Thursday, 14 August 2014

Post 9 - The final lot of nonsense

So in Vesoul I mentioned it was noisy.  That's wasn't the half of it. There were four or five couples together and they decided to party late. Now I love a party but this was so loud it was unbelievable. There was almost an Airplane like queue of people to tell them to be quiet and after apologies and assurances it reverted to nuclear loud again within minutes. Earplugs were no use and every time it settled down and I almost fell asleep the buggers kicked off again. More complaints, more assurances, more ceasefire then off it goes.....

Eventually went quiet at 2am which gave a huge four hours before people started to rise, pack and play the drums, or so it seemed.

Got out of that madhouse and camped up at Freiburg Tunisee after some great roads.  Great pitch, great site, multo activities inc one of those automated wakeboard/ski-ing thingamees. Watched this for ages, drinking beer, absolutely ignoring all the bikinis. (Not the hairy buggers I expected either btw), all was good in the world.

Toilets seem to be a favourite subject in this blog so let me tell you about the warning I received from our Cornish friends..

They advised that the German campsites were very cramped, dirty and unfriendly. I can say thus far that they have been absolutely spotless, even have bog roll and even have toilet seats. No need for your sweaty arse to scoot around the porcelain trying to gain grip....

So anyways, not a single complaint from me re the German campsites so far and I was even given a pride of place in the restaurant, I think the term was "zis man wis no friends needz ein table for ein"

So sweating like a rapist in the tent once more with my winter sleeping back rated to -27 degrees when it's 20 plus degrees outside when the music starts.

The campsite I'm in is nice and quiet but the one attached has some sort of band on. I can't comment on the music as it wasn't music but it lasted yet again til 2am

As per normal the locals get up at 6am and make all sorts of noise and I'm starting to get a bit pissed now.

So I pack up and get tae..........

Here's a nice picture of that morning

Arrived in Waldshut, pretty much as far south as you can get and have camped in the Rhein Camping site, I can see Switzerland from here as it's the other side of the "watter" Had a great day on the famous B500 even though it rained in parts. Camped up, got fed, got beered but..
Somehow I managed to damage my neck, most likely using the beanie thing I brought which was supposed to be a pillow substitute. Sure enough all those nights camping have brought a neck problem and I can't move my neck without it going into spasm.

In the tent that night it was quiet as a mouse all around, apart from a big eejit squealing like a pig every time he tried to get comfortable. I kid you not when I say it was excruciating pain. One more night without sleep and nobody else to blame this time.

Slow start next day and the pain was pretty bad even after the drugs but anyhow, jumped on the bike and drove the full B500 from Switzerland to Baden Baden and turned round to head back to Seebach for my two nights B&B that I'd seen often advertised in MCN

I asked them prior to arrival to turn the sun down a bit and sure enough they did.. 

Absolutely perfect weather for the road. I can understand people's excitement with rollercoasters and less so, those who think video games a real thrill but for me it's all about fast roads. I'm never going to be any good on a bike but it's a thoroughly satisfying experience knowing you've got from one end to another with no damage. There's no safety net but that just makes it all the gooder in my opinion. I know most won't understand. 

Great reception from the guys in Seebach who had just moved there from the Isle of Skye. Lots of bikes parked outside so I knew it was gonna be good. 

Bizarre fact. Germany is way behind when it comes to rural internet. Years behind. The majority are still on "dial up" and prefer to use fax rather than email. Strange eh?

So to allow me to contact Gina and Heather (Cullen isn't contactable, his choice I think) I had to drive to the next town, buy a meal and some drinks and for this they sat me at the only table in the restaurant that would get a signal. Handy though.

Had to do the same next night too but it only cost me beer this time as they don't serve food on a Tuesday!!! But they are still open to sell beer!!

Angela from the pension actually rang all the hotels in the area for me to see if she could find me some inter web to use. Many thanks to her for this. Over and above...

Jumped onto the b500 again next day and I'm tempted to buy a house here just to play all day on it. It's that good. Seebach to Freudenstadt is absolutely amazing and I know I could improve on it every time. 

Got back. Had some Pringles. Got the gear on and did it again. It's addictive.

Sadly after a great night out with Julie, Ritchie and a nice couple from the Sheffield area (sorry I didn't get/remember your naames) it was time to move on with a nice hangover. 

Couldn't resist driving the road one more time then off to Belgium via Luxembourg.

Never seen rain like it. With a waterproof jacket under a waterproof suit I was soaked. Eventually after what seemed like days I got to the hotel in Belgium I was supposed to visit on the first night in Europe

Stupidly as I was just desperate to get off the bike I just asked for a single room and when they put me into a double I never queried the price. Big mistake. It cost me more than the previous three nights combined but hey ho, you live, you sometimes learn.

A thirteen hour ride home the next day had me questioning my sanity, especially as Hussain had offered another night in old landan town but I was keen to get the pain over with and hit my bed. 

I'd like to say everyone got a surprise on my return but all i got was "Is something wrong?" and "Why are you home?" Well worth all the pain

Final wee bits

I apologise for the lack of photos but I didn't take many when on the bike. Gina however has 550 Peru pictures on her facetube so if you have insomnia you know where to go. 

So, all done. Time to get back to real life. 

If you've read this, I thank you. I thoroughly recommend getting out there and doing it, whatever "it" may be. If it's scary or takes you out of your comfort zone then all the better. 

As that famous philosopher Guy Martin says 

"You're not here for a long time, you're here for a good time" 

Bear this in mind

All the best


PS. To those that have taken up collecting, here's some links to assist, thanks to Bob for the links


Friday, 1 August 2014

Post 8 - Conquer Europe, unlike some notable failures

Mission - Channel Tunnel, Belgium Germany

Ended up in France


Last September, a few of us had grand plans to tour some of the best biking roads in Germany, particularly around the Black Forest area. Unfortunately at that time the forecast showed a full week of torrential rain so we chose to spend our time on the west coast of France.

This week was my chance to right this wrong and find out if the roads were as good as made out. Sure enough though, the day before the Tunnel adventure I checked the forecast and lo and behold we have torrential rain, thunderstorms and lightning over Belgium and Germany so as France wasn't as badly affected I chose to go to the area with the goodest looking weather namely the Le Havre area.

Around 200 miles, I thought that this could be done in 3 hours tops and I'd be at wherever it's called by 6pm for a quick tent up, a beer and some grub.

Unfortunately three things happened. One, the train under the channel ran late, two, I went north rather than south and three, it's very hard to get anywhere fast in France if you're not on the motorway.

The satnav calculated arrival at the camp sir at 00.30 which was a bit of a surprise but sure enough there's a wee town every few miles where you have to slow down to 30 so rather than averaging 60-70mph it was down to 20-30-40 hence the 6-7 hour calculation.  I should also mention the kamikaze tractor drivers too.....

So to recap, I was late, i went the wrong way, I miscalculated how fast u can get about and as I write, I'm sitting in the tent, under torrential rain and heavy wind, nowhere near where I want to be or intended to be

To celebrate this multitude of cockups I figured that I should stay somewhere special, so tonight I have camped in the town of Berck. I think it's apt.

A lovely young lady helped with my tent erection. I promise this will be the last mention of this too easy joke.

Prior to leaving Folkestone I made the laborious journey down to London which I naively thought would be my longest day the whole trip. Today was nine hours riding so so much for that assumption. My backsides like a shrivelled prune. I'll need to iron it before I go anywhere tomorrow..

Anyways, back to London. I used to work with an old fella called Hussain in RBS and after I asked to pitch my tent in his garden he grudgingly allowed me to stay at his house..

Met his beautiful wife and daughter and then Hussain and I went for some beer and food. Turned out I'd intruded in time for EID which is a big Muslim celebration but they graciously fed, watered and sheltered me and couldn't have made me feel any more welcome. Top class guys, I thank you..

I didn't actually know that Hussain was Muslim and driving through London to the tunnel I noticed loads of different people types, much more than you would ever see in Scotland. Indeed we only really have two religions in Scotland, Rangers and Celtic.

So from Berck I travelled for ever down the coast, over the 'grand canal' and then the Point de Normandie and for once I could see the point.

So, ended up in wee town next to St Lo. Both restaurants had shut down so not much of a happening place.  The campsite owner, a wee bearded fat Irishman that reminded me of Rory Nangle, was very quick to tell me he has lots of alcohol, all the Scotch spelt properly ie with an 'e'. (Whiskey rather than Whisky for those of you trying to work out where the e went in Scotch).  He also reminded me that the Irish invented Scotch. Now work that one out......

Anyway hopefully he'll get well soon after his visit to hospital to remove that litre bottle from his rectum

Just under 350 miles to Langres. Arse killing me. Passed over the Seine AGAIN, and again, the satnav diverting me right through the middle of Paris. No one will be surprised to hear it was a wee bit busy and filtering was took to a whole new level. Scooters beeping at me to get past as my panniers were too wide to get through bits they could fire through, on the phone eating baguettes, wearing onions, shouting he haw, he haw, ok the last bit was made up but I've never filtered so fast since riding back fae Glasgow one night, on the bikes, with a certain Mr Glen.....

The only downside was my crotch. It was boiling.. The locals had shorts and t shirts. I had kegs, trousers and thick armoured trousers on.. I'm sure I could've cooked an egg on my chookies, if I was better at balancing eggs.

Langres is a nice wee place, tres similar to York, but without all those bloody English people. Walked round the defending walls but unfortunately no one attacked me. Ate in a nice wee restaurant and drink in a nice wee pub and I have a suggestion.

Not one single bloody person understood Scottish or even my Spanglish. Now, Europe is under the union and all use the same currency so for gods sake why can't they all learn one language and get rid of all these crap, hard to learn ones. I know Esperanto didn't work but there's a new country in town.

Scotland is due to become independent in a couple of months so why not, as a welcome present, allow them to introduce the language of choice that would apply across the whole of Europe.

Scottish is the language of Kings. You have to be really clever to understand it but if Russ Abbott can manage it then the rest of a Europe can. Surely

Just a thought

As usual I've digressed. I'm in a municipal campsite in Langres (for those not posh, it means council), so I'm expecting my bike to get nicked during the night. It's a long walk home. At least I can teach Scottish on my way home

Langres 3.30am -

Allegedly rubbing too hard can make it painful. I know this now

Langres 2.45am -

Was woken with a jolt. Massive stomach pain. Quickly threw on the shorts and flip flopped to the toilet block, then remembered French toilettes are BYOBR so had to go back for the loo roll. By this time I was sweating I wouldn't make it but thankfully all went well.

Langres 3.10am -

Tried to ignore the pain but no joy it wasn't going away. Off to perform the flip flop of shame again armed with the evidential loo roll. Small stepped flipping and flopping just in case. The locals must've thought there was two people out and about pre 3am. One with long confident relieved strides and another hurrying with small hurried panicked steps. Weird

So back to topic. Arse red raw and feart to sleep in case it returns when the tent next door, five feet away, starts to make funny noises.

The female had some sort of obsession for glassware. Started off low enough but eventually her "Jar, Jar, Oh Jar Jar" got to be a bit annoying as it got louder. The fella she was with was obviously too busy bouncing on his rubber lilo to get that bloody jar for her.

I had Heinz beans and soup in my top box and was tempted to take the soup over to see if that would do instead of the jar and would she please kindly shut it

So eventually that settles down then the lorries on the next door dual carriageway started off for the day.

Maybe I'll sleep when I get to Vosges

Met a lovely couple from Cornwall the next morning who were on the other side of the Dutch couple. Their main statement was that they'd be glad to get rid of the Scots so that Rosyths work would go to Plymouth. Nice

Drove the short distance to Vesoul and just as well it was a short journey as my head was pounding, I felt sick and had to make a sharp visit to Le toilettes once again

Fortunately things improved during the day to allow me to make a quick 150 mile trip to St Die to check out the mountain roads. I've a number of the roads to get through but the ones completed today were absolutely superb. Long, fast, sweeping with some tight hairpins thrown in. One which caught me out and tested out the ABS. The tourists sitting in their car were a bit alarmed when I skidded to a halt next to them but a quick Guten Tag and I was on my way. I hope they didn't clock the Scottish number plates or my ploy will have been for nothing.

Nipped into McDonald's when in St Die as I was absolutely boiling and needed to get the trousers down for a bit of airing.

Decided to wash my helmet, especially the inside bit as it was absolutely filthy. Covered in dead flies, dirt, you name it. Both visors equally filthy to be honest, maybe time for a new helmet when I get back. It's nice of McDonald's to provide this service though and next time you're having a happy meal think of me cleaning my helmet. I'm performing a public service here putting you off eating there!!

This Vesoul campsite must be the Butlins of the area as it's full of screaming kids. Thankfully I'll be away in the morning up to the mountains. I'll spend tonight counting my many mosquito bites, that'll keep me busy enough

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Post 7 - Inca Trail to Machu Picchu then home.

After some negotiation it was decided that I should 'stop moaning and just go'. So I did.

Early start yet again and our taxi dropped us off at a petrol station in Urubamba. Absolute pandemonium. There were taxis, buses, tuk tuks, motorbikes, tractors even llamas all fighting to get into the petrol station. I have no idea where they put the pump in the llama.

Thirteen folk in our group, two Scots, two Canadians, two Danish and seven Americanos.
We secured the most experienced guide in Bernardo, and off we set. Pretty short and easy first day took us to the first campsite which I can only describe as very basic. The place was 'under construction' or possibly demolition. Our tent was apart from the others for some reason and we shared a room, or field even, with a donkey a sheep and some chickens. Early to bed as the second day is legendary as being a bugger of a hike, we were woken up often with either the sheep or donkey munching round the tent and also leaning against it waking us up. The tent was too wee for me so we'd move to diagonal sleeping from day two.....

The toilets were pretty bogging, pun intended, but compared to the next two days were a breath of fresh air. I do have to tell you about Gina's first lunchtime trip to the toilets though........

So off she goes to the block where you stand astride a hole in the ground. As she squats her sunglasses fall off her head, bounce forwards and then backwards, and one of the lenses from her £200 Oakleys goes straight down the hole. Now the hole contained numerous soft squidgy brown parts donated from other people and some nice females had contributed their sanitary ware too so a nice mixture. Gina unperturbed, gets her hand in there to scoop about trying to find the missing lens. You would think that after a minute or so of rummaging in this fine mixture she'd give up but no...., she invited the guide to the party too and after donning a natty scarf around his mouth in he goes but this time up to the elbow. A glorious and noble attempt but sadly no joy, plenty jobby but no joy. This is a story to keep forever I think. I'll leave you to think about it....... Lovely

Up early for the notorious second day. I don't think we've ever experienced such a slog. For those of you who have walked the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, this is easily ten times worse and there's no gondola to get you back down again. Thousands and thousands of steep steps both up to the highest point and then back down again. Nightmare but we managed it. Not much to see on this day as lots of the time we were in shade and to be honest we couldn't lift our eyes anyways as the steps were so treacherous. A long horrible slog got us eventually to the campsite where we managed to avoid going to the toilets. Me because they were hideous. I had to keep Gina from playing in them.

Day three we had a sixteen kilometre walk to look forward to but as it was nicer to view and not as high/painful, the time passed quickly and we were soon at the final camp. We managed to get a lovely site just above the toilets and the aroma of fresh and stale pee mixed with the delights of multo jobbies that hadn't managed to meet the hole in the ground, made for an unpleasant few hours. Thankfully, and I never thought I'd ever say this, we were up for 3am to start the walk/jog in the dark to Machu Picchu.
The race was on to get to Machu Picchu before our traumatised bowels gave up the ghost and insisted we allow the 'train carriages to leave the station'. We eventually made it to Machu Picchu just in time before Gina exploded.

I'm not going to go into what Machu Picchu was like as I could never do it justice but it was truly amazing, a wonder of the world indeed and it felt better to have done the Inca Trail prior for some reason. Watching the 'tourists' get off the bus gave us a sense of satisfaction and a feeling of superiority........

A night in Aguas Calientes was had in the Rupawasi Lodge and sure enough it was up a steep bloody hill to get to it. Fortunately it and the Tree Top Restaurant were top class, comfortable, had great views and we slept great. Gina as she was dog tired, me cos I was pig drunk.

There is a sad end to the story of the Inca Trail though and I neither want sympathy nor donations. The fluff I had collected over the three weeks has either been lost or more likely stolen. The Danes we met on the trail had their camera stolen on their last day in Lima. I feel similarly aggrieved losing my fluff which is irreplaceable having been made in Peru in such trying circumstances.

Reward offered for said fluff...

One and a half days were spent in Cusco where Gina did her best to add to the crystal stones, Peru artifacts, Peru alpaca textiles collection and we had to get more dosh from el banks.

A marathon 25 hour journey got us home to a nice welcome home surprise from Heather who had hid in the airport waiting for us.

Sleep, and then more sleep in prep for Europe.. To be continued

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Post 6 - The Green House, near Urubamba

The Green House

Arrived at the Green House B&B at approximately 11.30ish and were asked a pretty horrible question. "Would you like to watch the World Cup semi final at one of the neighbours and have some beers?" Now this is a difficult question for any man to be asked so you can work out the following. "Drainpipe a up a rat like"

Gina decided to stay behind and stay in the garden, watch the hummingbirds and chill.

Kelly, the current owner of the Green House, took me down to the neighbours a whole three doors away, who turned out to be the former owners of the Green House, and also turned out to be soup herb hosts.

We can understand why the Green House is number 1 in TripAdvisor as the place is not only fantastic but the house, gardens (to Gina's delight full of hummingbirds and stunning views up to the mountains) and surroundings are beautiful. We were warmly welcomed and couldn't have been treated any better. Home from home comfort. Fantastic dining too if you choose to stay home for dinner.

After a few beers, at half time, I nipped up to see if Gina fancied coming down to join us as there was a whole gamut of folk including Bernhard, the local shaman who Gina had an appointment with.

Sadly she was too tired so decided to stay put but while passing I bumped into a couple of yanks.

Dustin from Hawaii, worked for Noah, a maritime operation based offshore. In reality he is Dirk Pitt, a secret agent who works for the USA in clandestine operations but of course he denied it. His wife Ally, is a professional teacher in photography, but in her spare time takes pictures of nude male models but again, like Dirk, denies this too. Hawaiian people are so weird....

Seriously though, Dustin/Dirk, invited us over to Hawaii so he could play tour guide and teach us to body surf and swim. The issue here is that I struggled to think what I could exchange. Maybe they could come to Bathgate and count the muffin tops or see how many orange faces and white necks  they could count.... An unfair swap in my opinion but I suppose it's a good base for Edinburgh Glasgow Stirling and the highlands..

The following day we spent in Maray, Maras and Salinas with Dustin and Ally and it was a smashing day. Plenty to see and do and by getting a taxi we managed to avoid those bloody tourists. I hate tourists.

Next few days were spent doing "Gina things" so didn't spend any further time with the guys from 5/0 but hopefully we can keep in touch.

Liz, a strange girl from the USA, who spends her time in wellies skipping in the garden, or trying to blow into the fireplace, made a lovely speech telling us that Kelly and Sergio, were to be married in North Peru, and forced us to drink champagne and Pisco cocktails. Man, sometimes it's a hard life.

Next day we nipped off to Ollyantatambo on the local buses. The first bus was no issue but from Urubamba Gina had the misfortune of having some guys ass, who hadn't washed his kegs for a good few days, right in front of her nose and sometimes on it. I missed this as she was sitting behind me. I had his friends female ass rubbing on my arm all the way and I wasn't complaining but don't tell Gina.

Ollyantatambo was very impressive but we didn't stay too long as Gina was keen to get on the bus to see if she could another dose of unwashed ass.

We travelled to Calca where Kelly's friends owned a cafe and were showing the final. Good food and many beers but unfortunately the Germans won which was a bummer as all in the pub bar two were supporting the Argies.

Last night in the Green House and we're advised that instead of being picked up we have to carry two suit cases, two roll top bags and two backpacks to a petrol station in Urubamba which is miles away. I have advised them that they can shove this up their jacksi and the next post will describe whether we make it to the Inca Trail, or Gina goes alone as I am not carrying my kit to Urubamba.  To be continued.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Post 5 - Ausangate, a big assed mountain climb for 5 days


Catherine is very meticulous, organised and pernickety. There may be slight deviations from her diary to this blog but I take no responsibility for any disparities as there is a slight chance I might actually be right.

Day 1 Ausangate

We were collected early morning by Liz and Alfredo from Andean Travel. We met Jason and Katerina from Colorado in the minibus and travelled back towards Puno for approximately four hours. The journey wasn't too bad until we turned off the main road and accessed a dirt track road. This took possibly 1.5 hours and reminded me of the road of death in Columbia. It didn't help that I got carsick. Lunch was within a derelict roofless building, held on tablecloths with a chef, proper cutlery and was in the company of a horse. It tasted fantastic (the food not the horse) and was a sign of the standard of the cuisine to come. The first trek started after we were suitably stuffed and even though being extremely out of breath, we managed the short first day. The lodge was a huge surprise as it was obvious that it was a high class of lodge. The lodges, being the highest in the world, were a partnership between the Chillca village locals and Andean Travel. No-one else can use the lodges so we had a pretty unique experience. On arrival we met Catherine and Sarah who had arrived the night before and had been out for a six hour trek, we also met the official guide Rene. Liz and Alfredo were guides themselves but were there to learn the route for future guiding.

Dinner was a way of introducing everyone to everyone properly and we prepared for the second day which was to be a nine mile hike at approx 4800 metres

Day 2 ausangate

We both had mega headaches due to the altitudes so the trek was a bit difficult. Gina's head got to an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale and then the nauseasm started. It got to the stage that she was forced to take the emergency horse up the hill. If it wasn't for the horse I sincerely thought we would have been in serious trouble. We arrived at the highest lodge in the world with views up to the glacier that was oozing down from Apu Ausangate which is the mountain that is honoured and worshipped by the people of the Andes. The day seemed to last forever but eventually we got Gina to bed, medicated and heated with multiple water bottles. The camera stopped working this day for no reason, Not a good day all in all as there was no beer available that night.

Day 3 ausangate

6.30 wake up call as per usual. Gina much improved but a pretty poor sleep for me so I have a headache before we start and I'm also cream crackered. The camera returned to life for an hour or so. After the usual superb breakfast we ventured outside for a ceremony to provide offerings to the Ausangate 'god'. The offering comprised of many herbs such as incense and aniseed, seeds, trinkets representing the stars the sun the moon, made of gold and silverlike materials and lots of coca leaves. We had to line up on two sides and were given an alpaca skin which contained a pouch containing coca leaves. The skins were taken from premature or stillborn alpacas so no cruelty occurred. We were given coca leaves as well and were shown how to blow on them while offering to the Ausangate which we had to face. Once done we were shown how the locals decorated the ears of the llamas to show which ones were leaders. I have to confess that it didn't look too nice seeing the big knitting needles going through its ears multiple times, there was a fair bit of blood. Gina had to leave the scene. I had to endure it. I've never been one for hurting animals. People, no problem, but not animals....

We had a steep start to the day which was difficult as we'd just been stuffed. Gina feeling much better than the previous day managed much better. Slow but sure as the altitude was still a killer.

As we traversed round Ausangate we passed a number of valleys, lagoons, glaciers, glacier lakes, settlements and fields of llamas, the scenery changed beyond belief, I'm sure the photos won't do justice in any way.

Lunch by a small lake was the usual high fare, the locals often had to hold the tent down by the guy ropes due to intermittent gusts.

After lunch it was less than two miles to the lodge but obviously it was circuitious, plenty ups and downs, under a fierce winter sun.

Hot shower in a freezing room meant a quick dress up and straight through to the communal fire. Popcorn, Mate, Twix and a beer made things a bit gooder.

A wee beer leads to some good grub which leads to some star gazing, a wee beer then early to bed. The lodges have no heating and it is absolutely Baltic. I don't usually feel the cold but I now understand why we need the tweezers. Hunt the walnut whip is not much fun when standing in a freezer desperate to pee.

If you would like to experience part of the fun of Peru in the winter, particularly the lodges then try the following

Wait until Jan/Feb if in the UK
Put your toiletries and clothes outside
Get naked or if you're a sissy wear a pair of kegs
Brush your teeth/have a pee/whatever you would normally do
Get your creams (frozen). and deodorants (frozen) on
Put on clothes

This will give you a nice warm feel as to how it is each night and each morning and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Day 4 started like the others. A braw breakfast then up a big bloody hill. It wasn't as bad as Day 3 but still hard enough. We were making our way to the final Andean lodge so were going away from Ausangate and decreasing in altitude slightly. This is a difficult day to describe suffice to say that every hour showed a new and amazing pass. Some covered in snow, some dark rock, some red, some grass and some even multicoloured strata which was absolutely stunning.

As we approached the final lodge, one of the locals performed Pututu, which in our case was used to welcome honoured guests but normally the seashell horn is used to call the local villagers together for community or communal meetings.

After dinner the Chilca locals performed for us. Julio played a sixteen string guitar while one of the house girls sang. When done we had to take turns dancing which was absolutely knackering as we'd walked so long, were so tired and were still at altitude. A good final night in the mountains.

We went to bed with our electrical items. Something we'd do each night. I slept with my iPhone iPad and head torch. Gina with her head torch and phone.

Each evening the guys would leave a hot water bottle in our beds due to the lack of heating in the bedrooms and bathrooms. I have a confession to make. The hot water bottles are wrapped in alpaca coverings so that you don't burn yourself. When I woke in the morning I discovered a naked water bottle in my bed. It wasn't smoking a cigarette or anything like that but it was a bit worrying. I wonder what Freud would make of it. Seriously though, no hot water bottles were hurt in the making of this blog.

Day 5 the final day of the Ausangate trek.

A later start than normal kicked off with yet another steep ascent first thing. Fortunately it was a short 45 minute slog. Most of us were out of breath though so it was a bit humbling to hear our horse guide playing the flute while carrying a heavy pack and guiding the emergency horse.

A few hours later, passing by some amazing sights we met the local weavers who made assorted items from alpaca wool. Gina bought a couple of "willy winkie" hats for the kids. Let's see if they wear them. G here .... The hats suit me just fine so we can share.

Eventually after many stops we reached the tent for our final lunch. The guys played and sang for us again and then we presented them with their tips and said our goodbyes.

Then most of them got into the minibus and came with us to Cusco!! We had to say goodbye yet again. (And Brazil got beat 7-1)

The six tourists and Liz and Alfredo agreed to meet for some Pisco Sours to bid our own farewells. Catherine and Sarah had great intentions to leave at 8 for their meal but Pisco said no.

I fortified myself with an Alpaca burger where's the rest had nibbles of prawns. Not surprisingly the Pisco girls were quickly blootered, Catherine especially. Really funny.

Eventually Catherine and Sarah bid their Adios's and staggered either home or to the restaurant, I don't know which. Hopefully we'll see them again. Both true ambassadors for old engerland. The remainder of us went to a locals Disco where after some normal tracks they introduced an authentic Peruvian group who were absolutely mind blowing in their presence, aura and the tribal mood they introduced. Gina danced and danced and danced most likely till her Pisco worked off. G .. Fab soul dancing music and i don't mean music of the early 80's

Unfortunately the group had to end, Jason was poured into a taxi by Katerina, and shortly afterwards we made our way home, shepherded by Liz and Alfredo who we must thank again for their help, assistance and friendship throughout the trip.

Final thoughts on Ausangate. I was very disappointed that my facial hair doesn't grow great at altitude as I was hoping for the grizzly look but more importantly, the harvest of belly button fluff was extremely poor. Just a word of warning for any of you........

Gina. Extremely challenging trek due to the altitude. However it is an uplifting energising spiritual trek. Spectacular scenery, wonderful people. Def worth the effort a totally unforgettable experience. Taught me respect for the mountain, the mountain people, and myself and oh horses! The whole team were a great help and support getting me through some very difficult moments during the trek. Alfredo and Liz kept a close eye on my condition the whole way. Much appreciated. Sarah taught me how to hike at altitude and how to accept and work with my ability. Really helped and before long I was getting the hang of it and doing ok.  This was marvellous as I was becoming demoralised with being sick and always trailing behind with the emergency horse at my heels. Most upsetting when you are missing all the banter and laughs up ahead.  I also have to say here that Allan was there for me every step of the way. He showed immense dedication to me especially when he had to practically run up a steep hill so that he didn't lose sight of me on the horse.  Most grateful Ally x

Next stop, the green house near Urubamba

Post 4 - The big choo choo trip from Puno to Cusco

Puno to Cusco with Andean Railways

On the face of it a ten hour journey on a train doesn't sound like too much fun but it couldn't be further from the truth.

The carriages were first class and the train luxurious. We started off running through the main town of Puno, flanked by cars and buses which was a bit bizarre. The driver 'honking' all the time to warn any cars, people, dogs, sheep cows etc that they better move.

Eventually we got out into the wilds and started climbing. The back end of the train was open and the remainder glass covered for ultimate viewing. Stunning.

We had a band from Puno entertaining us by playing many instruments, many at once, plus we had a dancer who invited Gina up for a wee jig.

They fed and watered us continually before introducing a fashion show, a Pisco Sour demo and another band this time from Cusco. I had to dance this time. I'm sure the tourists were spellbound.

11 hours after departure (the times always differ from the supposed durations) we arrived in Cusco at our hostel.  Tired but happy and a great and worthwhile trip.

Gina here. Well I just love travelling by train and have a soft spot for slow trains my dad having been a steam train driver for many years. The journey took us through spectacular wild Wild West kind of scenery flanked by marvellous mountain views. It was fabulous being able to hang out from the viewing platform with the wind lightly blowing in your face whilst taking in the views. Our carriage was next to the lounge bar and best of all there was cocktails on the menu. Helped us both with our dancing skills.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Post 3 - Puno to Lake Titicaca

Note - having trouble getting photos on via tablet so have had to resort to Facebook if anyone wants to see some of the pics. Thanks

Monday morning 4am rise, mainly due to jet lag and the altitude sickness forcing us to kip early the night before. As we were about to leave for our boat trip I asked reception for some oxygen for Gina as she was suffering terribly. Five minutes of free pure oxygen helped a bit and off we went. The boat waited on us and we ventured off to our first stop which was a true life community staying on a floating bed of reeds. Twice a month they put a new covering of reeds over the existing as the lower reeds rot away. The houses and boats are also made of the reeds and one of their staple diet is, you guessed it, reeds. The island must cover about 20 metres by 20 metres and housed four families. Up until recently, having lived in their own bubble, they married whoever was available, sisters and brothers getting married is very common indeed to them, natural and they've only been recently been educated by the government what the dangers and issues there could be. If they could introduce that in Bathgate and Armadale then things wouldn't be so ugly. The guide advised that the kids were now forced to go to school and not surprisingly it was tres difficult to get them to return. They thought the tribes would die out in approximately ten years so it was a privilege and honour to see this before it disappeared for ever.

Amantani is the name of the island that we sailed to next and this is where we'd stay overnight. Now I thought we were staying with natives in the straw huts that we'd just seen so we had taken sleeping bags, inflatable pillows, mosquito netting, bags of cleaning /hygiene products so imagine our surprise when we were introduced to our family and shown to our room which had lights, a bed, windows etc. What an eejit!!

Now don't get me wrong there was no running water,  there was an outside non flushing toilet and the place was as bare as could be but nowhere near the hardship we were prepared for. To be honest we're not sure if we were disappointed in not living like a native for a whole night.

We were collected by the family we were to stay with and began the ascent to their house. A distance and elevation we could normally do without breaking a sweat was like climbing a mountain, we were so weak with altitude sickness.

Maleyano introduced us to his lovely wife Patricia. The tres 'ninos' being at school. Conversation was interesting as they spoke espanyol or Quechua. Thankfully my weeks of training allowed me to ask primary school questions..

Their house had steps going up with no balustrade on one side, steel spikes sticking out from the roof, ginger bottles were used to continue the guttering but best of all the access to their part of the house was via planks.. The platform to their front door held up via two thick branches. The kitchen and dining room were separate, held in what looked like an outhouse. The cooking was via a stone oven ie you heat your stones and then once warmed up put pots and pans on them. Regardless of the method the vegetarian meals were superb. We were treated as honoured guests and got the best seats in the area. There weren't enough seats for all so the parents sat on child seats to eat their meals. After lunch the whole tourist group walked to the top of the sacred hill named Pachapapa. Again this was very painful on the head but we got their eventually. To show what pussies we were there were loads of old women up there already who had set out their wares for sale. So basically they made it up the hill with a full pack which included all types of woollen wear, beer, waters and confectionary for the soft gringos.

The sunset was amazing and we ventured down to get dinner and get ready for the discotheque. We were dressed up as locals by the locals to show that we were welcome and honoured guests and as soon as the pan pipe band started the floor filled and the most amazing dancing ensued. The standard was so high I looked like a good dancer. Unfortunately headaches took over and we retreated early to bed. Our host was gutted as we were buying him drink and he in turn shared it with his mates.

We said our goodbyes the following morning after pancakes. Patricia walked out us down to the harbour and waved us off. Prior to this the kids gave us big hugs and smiles before they left for school. A truly memorable and humbling experience. They have so little yet seem so happy. No facetube or britains got no talent for them. Lucky b stards.

Stopped at taquile and after yet more hiking to an altitude of 3900 metres had a fantastic lunch in fantastic scenery but the place had moved on commercially from Amantani and especially Uros and it was kind of sad to see the locals wearing football tops and offering to allow you to take pictures of them in exchange for money. Interesting to see the different levels though.

Early bed again as we can't catch up yet. Up at 6 again to get the 10 hour train journey from Puno to  Cusco which will be detailed in part 4.

See below for Gina's thoughts on the trip to visit the different locals. Enjoy.

Arriving in juliaca to the sight of cheerful smiling faces and the sound of traditional intense happy music being played by airport staff in traditional dress while we waited for our luggage was my first overwhelming spilling of water from eyes experience...

I just knew all the suffering from vaccinations and now altitude sickness was going to be very worth it.

The people of this part of the country that we have encountered so far truly appreciate the tourist and you can see from the ear to ear smile and the hug and very often the kiss on your cheek they have grateful hearts when you show appreciation for the welcome and assistance they provide for you.

Sesgulls scavenging at puerto puno brings a smile to my face. For those of you who know me will understand my love of seagulls. ..

The morning of the start of our trip on lake titicaca I was very unwell with the effects of altitude. Our tour guide and hotel staff couldn't have been more understanding by supplying oxygen for me and sending a message to the captain of our boat to wait for us.

Oxygen, altitude sickness medication and a wee snooze was just the recipe to get me sitting on top of the boat with the sun shining and a cool breeze to welcome my next overwhelming experience of seeing and being with a wonder of nature that Lake Titicaca is. It is so vast you feel you are sailing through a calm ocean with views of huge snow covered mountains in the distance. I can't quite describe the awe but I do know it filled me with a feeling of warm positive energy gifting me with a reminder that we are all connected. My soul was singing with joy especially as  a solitary seagull circled above in the clear blue sky.. I knew my Dad's spirit was guiding and protecting like he always has and always will. I am sure he will enjoy every part of this journey as much as me if not more as he just loved to travel.

Our trip on Lake Titicaca took us to visit some of the original remaining Uro people living on floating reed islands. We were welcomed with open arms and smiling faces.  They had laid out their hours of work in homemade craft items and the ladies sat feeding their babies whilst knitting and hopefully selling a few items to help with the family income so that they could pay for some schooling for their children.  Geez we in the west really have been so spolied. You can read or watch documentaries but boy oh boy actually spending time with these wonderful people doesn't just fill your mind with knowledge but also your body and soul gets to feel it too.

You will hear these words often "awe"  and "overwhelmed".

Arriving at the island of Amantani.
All the families our group would be staying with were waiting at the Puerto. Traditional Sunday best attire, smiling and genuinely welcoming.  Massive step back in time.  Basic of basics, all manual labour by way of human or animal strengh.  No fridges, hobs or fan assisted ovens not even a sink just buckets where you sit or kneel down to wash and rinse your dishes. Simple but hard working life but happy contented people.  We were returning from a temple of worship on top of a hill having worshiped and sent our intentions to Father Sun as it set. Benjamin a sweet 7 year old boy from our family climbed up the mountain to help guide us down in the dark.  He ran to meet me, looked up at me with a huge smile, hugged and kissed me, took my hand and gingerly guided me down using a small head torch all the to my room. He then came to our room to guide me down to their out house kitchen to join him his sisters, mum and dad for a very tasty meal. Overwhelmed to the brink of tears again.  These people just radiate love all around them.

Later that evening after some very passionate music and dance I stood staring up in awe at a galaxy of the brightest and the most stars I have ever witnessed. They appeared so close you just wanted to reach up to pick one, another universal wonder. Definitely a memorable vision to store for meditation.  Next morning our family waved us off in the same endearing way they greeted us and they waved and waved until our boat had sailed away out. A wonderful, wonderful experience.