Wow, it has been a while since I’ve been off the blogging scene what with a crazy season of weddings running right up until the day before my honeymoon! All work and then play makes blogging….difficult.
I wanted to share with you all my honeymoon, the awesomeness that is Peru and why myself and hubs decided to go for an adventure trip rather than 4 weeks of blissful beaches and catalogue perfect sunsets. I think you have to be a certain type of couple to plump for an adventure honeymoon. That’s not to say we’re exceptionally different or unusual as couples go – just a certain type.
The typical notion of a honeymoon (or ‘luna de miel’ in Spanish) is to escape to a tropical paradise. A forgotten rock in the middle of nowhere where flamingos serve you drinks, palm fronds waft the delicate sea breeze across your gently tanning brow and crystal clear waters are inescapable. The purpose being to find the most relaxing and beautiful location to connect and bond with your newly wedded other. Don’t get it twisted – this is an insanely amazing way to spend your honeymoon and trust me, after 4 weeks in Peru I could have used a week on said rock. But for all of those couples who are thinking of an adventure, backpacker style honeymoon here is our story…
Heathrow Airport, Monday 29th September, 7pm – Our last taste of English cuisine before we leave for Lima. (Fish and chips and a few ciders for the small cost of re-mortgaging our flat).
Tuesday 30th September, 11am – Lima, Peru!
Upon arriving to Lima’s international ‘aeropuerto’ after a rather long flight and stop in Brazil, we jumped into a taxi and headed to our hostel in the Miraflores district, close to the beach and away from the craziness that is downtown Lima. It’s worth at this point noting that everyone North of Chile and Argentina and South of Florida drive akin to kamikaze warriors with total disregard for all health and safety regulations, common sense and humanity. Once you have become accustomed to this and that seat belts are but a distant memory, you will be ready to start exploring! In my humble opinion, Lima whilst being the countries capital is not hugely exciting. It is in effect, a big grey desert city that spends 6 months of every year in a big cloud of mist due to it’s location on the coast and at the foothills of the Andes mountain range. To be able to appreciate some of the history and the culture of Lima it is essential to book some tours around town – it’s just too big otherwise. We also decided to take a gastro tour in the bohemian district of Barranco which was really informative and rather tasty! We avoided the guinea pig (a national favourite in Peru and neighbouring Ecuador) but tucked into cow heart kebabs, aniseed churros, ceviche (the most amazing Peruvian dish of raw fish served up with red onion, lime juice and coriander) arroz con leche from the side of the street (rice pudding) and a mandatory Pisco Sour (Peru’s national drink consisting of Pisco which is a type of brandy, lemon juice, egg white and cinnamon).
After a good night’s sleep to which the Pisco sour helped rather nicely we were off to Huacachina, Ica for a spot of dune buggy riding and sandboarding! A ridiculously strong cocktail, a busted knee cap and a spot of dinner later and we were preparing for our morning ride down to Nazca to see the world famous Nazca Lines, created by the Inca’s for reasons that no one can be sure of. There are plenty of theories I could regail you with but I’ll just throw my favourite one out there – aliens! I will point out for anyone wanting to fly over the lines that it is a very well run operation, the pilots are great and it is a very interesting sight to see….but….if you are not good with travel like myself, have some salted crisps and a bottle of water for the other end. It is a pretty hairy ride especially on a windy day in a plane no bigger than my Nissan Micra, with wings on the roof. Turbulence and the vertical angle to which the pilot turns the plane in order for you to see the lines below clearly turned me varying shades of white and green within about 3 minutes. I somehow managed to keep all of my belongings inside my stomach but should you not be so lucky, there are little bags inside waiting!
After Nazca, it was a 8 hour night bus to Arequipa, a town high in the Andes around 2,800m above sea level. Being roused at 5.30am by the communal TV on the bus playing an Adam Sandler movie in Spanish at a decibel loud enough to make the empty chair infront of me bleed was not our choice way of waking up. But, in South America anything goes! Arequipa is a rather pretty town and there are lots of large indoor markets full to the brim of fruits and vegetables, meats, clothes, eateries and gifts to name only a small section. The Plaza is beautiful and the Cathedral really is spectacular at night, floodlit to within an inch of it’s life and facing towards the sunset. I will point out to any unsuspecting travellers that if you are travelling over the election weekend in Peru, that the sale and consumption of alcohol in public areas is strictly prohibited, something that we unfortunately did not know and the waiters at the restaurant we chose to dine in that evening didn’t seem to worry about….until the police arrived. A small bribe from the owner to the policeman later and we’re assuming everything was settled – but we didn’t hang around to find out!Arequipa is known as the portal for tours to Colca Canyon – the deepest Canyon in the world and an opportunity to see Condors, one of the sacred animals of the Incas. This is a great tour and with many stops along the way to spot the native animals, buy goods made by the locals who live in the mountains and simply take in the majesty of the landscape at an altitude of nearly 5,000m above sea level. It’s worth mentioning that at this height and surrounded by numerous snow-capped mountains and volcanoes it gets a bit brisk! This is the perfect opportunity to increase your wardrobe and decrease your spending money by buying some of the beautiful scarves, hats and gloves that are sold on the side of the road here by the local women. “100% Alpaca Miss!” You’ll be too cold to care that it’s actually sheep’s wool!
We also took our lives in our hands in Arequipa and took part in what can only be the stupidest activity known to man. Cycling down the side of a volcano (thats the sedate part) and then all the way through town back to your hostel following the chap who drove you up in his 4×4. Remember what I said about Peruvian drivers? They are the same in all corners of the country, bar none. To my amazement we managed to get back safely and without a scratch to our hostel. I’m not a cyclist. The most I’ve ever ridden was at Richmond Park and I think I complained most of the way. At altitude, it is a whole different kettle of ceviche with less oxygen to fuel your pumping legs, racing heart and anxiety-ridden brain. A quick phonecall to mother telling her to hold off on the purchase of a coffin and we left on another night bus for the hub of all our major trips – Cuzco!
Arriving in beautiful Cuzco, situated at 3,200m above sea level and with decreasing levels of oxygen we quickly got settled and prepared for our week long trip into the Amazon Jungle, the very next day! I did mention this wasn’t a relaxing break didn’t I? For anyone who hasn’t been to the Amazon, it should be on your ‘life list’ and I must confess, cruising down the Amazon river watching birds soaring and monkies swinging from the tree tops was rather relaxing (as was drinking the bottle of brandy we’d smuggled over a candlelight with nothing but the sound of giant crickets!) Which brings me on to my tales of horror – insects! I was what can only be described as a walking tapas platter for Peru’s mosquitoes having received 32 bites on one portion of my leg. 50% DEET failed me but at least I fed the population of creepy crawlies for 7 days and as far as I know have not picked up Malaria, Dengue or Yellow Fever – bonus. As for the non-human eating bugs – wow. Tarantulas, Brazilian Wandering Spiders (the most deadly in the world), Crickets the size of calculators with feelers like drinking straws and masses of other flying creatures from the underworld were all present and correct to turn my evenings into nightmares!
Note to self: never use a headlamp in the jungle, stuff is going to fly into you.
The best night for me was sleeping in an open platform 7 metres above the jungle floor in nothing but a sleeping bag in the pitch black waiting for animals. From 6pm there was silence and we all did our share of night watching through until 3am. If you are not a fan of bats…refrain! Luckily we did catch a few glimpses of a wild cat but with only our torches to see the outline of it’s small and agile figure as well as the reflection from it’s piercing eyes, we will never know what we actually saw. The guide says Puma, I say Ocelot – the mystery will forever remain.
At the risk of making us sound like suckers for punishment and early starts, we arrived back to Cuzco after the 10 hour bus ride and had 3 days until we began the Inca Trek – the most spiritual and historic walk in all of Peru. So to fill our time to the fullest we went white water rafting, quad biking and visited a planetarium! We thought we should slow the pace down…
The big day arrived, Day 1 of the Inca Trek. 5.15am pick-up and a long drive to ‘Kilometre 82’ – the official start of the trail. Our guide Fredy was clearly on some sort of ongoing coca leaf high whilst the rest of the group took the opportunity to use the last proper toilets before we started the trek (albeit a tad communal for both men and women. We don’t judge). The first day was wonderful. A 10km walk with gentle undulations and gorgeous weather to appreciate the surroundings. The porters and cooks who work on the trail are clearly carved from stone and have the agility and speed of a mountain ibex so that by the time you arrive for lunch and then at your camp at the end of the day, your tents, bags and sleeping bags are organised, tea is waiting for you and food is imminent. It actually becomes more unbelievable to watch as day 2 and day 3 rear their terrifyingly ugly heads and the ascends and descends range between 900m in a single stint. We actually witnessed one porter carrying a human being on his back tied up in what can only be described as plastic shopping bag material – and he still motored past us!
Now, whilst the Inca Trail, the Incan history and Machu Picchu itself is absolutely unbelievable; exhaustion, altitude sickness and torrential rain is not. In fact, it’s not even close. I am also here to tell you all that it is not conducive to a romantic or even amicable way to spend your time with your new beau. It is however an incredibly good way to get past any discomforts you may have about bodily functions ranging from your head down. In the politest way I know how, I shall merely refer to a range of ailments caused by altitude sickness. Ahem…
Nausea, Vomiting, Gas, Stomach Cramps, Diarrhea and therefore as a final symptom, the cherry on the cake if you will – SHORT TEMPERS & EXTREME EMOTIONAL MOODSWINGS. But don’t worry, the hole in the floor toilets that act more like canvasses for people suffering on the trail are there to keep your spirits up (bring a headlamp – it gets dark at night!)
Finally at Machu Picchu we were presented with what we had been waiting for. It was superb – the clouds parted and the sun shone as we explored the lost city. The following day, not realising how physically demanding the trail would have been, we climbed the ‘optional mountain’ to see the lost city from on-high. When you’re at the top 45 minutes later you can actually see the shape of the city was made to replicate a condor, the sacred Incan animal of the heavens. After taking mandatory selfies, jumping shots galore and balancing atop the tip of the mountain with many other teetering tourists we began the descent. More terrifying than the ascent due to the fact that the stairs are so steep, slippery and with no railings in sight, that you have to climb down much of the way in reverse like a ladder. It’s interesting!
Finally we said goodbye to Machu Picchu and headed into the little town of Aguas Calientes for a thermal bath and some mojitos! The perfect way to relax before the 3.5 hour train ride back to Cuzco with a train full of exhausted hikers all with ailments of some degree. When back in Cuzco, it was not so much ‘going to bed’ as much as it was ‘passing out with a mattress below us’ and then a final flight to Lima the next morning in anticipation for the flight home. DONE!
The length of this blog I am aware exceeds all regulations and suggestions on the ‘perfect blog length’ and I’m sure many of you have jumped straight to this section to get the ‘summary’ of events – all I can say is you missed juggling koala bears, shark attacks and sex, drugs & rock’n’roll…but you’ll live and learn.
The point I wanted to share with you all by telling the tales, trials and tribulations of my honeymoon is that your honeymoon can be whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be a picture perfect paradise if you don’t want it to be. Our adventure and activity honeymoon gave us lasting memories of things we achieved as a couple, made us grow stronger together and have one heck of a lot of stories to tell afterwards! We saw things that we have both wanted to see since we were kids, we reached our goals and achieved our dreams together (and we got some kick-ass tans too!) We made friends with strangers and took risks that we might never take again. We have photos that will last forever and I have new found knowledge that the altitude sickness diet might be well-worth trying again!
I hope you enjoyed the tiny and brief glimpse into my honeymoon and I’d encourage you and your significant others to broaden the scope for your trip of a lifetime – the world is so small and yet so incredibly vast and varied. Go and see things, do things, make dreams become reality and above all have a total blast in the meantime.
Happy Honeymoons Everyone!