6 foot 4 and full of muscles

Guayaquil, Ecuador

It’s been a while since we had access to email. Our last 2 stops have both proved problematic. Chachapoyas in Northern Peru had intermittent power, and Vilcabamba in Southern Ecuador had dodgy phone lines! There’s a lot to catch up on now.

Peru left us both perplexed. It simply continually refuses to fit your expectations. We went hiking near Huaraz and it was like suddenly being back in Patagonia – the mountains were vast, the glaciers enormous and the weather wild (we had 2 days of glorious sun, and one of snow!) We were both really proud of ourselves for succeeding, without a guide and carrying all our own stuff, to climb from 3500m to 4750m and over a mountains pass that makes those down south seem tame. We have exorcised the ghosts of our first, failed, mountain pass from last October.

How strange that this should happen in Peru – except that Peru seems capable of anything.

So many cultures – with stone cities, mud cities and, at Sipan the most mind blowing museum of ancient burials you could imagine. Makes Tutankhamen seem a little restrained.

And its such an enormous place – we got the delight again of unending night bus journeys. Somehow, I’d always assumed Paddington came from a small place.

Peru has it all by South American standards – desert, mountains, jungle. If you were only to visit one place on the continent, this would be it. But you could be here months and not have got the half of it.

Hey little sister, what have you done

We spend a lot of time on buses. It’s just what we do – the penance for this vast overland viaje. They vary enormously, from things in Argentina that remind you of Concorde – food, drinks, near flat beds, hostesses in short skirts. To the opposite extreme – sitting on the handbrake in southern Peru was a bit of a low point for me.

The buses have got a lot less classy as we’ve headed north. The rules have begun to change. Rule 1 – it always leaves at least 30 minutes late. Rule 2 – if there’s no set departure time it leaves 30 minutes after you’ve completely given up hope. Rule 3 – the likelihood of arriving on time is inversely proportional to the number of chickens on the roof.

And the timetables leave you perplexed. Why do the only 2 buses each day to travel the 4 hours to El Chalten in Argentina leave at 6am (surely too early) and 6pm (surely too late)? And why does the only bus to Kuelap in northern Peru leave at 4am? Despite coming away travelling with an aspiration to laze around, I consider it a lie-in now if I don’t have to be somewhere by 7am.

Last week, after a minor collision involving our bus driver careering around on both sides of the road until eventually he hit someone, we had a great view of bus behaviour. The driver proceeded to argue the toss – despite the clear evidence of lots of bits of broken bus and car on the OTHER carriageway.

And the whole bus got up and down to gawk. South Americans have no concept of personal space and happily trampled over all our feet as they pushed open the doors and peered through the curtains. And the nosiest? The pushiest? The trampliest? A nun. Now what does that tell you?

Cut the midrange

Since we set out a favourite refrain has been ‘where are all the bad bits?’ South America seems surprisingly lacking in this respect. Until now, we’ve heaped all our venom on poor, unattractive, unlovable Puerto Montt in Chile. When anything’s remotely bad we say – ‘well its not as bad as Puerto Montt’. Cruel really – the place is merely a dump, not an eyesore.

Now, I’m delighted to say we have found an eyesore. The coastal region of Peru, around Lima, is the most squalid thing we’ve seen for ages.

The driest most depressing desert is here. And a jolly dirty place it is too – poor mother nature without even enough water to wash herself.

We’re reduced to vague comparisons. ‘Is this worse than Jakarta?’

If you get the chance to go, don’t.

I’ve been thinking about you.

A general all round congratulations to everyone. You seem to have all got new jobs, houses, babies, marriages of late – so many emails keep coming in, sometimes we have to sit over coffee and have a roundup to remind ourselves just how different live is going to be by the time we get home.

Those of you with no news to tell, come on! There’s still time.

The Big Prinz

Went on a 2 day horse trek this week – this equestrian lark is becoming a habit. My horse – called Prinz – was a very feisty fella and we raced up the mountains in anything from a walk to a gallop. Even Marisa said she was impressed. I may be an old dog, but I think I’m learning something. Watch out Wyoming.

Over the borderline

We left Peru a few days ago, and now we’re in Ecuador. Tomorrow we fly to the Galapagos. So far Ecuador is proving as unreadable as Peru. Yesterday vast mountains covered in Bromeliads and Orchids. Today, more bananas than you can comprehend.

With such sporadic internet access, apologies for the lack of personal messages – hope to be online for longer in a week or so.

More soon…

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