Monday, 24 August 2015

First day

So we arrived in Saas Fee under the cover of heavy snow, kind of normal over here I would imagine and we found the rather large Chalet that we are staying in called Granite of all things, very stylish. It was then time to be measured for our skis, I've not done this before but they take your weight, height and then you get a value which indicates the length and width of the ski's that you are suggested to use. After begin allocated a set of ski's poles, helmet and boots, it was quick bite to eat then bed.

As morning appeared I pulled on all my ski items that I had ordered online from a mixture of Amazon and Mountain warehouse. Then tie to head up to the training slope as you can see the view on the bridge as we left was wonderful and snowy.

Learning was a mixture of fear and falling over, but once you are over the hurdle of it's not painful to fall over (just slightly embarrassing), it's easy to get to snow ploughing, just a bit hard on your knees. After a full morning of going up and down the training slope we headed up the mountain to the restaurant half way up the mountain.

Two views from the restaurant up the mountain.

During lunch my instructor got a call from the other guys in my party as they were going to head to Saas Grund for the afternoon as most of the Saas Fee runs were closed due to excessive snow. I elected to remain on the training slopes, to which my instructor replied that it was a good choice as Saas Grund had only run and black runs on it, not great for a beginner. On the way back at the end of the day I could hear them blasting the snow off the mountain, essentially creating avalanches so that people can ski in the morning as long it doesn't snow to heavily over night. Tomorrow some real blue runs.....

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Heading to Switzerland

I decided that I should learn to ski at some point in my life. So I'm currently heading to Switzerland with my friends Craig, Rachel, Tom and Julie. They have all been skiing before and so I'm going to taking some lessons and learning and then we can play on the slopes. Hopefully I'll get a basic hang of it after a few days....

First there is the question to getting there, instead of flying we decided to take a car, queue drama about snow chains (mandatory in Switzerland apparently), road tolls (Swiss and French), insurance, ferry or Eurostar, roof racks and roof boxes. Needless to say Craig arranged pretty much all of the travel arrangements and are going to stay in France on the way back, in Dijon.

So we headed out on the road driving in shifts, the front seats job was to keep the driver awake during their stint driving. It worked really well across the whole journey, only issue was the ferry was delayed an hour and a half, then we had a two hour queue at the boarder between France and Switzerland, seemed everyone needed to buy a vignette(Swiss road toll) at the boarder including us. They charge quite a bit of postage so I can only assume everyone avoided it like us.

So now we are safely in Switzerland in Saas Grund and tomorrow we head to Saas Fee ski resort

Sleeping in the car on the way, whops

Wednesday, 30 April 2014


So on the final day of the trek we got to Maccupitchu, with Salkentay trek you arrive at aguas calliente which is an the bottom of the Maccupitchu mountain. The times of various things had already been arranged by the tour company, my train back to Cusco was set at 230. So even thou I got the bus up I only just had enough time for the tour and to see the sun gate and the Inca bridge before vetting the bus back down and to get on the train.

So we arrived at the main gate at 7 in the end and started our tour of the site. The first guy to get to Maccupitchu in the 1900's was an American, I forget this name but he wasn't even looking for Maccupitchu, he was trying to find a little town called Olltabochy, this little city is on the train line and I got to see a little of it and its also a great little incan city which had a colonial town built on it. So after finding Maccupitchu he came back some years after and recovered a lot of little artifacts from the site and made some assumptions about the use of the rooms. There are many temples and some rooms which they just don't know what they were for, like the three window temple, its a room that they were making and it had three windows but no idea what it was really for.

Some of the site was reconstructed in the mind 1960's as it was again a site of intense interest. There was a massive earthquake centred on Cusco in 1650 and this is the reason they believe that there is some damage at the site. There are not any sign of human destruction to the building. The site itself is huge and the tour with walking around the site took almost 3 hours no including the sungate or Inca bridge. The scale of the city is massive, running down one side of the city are terraces for agriculture, the constitution of which is awesome, they are built from large stones at the bottom, gravel and then sand and earth on top of that. Water that falls on the top trickles down to the next terrace, in this way the soil does not erode and each terrace gets water. Separating the terraces from the other part of the city as a large stair case with a series of water fountains running down the side. These are no water fountains as we would think of but its a small follow of water that has been directed down a series of rocks with groves in for the water to flow. It goes along one grove and then drops down to the next level under another rock and into another grove. The groves are man made and are uniform in size. We do not know what this is for, could be for drinking, watering the terraces in dry seasons as I was told that the water flows all year round from a natural spring near the top of the mountain.

The other two thirds of the city is temples and building for living in. There is an open area in the centre of the city for grazing alpaca.
The hike up to the sun gate was quite long again about 45 minutes and was quite steep uphill but the path was main of rocks that had been placed down to form huge steps. The view from the sun gate was incredible, can see the mount of mantupichu and hyna pitchufrom there.
Taking the bus down hill took 45 minutes and then back on to the train to arrive back at the family homestead by about midnight. Very exhausted but very little time to get ready as I had an early flight to Panama and then to Orlando to go visit my friend Vig and see cheerleading worlds 2014.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Salkentay trekking

So the first day of the trek is finished and it was reasonably good going. The day started really early at 5 getting up for the bus and waiting for it to grab me. Then a 2 hour ride to get breakfast before another hour bus to the start of the trek. The group contains 2 Americans, a French couple and a Brazilian couple. Now I was hoping for a chance to practice some more Spanish but none of them speak Spanish very well so no chance there. However back to trekking. The first spot on the trek is at 3450 metres and then we started the slow climb to the camp site at 3900 metres that is about 12km away. They have an ingenious system built into the mountains to not stop people at streams which can become rivers during high rainfall, basically there is a dam which has an overflow in use all the time this is then dammed up. There is then a sluice that can be opened to dump the contents of the dam into the river, this gives a set of trekkers time to pass in which the river is blocked.
We reached the camp site shortly before 2 and had lunch straight away which was a really good meal. After the meal we headed up to a freshwater lagoon which is fed by the glacier on mount Umanty. On the way up we saw an avalanche, thunderingly loud and looked very much like a very small waterfall. The lagoon itself is beautifully blue and at a height of 4300 metres. I am feeling the full effects of the height and getting out of breath after 30-40 metres, two weeks in Cusco don't seem to have helped at all strangely. But the views are staggeringly beautiful and I have been taking pictures on my phone but will need to find a proper computer to get them as my pad doesn't want to get them off. The area is quite rocky with lots of green grass but very few trees and became more rocky the higher we climbed.

So day 2 this is a long one apparently, up at 5 in the morning and we have to get up to 4650 metres before we head downhill given the difficulty of the lagoon trek its going to be hard, but at least last nights sleep was good and not too cold also breakfast was good this time eggs in an omelette and bread along with hot chocolate.  Well the climb was a lot less than I thought it might be, but the path did zig and zag all over the place but I managed to get a second pole as I worried about my knee but it gave me little trouble during the day. We reached the top in quite a quick time and joined the others who had rented a horse to get them to the top as they had struggled the day before. We then started the downhill towards the lunch camp, lunch was a good affair really and the food has all been good quality so far. After the lunch the landscape changed quite dramatically and we headed in to the high jungle, the path became more muddy and there were obvious gaps where a landslide had taken place and wiped the path out and a new one had been hewn into the mountainside. After a full 13 hours we reached the camp site for the night a little village nestled in a gap of the valley by a river which we had been following since it started in the mountains. Time to get some food and head to bed. Awesome day.
Everyone was really struggling from the massive second day, but we carried on through the day with the same determination. The landscape had change quite a bit and we were definitely in the jungle now and the little water fly's that had bitten me so badly in the Amazon were back and the back of my legs are covered with little bites. The third day of the trek wasn't too long about 6 hours before we had lunch, then another two to the camp site for the evening. Before dinner we got a chance to head to the local hot springs which was awesome, they have made three pools by the hot springs and you can dip into any of the temperatures for only 5 soles, about £ 1.20 :) This was very needed after the previous days hikes and was very relaxing. We got there as it was getting dark so the picture from my phone are useless unfortunately. In the evening we had a team meeting as the next day was going to be as long was the second but we could swap the train for a bus and switch it to just a 4 hour hike over flatter terrain. We ended up having the choice made for us as the campsite became a part zone with loud music played until about 2 so we ended up joining the 30 other trekkers and dancing to the tunes while drinking.
Day 4.
This was somewhat easier a sort of flat trek mainly along a railway line to aguas callientate, the town under the watchful eye of maccupitu. We got a few glimpses of the city from the ground, my phone did not have a good enough zoom but you can tell the city is there from the ground now that the site has been cleared. We stayed the night in aguas calliente, I put into a very budget hostel, I had hot water, which was scolding only to shower in. No toilet paper, not that the toilet flushed, the room was very cold because the window had a big hole in it and the TV did not work so I couldn't even distract myself. But it didn't matter because we had to be up early as the next day was maccupitchu day..........

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Aprendo espanol en Cusco

Saturday night I was invited to go watch Gabriela's father playing a rock covers band and he played some Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin so it was great. We started chatting in Spanish but I ran out of words pretty quickly but they do say any practice is good practice. After we headed to a biker bar to have a burger which was a nice change from the rice and pasta I have been having, not that I don't like rice and pasta.
Monday we had a double helping of class as it's holy week in Peru, they really go to town for the Easter week and have processions through the town with status of Jesus, pictures attached. The Jesus looks black because of the candles that they burn near him. So double class was hard, 4 hours melts the brain anyway but 8 just turns it to mush.
Tuesday me and Ollie decided to have some cuy, or Guinea pig for everyone else, I do have photos but I won't add them, ask if you'd like to see. We also have some alpaca steak, we tried to ask for separate plates but they ended up splitting the cuy down the middle and giving us half each and then bringing out the steaks so everyone looked at us oddly eating two meals between us, hahahahahaha. When I got back Gabriela informed me that there was a solar eclipse visible in Peru that night so we should wake up and try to see it, so set the alarm for 2 and got the camera ready. The cloud was ready and waiting to spoil the he view and we got some very iffy pictures of a reddish blob.
Wednesday we had another school trip this time to a wildlife sanctuary, they have lots of macaws because they cannot teach then to fly again once they have los the ability. However they can teach falcons and hawks with the use of some bait and the big gloves. They also have some pumas that were found as cubs in Lima, they have los their claws and don't know how to hunt and so cannot be released into the wild which is a shame. The highlight were the condors, they did a fly by of the group and they are much bigger than I expected.
Thursday was the last class and I have enjoyed learning a language and the challenges that come with it. I shall be continuing to learn and progress this when I get back as I did feel quite lost without being able to communicate in even a limited way with people along the way on this trip. I certainly like Cusco and Peru and feel that there is still a lot to see and do in south america as a whole.
After class finished, me Ollie and Gabriela took a little trip to devils balcony, which is a natural balcony which overlooks a little river. It is a nice little place, however when crossing the river I managed to slip and smash my knee and both mine and Gabriela's cameras. So my knee is slightly swollen, and badly cut which poses an issue for tomorrow as that the start of my trek. However I am more worried about the loss of the cameras :( EDIT  Gabriela's camera was fine after the rice trick, mine has finally died, leaving me with my phone for the trek and Maccupitchu.
Now is the time to trek to Maccupitchu and see Salkentay on the way.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Local Inca ruins

So I'm now in Cusco and have been living with a local family for the past week and they are really nice and welcoming. Astrid the grandma of the house does not speak any English but she has a good grasp of body language. Astrid is really nice and always offering hot water for hot drinks. Done a week of Spanish classes but more on that another time.

So Tuesday i got up early and tried to see the sun rise from Saqsayhuaman, the Incan ruins just about Cusco but as normal things did not go to plan. I missed the sunrise by looking in the wrong direction, it was really cloudy and the sun rose behind the mountain and trees to my left rather than were I was looking. However got a good opportunity to look around the ruins. The stones are huge, think Stonehenge but bigger stones and they have been altered to fit exactly. And I do mean exactly, its like they played a huge game of Tetris with the stones and ground down ones that didn't quite fit into the wall. How on earth they did this I have no idea or how they even managed to get the stone up to 3400 metres of Cusco. The area of the ruins itself might be half the size of Windsor castle but the size of the stones makes Windsor look like it was made with Lego bricks when compared to the huge stones.

Wednesday me and an American lady Geraldine who is also living with the host family took a bus up to Tambomachy which is 400 metres above Cusco. Our plan was to walk down from there on an old tour trail, however it has since been overgrown and is not used anymore and the local Peruvians warned us off of it. However we saw the ruins of Tambomachy and here the Incas had redirected a local stream through some walls creating fountains of water that come out of the wall. Again how they engineered this is a mystery, and again how its standing after so many years is amazing. There are another two ruins of interest on the way back to Cusco that we saw, firstly Pukapukara which was a fort that the Incas built with a commanding view of the valley in which Cusco is situated. The second site is called Qenqo ( pronounced kenco) this is a single giant rock that had been split into two parts by an earth quake and the Incas had craved ledges into the rock, it is said that young incan warriors would be placed on the ledges and given little food and water until they had a vision about what they had to do in the world.

Thursday we had a school trip to the cemetery, the Peruvians commerate their dead very differently to us. The cemetery contained many small tombs which contained it's that the deceased person might like, a doll for a young child, chocolate or coke for others, some contained pictures of the family so that the dead person would not forgot them. After the cemetery vivist we headed up to Christo blanco ( white Jesus) which is on the hill over looking Cusco, this status was a present from the Israeli people to Cusco. Pictures of both it and my class are below.  From left to right, Steins, Olly, Paulo (Teacher), Me.

Next time Spanish lessons......

Monday, 7 April 2014

Lima and another long bus trip

So many hours later I am in a hostel called the lion in Lima, Peru. Its a nice looking and well looked after hostel in Miraflores, which is the tourist section of Lima. First hour I have met an american guy called Chris who lived in Columbia for a year and Emmanuel from Chile who speaks as much English as I do Spanish but we manage to have a bit of a laugh anyway about how cold the shower is. So I looked for a nice beach to rest on but it turns out the beaches in Lima are not good for anything right now because of pollution unfortunately. So instead me and Chris headed into the night to take a look around the city, saw a few of the more pretty places but my camera is not so good in the dark so you'll just have to trust me.

After the stupidity of my last section of travel to Lima I decided to get ahead of the curve and plan the rest of my flights and travel, the next day. So I spent a day looking at travel options and decided that a bus to Cusco and a flight back to Lima would be the best option. So now I have smashed the credit card hard but I know when I have to be in places to get back all the way to England. I have also changed my plans for the next few weeks again. I'll admit that at time when travelling about I have felt a bit lost as I can only talk to people who speak English, I have perhaps three times used a bit of French to get something or understand directions but I think I have mostly been lucky. So on Monday the 7th I start two weeks of Spanish lessons in Cusco, I'm also living with a Peruvian family who don't speak English so basically I'm dropping myself in at the deep-end and hoping that I can learn to swim really quick.

Back to the bus, now I was dreading the bus that it would be like the buses in Brazil, cold, long and boring. Now in Peru they have got busing down to an art. I mean it felt like I was taking a flight. I arrived changed my voucher for a ticket, checked in my bags and waiting to be called for boarding. Once I got on board I headed up to my seat, I had a seat at the front of the bus on the upper level, right in front of the 25 inch screen that they were going to show movies on. I have a foot rest and the seat reclined to nearly flat. The bus steward came around with proper head phones for the movies. Then at about 7 dinner came round, just like it would on a flight, then breakfast in the morning as well. Needless to say I was very impressed and it made the 20 journey a pleasure not a pain.

Being at the front I got some great views of the road, I'll share a few after this :) so I am now in Cusco, with the family and have had a little tour from the old lady in Spanish about Cusco and have a map. Tomorrow I start my lessons.....