One with the Beloved – Album review

So a while back, I was very blessed to be asked by Shervin Boloorian (a very talented sound healer and musician) if I’d be interested in reviewing his latest album. Of course I said yes so immediately downloaded my copy.

To give you some background; I met Shervin about 4 yrs ago during my month long trip to Bali. I didn’t know much about Shervin back then or sound healing to be honest but being the curious kitty that I am, I wanted to immerse myself in as much as I could so popped along to one of his sessions.

I loved it! You can literally feel the vibrations from each instrument flowing through each part of you. It really highlighted to me back then just how music can be its own therapy alone!

Anyways, the years went by and I rediscovered my love for sound healing in Peru. It truly is a powerful discipline if you just allow it to seep into your soul and let it do its work!

Music can just take you places if you simply open yourself up and let your imagination fly! It can conjure up memories, thoughts, feelings and emotions so why shouldn’t it be used as a tool for healing?

So enough of my waffle! Let’s talk about the album itself…

One with the Beloved

26754350_10155447821746713_1192135323_nExcited to listen, I sat myself down in my room, got comfy and lit some candles. Immediately I feel as though I am surrounded by some kind of magical Eastern promise.

The album, for me, has a wonderfully uplifting and spiritual feel that gently invites you to become entranced within it’s message. Each track has it’s own ‘flavour’, it’s own story but a consistent message that everything is Ok, just relax and allow yourself to go with it and let go. I sense it’s almost saying it’s ok to release your fears and it makes me think that each person listening to the tracks at that moment are all receiving the same message – and I think that is the key, we ARE all the same, we are one!

The instruments beautifully pull together and compliment Shervins soft and nurturing singing voice. And hearing the element of water running through some of the tracks is a loving reminder that we are all connected to (and from) nature. And what do most of us love to do if we are stressed or run down? We head to back to nature don’t we?

I loved hearing real instruments over all this tinny pop culture that we hear a lot of in our western world. Some of the instruments played are different to what we may usually hear but this adds to the albums vibrant, exotic feel.

A very colourful album for me. Some tracks made me cry (not in a bad way I’d like to add but clearly expelling hidden pain there) while others made me feel happiness and joy.

For me, this album is my perfect meditation accompaniment as it helps to get me in the right state of mind to accept and receive messages and clear what I need to.

Overall, a very warm and gentle album that will be sure to set a very relaxing and ambient mood in your personal space.

Take a look/listen for yourselves; Shervin Boloorian

Also available on;

Amazon
Spotify
iTunes

Much love xx

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Lake Titicaca

‘Hmm, I want another adventure. What shall I do?’ Early one morning, I sat up in bed wondering what to do with myself. I’d really wanted to go off treking up the Rainbow mountains but….”Don’t go there right now mate! It’s more like ‘the white mountain’ hah!” So many people were showing me their latest treking photos from their trip to the rainbows which were completely covered in snow. ‘Ugh!’ Ok, so that’s well and truly off my list.

I had wondered about Lake Titicaca. This wasn’t something top of my list however with the Rainbows snowed over, I thought ‘why not’

After my awful trip to Machu Picchu, I knew to chose my tour carefully this time haha. I’d heard of Peru Hop and decided to look into it. They must be the same as a London hop on, hop off, or the same company I’d hopped on and off with in Australia too? Trip Advisor boasted great reviews so I wandered off to find the office.

“Ok miss, you have a few options for Lake Titicaca. You can do a full day trip, a homestay option or even travel on to Bolivia”. The sales rep clearly wanted me to carry on to La Paz (which of course would have been utterly amazing but with a budget in mind…) “Ok, let’s go for the homestay! How often can you stay with a local?!” Wow, I was very decisive today haha. So I booked my ticket to leave for the very next day.

I was promised a comfortable ride. I kinda felt I deserved it after my last bus ordeal so had faith. “Be at the Bolivia hop stop by 9pm tomorrow. The bus will leave at 9:30pm. On the trip back, you will be in Cusco at 5am. We will arrange a taxi back to your hostel”. ‘Oooh, very good service. Lovely jubbley’ I thought.

Restless night

bolivia hopThe time had finally come for me to venture off to the ‘Bolivia hop stop’ in town. A queue was already forming but I quickly got checked in and lined up ready.

I was well impressed once inside the bus. The seats were really spacious and super comfy, they even reclined back quite a bit.

“Good evening ladies and gents. My name is Wayne and I will be here to assist you tonight until the morning. There are warm blankets up in the holdalls above you. Once we get going, we’ll turn the lights off so you can enjoy a good nights rest before your trip tomorrow.”

Wayne was a short, balding american who actually reminded me of Wayne Sleep for some reason…or maybe that’s just because his name was Wayne and I really wanted some sleep hah. I could feel the bus slowly pulling off and oh my word, what a contrast to the last bus journey! This was luxury haha. With that, I wrapped my blanket around me and reclined my seat. ‘Ahhh, this is so comfy. I should be able to fall asleep no problem….’

Well, I think I went and bloody cursed it!! I’d been awake for what felt like hours! I tossed and turned but just could not get in a good position to sleep. “SNOOOORE” ‘Arghhh’ I was surrounded by snorers, heavy breathers and wheezers. ‘How do people sleep on these things?’ I was starting to become irritated or more like jealous at the fact my fellow bus travellers could fall asleep within minutes. Eventually I managed a ‘doze’ but that was the best it was going to get hah. I ended up thinking that I must be grateful for being on a luxurious ride on a warm and cosy bus that wasn’t chucking me all over the place hah.

Begrudgingly, I could see the sun rising from behind my curtain and then suddenly *microphone feedback noise and ‘tap tap’. “Good morning folks. I trust you all had a good nights sleep ahead of your busy day today. We will shortly be arriving at our stop so please make sure you have all your belongings together for when we step out”. ‘What!’ The night seemed to whizz by. I had a quick peep in my portable pink mirror only to be greeted by a pale faced panda waaaa. I felt shattered.

We ‘hopped’ off at 5am outside a partner hostel of theirs. ‘Wow, I’m in Puno’ I thought. We were ushered into the hostel to then wait for our tours. It seemed everyone was on a different trip or tour so not all of us bus people would be together. I took a walk to find some breakfast and then came back to the hostel to see a few tour guides with clip boards. Names were being called and people were being whisked away for their day trips. And guess what…I was the last one left haha. Eventually a guide came for me and then ushered me off onto a small minibus with other folk…these folk were to be MY tour group folk :)

Floating islands

“Good morning everyone. My name is Almanty” (or at least that’s what I thought he said. In my mind, he then became Manty for the rest of the trip).

“We have a busy schedule lined up. Today we will visit 2 different islands and later you will meet your homestay families. Tomorrow, we will visit a 3rd island before heading back to Cusco”. ‘Cool’ I thought. I was looking forward to it all.

Puno was beautiful too. It was super hot, bright and sunny. Out the minibus window, I could see a ‘Plaza’ and actually, every place in Peru seemed to have a plaza or main square which all conveniently was called ‘Plaza da armas’ haha.

Eventually, we pulled up at a boat dockyard where we boarded our lil boat. Yesss, I’d bagged a window seat too hehe. And what a nice small group. I was the only English person on board too :)

‘Wow, I am ON Lake Titicaca’ I glared out the window at this huge lake which in actual fact, is a tidal bay (according to wikipedia). It is the “highest navigable lake” in the world, awesome hey!

It must have taken us about an hour to reach the island ‘Uros’ but oh boy it was worth it. Uros was literally floating on a bundle of reeds, it was amazing!

The boat gently ‘bumped’ into the reeded island and one by one we hopped off with the aid of Manty. Wow, it was stunning. The ground felt ‘sponge’ like and almost as though your foot could easily slip through to the lake below haha.

Once we’d got used to walking on the reeds, we all took a look around. Everything I saw was made of reed, houses, seating areas, shelters…It was amazing to see how these people made use of their natural surroundings.

But I couldn’t help wonder what would happen if there was a huge fire one day, do they use candles (haha!) and do they ever get infestations i.e. some kind of water rats or birds trying to roost in their homes? Oh and how and where did they keep their food? I also couldn’t help think that if the world does end up flooded, these folk would be just fine hah.

So, turns out, meat would be dried in order to be kept for longer. Manty showed us a bird they’d recently killed and dried out! Eww, it looked disgusting ha. Oh and they don’t just use the reeds for building, they’d eat them too! Manty passed us all a reed each.

“You peel the base like a banana and you can drink the water and also eat the reed itself”. It was so watery plus didn’t taste too bad either actually!

Oh and they don’t use candles btw haha, they do actually have electricity here. They are solar powered! This is SO the way forward right?

Looking around, the community seemed so happy and almost untouched by ‘modern society’. They also have a policy here that they all help each other. If one community was in need, a neighbouring community would step in and help them for free as long as the favour was returned if and when the other needed assistance.

It did seem rather traditional here too e.g. the men would be the ones building and the women would be the ‘knitters’ and family raisers etc.

Tourism would be a final resort if they needed money (apparently) but looking around me, I could see mini stalls opportunistically displaying locally handmade items, you know, keyrings, knitted goods and other bits n bobs. I don’t think they had much to worry about really haha. Plus, we all took a ride on one of their reed boats which was 10 soles each.

The reed boat took us ‘over the lake’ and to what I’d call their ‘town centre’ haha. It was so cool. It was a larger floating island that had many stores and restaurants. You could even get your passport stamped to say you’d been to Lake Titicaca. Dammit, I’d left my passport on our main boat so missed out, nevermind…I’m running out of space now anyways hehe 😉

After a short while of hanging about with the locals and peering into their way of life bobbing along on the reeds, it was soon time for us to retreat back to our boat to venture onto our next port of call, Amantani island. ‘Ooh this is where we’re staying over for the night’ I thought. I couldn’t wait to meet my homestay family!

Living like a local

It took us about 2 hours and 30 mins to reach the island of Amantani and yay, I fell asleep! Cars and boats are fine, turns out I can sleep on these haha.

Approaching the island, I could see a row of men and women all wearing black and white gear all lined up and waiting for us. Hmm…they reminded me of Mormons for some reason?

Again, the views were stunning. We were surrounded by rolling green hills and mud bricked homes all being gracefully but tightly embraced by the lake. How lucky are these people, it’s beautiful.

“Ok everyone. I will now pair you up with your host families. You will then go off with them to unload your things and enjoy a home cooked traditional lunch”. Manty was pretty good at getting us all organised, he was one of the good guides!

While I was waiting for my name to be called, I couldn’t help but switch off and take in the surroundings. I noticed most homes had their own cows or woolly sheep tied to posts out the front and they all seemed to grow their own crops too. All so self sufficient. I also spotted one of the older women washing her clothes IN the lake, how cool!

Oh god, waiting to be called suddenly shot me back to being at school…waiting to be picked for the basketball team and guess what?? I was the one of the last to be called haha, some things never change 😉

“Helen and Monisha, you will go with this family” Manty paired me up with Monisha, an Indian girl who was also travelling solo and showed us over to our host ‘mama and papa’. We followed our temporary family over in anticipation of what their home would be like.

Monisha and I were getting along great and mostly talking to each other. Turns out, our family couldn’t speak a word of English but I liked that, it all added to the authenticity :)

“Wow, this family aren’t doing bad for themselves hey” I turned to Monisha who also happened to agree. Out the front, they too had a woolly sheep tied to a post and a generous plot of land full of sprouting corn. Inside their home, they seemed to have a fair few rooms and an outside toilet. ‘Uh oh…outside loo’ It randomly reminded me of my Nan’s old cottage in Cornwall, she also had an outside loo (albeit unused) but still. I just hoped I didn’t need it during the night haha.

The family showed us to our rooms. Monisha’s room had 2 beds and my room (which was upstairs) had 4 along with a stunning view of the lake. “Hey, you can kip in with me if you like…seeing as I have 4 beds and a lovely view!” I kinda fancied the company too. So with that, Monisha moved into my room.

Lunch was a yummy omelette with a side of rice and a big cup of fresh muna tea (a naturally growing herb here). We had literally just watched papa pick the muna from his front garden, lovely! Lunch was a mixed conversation, well, it was mostly me and Monisha talking and exchanging travel stories haha but it was all good. And one thing I couldn’t help but notice, our host papa reminded me of someone…Racking my brains, it came to me….’Freddy Krueger’ Omg, that’s it! Our host papa was a look ‘a’ likey peruvian wes craven creation haha. I kept that one to myself because I didn’t think it would be too kind to share hehe.

After our lunch, mama then walked us to the main plaza where we were reunited with our boat crew. We then all went on a 2 hour trek to reach the peak of the island. By the time we got to the top, it clouded over and chucked with rain haha but the views of the town and vast open lake were still absolutely incredible. I seem to take the rain with me right hah but thunder soon joined in too and that was the point we thought we’d best retreat back down hah.

Phew! Manty and our host family were waiting for us back down at the bottom. “Ok everyone, you will now go back to your homes with your host families for dinner. After dinner you have the opportunity to dress up in traditional Peruvian clothing and join the community for a party in the community hall”. Manty then went on to explain that it was also the night Peru was playing football on telly so he was definitely going to be out and enjoying a few beers haha. With that, Monisha and I went ‘home’ for dinner.

As soon as we’d finished dinner, mama then ushered us outside so she could ‘dress’ us. “Huh, she wants to dress us outside? Won’t it be super cold?!” Monisha gave me a glance as if to say ‘do you want to do this’ haha. We both decided why not, when do you get the opportunity to dress like a peruvian and hang out with them?

Mama handed us a white blouse each and then beckoned us to put them on. Once on, mama then threw a colourful skirt over our heads. It seemed to be a ‘one size fits all’ because she then wrapped it around our waists. The skirt was then secured with some kind of belt and oh my god, she tied it so tight, I felt as though I must have been wearing a corset.

Dressed and ready to go (and struggling for breath in our ‘corsets’) we walked on over to the community hall. Hey and for a cold night, our traditional gear was really warm (ok, we did still have our clothes on underneath but we were cosy all the same). “Oh god Monisha, what if we’re the only ones in traditional dress?” I kinda found the prospect of walking into a packed community hall being the only 2 dressed up quite funny. “Well, if we are, we’ll show our faces, have one drink and then leave”.

This was it, we were almost at the community hall. The lights were on but it eerily seemed too quiet for a party! “After you!”. I ushered Monisha in first, politely of course because I’m good mannered like that haha. I followed in behind. The hall was a huge square buidling with chairs all lined up against the wall. It was packed with a mix of our boat buddies and locals and to my/our relief, EVERYONE was in the traditional dress, it was awesome!

Monisha and I grabbed a beer and watched a band setting up. It was so funny sitting down with our backs to the wall, there was nowhere to hide ha. In a comical sense, it actually felt a bit awkward, almost like a ‘what happens now’ kinda awkward haha. Everyone was staring at each other and marvelling at each others clothing. The women were all in pretty skirts and blouses and the men were wearing colourful, traditional alpaca ponchos.

The band started playing traditional Andean music and no sooner than the music had started, our host mama pulled Monisha and I up to dance! Suddenly, everyone was up on their feet and dancing, there was not one butt on a chair. It was AMAZING! There was such a good vibe in the air, it really was a superb evening. I felt like a local, I almost looked like a local and everyone was having such a good time. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Monisha and I were skipping back home, giggling and swishing our big fancy skirts about haha. What an experience! I went to bed feeling grateful and blessed to have been here and shared space with such a wonderfully vibrant community.

I slept so well and my bed was super cosy and warm (thanks to my 5 alpaca blankets hehe) and thankfully I didn’t need to get up to use the outside bog, phew.

After brekkie of eggs, bread, butter and jam and muna tea, our host mama and papa escorted us back to our boat to wave us off.

Taquille Island – The island of textiles

There was such a good buzz on the boat, it was as though last nights event had brought us all together and well and truly broken any ice! Oh but not only that, Manty told us that Peru won last nights footy match so he too was in high spirits. “Because today Peru won the match, the government has given all of Peru the day off!” Manty boasted haha. Then he got the whole boat chanting “Peru, Peru, Peru” Bless him, he was so happy.

It took us about an hour to reach Taquille island (which sounded a bit like ‘Tequila’ island to me haha). It was known as the island of textiles.

Oh and guess what…I didn’t realise just how close I was to Bolivia! Lake Titicaca is literally the separator between Bolivia and Peru! I took a selfie and yep, Bolivia was right behind me ha!

Once we’d arrived, it took us about 40 minutes to trek to the main plaza. Again, it was a super hot one. It was very similar to Amantani island – the houses were made of mud and nearly each and every home had a cow or a sheep and a small patch of land to grow crops.

It was an awesome but tiring trek as it all seemed uphill but once in the main plaza we were left to explore. It looked so dated and like I’d stepped back in time. The plaza had a wonderfully rustic feel.

Cracked mud and crumbling buildings all added to the rustic authenticity of the village, I loved it. There were limited shops but the shops I did find in the plaza all sold textiles…funny that haha. Of course, I bought a few handmade alpaca items. And there was no bartering in this place, they weren’t having none of it haha. The locals seemed really shy here and no where near as open as the locals on Amantani island but again, I kinda liked that. I guess it showed they were a ‘close-knit’ community hahah sorry, couldn’t resist.

Manty showed us around and then took us all to a place for an omelette lunch. Manty taught us about local life and even explained the meaning behind the peruvian hat…apparently the men wear their hats a certain way if they are single, another way if they’re married and a final way to show they are ‘looking’ for the one. Monisha then innocently blurted out “But it’s a very windy place!” I nearly choked on my omelette from laughing hahah. She did have a very good point though.

After lunch, we then descended back down to our boat for our last trip back to Puno. What a fantastic trip with a bunch of fab people from all over the globe.

Arriving back at the sunny docks of Puno, we loaded ourselves back onto our minibus which then whisked us all back to our hostels in the town centre. It was kinda sad to see everyone hopping off at their stop points!

Of course, being the last one (yet again), it was my turn to hop off at my designated hostel to wait for my bus. But it wasn’t even 4pm so I had quite a wait for my Bolivia hop to show up (9:30pm!). So I took myself off exploring the town of Puno.

Later in the evening, I’d found myself a cool reggae bar to sit and have a pizza. Oh and while I sat there, the rain started as did the thunder hah! Typical.

Finally, when my Bolivia bus showed up, I climbed on board, reclined my seat and tucked myself in with my blanket. I didn’t wish myself a goodnight because I knew all too well that I wasn’t gonig to fall asleep hah! But that was ok, I could catch up on my sleep once I’d reached Cusco.

What a trip! I would highly recommend Lake Titicaca and the homestay with Bolivia/Peru hop. It’s not often you can live and dance like a local and see life from a floating reed island.

Again, world, you never cease to amaze.

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Machu Sickchu!

Ok ok, so we all know it’s called Machu Picchu but I had to appropriately name this entry Machu ‘Sickchu’ purely due to the disasterous journey over to reach this beaut.

To be honest, I wasn’t convinced about venturing off to see this wonder but actually, I’m so glad I did. I guess I was worried about the experience being too ‘touristy’ (which ok, it was but it wasn’t too bad) but I am glad I’ve ticked it off. It really is a magical place that can truly saturate your imagination.

So, let’s step back in time, I’ll zip you up in my backpack and take you on my (awful) journey to MP herself…

Always a ‘special price’ for a gringo…

“Excuse me miss, you want tour?” “Hola Amigo. You want tour bus?” “Friend, you want Rainbow Mountain?” “Senorita, you want Machu Picchu?” Arghhh! My head was spinnning. The plaza da armas can be a mass of relentless and very thick skinned tour sellers each competing to get you on the next bus outta here and over to ‘there’.

‘Cor, I bet these people would make fantastic cold callers. They don’t give up, they don’t get offended, they just keep on going’. I would day dream and watch tour salesmen and women almost ‘harrass’ passing tourists and wonder how they do it everyday.

So anyways, just be wary, you can pick up a tour deal from pretty much any street you turn in Cusco but it’s finding the right one. I shamefully didn’t check my tour package out on Trip Advisor because I was drawn into a ‘1 day promotion just for you amigo’ deal hah! I simply doorstepped various agencies in the aim of checking them out but got sucked in to that one particular ‘deal of the day’.

It’s amazing how you can go to one agency and they’ll be asking for 800 soles but you can go next door and you’ll be offered 325 soles! Of course, I went for the budget (and the hard sell of the sales person) only to realise why my cheap deal was exactly that haha. But hey, they chucked in a private mini bus to Hidroelectrica (from there it’s a 2 hours trek to Aguas Calientes), all meals, a night in a hostel, entry into MP oh and a tour guide. ‘Cor, this all sounds great’ I thought to myself. ‘And the trek sounds good too so I’m not being completely lazy haha!’ So I booked on for the very next day.

“Ok amigo. Come here at 7:30am. We pick you up in minibus and take you to Hidroelectrica. You then walk 2 hours to Aguas Calientes. Our rep will meet you in your hostel and brief you on the trip over dinner”. My seller, Sofia, handed me a tacky leaflet (that looked like it was designed in the 80s!) with the name of my hostel so I could find where I was to go once I’d arrived in the small town before MP.

Feeling accomplished, I trotted back to my Hostel to grab myself an early dinner and pack up for my mini adventure!

The barf bus

I woke up nice and early, grabbed a taxi and headed straight for my meeting point. I must have arrived at the office at 7am so sat outside on a chilly step waiting for some kind of minibus/rep to appear.

Slowly, groups of tourists started gathering outside the other rows of tour agencies next to mine. I couldn’t help but start to get a lil nervous that I was the only one outside mine!? ‘Hmm…should I be worried? What if Sofia’s done a bunk?’ Hah! Stoppit Helen, it’ll all be fine….right?! But yes, thankfully 2 other people showed up and sat next to me. I was so relieved. ‘Well, if I’ve been ripped off, at least it’s not just me haha.’

The 30 mins felt like a long time until…”Hola amiga. Helen?” I looked up to see a small peruvian man wearing a red baseball hat and a navy blue zip up jumper. In his left hand, I spotted a crumpled up piece of yellow paper so he was clearly reading from his ‘pick up’ list. “Si, mi nombre es Helen”. “Ok, vamonos” (which means let’s go). We all followed this lil man round the corner to his minibus (which with us 3 tourists now in it), was full. ‘Yay, off we go’ I thought. I popped on my ipod and dozed out the window.

Getting out of Cusco was fine, apart from some morning traffic but it was a breeze. Ok, so this lil dude was driving pretty fast but they all do out here and the roads weren’t too bad…at that point at least!

However, the further out of Cusco we went, the worse the roads became. Small corners were widening into ‘sharp curves’ and instead of our minibus driver reading the road and gliding gently around the corners, he was literally chucking the bus INTO them! Bodies were being slammed left and thrown right and overhead bags were constantly falling down from the overhead compartments, ugh! ‘This is awful’ I thought. I then imagined a cartoon minibus in my head, screeching around the mountains on 2 wheels and leaving nothing but a dust trail behind it!

“Dan….quick, do you have a bag? Quick, please honey, I can’t hold it” Whitney, an american girl who was sitting directly in front of me was becoming very panicked. I caught a glimpse of Whitney’s ghost like face through the gap in the seats in front and it didn’t take a genious to guess she was going to be sick! “Oh no, quick take this” Dan, her partner, handed her a brown paper bag which she snatched without hesitation to chunder in. Dan lovingly held Whitneys hair back in a pony tail away from her face. I realised I was staring so diverted my eyes out the window. “Blurghghghggh. Belch. Splutter” Ewww, poor thing I thought! I wasn’t surprised. The way the minibus was throwing us all about was pretty bad and possibly even dangerous. I even felt queasey myself but was trying so hard to focus on the furthest point in the distance from out the window.

Other travellers on the bus were asking if Whitney was ok. I had some mints in my bag so passed a few through the seat to her cos I’d imagine she wouldn’t wanna have the taste of puke all the way to Aguas Caliente hey. In fact….”Does anyone know how long this bus trip is going to take?” I asked out loud. That was one question I didnt actually ask in the agency but I guess I didn’t care at the time, it was what it was going to be. “Yeh, we were told 6 hours” One guy from Australia replied. “6 hours!! Omg, I didn’t know it was THAT long!” Woah. Could I do this for 6 hours? Well, yes, I had to, we all had to!

The smell of sick started to seep into the air and up into the nostrils of each and everyone of us passengers. “Can the driver stop so I can get rid of this bag baby?” Whitney pleaded to Dan to do something. And being a good boyfriend, Dan wobbled his way up to the front to speak to the driver. A few minutes later, Dan clambered back to his seat swinging his arms left to right, from head rest to head rest. “He said to just throw it out the window”. I could hear they were both surprised at this response, I was too but no one could stand the smell so out it went. The bag made a wet clap sound as it splattered on the road below, gross. Phew! Drama over…

“Oh no! I need another bag honey!” Yep, poor Whitney was sick again. And actually, again and again and again. The whole 6 hours trip was filled with bluerrrgghhh noises and sicky smells! Dan and Whitney urged the driver to stop at least for a few minutes but he said he had a schedule to keep and we weren’t stopping until at the designated stops (for lunch and pee’s)! I was shocked at how ‘uncaring’ our driver seemed to be. Plus, Dan and Whitney were now running out of sick bags. The couple had the whole bus searching their backpacks for spare plastic bags they could use. It was awful.

“Do you need a bag too mate? Here, swop seats with me” 2 Columbian friends next to me switched seats so one could be next to the window for fresh air. “Yes, quick, I need a bag”. ‘Uh oh! A mass puckage is going to spread’ I thought. Luckily it didn’t and it was just Whitney and this other dude puking but listening to (and smelling) 2 people chundering the whole way was bad enough. But it was because of this dam driver! He was speeding and still throwing the bus into the corners like a rally driver. ‘Square left, Square right’!

I looked forward to the ‘pit stops’ and made sure to stand outside breathing as much fresh air as I could before heading back to the confines of the clammy bus. I was so grateful that my queasey tummy held out and didn’t develop into a full on chunder sesh.

I supplied Whitney with as many mints as I could pass through (without dropping them over each bump and bend) and another traveller even bought Whitney an ice lolly to see if that would help refresh her but nope…nothing worked. Thankfully the Colombian stopped being sick after a while but we were becoming worried about Whitney. I’d never known someone puke so much!

Wheely dangerous

Stewth, the incline of the corners seemed to be forever going up as much as they were going round! The round and round and up and up motion was making my ears pop and my head spin. I was pretty sure there wasn’t one person on that bus that didn’t feel sick hah!

Being sat next to the window was a truly terrifying experience! A rocky and vertical drop evilly glared back at me as if waiting for the very moment our minibus toppled over the edge so it could devour us nomads! No exaggeration, it was definitely an ‘instant death’ kinda drop!

I could hear small rocks pinging out in all directions from under the tyres. Looking behind, the dirt road was leaving yet another trail of dry beige dust. We all had to shut our windows to stop the dust from choking everyone. It was hot, scary and smelly!

My palms were becoming really sweaty and I could almost feel my heart beat banging like a drum on my ribs shouting ‘Get out of here man!’ Blimey! ‘Shit man, this driver isn’t even slowing down round these dangerous bends!’ I was pretty scared and actually getting pretty pissed off that this driver could be so careless with all these lives on his bus!

“Well, now I understand why this was the budget option!” I said outloud. A few nervous laughs spread throughout the bus which was then followed by a fearful silence!

“What’s that noise?” Someone up ahead asked. I then peered my neck up over the seats like a nosey giraffe to see what was going on. The minibus was slowing down! We slowed so much that everyone was now all looking up over their seats with blank and confused faces. We’d been used to being thrashed about and literally fearing for our lives to almost coming to a halt on the top of this cliff edge!

“He’s struggling to change gears!” One guy shouted back in response. Omg! The guy was right, the driver couldn’t get the bus into a certain gear and it felt like we were coasting! The lil peruvian was struggling and the bus was starting to make grinding and crunching sounds just like something out of a horror film…you know…that old cliche when the axe murderer’s coming at the victims car and they can’t get their ride into gear right up until the last minute, “Quick! Go, go, go!” hahah.

What happens now I thought? It felt like we were coasting a while when suddenly, as if by magic, the gears were working again. Phew! And guess what? That became a constant theme along the way. ‘Ugh, stop and call us another bus already!’ I thought.

Later on, something else went wrong too. The back of the bus started to feel extra bumpy and uncomfortable and it felt like it wasn’t able to hold the road (not that it was properly anyways!) but I just thought it was the awful road conditions.

We eventually stopped outside a restaurant where we hopped off for our lunch. Out the window we could see what was wrong. The driver was jacking the bus up to CHANGE THE FLAT TYRE! “Bloody hell!” I screeched! “We are on such a death trap bus. There’s no way this bus would be allowed on the road back in the UK” Everyone happened to agree and over our tiny portions of complementary dry rice and sticky spaghetti, I’d started a table discussion about health and safety…

Time to trek

PHEW! Sighs of relief washed over everyone as we’d finally reached our stop point 6 hours later. We’d made it ALIVE to Hidroelectrica.

“Follow the tracks to Aguas Calientes. Tomorrow be back at bus by 14:20″ With that, the driver picked up a load of tourists who’d just come back from their trip to MP. I watched as all the tourists clambered onto his bus and thought ‘Good luck everyone!’.

There really wasn’t anything at Hidroelectrica. Literally just a gravel car park next to a small train station – the train that takes you Aguas Calientes.

After a few minutes of stretching and feeling grateful for our lives, us bus people all stuck together and we started our hike alongside the train tracks just like the driver directed.

Ahead I could see Dan supporting a weak Whitney who still appeared be suffering, poor girl. A good nights sleep would sort her out.

“So anyone know how long this trek will take?” I posed the question that I thought I already knew the answer to… “Yeh, it’s 3 hours to the town. Well, at least that’s what we were told” The confident aussie guy always seemed to be the first to answer any question thrown out there. “3 hours! Omg, I was told 2! Oh well, beats having a near death experience haha”. My lil chuckle seemed to start a small wave of giggles :) Everyone was tired and we all wanted to trudge on and reach the town before darkness fell.

The trek started out fine, it was a nice and straight route (rocky but straight), the sun was shining and everyone seemed a lovely bunch. I was feeling thankful that I had my sturdy hiking boots on because the rocks were varying from small to large to flat to pointy! My ankles felt like they were forever trying to adapt to the uneven path so it did become quite tiring. A few people ahead were complaining that the souls of their feet were hurting through their flimsy trainers.

I really enjoyed the trek! The scenery was breath taking. Mountains towered over us and rivers flowed next to us. I switched off for a moment and happily listened to the hum in the air. I could hear birds chattering, water flowing, stones crunching under shoes and people around me exchanging travel stories; ‘I’ve been here’ and ‘have you been to such and such place yet?’, it all was great, great until I could see people clambering UP ahead.

“Oh no, I thought this was a trek not a climb” Someone blurted out. “Uh oh” I said. I looked up and could see a sharp incline fast approaching, it was the only way to reach the next path. The current flat path gradually became a hill which then sharply inclined into a really steep hill. It was so steep that people were literally hauling themselves up with any bit of tree or branch they could grab hold of. I guess it wasn’t too difficult but with my heavy boots, rucksack and camera, I did get tired pretty quick haha. People who had already made it to the top were helping to pull their mates up and over onto the next patch of trek which was thankfully flat once more. Phew, making it to the top, I took a swig of my water and then carried on treking alongside the train tracks with my (now sweaty) bus group haha.

“Hey look everyone. It’s easier to walk directly on the sleepers of the track” One guy excitedly shouted “Oh yeh!” I replied haha. Then all of us were hopping along on the sleepers. Some were close together so you could step onto the next one but some seemed far apart so it felt like more of a hop or long stride to land on the next plank. But it actually helped us all to keep momentum up instead of walking over the uneven rocks which slowed us down.

Suddenly we all heard a faint…’TOOT TOOT’ in the far off distance. “What was that?” I muttered. ‘TOOT TOOT’. The faint tooting noise was getting louder and louder and FAST. “It’s the train! Everyone off!” One of the girls ushered us all off the sleepers. The noise then seemed to almost be shouting at us “GET OUT MY WAY…TOOT TOOT” We all jumped off and got as close to the trees and bushes as we could. “Hah! We’d never be allowed to walk ON the tracks in England” I exclaimed. “We can’t even step inside the yellow line”. “Yeh, and neither in the US” Came one reply. “Or Germany!” Came another haha.We all laughed about how different our countries were and waited to catch a glimpse of the speeding Machu Picchu train.’SWOOOOOOSH’ My hair flew up and over my face covering my eyes but I managed to get a quick pic. COOL!

‘Phew’ I thought. ‘We must all nearly be at the town by now?’ Ahead, I could see a small crowd gathering and wondered what was going on. Reaching the group, I could see some kind of circle was forming. Of course, being naturally nosey, everyone stopped as they got nearer to see what the fuss was about. I caught a glimpse of a girl hunched over in the bushes. “Can everyone stand back please. Give her some space”. It was Dans voice! Omg, that was Whitney in the bushes and she was violently puking up. ‘Woah!’ She looked even paler than on the bus. Actually, I hadn’t noticed them passing our group but oh boy, she looked in a bad way. I felt useless to help and a mint sure wasn’t going to do anything now. So many people gave her water, coca leaves and even dioralyte powder. Whitney seemed really weak. “Hey, we’re only 20 minutes from the town!” A passer by who’d clearly done this before gave his lil bit of encouragement. Eventually, Dan realised he had to carry Whitney, there was no other way.  All of us bus buddies slowly walked with them to show our support :)

We’d finally passed the train station and reached a huge white Machu Picchu sign. I guessed we were really close by now. “Hey, there’s a bus! I’m going to flag it down” The aussie guy then legged it to meet the bus. He was a hero actually because he managed to stop the bus and got the driver to take Dan and a very weak and wobbly Whitney into the town. We were relieved because we knew Whitney could finally lay down and get some rest.

‘Hooray’ I thought. We had all made it to Aguas Calientes. And what a very small and quaint little town. Immediately, I found the small bus ticket counter so I could buy my return ticket up and down MP before hunting down my hostel.

Sun Rise Inn

Right, now where’s that old 80s style leaflet’ I rummaged in my trouser pockets for the hostel info so I could find my way. I managed to get directions from a nearby store and headed on over in the direction I’d been pointed to.

‘Hmm…I’m sure I’m in the right road’ I couldn’t blimming find the place! It took me forever in what must have been the smallest toy town ever! I was so tired by this point and couldn’t wait for a shower and I was hoping to find it BEFORE sun rise hahah.

‘Right, ok, I know I’m in the right road so it has to be here’ I was pretty much muttering out loud to myself now. In the end, I stood for a moment and studied each and every building. Brainwave ‘Why don’t you hold up the leaflet and see what buildings match the hostel in the photo!’  Brilliant idea Hels haha. So I was literally playing ‘snap’ with the photo on my 80s leaflet to the buildings that were all standing tall in front of me. ‘Aha! A match!’ Finally, one that looked the same in the image. I walked on over and entered the building. The name was different but the photo was identical so it had to be the right place.

“Hola senorita” A sleepy, young lad on the reception gave me a half arsed greeting. “Hola. Sun Rise Inn?” I replied. “Si. Welcome” Hmmm…..so it seems my 80s style leaflet really WAS made in the 80s and was in drastic need of an update haha!

I checked into my room (which overlooked a small and noisy football pitch), dumped my stuff down and showered.

Elvis

Afterwards, I popped back downstairs to see what was going on. I bumped into Pauline (one of my bus buddies). “Helen! Our rep is supposed to meet us at 7:30pm in the main square. Shall we take a walk around and try to find it?” “Yeh sure” I had the impression the dude was meeting us in the hostel but hey ho. With that, Pauline and I went off exploring.

We found the main square fairly easily actually. It was a small plaza mainly full of restaurants. Groups quickly started gathering around the square and we soon found our other bus buddies. Reps seemed to appear out of nowhere and started calling out names from a list. We were then standing in our ‘named’ groups.

“Ok. Welcome everyone. You are group 2, follow me please” A short, fat man beckoned us all to follow him to a quieter spot away from the crowds.

Standing (conveniently) outside a restaurant, our rep introduced himself. “Buenas noches everyone. My name is Elvis. I will now brief you all on the process for tomorrow’s trip to MP.” ‘Elvis!’ I chuckled. I wasn’t sure if that was his real name but it was certainly one that I could easily remember hehe.

Elvis briefed us all on what to expect for the next days events. I got ‘bug spray, water, more water and ponchos’ Ugh, ponchos! Oh and ‘Line up from 4am for the morning bus’ 4 AM!!! But the buses don’t start until 5:30am. Hmmm Ok, Elvis is the experienced expert here so I thought it best to follow all the advice given.

“Ok, now give me all your passports” Elvis held out his hand and quickly gathered them all up. He needed them to go and sort out our entry tickets into MP. Of course, my mind started racing again. ‘After how shocking our mini bus ride was over….the next surprise is that Elvis is a master passport cloner/thief’ haha!

After our briefing, Elvis then took us all for dinner which was included in the deal. Over my fish and chip dinner, I waited patiently for my passport back…

Finally, (and thankfully), Elvis appeared when we’d nearly all finished our chippy tea’s and individually gave us all our passports back along with our entry tickets into MP.

“Ok, good night everyone. Go and have a good sleep. I will see you all at the top!”. With that, we all scattered, full-bellied and absolutely shattered!

Pauline and I walked back to the hostel together and actually bumped into Dan and Whitney. “Hey, Whitney, how are you doing now?” I asked. “I’ve actually been in hospital! They put me on a drip because I was so dehydrated!” “Blimey!” I was shocked. She had been puking pretty much since 8am though. It was good to see she had perked up though and could enjoy MP the following morning.

Pauline and I carried on back to our hostel, said goodnight and “See you at 4am in the queue for the bus!” I went out like a light but it felt like my cheeks had only just brushed the pillow when my alarm was rudely interrupting my sweet slumber!’Urghhhh….3am! OUCH’ I am a bit of a faffer, which is a trait I have inherited from my Dad hahah. I need my time to ‘wake up’ and get organised haha.

I checked out of the hostel and walked down to the bus point. It was only 3:50am and already…yes…ALREADY people were lining up for the first bus up. Plonking myself down on the pavement, I looked around for Pauline but couldn’t see her. Wrapping up warm, I sat and waited patiently for I knew it was going to be a long wait.

Foggy beauty

It was super cold and it felt I was waiting for the bus for ages. It was so nice to sit down all cosy on a warm (and safe) bus and be whisked off up to the top (lazy? I don’t know but it felt good all the same) 😉

The road up to MP seemed to go round and round, up and up! Yep more roundey round bends haha but it was comfortable. The views were crazy beautiful but rain suddenly started to splodge and spread across the windows! Fog was also beginning to slowly roll in and cheekily covered up my lovely views as if to say ‘You don’t get to see this yet, the main event is to come!’ haha. ‘Oh no!’ I thought, ‘it’s gonna rain up there isn’t it’ :/

Arriving at the top, it conveniently poured with rain just as I stepped off the bus and it wasn’t just a trickle, it was as if someone was constantly putting us all through the ice bucket challenge! I tried to keep positive and hoped it would pass after a short while.

“Ponchos, ponchos” Opportunistic sellers were walking around with ponchos of all colours and looking around me, they were selling on well! A sea of bodies were covered in thin plastic sheets of yellows, reds, blues and greens. ‘Zombies in ponchos hahaha’ I slyly smirked hehe.

Elvis then appeared out of nowhere and I couldn’t help but wonder how he got up here hah! “Ok everybody. Group 2 please, group 2 over here please”. We all gathered around Elvis as if all huddling to keep warm and dry. “Ok, so you now go with Rita please. She will be your MP guide today”. Elvis then ushered us over towards Rita, a short lady wearing big black spectacles. “Hola friends. My name is Rita. Today I will show you around the marvellous MP and look after you all. First, you must join the line for passport and ticket control. Please have your entry tickets and passports ready.”

The place seemed a mass of slow walking rainbow ponchos all hobbling along like penguins edging towards the entrance but I must say, it did seem pretty well organised. And Rita was always in my view because she was holding up a huge sign with ‘RITA’ on it haha. Finally, all of group 2 folk were through the doors, we were IN! On the other side of the passport/ticket control, Rita met us and immediately took us around.

WOW!! I was in awe! I felt like I’d just become subjected to some kind of hypnotic trance at what lay before me. Jaw ajar, I don’t think I took much notice of what Rita was saying, oops. And everything was so green but I mean, VIVID green.

Old ruins of walls and homes were embedded deep into the top of this huge supportive Incan citadel. It felt so mystical and magical up here. I found myself visualizing the houses all standing back in their full glory, standing tall and proud and serving their purpose once more. I could almost hear the hum of village folk walking about their daily business and I’d watch on as locals carried crops of corn and quinoa all tightly wrapped in colourful blankets around their backs. In my mind, I could here chickens clucking and pictured Alpaca’s roaming and chewing the grass, helping to keep the community warm with their much sought after wool. Which in actual fact, there were still some alpaca’s roaming around. I couldn’t help but think ‘how did they get here and who looks after them ha?’

Wow, walking around, you could see how easily the Inka’s lived here. They had everything they needed, they were so self sufficient. Each area was set up just like a ‘normal’ town/city would be. Stores and homes in one area, places of worship, areas where animals were kept and land sectioned off and dedicated to farming. There were even huge alters for offerings to Pachamama…and by offerings, we’re talking food, animals and even humans were offered up to the gods! Oh they even had universities too, 2 of them – one for girls and one for boys!

Ugh, the fog! Yep, it came rolling back in trying to cover up the shy mountain top but actually, it totally added to the mystique and magic of the place. The rain stepped up its game too and evolved into a full on thunder storm but hey, you know what, I actually kinda liked it! I was at MP, in the thunder, rain and creepy fog but it gave it all so much more atmosphere, it was stunning. How many people can say they were at the top of MP in a storm? :)

And even though there were tourists everywhere, it wasn’t too bad. In peak times, they have 7,000 visitors EACH day! I was just grateful I wasn’t visiting in the peak season ha. Everyone was moving at a steady pace anyways and not getting too much in the way of my photos haha. The most famous point had to be the main view of MP itself. They say it’s actually in the shape of a mans’ face. You can make out the side profile of a forehead, nose, mouth and chin. Can you see it?

Machu Picchu was truly spectacular, what a beautiful place. It is so full of wonder and imagination. You will be lost in her magic! I am so glad I took the time to take this trip.

After the tour, we were all given the chance to go back in if we wanted but I was super cold and the rain was still relentlessly hammering down. I felt like I had seen enough and captured the shots I wanted so caught the next bus back down to the town. I was ready to then face the 3 hour trek back to the ‘death trap’ bus. ‘Maybe it’ll be a different driver back to Cusco?’ I hoped….

Hold on to your stomachs

The trek felt easier on the way back and actually, the sun came out and it became a scorcher. Typical hey! Nevermind, it probably would have been far too hot up there?

I passed a few bus buddies here and there and even Dan and Whitney (who of course was 100% now). The 3 of us actually stopped in one of the restaurants for a bite to eat before getting back on the suicidal bus.

We finally reached Hidroelectrica again and there we sat in a patch of shade waiting for our bus. When it pulled up, we were horrified to see that yep, it was indeed the same awful, careless driver in the same shitty minibus. “I do hope he’s fixed the bus up!” I remarked as we all piled in. And you know what…nope! It was the same horrendously bumpy, rollercoaster, cliff hanging ride with the same sticking gearbox issues.

At one point we thought we’d almost made it back to the ‘normal’ flat and safe roads heading for Cusco when the driver suddenly pulled a sharp left down a rocky, gravel path. The drivers speed was once more kicking up dense beige dust clouds that were again leaking into the minibus and filling our lungs. Coughing and spluttering passengers rushed to close the sliding windows shut but it was too late.

Darkness fell by the time we’d ‘safely’ reached Cusco. We all grabbed our bags and leapt off feeling grateful for our lives hah! Oh boy, my feet were happy to touch the ground. I was so tired that all I wanted was my cosy hostel bed so with that, I wished everyone a good night and safe onward journeys.

I walked back smiling to myself thinking, ‘Wow! I just went to Machu Picchu! FANTASTIC! How lucky am I’

But seriously…I urge you to take the Vistadome train hahaha 😀

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