Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Missing Urubamba already...

I am a person who seldom makes promises to anyone. But Peru is a country so amazing that I have just promised my host family that I will definitely return to Peru in 2 years time. Saying goodbye to my family and the Sacred Valley was more difficult than I imagined it to be. My host dad says that I am forbidden to stay in hotels the next time I visit Urubamba. He says that my room will always be available whenever I come back and I am only allowed to stay in his casa and nowhere else. Peru has given me so much more than I was able to contribute during my short stint and volunteer work here. I am already missing everything in Urubamba and in Chicon. Give me 2 years and I'll definitely come back to Peru. This is my promise to my family and I will not break it unless something urgent crops up.

Meanwhile, this is my 9th week and also my final week in Peru. I've just come back from the Amazon and the Amazon Jungle is indeed the most amazing part of my entire trip in Peru. I'll probably update in more details when I've got the time. What I really feel like doing now is to cancel my internship at Zaobao and to extend my stay in South America for another 2 months. But unfortunately, I cannot do that. It's a shame that I haven't got the time to do Nasca lines this time round as well. But I'll definitely visit Nasca and Huaraz the next time I visit Peru.

At the same time, I'll make my two days in Lima memorable as well. Lima isn't as bad as I thought, although just now I almost got killed on the road again.

(I really cannot imagine starting work 1.5 days after returning to Singapore next week, and ending work 2 days before my final academic year commences.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Amazon Jungle

Ok, just a note to say that my Amazon jungle tour is confirmed and I'm leaving tomorrow at 6 am from Cusco. I will be staying for 8 days 7 nights in the wilderness. Really looking forward to the Amazon Basin. I did not plan to stay for that long initially, so I might call off the Nasca Trip since I might have no time to go to Nasca from Lima. More updates soon...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

After Machu Picchu

Salkantay Trek was really difficult and I bet I can now do the Inca Trail easily. Anyway I'll post a detailed update on Salkantay and Machu Picchu when I've organised my thoughts better.

5 days on Salkantay Trek made me realise how wonderful nature can be and how much I really love Peru. Coming back from Machu Picchu walking towards my casa in Urubamba, I discovered I actually miss my Peruvian host family during the 5 days I was away in the Andes. When I was back, I overheard my host dad saying "Donde esta mi hijo?" which really warmed my heart for a long time. Yesterday at lunch, he said he would confiscate my passport so that I cannot leave Peru. It then struck me that time really flies and this week is my last week of volunteer work. I'm beginning to miss every single thing in Peru. I don't know how to say goodbye to this fantastic family and my wonderful Peruvian los ninos de Chicon. It's really hard to let go...

Of London

5 days away in the mountains means that I was being cut off totally from the outside world. It was only 3 days after the bomb blasts that I knew of this piece of breaking news, when I checked my email in Agus Calientes. London being attacked is actually not shocking for me, but what I did not expect is that the attack venues chosen were the places that I frequent almost everyday. Tavistock Street, on which the bus exploded, was the very street from which I take my bus back home every single day. And my Psychology university building is only one block away from Tavistock Street. My friend witnessed the bus explosion in front of his eyes and had a narrow escape. Another friend visiting from Singapore, was further away and heard the blast loud and clear. From now on, Tavistock Street will no longer be the same.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Back from Arequipa

I had to walk 3 hours from the wilderness to the outskirts of Arequipa at 5 am in the morning last Friday. Why? More updates soon...

Tomorrow is the day

An hour ago, I just found out that the Salkantay Trek is 80 km long in 4 days 3 nights instead because the fifth day was a tour in Machu Picchu. Will I survive the 80-km trek? I'll find out in 5 days time...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

So, why am I so sure that Machu Picchu is definitely worth the five-days-four-nights-hike? Simply because Machu Picchu is only one of the many ancient archaeological sites in Peru. There are ruins everywhere in the Sacred Valley and my second weekend in Peru was spent exploring some of these ruins and they are simply magnificent.

Ollantaytambo was our first stop. This attractive little town is situated at the foot of some spectacular Inca ruins and terraces. There is a series of 16 massive, stepped terraces of the very finest stonework after crossing the great high-walled trapezoidal esplanade. These terraces are created in the form of a llama. We hiked up to the Temple of the Sun exactly where the rising sun's rays fall in on the solstices. The breathtaking view of the surrounding SacredValley is simply fascinating.

We then headed to Cusco, on the way visiting Tamboachay, Q'enqo and Sacsayhuaman. These are more ancient stones but the Inca stonework is hugely impressive, especially at Sacsayhuaman. Nobody really knows for sure the purposes of these ancient buildings and various theories exist. Peter Frost, for instance, suggested that Sacsayhuaman served as a kind of unofficial quarry of pre-cut stone for the inhabitants of Cusco. No matter what the precise functions of this site are, the Inca walls are truly magnificent.

The final stop, Pisac, is my favourite. Some say that Pisac is even better than Machu Picchu. The Inca ruins at Pisac are perched precariously on the mountain, above the town. This is one of the largest ruins in the vicinity of Cusco and it clearly had defensive, religious, and agricultural functions. The views of the Sacred Valley are once again magnificent and I seriously have no idea how else to describe Pisac.

Pisac's popular market is another sight to behold. Many souvenir stalls and fresh produce stalls make up this busy market. What's more, everything is cheaper than in Cusco, so we obviously bought lots of souvenirs and crap from the market. I think I'll come back to Pisac again before leaving Peru.

We did mountainbiking to the Salinas (salt pans) on that weekend as well. Mountainbiking through the Andes was superb and cool, but my bike broke down and the chain came off, so I had to walk half of the journey. I'm glad I suffered only a few bruises and cuts and not fall down the cliffs instead. Another friend's bike broke down as well. But the blood (literally) and sweat was worthwhile, simply because the Salinas are another wonderful sight. So, I've done trekking and mountainbiking; paragliding might be next if I have some cash to spare.

Having said so much about Peru, no words can really do justice to this fantastic country. Perhaps pictures will help a little which I will hopefully post in the next few months to come.