Start of Heather's Adventure -1 – 15th April – 5am – Hosteria de Anita, Cusco.
Buenos Dias mis amigos. This is the first of my travel blogs and as per my norm I will ramble on. The difference is you can read as much or as little as you like!
It is 5am and have given up trying to sleep any longer. Peru is 6 hours behind us and my route this time confused me (regarding how long each flight was with the time differences) so my body clock isn’t quite on their time yet. There is no need to feel sorry for me though. I am quite happy..I’m snuggled up in bed (no heaters so got extra layers on) with my hot water bottle, my cup of coca tea (to help with the altitude adjustment), munching on cereal bars and snacks from my plane journeys, music playing on my I Pod and my laptop...what more could a girl want!!
My 4 flight journey this time took me via Sao Paolo in Brazil instead of Madrid. This was to give me the extra luggage allowance so I could take kids clothes and obviously my stuff. There are a certain number of things a girl (or perhaps here I should say a woman at a certain age) can’t be without... her P&P, meds to combat various minor ailments, various sturdy footwear (not available in this area), a large supply of soft contact lenses so easier to keep sterile, my big camera ( I couldn’t leave that behind) and obviously all my walking kit..sleeping bag, poles etc to mention but a few things. Unfortunately when we reached the airport we discovered it was way overweight, so the girls (who had kindly taken the day off to take me (Alan was up to his eyes in lambing) and I had to dump a lot of stuff which was a real shame but there was no way around it. The girls were ruthless and rightly so ..when you have been packing for so long you end up adding a little more..you can’t remember if you packed that so better add it anyway...or is that just me! I am now going to look for some things I don’t have but this shouldn’t be an issue. A dear friend had suggested I should get my bags wrapped which I thought was a brill idea considering they had been broken into last year, so for 10 quid (for 2 large bags) Safe2Go at Glasgow Airport weighed them repeatedly until I had got it right then wrapped them securely...absolutely brilliant...would strongly recommend it. At the check-in I also got the 2 large holdalls sent straight through to Lima which made a huge difference. So back to the flights..this time only a half hour delay in Brazil which I discussed with the stewardesses on the plane from Sao Paolo to Lima and they helped me get out first when we landed, hightail it to customs, baggage, immigration and back to the desks for my last boarding pass..still making it to the departure gate in plenty of time . Mind you I was moving at pace with my trolley of 2 large holdalls, my laptop and rucksack and had to quickly swerve to avoid colliding with a wee, old nun!! Interestingly on the plane from SP to Lima the stewardesses were struggling to tell me what time we would arrive. No wonder I was confused! It was the passengers who kept me right. Initially with the delays they thought I would miss my connection but it then became clear Lima is 2 hours behind Brazil..Heavens what a fiasco! So with the time differences I had an 11hour flight from Heathrow and then a 6 hour flight from Sao Paolo. All in all I had been travelling for about 34 hours, landing at 3300m in Cusco, so needless to say I’m still not quite right yet.
At Cusco it was great as Carol (the owner of the company I trekked with last year and who has been instrumental in helping me with looking at charities in the area) arranged for their guys to collect me. Sara, who really runs the ship for them, came to collect me with Nacho (his nickname), the driver and she gave me the biggest hug and genuine affection....... it was brilliant. I had met her last year and she is just lovely. They took me to the hostel I am staying at. This hostel ins situated up hill and involves quite a bit of uphill walking. Carrying that luggage when I had just landed would have been a nightmare! Nacho very kindly brought up the cases. The receptionist and I had to manhandle them up a flight of open stairs to my room though which was strenuous enough! I am at the hostel in Cusco for 6 days before my trek to Choquequirao. I then do my 9 day trek and back to the hostel (who will hold my luggage until I return) to recover. I will then join Living Heart in the Urubamba valley and look at what I will do there as I work on my Spanish. I will lodge with the local nurse to begin with to improve my Spanish and then see what I want to do then.
In my 2 days of travels I have met two other (younger) voluntary workers. Thomas – a French engineer, who I met on the SP- Lima flight, is going to help build houses or something of the ilk (he’s not sure yet) 4 hours from Lima with “Expand Peru”. Thomas and I chatted for quite some time – the poor Peruvian in the middle of us put his earphones on! Thomas hadn’t thought of trying to fundraise for the group he is going to be working with. He is now going to find out what they have set up and see how much he could raise for them as well. He is hoping to travel and we have exchanged e mail addresses in case he is in the Cusco area. When I arrived at my hostel a young girl and her mother introduced themselves to me. They were from Edinburgh - go figure!! I haven’t found out their names yet as I was just getting settled in but the girl had been travelling around South America and was now helping in an orphanage in Cusco, playing with the children, taking them out and teaching them English. Her mum had been visiting in Florida and thought it would be easy to pop over for a week to see her. The flights were not as straight forward or cheap as she thought! The difference between what this Edinburgh girl is doing and me is that I am going to villages where Spanish is not their native tongue, it is Quechua. The kids are learning Spanish so they can integrate better and give them more opportunities. I therefore have to have a really high level of Spanish. So far I am getting along fine speaking to people but there are a lot of people speak English here and I can hear a lot of Australian and English speaking people around Cusco. I will encourage the guides on our trek to speak to me in Spanish to help me. I know the structure and probably get ¾ of a sentence then am missing the odd word but I’ll get there. There is a television in my room so as I was unpacking I had it on in the background to help my listening skills. It was an American film dubbed over which was strange. Then what came on next but “The Big Bang Theory”- an old episode but it had subtitles so was easy to watch. Just felt like home!
I must tell you though there is a slight problem with my time in Peru and I discovered it as I was printing off some travel info for my stay in Peru, from the government website.....I’m only allowed to stay in the country for 183 days and I am booked to leave after 186 days! They are very strict about these things and I do have Andean Trails, the company I booked with, looking at the cost of flying out 3 days earlier, but the easier option might be to go to Bolivia for 3 days. Copa Cabana can be reached over night on the bus which I am assured is safe to travel on. The cost of the bus is less than £20. This seems like a great idea to me, but will look into this further. I would like a couple of weeks before I leave to explore some of the Inca sites and areas nearby anyway so this might work out well.
I must admit as I was waiting at Heathrow..too long a wait actually – 5 hours – to make sure I didn’t miss my big connecting flight – I had some really mixed emotions about what I had set myself up for, but made myself think about how long I had been wanting to do something like this. Once I was on the move and now I am here it feels fine. I’ll just take it one step at a time.
Oh well I think I have given you a fairly comprehensive update of my travels to date. The next few days will be about exploring Cusco, getting myself set up with a local, cheap mobile, some snacks for inbetween, good cheap restaurants to eat in and finding supplies for the kids when I know what I am doing. I have ready access to the internet here I have been told, so I can explore sites now I have some time.