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July 30, 2005
Amy writes:

See our photos from Salta and around.

"If I eat another steak, I'll cry...."

It'll get like that eventually. I'll probably get fed up of the huge, juicy slabs of meat, cooked to perfection. The thing about Argentina is that you are expected to consume half a cow at every meal. And a bottle of wine. There's not much else to the menu. Unsurprisingly, the rate of heart disease here is high. We've already started to ration our steak intake, not just because of health reasons but because it's getting boring. Fillet, sirloin, rump or chicken if you're lucky.

We've only been in the country for a week but have started getting pregnant-woman-like-cravings for something else, different food - anything! Yesterday, Jody and I did the unthinkable. We went on a spending spree in the local fruit and veg market, coming back to the hostel with an array of raw produce and eating it all along with a tin of tuna and glasses of milk. The women working at the hostal looked on amused while tucking into their beef dinner. Tonight though, we're returning to meat for our first Parrilla (pah-ree-ya) - an Argentine speciality. It's a barbecued assortment of beef cuts including offal and tripe (yuk!) along with steak and sausages. Almost a whole cow!

It's all about excess from what we've seen so far. Huge dinners, lots of wine and late nights. We're just back from a two-day tour of the local valleys. Despite a heavy schedule of beautiful views and pretty small towns, we all ended up staying out till dawn drinking wine and cheap beer on the first night, before getting up on the second day for wine-tasting at the local vineyards of Cafayate. No-one was sick. After lunch, we discovered the other Cafayate speciality - wine ice-cream. Beats Mr Whippy hands down but don't give it to the kids. There was a lot of real wine in there. The rest of the afternoon didn't go quite as smoothly as we raced round hairpin bends and bumpy roads on a belly full of Cabernet ice-cream.

July 23, 2005
Jody writes:

See our Peru photos.

"Did you get robbed while in Arequipa?" our cab driver asked as he drove us to collect our bus to Chile.
"No," I replied.
"Oh that's good!" he said. "Lucky!"

We'd heard about Arequipa's reputation as a thief's paradise, but managed to avoid trouble for the few days we were there, despite a lady in the bakery telling us that our hotel was in a bad neighbourhood.

We'd spent the previous two days in the Colca Canyon, but had booked a lazy tour. I was recovering from illness, so didn't feel like a hardcore trek, with only a crumbly path preventing me from plummeting to my death in the world's deepest canyon. Plus we've been on the road for nine months; we're getting lazy; get used to it.

So, our tour didn't feature lots of walking, but it did include breaking down at 4,900 meters above sea level (lots of people were throwing up from oxygen deprivation while the driver tried to fix the bus), and a morning of condor spotting.

We crossed back into Chile yesterday (via the Tacna / Arica border) and it couldn't have been easier. The border officials were particularly slack:

Border guard: "Do you have any fruit in your bag?"
Me: "No."
Border guard: "Do you like drugs?"
Me: "Oh no! I don't like drugs!"
Border guard: "Good! Move along."

Tonight we take a 24-hour bus ride from Arica, Chile, to Argentina. After spending three months in the Andes, I'm sad to finally leave them. True, the air was so thin that we got knackered walking up a short hill, the bus rides were frightening and the food was dull (meat, chips and maybe a leaf of lettuce if you're lucky), but life at sea level seems so plain. The towns all look the same, the locals don't wear silly hats and there's not a llama in sight.

We had some issues with Peru - almost every tour we did was crap, Peruvians struggle to tell the truth, everyone tried to rip us off - but we still had a lot of fun and will never forget the stunning ruins of the Incas and their ancestors. One other thing I'll never forget about Peru is the sheer number of Peruvians who pee on the street. Wet arches adorn the sides of almost every building in Peru, and during Inti Raymi, when Cusco was packed with people, the streets literally flowed with urine.

Strolling through Cusco one afternoon, a Peruvian guy kindly redirected his stream of piss to let Amy and I pass, and later we spotted an old lady squatting in broad daylight on the side of the road. A yellow trickle danced from beneath her traditional-dress skirt and onto the cobble stones, before she straightened her bowler hat and returned to selling peanuts on the side of the road.

Next stop: Salta, Argentina. Expect us to be pretty fat on steaks by the time we get back to London.

July 19, 2005
Amy writes:

See our Arequipa photos.

There was always going to be another bus-ride-from-hell and for me, this was it.

Jody was sick so instead of doing another mammoth bus journey, we were going a relatively short distance: Lima-Nazca (7 hours). I was going to relax by the pool, he was going to spend a day in bed before we did the tourist stuff (Nasca Lines, Chauchilla mummies) and then get another bus further south. Simple, you'd think.

We got the ticket to Nasca, watched as the luggage guys loaded our bags last (the bus was continuing south to Arequipa) and settled in for the ride. The bus was deluxe but still cramped for Jody. He was forced to stick his legs out into the aisle and put up with people tripping over them on their way to the toilet.

Despite my inclination for sleeping on any moving vehicle, Jody being ill meant he needed sleep more than me. I was going to stay awake so we could be ready to jump off when we got there.

18:30 Bus leaves Lima. Jody and Amy read American GQ (bought at great expense)
19:30 Dinner is served. Chicken and rice plus sugary soft drink. Better than airplane food.
20:30 Entire bus takes part in a game of Bingo with stewardess as the caller on a microphone. Jody almost wins but not quite.
21:15 Movie - American film 'School of Rock' dubbed into Spanish
21:17 We buzz stewardess and ask for subtitles in English. She looks annoyed.
21:25 Watch film but can't work out why subtitles are not what actors are saying
21:30 Realise it is director's commentary and quite interesting.
23:00 Film over. Jody already alseep. Feel eyelids drooping so read more GQ and listen to CD player.
00:30 Batteries run out. Have to borrow some from camera. Now have to mime singing to keep brain active and stop me feeling sick on windy roads.
02:30 Play 'count the sand dune'
03:30 Jody wakes up and we discuss why it is taking so long. I say we have to be nearly there as we have been driving through desert for ages.
04:00 We buzz Stewardess and ask how far it still is to Nasca. She looks confused, we get worried. She looks at our ticket and then she looks worried. Goes off to the back.
04:10 She returns, our fears are confirmed. We are way past Nasca - although she and two other people checked the ticket before we boarded, they forgot to drop us off there.
04:13 We don't understand what else she says except that we have no choice but to go another 5 hours to Arequipa, the final stop of the bus.
04:20 Jody goes back to sleep, I sit and fume - now strangely awake.
06:15 A girl comes over, English-speaking to translate for the stewardess. She wants us to transfer buses in an hour and swap to one going back to Nasca. After almost 12 hours, we refuse saying we can't handle a further 8 hours travelling right now.

Eventually some three hours later, we got to Arequipa where we had a confronatation with the bus company, Cruz del Sur. Everyone we told the story to looked shocked and blamed someone else but I was too tired, and Jody too ill to care. We've been here almost a week now. Jody has been in bed most of the time (the longer ride had made him worse) and although, Cruz del Sur gave us tickets to go back to Nazca - it's too late. Like a moody teenager I want to say; "Cruz del Sur - you have ruined my life!" If there was a door to slam, I'd slam it.

On the up side, we booked ourselves into a nice hotel with cable TV and have rested watching terrible 80's movies (Twins, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Ferris Bueller etc). Today we managed some tourist sites such as the beautiful Santa Catalina convent - so huge that there are 80 separate quarters for the nuns and their servants, with streets and plazas connecting them. We'll be out of Peru before the week is out and heading to Argentina for our last six weeks of exploring.

July 09, 2005
Jody writes:

See our 'Moche' photos.

After three months spent in the Andes, we finally flew down to sea level again on Wednesday. Landing in Lima, we immediately caught a bus North to Chiclayo. There are a lot less tourists up north and Peruvians have been staring at us since we arrived.

They stare at us in the street and they stare at us in restaurants. A guy even staged an 11-hour stare-a-thon on our bus journey from Lima, without blinking. Girls and kids find it a novelty and sometimes shout "hello!" at us in the street. Some guys just stare at us as if they're trying to work out how much money is in our pockets.

We've enjoyed a few frantic days of sightseeing, visiting various pre-Inca sites of the Moche and Chimu period (which was roughly from the birth of Christ to 1470). We had to shell out a small fortune for a private tour of the sites, due to the lack of tourists in Chiclayo (the 30 or so people who had booked into our hotel prior to us were Peruvian).

Our guide stumbled through a musuem tour, with little knowledge of what he was talking about and even less knowldege of the English language. At the end of the tour, we sat in a room with a load of kids who were on a school daytrip. After a short wait, a member of museum staff clambered out of a cupboard in his full Moche King gear. 10 minutes of stomping about and chanting culminated in him asking our guide, in Spanish: "Do they speak espanol?"

"A little, I think," our guide replied.

"Well get them to have their photo taken with me so they can give me some money," the Moche King said, setting a fine example to the kids on how to deal with tourists: fleece them for all the cash they have.

We flatly refused to have our photo taken in front of 30 school children, especially when our guide tried to persuade us to wear silly, fake gold headsets. I gave the King one Peruvian Sol anyway - fake gold armour can't come cheap after all.

We arrived in Trujillo yesterday, which is where we'd originally planned to volunteer, before we learnt that the organisation we were going to work for was corrupt. We're glad that we volunteered in Sucre instead. The Peruvian coast appears to be shrouded in a constant fog and the towns have a depressing feeling about them. We also volunteered last week for a few days while in Ollantaytambo, working in a restaurant that served free food to 130 kids each day. It involved lots of chopping veg.

Peruvian food update: I tried ceviche (raw fish) and didn't die. I can't say that I liked the texture, but I'm more likely to eat it again before going back for more roast guinea pig.

We head to Lima in a couple of days, then continue to work our way south to Nazca and Arequipa, before reaching Argentina. I hope everyone back home in London is ok after the blitz. Thanks for contacting us, to those who did.

July 03, 2005
Amy writes:

See our Machu Picchu photos.

As the sun rose and beams of light hit the mountain at Machu Picchu, we got out the camera and finally felt relaxed. A few days before, we hadn't been sure we'd make it to Peru's most famous attraction because I had been struck with a flu-like virus and lay shivering in bed. Now, there I was (with the help of two paracetamol) holding Jody's hand on the dizzying heights of the most beautiful Inca citidel in the world. And it really is...

The setting is just amazing. How they managed to create such a huge complex at the mountain is beyond me. And early in the morning, I really did get a touch of vertigo trying to take it all in. The site is vast and while the buldings are interesting, but it's the setting that gives Machu Picchu the edge.

A funny Inca-sized man (who used 'for example' at the beginning and end of every sentence) gave us a tour of the intricate ritual temples but the best bit for me was the three-and-a-half hours we spent at the viewpoint, both at sunrise and in the afternoon just staring at the beauty of it all from above.

In total, we were there eight-and-a-half hours, wandering on our own,
sitting on the terraces, climbing for more views and not a minute in the gift shop.

See our Inti Raymi photos.

The week before we'd been privy to see the traditional Inca festival of Inti Raymi, where a week of parades culminates in a huge ceremony celebrating the sun on June 24. With it being Andean winter and a few showers in the week, we'd been worried they'd have to re-name it 'Inti Rainy' but in the end the day went off without a hitch.

We'd paid out $60 each (a small fortune here) for seats to watch some hammy actors stumble through the ancient ceremony which culminated in the sacrifice of a llama. The High Priest holds up it's heart and if it's still beating, good fortune is predicted for the coming year. The verdict was delivered in Quechua so we don't have a clue what kind of year it's going to be. After it was all over, we looked underneath the stage to find the llama alive and well. It was obviously a well-trained stunt llama. God knows where they got the heart from?

Where are we? We're back in Cusco, but fly to Lima on Tuesday, where we'll catch a bus up the Northern coast to Chiclayo for more ruins. This time we-ll be poking around pre-Inca relics.

For older entries, see the archives at the top right-hand side of this page.
Jody and Amy have finished their 10 month adventure around the world, that began Nov 2, 2004, and ended Sep 2, 2005. They're back home in London now, doing normal things, like going to work and drinking tap water. You can see a map of what was their planned route, but we didn't quite follow it.
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