivia on Monday.

And finished the day with a visit to the Inca Museum.

Also, here´s a link that is definitely worth viewing. Thanks Sean.

January 20th Cusco

Woke up with a hangover from too many pisco sours at the dance club. Pisco is the local drink. Sort of a grape liquor.

First priority is finding a place to stay as I just learned that the hostel did not hold my reservation. See, you know how to TAKE the reservation, you just don´t know how to HOLD the reservation. And holding the reservation is the most important part. Anyone can just take a reservation.

So I tagged along with some of my trip mates and found a bed at a local hostel for $7 per night.

Then i spent the rest of the day shopping for clothing and a dentist as i just found out i can get my teeth cleaned for $10 US here. Sweet

January 19th - Manchu Pichu

The porters woke us up at 4 am this morning for a quick breakfast and a 5 am departure toward sungate. Fortunately the clouds held off and the views coming over sungate were stunning. Manchu did not fail to impress.

After a couple of hours touring around Manchu Pichu, we headed into Aguas Calientes for lunch and then a train ride to Ollyantumbo and a van shuttle back to our hotel in Cusco.

That night we all went out to celebrate our safe return from the Inca trail with dinner and dancing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 18-Day 3 on Inca Trail

Well today started out wet and got wetter. Today was our longest day of hiking at about 10 miles. But it finished at a campsite just a mile from sungate, the entrance to manchu pichu. There was also a bar and showers there. So that helped a bit.

By the afternoon, the clouds cleared giving us hope of a clear view of machu tomorrow morning from Sungate.

The porters will wake us up at 4 am tommorrow so we can break camp and get to sungate before those lazy train riders show up. Oh, did i mention, they wake us up by tapping on the tent and handing us hot tea.

January 17-Day 2 on Inca Trail

Got hit with some late thunderstorms last night, but the day started out sunny. Today is our biggest climb. Roughly 4000 of vertical over 3 miles of climbing. And mostly steps. Evidently the Incas never heard of switchbacks.

We topped out at 13,850 ft and descended down another mile or so to our campsite.

it pretty much rained all afternoon and most of the night.

January 16-Day 1 on Inca Trail

Well the porters managed to drive through the night via a back route to reach Ollyantumbo in time for our departure. good news since even a one day delay would have voided out our trail permits. We have a total of 23 support personnel for our group of 14 travelers. 17 porters, one head porter, a chef, assistant chef, waiter, and 2 guides.

So our bus took us to km 82 on the trail which is where the road ends. the only options for getting to manchu pichu are to hike it from there or catch the train. trains are for wimps.

so we started our 25 mile hike which would take us 3 days. Sounds pretty easy, but as i was to find out, this was not your average 8 mile hike.

We stopped half way and were served trout for lunch and chicken later that day for dinner. I could get used to this.

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 15th Cusco to Ollyantumbo

Rolled out of bed at 5:30 this morning to get a run in before our 8 am departure for the Sacred Valley. Ran up into the hills above Cusco. Unfortunately, I left my running pack at home, so I didn´t have my camera with me. I´m planning to pick up a new one when I return to Cusco later this week as I seem to see some of the best scenery on my runs.

Had a good run of about 8 miles on the ridge above Cusco. Elevation 12,000´ Should be good an acclimated for the hike along the Inca trail which starts tomorrow.

After leaving our hotel, the tour group I´m with (14 total) headed toward the sacred valley to tour a small village known for it´s handmade alpaca weavings and clothing. Sounds like a way to get the tourists to spend money. But enjoyable none the less. I picked up a small alpaca mascot made of alpaca fur.

We then bypasses Pisco along some offroad routes to avoid the farmers who had blocked the roads with boulders rolled off the mountains.

After that we toured a Salt Mine and headed toward Ollyantumbo where we planned to spend the night.

Unfortunately, our plans were thwarted by the farmers who blocked the only bridge to Ollyantumbo with boulders and flaming trees. So we were forced to walk 20k to our hotel, passing protesters every mile or so. Each time we passed easily with a friendly "Hola" and an occasional explanation from our guide that we were in support of their cause.

So after about a 3 hour hike, we arrived into Ollyantumbo late, checked into our hotel, and hoped our porters, cooks and other support personnel could make it into town over night.

January 14th Lima to Cusco

Stopped in for the briefing last night to find that our bus leaves for the Lima airport at 3:30 a.m. So I decided to stay up drinking with my friends at the Loki Hostel.

I don´t want to say it was a bad idea, but I was out cold on the flight and had to grab an afternoon nap in Cusco.

We checked into our hotel in Cusco about 9 am and soon thereafter I met Caleb, my roomate from Australia.

Wandered around town a bit and watched the local farmers protesting their poor wages. Not sure if I´m tired, hungover, still drunk, or just feeling the 11,000 elevation.

Finished out the night with a great $2 chicken dinner and drank Inca Cola for the first time. Pretty good actually. Like cream soda only not quite as sweet.

Bagged out early with hopes of getting an early run in before our day of touring around the Sacred Valley.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 13th Lima Peru

Woke up this morning to the sounds of cars honking at each other. My room window faces the town roundabout, so I get to hear it all.

I rolled out for my run about 9 am and decided to run by tonights hotel on the way to the beach. Today, I check out of this hostel and head to another hotel to meet my travel mates for the 8 day tour through Cusco and Manchu Pichu.

The run was good. But it was pretty hot and smoggy along the beach. I also stopped at a beach porto pottie along the beach and noticed an older man and woman guarding the door. My spanish is no bueno, so I stepped inside, did my business, and then as I left I was asked for 10 centavos. Or about 3 cents US. Turns out, they keep the bathrooms clean in return for a small fee. Unfortunately, I was running without any money, So I got a dirty look from them after explaining "lo siento, no dinero".

Oh, well, another rich, insensitive American they can point to.

So now I'm off to buy a phone card and SIM card so I can stay in touch a bit better.

I fly to Cusco tomorrow morning early.


January 12th Lima Peru

I landed last night in Lima about midnight. There were a number of flights landing at the same time, so getting through customs took awhile. Finally about 1 am, I cleared customs and headed for currency exchange and the taxi stand. I managed to do quite a bit better than the $45 cab ride i was quoted in the airport. I found a driver out front willing to take me for $60 soles. Or $20.

I arrived at the Loki Hostel and was pleased that they were in fact open 24 hours and the bar was still open. So i checked into my room, which has a great view of McDonalds , grabbed a beer on the rooftop bar, and turned on my gps transmitter to give send the o.k. signal to the family.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Peru and Argentina

Well, I'm heading out this morning for my flight to Lima. I leave Austin at 1:30 and arrive in Lima at 11:30 p.m. this evening (EST).

I'm packing pretty light in hopes of doing some running on the Inca Trail with my pack. My 1800 ccm pack is not even close to full and the weight is roughly 12 lbs total and much of that is books. We'll see how it works out.

Stay tuned.