Posts Tagged With: bus

4th June – Day 16 – Gaffa tape to the rescue!

Today was a travel day – between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.  Unlike the rest of the tour, we took a public bus service for this section.  The bus left Phnom Penh at 8, so we had a quick breakfast in the hotel before jumping onto a transfer bus, then connecting to a large coach for the 7 hour journey north.

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Banana Pancake for breakfast

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Front row seat!

The bus itself was fairly comfortable and had wifi (once they figured out they needed to plug in the router) as well as at seat power, but ultimately it was still a 7 hour coach ride and wasn’t the highlight of the tour!

Since Jackie and I got the front row seat (pre-reserved by Gadvantures for us), we ended up with the router in our seat area.  It kept coming unplugged, so I grabbed some gaffa tape which I had in my bag and taped it into the plug socket – the connection was pretty solid after that!

We stopped 3 times including a lunch stop at a local place where they served VERY fast and reasonable quality food to two bus loads in a matter of minutes. Impressive!

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Rest stop food

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My egg sandwich

I won’t write too much about the journey – who wants to hear about that – but safe to say 7 hours passed, there was rain, some scenery, and some boring bits.

When we arrived in Siem Reap, the bus dropped us in a kind of make shift bus station and we transferred to a Gadventures bus to go to our hotel.  The luggage was a bit of mayhem, since they unloaded the whole bus into one big pile, but it was quickly resolved.

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Rain on the route to Siem Reap

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Arriving in Siem Reap

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Baggage mayhem

 

Our hotel in Siem Reap is one that i’ve been really looking forward to since I saw the details of all the places we’re booked into.  It’s a resort hotel called the Royal Angkor Resort and it has a huge pool, as well as a beautifully scented public areas.  When we arrived we were shown to a welcome room where we sat for a few minutes, were presented with welcome drinks and cool towels and introduced to the features of the hotel – it felt very fancy!

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The reception room

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My room

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Balcony view

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The huge pool

After checking in and sorting things in the room, I headed down to the pool for a swim and a couple of cocktails – happy hour was from 3 till 7pm, perfect timing!  Almost the whole day had been consumed by the bus journey, so there was just time for us to head into down for dinner in the night.

At 6pm we met for the hotel shuttle into the city.  The shuttle was an elongated golf cart which was quite a vehicle for the 15-20 minute ride into the centre of Siem Reap.  Dek arranged for us to be dropped off at an area called Pub Street, which is kind of the social centre of Siem Reap.  It had a great vibe to it, and we quickly picked a bar offering $4 buy one get on free cocktails for some pre-dinner drinks.  Being on my own, I of course had to buy one and get one free… if you’re keeping count, thats 4 cocktails before dinner. Oops!

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Our shuttle

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Pub street, Siem Reap

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Save Water… Drink Beer… for $0.50!

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One of my cocktails

After a couple of pre-dinner cocktails, Dek took us to the Red Piano – a bar made famous because it was the hangout of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie during the filming of the Tomb Raider movies and Angkor Thom. They had such an influence on the place that there is a Tomb Raider cocktail, created by Angelina, which of course I had to try.  The vibe was great in this part of town, with live music from some of the bars, an plenty of tourists around enjoying the ambiance.

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Angkor is the local beer

After dinner we shared a tuktuk or two back (at $3 for the 15 minute ride, nobody was complaining) and headed to bed.  Tomorrow, we have a 4:45am start…. remind me why I drank 5 cocktails with a start like that!

 

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Categories: South East Asia, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quest of the Gods – Day 11, Bus ride to Puno

After a relaxing/hungover day in Cusco, I found it really hard to sleep in the hotel.  You could argue that this was because I spent most of the previous day “napping”, but really it was noise on the street outside.  There seemed to be something going on out in the street and at 3, 4:15, 5 and various other times I found myself awake.  In the end I gave up trying to sleep and packed my stuff.  Somehow my neatly packed backpack no longer closed, so I ended up with two bags – mainly due to tiredness and lack of logic in packing, I later found out!

Once packed, I headed down for another buffet style breakfast… scrambled eggs, croissant and cereal.  Could just as well have been in europe! I didn’t go for the Tuna fruit!

We met at 7:30 to board our big blue bus for the dreaded 7 hour journey to Puno.  All the journeys on this trip so far have been relatively short and long distances are covered by plane.  But the best way to reach Puno is by road, due to the altitude.  Puno is located at 3800m above sea level, and we met a few people who had flown into it and were suffering awful altitude sickness for 24 hours from arrival.  By arriving by bus you adjust naturally to the altitude, so 7 hours on the fun-bus began!

Big Blue Bus

Big Blue Bus

Bus selfie

Bus selfie

During the journey we stopped at an Inca ruin just outside Cusco which acted as one of two gatehouses to Cusco.  This was pretty neat and it still amazed me that we could just walk all over the site, with no entrance fee, no borders preventing us touching the ruin…. the European tourism style is definitely more restricted!

Inca ruin

Inca ruin

Along the journey, most people chose to sleep but unfortunately for me, I prefer not to sleep on busses so I spent most of the journey reading my new book, The Book Thief, and was progressing through it at an insane pace.  I read slowly, and by the end of the journey I had already read 250 pages of the 540 in the book.  Unheard of for me, so I guess it must be a good book!

We also stopped at some roadside stalls, including one which sold roast lamb and was famous across the whole country.  They had apparently taken their roast lamb to Lima to a food festival a few weeks ago, which is where Harold had met them.  These are the sort of connections you miss when you travel outside of a guided tour, and the carnivores of the group all agreed it was a great tasting piece of meat.  I just watched and tried not to take photos of the lambs head wrapped in beautiful weaved fabric!

Roadside stalls

Roadside stalls

The "high point" of our trip

The “high point” of our trip

At one point we stopped at what was declared the high point of the whole trip.  This pass, we were told, is the highest we would reach during the whole trip – 4335m above sea level.  Of course, that meant we had to get a group photo!

There isn’t that much else to say about the 7 hours… it passed, we got to Puno.  Puno, and neighbouring Juliaca, are both pretty basic cities – Juliaca has 250,000 people and Puno has 150,000.  Unfortunately I would summarise them to be primarily shanty town cities, with a lot of poor housing and dirt roads.  It was really interesting to see the other side of Peru, with both Lima and Cusco reminiscent of European styles.

We checked into the hotel in Puno, and were given rooms on the top floor.  I say rooms, I wondered if the hotel had messed up and checked us into the Sauna instead… the heating was on and the rooms were upwards of 25c.  Figuring that they must know what they were doing, I left the heating on incase it got super cold in the night time, and we headed out for our orientation walk.

Harold took us to the main square in Puno, just a few 100ms from the hotel, and we headed to a market to try some more local foods.  Here we saw the Tuna fruit it its native form – it comes from a Cactus and is actually quite tasty.   Apparently the red variety we had in the hotel in Cusco is very expensive… so now I know I missed out on that!

Harold also ordered us some sort of ‘strength’ drink which a lady at a stall happily prepared for us, including some syrup with half naked movie stars on the bottle!  The drink also included a raw egg, some mystery powder, carrot, banana, papaya and a whole bunch of other stuff… it didn’t taste too bad, but none of us wanted to finish a whole cup of it!

Strange syrup

Strange syrup

Strength drink

Strength drink

Drink consumed, we went down to the market proper to buy some supplies for tomorrow.  Since we will be visiting the floating islands, where produce is very difficult to grow, they rely on donations from visitors of the basics.  We each set about buying something of a staple – rice, pasta, oil, spices – for a very small amount (I spent S6 on some cooking oil) which would make a huge difference to the community we were going to visit.

We also stopped at an ATM and thankfully I was able to withdraw S400, which means my money worries of the last few days had gone away.  After finishing our orientation trip, we headed back to the hotel and had 90 minutes to freshen up. I spent most of it reading my book!

At 19:00 we met for dinner, and Harold had promised us a spectacular experience… a dinner show in a local style.  It was a pretty fun affair but definitely low key… one spotlight lit up the stage, and the performers just ran off stage and changed costumes between songs.

Dinner show

Dinner show

My dinner at the dinner show

My dinner at the dinner show

Mike and his "captain" cocktail

Mike and his “captain” cocktail

More dinner show

More dinner show

Still more

Still more

Group selfie

Group selfie

After dinner as we walked back, a jovial Harold serenaded us with his impression of famous singers including Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.  My ears still haven’t forgiven him for that.

We played 3 rounds of ‘sheathed’, and then headed to bed in our saunas.  And no, the hotel were not correct… it was crazy hot.  Turning the heating off, opening the windows and praying… I lay in bed awake for a long time before the temperature eventually normalised to boiling point.  Tomorrow we would set off at 7:15am for our trip on Lake Titicaca!

Peru key in the hotel

Peru key in the hotel

Categories: Peru, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quest of the Gods – Day 9, Inca Trail ·Day 4 (Machu Picchu!)

To say that I was excited about this day would be a huge understatement.  Machu Picchu is somewhere which has fascinated me for years, and especially since I booked the trip – deciding to fly half way around the world to visit a ruin isn’t something I do every week!

I woke in the tent around 3am, well ahead of a 3:30am wake up “call”… I was so excited, I really couldn’t sleep much but that didn’t matter – today we would see Machu Picchu!  I was dressed and packed by 3:15am, and as soon as I stepped out of my tent the porters set about dismantling it!  I guess they were eager not to miss their train!

I had an awkward (cold) wait around whilst the rest of the group were woken and got ready for breakfast at 4am.  Breakfast was quite quick – some brioche/cake and tea – since we needed to get out of there ASAP, and we were given snack packs with cheese sandwiches and a juice box to keep us going due to the early start.

By 4:15 we were on our way, but Israel announced we would be making a surprise visit, rather than joining the queue of other tours.  Normally at this point the tours all head down to queue at the checkpoint, waiting for the 5:30am opening time before making their way to Machu Picchu as quickly as possible in an attempt to see the haze rise above the mountains.  Instead, Israel planned to take us to Intipata – the ruin which we skipped yesterday due to the rain!  It was fantastic being there before sunrise and we got to see the day lighten up as the sun rose on the horizon and the ruin revealed itself to us.

The moon at Intipata

The moon at Intipata

Pre sunrise

Pre sunrise

Sunrise selfie

Sunrise selfie

More arty photos

More arty photos

Llama!

Llama!

Llama again!

Llama again!

After sunrise

After sunrise

More ruin

More ruin

Intipata

Intipata

Group shot at Intipata

Group shot at Intipata

It was amazing watching the llamas wake up and the cloud rise from below us to above us, and truly magical to be the only group there at that time of day.  Once day break happened we headed towards the checkpoint, which opened at 5:30, and were able to walk almost straight through – we hadn’t lost any time however, as we quickly caught up and overtook groups on the trail.

After the checkpoint it was just a short 1 1/2 hour hike to the “sun gate”, and our first view of Machu Picchu!

More stairs

More stairs

Arriving at the sun gate

Arriving at the sun gate

First view of Machu Picchu

First view of Machu Picchu

Me and Machu Picchu

Me and Machu Picchu

The horizon from the Sun Gate

The horizon from the Sun Gate

Close up of Machu Picchu

Close up of Machu Picchu

It was such an incredible feeling to see the view that i’d been lusting after since booking the trip, and I can’t put into words the feeling.  It was overwhelming and magical to see the site, and to know that we had made it.  We rested for 15 minutes at the Sun Gate before beginning our descent to Machu Picchu and on to the end of the Inca trail, which officially finishes on a large rock at the edge of Machu Picchu.  We were so lucky with the weather, which was almost a cloudless sky.  Perfect Machu Picchu weather – we had been warned along the trail that there is always a chance of a rainy day or cloud cover which can ruin the whole experience.

Along the descent we stopped at a couple of viewing points before finally reaching the “end of the inca trail” and posing for our obligatory photos from the typical spot!

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Me at Machu Picchu

Me at Machu Picchu

The photos took a while since we had to queue, but it was worth it to get that iconic shot (which inevitably will be a Facebook profile photo at some point!), and as soon as these were over we headed quickly down to the entrance gate and the promise of “real” toilets, which were definitely a welcome sight after 3 days on the trail!  Spending 1 sol on the toilet was possibly the best sol I spent whilst in Peru!

We had a reunion with Harold at a cafe outside the Machu Picchu gate, and were able to chill out before heading back into Machu Picchu.  This time is important because you’re not allowed to take walking poles around Machu Picchu (for fear of damaging the ruin), so Harold had to stay outside with our stuff!

Once we had all rejuvenated and consumed our packed snack, we headed into Machu Picchu for a guided tour by Israel.  It was fascinating to learn all about the discovery of MP and in particular Hiram Bingham, who is critical to the discovery story.

After the tour we were given free time to explore, and we went on a hunt for Llamas and photo opportunities.  The site really is incredible and below is a small selection of the huge number of photos I took.  I’ve tried to caption them appropriately, but the history is way larger than I can tell in a blog entry!

Machu Picchu from near the top

Machu Picchu from near the top

Steffi on the terraces

Steffi on the terraces

Recreated thatched roof

Recreated thatched roof

A view of Wainapicchu

A view of Wainapicchu

Inca stairs, and modern stairs

Inca stairs, and modern stairs

Israel showing us an important building

Israel showing us an important building

More stairs!

More stairs!

More of Wainapicchu

More of Wainapicchu

The Quarry area

The Quarry area

How the Incas split the rocks

How the Incas split the rocks

A pretty flower

A pretty flower

The main temple

The main temple

Israel showing his Inca Cross

Israel showing his Inca Cross

Amazing tessellation

Amazing tessellation

Al, boyband style

Al, boyband style

Israel, boyband style

Israel, boyband style

Asfia

Asfia

MP selfie

MP selfie

Llama!

Llama!

Llama!

Llama!

Llama, 3rd angle projection

Llama, 3rd angle projection

Me with a llama!

Me with a llama!

After we finished exploring, we headed out of the exit gate and were able to complete our passport page, with the final Machu Picchu stamp.  Once the stamp is in there, it means the hike is officially over!

Fourth stamp!

Fourth stamp!

What an amazing journey it had been!

We took a 30 minute windy bus ride down the hill to the town of Machu Picchu, which is clearly a tourist down and set up for us – full of markets selling trinkets, and we were able to meet with Harold and our duffle bags from the tents (which had magically been transported there!)

Machupicchu town

Machupicchu town

I bought a t-shirt (“I survived the Inca trail”) and some postcards, and then we regrouped for lunch in a restaurant.  It was a big group, with the original 7 of us together with 5 from another tour (which Mark, Katie and Simone were part of).  Steffi and I shared some Nachos and then I had Veggie Burritos, before we made a presentation to Israel and passed over our appreciation to him as well.  This was the last time we would see him, and it was really heartfelt to say goodbye after him guiding us through 4 amazing days of lives!

Once lunch was over we headed to the train station and caught a train back to Ollantaytambo.  We have to take the tourist train, since the local train is not available unless you have Peruvian IDs.  The train took an hour and a half and was really bumpy, but we were given drinks and snacks (Inca Cola, of course!).  Most people slept through the journey, whilst I just took selfies!

Train selfie

Train selfie

Asfia...zzz

Asfia…zzz

Steffi...zzz

Steffi…zzz

I spent a lot of the journey chatting with Mike and Kirsten about how they had enjoyed the Lares trek, which sounds incredible and very different to the Inca trail – much more cultural and they spent time in houses filled with Guineapigs, and met hundreds of local children.

After the bumpy train ride, we switched to a bus ride for a bumpy 90 minute ride around windy streets to get back to Cusco.  Our mini bus got pulled over in the main square in Cusco for driving there after dark – which apparently was a law which came into force just 3 days ago!  Hardly fair, and our driver protested but ended up paying a hefty fine!

Bus selfie

Bus selfie, Mike Photobombs!

Once we got to the hotel, we showered and met again for a traditional post-trail evening – Peruvian pizza and wine in the hotel and then out on the town to enjoy the celebratory feeling of completing the trail!

Harold had arranged honeymoon gifts in the rooms of Al & Asfia and Mike & Kirsten, and the feeling throughout the group was one of elation as we headed first to the “Museo del Pisco” – which isn’t actually a museum, just a bar that serves amazing Peruvian cocktails.

Museo del Pisco

Museo del Pisco

Needless to say the cocktails went down well after the trail and the night became gradually more blurry, as Steffi and I decided to meet up with Harold in a club he had recommended…

Club photo

Club photo

Blurry night

Blurry night

After lots of dancing and drinking, we finally managed to complete the 24 hour challenge – at 3:30am, we had officially been up for 24 hours (although Steffi slept on the train, so she cheated!).  An amazing feeling… Inca trail: done!

Categories: Peru, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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