Leaving the lovely Cusco and heading to the fabulous Rio for the Olympics

We have a spare morning before the flight to Rio and have promised the girls we would cook lunch for them as a thank you and goodbye so we head to the local market to get supplies. We were thinking Fajitas as we know they don’t get chicken very often as its expensive and it’s something fairly easy to make as well as pancakes for dessert. However we can’t find the flour wraps anywhere and don’t fancy making them. So rice and not too spicy chicken it is. The market, bustling as usual, with dogs roaming, kids playing, even a man using an old fashioned pedal powered knife sharpener was a joy to experience one lag time. We had to head down the meat isle for the first time today, and poor Michelle as a veggie did have an interesting time. It’s full of whole plucked chickens, complete pigs, pigs heads, and general parts of animals that haven’t been skinned or chopped yet. Very interesting. We go for the easy option and buy chicken breasts so we know what we’ve got. We are lucky we aren’t at the San Pedro market as it has live chickens you can have killed whilst you wait. That’s a step to far for me I’m afraid. The chicken costs four times what the rice and veg have cost, so easy to see why the girls don’t get it often. 

So off to cook. The mamita (mum in charge) is a different one today and had already started preparing as she didn’t know we were cooking, but was very happy to stop and let us cook. Now let’s give you a feel for the kitchen. A small dark room, no outside Windows just a window into the girls communal area. The room has the sink on one wall, an under stairs storage area that had no shelves but all the vegetables, cooking pots and well an Aladdin’s cave springs to mind. There’s a three stove gas cooker, although one doesn’t work, a wooden table by the Aladdin’s cave to chop on and shelving on the other wall. Although this has medicine, photos, general supplies on one half and the other half has draws and cupboards so has the plates, cups, cutlery etc stored in it. Four of us trying to manoeuvre in the tiny kitchen was quite a dance. Lindz bless her, was very worried we would cook food the wrong or a way they wouldn’t like it so kept checking with them, using the godsend that is google translate. I was less worried and just chopped and stirred. To be fair the mamita didn’t really have a break from cooking as she prepared some of the vegetables for us and one of the girls was like our sous chef and helped throughout as well. 

Michelle through her illness, we now think is sinusitis, played games with the girls whilst we cooked but was struggling feeling awful. Her contribution to the main course cooking was to add two big table spoons of the garlic and onion sauce they gave us. Their faces when she added that was priceless. As if to say oh my, do you actually know how to cook. It was potent to say the least! 

So Michelle battling through illness had to cope with what was a rather hectic spell. Little Zuwela constantly hugging me at every opportunity, her and Virginia running around like nutters. Maria and Roxana piercing their ears in the TV room with just an earring and an ice block to numb the ear? Ouch! Lots of blood!

Another volunteer came along whilst we were cooking, Karen, who now lives in Cusco as she has a boyfriend here, but is a Scottish primary teacher and volunteered five years ago so keeps the volunteer link by popping in for a few hours and teaching some maths to some of the younger ones. She’s fluent in Spanish so was very useful as our translator!

Well it all went down a treat, the garlic taste had been neutralised with other flavours and it did taste good, even if I do say so myself. We all sat together, Maria said grace and everyone tucked in. Some even had second helpings so really loved it! Although one girl, Virginia I think, spent a good hour and a half finishing hers. Not sure they are used to such a variety of vegetables. I think we had five. They have to clear their plate or they can not leave the table. A good old fashioned rule in my eyes,(I had to ask my dad to leave the table as a kid as well!) Her sister, Karen and some of the older girls all helped feed her, encourage her and she bloody finished it! So she was allowed a pancake. The girls wanted to help with making the pancake making (I mean who doesn’t like to try and toss a pancake) and Maria took charge after Michelle had mixed the batter up and we had found various utensils. The pan was most defiantly not non stick so the ‘tossing’ was rather hard. I think we managed it by about the 10th one. Again, all went down a treat. Girls even put the toppings on ours for us. Didn’t like to say I don’t like chocolate sauce so had to grin and bare it.

So time to say goodbye. Our translator let them know and they seemed quite sad, Gladys said ‘you as well’ to me, which made me feel a bit special and equally bad for leaving.

Maybe see them again in three years, who knows!

So up to get luggage, we have half an hour to spare so raced to the Artisan market, bought souvenirs and gifts and then headed to the airport. Now although we have ditched three suitcases full of donations, there were still three people, three large suitcases, two small suitcases and hand luggage. The taxis being the size of fiat 500’s were always going to be a squeeze! So I put the others in first then got myself a taxi after. We had 55 mins until flight takes off. Not sure Michelle was comfortable with it but we made it, the check in man wasn’t that impressed, the girl weren’t sitting together (I forget about things like that as I don’t care where I sit) but who wants to wait at an airport for hours?! Done enough of that this holiday so far.

First flight just 50 mins. Did we take off on time….of course not. It’s Avianca. I managed a brief sleep in my extra leg room seat just behind business class. As close as I’m going to get unless I marry someone rich next time! I have an American 7ft man sat next to me. He bloomin needs the extra leg room as his legs go on for ever. 

We have a three hour wait for the second flight. Michelle has decided she needs medication to help sinusitis so we head to a chemist. £25 later she had strong pills! 

Second flight the girls are seated together but I’m at the front of the cheap seats again although not quite the leg room seats.

Good journey, I sleep most of it although wake for the lovely ravioli dinner? And here we are, in Rio the land of the carnival and for three weeks the Olympics!

Off to baggage reclaim, and here our troubles start. We are called over and told the plane was too full so our cases are still in Cusco. Oh dear god. All of ours plus six others. Fuming.com.The plane wasn’t even bloody full! 

After about half an hour of detail swapping and complaining, we have to leave luggageless and see if our transfer to out accommodation is there. No surprise that it’s not. Michelle had found the accommodation, it was cheap, pictures looked good, three rooms and seemed OK. I had found a variety of places but she wasn’t keen, I forgot her OCD tendencies when looking for accommodation and that my suggestions were not likely to hit the radar, ha ha. Anyhow we had all agreed, paid upfront via booking.com. However it has seemed dodgy and unlikely to exist since booking.com cancelled the booking, then reinstated it back in October 2015. Booking.com had continued to reply to message saying all was ok alright the hostel stopped answering their phones! The only bit of luck regarding this was that Michelle and Lindz had starting chatting to a random completely nutty lady at Cusco airport when waiting for me. She has accommodation in Rio which we can stay at. She had also gone and checked where the ‘apartment’ should be and it’s all closed down. So for rather more money than I wanted to pay, we at least have accommodation and will be safe at 5am in the morning. We get an official cab, after some ‘wide boys’ tried to get us in their cab first without ID. £30 later and we are at this apartment of Anamaria. Doorman on guard 24 hours but she doesn’t answer the door (it is now 6am). I’m starting to think it was another scam? After about 10 mins of knocking and calling she answers the door. Phew!

So in we go. All in one room with no luggage but so tired we just want to sleep. The room is two bunk beds, the window is wide open and the noise from traffic is awful. We try and shut one window but the noise still filters through. Going to be a long week of trying to sleep!

We awake at about 11, me and Lindz do anyway after a good long sleep, Michelle was awake early as usual and pottering about.

I have tennis tickets for the evening session but we need to get orientated around town and buy some essentials. Anamaria guides us around town. Now let me explain her to you. She’s Portuguese but lived in New York for 30 years or something, has a New York twang. Lived in London as well and seems to have four passports. She has apartments all over the place that she says are rented out, and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t worked a day in a long long time. About 5ft 5, slightly over average build, bleach blonde hair. Wears sunglasses all the time (I think they are prescription) and wears flowery, colourful floaty dresses. I’m pretty sure she talks to anyone and everyone in the street, and seems to have a story for every conversation you start. She’s even been in jail for 90 days for some kind of money laundering? 

Anyway, on our familiarisation tour, we see outdoor gyms of a different sort, men doing pull ups etc on the beach front. It’s bloody 40 degrees and I’m in my jeans! I buy a whole new outfit, shorts, vest top, Havana flip flops and knickers. We grab some fruit and drink, get cash out and head back. Only about 10 mins walk from the beach. Interestingly Anamaria had said her over apartment was a beach view. She shows us where it is and if you can see the beach from their, I’m a supermodel! Anamaria encourages us to try a local street traders coconut juice. Straight from the coconuts into a bottle and very nice it was too! 

On every street corner there’s a tourist trap. Fake Olympics t shirts, bracelets, scarves, bandanas, flags, selfie sticks, purses. You name it, it’s here and usually in Brazilian colours so very colourful indeed.

I put my clean clothes on only to realise the knickers were kids sizes! I persevere for about 15 mins but they are digging in, commando it is!

So now to get to the Olympic venue. You need a travel card you buy at the station. The girls very kindly walk with me to the station and we head off thinking we know where the station is but end up walking about 20 mins and have to ask volunteers (they are everywhere just like London 2012) where it is. Eventually we find it but can’t get a travel card. You need to be at a different station. As I nearly burst into tears when no one can help me a local man and his wife come to my rescue and tap their travel card in for me to get to the station I can buy the travel card from. It’s about £6 travel a day, and these venues the not close at all. The tennis takes me a good two hours with this slow start, I am convinced I’m going to miss the whole Venus Williams match? The Olympic park is certainly no London. No selfie sticks allowed in, I mean what on earth am I going to do with a selfie stick? Poke you in the eye. I understand not using them in the events themselves as they are annoying, but why can’t people take them in? No iconic Olympic sights about like the birds nest or Beijing or Olympic Stadium and Aquatics (Pringles) centre of London, although as you arrive at the all pic Park what looks like the athletics stadium is in fact centre court. Also at the Park is swimming, synchronised swimming and diving in an outdoor pool, cycling, judo and some basketball. I pass Clare Balding and Mark Chapman getting ready for a BBC broadcast. If only I had my GB clothes on I’d of danced in the background. But I take a selfie instead and behave very British. 

Into centre court and a great match it was. The ball boys and girls aren’t boys and girls more men and women. And they are certainly no match for the awesomeness of the skills shown at Wimbledon. The volunteer on door duty by my seat is pretty damn useless. He just lets them come and go as they please, mid game, mid point. If you saw the Venus match at all, and her moaning and looking into the stands, well that was where I was sat and in the directions of these wandering spectators. It’s no Wimbledon!!

The crowd were all behind the underdog, Flipkens. And what a good match for the neutral, tight points, games and match in the end. Venus should and could of won but serving for the match lost her composure and Flipkens took her chances. 

The atmosphere is pretty good, it’s not full at all but the crowd are chanting and cheering. All good fun. I’m sat beside some Americans who have an even more detailed itinerary than Michelle, which is hard to believe. A few British in front of me, one with a flag as a shawl and a GB hat. Not lots of Brits as yet but then I’m not at a GB event.

I’ve noticed people carrying around collections of pint cups. No idea why, wonder if they get money bag of hey return them like in T20 cricket in the UK.

So day one complete. I’m here in Rio, one set of clean clothes, no toiletries, no GB fan gimmicks, and staying in the nuttiest woman’s apartment that is being decorated as we speak, has two random friends of her staying and is not quite what the pictures she sent portrayed. But I love it already.

I meet some ex Pom, then Aussie now living in Rio people (did you manage I follow that?) who took me under their wing and travelled back with me. We found all the tourist guides for Olympics and maps so I am armed for the week and I bought a travel card for tomorrow so I have non of the dramas of today. Lots of useful advice from the ex Pom. Zika is not about at the moment as its winter. There will be mosquitos in the morning but different types. So many free tickets about so not likely to sell my spare, even though Anamaria thinks she can. The metro, which is brand new, is so new it was finished two days ago, but will be one of the best things to come out of the Olympics here. Do Christ the Redeemer in the morning as you get the best blue skies then, I’m paying above the odds for the apartment (kind of thought that) but at least I’m safe, and just enjoy being here.

Day 2- well no time to sleep in, off to hockey which starts at 9am at a different venue to yesterday. The sun is shining, is a beautiful day and I am looking forward to some hockey. The others had got up early, well Michelle who never sleeps got up early and woke us all up. They have decided to head to the airport and find out about the suitcases. They are hoping that they will be on the flight that arrives this morning the duplicate of our flight just a day later. As I have my tickets I’m off and leave them to it. I’m armed with the map, train/metro tickets and sun cream and off I head. It’s the longest journey ever. I thought yesterday was bad. Three trains and a half hour walk, then there’s a bloody queue of 2.5km to wait in to get in. It has taken me three hours to get here. It’s no London 2012. The bonus, if you are hungry or thirsty though, is that you get street sellers on your train selling everything from hair ties, mobile chargers to chocolate to local snacks that look like frazzles! As I’m one for trying the local food out I but a couple of bags to keep me fed for the day. 

You can’t not feel safe though. Armed guards everywhere, the army in force, volunteers much the same as London 2012 all around although there seem to be about five different coloured outfits, and street sellers at the stations and entrance to walkways. Busy, busy, busy. Anyhow I’m here, missed match one but this looks a better match. I have worked out why the cups have been collected. They all have a different sports printed on so its a collection challenge! I don’t even drink beer but I feel I need them in my life! Maybe later. I make my way to my seats, well they aren’t allocated so I go wherever I want and get front row. The opposite side (by the dug outs) is a sea of orange as its Holland playing against Spain. A few Spanish flags dotted around, but that is immense. 

Yesterday there was wifi at the park available, I was going to buy a weeks worth but my card didn’t go through online, so instead got a whole 30 mins free. Today no phone signal and no wifi. Supposed to be meeting the girls later to maybe do sugar loaf but it’s now 11.30 and I’m staying for this match so won’t be back until maybe 4. A lovely volunteer offers me her phone just so I can check in! The others are off to sugar loaf themselves. A tad sad I’ve missed going together but probably a sign of things to come. Threes a difficult number to travel in, one usually gets left out.

The Dutch are a master class in women’s hockey at the moment. Some of the best players in the world, and since meeting some of them as a volunteer at Lee Valley I know more about them. Thy win easily, 5-0. Lovely atmosphere, the British Lee Valley commentator is out here commentating which is very homely, not sure the Brazilians know the rules that well so need an expert to lead the way! I ask one of the volunteers about the different coloured tops. Yellow and green are generic general all round volunteers. Green are specific events, blue are technical and red she wasn’t sure of. Nice to know. I start my Olympic pint cup collection with a shandy (have to buy a Sprite and a beer but that’s going to prove expensive) and manage to find one on the floor as well, so the proud owner of a horse riding and basketball cup so far. 

The journey back was far less stressful. Maybe because I knew it. Bonus news, our suitcases have been returned. The girls early morning trip to the airport was fruitful, if not a huge hassle for them but I’m very grateful. We have clothes! Hooray. Off to meet the others for dinner via the flat for a shower. Now having had luke warm showers at best for the past week this shower was heaven. Hot, powerful and in a clean (ish) bathroom. Oh to be clean and have clean clothes to put on, it is quite a treat. 

We eat at what is quite frankly a bloody expensive restaurant for what it is, but the girls found it and have already eaten so I just join, order a snack and a drink and they wait for me. We finish the evening with a walk along the beach, a final cocktail in a beach restaurant with a local playing on his guitar. Quite relaxing, well apart from the constant street traders wandering through, particularly peanut sellers bizarrely, and the ridiculous strength of the cocktail we ordered. No idea what is was but sounded quite exotic with kiwi in it, Erm, not so much! The peanut men out a handful of nuts on your table, leave them and then come back to sell a paper cones worth to you. We had a man selling necklaces as well who started to tell us his life hardship. Not going to work mate, if we like them we’d buy them but we don’t! 

Day 2 completed!!! 


The orphans, making chocolates and the awe that is Rainbow Mountain

So after the long day of Machu Picchu we have a freeish day in Cusco. A good nights sleep followed by a surprise cup of chai in bed from Michelle at about 7.30. Can’t complain at all. 
We have a relaxed morning in social media, planning excursions and general down time before heading downstairs to the orphanage quarters to spend the morning with the orphans. I’ll introduce a few. Maria who is 13 and one of two from my last visit and is now one of the older orphan girls so has responsibility. Zurama who is 7, and was also here last time. She has a Down’s syndrome half sister Patricia who was here last time as her parents didn’t want her. But I have learnt that after some behaviour and personal issues her mum and step dad have taken her back and she now attends a special school in the mountains run by a Dutch project (fantastic news). Zurama wanted to stay at the orphanage though but encouraged her sister to go. What a grown up of decision by her. The eldest girls now are Gladys but I think she is only 15, and Roxana who is maybe 14. They have to help run the orphanage and mother (big sister) the younger ones. It is odd with less older girls but two have been moved to another orphanage after bullying issues.

The youngest is Yesenia. So very very cute at 4 and her sister Brisaida who is quite quiet. Then the cheeky monkey of Virginia who helped us on our first day and always says hello. And Fernandez who bless her can’t read yet but can speak well.

So we are armed with paper, glitter, glitter pens, glue, feathers, jigsaws and small toys such as cars, wind up reindeer and marbles. The toys have been donated by friends in the UK.

The girls love it. We make posters and some of the girls make posters with ours and their names on to say thank you to us, even though we have only just really met them. One of the girls Gladys is a puzzle queen and without the need for help, although Lindz did if win her completes two easily. The youngsters play with the wind up walking reindeer (out of Christmas crackers) and love watching them race.

A really good morning had with them, a rewarding experience. We have to leave at midday as the girls have to clear up and get ready for their lunch.

We head upstairs for a cup of tea, before heading into town to see some sights Michelle has researched. We head to the Inca Museum and learn all about pre and post incas. How they sacrificed beautiful women for Pachamama by getting them drunk then tying them up and leaving them to die, (harsh to hear and there’s mummified evidence to). We saw lots of artefacts recovered from various sites over the years such as stone knives, cooking pots and clothing. Very interesting museum and well worth a visit especially for just £2.50.

Next the Cocoa museum, not to get confused with the coca museum we visited Sunday like Michelle did originally. This is a free attraction but you can book a chocolate making class for a cost if you wish. We see the pictures of chocolate plants and where the cocoa comes from, not sure where I expected it to grow but not in a plant with a white paste around it. Follow the process from plant to edible form through pictures and explanations on the wall. The tasting of various chocolates was fun too, mint, white, dark and chilli, I mean who doesn’t like testing chocolate for free whether in Cusco or the UK.

We are meeting Jeremy (my contact at the orphanage) this afternoon to hand over all the clothes we have brought over from the UK. Three suitcases between us. Nilda (Jeremy’s mum) is also there. She started up the orphanage and now runs it with Jeremy. He was brought up with the orphans although did have a home to go to when they weren’t staying. They bought one building originally which is the boys now, and is a large building but over the other side of town and in a dodgy area. On a walk there last time I had my bag slashed! Then a few years ago they managed to buy the second building, much smaller but in a safer area and perfect for the girls. This is where I have always stayed. Jeremy is very grateful for our donations, particularly for the pants, socks and boys clothes plus vitamins we brought over. Feels good to do something for others. 

It’s a shame we can’t actually see the girls get the clothes but knowing its ready for when they need it, and will form a whole outfit for Christmas for them is great. 

No rest for the wicked as we have a chocolate making (yes more chocolate) and wine tasting evening booked in town. Again the super organised Michelle has researched what to do in Cusco and came across this. It’s in a room above the shops facing the Plaza. The owner Kevin is very chatty and professional and it all just looks amazing from the moment we step in. Two tables set up, a sofa in the corner to relax whilst you wait. On the wall a map of the world made out of corns and pulses, colours and look linked to the place in the world, so the desert is a yellow corn and the U.K. is a green one. Amazing. Even the toilets (here I go again) were fabulous. Free tissues, sanitary items, moisturisers. A Ryan gosling sign on the door reminding you to put toilet paper in the bin. Motivational quotes around the mirror. Attention to detail springs to mind.

So the first part of the evening is the chocolate making. You sit around the large wooden table, already laid out with utensils, decorations/fillings for the chocolate and huge wine glasses. We get to paint chocolate into the oval moulds, Michelle has the gung-ho technique, chuck loads on. Lindz and myself more delicate and time consuming, but to be honest all it ends up the same anyway. Then we can add whatever we want from the treats on the table. Oreos, cookies, M and M’s, coconut, peanut butter, toffee paste, quinoa. Oh yes, and whilst drinking very nice red wine. The chocolates are then put in the fridge and over to the wine tasting. Another lovely large wooden table with glasses all set out, snacks to compliment the wine and off we go. Two white wines, not the colour of any of our first choices but they actually weren’t bad especially with the chilli sauce on mini toast as a complimentary taste. Then two red wines with chocolate to compliment. We are half cut by now. Happy holidays!

Such a lovely experience, good for groups, and can be booked as just chocolate making for families. We were even given a little embroidered bag to put our chocolates in and carry home, it’s these little touches that make an experience! A good find by Mrs organised Michelle.

So off to get some food to soak up the alcohol. Michelle is really struggling with her drunkenness, but we are all pretty pissed to be honest. Kevin, at the chocolate making, recommended a restaurant so we head to find it. First attempt we got it very wrong. The restaurant name sounded pretty similar in our drunk heads, but when we walked in, apart from the very lovely clay oven looking very enticing the restaurant was bloody awful, firstly it was empty (never a good sign as we have found out) an actually smelt of cat piss. We quickly left! 

We then found the actual recommendation a bit further down the road and much nicer even on first impressions. There was a queue to get a table (a good sign!!) so we had a twenty minutes wait before being seated. Beautiful place. Very spacious, wooden round tables with bamboo style chairs curved around them, cushions for both comfort and design, excellent wall murals and stone cemented into the walls. The food didn’t disappoint either, although my plate of chicken wings would of fed all three of us. 

Feeling content, although still drunk we headed for home. I spotted a wooden hammock on the way out so stopped for a photo. I’ll blame the wine, as just as I went to lean back for a pose, I fell off into a perfect lying position directly underneath it and on the pillows that had fallen as well! Absolutely hilarious and the staff were all laughing at me to. Topped off a fun night. Taxi for three please!!

So we are up at bloody silly o clock for the rainbow mountains tour. Michelle is really struggling with a cold or the altitude, not sure which or if both but bless her she’s not having fun. it’s 3am, we’ve had about 5 hours sleep at most and have hangovers to boot, and we are heading to meet the minibus pick up at the police station. As we walk down the poorly lit back streets from the orphanage to the police station we hear three lads shoutout at us. Are they our drivers? We stop for a moment to check but decide no they are unlikely to be and if you are they can bloody well follow us to the station, so we carry on. Michelle desperate for the loo at this ungodly hour and not fancying a walk back to the orphanage via drunk locals, pops into the station to use the bano. Poor girl, it didn’t flush! She was so embarrassed when she come out. Hilarious. 

We get picked up at 3.45 as you expect in South America when told 3am, and I promptly fall asleep. I awake when we stop in a little village called Quesoyuni where we get fed and watered. It’s bloody freezing, but we (well maybe not Michelle) are full of high spirits as we eat our bread rolls with frozen butter and drink coca tea to help prepare us for the 5100m ascent. The guides give us a little talk about what to expect. Three guides, front, middle and back and the back one has emergency oxygen. If you want to ride a horse you go to see a guide called Alex and apparently as its a new attraction they don’t stop and talk you through the history of the area as no one knows anything about it yet. Not sure that’s true but you get what you pay for. There must be 60 people in our group as there’s three full minibuses. Nothing like an intimate group.

We are briefly back on bus to drop us where we will be starting the trek just 15 minutes away and off we head. The first 10 minutes everyone is on foot as the horses meet us over the first pass. It’s quite a tough climb especially for those who need a horse. I’d say I’m pretty fit and I was breathing heavily with the altitude change, already at 4400m. We arrive at the horse pick up point and await Michelle and Lindz’s horses. Well what a palaver that became. Lindz was given one straight away and just got walked off, but poor Michelle had to wait a good 15 minutes whilst they found more horses from round the valley and one they thought was suitable. Then when she eventually got one, off she went far faster than I was walking (the guides fault not hers) so having waited with Michelle so she wasn’t alone, I ended up trekking on my own. Fortunately I find it quite therapeutic so not a problem. We caught up with Lindz along the way and got to walk as a group at times. Most of the trek can be done on horse but there are about 1.5 miles of the 12 that can’t because it’s pretty steep and narrow. Michelle has a ceramic hip so this and the awful cold/altitude sickness made it pretty tough going at times for her. She has commented how my blog would not reflect how she felt during her day at all!

The scenery is just amazing. Snow capped mountains in view, undulating colourful hills all around giving a glimpse of some of the colours of the rainbow mountain. The floor is a dried dusty brown soil that completely covers your shoes and clothes, the sun is baking by now so the layers come off again to keep cool.

This trek used to only be part of a six day hike that some walkers found a few years ago by chance. It is now very much an ants trails of commercialised tourism that can only get worse as it becomes better known. 

The toilets (I do like a toilet story you may have noticed) are the good old fashioned Trekkers long drop! Much more sensible than trying to have plumbing out here. They have built some wooden shacks around the hole at some stops but others are merely tarpaulin structures. I love the simplicity. 

It’s a tough hike, I found parts testing, and there are some very unfit and quite frankly unsuitable Trekkers trying to complete it. The better companies don’t allow you to do the trek if you are not fit enough (they are much more safety conscious and want everyone to walk at similar paces I think) and don’t allow you to have a horse if over 160lb. The cheaper ones seemingly don’t care and just let anyone on.

We don’t see our guides at all, and Michelle may well of benefited from some oxygen, although wouldn’t we all?? 

As the peak where the view of Rainbow mountain comes into sight our spirits are lifted and the horses can no longer take you. Slowly but surely we make the first viewpoint, 5000m. It’s not the any of us wanted but Michelle had said she wasn’t bothered by the top peak but getting so close and wanting that view she became a woman on a mission and off she marched. 

The view is so worth it. Just an amazing show of Mother Nature at her very best. 

I have a bag of skittles from the UK so have the obligatory photo ‘taste the rainbow (advert and log running joke from Easter ski trip)…see the rainbow’, I mean why not. The others get started on the trek back down but I stay to admire the views for a bit before heading down. My biggest regret of Everest Base Camp trek was rushing to get down from Gokyo Peak and not admiring the views or taking more photos. We finally see a guide as we start the descent, handy after three hours. It’s a round trip of nearly 20km, and the girls are on the horses which are being made to canter at times so I am well and truly on my own for this part of the walk, which again I don’t mind although it becomes increasingly hard without much food. Lunch is when we and everyone else has returned at the bottom. With the girls not needing rest as they are sat on a horse I keep trudging on, admiring the wonder of rock screes, the changing mountain colours, little villages that would hardly of seen the outside world before this trek, and various people who ride past me or who walk past me. Really relaxing if you ignore the aching legs. Starting to feel like my legs did at 22 miles of the marathon. The houses of the little villages are literally one block of mud bricks with a clay oven as heating and brick sections for beds. I got an inside photo but then realised someone had used it as a toilet and left their toilet roll as evidence, lovely! There are dogs patrolling their patch, footballs awaiting an owner beside houses but otherwise hardly any life. I can only deduce that all villagers are either now working as guides, horse handlers or selling refreshments. New life for them since the trek was commercialised.

After 6 hours of trekking we are back at the bottom. Tired, absolutely filthy and in need of some food. Finding our bus is a real effort as we have no idea who our driver was and there are about 25 white mini buses. We see some of the English dudes we had breakfast with who have been down for 40 minutes already. This is where the company shows its cheapness. There are three minibuses for one company, but none can leave until all its parties have returned rather than taking the first 20 to finish back. The poor sods who had to wait for two hours before they could go and eat. Our hour and a bit was bad enough and I had a sleep but it’s very frustrating. You’re tired, dirty, hungry and now bored. There must be a better way, register of names or something. But of course that’s the English way of dealing with it.

Anyhow back to the hostel we were at for breakfast and we get fed and watered again. I think we are so tired it’s a struggle to be sociable. Some of the faces around the table are like death warmed up, and not all can eat the chicken and rice concoction we are fed. 

Back on the bus and home time. Hoping to sleep lots. However firstly I feel like crap with gut ache from my random Peruvian diet (missing salad and vegetables) and then I get moved from my front seat I had saved (the guide needed it but then realised there weren’t any spare seats so someone else has it) and end up squashed in the back corner, no leg room, sleeping Spanish man leaning into me and the worst driving in a long time. Lindz likens the driver to a Nigel Mansell wannabe (showing our age there) as he just took the mountain road corners like he was on a race track. It was an hour and a half of winding dirt tracks going around the mountain with very tight turns at probably twice the speed you should. So to take my mind off the death ride I tried to take in the scenery. We had to stop twice for lamas being herded, there was a lovely local having a piss right beside the road, (I mean thy is scenery right there) the driver nearly ran over lamas, kids and sheep, but did stop so the guide could give a local boy some chocolate. The happiness on his dirty little face was priceless. 

As we finally leave the dirty track we pass a local man pulling a huge sweet corn stockpile up a hill on his bike, these locals are so strong, and then 100m down the road a man was on his mobile. The old and new lifestyles in stark contrast right there.

I try to sleep now the road is safer but no, bloody speed bumps everywhere and old Nigel Mansell likes to hit them with some speed. I nearly hit my bloody head on the roof on many occasions.

We get back to town at 8pm, not the 6.30-7pm promised. Again tonight we were supposed to go ‘out out ‘ but looking at the state of Michelle that’s not happening. We do head for a pizza as the mini bus driver refused to let us off near the orphanage even though he let some Aussies off at their stop. Bonus though, in their rush to get off they left a very luxurious neck pillow which I have acquired now. 

Back home to shower and chill. My feet were absolutely black from the dirt when I took my shoes off, gross. But the shower was warm for most of my time in it. Be thankful for little mercies, and this is my last night in Cusco. Very sad and wished we’d had more time here and got to socialise more, but Rio here we come!


Leaving La Paz and heading to the wonderful Cusco, Peru

My room for the last night in La Paz is on the 5th floor, carrying my bloody heavy suitcase up that many stairs was a pain it the arse, but all forgiven when I see the view I have over the city, love it so much I slept with the curtain open. Having spent three days at the hostel in La Paz I actually haven’t been there past 7am and haven’t slept past 6.15. Just as well I didn’t pay for a luxurious hostel as no chance to use anything bar the shower, bed and breakfast.

Up at 6 again for my flight and get chatting at breakfast to a French couple who are also off to the airport, so we share a taxi and save a whole £1 each. It all counts! Nice to chat to people though and they are off to do the Salt Flats so I give them tips and they have done Peru already and tell me to do something called Rainbow Mountain, I shall look that up. Wifi works at check in so do the obligatory Facebook, what’s app and e mails to say I’m alive and share stories. My salt flats buddies have a what’s app group now so I get to see their pictures this morning of their five star hotel they’ve treated themselves to and send a picture of me with my cup of tea I finally had last night with my British tea bags and acquired powdered milk! They too miss the comforts of proper tea, although I’m pretty sure 5 star rooms overshadow a cup of tea! 

Sitting in departures there’s no wifi so I manage to finish my first book after just five days of travelling. If you want a good holiday read – Ceceilia Ahern: A place called here.

I have a few Bolivianos left so buy some drinks and M and M’s for my journey. Straight away reminds me of my Irish OCD buddies, never going to eat M and M’s without remembering them again. Similar to my recent ski trip where one of the staff spilt their skittles on the coach floor but then said ‘taste the rainbow’ to break the ice. Can’t eat skittles without saying that in my head now. 

Quite sad to be leaving Bolivia and La Paz without actually experiencing the town. Should of stayed one more day here and done the tour of town or cable car trips. But never mind. As we take off from La Paz I get to admire the bizarre but awesome city from up high one last time, the city within a city, and then fly over the Andes and all their glory. Mountain peaks protruding above the clouds, those cotton wool like clouds seeping into valleys, and the peace of looking down upon it all. Cusco via Lima awaits and fellow Essex birds to spend the next two weeks with. Who’ll get annoyed with whom first?? 

As I have finished my book, there’s only 10 minute of free wifi and my plane is late boarding, I decide to call home and speak to the parents. You know you must be tired when saying ¡Hola! to my dad brings a tear to my eye and it’s been less than a week. Nice to hear their voices though before I head off again. And of course as mothers do, she warns me of the issues she’s seen on tv about sewage, unclean water and general issues with the Olympics before we say goodbye.

As I board my sixth flight in as many days I end up sat next to the most annoying American teenage girl. In desperate need of her bloody headphones for a whole one hour flight. Complete strop when she can’t find them or use the free plane ones. I think I’d rather have the raving, smelly Columbian back, bloody kids. 

So I’m back in Cusco, can’t wait. Security is the first in all six flights I don’t get patted down or metal detected, how disappointing! Baggage reclaim suddenly looks familiar, three belts, no idea which one to stand at and realise after 10 mins I’m at the wrong one! Suddenly see one of the fellow Essex birds waving at me through the glass doors, phew! No wifi available to what’s app anymore so just as well we spotted each other.

My travel buddies are both teachers and are spending two weeks with me before heading off to Costa Rica and then Mexico whilst I do Argentina and Columbia. Michelle has set herself a task to do the seven selfies of the world. Machu Picchu will be number three.

So the three of us and all our luggage is here which I’m not sure we all expected as Michelle seems to lose her luggage on her travels. Michelle and Lindz have all the gear (is it a case of no idea???) as they have bought pashminas and happily wearing them in the airport as its freezing. They do look the part to be fair. I head out to see if our lift is about and spot my name held up. How exciting, never had a sign before. However as he sees all three of us and our six suitcases and hand luggage he realises his little car has no chance and runs off on the phone leaving us in the car park. Fortunately as its now midday the sun has heated up and it’s a pleasant wait for the disappearing man. Finally he returns with a friend in another car so we can distribute the luggage and people. 

Now what a turn up for the books when I am the best Spanish speaker amongst us. Three years ago I was by far the worst, or maybe it was because others took the lead? Anyhow I muddle through a few sentences and we arrive at the orphanage. Two of the orphanage girls come out and help us, one I remember from three years ago but she has no idea who I am. So many volunteers must come and go. They drag a case each up the four flights of stairs very eagerly, bless them, and as a reward I let them choose a gift each from our donations. They try and take more but accept its to be one only. A pink Cinderella pencil case and a pink plastic Alice band. Pink seems the order of the day. They are so thankful we get a hug and a kiss from each girl. In the UK I don’t even get a thank you for taking pupils on trips let alone for hair accessories! 

I look around and realise it’s the same apartment I was in last time, and the same bedroom. On the wall are the posters the volunteers and orphans made, untouched as though time has stood still. Rather emotional really. 

My travel companions are very impressed that we have a self contained flat for £50 each this week. Everything you could need (well almost as we find out daily).

We unpack, have a cup of tea and then head into town. We pass through side streets with stray dogs wandering, seemingly so happy to be free to roam, in the fresh air and not a care in the world. Building work going on at various places with no regard for health and safety. No hard hats or boots, no metal scaffolding but merely wooden poles instead, tied together with rope. We pass the local police station with police officers guarding the entrance with their automatic rifles on show. The taxis which are mainly bashed up fiat 500’s toot their horns as a sign that try are offering their services, weaving in and out of each other. It really is a different world to see.

I manage to remember the walk, woohoo! Back in the Plaza de Armas, with its colourful square, wooden balconies jutting over narrow cobblestones and stone arches, and the two flags you see everywhere-the red and white Peru flag and the colourful rainbow said to be the banner of the ancient Inca (we thought is was the gay flag until we saw it everywhere and then researched it!) Love, love, love it here. It’s a longer walk than Michelle had expected so she’s knackered (back injury to be fair) so any excuse to have a drink and we head to Papillon bar which overlooks the square on one of those wooden balconies, what a view. The tourists milling around, dogs ever hopeful for either food or affection, tour guides trying to win over the tourists, massages being offered by ladies and we get to sit overlooking all this with a jug of sangria, the sun beating down and the mountains in the distance. I love this place. The sangria is well deserved and goes down far too easily, we could easily just sit here all afternoon but we have the task of getting excursions booked. 

Now I had recommended we don’t book anything in the UK but haggle when here. That goes against everything Michelle is as she’s very much an itinerary girl and needs her plans in place. This nearly backfired with Machu Picchu as we started with a price way above what we wanted but found out there’s a bloody train strike on Wednesday through to Friday so very limited availability. We tried three other companies who said it can’t be done and at this point Michelle with her OCD on itineraries and organisation was internally cursing me to death and externally agitated as she’s come to Peru for this tour particularly. I am however confident if one tour guide said yes then we will be ok, although hate the stressed looks on the other two. I suggest popping back to the ‘man who can’ and low and behold he can do it. The days we want, the cost not as bad as we thought and times pretty good to. Old ye of little faith I wanted to say, but didn’t as they were both getting more tired from jet lag as the time passed. 

No walking back as one it’s about 40 mins and Michelle’s back won’t take it and two, the Essex birds are jet lagged and wilting fast. So I hail a cab and try my Spanish again and amazingly it works (three years ago I tried it they didn’t understand me and I got out the cab in tears), we get door to door driving and a lovely young lad trying out some English and me trying out some Spanish. Peru day one done. Now I said the apartment had everything you need, well the showers not ideal. They always were a tad temperamental and dangerous with electrics loose, no change there now, freezing cold. Michelle and Lindz try it out with screaming and cursing coming from each one at a time. Funny to hear, but not if you’re freezing already. I refrain for now and as its only 7pm and I’m feeling fresh and could easily have a night out if I had anyone to go with. 

After some social media catch up I head out into town alone, slightly nervous but I know the town well enough, and pop off to check if I remember where the market and the supermarket is. Bingo, I remember both and stop off for some essentials at the bizarre shopping time of 8pm. 

I try the shower out myself and with no better results than the others as its freezing still, so a quick arm in, arm out, shake it all about and then get bloody out!! Even after two cups of tea, thick socks and extra blankets I’m freezing cold. So after an hour of trying to warm up I remember a trick from Everest and use my camel back bladder, boil the kettle and make a hot water bottle. It does the trick and my feet warm up at last. I sleep in my jumper to help me keep warm too (we find out it was -1 that night). I’m pretty sure the bedding hasn’t been changed as I keep finding long dark hairs, just as well I have my silk liner to sleep in. 

Other volunteers return at about 10pm making far too much noise when the girls are sleeping (how old am I??) and then periodically throughout the night the dogs have a barking session. I remember my first night here last time and the barking keeping me awake. Now it’s quite reassuring, probably not so much for the others though. 

I don’t sleep that well as its so cold but well enough and enjoy my first lay in for a week, although waking up at 7 isn’t really a lay in.  

I hear the others up and about, it’s been 12 hours so hopefully they are refreshed. I have my Peruvian cereal (Cheerios sold in a bag) and a cuppa, Lindz tried the shower again and still freezing, so I message the owner and ask for help with it. Off to the shops we go. The girls are watching TV and see us pass their window. The two who helped us come to the window and say hello zuwela shows me her pink Alice band she is now proudly wearing. We wave and say hola and head off.

I love the market. So busy but chilled, everything from meat to veg, fruit to clothing, DVDs to kettles. Dogs wandering through the isles, kids playing beside the stalls. Traditionally dressed women serving behind the plethora of stalls, all connected, none of that awful shouting we get on UK stalls, ‘two fa a pand luv’. It should be chaos but it just works.

I have my Spanish phrase book and we do very well. Kettle, (otherwise we have to boil the travel kettle twice or use a saucepan) towel (for a bath mat) eggs, cheese, tomatoes, olives, avocados and all in Spanish. The other two make me laugh, just repeat in English louder and slower with gestures, but get the point across most of the time. The kettle is the most bizarre style, basically a jug with a heater added and no on off switch, so it would just boil and boil. 

We then head to the supermarket for snacks, milk and bread. We wander back to the orphanage through the bustling traffic, drivers honking horns either to warn pedestrians or vehicles of their presence. Street traders ranging from chocolate bars (street kids selling these), to bracelets to drinks. I’d spotted a very busy locals stop selling a hot drink on our way out so stopped off en route back. A traditionally dressed lady with her rickety trolley, although very organised, serves me. No idea what is in it but willing to try, I mean when on Peru, do as Peruvians do. It’s only luke warm, yellow in colour and not much to the taste to be honest. But if it had been hot I can see why the locals like it in the mornings.

After brunch for the Essex girls and a cuppa for me we head down to see the girls in the orphanage. I brought some jewellery kits over with me so we take them down along with my iPad to show them pictures from my last visit. They are finishing a snack and watching tv so we just sit and wait. One by one the young girls head over. The two who helped us are first over along with the very youngest yesanda who is the cutest little thing. They look for games on our phones and iPads to play and just snuggle in for a cuddle whilst doing so. The cat also heads straight for me and snuggles in. I then try to explain I was here three years ago and then open up Facebook to show the pictures. Straight away the proof I was here before and have returned makes one of those I know hug and kiss me. I think she thinks I am her god mother. I was god mother to another girl who’s no longer here so I just say yes and she hugs me more. They love looking at old photos and name all their old buddies in the pictures. Running over to the other girls to show them the pictures. Quite sad so many aren’t there anymore, although hopefully it means they are happy with their families once more. 

We then ask them if they want to make jewellery and they love it. We setup the table in their dining room and get to work. Some of the girls are so particular with their designs they colour coordinate, have the fish facing alternate ways, alternate colours and in general just think about every last detail. Others just haphazardly create the bracelets and necklaces but all are happy and content. 

The youngest girl gets Michelle’s camera and just wanders off taking pictures of anything and everything. She had a whale of a time. Not sure the pictures will be much use though but who cares. Some other volunteers come back to the orphanage but only to say hello through the door. Seem young, maybe before uni or in uni holidays but when they see us scuttle off to their apartment.

After about an hour the girls have to set up for prayers and dinner so we say our goodbyes for now and head back upstairs. 

We have researched rainbow mountain and it just looks amazing. It is literally a mountain with dozens of different coloured soils creating a rainbow effect. However it’s a three hour trek, and at 5000m above sea level. Michelle can’t do that so it may just be me. Then I stumbled across the fact you can horse ride it do enquired about that and it’s a yes. $190 for the day trip including food and snacks. Whilst we wait for confirmation we decide to head to town for some drinks and sight seeing. As its Sunday some of the attractions we planned to see are closed so instead we wander around the back streets exploring the places not everybody sees. Up San Blas District which is dotted with colonial houses, and is known as the craftsman district. The roads are no more than a cars with wide, walls down the side lasting the entire length, shops on one or both sides selling artwork, clothing, souvenirs, food or tours. Young girls dressed in full traditional outfits, white shirts, layered skirts, waist coats, stovepipe black or yellow hats covering their black plaited hair and carrying lambs! Yes you read correctly, poor little lambs dragged around for the tourists to have a photo with. The walls are colonial architecture with its unique stonework that serves as a reminder that the Incas were there (I looked that up by the way), amazing detail.

We find some lovely market stalls hidden down these back roads and buy some winter items ready for Machu Picchu trek. Hats and gloves of an array of colours. Michelle also gets herself a backpack ready for the trek, blue embroidery with an alpaca on the front, nice. We find the coca museum in these back streets as well so decide to have a look around. Michelle thought coca leaves is where chocolate came from, and what an eye opener when she found out it is where cocaine comes from! I loved her reaction when it dawned on her, she just looked like a child who’s just found out a secret. We learnt where coca leaves are rumoured to have come from, the scientific experiment that first found the chemical reaction of cocaine (the scientist did OD though) and how coca tea and chewing of coca leaves was from the workers on the mountains to cure altitude sickness. Fascinating insight to be honest.

We pass a tour guide office with the rainbow mountain for $30. Well it’s worth asking if it saves us $150. It is now booked for the bargain price and I cancel the expensive online company. I’m sure try cut luxuries but I don’t care for that price.

Next we decide to just head onto the open top tour bus as we then get to see all the sights. Last three seats upstairs and off we go. Can’t be bad a two hour for £7. We pass the historic building of Monasterio de Santa catalina de sena which we had seen a wedding going on at on our walk past yesterday, some 200 year old houses next to a petrol station which the driver decided to utilise and fill up. Interesting addition to the tour? Then up the hill to see Cusco from up high. The sun is setting over the city and it looks so amazing with the houses built in every square inch, kids playing in the fields, dogs trotting along the road side completely care free and road savvy! There are families parked up with all the kids playing football with wooden poles stuck in the ground to make goals. We are dropped off at a field where we learn about the tradition of blowing coca leaves whilst making a wish for your family and the earth, smelling scents given off by special wood burnt that was to thank pachamama (Mother Earth) and a liquid we had put on our hands to tap over our body and release the stresses and aches and pains, or maybe all the other way round but you get the gist of what we learnt.

IIt’s bloody freezing now even with my new hat and gloves on. We forget that as we are near the equator the sun rises and sets pretty near to 6pm everyday, unlike our lovely long summer days on the UK. 

Next stop off we learn about alpaca wool and garnets made, however this was all in Spanish so we didn’t really listen. Lindz and I did enjoy the free coca tea though, Michelle pulled the face of a small child who dislikes something 😄, all the more for us.

Final stop was Christo Blanco (Jesus Christ overlooking Cusck) that sits above the city. It’s now pitch black but it is lit up at night so quite a sight to behold.

Back to Cusco it is and to find some food to eat. Michelle is a veggie and had found a veggie restaurant for us to try so off we walk. We start walking down the smallest, dingiest, smelliest streets, and wonder where on earth is she taking us?? But she is positive and keen so all seems good. Eventually we find it on a fairly busy road but it’s locked up. We knock and someone opens the door but they are redecorating so don’t think we can eat there. Buggar.

So we trudge back down these same streets (such a treat to do it twice in about five minutes) and look for somewhere else. We eventually stop at an empty restaurant as quite frankly we were fed up as others we had tried such as Jacks Cafe, which I know is good, had queues out the door. So why the hell not try it. Well it was a comedy of events from the moment we got in. Michelle asked for two items, neither available, no fish on the menu, no chips with my alpaca meat (yes I thought I’d try a local delicacy) the drinks took about 10 mins to arrive, the toilets I’m sure were their actual family bathroom and when others did come in to dine as the restaurant was no longer empty, two tables walked out due to lack of food on the menu available or slow service. The poor one man band of a waiter, did do a good job considering and the food was bloody lovely but it’s not a place is recommend really. My first taste of alpaca meat and it was very nice and the girls first try of Pisco Sour!

Final stop for the night my fav memory KM.O bar up Sans Blas. Live music, chilled atmosphere and just a real locals vibe. It is however only 8pm so very empty and I ask when live music is and it’s not until 11pm. The jet lagged pair won’t make that, but we enjoy the ambiance of the place and had more than one pisco sour as its happy hour. I show my pictures from before to the bartender to see if the band still play and he was very excited by my return. Although they were here last night and Monday night when we are in Machu Picchu, shame. The others do well and last until 9.30pm before fading quickly so we head back, in the taxi which again I get to the right place and off to bed. Machu Picchu tomorrow. Let’s hope it’s not cloudy for me this time. Oh yes and I managed to bagsy a hot shower, it’s the little things!


31 hour commute cusco to essex

First challenge, was my suitcase within baggage allowance! Yes, bang on. Although that meant I did indeed leave nearly 40kg of stuff for the orphans! The problem with booking connecting flights through an agency is timings don’t always match up! So after flight one I had 8 hours at an airport to kill. Was planning on checking baggage in them sightseeing in Lima. You walk out of arrivals to a gaggle of Peruvians……
Taxi taxi Madame! I is official, look, see!!! Gggrrrrrr!! Anyway over to check in, noooooo inertia not open for 4 hours! Can’t cart luggage into Lima so airport for the day it is! Off for some lunch but more harassment trying to sit in a cafe, every man and his friend try to convince you what you should be doing! Well I sit down and start people watching to amuse myself!
There’s a lady stuck on carpet mat they have at escalators, heavy box falling off noone helps, just walk around her, then there’s a woman pushing trolley in platforms and leopard print leggings….really! Backpackers with everything but the kitchen sink hanging from rucksack, looking rather unclean from the travelling. Newbies being caught out by taxi harassers en route out of airport. Going to be costly. Business class do have a snobbishness walk about them, no queuing and knowing they’ll have a bed! Lucky them!
Peruvian pair of ladies, one with the biggest muffin top her jeans are buckling under the weight and her mate in bright pink leggings and tight top, see through too. No idea where they’re going, walk last four times!
Sat between a gay British man and an Adolph hitler look a like, now that’s a mix!! A British man asks if we’re waiting for Madrid flight then his Peruvian wife turns up, huge age gap!! Internet wife maybe? The man then asks if there’s many people in the queue, there is no queue it’s not bloody open! Then as soon as a few bodies appear at check in area about 15 go and queue. The flights in 4 hours what is the bloody rush!!!
Random ‘cool dudes’ walking past in sunglasses, it’s not sunny outside let alone inside sados!
Gay man trotted off to business class, didn’t gauge that!! After 4 1/2 hours of waiting check in opened yay! Which also meant I could go for a wee. Daren’t leave my luggage before. After heading through passport control I looked for the phone shop to return hired phone. Nowhere. Start panicking. I have this bloody phone what do I do. No information desk so finally find an English speaking security guy who sorts it. They pick it up from my gate. Phew! Loving the toilets with seats, toilet roll and a flush. Luxury!!
See the odd couple again at passport control, he’s called into immigration office.
I’m looking forward to my movie time on the plane. As I get on I’m right at the back, next to a man. He then asks to move. Wow, I offended quickly! The planes half empty so he heads in a free row. Fair enough. Just settled in and the disappointment hits. No tv on chair in front, no movies to choose from. Gutted! Shitty airbus! Then work out why man moved, he can sleep on the row of 4 chairs and get comfy. Missed a trick there! But I have 2 seats to myself. Have a fat Peruvian child behind me, can tell I’m tired as I’m ready to shout at the annoying child for her constant banging the chair. Weird couple get on plane so clearly immigration freed him!
Load of crappy documentaries on generic tv! So crap. Food good though, metal cutlery! Although the dried milk in the tea looks all lumpy, interesting!
Flight pretty good in the end, got some sleep.
Second connecting flight was a half hour walk. So time passed quickly. Again the plane wasn’t full so space next to me, although a very arrogant looking Spanish woman with her guggi bag plonks it down in the spare seat, cheeky cow. I fall asleep and wake up to find her spread out even more, using the table as well.
Weird couple on this plane too, just keep seeing them. It’s just an odd set up I can’t but look at them!
My fear of flying I had for a few years seems to be cured after about 13 flights this year, however the landing at London was a bit hairy, must be the fog!
Waiting at baggage claim I pop to the loo, not only are they posh looking and clean but Christmas songs playing. Made me smile! ‘Driving home for Christmas yeah’. Very apt!
I now have the joy of travelling across the capital to get picked up. Love the tube. Forgot it was rush hour! Firstly there’s people having an argument down one end, then a drunk rasta man mumbling. I hop off at hammersmith to change tubes, didn’t realise you have to trek across the busy road in the rain! Mistake! Head back on tube. Drunks at tower hill, and that’s the older generation! Christmas jumpers around. Great fun. An hour and a half later I get to my pick up and there’s my mum and pooch greeting me, what an excellent greeting!!
Shame the roads were an issue and it takes nearly 2 hours to do a 30 min drive. Some of that’s due yo my mums snail like driving but most due to the national car park!
31 hours later I’m home!!


Last days at the orphanages

Returning from lake titicaca at 5am off the night bus should mean straight to sleep but I was planning on going to see the inca ruins sexy woman (it sounds like that but has a ketchwan name), but half hour too late for sunrise so it was back to bed for a few hours. I wanted to be up for girls so set alarm for 9.30. Missed spending time with them, it’s going to be hard to leave. We did some work books and Christmas decorations, they are just happy being occupied and with company. One of the girls Esther is very attached to me now. So lovely, makes me feel needed and special. Posh Essex girl headed off to boys to practice nativity play with them, so I stayed on my own. Rare that you are on your own but don’t want to miss anytime with girls now and they’d have no one if I headed to boys. Whilst other volunteers have to move like sheep or sit and socialise with each other, that is not what I came out here to do!! We went to the park for an hour, rain had stopped but still muddy. Girls love it there. They swing upside down on monkey bars, swing for absolutely ages on swings, play on seesaws and madly go head first and backwards down the slide! I had to catch them from falling in the mud. Before they were allowed into house again they had to clean their trainers from any mud. They sat there for 30 minutes using sticks to get mud out. Can you imagine English kids doing that!! Even I couldn’t be arsed after 15 mins, thought I’d just take mine off before walking in. But they sat here happily making sure every last trace of mud was off and proud to show their clean shoes off!
Headed into town to get Christmas pressies at lunch. Got some amazing presents but spent loads too. My suitcase may be heavy again after donating loads of clothes that emptied spaces! Spent the afternoon with girls again, arts and crafts and more games. The youngest girl is such a cheat its hilarious. Playing Chinese checkers and she just moves about 20 places in one go, I turned around to answer someone’s question and upon return she’d won!! Bless. Only noticed today (didn’t realise how unobsevant I am) that this youngest girl has half her middle finger missing. Scary to think what could of caused it!
In the evening I had invited all the volunteers over for dinner, my turn to cook en mass! I only ever cook for me, well and maybe my dog!!, so a bit nervous. Posh Essex girl was my sou chef and did a grand job! Fajitas went down well so gold star for me. Yay! Although the youngsters showing their live at parents habits didn’t offer to wash up at all, at least grandad and Swiss girl noticed me washing up after cooking and stepped in. Rude habits but then they are young hey! We all then headed into town for our last night out. Well almost all. Grandad asked Swiss girl if she wanted to come out, her response was ‘I have 3 blankets at home, so no thanks’, such a random answer he had no comeback!! Went to our usual tourist bar to start, then inca team where lazy posh girl went behind bar again! In her element and fun to watch, and this time joined by frizzy and flirty. No free drinks unfortunately but all three had a bartenders gyrating with them permanently! So entertaining none the less! And one of the bartenders girlfriends came over and made a scene. Hilarious!! Having a go at him in front of everyone. Take that Mr! As usual it seems there is a token drunk Peruvian throwing up whilst asleep at bar! Also token fat drunk Peruvian dancing with anyone who makes eye contact! I had three free drinks tickets but donated one to an Oz man, who seemed friendly. However then him and his mates were doing a fab impression of Peruvian sharks on the dance floor!! One tried it on with me, then posh Essex girl then flirty! Hilarious!
Grandad hammered by this point and swaying on the spot whilst talking. Flirting with frizzy. Essex Akon is a sensible drinker and had to avert lots of attention from flirty. I mean real flirtatiousness, his hands in his pockets and her hands grabbing his arms trying to hold hands, love it. I then went for a drink and bartender pointed at tips box, kiss he says, why not so I snogged a Peruvian! Most action I’ve had in months!! And bagged a free drink!
Had a fab night dancing and then decided to move on to another club. Got there and man on top of bar dancing suddenly strips, tucks his willy between his legs and gyrates to the whole club! As Essex akon called it, he had a mangina!
I befriend another gay man. Love them, so friendly. Flirty still trying it on with Essex akon but then pulls a tourist. Drunk grandad chatting to posh Essex girl about life, one of those nights!!
Head home at 4am, don’t want to see girls getting up for school in morning again but posh Essex girl and I chat until 5 about the trials and tribulations of life too!!
Up at 10 to spend last day with girls. Feel a tad hungover which makes me emotional. Cry at least 4 times before the evening! Love these girls! Have brought some gifts from England for girls but not enough for one each so buy more locally. Hats and scarves. Head back and hand out. They love them, hug me lots. Tell me to return at 8pm to say goodbye! Off to boys to say bye. Grandad and posh Essex girl are cooking for boys. Not enough for volunteers as huge portions dished out, oops!! I hand bibs out to boys that I brought over. They fight over them but love them. Wear them for dinner…wrong kind of bib boys! Lol
I have to beg boys I teach to wear bloody bibs in England.
Do a leaving speech, cry! Say bye to all boys getti and giving hugs and kisses, my little angel is the best hugger, and head to girls. They put a show on for me! I cried straight away. Christmas cards, leaving cards, bracelets, 2 speeches, songs, dancing, me looking stupid all in aid of me and my volunteering. Love them. Made me feel special and that I’ve made an impact in 5 weeks! Hand over my bags of clothes etc and say my goodbyes! Although hope to get up in morning to see them off to school.
Head out for last drink with volunteers. Posh Essex girl moody as no food all day. Nutter! So stays home. Quiet night for the rest of us just chatting. Nice bunch but not bonded with those as much as posh Essex girl, polish nutter and marine wife!
Our plan was to get up for sunrise and go to see sexy woman-inca ruins. Frizzy kept calling it sexy sunrise. Not sure what the taxi man would offer for that request!
At 4.40am I get up but looks cloudy, no point if it is, so snooze for 10 more minutes. No still cloudy so won’t see sunrise so back to sleep. Up at 7.30 to say bye to older girls before school. Cry again! Have brekkie then back for last half hour with girls. Tell Esther I’ve asked to be godmother, she hugs me so hard! Bless. I bought her a Christmas pressie yesterday. Never bought girly stuff before so that was a first! It’s a princess horse and carriage that plays music and blows bubbles!
Say goodbye cry again! Staff member cries, hugs me, won’t let me go? She’s the thieving suspect so all a bit weird! Made me a tad uncomfortable to be honest, OTT?? She then asks for my keys which I apprehensively give, then panic that she’ll go to posh Essex girls room whilst out and rob her again!! Pretend I’ve locked my room and need them back! Phew!
Bless posh Essex girl, she comes to airport with me to check all is ok. Been a good friend these 5 weeks and hope to keep on touch.
My adventure is over!! Well for now, and only one suitcase to carry home! Yay!









The fun thing about this volunteering is that you have a Social circle every night if you want. Unlike Australia when I stayed in hostels and not everyone speaks to each other, here you are thrown together and therefore can go out or stay in whatever is going on. And unlike my life where my social circles are dog walkers and sports friends who have young families.
So returning from the inca trail I decided I’d like a change of scenery, so we headed into town. Aussie sister hadn’t seen much of cusco so I text her and invited her too. Most volunteers are back at orphanages so all came out. Met new girls, frizzy and flirty both from London.
As there’s no internet due to a local fault at girls orphanage posh Essex girl and I headed to a coffee outlet to get free wifi and check messages etc. I had a pisco sour now I like them! Then we headed to a tourist pub to meet the other volunteers only expecting to stay for one. Some random English nutters started talking to me. One was a Phil Mitchell look a like and the other a cross between some mothers do have em and Rodney trotter! Very funny blokes so had a laugh, both from London. Frizzy then popped into conversation and was from same area as one of the funnies, small world. Aussies sister and posh Essex girl had a good chat, started talking baking careers so felt I’d leave them to it! Really nice atmosphere so stayed longer. Posh Essex girl was on large beers and was repeating the same stories over and over. Alcohol affecting her! Aussie sister knackered by 11.30 so headed home. Great to see her again though. I hope we keep in contact as have thoroughly enjoyed meeting her and her sister. Amazing people you meet here! And bless her she text on way home to say she thinks I’m an inspiration. How lovely! Hope to visit her new bistro next time I’m in Oz!
Essex akon had the flirtatious attention from flirty. Very obvious and amusing to watch. Playing darts but so bad that it took half hour for one to get the double to finish on. Had started to fall asleep watching! Found out lazy posh girl and model boy had a bit of a romance over the last few weeks. Bless the youngsters! Grandad knackered from
His week of travelling so headed home early. The rest of us went on to shark territory of the inca team. Frizzy asked me what it was like, I thought she meant the trek so off I went chatting before she went no I mean the club. Oops. Lol
Headed through the maze of touts offering free drink from every bar. Free drinks offered for our bar so in we go, rum and coke delightful! Good music though. English nutters followed us so more in group. Posh Essex girl and lazy posh girl having great chat and then head off to dance. Frizzy, ginger and Essex akon also head to dance so left alone again bit just head off to dance! Loving the sharks around the edge again! None approach is this time mind. Think the presence of men in our group puts them off. Posh Essex girl looking drunker by the minute. Kind of swaying to music with eyes shutting. You can tell when she’s had a few drinks as she’s more confident on the dance floor. Time for another drink, feeling too sober! There’s some girls helping behind the bar. Lazy posh girl wants to have a go so we start chatting to bar men. They ask for a tip either money or affection. I head in for a kiss and he shuns me saying no her, pointing at lazy posh girl. How rude, lol! So then it begins she gets to head behind the bar and serve us all. Free mohito thank you! She does very well and looks like she’s enjoying the male bartenders attention. Oh to be young. Free shots from the bottle for herself, not bad. Leave her to it for a bit and go to dance. Suddenly posh Essex girl heads off to bathroom. Upon return looks awful, think she’s been sick? Buy her a water but she’s swaying! She says it’s ok I’ll stay and finish water, but she just looks crap so I say let’s finish outside! Looks like I’m mum so head off to get taxi. Half way home she says I need window open but they are all locked shut. Driver starts to unlock but to late sick on her scarf. It’s a fab sick bag though! Taxi stops and I think he’s going to chuck us out so I get out, posh Essex girl lies on seat and manages to project sick out the taxi. Very impressive and hilarious to see. Taxi allows us to carry on for a whole 20p extra. Get back to orphanage and send her to clean teeth and drink water. She’s so funny!! Nice being soberish and laughing at situation. I’m not bothered by it at all, we all have nights like that!
2.30am not too late and had fun!
Next morning tired but ok. Posh Essex girl fine but embarrassed. Have to be up by 9.30 as boss man coming to take me to police station to report my thefts. Look really touristy as put on my Xmas jumper today as it’s the festive season! After 2 police stations we have the rudest man looking at me like a piece of dirt. 3 officers take my statement and boss man is not allowed in. He has a word with rude one as he knows his boss! Rude one not so rude all of a sudden. Takes 2 hours! And I have to leave my finger print on my statement. Who’s the criminal!! Have to go see a fiscal man Tuesday for follow up? No idea what that means? Very confusing! Glad boss man came. He’s so funny. He took a picture of rude man to show the boss police friend!! Ha ha.
When we catch up with other volunteers after long police morning lazy posh girl says the bar thing sounded fun but actually she was just harassed for 4 hours! They’re all wel jel they didn’t bring their Xmas jumpers! Im such a fashion guru…not!
I’m off to titikaka so won’t be out 2 nights on the bounce. The youngsters are planning it though! Posh Essex girl and I walk back to girls from boys, I have to remember way from when I did it with polish nutter. Pressure! Due to the bag slashing etc I am now travelling like a tourist with money belt and bag on chest. Look like a complete weirdo! Safe though! And I remember it, yay!

Social circles and miserable coppers!


More Peruvian sharks on the prowl

Back from the jungle and pleased to have a shower. Feel clean at last! And no more deet!! Could easily go to bed but it’s polish nutter and Craig David’s last night so we have to go out to celebrate.
We started at the tourist pub in town and had a cocktail. Craig David’s was the weirdest looking drink, like a rainbow. Bottom nice but top foul it seems. So them we went to the live music venue as polish nutter loves it, and the guitarist in particular! Posh Essex girl and I are knackered but just drink soft drinks to stay awake. Fun evening, salsa dancing towards the end. I have a sit down and watch. The guitarist spots me and tries to get me to dance. When I explain I’ve just returned from jungle he says oh please sit down! Bless him! Posh Essex girl not confident in dancing to start, bit stiff and looks self conscious. However Drummer takes a shine to posh Essex girl and invites us to a club.
Off we trot with most of the pub at 1am. No idea where to. Ends up being a local club with Spanish music. I have a cocktail to loosen me up so I’ll dance! Craig David buying whiskey drinks, yuck. I leave them to it. Nice to be in locals club rather than touristy! There’s a Peruvian man so drunk he’s puking on the spot where he’s leaning against the wall. A gay couple are there where one girl is snogging a bloke and her girlfriend is obviously upset! Feels like a tv drama. We befriend a Spanish very effeminate guy who keeps dancing with me. The Peruvian sharks are at it again. The straight/gay girl got caught early and was canoodling all evening. The other gay girl struts around the dance floor, pretty drunk it seems, and a shark heads in. He goes for a snog within a few minutes of dancing but she gets away!! He stares at her for ages trying to grasp what he did wrong??!! Even tries again later. Poor desperate shark! I pull a local but give polish nutter the ‘save me’ look so the group dance me away from him. At the bar there’s an odd looking local, I avoid eye contact but can see his longing glare out the corner of my eye. We all dance with each other which is fun but do not English!. Polish nutter and an ex orphanage worker dance quite suggestively but that’s just the Latin American way. I then pull gay girl, she’s bumping bums and dancing behind me! Check me out! Posh Essex girl loving it now, dancing loads with drummer.
Ex orphanage worker has a friend join us who sees I’m not with anyone so heads in! Bit of gyrating and I decide he wants more than a dance so politely refuse! He doesn’t understand! Bloody men! He even begs for more suggestive dancing, desperate or am I just that great! Lol
It’s 4.30 and we decide its time for sleep! Had a great night and sober! Only Went out to say goodbye and stayed up until dawn!!
We get back to flat and girls are up getting breakfast. They see us come in and I feel shit! Not a good example. We will be up for helping them at 10am though!
Polish nutter and ex orphanage worker don’t go to bed they head off to sexy woman (it’s an inca site) to see the sun rise! If only I didn’t want my bed so much! What a fun night though!!

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