Machu Picchu

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2017 by David Palmer

Today we had yet another early start, but we knew this was going to be well worth it. One of the new seven wonders of the world was going to be visited.

We were in breakfast before 5am and our coach to the train station left on time at 5.40am. However, a couple of miles into our journey we discovered that the youngest member of our party had left her passport in her case which had been placed in storage at the hotel. The passport was needed for the train and Machu Picchu. Much to her embarrassment we retraced our route, collected the rogue document and again set off to the station, with fingers crossed.

Boarding the train went without a hitch and we all found our seats and settled down for the three and a half hour journey. Drinks and snacks were served at intervals throughout. For the first half hour, little could be seen of the surrounding countryside due to thick mist, but eventually the sun burned through and revealed that we were following the course of a river through towering canyons and steep-sided valleys. We were cheating by taking the most comfortable method of following the Inca Trail, which I believe takes around four days to complete. We occasionally saw hardy trekkers plodding on narrow tracks, often at a giddy height way above our snaking train. It was another lovely day and the temperature was rising into the 30’s. I did not envy them their task today.

We were making our way to Aguas Calientas, the location for the final jump to Machu Picchu by bus. Our little train was full to bursting, all agog at the sights passing our windows. We stopped briefly to observe and take photos of one of the more stranger sights you could possibly hope to see. A settlement, seemingly strapped to the side of a vertical mountain, with the only method of reaching them I guess is by rope?

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For the last two hours of our expedition we somehow, found our way through gap after gap between monstrous, towering lumps of rock often fringed with little more than grass clinging on with strong roots, no chance of trees getting a foothold here. Confusing side valleys and canyons sprang randomly along our route and these we could see also divided into what must be the largest maze on Earth. How did the Incas find their way, let alone the Spanish and later the American explorer who discovered this iconic site?  Amazing!!!!

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We pulled into our destination, a bustling little town of around 5000 local inhabitants. There is no road into this place, just the train line and everything has to come along it, including the tourist buses that we were later to take us up to the archaeological site. We were met by our guide at the exit of the station and he led us to our hotel El Mapi. We were not here to check in, just to drop off our overnight bags (if we wished too). We then followed crocodile fashion through the maze of narrow streets thronged with other eager Inca fans to our waiting bus just off the tiny central square.

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The bus takes around 30 minutes to wind its precarious way up through thick rainforest track to Machu Picchu. Upon disembarking we had a necessary loo stop. The heat was fearsome, so I took the opportunity to change into shorts and T-shirt.

Following our guide we entered the complex. Words for once will not suffice, you have to experience Machu Picchu, I shall leave my description to the photographs that will appear in the blog when I return home. We were privileged to have wandered the same paths and buildings that the ancient Incas with their marvellous ingenuity and skills created.

Returning to Aguas Calientes we had a buffet lunch before checking into the hotel. The heat of the day had got to Sue, so I left her sleeping in our room while I explored part of this small town. I returned in time for our evening meal. Joining the rest of our party in the restaurant we had a fine meal before returning to the room and discovering the atrocity that our radical Muslim friends were creating in London. Small minds, small people, no loss to the world. Their legacy won’t last the 500 years, filling the future inhabitants of the planet with awe as do the Inca.

The following morning we breakfasted at 8.00am (we were spoiled!). The day was ours, or at least until 3.20pm when we had to catch the train back to Cusco. We spent the morning visiting a museum of photos, cleverly paired photos of Machu Picchui had been paced around the walls, one photo taken in 1912 (when first discovered) next to one taken in 2014. Fascinating, we studied and discussed each and everyone, lost in fresh memories of the place.

Next, we scoured the various markets and shops for presents, often coming across other members of our party doing likewise and stopping to chat and idle away a few moments in the sun in this glorious place.

Shopping completed we returned to the hotel and checked out before spending some time in the bar for thirst quenching refreshments. We went shopping again, not for items to take home, but to hunt down guinea pig. Locating our prey we sat down ready to do battle in a nearby restaurant. Sue opted for a rear guard action and settled for corn soup, I was left alone to tackle this Peruvian delicacy. Its appearance on the plate is not for the faint hearted, the upturned snout and protruding teeth are a big indication that it was not enjoying the encounter. However, spread-eagled on my plate with two large balls of saffron potato and a mixture of onion and peppers as backup, it did exude a certain amount of Inca authenticity and I was up for that.

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It tastes like chicken, though to eat it, a knife and fork are useless, you have to pull it apart and that was no mean task. These Peruvian guinea pigs are built to last. Thankfully the mocking head had been sliced off, and I placed this strategically at the far end of my plate facing Sue while I dismembered and savoured my lunch. I enjoyed it, but it is going to be a once only. We kept some of the body parts and placed them in a plastic bag to feed some lucky dog later in the day.

After scurrying to the station we did indeed catch our train that afternoon. The return journey was much the same as before but it ended in darkness at 7.05pm. The coach was waiting and transported us back to the Jose Antonio hotel in Cusco. After check-in and unpacking (we are here for a few days and can afford the luxury of putting clothes in drawers) I took a short walk and a lucky golden Labrador received the remains of my lunch. I wonder if he knew what he was eating?

The Road to Cusco

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2017 by David Palmer

The alarm was set for 4.45am, but like the rest of our party we were awake for 3am. Sleeping at altitude is not easy, breathing is laboured and the air is so much drier that you are in need of regular drinks. We have partially acclimatised, the headaches and the random nauseous feelings have gone, but sleep remains a problem.WP_20170601_16_29_31_Pro

We were second into breakfast at 5.05am and were soon joined by others from our party. Returning to our room we finished getting ready, took the suitcases down to reception and waited with the others for our transport to arrive. At 5.30am precisely we boarded our coach and headed for the bus station in Puno where we were to catch another bus that would take us to Cusco. It was a modern coach with toilets, WiFi, and a hot drinks facility, necessary as we were not due to reach our destination until 5.30pm that afternoon.

We said goodbye to Puno and Titicaca from the road high above the town along with a few other tourists that had joined this daily bus to Cusco. We were going to break our journey five times to visit a variety of locations, one being a restaurant for lunch.

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The scenery that passed by was straight out of a David Attenborough natural history programme. How the Peruvians manage to survive and prosper in such a difficult environment is beyond me. Whether they notice the beauty and grandeur of their country as they go about their mainly agricultural tasks is open to debate by we none Spanish-speaking foreigners. I would love to ask them the question. Our journey seemed to run through the full gamut of mountainous terrain under blue skies and warm sunshine. At the very height of our route along the Cuscos South Valley our guide informed us that only 10 years ago at this time of year it would have been impassable due to snow. The snow was now limited to the very tops of the mountains on either side. Global warming was the wistful reason given. Ironically, it was today that Donald Trump pulled America away from such initiatives to curb its effect on the planet. Well done Donald, like your Disney namesake you really are quackers!

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Despite this being winter, Peruvian families could be seen working together in the fields, gathering in the corn, tending to their flocks of sheep or Alpacas. They do work hard. If a bit of land is flat, it doesn’t matter how precarious its location is, they will put it into production of some sort. Just reaching some of their fields at this altitude is truly mind-boggling. I can see why they are not a tall race, a low centre of gravity is certainly going to be an advantage on the thin near vertical ribbons of tracks they use.

Our first stop was at an archeological site to see an Inca step pyramid. We spent around 40 minutes there being given an explanation of the Inca civilisation before climbing to the top of a tall building to photograph the site from a distance. Not very satisfactory, I  found the goings on in the village more interesting. They were having a festival and it entailed all the children (boys and girls) having their hair done by an army of hairdressers all in a line at the same time. Very novel.

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We stopped at the highest point at La Raya for just 8 minutes to take photos. At 4500m, the air is so thin that within minutes of stopping headaches and nausea kicked in, hence such a brief visit. We managed photos and some even bought items made from Alpaca from the stalls positioned there for such a purpose.

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An acceptable buffet lunch was taken at a roadside restaurant next to a picturesque waterfall. The guide predicted we would sleep the next hour or so before we visited the next location, but he was wrong, the scenery was far too interesting for sleep. But then he was a Peruvian, and I guess they don’t appreciate where they live after all.

Racchi archeological site was fascinating. It is known as the ‘Temple of God Wiracocha’ (you hear a lot about him) and was where the Inca royalty lived. It was destroyed by the Spanish but what remains is very impressive, particularly when we learn that it was covered in gold. Well worth a visit, Sue and I could easily have spent a day there.

Our last stop was in a small town called Andahuaylillas. Yes, it is a mouthful! We visited the Catholic church there. It is magnificent, dripping with gold artifacts and icons. The artwork and murals are superb. The Spanish around 1500 when the church was built used it as a vehicle to convert the locals. The story it tells is that if you become a Catholic you go to Heaven and if you remain an Aztec you go to hell. We think it is probably the most elaborate and outrageously decadent church we have ever seen. Glad we visited, but hate the message behind it.

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We did indeed arrive in Cusco at 5.30pm. We changed buses again, this time to take us to our hotel, the Jose Antonio. Hard to forget now.

After checking in Sue and I had coffee in the room and then packed in readiness for yet another early start. Tomorrow we go to Machu Picchu and get up at 4.30am.

 

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!