A short stay in Cusco and on to Machu Picchu

Before we went into our half day tour, we had to check out and leave our big bags at the hotel. The trip to Machu Picchu on the train only allowed small bags.

The weather was lovely but cool so we did have jumpers on. A few people had been struggling with the altitude since arriving and were chewing coca leaves, coca gum, coca chocolate. I had a slight headache but was just drinking most of water to combat it.

We jumped on the bus, and weaved up many small streets and having to go around parades occuring  a around the city for the celebration of winter solice. Our first stop was a place with an incredible view of the city, we only stopped here shortly before heading in to Saqsaywaman, pronounced similar to ‘sexy woman’ Cindy and I and many in our group chuckled like school children whenever it was spoken about.
Saqsaywaman is described as a fortress but was actually a temple built by the Inca’s, not much remains as when the Spanish came they destroyed as much as they could and used the materials to build the city. It’s crazy to see what’s actually left standing – the size of the Rock walls is insane and the fact that they had to be moved from over 30kms a way without the technology today is crazy. The last theory was that they put ropes around each large rock and would have hundreds of men on either side and pulling the rock side to side and slowly move the site to be erected.

We would have liked to have spent more time here but we then went to a shop where they showed us how they make their famous alpaca garments and other things and how to spot fake alpaca gear… It reminded us of when we were in Egypt, when we were taken to a shop to be ‘shown’ something and then be allowed to buy from them the genuine product they were selling.

Cindy and I made use of their bathroom before getting on the bus to wait for the few that did buy something.

In a lot of ways the tourism reminds me of Egypt as there are so many locals who come up to you to try sell their ‘local goods’ thankfully they leave you alone after you say no. When we were all on the bus we headed to the giant Jesus statue (can’t remember the name), we were extremely lucky that the local guide let some guy on the bus to flog us some ‘Excellent production, hours and hours of Great footage of Saqsaywaman and Machu Picchu’ for a great price… Cindy and I were in the back row of the bus making cheeky remarks to other back row friends…

Giant Jesus statue gave some more great sites of the city. We left there and went back to town for lunch and then a long bus ride to the train station to go to Machu Picchu. We didn’t have time to go to the cathedrals but have tickets for them when we come back to Cusco.

We found a little restaurant and I tried a Peruvian burger which was nice, Cindy had breaded chicken. Cindy asked for lemonada, thinking it would be Sprite… Oh no, it was some lemon/creamy/watery drink that was okay but not great. She’s learnt just to ask for Sprite. 

After lunch we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and walked up the hill to meet the small bus. Cusco has stopped big buses coming in to town as they are just too big for the roads. So we had to get on the little bus and drive to the big bus. When we met the big bus and jumped on, we happened to watch a fight between two older ladies. They were yelling and grabbing each other’s hair and pulling and slapping each other… They stopped and were yelling at each other and we thought it was finished but then another lady jumped down from a ledge at one of the ladies and grabbed her hair and it started again until a brave local man got between them as they continued to yell at each other. It was quite amusing for us all wondering what had happened…

The bus trip out was long around 2 hours – I ended up napping but Cindy stayed awake and took photos. Its amazing to see so many old ruins littering mountains, seems like Peru also imported Eculalyptus trees from Australia like Chile. I think our ones look much healthier.

We got to the train with a little time left and had seats together which was nice. The train was quite nice with big windows (in the roof too). It was awesome to see the change in the landscape from more farms to more forest. The tracks went between these massive mountains, following a flowing river which is the start of the Amazon River.

When we arrived to Machu Picchu, we had a short walk to the hotel which was massive and checked in, they split the group up and as we were the youngest we were further away…

The room was lovely, I was a little disappointed there was no bathtub.

We met the group for some drinks in the bar and then went to dinner. The meals were very fancy looking. For an entree I had a salad and Cindy had a soup. When they bought Cindy’s soup out it was literally a few veges and croutons on a plate, we were wondering what it was Cindy had actually ordered, then the waiter poured my soup from a little gravy boat into my plate. She was slightly relieved to tell you the truth.

For our main meals, I had a slow roasted pork with a local Peruvian sauce and veges, Cindy had a chicken curry which was apparently absolutely delicious. Cindy had been dying for a good curry and was looking forward to New York to get one, but was really happy to have one for dinner. To finish off for dessert, I had an after 8 mint chocolate slice and Cindy had some handmade vanilla ice cream, which everyone on the table gave her a hard time about as the menu was delicious. One of the men in the group who ran a bit with Cindy during the marathon, Tom, got a choc egg/coffee dessert and shared half the choc egg with Cindy. We also shared a bottle of wine with Tom and a few others on the table.

We then went back to our room, as it was getting late and we had another early morning planned for Friday – our visit to the Machu Picchu ruins! 

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Arriving into Cusco

Aren’t we good, fifth blog post up today. Excuse any typo’s or auto-corrections. We both typed up the blogs on the plane – on our tablets.

Currently in the hotel, laying in a large comfy bed trying to upload photos to the site with some success. Our flight landed okay into Lima where we had to go through immigration, collect our bags and then re-check our bags through to Cusco.

Cindy and I weren’t sitting next to each other again, but we were only a row apart which wasn’t too bad. Lima airport is a little bit interesting…. and staff don’t really know what is going on. Our guide who helped us check-in warned us that the airport doesn’t do boarding announcements and they are well known for changing the gate without warning. When we checked our bags in the guy at the desk told us we would be boarding at gate 11 – as we didn’t have any Peruvian Sol (money), we just went to the gate and hung out… time ticked and more and more people were here but not really any of our tour – except one other guy… he was talking to his friends and they had all been told gate 3 (where it was dead)… all the screens still said Gate 11, so we stayed put until our Marathon Tours guide came up and started asking some questions… some said gate 11 and others said gate 3, both adamant that they were right. In the end we went down to gate 3, and lo and behold they changed the gate to gate 3…. sigh.

Flight was short, only about an hour. This plane was a little more run down than the other Latam planes we had been on – no entertainment. I ended up sleeping (which is rare for me on a plane).

On arrival into Cusco, we got our bags really quickly and when everyone was set, we headed out to find our Cusco guide. The only real thing these guys rely on is tourism, the amount of souvenirs they have everywhere is crazy. The ‘new’ part of town is quite run down and buildings are left half finished until they have more money to complete it. We are staying in a really nice place in the old part of town and it’s beautiful. Cusco has grown quite rapidly, our guide says they half a million people living here.

When we arrived at the hotel, we got checked in and told our plans for the next few days, they gave us cocao tea which is to help with altitude sickness. I was a little out of breath in the bus but water helped. The hotel also has oxygen available for those that get really ill. Once we had got to our room and ogled our giant bath, we headed out to find an ATM to get money and check out the town. Jacquie, our guide pointed us in the direction for the ATM she generally uses and we found the old city centre which was bustling with locals and their children, the children were all dancing in the street – some in beautiful little outfits.

The Cusco city flag is very close to the gay pride flag, they have two blues in theirs but their flag literally is flying on nearly every building and church. It’s great. We walked around and checked out a few little shops before wandering back to find somewhere to eat.

We found a small little place that did pizza and pasta, the people running it didn’t speak any english but were delightful. Food and service was great, we tried a lovely beer and was just what we were after.

After dinner, headed back to the hotel where I rollered my legs to try alleviate some of the tension in my muscles before jumping into the giant bath… and now in bed.

The interesting thing about the hotel (and we assume the city as well) is that you are not supposed to flush toilet paper (we may have mentioned that you couldn’t do this in some places in Easter Island either).  So essentially, you do your business per normal, but rather than putting the paper into the bowl, you put in into the bin…  it is a bit off putting, especially for number two’s…. thankfully we are married now, so there really are no more mysteries.

So, we are off on a half day tour of Cusco tomorrow morning before catching the train to Machu Picchu tomorrow afternoon. We leave a lot of our baggage here while we go to Machu Picchu for  2 nights and then we come back to Cusco for 2 nights. It is fairly cold here and is meant to have a low of 2 and high of 17 tomorrow.

Next blog will be Cusco and Machu Picchu.

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Kath’s half marathon and trip to Peru.

So Marathon day…  Thankfully no rain but a lot of wind. The race wasn’t starting till 10:15am, so quite late for a race… as they had mass before hand. so we had a little sleep in and had a small breakfast (didn’t want anything that wouldn’t repeat on us during the run).  We walked down to the start line and a fair few people were already there, before too long we were off. 

There was a small hill within the first 800 metres as we ran around the town centre…. Is wasn’t long until we hit the wind as we ran up the hill towards the hotel and then turned the corner and then a huge gale force wind came down the street and didn’t let up… My iPod died within the first 3km which sucked.

I wasn’t going to stop at the first few drink stations but at the first one at 5km I downed some gaterade as it was so hot. Running running running… I was exhausted by the 6-7km running up a hill with the wind blowing – so I walked for a bit but kept running…. Running running… Downed more gaterade and water at the 10km stop.. by this point I wasn’t completely exhausted but I said when I get to the 11km turn around spot I’ll walk for a bit. When I got to the turn around spot I went to take a photo of the sign and the police man signalled to take my camera… To take my picture with the sign. The professional photographer who was running the full marathon was doing my pace and got a photo too.

By that time at the turn around point, I was pretty happy with how I was going – the winds were a little on my back and there were a few more down hills this  way… so I ran for a bit until a small hill and walked some more..  I was running decently well until 16-18km … My ankles were extremely sore and my knee was starting to play up…. But there was a lady in our tour group who had past me, so I was trying to keep up with her… Walking when I needed to… In the last 2km I passed the lady, but then she passed me when I was walking… When we got to our hotel and around the corner with less than 1km left a massive head wind hit right on… I was talking to myself a lot as I was feeling a bit of pain but I overtook the lady and ran the small hill and then got a down hill… One step in front of the other and I made it 2 hours and 47 minutes – I was really chuffed with myself. Didn’t walk as much as I thought but was quite sore!

I hung out for a bit because my legs didn’t want to do anything… But the wind was making me cold so I plodded up the hill with the lady that see-sawed with me in the last 3-4km.  Grabbed my windbreaker, the other camera, put things on and plodded back down the hill hoping I hadn’t missed Cindy. 

I waited and cheered people from our group coming in – heard from them that it was the hardest marathon that they had done…the hills and winds were hard. I knew then that Cindy wouldn’t get her hopeful time … But after awhile, I saw her powering in! So proud of her! We staggered back up to the hotel and jumped the fence as Cindy was struggling – but we made it. We had showers/bath and laid down for a bit before hobbling down to town for our last dinner as a group. 

We had a beer each and then I continued on the wines. It was a nice night (not as much food as we would have liked) and we shared many laughs, especially with two kiwi ladies and one of their husbands. After awhile Cindy and I staggered half way up the hill and found some people from our group who were waiting at a table at a restaurant as they wanted more food. We spoke with them for awhile but kept walking the rest of the way with an American couple. 

We slept terribly that night as we were both sore and the next morning found out our flight was delayed so we were leaving the hotel later, after a nice breakfast we went back through town before making our way back to the hotel and hung around playing some quirkle before off to the airport.

We actually got a seat together and got something small to eat at the airport. 

Flight was okay, the person who was meant to be sitting next to me never showed up, so we had the whole row. Had a decent meal and I slept a little.

In Santiago, the temperature was freezing! We got our bags and headed to the Holiday Inn across the road from the airport – it was lovely. Great service, great rooms, amazing beds and good room service! Shame we were only there for 5-6 hours. We only got a few hours sleep before over to the international airport to check-in for flight to Lima, Peru.

It was thankfully on time and we are about to land. Looks quite foggy out the window – Cindy and I aren’t sitting together…  We aren’t​ sitting together on our next flight either to Cusco. I hope we don’t get altitude sickness.

Until next time!

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Marathon Day (Cindy Recount)

Where to begin with the marathon day. I slept really well Saturday night despite the raw chicken incident the night before. I had prepped all the fuel on Saturday so there wasnt too much to do Sunday morning aside eat breakfast and get ready.

We headed to the breakfast area around 8am to give our stomachs some time to digest the food. I had a piece of toast and some water, generally speaking I do not eat before a run.

When we got back to the hotel room Kath and I both had upset stomachs which we could only assume was from the chicken meal the night before, not great before a big run. At 9.45 we headed down to town to the start line. We arrived with over 14 mins to the start of the run. There was a lot of celebrating at the start line, there was lots of cheering and chanting, we couldn’t understand what was being said as it was all in Spanish, but generally seemed like people were getting really pumped up for the race.

At 10.15am, the race started. Kath and I ran together for the first kilometre or so, then I went off at a bit faster pace. The First few kms involved us running around the town, the incline at this point was fairly mild but the winds were very strong!… The incline didn’t stay nice for too long. I was feeling generally good, stopping at drink stations to have some water, all the while running agaisnt a very strong headwind (I’m talking, so strong people were loosing hats, bibs acting like they were going to rip off). At the half marathon turn around (approx 11km in), I was making decent time and running well, that didn’t last too long as that was when the incline got steep. 

There were about 15 dogs that were running in the group I was in, just cruising between people, jogging up ahead than having a break then continuing on again.

The next 12 kms, to the marathon turn around point started to get tough, the winds were not letting down and the hills seemed never ending, we had several rain showers, but I was running with a few people from the tour group, so we were just jogging and walking up the steep hills together.

At the marathon turn around point, I was making a fairly decent half marathon time (approx 2.5hours), given the incline that we had done (start of the run was at 0m and by the time we had got to the turn around point we had reached 200m then came straight down the other side. 

So the second half of the marathon was not as good as the first half. I walked the first 4km of the second half as that was a very steep incline, by this stage I had had some of my fuel and hydration and it was just before 1pm, so it was very hot. The winds were still not giving up and neither was I. 

At the top of the monster Hill, I started to get back into jogging, at this point I started to feel really unwell. I was nauseous, my legs felt tired and just generally unwell. 

By the time I reached the 29km point, the people I had been running with had got on ahead of me and I was really struggling… It was this point that I started to question my training and my fuel situation. I need to mention there that there were only 260 people across the 5 events, so the number of people doing the marathon was not all that high, I was running by myself and really feeling unwell.  

I eventually realise that if I was going to finish the marathon I just needed to take a minute to regroup. So I went to the side of the road and just took a minute, well it turned out that, that minute that I took, my body decided that it wasn’t having a bar of the contents of my stomach, and it all came up. Much to my disgrace, there were 2 runners who happened to witness this. One was the only other Australian doing the marathon event and the other was and tried to give me a bit of a stir. After that incident I was feeling 100x better and I started jogging again. I actually felt really good after I had been sick.

The next 8km then slowed right back down, my legs enjoyed the break I had a little too much and started to get very heavy. I was doing a run/walk sequence then, more walking than running. When I eventually came towards the airport I knew I didn’t have too much further to go. At this point, running was no longer physically possible, it was all walking for me. At the 40km aid station I honestly could not have been happier to see the water man than I was at that moment. The next 1.7km was completed by doing a slow walk then when I came towards the finish line my legs and heart just wanted to be done. So I maanged to convince myself that it would be possible to jog down the finishing shoot. 

When the announcer said my name and that I was from Australia, I started to get very emotional and when I crossed the finish line and saw Kath, and got my medal, I wasnt sure if I wanted to sit or cry more. Sitting won at the end and Kath gave me a hug and said she was so proud which then made me want to cry. We got a few photos at the finish line together. 

So I guess to round up- 

Was I happy with my effort?…. I am still very unsure. I am happy that I finished and I knew I always would, I’m too stubborn to not finish something I start. After speaking to a number of very experienced marathon runners from our group (including people who have done literally 100+ marathons) they said it was one of the toughest they have ever done.

What did I learn from this experience? Lots of things, that if you mentally have the strength you can achieve almost anything, the main thing to a marathon is mental strength, if I didn’t have that, then I would have given up at the 30km Mark when I was unwell. I had trouble with my fueling all through my training and it’s certainly something that I need to look at as I still feel like I am not doing it right. 

Will I do another marathon? Of course I will, I’m already working out where the next will be and there is nothing like the feeling of a huge accomplishment, especially since I now have a PB, it can only get better from here. 

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Orongo Half Day Tour

Our half day tour was rescheduled from our first day on the island to Saturday. This was because we were delayed when flying from Santiago. 

We managed to get on the bus with the tour guide we had from our full day tour which was good, however we soon found out it was actually half in Spanish and half in English. Our first stop on the tour was to a crater, which was once a volcano. 
The next stop was to Orongo Village, this was further up the mountain to the crater. The village was used over 100 years ago as a base for special ceremonies and events. The main use for the village was for the annual birdman challenge. This challenge involved a “sponsor” from each of the 12 clans to competing to get the first egg from a bird on the local island. The “sponsor” was elected by the clan leader. The challengers had to scale down the cliff swim 1.5 – 1.7km across the ocean to a local island then wait until the birds migrated to the island and laid an egg. Once the warriors got the egg they then had to carry the egg and swim back to the village on the mainland, again having to scale up the cliff without falling or crushing the egg. 

The winner got special status within their clan and the clan leader then became the leader for all clans for the following year.

At this site they also had houses from where the people would stay when they came for the challenge. The houses were made of stone, kept the weather out and could only be accessed by a small entrance that they had to crawl through in order to get into the house. 

After we walked around this area, we went back in the bus and headed down the road to another moai site. This site was very different to the rest as the platform had more of an Inca influence. This site was destroyed during one of the many unsettlements that occurred on the island many years ago. 

After we returned to the hotel we went out to town for lunch. We went to the restaurant we went on one of our first days. Kath and I both got fish and chips. The fish was battered and overcooked, so we both scraped the battery off and just ate the fish.
That evening we went to the “pasta party”. It was all a shamble really. We arrived and found that we didn’t have reserved tables for our tour group, so we were scattered all over the restaurant, with the 150 odd other race participants. The race organiser then commenced giving us some information about the race, however this was primarily in Spanish so a lot of us really had no idea what was going on. He would do 5 mins of talking in Spanish, then a 30 second summary in English. After he showed us some pictures he then handed over to a man, who we later found out climbed Mount Everest. He seemed like a great speaker, however after 40mins of speaking in Spanish and it seemed like there was no hope he was letting up, we saw most of our group had left by this stage, so we went out to see what was going on. After we left the room we really didn’t want to go back in, so we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner instead. At the restaurant we found the rest of our group already there. Unfortunately there were no pasta dishes on the menu, so Kath and I both got Pollo Capresse (stuffed chicken breast). Well it turned out that out chicken was not cooked through. So we complained and they tried to offer to remake for us or give us something else. It was nearly 10pm by this stage, so we​ told them no, we didn’t want to be charged for our meals and left. Needless to say we were both very nervous about what would happen in the following hours…

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