A Travellerspoint blog

my fave band


amaru pumac kuntur...
that's the name of my favourite band at the moment.
it means "serpent puma condor" - underworld, the earth, and the heavens.
they're like a tribally, ethnic sorta band who worships pachamama - mother earth, and which i have been going to see regularly for the last one and a half weeks. i wished i had discovered them earlier... i've become such a groupie, even though they play almost the same songs every night and they play only for an hour.

anyway, i do have more goss to tell on this story but i really don't want the whole world to be reading it.

in fact, i think i might stop writing on this blog. i have been wanting to write about some other more personal matters but i've also been quite concerned with privacy issues, so i obviously haven't been writing much lately since i'm kinda settled in one place and not really travelling, nothing much happens except daily personal matters, which are interesting in themselves but not sure i want everyone to read it.

so this might be my last blog for quite a long while...
didn't last long with this new toy did i...
anyway, i much prefer emailing than this. and i feel like i'm duplicating what i write here and in my emails as well... waste of time really....

i might return when i start moving around again.
as it is, i'm thinking of extending my stay in cusco, but will see.

Posted by Chi 11:36 Comments (1)

monday 14th november

very exciting title


i'm sorry for the long and boring blogs guys... haven't had the inspiration to write lately, which is strange since i'm in a beautiful beautiful country...
but i'll try my bestest... i'm just gonna keep going with the (almost) daily updates until i can WRITE again.

so i went to the pisac ruins on sunday. to be honest, and i would never have thought i'd say this, but i'm ruined out.
for those who have travelled with me, u'd know i have never gotten temple-d out or canyon-ed out or even ruin-ed out. but this time, i'm afraid i am. i'm thinking maybe it's 'cos they are mostly inca ruins and they kinda all look similar AND there are no explanations on the site except for what i read in the lonely planet, which doesn't say very much especially write-ups on the smaller ruins. i don't know. or i can do the "blame it on the altitude" excuse again.
i have to say though, the altitude does have a li'l influence... i tire out so easily, and with a runny nose, it's no fun climbing up hills. so anyway, i'll be free of ruins for at least the next 2 weeks while i'm in cusco. a relief on your end as well maybe? no more long boring entries on ruins.

the ruins at pisac is huge. we spent about 4hours there, just walking around and climbing up and down hills. tiring.
didn'tm ake it to the sunday markets as by the time we got down from the ruins, it was 430pm...
think i'll make a trip there again this coming weekend just for the markets. it's only an hour on bus from cusco.

okay, so now there's truly no more mention of ruins.

we've all been very addicted to this new game introduced by phoebe (another volunteer). it's like the "who am i" game.
we all write about 10 names each (politicians/writers/celebrities/characters/etc) and throw them in a hat. split into 2 groups and take turns describing what we pick out from the hat to our team mates. 1 min each round. after that is done, we throw all the names back in the hat. and in the 2nd round, we're only allowed to use one word to describe the person. and in the 3rd round, we have to act out the person on the slip of paper.
it's really fun and addictive. next morning, we found out we all went to bed thinking up new names to write for in our next game.
it reminds me of tetris where i go to bed thinking of falling blocks and how they could all fit into the space.

did absolutely nothing today. it was raining. and it hailed for a short while too! the rainy weather is definitely here. even though it's summer, it gets quite cold at night because of the rain and because we're so high up. it'd be different once i get to the coast. but that's like another month away.

did i already say i'm planning to go to bolivia?
anyway, yep, that would be in early december after my volunteer stint is up. and then, i'll come back to peru, and travel west, and then north up the coast.

anyone interested in joining me?

Posted by Chi 15:40 Comments (0)

quick summary

oops... quite a long one really.


it´s been awhile since i´ve written... and i guess it´s all too much for me to update here... i´ll just do a quick li´l summary.
last weekend, caught a bus to urubamba (90mins, nice scenery) and then switched to a minivan to ollantaytambo (30mins) to visit the ruins there. nice little town. ruins were real cool... huge inca steps, apparently for defensive purposes... had dinner there and then took the 8pm train to the village of macchu pichu where we spent the night in a hostel.
the buses and minivans here all work the same way... they won´t leave until the vehicle fills up... so we always travel in a packed bus/van. there were about 8 flies buzzing around in the minivan... aw man... and only 1 window was opened while we waited the 20mins for passengers to slowly pile in... 15 in total, in a minivan.
a middle aged peruvian man - victor, sat beside us and started chatting to us... i couldn´t say much to him ´cos of my atrocious spanish, so brenda ended up talking to him most of the way. he had really bad breath and i was stuck between the 2 of them.
anyway, he was real nice... turns out he was also waiting for the 8pm train to the village of macchu pichu and so decided to show us around the ollantaytambo ruins - a massive inca fortress. he explained in spanish of course and i got brenda to interpret some of them. there were humongous stones in the ruins and it really is a wonder how they cart all them stones there. and not just that... fitted them nicely into each other to form walls. most of the big stones have protusions carved on them, as in the shape of the stone was carved into, leaving the protusions jutting out, and i guess they were used as handles?
anyway, i know i don´t make sense.

we got up at 430am the next morning. had brekkie, bought tickets for entry into macchu pichu, and took a 20mins bus up to the famous ruins.
yep, i cheated.. not only did i not do the 4-day inca trail, i didn't even attempt to do the 1hour trail up to macchu pichu from the village of macchu pichu. i just don't think i can hack it. i'm still huffing and puffing when i climb up the tiny hill (5mins) to school at puquin in cusco every morning.

macchu pichu is amazingly perched atop a hill. it was discovered in 1911 by an american historian hiram bingham. the most expensive (hence luxurious) train ride to the village macchu pichu is named after him.
anyway, the ruins were covered in cloudforests then... today, we can clearly see the ruins sitting quite comfortably and magnificently on a little hill, nestled between higher mountains.
it was good to arrive early... not many tourists, and the day was much cooler.
we had about 4 hours of bliss at macchu pichu before the tourist crowds arrived and then it was hell at some parts of the ruins...
but since we didn't get a guide, we sorta stopped around a few tour groups and listened in on their explanations... but we got bored with the crowds after awhile and decided to go on the short trail to intipunku - the sun gate.
we didn´t finish the trail... it was quite a walk and we could see a storm approaching. but the trail was beautiful.... nothing to block the view of macchu pichu. of course i had my obligatory cigarette stop. sat on the trail, overlooking macchu pichu in the distance, still looking royal and grand. sat there for about 20mins and decided to trek back down. we could actually see the storm coming nearer and nearer. we got to the ticket control area just in time. the heavy rains started pouring and boy was i glad i didn´t continue on with the trail as there were absolutely no shelters.

our train back to cusco was at 355pm and so we had plenty of time. we got back into the village of macchu pichu at around 1/130pm. had lunch and played word games to pass away the time since we can´t even walk around as it was pissing down.
we were so engrossed in our game that we missed our train!!!
well, i thought our train was at 4pm and that the station was where we got off the night before. and the cafe we were sitting in was just 1 block down the road from that station.
brenda rightly assumed too that the train back to cusco departs there. (i mean where else since it´s such a tiny li´l town right?). so when we got to that station, it was 350pm. a little late but we could have still made it if it was the right station.
but no.
when we got there, we saw a little sign that said, passengers who are non-locals please proceed to station 10mins down the road.
of course there wasn´t an arrow pointing which way. but brenda started running in one direction and i naturally thought she knew where she was going and followed after her. after about 2mins running downhill, i thought it didn´t look right to have a train station around, and said to brenda that maybe we are running in the wrong direction. i told her to put her spanish to good use and ask one of the locals. true enough, the station was back up the hill. we ran all the way back up the hill... obviously we´re still at altitude and so huffing and puffing away. we got to the station at 405pm. waaaaaaaay too late.
we were lucky enough that there were 2 extra seats for the 420pm train back to ollantaytambo though. and they did´t charge us extra for it.
the view on the train was way cool. i´ve never seen such huge boulders strewn across the river - the rio urubamba.
they were H-U-G-E.
i would have loved to take a few photos but i wasn´t sitting in the window seat =o(
we then caught a bus (5 soles) back from ollantaytambo to cusco. it kinda worked out well in the end as it was actually faster this way.

back to school on monday. it´s spanish on monday, and so yet again, i feel rather useless.
in the afternoon, i went to a few museums around the city of cusco.

there are 16 places of interests in cusco which u need to have slip of paper called the turisto boleto in order to visit. there are a few variations but i bought the one which lasted 10days and i have to visit all 16 places within the 10days.
i´ve already visited chinchero and ollantaytambo. there are a few museums in the city which i did on monday, and a super touristy cultural dance which i also watched on monday evening. i felt i had to go since it was on my turisto boleto.

tuesday was english at school and we all had a lot of fun. i taught the kids to name the parts of our body in english and had really bad drawings for some of them on the board. we also did some colouring... i´d call out something on the colouring sheet in english and they´ll colour them in.
it was pouring down in the afternoon so we all stayed in the hostel and played games.

wednesday can be any subject but we did math. weird math though. can´t explain them here. have to draw. but i don´t get why they´re teaching it.
so... midweek and i´ve still got lots to visit on the turisto boleto.
seemed like a good day after school and so went to the 4 ruins closest to cusco. the first was sacsayhuaman, lovingly known by the mnemonic "sexywoman". there are of course no sexy women there. the name sacsayhuaman actually means ´satisfied falcon´. it is both a religious as well as a military inca ruin.
the incas had envisioned cusco in the shape of a puma, and sacsayhuaman is supposed to be the head of this puma, with zigzagged formations which represents the teeth of the puma. these zigzag fortications were also very effective when on the defensive.
it rained bríefly while i was there, but when it stopped, there was not only 1 rainbow, but another smaller fainter one above the big bright one! it was a beautiful sight. there´s also a white jesus on the hill, like the one in rio de janeiro??... but smaller in scale i suppose. i´m not sure. not seen the famous one in real life.
after sacsayhuaman, we went on to qenko. this ruin has 3 levels - the serpent, the puma, and the condor. qenko´s a ceremonial ruin.
i wasn´t that impressed with puca pucara and tambo machay, the next 2 ruins. but at tambo machay, there is a small fountain which is said to make u look young for the next 5 years if u wash your face in it. (don´t they all?). anyway, tambo machay is thought to be connected to an inca water cult, so just to be on the safe side, i did wash my face in the "fountain of youth (for 5 years)".

thursday was math. so we did math again at school. weird math.
then i had homework club. bruceperu and worldvision share this small project. everyone takes turns to go in the afternoons. we just sit with the children and assist them with their homework. some of the children there are bruceperu kids but many aren´t. but they´re lovely kids and so warm... as soon as i entered, they had their smiley faces on, and gave us hugs and kisses... i probably won´t see them much though... as i´m only here for a month and i don´t go there everyday.

friday was crafts day. we continued where we left off last friday, which was making belts. or rather, weaving belts. i must say mine isn´t looking all that great. but hey, it still looks like one!
went to 2 more ruins in the afternoon. they were nice. one was a pre-inca ruin from the wari culture, at pikillacta, which makes for a nice change. the walls were more haphazardly constructed but we were liking it. very different from the nicely and neatly constructed incan walls. tipon, the other ruin is an inca agricultural/irrigation ruin. very pretty with deep terraces.

saturday - today:
am taking it easy today...
walked around the city... there are many little alleyways which i´ve not visited so i´m slowly discovering them. had a yummy lunch down in an alley behind the plaza. not sure what i´ll be doing tonight yet. will see what happens when i get back to the hostel.

will be visiting the pisac markets and the pisac ruins tomorrow with the other volunteers. should be great fun. can´t wait to see the spread of the colourful handicrafts in the markets. not that there aren´t any here in cusco, too many in fact, but mostly in shops. but i think it´s a much grander affair up in pisac. and i heard the ruins are great too. am hoping for good weather tomorrow.


Posted by Chi 13:19 Comments (0)

Chinchero and karaoke

04 November 2005, Friday


wow... i visited macchu pichu over the weekend, but i won't write about it here... will update on the other ruins i visited before the main highlight -- i think it's a mistake to have already visited macchu pichu so early on in the trip though. nothing i see now will beat that i reckon... at least not the other ruins!

anyway, on friday afternoon, i took a bus (45mins) with 2 others - phoebe and brenda, to chinchero, a small little village with a small li'l ruin by the square and a nice church. well i thought the interior of the church was quite nice but my travelling partners weren't really that into it. the walls and ceilings were painted with angels and cherubs and repeated patterns... there is no space left unpainted. and there were colourful statues adorning the sides and front of the church. alot of gold paint used, but they're not sparkly or tacky... like a lot of other churches i've seen elsewhere.
there was a really weird statue though in a smaller room. it was lying down in a coffin... looked kinda freaky. i really wanted that interpreted, but as in all or most of peru, there are no english translation, or if there were, they´re very bad...

the ride back was surreal. we took a collectivo taxi, which costs us s/3 (3 soles) each, around S$1.50 or 50p. we 3 piled into the backseat of the taxi. and since it´s a collectivo, we had to wait for the cab to fill up before the driver would move. so slowly one by one, the cab got full...
by the time we were ready to go, there were two (quite big) 50 year old peruvian ladies in the front with the driver, two 90 year old peruvian grannies + 1 middle-aged peruvian man in the boot. and the driver looked real squashed in the front seat... well i thought he might have difficulties controlling the steering wheel, but he seemed very comfortable with the idea when we set off and i guess he did real well. we got back to cusco in half an hour.

later on in the night, the whole group went to karaoke just outside of town. there was a pretty good selection of english songs i must say. i was quite impressed. everyone else in the pub were peruvians except us, so mostly spanish songs were sung. it took a really long time for the mike to get back to our table and so we left after about 3 drinks. i didn't get to sing my bohemian rhapsody. we left before it got to me. i'm thanking my lucky stars.

Posted by Chi 17:20 Comments (0)

beautiful suburb of san blas

cusco, peru 5pm


i'm sitting in an internet cafe in a beautiful beautiful surburb in cusco called san blas. i'm so falling in love with this quaint li'l surburb. just sorta walked around aimlessly, without a map... up and down the twisting slippery cobbled streets. sat in one of the cafes that overlook the tiny plaza, which overlooks the valley, and in the distance, the residential surburbs on the hills... drinking "mate de coca" - coca leaves tea. supposed to help with altitude sickness. i'm not sure if it really helped, but i've been drinking it. it has very small traces of cocaine in it i think. very tiny tiny minuscule amount. and no, i didn't feel high or anything. it kinda tastes like green tea.

today, we brought the kids out to the park, something like a big wonderland with very basic rides. there are stuff like mega long and steep slides, long twisty slides, and also merry-go-round and octopus-type rides as well but u've got to push them manually to make them spin. tiring for us though. and there was this particular girl marie-fernandez, who absolutely loved the swing. me and emma had to take turns to push her. she still doesn't get the kick-your-leg-and-u'll-continue-to-swing concept. she will yell out to us every 20secs or so in spanish, "teacher push me". i think she was on it for most of the 2 hours we were there.

(just an aside, this keyboard i'm typing on has an annoying exclamation mark that doesn't work.)

i think i might visit macchu pichu this weekend. i won't do the 4 day inca trail, as i don't think i'm gonna make it. just climbing the 5 steps in the hostel that leads to our rooms is making me all huffy and puffy. plus, if the terrain is anything like the hills where the school is, i'll probably just slip and fall in my doc martens boots. yeah, didn't bring my trekking shoes... was trying to save some space (and weight) in my backpack.
so i might take a train to the nearest town - aguas calientes, and stay the night there. and then wake up very early in the morning and do a really short trek to macchu pichu, before the tourist crowds arrive on the buses/trains.

u guys should make your next holiday trip to cusco.
it's absolutely fantastic...

Posted by Chi 12:54 Comments (1)

i am finally awake

cusco, peru 1555hrs


ohmigawd... i'm sorry guys for not writing earlier... been so tired and jetlagged and lariam-ed out and altitude sickness-ed.
i'm not sure which one of the above made me feel like shit the whole time, but it's definitely one of those... or a combination of all of them.
for those who don't know, i took some lariam pills as prophylaxis for malaria before i left singapore and have been feeling sick. i've stopped taking them after the second day but i was still feeling the side effects when i got to LA.
the valley of cusco is 3326m above sea level and i probably am suffering a wee bit from the altitude. hard to tell as the symptoms are somewhat similar to the side-effects of lariam.
but i've finally almost recovered from feeling sick and woozy and.. oh oh oh... i was so sick that i didn't smoke a single cigarette the whole time...
so anyway, i feel a lot better today and went for breakfast in beautiful cusco. this place is totally amazing! i'm loving it so much! there are still remains of inca walls (used as foundations for the newer colonial and modern buildings) and the streets are covered with cobbled stones... it's like being in a 14th century inca village but with all the modern contraptions zooming past u. aw man, but the pollution from the cars are real bad though.
real bad.
not a good thing for someone suffering from altitude sickness and wanting more oxygen than normal.
cusco is quite touristy but it has got such a good vibe and i can't stress how beautiful the valley is, nestled between the mountains. the main plaza/square is really cool too with the huge cathedral. i have to take a photo and somehow get it scanned or something and put it up here.or borrow someone's digicam.
if anyone read my diary entry, u would know that i brought along a camera that isn't working...!!! i am so pissed off with myself for not checking beforehand. i've bought a disposable one in the meantime to tide me over.
this morning after breakfast at this quaint li'l cafe with a balcony hanging over the pavement (there are lots of these cafes and restaurants and pubs in cusco, and the buildings are only 2 storeys high), i walked down the main street and there was a colourful procession going on. i quickly hopped into the nearest film shop and bought another disposable camera and started snapping away... the whole time not forgiving myself for bringing a spoiled camera.

anyway, yesterday was halloween - day of the dead. and today is the day of the living, so i thought maybe that's why they have the procession. but i noticed they were carrying a picture of jesus on the cross. so i was quite confused the whole time. got back to the hostel, and found out through one of the other volunteers, brenda, who's been here long enough that it could be the procession of the lord of earthquakes!
a long time ago (i'm not sure when) there was an earthquake... so the people of cusco paraded around the plaza with a crucifix, praying for the earthquake to stop. and stop it did (no surprise there...). so anyway, ever since then, they've got this procession of the lord of earthquakes.
brenda asked if i had taken a good look at the picture of jesus on the cross. i said no. she said, if he's wearing something like a short skirt, then it's definitely the lord of earthquakes. well then, i might have to develop my disposable camera soon to identify that one! it might not be though 'cos someone else at the hostel mentioned later that they thought the procession of the earthquakes was in march. hmmm....

i had my first day of school yesterday. it was up in the mountains... well not too high up, but further up than the main city. it's said to be a rough neighbourhood so don't think i'll be wandering there after sunset!
but the kids are so cute and lovely. there are about 10 of them, and they are divided into 2 groups according to their age. six in the younger group and four in the older one. i was supposed to be in charge of the older group but only one turned up yesterday and he was throwing a tantrum and we couldn't handle him, so we left him alone to brood. i went and joined the younger group. they were learning spanish phonetics, so not much help there from me!

okay, i think this is how it works: there are 2 spanish teachers, 1 for the young 'uns and 1 for the older group. so me and another volunteer, emma, help them out everyday. monday is spanish. tuesday is english. wednesday is math. thursday is something else, i forgot what. and friday is art&craft. so monday is basically just to sit around and make sure they stay put and don't run away while the spanish teachers teach them spanish.
they have a really short attention span.
and then the other days, we can chip in.
so everyday, they have lessons from 9am to 10am. then it's playtime from 10am to 1030am. played soccer with the boys yesterday.. fun! the girls were swinging on home-made swings, made from skipping ropes. then from 1030am to 1130am, they have lessons again. and then they break for lunch. we bring along packed lunches and juice from the hostel for the kids. then they each line up for some toothpaste to brush their teeth... very cute. and then, they line up for moisturisers, to keep their hands moisturised 'cos a lot of them have really bad cracked skins. and then they go home.
so that's a typical day i guess. i've only done one day. today's a public holiday. tomorrow too, but we're bringing the kids to the park.
the afternoons are usually free, so we can do whatever we like. can take spanish classes too, but i think i won't have time for that even though i'd love to do it. i want to explore cusco and the surrounding areas too! will see how it goes. then in the evenings, we teach english to adults, i think... i haven't been assigned to do the evening classes yet.
i get fed 3 meals a day for all the days when there's school, and find my own meals on other days.
it's been okay so far... i guess... i mean i haven't exactly been "awake" at all until today...
i missed out on halloween too last night. BrucePeru, the organisation i'm with, organised a halloween night at one of the clubs here last night to try and raise money for the kids. i went back at 10pm. just couldn't hack it.

alrighty, i think i've written enough and over-compensated for the last few days of not reporting in. am actually getting real tired again... i think it's the altitude. yeah blame everything on the altitude...

Posted by Chi 11:50 Comments (0)


a need to organise

hmm... i think i'll have to do some categorising of my entries.
will keep the "mass email" type ramblings here, in the travel blog section. and move the daily mundane stuff to my diary section.

Posted by Chi 11:10 Comments (4)

Pre-trip rant

also an introduction to my first online-blogging experience

rain 27 °C

so,... this entry is just a dry-run for me as I've not used an online blog before... yeah, gotta roll with the times.
trying to work out how I can direct traffic (mainly friends), to my travelblog too.

am feeling a li'l unprepared and anxious about this trip. it is all happening so quickly, even though i guess i've planned it in my head for the last few months. i'm excited though! 2 more weeks!

have read my LonelyPlanet... surfed countless pages of info on the web... contacted the NGO I'm volunteering with... booked my flights... paid my volunteer fees... taken my vaccinations - Tetanus, Typhoid, Yellow Fever and the 1st dose for Hep A+B...

and there is still plenty left to arrange/buy/do/pack/plan/read/etc.etc.
blah blah blah

am still waiting for the delivery of my macpac from sydney!
(that's a brand of backpack for all those not acquainted with things antipodean)
ahh yes... i've succumbed to online consumerism.

oh, some of you might not know what I'll be doing in Peru.
the plan is:
get into Lima, stay the night.
fly to Cusco the next day.
hook up with BrucePeru, the NGO I'm volunteering with.
spend a month there, and if I like what I'm doing with them, (and vice versa i suppose), will extend my volunteer stint for another month.
if not, I'll start travelling.

first stop: Machu Picchu. Will do the 4 day Inca Trail. *so excited*

the rest of the trip is a blur right now, but the plan is roughly this:
Lake Titicaca
cross border into La Paz, Bolivia
back into Peru
Canon Del Colca
Nazca (nazca lines!!)
Trujillo (chan chan!!)
and after this, it gets even blurrer...

i'll be there for at least 7-8weeks i reckon. if that's the case, i'll be back in singapore for new year's.
if not, i dunno... probably back in late jan/feb.

It all depends on the financial situation and enjoyment factor.

so all those in Singapore, please keep a look-out for any freelance jobs i might have when i get home!


Posted by Chi 13:40 Comments (2)

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