Posts Tagged With: flight

May 28th – Day 9 – Mountain, Millionaires and Motorcycles

In the peak season, the tour would move on to Vietnam in the morning on this day, but since we’re travelling in the off -season, Lao Airlines only flies in the afternoons to Hanoi, so we had a free morning in Luang Prabang. I was pretty happy about this since I’ve really enjoyed the pace of life in Luang Prabang and I wanted to explore their most famous site, the Phousi Mountain (don’t say it too quickly!).  At the top of the mountain is a small temple which can be seen from all over the town, and it offers spectacular views of the two rivers which converge just outside of Luang Prabang.

I started the day with an early breakfast, around 7, before heading out to the mountain before the heat of the day hit. The base of the mountain path was a short walk from the hotel, and I was able to make good time heading up – after paying my 20,000 kip entrance fee. Almost every tourist attraction seems to charge the same here!

It was 309 steps up to the top of the mountain, but it was worth it – I had the top to myself and could see all of the town, the rivers and the small temple as well. The sense of achievement in doing this was also worth it!

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A view of the river and Luang Prabang from the mountain

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Top of the mountain selfie

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The other side of the town

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The temple at the top

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No idea what this purple leaf is but it was really vibrant and visible throughout the town

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It was a steep walk up the mountain

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Selfie after making it back down

On the way back down I decided to go for another Lao coffee, having enjoyed it the day before. There was some confusion in the shop who seemed to think I wanted a take away coffee and gave me the boiling hot coffee and condensed milk in a plastic bag, like a goldfish at the fair. After clarifying my request, I was quickly brought a new one in a glass and enjoyed it just as much as the first, although I didn’t dare to try and communicate about the doughnut !

Once I got back to the hotel I quickly packed before going for a swim in the beautiful hotel pool. It was still not even 8:30! The early mornings on this tour really mean the day packs in things… I swam for half an hour and by that point some of the others emerged from their rooms.

Since it was so early, I went back to the room for a little cool off and a nap before checking out from the hotel.  I walked back into the town and explored a little of the old town, hunting out some gift shops and stopping for lunch in a tourist restaurant called The Pizza, which served terrible over priced pizza and drinks but I wanted to be gentle to my stomach after the upset yesterday – I also ordered ginger tea which seemed to help.  After I ordered the olive pizza, the waiter dashed out of the shop to a neighbouring supermarket and came back in with a pack of olives and some ginger. Got to love small towns!

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Olive pizza

With a couple of hours remaining in Luang Prabang once lunch was over, I went into a coffee shop for a cold drink and some aircon as well as free wifi… Honestly this day was a bit unnecessary but the flight schedules had determined we should stay until 3pm.

At 3 we regrouped and headed out to the airport, where check-in was smooth and allowed us a little more waiting before we boarded Laos Airlines QV313 to Hanoi.  The flight was pretty much a mirror image of our flight from Chiang Mai – an ATR plane, terrible box meal and a 45 minute hop.

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Laos airlines selfie

When we landed in Hanoi the sky was incredible – the clouds were so dark and low, it was clear a storm was about to hit and shortly after we left the airport, we were presented with a wonderful thunderstorm. The Vietnamese visa process for a UK passport holder was super easy- no paperwork at all, just handing over my passport and getting a stamp at the border. Some of the others had spent upwards of $200 on their Vietnam visas!

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Vietnams visa is somewhat simple after the crazy Laos ones

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Our luggage collection

In the airport I also changed some US Dollars into Vietnamese dong and once again became a millionaire – $1 was worth 22,240 dong so my $100 gave me 2.2 Million dongs!

Our trip to the hotel was in a nice big comfortable bus and we got to see a bit of the hubbub of Hanoi – our hotel was quite central in the city on ‘silk street’ (fittingly the hotel was the Golden Silk Hotel).  The streets of Hanoi are organised by what is sold there – so there is glasses street, coffee street, and beer street. Quite an efficient way of shopping, unless you want a lot of different things at once!

During our bus ride Dek gave us some tips about Vietnam – a country of 90 million people, and Hanoi – the capital city with over 8 million people and over 4 million motorcycles.  The constant ‘beep beep’ of the motorcycles and cars weaving in and out was infectious and I couldn’t wait to get out and start exploring! We only got one night in Hanoi before our next destination, so we went on a short walk to Deks favourite local restaurant – called 96 Restaurant. Dek said they have one as well called 69 -although that sounds like a whole different dinner to me!

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Another hotel, another massive bed!

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Pineapple juice

Crossing the roads in Hanoi is something of an art form, as there is never really a break in the traffic – you just kind of ‘go for it’ when you want to cross, and the traffic avoids you. At first it sounds scary, but the more you do it the easier it becomes.

At 96 Restaurant I had some fresh vegetable spring rolls and tofu with satay sauce,as well as a fruit juice and it cost 250,000 dong! That feels like a lot, but it’s really about $20.

Once back at the hotel, and safely across the roads again, I quickly replaced my day pack into an overnight pack since we couldn’t bring our full bags for the next day trip to Ha Long Bay.  Tomorrow would be another early start, setting off at 6:30 – so I got an early night again. Excited for tomorrow though – Ha Long Bay is one of my reasons for booking the trip!

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

May 20th – Day 1 – Airport, Plane Food and Airplane Food

Well, it’s finally here, the start of my South East Asia adventure! The trip has officially started! In fact I’m writing this blog entry from the plane, somewhere over Eastern Europe.  

The day started with some last minute packing – or rather, unpacking. I decided that my bag looked a little too full, so unpacked a few non essential items. At least I hope they’re non essential because they’re now in London! After repacking the bag still looks pretty huge and full but hey, at least it closes now without me sitting on it.  

My flight was scheduled to leave London at 16:05 so I actually had quite a lot of time this morning waiting around – I ended up cleaning the bathroom, doing a load of washing and generally making the flat a bit more presentable for when I get back in a few weeks time.  I worked backwards from 16:00, allowing 2 hours in the airport and therefore planned to set off around 12 but ended up heading out a little earlier, since I had run out of things to panic about!

Anyway, I stuck the backpack on my back and realised just how huge it looked, then headed to the station. There’s quite a bit of roadworks near my flat at the moment so I had to navigate around those with this massive backpack on my back.  The bag looks particularly huge because I can piggyback my day pack and my big bag together, but that makes the depth crazy… I think I’ll end up doing the front & back thing more since that’s probably more comfortable than having a massive tortoise shell on my back.

My massive full backpack!


I caught the 11:55 train into London Bridge and then traversed the joyous London Underground network to get to Heathrow Airport – an annoyingly long journey by public transport from my flat, but kind ofunavoidable (a taxi is over £60, a TFL ticket is about £4!). The underground was pretty packed so I ended up crushed into a little corner protecting my backpack!

Protecting my backpack on the underground


Check-in at the airport was uneventful, and then I decided to treat myself to a true holiday start – lunch at the Gordon Ramsey restaurant in Terminal 5, Plane Food. I’ve been planning to try it for a while and this seemed like a perfect excuse!

I made it to Heathrow and even managed a smile!


As it was lunch time, they were running a special ‘express lunch’ deal – 2 courses for £25.  I selected the Butternut Squash Orechiette Pasta with Sage & Parmesan for a main course, and a Chocolate Tart for dessert.  To accompany them, I went for a glass of a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand – truly a treat for lunch!

Service was prompt and professional and I was first brought a container of breads and butter. The bread had been made really creatively into a long croissant shape with points at both ends – which made it hard to cut and butter but looked great when it was presented.  The butter served was a little too cold, so it took a while to actually concoct something edible by which time the main course had arrived.

The pasta looked great and tasted fantastic – small cubes of butternut squash and a really tasty sauce together with the pasta which had been cooked perfectly and beautiful spears of tenderstem broccoli.  It paired really nicely with the Sauvignon Blanc as well.

After the pasta, my Chocolate Tart was brought out. Presentation was stunning – a generous but not huge slice of chocolate tart, a scoop of Pistachio ice cream and a raspberry with a swoosh of chocolate on the plate as well (after all, it’s a celebrity chef menu!).  The pastry on the Chocolate Tart was amazingly thin and perfect, yet the filing chocolate was smooth and creamy. I really enjoyed the dessert!

Butternut Squash Orechiette Pasta, Sage, Parmesan

Tinpot Hut, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand

Chocolate Tart with Pistachio Ice Cream


Soon after paying the bill (and claiming those essential Heathrow Rewards points), it was time to board the plane and I headed out to the C-concourse, gate C66.  It always amazes me the size of Terminal 5 and how efficient it is – they got some bad PR at the start because of the luggage system but overall it’s one of the most efficient airports I’ve ever been through (and there are a few of those!).

I love the signage in heathrow, everything is really clear compared to other airports


Our flight was on a Boeing 777 to Bangkok directly, so after boarding I settled down to some in flight entertainment. Or at least I tried to – the screen was tiny, and during the first 45 minutes of the flight the screen was rebooted twice which lost my place in the movie (Deadpool, fact fans). I was quite enjoying Deadpool, and the opening sequence was really interestingly made, but I didn’t need to watch it 3 times in the space of 45 minutes. I gave in and pulled out the iPad and started writing this blog entry instead!

I made it to the plane too, and ANOTHER smile… must be something wrong with me!

Tiny screen before one of it’s many reboots


A couple of hours into the flight the in-flight meal was served. As I’ve said before, I always book a vegetarian special meal on long haul flights and the same was true of this flight – the food was served far in advance of everyone else’s, but honestly I wasn’t that hungry after my awesome airport meal.  I opened up the package and guess what – it was almost exactly the same meal I’d just eaten, just condensed into rubbish airplane food instead of Gordon Ramsey Plane Food! I tried everything, and admittedly demolished the chocolate pot, but left most of it, and settled down for a restful night on the flight. 

Not quite as fancy as Gordon Ramsey

Pasta with a Cajun Crumb (according to the label)


I will mention one more thing before I sleep… Always always always bring a warm layer on a long haul flight. The plane was FREEZING, and I was so thankful for my fleece – I have to lug the stupid thing around South East Asia for 3 weeks now, but at least it kept me warm on the first flight.

Goodnight all – see you in Bangkok! 

Read day 2 here.

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Quest of the Gods – Day 15, Journey home

Boarding started at 00:30, and everything was normal – I took my seat, did up my belt, stuck on my eye mask and fell deep asleep.  I’d love to tell you a lot about the flight, but honestly… I woke up 30 minutes before landing, when they turned the lights back on.  The lady next to me commented that “you slept like a baby” – I had managed to sleep for almost 5 hours non stop.  My flight route was: Lima – Houston – Chicago – Frankfurt – Gothenburg.

Plane selfie

Plane selfie

When we landed in Houston, I made my way to the next gate.  My boarding pass was flagged up as TSA-PRE which means I should get the expedited security process, but on connecting flights in Houston there was no TSA-PRE line so I had to join the normal security line and go through the usual TSA rubbish of taking shoes off, emptying laptops out, etc.

I had a while to kill in Houston and even though it was only 7am local time, I stopped in at a diner in the terminal and ordered a veggie burger and a milkshake.  I was trying to shift my body back into European time, so eating a lunch sized meal at breakfast is part of the process.  I had actually been craving french fries and a veggie burger for a few days (the food in Peru was amazing, but always very healthy… sometimes you need to cheat a bit!).

Once I got to the gate, they announced that the plane was “still in the hanger” and that the “super” machines they use to transport them aren’t to super, because 2 of them had broken down and therefore we would be delayed departing out of Houston.  I was freaking out because I had a 1:09 connection in Houston and the lady at the gate looked sympathetic but was unable to do anything until we started boarding, by which time it was too late.   Luckily Chicago is a busy airport so if I missed my german connection i’m sure there would be another possible route.

Plane selfie

Plane selfie

As it happens, I slept almost all of the Houston-Chicago flight as well, waking just before landing again.  I wish I could write a manual for how I do it, because i’m sure everyone would like to be able to do this – but I have no idea.  I think it’s a combination of being on far too many planes, and having a small body.

Knowing Chicago well, I was sad to see we arrived in the B gates and my connecting flight was departing from C…. this meant I had to tackle THE TUNNEL.  If you’ve been to Chicago, you’ll know what I mean. It’s a crazy underground tunnel which passes right under the jetway between the two terminals, and is decorated in horrible neon sculptures.  I RAN from B14 to C10, literally sprinting, and was pleased to make it to the gate before they started boarding the last group… I sat down in my seat, wondering if someone was also running with my bag.

We arrived early in Frankfurt, at 5:15am.  I have been to Frankfurt well over 30 times this year, and made it extremely quickly through immigration and into the executive lounge. Life was starting to feel a bit more normal now – croissant, coffee, yoghurt and familiar surroundings.

I headed to the gate a little early to enquire about my bag… had it made it?  I was told by the gate assistant that it had, and they were loading it onto the plane as we spoke.  Phew!  That would have been a frustrating end to the holiday, albeit an all too familiar situation for me.  Once we boarded the plane, I was surprised by just how quiet the flight was…. I guess a 7am departure from Frankfurt on a Monday isn’t a popular flight to Sweden.

Plane selfie

Plane selfie

On the last leg, I finished reading The Book Thief, which was a really well written and touching storyline.  I need to try and see the movie now, since it really intrigues me how you can create a movie covering such a broad timeline in a teenage life.

Landing in Gothenburg, I reflected that i’d last seen a bed at 7am two days before (this was now Monday morning, I had woken up on Saturday in Lima).  Thank god I can sleep on planes! It had somehow turned into Christmas time when we got to the terminal in Gothenburg, which kind of took me by surprise.  I wasn’t able to enjoy that though, since I felt pretty gross, and desperate for a shower, which is exactly what I did as soon as I got home.

Christmas in GOT

Christmas in GOT

Home… the end of the journey.

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Quest of the Gods – Day 13, Back to Lima

Sleeping in a sauna isn’t easy, and I woke up at 5am with a headache.  Feeling ready to start the day (we had to leave at 6 anyway), I got up and took a shower.  This was interrupted at 5:15am by the wake up call I had booked with the hotel – not ideal!  At around 5:30, I headed downstairs expecting a quiet breakfast but arrived into mayhem, as a large tour of french canadians were also leaving at 6am and the breakfast room was heaving.  I had a quick breakfast of cornflakes and yoghurt, before our departure at 6am to Juliaca.

The airport in Juliaca is tiny, with only two gates, and once again (as they did in Puerto Maldonado) they manually searched our checked bags with hands.  Everyone was pretty quiet/tired at this point.

Once through security, a local band piped up and tried to get us all to buy their CDs by playing very loudly at 6:30am… not the best sales pitch i’ve ever heard, and I quite honestly considered buying a CD to make them go away!

Boarding in Juliaca

Boarding in Juliaca

The flight was uneventful, except that Mike managed finally to get a photo of me sleeping (which I had prided myself on not doing the entire time we were travelling together!)

Once we arrived in Lima we were picked up by a local transfer, which just so happened to be Fantasy Transport… that amused me greatly, although it may have been the tiredness and altitude adjustment that made it seem funny.

Fantasy transport

Fantasy transport

We checked back into the Miraflores hotel we started at, and they had given me a suite!  We headed quickly back out from the hotel and split into two groups – Mike and Kirsten had a cooking lesson, so Steffi, Ruth and I headed to a local fish restaurant for lunch since they wanted to try Cebiche.

Asparagus risotto

Asparagus risotto

Cebiche, 4 ways

Cebiche, 4 ways

Cebiche and Sushi

Cebiche and Sushi

The Cebiche looked amazing but seafood is something I think i’ll never enjoy, even if I were to start eating meat again.  The thought of it kind of makes me feel strange!

After lunch we pottered around the shopping mall for a bit, which mainly had western brands.  Ruth found a book shop and bought a couple of cooking books, and then we headed for coffee in a coffee shop I had spotted the first time we were in Lima.

Arabica, amazing coffee

Arabica, amazing coffee

Arabica was my kind of mecca, with great coffee and quirky decor.  I could have wasted many days there, but sadly we only had time for one coffee.

Once we got back to the hotel I called (using a real phone!) United to try and adjust my flights.  Everyone else is leaving before 10am tomorrow, and my flight isn’t until 1am the next day!  Unfortunately there wasn’t a better flight option, so I chose to stay with the original plan which gives me a full day on my own in Lima.

With some effort, I managed to repack everything back into one bag which is great since lugging two bags around the world seemed to increase the risk of losing one of them quite considerably.

Successful, I met with Steffi for a couple of rounds of Shithead and Pisco sours in the hotel bar… I tried a Ginger infused Pisco which was amazing.  As the others became ready, they also joined us and we ended up with a big group game before meeting at 18:30 for taxis to our final dinner together in a Chifa restaurant.  Chifa is Peruvian style Chinese cuisine and Harold had (true to form) booked us a table at a really great restaurant (Madam Tusan).  Infact this place is known as one of the best in the country.

After sitting down for dinner, we ordered our food and were merrily making conversation when suddenly there was a rumble quickly followed by an extremely abrupt “everyone, get out now!” by Harold.  Half a second later, we felt a second rumble and this time there was no mistaking it – we were being hit by an earthquake!  We quickly made our way outside and explained what was happening to the rest of the group who were less aware of the tremor.  It was quite an exciting experience, but after a few minutes we were let back into the restaurant since things seemed to have quietened down.  Everyone stayed on edge for a few minutes though!

The food was great, with vegetarian fried rice and some braised tofu dishes along with amazing looking meat dishes.

Vegetarian fried rice

Vegetarian fried rice

Something with meat

Something with meat

Braised tofu

Braised tofu

After the main course we said a big thank you to Harold and gave him his appreciation for the amazing effort of the last two weeks.  We added a lot of jokes into his thank you card.

After receiving our tips, Harold told us his story: 7 years ago his parents house was hit by an earthquake.  He and his family were trapped underground for 20 minutes whilst the rubble trapped them, and since then he has been donating his tips to his parents to help them rebuild their lives.  Everyone felt very humbled hearing this, and i’m sure life in Peru is a lot harder than we have been led to believe.  We all promised to pass word to our friends about how amazing Peru is, since tourism is helping the country to develop.

Sobered, and humbled, we headed to a book store across the road where I bought a cooking book and then we jumped into a taxi to head to a water park for a night time fountain show which is kind of famous.  The taxi rides were hilarious, and I think we all put an extra effort into feeling good since it was the last night.

Taxi selfie

Taxi selfie

Fountain selfie

Fountain selfie

Fountain photo

Fountain photo

Arty fountain

Arty fountain

Beautiful fountain

Beautiful fountain

Fountain tunnel

Fountain tunnel

Group in the tunnel

Group in the tunnel

Steffi with lasers

Steffi with lasers

Laser show

Laser show

Laser show selfie

Laser show selfie

After the water park, we went back to the hotel in one taxi which was certainly intimate!  We sat down for a few final rounds of Shithead before bed, and made sure to exchange email addresses so we could keep in touch after departure tomorrow.  Ruth leaves at 7am, so we won’t be up to see her, but will make an effort to see Steffi, Mike, Kirsten and Harold before they all go their separate ways in the morning.

I went to bed reflecting on just what an amazing experience this had been.  More on that soon.

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Quest of the Gods – Day 4, Jungle to Cusco

Thunder and lightning kept me awake from 4am, which was a mixture of terrifying and awesome.  Being so close to nature, you never quite know what’s going to happen, and it really emphasised just how close we were to nature!  Waking up and heading to the bathroom, I realised that the bats who were living in the roof of the cabin had been a little scared of the lightning, and had left me presents all over the shower floor…. luckily it washed off easily enough!

I was packed and ready to go by 6:30am, despite the morning call time being 7:30, which I thought would give me an hour of alone time, but once I headed to the bar almost everyone else was there already!  Seems we’re a group of early risers, or maybe the thunder and lightning just kept us up – certainly Kirsten and Mike had been kept awake by the giant spider in their mosquito net (not a perfect honeymoon bed!)

Breakfast at 7:30 was scrambled eggs, fried plantain and the most amazing mango I ever tasted.

We quickly headed to the boat and were whisked on a 90 minute river trip to the port, during which time we raced a couple of the other lodges (everyone heads at the same time because there are only a few flights a day from Puerto Maldonado).

Racing on the river

Racing on the river

During the trip we did a bit of bird spotting, but everyone was generally subdued to be leaving the jungle so quickly after we arrived.  It would have been amazing to stay there a few more days, but i’m pretty sure even if you stayed there 2 years you would still be discovering new things!

After a 45 minute bumpy van ride to the office, we repacked our bags/suitcases from the duffles we took into the jungle and then headed to the airport.  We stopped at a little snack store and I bought some brazil nut and tomato cookies which were really good, even if the taste was a little strange.

Repacking our bags

Repacking our bags

At the airport, G Adventures have an agreement with Avianca to use their executive check-in lines, which made us all feel very important – particularly as all the other tours have to use the ‘normal’ checkin.

Airport selfie

Airport selfie

The airport is tiny in Puerto Maldonado and we were warned that the checkin process might be unusual – rather than owning a bag scanner and scanning the bags after check-in, the airport opts for a more hands-on approach – opening bags and scanning them with hands before they go through check in.  The process was kind of ridiculous, with hands probing around to find god knows what in our bags.  After promising I didn’t have anything dodgy in my bag, and a pair of gloved hands finding nothing, I was free to check in as normal and from then we had a short wait whilst Harold obtained the check-in ladies number (although he insists he was just getting a number to check his air miles).  We continued to tease him about this the whole trip!

The flight itself was uneventful, and the airline provided a USB port at our seats which was great for recharging my camera!

Plane selfie - Puerto Maldonado to Cusco

Plane selfie – Puerto Maldonado to Cusco

After we arrived in Cusco, the centre of the Inca empire, we were whisked to our hotel (5 minutes by private bus) and checked in.  Harold gave us a guided tour of the city and we tried the free Coca Tea (good for relieving altitude sickness, since Cusco is at 3400m from sea level).

True to form, Harold had booked us a table at an amazing little restaurant (Aguaymanto) for lunch which had the most incredible menu of Peruvian dishes and catered well to the needs of G Adventures guests.  It was really hidden up a back alley and a staircase but worth exploring to find it!

Group shot at the restaurant

Group shot at the restaurant

We shared some Nachos as a starter and then I had a thai green curry as a main, followed by a shared Mango Flambé for dessert.   It was awesome, and we all left feeling great about Cusco.  Nobody was really feeling the altitude, which we were all thankful of since we had been warned it could be a tough evening.

After dinner a short recognition walk showed us more of the area including the central square which featured a rather excited looking Inca on a fountain.  My google-fu tells me he is Pachacuti – the main Inca who built Cusco and Machu Picchu into the places they are today.

Cusco central square

Cusco central square

On the way back to the hotel, the girls were acosted by some Andean women holding cute lambs who forced them to have photos taken with the lambs and then demanded payment (as much as S20, $7) for the photos.

Once back at the hotel we freshened up before our briefing about the inca trial at 19:00.

During the briefing, we met our guide (Israel) and he talked us through the plan for the trip, packing and essentials.  We have a 6kg limit for personal items which will be carried by the porters – which gets reduced by 2.5kg for our sleeping bag and 1kg for our air mattress, leaving just 2.5kg for our personal stuff!

Israels recommended packing list for those 2.5kgs:

  • 3 t-shirts
  • 3 pairs of hiking socks
  • 3 sets of underwear
  • Thermals to sleep in
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Spare pair of hiking pants
  • Sandals
  • Warm jacket
  • Towel
  • Toiletries

I don’t know which lightweight shop he goes to, but when I put all that in my duffle it came to 4kg!  A quick rationalisation and I was back to 2.5kg – phew!

Israel talked us through the timeline of the 4 days

  • Day one – Gentle start – Pickup at 7:15, bus to the km82 start point, starting at 2700m, hike for 11km/6 hours, starting at 9:30.  Climb is only 300m, so we sleep at 3000m
  • Day two – Challenge day – Starting at 3000m, hike for 12km/8 hours, starting at 6:30.  Climb is 1200m, descent about 600m, sleeping at 3600m
  • Day three – Culture day – Starting at 3600m, hike for 16km/10 hours, starting at 6:30.
  • Day four – Machu Picchu – Starting at 3:30am, hike for 6km/2 hours, Gate to Machu Picchu opens at 5:30am.  After MP, take a bus/train/bus back to Cusco

We would have another 3 people joining us for the trail, and Mike and Kirsten would be doing the Lares Trek which is an alternative trek for those who are unable to get Inca Trail passes (only 500 passes are issued a day).  For our group of 8 hikers, we would have 19 porters!

Most important thing, which they kept reminding us, was to bring our passports!  Clearly that has burned them in the past!

In our day packs, we were told to pack:

  • Sunhat
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito repellent & sunscreen (question: why don’t they make sunscreen which is mosquito repellent as well?)
  • Water bottle / camelbak
  • Toilet paper / baby wipes
  • Rain gear / Poncho
  • Snacks
  • Passport (must not forget this)
  • First aid kit / medication
  • Headtorch and spare batteries
  • Camera
  • Cash (S300 – S400)

Before the trail started, we had a tour day visiting the Sacred Valley, which is a chance for us to get prepared for the trail and also test our gear.  Our big bags would stay in Cusco whilst we toured the Sacred Valley and did the Inca Trail, so we would need to take everything with us tomorrow ready for the trail.  Exciting times!

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Quest of the Gods – Day 0, Departure

The day was finally here… November 1st, at 4:00am, my alarm sounded.  Time to depart on the biggest adventure of my life. Excited didn’t even begin to cover it.  I jumped out of bed, had the worlds quickest shower and prepared for my 4:30 taxi.  As always, my taxi was late arriving due to my address being impossible to find unless you live there.  Basically my apartment is one street but the address is of another street (the next one over).  They always screw it up, so I wasn’t surprised to be carrying my bag down the hill to meet the driver.

After a quick check-in process at Gothenburg Landvetter airport, I settled down to buy breakfast – I was too early for the lounge to be open!  Breakfast was a cheese sandwich, yoghurt and a latte.  Decent food, although at 5am anything tastes okay, I think.

Breakfast

 

I played my usual trick of waiting by the gate (since the lounge was closed) and was rewarded by being first on the plane – a nice feeling and small reward for my 100,000+ miles a year!  Whilst waiting to board, I was amazed to notice that everyone was staring at their phones like zombies.  Normally I wouldn’t pick up on this, but being phone-less made me much more observant (and possibly jealous?).  I guess most people look like zombies before 6am anyway.

Once onboard, I was seated in my ‘usual’ seat, 8A, and settled in for a quick selfie before a micro-nap on the first leg of the flight – Lufthansa hop to Frankfurt.

The first of many selfies

The flight was pretty uneventful, but when we landed in Frankfurt the fog was intense!  After a quick bus transfer to the terminal, I made my way to the lounge in International Departures (Z gates) – I’m always amazed at how quickly you can get through Frankfurt airport if you’re lucky.

Sunrise between GOT and FRA

Fog in Frankfurt airport

Once through Frankfurt I found the United counter in the lounge and was issued with my boarding pass for the second flight – complete with the magic ‘SSSS’ mark which, the lady warned me, means that I was randomly selected for extra security screening.  I was warned to be at the gate ‘at least 30 minutes’ before boarding time, since this process ‘can take some time’ and ‘we wont wait for you’.  Great.  So much for a chill out in the departure lounge.  I did manage to squeeze in a second coffee (4am start!) and some cookies before I had to head to the gate for the screening.

Randomly selected for security screening

Second coffee of the day

The security screening turned out to be pretty quick – they gathered a bunch of us together and asked us to come to a seperate secreening areas.  There we were asked to switch on all our electronic devices (for me, that was only my camera) and then we were allowed back to the gate to board the plane first.  I have no problem with security screening since I would definitely prefer that to any problems when the plane is in the air!

We were boarded via a bus (Frankfurt has a tendancy to do this even for bigger flights), and our bus seemed to get lost during the journey to the gate (possibly due to the fog?).  Even so, I took my seat pretty quickly and it was time for another selfie.

Selfie #2

Selfie #2

 

I love the United trans-atlantic service, not because its particularly good but i’m so familiar with it that I could basically recite the inflight announcements all the way through the flight.  Our departure was delayed by almost an hour due to the fog in Frankfurt, which didn’t bode well for my 1h30 connection in Newark.  Still, it’s a nice long flight so time to relax and enjoy some movies.  During the 10 hour flight I watched:

  • A fault in our stars – which made me cry, and was definitely a beautiful movie
  • 22 Jump Street – which was really boring, just like 21 jump street
  • Happy Christmas – which was weird, and made me uncomfortable because Anna Kendrick played a happy character instead of a grumpy businesswoman as she is typecast
  • Earth to Echo – which I couldn’t decide if it was a kids or grown ups movie.  For a kids movie, there was a lot of swearing, but the plot and style really didn’t cater to adults.

I also watched the obligatory “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” which they always have on the United inflight entertainment.  My dinner was served and it was basically Mushrooms and Rice, which meant for me that my dinner was Rice.  Oh well, you can’t win everything.

Due to the foggy departure, we ended up landing in Newark 35 minutes late, leaving me with just 55 minutes to get through immigration, collect my bags, progress through customs, re-check my bags, obtain my boarding pass for the connecting flight, change terminal and go through security, then board the flight.  As you’ve probably already guessed, that didn’t happen – I gave it a damn good go, but when I got to the check-in counter for my connecting flight it was already closed. I was pretty fed up at that point and shouted a bit to the guy at the counter, who helpfully told me to go bother someone else since he didn’t work for Avianca.

I eventually made my way to the United service counter, since I booked the flight with United, and they started by offering me a ticket on the same flight a day later… uh no!  “I’m not misssing the start of a vacation I have been waiting for for 6 months” I told them, and started to throw a frequent flier fit (FFF?) – I was rewarded with a more senior agent at the desk who was able to rebook me onto a flight with LAN Peru directly to Lima, leaving New York later that day.  The problem: the flight was leaving from JFK and I was at Newark.  Luckily the United lady was on my side and even issued me a voucher for the taxi fare, and a meal voucher to cover my meal in Newark before I left.  Being a frequent flier REALLY helps in these sort of situations – the taxi alone was $95, more than i’d paid for my ticket (since I used airmiles!).

Newark to JFK

Newark to JFK

Using my $7 meal voucher I invested in piles of bad food, since I had eaten so badly on the plane over.

Pizza, Mac and Cheese and a Protein drink

The next challenge, I realised, was to contact Gadventures to let them know my arrival plans had changed – I was scheduled to arrive at 2:05am, and i’m pretty sure whoever was going to meet me wouldn’t want to sit at the airport until my new arrival at 6:50am!  No problem, I thought…. i’ll call the US toll free number from a payphone.  Oh.  Payphones.  Do they even still exist?!  Well, the answer was yes, and I actually got to use 3 different ones before I managed to get through to Gadventures.  Clearly the phones aren’t well managed on a Saturday!

Payphone Selfie

I did find myself thinking that this problem would have been so much easier if I was holding a mobile phone in my hand, but I was determined not to let it bug me – I ended up changing some $1 bills into quarters and using coins to call the Peruvian office who answered immediately and were very helpful.  My flight change was no problem, and all I had to do was cross New York in a taxi and wait in JFK for 6 hours.  The taxi ride was uneventful, although we did get to see a great sunset over the Brooklyn bridge.

Sunset over Brooklyn

Sunset over Brooklyn

One advantage of this little detour is that I got to experience JFK – I’ve never flown through there, since it’s not a United hub.  I have to say I was pretty impressed with it, although it was  like almost every other US airport, with a Starbucks, Auntie Annes and a Hudson News… the US airports have so little local character (at least Hudson News is relevant in New York, I suppose).

At this point i’d been on the go almost 20 hours and still hadn’t boarded my flight from Lima – despite a coffee, pretzel and lemonade, I was feeling exhausted (maybe from all the carbs!) so as soon a I boarded my flight to Lima, I snapped a final selfie and settled in for the long night flight to Peru.  I had basically the worst seat on any plane – the non-reclining, back row, next to the toilet seat.  But it was a seat, and I was finally on the way, and I was so excited for the true adventure to begin!

Final day one selfie… tired!

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Counting the sleeps!

21 Sleeps!Okay, Peru is getting really close now!  The next time I go to the airport it will be to head to Peru!!!!

To put it another way… 21 sleeps!

I’ve basically done all the shopping now, and i’ve done a practice pack of my backpack so I know everything will fit.  I’m now in the frustrating bit where i’ve not got anything to do except be excited!  Now, where did I put that guidebook…

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1 month to go!

I can’t believe it’s so close! In 1 month, i’ll be boarding my plane to Peru! Well, technically, i’ll be boarding a plane to Frankfurt, then changing planes… a lot of times. But it’s close, and i’m really excited!!!!

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Flying (aka how not to get jet lag!)

Below is a post I actually made originally on another attempt at a blog, a few years ago.  I wanted to repost it, since it was my most liked post on the old blog and I feel the information is still pretty relevant. Continue reading

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