Greetings from Middle Earth! No hobbit sightings yet but I did want to jump into the fiery pits of Mordor on Tuesday morning after discovering a taste for Cuba Libres at our Goodbye Party on Monday night! I am no longer a Moosey and by the time most of you read this Ill no longer be a gringo either… How did four months go by so quickly??
I last updated in Huaraz which on further inspection, was indeed a total dump! In fairness, it was totally destroyed by an earthquake in the 1970s and was very quickly rebuilt to house everybody. But youd think that in the 40 years since theyd have built something with at least a little aesthetic value! Huaraz was luckier than Yungay, a town about 20 Kms up the mountain which was completely buried by an avalanche following the same earthquake. 25,000 people were killed, the only survivors were three children who were at the circus. Theyve just left the site as it was and built a memorial church for the dead. Its really hard to believe that a busy town was ever on that spot, its now just green fields.
Huaraz is the closest town to the beautiful Cordillera Blanca mountain range. This range is the second highest after the Himalayas and theses some really impressive snowcaps here if youre a climber. I am a walker, not a climber so I decided to treck to the unfortunately named Lake 69 (bet youre all imagining the photos!). I really thought I had retired my walking boots after the Inca Trail but seeing as I have walked up every other mountain weve come across, I couldnt fall at the last fence! It was a beautiful walk through a valley and the last few Kms were a climb to the lake. Sounds great, except that for the entire walk we were 4000 metres above sea level! I think Ive finally cracked the whole walking at altitude thing though as I found it the easiest of the hard walks weve done. The lake itself was stunning. About 5 glaciers drain into it and as a result the water is such a deep turquoise, its almost teal. Photos just dont do it justice.
Our moment of perfect serenity was briefly inturrupted by Steve, a lunatic Tucan driver who has provided a lot of amusement and entertainment over the last four months, deciding to get in for a swim! Only an Aussie would want to get into a lake with a glacier visably melting into it. God love him, apparently they didnt come down for a week!
After Huaraz, we headed to Huanchaco to visit the Chan Chan ruins and the Temple of the Sun and the Moon. Both of these were built in Pre-Incan times using adobe mud bricks. Chan Chan was my favourite, it was constructed by the Chimu and covers an area of about 20 square Kms. The Peruvians only realised its importance about 30 years ago and up until then it was a favourite haunt of courting couples! Seriously, theres just so much history in that country. The detail on the buildings was amazing and they used a fishing net pattern for their walls for light and ventilation, ingenious! The only downside is that theyre trying to restore the buildings with the help of Yale University. The restored parts are really obvious and arent a patch on the original workmanship. Theres been restoration efforts on a lot of the ruins but I cant help thinking they should just be left alone and protected from further damage. The Temple of the Sun and Moon was fantastic too but we had possibly the worst guide ever and after his introduction we were all comotose! The Sechin who built the temples were an extremely vicious but artistic people who drew amazing and colourful pictures on the walls of poor unfortunates being decapitated and cut in half, lovely! Both of these sites are under threat from flooding due to El Nino, its hard to belive that after existing for 2000 years they might not be here in 50 years time.
Our last stop in Peru was Mancora, a beach stop and a real highlight! There wasnt a lot to do there except lie on a lounger with a cocktail and a good book, watching kite-surfers. I could easily have stayed there for a week and everyone really needed the chance to chill out after the intensity of Peru.
And then it was to our final destination, Ecuador. Literally the second we crossed the boarder, the air became really humid and the landscape totally changed from mountains to tropical. The scenery was spectacular, lush green banana plantations and jungle. Its rainy season in Ecuador and we got our first and only downpour about 20 minutes after crossing the boarder. I say our only downpour because it actually hasnt ended yet! Only joking, kind of. We have had about 20 minutes of scorching sunshine on at least three occasions.. Generally, its about 17 degrees, with black, dull overcast skies and regular downpors, brief sunny-spells and its June- sound familiar?! At least I wont have to worry about acclimatising to Dublin… Its not fair, its on the feckin equator!! I have had to scrap my plan of coming home with a killer tan to make you all green with envy…
It is a beautiful country though. The first place we stopped was Cuenca and it was a very pleasant surprise. A really charming colonial town with a fantastic atmosphere that even the rain couldnt spoil. Cuenca is famous because its where the Panama Hat was invented. Confused? The Panama is the most famously misnamed hat in the world, and whatever you do, dont call it a Panama Hat in Ecuador! The hat was the uniform of the men who built the Panama Canal and our American friends christened it incorrectly. We went to a factory and were shown how theyre made and had great craic trying them on. The man from Delmonte say Yeah!
Onwards to Banos, which was highly anticipated. Banos translates to baths as theres hot springs there (Woo Hoo!) but is also the word for public toilets, so we were all interested to see what the place would be like! It was a tourist trap for sure, but you just had to love it. We stayed about 18 Kms outside of the town in a fabulous campsite surrounded by forrest and waterfalls. It was also here that we invented Dare Jenga and had one of the funniest nights on the trip! While everyone else was white-water rafting and throwing themselves off bridges, a few of us went for a walk to see the many waterfalls in the area. We also had to go across a canyon on the most rickety cable-car in the world (a metal basket on a wire that goes about 80 Kms an hour- not for the feint hearted!)- Ahhh, South American health and safety at its best! The largest of the waterfalls, the Pailon Del Diablo, is one of the top ten in the world and was incredible.
I had been so looking forward to going into the Amazon, I was like a kid on Christmas morning! It was fantastic and unless they were in cages, we didnt see anything too scary or slimey. We were there for three days, staying in a lodge owned by Adonis- who was as misnamed as the Panama Hat! The first day we went to an animal sanctuary and saw all kinds of creatures, including an anaconda, macaws (my favourites), capivaras, jungle cats and the cheekiest monkies in the world, they were all over everything and recomfirmed my dislike of small furry creatures…
The following day we went for a walk through the jungle, which was fun in the rain and mud and walked back through a river that was only supposed to be up to our knees but due to the rain (apparently it hasnt really stopped in a whole year) was up to our armpits! That night a local family came in to sing and dance for us, they were the cutest kids I have ever seen. On our last day, we headed up-river to see some of the villages and meet some of the tribespeople that live in the rainforrest. We got to see them making their pottery and woodcarvings and then they taught us how to use a blow-gun- great fun! The local Shamen provided the entertainment that night and we all had a chance to partake in a ritual to get rid of our negative energy where firewaterwas spat all over us- a real experience!
Before hitting Quito, we stopped in Otavalo for the famous Saturday markets, among the biggest in the world. There was serious shopping done here and unless I figure out a way to defy the laws of physics or more likely, find somewhere that vaccum packs, Im never getting it all home! Otavalo is in the northern hemisphere, so we crossed the Equator on the way and the way back. We were a real bunch of idiots jumping from the northern to the southern hemisphere for about 30 minutes but it had to be done! Who would have thunk that Id be wearing a jumper AND a fleese on the Equator??! It was freezing..
And so to Quito and the end of the tour! It still hasnt sunk in. Quito wouldnt be my favourite city in South America but the Old Town is beautiful with some of the best examples of colonial architecture in South America. Theres also a fabulous Basillica with amazing stained glass windows and a hardware shop underneath! The new town is pretty dead and 6 days is deffinitely too long here. Its a good thing that my first four were taken up with partying and saying far too many goodbyes! Today is the first day Ive had to myself in four months!! I headed out to Cuidad Mitad Del Mondo to see the disneyfied part of the Equator and managed to get there and back all by myself! And I did jump between hemispheres, it just doesnt get old! And I flushed a toilet on the north and south of the equator to see if the water does flush in a different direction (it does!)
And so there it is. After 112 days, 16,871 Kms, 29 girls, 7 boys, 1 tour leader, 2 drivers, 3 busses, 1 breakdown in the middle of nowhere, 1 tyre blow out, 4,227 Ham and cheese sandwiches, 3,568 Jamon y Queso tostados, 7,899,789 chopped tomatos, peppers and onions, 1,456,123 No Gracias, 456 Donde Esta El Banos too many beers to count, far too many bottles of rum to count, not enough cups of coffee, 128 sets of Inca ruins, 156 sets of pre-inca ruins, hundreds of mountains (many climbed), 8 glaciers, 1 ton of chicken, I ton of beef, 1 rebranding ( we started as Budget Expeditions, we finished as Tucan Travel- were that posh!). And as the slogan for Tucan Travel goes- the adventure of a lifetime! So many good memories and good friends and experiences I will never forget…..
In particular, corner three on Death Road….
Watch out for us Moosies, were X-TREME!
Its been emotional.
Youve probably worked out that this is the last entry of my blog. I was thinking about keeping it up when I get home but somehow I dont think walking the dog in Saint Annes is quite as interesting as walking in Torres Del Paine or I dont think therell be quite as many characters in recruitment agencies as there has been on this trip! I will more than likely be drowning my sorrows from 9.30 onwards upstairs in the Goblet on Sunday (Barring delays, Im due in at 5.30), if I dont see you there, feel free to take me out for a drink whenever you like, Im unemployed and have let you live vicariously through me for long enough! So until the next trip (Africa 2009/2010!!!) Hasta Luego mis amigos!
20 Feb 2009
Uaohh! These pictures should be forbidden, because it is not possible to work after seeing them. Go ahead, release your own travel book.
12 Jun 2008
Hey Clodagh, like your style. You could be the new Bill Bryson. Are you going to Ecuador? If so mail me and I’ll try to remember what it was like. Take care.
22 May 2008
Hehe. Love the costume!!Did you have men trying to sell you fossils in la paz?!!!
05 May 2008
Clo, I missed a few pages of your blog, don’t know what I was doing. Just read about your cycling terror, how funny. I can’t believe how brave you are, I would be terrified. You are making so many fantastic memories. I’m still crippled with jealousy. I can’t wait to catch up with you when your home. x Les.
25 Apr 2008
Hey Clo – Loving the dress up, I hope you packed it for your return to Dubs! Hee hee…. Can’t wait to read your impressions of Inca Trail! Safe travels, until next time…. Cxx
25 Apr 2008
love reading your blog!! So jealous!!
You should take up a career in writing your brilliant. Love the dress up. I can imagibe you dancing away Titicaca style. Enjoy the rest of your trip. Looking forward to the next update. Take care and have a ball xx
23 Apr 2008
p.s. I know I spelt dynamite incorreclty
22 Apr 2008
so much to read, its like dejavu. Did you go in the mines, did you buy dinamite? Hope so! Also, you can add that the amount of silver that was taken from Bolivia was enought to build a solid silver bridge from south America to Europe!!! Take care, dont die. Come back in one piece!!! Later. Michael
22 Apr 2008
Hi Clo..Ro sent me the link. Sounds like your having a ball. You could have a career writing (brillant feel like i’m there)…love the blog & the pics..very very funny! Take care & have fun!!! Bye for now!
18 Apr 2008
Just wondering if Kate Moss’s comment about a ‘crock of sh*t’ has anything to do with Ursula’s comment of the 4th April? Love reading your blog, am soooo jealous and wish you a great rest of trip!
17 Apr 2008
HI Clo,I bought a fab Audi A4 soft top at the weekend.And seeing as I got a wopper pay rise last month myself & Warren are looking at buying a beautiful 1940’s 5 Bed Family Home by the sea in Greystones. Its so cute!I have also been training for the Paris Marathon in May and have lost 17 pounds – so you can imagine how good my ass is looking at the moment.For anyone else apart from Clo who is reading this message the above is a croc of sh*t aimed at Clodaghs amusement. My life has not been filled with exciting events like travelling, meeting people and standing on top of pringle boxes without dinting the packaging and I am striking out with jealousy.So hope you’re having a ball Clo and looking forward to your arrival!When are you home?Dx
16 Apr 2008
Hi Clo, delighted to hear that you are having such a great time, I am so jealous, you make we want to travel. Enjoy the rest of your holiday and take care.Barbara (M) BNP P
16 Apr 2008
The pics are cool -the Pringle one is brilliant! Ha, ha…. Look at you now miss extreme sports! Loving the blog! Cxx
15 Apr 2008
Well Clo, seems like you’re having a crap and having to drink all that wine as well – a real hardship for you! Thinking of framing the picture of you with a tan! Seriously though, sounds and looks like an amazing trip and a much better option than being here! Take care Urs
04 Apr 2008
Hi Clo,God you really feel you there reading your blog and looking at the photos – only wish I was. Sounds amazing. Enjoy and looking forward to catching up when you get home.
01 Apr 2008
Your pics are amazing!!! Continue to have a ball and enjoy every moment of it it girl! looking forward to hearing all your stories wen you get back. Take care. Ciara xx
27 Mar 2008
Wow Clo, it all looks so amazing! I got to meet Princess Ava last night, she is gorgeous! Chat to you more via email! Enjoy, Connie x
26 Mar 2008
Hello Clo, your pics are amazing!!!
Sorry I havent written to you yet, will write you a proper email soon I promise.
Take Care and keep having a great time, Ellen x x
25 Mar 2008
Hi Clo, I love reading your blog, its like I’m there. Except I’m not!! I hope to see you when you get back. Continue having a ball and make us all sick with envy here in Ireland. Les.
19 Mar 2008
Holy crap, those pictures are amazing!!!!
12 Mar 2008
I luv the pictures!! Im sooo jelous!!
I say your having the time of your life!! Il send you an eamil with all
the gossip updates!!!
07 Mar 2008
Wow CLo, so glad all the highlights are as amazing in person as they seem! Promise I will email properly soon! Safe Travels and keep having ball… not jealous at all! ;-p
28 Feb 2008
Hey Clo, Glen Hansard won an oscar for “Falling Slowly”. Even better tho, he turned up at the Oscars with an open neck shirt that looked like he’d bin through South America with u in it and told the audience to “make art”!!…..priceless!! Sounds like ur havin a ball, keep it up!!:D Davy
25 Feb 2008
Hi Clo – Just wanted to say am soooo jealous. will mail u v soon!!
25 Feb 2008
I’m not jealous at all!!!
16 Feb 2008
Clo – sounds awesome! Keep posting and keep taking care of yourself and your skin!
16 Feb 2008
No much else to say but Jealous…. so jealous! Ha, Ha…. Happy travelling Clo! Connie xx
15 Feb 2008
18 Oct 2011 – start of travelblog
posted Thursday May 2008