*We’ve missed an entire country. Cambodia deserves several posts of it’s own – and it will definitely get them.*
Because of our Air Asia Asean Pass we had to stop in Bangkok to get to Hanoi from Siem Reap. In case you aren’t aware, it’s actually in the wrong direction and since we had to overnight anyway we decided to make it 3 nights. Why not.
We did one temple – which was great (Wat Pho). And then we had some time on our hands. Jen’s friend made us aware that there was a cat cafe not too far from us, and I didn’t need much convincing!
We dropped our laundry off in Cebu yesterday, and because the sign said same day service we assumed we would be on our way bright and early in the morning. We were told – NOON. It would be done NOON tomorrow. Finally they conceded at 11 am. And then our doorman intervened on our behalf and 8 am for the win!
Bright and early this morning we set out on our 30 minute walk (part of Jen’s plan to exercise me regularly). We had coffee at Bo’s coffee which is a local coffee shop where apparently a lot of tourists eat because it cost the same as Starbucks at home – which is outrageous considering I had my eyebrows shaped with a razor for $1 yesterday. I saw a stray dog across the street and decided to save part of my egg mcmuffin for him. He had a hurt foot.
Off we went to collect our laundry and hit the road. I carried the egg mcmuffin for 20 minutes before giving up and leaving it on the side of the road. I have no idea where that dog got to! As we walked by the hotel that was doing our laundry the laundry man shouted out – “Friend! Your laundry!” And literally within 15 minutes we were in a taxi on our way to the pier for our boat. It was like magic.
We arrived to the pier at 8:40. The next ferry was at 8:45 and of course we didn’t have tickets or anything. No problem, we were assured that we could make the boat! And yes – it was really no problem because the boat was 30 minutes late. But it wasn’t even the boat we were planning on taking so in the end it was all randomness that worked out perfectly. Like it always does.
The ferry had assigned seats. Even though the ferry had plenty of empty seats the staff assigned us these ones:
Because we are in the Philippines, where the Pope is the most trusted man in the country, the boat trip started with a lengthy prayer for a safe journey. Because of this I didn’t hold out too much hope for the onboard movie thinking it would likely be Disney or something, which would make sense because half the boat was kids. Nope. American Sniper. Obviously. And just like the South American bus movie, it was a ripped copy of a dvd.
Part 2: Arrival to Bohol
Bohol is a pretty small island that most people do on a day trip. So of course we have 3 days here. We arrived at our accommodation in a tricycle (photo to come). Our hotel is staffed by what appears to be 12 year olds who watch youtube videos and nap on the couch. I’m not really sure what’s going on here. I asked for them to arrange a driver for tomorrow and they said it’s taken care of – so all I can do is trust. We’re near the beach, and not much else! And since we aren’t near restaurants I’ve now had to ask the youth in charge to make me dinner. Update on the meal to come.
There are a few things that make travel challenging but there are two in particular that really stretch me. The first is being dumped off a bus in the middle of a new town and trying to find the hostel. All hostels are advertised as being within 200 metres of the “bus station.” Even if a town has multiple bus stations.
The second is trying to use any country’s mailing system. Morocco’s system really pushed me to the limit, but Argentina really gave them a run for their money when we tried to mail a package home.
The first day, in 38 degree heat we walked to the post office for the sole purpose of obtaining a box to mail some things that we’ve been carting around back to Canada. We waited in the line, even though we weren’t sure it was the right line, and when our turn came we met the nicest Argentine lady. I tried to ask for a box in Spanish, but she replied in English. She set me up with an awesome box, and said, “when you come back tomorrow don’t wait in the line, just come see me and I will help you.” People like this are like little angels placed in South America to help me when things seem difficult.
Jen did a mostly good job of describing our trek through Salkantay pass to Macchu Pichu, but I feel like she left a bit out.
Salkantay is a 4 day trek (the 5th day is a visit to Macchu Pichu) which is a tough hike for even very athletic people. For me it was basically a suicide march. The best part of the trek was the absolutely amazing people we met along the way.
Day 1. At 4 am we find ourselves locked in the hostel, when we are meant to be meeting everyone in the main square of Cusco. Banging on the door in a panic seems to help, and soon we are on our way. After a two hour bus ride to the trail head, we start climbing. At the end of our 15 km “practice day” we arrive to the camp in a heavy hail storm. It is freezing cold at this camp, and I wear my new down jacket to bed. Jen insists we could have done without these new jackets, which is good for me, since I wear hers to bed as pants.
Day 2. Our guide suggest a horse for the first part of the day since it is 7 km directly uphill through Salkantay pass. 6 members of our group take horses and 4 (including Jen – big surprise) walk up the hill. For the second time ever in the guide’s career the group that is hiking up the hill beats the horses. Jen looks as if she’s just taken a relaxing stroll. Our guide guides us through a Qechua thanksgiving ceremony – it seems to work as I am very thankful we are not walking right now. After this we begin our descent of the mountain. It is extremely difficult rocky terrain. I put myself behind by changing my clothes behind a rock and then accidentally peeing on my shoe. I’m hiking with someone else who has trouble going downhill, and we arrive about 25 minutes late for lunch. The guide is not impressed. I’m not impressed either. After lunch we have 4 km to go to the camp site for a total of 21 km on this day. Sometime after lunch I trip on some rocks and cut my leg. I just keep walking. This doesn’t seem like the type of hike where you complain about these things. The camp site is much warmer, and I pay 10 soles for a warm shower. There is also beer at the camp site which is always nice. There is an option to climb an additional “bonus” mountain tomorrow. It gets voted down by the group, and the three uber athletic boys are really disappointed. Jen takes one look at me, and doesn’t even vote. Smart wife.
Day 3. Things are looking up. Only 16 km to go, on steady up and down terrain. The climate is definitely getting a bit more tropical. We are able to walk the entire 16 km before lunch. After lunch we visit a local coffee farm. The farm also has sand flies and they massacre my legs. I have never seen bug bites like this before, once the bug is done blood runs down my legs. It looks pretty horrific but for now doesn’t feel too bad.
We do get the amazing experience of picking our own beans, grinding up some pre-dried ones, roasting the beans, and having coffee made from the extremely fresh grounds. Amazing. After lunch we hit up the Santa Teresa hot springs. This is the highlight of the trip for me.
Day 4. My legs have swollen to the size of tree trunks. I can barely get a shoe on my left foot. I have blood blister under two of my toenails.
Our guide suggests we go ziplining in the morning. Despite the fact that walking for me and another in our group is becoming nearly impossible, the guide neglects to mention the 30 minute hike directly up the mountain to the zip course. After reaching top Jen decides she’s not really into zip-lining, so we return to the base camp. I ask the guide if we can pop into a pharmacy for some antihistamine, but he says it is out of the way. A kind American shares some with me. The itching dissipates. The elephantitis remains.
We walk 10 km along the train tracks to Macchu Pichu. It’s an easy walk, but quite rocky, and we are continually crossing back and forth on the tracks to get to a path. Even the boys who wanted to climb an extra mountain are complaining of sore feet.
We finally arrive to Aguas Calientes. Nothing really eventful happens from here on out. I’m able to obtain more antihistamine and lasix over the counter in a local pharmacy.
Day 5. Macchu Pichu
3 guys in our group elect to walk from Aguas Calientes to Macchu Pichu. This is insanity. Our bus struggles to make it up the mountain and Jen takes this epic photo of the road later in the day.
Our guide asks us to wait inside the gate for him and he’ll show us around. We all bail. Half the group hikes up the to Sun Gate, and 3 of us just wander around. Our guide finds us an hour later – he is ballistic. He insists he told us how long to wait and we need to sign something saying we don’t want the tour. He calms down and we all join back into his tour.
Macchu Pichu is amazing. The only way it could have been more amazing is if I hadn’t been hiking for 4 days and nearly unable to walk. There is no shame in taking the train to Macchu Pichu, and if you aren’t in really amazing shape a four day extreme trek might interfere with your ability to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.
We had purchased tickets to Huayna Pichu as well, but there was no way I was able to do that. I was super happy in my little rock hammock at the bottom of the mountain, where I held everyone’s bags for them while they hiked.
Macchu Pichu exceeded my expectations, and I hope I can go again one day! I’ll take the train obviously.