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'PooRu'
PERU - OCT/NOV 2003
'INCApacitated'
Tuesday 21st October 2003 Hostal Mi Amigo, De Pevas, Amazonia

At 5:15 am our tin can speed boat pulled up at Santa Rosa and the Peruvian border control. It was basically some mud huts on the river bank of the Rio Amazona. A guard collected our passports as we got off the boat and then we where shuffled to a hut and met with another guard standing in his boxer shorts with a bottle of whiskey on the counter. There was only one other tourist on the boat, David from Germany so we chatted with him for a bit while we got our passports stamped.

Some of the passengers then told us that we would be changing to another boat upstream. That relieved my fears of being ripped of slightly. We then sat back in our tin can for another 5 hours and I started to think that maybe we wouldn't be changing boats after all. Then all of a sudden the engine packed up and we drifted to shore. Luckily we where near a tiny indian settlement so we jumped ashore their will the captain tried in vain to fix the motor. In the end we where ordered back in the boat and the local indians towed us up stream in there little canoe for 30 minutes until we got to a sizable town of Caballococha. We waited an hour on shore while some mechanics took the engine apart. Fortunately they got it going again and we where back on our way.

Sat in the tin can for 6 more hours and even passed through a heavy rain storm. It was amazing how much swell the storm produced it seemed like we had ended up in a sea. There was also lots of jungle flotsam which the captain had to twist and swerve around. I was thankful to the plastic bags in my backpack which was now tied to the roof of the boat. at about 5 we ended up at another jungle town, De Pevas (land of love so the sign proclaimed). We refueled there for about 10 minutes and then carried on towards Iquitos. Bugger 30 minutes out of De Pevas the engine died again. Not completely though and we turned around and took a very slow ride back to De Pevas. We didn't really mind at all as this was all part of traveling. Just the sickening feeling of being ripped off. Anyway an hour later we ended up back at De Pevas and where put up in a dodgy jungle hostal for the night. We had no Peruvian money so ended up not doing a lot in the evening. Just went for a walk around the quiet tiny town and then retired to bed.

About 10mins later we were on the other side of the river and all having to un board to show the control people our passports. David and us 2 got sent to a different hut whilst the other lot stayed in another. Whilst we were waiting David told us how he had lost his whole backpack when 5men held up the coach with guns and took everyone's belonging, scary stuff.

The door opened a few mins later and a guy in his boxer shorts obviously just got out of bed let us into the hut to sit down and wait. By this time the rest of our boat had joined us and we all soon got our PP stamped and were heading back to the boat. Hans was waiting back on the docks as that is where he got off and told us the little boat was only to transport us to the big proper boat for our 12hr journey - what a relief, as the thought of sitting in that boat for that long without being able to get up and walk around would drive me mad....... 5hrs later! and we are still in the little boat and the engine packs up so a local canoe with a small motor grab the side of our boat and takes us to the nearest village where we had to wait for over an hour for the engine to be repaired. The town was quite nice so we wandered around for a bit for me to find a loo and to try to buy some water without any Soles as we still had Reals.

We hopped back on the boat and it was then i suspected we weren't really getting another boat - mmmmmmm

At 7am they gave us some b'fast on the move consisting of a cheese roll then sat on the boat, which do have to say was very fast, for another 6hrs. I could see the sky was black up ahead and we were driving straight for it! Absolutely amazing, there was thunder and lighting and the river just changed from a flat calm water to a thunderous turmoil and it was like being out at sea in a bad storm. The waves were just coming over the top and the driver couldn't see a thing ( obviously didn't have wipers) He had to drift over the back and try to see some of the storm out as the little boat just wasn't big enough for the waves. I kept thinking of our bags stored on top of the boat and hoped he had covered them well enough.

At 5pm, which was supposed to be the end of our journey, we stopped at another jungle village for them to check the engine and stick another barrel of fuel on which was nearly as big as the boat. We only got 10mins up the river when the engine cut out again and it was now getting very dark. So we had to float back to the same village with just using the minimal amount of engine so it took forever. I sat out on the front bit to watch the fire fly's and listen to the frogs croaking from the bank. When we did get back to the village we all got out and made our way through thick mud up thought the middle of the small town to find a hostel for the night. We were told we could leave our bags on the boat for the night as the driver was staying with the boat all night and would be safe, very hard for us to leave them there and trust the bloke but we didn't have a choice. We were taken to a really nasty place that i can only describe as a bare room that stunk to high heaven with 2beds covered in grime with no sheets and nothing else. Luckily we were moved to another room which was slightly better (we had a sheet) due to the fact the other people refused to stay in the hostel and found another one around the corner. We just went straight out for a walk around town without any money for water or food, but were told the boat would pay for some chicken soup that was being sold in the street. Everyone else dived in but we weren't hungry so just went back to the hostel. We obviously didn't have any stuff with us so just had to sleep in our clothes and cover the pillow with my jumper. We both ended up sleeping really well even with the rats and the snoring man next door.

 

Wednesday 22nd October 2003 Hotel Caribe, Lima

Slept pretty damn well. The night was pretty cool. We where up by 6 though and it was already getting warm. It had rained all night and I started to wonder about the integrity of my backpack waterproofing (our backpacks where still tied to the roof of the boat) The accommodation was paid for by the boat company and they even covered some breakfast, fried fish and fried bananas. It was pretty tasty and even Sarena ate the fish. Spent the morning talking to David. Apparently a new engine was being boated in from Iquitos early in the morning. But that didn't arrive until 11. By which time we where both dying for some water to re hydrate us. No-one in the town would expect our brazilian or american money. But in local a fellow passenger was returning to brazil and managed to change some much needed money for us.

By 12 the boat was apparently ready to go. although they hadn't even tested the new (old) engine. We jumped in the boat and it started up OK but with lots of smoke. I don't think this replacement engine has been used in ages! anyway we where finally on our way again, so much for the fast service, although I wasn't counting on the fact that we would still make it. 3 and a half hours later and we where approaching Iquitos. They replacement engine had held up but was really spluttering for the last 10 minutes.

We disembarked finally at 4pm and I was surprised to find my backpack pretty dry, unlike some other unlucky passengers. Predictably we where met at the port by an army of taxi (motortrike taxis) drivers. They assured us that there was a flight to Lima at 7 pm so David joined us and we went straight to the airport. We have all had enough of the Amazon now so are just keen to leave the area. I'm sure Iquitos has some interesting things to see but at the end of the day its just another city. Yep the taxi drivers hadn't lied and we where then met by loads of very helpful peruvians at the airport. Normally you can't but tickets at the airport but apparently it is very quite at the moment so we shouldn't have a problem.

by 5:30 all 3 of us had tickets for the 7 pm flight to Lima. I had a quick wash down in the toilets - very sticky and smelly. They even sold Snickers in the airport which did me for lunch and tea.

By 8 we where in the air. Just for an hour and a half. By 10 we had said goodbye to David, booked a flight ticket to Cusco for the morning and even got a smart(ish) and much needed hotel for the night. I was pretty exhausted by the time we got to the Hotel and just wanted to sleep, but we had a quick meal at the hotel restaurant and a nice hot shower before hitting the sack.

Up at 6am and went down to the docking place just to see if our boat was still there and if the other engine being delivered from Cusco had been dropped off. The boat was still there with our bags but no engine. We went back to the other hostel where David and the other were staying and were told by the driver that we should be on the move at 9am. He said we could have some b'fast (on the company) and were served up with fried bananas and a black fish, eyes an all. I ate it!!! yep i ate the fish which looked like a fish with bones and fins and eyes and everything, can't believe how much i've changed

Spent the morning talking to David with the driver coming in now and then to say it was going to be another hour......... At 11am we went down to the wooden shack (the docks) to find out what was happening, and went to sit in a room full of kids who found all our stuff and my blonde arm hair very interesting. They were quite cute up to a point but then they wanted to keep everything and tried to sweet talk me into parting with my bracelet.

At 12pm the engine had finally arrived and we had to wait for a little while longer to get the thing assembled and ready to go. In the mean time we were now hungry and thirsty with no money but Toby sweet talked someone into swapping some Real's with Soles and we got some stale bread and water. It was a relief to get back on the boat and 4hrs later we arrived at Iquitos and took down our dry backpacks - thank goodness. David and us 2 took a couple of motor taxis to the airport and booked ourselves up on a flight for 7pm to Lima which was really lucky. Some of the guys in the airport were trying to convince us we had to go back into town to buy the plane tickets but i knew they were trying to rip us off so stayed put.

To the glory of the heavens above, David and i found the duty free place sold Snickers which were very expensive but we just had to get them - haven't had decent chocolate for a while. We all sat in silence whilst we devoured them then waited for the flight.

The flight was only for an hour and a half, good job as it was one of the most uncomfortable planes i had been on, ended up with your knees around by your ears.

We said goodbye to David whilst retrieving our bags then found a travel shop which booked us up a plane ticket for the next morning at 9am. They were incredibly helpful and booked us up a hotel which was close and arranged a taxi to take us there and pick us up in the morning. They all wore black suits and i'm sure if it had been in the day time they would of all been wearing shades. 10mins later they took us to a very posh black car and then locked us in as apparently people open the doors when you are stopped at traffic and steal everything. They took us to our hotel where we just dumped our stuff and went down stairs for some food, as we hadn't eaten properly in ages. Toby said he wasn't hungry but did order a burger and chips which didn't see the light of day! Hot shower then bed.

 

Thursday 23rd October 2003 Qori Inti Hostel, Cusco

Up at 6. Another day on the road. At 7 we headed to the airport and checked in for a 9 flight to Cusco. Managed to find some English guide books for Peru and Ecuador at the airport which was pretty handy.

The plane was only about 30 minutes late and by 10:30 we where finally in Cusco. Again we used the services of tourist guides at the airport to help us find a cheap hostel and book up the pre-requisite Inca Trail hike to Machhu-Picchu. I think we got a pretty good price compared to stories we have heard lately. The Inca Trail is very expensive but unfortunately now illegal to do on your own and a must do for anyone visiting Peru. With that sorted we grabbed a couple of Empanadas for lunch and then went on a tour of our city and our first visit to some Inca sites.

We ended up on a mini bus with a group of Norwegians. and an Indian tour guide called Herbert. The guide was very funny although I don't know if it was intentional or not. He loved the Norwegians and probably talked more about Vikings than Incas. The first stop was the Cathedral that was built on top of the old Inca temple. There where still some remains of the Temple and they looked newer than the cathedral. The engineering of the Incas is amazing, every block fits perfectly. Herbert pointed out a couple of blocks with lumps on. He said that they may of been for lifting or a sigh of fertility, 'Female breasts, do you know 'Tits'?' he explained making sure the Norwegians understood his English. Very funny. After the Cathedral we headed up the hill sides to Saqsayhuman a pre Inca fort again it was a perfectly built stone fortress with a great look over Cusco. We ended up seeing some more ruins and stopping in the obligatory gift shop and then made it back to our Hostel by 6. Sarena was feeling pretty ill and I must admit the altitude (3,500 metres) was getting to me a bit so we sacrificed the BBQ'd Gunies pig for another day.

 

Up at 6 for a quick b'fast of crackers and jam then were picked up at 7am and taken to the airport. I managed to buy a reading book as i was going out of mind without one and Toby got a book on Peru.

Flight was delayed so didn't leave until 10.30 so had time to sit in the departure lounge and note the amount of Japanese were also flying to Cusco, but they all go to Machu Picchu the same time as us...... bugger

The plane was the same as the last apart from having a Japanese old man pushing and shoving me to get into his seat - grrrrrrrrr

Arrived in Cusco about an hour later and found a tourist info place which got us a taxi to a hostel we had our eye on and was in the lonely planet as being $10 each but when we got there it was much more expensive but absolutely beautiful inside, with an open court with fountain. Wilbur, the guy from the tourist info place had also come with us, so suggested we go to another hotel which was cheaper. The drive around was great and it was like being back in Nepal but cleaner and more open - absolutely wonderful!

We sat down with Wilbur and he gave us the low down on the Inca trail, i asked a lot of questions, like how much did the porters get paid and what percent goes to the company etc. It seemed the cheapest rate we had heard of and seeing as your not allowed to do the walk on your own now, we didn't have much choice so booked up to start on the 25h in 2 days time. We also booked up to do the City tour in the afternoon so grabbed a couple of empanadas and waited for the coach. I was finding the altitude quite hard on my old chest and forgot how hard it was to breathe. We spent the afternoon being taken to all the famous sights of the City including the Spanish Cathedral which was built on top of an Inca temple - blinkin Spanish. Saw some Inca original walls which looked like they had only just been built, they were so perfect and straight. Herbert, our guide explained what the lumps were on a couple of the stones, saying that some people think they stand for fertility and could be breast, then looked up and said ' you know these things, breasts? like tits - very very funny and kept us chuckling for ages.

We then went to Saqsayhuman, a pre - Inca fort and i was amazed at the workmanship, they had built it in the shape of a jagged razor tooth, defend and attack, defend and attack. The stones were placed together perfectly and you couldn't even get your finger nail between them. Some of the rocks were huge and the historians still don't know how they moved them. Some stories say that they were moved by terrestrial being who came down and moved them with there mind, a bit like the Egyptians and the pyramids........

Next it was a quick stop for some coco tea and a chance to buy some locally made scarf's and ponchos etc then onto a natural limestone site where there was an underground cave and tunnel where were found some mummies and still had the sacrificial alter - cool. Had a look at an amphitheatre where they would bring out the mummies and seat them into the stone seats to praise the huge stone idol which was still standing today.

The last stop was to see where they would bathe but i was really not feeling well by now so just sat in the coach and waited. Got dropped off back in the main square at 6pm where we trundled back to our hostel and looking forward to finding the curry place we had read about. On the way home i started to feel very bad and ended up going to bed at 7pm soon joined by Toby who was tired.

Friday 24th October 2003 Qori Inti Hostel, Cusco

Had a good long nights sleep. But the altitude change is still effecting us a bit. I Think Sarena has developed a bit of a chill, so lets hope she will be okay for the hike tomorrow. I hired out an extra big Sleeping bag that we can use as a rug for our camping trek into the mountains and we then lazed about for the rest of the day trying to get over our altitude problems.

Poor old Sarena didn't improve much and spent most of the day in bed which is very unlike her. I didn't do much else except check emails and sort out my backpack for the morning as we have decided to carry both our stuff in just my backpack (sucker!).

Had a terrible night as my back, stomach and kidneys were aching like hell and i felt pretty disorientated. This has to be the first time i had felt ill since arriving in China, 2 years ago.

I got up at 6 and went for a walk around the town but ended up feeling exhausted because of the altitude so spent the rest of the day in bed in terrible pain and feeling worse and worse as the day got on, developed a chill and started worrying about doing the walk for the following day - had to do it. Got up in the evening now feeling incredibly hot and tried to sort my bags out but didn't know my arse from my elbow so wrote my diary as i new it would be a while before doing it again, just hope i feel better in the morning.

Saturday 25th October 2003 Inca Trail Day 1, Cusco

Thankfully Sarena was feeling a lot better in the morning, so we headed out to be picked up for the Inca Trail at 7:30. There was 14 of us on the trail... 3 Swedes, 2 Spaniards, 2 Uruguayans, 2 Kiwis, 2 Danes and 3 of us Brits... A really good mixed group. It took about an hour and a half to get to the starting point of the Inca Trail and and a 4 day / 48 km walk to the abandoned Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Just before we started walking we stopped of at an old Inca settlement Ollamtaytambo to pick up a bag of Coca leaves each. These leaves are the base for cocaine and damn good for helping with altitude sickness. For the trail we carried our own clothes and sleeping equipment but there where also Porters to carry the food and tents. They cooked us lunch before we set off. It was a full 3 courses and I suspected that maybe they had cooked all the food so that they wouldn't have to carry any. By 1 we where on our way. The sun was out but a few clouds where hanging over the tips of the mountains. The first hour took us past 3 small indian villages. We tried to stop at the 3rd for a break but they had mutant Sand Flies and Mosquito's there which could draw blood in a fraction of a second. So we moved on for a steep climb to a the top of a hill where we relaxed and had a great view of an old inca settlement across the valley. After spending 5 minutes staring at these ruins I realised that there was a whole village right behind me. Cool. spent a while wondering around the old Inca houses, then our guide, Littio, gave us a brief description of the area and we headed on.

The rest of the walk was fairly level and by 5 we arrived at the campsite. I must admit my thigh muscles where starting to twitch by the time I arrived. We obviously have bought too much clothes and snacks as usual. The porters had arrived well before us and all the tents where set up. I started to eat as many snacks as I could so that I wouldn't have to carry them tomorrow. 2 apples and 2 chocolate bars later our guide produced a table load of his own snacks. Blimey looks like we will have good food for the whole trip.

We all sat around the table eating snacks and getting to know everyone but as I talked I could feel some strange sensations in my belly. Dinner arrived by 7, again another 3 courses but my stomach pains had developed and I only managed the trout. By 8 everyone was heading to bed. Good old Sarena managed to step in the smelliest Cow pat just as our guide was telling us to make sure we put our boots right inside the tent. Great.

We had a nice big 4 person tent for the two of us, Even so I managed to fill it all up with stuff thrown out of my backpack. I couldn't face going to the loo so decided just to try and get to sleep. An hour later I woke with a terrible pain in my stomach and tried to sleep through it and find a comfortable position but it just got worse and worse. Eventually my stomach gave up and I had to dart outside to throw up. Then the other end gave way! After my bout of food rejection I thought that my stomach would calm down. But it didn't. In fact It got worse still and I ended up vomiting and crapping all night. Haven't a clue where it all came from. But even drinking water caused my stomach to reject it. Poor old Sarena didn't get any sleep either as I scrambled in and out of the tent. In the odd moment of silence I could also hear that the Spanish couple next to us where having a few problems. Bugger maybe the food isn't so good.

Felt a hundred percent better, thank goodness! so we were both geared up for doing the trail and really looking forward to doing it. We got picked up at 7.30am and found ourselves in a coach with a mixed bunch of people who we would be doing the trail with. Swedes, Kiwis, Spanish, Uruguayans, Danes and another Brit.

The bus journey took about an hour and a half taking us to Ollaytamtambo, a lovely little place surrounded by an old Inca Fortress on the surrounding mountains. We all got off for a quick wee stop and to buy some coca leaves to chew for the altitude then hopped back on and took the bus for another 30mins to the beginning of our trek. The porters cooked us up all a wonderful lunch which i could only eat a little of before picking up a roll mat each and donning our backpacks to start the trail. It was a 4hr hike up hill and down dale in the most breathtaking scenery. We stopped to look at the first Inca ruins called, Llactapata, where we took loads of photos and just took in the beauty of it all. Our guide, Litto told us all about the ruins and how they were discovered whilst looking for Machu Picchu, under years of undergrowth.

We then carried on, only to stop for a quick break after a very steep climb in a little village where we all got eaten alive by sand fly's. The little bastards even live over here! I donned my insect repellent straight away but toby and the Swedish girl didn't and ended up looking like a freak show....

Another hour or so up hill and we came to our campsite for the night. Tents were already errected by the porters who had run ahead in flip flops carrying gas bottles and huge packs making us look like a bunch of wooses, just like the Everest Trek. Toby and i ended up with a really big tent which was like staying in a 5star tent after our little one.... The campsite was just a little patch hanging on the side of a hill and the toilets was a small building with a hole and no door, but did have the luxury of a couple of horses and dogs wondering in and out. I thought it a better idea to find some bushes as the smell was too over powering but found out, by the amount of shite and toilet paper scattered around that most people had the same idea.

At 5ish we were all called to sit in a little shelter for coca tea and snack whish was loads of popcorn and biscuits - my favourite. We were then given dinner which was fish (i ate it) and rice, a really nice dinner given the surroundings and lack of cooking facilities. Toby didn't seem hungry - oh oh that sounds ominous.... We all exchanged stories and got to know one another etc but as soon as it got dark i wanted the loo again. Ended up walking in some shite which everyone could smell so had to try and clean it off in some water and a patch of grass, didn't work though. We all went to bed pretty early and cosied up in our bags and tents for the night. I knew i wouldn't sleep when i felt how hard the floor was, my poor old bones just end up all bruised. But it wasn't the floor in the end that kept me up all night - it was Toby. After about an hour of bedding down he awoke with terrible stomach pains and had to run outside with diorreah (which isn't nice outside in the dark) he then had to be sick and on and on it went all night. He was in so much pain and was getting weaker by the hour. In the end he couldn't even get outside to be sick so just stuck his head outside the door whilst laying down. I went and awoke the porters to make some herbal tea to help with the sickness which seemed to help a little but he still kept being ill. At 5am i just sat outside with the dogs and chickens waiting for the family to get up so i could buy a coke off them to try and get some sugar back into Toby - he was craving a cold coke by now.

Sunday 26th October 2003 Hostal Tumi, Aguas Calientes

I can't recall feeling so ill before. Couldn't even keep any water down without having to dive out of the tent door to throw up. By about 5 though my stomach started to calm done. Helped by Sarena's nursing. I even managed half an hours worth of Sleep. Sarena fetched me some special Tea that our Guide made for us (that stayed down for a good 20 minutes). But all I really wanted was a bottle of sweet Coke. Thankfully Sarena managed to get one in the morning and It did make me feel a lot better. By 7 we where up and about and against Sarena's thoughts I decided that I would try and continue the Trail.

We arranged for a porter to carry our backpack and started on our way up the hill. After about 10 minutes though I had to stop and sit down. I felt very dizzy and weak and had to concede that Sarena was right all along and that I should turn back. Bugger Bugger Bugger. Littio, our guide, was very helpful and said it was the best decision. We went back to the camp site and grabbed our back pack form the porter. Littio's assistant then cam and joined us and helped arrange a horse to take me back to the start of the Trek. Sarena insisted that she carried the backpack and we set of back.

The 3 our trek ended up taking about 5 hours and I even had to keep stopping the horse to take a rest for a few minutes. Sarena did amazing well with the backpack and seemed quite jolly about the whole thing. Its all a bit of a disappointment not to do the Inca trial. But we will still get to see Machu-Picchu as we will catch the train up from the start of the trial. By 2 we had got back to the start of the trail and caught a 20 minute bus to the nearest town, Ollamtaytambo. It is a cool little indian settlement with a huge big Inca fortress built on the side of the mountain. The assistant guide (never got her name) took me to the hospital where I got standard set of yellow pills to take 3 times a day. And then she took Sarena to get some train tickets to Aguas Calientes.

The train wasn't until 7:45 so we sat around for the rest of the day in a cafe overlooking the town and the Inca fortress. It was a great place to sit and watch the world go by even though the time seemed to drag on. Our little helper left us for her bus back to Cusco at 4:30 and we just stayed in the cafe and watched the sun set behind the mountains whilst listening to the hippies beating their bongos.

The train ride ended up being a bit of a pleasant surprise. We where told it would take 3 hours but after only an hour and a half we had arrived in Aguas Calientes. It was a bit more of a mission to find a decent Hostal though. but in the end we found one at the top of the Hill that had really comfy beds. We both fell asleep straight away.

Our guide, Litto thought it best for Toby to go back to Ollaytamtambo and get to the hospital, then try and rejoin the group later by train. I thought this was a really good idea and told Toby he just wouldn't be able to do the huge hike we had in store for us that day. He insisted he could do it, and tried to join in with breakfast but couldn't eat a thing. The couple who had been in the tent next door to us had also been sick all night but looked slightly perkier than Toby did, don't know if it was the food or just the altitude which can also make you ill?

Toby did agree to getting a porter to carry the bag for him which was a good thing but i just knew he wasn't fit for walking but he still tried. 10mins into our days trek he collapsed feeling exhausted and admitted to not being able to carry on. So i ran back to the campsite and took the bag away from the porter and arranged a horse to take Tobes back down to town. Litto got his assistant, a women who spoke little English but was very sweet, to go back with us and help. So i took the backpack and with Toby on the horse being led by a young girl and our lady guide we all trekked back to town. It took around 5hrs to get back, a lot of it being up hill which took all my effort with a back the size of Texas attached to my shoulders. Toby had to get off the horse now and then to walk but ended up only doing a few mins before getting back on the horse.

When back in town we took Toby straight to the hospital and left him sitting on the bench with the bags as we had 20mins before the doctor was turning up. Me and the guide walked down to the train station which was blinkin miles away only to find it was shut so had to walk all the way back to hospital. He got taken in and looked at and was told he had an intestinal infection, to be honest he could have had the bubonic plague and they would have said the same thing - we are talking the hospital from the dark ages. They gave him some pills and said not to eat veggies and took the money. We then all went to a quiet little restaurant and left Toby sitting comfortably whilst we once again went to the train station which was now open, for some tickets for the evening train.

Went back and had some lunch, Toby had fruit, then waited all afternoon watching the sun go down over the Inca ruins for our train to come. Our guide bid us farewell and we went to catch the train at 7pm, Toby was now feeling a little better. Whilst sat at the station i got talking to an American guy who was telling me how he won't eat anything in South America unless it was a McDonalds and couldn't understand in this day and age why Cusco ( a beautiful Peruvian town) didn't yet have a McDonalds..................... i said how it was a good thing they didn't and how there is a plentiful amount of tasty fresh fast food in hundreds of stalls everywhere, just not burgers and he said ' yea but you just don't know what your eating and could be any meat going in'. And what do you think they put in McDonalds burgers if it isn't all the crap meat? He just didn't get it, so i walked away in disgust.

We thought the journey was going to take 3hrs so were pleasantly surprised when we arrived in Aguas Calientes an hour and a half later. We walked around for a little while trying to find a hostel but the ones we looked at were pretty rough, and Toby needed a decent bed for the night. We finally found one which was a little more expensive but clean and just crashed out for the night.

Monday 27th October 2003 Hostal Tumi, Aguas Calientes

Still feeling pretty rough so didn't really get up to much for most of the day. Had a bit of an issue with Money as we had run out and their are now ATMs or Banks in Aguas Calientes. A lot of the restaurants take visa though so we thought we might try and get some cash back. So we went to a place for some breakfast. They said they accepted Visa so I even tried a bit of Muslie. When it came to paying though they then said that they didn't accept any credit cards. So we where a bit stuffed. The only solution was to borrow 20 Soles from the really nice tourist Information girl. That gave Sarena enough cash to take the bus up to Machu-Picchu and to the posh hotel up there that would issue US Dollars against our visa card. I sat at the bus stop and waited for her. Luckily I was kept amused by a load of Peruvian School kids that where on there way to Machu-Picchu. They didn't speak much English, which was probably due to there English Teacher that didn't seem to speak much English either. We ran through the list of famous football players that we all new and just as Sarena arrived they caught their bus up the hill.

Now we had some cash we could pay for our breakfast (and retrieve my watch which was left as security). By midday it started to pour down with rain and I spent most of the day in between small walks around the down and have a lie down. We even contemplated the hot pools but they looked pretty mank.

We ordered a large pizza for dinner but I could only manage a couple of slices before my stomach turned over. At least we got to save some for breakfast tomorrow.

Toby felt better but still a little green around the gills, so planned to take it easy for the day. We had been told there was a cash point in town which turned out to be a blatant lie - great not a bean in the purse. Ended up borrowing 20soles from a lovely girl in the info office who told us we had to catch a bus up to Machu Picchu and go to the posh hotel up there and get some dosh - hence the 20soles for the bus ride. I was the one with the card so it was me who had to take the journey but not after some coffee and b'fast. We found a cafe who said they took visa and chowed down on some eggs and toast whilst Toby had a huge bowl of yogurt and musli and banana. When it was time to pay they told us they didn't take visa! ok now what to do. Toby gave them his watch and said we would pay them later after my bus ride to the dosh hotel. I got a ticket and hopped on board a bus which took me up into the mountains for an amazing view over the river and valley below. At the top it was tourist heaven so just went straight into the hotel where they charged 10% commission - thieving buggers. I was surprised that they let a hotel be built in such a place but then the lazy rich people have to sleep and eat somewhere, and wouldn't want them catching a bus up a mountain to see the Ruins when they can walk 10metres from the hotel to see them.......grrrrrr

As soon as i got my money and had overheard enough dire rich people conversation to make me vomit, i headed out to buy another bus ticket back down again. There seemed to be a rally protest being held by the locals so went to investigate, the written signs explained how the government promised the local people years ago, that a percent of the money made from Machu Picchu would go back into the community for schooling, housing, hospital etc, but they hadn't seen a bean, now why doesn't that surprise me. The government must make a fortune just on the bus trips alone - they cost 15soles per person one way, and there are hundreds of people going up and down everyday.

I met Toby down in the town and we went to pay off our debts then headed back to the hostel for a lie down. We did think of going to the hot pools but the photos didn't look so inviting and the weather was cold and rainy so didn't bother. Did go out for some pizza for dinner but Toby didn't eat much so had some left over for b'fast.

Tuesday 28th October 2003 Qori Inti Hostel, Cusco

Up at 5 and headed down to the bus stop to Machu-Picchu at 6. Good job too. We where told the first bus leaves at 6:30 but they had started running at 6 so we got the first bus up to the top of the hill to find Machu-Picchu pretty deserted. managed to get a few photos of the Inca city without any tourists wandering around which was a great bonus. Then people started flooding in. All the hikers that had made the Inca trail came in over Machu-Picchu mountain via the sun gate in the east. We found our group straight away as they where sitting on a rock overlooking the city. After about half an hour catching up with them we headed back to the entrance so that they could store all there backpacks and then Littio our guide met us at 8 and took us on a 3 hour tour of this amazing city.

Most of Machu-Picchu has been restored which is obvious by the poor workmanship of the refitted stones. Most of the walls had been overgrown after the city was abandoned so most walls had fallen down. Probably about 70 % of the city has now been restored and some buildings have remained intact. These are generally the more prestigious houses, like the sun temple where the walls have been so meticulously constructed that they still look pretty perfect a 1000 years on. The views all around the city are amazing and even though it wasn't a clear day the clouds sat just on top of the surrounding mountains and made the whole place feel pretty mystical. By 12 we had pretty much walked around the most of the city. Except for the neighbouring peak of Huyana-Picchu, that seemed a little too strenuous for us. The whole place was getting pretty busy with tourists by now so we headed back down to Aguas Calientes for the afternoon.

I am now finally getting my appetite back. So we spent most of the afternoon eating Pizza. We then collected our train tickets back to Cusco from Littio and met up with Leon and Clare before getting on the train at 4.

The train ride back was pretty nasty. It took 4 hours and the carriage rocked from side to side for the whole trip. A few people turned pretty green. Probably not the best option of travel when you can catch the train back to Ollamtaytambo (1:30 hours) and then the bus to Cusco (1 hour) for about a third of the price (and much more comfortable) - never mind. Leon was even pretty ill by the time we arrived in Cusco.

By 9 we where back in the Hostel and feeling pretty exhausted.

Woke up at 5am and were at the bus stop headed up to Machu Picchu for 6am, we had been told the busses don't start running up until 6.30am but we had an incline they would be starting early, and funny enough they did.

Up the top by 6.30 and walked through the ticket office into the ruins and found some our group straight away. Everyone seemed really pleased to see Toby and made a big ole fuss, nobody could even remember my name...... We had got there in good time and was relatively quite apart from the groups of hikers who had walked the trail and had come via the sun gate and had got there earlier than the tourist buses. The views were amazing up amongst the tops of the green mountains and looking down on the most breathtaking City perched on the edge. Took loads of photos then had to put all our backpacks into storage before doing a group tour of the Inca ruins. Litto gathered us all up and we all walked around for the next 2hrs being shown all the temple and intricate built walls, tombs and alters, sacrificial tables, stone compasses, water systems, caves, houses etc all of which were just fantastic - those Incas were pretty damn clever people, seems strange that when the City was found by some locals years and years ago there wasn't a sole living in it - they had all vanished and we don't know why...

A lot of the City has been restored so you can see how these ingenious people lived, but still so much mystery surrounds the City and its people and how they made such wondrous artifacts and buildings that still looked new after a 1000yrs. After the tour we were left to walk around on our own, Lotto said we had to meet up at a restaurant in town at 3pm to collect our train tickets home. Toby and I wondered around all the little alleyways and miles of steep steps taking oodles of photos of buildings and the amazing surrounding views before heading back down to town.

Toby seemed to be feeling a lot better so we found a Mexican restaurant and spent 3hrs chilling out and eating pizza ( it took along time to get served) then met the 2 kiwi couple - Clare and Leon at the rendezvous point.

Said goodbye to Lotti and collected our tickets then caught the train back to Cusco which took a grueling 4hrs, all of which was slept through by Toby. By the end of the journey Leon was starting to fill ill and we left him sitting on the toilet at Cusco after arranging to meet up the next day for b'fast at a fab cafe.

Wednesday 29th October 2003 Qori Inti Hostel, Cusco

After breakfast I did our diary and then went out for some more breakfast. We had arranged to meet up with Leon and Clare at a cool cafe they had found. So at 10:30 we headed to Jacks Cafe and met them. Leon stilled looked a bit rough but claimed he was ready for some Breakfast. The food was great. It was is run by an Ozzy women and the portions are huge. I wasn't too hungry so just went for a Bacon and egg Sarnie. It was still pretty big though and the Bacon was just like home. Leon went for the Gordo (big breakfast) but the poor bugger didn't keep it down for very long.

After our second breakfast We went and checked our emails. Surprisingly I had a few, don't get that many nowadays :( . Even had a few from people that had found our web site and wanted a bit of traveling advice. Looks like I'll have to open up a travel agents when I get home. Spent a good hour replying to emails Then went out in search of a bus ticket to take us South tomorrow night. Ended up finally submitting to the ever persistent shoe shine boys. He had special suede cleaner so I let him at my boots. The poor bloke they have not been cleaned in 2 years and are very smelly. He did a thorough job though (took him an hour) but they didn't look right clean. Looks like I'll have to make them dirty again pretty quickly.

Had a really good nights sleep back at the hostel we had previously stayed at. I got up early to find some shampoo and some hair product just so i could wear my hair down for a change. Went back and spent an ion in the shower washing my dirty hair and shaving my gorilla body - felt a different person after the long overdue MOT and went for some coffee downstairs before heading off to meet Leon and Clare. The Cafe was lovely and we had heard great things from the Kiwi couple saying how good the food was. A few minutes after 10.30 they turned up looking refreshed and clean like us, we all ordered some food which was difficult as it all looked so damn good. The owner is an Ozzy women who believes in very large portions, so much so, they are thinking of cutting down on size, and believe me after seeing the pile of 5 pancakes topped with cream and fruit with honey, I can quite understand. We all ate our wonderful food, Leon having a huge b'fast which didn't last long as he ran in the loos and chucked up - sounds famiiar.

We made arrangements to meet up with them at 6.30pm along with 2 Swedish girls then we went to an internet place to catch up with everyone. I went back to my room and wrote my diary whilst Toby sorted out some tickets to our next destination

Thursday 30th October 2003 Qori Inti Hostel, Cusco

Didn't have much of an appetite for breakfast and as soon as I ate some yogurt my stomach started feeling very dodgy again. So much so that I went back to my room for a lay down. The plan for the day was meant to be to find some christmas presents to send back home and visit a few museums. I didn't feel up to it but Sarena still went out on the search for Christmas presents.

Pains in my stomach increased during the day and by 4pm we decided that we needed to cancel our bus tickets for this evening to Arequipa. Bugger. I was starting to vomit again too so Sarena convinced me that I should get to the Hospital.

We only had to wait 20 minutes before I saw a doctor. He probably guessed what my problem was as soon as we walked in as a lot of tourists must get bad stomachs here. He ran a few tests and said that I will have to stay in the hospital for a few days. So they took me to a private room and got me into bed. First they took some blood to test, then gave me a cup for a stool test (nice) and plugged me into an IV drip (never had one of those before). Sarena went back to the Hostel later to sort out staying longer and I was left to try and sleep. Later in the evening the Doctor returned with results of my tests. I have managed to get Salmonella and pick up an Intestinal Parasite called Giardiasis I may of had this parasite for a while so it will be good to get rid of it.

Spent the night flicking through all the cable channels and managed to get to sleep by midnight.

After b'fast Toby started feeling a little squiffy again and didn't seem to want to do much. We had planned to go Xmas shopping but i went on my own which was probably for the best anyway. I ended up walking around all day and was pretty knackered by the time i got back to the hostel. Toby was looking pretty poorly again and didn't seem to have any energy so i decided to go change the bus tickets for the next day, as we were supposed to be catching the night bus to Arequipa at 7.30pm..

Whilst i was down stairs i found a leaflet about an English speaking clinic not too far away so took it back upstairs to show Toby and thought it best we get him looked at.

Off we went in the taxi 10mins down the road and got him sat in the waiting room looking pretty bad, had to wait about 20mins to see a doctor. He seemed to be on the ball and did a few tests and asked a few questions finally deciding on Toby staying the night in the hospital part of the clinic. It all seemed very up to date and a lot better than i hoped for so was pleased Toby was finally going to have some proper tests. They took us into a private room with own bathroom then attached Toby to a drip to try and rehydrate him. They then did a blood test and stool test before leaving him alone for the night. I stayed for a while to see he was ok as he seemed to be in less pain already. I had to get back and now cancel the bus tickets, there was no way we were going to catch that bus Friday evening either. I said goodbye and promised to be back first thing in the morning then caught a taxi back to the hostel. I then had to run up to the bus place and apologise, they weren't too happy..... I tried to go on line to find out about our Medical insurance but to no avail, so got myself a Chinese takeout for dinner which was a complete rip off (why is Chinese food so expensive all over the world?) Stayed up and watched a film then fell asleep around midnight.

Friday 31st October 2003 Qori Inti Hostel, Cusco

Stomach pains had gone by the morning and I was feeling a lot better. The Doctor gave me a quick check-up and said I he would come back at 4 and maybe I could leave. Cool. Sarena then turned up with some fresh clothes and my book. She stayed for about an hour and then left to continue getting christmas present. The little soldier! Spent the rest of the day determined to finish my massive book. The Doctor then turned up at 5:30 and said I could go. I got disconnected from my drip and given a load of drugs. Then had to wait another hour and a half for them to sort out the bill. Thankfully they gave me a free lift back to the hostel in their ambulance where I found Sarena sitting on the doorstep waiting for me.

Went out and checked my emails for an hour and then crashed back into bed.

Got up early and went straight to the hospital to see Toby who was looking 100% better. Told me of the doctors diagnosis, seems he had Salmonella and Giardiasis which is a parasite that lives in the intestine, that sounds about right... I dropped off some shower gel and toothbrush along with some clothes and book. Sat with him for an hour then had to get back to sort out the rest of the Xmas pressies so we could get them posted home. When i got back to town i went to the post office only to find they don't sell boxes so had to hunt some down somewhere else. I then spent hours walking around trying desperately to think what to get everyone, as the gift buying is pretty limited over here. Phoned Toby at 5pm to see if he was coming back which he said he would, so spent the rest of the time wrapping all the gifts and packing them in the boxes. Went and sat on the doorstep to wait for Toby to get back, which he did at about 6pm. Had an early night feeling really tired.

Saturday 1st November 2003 Qori Inti Hostel, Cusco

Feeling a lot better in the morning even though the altitude effected my breathing through the night. We packed up all the Christmas presents that Sarena had so lovingly bought and wrapped over the last few days. We took them down to the post office only to have to unpack them again to be checked. It was a great relief to get them sent off though. Had to do it economy though so hopefully they will get home before Christmas.

After that bit of stress was over with I needed a lie down. we then went back out in the late afternoon, and visited the old faithful, 'Jacks Cafe'. I managed a bacon sand which and then left Sarena to her own devices as I was feeling guilty about spending all this time in Cusco and not going to a Museum... It was closed. So took some photos of the town instead and then retired back to the Hostel for the evening.

Toby woke early and was feeling fine so we both went down for B'fast, Toby only eating dry rolls as the doctor has told him not to eat - dairy foods, red meat, vegetables, fruit. Doesn't leave a lot does it! not easy when you have to eat out. I went off to get a couple more things for the box whilst Toby went and made a couple of phone calls and brown paper. Wrapped and taped the boxes then took the down to the post office where they asked to look inside - bugger. After a long drawn out process we finally left them there, thank god that's all over and done with.

Went back to the hostel and just laid around for a bit then went up to Jacks Cafe for a wonderful late lunch, early dinner. Toby wanted to go to the museum but i wanted to call my mate shminky who seemed a little low - god i miss her soooooo much.

Went and took some photos then met back at the hotel where we just stayed in and watched a movie and went to bed.

Sunday 2nd November 2003 Hotel Espana, Lima

Up early and headed to the airport. Flying with Lan Peru this time which was a bonus (air miles and much better planes) The flight was only an hour and we where soon back outside Lima airport with or backpacks. We jumped on the shuttle bus which would take us direct to the Hostel of our choice. We ended up having to wait an hour before the shuttle left and then it took us another 2 hours of bouncing around on the bus as the driver went everywhere else first. Its still a safer option than the Taxis though which was proved when we passed a guy standing on a street corner selling Taxi stickers to passing cars. There is a bit of a problem in Lima where so called Taxis pick up tourists and then take them down a side street and mug them. This sales man wasn't helping the situation.

We finally made it to Hotel Espana, an amazingly massive and eclectic old Colonial home in the Historical part of Lima. I'm glad we made it here just to be able to stay at this place. It was full of massive roman statutes, and Inca artifacts, including a few skulls and mummified dead babies lying around. Cool. On the roof was an overgrown garden with a restaurant and bird cages containing doves, Cockatiels and a beautiful massive Macaw that just said 'Hola Pepé'. The cages where a bit small though and Sarena got pretty upset by it.

I spent the rest of the day determined to finish this massive and cheesy Tom Clancy book I was reading. It took me a good few hours but by 10 pm I had managed to finish it and leave it for some other unsuspecting sucker backpacker to pick this brick up.

Had to be at the airport for 7am, where we checked in and waited for our plane. Luckily it was a bit bigger that the others we had caught just lately so a lot less noisy and much better landing. We arrived in Lima at 11am and bought a couple of bus tickets for the shuttle bus................ never again, We had to sit on the shuttle bus for an hour, just us 2 whilst we waited for another flight to come in and some more people. It then took us around the whole of the city dropping off the other few passengers. 3hrs later we finally got dropped off at our hostel, which when looking at the map was only 10mins away from the airport.

The place was amazing when we enterered, a big old mansion place with marble floor and full of statues and paintings, old skulls and a mummified baby. Vines hung from the roof straight down to the lower floor through the sky lights. Our room was at the back and seemed nice enough - large but dark. I went and investigated the place and went upstairs to the roof restaurant where there was supposed to be an avery, i could hear them!

It was like a jungle! plants and vines everywhere with tortoises wandering around and a little ginger kitten, in the middle though was a tower thing made up of cages where the birds lived. On the bottom were loads of small pigeons in dirty smelly cages which hadn't been changed in years, they were also attached to the walls around the place and very scanky. In the middle of the tower was quite a big cage that held 2 rosellas who didn't seem very lively and had no toys of climbing aperatus. On the top of the tower was small cage housing a huge rainbow macaw called Pepe and i couldn't believe they would just leave him in that cage. It had no water, food, climbing perches or biting things to play with - disgusting. I complained to the ladies who were working up there, cleaning room etc who came out with some chopped up fruit for the birds but it seems the staff get so busy they forget to feed and water them on a regular basis.

Well that upset me for the day..................

We went and had a late lunch - early dinner around the cornet and i found they did a really nice salad, again something i haven't had in a while.

Spent the evening up on the roof top drinking some beer and watching Independence day on video they had running in the restaurant. Seemed to have adopted the ginger cat as he won't leave me alone.

Monday 3rd November 2003 Hotel Espana, Lima

A whole day in Lima. Its not the most attractive city in the world (in fact closer to one of the least attractive). They do have some interesting old colonial buildings and Churches though so we took a bit of a walk around the old part of town. Also discovered that plane flights out of Peru are extortionate so we opted for a 24 hour bus ride to the Ecuador border instead. We bought some tickets for tomorrow and then visited the only main attraction in Lima (that I am aware of) - Convent San Francisco.

It is a massive run down old convent with some great big paintings and murals but this isn't the reason that everybody visits it. Below the convent is a maze of catacombs that contain the diseased bodies of 2,500 ex Lima citizens. Where always up for tunnels and bones so had a great time looking around the catacombs. Obviously its all a bit touristy so I didn't quite feel like Indiana Jones but seeing hundreds of skulls all in one place is quite a sight.

Well that's it, we have seen as much of Lima as we have he energy for so spent the afternoon back at the amazing Hostel. Sarena played with all the animals and found to her delight that a long staying resident at added to the menagerie by buying a tiny timid black kitten. I left Sarena to it and Started (and nearly finished) a new book.

That evening we went to a recommended Restaurant. It was ran by an order of French Carmelite Nuns and was completely empty but full of hundreds of badly dressed tables. They did sell CHilean wine (which you can't go wrong with) so we stayed. They even had a meal that met my restricted diet, no vegetables, no fruit, no dairy and no red meat doesn't leave a lot. Chicken and RIce will do fine thank you. It was actually really tasty. Only got a bit awkward as the Nun was intrigued that we weren't married. Stubborn old Sarena kept saying that she didn't want to get married which really confused the Nun and neither of them would drop the subject. I kept kicking Sarena and just telling her to say she would get married. But she wouldn't budge. Thankfully the Nun finally gave up as our subject related vocabulary of Spanish and French got thinner and thinner.

Ended up back up at the bar at the Hotel and had a good few hours of general travel chit chat.

Had some b'fast up on the roof restaurant which was ok but not that good. We then went to get some plane tickets in town but found they were too expensive so bought some bus tickets instead just taking us to Tumbes, then we would find our own way to Quito. Went and had a quick coffee whilst waiting for the lady to get our tickets then went back to the restaurant around the corner from the hostel for some lunch, i had another lovely salad. We then went and sat in the hostel for a while to wait for the guided tour to start in the church opposite, we wanted to see the catacombs. I got speaking to Donte, a guy from Boston who lives for a few months every year in the hostel. He seemed a nice bloke who loved the hostel cat and had a bed for it and fed it regularly. He also tried to look after the resident birds but with not much luck, he had complained saying the birds (specially the rainbow macaw) needed a bigger cage with water and food. He also told me they stuff the birds into small boxes at night time with no air holes or water........and sometimes get forgotten about and left in those boxes all day, .disgusting. I started going into a big old mare saying something should be done about it and the owner should be told. But from what i could gather the owner was power crazy control freak who really didn't give a toss about the staff let alone the animals.

At 2pm we went for our tour around the church and catacombs seeing hundreds of bones scattered everywhere - cool. We didn't learn a thing about the place as it was all in Spanish but we did get some good photos. I spent the rest of the afternoon feeding the 2 tortoises with some fruit i had bought and feeding the birds up in the hostel. Pepe ( the Macaw) was so intelligent and funny it just broke my heart to see him in locked in there, the cleaner lady did let him out for a few minutes to help himself to some water in the sink but it wasn't for long. I went onto the internet and looked up some bird rescue places and sent a couple of letters asking for advice........

In the evening we went to a restaurant which was run by some nuns, voluntarily and all proceeds went to charity which we thought would be nice. The restaurant was laid out in a big hall place, very grand but very empty - we were the only ones. The food was very pricey but extremely good and we even treated ourselves to a bottle of white wine, something we haven't had a long time.

Went back to the hostel and sat up in the restaurant for a couple of hours chatting to some other travelers which made a nice change.

Tuesday 4th November 2003 On a Bus to Tumbes

Had a nice lazy morning, The bus to Tumbes in the north of peru didn't leave until 3 pm and we didn't have to check out until 12. Sarena went straight to her favourite spot for one last play with the Macaw, Kittens, Tortoises. And I lazed around the Hotel and read.

At 2 we caught a taxi to he Bus terminal and had an half an hour wait until we could board the bus. It was one of the smartest buses we have been on. 2 toilets, a kitchen and a lounge area at the front. We had the seats right behind the lounge area too which meant loads of leg room. Smart. We ended up leaving 30 minutes late as we waited for some late passengers who ended up being a load of 'beautiful brazilians from rio' who where actually sitting in the terminal all the time not realising that they should of been on the bus. Beauty and no brains. There was also a weirdo on the bus who spent the whole journey out of Lima sitting at the window sticking his middle finger up at everyone he passed by and nodding his like his neck had been broken.

They even played some half decent movies (in English). Austin Powers and Blair Witch 2. Every time there was a good bit in the films Weirdo jumped around an made loads of weird hand signs to nobody in particular. I'll have whatever he's on please!

Check out wasn't until 12am which was good for us, so after we handed back the key we just took our bags upstairs to the roof restaurant and read for a couple of hours, watching the kittens playing and tortoise strumping around the bags. Donte now had got another kitten just that morning so there were 2 new tiny skinny little things and the little ginger kitten who was the owners cat (now adopted by Donte) We caught a taxi at 1.45pm which took us straight to the bus station then had to check our bags in like the airport. The bus we were catching was really posh and we had the seats right at the front just behind the lounge area.....ooooooo. The bus didn't leave on time though thanks to a group of what looked like a band or models or something, boarding late. There was also a weird young guy who was covered in tats and piercings who thought he was really really cool and was doing the most stupid things and acting like a cock but kept us entertained for a few hours

Watched a couple of films including the Blair Witch 2 - absolutey crap, then after some food we both fell asleep

Wednesday 5th November 2003 On a Bus to Quito, Ecuador

Managed to get some decent sleep on the Bus. The entire drive up the coast of Peru was Desert. I hadn't realised that the whole country west of the Andes was so dry! We arrived at Tumbes at 10 and where immediately piled on by loads of Taxi drivers. We chose one guy and got a lift to a Hostel. On the way he asked where we where going next. We said Ecuador and he told us that the Border Control is going on strike from midday for about 15 days! Now I have read and been told that there are loads of Scam artists at this border. We had to think quick as we only and 2 hours to get across the border if this was the truth. We continued to the hostel so that I could ask them. I went inside and tried to ask someone if they knew about the strike. the bloody taxi driver came with me though and kept talking over the top of me so I didn't know if the answer I got from this second person was the truth (he also ended up confirming the strike) A bit pissed off I headed back to towards the Taxi, then spun around and asked a random man in the street while my new friend wasn't looking, This guy looked a bit bemused but seemed to agree that the border will be closed after midday. Thinking in retrospect though I think he just agreed with the way I asked my spanish question.

We made the desicion to run for the border. There is nothing much in Tumbes after all and we where only stopping here for a break between coaches. So they turned us around and took us the 30km to the border. On the way they said it would cost US$10 dollars each to get us across. A bit expensive, we are now getting totally sucked into this scam. Near the border the taxi swerved off the road and I though a complete mugging might be on the cards. He asked for the money to get us around the checkpoint which I assumed was the US$20. I gave him a fair bit less in equivalent Soles, which he said was OK and ran off to pay someone. A barrier of rope was then let down and we continues to the Peru side of the Border control. We where led into get our exit stamps. They told us we could leave our bags in the Taxi - NOT A BLOODY CHANCE. They waited the 30 minutes for us to get our stamps and then took us into Ecuador... (the scam continues)

Arrived in Tumbes for about 10ish am feeling pretty tired. We got of the coach and were soon jumped on by a crowd of taxi drivers all wanting to take us somewhere........ we jumped in one and asked him to take us to the hostel. On the way he told us that the border to Ecuador was closing at midday for 15day, for some kind of strike........... oh shit! we didn't stop at the hostel but asked the taxi driver how much it would cost to take us to the border, all very garbled and confusing but didn't have much choice as time was of the essence.

The driver and his mate took us around some checkpoint, driving off the main road and taking a back road all the time explaining this was the cheaper option........ we had to give him 50soles for doing this thinking that was going to be the cost of the whole trip - we were mistaken. They dropped us off at visa control for us to get our passports stamped then took us back to the taxi where another little bloke was now waiting. All this time we had been following the bus we had previously got off and were one step behind, seeing the group of people from the bus, should have caught the bus straight through really.

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