Sunday, December 29, 2013

Beautiful Argentina

Argentina... what a beautiful country... We only stayed 10 days, and regret not spending more time here.

We arrived Wednesday night the 4th of December at the airport and took a cab to our airbnb hosts Monica and Marcelo. They have a beautiful house in the middle of the city, which is rare as you mainly see apartments everywhere. It was pretty late when we arrived, 2.30h in the morning, but Monica and Marcelo were there to great us! They were really kind and made us feel at home immediately. With  got a big, clean and comfortable room and we were so happy! We just came from Santa Cruz where we had a bad hotel room, and were afraid to see some cockroaches at times ;-). So this was definitely an upgrade. There was also a cute cat there, Planch - we called him Planchie - who loved to be caressed and greeted us every time we came home, so adorable :) :). The neighbourhood we were staying in was called Las Canitas. The area is packed with good restaurants, bars, pubs, gelaterias (called heladerias). So at night is was easy to go out and find some good food, including a good Argentinian steak. We ate so much food while we were in Argentina, I gained like 2 kilo's! But the food was just too good :)

Argentinian steak
Breakfast at Monica and Marcelo's

The first day we went to Avenida Florida to exchange our money on the black market. You get 50% more Argentinian pesos there ( 1 USD = 9 ARS instead of 6 ARS). Holding foreign currency is not allowed in Argentina, in an attempt to stabilize the national currency. However, inflation is high (30% per year), so there is high demand for foreign currencies, mainly USD. As a result, you have a huge black market. Pretty awesome for us, this meant a discount on everything you buy!
We walked around a lot in the city center, and in one day we saw two demonstrations. We asked about it, and Marcelo told us that you have demonstrations every week against the government, large companies, poverty, .... We saw many other protests in the 8 days we were in Buenos Aires, so I think it might even be a daily occasion ;-). The protests were always with lots of music and dancing, very different from manifestations I have seen in Belgium. As a result of the many protests, roads are also often blocked, to the frustration of many people driving the car. Another reason to travel with the metro or just walk! In general, we always prefer to walk. On a normal day visiting a city we walk 5 to 10 km`s: you see more of the city, it's cheap, it's good for the environment, and you burn some extra calories! It is the same as in our daily life in Antwerp. In the weekend we barely use the car and prefer to walk to the center. It is  great way to explore and get to know new places in the city.

So in Buenos Aires we saw many beautiful places. We saw the city center, which is really modern and the roads are designed in blocks (American style), so it is very easy to orientate yourself. There are big skyscrapers and many houses in a European architectural style. I seems a bit of a mix between Paris and New York. The streets are huge and usually have at least 5 many or 6 lanes, all in one direction.
We also visited the rich area of La Recoleta, with beautiful houses, cute cafe's, and trees everywhere. In this area, there is also a famous cemetery located, where you find tombs that seem like little houses, that's how big they are! I believe Evita is also buried here. I did not really like to be there. Cemeteries always give me a bad vibe. First of all, I am not religious, and secondly, I would prefer to be cremated instead of being locked up under the ground somewhere. The thought alone freaks me out brrrr. But, the cemetery is very special, and it must be seen.
Another area that we walked hours and hours in was Palermo and the parks below Las Canitas. The parks were huge! You also have fitness equipment installed in every park, which everybody can use for free. It is so warm in Buenos Aires that it can be used all year around. In general, it amazed us that you have so many parks and trees everywhere in Buenos Aires. The city has an estimated 15 million people living in it, but still you have space everywhere, big streets, and lots of green. You never feel claustrophobic in this city, which is quite impressive.
That day, we also went to the Museo de Arte Latino Americano. Very impressive and beautiful work of various Latin American artists.

In the park
Beautiful buildings
Huge streets everywhere

The last day before heading to Iguazu, I felt ill. It was 32 degrees that day, which did not help, and after lunch I felt light in my head and I felt that a fever was coming up. I went to bed and slept all afternoon. Claudio went out and saw La Boca and El Caminito, and also Puerto Madero. At night, I was better again, thank god!

So, the next day we left to the airport to catch our flight to Puerto Iguazu, with the main purpose to visit the Iguazu waterfalls! I checked the forecast, and they predicted 32 degrees again, but rain in the afternoon. How to dress for that occasion  :-) ? Other people staying at the hostel advised us to wear slippers, and dress lightly, so we did. I also took an extra t-shirt and our raincoats. I wore a bikini under my clothes and Claudio his long swim shorts. Ready to go! We left early, so by 9h we were at the park. The park is designed as a fun park, with different routes and facilities such as restaurants and toilets everywhere.
We got some advice from Marcelo in BA on which routes to take. He was actually a director of the natural park for a couple of years (he is a biologist). What a small world!! So, we did the lower route first, where you walk a trail which brings you really close to the falls, where the water pours down. This was probably the best moment of the day... You are literally face to face with the falls and get water all over you. It's truly an amazing experience. After that we did the higher route, and after lunch we went to the Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo). You have to take a little train to get there for about 10 minutes. After that, you walk the trail of 1 km, and at the end you have an amazing view over the mighty waterfalls. After a while we were there, the clouds started looking dark... And not much later it started raining like crazy. The rain was not cold though, it was still at least 30 degrees and the water did not feel cold. So we just put our raincoats on and continued our exploration of the park. Luckily, the rain stopped after a while and we went all the way down to the river to go for a boat trip. We got on this big motorboat with 15 other people. The captain brought us under the waterfalls, it was so cool! We got completely soaked though... After this, the rain also became really heavy again... And we had to walk all the way back to the entrance. Several roads were closed in the park due to the heavy rain, because they become too dangerous, so it took us an hour to get there. But we just did it, and when we got out of the park a bus was arriving. No time to change into dry clothes, so we just got on the bus and went to the hostel. It took half an hour, and the bus was air-conditioned, so we were afraid to get sick, but miraculously we were fine the day after!

The next day we left again and flew back to Buenos Aires. This time we were not staying with Monica and Marcelo because they were fully booked :(, so we stayed in a cheap hostel. Ieuw that sucked. It was a crazy party hostel and the average age was probably 20. We were on the fourth floor but could here the loud music from the bar till 3AM. Anyway, we were back in Buenos Aires and decided not to let it ruin our fun! In the end, we are usually out from the morning till the evening, and then go out to eat, so you basically only shower and sleep there. In the evening we went out for dinner with a traveler we met in Bolivia, Geraldine, as she was also in BA! It was nice to see a familiar face and catch up.
The next day we went to Puerto Madero, comparable to a (lot) bigger version of the Eilandje in Antwerp. Behind the port, heading towards the sea, you have an ecological park between the city and the sea. As a result, the city has no beach. But we were determined to see the sea, so we hiked in the burning sun through the park towards the sea. We arrived and chilled there on the benches for a while... the sea is always so calming. This area of BA is just magnificent. You have the port, huge skyscrapers, nature, park, and then sea. Wow, what a beautiful city.

Puerto Madero
The sea

The next day, it was time to say goodbye :( We both did not want to leave! We regret not spending more time in Argentina in general. For sure we want to go back here, and travel to other cities as well, maybe even go to Patagonia.
For me personally, BA is really the most beautiful city I have ever seen. Better then New York, better then Paris or Rome. We could see ourselves living there. So I advise everybody to go there if you get the chance!

Ciao and talk to you soon,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

La Paz, Uyuni and the salt flats, Sucre and Santa Cruz


So, my last post ended with us traveling to La Paz after spending a wonderful time at Copacabana. I want to make sure you all know about the crazy means of transportation we have taken during this trip, so for sure I will not leave out the story of our bus ride from Copacabana to La Paz :-). We booked our bus ride with the same company (called "Titicaca bus") we used to go from Puno to Copacabana because the busses are new and comfy. So the next morning, we are waiting for our bus with a group of people, when all of the sudden this really old bus stops in front of us... We were all looking at each other, like "seriously"? Yes, very serious, this was our bus! Completely different from the previous one we were on, and different from the nice pictures of the bus they showed us. I was trying to stay positive, the bus was ok and it was only a three hour drive so what is the worst that can happen? So we start driving on a lovely mountain road with lots of curves and clifs, you know what I mean right? The bus is basically driving in the middle of road in these crazy curves, not knowing if behind that curve there is another car coming?! So every 5 min you heard a car or bus honking the horn, probably scared for his life... It was not very relaxing. After 1,5 hour we arrived a the lake again, and the only way to pass it is by "ferry" (read: a small boat fitting 20 people). So we get on the ferry. The "captain" has some difficulty starting the engine, but once it turns on, we are all immediately gassed and I almost don't dare to breath. So disgusting! So we started moving and the boat starts moving left and right, and we going to fall in the water? I feel like an illegal immigrant stuck on a bad boat trying to make it to mainland! After ten scary minutes we made it!! Thank god. From far, we see also the bus on a wooden float. We are crossing our fingers that the bus will make it cause all our luggage is inside :-) So in the end also the bus made it, an the following 2 hours were super relaxing compared to the beginning :D 
So around 18h, we arrived in La Paz. Our first impression was weird: lots of traffic, people everywhere, choas, weird looks, poverty, almost no tourists, ... Hm, not so nice :s . Our hostel is nice though, thank god. At night, we wanted to go to a nice restaurant we read about. We started walking, but off course we could not find the place as google maps was wrong again, and in Bolivia the numbering of houses is not in cronological order. We ended up in a bad neighbourhood, people staring at us and walking into us on purpose. Ok time to leave!!! Instead, we went to a zone called Four Corners, recommended by another traveller we met. At least here we felt safe... We headed back to the hostel early because the manager had told us that we are in a safe neighbourhood, but only till 22h. Not so nice :s. The next day, we walked around in the city but we did not really like it. No beautiful buildings or a nice park, and a bad general vibe.

Mural in La Paz describing colonial history

Che Guevara - ever present in Bolivia

The day after that we decided to do a one day trip to the Tiwanaku ruins. The Tiwanaku civilization is one of the oldest in the world, and ruled over a relatively large part of South America before the Inca's. Last century, old ruins and temples were discovered west of La Paz. Archeologists still don't know a lot about their culture because they had no written communication. We had a guided tour at the ruins and its museum with a small group. We learned a lot that day, it was pretty cool!


Tiwanaku - temple

The next day was our last day in La Paz. At 21h we has our bus leaving for Uyuni. We went to our favorite cafe, called Cafe del Mundo, where lots of young people hang out and you can get a decent coffee (in most places you get Nescafe, oploskoffie). At one point, I decided to book our hostel for Sucre, look for Mastercard.... And it's gone!! Damn! Clappie forgot it in the bank when he withdrew money. We went to the bank to ask for our card back, but it was not possible for some reason. So I tried to call the number to block your card with my cellphone: didn't work. I went to a internet cafe and tried to make an international call: did not work either. How am i supposed to block my g*ddamn card?? So in the end, after lots of whatsapping, my sister called and was able to block the card! Thanks sis :-) But, the day wasn't over yet... At 19.30h, we decided to get a cab to go to the bus terminal to catch our bus at 21h. We asked the hostel to call us a cab but they said at this hour it is impossible to call a cab and we just have to hail one on the street. So, we head up the steep street with all our luggage, in the pouring rain. After 20min we still didn't get a cab. Two cabs even refused to take us. Apparently there was a strike and nobody wanted to head towards the bus terminal. Finally, around 20h, we convinced a cab driver to take us (by offering him some more money), cause we were worrying we were not going to make it. The cab driver estimates 30 min to get there: ok perfect. Well, after 30 min, we were 1km further... The strike was blocking all traffic! Five minutes later, I start looking on the map of La Paz... So I convinced Claudio to abandon the cab and just walk. We had only 25 min left before our bus left!! So we start walking in the rain, uphill of course, with our heavy packs. Grrrr I hate La Paz... But we made it!! Five minutes before departure!! Let's get to Uyuni :-) :-)

So for sure Bolivia was the country in which we took some horrible busses. The bus ride to Uyuni took us 11 hours, and 2/3rd was on an unpaved road. I slept the whole bus ride so that was awesome :) We arrived around 8h in the morning. When we got out of the bus, there were some agencies offering three day tours, but we had already made up our minds to go with Your Travel agency, as a Brasilian couple recommended it to us. We also  thought that maybe with this agency it would be possible to do a two day tour (instead of 3 days), but in the end we couldn't. So, we did the three day tour, starting at 11h that day! We got some breakfast and hopped on the jeep with 5 other people - a couple from Paris Elise & Gerome, Fernando from Brasil, and Geraldine from New Zealand. None of us were mothertongue Spanish, but our driver/guide Augustino couldn't speak English. But somehow we managed :) I am actually surprised of the amount of Spanish that I understand. It is really similar to Italian, and here in South America they speak a lot slower than in Spain so it's a lot easier to understand. So I am now at a stage that I can order a meal and some drinks and say basic things, which is awesome. Hopefully I can improve my Spanish a bit further when I am in Mexico! Anyway, back to Uyuni: The first day was the best day for us. We saw the salt flats which were incredible, and also some kind of cactus island which was really cool. The first night after we arrived at the hostel, we also drove back into the desert to see the stars. First I did not want to go cause I was tired, but Claudio convinced me. Luckily! We have never seen SO MANY stars EVER. It was wonderful and deserves a spot in my top five moments so far.

Our group

Optical illussion :)

The next two days were more focussed on seeing different lagoons (including flamingo's). We also so different types of rock formations, and beautiful nature. The last day, we  went to the hot springs - that morning it was freezing, we were so high (I think around 4000 meters), so I decided not to go in the springs as I did not want to get undressed :), but Claudio and the rest of the group went. The last thing we saw was a beautiful canyon type of land, with a small pond. There were lots of animals there, it was really beautiful to see. Compared to the first day, we drove a lot more so it was more tiring, but the views were spectacular.

Laguna Colorada


At the canyon

At the hot springs

The last day we arrived in Uyuni at 18h, stayed overnight, and the next morning we left for Sucre. We took a bus from Uyuni to Potosi (3.5 hours) and then a taxi from Potosi to Sucre (which was 8 EUR for 2.5 hours, unbelievably cheap). The hostel we booked in Sucre was so goooood. The room was spacious and clean, we had a private bathroom (= my new type of luxury :D), you had a lovely garden in which you had a kitchen and could cook, very relaxed vibe, modern art everywhere. If you are ever in Sucre, stay there! The name is Casarte Takubamba. Originally we only wanted to stay 2 days, but we loved our hostal and the city a lot so we booked two more nights. After all this moving from one place to another it was nice to have 5 days in one city, with good weather, good food, lots of beautiful buildings, parks, plaza's, ... We even went to the cinema one night, as they were showing certain movies in their original language. we saw the Counselor, drank some coke and ate popcorn.... it can be so nice to do normal things for once.

On Saturday night (30/11) we took the night bus to Santa Cruz, which is about 500 km. For sure, this is the worst bus we have taken so far. The bus was really dirty and disgusting, the driver was a maniac, and the toilet on the bus was closed (you couln't use it, it costs too much effort/money for them to clean it). And you all know that I pee A LOT cause I drink so much water. Luckily we stopped one time after 3 hours for a toilet break. After 12 hours, we finally arrived. It was 4.30h in the morning, which was not convenient though. The bus company told us we were going to arrive at 6h, and every bus we took so far arrived at least one hour later, so we estimated to be in Santa Cruz around 7h, have some breakfast and then head to the hotel. But as I told you, our bus driver was crazy and drove like a maniac so we arrived too early. We took a cab to our hotel anyway, and hoped it would have a 24h reception desk. We knocked on the door and YES, we could enter! Even more awesome: we could check in already and got our room! So around 5.30h, we went to bed again and slept till 9h... sometimes you can be lucky :)

La Recoleta

On our way to Sucre (Potosi)
Main plaza - Sucre

Santa Cruz itself is very different from the rest of Bolivia. People here are more wealthy, everything is more westernized, and you have less indigenous people here. They also explained me that Santa Cruz actually wants to be independent from Bolivia, and are not big supporters of Evo - the socialist president of Bolivia (comparable in his politics with Chavez). The city itself is not very beautiful. It is nice, but Sucre was a lot more interesting. We were only 400 meters above sea level, the lowest we have been in Bolivia, and you could feel this in the temperature: 35 degrees! There were palm trees everywhere :). It was also very humid, so my hair was out of control (a bit like Monica in Friends when she goes to the Caribbian for her honeymoon with Chandler ;) ). We were happy we stayed in Sucre a bit longer, because Santa Cruz was really too expensive.

View over Plaza 25 de Mayo - Santa Cruz
Mural in Santa Cruz

So last week Tuesday we flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Actually, we flew  from Santa Cruz, Bolivia to Asuncion, Paraguay, to Sao Paolo, Brasil and then from there to Buenos Aires! It took us 12 hours.... TAM Airlines had changed our flights, the bastards ;). We were sure our luggage was never going to arrive - I mean, three flights, come on... But they did, HALLELUIA!

Buenos Aires, Iguazu (where we are now), Lima and Miami will be for the next post.

Hope you all enjoyed the stories and pictures!

Lots of love from beautiful Argentina <3

Marz & Clappie

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cusco, Macchu Picchu and Lake Titicaca


Right now, I am sitting on a boat heading back from Isla del Sol to Copacabana. It is a long trip of 1,5 hours, so this gives me the chance to give an update on our adventures. 
So, the last time I was writing, we were in Cusco. We arrived there two weeks ago, the 6th of November. We were starting our hike the 10th, but due to the altitude during the hike, we were advised to stay a minimum of three days in Cusco. Cusco itself is at 3100 meters, and during our hike we would be reaching 4500 meters (!!), so those three days would allow us to get used to the altitude. We arrived in Cusco around 18h,  and did not really feel any difference. We decided to go out for dinner. Claudio found a cute place 1km from our hostel. Ok no problem! However, Cusco has steep streets, and we to climb a bit. Now we were definitely feeling the difference! We were out of breath immediatly! Even worse, we couldn't find the place... For some reason, the numbering of the houses in the streets is not really cronological, and google maps does not always work. In the meantime, we encountered this problem already multiple times, but this was the first time. So we could not find it and just went to another restaurant nearby. We ordered a pisco sour (a typical Peruvian cocktail, delicious!), and some pizza. We started eating, and all of the sudden we felt lightheaded, disoriented, and superweird. My stomack started turning, damn! We left the restaurant as fast as we could and realised it was the altitude getting to us. For one moment we thought the waiter, who clearly chewed too many coca leaves, slipped something in our drinks, but it was just the altitude. We went to bed early, and slept alot. 
The next day, we already felt better, and headed out to explore the city. Wow, Cusco is so beautiful! We both love it! 
Cusco by night
Plaza de Armas, Cusco

We went to Plaza de Armas, which is the main square and is surrounded by beautiful churches, and other colonial buildings. We learned that the Spaniards destroyed all the temples of the Inca cultures, as they cotained a lot of gold. So they were basically just melted down. So sad to think about it... And it makes you feel guilty that you like the colonial buildings set up by the Spaniards :s 
We walked a bit more uphill, and discovered a beautiful fountain. The area was some kind of hippie place, with a cool relaxed vibe. 
At the end of that day, we went out for dinner, and unfortunately, the next day was not a good day for me and my intestants... I will not go to much into detail, but lets just say I had to stay in as I needed to use the toilet quite often :D
The following day we had a guided tour of the city. This was included in our package with Cusi Travel, for our hike the following day. We visted the center again, but also visted some local markets and saw how people actually live. What a difference with the touristic bubble we were in for three days! People are quite poor in Peru, and this was our first confrontation with reality. Still, Peruvians are kind people and rather shy, not intimidating at all. So we never felt unsafe. We just felt really TALL! All the market stands were like 1m65 high, and we constantely had to bend not to hit the top of the stands. 

Local market in Cusco

It was a really nice tour, and we would recommend it if you are ever in Cusco. Just check out Cusi travel! 

So, right now I'm not on a boat anymore but on a bus towards La Paz. I will continue writing from here as I have gour hours to kill :-)

So, the day after our guided tour we were going to start our hike! We got up at 5.45h, had an early breakfast, and at 6.30h our guide came and picked us up. We drove 1,5h and arrived in Calca. Here you had a little local market where we bought a warm jacket for Claudio, some gloves and hats for when it would get cold at night. We drove another 2 hours and arrived in Lares, where we were going to start our hike. The first hours were already hard, cause we climbed from 3100 to 3700 meters!! It was also very warm so it was pretty tough. However, the views were just spectacular! It was just me, Claudio, and the guide in the middle of the Andes. No other person anywhere... It was so silent, just magnificent. 

Lares hike, Claudio and Juan our guide
Views during the Lares hike

Views during Lares hike

After a couple of hours we arrived at our campsite. It was getting dark and cold, so we put all our warmest clothes on, brrr. There was also no shower, warm water, electricity... Just nature, the moutains and lots of animals (horses, alpaca, lama, dogs, sheep, ...). All the animals also live freely in the mountains, it must be like paradise for them! And they were all so cute and sweet, even the dogs. Anyway, back to the hike :) So, we slept at -5 degrees in our tents, but strangely enough we slept well. We got up at 6am and started the rest of our hike, up to 4500 meters! I was dying OMG. The air was horrible and it was so difficult to breath! But at 12h, we were at the top. We made it!! 

Climbing :)
Sleeping in the valley
¡ Lama's everywhere !

We had lunch, and started decending again, till arriving at 2800 meters again. The third day, we climbed till 3500 again (grrr I though the climbing was over). We saw an old Inca ruin, and our guide explained is alot about the Inca culture, which was really interesting. Finally, we arrived in Ollantaytambo, a small touristic town which is visited for its Inca ruins as well. Finally we could relax. The hiking was over. After three days without showering or going to a decent toilet, we longed for a clean hotelroom. So, we took the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente with Perurail. We learned from our guide that Perurail has a monopoly for arriving in Aguas Caliente, the town from which you can visit Macchu Picchu. So you cannot get there by car, motorcycle, bus, ... Even the buses that bring you from Aguas Caliente to Macchu Picchu are brought into town by train! The only other way you could get into Aguas Caliente is walking from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Caliente, but it's about 35km. We met a couple that was actually doing that, as they could not afford the 100$ train ticket! 
Anyway, we took the train and arrived in Aguas Caliente and our lovely hotel room.
For Claudio however, the day was not finished yet... Our guide had told us about the possibility to climb a mountain facing Macchu Picchu. It was a free climb however, there is no official path. Hm, ok, not my thing, plus I was so sick of climbing djeeeez! But Claudio went anyway :) and he made it! He had a nice view over Macchu Picchu so he saw it one day before me. Bravo Clappie!

Behind Claudio the mountain he climbed.
The next morning we were off to Macchu Picchu! We took the first bus to get there at 5.20h so we got up at 4.15h :s. We did this because we wanted to see the sunrise. But we were unlucky because it was super foggy, damn! Anyway, there were only a 100 people there when we entered the site, so it felt a little bit like we had the place to our own... So nice. We also hiked to the sungate to get a nice view from Macchu Picchu (another hike ;) ). It was magnificent. Truly the most beautiful thing that we have ever seen in our lives. The pictures don't do it justice. You have to see it, as it is surrounded by the jungle and different mountains. It's just amazing. 

Macchu Picchu

In the evening, we headed back to Cusco with the train (4 long hours). We stayed there for another two days, just to rest from our tyring hike. But last Friday, it was time to say goodbye to cutsie Cusco . We were sad to leave as we really loved it here! But it was time a new adventure. Up to lake Titicaca!

We took a night bus from Cusco to Puno, which is a town at the Peruvian side of the lake. We drove with Cruz del Sur, which has really nice busses. We read about so many horror stories of accidents and drunk bus drivers, so we decided to go with a more reliable company. It was an 8 hour trip, very comfortable. At sunrise we arrived at the lake. 
Puno itself it not really nice actually, and we were happy to leave for Copacabana, the Bolivian side of the lake. So we hopped on another bus. We crossed the border easily, it's so good to be European. We just got a smile and a stamp on our passports. Americans on the other side had to fill in some documents and had to pay 130$. An American girl told us that it's the same for Peru, Brasil, and other South American countries. They do it because the US treats them in the same way. So it's some kind of "revenge"...
After three hours we arrived in Copacabana. It was so beautiful! The next day, we got up early, and took a boat trip of 2 hours to get to Isla del Sol. We went to the north side of the island, and did a four hour hike over the island to get to the south side. Many people did the same, and it was also a fun way to get to know people! We also noticed that there were many people that we saw in Cusco or Macchu Picchu, that were now with us in Copacabana. So weird!
So, the hike was tough again, climbing in the hot sun, but the views were so beautiful... So peaceful and calming. 
Hiking Isla del Sol
Gorgeous views at Isla del Sol

At night we were back, and the following day we were leaving for La Paz. But that will be for my next post! 

So, until now, we saw beautiful places. We enjoyed the food, the nature, the historical sites, the Inca culture, and the weather. Now it's time for 2 weeks of Bolivia!! I will keep you all updated 😉

We send you all positive vibes, some sunshine, and lots of love ❤ 

Big kisses,
Marj & Cla

Friday, November 8, 2013

Our first days: London, Lima and Cusco

Hello everybody!

So, here I am, in Cusco, writing my first real post while I am actually not in Belgium :-) One week ago, we left Hasselt, and it already seems so long ago! The day before we were about to leave, on Thurday 31/10/2013, I looked at Claudio and we both tought the same: what the f*** are we doing? We are leaving our easy life, our jobs, security, friends, family, the cats, our apartment. Oh my god, what did we do? And there I was, with nothing but my 10 kg backpack in front of me. No, we will be OK, we have to be strong, come on! And the moment passed, and we felt excited again. It was very hard to say goodbye to everybody though. Wednesday night I saw my mam, and Thursday night I said goodbye to Davinia  and Pieter. And Friday was the last Belgian/Italian lunch at my dad's place, and my sister stopped by as well to say goodbye. Everybody was great, and it was very difficult for me, but I promised myself that I was not going to cry so I didn't. Let's stay positive :-) So Friday afternoon, my dad brought us to Brussels midi where we took the Eurostar to London at 15h. Our adventure had begun!

In London, we booked our accomodation through airbnb, as London is rather expensive. We stayed at a lovely woman´s place, Ilona. She was very nice and made us feel at home. It was actually better to stay with someone, because you avoid the empty character of a hotel, where you are isolated from other people. We had a cute room, so off to a good beginning. At night, we headed to Picadilly Circus, and had a meal at Jamie Oliver's Diner. It was soooo good! We had a cheeseburger and fries, with some salad. Note that I ate a burger on day one, so there goes my veggie diet!! In my defense, they claimed to use biological meat ;) ;)

Dinner at Jamie Oliver's :)

The next day, we went into town again, to South Kensington, a neighbourhood in London. Afterwards, we went to Oxford street, as we were meeting a friend there who is studying in Oxford now. We visited the Big Ben, Westminister Abby and walked on the South Bank. It was so much fun to see a familiar face in the beginning of the trip, so we can ease into this trip better. At night, we said goodbye to Mike, and had another lovely dinner at a Turkish place. We were actually staying in a Turkish neighbourhood, Green Lanes. Super friendly people and delicious food everywhere. And surprisingly cheap for London.

Turkish salad
Oxford Street 

The next day was already time to leave. We left Ilona's place at 9AM and headed to Heathrow, which took one hour. Then we had our first flight to Miami, which took another 9,5 hours. So we landed in Miami at 17h (+6h), and then we had to wait a long 7 hours to our next flight to Miami. I fell asleep at the airport cause I was so destroyed. Then I was able to sleep on the plane again so when we landed at 5 AM I was ready to start the day :)

Marj sleeping at Miami Airport

We took a cab to our next Airbnb host, Rachel. She is living in beautiful part of Lima, Miraflores. This is the richer area of Lima. We decided to stay in this area because the center of Lima is considered to be rather dangerous, and we thought that for the beginning of the trip it would be better to stay in comfortable places where we feel safe. We will also be returning the middle of December to Lima for three days, so we'll tackle the center then :)
So we arrived in Lima and the first things we noticed was that EVERYBODY uses their claxon like crazy!! There was so much noise on the street, really old cars everywhere with lots of dirty smoke coming from the cars. Sometimes I did not even want to breath brrr. But I guess I'd rather get used to it, cause now we are in Cusco and it's exactly the same. Anyway, traffic was crazy, and our taxi driver drove through the red light, and honked his horn 25 times, but we arrived safely in Miraflores.
Our room was a bit disappointing compared to the other place we stayed in. I didn't trust the cleanliness of the sheets so I just slept in my sleepingbag for two days. After taking a shower, we went for a walk alongside the ocean. We encountered a huge mall, and went inside. It seemed like we were in Europe, very high prices and rich people everywhere. It seemed fake. No doubt that only the richest of Lima can shop here. After this, we went to the beach, and layed down a bit. It was only 20 degrees and cloudy, so not in our bikini's but in our jeans and warm hoodies. We watched some people surf, relaxed and read a bit. At night, we had an amazing dinner, and probably the best fish I ever ate in my life! So far, only good food, njam. Lima is also known to be the food capital of South America, and now I understand why! Also the day after, we had an amazing lunch and dinner.... at the supermarket :) If you are ever in Lima, go to supermarket Wong: you don't spend a lot and the food is amazing. The second day, we visited the center of Miraflores, the park, and checked out the neighbourhood.

Sunset in Lima
Please do not honk your horn all the time :)

Tasty and cheap lunch
So Wednesday we already left again, on to Cusco! We decided to take a plane to Cusco as it is only 1hour. With the bus it would have been 20 hours, so after our superlong flight from London, we were not really in the mood to travel that long again. So we were off to the airport, and it took forever to get there in the crazy traffic of Lima. At one point, we were even stuck on a railway that ran right through the road, without any stopsigns or anything. And all of the sudden a train was coming, and we were ON the rails!! I thought, omg, I will have to jump out of the taxi, but then maybe, the taxi driver will steal our luggage, but I don't want to dieeeeeee hahaha but right on time the taxi moved and I was still alive :D Our flight itself had a 3 hour delay...But yeah, that seems typical here. Everybody is so relaxed, everything takes forever. Even to pay at the cash register takes 10 minutes, when you are the only client! Luckily I am on holidays, so I can stand it. I think if they would see how fast we live in Europe, they would not understand why we rush everything so much. Just take it easy :)
So we are in Cusco now. But I will write about this amazingly beautiful city when we return from our hike next week. There is too much to say and too many pictures to upload. And the computer is sooooo slow, so I am losing my patience a little bit. So next week, there will be another uplate. Until then, hasta luego!