I write this to you from the Lake Titicaca Bolivian town of Copacabana. I
am leaving in a few hours for La Paz. Bolivia has been a bit of a
NIGHTMARE, I was forced to pay $135 to enter the country as they refused to
accept my British passport, there are NO ATMs in the town, and the bank is
CLOSED for a festival. If it were not for the kindness and generosity of a
couple of fellow travellers, I would be sleeping on the streets and unable
to eat. More about THAT later…

I left off with me arriving in Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley after
completing the trek and having spent the day in Machu Picchu. I slept 14
hours that night…i really needed it.

In the morning, feeling like a new person, I packed up my bags and headed
downstairs to have some breakfast. I met a group of Americans from LA who
invited me to eat with them. They were so nice and sympathised greatly with
my story about getting ripped off, in fact, one of them was Peruvian and
recommended that I complain officially by going to the local consumer
affairs office in Cusco. They even paid for my breakfast.

I headed out to check out the Inca ruins in Ollantaytambo and the rest of
the town. I was a little “ruined out” but these were completely different,
and again, in an outstandingly beautiful natural location. The entire time
I was walking around (and CLIMBING..the incas loved their stairs and steep
locations) I kept hearing this sheep bleating. It was incessant, very loud,
and it sounded like there were several animals crying out in excruciating
pain. I asked a guide whether that was a herd of sheep or just one sheep,
and she said she believed it was just one. This may not seem significant,
but I tell you, the bleating went on for 2 hours without stopping. As I was
leaving the ruins by the river…I saw the sheep..tied up next to the river
in a little patch of grass. I approached and the sheep literally ran
towards me and head butted my knees. He stopped bleating and looked at me
with amused anticipation. I sat down on a tree stump and he started happily
eating the grass, looking up at me every few seconds and ensuring that
I was still there.

The sheep had just been lonely.

I sat there and sang him a song. I know I sound completely mad, but I felt
an affinity with this sheep. I´ve been so lonely on this trip sometimes that
ve felt like bleating for 2 hours. I understood, and it was really hard
to leave him because he immediately started bleating again.

That afternoon I wandered around the town…this was the only place in Peru
where people are still living in original inca buildings. It was so
beautiful, the original inca irrigation channels flowing through the
ridiculously narrow streets, where people lived in homes with the skulls of
their grandparents sitting proudly above the fireplace (I know, weird huh?)

Then began the transportation adventure…I took a ¨collectivo¨, or
van first to Orumba, and then hopped on a bus bound for Pisac. I met
a lovely local indigenous lady selling her wares on the first bus.
Her name was Daisy. Seriously. She was only sixteen, but already
carrying her heavy load in her brightly colored back shawl.

On arriving in Pisac, I bartered hard for a cab ride to see the ruins.
The cab driver was a bit of a maniac driver, but we arrived safely
and he said that he would accompany me as I toured the site. At first
I didn´t think anything of this, it all seemed normal. Then when it
dawned on me that there were no tourist left (it was 4pm), I started
to feel a little uncomfortable having him with me. That was worsened
by what I saw next. A man of about 55 sitting next to the sacred
temple, staring at me while he patted a machete into the palm of his
hand. The hairs on the back of my neck stood upright and I began to
ask myself how I had been so stupid to get myself into this precarious
situation. I promptly set off up the hill, hoping that they wouldn´t
follow me.

It began to thunder and rain.

As I tried to decide what on earth I was going to do about getting
back to the city…I bumped into a lovely Australian guy named Nick.
I told him about the guy with the Machete and he said that it would be
perfectly fine for me to accompany him back down. I was relieved.

It was lovely chatting to Nick who had recently left his job working
for a hedge fund in London to work for a non profit micro finance
company in New York City. I listened intently as he described what he
did, and I found myself fascinated. A job in finance where you can
make a difference in the world by encouraging business and
entrepreneurship to women in East Africa and Cambodia. He explained
that I should consider the field since I had a background in finance,
could speak multiple languages, and was not harried by the thought of
travel to extreme impoverished locales in the world. I was very
intrigued, as he offered to email me job opportunities that he knew
about.

A potentially nightmarish afternoon had been turned around into a
potential career opportunity. How exciting.

And then 2 rainbows appeared. Maybe a sign from the universe. We shall see.

Nick then offered to give me a ride back to Cusco with himself and his
parents in their beautiful privately rented van (it had leather
seats). I gratefully accepted.

I chatted happily with his folks who were from Melbourne. They shared
personal anecdotes from the recent bushfires that killed so many
people in Victoria. It was shocking to listen to.

After kindly dropping me off at my hotel, I showered and hurried out
to meet my trek guide, Nico, for dinner. We had a lovely meal, and
then he introduced me to a friend of his who organized treks to the
Amazon jungle in Puerto Maldonado. I happily took the information and
headed off to bed.

The next two days I recovered and relaxed in Cusco. I met up with
Mirjam again and went to see my final inca ruin at Qoricancha, which
was actually very fascinating since it was an incan ruin with a
Catholic monastery, complete with modern day monks, built on top. I
booked my flights and trip to the jungle, did some last minute
shopping, rested, and saw the chiropractor again to sort out my back.
It was just what I needed…but I was eager to leave Cusco again that
Monday morning.

Mirjam decided not to join me in the Amazon, which I was sad about,
because I was booked to travel only with 2 couples, which I had
reservations about…. As it turned out the couples, from France and
South Africa respectively, were delightful and didn´t make me feel
like a fifth wheel at all. My flight was smooth and I revelled in the
blast of steaming hot air that attacked my face as I stepped off the
aircraft and onto the tarmac. We met up with our guide, Alberto, and
set off in a van to meet our boat on the mighty Madre De Dios River
for our hour long boat transfer to our Tambo Jungle Lodge.

I immediately was loving the scenery and the environment. The river
was a dark muddy brown, and navigating its waters provided a delicious
breeze which cooled our sweaty brows. We were very quickly out of the
city and I noted that the vegetation was far denser than any other
jungle type place I´d visited before…this was the real thing!

I loved our lodge. It was so…I don´t know….Hollywood B movie from
the 1950´s…netted dining room, cute little thatched bungalows with
giant screens and mosquito nets to keep out the critters, and the
obligatory five macaw team of pets.

What I loved about my three days at this lodge was that it was the
perfect combination of activity and sloth. We would head out very
early in the morning, often before sunrise and the heat of the day,
head upriver and start our hiking explorations before returning for
lunch, a cold shower (which was fantastically welcome for a change!)
and a nap in the shade of your mosquito net or outdoor shaded hammock.
Then there would be another activity and meal. It was all very well
organized.

The first evening we visited Monkey Island and saw Kapuchin and howler
monkeys. On the way home in the dark, our guide used a huge spotlight
to hunt for the glow of red eyes of the animals near the riverbank.
We spotted a pygmy marmoset and a dozen or so caimans lurking near the
surface. I was so blissfully happy to just sit and relax in the boat,
just absorbing the absolutely stunning sunset on the river, and just
drink in the ambiance of it all. I felt as if I were in a movie.

Our second day was spent in a nature reserve that took care of injured
and abandoned animals, as well as providing a hair raising canopy walk
that raised you 45 metres into the tree canopy above to look for
birds. I did enjoy it thoroughly, though it was upsetting to see
Preciosa the jaguar, who was kept in captivity because the centre
didn´t have the resources to transport her deep enough into the jungle
that they could be assured that she wouldn´t continue to seek food
from human sources such as farms, since this is what she had grown
accustomed to.

I also learned that pink toe tarantulas make their home inside
pineapple plants. Hmmm. They don´t tell you that at Del Monte.

The evenings at the lodge were spent in very relaxed games of chess,
glasses of beer, and conversation with both our group and the group
that had arrived the day before us. It was just lovely.

Our second day we completed a 14km return hike to Lake Sandoval where
we canoed through beautiful inlets lined with more wildlife such as
caimans, snakes, lots of birds (can´t remember all the names),
spiders, and squirrel monkeys. I enjoyed it, but by the end of the
hike, which was done entirely in gumboots because of the knee high mud
in places, I was spent and felt at one with my clothes as they were as
dirty and sweat ridden as me myself. Ugh. Cold shower was fabulous,
once again.

That night was the highlight of my stay. We headed out after dinner,
in the dark, with headlamps to do a night walk in the jungle environs
of the lodge. It was terrifying because Alfredo would make us turn
off our lights and just listen to the sounds of the jungle. Not
knowing what the calls, screeches, and various rustling noises were
around you added to the suspense as you weren´t sure if something was
going to just jump out of the jungle and grab you. My imagination run
rampant.

At one point, Alfredo hushed us as we heard the snorts, sounds, and
running of what seemed like a group of large mammals. He said they
were wild pigs or pecarys…and as he listened intently, he informed
us that we were standing very close to a group of about 25 of them.
We shone our lights out into the jungle and were met with a bunch of
evil glowing red eyes. Alberto said that they could be dangerous if
provoked, and after bearing it for a few minutes, instructed us to
back up slowly and head back.

That was exciting.

On the way home we found jaguar tracks…Alberto said that it was more
than likely hunting the pecaries.

Good stuff!

The final morning was rather disappointing as we awoke at 4am to
journey 1 1’2 hours upriver to view a salt lick that attracted
hundreds of parakeets. Whilst seeing the sunrise on the river made
the trip worthwhile, I was rather disappointed by the far away view of
the parakeets and wondered why I had awoken at such an ungodly hour
just for this.

After it was time to head back to our lodge to pack and head to the
airport and the cold brisk air of Cusco.

This was to be my last afternoon in the former inca capital, and I did
some shopping and had a final celebratory meal with Mirjam before
hopping in a cab bound for the bus station to take a night bus to Puno
and Lake Titicacca.

I would be spending just the morning visiting the Ouros Islands,
before catching a bus headed to the Bolivian lakeside town of
Copacabana.

And that is where I will leave it for now…(I am actually now in La
Paz and have to go pack for my four day trip to the wonder of the
world that is the Salar de Uyuni in the morning. I hope to write
again soon!

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