Tucan Travel - Lake Titicaca, Peru.

The main reason we had come to Puno was to visit Lake Titicaca. This lake is in between the borders of Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains. It is one of South America’s largest lake, it is said to be the birthplace of the Incas, with numerous ruins across several islands situated in the lake. Titicaca means Grey Puma.

We woke up early and packed a little bag as we would be staying in a homestay on one of the islands. Outside of the hotel was a line of bike and carriages, which would take us to the boats. This was unexpected (as we all assumed we would be getting there by bus) and incredibly fun, as about 20 of these bikes and carriages raced each other across this small town with the winner having a small victory moment. 
lake titicaca, peru
lake titicaca, peru

At the boats we were split into two groups, and honestly, I don’t think our group could have picked a worst tour guide. I feel bad for saying this, but he was extremely irritating and kept repeating himself over and over. Our first stop on the lake was to see the Uru people and the floating islands they live on, these floating islands are made of reeds. The Uru people use bundles of dried totora reed to make boats and the islands, the island we visited was home to around 4 families, but the larger island can house up to 10. We were told about the construction of the islands, the reeds which are used have a dense root which forms a natural layer that support the islands, they are anchored together with ropes attached to sticks driven in the bottom of the lake. The reeds can rot quickly so are replaced every so often. We were also told about the food they eat e.g. fish and birds from the lake, shown garments and rugs they had made and had a ride on a traditional reed boat.  At this point, a lot of us were hungry since we did not have the time to have breakfast in the morning. One of the floating islands had a few items of food, so I bought some form of pastry the only thing I could really eat. The floating islands were interesting to see but at the same time I wasn’t wowed, or felt like my expectations were met, it was interesting but at the same time it felt like a show for tourists and my whole stay on Lake Titicaca felt like this for reasons you will see. 
lake titicaca, peru

lake titicaca, peru

lake titicaca, peru
Back on the boat a few of us went out on deck and sat/fell asleep watching the vast amount of water grow around us, the ride was longer than I had anticipated around two hours, so it was relaxing to just lay there under the sun.  The homestay made me nervous, I knew there was going to be a language barrier, even though we were given a sheet with Quechua and Aymara words on. As the boat pulled up we could see our ‘Mommas’ waiting for us, we were all split in twos and taken to our homestay. Our homestay was nice, with a beautiful view that looked out on the lake. Me and Ella still felt slightly awkward as we waited in our room for lunch before our ‘Momma’ came and told us it was ready. We were severed potatoes, soup and tea, which was delicious especially since I was incredibly hungry, I cold have eaten more. Our ‘Momma’ then brought out loads of items she had made in attempt to sell us something, which made both of us uncomfortable we commented on how nice the items were but neither of us were keen to buy anything.
lake titicaca, peru

lake titicaca, peru
After lunch, we headed to the town square to meet everyone to play football with the local children and to go to the highest point on the island and watch the sunset. I didn’t participate in the football, but it was fun to watch and avoid narrowly getting hit by the football. The walk to the top was hard, honestly, I was so sick off walking at this point! It was freezing and so windy, I would have been happy to not have done the walk. However, we did see some ruins and once we reached the top we walked around one three times and made a wish… We then watched the sunset, although it was cloudy, so it wasn’t the best setting I have ever seen. Me and Ella started to head back down before it had completely set, heading back to our homestay and dinner. 

After dinner we got dressed in traditional clothing to head to a dance, we assumed it would be the whole village, instead it was just our group and their homestay momma’s and papa’s. Here, we spoke to everyone else asked them what they had to eat etc. Everyone had pretty much been given the same meal, I then spoke to another girl I had befriended who could speak Spanish and had spoke to her ‘papa’ who told her everything on the island is for tourism, that the families speak to each other and discuss who will be dancing in the square that day and what time, that it is all stage since tourism is a form of income for them. To be honest, I found it quite sad that everything is this way and for us their way of life is a show for us to go and gawk at.

Anyway, the evening was full of dancing and music. It really was not my cup of tea at all, but I did join in for a few dances and watched from the side lines the rest of the evening, BUT I was so happy when our ‘momma’ came to get us telling us it was bed time! It was also a relief to take of the clothing, with the dancing and thinking I would be cold so I had put layers on underneath I was incredibly hot and sweaty.

The next morning, we woke up early, had breakfast and gave our homestay gifts. These were food items, pasta and rice for example. Our ‘momma’ walked us back down to the boat and we said bye and gave hugs. Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of the homestay on the lake and I would have opted out of it in favour for something else if that was possible. Most of us thought we were going straight back to Puno, myself included so I had skipped having a wash/brushing my teeth, so I could shower when I got back to the hotel since the homestay had no running water. Turns out we were heading to another island on the lake, none of use were happy about this, we just wanted to head back to the hotel. There isn’t exactly much to talk about either, it was exactly like the island we had come from and when we got there all we did was walk over it and meditate at some ruins. We then headed to a place to eat, this wasn’t included in the cost and since there was only two options, none of which I could eat, me and a few others decided to opt out so a lot of us ended up being extremely hungry. Here though we did have some nice demonstrations and talks on the clothes the people wear, what different colours mean and shown a plant they use to wash their clothes since it becomes soapy in water. That was about the most interesting thing about this trip. Coming to this island just seemed incredibly pointless.

I think all of us felt the same when we finally got on board the boat to head back to Puno! However, it turns out due to striking in Puno we would be leaving as soon as we got back onto land, there was a lot of confusion and a mad rush when we got back to the hotel to grab our stuff and get onto the truck. The plus side to this though meant we would be arriving in La Paz, Bolivia a day early giving us another full day in La Paz. That’s how we spent the rest of the day/evening on the bus, crossing the boarder and arriving in La Paz in the evening where thankfully we had food waiting for us. I had a shower and went straight to bed.

Have any of you ever visited Lake Titicaca, I would love to hear your thoughts and see if you felt the same as me?

Tucan Travel - Cusco, Peru.

cusco peru
Cusco was a city that I quickly fell in love with, and I was so happy that I would get those few extra days here due to a change in the itinerary (which also allowed me to go to Rainbow Mountain.) Whilst in Cusco I also did a trip to the Amazon and the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. The change meant I had two and half days to explore Cusco.
choc cafe cusco peru

cusco peru
cusco peru
We arrived in the afternoon, so after dropping out things off at the hostel we were staying at (Hostal Saphi) Mafar, our tour guide decided to give us a quick walking tour of the city. She pointed out attractions such as places to eat, paths that led to historical parts of the city, where the main square was etc. Cusco is known for its archaeological remains, its Spanish colonial architecture, carved wood balconies and Incan wall ruins, it is a beautiful city. The first afternoon we spent walking around the city, booking onto Rainbow Mountain, looking in shops and going for desert at the Choco Museo. If you love chocolate you have to go here (although at the time of writing this, I am now vegan...) as the name implies everything on the menu contains chocolate! You can also have a look around the museum and have a go at making your own chocolates! I opted for hot chocolate with whipped cream and a brownie and ice cream, it was DIVINE! For some reason, we ate desert before dinner and shortly afterwards we headed to an Italian place called CarpeDiem. The food here is incredible, we ate here twice on the first and last day and honestly, I have been dreaming about the pasta dish the last time we went ever since, it was that good. The restaurant is slightly small inside, so there may be a wait, but it is so worth it!
alpaca cusco peru

markets, cusco, peru
Our next day in Cusco was Peruvian Independence Day, we expected there to be a parade perhaps, but it was a relatively quiet day with the odd firework going off in the evening. Today we explored the markets, there are so many different stalls from places to get fresh food to woolly socks and hats to pens and keyrings. It was a nice day spent walking around, doing a little bit if shopping. You are sure to spot many Alpacas around Cusco as well, with many people asking if you would like a picture with one.

la bom cafe peru cusco
My next full day in Cusco was after the Inca Trail, today we discovered another incredible place to eat called La Bo’m where I ordered crepes, fruit salad, juice and a tea all for 20 soles which is the equivalent of around £5. It was a cute little café (also a hostel) and a place I would recommend going for brunch. After a few full days, rainbow mountain, the amazon and the trail, today was all about relaxing so we walk around leisurely in and out of markets and shops. The ones who did the trail like myself were in dyer need of a massage, so we spoke to one of many people advertising this service, picked one with a reasonable price and off we went. It was without a doubt one of the most awkwardness massages of my life, I pretty much got changed in public view with curtains that didn’t fully close and beds next to each other, people coming in and talking to the masseuse, and the masseuse pulling my underwear up and all sorts, I 100% picked the wrong day to wear lace underwear.

This is just a little round up to what I got up in Cusco, honestly it is a beautiful city and a gateway to many activities. I felt incredibly safe here and comfortable walking around by myself. If I ever get the chance to return to Peru, then this would be the first place I would go. 

Tucan Travel - Machu Picchu, Peru.

machu picchu, tucan travel500 people are allowed on the Inca trail every day (with 300 of those spots going to porters etc.) The Inca trail, is classed as a typical tourist thing to do and I have seen words such as ‘overcrowded’ being used to describe the trail. For me, the word overcrowded could not be further from the truth! It was rare I saw anyone on the trail, occasionally crossing paths with some people (or those from my own group who went at a slower pace) and only ever seeing people at rest points and at campsites. The final walk to Machu Picchu is probably when I realised how many others were on the trail. We woke up early, around 5am to be ready and waiting at the final control (which I think opened around 7am.) We were one of the first groups sat waiting in the cold and dark to be let through. I went to the toilet and one point, almost getting lost but only finding my way back due to this long que of people.  

It was cold and misty, and it felt like hours before the control border opened. It was still dark and we used our head-torches to guide us over a rocky, uneven path. Out of all the trail, it was here that I almost slipped several times. The last hike though, almost felt like a race, everyone competing to be the first ones to get to Machu Picchu. I spotted some hikers getting aggravated by others on the trail if they overtook them or got in the way… I am not sure I saw the point in racing to get there, we were all going to see Machu Picchu despite who gets there first, but with everyone rushing it made me increase my speed. I could feel the sweat building up on my skin, followed by breathlessness and the need to have a drink (although I was so ready to drink water that did not taste like toilet water…) The fun part of this hike was the monkey steps, gaining the name because you pretty much climb the steps because they are so steep! The steps were a challenge, but lead you up to the sun gate which is or should have been our first viewing point of Machu Picchu.

Unfortunately for us, we were greeted with a cloud covered Machu Picchu. However, we did not let this get us down, we were all so proud of ourselves for completing the hike! Our group had separated along the way, we waited here for everyone to arrive, had snacks and water before heading down to Machu Picchu.

Our look around Machu Picchu was split into two parts, our guide would give us a tour around Machu Picchu pointed out points of interest, afterwards we would have to exit Machu Picchu then re-enter, so we could walk around by ourselves. Our guide was so knowledgeable on Machu Picchu, telling us so much information about Machu Picchu, most of which I cannot remember. Machu Picchu was still covered in thick, heavy cloud (which is evident in the photos) as we walked around. The temple of the sun, was one of the first sites we were shown, semi-circular construction which has been built over a rock of granite, mummies are said to have been worshipped here and it is considered a place of great energy. The temple of the Condor, was another amazing example of Inca stonemasonry, the Inca’s shaped this rock to look like a condor in flight, located on the floor is the condor’s head and neck which completes the 3D image of the condor. Under the temple a small cave was found that contained a mummy. Intihuatana, also known as the Inca sun dial is a rock which is associated with astronomy, it is aligned to sun’s position during winter solstice. Machu Picchu for me, was so much more than I expected, I did not anticipate how huge Machu Picchu was, the grand scale of the buildings, the sophisticated architecture.
machu picchu

As the time came for us to exit (picking up Machu Picchu stamps in our passports) and re-que, the clouds had disappeared, so our main objective was getting the classic photo of Machu Picchu. It took us a while to find the perfect angle, and not completely packed full of other tourists. Afterwards, we then made our way down to catch the bus into Aguas Calientes and the train and bus back to Cusco where the first thing I did was take a well needed shower.

Hiking the Inca trail and seeing Machu Picchu was such an incredible experience, and I am so grateful I got the chance to see such a beautiful site. Walking for three and a half days may seem grueling but the reward at the end was worth it, along with the incredible satisfaction feeling I got after putting my body through something I didn’t think it would be able to cope with. 
machu picchu inca trail

Tucan Travel - The Inca Trail, Peru.

When you think of Peru there are many things that come to mind, but the one everyone (or so I hope) knows is Machu Picchu. I could not go all the way to Peru and not see Machu Picchu, thankfully due to booking early I managed to get a spot on the Inca Trail hike (only a certain amount of tickets are available for each day and have to be booked months in advance.) Alternatively, you can do a one-day hike to Machu Picchu, catch a train or do a trail known as the Lares trail.

Day one.

I woke up feeling nervous but excited, the day before the company/guide who would be taken us on the trail did a talk with us, going over health and safety, giving us details on how far we would be walking, when we would be stopping, about the food and toilets etc. Everything sounded simple, so it reassured me that the trail would go smoothly. We were provided with a duffle bag to pack our items in that we would not need on the trail and would be carried by porters, I did this in the morning and made sure I had a ridiculous amount of water in my day pack. Once packed, those who were doing the Inca trail headed for the bus, on route we stopped at a local café and shop for breakfast. Next, we picked up the porters who would be doing all the hard work for us! We were then back of the bus ready to start the trail, I decided to rent walking sticks (and trust me they helped a lot) so after adjusting the sticks and buying a Machu Picchu hat to wear to protect my face from the sun I was ready to go. 

Our starting point was KM82, here we posed for photos before heading down to the check point. Here, you show your pass ports and tickets for the Inca Trail, we had a slight problem here as one of the passports details on the tickets was typed incorrectly but thankfully they were allowed on the trail. The views at the check in point were incredible with the Urabamba river and snow-capped mountains in the distance, it was a sign of wonders to come and looking back now I did not quite take half as many pictures on the Inca trail as I probably should have. I was too engaged and focusses of putting one foot in front of the other to keep getting my camera out. The hike on day one was more of a ‘gentle’ uphill slope with a few hills as far as I can recall, it felt like the perfect hike to break you in for the days to follow. Along this route, there are family homes selling drinks and snacks which should be taken advantage of to stock up on water, on day two there gets to a point where you will no longer see people selling drinks and water, and trust me drinking boiled water does not taste good… Eventually, we reached Llaqtapata a large Inca village, photographs do not quite do this place justice it was an incredible site. Here, I took of my bag for a while as it was already making my shoulders ache, sat down and enjoyed the view. Our guide, told us a brief history of Llaqtapata, what the village was used for, how it was discovered etc. 

It was not long before we were ready for lunch, we ate our first lunch in the garden of some local people, who had chickens and kittens and we sat and watched the two children play with these animals and then things got strange and they started painting on the animals… Anyway, a gazebo was put up for us to eat in, with a table with a cloth arrange for us. It exceeded all our expectations, and the food… No words, it went beyond anything I could have imagined for the Inca trail. We had a starter of soup, followed by a main and then a dessert. It was bliss, every time we had food on the trail there was always an animal made from vegetables from toucans to monkeys, it kept us all smiling on the trail wondering what animal we would have each time we sat down for food. The food on the trail was fantastic from start to end, and they accommodated any dietary requirements.

On the first day of the hike our group stayed close together, talking to each other, getting to know each other a little bit better. We had occasional rests and breathers, taking in the scenery and seeing if we could spot any wildlife, we did see a hummingbird. It was not long before we reached camp for the evening, we camped in the garden of locals who thankfully had a flushing toilet (although it ended up getting clogged up and well, not a nice story…) our tents were still being set up when we arrived, so I had a quick walk around. Guinea pig is a common food in Peru and this house had lots of them running around, which made me a little sad since I have had guinea pigs as pets throughout the whole of my childhood and know what fantastic animals they are… but it is also interesting to learn about different cultures. Once the tents were set up we grabbed our duffle bags and settled in, again we had an incredible meal before heading off to bed early (around 7pm) ready for an early start the nest day. I thought I would have the worst night sleep, but thankfully I had such a good sleep, I was expecting to be freezing but I was so warm and toasty the whole night (and not once on the trail at night was I cold.) 
Day two.
This day is meant to be the hardest day on the Inca, and for me it was. We started at around 2,800 metres above sea level and would be working our way up to 4,200m, across Dead Woman’s Pass the name itself sounds so terrifying. However, its gets its name from the fact the mountain shape looks like a woman lying down and if you look closely enough one of the mountain tops resembles a nipple. So yeah, the name might sound scary but the reason behind it not so much.

After a good night of sleep, our porters woke us up early with a basin of water to wash in and a hot cup of coca tea which was such a pleasant way to wake up. I got dressed for the day and sorted my day pack out before putting everything else I would not need in my duffle. To travel light, I pretty much worn the same clothes every day and only changing under garments, I kept a jumper and jacket in my day bag. Ready for the day, I went and had breakfast which was delicious. We then had a talk about the trail for the day and headed off.  

Today, everyone went at their own pace. Everyone on the trail is at a different level of fitness and tolerance to the altitude. For me, I just took my time, I did not want to rush it and push my body pass it limits. But today was hard, there was so many steps. The altitude made it even more difficult, I stopped several times because it was just so hard to catch your breath. Our guide showed us how to roll and crush coca leaves and ash to chew on to prevent altitude sickness, you place the leaves in your mouth chew for several seconds and repeat every now and then. I am not sure if it prevented altitude sickness, I did not get it (I had felt fine previously in Cusco,) but it did make it easier to breathe as the leaves numb your mouth and open your airways. 
It was hard to take in the surroundings at times, when you are focusing on walking and breathing but the sights were incredible. From dry and barren landscapes to walking in cloud forest streams running through. As a group we decided today that rather than stopping for lunch we would walk directly to where we would be camping for the night and have lunch on arrival, this was to mainly save time and it also benefited the porters. Reaching the peak of the pass was hard, up and up it went and as soon I you thought you were there you realised there was more steps and hill to climb. Those that had reached the point before others in the group were there waiting to cheer us as we all one by one reached the peak.  It was such as incredible moment to finally reach the top and be in awe that I climbed all that way (I was planning to, but I did little training before doing the hike) once at the top I sat down and relaxed, taking in the surroundings and having a quick snack. Half an hour later I was ready to carry on walking. 
I arrived at our camp, Pacaymayu in the afternoon. I was so ready to take of my shoes and get rid of my daypack. I made the terrible mistake of going to the toilet, which were now long drops wearing flipflops, never again!! We had lunch once everyone was at camp and spent the afternoon resting before dinner. I was exhausted and so ready to go to sleep after dinner, unlike the other night however I did not sleep well and woke up several times needing the toilet. However, going out at night was stunning. The moon was so bright I could see as if it was day.

Day three.
This was by far my favourite day on the trail and what our guide called the cultural day, as today we would come across several Inca ruins. The walk was also very scenic and not as difficult as previous days, but there was still steps to climb up and steps to climb down from! Unlike other days though, there is more of a descent on day three which can put a lot of pressure on your legs, so others struggled with this day more. I mentioned that I had hiking sticks and they really did make a difference. 

After breakfast, we were ready to go. The first site we came to was Runkuraqay a cylinder and small archeologically site. Our guide told us a brief history of the site, why it was built, which was more than likely a store/post house where people would stop and rest on their journey to Machu Picchu. Our guide went into talking about buildings, and how the Inca’s designed and built buildings in a certain way, buildings will align or face towards the sunset etc. It is really fascinating when you consider how the Inca’s may have done this and for what purpose. Today, we had two passes to cross the highest being 3.950 metres. Thankfully, it was not half as gruelling as the day before. After the first pass we came upon another site, Sayacmarca.

This was the biggest ruins we had seen so far and it was incredible, to enter the site you have to climb a one way staircase (which is a task in itself) some people might choose to skip the site but I would recommend going up! The site is split into two sections, a residential area and a temple. I’ve been told this site was not originally built by the Inca’s but was vastly improved by them, how accurate that information is I do not know. Sayacmarca is a place that would be incredible to watch the sunrise and set, due to the way the site was built and situated. Our guide gave us a good tour of this site and provided plenty of information, most of which I have forgotten because I did not write anything down!

Not long after we stopped for lunch, again the food was incredible. I can’t even begin to describe how good the food was and to consider the fact we were miles away from civilisation and being served good quality food. The beauty continued as we carried on our hike, vines entwined across the paths, flowers, the sound of birds and my favourite we went through two Inca tunnels! These are natural tunnels that occurred in the mountain but made wider for the Inca’s to use, it was really fascinating to see how the incorporated natural stone into the trails, and not to mention it is incredibly fun walking through a mysterious tunnel! We got to a point where you could see Aguas Calientes in the distance (the town where you can catch a train to Machu Picchu) not long after, the trail split in two, one route was meant to be quicker than the other, but I ended up choosing the longer route on the basis it was easier.
This route led us out to more ruins, and our reward at the end was getting to see some llamas (you could pretty much walk up to them) we spend a while trying to get a good photo before heading to camp. Our site was so far away from everything, it took us a good fifteen minutes trying to find someone from our group before we spotted a porter. We dropped our bags off before, our guide told us to follow him, he took us to the last big site before Machu Picchu, Winñay Wayna.

Rows and rows of terraces were used to harvest crops and the houses were commonly used to house people travelling to Machu Picchu. The site has small square stones waterholes that trickle water out of a spout, this water is believed to have been used for cleansing purposes before entering Machu Picchu. It wasn’t long before it started to get dark, so we headed back to camp and for our last meal! At the end of the hike it is customary to have a celebration of kind, where we are introduced to the porters who have worked incredibly hard, told their names, age, about where they are from, if they have children etc. before we shake hands and say thank you. I was so grateful to our porters, and at times I felt they go incredibly underappreciated. Honestly, I am not sure how much money they get for doing this, but I don’t believe for a second it is enough. The only advice, if you do tip, be kind and give each porter the same amount individually. We had a problem with our tip, we gave it in a lump sum and we soon discovered afterwards that it was not split evenly, with our three guides taking the majority. (Our guides were amazing though, but I was slightly upset about this!)

Anyway, we all went to bed early knowing we had to get up super early to get in line for Machu Picchu. I had a fantastic time on the trail, and I could not believe it was coming to an end so soon.

If you have any questions about the trail, feel free to ask. 

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