A Travellerspoint blog

CHANCE MEETINGS AND URUBAMBA VISIT

Sept 2013

Hi Everyone, Me again. :)
I hope my updates aren't boring you!! :)

Before I tell you of some chance meetings let me tell you about some other common sights here. The first is a dangerous one for those participating. It is South American hippies probably  argentinian or brazilian conducting  mini circus acts such as juggling, twirling batons ,ribbons etc at traffic lights!! They wait until they are at red then jump out and perform their piece then as the cares start to move off they walk up between the rows of cars before jump back to the side to wait on the red light again. They conduct these on busy roads making it very precarious. I assume some people must pay them as there are a lot doing it. It is interesting that it is mostly good looking girls! :)

So back to the chance meetings. When climbing part of the mountain each morning I would pass a man as I was coming done on certain days. On these days I could hear him yelling something from the miradors (viewpoints). It was so loud I could hear it from the house. I couldn't figure out what he saying and as we got to talking a little more over the weeks I asked him. It was the name of his 11 year old son who had died 2 months beforehand! He began to well up with tears as he told be so I didn't ask anything else but offered my most sincere sympathy. A few days later our walk up the mountain coincided as I was a little later than normal. We climbed up together and chatted a little. His name was Luis and he sold jewellery to other South American countries. He lived in LaRapa, the area just below where I stayed. At the mirador I explained my normal routine regarding my meditation and he sat quietly reflecting, I assumed about his son as I completed my normal routine. After I had finished we sat and chatted a little. I told him about Lilo; that she was a great healer and he might like to visit her even just for a chat. He then told me about his son and his illness. He had had a resistant form of leukemia which was discovered when he was 8 years old. He had flown with him to Spain and various countries trying to find him a cure. He was lucky to find a donor and spent a long time in a Lima hospital following the operation. Unfortunately the leukaemia returned and he died, aged 11. He seemed to have a great voice, played the guitar and was loved by his class. Luis described him as an angel- always happy even throughout his illness. Luis had told me his name but it wasn't a name I recognized (sounding like Hamees) so asked him to spell it. I couldn't believe it when he spelt it out. His name was Hamish!!! The reason - years before he had watched and loved,like so many here, William Wallace. At that time he had decided if he had a son he would call him Hamish. I told him it was obviously a very Scottish name. Luis had wanted to travel a lot with his son but they ran out of time.

Hamish’s death had not helped his relationship with his wife which was a shame; both were suffering without the support of each other. We bumped into each other 2 days later and he gave me a photo of Hamish that had been taken a year or so before. I said I would place it at the top of a hill in Scotland. I was ill for about 2 weeks after that so wasn’t travelling anywhere and haven't seen Luis since so hope he is doing OK. He has stopped his trips to the mountain.

About 2 weeks after this, as I started to recover I had to pick up a suitcase I had lent to a friend. At that time I had stayed in Pumacurco so much closer to where she stayed. I was saddened that when they returned 3 months later and I was now living further out of town that she wasn’t willing to bring the case out to me. After various failed attempts at arranging to meet she announced they were leaving for Argentina the following day and would be away 2 months! I impressed on her I needed the case so arranged a drop off point slightly closer to me, so I could collect it. I arranged to do other things so as it wasn’t a journey solely for the case. When I collected the case it unfortunately had started to pour with rain. This and the timing meant the buses and combis were all jammed with people crushed in everywhere. Now in these circumstances you can get on with a rucksack and possibly a bag of shopping but the minute the conductors saw a suitcase they all shook their heads. I quickly realised it would be a taxi fare. A taxi drew up dropping off an old lady. I asked him how much he would take to go to Santa Maria and was pleasantly surprised he didn’t try to rip me off. In the taxi we got to chatting as sometimes happens but interestingly he did try talking to me in English. Eventually I decided to talk in English to help him practice. He had learnt on the streets when he was selling paintings but had earned enough/ or got a loan, as many do here, to buy a taxi. As always we discussed family and he told me he had a 5 day old son, his first and he was really keen to give him a head start. He wanted to know what he could do to help him learn English and give him a brighter future. I remembered I had children’s songs and stories from my volunteering days teaching in the schools. I offered to give them to him. He gave me a USB, we exchanged phone numbers and I downloaded all the stuff I had including dot to dots etc that he could print and use in years to come. I did stress to him though not to forget his culture and include Quechua in his learning. He seemed happy with the stuff and said he would be in touch with more questions in the future. Maybe he will maybe he won’t and it will depend if I am in the country at the time as the phone I have is a Peruvian phone only working in Peru. I hope it helps him, and his wife who was just learning English so she could participate in his learning. It was great to see such a responsible father and keen for his son’s future. They rented a one room apartment so life would be tough for them I am sure.

As I started to feel so much better over the next week or so it was time to venture out of Cusco. Lilo had suggested I should go travelling during this waiting/ quiet time and not worry about money. I thought about it but would have been travelling for the sake of it and didn't see the point or wanted to. What I did decide though was to go to Urubamba for the weekend; find a nice but cheapish hostel with a garden, head off on the Friday and return on Sunday. I decided on the weekend and e mailed all my friends trying to organize when I could best catch up with them all. My friend Annabelle was working on the Saturday but we arranged to meet up on Saturday night and Sunday. Everything worked in beautifully allowing me to spend time with everyone including Rita, the nurse from the NGO. A lovely lady, Isabel, who Annabelle and I had bumped into in Cusco sometime before had asked if I could visit and possibly advise her on how to get help. I didn't know much about what she was doing other than Annabelle had said she had a really big heart and was helping impoverished children get an education. We arranged to meet up on Friday night with Annabelle there to help in case I got stuck with translation. It was mostly fine though. When we entered her house lots of the children ran forward to greet Annabelle as she was their teacher and hugged me too which was lovely; not just the girls but the boys too! Isabel housed 13 children in her house through the week and with her own work as a Quechua teacher , her daughter's work and kind friends they fed, provided accommodation and received donated clothes for these children. The girls and boys were split into different rooms and all had bunkbeds with 8 boys in one room and the 5 girls in another. I was curious how this had all started and she told me about the first 5 children she took on. What stories! The first was a young 11 year old who lived 3 hours walk above Chinchero. He was usually late for school (no surprise) and the school wouldn’t allow him entry because he was late! Eventually a kind lady gave him a room and mattress to sleep on. Eventually his younger brother and sister joined him. They all slept in the one room and had a small stove on which the older brother prepared some potatoes or other little bits they had throughout the week so they could attend school. These were the first 3 children Isabel took in. Next was a girl and boy. Isabel had seen the little girl outside the market In Urubamba each day and she was furtively eating something out of her inside pocket. Slowly but surely Isabel gained the little girl’s confidence and asked about school. She was put on a bus and it was assumed she went to school. As she was hungry she hung about the market hoping for more food. Isabel visited where this little girls stayed (as she had to do in all cases to talk to the parents and get agreement if that was the right thing to do). This girl and her family lived in a cave in the mountains!!!
This was how it all started for her! What was the most important thing to Isabel was these children went to school and were well fed and looked after. They had created a small association and called the home “Hogar de semillas de Jesus” (“Home of the seeds of Jesus”). Isn’t that a lovely name!!
Friends, Wimmie and Raymi, who have small organization working with volunteers and a small foundation fundraising in Holland were covering half the costs and repairing the roof of the boy's dorm for them.
They pay for someone to cook for them and to help the children with their homework and the rest is them and the help they can get from friends. Annabelle visits once a week to help with homework too. The children were split between 2 schools in Urubamba, one a private school taking in 5 of them and the rest at a Christian school started up by a lovely German couple.
When I asked what Isabel was really looking for , it was help with the food costs and her proposed monthly costs were so low it wouldn't be too difficult to achieve, but it was ongoing. We discussed a few options but the most sensible, easiest and most sustainable for them was to get the support of an NGO like LH. I promised nothing but said I would speak to Rita, asking her to visit and Annie, the volunteer to do a short video. All for a future date because of where LH was just now. Both Rita and Annie agreed which was great. I will try and bring second hand clothes for the boys and girls when I come back next year, hidden amongst my own stuff. All in all I felt it was a very productive and pleasant weekend. The sun shone, I met and had a lovely catch up with all my friends including Annie and Rita, hopefully helped Isabel and fitted in a short walk with Annabelle and her new dog. Getting back can also be a problem as I had experienced before on a Sunday but on that day all went very smoothly. Someone was looking after me that weekend! :)

Take care everyone.
Hasta luego :)

Posted by Heather Buc 13:18 Comments (0)

Copacabana and to date

July- Aug 2013

Beunos dias mis amigos,

I was fortunate enough when I arrived in Peru to get 6 months on my passport so it was only by late July that I needed to get an extension. The easiest and cheapest way to renew my visa was to visit Copacabana which was just over the Bolivian border...8km to be exact. This route is used by many staying here. There were also lots of people able to advise on buses and hostels. If I’m honest I was a little nervous about setting off on my own. I’m sure that sounds weird to you all considering I up-ed and went to Peru but I’d argue I had had a little insight with my treks. Anyway armed with extra info I felt more at ease and set off . I couldn’t book the hostel I wanted but they suggested I turn up there and if there was a cancellation I would get it or they wold help me find somewhere else. All set I set off from the house at 9pm to catch the overnight bus leaving at 10.30pm from Cusco to Puno, arrive in Puno bus station in the early hours of the morning and wait for about 3-4 hours for the connecting bus that I had pre-booked to Copacabana passing through the Bolivian border on the way, arriving in Copacabana just after midday.
Overall the trip wasn't too bad. From Cusco to Puno which was just over 7 hours meant we arrived in Puno at 4am. Hanging around the bus terminal wasn't great. For a decent sized city and a busy terminal linking many cities, the toilets and food were pretty poor. When the time came to board our next bus there developed quite a bit of confusion and commotion deciding which bus was to take us to Copacabana. The reason being some were going to La Paz and some to Copacabana. The tour guide who helps you with crossing the border changed our bus from a double decker bus to a single decker so all the tickets pre-purchased no longer made sense . I wasn’t so bad as I had changed to the top deck to get a better view for photos but those that had paid a supplement for the reclining seats lost out. The problem was compounded as the same tour guide was trying to sort out the La Paz bus but more were getting onto our bus with the same number as ours and saying we were on the wrong bus! Their tickets had a different time. When we asked and challenged the tour guide he got very upset and made us sit wherever! At the border I also had a little problem but other than it costing me a little more and taking a little longer to sort out all was ok. The problem had been I had a stamp in my passport to say I could sign documents for a work visa but I explained this had never come to fruition so I had to sign a document to say I wasn't working as this is illegal on a tourist visa.
Another girl on our bus had a bigger issue and actually had to get off the bus as she had lost her immigration slip which you fill out when you enter the country and must hand it in when you leave. There is always a fine which she said she couldn’t afford. I did see her later in Copacabana drinking a beer with a guy she had met on the bus. Seemingly crying did the trick and they let her in. :)
While waiting at the Puno bus terminal I met a lovely young couple (Jarrod and Chelsea) from Canada. Jarrod had accidentally jammed my foot in the door of the lower level part of the bus on the way from Cusco. My reclining seat was behind the door and I was just getting settled when they came in. He apologized and I said it was OK I had another and we laughed. :) We got chatting while waiting in Puno for the next bus and really hit it off. This proved to be a most enjoyable friendship as we met up over the next 2 days, really enjoying each other’s company. Having such nice company made the trip all the more enjoyable.
We all parted our various ways when leaving the bus in Copacabana with a view to meet up later to climb to the crosses, the highest peak and viewpoint above Copacabana where there were many Catholic crosses and monuments to Mother Mary...I have never see so many in one place.....to see the sunset here is a tradition here and certainly worth it.

As mentioned , with no accommodation I headed to this lovely hostel recommended by many. They were particularly nice and I could see why everyone recommended them. Luckily I managed to get a room and just had to use the communal toilet and shower. The other amenities were worth this sacrifice. On my last night there I managed to get a room with bathroom but unfortunately the roof developed a leak in the early hours. They sorted it quickly, even at such an early hour (7am).
La Cupula Hostel was such a homely place with free tea and coffee, free use of the kitchen, an amazing outlook with hammocks and deckchairs and very friendly staff. The restaurant above it was also lovely and served very good food at a reasonable price. Chelsea, Jarrod and myself ate there each night.
During the afternoon I booked my tickets for the 2 islands I wanted to visit - Isla del Luna and Isla del Sol. We set off early as this was a full day excursion. The trip across the lake (Lake Titicaca) was beautiful as we chugged along towards the islands. It was a beautiful calm day for it.
I had explained this to Jarrod and Chelsea and they decided to come too. We did our own thing on the first island as I wanted to just wander and then we ate and chilled on the second island. No surprise the times on each island and the stops were totally changed when we got on but we didn’t mind. We had a lovely day. The sun shone all day and the lagoon was calm making the crossings very calm.
The following day Jarrod and Chelsea, left for La Paz on the noon bus. My hostel had helped them find accommodation in La Paz and then we went to eat before they left.
That night I got a carryout Pizza and watched one of the many DVDs the hostel had. This last day was a very chilled one after a full day visiting the islands the day before. The following morning continued in the same vein with a pleasant time spent reading in one of the hammocks. The only slight hiccup was the young dog that belonged to the hostel. He often sat with me and had taken a shine to my plastic flip flops which I managed to prevent him from shredding until that last morning. I hadn’t noticed him creeping up. As it was my only pair I quickly visited the local market and purchased a new pair which the hostel compensated me for.

Copacabana was a lovely little town with the front resembling Brighton beach with pedalos and bars. Many boats to take you on various trips around the lake are moored offshore or tied up at the jetty waiting to load their passengers. The main street - 6 de ogusto was full of small restaurants and outlets trying to sell you trips of varying kinds. La Cupula sat up on the hill hidden from view. It was a small hostel and in a peaceful part of town which was exactly what I wanted. It made for a very pleasant stay.

Heading back my challenge at the border was to get 4 months on my passport, instead of the normal 3 months... and I managed it after a little discussion and a good long look at me.. I must have looked harmless!! :)
.....Yey!!
This was all I needed until my flights back to Scotland. To travel back to the border for one month just seemed pointless. I would probably have changed my flights.

Remembering to change your watches is also important while on trip back (and there of course) so as not to miss your next bus. Bolivia is an hour in front of Peru. I nearly came unstuck in Copacabana as I had changed my watch but not my phone and had set the alarm so as to give me plenty of time before the Island trip. Awakening just before my alarm I realized my mistake and had to make a mad dash! :)

Back to the return trip......As we travelled slowly around the lake (Lake Titicaca), which is absolutely huge, watching the changes in scenery and how people live and work was quite captivating. Nearer the Bolivian side you could see many boats, small fish farms and men working the waterways bringing in large bundles of reeds in their small punts. I could see a couple of men toiling hard with poles to help bring their boats home piled high with reeds or grasses. As we got closer to Puno and the lake/ open water was further away the expanse of flat golden or brown land ,from the recently ploughed earth, increased. Where the houses were adobe with thatched roofs they blended into the landscape, more difficult to see against the glaring sun, making the landscape look mostly empty. At one point though something caught my eye; brightly coloured green corrugated iron toilets, which were set back from each house and doted over the whole area adding such a splash of colour over an otherwise subtly coloured scene . The landscape looked so tranquil , full of grazing animals and the occasional man or woman working at a slow pace in the fields. In the intense sun everyone takes their time. It made for a lovely sight and a smile.
In other areas, where the small houses has roofs of tin you could see clearly just how far the land went before reaching the lake as the strong sun reflected off them. It must have been incredibly hot inside I should think!

In Puno there was a 6 hour stop over but on the bus back we were given an option to visit the floating islands of Urcos. They sit about 30 minutes from Puno , on Lake Titicaca. I decided this was a good use of my time. It was very cheap to do and actually really interesting to meet the people living there and see their homes and how they live. I met another german couple and tagged along with them.
The islands themselves were interesting. The entry into the islands was along small waterways surrounded by reeds. We could just see the tiny outline above the water in the horizon as we travelled along. We entered a waterway with islands on each side, paying entry to Urcos as we arrived, which was the collective name for the area. Each small island had its own unique name, was made of reeds, anchored with 4-6 eucalyptus trunks and housed up to 6 families. The islands could be moved by lifting these trunks but because of the number of the islands it would have been difficult to know where they would have gone.
There were a considerable number of islands and the boat had the option of turning left or right as there were islands as far as the eye could see. The guide told me they visited different islands on each trip so all got a visit at least 3-4 times a week in the busy season. They relied heavily on the tourist industry to sell their weavings, other artisan products and food.  He said about 40-60% of children stayed and married on the islands and so more islands needed to be added. There was a primary school on one of the islands but the older children had to go to Puno for their secondary education.
At the first island we visited, Suma Sapi, the ladies sang a few traditional and then a not so traditional song ( Row, row your boat)! :) We were then taken across the small stretch of the lake which appeared like a small river between the islands and back to our starting point. These boats were all made of reeds and once pushed off by a motor boat it was left to the arms of 2 of the local men to row all 12 of us across. When we arrived back I was invited to a local woman, called Norma’s house to see how they lived...not too badly actually. I had seen so much worse, but it was still a precarious existence but it was important for them to maintain their traditions. Fishing was also a popular trade for the men. They did have a few mod cons in their houses via solar power allowing a TV in the house. Because the roof was only reed they seemingly pulled polythene over if there was severe weather. I liked Norma and did buy a couple of items from her, to help her and her husband and young son.
Leaving this island we quickly visited another for a hot drink and something to eat, so 2 got the benefit from our trip.
Back in Puno and still with 3 hours to spare we all finished with dinner together in the centre of Puno. During our lovely meal I discovered the German couple weren’t actually a couple but brother and sister; refreshing to see how well they got on actually and often went on holiday together.

Back in Cusco things have been pretty quiet since then, mainly through illness! With the changing weather and like so many I caught a cold which lasted about a week.
There has been some uncharacteristically wet days, about a week of rain and cold..felt like Scotland actually before the sun returned.
Shortly after my cold I realized I’d picked up another parasite so started on meds for that and finally a terribly spasming started that has only just began to subside after 2 weeks and 3 visits to the doctors! The sleepless nights were horrendous and nothing from my drug cabinet seemed to be touching the pain and spasms. My landlady Lilo has also been quite ill with a chest infection lasting about 6 weeks.
I am glad to say I am finally starting to feel better as is Lilo.
I feel the time had come to do a little more and will now look at possibly other volunteering options for a short time before returning to Scotland. With this time to reflect I have an idea of what may be next for me but will say no more until I have investigated a coupe of options suggested to me and firmed things up.

So there you have it mis amigos..you are finally up-to-date with the “normal” happenings in my life.

My next blogs may be a little different and “out there” but I think it may be time to share.

...On that note...Keep well, help others in whatever way you can and live your lives to the full, with love and joy in your hearts....even on your worst days try to find some kind of joy and be thankful for it. :)

Hasta luego mis amigos... :)

Posted by Heather Buc 09:15 Comments (0)

Peru Life prt 2

Fun Times with Lilo

Shall we continue with part 2...:)

Since moving here and now with no NGO work I have filled my days with other things for the moment until whatever is next for me appears. Part of that is a lovely visit to the sauna for Lilo and I. This depends on how everyone is feeling. Lately that hasn’t been good with Lilo being quite unwell for a few weeks now and I’ve also had my fair share of feeling crap from various things; cold, parasites etc. Lilo introduced me to this sauna about 2 months ago which is very reasonable cost-wise with the steam rooms and saunas all being very hot. Don’t you just hate it when you go to a steam room or sauna and they are only lukewarm! :) There is even a small pool. This sauna is used mostly by Peruvians and all areas are mixed. There are 3 different saunas of varying heat and in each there are wooden bowls of salt to help you cleanse as you begin to perspire. I was unaware until then that you should go into the sauna dry (not showering first) and let the perspiration build from a dry body. To help the cleansing process and benefits of a sauna salt should be rubbed behind the ears, between the fingers and toes and under your armpits. These are the most beneficial areas but all over is fine too.
We begin in the medium temperature sauna, move onto the first steam room,(there are two of these) a swim then another sauna and steam before showering and leaving. The steam rooms all have eucalyptus in them...none of your essence mind you ,mixing with the steam...no it is full branches of eucalyptus in the corner....and why not..there are thousands of eucalyptus trees here. :)
Trying to swim at altitude is something else I have found! Your lungs give up on you very quickly, especially if you put your face in the water so trying to control your breaths. I’ll keep working on it though. Most Peruvians can’t swim and you find the young boys just carrying on, diving and showing off in front of the young girls! :) Lilo and I try to avoid these times so we can have the small pool to ourselves. We meet the crowds when we forget it is a holiday. There are no hairdryers either (the changing rooms being very basic) so I’ve got used to air-drying my hair, which has varying levels of success..but never mind. I always feel so much better after the sauna. It is a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. This followed by a coffee and cake, weekly food shop and home. :)

INTI RAYMIS

Inti Raymis (google)

A huge annual event here is the Inti Raymi festival in Cusco; the festival of the sun. Many people come from all over the world to see it and pay a lot for seats in Sachsaywaman (around $100 I think) to see the full celebrations amidst the ruins. To get a feel for this without the cost many people line the plaza in the centre of Cusco and streets where the festival begins. This is what we decided to do this year. Lilo had done this many times so Annie (the volunteer) and I took our lead from her. To get a better view we headed for one of the first floor restaurants and had a coffee and cake.
This gave us a birds eye view and beautiful it was.
The Inti Raymi festival is a religious ceremony of the Inca empire in honor of the god Inti one of the most famous gods in Inca religion celebrating the Winter Solstice recognised as the shortest day of the year. Many people/ actors take part dressed in various traditional costumes depending on their role within the ceremony. The fountain in the centre of the Plaza is switched off and a construction put around it (about a week before) with steps to a model of the Inca King. This stays in place for a few months allowing people to stand on the steps and be photographed. The spectacle itself is beautiful and the music quite ethereal. At the ruins in Sachsaywaman there are a more festivities with dancing and the sacrifice of a llama (fortunately not actually done nowadays) and which go on for most of the afternoon. Sunstroke is common because of the strength of the sun at this time of the year and usually clear skies so umbrellas are often used to help. You also often see people walking about town holding a paper of some kind at their hairline to keep the sun off them.
Albeit the restaurant was very busy we could still see and get a feel for the festival. This would have been impossible on the street as just trying to get to the restaurant was a challenge! We spent a very pleasant couple of hours here before we headed for another Festival - the Festival de Productores Agropecuarios in Huancaro. Lilo had been before and was keen to revisit it , to fill our day out. This was one I didn’t know. The area it is held in is used for lots of gigs and festivals..very boozy and noisy affairs here. You wouldn’t want to live nearby anyway. After queueing for about 30 mins to get our tickets from a tiny hole in the wall we then joined another queue to get in. As you can imagine orderly queues aren’t great here so there is lots of shouting if someone tries to queue jump which is often. There are police around but usually trying to keep the traffic and crowds of people apart, to save accidents. To be fair you don’t expect a lot from the police here; they are very poorly paid and mostly looking for back-handers if you are stopped in a vehicle.
Once in I realized what I was looking at was The Highland Show come to Peru! :) This was their version of a big Agricultural Show. I know there are others at different times of the year as I have seen the tents but I think this is the big one. Obviously a lot of judging had been done by then as very fluffy alpacas stood with their proud owners brandishing their rosettes. Photos would cost you 1 sol. The rest were all in their pens happily munching away at the fodder left for them. Llamas, alpacas, pigs and sheep had all been judged. There was even sheep shearing but with hand clippers. There were stalls of all kinds selling artisan products to organic produce to puppies and little canary-like birds. Amongst the many fast food stalls we settled on chincharon ( fried pork with potatoes and corn) for our meal and a large bottle of beer to split between us. :) It was a beautiful day and where we managed to sit was in the shade, so perfect. The show was pretty busy but Lilo said by night it would be full to overflowing. To the side of the show rings and stalls was a large grassy area with a stage at one end. This is where the night activities would be held with lots of drinking and bands…..not for us! We each bought a couple of things, had our very pleasant lunch and headed back. A lovely day was had by all.

A little later I heard through a friend that Ollantaytambo was having its Inti Raymi ceremony. She was going with a few others so we tentatively arranged a meeting and if it happened, it happened. I hadn’t been to Ollanta since returning in January so was keen to eat at the Café delighting in my favourite foods. It was another beautiful day which always makes a difference. LIlo and I had arranged to meet Annie at the combis for Ollanta in downtown Cusco but as can happen with these things we missed each other. Annie was running late and we tried holding a place for her on one of the combis but as they usually fill and go people were getting agitated so eventually we had to go. She came on the next one and was actually there almost at the same time. The drive from Cusco to Ollantaytambo is an hour and a half and the scenery en route is quite spectacular. The mountains usually are snow- capped and the sun reflecting all the amazing colours is always a joy to see. The scenery constantly changes as you drop down from Cusco into the valley so you are never bored.
Lilo was nervous of using these type of taxis now (she admitted this seems to happen as you get older) so sat up front getting the full beauty of the drive. She hadn’t been to Ollanta in a long time but wanted to show us certain landmarks while we were there.
When we arrived Lilo was desperate for coffee so we headed to the Café and had coffee and banoffee pie..mmmmm! :) We could hear the music eminating from the ruins after a time so we headed off following the music. It was great that we were all allowed to enter the ruins without paying (normally this would cost 70 soles (about £18). We found a good place to watch and watched as the story unfolded. The sight was just amazing, quite a spectacle - each level of the ruins with children and adults from all over the area in their traditional costumes and playing their traditional instruments ; the music was so ethereal and their chanting just added to the atmosphere, sending tingles down your spine. The vibrant colours dotted all over the ruins from their clothes and props as they waved flags and this beautiful music was really a delight, helped enormously by the beautiful day of course.
Once the story had been told and the music reached its climax the procession, led by the King and Queen of the Incas, slowly descended from the ruins making their way back through the village to an area where the festivities would continue with lots of drinking and dancing. I met my friend briefly but they all had other plans. We decided to linger in the ruins for a bit longer and explore the ruins a little now we were in. Lilo pointed out the face and crown of Viracocha on the opposite mountain and the condor in the ruins. It took a minute to see the condor because of its sheer size. It was the whole of the mountain top and quite incredible once you find it. As it was so hot we cooled our feet off in the river spending a very pleasant half an hour before heading back into town and a beer. Chilling, eating, drinking and good chat was the order of the day for us! :) We had a lovely meal in the Café where I caught up with a few of the women and the chef before we looked for a combi to take us back. This is the challenging part as there were 3 of us and we were looking for spaces on the tourist buses heading to Cusco. These are the buses picking up the tourists returning from Machu Picchu. You can no longer travel directly from Cusco to Machu Picchu since the landslides in 2010. We got lucky after about 10 minutes getting us back into Cusco before it was too late. :) It is always a thought when you return later as Lilo and I then need to get a taxi and not many are willing to go that far out of the city to where we stay! All was well though and we had a lovely day.

In June we had another little outing , this time to San Pedro.

OK just to be clear. There is a San Pedro plant, a cactus used in shamanic ceremonies to help gain clarity of one’s life. There is also San Pedro village, about an hour or so out of Cusco in a taxi (although you can get there by bus as this is the main route out of Cusco to Puno and other major cities). This is where we went on this particular Sunday. This village is widely known by local people in Peru and all over for its special waters. It is known as the poor man’s clinic. Drinking these waters completely cleanse the system, supposedly helping clear gallstones and various illnesses. Bus loads came from Bolivia and all over to partake. Lilo had mentioned this to Annie and I some time prior to this and we thought it might be a bit of an adventure. She warned us it was very primitive but worth doing. Seemingly you shouldn’t do this cleansing more than twice a year because it is so absolute! The day was not just for us but to allow Lilo to visit and help Virginia (one of Lilo’s housekeepers). She needed to take 2 kittens to her in -laws who stayed in the village. We were also invited to eat there. The day was to start early, leaving at 6.30am so we were there in plenty of time to cleanse, have lunch, do the eye therapy, then return. As always here, things didn’t go according to plan being a little late setting off. This didn’t impact too much on our day to be fair. We all headed off, stopping en route to collect bread being sold in bags at the side of the street as we passed through one of the villages and a few vegetables from a local market.
In San Pedro we met Virginia’s elderly relations (both ladies in their 90’s), dropped off the kittens (who had been as good as gold the whole trip sitting on our laps) and food before heading to the site. The cost was minimal (3 soles- less than £1). We had brought our drinking glasses, toilet paper and a jug to make refilling easier. When you enter all you can see is a sea of bodies; men , women and children all standing or sitting around drinking or running off to the many stalls on the right. Most arrive early (around 5 or 6am) to avoid the heat of the sun, to finish and leave. Needless to say the children weren’t drinking, only helping refill the glasses of their parents. There were a few selling stalls with various trinkets behind the cleansing area, mostly with things to amuse the children, so there was lots of noise from whistles. There was building in process I assume making more places to get out of the strong sun as these were few and far between. Most of us found walls or just stood or walked about to help the process!! Basically you fill your jugs or glasses at the copper spouts coming from the glass covered dome where the water was coming out of the ground, and start drinking. It was recommended to drink about 15 glasses for the best effect. This started a competition between Virginia and Huvenal about how many they had drunk. I could hear other Peruvians doing the same. I was struggling to drink any quantity at any kind of speed as the water was lukewarm and tasted like I assume Epsom Salts would taste like. This would explain the cleansing effect!! Drinking it made me feel a bit nauseous. Eventually I started gulping more than sipping , this and I think I just got used to it so made drinking it easier. Either way it soon had the desired effect! It was quite amusing watching people with a glass in one hand and a toilet roll in the other. :) The whole process probably took about 3 hours. Annie was taking a little longer and worrying it wasn’t going to work but before long she was joining us in the stalls. The idea was you kept going until there was nothing left!!
The stalls were interesting and as Lilo and I discussed there is no way a set up like this would be allowed in the Western world. It would have the services crawling all over it demanding this and that. Here the set up was simple; rows and rows of stalls with huge containers of water outside each and a bucket to fill and slosh down the stall when you were finished. The stall itself was small with positions to place your feet then squat over the small hole in the ground. Buckets were in the corner for toilet paper to be put into. Once finished you got a bucket of water and sloshed it down a couple of times so it was clean. Women came along with huge hoses refilling the containers with water. Once the cleansing process started you made sure you were never very far from the stalls and could see some free cubicles so there was no delay when you felt you might need to go again. Once started you went a lot!!
Nearby there was a mirky looking pool of the same water which you could swim in. We did see one man with his bathing cap on who went in for a dip but no-one else. On the wall behind the pool was a list of all the natural minerals and salts in the water and in what proportions.
All in all and interesting morning!
When we decided that was it for us all we all headed back to Virginia’s relations where she had prepared a lovely meal. She had left a little before us to set up. We had a lovely soup, salad, local cheese and choclo (sweetcorn but the natural grown one here which is larger and paler than the one we have at home). A very nice spread completed by a mint tea to help our digestion. :)
It was then time to try the eye wash station. This separate area (on the other side of town) is reputed to help cataracts and generally good for eye health. At only one sol it was very cheap. There was another swimming pool here, much cleaner but as it was getting colder none of us felt we wanted to venture in. We headed to the pool around the side, specifically for the eyes. We settled on our stomachs and prepared to dip our eyes in. You obviously have to keep your eye open in the water which is always tricky and made worse by the feel…boy did it sting!! There was an old man there and he kept up the eye cleansing for quite some time; much longer than us! We lasted a short time then on the way out we decided dipping our feet in the pool would be a nice option. Wrong! The lady in attendance decided otherwise..we could bathe in it but not dangle our feet over the side!! We tried to reason with her but she was for none of it so we left.
As there was still a bit of the afternoon left I asked if we could visit the next village- Raqchi which Lilo had told us about. The ruins were different here and very pretty. However when we arrived Annie and I just decided to browse the stalls and not visit the ruins. The artisan stalls were a little different here so we spent a pleasant hour each buying a couple of things. A lovely way to finish off our day we felt.

Hope you are all enjoying catching up with my experiences. Just to let you know I added another section about the combis to part 1 in case you wish to look at it. I have tried to describe it as it actually is.
Until my next blog mis amigos...hasta luego. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 10:04 Comments (0)

Peru Life prt 1

HI Everyone,
I hope you are enjoying catching up with my activities.
Apologies for the length of this blog. It seems to have grown arms and legs but I wanted to give you more of a feel for what my life is like here..to see it through my eyes...scan or ignore as you see fit. Part 2 will contain more of the little events and fun things I have experienced.
I’m sure I mentioned before it is harder to live here unless you have a regular/good source of money thus allowing you to have a cook and cleaner. The rest of us just make the best of it. Vegetables and certain fruits are definitely a cheap and good option. The downside is keeping them fresh so you don’t have to visit the markets so often. In the towns, outwith the city these are more easily accessible. In the city it is more difficult. The supermarkets carry a reasonable amount of stuff but the Megas (of which there are quite a few) often are missing stuff and the largest of them all often has vasts of empty shelves with no fruit, chicken and stables..unbelievable really! They also only have white rice and sugar and a limited range of better ingredients. Going to Canasta (of which there is only one) or the more expensive Gato markets allows you to pick up some of the other ingredients you may wish. In general there is no one stop shop. You get to learn where the foods you want are, stock up on these items if it is not part of your weekly or regular route and make do with what you have in your cupboards. I had quite an extensive supply of tins and cereals when I left Pumacurco as I was expecting to move to outskirts of Urubamba and knew getting this heavier or unavailable stuff would be difficult to get to the house. Although my current rental is in Cusco it is on the very outskirts....a bit like Newton Mearns and the centre of Glasgow; about an hour to get there so a little easier but not by much.

Cooking if you are in the mood is fine but often it would be nice to have the option of a quick freezer meal...not happening here! Occasionally I have a carryout chicken and chips which is nice. Often I look for quick and easy options. I am lucky to have a small freezer so can have a couple of meals in reserve. The rest of the space is used up storing a little chicken and bread. Microwaves are few and far between so novel ways of reheating come into play! :) Fridges are also a luxury here to be honest. However more and more new shops are springing up with electricals. I can see quite a difference even in the last 2 years!

Cleaning of the houses..now that is fun! Not many fancy gadgets to make life easier for that. Hoovers - well there’s not a big call for them as most floors are wooden. The house I am in currently however has hardwearing carpets in the bedrooms and living room which are proving a b**ch to clean. I am now borrowing the hard brush from Lilo’s which is hard work I can tell you. I did bring a few things with me to help which have been a godsend, just not for carpets. As this property is a business and Lilo has also been trying to sell I must keep things is really tiptop condition and very tidy. There are times when I would like to be lazy and not tidy but am conscious it is Lilo’s property and she has reminded me on occasions, so I do my best. It is a beautiful place to stay so it is a small sacrifice.

As I travel in and out of the city (and everywhere to be honest) there are street vendors every few feet selling everything from bicycle trolleys filled with sweets and drinks, women with wheelbarrows selling fresh fruit ready to eat (fresh slices of pineapple or water melon are the norm) or the latest fruit in season, people walking up and down the streets selling pens, cleaning equipment, money exchange; shoe shiners checking out your footwear (often at the bus stops polishing as people wait) ,even your old dears selling individual sweets, small packets of corn or nuts ready to eat. I’m not sure why some seem to get away with staying in the one place selling and others not but you do see the police moving some of them along.
The true entrepreneurs have sussed out providing ready-to-eat food at all the schools, larger colleges, universities, ruins, outside taxi stances etc is the way forward. Everyday they bring their buckets of hot food and drinks with small bowls, forks etc ready to serve you from an early hour and they are often busy with local people. Cleaning is interesting..a quick rinse in a bucket of water and they are ready for use again!
In the city you are also plagued with artisans trying to sell you their wares..from the young Picasso's (as they call themselves :)) to lots of jewelry offers. After a time you try to avoid the tourist areas, using the back streets so as to miss these guys. Standing at the bus stops I constantly have to shake my head at the taxis who seem to think as a gringa we wouldn’t take the buses..Why would we be standing at the bus stops then?? Strange!

Peru is also like the US in that billboards rule. They are everywhere! Every wall has something on it, every lamppost..everywhere..from government announcements to advertising. The most interesting one I have seen is advertising how to recognize tuberculosis and to encourage a visit the doctor. These are new signs too!
This and construction. Every available space seems to have a concrete structure going up,; some are not completed and no-one seeming to be working on them, probably because the money has run out, a common problem here; they start something without thinking through exactly how much money they will need; and other constructions still full speed ahead and looking to rent out for large amounts of money. Windows are always last to be put in (if at all) so it doesn’t seem to be an issue to have buildings left only partially finished, if a little ugly.

Like the houses the roads are in varying stages of preparation so even in the city you can get incredibly dirty. The soil is red here so the bottom of your jeans, trainers, boots etc are always coated in red dust especially if I use the combis.
The drive in and out of the centre of town is about an hour. To save some money I use the combis as much as possible. The difference in the cost is considerable if you travel a few times a week. A taxi will cost you 12 soles (just over £3) each way, the combis 70 centimos ( about 17p) ... worth it I’m sure you would agree! It is longer time-wise and it is a bit of a walk to the first combi called Batman.
I'm sure I told you about the combis but I will mention it again briefly. The combis can pack an incredible amount of people in them. If you are lucky and at the start of the journey then you are in luck. The nice thing is people do get up for the elderly, pregnant women and with young children. Some of the ones I travel on are struggling to be called good modes of transport as the seats are very close together and there is not enough head room to stand up straight. I'm small so you can imagine if a taller person comes on! The conductors call out each bus stop and relay the info to the driver. The conversation for example. " Primero, Primero......nadie, nadie" In other words; " Bus Stop One......no-one,no-one". If you want off you say which stop...so " Primero bajo". The conductor then repeats this to the driver. The driver in turn watches the stops to see if anyone is waving them to slow , otherwise he keeps going and believe me they drive fast and break hard..you have to hang on. As well as driving he also has to provide change when the conductor needs it. They only have a small amount in their hand..it's amazing how much they can hold in their hand as well as hopping on and off the buses...and a little in their pockets! If someone gives them something larger they ask for this to be changed by the driver, so while driving he is getting change of the relevant coin or note! Not particularly safe! The main road to the centre here is Ave de Cultura and this road is incredibly busy and fast. Time to cross is minimal so the elderly really struggle. We saw someone getting knocked down a few weeks ago!

The walk to the Batman combi is downhill on the way there but there is a short cut that I can use depending on what I have on my feet..you need good grips as you drop down a steep gorge, which is dry just now, and up the other side. There are no real foot-holes so you negotiate the rocks as best you can. On the other side there is a lot of construction of cheaper housing so scrambling over rock piles, negotiating the small holdings makes for an interesting walk. There are turkeys, pigs, chickens, cows and sheep sleeping isn small shelters not really fenced in but dogs sleeping nearby so probably guarding them. It’s quite funny when the piglets start squealing at something or other.
On the way back it is all uphill and negotiating the gorge with a heavy backpack and a bag or two is just too difficult I have discovered, so sometimes I take a taxi from the end of the road if I have a lot of shopping. There is a longer way which is by road and lately I have taken to using that. The walk back uphill is a little longer but take your time and you get there. If I am out with Lilo we need to use taxis as she struggles with the combis and buses but at least we split the costs.

This rental as you can probably guess is considerably different to my last one. In Pumacurco where we all lived in each others pockets with 8 properties all within the little compound, with dogs and renters too as my landlady also took in young students staying for a few weeks at a time so there was always lots of coming and going. The dogs were lovely but a bit of an issue in that they liked to “dump” outside my house. Sonia got quite upset about it but only complained to me about it. I did say to them a few times and eventually started using their broom to push the mess over to their side. This did eventually do the trick and more was cleaned up. This, the bug bites and a few other things made things difficult at times. Using petrol to coat the floorboards seemed to help the bug bites for a time.
When I got back after Christmas there was a new dog next door (at Liz’s- the landlady). It was an older dog and they seemed to have inherited it from a cousin. He was a nice thing and I didn’t have any trouble with him. I was working downstairs on the NGO work one day about a month or so later when I started to notice a constant crying. The noise of dogs was not unusual with the number of dogs around so I didn’t pay too much attention until Sonia came down from her room very upset and said there was a dog in real pain and could I look. I went out to see and then could see Liz’s dog in his hutch crying. His teeth were bared, flies were at his bottom and he seemed in a lot of pain! I went to find someone. Liz and her father-in-law came and didn’t know what to do. Eventually Sonia screamed get a vet for him! The father-in-law got gloves and tried to lift him out but he died before they could move him. They reckoned he had been poisoned. It is normal for the council here to put down poison to kill of the stray dogs but first they post notices for a week telling people which night it will happen and to keep their dogs in. Most dogs are not neutered so there are lots of pups born. Most dogs here are mongrels. You do need to be careful when out walking until the dogs get to know you and you know which ones are liable to bite and those that are harmless. I’m sure I mentioned way back about the dogs ruling the steps in certain areas and a volunteer who was bitten as he passed a group, resulting in him needing to take the rabies injections. Seemingly taking the rabies vaccine beforehand only reduces the number of injections you need if bitten and gives you a little longer to seek help. In the case of the poor dog next door they reckoned it might have been the lady who lived below me who poisoned him. She is lady you never really see. A few weeks later Liz and Guillermo bought a little pup for the girls. It was a cute wee thing and often stayed in the house with them at night. When I left all seemed to be well there.
While living in this property with all my frustrations I had 2 outlets for my stress..... no not alcohol!! :) One was the wonderful sacred rock just below the house. As well as the wonderful feeling I got from sitting on it, it was lovely to watch. There was a swing park, bars and see-saw around it and often it was filled with children playing happily. There was an alpaca which grazed on it and seemed to be the guardian as it chased the dogs away from it. Sometimes there seemed to be a game between the alpaca and one or two of the dogs as they chased each other around the swings. :) I visited this rock most mornings and did a little meditation. I was often there to see the sun rise which was lovely. Needless to say it was quiet at this time. My meditations didn’t always work, in that getting my brain to switch off could be difficult. Many times my experiences were different. There were days I could feel the energy from the rock the minute I stood on it and it could really settle my emotions and energy. I always went onto the rock barefoot..even in the cold! Other times it was just a nice way to start the day. There were even days in the rain that I took a mad notion and decided to use the swings afterwards and get well and truly soaked...that felt great!! :) Sometimes as I came off the waca there would be one or two guys there using the parallel bars and parts of the swing construction to build muscle mass....cheaper than a gym I suppose! The sunken pool at the side of this was often used by boys to play football, or for a small cost they could use the basketball court for football which was directly outside the compound we lived in and next to the waca. Men and women also used this court. There was always lots of activity in the area. Two houses along were volunteers and often they would hold parties so often the loud base music could be heard; fortunately not into the night. You could hear local discos some nights but not enough to keep me awake...earplugs are a godsend! :)
The other way I liked to get rid of my frustrations (and actually did this most nights) was put on my headphones, switch off all the lights, go out onto my little drying area which was only open on the side of the waca, so I was bathed only in the streetlights from above and below and dance myself silly! :) I found this very helpful before I went to sleep. No-one could see me or hear me so I could really let go! :)

In Santa Maria life is very different. The rent is a lot higher and I only rent the top half of a guest house which is quite large with 4 bedrooms, but I can use the kitchen and occasionally use the living room. I do clean the whole house though as I am the only one there just now. It does feel like home which is lovely. It is mostly quiet which is exactly what I need and the mountain..well that is very special...again this is for another blog. The house is actually a shamanic retreat with its very own meditation temple. The energy is just amazing and when I walked through the door to the grounds I just felt an overwhelming sense of relief and the tears started to roll down my face. An incredible experience actually. :) There is a beautiful garden which is mostly private when Lilo hasn’t got visitors or workers there.

When I first moved in Lilo explained I may need to share the house with others but that has never materialized although it has come close a few times. The reason for the rush to meet me and potentially move in way back in April was she needed to go to the U.S. and needed someone who could be here all the time looking after the animals with the housekeepers coming in at times. This worked well. When the housekeepers (Alicia and Virginia) weren’t here I fed the pets and made sure her house sounded lived in. Chikita and Michi both slept with me when the housekeepers weren’t there. Chikita slept under the covers in the crook of my knees all night..how she breathed down there I don’t know! :)

The animals are just lovely. Chikita, her small dog loves the walks; we have a routine where we climb part of the mountain most days unless I am unwell. Sometimes we have company from Choko (the forester’s dog ) or Leon an lovely older dog from next door. He is accompanying us and visiting much more often just now as we are looking after him while the neighbour is away for 5 weeks to Lima. They used to just leave him and the gardener would look in and feed him. He is never allowed in their house so lives outside. He was very lonely Lilo would tell me but this time they have asked if we will feed him and let him out so he is spending more time with us and enjoying it. He is also allowed in our houses which he is enjoying immensely. Unlike Chikita, who is very timid and frightens at so much he is so gentle and quiet.
I have had a couple of issues with our daily walks and Chikita. One day a couple of months ago she took fright as she saw a man coming down the mountain and disappeared. I shouted and shouted but she was nowhere to be seen. I was on my way up and thought she would join me. She didn’t. On the way down I continued to shout but to no avail. When I got back I checked with Lilo to see if she had headed home. She knows this mountain better than any of us so we all felt she would be OK. We had agreed when I first started taking her there would be no need for a lead on our walks. Anyway Lilo was a little worried so we all headed off..Lilo, myself and the housekeeper to try and find her. Two hours later we gave up and hoped she would return. She did about 2 hours later. After that Lilo agreed we should have just trusted her to come back. Last week however, while I was meditating she disappeared again. This was not like her, normally she sat and waited on me. There was no-one to spook her but she was getting more adventurous climbing up the bankings as we walked up and I would call her down. As I headed down I began calling her and about 5 mins from the top I met a man who I bumped into occasionally. We talked for a second and then I saw her appear down a steep slope minus her little jacket, which I had put on as it was cold. I reckoned she must have got caught on a bush and backed out of it. She was pretty subdued and it was only when we got back and we were all talking that I realized she had a problem with her eye..a thorn probably; so off to the vet they went and she remained at home for a day or two as one of her paws was also bothering her. I now tie her to a pole at the top so she isn’t tempted to wander off again.
The man I mentioned above is someone I had seen a few times and I was curious as to what he was shouting when he was at the miradors (viewpoints). I discovered it was the name of his 11 year old son who had died just 2 months beforehand of a rare type of leukemia. One day when our walks coincided and we climbed together he spoke to me at length about the lengths he went to, to help him recover, flying him to Spain and elsewhere. Unfortunately the treatments failed. He seemed to be the life and soul of his class, old for his years, a budding musician with a wonderful voice. I suggested Luis (the man) might want to visit Lilo to see if she could help them (he and his wife)..she is a great healer as I will explain in a future blog. So far he hasn’t but I think he might. Interestingly his son’s name was Hamish! I didn’t twig this until I asked him to spell it..said in Spanish it sounded very different. Again it is the huge success here of the film “William Wallace”. The number of people that say to me, when they find out I am Scottish..William Wallace..or why do your men wear skirts..to which I have to explain the strong traditional roots relating to the kilt and the family name.. just out of interest the Spanish word for kilt is “Scottish skirt” when translated literally. :) The story of this man and his son was so touching and still very raw for him it was hard not to cry when I saw his eyes welling up talking about him. He was obviously his world, being the only child they had. He has given me a picture of Hamish which I will bring to Scotland and place on a mountain. This feels right.

Other than Chikita, Lilo has 2 cats. Chaska, a beautiful black cat who is very shy of new people but is slowly getting more used to me so I see her closer at hand now and she even let me stroke her! :) Michi, the older cat, didn’t take long to get used to me. The first day I came to visit Lilo e sat on my knee which was lovely. :) He has taken up residence in my house now sleeping on my bed and now expects to get fed here too. I have resorted to buying dried food for him and get some from Lilo too on occasions. He's a big cat, looking a bit like a Puma and is really good company if a bit of a character. :) Being a cat he is enjoying all the attention and it is a fight to know where to put my feet in bed at night as he lies where I am, fortunately it is a double bed! :) Just to point out unlike Chaska he is no light weight cat! :) In the early hours he usually likes to come under the covers. I need to make sure my arms and back are covered as he stretches out claws which can make you jump at times! :) I have a few scratches from him. He also likes to give little love bites which I am not so keen on. A tap on the nose and he is learning that I’d rather not have that kind of affection! :) We have a routine where in the early morning, if I get up to the loo, I open my bedroom door giving him access to the kitchen where his food is and open the bedroom window a little so he can climb out onto the roof and down the tree at the side of it. If I am late of a morning and he wants out he stands on my chest! He knows how to get my attention! :) In the early evening once the patio doors are closed downstairs I leave the window open, if it is warm enough, until he is in or leave the curtains open so I can see him. He has a piece of chord which he likes to play with ..and if it not handy or I am busy he resorts to the end of the duvet cover!! :) All in all it seems to work well and we have all settled into this routine. :)
There is a little jealousy between Chikita and Michi but we are smoothing that over by making sure everybody gets the right amount of attention. Even with Leon over just now Chikita is a little jealous..pets are really just like children! :)

I lead a very quiet life here, not going out much. Getting a taxi late at night is not really great and to be honest I have enough going on personally - again which I will explain later. A good video and/ or a good book are all I need, tucked up in bed with my hot water bag....not to be without here I can tell you as it gets pretty cold at night! Although the sun is very hot you can’t forget you are also at altitude so any clouds or wind cause the temperature to drop dramatically. Layering is the key here. I always start out with a vest - that doubles as a vest top..they are lovely, a T shirt or shirt if going out, a scarf (essential), a fleecy or cardigan depending on where I am going and often a waterproof of varying weights depending on how cold it is, either on or in my rucksack. We have just come through their winter, the dry season so much less rain. The cold mornings with frost are now giving way to warmer days when the sun is out and milder nights. There seemed to be less frost this year so more of the flowers in Lilo’s garden survived. Sun hats are also a must and suncream. I sat out for an hour the other day when I hadn’t been feeling well and just wanted outside for a short time. I burnt my legs quite badly. I was glad of Lilo’s offer of fresh aloe vera from the garden. That worked a treat.

As I think I mentioned internet is a bit of a problem where I now stay. I currently borrow and pay my landlady for the use of hers when she is not using it. Unfortunately Skype seems to need so much more power and is not great here so I go to an internet cafe about once a week to Skype with the girls which is just lovely. The waitresses have been interested to see what the girls look like which is quite funny when I see their reflections in my computer screen having a quick look :) This weekly chat is a great way to hear all the little bits of news as well. I do miss them but Skyping helps enormously. I can keep up with Mum and friends too making distances seem much less. To get to the cafe I need to allow most of the day due to the travel time here but time is something I now have. :) The internet is better in the cafes but not fantastic. It is a long way off the service you have in the UK and elsewhere! There has been a promise of an upgrade of internet into the area Lilo’s house is situated but so far it is still not here. They first promised it for July but if it is in before I leave mid November I’ll be surprised!
One of the big frustrations for everyone here and I have had a taster of this on a few occasions is trying to get anything done. Service is not a word they really understand. The people here are either are incredibly rude and just won’t do it or charge a ridiculous amount because they don’t care (taxi drivers are the worst) or often promise this that and the next thing and then don’t deliver! Making an appointment doesn't mean they will turn up and they never call so if you have organised people to help you can be left with that additional cost. Times don’t really matter so turning up an hour or so late is no big problem to them and they wonder why you are angry. Apart for all the internet fiasco with the NGO when I moved I had fun with my mobile phone recently as it was just eating my credit and I wasn’t not using it! I was in different stores on 4 occasions before I got it resolved. On each occasion I had to wait nearly an hour to be seen! I found out laterally that the phone which I bought myself 2 years ago when I arrived wasn't even registered in my name!

So while I am complaining I shall touch on the men here!
What is it with the Peruvian men!! I’m sure there are a few exceptions but to be honest I haven’t seen or heard of many yet! They seem to think they are a law unto themselves! The machismo society here just beggars belief and the women put up with it!! From abuse of the children (mostly in the mountain communities) to having sex and children to various women, nothing seems to be taboo or feel wrong to these guys! I recently heard that one of the housekeepers here has discovered her husband is running 2 lives while married to her and as well as the 2 children he has to the housekeeper he also has 2 more to another lady and others are suspected elsewhere. I remember the look he gave me the second time I saw him and that was enough to make me wary! Honestly a lot of these guys are not great looking but they have an ego the size of the Empire State building!! I feel so sorry for the women and the children here and this feels like what may be next in line - helping to empower the women and help the children recover from the abuse and become the true, wonderful little beings they should be. We shall see how things unfold but this feels like a great cause and a passion of Lilo’s too.
I touched on my last place and the problems with my landlady’s husband. It’s not right that you are wary of being caught out alone at night and don’t want to use the garden because you’re not sure how many eyes are on you! Going to a disco isn’t safe unless you have a reliable male with you (a group of 3 with the friend’s husband has worked well in the past). Even then the bare faced lies these men tell you, like “I am a friend of theirs” or whatever just to strike up a conversation. I’ve been hit on by taxi drivers that seemed nice and one that my landlady had used for quite some time so I thought to be safe. He was even telling me about how difficult it was to pick up girls in some of these discos because they don’t speak Spanish. He actually phoned me up out the blue and asked where I was and did I want to meet for a drink!! I discovered later ,when I told Lilo about this, that he has a wife and a little girl for heavens sake!! Uuugh!
One of the issues is the standard way of greeting each other here. Everyone, male or female when greeting you kisses you on the cheek. The thing I have since learnt is be careful not to kiss back especially if it is a male, which is difficult for us who greet people in a friendly way at home..but here they can get the wrong impression and that you want to avoid. As you can imagine the men like to hit on “gringa” girls or women..we are different. Age seems irrelevant. Lilo who is 73 ( and looks great on it, mind you) often receives attention. I do think though, with the experiences and changes in me, I am having less issues which is great. Long may this last! :)

OK I think I have droned on for long enough and you are probably wondering why on earth does she stay?? Well the truth is there are fun times and what I am learning (albeit painfully at times) is well worth me sticking this out even without the NGO work at the moment.
Entonces.....Hasta luego mis amigos..part 2 to follow....

Posted by Heather Buc 11:40 Comments (0)

Birthday 2013

A short blog but one I felt best left on its own.

I have now had very different and special birthdays over the last 3 years.
In 2011, just before I began my volunteer work here, I finished a gruelling 10 day trek to Choquequirao, then following the trail to Machu Picchu . On my birthday we had an early start and toured Machu Picchu. I even have their very unique stamp in my passport on my birthday. How nice is that! It was a lovely day.
In 2012 I had another very early start (3am this time) and we climbed Mount Mismi in crampons (this was tough going as I lost everyone and my water pipe froze up)! The rest of the day improved though as we visited the true source of the Amazon very close by. It was here, as I walked back I got the most overwhelming feeling of this being the start of my new life. At the time I noted it but didn’t think to much more other than that. A year and a half later...wow was that quite a prediction. Time of course takes its own course but what I have experienced this year is certainly gradually taking me in what appears to be a completely different direction!!..We shall see. :)
A challenging day in many respects but so worth while... and one I will not forget! :)

2013, my birthday was a day we needed to visit the communities with visitors to the NGO. They had flown in especially so there was no way around it. As it turned out it was just lovely.

On the Saturday prior to that I got the most lovely surprise. A local gentleman arrived and rang the bell at the house. He had brought flowers. Lilo and I looked at each other. She said I have never had flowers before! It was from the girls! I was so taken aback! I didn’t think flowers could be sent Interflora here! I cried for about an hour I was soo touched. ..they really were lovely. :) Lilo said in all her 14 years here she had never received flowers! :)
On Sunday night Lilo and the house keeper gave me a birthday tea which was lovely. Chicken then a maricuya dessert...very nice it was too. :)

By Monday (my birthday) I was in work mode so I had forgotten it was my birthday. I was getting organized to do visits over the next 2 days. When Lilo (my landlady) came to say “Happy Birthday” I suddenly realized! :) ..so that was nice.
I arrived to meet the visiting Swiss man and his daughter who were staying in a hotel in Cusco and who could potentially be big donors for us, and who I had just met the night before. They both gave me a cuddle.
When we arrived at Pisac I received a large birthday cake from Rita , our nurse, and Aquiles , our driver and they sang “Happy Birthday” to me in the square! :) As is the tradition in Peru I had to bite into it to save it being pushed into my face..so I was in a nice sticky mess from the icing and it took a bit of cleaning off I can tell you! I’m not sure what they put in it but there must be some form of a glue constituent!! :)..We had time for a coffee and bit of cake before heading off to the community school we were visiting that day to set up new water filters and let them see what we do. As the cake was so large I had suggested we could share it with the teachers. I knew them pretty well having worked there as a volunteer teacher and working with the NGO over the past 2 years.
On the drive up Rita and I explained a little more about the communities and way of life, to help them understand the need here. After we finished preparing all the water filters and setting them up in the school. I assume Rita must have told Dionicio, the director as he then gave a lovely speech, in front of the teachers and visitors, thanking me for all my work from volunteering to continuing with Living Heart and supporting them. I was very touched! :) I then invited them for a piece of cake each. One of the teachers, Julia, who has been there a long time and who I know well put lots of confetti in my hair and gave me some daisies. They all then sang “Happy Birthday” to me...partly in English and partly in Spanish. :)
Following a suggestion by Dionicio and something Ernesto (the Swiss man) wanted to do, we headed for the laguna above the school. I had never been to it so this was quite a treat. It is considered very sacred and special which certainly felt the case. We could only drive so far before we had to get out and walk the rest of the way..but this just added to the charm of the place. On the way back we met the friendliest llama I have ever met..and boy did he like his photo taken! He was hilarious. He posed this way and that..obviously trying to give us his best side!! :) Back at the car we had another piece of cake before heading back to Cusco.
There was even enough cake to give a decent amount to Lilo and the housekeepers to have a bit too!

... Not bad for one day!
It felt like a very special day all in all. :)

....My next blog will be more about Peru life...until then mis amigos... hasta luego y cuidate. :)

Posted by Heather Buc 15:23 Comments (0)

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