Saturday, August 26, 2006

The List: Luggage for Peru

The Luggage
Before I leave subject of Peru, my friend Jane insists that I include a list of what I packed. This is meant not only for lovers of lists, but also for those who want to know what to take for their own trip. My trip included a 4 day hike in the snow covered Andes to Machupicchu, day treks in the steamy Amazon jungle, townlife in Lima, Cuzco and La Paz, and beachlife in Miami. First, a picture of the luggage, unpacked. And below that, the luggage packed into a soft bag with wheels and shoulder strap. My "day pack" for trekking is pictured alongside. This was great for carrying my purchases back on the plane.

The List
1. Hiking Boots (Raichel, vibram soles and gortex lining £150. Worth it on the sometimes hard and sometimes wet trail, its good to get these in advance and wear them in. Most importantly, make sure they're not too small, by kicking hard against a wall when you try them on. Your toes shouldn't knock the toe caps. They also shouldn't be too big, so check your heel isn't rubbing against the back).
2. Trainers for around town (Skechers actually).
3. Rafting sandals (Tiva are the only ones for me- didn't get much use until Miami).
4. Five pairs of woolen hiking socks 3 x heavy 2 x light (Smartwool are gorgeous and thick, providing extra cushioning).
5. Three pairs trousers: 2 x chinos and 1 x Diesel jeans. I should have brought easydry kahki trek trousers instead of the second pair of chinos.
6. Rainproof, breathable jacket with hood, and 200 thickness fleece lining. (Stormlight from Field and Trek £40 for both, a big saving on brands such as Gortex, and seemed to work perfectly. The hood with wire peak is important to keep rain off your face. When its hot and wet, you need a breathable waterproof for hiking, and when its cold the removable fleece lining is great. An additional fleece with hood would also have been good for cold nights, but the padded jacket supplied by trek organisers was more than adequate.)
7. Waterproof pants too hot to wear... See 5. above.
8. Thermal underwear. Woollen is apparently best. Hardly used this, but important for very cold nights.
9. Three longsleeved shirts: Two long sleeved cotton T shirts, eg Gap. One long sleeved kahki easy dry trek shirt.
10. Two polo shirts for trek and town.
11. One pair easy dry kahki trek shorts.
12. Woolen hat with peak and covers ears.
13. One widebrimmed sun hat.
14. Pair woolen gloves.
15. Five pairs cotton boxers. M&S.
16. Surf shorts for swimming. (not used until Miami).
17. "Day pack". This is the backpack pictured above, and which I packed into the main blue bag when flying to Peru. It is a 35L Lowe Alpine Walkabout Air 35. The frame and harness made hiking comfortable. I used it when hiking, leaving the blue bag behind at base. It was accepted as hand luggage for carrying my Peru purchases when flying back to UK.
18. Toilet bag: electric toothbrush, moisturiser, etc. Most important to include in this factor 30 sunblock and Insect repellent.
19. Medical kit. "Life Systems Travel medical pack". With sterile needles, these maybe not necessary, but better safe... Most used item of this pack is band-aid and paracetamol painkiller, I also added neurophen cold and flue, clove oil for toothache, Immodium for tummy upsets, and bromide water purifier.
20. Towel. A Lifesystems easy-dry towel is most useful and less inclined to stay wet and go smelly.
21. Two 1.5L water bottles. I used collapsable plastic bottles. Good to have attachments for fixing to your backpack.
22. Thermarest inflatable mattress and fibre pillow. They pack down small and you'll grow to love yours for the comfort. I also took a silk sleeping bag liner which packs down tiny and was a comfy lining for the sleeping bags supplied by the trek organisers. The mattress can be hired for the trail, but I liked having my own.
23. Moneybelt. I used a bag which hangs around your neck or shoulder.
24. Camera. FujiPix S9500 digital camera with 28-300 lens. Great for landscapes and closeups. Also takes video. But if you are planning to take perfect shots of Andean sunrises for publication, silver bromide and a tripod are still recommended.
25. Sunglasses: tough, UV resistant, lightweight for the trail.
26. Sundry items for your backpack: small maglite torch, gaffer tape, sewing kit, light cord, three novels, Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish phrasebook (taught me all I know, which isn't much but enough for all situations I encountered), Lonely Planet South America, Leatherman knife-with-pliers, playing cards or dice.
27. Passport, Credit cards (2), Tickets, Vaccination certs and USD300 cash. I made copies of all these and tucked them into the lining of my suitcase. My mobile phone also came along, and worked fine in Peru and Bolivia.
28. Hiking sticks. I brought two collapsable hiking sticks from Blacks, these telescope down the smallest. Sticks are good for the trail, they are a help when you're tired, and also help you keep your balance on rough ground. But they are a pain to transport, and the steel tips can damage the trail. So buy wooden ones when you are at the trail head.

Now, if you want any more lists (such as what to buy in South America) let me know. A teaser: hand dyed, hand woven textiles; silver jewelry; knitted finger puppets; all manner of charms and masks; alpaca wool jumpers and cloaks, llama wool hats.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Snorkling in Key West

Just had a little surprise. Am returning from Miami tomorrow, 29 June, not 30 June as I had thought. This due to time difference. Was alerted to this important fact by hotel staff locking me out of room due to paying for only three nights instead of the 4 booked. Phew.

Now, to try and raise the class of my recent blog entries, I decided to go snorkling in Key West. This involved a three and half hour trip each way in a cramped minibus. Advice to fellow travellers: spend the extra USD20 on Miami Nice Tours, and do not book with Infinite, despite the fact they seem to have sewn up every hotel in Miami. Infinite seems cheap at USD45 odd, but it really is not comfortable on vinyl seats cheek by jowl for that length of time. Plus drivers who seem to be very grumpy to be driving at all, and lengthy round Miami pickups and set downs before you start. Also, if you're going for such a long trip, stay the night and enjoy the sunset, I will for sure next time, since Key West locals seem a very friendly and attractive lot. Anyway, once in Key West, the boat we went snorkelling on was way in excess of expectation and cost less per head than the minibus ticket. Storms were blowing up all around us, including an ominous-looking-but-inoffensive waterspout (pictured below). Unfortunately no pics of snorkling since I was way too excited and wet, but below are the boat pics and one of a cyclist in Key West. I did see a barracuda, and various garoupas, yellow, beautiful. Next time and underwater camera. Also, a special bit of sea treasure I retrieved from 6 meters: a plastic reference guide to tropical fish-spotting. I will post a pic of this next. I know you need proof.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sundry pics from Machupicchu to Miami

Oh dear run our of time at the internet cafe so it will have to be uploads of pics without captions... firstly, hikers on the Inca trail, some Machupicchu pics inside the complex, traditional dancing in La Paz, and one where I was persuaded to join, one of the Amazon from the air, and some first impressions of Miami. In reverse order as it turns out

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Day of Burning: 24 june 2006

As I mentioned last night, today is the day of burning, 24 June, when the fields are burnt to return their nutrients to the soil. This date is celebrated in England as midsummers day, but the festivities are bigger here.

In city, burning isn't allowed, so last night the city celebrated with loads of fireworks. These didn't come out too good on my camera, but I went up to the top floor and took the photo to right.

The next day and night, celebrations continued with groups of people organising their own processions throughout the day and night.

Processions ranged from native bolivians, to african bolivians descended from Angolan slaves brought into bolivia hundreds of years ago, to gay groups.

In between this, we made an expedition to Tiwanaka, and ancient site that predates (1500BC-1200 BC) and preceeds the Incas, and which our guide said was a multicultural centre where the monuments were dedicated to preserving peace between the different ethnic elements. Our guide said that contact may have been made between the Tiwanaka and cultures afar afield as Asia and Egypt.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Burial Towers in Puno, Richard

Pictured to left, Inca burial tower near Puno, constucted around 1400 AD and partly destroyed by lightning around 1830 AD. Apparently, the lightning was attracted by around 30kg of gold artifacts found in the tower´s remains by archeologosts working in the 1960´s. The USA archeologists gave the gold to the Gold Museum in Lima, but kept the mummies for further study in the USA....

To the right, Richard and I kit ourselves out in La Paz for our part in "for a few dollars more"

Solstice June 21 5014

Some images from the solstice June 21 2006. In the Inca calendar, this is the new year 5014. Ancient traditions are observed with offerings to the spirits. I woke before dawn in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titikaka, to the sounds of of conches blowing and distant drum beats. I went out into deserted streets, and found a glimpse of orange gold rising sun between city buildings, which view I shared with a couple of city dogs. The ceremonies were taking place in the hills around the city.
Later, we continued with our journey toward La Paz, and stopped off at an old fertilitility temple, where we found the phallus pictured below, and signs of the mornings offerings. The fresh offerings were lined up with mornings rising sun rays. In a few days, in this part of the world, on 24 June the festival of St Joan starts. This is the time that the remains of the old harvest are burnt in the fields to provide nutrients for the coming harvest.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

You can't Choose your Travelling Companions when you travel alone

Since I was travelling alone, and the World Expedition/Tambo Tours tents are two-man, as specified in the trek description, some of you were speculating on what kind of tent-partner I might end up with. The nordic blonde goddess was wishful thinking; I ended up with James, who was probably a lot less trouble. A 22 year-old from Birmingham, James defied the conventions of his home crowd by venturing out on this trip, his first big hike. He was a great tent mate, respecting personal space and generally being bright and positive.

Pictured to the right is breakfast on the day of our push to Machupicchu. We´re at Phuyupatamarca Camp on Friday 16 June. In the foreground are the tourists, 11 of us plus Jose, our guide. In the background are the team of porters, whose job is was to scout for and set up a campsite each night, and to transport the tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, chemical toilet, cooking gear and food. New regulations in Machupicchu include maximum party size of 40, and maximum porter load of 20kg. They also state that a maximum of 2,000 people may be on the trail at any one time, ie 500 people entering per day. Two years ago, before regulation, up to 2,000 people were entering the trail daily during peak season. This is the reason that everybody who wants to hike the trail now-a-days needs to apply for a permit, paying around USD30 per day on the trail, and is obliged to hike with a licensed guide. A good thing, really.

At the lower altitudes, locals will approach the camp with stuff to sell. A most welcome surprise on the first day was the appearance of some cold bottles of Cuscuena, the beer brewed in Cuzco, and comprising one of the two industries in the city. The other is a fertiliser factory. Here I am pictured at our first camp at around 3,400 meters: Llulluchapampa camp. My hat is wonderful and warm, made of Llama wool. I found out the next day that even a couple of beers can bring on a special kind of altitude hangover.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I arrive at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate

16 June 2006, I arrive at the Sun Gate overlooking Machupicchu. Our group of 11 trekkers and 12 porters, cook, scout and toilet manager had hiked the Inca trail for four days to get here, braving altitude sickness, trail tumbles and exhaustion over altitiudes of 3,200 to 4,265 meters. We were all feeling elated and exhuasted, but thanks to our guide Jose, Tambo tours and World Expeditions, we all arrived safely.
Here I am on top of the world at wynapicchu, the peak overlooking machupicchu, 17 June 2006. Our guide, Jose Ugarte, told me of an incident on one of his many trips to the peak, where "an athletic 21 year old Australian woman" handed him a camera and asked him to photograph her on the same spot. As soon as Jose had framed the picture, she turned around and promptly leapt into a handstand. Jose´s panic at the time is understandable when you realise that this rock is surrounded by sheer drops into the valley below (you can see Wayna Picchu in the background of any photo of Macchu Picchu, it is the peak which soars above the ruined city.

Horay! Here I am in Cuzco, June 9 2006. After five days acclimatisation to the altitude, we set off on a four day hike across the Andes. Our highest altitude would be 4,265m, and the wait was necessary. Even after acclimatisation, we all suffered some degree of head ache and nausea.