My new photography website has finally been launched.

Hi All, This is not strictly a travel update but I have just launched a new updated version of my website www.tomhphoto.co.uk with updated images - many updates to the travel section of course - and now mobile friendly. It would be great to get feedback, so feel free to leave a comment. [caption id="attachment_3176" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_04 The Saxon village of Viscri in Transylvania, Romania.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3178" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_06 The Red Fort in New Delhi, India.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3175" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_03 Marrakesh, Morocco.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3174" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_02 Greatstone Beach, New Romney.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3173" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_01 Byron Bay, Australia.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3184" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_12 O.Z.O.R.A. festival in Hungary.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3177" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_05 Masquerader in the Port of Spain Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3180" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_08 The Birmingham Bullring.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3181" align="alignnone" width="1024"]tom_hanslien_photography_homepage_09 The iconic Sydney Opera House, Australia.[/caption]

A Transylvanian Cycling Adventure.

Sometimes time really flies and escapes. This post is over a year delayed, so will have to make it a bit short and sweet.

Last June I had the opportunity to join in on a cycle trip through the beautiful landscapes of Transylvania, surrounded the Carpathian Mountains, visiting old Saxon villages where the traditional way of life still largely prevails.

The trip was arranged by the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) and organised by The Slow Cyclist. The GHF is committed to aid in the restoration of the vernacular architecture of the Saxon Villages using the traditional techniques and materials, so the focus of our trip was to visit some of the villages and sites to see the result of the work that has been done, and also see the progress of some of the current restorations.

The Slow Cyclist did an absolute fantastic job with the arranging of all the accommodation, food, entertainment, transport and mountain bikes. We were treated with the most gorgeous home-cooked food, and despite all the exercise from cycling I gained a fair few pounds from overindulging.

An unexpected little bonus on our last day before flying back home to the UK was to meet The Prince of Wales at an opening of a traditional kiln for making roof-tiles and building bricks. It was also fun to be able to try making a tile myself – somewhere in Transylvania there is a roof with a single tile inscribed with my name, if it survived the burning process that is.

As the title suggests this is our last destination before we head back to London and real life, so this will be the last post for a while – until we find we need another adventure of course.

After a few fantastically relaxing days in San Marcos la Laguna it was time to head to Mexico City for our return flight to good old London. We've pre-booked a room at Hostal Dos Fridas y Diego, so from the airport we take a taxi straight there. Our Formula 1 driver of our taxi gets us to our destination in next to no time. We again notice wherever we look there is Police absolutely everywhere, and especially as we approach our hostel – we later learn that we’re slap in the middle of the district where most of the embassies are based, so that could explain the extra heavy police presence in our area.

The lady that welcomes us upon our arrival is very friendly and helpful and after a bit of problems with opening the lock to the room we’d booked we get relocated to a massive spacious room with two double and one single bed. The hostel is really colourfully decorated with the running theme of Frida Kahlo in mind of course – there are pictures of and by her everywhere.

[caption id="attachment_2870" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hostal Dos Fridas y Diego, Mexico City. Hostal Dos Fridas y Diego, Mexico City.[/caption]

To try to make the most out of our short stay here in Mexico City we have a browse through the various flyers in the reception and decide on booking up a full day excursion to the Teotihuacan Pyramids for the next day and a half day tour of the markets in the morning of the following morning before our flight back home.

On the morning of our excursion to the Teotihuacan Pyramids Hannah is unfortunately not feeling very well - it’s another bout with stomach upsets, so I have to set off on my own. As the pickup is before the start of breakfast service at our hostel they let me have free range of the kitchen and after a couple of fried eggs some fruit and coffee I'm ready to go. Luckily the tour company doesn't charge for Hannah despite the last minute cancellation.

The group of our tour is quite small – it’s only six of us altogether. It’s a mix of French, Portuguese, German and English which gives our guide the opportunity to show off his language skills. Quite impressively he seems to manage all these languages very well, but he doesn't attempt to talk to me in Norwegian... I can’t say I blame him for that though – not exactly a world language.

The tour starts with introductions and a little history lesson about the history of the Teotihuacan Pyramids, the ancient civilisation that built them, and about the discovery and excavation of the site. The journey down to the pyramids takes roughly an hour and after the guide finish our history-lesson we’re left to either have a bit of a rest, or like me just admiring the never ending urban landscape of this enormous city.

Before entering the site we have a mandatory stopover at an arts and craft market where we get a little demonstration of the traditions of hand crafts using a local cactus species and also the obsidian rock. By now I'm so used to these mandatory visits to crafts markets on every tour we've done that I would find it odd and unsettling if we didn't stop at one. I'm actually very happy to visit this one as for once I can actually do a little bit of shopping – it’s the end of our travels so I don’t have worry about not having space in the backpack and the prospect of carrying around extra weight for weeks, or even months, as have been the reason for not going crazy shopping for all the lovely stuff we've encountered along our trip. Also, as Hannah might need a bit of cheering up after being stuck indoors in bed all day a couple of souvenirs might help her a bit.

[caption id="attachment_2835" align="aligncenter" width="545"]An Obsidian rock workshop by the Teotihuacan Pyramids, Mexico City. An Obsidian rock workshop by the Teotihuacan Pyramids, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2836" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mexico City. Mexico City.[/caption]

After the shopping-stop it’s time for the main attraction of our tour the Teotihuacan Pyramids where we get about three hours to roam around after a short guided tour of The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl. Three hours sounds like an adequate amount of time to explore the site but I soon discover otherwise. The site is absolutely enormous but that is not the main problem – because it’s Easter Sunday the site is absolutely ram-packed with people, making it slightly challenging to climb the pyramids – there are queues everywhere and to get to the top of the main monument, the Pyramid of the Sun takes me about one and a half hour due to the unbelievable queue. I practically have to run back down to make it in time for the bus. I'm glad I started with the Pyramid of the Moon where there were less queuing or I might have only been able to see the one pyramid. The views from the top of the pyramids are amazing so it’s definitely worth the wait and the standing around in the sweltering heat under a relentlessly scorching sun – very fitting circumstances when climbing the Pyramid of the Sun of course.

[caption id="attachment_2837" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Teotihuacan, Mexico City. Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2838" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2839" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2840" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2841" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2842" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2843" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. View from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2844" align="aligncenter" width="533"]View from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. View from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2845" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. View from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2846" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. View from the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2847" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2848" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Teotihuacan, Mexico City. Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2849" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2850" align="aligncenter" width="533"]One of many souvenir vendors in front of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. One of many souvenir vendors in front of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2851" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The start of the queue for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. The start of the queue for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2852" align="aligncenter" width="533"]More queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. More queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2853" align="aligncenter" width="533"]More queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. More queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2854" align="aligncenter" width="545"]More queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. More queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2855" align="aligncenter" width="533"]I drifted lonely as a cloud... while queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. I drifted lonely as a cloud... while queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2856" align="aligncenter" width="545"]More queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. More queuing for the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2857" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. View from the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2858" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City. View from the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico City.[/caption]

After being close to having a sun-stroke we return to the artisan market we visited earlier for some lunch in their restaurant. It’s a buffet of locally traditional food, and it’s quite a spread they’ve laid out for us – my favourites are the cactus stew-like dish and some blackened chicken, all washed down by some nice Mexican beer of course.

After a lovely lunch it’s back to central Mexico City and a visit to The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe where the infamous Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe hangs. None of us are particularly interested in this part of the tour – not even the guide... when one of our party asks whether he’s sad to be away from his family on this Easter Sunday he is quick to respond saying he’s not a Catholic and would otherwise spend the day in the sofa with DVDs and junk food. When he tells the story of the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe his disbelief in the story shines through – I find that very amusing.

[caption id="attachment_2859" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. The old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2860" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. The old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2861" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. The modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2862" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mass blessings outside of the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. Mass blessings outside of the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2863" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. The modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2864" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside the modern Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City.[/caption]

Our last stop is the Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, the Colonial Church of Santiago, and Plaza de las Tres Culturas (square of three cultures). Tlatelolco was apparently where the last stand of the Aztec against the Spaniards took place. The square next to the archaeological site is called the square of three cultures because of the surrounding pre-Hispanic ruins, the Colonial Church of Santiago, and the modern urban landscape of Mexico City meets here.

[caption id="attachment_2865" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City. The Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2866" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City. The Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2867" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City. The Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2868" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City. The Archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2869" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Colonial Church of Santiago by the  archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City. Colonial Church of Santiago by the archaeological site of Tlatelolco, Mexico City.[/caption]

Returning to the hostel I learn that poor Hannah have been cooped up inside all day, which doesn't sound very exciting. The only good thing about that is she’s been able to concentrate on her blogging all day and got a lot of typing done.

The next day, and it’s our last day of our five months adventure. We’d booked up a market tour and again have to leave the hostel before breakfast service. We take charge of the kitchen and cook our breakfast before checking out and arranging the storage of our backpacks with the lady in reception. All sorted we head over to the start-point of our tour in Hostel Amigo where the travel company is based. It’s not very far away and with the help of the metro we’re there in no time – but only to learn that the tour is unlikely to go ahead as there is only us two interested to do it today. We were under the illusion that when you book a tour and it’s confirmed it wouldn't matter how many else were interested – the main clue being in the word confirmed... They still decide the tour is off, so we (slightly pissed off) decide to do our own tour of the markets, as they’re all within walking-distance. We first get a bit side-tracked as I wouldn't mind having a look at Plaza de la Constitucion and a quick nose at the Cathedral – we’d passed it in the car the day before on our way to the Teotihuacan Pyramids (apparently it doesn't really have a name, but it’s referred to either “The Cathedral” or the “Metropolitan Cathedral”). After this we head down to the Markets for our self-guided tour.

[caption id="attachment_2871" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Plaza de la Constitucion, Mexico City. Plaza de la Constitucion, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2872" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2873" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2874" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2875" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2876" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral.[/caption]

The first market is called Mercado de la Merced and is a very lively and colourful food market. The second one is called Mercado de Sonora, where you can find all sorts of pets, and some livestock as well, and it also has a section for all kinds of herbs and spices and all you need for practising voodoo.  We had planned to go to a third market as well, the Mercado Flores Roman, but after the two previous ones we’re all marketed-out and decide to head for a restaurant for lunch.

[caption id="attachment_2877" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City. Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2878" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City. Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2887" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City. Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2879" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City. Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2880" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City. Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2881" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City. Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2882" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City. Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2883" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City. Mercado de la Merced, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2884" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mexico City. Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2885" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mercado de Sonora, Mexico City. Mercado de Sonora, Mexico City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2886" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Outside Mercado de Sonora, Mexico City. Outside Mercado de Sonora, Mexico City.[/caption]

After filling our bellies up with a lovely lunch we head back to our hostel to get ready for our flight back to London. We have ample time, enough to get changed and freshen up before our taxi comes to pick us up. Hannah have arranged with her brother to come and pick us up on arrival in London, so we head to the airport with the peace of mind that we’ll not have to fight our way through the busy tube with our enormous backpacks. Our flight is a fairly comfortable 11 hour flight and as we come out into the terminal building after picking up our bags Hannah’s brother and sister-in-law welcomes us with flowers, champagne, Christmas pudding and Easter eggs. It’s nice to be back after all this time and with such a welcome we feel very spoiled. We get into the car and start the drive through London to get home – it’s a really lovely sunny day and everything looks so beautiful in the sunlight as we glide through town. It’s such a nice feeling to recognise the surroundings for once and not having to keep a track of where we are and where we’re heading with the GPS on Google Maps in case we have a dodgy taxi driver that wants to rip us off by taking the long way around or to the wrong location and an expensive hotel where he’ll get commission. We know where we’re going this time, and we know we don’t have a dodgy driver – it’s a very comforting feeling.

After five months away it’s also going to be good to get back into working again - although I have of course been working with my photography all along my travels it’s going to be good to get back to commissioned work, and get some structure back into life. I wonder how long I will last before I have to go away for a holiday again though.

Started a bit later than planned from our lovely hostel in Guatemala City and got a taxi to the bus station. At first we were a bit sceptic about taking the 2nd class bus (chicken bus) but this turned out to be quite a fun little adventure. They really cram the bus full so we got squashed to within an inch of our lives, but it was a nice atmosphere in the bus and everybody has a big smile on their faces. Every now and then the bus picks up vendors who pass through the bus selling their goods before being dropped off further along the route.

When we arrive in San Marcos la Laguna it’s around eight in the evening and as we don’t have a map of the place we have no idea where the guest houses we’d looked at are situated - and there is no roads here, only a network of small paths so the guest houses’ addresses are just San Marcos la Laguna and no street-names. Along the paths there is no lighting which doesn't help us in our navigation. After walking up and down the main path and then up and down countless of more times we finally find a place to stay for the night. It’s not the nicest place – it’s a very basic room, which isn't anything unusual or bad in itself, but the shared facilities are downright very grubby. It serves us for the one night though as we find it near impossible to find any open guest houses. Next day we learn most guest houses close their receptions around six in the evening (apparently for security reasons) although San Marcos seems completely safe to us.

[caption id="attachment_2797" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Having a gorgeous curry at Restaurant Fe, San Marcos la Laguna. Having a gorgeous curry at Restaurant Fe, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2798" align="aligncenter" width="426"]Lake Atitlán seen from the shore at San Marcos la Laguna. Lake Atitlán seen from the shore at San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2799" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A bit of streetart in San Marcos la Laguna. A bit of streetart in San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2800" align="aligncenter" width="545"]A bit of streetart in San Marcos la Laguna. A bit of streetart in San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption]

First thing in the morning we head over to Hotel Aaculaax to see if they have any available rooms. We’re in luck and get an amazing room – really spacious and with a nice view of the garden. We could also have opted for one of their self-contained flats up in the hill above the hotel with what must be an amazing view, but at 800 Quetzales (US$ 100) per night it is a bit above our budget. Our room is unfortunately not available for our whole stay here so for the last two days we go for a smaller room (the good thing is that it’s cheaper of course). We love the décor in this hotel – everything is built by volunteers and out of recycled materials. It’s got heaps of character and the staff and owners are really friendly and helpful. The breakfast is also absolutely amazing with lots of fruit, home-made jam and fresh locally grown coffee. No wonder this place holds the top spot on TripAdvisor.

[caption id="attachment_2801" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The path up to Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. The path up to Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2802" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Our room at Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. Our room at Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2803" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The view of the garen from our room at Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. The view of the garen from our room at Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2804" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Our room at Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. Our room at Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2805" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Our bathroom at Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. Our bathroom at Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2816" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2817" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2821" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2822" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna. Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption]

The atmosphere here in San Marcos is dangerously relaxing – almost hypnotic - and we find time just flies by while we get a well deserved rest and recharge at the end of our trip. People here are also really friendly and as we walk around exploring the place virtually everyone you encounter says hello with a smile – it’s infectious and really makes it a pleasurable place.

[caption id="attachment_2825" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View of Lake Atitlán from San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala. View of Lake Atitlán from San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala.[/caption]

The most important highlight of my travels was played out here in San Marcos la Laguna. It all happened when we went to jump into the Lake Atitlán from the rocks. It’s a really popular thing to do here in San Marcos and there is even a seven meter high platform where you can jump off of. The water has a really nice temperature and it’s really deep so it’s very safe to jump in even from very high up. I decide to try to dive from the platform and have Hannah take a photo of me in the dive. Little does she know of the upcoming surprise. I dive in and when I surface and swim into land I call to Hannah saying I found something on the bottom of the lake. She’s very curious about what this can be and as I hand it over to her it becomes clear it’s a small ring and as she receive it I ask for her hand in marriage. To my relief there is no sign of hesitation and I get an instant YES. It made me feel like the luckiest man alive.

[caption id="attachment_2808" align="aligncenter" width="545"]This is me taking the plunge :-) When I surfaced again I claimed to have found something on the bottom of the lake. It was a ring, and when I handed it over to Hannah I asked for her hand in marriage... She said YES!!! :-) This is me taking the plunge :-) When I surfaced again I claimed to have found something on the bottom of the lake. It was a ring, and when I handed it over to Hannah I asked for her hand in marriage... She said YES!!! :-)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2818" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The little ring that signifies so much - even if it's a temporary stand-in :-) The little ring that signifies so much - even if it's a temporary stand-in :-)[/caption]

We spend the rest of our stay just lounging around in town eating gorgeous food – all locally sourced and organic of course – and find it really hilarious with all the hippies we encounter – some are really, really “far out” and like a throwback from the sixties. Here you can actually find true hippies - something we’d hoped to see more of previously in our adventure, but unfortunately not had much luck with. It’s also really fun when there is live music in the restaurants and as they pass by they dance in the style of seaweed on the bottom of the ocean, swaying around with their hands high in the air as if in slow motion.

[caption id="attachment_2806" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Lake Atitlán seen from the Mayan viewpoint at San Marcos la Laguna. Lake Atitlán seen from the Mayan viewpoint at San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2807" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hanna at the Mayan viewpoint at San Marcos la Laguna. Hanna at the Mayan viewpoint at San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2810" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art in San Pedro La Laguna. Street art in San Pedro La Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2811" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Chicken-busses in San Pedro La Laguna. Chicken-busses in San Pedro La Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2812" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Street art in San Pedro La Laguna. Street art in San Pedro La Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2813" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art in San Pedro La Laguna. Street art in San Pedro La Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2814" align="aligncenter" width="545"]San Pedro La Laguna. San Pedro La Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2815" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art in San Pedro La Laguna. Street art in San Pedro La Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2819" align="aligncenter" width="465"]Lake Atitlán seen from the shore at San Marcos la Laguna. Lake Atitlán seen from the shore at San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2820" align="aligncenter" width="545"]"Canadian Bacon" performing at The Mojito House, San Marcos la Laguna. "Canadian Bacon" performing at The Mojito House, San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption]

We decide to splash out a bit as we’re close to the end of our trip and hire a private taxi from the hotel to Guatemala City Airport for our flight to the last destination Mexico City. We get picked up just after eight in the morning so there is no time for breakfast. Our driver stops at a petrol station which has a little restaurant attached though and we have a fantastic traditional breakfast there – really unexpected how good this meal in a petrol station is – a very pleasant surprise. After this it’s direct drive to the airport and we arrive nicely in good time for our flight.

[caption id="attachment_2823" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Our amazingly lovely traditional Guatemalan breakfast at a truck-stop on our way to the airport. Our amazingly lovely traditional Guatemalan breakfast at a truck-stop on our way to the airport.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2824" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Our amazingly lovely traditional Guatemalan breakfast at a truck-stop on our way to the airport. Our amazingly lovely traditional Guatemalan breakfast at a truck-stop on our way to the airport.[/caption]

We arrive in Guatemala City in the early evening by air, it’s a bit extravagant of us to fly – we were planning to take a bus but were less than enthusiastic to spend a whooping 60 hours on a journey by bus - our time is precious and we much prefer spending it relaxing rather than cooped up in a bus now that we’re seriously starting to feel the fatigue after countless long journeys, always on the move from place to place. We managed to book a room at Hostal La Coperacha and an airport pickup while waiting for our flight in San Jose – we had a few hours to kill as our VIP taxi-van arrived early from Montezuma. It feels very luxurious to have everything booked up and arranged for us for once – no stress is a very pleasant feeling. Our taxi driver is waiting for us as we come out but he need to go and pick his car up from the car park so we have to wait outside where we have some crazy woman (probably on crack and various other substances) shouting abuse at the world and some gibberish about government satellites and aliens. We try to just ignore her as she comes up to us but this just make her more determined to shout louder and even more abusing than before. We’re just hoping she won’t attack us with her used needles and probably deadly diseases. Our taxi driver arrives in the nick of time to rescue us from an attack by this crazed babbling woman – we’re out of here. As we get closer to the centre of town we hit crazy traffic – it’s all stand-still as many roads are closed off for the Easter holy week parades. Due to this chaos the journey that is supposed to take 10-15 minutes takes over an hour. It’s quite nice to watch the bustle of the people dressed in their funny purple church outfits as we slowly move through the traffic stand-still in our taxi. When we finally get to the hotel we get a very nice surprise - the room is huge and really nicely decorated and the hostel is in a really nice old building on a quiet road.

[caption id="attachment_2782" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Our budget room at Hostal La Coperacha, Guatemala City. Our budget room at Hostal La Coperacha, Guatemala City.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2783" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Our budget room at Hostal La Coperacha, Guatemala City. Our budget room at Hostal La Coperacha, Guatemala City.[/caption]

Upon arrival we’re absolutely starving and quickly pop out to get something to eat. Because it’s the start of holy week and Sunday not many restaurants will be open, but we head out in good hopes. We don’t get far down the road before we can’t get any further because of the crowd of people still hanging about in the streets after the parade we saw some of from the taxi earlier. The good thing with it still being very busy is that there are many food-stalls around, so our worries about not being able to get food are unfounded. We really like the look of a stall that makes some gorgeous smelling chorizo sandwiches. With my broken Spanish I manage to order one for me without the mayo sauce and one for Hannah with all the trimmings. I’m astonished I manage to do the order without stuttering and even more surprised that the stall-holder understands me on the first try, so I don’t need to repeat myself – I’m getting better at this, whohooo. I even get a compliment on my Spanish from a bystander after he learns I’m Norwegian. Happily fed we walk back towards our hostel (or more correctly – we’re happily stuffing our faces while walking back to the hostel). It’s quite late by now and we’re looking forward to relaxing in our plush room. Our hostel has a really tranquil setting with lots of plants dotted around the place. The manager Lucien, an ex-pat Frenchman, is really nice, and in the morning cooks up a very nice traditional Guatemalan breakfast for us. He also arranges for us the transport to the bus station for our bus to Panajachel on Lake Atilan where we can catch the boat to San Marcos La Laguna.

Before we get our taxi to the bus station we need to get some cash out and head in towards the main square to find an ATM. We’re quite surprised to find there are armed guards everywhere and for everything - how bad is the situation here when they need an armed guard for the truck delivering frozen chicken and the van delivering sausages to the various small shops. We’d seen armed guards by banks and ATMs in other countries but that is sort of expected – armed guards for some frozen chicken is a sign of desperate measures due to desperate people – how poor are people here to resort to robbing a chicken or sausage van?

It’s time for us to take the bus to Panajachel and the taxi takes us to the bus company. From the outside I would never have guessed the place was a bus-station – it’s an anonymous doorway and at first we’re unsure the taxi driver was properly briefed on where we were supposed to be dropped off. He keeps saying something about one o’clock and wait, and something more about a closed office. We get our backpacks out of the car and head into the anonymous doorway hoping this is actually where we’re supposed to be. When we get inside we can breathe a sigh of release as we can see our bus with a Panajachel sign getting a proper overhaul and a good wash. The old bus is positively gleaming as if it was brand new by the time it’s ready for boarding. It’s a so-called chicken bus and in the beginning we’re a bit worried it’s going to be a bit rough and ready. It quickly fills up and we’re happy to see the passengers are a mix of families and business people, and not the crooks our guide was warning us would frequent these busses – maybe we should show our Lonely Planet books the shredder... (under pressure they might start to improve themselves...). The journey is a really fun experience with vendors coming on during the trip selling chicken in tortillas and fruits – and a few things we couldn’t understand what it is of course. Everybody on the bus are wearing big smiles, even though it’s really crammed – we’re practically sitting on top of each other – and the atmosphere is really great.

[caption id="attachment_2788" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Our chicken bus getting a good wash and overhaul before the journey from Guatemala City to Panajachel. Our chicken bus getting a good wash and overhaul before the journey from Guatemala City to Panajachel.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2785" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The bus depot for the chicken bus to Panajachel in Guatemala city. The bus depot for the chicken bus to Panajachel in Guatemala city.[/caption]

We arrive in Panajachel around six and after a bit of walking about find the right pier for the boats towards San Marcos la Laguna. After about a 45 minutes wait for the boat to fill up we’re finally on our way across Lake Atilan.

[caption id="attachment_2787" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Our view from the pier in Panajachel while waiting for our boat to fill up and cross Lake Atilan to reach San Marcos la Laguna. Our view from the pier in Panajachel while waiting for our boat to fill up and cross Lake Atilan to reach San Marcos la Laguna.[/caption]

We arrive in Montezuma around eight in the evening and the place looks really busy, but we soon get a feeling that the hippy village described in the guide is a bit misleading - the people we see in the restaurants and along the main road look mostly glammed up and not the environmentally conscious hemp-garb-dressed people we were expecting.

[caption id="attachment_2756" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the ferry crossing the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica. View from the ferry crossing the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2757" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the ferry crossing the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica. View from the ferry crossing the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica.[/caption]

Very soon we discover why there are hardly any hippies left here - they simply wouldn't be able to afford to stay here - you almost need a mortgage just to buy a bottle of water.

We find a place called Montezuma Pacifico Hotel after a few unsuccessful tries with some of the other places we’d researched in advance. We’d sent out numerous messages to hotels asking for availability before leaving San Jose for the bus, but surprise, surprise none had bothered to get back to us – do hotels not want guests? This has been happening a lot all along our travels. After settling in we’re starting to feel a bit peckish and decide to go out to get some food. We’re a bit puzzled when we get downstairs to the exit and find a chair blocking a closed door... we find this a bit weird but put the chair to the side and go out, careful to lock the door after us of course. To our surprise the centre of the town that was very lively only about an hour ago is now almost like a ghost town. All shops, restaurants and bars close before 22:00 – even the ATM is closed at this time. There are two exceptions to this which is one bar and it’s attached minimart. No surprise then that these two establishments are raking it in when people want to drink more, and they need their snacks afterwards. We were looking forward to a nice meal after spending most of the day on the bus and ferry but our plans got instantly squashed when no restaurants were open anymore – we have to settle for some snacks from the minimart – it’s not got much choice and I end up with very dry pretzels in substitute for dinner – not ideal, especially bearing in mind I had to fork out a few pounds just for a bag of snacks.

When we checked in at the Montezuma Pacifico Hotel the very friendly man was continuously talking about the air-con and the fact it was OK to leave it on when we go out of the room. We thought it a bit odd that he was so obsessed about it but the next day we really started to understand why he was going on about it so much – it’s so hot here in Montezuma and it’s made even more noticeable as it’s on the coast and quite humid. Our air-con is on full all day long and it can just about keep up and give us a liveable temperature – the electricity bill in this hotel must be astronomical.

We have a few small excursions walking about in the area around the town but don’t venture too far due to the intense humid heat. We wanted to do a little bit time on the beach but the beaches right by the town are not the best for lounging and swimming – they are very rocky and because the sea is so rough there are some seriously dangerous undercurrents let alone the danger of being smashed over a rock by the waves. We hear there are much nicer beaches further along the coastline but we’d need some sort of vehicle to get there.

[caption id="attachment_2759" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Montezuma. Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2760" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Montezuma. Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2761" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Montezuma. Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2762" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Montezuma. Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2763" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Montezuma. Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2764" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Montezuma. Montezuma.[/caption]

What we also discover on our walking adventures is the way some of the locals live in shacks by the beach just a few hundred metres out from the edge of the resorts. These tarpaulin huts where the poor locals live is in stark contrast to the several hundred pound a night tourist-places that you can find around here - it would seem the huge mountains of money spent by tourists doesn’t much benefit the local community.

It’s quite funny what the people can get away with when tourists have more money than sense though – along the main road through Montezuma (there is only the one road really) there are a few “hippies” with stalls selling their handicrafts. It’s ridiculously expensive – is it made of solid gold? I hear you say... nope, just a piece of string and a tiny trinket for which they demand £25 and they have no interest in haggling... similar handicrafts in Southeast Asia would probably go for between £1 to £2 – no surprise then that we just laughed at the top of our lungs as we walked off and down the road.

We're considering hiring a quad-bike as it seems the preferred mode of transport among the tourists and locals alike and go to inquire about the prices. We almost fall off the chair we're not sitting on when they tell us it's a whopping 40 pounds for six hours... We're used to pay something like three to five pounds for 24 hours in Southeast Asia for a decent scooter/motorbike. We're curious about how much the price for quad-bike hire compares to the prices in Europe, so after a quick Google search we discover the rates here are up to twice as high for the six hours than for a 24 hour hire in touristic places like Ibiza/Spain, Greece, and Portugal – unbelievable.

Although it’s not the hippie paradise we were hoping –and expecting – to find, Montezuma is a very relaxing place. However it did stress us out a bit with how expensive everything is here. I believe if we had a large budget allocated and didn’t have to worry about the prices we would have been able to have a much nicer time here, and we would have been able to take part in all the various activities on offer. There were plenty of diving-courses and excursions, zip-lining, adventure treks and much more to be done if you were willing to part with your hard-earned cash.

[caption id="attachment_2758" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Cake and coffee, Montezuma. Cake and coffee, Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2765" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art, Montezuma. Street art, Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2766" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Montezuma. Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2767" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art, Montezuma. Street art, Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2770" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Montezuma, Pura Vida. Montezuma, Pura Vida.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2768" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hannah at the absolutely marvellous Restaurant Kalibo in Montezuma. Hannah at the absolutely marvellous Restaurant Kalibo in Montezuma.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2769" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The absolutely marvellous Restaurant Kalibo in Montezuma. The absolutely marvellous Restaurant Kalibo in Montezuma.[/caption]

In the evening of our last day here we decide to take a walk down to find the nicer sandy beaches we’d heard about – it’s about a half an hour to walk to reach these. First we have to go via the hotel to pick up our swimming-gear and leave all our other stuff in the room – there are many stories of muggings along the beaches here so we want to be on the safe side and follow the advice of not taking along any valuables. This turns out to be a little bit of a mistake as Hannah feels too knocked out by the heat and doesn’t want to go out again after feeling the lovely cooling effect of our hard-working air-con. It ends up with only me going for a little trek down to the very lovely sandy beach further up the coast. It takes a while to get there and it’s fairly heavy walking in sand most of the way. It’s well worth it when I finally get to this very long sandy beach which are only occupied by one couple – not another soul to be seen anywhere. It’s fairly late in the afternoon so I waste no time and go into the sea. It’s very rough and possibly very dangerous to go out far because of very strong undercurrents so I keep myself close to shore where I can stand safely and watch the sun going down in the hills behind the beach while being thrown around by the waves.

We book ourselves a VIP shared taxi-van for the next morning that will take us directly to San Jose airport for our flight to Guatemala. It’s an early start but it’s a nice feeling to know we’ll get to the airport in good time without having to stress with connecting busses and taxies in the heavy traffic of central San Jose. At the airport we use our spare time to look for accommodation for the night in Guatemala City and are very pleased when we get a very speedy reply from Hostal La Coperacha. They have a very reasonably priced room available and also arrange a taxi to pick us up from the airport – Happy days!

Lima is the last destination in Peru, and also the last destination in South America. We fly in from Cuzco, which is a fairly short flight – it certainly beats taking a 21 hour bus that has a tendency of becoming badly delayed due to a combination of bad roads and rainy season.

Upon arrival we again go straight to the Taxi Green counter for a pre-paid car to take us to a hostel we like the look of in the Lonely Planet called Home Peru, but we've not booked anything. It would have been difficult to book a room at this place anyway as it appears to be closed down. Our second choice Red Psycho Llama is full and we head over to Hostal El Patio. We’re in luck and they have a reasonably priced room available, although only for one night after which we can change to a larger more premium room. This guest house is really lovely set in an old colonial mansion. The cheaper room is still very nice and even has a private little patio. The larger and very plush room we stay in for the last night is still reasonably priced, and still much cheaper than the rooms we had in Singapore and Rio de Janeiro but this for a very luxurious room and not the very basic dorm-like rooms of the previous mentioned.

First evening we don’t get up to much but have a dinner and a couple of beers before going back to our hostel to relax. We wake next morning for a very nice breakfast consisting of fruit salad, home made breads, home made olive paste, as well as normal jam.

We arrange to catch up with an old friend of mine Alfredo and around mid day he comes around to pick us up and he takes us to a lovely seafood restaurant called La Mar Cebicheria Peruana where I select for mains the Cacerola Cinco Razas from the A Fuego Lento section - absolutely gorgeous slow-cooked fish stew. If you’re ever in Lima and want a gourmet experience this is a good place to head to for lunch. Alfredo later takes us to the Convento de San Francisco (Saint Francis Monastery) for the catacombs. The catacombs under the monastery were apparently Lima’s first cemetery. It’s estimated 70000 burials were made here, and according to Saul, our guide on the Salkantay Trek, many natives were lured into the monastery by the catholic Spaniards and killed before buried down in the catacombs. Needless to say there are many, many bones and sculls down there that’s been excavated after the tunnels were discovered in 1943. Also in the historical centre around the Plaza Mayor, which is now on UNESCO World Heritage List, there is a lot of magnificent architecture - some dating from the founding of Lima City in the fifteen hundreds. Shame we don't have enough time to explore it more.

[caption id="attachment_2742" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hannah's starter at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana in Miraflores, Lima. Hannah's starter at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana in Miraflores, Lima.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2743" align="aligncenter" width="478"]Church of San Francisco (Saint Francis) in Lima. Church of San Francisco (Saint Francis) in Lima.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2744" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Church of San Francisco (Saint Francis) in Lima. Church of San Francisco (Saint Francis) in Lima.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2747" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Church of San Francisco (Saint Francis) in Lima. Church of San Francisco (Saint Francis) in Lima.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2745" align="aligncenter" width="472"]Archbishop's Palace by Plaza Mayor, Lima. Archbishop's Palace by Plaza Mayor, Lima.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2746" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Casa de la Literatura Peruana, Lima. Casa de la Literatura Peruana, Lima.[/caption]

It’s really good to catch up with Alfredo, and in the evening he takes me out to a couple of bars. Hannah was tired from earlier in the day and decides to stay put in our plush room at Hostal El Patio. We head over to the Barranco area and first visit a well known hot-spot called Ayahuasca – a really nice bar and restaurant set in an old mansion. We have a few beers and some gorgeous bar-food before we decide to head over to another also well known place called La Noche. Here we catch the end of a live act that we didn't get to know the name of – we asked the door-man and he’d forgotten - we enjoyed it nonetheless and finished the night here with a few beers before Alfredo dropped me off at our Hostel in the early hours. I have now found the name of the group that was performing at La Noche – they were called “La Sentimental” and below is a little taster of their repertoire.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1NoMZKrbgc&w=560&h=315]

Last day in South America we have a relaxed morning packing our bags and enjoying a large breakfast before getting a taxi to the airport. The flight to San Jose is a three and a half hour journey and again we're flying with TACA Airways. We arrive in San Jose in the early evening, and failing to find a bus and with no tourist information at the airport we have to splash out on a taxi again to take us to our chosen Hostel Green House. The place is a bit run down but the room is very clean and the staff (mum and her two sons) are really friendly and helpful. We only stay in San Jose for the one night before taking the next day's bus to our next destination Montezuma on the Nicoya Peninsular coast.

First of all I would like to apologise for this veeeeeery loooong post, but I hope you'll enjoy it nonetheless.

We arrive fairly early by bus from Arequipa. Again we have not had the time to do a proper research of places to stay, so we first ask at Milhouse Hostel, where Bamba Experience - our tour operator for the Salkantay Trek - is based but fortunately they are full (I say fortunately because we later heard some less than flattering comments about this hostel). We have a look in our guide and it recommends Hostel Loki, so off we go to have a look. It's up a very steep hill, so in high altitude thin air and with almost 40kg of baggage to lug around it's definitely a test of the respiratory system, and the heart get a good run for its money too. At Loki they have a room free but it's not cleaned yet - Hannah get a bad feeling of the place and thankfully convinces me to have a look around for an alternative place. I can vaguely remember reading about a hostel called Suecia on Tripadvisor and we head there to have a look. It's a very nice building and the room they offer us looks really nice, bright and airy. It's got a very nice bathroom as well, and this at only five Soles (£1.25) more than Loki, where there was only shared bathroom and no windows – Loki we also learn later on is one of the most notorious party hostels in Cuzco – not quite what we were looking for anyways – we want to be able to get some sleep during the night... we don’t mind staying up late partying but don’t want to be kept up all night when we need to get some rest.

When out and about we can really feel the effect of the altitude here in Cuzco, even after a few days of acclimatisation in Arequipa we feel out of breath very easily, just walking about gently and it sometimes leaves us gasping for air. I'm getting a little bit worried about how it will be with the trek. We've both had symptoms of altitude sickness but for me it’s only been minor headaches and slight stomach upset. Hannah however has been suffering with much worse and she’s really not very keen on the trek because of this. She manage to rearrange her booking thankfully so she’ll take the train up and catch up with us in Aguas Calientes on the fourth day.

We’d booked our trek well in advance so all we had to do on arrival in Cuzco was to make ourselves known to the Bamba Experience Agency in Milhouse Hostel to arrange a briefing for the evening before the actual trek. It would have been more logic to have the briefing earlier in the day so we could have some more time to get the extra bits needed for our trek, but instead we have to run around last minute before all the shops close for the evening. Luckily we’re quite well prepared and only need a few small bits. The pickup in the morning is at 04:00 so not much chance to get any last supplies in the morning.

[gallery columns="4" ids="2627,2628,2629,2630"]

It turns out our group of fellow trekkers is quite small – we’re supposed to be six in total but as Hannah decide not to do the trek due to altitude sickness we’re down to five. In the morning though one more person is missing and no one knows why. He seemed quite eager the night before at the briefing, but admitted to not being very prepared and need to get just about all the equipment required bought or rented in the short time before the shops close after the briefing, so it could be it became too expensive or maybe he didn't have enough time to prepare and had to cancel.

After being picked up we get introduced to our guide Saul and also our cook Grimaldo before we have some time to sleep in the van on our way up to the start point of our trek, and where we can get some breakfast as well in a village called Mollepata. The breakfast menu is very basic with three options, but it’s quite good with bread, omelette, fruit salad, and a banana too – tea and coffee is of course also included. After a long breakfast with all of us starting to chat and get to know each other we finally get started on our trek. The rest of the group is made up of a German couple Katharina and Sebastian, and Niels from Holland. As we get started it’s a mix of excitement and also a bit of nerves as I'm clearly older – and I'm guessing in not as good shape as the rest of the group – I'm worried I'm going to be the one that slows everyone down. Luckily the pace is fairly slow so my worries are unfounded – PHEW. After a few hundred meters we get introduced to Adolfo, our horseman. He sees that the horses and mules are well looked after and that all the equipment and some of our stuff arrive safely to our camps, and talking about age he is only a few days away from his sixties birthday and with Grimaldo as the second oldest of the team speeds ahead of us to set up for lunch and later setting up camp well in time for us supposedly healthy “young kids” to arrive. The first day consists mostly of gentle walking – it’s only when we occasionally take “shortcuts” that it becomes a bit testing – shortcuts being close to vertical climbs instead of walking along on the gentle path. The scenery is very impressive right from the start of our trek and it just keep getting better and better – I soon have problems keeping up with the rest of the company as I continuously stop for taking pictures, so much so that I occasionally have to run after the rest of the group to keep up – it’s not my fitness that slows me down strangely enough.

A very nice surprise is when we stop for lunch. We camp up on a little plateau with an amazing scenic view, but as if that’s not enough we get a second surprise when lunch is served – the food is absolutely amazing – we’re all astounded of what our cook Grimaldo can create under such basic conditions. After lunch it’s more amazing scenery after more amazing scenery. We reach the first night’s camp at about 3800 meters altitude after a 22km walk that started at about 2900 meters but because the incline was fairly gentle it doesn't really feel like we've gained a whole 900 meters of altitude. After another great meal by our cook and many stories by Saul, our guide, about his forefathers and their traditions it’s time to get some rest before day two.

[gallery columns="4" ids="2631,2632,2633,2634,2635,2636,2637,2638,2639,2640,2641,2642,2643,2644,2645,2646,2647,2648,2649,2650,2651,2652"]

On the morning of the second day we wake early and I'm feeling very much energized – must be the fresh mountain air – although I'm not sure if that feeling is shared by the rest of the group. We have the option of being served Coca Leaf Tea as we get woken up – I'm keener on a cup of normal tea but try it out – it tastes a bit like grass and I don’t think it has very much effect.  After a large breakfast we gather our stuff and get ready to start walking. The second day, we've been informed, is the toughest of them all with the longest leg and the steepest incline. We’re a bit nervous as to how tough it will be and how we’ll cope with the 800 meters steep incline to 4629 meters in a just over three hours as opposed to the gentle incline the day before and the 25 km total distance to get to the next camp. So we start the first few hours with a constant up-hill finishing with a very steep 500 meters climb at the end where we have a well deserved break and the chance to soak in the amazing scenery. I really liked the challenge of the climb, but not so sure this view is shared by the others in the group.  We’re on the ridge between the Salkantay and Umantay mountains called Salkantay Pass, it’s the highest point of our trek so from this point it’s all (almost) down-hill and hence much easier to walk.

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It’s still quite early in the day when we start descending from the mountain and although it’s much easier walking there is a lot of it to be done before we reach our lunch-spot. The light is continuously changing as the weather can’t decide whether to be sunny or rainy and this gives the already stunning scenery even more life – it’s really breathtaking and again I'm taking way too many photos while walking along. As we’re nearing our lunch-spot though the weather is starting to make up its mind, and it being the rainy-season there is no big surprise as to which way that decision goes. We’re in luck and get to our camp just as the skies fully start to open its valves, and as soon as we’re under cover it’s torrential. The sound of the rain is incredibly loud, like a herd of buffaloes running past our camp, and we all sit in amazement at how heavy this rain is thinking it can’t get any worse than this... WRONG! The volume is suddenly turned up and we’re again thinking it really can’t get any worse now – wrong again... It builds up to an even more intense downpour and it’s almost impossible to talk to each other now because of the noise the rain makes. We’re now certain it reached its peak only  to again being proven wrong – after this we just give up guessing and just let it run its course and for a while we can hardly hear our own thoughts. As we finish our lunch our guide Saul decide to stay under cover to see if we can wait it out to see if the downpour will stop. It slowly starts to calm down but there is no stop to it and we have no choice but to brave the rain and get going if we want to reach out camp before it gets late and the darkness sets in. The rain poncho I bought in Cuzco the night before departure now comes in very handy as we continue our trek in the pouring rain – although at least it’s not torrential anymore. The previous downpours have however made some streams into rivers and our guide has to re-plot parts of our route to save us having to wade across high current deep waters. After a detour that entails mostly walking steeply up the hill for a while is our next hurdle the mud-baths. Although not very physically challenging it’s an effective way of getting very dirty very fast, which means it’s not the most pleasant and joyful two hour walk. Some clever clogs thought it a great idea to widen and even out the natural path only a few months earlier, and as the rainy-season set in it became the completely horrendous mud-bath it now it – thank you for that, twats!

After clearing the muddy part it’s a fairly nice walk down to our camp. To our surprise the camp is actually in a small village where our tents have been placed on a roofed terrace. We do our best to hang up wet clothes and leave our shoes to dry after which it’s time for a lovely dinner - our cook Grimaldo doesn’t disappoint of course.

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Alongside us on our second leg we've had another group of trekkers which we've in various degrees been interacting with during the day – some of which seem not at all prepared for this trek what so ever – some are anything short of trekking in high heels and a ball gown. They’re really struggling even as it’s only gentle terrain and down-hill. As we’re enjoying our lovely dinner after a nice rest we spot the last stragglers coming into camp long after dark. It’s a mixed emotion of feeling sorry for them as they’re obviously in pain and struggling and the thought of “how stupid are you to do this sort of trek without being at all prepared”. The good thing of course that they do make it to the camp without being on a stretcher and no one is left behind. This camp also have some creature comforts it being in a small village – right next to our tents on the terrace there is a bar and shop and there are a couple of shops scattered around in the village as well. I'm strangely not thirsty for a beer (I know – maybe I should be checked out by a doctor...) and just get myself some water, and quickly gulp down a litre of that. The others in our group settle with sharing a couple of beers. Some of the other group of trekkers seem to be a bit thirstier and up for a party though, and by the sound of it there will be many headaches to nurse in the morning.

Third day and another early start, but this time we talk our guide into serving us a cup of Té Puro instead of the Coca Leaf Tea – it just tastes so much better. Ahead of us is a gentle 14 kilometre down-hill walk along the Apurimac River to a village called La Playa where we have lunch. On our way we learn to sing two songs, one in Spanish – which is fairly easy to understand and therefore easy to learn and remember and then attempting the second song in the Quechua language which I fail spectacularly at. The Quechua song I can’t remember anything of anymore but the Spanish song is a scout’s song and goes a little bit like this:

Como estan mis amigos, como estan, (muy bien)

Este es un saludo de amistad (que bien)

Camineros siempre juntos, con amigos siempre unidos, como estan mis amigos, como estan (muy bien)

Singing our song we walk into the La Playa village where we get served our lovely lunch. And after lunch we get picked up by a van that takes us further to the town of Santa Teresa where we have our camp for the night. It’s late afternoon and we still have one more stop for the day, a trip to the Santa Teresa Hot Springs. There are three large pools here and we have about two hours to get soaked in the lovely hot water. The pools are not their natural formation any more but have been nicely fashioned with slate surfaces and a fine pebbled bottom – parts of the largest pool is still the natural rock-face. When we get there it’s virtually empty – only a few locals enjoying the tranquillity before the surge of tourists. Slowly but surely the pool starts to get busier and busier, as more and more tourists arrive after their day’s trek. A bit before we’re supposed to head back we buy a few beers from the vendors by the pool – beer rarely tastes as good as this and I have to concentrate on not drinking too much too fast. We take the taxi back to our camp a little bit later than planned and come back to a lovely dinner – I can easily get used to this diet but this is sadly the last dinner cooked by our chef Grimaldo before we come back into civilisation. After dinner the other group of trekkers which we are again sharing camp with get a fire going and start a little party – the local store provides beer and music. Niels brings out a bottle of whiskey which keeps our little group happy and we later join the other camp for a little boogie around the camp fire.

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The next day is the last day of trekking but we don’t have a very long distance to go – only a 10 kilometre walk from a place called Hidroelectrica up to Aguas Calientes. We have the option of trying zip-lining before starting our walk at Hidroelectrica. It’s apparently the longest zip-line in Peru with a total of 2.4 kilometres spread over six lines. It’s exhilarating zipping along a couple of hundred meters off the ground and I'm really glad I went for it despite the slightly high cost – although Sebastian managed to haggle it down a little bit for us – well done.

Zip-lining in Peru:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/x2LqNmTGorE]

After a quick packed lunch stop at Hidroelectrica the trek continues with a really easy walk at the side of the train line following the Rio Urubamba all the way to Aguas Calientes. When we reach the end of our trek and get to our hotel Hannah have already arrived by train but as she was a bit hungry she popped out for a bite to eat. I join her at the restaurant but as I had lunch not too long ago I only go for a sneaky beer. Afterwards we go to the hot springs for a little dip which is very nice, but not as nice as the hot springs in Santa Teresa by any standard. It does a good job of refreshing us though. Later in the evening we all gather for dinner at a restaurant called Salkantay. It’s not very great food – compared to the food Grimaldo dished up for us, it pales in comparison. Me and Hannah wish we could have gone for a Menu del Dia (meal of the day) in a little local restaurant off the main tourist drag.

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The last day of the trek is actually without any trekking. We start early with a five o'clock breakfast before getting one of the first busses up to Machu Picchu. It’s pouring down with rain so it looks like a sunrise might be out of the question – it’s rainy season after all so there is no big surprise in this. A little after six our bus arrives at the entrance of the site and we’re all dressed in our very stylish plastic rain ponchos ready to explore this ancient city. Saul takes up to a very nice viewpoint where he explains the history of the city of Machu Picchu, and although not the capital, its significance as the spiritual centre of the Inca empire. At first when we arrive at this viewpoint it’s looking like the clouds are clearing to give us a nice view of the ruins but as we spend more time up here it gets more and more cloudy and at the end of our little history lesson the view is completely obscured by the clouds and it’s started to rain again. We head down into the ruins and Saul takes us around the key temples and important houses and explains their significance. The rain seems to get worse and worse but thankfully not torrential this time. By the end of the sightseeing tour we agree a time to meet up down in Aguas Calientes for the train journey home and the group splits up. Hannah and I are feeling a bit tired from processing all the information, and our legs are tired too from all the walking up and down the slopes of the city – we’re also hungry and need to find a restaurant, so head for the exit. We find some of the most expensive sandwiches known to man and sit down for a little rest. I'm eager to head back and explore more of Machu Picchu and as the weather is improving rapidly it looks like I might be able to get some better views of the ruins. Hannah has had enough of Machu Picchu and is actually very disappointed of the site unlike me and decide to sit it out in the restaurant reading a book. The views have indeed improved and from time to time the sun even comes out of the clouds. As my feet are quite tired I don’t attempt on seeing the whole site again but concentrate on getting some nice overviews. By this time the site has filled up with a lot more people though and I find walking about in certain places slow and difficult because of the crowds – many tour groups seems to be afraid of letting people pass them and they move extremely slow due to people in the group are unable to cope with the steep slopes for various reasons. I'm tipping around behind these slow people looking like a little boy that needs the toilet and they still are refusing to let me pass.

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After my second tour of the ruins I head back to the exit and the restaurant where Hannah is patiently waiting for me. We take the bus down to Aguas Calientes and meet up with the others before starting our journey back to Cuzco. It’s early evening by the time we arrive and it’s time to say goodbye to the group. We head back to Suecia to check in for our last night in Cuzco after which we go to get some food before taking an early night.

We wake nicely rested on our day of departure from Cuzco. We've had to book a flight to Lima for us to have any time there at all before our pre-booked flight to San Jose in Costa Rica. Our flight is in the afternoon so we have time to go for a little walkabout in Cuzco before we head over to the airport. While I've not sampled the breakfast at Suecia before Hannah had a few days of it and wasn't very impressed – it’s the usual bread and jam so we decide to skip breakfast and just have a tea before we go out to find a restaurant. We end up going to Paddy’s Irish Pub at the other side of the Plaza de Armas and have an absolutely amazing Full Irish Breakfast – we've not had such a satisfying breakfast for a very long time. Afterwards we collect our bags and take a taxi to the airport. As we check in we have the option of catching an earlier flight which means we’ll arrive in Lima about an hour ahead of schedule.

Our Cruz del Sur night bus from Nazca rolls in spot on time in Arequipa at eight in the morning but to our disappointment we’re far away from the historic centre where all the hostels are located. We hadn’t had much of a search for places before leaving Nazca as the internet in the hotel didn't really work very well. The bus has Wi-Fi on board but only works when there is a 3G mobile connection. Most of the trip goes through vast remote countryside so for most of the journey there is no internet for further search on Tripadvisor for guest houses and hotels. It also doesn’t help that we conk out almost immediately after we leave Nazca. We have a little bit of connection as we’re approaching Arequipa and try to do a little bit more of a search but it becamomes too ridiculous with the very shifty connection and we have to just chance it with some of the once we've already researched. We decide to head for a hostel called La Casa de Sillar – it has good reviews on Tripadvisor and also at 60 soles per night has fairly good rates when compared with the other hostels we've been looking at.

We get to the hostel quite early and are in luck that they have a room to spare – in fact they have a few alternatives for us. One room is a fairly small one upstairs which has only a single bed, but the lady tells us she can move another bed into the room for us if we like. The second option is also upstairs – it’s a dorm room with five beds in it but we can have it as a private room if we decide to go for it. The third alternative is a large double room on the ground floor which looks quite nice but it’s not as bright as the rooms above, and it has a bit of a damp smell to it. We decide for the small room upstairs and we’re happy to sacrifice the space for a brighter, airier room. This of course means the lady will have to move a bed from the dorm to our room – we ask if she needs assistance but are not allowed to help out and are left to our own devices in the kitchen to listen to the rummage upstairs. The room doesn't have a private bathroom but as there is nobody in the dorm room it’s like having our own bathroom. It’s absolutely massive with a bathtub/shower in the middle of the room. It’s very bright and airy due to a large skylight window. The architecture is a tad odd though and it feels like you’re on a platform above the kitchen and although there are windows underneath the platform, so not open into the kitchen, you can’t see these windows so it’s a weird feeling of being a bit exposed when in the shower or on the toilet.

[caption id="attachment_2598" align="aligncenter" width="533"]La Casa de Sillar, Arequipa. La Casa de Sillar, Arequipa.[/caption]

After our check-in we go to find some lunch – it seems a lot of places are closed as it’s early in the day but we finally find a restaurant not far from the main square. The dish of the day is spaghetti Bolognese and this sounds very tempting to us both. We’re a bit shocked when we get it served though – it’s such a massive portion it could probably feed three or four people easily – no need for a desert and I'm glad we didn't order a starter. It’s a very nice Bolognese though, so we’re not complaining. All content we take to the streets for some sightseeing and our first stop is the Plaza de Armas and the Arequipa Cathedral. When we arrive there though it’s only the museum that is open and not the cathedral itself - we decide to revisit a bit later in the afternoon when it’s reopened. There are a few recommended sights in our guide and close to the Plaza la Armas is the Casa del Moral, a lovely well preserved stately home of the Moral family with interesting furniture and paintings.

[caption id="attachment_2509" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Iglesa de la Compañia, Arequipa. Iglesa de la Compañia, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2511" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Casa del Moral, Arequipa. Casa del Moral, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2510" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Casa del Moral, Arequipa. Casa del Moral, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2513" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Casa del Moral, Arequipa. Casa del Moral, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2512" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Casa del Moral, Arequipa. Casa del Moral, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2515" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Casa del Moral, Arequipa. Casa del Moral, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2514" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Casa del Moral, Arequipa. Casa del Moral, Arequipa.[/caption]

Also recommended in our guide is the Museo Santuarios Andinos where the 500 year old Mummy Juanita, or “Ice Maiden” as she’s also referred to, is on display – well, normally this is the case, but she’s in for service and further research. In her place is another frozen girl sacrifice also found high up in the mountains. The “Ice Maiden” was a girl sacrificed to the gods by the Inca high priests around year 1450 and due to the constant cold up in the mountains has been completely frozen for all these years, hence the remarkable preservation of the body. After the visit to the Museo Santuarios Andinos we continue to El Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena. This is a huge Monastery that is still in use but also open as a tourist attraction. As we enter it is starting to rain and stupidly enough I think it’s just going to be a quick light shower so don’t bother going to fetch my jacket from the Hostel – the rain lasts for hours and it’s torrential so even with my jacket I would probably been soaked, just not thoroughly to the bone – my linen shirt is not exactly waterproof... Even when only quickly running from house to house trying to stay under roof I get absolutely soaked.  The grounds are absolutely massive and it takes us a few hours to walk through it all – in the end we even skip looking into some of the houses as we want to be able to find our way out before they close the place for the night. It’s a very colourful place and I can’t help taking way too many photos.

[caption id="attachment_2516" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2517" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2518" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2519" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hannah at the Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Hannah at the Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2520" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2521" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2522" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2523" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2524" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2525" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2526" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2527" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2528" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2529" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2530" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2531" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2533" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2534" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2535" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2536" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2537" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2538" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2539" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2540" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Hannah at the Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Hannah at the Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2541" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2542" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2543" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2544" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2545" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2546" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2600" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2548" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2549" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2550" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2551" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2552" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2553" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2554" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa. Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Siena (The Monastery of Saint Catherine), Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2555" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Catedral de Arequipa. Inside the Catedral de Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2556" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Catedral de Arequipa. Inside the Catedral de Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2557" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Inside the Catedral de Arequipa. Inside the Catedral de Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2558" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Inside the Catedral de Arequipa. Inside the Catedral de Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2559" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Catedral de Arequipa. Catedral de Arequipa.[/caption]

After we finish our tour of the monastery we find a travel agent to book a tour of the Colca Valley and a visit to the viewpoint called Mirador de Cruz del Condor. It’s a long journey to get there so the tour starts at silly o'clock  We need to be ready outside our hostel at 03:00. After a quick explanation in the minivan we are left to drift into sleep as the van takes us the three and a half hour drive to Chivay Village for breakfast. It’s the usual feast of bread and jam – the bread being very fresh so I don’t mind, but I think Hannah has had enough of bread and jam breakfasts so she’s less pleased. One change in the diet is the coca leaf tea - I've got no sign of altitude sickness except for being a bit short of breath at times so don’t bother with it. After breakfast it’s back on the minivan and we start our drive into the Colca Valley towards the Mirador Cruz del Condor. We pass some amazing scenery and I keep kicking myself as I can’t tell the van to stop to take photos. We have a short stop to enjoy the view just as the Colca Valley changes into Colca Canyon (although we've missed many much more interesting viewpoints on the way already......) and from here it’s only a short drive to the Mirador Cruz del Condor. We’re in luck and get to see some magnificent condors gliding past – our guide is so happy for us that we managed to catch a glimpse of the condors – it almost sounds like it’s more normal not to see them. After the viewpoint we start our journey back towards Arequipa but with a few stops on the way. First another panoramic viewpoint of the Colca Valley before we stop off in a village called Maca with its magnificent colonial church and a stand that sells Prickly Pear Pisco Sours – very yummy, and ridiculously strong. After Maca we go to the Chacapi Hot Springs outside the village of Yanque. We decide not to hop in despite bringing with us the bathing gear – the hot spring looks just like a normal swimming pool – it’s not like what we imagined I suppose – we thought it would be natural pools in the rocks. After a very boring hour waiting by the hot springs it’s finally time for lunch back in the place where we had breakfast in the village of Chivay – when we hear the lunch is a buffet we’re at first a bit sceptic – it has a tendency of consisting of cold dried out food. Our fears though, were very much unfounded and we had the nice surprise of a marvellous spread of traditional foods – my favourite was the alpaca stew and the stuffed peppers, all very yummy. We have two more stops to make before the trip is over – the first being the highest point of the route at 4910 meters where we’re supposed to have a great view of the mountains and volcanoes, but with our luck it’s sleeting and foggy so the visibility is next to nonexistent. The very last stop is a field where they breed alpacas, it’s a very serene peaceful place and it’s a nice end of the sightseeing. From here it’s direct back to Arequipa and when we get there we’re completely zonked out. We go back to our hostel and later go out to get a bite to eat but otherwise we’re just knocked out and just want to get some rest.

[caption id="attachment_2560" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Colca Valley north of Arequipa. Colca Valley north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2561" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Colca Valley north of Arequipa. Colca Valley north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2562" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Andean Rabbit in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa. The Andean Rabbit in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2563" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2564" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2565" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2566" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2567" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2568" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2569" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2570" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Mirador Cruz del Condor in Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2571" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Colca Canyon north of Arequipa. Colca Canyon north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2572" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Colca Valley, north of Arequipa. Colca Valley, north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2573" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Colca Valley, north of Arequipa. Colca Valley, north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2574" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Photo-op in Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa. Photo-op in Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2575" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Church of Maca in Maca Village in the Colca Valley, north of Arequipa. Church of Maca in Maca Village in the Colca Valley, north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2576" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Church of Maca in Maca Village in the Colca Valley, north of Arequipa. Church of Maca in Maca Village in the Colca Valley, north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2577" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa. Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2578" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Church of Maca in Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa. Church of Maca in Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2579" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Inka streetart in Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa. Inka streetart in Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2580" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Inka streetart in Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa. Inka streetart in Maca Village in the Colca Valley north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2582" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art in Chivay Village north of Arequipa in the Colca Valley. Street art in Chivay Village north of Arequipa in the Colca Valley.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2583" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art in Chivay Village north of Arequipa in the Colca Valley. Street art in Chivay Village north of Arequipa in the Colca Valley.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2584" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Sculpture in Chivay Village north of Arequipa in the Colca Valley. Sculpture in Chivay Village north of Arequipa in the Colca Valley.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2585" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Sculpture in Chivay Village north of Arequipa in the Colca Valley. Sculpture in Chivay Village north of Arequipa in the Colca Valley.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2586" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mirador de los Andes north of Arequipa at 4910 meters above sea level. Mirador de los Andes north of Arequipa at 4910 meters above sea level.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2587" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mirador de los Andes north of Arequipa at 4910 meters above sea level. Mirador de los Andes north of Arequipa at 4910 meters above sea level.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2588" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Alpacas in a field north of Arequipa. Alpacas in a field north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2589" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Alpacas in a field north of Arequipa. Alpacas in a field north of Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2590" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Church of San Francisco, Arequipa. Church of San Francisco, Arequipa.[/caption]

Our last day in Arequipa and we’re not doing much – we have an excellent lunch at a little restaurant a few blocks from the main square. The staff are too shy to come over and take our orders as they don’t speak any English. Luckily for us a local businessman picks up on this and starts talking to the staff for us. We would have been fine to make the order in Spanish but because we were of course talking English between ourselves the staff assumed that we couldn't talk any Spanish at all. The good thing about getting a translation from the neighbouring table was that we got a proper explanation of the menu and learnt that in Arequipa they have one type of soup for every day, and the soup on Monday is called Chaque. We’d been eying up this soup as we saw it served to almost every customer that came into the restaurant so we were definitely up for testing this dish out. Our Chaque was made with mutton, lots of vegetables, and it’s very nicely seasoned. You can also get a beef Chaque apparently. The soup is a starter but absolutely humongous – hence the main meal is quite small – totally the other way around from what we’re used to. It was very lovely though and we’re a bit disappointed we didn't know of this concept with a soup for each day when we arrived so we could have sampled some of the other soups. It’s our last day and there won’t be more soup-tasting here in Arequipa this time around at least.

After lunch we head over to have a look at the Convento la Recoleta museum but once again we get caught out by the siesta – we just can’t seem to get used to this concept and it continuously interrupts our sightseeing plans. Apart from seeing the facade of the church our sightseeing attempt is foiled and we start heading back towards our hostel to write a bit in the blog as we wait for our departure of the night bus to Cuzco.

[caption id="attachment_2592" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Convento La Recoleta, Arequipa. Convento La Recoleta, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2593" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Arequipa. Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2594" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art, Arequipa. Street art, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2595" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Street art, Arequipa. Street art, Arequipa.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2596" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Street art, Arequipa. Street art, Arequipa.[/caption]

Flying into Lima, Peru from Rio de Janeiro we waste no time and get some information brochures from the iPeru tourist information.  We then get a cab with Taxi Green straight to the main Cruz Del Sur bus station and get an afternoon bus to go to Nazca. The journey is supposed to take seven hours but somehow we get delayed by about an hour and a half but the bus is very comfortable so it doesn't matter too much with the extra time travelling. We had one hostel in mind before arriving in Nazca called Hospedaje Brabant but as they were full they recommended a similarly priced hotel down the road called Guang Zhou. We have a look and the room they offer us looks nice, spacious and clean so we go for it. It’s quite late and we're tired but also hungry – the hunger overrules the tiredness though and we head down to the main street to find a restaurant. We have a look in the guide and find a couple of recommendations, but unfortunately one is closed down and the other doesn't look too inviting – we're left to find a good restaurant on our own, as per normal, and end up at a place called Los Angeles. The food is excellent and the service is impeccable – the waiter is really friendly, inquisitive and full of information. Well fed we head back to get some rest before the next day’s adventures.

We get up semi-early and looking forward to the included breakfast, but it’s not quite what we'd hoped for. Two small pieces of bread, with not enough butter and a little bit of jam is all they spare us. I'm used to bread and jam so that’s fine but I'm used to more food than this – it’s not enough food to fill the gaps in-between my front teeth, let alone to keep me going till lunchtime. For Hannah it’s more the fact that once again it’s just bread and jam and no option of cereal, some fruit or maybe some eggs and bacon.

After our less than impressive breakfast we go on a mission to find a travel agent who won't rip us off too much for the privilege of sending us up in a tiny flying tin box. As it turns out, the first office we walk into is already cheaper than what our guide suggests, so no need for further investigation really and we settle with this one. We also ponder on booking an afternoon sightseeing trip for after our flight but leave the decision for later – a good decision as we don't really feel like cooking in the sun any more after returning from the Nazca Lines sightseeing. Had we more days here it would have been nice to see some of the ruins from the ancient civilisation, but it wasn't to be. We have a little wait in the office of the tour agent before our taxi arrives to take us to the airfield, which is a ten minute or so drive out of town. After registering with the reception, and of course paying for the flight, we have to wait for about half an hour before it’s our turn to take to the sky, so we sit down to watch a documentary about the mystery of the Nazca Lines (Nazca Lines: the buried secrets). It’s difficult to hear the commentary due to some loud Russians making a racket behind us and we get called up before the film ends, meaning as we go up in the air the history behind the Nazca Lines are still all a mystery to us and all we can do is to admire the view and make up our own theories. Our captain goes through the flight-path with us before takeoff and points out on a map where to spot the shapes and also very importantly how to spot them - this proves to be essential information as we're cruising at an average height (according to my camera’s GPS) of about 975 meters, which works out as roughly 400 meters above the ground, and many of the shapes are hard to spot. Some of the figures are quite faint and not very big whilst some are absolutely gigantic but still difficult to spot because they're faint, damaged, or disappear into the landscape due to the amount of stronger lines that are crisscrossing everywhere on the ground - I hope you are able to spot the figures in the photos... The captain also warns us that the flight can be a little bit bumpy and he was not exaggerating... I hardly ever get any motion sickness but at the end of the flight I'm starting to feel a little bit on the edge, but it seem I get out of it the lightest followed by Hannah. Our other two fellow passengers are having a bit rougher time up in the skies with the lady next to me sounding like she’s is trying to vomit all her internal organs out half way into the flight – it does not sound like she is having much fun. Despite being thrown around in a tin can for almost an hour we all come down to earth in one piece though. And even our fellow passengers seem to be glad they did the tour despite their condition. I would really recommend taking the light airplane sightseeing of the Nazca Lines – it’s really amazing to see these ancient monuments, and the only way you can see them properly is from above. It’s not cheap but also not so expensive that it’s out of reach for us on a budget. But remember to take the advice about only having a light breakfast seriously.

[caption id="attachment_2452" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The light aircraft that were to carry us over the Nazca Lines. The light aircraft that were to carry us over the Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2453" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Hannah getting ready for take-off, Nazca. Hannah getting ready for take-off, Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2454" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Whale, Nazca Lines. The Whale, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2455" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca Lines. Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2456" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Giant, Nazca Lines. The Giant, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2457" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The Giant, Nazca Lines. The Giant, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2458" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca Lines. Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2459" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Monkey, Nazca Lines. The Monkey, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2460" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Dog, Nazca Lines. The Dog, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2461" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca. Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2462" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Hummingbird (Colibri), Nazca Lines. The Hummingbird (Colibri), Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2463" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca Lines. Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2464" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Spider, Nazca Lines. The Spider, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2465" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Condor, Nazca Lines. The Condor, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2466" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Heron, Nazca Lines. The Heron, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2467" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Pelican, Nazca Lines. The Pelican, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2468" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Parrot, Nazca Lines. The Parrot, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2469" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The Hands and The Tree, Nazca Lines. The Hands and The Tree, Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2470" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca. Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2471" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca Lines. Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2490" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca. Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2473" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca. Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2474" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca. Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2475" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca. Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2476" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Nazca. Nazca.[/caption]

Back in the town centre again we search out a place to have lunch, and although they have no menu and don’t speak a word of English, and I can't decipher anything that the waiter tells us about their selection, with a pit of pointing we get a lovely lunch served including a drink for a very reasonable price – I think it must be the cheapest meal so far in South America. After lunch we initially plan to go to the museum but half way there we’re feeling drained by the immense desert heat – during the flight the plain had become like an oven and we were still suffering from this along with the fact it’s the hottest part of the day and there is no shade to hide under. We decide to can the idea of the museum and go back to our hotel to relax by the pool and maybe update our blogs a little while waiting for our bus to Arequipa in the evening. To our surprise we find one of our fellow passengers from the flight earlier relaxing by the pool as well also waiting for his bus but in a different direction – he’s heading back to Lima. He had arrived by bus to Nazca earlier in the morning and had bought his flight ticket from one of the touts at the bus station – something our guide had strongly advised us against. We're therefore curious of how much he'd paid for his flight and it turns out he forked out about another 50% more than we ended up paying. We feel sorry for the guy and he tells us he sort of knew that he was being taken for a ride but didn't want to have the hassle of searching for a travel agent after a long overnight bus journey – we know that feeling well but we still always squeeze the last of our energy out to avoid any touts when we get presented with that kind of situation. It’s exactly why they prey on people who are fatigued – it’s often much easier just to give in even if you full well know you'll be paying over the odds.

[caption id="attachment_2477" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Dentist sign, Nazca. Dentist sign, Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2478" align="aligncenter" width="545"]The local clinic, Nazca. The local clinic, Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2479" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Enrique Fracchia mural, Nazca. Enrique Fracchia mural, Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2480" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Murals, Nazca. Murals, Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2481" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Murals, Nazca. Murals, Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2482" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Mural, Nazca. Mural, Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2483" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Mural in honour of Maria Reiche Neumann, who discovered the Nazca Lines. Mural in honour of Maria Reiche Neumann, who discovered the Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2484" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Random food-shot - the starter of the Menu del Dia, Nazca. Random food-shot - the starter of the Menu del Dia, Nazca.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2485" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Statue in honour of Maria Reiche Neumann, who discovered the Nazca Lines. Statue in honour of Maria Reiche Neumann, who discovered the Nazca Lines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2486" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca "skyline". Nazca "skyline".[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2488" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Nazca "skyline". Nazca "skyline".[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2489" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The pool area at Hotel Guang Zhou in Nazca. The pool area at Hotel Guang Zhou in Nazca.[/caption]

Our bus leaves at 22:00 so we have a few hours to kill before we have to head from the hotel to the bus station. We kick back and write a little bit in our blogs and have a couple of beers, but making sure not to drink too much beer as they might not want to let us on the bus if they notice we've been drinking – they’re very strict on this at Cruz del Sur apparently. The journey to Arequipa takes roughly ten hours and is a very comfortable ride – I had planned to make the best out of the time on the bus and spend a few hours writing for the blog but fall asleep almost instantly after the snack we get served and wake only about an hour before we reach our destination.

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