Ghost Riders South America Adventure with World Expeditions
Includes time in Iguaçu Falls, Argentina and Uruguay
Commenced 17th Sept 2010

Others may have different opinions but this is the way I saw things. Anything I say about anyone or anything is purely in fun. Some information and photos I got from others on the trip. I may have enhanced some of the information I gathered. Anything that is blatantly incorrect please let me know. All photos used have been converted to a smaller size for faster downloading.

Words, photos or video can never convey the visual impact and "feeling" of some of the places we visited. You have to be there.

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Trip Summary
The trip was organised by Dennis, the "President" of the Warby Ghost Riders cycling group through World Expeditions. He gave them a list of things to see and do and the trip was tailored to fit our needs. In Peru, where we spent nearly 3 weeks, we had our own 16 seater minibus, a full time guide and driver. For the bike rides, we had extra support people and a sag wagon. Except for the Short Inca Trail, on the treks we had porters and support people to carry the gear and provide meals.
Eight people took part. Nearly everyone knew each other before we left Australia because we had numerous training walks and bike rides together.

In Peru, we trekked, rode bikes and visited the sights in and around the towns of Lima, Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Puno, Chivey and Arequipa. A very diverse range of activities and terrain.
In Argentina we visited Iguaçu Falls and the sights of Buenos Aries.
We spent a day in Uruguay.

Dennis D & Dennis W
Rick & Ann
Marg & Linda
Allan & Bob
Marg and Linda did not go to Iguaçu Falls, Argentina or Uruguay.
Allan and Bob did not go to Uruguay.

Leonidas Enriquez Oblitas Acurio (Leo) was our guide in Peru and we also had some local guides. A highly educated and well read person, Leo was passionate about his country, its flora and fauna and culture. He spoke three languages fluently - English, Spanish and Quechua (a native South American Language). He could also speak some of the other native language and Portuguese. His culture passion rubbed off on all of us. I certainly have a greater appreciation of Peru and the Inca civilisation.

Guido Mora Cazorla (Guido) was our bus driver in Peru. He drove us around safely and was always on time. He did not speak English but obviously understood most of our jokes because he laughed a lot. A friendly and likeable character.


  • Trekking the Short Inca Trail, walking through the Sun Gate and getting our first view of Machu Picchu. I will remember this sight as one of the most spectacular I have ever seen. See this group photo. The Sun Gate is about 300m above and 1km away from Machu Picchu so you get a magnificent view of Machu Picchu. Most people never see this view first because they go up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes village by bus. The Sun Gate is a stone arch strategically positioned on a ridge above Machu Picchu so that the sun shines through the arch onto Machu Picchu at sunrise which is the best time to be there. The last lot of steps before the Sun Gate were so steep you had to climb up them like a ladder. See these photos of the Short Inca Trail through the Sun Gate and up to Machu Picchu. The only blot on the landscape is the horrendous zig zag dirt track that winds its way up from the valley to Machu Picchu. This track is used by the fleet of buses that ferry people to and from Machu Picchu. Why can't they bituminise it and paint it green? At least it would not stick out like a sore thumb.

  • The many other Inca ruins that Leo guided us through. In particular, the ruins of Machu Q'ente, near Km 88, which were being restored.  A difficult and long climb to the site but it was worth it. There was nobody else there when we visited (except the workers). The site was large with many buildings. One of the best aspects of these ruins was the restored underground chamber. A square opening leads into a circular chamber with an enormous rock as the roof. We sat in there for a while and meditated until someone started laughing. See these photos. The workers restoring the site live on site in some temporary buildings which will be removed when the restoration is finished.
    I noted that all Inca sites pitched on mountain sides have at least one set of very steep steps.

  • Seeing the condors rise out of Colca Canyon. We arose at 4.30 am and drove for 1.5 Hrs from Chivey down the track above and beside the canyon to view this spectacle and it was well worth it. Condors nest in the steep canyon walls. A very large bird, they rarely flap their wings relying on thermals rising out of the canyon to gain height. We viewed at least 20 condors come out of the canyon that morning, an unusually large number. Condors feed on carrion but it is thought the locals originally did not know this and thought that they preyed on their animals. An education campaign changed this and locals now realise the usefulness of these birds. In particular, the growing tourist trade.
    Colca canyon is the deepest canyon in the world and at its deepest point Colca Canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon but has much steeper sides. It is about 1km deep at the place where we viewed the condors. The scenery along the canyon was spectacular. See these photos.

  • Downhill rides on the bikes. There were four. In all cases the bikes were taken up to the highest point and we rode them down. Going up on the minibus the downhill rides looked dangerous, but coming down on the bike they did not seem as bad. We probably stopped too often for photos.

    • From the Yanama Pass at about 4200m we rode down the Patacancha valley which runs into Ollantaytambo. A descent of about 1400m. It was a gravel road winding through an open fertile valley with many farms. On the way up in the minibus we got held up momentarily by a landslide. Passed through the communities of Huilloq and Marca Cocha and a community school. On the way down we stopped at an old Inca site with a church at Marga Cocha for lunch which was inside a tent and was delicious. Some local ladies were selling their wares. This valley was very scenic and we stopped numerous times for photos. There was so much to see I would have liked to walk down from the top. See these photos.

    • From the Malaga Pass at 4300m down the Malaga Valley to Ollantaytambo. A descent of about 1500m. It was very cold and cloudy at the top. A made road winding through a tight valley with little occupation but lots of vegetation further down. There were many switchbacks and it rained on the way down making the descent slow and treacherous. Lunch was waiting for us near the bottom in a tent and we were all freezing by the time we got there. As usual, lunch was delicious.
      After lunch we rode down a "dodgy" track to the main road and then back to Ollantaytambo. See these photos.

    • From the Patapampa Pass on the road in/out of Chivey at 4850m we rode down to the town of Chivey. A descent of about 2000m. A made road in a barren open valley with no occupation and not as tight switchbacks as the previous two downhills. The greatest speed could be attained on this downhill and I tested it out a few times. See these photos. Leo told me that this road was only bitumised in 2006 and before then it was only a rough track making the journey to Chivey challenging.
      After the ride some of us went directly to the thermal springs in Chivey which all of us except Dennis D had visited the evening before. Linda and Allan took their life in their hands by riding on a flying fox above the thermal springs. The springs are at a temperature of about 39° and were very pleasant. See these photos.

    • From the town of Maras to the Salinas de Maras or Maras Salt Mine. Ann, Dennis D and Linda did not do this ride. The ride followed goat tracks cut into the edge of cliffs and was very treacherous. I tried not to look over the edge. Found out later that this track is used as training ground for downhill mountain bike riders. Just before the Salt Mine, the track zig zags downhill so steeply and tight that you have to get off the bike. It was a thrilling experience. I could not stop to take any photos because we were going so fast and Bob was right behind me.
      The Salt Mine is one of the few sources of salt in the area. A small stream of salty water flows out of a cleft in the valley and is fed into hundreds of small pods. The sun dries the water leaving the salt which is collected. The mines have been in use for hundreds of years and may even date back to Inca times. The main road (goat track) in and out of the Salt Mines is treacherous. See these photos.

  • The Concentric Terraces at Moray. We all walked down to the bottom level. The steps between each level consist of stones sticking out of the terrace wall. Some were very difficult to walk up and down. An very interesting place. See these photos.
    The exact purpose of the Terraces is unknown but one theory is that the Incas constructed them for agricultural research and experiments on crops at different altitudes.

  • Iguaçu Falls in Argentina. We spent 2 days there, staying overnight. On the first day, we had a guided tour of the Falls, a speedboat ride in and around the Falls and a jungle tour. The second day we walked the lower section of the Falls walk. The Falls and the boat ride were fantastic. The jungle tour was boring. We were lucky because the volume of water over the falls was boosted by recent torrential rains in the area. See these photos.

Collingwood winning the AFL Grand Final whilst we were away. After a draw with St. Kilda in the first game, Collingwood thrashed St. Kilda in the rematch.

It Was Just Like The Dandenongs
In some places. In some of the mountainous areas we visited in Peru, Eucalypts were prominent. They have been planting them to stabilise the soil and prevent erosion and they thrive. Even at heights much higher than they grow in Australia. On our trek we camped near the Km 88 station on the opposite side of the river. The tents were pitched with a background of eucalypts. See this photo. Walking beneath the trees with the leaf and stick litter reminded me of Sherbrooke forest in the Dandenongs. See this photo.

Best Meals
The ones on the trek and bike rides. We were treated to some delicacies. All had names, but I did not record them. I heard Marg requesting the names. A drink called "Chicka" that was provided at lunches and dinners was very refreshing. See this photo of the contents of our lunch pack and other photos in the trek and bike ride descriptions.

Marg fell off her bike and grazed her leg. Bob got attacked on his leg by some insects. Ann and I got sunburned on the first day touring the ruins above Cusco. Partly our own fault because you are told to limit exposure to the sun whilst taking Malaria tablets and we did not use sunscreen. I banged the top of my head coming out of a toilet which had a very low entrance and drew some blood.

Where meals were not provided we went to restaurants for lunch or dinner. Some were recommended by Leo. I cannot remember the attributes of every restaurant but a few stood out. Some did not have menus in English which I thought was lacking. I tried Alpaca at a few places and it is very nice meat. We usually kept one of the menus so that we could work out our individual meal costs. Popular drinks we had often were Pisco Sour, Lemonada and fruit juices (made from fresh fruit). Three places had floor shows. Did not see much sliced bread. If we had toast, it was usually a bun cut in two.

  • In Lima, we walked downtown to the "El Parquetito" restaurant for dinner. Food was mediocre. We were outdoors and someone was smoking which was annoying. See these photos.
    Had our first drink of pisco sour there, the "national cocktail" of Peru. Both Chile and Peru claim it is their "national cocktail".
    Peru has an annual "Pisco Sour Day" in early February with pisco-tasting parties across the country and a fountain in Lima's historic main square which is filled with pisco sour on "Pisco Sour Day" (which you can drink). Unfortunately, the fountain was filled with water when we visited it.

  • In Cusco, we had lunch twice at the "Greens" near the Plaza. Pleasant atmosphere and good food. Dennis D and Allan had a laughing fit there. See these photos.

  • In Cusco, we stumbled on the "Inka House". Pleasant surroundings, fast service and good meals. They even supplied a complimentary pisco sour for everyone.

  • In Ollantaytambo, we twice had dinner in the "Blue Puppy". Excellent meals both times. Had dinner once at the "Hearts Cafe". See these photos.

  • In Ollantaytambo, had dinner once at "Orishas" situated on the road down to the train. Meals just OK. See this photo.

  • In Aguas Calientes, We went to the Indi Feliz Restaurant. Nice surroundings, well presented, fast service and good meals. However, Allan and I got ill that night. Although we cannot directly blame the restaurant I have my suspicions.

  • On the way from Cusco to Puno, we stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant in the town of Sicuani. A smorgasbord lunch and musical entertainment. See these photos.

  • In Chivey, we had lunch and then dinner in the "Mistituris" restaurant. Lunch was OK. We were the only ones there as they especially opened for us. We also went there for dinner and it was a debacle because they did not have enough staff and the place was full. The poor girl serving us was run off her feet and mucked up our orders. We ordered juices but gave up on them because they had no time to make them. They had a reasonable floor show. See these photos. Leo told us that there are not many restaurants in Chivey so he had little choice on where to go. This small town has really not geared up for tourists yet.

  • Also in Chivey, we had dinner in the "Poso Del Cielo", the hotel we were staying in. The food was OK, but was very expensive. Ann had pancakes for dessert which cost 28 Sol (about $9 AUS). Had a lot of trouble getting the waiter to understand us. See these photos.

  • In Puno, we went to the "Balcones de Puno" for Allan's birthday. See the section later detailing Allan's birthday.

  • On our last evening with Leo, he took us to a restaurant in Arequipa and we did not have to pay (whoopee!). The food was good as is the case when you don't have to pay. They had a reasonable floor show. Afterwards, Dennis D gave a speech and we presented Leo with our tip. See these photos.

  • At Iguaçu Falls, we stayed in the Sheraton hotel. You could sit outside and soak up a magnificent view of the falls. The falls are about 20km from the main town so we had no choice but have dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was very good but not cheap as we expected. See this photo.

  • In Buenos Aries, the restaurants are open early but don't seem to be ready to process orders until later. We usually arrived about 7.30 but ended up waiting a long time for our meals. They bring out bread and butter without you asking for it and then charge you for it on the bill.
    The waiters made a point of reminding us that the "Service Charge" is not included in the bill. We did not know how much the service charge was, so we guessed about 10% and left quickly. We did not go back to the same restaurant again in case we had not paid enough service charge on our previous visit. Found out later that the service charge is about 10%. See these photos.
    A few of us tried the famous Argentine beef one night and it was good.

Bob (67)/Marg (49).

Midget Doors
The Poso Del Cielo hotel in Chivey and the hotel in Puno had very small doors designed for midgets. See these photos.

Biggest Eater
Bob. He nearly always had dessert. See this photo.

When Sybil Got Sick
In Arequipa we all visited the Ice Maiden display at the Museum de Santuarios Andinos. The Ice Maiden is the frozen body of a 500 year old Inca girl that was discovered in the Peruvian Andes in 1995. She is the first mummy found frozen, rather than dried, and as a result her DNA is very well preserved. The display includes the preserved Ice Maiden, clothes, trinkets and a film. You had to be shown around by one of the guides. It was extremely interesting. Ann said the guide we had acted like a zombie. Well, he was dressed in black and the light inside was very dim and he walked very slowly but he told me later that he spoke 8 languages (zombies are not that well educated). The problem was that you could not actually see the Ice Maiden. Because it has to be protected from light and kept very cold, it was in a refrigerated glass container, the light around the display was very dim and everyone was squinting and pressing up against the glass trying to see anything.
Standing back and watching everyone, it reminded me of the Faulty Towers episode when Connie impersonated a sick Sybil in a darkened room and some visitors were trying to see Sybil in the dim light.
I suggested to the guide that they should make an animated 3D image of the Ice Maiden so people can actually see what it looks like but he looked at me like I had 10 heads (maybe he is a zombie). The entry cost (15 Sol) did not include the cost of the guide which was made VERY clear to us.

Embarrassing Moments

  • Linda picking up the wrong bag off the carousel at Sydney airport at the start of our trip. The owner came and took it off her.

  • Whilst waiting at the Cusco airport carousel for my baggage, Dennis W snapped me standing beside a good looking young lady. He reckons I was trying to con her up. See this photo.

  • Whilst riding to Km 82, we stopped at a rail crossing for the Machu Picchu train. As the train passed through the crossing, a young girl waved her undies at me through the train window. See these photos near where it happened.

  • Llamas pinching food off Ann at Chino at the end of the last ride. It was as if they had a plan. One was attracting her attention at the front and one was behind. When she swung around to avoid the one at the front, the one behind grabbed her food. See these photos.

  • On the last ride, Linda rode her bike through some freshly laid bitumen much to the annoyance of the workmen.

When Rick Got Sick
We had our first view of Machu Picchu in the middle of the afternoon but did not have a formal tour until the next day. I was feeling a little off when I first got up but did have some breakfast. Alan also felt a little ill that morning. Later on during the tour I felt worse but soldiered on. After about an hour I was feeling very ill and told Ann to convey to Leo that I was going to find somewhere to lie down. I spied a nice place on one of the lawns but the guard shooed me off. By this time I was feeling very ill and so I just lay down at the first convenient place. Little did I know that I was in a good viewing position for most visitors. At some point one of the others noticed me. See this photo. They had not even noticed I was missing! Eventually I walked down to the front area of Machu Picchu and relieved myself of the breakfast and felt much better. I wandered around for an hour or so tacking onto other guides for information and eventually caught up with the others.

Polystyrene Health Bars
See this photo. They look and taste like polystyrene foam and are lighter than air. Very popular in Peru. We bought some and they were given to us in our packed lunch bags. They were horrible so we threw them away.

When Others Got Sick
Everyone was ill at some stage except Ann. She reckoned that she takes so many tablets that no bug could survive. Marg and Linda suffered badly from altitude sickness when we first arrived at Cusco and had bouts of diarrhoea. Bob and Allan had a day each suffering from stomach upsets. Dennis D and Dennis W had thick heads at times which was probably altitude sickness. I had mild altitude sickness and bouts of diarrhoea.
We tried to analyse the causes of the diarrhoea but never could work it out. We used the water supplied by Tambo Treks and purchased water at other times. We used hand sanitiser religiously. On the trek, we were provided with hand washing facilities. Even when we had the same meals, some got sick and others did not. In restaurants, I often ordered a drink called "Lemonada". It was very tangy. Reflecting on how this drink may have been made causes me to believe it may have been one of the problems. I suspect they just add local water to a concentrated lemon solution. Ann only ever drank fresh fruit juice.
At a place called Chino, we all ate a lunch supplied in a paper bag by Tambo Treks. One of the rolls had ham in it and a local dog would not eat the ham. That should have given us a clue because one of us got ill afterwards.
I stopped taking malaria tablets late in the trip and that stopped my diarrhoea problem.
We spoke with other trekkers and heard plenty of horror stories. In one group of about 14 people trekking the Long Inca Trail everyone was ill stopping often to relieve themselves in the bushes. Its probably about time to disinfect the Inca Trail.
It surprised me that so many people got sick. At least the intensity of the diarrhoea was not as bad as I experienced in Nepal.

How Many Hats Can You Lose
Dennis W lost two. One over the Iguaçu Falls. The other fell out of his backpack in Buenos Aries when someone undid the zipper and attempted to steal anything out of the backpack. This happened whilst he was walking with the backpack on. Dennis thinks he disturbed the person and his hat fell out but he did not see it fall.

When We Got Lost
On the bike ride that ended near the Concentric Terraces at Moray, Ann and I got left behind. We came to a junction of dirt tracks and asked some people there which way did the bike riders go. That way, they said, so we headed off down that track. After a few hundred meters, Ann said that she could not see any bike tracks in the dirt, so we went back and again asked the people which way did the bike riders go. They pointed the same way but we decided they were idiots and took the other track. Sure enough, there were bike tracks so we continued on and eventually we could see the others in the distance. When we got to our destination Leo was very apologetic and embarrassed. One of the guides should have stayed behind at the junction he said and it won't happen again. This was one of the few rides where the sag wagon was not following us because the track was unsuitable.

Biggest Shoppers
Linda, Marg and Ann. I assumed that the bags provided by World Expeditions for packing our gear on the trek would be given to us at the end of the trek and we could use these to cart home all the purchases. This is what happened in Nepal. However, we did not get the bags so we had to purchase large bags to cart everything home. Ann's bag burst open at Sydney Airport and we had to strap it. See this photo of what Ann & I purchased.

When Will It Rain In Lima?
We were told that it had not rained in Lima Since January ..... 1970. However, I since discovered that there have been some short downpours since then. They don't have any gutters on the roofs or drainage system on the roads in Lima.
We arranged an afternoon guided tour of Lima. We were provided with a minibus, guide and driver. The tour was very good and included entrance to two museums. In one museum we went into the catacombs and viewed piles of bones. A bit creepy. The other museum had a diverse selection of Inca artefacts. Viewed many of the fountains and parks that make Lima famous. See these photos.
The museum that had the Inca artefacts was privately owned, as was the museum holding the Ice Maiden in Arequipa. When we were in Peru, the President gave a speech requesting that the British Government return the artefacts taken by Bingham when he discovered Machu Picchu.  Whilst I agree with them being returned, the British Government must insist that before they be returned the artefacts can be housed correctly in a public museum and not in a private one.

Other Places We Visited
In Peru, Leo got us each multi venue (15 places) passes for places in and around Cusco that were valid between certain dates. We were not able to visit every venue on the pass. Linda was ill when we visited Sacsayhuamán (above Cusco). She tried to visit it later but her pass was out of date. After some hassling they let her in. Some places we visited using the pass are described elsewhere and not all places described below used the pass.

  • The Inca ruins overlooking Ollantaytambo. See these photos.

  • Above Cusco:

    • The Inca site of Sacsayhuamán with its walls made of massive rocks. See these photos.

    • The Inca site of Tambomachay, a fine example of Inca architecture made up of platforms, niches and fountains which are still functioning today. See these photos.

    • The Inca site of Q'enqo, a vast rocky hilltop carved into staircases, holes and channels. See these photos.

    • The statue of Jesus overlooking the town. See this photo.

  • In Cusco, Ann & I visited the Museo de Arte Popular (Museum of Popular Art). An interesting collection of ceramics, photographs, paintings and sculptures. I loved some of the sculptures.

  • In Cusco, the Saint Dominic Convent opposite the hotel we were staying in. Mildly interesting. In the shop there, we did purchase a fantastic DVD with scenes from Inti Raymi, the traditional festival of the sun Inca ceremony held in Cusco. Haunting music and with lavish costumes.

  • In Arequipa, Ann & I visited the Santa Catalina Convent. Cost 60 Sol each but was interesting. Took us nearly 3 hours to go through.

  • In Arequipa, Marg & Linda toured the cathedral on the plaza.

  • The post office in Arequipa. We purchased a Spanish birthday card for our daughter and wanted to send it express post. Their first quote was 102 Sol (about $30 AUS) - a bit expensive. Finally paid 16 Sol and it took 3 weeks to get to Australia.

  • In Buenos Aries, Dennis D visited the Casa Rosada and was able to tag onto a tour and go out on the famous balcony where Eva Peron made her famous speeches.

  • In Buenos Aries, Dennis W visited the planetarium and explored some ships in the docks.

We had to get up early most days, usually between 5.00 and 6.00 am. The earliest was 4.00 am. This took a toll on everyone and most people got caught having a siesta at some time. See these photos.

Wherever possible, we washed clothes in the hotels and hung them somewhere. Some towns had very cheap laundry shops. In Arequipa for example, it only cost 10 Sol for a large bag of clothes. Some hotels have signs strictly disallowing washing clothes in the rooms and they deliberately don't supply sink plugs (I must remember to take one next holiday). One such hotel was the Pozo Del Cielo in Chivey which offered an internal laundry service. However, their prices were outrageous. About 80 Sol for a large bag of clothes. We washed our clothes in the room anyway and they were kind enough to provide an electric oil heater in the room which we used to dry them.

Airport and Airline Trivia

  • At the start of our trip, we all decided to stay in Sydney overnight because the plane to South America left early in the morning, too early to risk catching a plane from Melbourne that morning. Linda decided to sleep in the International Terminal. Ann & I got a room at one of the local hotels for $65 - a bargain.

  • I purchased a new camera and netbook before we left Australia. If you purchase such items within 30 days of leaving, you can claim the GST back under the "tourist refund scheme" by presenting the invoices at a special counter in the International terminal. I went to the counter only to discover that there were about 40 people in a queue. With only about 30 mins before boarding the plane there was no way I could get the refund. I suspect not many people actually get there in time to claim.
    The netbook proved to be very useful and it is light to carry around. We used Skype for both video calls and mobile and land line telephone calls. For the latter two, it is very cheap.

  • In the airport lounge in Santiago (Chile) I saw this sign for a special deal of 18 donuts and 3 Litres of Coke for $8990. The Chilean currency (Peso) is highly inflated.

  • We could have obtained a free meal at Santiago airport in Chile because of our long wait there (8 hours) but the airline never told us about it. We only found out from another passenger and by then it was too late. Apparently, you need to get the back of your boarding pass stamped. Linda and Marg did manage to get a free meal there on their journey back to Australia.

  • Because we travelled over the International Date Line, a day was added. We worked out that our first day was 42 hours long.

  • At the Lima airport customs baggage check, you have to press a button and then a green or red light appears. Could not work out what it was for because it was letting people through no matter what colour the light was. We also had a bomb scare there which delayed us.

  • At the cafeteria at Lima airport they have two styles of aluminium chairs. One style has raised ribs and the other has flat ribs. Avoid sitting in the flat ribbed chairs because you slowly slid down to the floor.

  • Bob ordered a hot chocolate at the Buenos Aries airport. He got a cup of hot milk and a wrapped chocolate bar.

  • At Buenos Aries airport, buy your food before you go through to the International section. There is only one food seller in the International section, no prices are displayed and the prices are outrageous.

  • On the flight home from Buenos Aries to Sydney, the plane flew over Antarctica and we had views of the sheet ice below. If you put a length of string on a globe, going over Antarctica is the shortest route.

  • For those that did the full trip, we did 10 plane trips spending a total of over 50 hours in planes.

  • Qantas was the best airline overall and the one we had on the trip back. The in-flight entertainment and food was by far the best. On all airlines, the staff spoke Spanish and English.

  • When a plane lands and stops, people leap up (even before the seat belts sign is off), grab their bags out of the overhead lockers, and then stand in the isle waiting. I cannot see the sense of this (just wait till they open the doors). On one flight I was pleased hear the captain tell everyone to sit back down and put their seat belts back on. He said the plane had not yet reached the terminal and it had to taxi some more. I loved it.

Is a well known song from the 60's written and sung by Van Morrison and also the name of our guide in Buenos Aries. Unfortunately, she did not instil in me the same excitement as the song once did. We were not very impressed with her. She did meet us at the airport and was on time to take us everywhere so I thank her for that but she was a poor guide. She rarely volunteered information and did not provide enough information. For example, she took us to the Recoleta Cemetery, the burial place of Eva Peron. A macabre place but fascinating for what is was. It contains many elaborate marble mausoleums. There is a long interesting story associated with death and burial of Eva Peron (as we found out later) but she virtually dismissed it.

By people pouncing on us trying to sell stuff. This happened a few times. Here are a couple.

  • At Cusco airport selling hats. See these photos.

  • In Chinchero we visited the Women's Co-operative. They provided us with a fantastic demonstration and commentary of their activities in Quechua (Leo provided a running translation) but after that we were expected to purchase something. We probably spent the most money there. See these photos. The photos show the coloured wool lying on the item that they use to colour the wool with. We learnt there about the traditional hats that women wear and how the contents (on top) of the hat indicate single or married status.
    Linda & Marg paid $65(US) for cardigans. Ann did not initially buy a cardigan but rushed back in at the last minute and bought one for 65 Sol (about $25(US)). Shows how the prices can vary.
    We also tried on a few hats there. See these photos.

  • At the "Floating Reed Islands" on Lake Titicaca. As soon as we landed we were besieged by islanders wanting to show us things. We were treated to a talk about the islanders and their way of life which I found very interesting but after this we were expected to purchase their wares (which we did). We also partook in a ride on one of their reed boats which Allan gallantly tried to row. The only problem was that there was a head wind blowing. They solved this problem by using a motorboat to push the reed boat. The children sang for us on the boat but afterwards passed the hat around. They teach them early. See these photos.

  • In Buenos Aries when we went on a guided tour and were let off in a market area. Soon as we got off the bus, Allan, Dennis D and Bob were instantly grabbed by long legged ladies for a photo shot. Then they each asked 10 Pesos for their trouble. See these photos.

Argentina Trivia
In Argentina we only went to Iguaçu Falls and Buenos Aries. This is a summary of some things I observed in Buenos Aries.

  • Arriving at Buenos Aries airport customs, Australian, Canadian and US passport holders are directed to special booths where you have to pay $100 US arrival tax (but you don't pay departure tax). I was told that they do this because we discriminate against them so they are only getting back at us.

  • The streets of Buenos Aries are dirty with litter and the sidewalks are in disrepair. See this photo.

  • The main street (Av 9 de Julio) is the widest street I have ever seen. Ten lanes each way in places. While this may sound good it only encourages traffic which there was a lot of. See this photo from our hotel.

  • The street numbering is very sensible. Each block is in increments of 100 like in this photo.

  • The Obelisk landmark is impressive and acts as a beacon for finding your way around the city. See this photo.

  • We went to a small supermarket in Buenos Aries a few times and the queues were very long and took ages to get through.

  • The Plaza de Mayo, where Eva Peron made her famous speeches from the balcony of the Casa Rosada, is in a bad state. The grass is mostly dead, fountains not working and the trees need rejuvenation.

  • The Argentinean paper currency feels like tissue paper, is very drab and most notes are torn and in poor condition.

  • There are lots of parks and gardens, particularly near the water but they were in good condition.

  • We were ferried around in two different minibuses. Both had large cracks in the windscreens.

How Do You Spell That?
Said Marg to Leo whenever he referred to something in his native guttural sound that Marg thought was worth recording. "How do you spell that?" became her middle name.

The Best Way To Learn Spanish (Or Any Language)
Ann & I decided to at least attempt to learn some Spanish before we left. Some of the others also made the effort. We tried a few methods:

  • We went along with Linda for a session with a Spanish speaking lady. Found it marginally useful but at $30 each person each session it would have been outrageously expensive if we had kept going. We only went once.

  • I downloaded some software for English <-> Spanish translation. It was a demo with limited capacity. Did not find it very useful. Difficult to focus for long periods and limited phrases.

  • There are many online translators which are useless for learning. Only of limited use to translate a phrase as the translation is not accurate.

  • Our Son purchased an English to Spanish electronic translator for me. A compact unit, it spoke as well as displayed the translation. Not very useful for learning, only for looking up something to translate. Took it with us to South America and used it a few times.

  • Purchased a small English <-> Spanish phrase book and dictionary. Not very useful for learning, only for looking up something to translate. An excellent publication. We used it a lot in South America. Only criticism is that it was tailored for Spain, not South America, and there are some differences. In particular, it had no information about the South American currencies.

  • Dennis D loaned us the series of "Pimsleur Language Program". It is self-teaching audio program on CD's with an accompanying book. We listened to the CD's in the car and I converted the CD's to MP3 and listened to them on an MP3 player. They were excellent and the best way to learn another language. You have the opportunity to listen to a Spanish phrase and then speak it and you have plenty of free time in the car. You need to start the sessions well before you leave as you need to listen to each session (about 30 mins) at least 3 or 4 times before you are fluent. We listened and were fluent with the first 5 lessons. Dennis D said he got up to lesson 30. What we learned did help.

  • After we got back from South America I discovered there are a number of neat apps for the iPhone. You hold the iPhone’s camera up to printed text and the app will automatically translate it into another language on your phone’s screen. It does not need to be connected to a network. There are problems with translation accuracy but this will improve over time. This idea will eventually be available on other platforms. Any translation app that requires a network connection to work I consider useless. I can guarantee that when you need to use it the network will not be available.

Highest Point
4850m according to Dennis D at Patabamba (meaning "above flat"). Someone had scribbled 4910m on a rock at the car park but I believe that refers to the actual peak of the mountain. Where we stopped was a macabre place. Barren and as far as you could see there were piles of rocks, one on top of the other. We constructed a "Ghost Riders" rock pile. One of the few things that grow there is the Yareta (cushion plant). Very green and only grows 1mm/year. See these photos.

A Visit To The Zoo
In Argentina, Ann and I took the underground railway and visited the Zoo in Buenos Aries. The trains were modern but the stations and associated corridors were dirty. The Zoo was disgusting. Probably what Melbourne Zoo was like 100 years ago. The animals were housed in very poor conditions. The animal description signs were either missing or faded. See this photo of the hippopotamus with no water. We visited the "rainforest enclosure" which had recreated waterfalls and jungle vegetation. I did not see one living creature in this enclosure. Outside the enclosure we saw a toucan and some tarantulas. The only interesting exhibition was for a group dedicated to the preservation of the condor. There was a flock of flamingos basking on the side of a lake and we got a better view of them than we did at Lake Lagu Millas in Peru but they did smell. However, seeing them in the wild in the lake was a much better experience.

Photo Takers
Locals take photos of you and later harass you trying to sell you the photos which they have put in frame or some other fancy arrangement. I noticed this a few times.

  • At the Cusco airport, our photos were taken (I did not see this). Later, a guy turned up at the front gate of our hotel with the printed photos on cards. He harassed us a few times as we were coming and going. He stayed a few days but I don't believe anyone bought them.

  • At the entrance to the Inca Trail I noticed a local taking photos of tourists crossing the bridge over the river. He never got a chance to show them to us because we left there very early the next day.

Worst Hotels
The "El Albergue" hotel on the railway station at Ollantaytambo. We stayed there three nights. The first night we stayed in a good room but the train whistle woke you up very early. I accidentally broke a light base in this room and reported it. The next day we were moved into a broom closet. It was the smallest room in the hotel. Ann reckons it was punishment for breaking the light. I reminded them a few times about the broken light but was never asked to pay.
Breakfast in their dining room was bad. The girl serving was not happy. I always had to ask for milk in tea and on muesli and the toast was in meagre portions. We had dinner there one evening and I was not very impressed. The same dynamic girl was waitressing and the portions were slow to come, meagre and expensive but not bad quality. The hotel was a long walk from the main town centre. See these photos.
The hotel at Aguas Calientes was very noisy. However, we cannot blame that on the hotel, it was just in a bad area. Someone was playing loud Spanish music until the early hours and then the political announcements started. The noise went all night. Also, we were probably a little upset because soon after we arrived at the hotel Leo informed us that he had lost our bags. Because we had trekked to Machu Picchu, our bags were transported to Aguas Caliente by train. However, a few hours later they turned up.
All the other hotels we stayed in were adequate. We did not spend much time in them except when sleeping. Breakfast was supplied in all the hotels and the Bristol hotel in Buenos Aries had the best breakfast. Some mornings we left too early to get a cooked breakfast. A few ran out of cereal and milk but in general the breakfasts were OK.

Inca Grain Store Houses
All of the Inca buildings were interesting but the grain store houses (Qollqas) on Pinkulla Mountain in Ollantaytambo had me intrigued. They were stuck on the side of the mountain with a long and difficult climb to get there. Why there? I asked Leo. As usual, he had the answer. Apparently, the prevailing winds around the valleys of Ollantaytambo create a cooling wind through the store houses so the grain is kept at a good temperature for preservation. The Incas were smart. We climbed up there to have a look. See these photos. One of the photos has each of us poking our heads out of openings along a long narrow passage.

When you fly from Lima to Cusco you ascend to 3400m. This sudden change in altitude affects some people and it did affect Linda and Marg. They suffered for a day or so. We spent a lot of time around this altitude and you can certainly notice it. Even walking up stairs in the hotel leaves you breathless. We rode bikes a few times at this altitude and higher and most people except Leo and his helpers had to get off and walk on occasions. I noticed that they had oxygen available at Cusco airport. Altitude also suppresses your appetite and I did notice this. I rarely finished a meal.
The "La Residencia del Sol" hotel at Cusco (a nice hotel) had a thermos of warm Coca tea and cups available outside the office. Coca is supposed to help relieve the side effects of altitude sickness. We had many cups of this tea and never had any problems with altitude sickness. Some places had Coca leaves for you to chew. I tried some but they tasted awful.
Dennis D had his trusted Garmin GPS with him and was continually checking the altitudes. See these photos.

Marg & Linda's Horror Trip Home
Read Linda's account of their trip home here and these photos. We found out what happened to the original plane they were scheduled to go on. See this photo. Oh, and we found Marg's luggage on the side of road in Peru. See this photo.
They had no qualms riding the local transport in some towns so flying in a faulty plane should not have worried them. See these photos.

Best Towns
Ollantaytambo (see these photos), Cusco (see these photos) and Chivey.
Ollantaytambo was my favourite. It is a small Inca town in the sacred valley about 30km from Machu Picchu. The streets are narrow and cobbled making bike riding jerky and difficult. The main roads coming into both sides of the town are bituminised. The Inca ruins on the mountains around give it immense character. Water runs through the town in channels. A relic of the Incas. When we arrived, the tops of one mountain ridge around the town was on fire. Apparently started accidentally by a farmer. It was out before we left the town.

Worst Towns

  • Juliaca. We drove through it twice but never stopped there. In the central area it reminded me of Kathmandu in Nepal. Chaotic and overcrowded. The outskirts were an architect's nightmare. Hideous buildings rising in what seemed an uncontrolled manner. We were told that this town is the smuggling capital of Peru. Items are smuggled in via Bolivia across Lake Titicaca. In particular, gas cylinders are a big item for smuggling. I did notice driving through that one of the main industries was making steel security fences and gates.
    The buildings in Juliaca epitomise the standard building method used for most buildings in Peru. Thin reinforced concrete pillars on the corners. Bricks for the walls between the pillars and tiled roof of which there are only two boring colours available. It is mandatory that the reinforcing in the concrete pillars extends out above the top of the building and is never trimmed so it looks incredibly ugly. It was suggested that the reinforcing is left so extensions can be added on top but I believe it is just laziness. See this photo. I have also seen this style of building in the countryside of Greece.

  • I was not particularly impressed by Aguas Calientes, the village down from Machu Picchu. It reminded me of a ski village. See this photo. High density living with the associated hustle and bustle of herds of people there for one self indulgent pursuit (I must remind myself that I was there for exactly the same reason). The town is located in the gorge below Machu Picchu beside the Urubamba River. The town is subject to damage from earthquakes and land slides and there are designated areas where you can shelter from these events where the structure is supposedly built to withstand these events. Was unable to find out how sewerage and rubbish is processed although I did see a huge fenced area with plastic bags full of rubbish. Electricity is not a problem because there is a Hydro Electricity generation plant on the Urubamba River near the town.

Noisy Americans
We first encountered them in the restaurant near the Winaywayna ruins whilst we were walking the Short Inca Trail. They were having lunch to the sound of some hideous jingo music and making more of a racket than the music. We chose to eat our packed lunch outside the restaurant. I believe that restaurant is totally out of character with the Inca Trail and would avoid it at any cost. Even Leo said that he did not think highly of the place. He said they don't dispose of their rubbish properly. Someone used the toilets and they did not flush properly.
When we first entered the Sun Gate we could hear the Americans in the distance so we knew we did not have long to soak up the atmosphere at the Sun Gate. As soon as they started arriving our peace was shattered. "Oh my gosh" and "I gotta Twitter this" (with American accents) was all we heard. One even asked Ann to move from where she was sitting (soaking in the view) so he could take a photo. In the end we could not stand it any more and left.
I generally like Americans because they are an enthusiastic race but sometimes their enthusiasm bubbles over to the extent that they annoy other people. The problem is that they don't notice they are annoying others.

Other Bike Rides We Did

  • From Ollantaytambo on a dirt track on the opposite side of river from the main road up the town of Urubamba and then back along the main road. There was a strong headwind on the way back. No traffic on the main road because it was the day of the strike and there was a road blockade at Urubamba. About 22km. Had lunch in Ollantaytambo in the Tambo Treks building. Delicious as usual in a lovely scenic setting. See these photos.

  • From Chinchero to the Concentric Circles in Moray where we stopped for lunch in a tent and then rode onto the town of Maras. Chinchero is a few hours drive from Ollantaytambo on a plateau at about 3600m. The last section of this ride was interesting in a few places. In particular, we rode into and out of a rather treacherous ravine along a steep narrow dirt track. Most of us had to get off the bikes on the way out. See these photos.

  • From Ollantaytambo to Km 82 which is the start of the Inca Trail. See these photos.

  • From the top of the mountain out of Chivey (about 4700m) to Chino (about 3800m), a distance of about 50km. Ann and I did not do the ride as I was ill. This was the highest and longest ride and most struggled with breathing. Only Leo and the local support team had no problems. The first section was up and down (Leo called this Andean flat!). The final section was a long downhill into a headwind ending at a place called Chino where we had lunch and battled with the Llamas trying to steal our lunches. See these photos.

Dennis D had a bright idea one day. He discovered that you could obtain fireworks in Peru so he asked Leo to buy some for us. We never asked Leo where he got them from but he could only obtain hand made skyrockets. We let some off one night outside the hotel in Chivey. Being hand made they were a bit unreliable in their operation but were great fun and we had a good laugh. The rest were let off the next night. I happened to be in bed at the time but heard then go off. From the stories at breakfast the next morning it was obvious that the boys had a great time. See these photos.

The Elusive Hummingbird
Leo promised us that he would show us humming birds in the wild but found it difficult to find any. He even showed us the "hummingbird tree" at Chachabamba at the start of the Short Inca Trail but there were no hummingbirds there. At Colca Canyon we found some. See this photo.

We Played UNO
Only on two occasions but not for very long. The first night was in the mess hut where we camped the first night. We had been playing for about 45mins when two porters came in and lay down on the seats. We presumed they wanted to use the area go to sleep so we left. A similar situation occurred on the next night in the mess tent so again we had to leave.

Street Marches
We encountered a few of these. Three in Cusco and one in Buenos Aries. The Cusco ones were for fun and the Buenos Aries one was a protest. We also got caught up in a few political meetings that disrupted the streets (and our travel).

Politics of Peru
We arrived in Peru just before local elections. Peruvians seem very passionate about politics but have some strange methods.

  • Everywhere the sides of buildings are brush painted with political advertising and it looks ugly. I did find my name (Ricardo) on one of the buildings. See this photo. Huge printed paper billboards are plastered across the tops of buildings. See this photo.

  • Vehicles patrol the streets with loudspeakers blaring the benefits of the particular candidate. In Ollantaytambo, we were visiting the ruins above the town and the loudspeakers from one vehicle drowned out the voice of the guide. I found that annoying.

  • The day before the election nobody is supposed to drink. I never noticed anyone drinking in the streets anyway.

  • On the day of the election there were army, police and local guards everywhere walking the streets.

  • The day we left Ollantaytambo, there was some political meeting in the Plaza. We were held up in traffic for over an hour. It seems those attending the meeting just parked their vehicles anywhere, thus blocking the traffic until the meeting had finished.

We Saw The President Of Peru
On the way from Cusco to Puno we were stopped by a road block. Local residents were running past us to some event further up the road. Leo realised that there was some dignitary in front so we all got out of the bus and walked up. Imagine our surprise when we came upon a stall with a stage on the side of the road with the President of Peru (Dr Alan Garcia) in it giving a speech. We could not understand anything he said but the crowd seemed fired up about whatever he was saying. He was near a town that had been flooded by severe rains in 2009. He was handed a bottle of beer, poured it into glass and drank it. See this photo. We stayed until he left with the crowd pressing around him. He made himself accessible to the people who crowded around him and I was very impressed. Lots of police around. See this photo.

Bike Issues

  • Bikes, helmets and gloves were provided for all the bike rides. For the rides around Ollantaytambo, the equipment was provided by Tambo Treks and were of good quality and a good range of sizes. The bikes were carried on top of the minibus used to cart us around. See this photo. For the rides around Chivey, the equipment was provided by another company with a poor range of sizes. The bikes were carried in a bike trailer towed by another vehicle. On most rides, the vehicle(s) followed behind us in case of problems.

  • On our first bike ride, Leo realised that the bike brakes levers were on the opposite sides to what we have in Australia. He offered to change them over but we did not think it necessary.

  • I cringed every time I saw other bike riders in South America riding without helmets. In Australia, it is inbred that we wear them and we realise that they are an essential item of apparel.

  • On our very first ride, Allan's bike had a problem with the crank after only riding 5.5km. They fixed it but it went faulty and they fixed it again. See this photo. We had no punctures.

  • On our downhill bike ride into Chivey, Allan's rear brake failed soon after we started. He managed to rub his shoe in the rear wheel rim to help slow him down. We stopped a little way down and he had it fixed.

  • On our second series of bikes rides, they did not supply a good enough range of helmet sizes. Some of us ended up with oversize helmets which were very uncomfortable.

  • Dennis D asked if Leo could obtain some Peruvian bike jerseys. Leo arranged for us preview some and (I think) everyone purchased one for $40 US each.

  • In Australia, I use a helmet mirror, a very useful device for seeing behind. I took one with me and used it on our first ride. It proved to be a nuisance because the first ride was on gravel and the mirror kept moving out of place from shaking and I kept hitting it with my camera. Threw it away.

  • Ann took with her a gel seat from Australia. It fits over an existing seat to provide better comfort. It proved very useful.

When Allan Turned 60
We were in Puno that day so we shouted Allan out to dinner and drinks at the Balcones de Puno restaurant. We gave him a card, the restaurant provided a cake and we sang happy birthday. He got a bit emotional about the whole thing. The restaurant was one of the better ones and the meal was excellent. They also provided an elaborate, entertaining and professional floorshow. A good night overall. See these photos.

Machu Picchu Trains And Our Trek
The trains run in the valley alongside the Urubamba River between the towns of Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes (in the valley below Machu Picchu). There is no road to Aguas Calientes. Train or walking is the only way to get there. Until about three years ago, the trains ran from Cusco to Aguas Calientes but a landslide blocked the track. Most people now take a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then catch the train. Ollantaytambo is a town completely unsuited for this volume and type of traffic. There is only one way through the town to the station on narrow cobbled streets. Huge buses navigate through the town and when vehicles meet the train it is a terrible traffic jam near the station. See this photo.
Stations along the train route are denoted by the Km XX term. XX being the distance the station is from Cusco. We rode our bikes from Ollantaytambo to Km 82 which is the start of the Inca Trail. We camped there in the Camp Apu Veronica. There was a sauna there which some of us took advantage of. See this photo.
Next day we trekked via the ruins of Patallaqta and Q'ente and camped on the other side of the river from the Km 88 station. About a 12km walk. You get to view the ruins from high and it was spectacular. See these photos.
Next day we visited the ruins at Machu Q'ente. Apart from Machu Picchu, these ruins were one of the best. They are in the process of being restored. It was a difficult climb to these ruins and there was no other visitors there. After lunch we crossed the river and walked on a trail alongside the train line through the ruins of Qanabamba and Salapunka back to the Camp Apu Veronica at Km 82 where lunch awaited us. Did not have lunch until 3.00 - latest lunch I have ever had. This was a hard days walking. See these photos.
As usual, the trekking support staff did a fantastic job and looked after us. In Nepal, porters help to support the load with a band around their forehead. It was pointed out to me that the porters in Peru did not use headbands but most of them were listening to iPods as they carried their load. See this group photo. We were told that when porters or mules pass you on a trail, move to the high side of the trail to let them pass.
Next day we caught the train for one hour to Km 104. Bit annoyed by diesel fumes inside the carriage because someone had a window open. No station there so we had to clamber off the train. Crossed the river through the ruins of Chachabamba and trekked the Short Inca trail to meet with the Long Inca trail. Passed a few waterfalls. Climbed about 600m with magnificent views to the valley below. Passed through the ruins of Winay Wayna which was a very interesting site. Of particular interest are the steep stairs running between two complexes with nineteen fountains (with water) alongside the stairs. The most fountains of any Inca site. Stopped for lunch at a terrible restaurant (described earlier). Then on through the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu. See the Short Inca Trail photos earlier. After a brief look at Machu Picchu we took the bus down to Aguas Calientes where we spent the night. Walking into Machu Picchu I was amused by the people meditating or something similar on the grassed areas near dilapidated Inca structures. Leo told us it is forbidden to do this and as an accredited guide he has the power to tell them to move - but he let them continue.
Next morning we had a formal tour of Machu Picchu which was extremely interesting. Afternoon train back to Ollantaytambo. On the train we soaked up the magnificent scenery and were entertained by the pursers in a fashion parade and a display by the "Condor Man" who Ann danced with. Ann wanted to purchase one of the items worn in the fashion parade but they did not have her size. They provide you with a snack on the train. The train pursers and attendants wear spiffy uniforms and are obviously proud of their job. See these photos.
We spent a lot of time walking alongside, camping beside and viewing the Urubamba River and Sacred Valley and thus saw many trains pass. We saw the first and last trains that a run expressly for the locals at the miniscule cost of 4 Sol one way if they live in Aguas Calientes. We saw trains from the different companies and the first and lower class carriages. The longest train we saw had seven carriages. On our bikes we rode past the landslide that blocked the train early in 2010 for a month. See this photo where the landslide was. We walked along the track a number of times. It is a beautiful valley.

Australian Ambassador
I took to South America about 50 kangaroo stick pins. I gave them to children and adults along the way. Initially, I gave some to young children but stopped this after one young girl was very apprehensive about me pinning one on her chest. It was only after Linda intervened that she allowed Linda to pin it on her. See these photos of some of the people I gave the pins to.

Mobile Phone Woes
We took our mobile phones because you can send SMS messages cheaply and they are handy in an emergency. Unfortunately, they did not fully work at first but were eventually fixed (or nearly fixed). It's a long story which you can read about here.

On our second day in Cusco, Leo received information about a strike in Cusco and surrounding areas. The people were protesting about a deal the Government has made with a multinational company to take water from their area and pipe it to another area for the use by the company. The strikers intend blocking roads and most businesses will close. We are to leave Cusco and head for Ollantaytambo. Leo has urgently arranged for accommodation in Ollantaytambo, a place we knew little about.
We left Cusco at 5.00 pm and reached Ollantaytambo in the dark at about 7.00 pm. Driving into and through Ollantaytambo we were all thinking "where is he taking us". Marg and Linda were not feeling well so I suspect they were concerned about our final destination. Ollantaytambo is a small town with narrow streets and not much street lighting. Leo did not come with us and Guido, our driver, stopped in a dingy part of Ollantaytambo asking for directions to our hotel. Then he drove down a dimly lit, narrow alleyway, and promptly got the bus stuck on a bend. Well, now we are in trouble, we were all thinking. Some people emerged from a building and next thing we know our bags are being unloaded and taken into the building, presumably the hotel. What a surprise awaited us. Inside the building was a high class hotel (Tika Wagi Valley Hotel) and the lady in charge was falling over herself to accommodate us. We suddenly felt safe. Marg and Linda went straight to bed (altitude sickness) and we were escorted to a restaurant in the centre of town which turned out to be one of the best restaurants we visited. The next morning we awoke to lovely views from our balcony and Linda and Marg were better. See these photos.

It Is Just Like JB HiFi
I dislike shopping in JB HiFi. They have this insidious distorted music blaring in your ears and it is impossible to think. Also, the store wide loudspeaker system sounds so tinny and distorted it grates on your ears. The irony is that the stores pride themselves in advising and supplying audio systems but cannot sort out their internal audio systems. Well guess what? Nearly every store in South America has the same insidious distorted music blaring in your ears. Is it possible that they have been to JB HiFi in Australia and thought that is a good idea? The worst thing is that even McDonalds have this music blaring.

Bobs Climb Of Wayna (Huayna) Picchu
Huayna Picchu or Wayna Picchu is the mountain that rises over Machu Picchu. The Incas built a trail up the side of the Huayna Picchu and built temples and terraces on its top. Bob was the only one out of our group who climbed it. Here is his account of the climb. See this photo he took from the top.

Condor and Puma
Two animals that we heard a lot about. They feature in Inca buildings and statues can be seen in places. The condors we viewed in Colca Canyon. Statues of the condor and puma we saw in Puno high on the hill. At Sacsayhuamán, looking down upon Cusco, you can see the outline of a puma in the streets. Leo pointed it out to us. On the Floating Reed islands, we were shown how the upside down map of Lake Titicaca represented a puma. Not sure about that last one. See these photos.

In Peru, in most places, we were supplied with water from large refillable drink containers (at cost). See this photo. This is an initiative by World Expeditions to reduce the waste associated with disposable plastic bottles. In other places we had no choice but to purchase bottles. Peru and Cusco especially, have a serious problem with plastic bottles because there are no recycling plants in the area. In Aguas Calientes (the village near Machu Picchu) I saw this huge fenced off area with large plastic bags full of rubbish and plastic bottles. We were told that the rubbish is taken away on the train but nobody knew where it goes.
I realise the extent of the problem and tried to do my bit by taking a bladder, putting it in my backpack, and filling it up from waterfalls and the supplied water. I was a little disappointed that World Expeditions don't suggest that people take and use a bladder along with some water purifying tablets. The Peruvian Government needs to take the initiative and invest in recycling and/or put a deposit on drink containers. I noticed these recycling containers in Peru in Ollantaytambo near the train station but who knows how the contents are processed. I suspect they are there to appease the tourists because they were very new and glossy. See these other recycling containers I saw elsewhere in Ollantaytambo that were not as glossy.
Even in Australia we have a problem with water supplied in plastic bottles. People buy bottled water but in most places in Australia there is no reason to do this. Tap water is perfectly adequate.
In Ollantaytambo, there are channels of water running through the town. I saw these ducks paddling in the channels and asked Leo if this was good for their water supply. He assured me that the channels do not supply their domestic water and are a relic of the Inca water supply.

Money Checkers
Whenever we paid for something with notes, they would hold the note up to the light and check it. It became annoying and I recall that once Allan did the same to the notes that he received for change much to the annoyance of the person who gave him the change.

At some lunch and dinner places there were bands playing. They all offer their CD's for sale and we purchased a few. I believe Linda could not resist the temptation and purchased all the ones offered. Pipes are one of the traditional Andean musical instruments and I was impressed by the skill of the players.

Most towns have a market area where locals sell their wares to the tourists and we visited many of these. You can bargain successfully. Dennis D bought a chess set for 20 Sol and Allan got the same one for 17 Sol. In Puno, we visited the market where the locals do their shopping which was very interesting. See these photos.
At the Puno local market I noticed piles of cigarettes for sale. One brand name caught my eye. It was called Golden Beach which is the name of the holiday resort in Victoria where we have a beach house. See this photo.
Most sellers in markets speak broken English. When bargaining, they use a calculator to show you the price of an item. We often typed in our offer into the calculator. A good way of bargaining.

We Loved McDonalds
On our first day in Peru, Ann and I were caught by Dennis D in McDonalds in Lima. We only went there because it was convenient and fast but Dennis D never let me forget it.
In Cusco, I found the McDonalds in the Plaza but never went in. See this photo.
In Buenos Aries, Dennis D ended up wanting to go to McDonalds. Our hotel was near the Obelisk and a McDonalds store. After Dennis D discovered that the hotel charged for WiFi internet access and McDonalds was free we could not keep him away. Food in Buenos Aries was relatively expensive so we did utilise McDonalds a few times. In Peru, all hotels we stayed in had free WiFi internet access although some were not working at the time.
I am not a big fan of McDonalds. In particular, the amount of packaging they use is obscene. However, they do have a good record for cleanliness and in light of the stomach and bowel problems we all had, I was not averse to using them sometimes.

What We Never Found
A bakery that sold sausage rolls. Dennis D was suffering from withdrawal symptoms and was getting desperate. Even donuts were hard to find. We found some donas (donuts) in Arequipa which were average but the ones at Lima airport were the best.

Peru Countryside
We were lucky to see a wide variety of countryside. From the sea at Lima, the rugged mountains and jungle around Machu Picchu, beautiful valleys around Ollantaytambo, the vast high plateaus, the desolate areas around Arequipa and the snow capped Andes out of the plane windows.
On the day we travelled from Ollantaytambo to Puno (8 Hour Drive) we drove for hours on the Peruvian plateau at around 3500M. Along the way we could seen lots of dwellings in the distance usually nestled near a hill. I asked Leo to tell us about the way of life for these people. It was a bit depressing. They have no electricity and have to cart water from the nearest well. All the food they need they have to grow for themselves. In the Winter it snows on the plateau and I could not see much wood around for heating. A very hard life.

A Day In Uruguay
Before we left Australia we had decided to visit Uruguay via a high speed ferry that runs from Buenos Aries to the town of Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. In Australia, we attempted to book tickets using their internet site but could not get it to work properly. When we got to Peru we asked Leo to investigate obtaining tickets but this went nowhere and later again in Buenos Aries we asked our guide Gloria to help but she was useless. In the end we went to the booking office in Buenos Aries a day or so before we went and obtained the tickets without any hassle. Unfortunately, all these delays meant that we could only go on the last day of our trip and Allan and Bob could not go.
The ferry travels at up to 70kmh and we were in Uruguay in one hour. Uruguay and the town of Colonia del Sacramento were interesting. The Uruguay currency is highly inflated. A coffee costs about 60 Pesos and you get a docket that shows the cost in three currencies - Uruguay Pesos, Argentinean Pesos and US dollars. You can pay in any of the three currencies but always get change in Uruguay currency. There a lots of very old cars zooming around the streets. The town is very leafy and peaceful. Dennis W and Ann had a lovely drink in one of the restaurants. See these photos.

All towns in Peru have a main Plaza. Usually located in a central location, they are the focal point of the town and filled with people. A fountain, lights, lawns and sculptured trees are usually there. Most Plazas were very picturesque but ones that stood out were Cusco and Arequipa. See these photos.

Peru Trivia

  • Peru surprised me with the extent of its made road network. They have bituminised most of the major roads and we saw many workers on the roads. In the towns, drivers rarely use blinkers. Most of the towns have narrow streets so there are a lot of one way streets. In the main towns, a large proportion of vehicles are taxis.

  • Vehicles such as trucks, buses and taxis have their registration number written on the sides of the vehicle as well as the normal number plates front and rear.

  • On the side of the roads in Peru there are lots of chapels. Apparently, they are erected by relatives after someone lost their life in a road accident. See this photo.

  • In some towns traffic lights have timers displayed showing the number of seconds until the lights change. I thought this was a good idea. In Puno, I saw a neon animated display on the traffic light showing a stick person walking/not walking.

  • I did not see one car towing a trailer. I did ask Leo about this but I have forgotten what he told me.

  • From Cusco to Puno, we travelled on a toll road. Passed through 6 toll points at 7.50 Sol each.

  • At the entrance to the Colca Canyon, I noticed this novel way to mark car parking spaces using stones.

  • In urban areas, there are speed humps on all main roads through the town. I noticed that this was one of the places where vehicles overtook when the vehicle in front slowed down. Very silly.

  • Peru is metricated but the fuel signs at service stations show the price in US gallons. Why is this so? I asked, but nobody gave me a good answer. Also, some items are still sold by the pound weight. Peru has their own reserves of oil and natural gas and fuel is about the same price as in Australia.

  • The electricity infrastructure is extensive. They generate all of the electricity for Peru from Hydro in Peru and it is fed to most towns.

  • In most towns, the streets are relatively clean. They do employ people to clean the streets. See these photos.

  • It intrigued me why the light switches are mounted on the side like in this photo.

  • Bulls can be seen mounted on the roofs of many houses in Peru. The bull represents strength and power, while the cross keeps the bad spirits away. Sometimes there are other things there with the bulls, like empty bottles of beer.
    When we were driving from Cusco to Puno, we stopped in a town called Bucara for a break. Leo told us that the original concept of the bulls on roofs started in this town and the town name means bull. See these photos. Also, see this photo of an old lady I saw in the town who I gave some coins to.

  • There are many active bullfighting stadiums in towns in the plateau area. In other towns they are attempting to outlaw the practice.

  • I asked Leo about rabies and he said that dogs are vaccinated annually for free (at least in Ollantaytambo).

  • You need to show your passport nearly everywhere you go including National Park entrances and hotels. Leo told me that this was introduced because because of corruption where companies were booking using false names. Also, hotels need passports to prove that they are correctly accounting for their guests and thus pay less tax.

  • The delicacy of Peru is the Guinea Pig. In Arequipa, Leo, Guido, Linda and Marg went to a restaurant and tried it. See these photos.

  • In the main towns of Peru most people look reasonably well off. They are adequately dressed and nearly everyone has a mobile phone of which there is excellent coverage. Did not see many beggars.

  • US currency is legal tender in Peru. There are plenty of ATM's and they all dispense either Peruvian or US currency. The ATM's in Argentina also dispense both currencies.
    The best method of handling your money whilst overseas is to use the "Wizard Clear Advantage MasterCard". As from Nov 2010 it is known as the "28 Degrees MasterCard". This card has no annual fee and no international transaction fees. Load the card with money before you leave Australia (so you are in credit) and you can withdraw money from any ATM. You can reload the card via the internet and also use it as a credit card. All other cards charge at least one or all of: 1) Annual fee. 2) International transaction fees (can be up to 2%). 3) Foreign currency withdrawal fee.

  • Paul Simon (of Simon & Garfunkel fame) lived in a town in or around the Sacred Valley for a while and this is where he got the inspiration for some of his songs.

Best Coffee
We were told it was in the cafe on the station at Ollantaytambo. See this photo. We did have coffee and hot chocolate there a few times but it seemed ordinary.

Do We Have A Plan
Said Leo every evening after he had outlined what we were doing the next day. Yes, we would all say, not really knowing what to expect. But this was an exciting aspect of our adventure. For various reasons, we did not always stick to the original itinerary.

Miscellaneous Photos
These photos don't fit in nicely anywhere but are interesting.

We could not have asked for better weather every place we went in South America. The only rain we had was on the second downhill ride into Ollantaytambo and this was only for about 1 hour.

Inca Trivia
One thing that intrigued me about the Incas is that they never discovered glass. They used fire in their temples and some temples had sand on the floor. I asked many of the guides about this and they also found it strange.
Leo told us he was convinced that there are many undiscovered Inca sites in the vast expanses of jungle that have not been explored. The terrain is very rugged and densely vegetated. Satellite images are not very useful because mists cover the jungle most days and even when the mist is not there the vegetation is too dense to see anything. He has trekked through some of the jungle and it was extremely slow going.

Toilet. If you are travelling to South America this is the most important word to learn. There are lots of public toilets around, but you usually have to pay, usually about 1 Sol. The payment is used to keep them clean which most were. At least all of the toilets we used were the western type, not squat toilets like in Nepal. Early in our travels we noticed this sign. We realised that it indicated a toilet but thought the SSHH meant to be quiet. When I told Leo about this he thought it hilarious and told Guido who cracked up with laughter. Found out later that it means Servicios Higienicos. See these photos.
As I was going into the toilet at Machu Picchu, a lady fell over near the entrance and appeared to be in great pain. Many rushed to her aid but I needed to go to the toilet urgently so I could not help. When I came out she had gone and I heard someone say she had broken a finger.
In the hotel in Buenos Aries there were two toilets. A normal western toilet and a bidet. We found out later that there was once a large French influence in Buenos Aries at one time so I guess this explains the bidet.
I forgot to ask what toilet facilities the residents living on the floating islands on Lake Titicaca have.

What We Did Not Need Or Do

  • Thermals. We were told to bring them but never used them. It became a joke in the end and we were actively looking for places to use them. It was suggested that we wear them when we visited the Ice Maiden in Arequipa. It was cold in there but not cold enough for thermals.

  • Malaria tablets. Some of us were taking them. I asked the guides at most places if they were needed and they all said no. At Iguaçu Falls airport I did see a warning notice for Dengue Fever.

  • Insect repellent. I never saw or heard a mosquito on the whole trip. Ann said she saw a couple.

  • Metal drink bottles. I took two from Australia. They take up a lot of room so I left them in Peru with Leo.

  • Linda was keen to go Salsa dancing in Cusco because she had heard that they dance in the plaza on some days. Ann purchased a nice dress in Lima for that purpose. On our first visit to Cusco we had leave in a hurry because of the strike so the dancing never happened. When we came back to Cusco I forgot all about it and cannot remember Linda mentioning it again.

  • Take the train from Cusco to Puno which was on the original itinerary. Instead we took our minibus. Never asked why the change.

  • Trekking sticks. Ann brought two with her but didn't use them. You are not allowed to use Trekking sticks with metal spikes on the Inca Trail.

  • Bike gloves. They were provided. I did bring some, but they were fingerless and the ones provided were full gloves which were needed on the downhill run when it rained and got cold.

  • Meet with Simon Yates, one of climbers involved in the disastrous and nearly fatal climb of the 6,344-metre (20,813 foot) Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. The book and film "Touching The Void" was the subject of this adventure. It was arranged that he join up with us for a day but the strike in Cusco upset the plans and it never happened.

What I Would do Differently
World Expeditions did a fantastic job in organising the trip. We were never left to fend for ourselves. When the strike in Cusco happened, alternative arrangements were quickly made. There were a few alterations to the itinerary but they were for the better.
However, there are a few things I would change if it all happened again.

  • If staying in Ollantaytambo, I would not use the "El Albergue" hotel on the railway station for reasons explained elsewhere. Instead I would highly recommend the Tika Wagi Valley Hotel.

  • A visit to a dense jungle area would have been good. This could have been incorporated into one of the bike rides by using the bus to take us over one of the mountains and into the jungle.

  • Take the Long Inca Trail.

  • A longer tour of Lima. We had to organise this ourselves and so it was shorter than I would have liked.

  • A bike tour of Buenos Aries instead of the minibus tour.

Thank You
To everyone on the trip for your fantastic company. Dennis D for arranging the trip. World Expeditions for organising the trip. The porters, guides and helpers. Especially these bike assistants who helped Ann along the way.

Final Word
I have not provided much information on the Inca ruins or civilisation. This can be found in numerous books and on the internet. However, this adventure has opened my eyes to the wonders of their civilisation and the atrocities committed by the Spanish Conquistadors. It has been said that the Incas were the greatest stone masons the world has ever known and I would agree with that. Their understanding of the ways of nature astounded me. I intend to do a lot more reading about this incredible civilisation.