Friday, October 30, 2015

A South American Summery

Wow, what a trip this was!
It was my most hectic vacation; I did eight countries, 11 flights and experienced a lot - in just 11 days.
But boy, was it fun! :)

I was almost surprised (but very happy for it) that our time plan actually worked. Despite all the flights, taxis, tours and trains - we didn't miss a single one and no major delays. Yay!

I think we choose a good time of the year for this trip; however it was colder than expected - especially Chile.
After that country it did get warmer, like Rio which was really warm.

Chile also surprised me a bit with the prices; it was about the same as in Sweden. The other countries was a little cheaper, but still.

Our strategy of ending the trip with a few high class hotels was very solid.
It energized us to continue for the last few days even though we were exhausted - and it also gave us that good feeling about the trip when returning home.

I did check of several things on an imaginary todo-list on this trip which was very nice, like visit four new countries, took a swim by an island in the Pacific ocean, took a swim in the Atlantic, saw the night sky from the southern hemisphere, drank caipirinha in Rio, visited Copacabana, some new Bond locations, two Wonders of the world (+ one nominee!), visited the Titicaca lake and so on...

Additional important message: South Americans do not know how to make French Fries.

Counting the money for this trip can always be interesting to some.
The flights was of course the big expense on this trip, it ended at about 35000 SEK.
The total cost for the this trip was 48000 SEK.
Expensive for sure, but we did get a lot of things done during this time.

Advised by Henrik, I did not calculate how much of this trip we spent at airports and in the air.
It's probably best not to do it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Friday September 18th

At 08:00 we arrived at CDG, Paris.

It was time for me and Henrik to part ways. He is going back to Stockholm and I, after a 5 hours wait, is heading home to Gothenburg.

Landed in Landvetter airport at 15:00 and took a taxi home. This trip is over.

Where to next..?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Thursday September 17th

After a very nice breakfast at this great hotel, we went down to the beach for an hour to get the last of this vacation before it had to end.

Heading back to the hotel, packed our stuff - and onto the airport.

At 16:10 our 11 hour flight back to Europe began.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Wednesday September 16th

We landed in Rio at 4:45 local time. We didn't sleep too much on the flight, but it feels ok anyway, which is good. We have some places to be today!

We got a pick up to our hotel; the Miramar Hotel by Windsor. At arrival we they gave us a glass of champagne and a few minutes later our room. We wasn't sure if we would get our room so early, but luckily we did.

Our room had this great view of Copacabana:

Then we took a shower and got ready for today's adventure.

First a taxi to the cable car beneath the Sugar loaf. After waiting a few minutes, we took the forst car for the day to the first plateau.

We are not there only for the fine view, we have also Bond business to attend.

At the first plateau, we could recognize scenes from the movie Moonraker:

Then we headed up to the second and last plateau, the sugar loaf itself.

Here we found even more Bond locations.

And of course a lovely view of Rio.

We spend some time there (and ate breakfast), but eventually we headed down again.

New taxi; this time to the train/funicular that would take us to Cristo Redentor (you can also take a minibus up there, which would be simpler and take much less time, but I wanted to do the train).
We arrived at the station at 10:20 - and got train tickets to 11:40.
During the wait, the heat came to Rio. It is really getting hot here now.

A 20 minutes train trip later, we arrived at the top of Corcovado.
And there is Cristo - and a whole bunch of tourists.

We did our thing, taking photos of the guy himself, the lovely view
and a few selfies,

before we escaped the sun and went back to the hotel to take it easy for a while.

When the temperature outside started to go down, we went to the beach. Our hotel was just by Tower 5.

Copacabana is a nice beach, but with big waves coming in which made it hard to do any real bathing. So we just jumped in for a bit, sat on our beach chairs - and repeated the process.
It was very nice to relax for a bit.

Back at the room, we had earlier discovered a fun leaflet from the hotel:

Henrik now tried to ask the cleaning lady in French (the closest language to Brazilian Portuguese any of us spoke) to get another one so we could both take it home to show friends.
He talked to her for several minutes, trying to make her understand.
It didn't work.

Five minutes later the cleaning lady came back with an envelope - with condoms.

Time for our last meal in South America. We stopped by our hotel pool to have a Caiprinha (of course - when in Brazil!) and then went to a nice Italian restaurant (Don Camillo) recommended to us by the reception at the hotel.
The food was very good.
Then back to the hotel. We can actually sleep in tomorrow. Yay! :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tuesday September 15th

I had a major problem sleeping tonight. I am bitten by those damn Machu Picchu bugs all over my arms and legs. I have about 40-50 bites - and they all itch as hell. (use better bug repellent, kids!)

One of my legs:

Just after 9 we got up and fixed most of our luggage and went down to a lovely breakfast. Today is another travelling day.

We checked out at 10, left our luggage at the hotel and took a stroll around Cusco (well, a few blocks close to the hotel anyway).

We encountered a demonstration that was against something. We didn't look too closely.

Then we went back to the hotel to treat ourself, we do have a few hours finally - and apparently this is suppose to be a vacation!

I also talked to the hotel's nurse and she treated my bug bites (didn't really work though). :(

We went to the spa to relax for a while and then we just chilled until the taxi came to take us to the airport.

When we checked in our luggage, the guy there told us to remove all valuables from our bags, because of possible thieves (wtf?!?!). So we did.

At 16:45 our plane left for an hour ride to Lima, where we waiting for our next flight and at 21:40 we departed Lima for our five hour fight to Rio de Janeiro - our final stop before we go home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Monday September 14th

Another super early morning; up 4:30, check out at 5:00, Breakfast at 5:05. Leaving hotel at 5:15.

The deal with getting to Machu Picchu is that you need to take the bus (or walk if you are cheap/crazy). A return ticket cost $24.

The first buses goes around 5:30 - 5:45 and even when we got to the bus station at 5:17, there were already a massive cue (around 150 meters).

So, yeah - you need to wake up early because everyone else does (and the earlier you get up there, the better).

So the queue started moving at around 5:39. We got on a bus at 5:51.
The bus takes you up the mountain, through the fog that was extensive today, and up to the Machu Picchu entrance (we arrived at 6:14).

Finally here! Another one of the Seven wonders of the Modern World!

The fog embraced the ruins in a mystical and adventurous way, however it also limited your vision so you couldn't see that far.

Sometimes the wind would clear some of the fog so you can see more, but it always came back.

Me and Henrik went through the "higher part" of Machu Picchu (following the recommended path) until we got to the other side. This is where the gate is if you want to go to the top of Wayna Picchu, a high-ass mountain next door.

We had bought the combo-ticket for both Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu, but even though Henrik was feeling better today, he didn't feel good enough to walk up this mountain.

We had a pass for the early time; 7:00-8:00. We got there at 8:05, but fortunately the guard let me pass anyway (but I had to sign in with the time "08:00"). I was the last out of the gate with number 161 (there are only 200 part time slot - and there is two time slots per day, the other is 10:00-11:00).

So I started walking along the path towards Wayna Picchu. Since it is another mountain, I had to go downwards a bit, before I could start walking up the actually mountain I was there for to climb.

F*ck this is high!

Once on Wayna Picchu, the path were basically just a large amount of steps. Irregular and often steep.

I don't know how many times I had to stop and rest before I fell over dead, but I got closer and closer. My legs are trembling and my knees are hurting. And I have been out of breath since I left the gate at Machu Picchu.

I met a few going down again (after being at the top) and one group told me that I was just a few minutes from the first real view point to see Machu Picchu. They had been there for 30 minutes before they gave up. The fog was still there and you couldn't see anything.
Damn. :(

Eventually I got to the place they told me about (at 09:00) and I rested there and took some photos of the invisible Machu Picchu.

But after just a minute or two, the fog started lifting and we could finally see Machu Picchu!

Then I started walking upwards again (and I had to climb through a cave/tunnel to get there!?).

I finally reach the top at 09:15 (it wasn't that far from the first view point, but there was a lot of photo opportunities on the way that made it go slower).

I had made it to the top!
Even I was amazed about it! :D

Here we saw the small, small Machu Picchu in the distance, but also the rest of the view from here was stunning.

I had now gone from Aguas Calientes at 2040 meters above sea level via Machu Pichhu's 2430 m to Wayna Picchu at 2720 m.

I stayed here for a little bit to rest and then it was time to head back (09:30).

The way down (especially close to the top) was very steep. It was very easy to fall and/or sprain an ankle. And now my knees are pretty much dead. So much pain.

It was somewhat faster going back, but it still took a while. At 10:25 I was finally back at the gate. I was very happy to have made it! :)

Walking through Machu Picchu again, the fog was gone so you could see the whole site.

However now it was  very, very hot here. I was already totally drained and it hurt just to take a step. I got flashbacks from my near-death experience at Gibraltar.

Not only the heat is trying to get hold of you up here, the mosquitoes and sand bugs are attacking you as well!

I considered myself done with Machu Picchu at 11:25 and took the bus down the Aguas Calientes. I met up with Henrik at our hotel and I could finally get some rest.

After a hour or so, we went to get some food at a restaurant before it was time to catch the train back to Cusco at 15:20.

The train ride was long and boring, but after almost four hours we got there.

Our taxi driver from yesterday was there waiting and took us to our hotel for the night, the JW Marriot El Convento Cusco. It feels really good to be back at a JW Marriot hotel. I should always stay at their hotels!

We got room 123 and after a room service meal, I went to the spa to sit in the jacuzzi and just relax. I figured that I had deserved it. In the mean time Henrik was regaining his strength watching the NFL season first game with Denver Broncos.

We also got these cakes courtesy of the hotel, really nice of them (but we never finished them).

Info box!
So how do you get to Machu Picchu? This is what we did:

Since there is a limited access to Machu Picchu (2500 per day), we ordered our tickets long before our trip to South America. We bought the tickets at the official Machu Picchu web page.

They have a few different tickets, but we chose the combination ticket Machu Picchu + Huayna (Wayna) Picchu since we we figured we might want to do that peak too. The difference in price wasn't too much so in case we decided on site to skip Huayna Picchu, it wouldn't really matter.

The ordering was quite easy (once you have your passport number) and the tickets were sent electronically.

The train to get to Machu Picchu was another story.
You travel with PeruRail and as a non-Peruvian, you have three different trains to choose from;

Expedition, Vistadome and the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham.
I would recommend the Vistadome trains which have big panoramic windows to better see the lovely nature outside. Unless you can afford the Belmond Hiram Bingham of course! :)

The tickets are easily available from their web page.

Note that each passenger is only allowed to bring 1 bag or backpack (max weight 5 kg).
There are luggage storage at the train stations of Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, but if you need to bring more luggage on the train, just contact PeruRail and they can probably take care of it (they did for us). Information can be found on their web page.

You would usually take the train to Machu Picchu from Cusco, but the trains do have other stops.
The train ride takes about 3-4 hours.

Of course there are inca trails you can walk to get to Machu Picchu, but we took the train so you'll have to investigate those yourself. :)

Tickets to the bus from Aguas Calientes to the site can only be bought in the town at the bus station.

If you go to Machu Picchu, I would recommend you to get up there as early as possible. Yes, it was a lot of fog when we were there, but you get to do most of it (including Wayna Picchu) before it gets to hot. I can't even imagine me climbing that mountain in the heat that met me when I got back to Machu Picchu.

You need a good mosquito/bug repellent. Mine works at home, but had no chance here. I got bitten plenty.
Maybe a good option is to get whatever the locals have? That repellent should work for the local mosquitoes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sunday September 13th

Up at 6:30, time to leave Bolivia and head for Peru.

At the airport, we got a surprise; the airline had decided to move our flight from 10:10 to 11:00. Not so good when you have a train to catch at around 13:00 - in a city two hours away from the arriving airport (note that Bolivian time is one hour ahead of Peru time).

We were stressed all the flight and of course the immigration papers ran out on the plane so we had to fill those in on site. Time wasted!

We ran out of the Cusco airport, grabbed a taxi (our negotiation skills weren't the best at this point: "we have to be at this city ASAP. How much?").
But at least we negotiated down the price from $100 to $85 (normal price for this is around $65).

Our taxi guy couldn't speak English, but he could drive fast! :)
He managed not to hit anything on the way (but he did do the cross sign over his chest at one point) - and incredible enough, get us to Ollantaytambo just in time (took him about 1 hours and 40 minutes)!

Because of this we made a deal to pick us up tomorrow when we are returning.

The train ride took us through the Peruvian mountains and it was beautiful.

Henrik had a bad time though, he is just getting worse.

After almost two hours, we reached Auges Calientes (aka Machu Picchu city). Going out from the train station, we had to go through millions (well, almost) of souvenir shops. Very tourist-y, very not-nice.

The town is pretty small so we reached the hotel after just a few minutes, even though it was on the other side.

The hotel was called Tierra Viva and we got room 508 on the top floor.

The view from the room was very divided:

While Henrik was resting, I went out and looked at the town.

It didn't take long.

When I got back to the hotel, I took a quick rest then we went out to a restaurant.

I had a Peruvian dish, Lomo Saltado (beef with vegetables and rice + french fries). It was good.
Henrik went home before the food arrived. He really doesn't feel well.

Then time to sleep. We have yet another early morning tomorrow.