LATAM 2019,  Travel

Cusco, Santiago and Valparaiso in week four (LATAM 2019)

I’m starting my fourth week of travel now and I think it’s going to be an interesting week. For one, I’m going to be able to get out of Cusco soon – yay!

Honestly, I never thought I would be saying that. Especially, when getting here was a long-standing dream. However, that’s how life works, isn’t it? You think you want one thing, you get it, and then you realise you actually need something else.

In my case, I need to be on lower ground again. I need to be able to eat a full meal again and I need to get back to developed civilisation. My flight to Santiago can’t come fast enough at this point!

 

Day 22 – Yet another rest day…

I really don’t have much to report today. Ashley and I booked to go wild water rafting, but my stomach is simply not allowing it. I went down to breakfast feeling perfectly okay. Then I came back from breakfast feeling… well… perfectly not okay…

I asked the receptionist to call Mayuc and re-schedule our excursion for tomorrow. It turns out the bus is already on its way to pick us up though. Luckily, my persuasion skills are still on point. I outline my situation to the lady at Mayuc and we come to an agreement. She will let us re-schedule the excursion, if I agree to lose our deposit in case of a second no-show. Sounds fair to me!

Ashley and I spend another day binge-watching ‘How to get away with murder’. (I’m telling you, that show is both horrifying and addictive!)

In the evening, we need to find some dinner again. Since there is no option for take-away and we do not want greasy chicken and chips, we decide to risk an excursion. We look online to see what’s available and find a yummy looking asian restaurant. It’s called UFO Asian Food – original!

We take a taxi there and I am delighted with my asian noodles, chicken and soy sauce. Ashley isn’t quite so enamoured with her curry. I didn’t think to mention that Asian curry is very VERY different from Indian curry. I sometimes forget not everyone has eaten around like I have… I’m so sorry Ash!

We also ended up chatting with the head chef Julian for a while – he’s super friendly and speaks great English.

Good news too – I’m feeling pretty well again after this evening. So, fingers crossed that means we’re all set for our excursion tomorrow. Go go power rafting! 😉

Memories…

 

Day 23 – Wild water rafting on the Urubamba River

I’m super happy this morning!

The sun is shining, I’m feeling good, and Ashley and I finally get to go on the wild water rafting trip we booked. Yay! I’m also so chuffed to be able to share this experience with my bestie. Especially since it’s something we’re both super excited about! (We are quite different from each other, so that’s not always a given!)

A minibus comes to pick us up after a quick breakfast. It looks like we’re about 12 people today. I step up into the bus and sit down next to a guy. I want to say something to him, but decide not to. He doesn’t look like he’s really in a talking mood right now…

Ashley’s busy with her music, so I decide to sit back, relax and enjoy the journey. It’s about 1.5 hours to the river. Luckily, the two girls in front of me who are talking to one of the Mayuc boys are pretty entertaining.

I find it can be quite interesting to just watch people sometimes. It’s fascinating to watch their gestures, antics and reactions to different situations.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Mayuc boy (actually man…) is pretty nice on the eyes. His voice is kind of soothing. I decide he really is a sexy son of a gun… but he knows it (and shows it too – le sigh…).

Then again… eye candy will be eye candy. At least for today! 😉

Arriving at the lodge, we are handed a wet suit, booties, helmet, safety jacket and paddle to adopt. A quick stop in the bathrooms to change and it’s back into the bus for 10 minutes.

The Mayuc Lodge

 

Welcome to the rapids

Just after mid-day we finally arrive at the river. It’s rafting time bay-bayyy!

Upon arrival at the river we are split into two groups. My group includes Ashley, the two girls from the bus (one from Russia, the other from the US it turns out) and the man who was sitting next to me on the bus. Apparently he’s from Chile.

Then there’s another trusty Mayuc man, who will be steering us safely through the rapids. He’s a short, lithe looking man with a slightly crooked sense of humour. The quirky kind it seems. Looks like we’re all set for a fantastically fun day!

Our Mayuc man explains that the Urubamba River actually leads all the way to Machu Picchu. That’s up the river and entails deadly rapids though, so we won’t be heading that way. Today, apparently, we’ll be heading in the other direction – across rapids with class levels from 0 to 3+.

A what now?

I’ll be honest and say I actually have no idea what that means. What is a class 3+ rapid? I suppose it can’t be too dangerous, since there weren’t any restrictions on joining the tour.

I still decide to send a prayer up to the heavens asking for me to remain within the raft for the duration of the trip though. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, right?

Our Mayuc man then gives us a quick safety lesson where he teaches us some neat rescue tricks. In the event that we do fall out of the raft, we apparently need to hold on to the ropes on the raft sides and go with the flow on our back.

In the case that we can’t actually catch the rope though, we should float on our backs down the river and wait for the rescue kayak to come find us. Then we’ll be taking on the position of “Superman” (arms reached out front) and grab the back of the rescue kayak.

The minute we learn about what to do in the case that two people fall out of the raft simultaneously though, I sincerely hope I get the role of superman.

Otherwise, it seems, I would need to take on a weirdly sexual looking position that our Mayuc man is demonstrating in front of us. He’s literally straddling the front side of the rescue kayak in the most hilarious fashion!

Having said that… I’m pretty sure that would be an interesting experience. I’ll still hope not to experience it though hahaha.

First glimpse of the Urubamba River, Peru

 

Rolling, rolling, rolling down the river

As we get into the raft and start making our way down the river I can’t help but feel exhilarated. The landscape around us is impressive. There are mountains rising up all around us. It makes me feel small, but I somehow feel very powerful at the same time. It’s an odd sensation.

As a team, we do a few test strokes together. Our Mayuc man sets the rhythm with his 1, 2, – 1,2 – 1,2. Then as we gain confidence he throws in the occasional paddle back! Inside! Stooopppp! Within no time we’re all laughing and in stitches!

Gradually we make our way through the rapids. Level 0 starts slow, picking up to level 1, level 2 and then we finally encounter a couple of 3+ rapids too.

It turns out that a level 3+ rapid is actually pretty small (at least compared to what I had been imagining in my mind). However, at one point Mr. Chile, sat at the front left of the raft, does take a tumble!

 

Short break for a safety warning…

(A word of advice to anyone thinking of rafting in the future… if you want to minimise your chances of falling out of a raft do not – I repeat – DO NOT – sit in the front row!)

Looking at Mr. Chile at this point, I have to say I’m pretty impressed. Although he fell out of the boat, he actually performs a pretty flawless save.

After crashing into the water head first, he somehow manages to catch on to the boat ropes, flip himself around and float more or less gracefully along the rapids with us. Within no time Mayuc man then tugs him back into the raft and next thing you know we’re all back on track.

Rowing like champs and laughing like there’s no tomorrow, I start to realise that every now and then Mr. Chile and I are catching each other’s eyes, with big grins on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes. Mmmm… I suppose he’s not too bad on the eyes either 😉

For the whole 2.5 hour duration of our cruise down the river I sincerely feel the happiest I’ve felt in a long time. We see stunning landscapes, cheeky goats, sheep and shepherds. The look, sound and life of the water is just magnificent. I can’t really put into words how amazingly free I feel at this moment. It’s like I have no worries in the world right now. Like the world simply exists and is filled with joy.

Unfortunately, in what seems like no time our rafting excursion is over. I suppose all good things must come to an end eventually. This particular adventure, however, will definitely not end before lunch haha!

Memories…

 

Zippin’ across the river

Once we finish rafting, we have the run of the lodge. The Mayuc lodge has an awesome sauna that we make use of, before heading for the showers and then to lunch.

Lunch is a wonderful affair, in my eyes. It starts off with a yummy soup, which I can’t identify, but definitely has lentils in it. The main is then a deliciously grilled leg of chicken with some rice and freshly baked bread. The neighbourhood cat and little kitten stop by for a visit too – they are just too adorable!

After lunch, we’re asked to get ready for a zip-lining adventure. Harnesses get swung around and an air of excitement starts to fill the air.

As I’m completely petrified of heights (and have never had much success getting over that, despite how hard I tried in the past), I decide to skip this particular activity.

Instead, I take on the role of camerawoman and have fun watching the others freak out as they zip across the river. It’s really quite a sight!

The minute I realise everyone has to zip-line twice in order to get back to this side of the river, I also let out a sigh of relief for having skipped it. I may have been able to manage one way, but I’m not too sure how I would have fared trying to make it back again. Yikes!

All good things must come to an end…

Once everyone is safely back on firm ground, it’s time for one last group picture. Then it’s time for the bus ride home.

This time the ride is a much more animated affair. It turns out Mr. Chile and I are in the same seats and have a lot to talk about. So much in fact that we don’t stop talking the entire 1.5-2 hour trip back and then make plans to continue over dinner!

I don’t know about you, but I just love feeling connected to people.

And the knowledge that you can thousands of miles away from home and yet still connect with a random stranger in an instant. Well, that to me just holds an ounce of magic.

Wouldn’t you agree?

 

Day 24 – Farewell Cusco, hello Santiago!

After the excitement of yesterday, I’m on a high this morning. Not only did Ashley and I have a great last day in Peru, but we’re also finally getting out of Cusco. A dream come true at this point!

We have a big day ahead of us too. We have an early 1 hour and 45 minute flight to Lima, with a 5 hour layover there. Our flight from Lima to Santiago is then going to take around 4 hours too.

Normally, I wouldn’t mind a long layover, but unfortunately Lima doesn’t offer free internet and I’m not much in the mood for reading today. This being the case, I prepare myself for a rather long-drawn day.

We arrive in Lima just after mid-day and decide to catch a KFC when we arrive. Our flight to Santiago is around 5:30pm and due to the 2 hour time difference, we will only arrive in Santiago around 11pm. That’s a full day of travel.

I’m already looking forward to arriving at the hotel – and the journey hasn’t even started!

Memories…

 

C(r)ash to reality

After out long day, as we land in Santiago, I’m thrilled we’re almost home. At the same time, however, we also encounter our first issue… money. There isn’t a cash machine at the airport, from what we can see, so we ask the taxi driver to take us to one on the way to the hotel.

Stopping at a petrol station with an ATM, I almost have a heart attack when I see the withdrawal fees. The fee to take money out of a Chilean ATM is apparently 6,500 Chilean Pesos! That’s almost 8 Euros in real money – unbelievable!!!

As we finally arrive at the hotel around midnight I am completely starving too. I haven’t eaten since that KFC at 2pm, so I ask the receptionist if there’s an UberEats or food of any kind available.

He looks at me with an incredulous expression on his face, snorts and says “Hah – not at this time, no”. I then try my luck at asking him for a piece of bread, a cracker, anything from the hotel. His response “No, absolutely not”.

 

Another security warning…

If you have ever met me when I’m starving, you will know that being rude to me when I am in a hangry state is absolutely not the correct time. Though I’ve been told I have the patience of a saint at times, I can assure you this is not one of them!

Climbing up the narrow stairs in the courtyard to our room, I can barely hold myself together. I am hungry, tired and the scruffiness and rudeness of the receptionist is now seriously getting to me. My mind imagines all sorts of profanities to blast at him. However, I’m not usually one to be rude or swear, so I keep quiet.

Instead, I huff and puff irritatedly, get ready to sleep and eventually drop like a deadweight onto my bed. I apologise shortly to Ashley as I know I’m not the best companion when I’m in a mood. I can only hope at this point that breakfast is a good one… and a big one. Judging by the rumbling of my belly, I will most certainly need it!

 

Day 25 – Walking Santiago

Breakfast this morning actually turns out to be an interesting affair. We meet two British guys who are staying in the room next to us. They’re here for a couple of days and have been travelling Latin America too. That makes me feel oddly at home.

Breakfast itself consists of a piece of cake, bread, butter, jam and a warm cheese and ham toastie. I’m so hungry that my portion is not enough and I end up stealing the boys’ leftover bread once they’ve left. We wouldn’t want anything to go to waste now, would we? 😉

After that, I get Ashley to agree to go on a walking tour with me. She doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of the idea, but she agrees anyways (that’s friendship for you!).

In the end, we both loved the tour though. Our guide is really entertaining and the sights and sounds are super interesting too. I have to say Santiago isn’t anything like I expected though!

For one, the architecture is pretty bland. I somehow imagined it would be really impressive, with ancient Spanish or otherwise European influences. However, when you learn that the city has been completely demolished by earthquakes 5 times, the reason for the simple, easily re-constructable housing, soon becomes clear.

Another thing is that I wasn’t at all expecting is the Europeanised food. It’s all very Italian, German, French etc.

We do learn about one quirky Chilean concept on the tour though. It’s called coffee on legs…

 

Did you know…?

Coffee on legs, in Chile, is apparently the term used for coffee shops that exclusively hire pretty lady waitresses. These ladies, naturally, wear short mini skirts and high heels to serve coffee *wink, wink*.

Some places are completely above board, whilst other places also serve “a little extra” on the side. The interesting thing about that is that prostitution in Chile is actually very much legal. However, in the case that a third party/pimp gets involved all of a sudden it becomes illegal. How very interesting…

Another fun fact we learned is that weed also has a curious legal status in Chile. Apparently, it is legal to use weed for personal use within a home. However, that is only in the case it magically appears inside your home without you having bought, grown or otherwise procured it. All those activities are illegal!

Now, I’ll let you tell me how to legally smoke weed (for personal use) in Chile – because with those weird rules and restrictions, I have yet to come up with a satisfactory answer!

Memories…

 

Day 26 – Exploring our Santiago ‘barrio’ (neighbourhood)

After our walking tour yesterday, Ashley and I decide to explore our own little neighbourhood instead today. We’re not staying in the centre of Santiago, but rather in an area named “Barrio Yungay”.

It’s an area with a lot of decorative street art around it. We saw some of it yesterday already and it kind of reminds me of Barcelona.

Our tour guide yesterday told us that this area of town isn’t exactly the most upmarket area – and it shows. However, at no point do we ever feel unsafe walking around.

We even run into an amazing French restaurant in the neighbourhood called Peluqueria Francesa (aka. the French hairdresser). It has quirky little decorations and a toilet hidden in a closet – what’s not to like about that?!?

I end up choosing an absolutely divine aubergine lasagne from the menu. It totally reminds me of the time I was in Naples with Ashley earlier this year. We went to a restaurant named Ragu and had the most amazing aubergine ragu there. I still dream about that rage sometimes, it was that good… mmm.

A friend of mine told me that I should visit a place called Valparaiso while I’m here in Santiago. Mr. Chile also recommended it and further suggested we look into exploring Vina del Mar too.

Therefore, after our mini-neighbourhood tour, Ashley and I get right on to planning a trip for tomorrow. I reckon a little escape from the city will do us a world of good!

Memories…

 

Day 27 – Our trip to Valparaiso

It’s Valparaiso day – yaay! I’m really excited to be getting out of the city and heading for the coast. Ashley and I opt for a later breakfast and then head straight for the bus station where we catch the bus directly headed to Valparaiso.

Since it’s around mid-day and it takes about 2 hours to drive to Valparaiso, we decide to skip out on Vina del Mar this time. When we arrive in Valparaiso though, we are definitely not disappointed.

It’s a cute little coastal town and we do initially end up on what looks to be the less glamorous side of town.  There are homeless people literally lining the street. However, our walk to the centre ends up being pretty nice and sunny as we stroll along the main palm lined avenue.

I want to do a Valparaiso walking tour, but I can tell Ashley doesn’t feel like it today. Therefore, I suggest we go for lunch instead. We find a nice little Italian on the way to the centre, which serves a great bolognese. It seems we really can’t escape Italian food on this trip – that’s got to be two/three days in a row now!

Water time – yaay!

After lunch we make our way to the harbour. We heard that there are boat tours available and Ashley is totally wanting to go for that. As luck would have it, we run into a skipper looking for a quick buck. He offers to take us on a private 30 minute tour for 20,000 Chilean pesos in total (23,34€!).

We decide to take him up on his offer as it seems like a good deal. The price on the wall for private tours is 50,000 Chilean pesos and we don’t want to wait for 20 people to arrive so we can go on the group tour. Even if it is only 4,000 per person for that.

The youth acting as our guide on the boat only speaks Spanish. That’s a great opportunity for me to test out my Spanish skills, as I act as translator and feed the conversation between him, myself and Ashley. If you had told me 6 months ago that I would be able to do that, I honestly think I would have thought you mad!

After the tour we made our way to the city centre, where there is a little fair on. I take a quick look around the stalls. Ashley picks up some drinks from Starbucks. Then, it’s already time to head back to the bus station.

I find it a slight shame that we don’t have more time here. Valparaiso looks like a wonderful little place. Life is funny though. You never know. We may just end up back here one day!

Memories…

 

Day 28 – Making our way to Buenos Aires

After our short stop in Santiago, it’s travel day again. This time Ashley and I are going our separate ways as it was far cheaper for Ashley to fly into a different airport. Buenos Aires happens to have quite a few to choose from!

After we have breakfast together, we head off to the airport. Ashley’s flight is flying out before mine. That being the case, I see her off to the gate, make my way to my own terminal and then settle down for a read.

The flight is uneventful and after touching down in Buenos Aires, I check that Ashley got to our AirBnB ok. Looks like all is good, so I catch a taxi to our new home for the next few days. It turns out it’s a wonderful place!

A cute little studio with a kitchen, balcony and in a great area. There are even some drinks in the fridge for us. It’s clean, modern and just my style. I also love the fact there is shampoo, conditioner and body gel waiting for us in the bathroom too.

After settling in, we walk around the neighbourhood trying to find a place for dinner. We have an early day tomorrow, as we’ll be heading out to the Iguazú falls in the morning, so we can’t stay out late.

Ashley is craving tacos, but it turns out most of the restaurants here don’t open until late. That being the case we decide on a simple Italian dinner (again). It appears that really is our thing now hahaha!

I’m going to be in Argentina for the next 10 days and I’m really looking forward to some rest time. With that said, I’ll bid you goodnight.

It’s been an eventful this week. Let’s see what tomorrow brings, shall we? 😉

 


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