Titicaca and Floating Village

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2017 by David Palmer

The altitude (4000m) has had an effect on us both and to our fellow travellers. At best it is a continual dull to throbbing headache, lack of appetite and random feelings of sickness. Any activity causes breathlessness and waves of exhaustion. We both have had headaches but these have been alleviated with tablets, but nobody has escaped the fatigue and gasping for breath. Yesterday’s trip into Puno and the archaeological site was too much for some of our party and they remained sitting in the minibus. On return to the hotel they retired early to their beds without an evening meal.

It was another early start. After breakfast we boarded a small cruiser from the hotel’s little pier from which I took photos when we arrived. It was another glorious day, flat calm lake and horizon to horizon sunshine. We were to visit the Uros floating islands around 30 minutes away. They are man-made floating islands where the descendants of the Altiplano still live on tortora reed platforms. It is a busy little place with many little boats visiting the myriad of little platforms and it is such an experience to slowly motor between them, photographing and waving to the colourful natives, keen to shout greetings and gesture their pleasure at our visit by singing, dancing and waving in return.

WP_20170601_08_01_51_Pro

We found our berth alongside one of these reedy islands, dotted with little huts and a tower, apparently obligatory to keep an eye on your neighbours. If there is a dispute between them, they just move the island to somewhere else. Peruvian Brexit, Perexit?

100_0885

We were greeted with song and handshaking as we disembarked. First we sat on reed seats in a semi-circle and we were given a description of the way of life on the island, followed by a demonstration on how the island was made. It was made 15 years ago and should last 30 yrs. The platform is 2m thick with 1m of crisscrossed reeds pile up on a 1m bed of reed roots that are tied together with pegs and rope. Underneath is 300m of very cold water. Lastly we were entertained by the traditionally dressed women who performed a little play around market day, very amusing and caused raucous laughter.

We were then invited to explore the rest of the village. There are 21 inhabitants and they have a chief who oversees  them. We were invited into one of the huts and then given the opportunity to purchase some of the trinkets etc. that they had made. Most of us did. It was a wonderful experience and an insight into a way of life that is slowly disappearing. Many of their children (a common story) leave for a more modern way of life on dry land.

100_0880

Lastly, we were treated to an enchanting ride on a reed boat (similar to kontiki). Very relaxing and I had a chance to practise my limited school Spanish with Juan on of the two oarsman. We were soothed by a youngster playing the panpipes and entertained by an enchanting little girl who couldn’t have been more than two years old. No health and safety here, as she moved around the cramp little boat I caught her from falling into the lake when she slipped. No one seemed perturbed.

100_0861

Returning to our new second island home, we boarded our cruiser and headed south into the lake proper. Our destination was Taquile Island, around 35 km away and took an hour and a half to reach it. I spent the time on the roof of our boat, laying on a mat of tarpaulin and watched this unique scenery slip by, bleak but even more stunning for the reflections of the mountains, clouds and beaches in the lake. For off to the south you could see the white-topped Andes on the Bolivian side of the lake. I was occasionally joined by a few others of our party but they didn’t stay long as it was very chilly. I wasn’t going to glimpse this through a glass window, it was too good for that.

Arriving at the island we moored alongside another cruiser that had already docked. Collecting together on the shore we  started to slowly climb up the hill following a well used path. After a 100m or so we met two locals dressed in traditional island garb of black and white. They were there to collect the fee to visit the island from our guide. The 2000 population of this island is indigenous, not sullied by the Spanish. As such they independent of the Peruvian government and make their own laws by consent. Again, they are also suffering from depopulation.

100_0905

We slowly continued to the top of the island with many stops to catch our breath and take photos. Descending down the other side we reached a small homestead situated above a lovely beach. Here we were treated to a meal, and it was a treat! Quinoa soup (delicious) followed by lake trout and vegetables (amazing flavours). Well satisfied, wer had around half an hour to amuse ourselves. Sue and I chose to visit the beach and paddle in the lake, and it WAS cold.

100_0912

I don’t really remember the return journey as I fell asleep up against the window on the sunny side of the boat. I woke when the guide gave us instruction for the following days journey to Cusco, to find that Sue had spent the time at the back of the boat enjoying the views.

100_0937

We chose again to eat in the hotel rather than catch a taxi into Puno and find a restaurant there, as some of our party were planning, Al Paca was on the hotel menu and it had to be tried. Both our meals were fabulous, Al Paca is a lean meat, slices like butter on the knife, has the texture of chicken and tastes like a delicate pork.  As a bonus we were serenaded by a Peruvian band, they were so good I bought their CD and DVD.

Yes it is another early start tomorrow, 6.20am!!!

Puno

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2017 by David Palmer

We were woken at 2.30am by an early morning call and were greeted by a rainy day. Dressed and packed we took the lift to the lobby where the rest of the party were already gathered. Picking up our breakfast box we boarded our coach to the airport.

Check-in procedure went like clockwork and we were soon sat in departures with around six other flights waiting for the gate to open, it was cramped but we had seats and WiFi to play on.

The flight to Juliaca took one hour and seventeen minutes and with plenty of leg room I managed to catch a few minutes of sleep. The view through the window as we flew down the length of the Andes was rugged and bleak. It is winter here so there was plenty of snow on the mountains and volcanoes. We aborted the first attempt at landing and had to go around again. It was a beautiful sunny day and not a cloud in the sky and on the second approach we touched wheels down.

WP_20170531_07_38_01_Pro

Juliaca is a small airport with a very long runway set on a flat plain, surrounded by mountains which did not have snow on them and seemed quite green from a distance. The town itself is not large and you could see from the air, not very well-developed. Quite uninteresting from a tourists point of view. We were met by our Rep. after collecting our cases and escorted to a quite modern coach.   The journey to our hotel in Puno took around an hour and a half, with two stops. First for bananas, essential for energy at altitude (?) and second to exchange cash.

The hotel Jose Antonio Puno, is situated alone on the opposite shore of the town of Puno some 6km away. You can see it from the town itself as it is an imposing white building easily visible against the mountainous backdrop. A lovely hotel with fabulous views of the lake, mountains and town. We had a balcony room facing the lake.

We chilled out on the balcony for a while, before I ventured down to the private jetty and took some photos.

We met our guide again at 1.45pm and as a party we drove into Puno for a city tour, First visiting the local vegetable market and then the illicit market that sells goods cheaply, smuggled in from Bolivia, just over the mountains. We moved on to an ancient archaeological site, situated in the oldest village in the area. Very interesting to see the intricate stonework set  together with no gap at all. How did they do it? we saw our first Peruvian LLamas, what sweet faces, very stand-offish though and apparently don’t care for tourists.

WP_20170531_14_06_51_Pro

We returned to the hotel just before sunset and I managed to grab some fine shots of the sun going down over the mountains and reflecting in Lake Titicaca. A sight well worth travelling for.

WP_20170531_17_03_58_Pro

We ate well in the hotel restaurant and retired early as there is another wake up call coming tomorrow, 6.30am!

 

Lima

Posted in Uncategorized on May 31, 2017 by David Palmer

We were warned not to eat or drink too much alcohol at altitude as the digestion works that much more slowly. Pisco Sour is certainly in the latter category, around 2am I woke with hangover/headache. A couple of aspirin later I went back to sleep and slept until 7.30am. Luckily, I only had the one glass of this Peruvian nectar.

Breakfast was the usual international affair, though the option of a probiotic yogurt was a nice touch. The fruit bowl had the addition of a fruit we have never seen before, beetroot looking, with seeds and to Sue’s liking but not mine.

Afterwards we headed down to the beach again and chose to walk along the path that led the opposite way to yesterdays ramble. Sue’s has a poorly foot so we stopped at every opportunity to watch the locals and see the sights. While sitting on one bench in a little park we made friends with a pug dog and its owner. The little dog was very scatter brained, but amusing. It passed a pleasant 15 minutes or so watching his antics. The path ended when a ravine with a road cut across our route, so we headed into the city and found a nice cafe. We stayed for half an hour, drinking the superb hot chocolate they have out here and people watched.

WP_20170529_15_19_44_Pro

We returned to the hotel and Sue had a short nap while I had Peruvian pie in a local shop. Later we had another short walk to stretch the legs and ended up having ice-creams before returning to catch the bus for our afternoon tour of the city. The ice cream tastes as if it is made from yogurt, very refreshing.

There was fourteen in our party that had opted for the city tour and we all met in the Foye of the hotel before boarding the bus. We first stopped very briefly at an archaeological site that was being worked on. It looked like a flat-topped pyramid from several thousands of years ago. It was originally made of adobe bricks and was being renovated using the same method. It looked quite spectacular and very special, but unfortunately we didn’t get off the bus to investigate further. Disappointing.

We moved on into the old city stopping at the central square. Here we did have a chance to wander and marvel at the stately buildings. I managed to photograph the changing of the guard in the government palace. From the square we visited a chocolate making establishment . We were treated to the usual talk on the process of growing, harvesting and making chocolate and then had the opportunity to sample the delights of the end product. The liqueurs proved to be very popular and I purchased a couple of bottles.

100_0711

Moving on we visited Lima Cathedral and its associated convent. A fascinating building especially the crypt and story of Saint Rosa, whose skull is kept there and a painting of what she looked like.

Our guide informed us that for nine months of the year Lima lives under a cloud. January, February and March are the only sunny months. I was pleased that we are not just unlucky with the murky conditions, this is the norm for the locals. It was getting dark on our return to the hotel and the traffic was bad, giving us a great opportunity to watch the citizens of Lima as the went about their business. They are very much reliant on public transport and seemed happy to stand in line waiting. I guess their reluctance to return a wave was down to the lack of sunshine!

We headed off to the park of last night for our evening meal, but chose a restaurant across the busy road from the park. A nice meal, but unfortunately the main course was preceded by two free Pisco Sours! They were a little sweeter than the previous evening and Sue enjoyed hers. Only the morning will tell if we have acclimatised. It was to bed when we returned to the hotel as it is a 2.20am wake-up for our flight to Puno tomorrow.

Lima has a population of ten million, the country itself only has 30 million, so it is a very busy city. Miraflorres is where the majority of hotels and tourists reside. This is a policy of the government. In the past and still to the present there has been a severe problem with gang culture, when quite  few locals and tourists were blown up in the very square that we visited today, it was decided to move hotels and tourists to the safer district of Miraflorres. The security in this district is very obvious. We found it similar to that of Copacabana, uniformed police on street corners, escalators, in fact everywhere. Today, on entering the chocolate outlet there was a line of riot police (with shields) who were only too pleased to be seen being photographed with some in our party in silly postures. Makes you think doesn’t it what living in the UK could be like?

 

A Journey to Peru.

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2017 by David Palmer

Our journey to Terminal 2 Heathrow went without a hitch. The M1 and M25 were fairly quiet, probably do to it being a Bank Holiday sunday and that we left Harborough at 1pm. Remarkably we only saw two caravans and hardly any lorries all the way to London.

We parked the car in a new venue for us, the Easy Hotel, a franchise of Easyjet. The hotel itself looked pretty basic, but the car park was made of good solid tarmac and looked as if it would support the Fiesta for the duration. We had to wait around half an hour for our bus pick-up, but a driver on a drop-off run only, took us to the airport as it was the end of his shift. Such kindness.

Avianca only support self check-in. I agree that the process IS pretty straightforward, as long as you are willing to give it 100% of your concentration, be under the age of 30yrs and enjoy sticking, very sticky paper to suitcases. The machines allocate you seating and this is why Sue and I ended up sitting behind each other in the middle aisle of the plane. Very annoying. We were later annoyed when the same process was thrust upon us when we bought a meal deal at WH Smiths in departures. As we were freshly practised, this time we managed to purchase the correct items (after a lot of confusion and heart searching and questioning whether we have the will to live in this ‘do it yourself” techno world). We ate our food sat next to each other, in seats of our choosing.

Our flight wasn’t until 10.40pm, so it was a long wait. It is amazing how long you can sit, sipping a pint of beer. The Avianca flight to Bogotá thankfully left on time.

The 10.5 hour flight was not a pleasant one. Both of us cramped between two other passengers on either side and hardly any leg room. Thankfully the food was great and we did manage to get some very restless sleep. We landed slightly ahead of schedule and found our transit gate without much problem. Again the flight left on time, but this time we had leg room and were sat next to each other. Oh joy. They fed us a passable breakfast on the 2.5 hour flight into Lima.

Immigration, security, and baggage reclaim went like a dream, as did meeting our transfer where we met with quite a lot of ‘soon to be’ new friends. Then it went a bit sour. We were forced to wait a long time on the transfer bus while four of our group were searched for. It eventually transpired that they had missed the connection in  Bogotá. We left for the Jose Antonio Lima hotel situated in Miraflores. A lovely well situated 4 star establishment just a few blocks from the sea.

The rooms were not ready so as a group we went for a wander, first to the beach and then Sue and I went off to explore the town itself before returning to the hotel and checking into our room on the fourth floor.

WP_20170529_11_33_58_Pro

After showering and a change we set off again to explore. First we exchanged some money and then hit the beach again. We spent the afternoon wandering and discovering; Pooh Bear, some paragliders taking off from the top of some very high cliffs and a light house. We stopped awhile and savoured some very flavour-some hot chocolate  taking in the very hazy views. The little islands we had glimpsed off-shore earlier in the day had now disappeared in mist and the humid heat of the morning had made way for some rather cooler air. As it began to darken we made our way back to the hotel for a much-needed rest before venturing out for our first authentic Peruvian meal.

100_0704

We had discovered a little plaza next to a large municipal building which conveniently had a very picturesque park alongside on our last foray into the city, there were a few traditional Peruvian restaurants there and we made a mental note to return and sample their delights. This we did. Sue had a chicken Peruvian thing and I had a grilled Peruvian fish thing. They were tasty and satisfying authentic. We enjoyed our meal watching the locals promenade and in the park a magical little market had popped up attracting all sorts of characters. We had been recommended a drink called a Pisco Sour by our tour organiser, it had to be sampled. Now I am a beer person. I don’t like spirits or cocktails, they are a complete waste of time as they are 1. Too small and 2. too quick to drink. Pisco Sour is cocktail sized but has the mentality of a pint of beer. You don’t drink it quickly. The sharpness hits the palate first causing the lips to recoil in horror, followed by a warm smooth, mouthy, reassuring glow of all is well, until the heat and gaspingof what ever alcohol is used, sears the throat, contorting the face into a comical smirk that does indeed cause a little titter of pleasure. WOW. I like this drink and no, I do not want to know what goes into it (that would be too dangerous), but I shall repeat this Peruvian Zip Wire again! Sue didn’t like it.

Afterwards we had a canter around the park market before returning to the hotel and bed.

Like most cities (except those in Canada and New Zealand) come alive when the sun goes down and Lima is not an exception. What a vibrant and exciting experience it is to walk its  streets when the population come out to eat and play. I liken it to Kuala Lumpur, and that is high praise.

It’s Warfare!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2017 by David Palmer

Since Jamie and I returned from New Zealand the family have met up quite a few times. Charlotte was first to call in to choose which of the two (near) identical Kiwi necklaces I had brought back she was going to have. Sarah, (Lee and Mia) came a couple of days later and collected hers. I had bought a slightly larger Kiwi necklace for Sue and accompanied it with another ornament for the mantelpiece.

WP_20170527_10_35_14_Pro

Sarah’s birthday was on the 23rd, but on the 21st the whole family met up early in the morning for a surprise birthday present organise by Lee. Sue remained behind to look after Mia and the boys while the rest of us travelled over to Wellingborough for a full days paint-balling.

As it was a Sunday, there was a lot of other eager ‘would be’ soldiers keen to splat the paint. We divided our group into two in order to join the day’s two warring factions. Sarah and Charlotte joined me and the enemy was Lee, Suraj and Jamie. There was around 20 or so on each side of differing ages. There was a large contingent of 11 year olds celebrating another birthday.

It was an excellent day playing at soldiers. We played five games (scenarios), 15 -20 minutes attacking and then the same defending. There was a break at half time and an even longer break between games, and they were needed as when you are pumped up with adrenalin exhaustion kicks in fast.  There  was a few incidents during the day. First, was being shot by one of my own team members (yes, it does hurt) and on a couple of other occasions the children got caught in the open and were mercilessly gunned down. You are requested to stop firing when you raise your hand to indicate you have been hit and allowed to leave the field of combat, however there were teenagers on each side and they were quite trigger happy. Tears were shed.

WP_20170521_15_30_23_Pro

On another, more serious incident, one of the teenagers was caught picking up used un-splatted paint balls. This is a ‘no-no’ as once fired they expand slightly and then clog the rifle if fired again. If caught you are deemed to be dead and have to leave the field of combat. The teenager kicked-off big time, shouting and threatening the marshals. The police were called and the guy ran off, jumped into his car and sped away when they arrived. It all added to the excitement of the day.

One of the most confusing games was called Zombies. There were four birthdays being celebrated and the lucky ones were deemed ‘undead’ and had to take on the forty or so ‘living’. Of course if they did hit one of us then we also became a Zombie. Very unnerving to play in such a game when you are not sure who is who!

Around midday we were supplied with a lunch of pizza and it was needed. On the way home I treated our little band of mercenaries to much-needed drinks at a local pub.

The following day, Sue and Charlotte drove over to Stamford to meet up with Sarah. She was having a trial run with a hairdresser in readiness for the wedding in August. I spent the day in the allotments, trying to catch up with my planting.

On the 25th I had Mia for the day, but it was such a hot day she suffered in the heat that I only took her for a couple of shortish walks. It was even hotter the following day when we had a BBQ with the Rothwells. Jamie and Ashton had booked a cottage in Padstowe and were travelling down to Cornwall, Sarah was working and couldn’t join us.

I have spent most of my time in between, preparing the house to be left when we fly off to follow the Incas on Sunday. The pool is clean, the hedges are cut, and the lawns mowed. I just need to pack now!

 

Jacque Preacher

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2017 by David Palmer

It was a particularly stormy and miserable night. The kind that ducks tuck their heads deep under their wings, to escape the unpleasantness. The RV rocked and shook with the increasing gusts of rain-sodden air. Jamie stirred for the third time and pushed open the sliding door of the camper van, home and sanctuary for the last two weeks, but seemingly not tonight. Answering again the call of nature he rendezvoused once more with Pirelli, the new-found love of his life, but on this occasion, there was to be no return to the comfort and warmth of pillow and duvet.

Tall, handsome and with determined chiselled features, his father woke from a peaceful sleep. When the elements were screaming outside, that is when this man of the British Civil Servants  (Education Dept.) slept his deepest.  Noticing no quilted form slumbering peacefully in the bunk above, the first hint of concern appeared on the usually confident face. Had those of the black shirts and fern slipped in during the night and made good their promise to continue their world domination? If so, this had now become personal. The lion had been awakened and would roar. KIWI ( Korporation for Insidious and Wicked Incidents) would regret the day they had decided to cross Jacque Preacher!

I think I have been reading too many Lee Childs novels, sitting in an airport lounge with time to kill does make the mind wander a bit. Probably too much on this occasion. The above script is a true account of our last night in NZ, but with a few exceptions that I am sure are obvious.

With little sleep, we woke at 6am and were showered, packed and breakfasted for 7am. It was still blowing a gale and the rain was heavy when we set off to drop off the RV. Rush hour traffic in Auckland is no laughing matter, the 17.5km journey took us an hour and fifty minutes! On arrival, the van was checked and passed with flying colours, I even got a refund because we hadn’t used any gas. The downside is that both Jamie and I have put on a bit of weight through fast food grazing. Two coffees later we were on board the complimentary shuttle bus and heading to the airport.

We wasted another couple of hours (grazing) while we waited for the check-in desk to open. With passport control and security negotiated without mishap, we set about wasting even more time for the departure gate to be displayed. We did a little more grazing with the last our NZ coinage.

WP_20170517_13_02_49_Pro

The flight left on time and yet again we were lucky enough to grab a bank of three seats each and  managed to get quite a bit of sleep. I think out of the 17.5 hours I must have managed nearly 10 hours, Jamie, less so as he worked his way through the entire  Star Wars films (I didn’t realise there was so many!)

Transit through Doha went smoothly and on time we flew another 7 hours to Heathrow. The food was good and plentiful on both flights. There was no drama with our rucksacks and they appeared on the belt quite quickly. Exiting the terminus we found our shuttle stop to the car park and the bus turned up straight away. The car was there waiting for us, well done Purple Parking.

The motorway traffic up to Harborough was considerably lighter than on the way down and we had no delay. On arriving home, Jamie went to check on Maddy (rabbit) and Sue put on the washing machine and started loading it up. It was a great road trip full of adventure and surprises, but it is also lovely to be home and be able to give the mind and body a rest from doing things. That first cup of home-brewed coffee was the trigger to return to relax mode. Well until at least until tomorrow, then it is back to chores again.

Rambling and a bit of Culture

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2017 by David Palmer

Before we settled down for the night in our mobile nest we took a walk down to the harbour and spent a few minutes watching a couple of Asians catching fish off the dock. The water seemed alive with fish of all sizes and catching them was as easy as ‘fish in a barrel’. The lights of the buildings must have been attracting them,  they were leaping out of the water as if the sea was boiling. I disturbed a long legged, crane like bird that was taking advantage of the situation, it squawked its annoyance at me and then flew the short distance to the beach we had just walked along. Later, on our return journey to our RV, it must have succumbed to sea-rage. as we walked back along the road to the camp site, out of the blackness it came swooping down screaming its anger. Landing just a few metres behind us it followed us up the road, occasionally squawking some obscenity until it was satisfied we had been admonished then it stood in the middle of the carriageway, defying us to confront it. We didn’t.

We woke late in the morning and after breakfast and showers we walked back to the harbour, wary of any long legged seabirds we came across. We thought of catching a boat over to Mansion House Island, but the boat was leaving in 10 minutes and the cafe on the island was closed for the season, we decided against it as we had no food to take with us for the day, and no time to buy any provisions.

WP_20170516_09_27_20_Pro

We set off to drive to Mahruangi Regional Park as it looked like it had an interesting coastal walk.

On the way deviated into the Puhoi valley and discovered that it contained a historic village. We visited the Bohemian Museum in the centre of the village. A very keen and knowledgeable  curate (we were the only visitors) who gave us a conducted tour of all the exhibits with a lengthy explanation of each item. The village was settled by Bohemian emigrants from the 1840’s. and has largely remained so. It was interesting. We moved on to the far end of the village to the cafe and cheese store. Jamie had some cheese cake and I bought some cheese.

100_0699

We carried on to our original destination. The park is on a promontory, very picturesque, but then I guess, all of New Zealand is! We set off on the route that seemed to us to cover the best sights on offer. We were correct in that assumption, but we didn’t factor in some the elevations required to reach those sights. The NZ’s grade their walks, with ‘Walks’ being OK and ‘Tramps’ being exhausting. Most of our route was tramping! Beautiful, subtropical bush walking that got us both sweating profusely, but on reflection, highly enjoyable and so worth it for the views and experience itself.

In readiness for our flight tomorrow, we elected to drive south of Auckland to the campsite in Drury that we had stayed in earlier as it is relatively close to the airport. We were lucky, we managed to bag one of the last powered spots on offer. Jamie repeated the roast dinner of a few nights prior, while I microwaved some chicken chowmein I had purchased earlier in the day in case we selected a site with no access to food. We spent the rest of the evening in the Irish bar.

WP_20170516_20_16_50_Pro