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!


A typical day in a Nepalese village

So we return to happy home in the afternoon. The girls greet us happily and one in particular bina, so pleased she enthusiastically calls my name and hugs me. As Aussie boy is with us I have to move rooms and share with Aussie girl.
Now the other volunteers have gone we’re now the old guard as it were and have to teach the new one!
I can see the struggle to adapt in Aussie boys behaviour, and remember it well. You turn up with your own thoughts and reality is very different. He’s following us around like a lost sheep, that was indeed me on my first few days!
So a typical day here;
Awoken at 5.30 by the neighbour using the water pump as limited running water here, clearing his throat and general chores next door. The noise of a water pump will stay with me forever as a memory. Drift back to sleep but up at 6am to clear the buffalo shit, water the chickens, prepare dal baht, then head off to children’s day care. It’s a bit chilly in the mornings so leggings and a fleece needed. The sunrise I love so it makes the chores less demanding when you can smile at the sun! No breakfast until 10am but I have some bananas in room so have one to help malaria tablet go down. Also no water in our room so teeth cleaning done with a jug. You just get used to the randomness of when water works, when the electricitys working and cold showers! Aussie girl has an awful rash on her whole body, it’s blistered and peeled so she’s off to doctors leaving two of us to go today. Before we leave one of the girls put a tikka (paint) on our foreheads, I like to be involved so great!
It’s a 20 minute walk through the village, paddy fields and meeting lots of villagers along the way: namaste! We pass the local milk shop at its busiest at 7am, women and men working in the fields, push bikes ladened with milk or vegetables. A completely different way of life to my normal walk the dog in the rain, jump in my car, sit in traffic etc etc!!
It’s school holidays so never sure who’ll be at the day school. I take some supplies such as books, pens, word searches. Today we have 3 to start, finished with 14! All fighting over my resources so we finish a bit early and send them home. Ages range from 4-15 and English from none to fluent so hard to cater for all! I give each child a sticker each day but the cheeky beggars pretend they’ve not had one or just steal them!!
We leave the daycare at 8.45 and walk back to happy home. As we walk back through the village the kids say bye as they go into their houses (shacks), we see kids who didn’t come to day care that are instead doing chores for the family, it’s quite nice in a way knowing where everyone lives. Some kids are still begging me to give them resources as we walk away, sad faces tug at your heart strings but it’s best to say no.

We pass a man with what must be 100 or more carrots balanced on his bike. Love the randomness.
We return to dal baht time. Aussie girl has been told the rash is an allergic reaction and now has a small pharmacy to take. She says the doctors surgery is just a room so everyone watches you be examined. Lucky it’s not a private matter!
After dal baht we clear up the mess, wash up, sweep floors, mop floors, the jobs I cringed at when I first came here you just get on with such as cleaning the food out of the drain, squeezing the mop from dirty water. We then go to clean children’s house including their toilets which is a real joy! All this is finished by 11am. Normally we do gardening but the mummy of the house is away so we can’t ask. Very sad story, her grand daughter is 2 years old and has meningitis so badly I’m not sure she’ll recover. Doctors missed it at the start and now she’s in a vegetative state with tubes feeding her. So the mummy and family constantly head to doctors of all kinds, witch, medicine, herbal, headed over to India as well. Not sure anything will help?
Anyway so we chill with girls, read, play the guitar that Aussie boy brought here. The girls seem to wear the same clothes for about 5 days, they sleep in them too, but today must be shower and clean clothes day as different outfits appear. I walk the dog as I feel sorry for him, he’s not allowed off the lead due to disease in local dogs at the moment. The heat and early morning have wiped me out so I head for a midday nap!
In the afternoon I like to go for a walk just to break up the day and for some exercise. Today we walk to the river and have lunch as a change from dal baht. About 20 minutes walk again, through village, nice to see more of the locals. So many kids ask our names constantly we’ve decided to make them up. I’m now princess Leah, Aussie boy is gandulph! We walk back via the river and stop by an icecream bike! Yes a man selling icecream off the back of his bike. I had to get one!
Back to happy home and chill with kids again. We find the table tennis bats as there’s a very good home made table and play with the youngest girl samitha. She likes to pretend she’s lost the ball so you look for it and she then serves! Bless her. I play a bit with aussie boy just to pass the time, walk the dog round the garden again. Apparently he looks so happy when I do this!
Then it’s preparing dal baht time again! Aussie boy is a bit of a sheep still, not proactive in helping. He did however sign up to teach English as did we all, so this kind of domestic work isn’t his thing!
He seems to enjoy sitting in his room reading so we let him.
As our room has no water but Aussie boys does I head to his to shower. You feel clean for about 5 minutes before you have to put semi dirty clothes back on and spray insect repellent, and I can’t tell If my feet are tanned or dirty as the dirt is ground in now! Again in the evening it gets cooler so jeans are adorned for the few hours we are awake.
You can always tell when the electricity is on, children nowhere to be seen as they are glued to the television. These all over the world hey, although these kids accept when the power goes of and head outside or to their rooms.
We sit outside and colour with those children who don’t watch tv, even the 15 year old boys join in some colouring. The kids always ask for your phone or tablet so they can watch YouTube. I lend my phone for half hour, they love it! The boys also bring over the dog who I’ve named Gunther (from friends) I think his name is Gunter so not far off, to sit on the porch with us, he’s so happy he’s jumping around. They do love him just treat him differently to what is expect on the UK!
As mummy of the house is still
not back the girls are cooking again. It’s much later tonight, maybe because we came back late from lunch to prepare food?
Aussie girl is feeling ill so heads to bed at about 7.30. Maybe all those tablets she’s got!
8.30 dinner time. We usually serve the kids but it’s not so formal whilst the mummy is away. We wait until we are told to eat though as kids go first. Dal baht as usual, you kind of get used to eating with your hands. It took me a few days to let my inhibitions go but fine now!
After dinner we clean up, I make a cup of English tea!! Oh yes can’t be without and head to room to sort resources out for tomorrow’s day care. Just like being a teacher??
Fortunately tonight we have electricity so a light in the bathroom, we have a flushing toilet although no other running water so bed times not too bad a routine!
Bed at 9.30 to read more of my Michael Palin Himalayas book, fascinating and loving reading it whilst actually in the Himalayas!
Better choice then the last book which was about people climbing mount Kenya and one falling to her death!
Typical day in happy home, same again tomorrow! Although tomorrow I must wash some clothes, my shorts are filthy!






Village life in Nepal

So my first night in Nepal, slept well until about 2am when the noises from all around disturbed me. I’d forgotten that like in Peru you are so close to other houses, the animals and so on that you need to adjust to this. I’m used to a pretty quiet night back home in my cul de sac! Feeling a bit home sick. Always find the first few days hard, new culture, no friends, tired from travelling. And now I’m comparing to Peru all the time as that was awesome, not the best thing to do!
The kids wake at about 5.30, again something similar to Peru so they wake me too. But that’s ok as up at 6!its my journey to chitwan!
No breakfast as they don’t do breakfast apparently, so I just head off in the taxi awaiting me. For 6.30am the roads are busy. Kids walking to school, motor bikes whizzing in and out, push bikes ladened with shopping, crazy buses, horns honking constantly.
Locals going through rubbish, very sad to see firstly rubbish strewn everywhere but more upsetting the adults going through it hoping for something maybe to eat?
I’m busy watching the world go by and we stop by a load of buses. Next port of call. Out I get, onto the bus, he asks for payment and I say it’s all sorted? Is it? I don’t know but noones said I had to pay. Another English girl on bus but apart from a nod ignores me. Some Danish, Americans and locals too. That bus ride was madness. You know when you hit a pot hole driving and go oh shit. Well imagine the whole road of potholes and a 6 hour journey! Oh yes! He stopped for half hour at one point, fantastic, I could get some sleep without being thrown out my seat. It’s so hot as the day goes on I think I’m going to be sick!
Ive been warned that the bus sometimes forgets to stop at my next waiting point, so I get up the courage to go and remind the driver. Thankfully all was well and we stop although he ripped my case getting it out! Damn it.
Holding hotel nice enough, get a drink, free wifi and wait for next taxi. He arrives with either a gay friend or just a very weird look is trendy in Nepal. He has bleached hair spiked up, painted nails! Weird.
Another 40 minutes in the taxi on awful roads and I arrive. He doesn’t help but the mumma of the house shows me my room, another volunteer pops in and says hello before I collapse to sleep. Not eaten all day and tired!
When I awake another volunteer knocks and we all head into he village a 30 min walk. I need a few essentials. I forgot my razor and don’t want to look like a German by the end of the trek! Also found there’s no toilet roll in the rooms!
Nice girls, German…not a hairy one though and an Aussie! German been here 3 months and is like part of the establishment, Aussie just a few days so a good mix. We buy essentials, stop for a drink in a cafe, well actually a shed but hey ho, and head back. Only whites in the village so everyone chats to us!
I find out we have wifi at the orphanage, limited electricity, no hot water but bloody wifi!!! Seems all wrong to me.
Good for me but wasn’t that bothered. The electricity comes on for a few hours a day usually at night, it’s a village thing.
Back to happy home, that’s what it’s called, and start preparing dinner, then socialise with kids. I give them some bits from home. They love the hair ties, bubbles, harmonica but the tampons threw them, never heard of them! They were very confused and none of us wanted to explain! Oops.
We help them with homework, most can speak good English but can’t read it as well as spoken. Dinner which apparently is the same as breakfast is rice with a stew and lentil soup. Everyone eating with their hands, I still can’t do it! Maybe tomorrow!! Electricity comes on as we eat, so kids head back to their rooms when finished and can watch some tv.
We clean kitchen, check on kids who bless them are doing work, it’s the mumma that puts tv on which is a Nepalese soap as bad as eldorado! Those of you old enough to remember!!! by then it’s 9pm I’m off to snodland! Good first day.
So my first full day at the orphanage, what did I learn???
Well us volunteers are general dogs bodies! 6.30 we are shovelling buffalo shit, give poor battery chickens water, then although told not to by the boss as there’s exams on?? We head into village to see children’s club kids. Help them with work. The kids club is a 30 min walk, and situated in the middle of the village. About 10 kids there today, very cute, quite scruffy but friendly too, happy for us too help. Good at English and maths. The room it’s held in as a classroom with a few low level tables. No chairs. Writing all over walls teaching English, maths, Nepalese and I think Hindi? We can only stay an hour but I hope I can come back. They need my resources more than the orphanage to be honest. The kids in their dirty clothes and runny noses love to ask questions. Back to happy home to clean up after breakfast, oh yes we get some after being up 3 hours although it’s just the same as dinner, local dish. However I get with it and eat with my hands as per tradition! When in Rome! Then in 25 degree heat plough the veggie patch, clean the house, and then get a rest. I’m not sure id want to do this for more than 2 weeks! Am I helping the orphans? Not really. Am I making a difference? Not really! It’s an experience indeed, and great to see village life, but not what it’s sold as. The more we discuss the owner of the orphanage the more he sounds like a complete twat! Out to be the big I am in the village. Wants me to stay at orphanage to help those kids not whole village so his results look good?? Also three different companies brought us three volunteers here, none of us doing the project we signed up for. German girl construction and had an argument with him over it. Aussie also teaching and put here. He puts everyone in his orphanages!!
Anyway so after a delightful cold shower to cleanse me from the hard work, and a sleep (manual labour in heat kills me off) we had a lovely afternoon by the river eating chips! Oh Yes! And cold drinks.
The owners of restaurant both come out, ‘you’re new?’ To me, yes a new white girl in the village.
The only white people here are us from the orphanage.
Afternoon and the evening consists of spending time with kids, I start making a pom pom but they have no idea what it is, preparing dinner, the kids eat first, we then eat ours, cleaning up after them, helping with work although the power comes on in the evening so tv as anywhere in the world is a distraction too far!
Despite my moans I’m pleased I’m here, blistered hands and all and pleased to be ‘working’ unlike Iceland.
I clearly didn’t research enough though as temperatures here way higher than Kathmandu so jeans was not the best trouser choice! Lucky my trekking pants turn into shorts!!


More volunteering, off to Asia!!

Having had to pay £100 for my excess baggage last time I volunteered I was sure I wasn’t doing that this time! Lots of items people have donated, books, t-shirts, games, toiletries all for the orphans and village children to fit in my case, I could fill it practically with just that but mustn’t forget my trekking gear!! It took me 6 efforts firstly to get the damn suit case closed and then to get it to the correct weight. Now I’m supposedly quite intelligent but there’s me trying to read the weight of my case on the scales by lying on the flour, torch in hand! My lodger then says just weigh yourself then weigh yourself holding the case. Genius hey!! Can’t believe I haven’t done that before! Had to leave a few bits behind, cuddly toys, sanitary items, some of my clothing but also my sleeping bag! It was only on the optional list so Let’s hope the blankets are warm enough!
Bed time, 12.30, knackered and try to finish off my book so I don’t take a nearly finished book with me. It’s no use my eyes are too tired.
In the morning I can at least chill a bit as it’s a Sunday although have an emergency visit to vets to fit in as cats ill, but they’re not open until 10.30. Head out for dog walk call vets and get told no appointments but can sit and wait for an emergency. Joy!
We get seen after an hour wait so could of been worse, all sorted!
So load car, dog stuff and travel items as dog staying at parents and off to get a lift with dads taxi I go. He drives me to tube station, cheaper and quicker all round than driving around the M25. Tubes not too busy and the one place I had stairs a nice man carried my case for me. Very helpful on the tube!! A fellow traveller had a panic attack on top of escalators, scared to go on with her case, caused a bit if a commotion bless! Takes just an hour and a half and I’m there. Fingers crossed I weighed my baggage correctly!!
Ethiad very helpful, no issue with case although as ideal I get a big sticker saying heavy!!
Two hours until flight so refreshments time, I toy with getting an alcoholic beverage to chill with at the airport but am so tired I opt for the boring cup of tea, served in a cafetiere no less! I can hear my old hockey mates calling me boing already!! Booked a widow seat so I can chill and not be disturbed. Nice man sat next to me, makes a change from the fat or posh ladies I usually get. We both take shoes off straight away, read the free newspaper then entertainment magazine and settle down like a couple although not talking, so yes maybe like a married couple!!
Movie selection awesome, box office such as 12 years a slave and gravity. Haven’t seen 12 years so that’s on straight away. Cry my eyes out!
Food good enough although that poor husband of mine gets his vegetarian food early then no drink until normal food served. Time for sleep!!
Real mix of people on the plane, a few look like backpackers, families, Arabs.
Stop off is in Abu Dhabi, I manage to nick no maybe aquite is a better word, loads of eye masks for kids games and toothbrushes and socks for them also!
So first stop is Abu dhabi. Saw some amazing buildings as we flew over. Small but nice, toilets adjoining the prayer room. Bit of a random set up. Lush toilets though. Will enjoy the last luxuries for 6 weeks!
Have two hours to kill but can’t find enough space to sleep so read and chill. Happily sitting there when a woman asks If the seat next to me is free although my bag is on it, I move it no worries. Not content at that she then asks me to move as well so her and her friend can sit together! The annoying thing was they never actually both sat down, left their coats there so no one else sat down for about 20 mins then one of them came back then they left!
There are some very odd coloured tanned people at Abu Dhabi. Maybe because I’ve come from winter in he UK but some just looked weird!
Head to gate and start to panic, security check, no I’m not carrying illegals but have my drinks with me. Better be allowed liquids bought in an airport I get very thirsty on the plane.
Phew either you’re allowed or they weren’t looking properly, either way I’m happy.
A few Trekkers to be seen now with walking boots on. Sweltering like me In winter clothing!
It’s a mini plane to Kathmandu. Only 6 seats wide and 25 back?
A French dude is sat in my window seat. He says sorry his group told him to sit there!! Mmmhhhh. Same movies to choose from so I watch the delivery man, bit crap but hey it’s entertained me, then sleep. Only managed 4 hours in total I think.
No eye masks to acquire this time but keep my headphones. Such a chav!
I’m feeling sick from the heat in the plane. Yuck. Off into well kind of fresh air I suppose but quite warm and dusty. In to airport and visa time. Tried doing it online but no one allowed me. The bloody queue was a hour long. And I’ve booked for 36 days costing me $50 more than being here for 30 days or less. Doh!
Head to baggage reclaim, it’s taken so long the left luggage is in a pile in the middle of the room!
Outside I go looking for my name being held aloft. Exciting to be greeted. Oh, nope no one there for me. How disappointing. Third time I’ve been waiting and no one showed on my travels. Fortunately they are all friendly here and someone knows my company and calls him, 10 mins late. Is that like Peruvian time I wonder?
Whilst waiting I people watch, some trendy young lads swagger past, a young girl in heeled shows too big for her and make up rather cakes on. Peruvian time it is 25 mins later the host and his wife pick me up. Nice people, chat a bit. It’s exam time here so apparently I can’t go into the school to teach. Bit disappointed. Still all volunteering. We stop for the mrs to go shopping and she’s ages, I’m so tired I fall asleep. I did tell myself it’s a tad dangerous to fall asleep in a strange country in a strangers car by my eyes were so heavy. I awake and am in tact anyway!
Off to their house, where I stay for one night, traffic is awful. Dusty roads, motorbikes dodging in and out, crazy buses again just like Peru. And monkeys walking the streets.
At the house I’m greeted by another volunteer and the families three kids. The volunteer is Australian, young lad on a gap year of sorts. Kids all speak English. Wifi here! Yay. Last chance for a while I assume.
My room is large, bathroom to my self I think so all good. I show the host lady the bits I brought over for the kids. Let’s just say I’ve seen more gratitude for an off cup of milk! Bit disappointing to be honest.
They cook us dinner, and we head up. The grandfather in the house starts first and eats with his hands. Now it’s all traditional I know that but I just couldn’t get my head around it. Looks like starving children desperate to eat their first meal? They allow us to use cutlery so thankfully the two of us do our western thing! The boys have a fight at the table shouting and punching, they drink out of he communal bottle of water. Odd odd odd!
I offer to wash up but she declines.
Head off for a shower and just as I’m about to jump, well step into wet side (not an actual shower) of bathroom the lights go out! I thought it was just the timer so dress again and go outside, no a power cut. Lucky I wasn’t in the shower already!
Sorted after 10 minutes and try again. The shower hose is broken so it’s not a shower it’s a waterfall. Hot though so that’s a bonus! 9.30 bedtime as up at 6am to have a 6 hour drive to orphanage!


It’s party time, Cuzco style!

Saturday was a planned birthday party for two of the boy orphans who’s birthdays fell either side. We volunteers had decided to buy birthday cakes from a local shop for each birthday boy and chipped in for present. Grandad took charge of ideas knowing them best, and had a strict budget even though some expensive ideas!! We looked at skateboards!! No chance but settled on a Brazil shirt for one and radio for other. I also had given a German footy shirt (an ex gave it to me, way too big for me and I don’t follow German football so he missed the goalpost there), to one boy from home and had a Chelsea annual for the other. Hope they liked them? Thought that counts?!?
We found a fab new market when present shopping. Must visit again. May buy a fake Man U shirt! Looked for a Tottenham one to send to my Oz friends but they clearly haven’t made it this far across the pond!!
Back to boys orphanage to wait for party. Chilled with the kids first playing volleyball, well trying too on some counts. West ham girl tried and failed miserably bless her. It was funny though. The kids were laughing. Duracell bunny is very good at Le volley! grandad not bad either. Most of us have a go at some point although not lazy posh girl as she’ll openly admit sports not for her, or new boy Spanish speaker as he’s poorly from altitude sickness.
We’d blown up balloons for party and bought candles too but waited till later to set up.
Party has to wait as they begin with religious singing and then sermon. Singing hymns in Spanish was good fun and informative. Sermon however went off on the biggest tangent ever. Started about baptism and talked far too much about new family’s and mothers and fathers. About 40 mins long. Patricia (one of the orphans) was sound asleep and even the volunteers had switched off! We thought the godparents from the baptisms were being announced but think the priest got side tracked?Eventually on to party starting with singing happy birthday to the 2 boys and them blowing out the candles. They were so appreciative of the presents. One had tears in his eyes. A birthday bag of fun bits from the orphanage and our gift is all they got but were so very grateful. It’s so nice to see, we’re all so greedy in the UK. Me included! Anyway then the music came on and I was in my element. Macarena which loads of us knew. Then to my joy whigfield Saturday night!!! I love that song. Mum and I used to do it on holiday. Half the volunteers are way to young to know it so I taught everyone and got a round of applause, such fun!! Then one of the orphans taught us all the thriller dance.
The balloons kept youngsters happy all night. The youngest Surema ran around with about 20 balloons tied together. She’s only 5 so was dwarfed by the balloons! Everyone danced at some point. Really fun, very sweaty but who cares??!!
Volunteers all went out after for pizza which was nice. 13 of us. Only Swiss girl stayed back. She’s not the sociable kind but lovely. The weirdest programme was on tv!
It translated to the fuck sisters? Les hermanas caraju? Followed by people eating weird stuff to make them sick? Just what you want when eating!
Tight squeeze on table so we had to use the ‘T Rex’ cut! Never heard that saying but love it. Thanks to American chewer!
Most of us headed to live music bar after. Lazy posh girl doesn’t like it so went home, taking west ham girl and model boy with her. They have been on the lash for 4 nights to be fair, but she didn’t like our choice of venue so kind of stropped a bit. Model boy looked like death to be fair to him. Partying too hard!
I manage to walk in the biggest pile of dog shit on way, how delightful! But on the plus got wolf whistled at twice! Clearly more attractive in Peru? Or maybe the men are more desperate? Either way I’ll take some male attention! Live music was not my cup of tea when we got there, added to smokey atmosphere, but crazy polish girl loves it so she headed straight to watch. Too smoky for me so headed upstairs, less crowded and cooler. Music got better after a while and so I went down to watch. Lead guitarist is tribal dude with tattoo on forehead! Drummer looked like a monkey when drumming, all very weird. Lasted until 1am. Said goodby to Greek girls as they are off before we return so won’t see them again! Shame as like them!
Practiced my Spanish in cab again and it worked, yay!!
Amazon tomorrow!!!