The Inca Trail
After flying from LA, sunny sunny LA, we landed tired and confused, in a country quite different from what we were used to! It dawned on us, after about 2 minutes, that we didn't speak a word of Spanish. Then suddenly the word 'Adios' came to mind, and we thought we cracked it, no need to worry!
Another phrase that we picked up quite quickly was "No Entiendo" or "Don't understand", this was said by many a shop assistant as we spoke English, slower and louder to them!
We spent some nights in Lima, the capital of Peru, where we explored the city in nervous anguish after a traumatic experience trying to buy bus tickets to downtown Lima, and a Peruvian girl who spoke some English took pity on us, helped us, and repeatedly told us to be careful as it is dangerous and there are lots of pickpocketers!
We stayed in Mirafloras, which is a nicer part of Lima and much safer as its a more touristy area. After 3 nights, we left with our Inca trail group to fly to Cuzco, high in the Andes. We had to stay there 2 nights to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude, which was very necessary as we felt pretty awful!
The Inca trail began with a day spent in the Scared valley, looking around ruins, and again, getting used to the altitude, this time with a bit of hiking.
Day one of the actual hike began early, and was the easiest day (they lull you in to a false sense of security!). We were excited to have completed day one, getting to know the group and guides and generally having a good time - then, we saw the toilets!!! Or should i say the whole in the floor of a hut. All excitement gone! Camping every night on the trail was good fun, and although it got very cold at night, you are reliant on a flash light, and the floor is very hard.... it was part of the whole experience! It was amazing to open the tent in the early hours of the morning to see the wildlife and panoramic mountain scenery.
Day two was well known as being the hardest, and the response to telling anyone that you had done the Inca Trail was "How was day two?". The walk on day two felt more like a climb then a hike, and we wanted to die. We kept back with the 75 year old Norwegian man, who to our defense, has spent his whole life in the army, so we didn't feel too ashamed... Once we reached the highest point of the whole trail - "Dead women's pass" - it soon became clear why it is called this as Abi fell dramatically to the floor while shouting "Tell my family I love them....".
Day three was a beautiful day as the scenery change every hour, and at times it was like walking through a rainforest, if the rainforest was located on the sheer edge of a mountain..
Day four began at 3.15 in the bloody morning! This was the day that we were hiking to Macchu Picchu, and even though we were tired after four days hiking and camping, it was completely worth it. Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world, and it is easy to see why!
Our guide "Percy" was great, and continually gave us interesting talks about the Inca's.
One of the biggest amazement of the trip, was the porters. They are locals who would normally be farmers, but have part time jobs as porters to earn a bit of extra cash. These guys range in age from 23 to 65, and carry 25kgs packs on their backs, walk in old sandals, and still do the trek in half the time it takes normal trekkers! They carry all of the trekkers tents, food, propane gas bottles, and everything we needed to survive for the four days.
We were never so grateful for a shower and a normal toilet then that evening we arrived home! But the whole journey was incredible, and we felt a great sense of achievement at the end. The small things in life became so luxurious!
It takes almost a whole day to travel from Cuzco to Peurto Maladona, and then 3 hours down the river on a water taxi further into the rainforest. The cabin we stayed in was AMAZING as it had a hammock, and only 3 walls, and no door! One side of the cabin was open to the rainforest. Unfortunately, both ben and I became ill the next day and missed out on some of the activities. but we managed a short trek to the lake nearby and saw various animals and wildlife. In a space of a few hours we saw monkeys, macaws, a toucan, and lots more. We even ate a huge termite each!
Inca Trail Photos
San Diego was never on our original list of places to go, but having traveled the east coast quicker than we expected, we had a few extra days on the west coast.
San Diego was such a surprise, perhaps because we didn't know all that much about it (other than it was the setting of "Anchor Man", which is the real reason we went...), but we absolutely loved it! It was clean, a lot quieter than the other cities, with just as much to do and see.
Balboa park is beautiful, with lot's of museums sprawled across America's largest "Urban Park" (what ever the hell that means).
San Diego Zoo is amazing (expensive, but amazing), if for nothing more than the Polar Bears!! The zoo is massive and has every animal you can imagine (and some you can't).
We visited Coronado across the Bay bridge which looked like a very expensive town (becuase we didn't fit in well), with the apparently famous Coronado Hotel and white sandy beaches. We also visited other beaches during the visit such as 'Ocean beach' which is known for it's surfing. Unfortunately as soon as you hit the beaches in the area it becomes cloudy and the temp drops about 50 degrees! Maybe slight exaggeration.
One evening, we decided to go crazy and eat like humans, so we went to a Thai restaurant. Word of warning, even if it's America, when you are asked to score out of 10 how spicey you would like your curry, GO INTO MINUS FIGURES, because apparently 3 out of 10 is still enough to blow your head off, and take you 3 hours to finish half! Now we are really worried about going to Thailand...
Generally San Diego is very laid back and a cool place to visit for a few days! We liked a lot :)
Link to Photo Album
We stayed in San Fran for 2 days prior to Yosimite, and 3 days afterwards. The two stays were very different, due to the locations of Hostels in which we stayed.
The first hostel was surounded by homeless people, drug dealers and filthy streets, whereas the second Hostel (Hostelling International) was only a few streets away, but in a much much nicer area.
San Francisco the second time around was brilliant. We went to watch our new favourite American Football team, the San Francisco 49ers ("Let's go niners, let's go!"), visited Fishermens Warf, hired bikes to cycle the Golden Gate Bridge and go through one of the most up market towns in California, Sasalito (Robin Williams lives there!!!) and had drinks bought for us all night by one of the richest men in California (apparently!) at a bar which he owned with a good 50s/60s band (resulting in us both being very close to death the next morning, and having to pack and travel on a greyhound = Abi being sick in a bus station toilet!) .
We also managed to do what so many before us have failed to do, and escape from Alcatraz!
Abi's highlight was taking a photo of Ben standing by the Golden Gate bridge as two dolphins flew out of the water right by us, so close to the shore.
Ben's highlight was when Abi stopped talking about the Dolphins :)
We were completely exhausted from out time in here as there's so much to do, and our day of cycling the hills of San Fran killed us!!!!!
Is it wrong that the thing we loved most about our time in Vegas was our hotel 'The Orleans'? We actually stayed there again after a short 2 day trip to the Grand Canyon. Yes, we are that sad. It helped that it was the cheapest hotel we have stayed in since leaving England, yet the room was huge, with a king size bed, couches, table, big TV, huge bathroom with (pretend) marble work tops and a lovely pool. The casino downstairs, along with the restaurants were also nice.
Vegas is quite a good deal if you don't get sucked into the gambling as everything is quite cheap, but on the other hand, if you don't have money to burn like us, it can be frustrating! Theres only so many times you can hold back the tears after losing a dollar in a fruit machine knowing that was the next day's lunch...There was once or twice when we felt brave enough to lose $5 at a table game like roulette, but we quickly realised we would rather eat so that soon stopped!
The casinos, especially from the outside, and inside some of the more expensive ones like the Bellagio are brilliantly over the top and it was exciting wandering into each one wondering what you were going to find next.. was it going to be a real lion or a scantily dressed table top dancer? One highlight was the New York New York rollercoaster where we both pooed our pants (Abi even had her eyes closed the whole time!) .
We hired a car from Vegas to drive down and see the Grand Canyon, via the Hoover Dam. Driving was the first interesting experience of this mini trip! The first time driving on the wrong side of the road, and it was in Las Vegas of all places along the strip! I only managed to drive into on coming traffic 3 times in the first 20 minutes- result!
On our road trip, we stopped off at a typical American Diner called "Road Kill Cafe" to have a huge American lunch, it was awesome!
The Hoover Dam was an enormous piece of engineering out in the middle of the damn hot Arizona wilderness! It is definately worth stopping off at, if you are driving between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
We stayed 2 nights in a town called Flagstaff, which is the closest large town to the Grand Canyon. By coincidence on our way to the Grand Canyon, we came across car show, which spanned four blocks in length and 2 blocks in width. So Ben got his fix of classic cars for the time being.
We walked along the south rim of the canyon where there are amazing views but is easy to walk (perfect for the lazy, like us). We plucked up the courage to climb down some of the rock where the views really are even better. Nothing quite prepares you for the magnitude of it.
There isn’t an awful lot to write about Niagara…
We were shocked at how run down Niagara town is, with every fourth house boarded up and deserted streets. After speaking to some locals, we found out that this was partly due to the Italian Mafia bringing in corruption about 40 years ago, and partly because the mining industry has ended, causing the decline of the town.
Luckily the falls was a half an hour walk away so we decided to visit the Canadian side as we had heard it has much better views and a much better atmosphere (Traveler tip: stay on Canadian side, the rumors are true!) . Crossing the rainbow bridge, we caught sight of Niagara Falls and decided the 10 hour journey from New York City was all worth it.
Oh and the Canadians charge you 50 cents to leave their country cheeky bastards!!
On to Vegas baby!
Link To Photo Album
We arrived in New York from Washington via a surprisingly nice greyhound (we must have been the lucky ones) and in time to check out our hostel and look around Time Square. Our hostel was great, though we were a little worried to find out it was in Harlem of all places! Luckily we were reassured by other travelers staying there that the area was fine. We headed into Time Square and were amazed by the atmosphere - a sensory overload, but a great start to our time in New York.
We had 3 days of action packed sightseeing and must do's to fit in so bright and early on Wednesday morning we headed into down town Manhattan.
We may have peaked too early in our tourist spots, as the first place we visited was the corner of Bedford and Grove, otherwise known as "The Friends Aparment"!!! Now how do you top that? After taking a few photos and getting strange looks singing the Friends theme song loudly while running away, we wandered off around Greenwich village, which is beautiful!
Next visited the Empire State Building (Traveller Tip: Don't buy tickets from the pushy sales people outside the entrance, they say that for a small charge of $54 per ticket, you can skip the hour and a half line, and they will escort you through the queues. We said no, and got our tickets inside for $22, where there was no line). The views from the top the Empire State Building are indescribable, and pictures will never do them justice (believe me, I tried, a lot)!
By Thursday morning, Abi decided that New York just wasn't adventurous enough, and we needed something to spice the trip up, so she decided to have an allergic reaction! A 3 hour trip to the hospital, some steroids, an epi-pen and a thousand dollars later, we were back to seeing the boring old touristy hotspots!
We walked over Brooklyn bridge which gives you a good view of Manhattan and waited in a long line at TKTS stand in Time Square for half price tickets to see "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway. This not only made Abi's day, but her week, and year (in fact, we nearly decided to end the trip early, as she was unsure what could top this).
We only had one day left with a fair bit to do, so the last day was filled with visiting the much smaller than anticipated Statue Of Liberty on the statue tours ferry, doing a bit of shopping in SoHo, and visiting Central Park.
We were very sad to leave as we both loved New York. There is a great atmosphere, there are lots of things to do, and unlike other big cities like London, even though everyone had somewhere to be, no one really seemed to be in a rush!
We arrived in Washington late last Thursday, excited but extremely Jet Lagged!
This was the first stop on our journey and we didn't know what to expect.
Our Hotel was nice, albeit with a very small room.
The Friday was pretty much a write off with us only doing a little walking around the city just to get our bearings and soak up a bit of the American Capital.
On the Saturday, we planned on doing all of the touristy things. We had heard that on the Saturday, there was going to be a little wind and a few light showers, something the Americans were calling "Irene"? Us being typical Brits thought "We get rain and wind every day back home, how bad could it be? We can still do what we want, right?"
After Irene dominated Fox News, The Washington Post and pretty much every conversation we overheard, we began to think it may be a little worse than we thought. After a phone call to my cousin Trev, who was about 150 miles due south from Washington, we found out that Irene was the worst Hurricane to hit the west coast since Katrina, so bad in fact that the town where he lives, as well as many others, had mandatory evacuations (meaning you will be arrested if you don't leave town) . Irene was the cause of the first ever closure of the New York Underground, and the first ever mandatory evacuation of certain boroughs of New York.
Saturday then, was a right off as well!
Come Sunday morning, the storm has passed and we decided to venture out to see the destruction that Irene had caused.
For the next few days we mananaged to venture out and see everything we wanted to see in Washington, which included the US Capitol building, the Wasinhgton monuments, the Lincoln memorial (or, "that big guy in the chair" as Abi calledi t!) the museums, and the Whitehouse (well, we thought we had. Once we arrived at the Whitehouse we felt pretty underwhelmed by it..... turned out it was the the back and we didn't relaise until several hours later...).
We also changed hostels and spent a night in a shared dorm. The social side of it was really good but the sleeping side of it - not so good!!!! So now we are on our way to New York and very excited! And it's been nearly 6 days and we are still alive, haven't lost anything and haven't killed each other :) Happy campers.
To sum up Washing: large, clean and full of crazy people!
So, we are almost off!
We have been to STA to finalize our tickets and go over all the documentation we have to take.
We have changed some money into the monopoly money that is the US Dollar.
All that is left to do, is panic, not sleep and worry about being so far away for so long (oh, and get excited!)
We've pretty muched packed all of our travel gear