Tucan Travel - Moon Valley, Bolivia.

Today was my last day in South America before my early flight tomorrow morning. Rather than walking around the markets again, a few of us decided to visit Valle de la Luna aka moon valley. The name was enough to entice me, I love the moon.
Moon valley is located about 10km from downtown La Paz, we opted to take a taxi there and back which is cheap split between several people. The valley gets its name due its outer space appearance, rather than a valley it is more like a maze of canyons and spires which have developed due to erosion from wind and rain.
Due to the mineral contents in the mountain (much like rainbow mountain) there is a pallet of spectacular colours from beige, light brown, red and even dark purple. The colours and shapes create scene of wonder. It is a baron landscape and you can really feel the heat of the sun whilst you are walking around, you might also spot a few cactuses here and there or animals such as lizards.

The walkways are clearly marked, and it doesn’t take too long to complete the walk around (less than an hour) although I guess that really depends on how long you want to stay. The landscape was spectacular, and it was a nice little thing to go and see rather than staying in downtown.

In the evening we went to an English pub (typical) were I tried my first and last fried mars bar. It was good but incredibly sweet. 
A lot of people asked me when I booked Peru and whilst I was there why Peru? I didn’t really have an answer. I booked this trip because I liked the sound of the itinerary and that was about it. However, Peru completely blew me away, it was so much more than I expected and exceeded any expectations I could have set for it. It was an incredible experience to learn so much about so many different cultures and meet so many people proud and passionate about their country and heritage. The trip was challenging for me physically with so much hiking, from Rainbow mountain at an altitude of over 5000 metres above sea level, to doing a four-day hike to Machu Picchu. The Peruvian landscape was outstanding, starting out in dry barren land, where we camped and sand boarded in a desert to finding ourselves near snow-capped mountains, to rainforests/jungles. I was lucky enough to see wildlife from squirrel monkeys, caiman, penguins, sea lions, dolphins and Andean spectacled bears. Although incredible, Peru is not without its problem which were evident from teachers strikes, poverty and so much litter everywhere! The last couple of days were spent in Bolivia, a country I hope to see more of one day but here I got to explore La Paz, and do death road which was scary but equally one of the best activities I have ever done. And this about sums up my time in South America, it took me forever to blog about it and I am SORRY

Tucan Travel - Death Road, Bolivia.

Where do I even begin? When I had booked onto this trip I went through all the optional activities putting them in lists of, yes, no and maybe. Biking down death road immediately went into my no list, the reason being I have this slight fear of bikes. Yes, I can ride a bike, but I am terrified of falling off after an incident when I was a kid which left me with a nice scar across my chin. I read about death road, how people had died by falling off the side, people coming of their bikes and ending up with broken bones it sounded terrifying to me. But, being in a big group of people and most them opting to do this activity I caved into peer pressure slightly and fearing I might miss out on something I could really end up enjoying.  

I had this gut wrenching feeling in my stomach the night before, the nerves were well and truly set in! This was a full day activity, so it was an early start, we went with a company called gravity bike and our guides were Noel and Will who were incredible throughout the whole day, I cannot highly recommend them enough! 
death road. bolivia The roads name is Yungas road but got the dreaded death road name due to the number of deaths the road caused during construction. The death road itself is 43 miles long. In the past around 300 people have died on this road every year (although I don’t know how accurate that is) along the road you will see shrines, and our guides told us about some of the deaths that have occurred on the road and sadly one of their friends, an experience guide was one of them.

Once we had reached the starting point we were provided with out gear, each off us were given a protective coat and trouser, gloves, a helmet and a bike designed to fit us with great suspension and brakes. I got fitted for my bike and gave it a test ride and it felt perfect for me, which made me feel a little more comfortable. Safety is extremely important so once we were all equipped we were given a run down on how to use the bikes, the road (which is pretty much all downhill,) how the van will be behind us always if we ever wished to stop etc. Then we made an offering to a god (the name I can’t recall) asking to keep us safe, the offering was alcohol which we poured on the ground then took a swig off, it was strong and not pleasant in the slightest. 
death road. bolivia The first part of the ride was on a road, which had trucks coming and going and the trucks did not really care for the bikers. I was just thankful for the smooth terrain, the views were incredible, but I was so focussed on my brakes and the vehicles around me. I took my time to, I wasn’t here to race people, I stayed towards the back to avoid the pressure of feeling I was going too slow for others. My heart was pounding though, and I don’t think it stopped pounding throughout the whole ride. I had one scary moment on this road, where I slightly lost control of my bike and swerved into the centre of the road, thankfully there were no trucks on the road. There was also another point when some of us got stuck behind a truck but one of our guides helped us overtake the truck safely. This part of the ride took around an hour, and it was only a taster of what was yet to come.

death road. bolivia

Our first taster of the gravel path came when we had to go around a tunnel, here one member of our group came of his bike, which I witnessed, and it just made my stomach drop (although he wasn’t severely injured and was able to carry on) I was so scared I was going to fall. After this bit, the road goes uphill our group opted out of this bit (since it can take over an hour to ride) and headed to the real death road. Here, the path would only be gravel, rocks, lots of bends and all downhill with the highest drop being 4,650 metres. I remember seeing the road appear whilst we were in the van and all I kept saying in my head was ‘oh my god.’ 
Throughout the whole ride, I don’t think I ever felt truly confident, I was terrified the whole time, but I stayed focused on the road and my surroundings. I made sure I pressed my brakes gently and there were only a few points when you had to use your pedals. There was also plenty of photo opportunities along the way. The surroundings were incredible, so much green and wilderness, water trickling down the cliffs it was breath-taking. We stopped several times on the road to re-group, make sure everyone was okay and have lunch. In total the road took us over three hours, at the end there is an optional zipline, which only one person chose to do. The rest of us were taken to an animal sanctuary for dinner. 

Being an animal lover, it was the perfect way to end a terrifying day by being surrounded by animals. They had everything to tapir to spectacled bears, and I opted to do a mini tour to see the bears because I could not come all the way to South America and not see Paddington!

After the sanctuary our group opted to drive back up the death road, I don’t what is more scary biking it or driving on it. Being in a van makes you aware of how narrow the roads are at points and when you look at the window sometimes there was nothing but a nice, long drop on the other side. Our guides made the drive back so fun, playing good music with all off us singing along.

Honestly, I am so happy I opted to do death road it was equally one of the most terrifying yet the most fun experience of my life.

Is this something you would do? Any questions ask below. 

Credit for the photos also goes to gravity

Tucan Travel - Cholita's, La Paz, Bolivia.

The hotel we were staying in whilst in La Paz was the hotel Sagarnaga which is in the heart of La Paz and within walking distance of downtown. The hotel on a whole was nice, the rooms were basic, and we got free breakfast, although most days I had pancakes for an extra cost because they were so good! The restaurant also served really good and yummy meals if you did not want to go out for food in the evening!

Today was slow, not really knowing what to do in La Paz I went with my formed on the trip ‘girl gang’ who wanted to look around markets and find the witches market (which intrigued me greatly.) However, after walking around the same shop several times (did I mention I hate shopping?) I was incredibly bored. We were also unsure if we actually found the witches market or not, we did stumble across some markets/shops that had carcasses of alpacas, and potions to attract the one you love and stones with healing properties, but it didn’t really match my mind or pictures of what I had seen of La Paz’s famous witch market or it was simply a case of seeing the same items throughout Peru that the markets didn’t feel particular special. Since I had grown bored of shopping (it was after a good couple of hours) I decided to go back to the hotel for a bit and do some reading and just relax.

In the evening me and a few others decided to go watch the Cholitas, a group of female wrestlers who perform in El Alto. This occurs every Sunday and tickets are extremely cheap, which for us included return bus, popcorn/drink and a souvenir of your choice, I picked a pen.

However, our transport there ended up breaking down, so we had to wait and switch to another bus which resulted in us being late and we ended up missing up half of the show. Despite that though the Cholitas was fun, crazy and weird to watch and I enjoyed it more than what I thought I would. Obviously, it is all faked which is pretty evident at times, but it adds to the whole show; during the fight breaks people in costumes would come out and dance and drag people from the audience to join in. It is an experience and one I feel everyone should try whilst in Bolivia!
cholitas la paz
cholitas la paz

Unfortunately, my photos aren't the greatest! I am still not the best with my camera and even in auto mode it struggles in poorly lit areas! 

The transport back again was horrendous, me and another girl piled on a bus which was already too full and ended up sitting at the front of the bus on a raised platform. The bus window had the biggest crack in it, the roads were chaotic with cars, busses etc in the wrong lanes, people rolling bins across the road and a car pulled out in front of us and if our driver hadn’t reacted so quickly and braked we would have crashed. Bolivians roads are certainly an experience! 

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

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