Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

September 15, 1998

More on our Peru/Bolivia Trip

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andy Carvin @ 2:17 pm

Hi everyone. As you may know, I’ve just returned from a two week trip to the Andes that brought me from Cusco to La Paz by way of Lake Titicaca. Eventually I’ll get some time to put my entire travel journal online but I wanted to send all of you some quick comments on places we stayed, ate, etc.
Cusco. There have been a lot of reports about choke attacks against tourists. Fortunately, we came out of Peru unscathed. Every night Cusco’s plaza de armas was crowded with people – perhaps opportunities for pickpockets, but not assaults. We felt perfectly safe, though admittedly didn’t venture out too late at night. We stayed at the Hostal Loreto, right of the plaza on Calle Loreto. Great location, super nice staff, and an authentic inca wall in your room, $40/ double with bath. It was a little pricey, but well worth it. There are numerous cafes around the plaza. Two we liked were Kero cafe and Cafe Plus, both on the west side of the plaza. Both were cozy places with nice views from the second floor. There’s also a great little cafe on the north side of the plaza, just to the left of the cathedral. I don’t know what it’s called but it was the only place open each day at 7am for breakfast. Good food, great coffee (surprising). We splurged one night and ate at the Inka Grill. Very tasty, but we both got really queasy that night. I’m not sure if there was anything wrong with what we ate – perhaps we weren’t adjusted to the high fat, high cholesterol, high salt meals of South America.
We took a sacred valley tour for $15, and overall it was worth it. Pisac’s sunday market was loaded with tourists but was nonetheless an amazing site. We ate at some dump in Urubamba that charged 20 soles for cold food and lots of swarming flies. Pack a lunch if you can.
Shopping was good in Cusco, especially for sweaters. I had been told to save my shopping for la paz, which I now regret. There are great deals in La Paz, but Cusco had a better, cheaper selection of alpaca sweaters.
Machu Picchu We booked a trip to Machu Picchu for $60 a person, including r/t train tix on the tourist train (pullman class), bus transfers, one day entrance into the ruins and a tour guide. We spent three days at the ruins, with two nights in Aguas Calientes. Well worth it. It’s a comfortable, safe little village. We stayed at the Hostal Cabana. It didn’t get good reviews in Lonely Planet, but they’ve since renovated the place and expanded, building better, bigger rooms. We had a large double with private bath for 30 dollars. We had tried to make reservations at Gringo Bills a month before our trip but upon our arrival in Cusco they said they would only honor our reservations if we re-booked through a specific travel agent that never seemed to be open. I found Gringo Bill’s to be rude and arrogant so we took our business elsewhere.
As it’s often said, Machu Picchu is packed with tourists from 10:30am to 2:30pm and empty the rest of the day. Amazing, but true, which is why it’s worth every cent to spend a couple of nights in Aguas Calientes. As for local food, go to Manu Restaurant or Chez Maggie. Both were good, especially maggie’s wood stove pizzas. Most important: bring lots of bug spray. We did, and managed to survive the thousands of blackflies that swarm around the ruins all day. They give you painful, swollen bites that last for two weeks – very nasty stuff. Our guide in the ruins was named Francisco. I wish I knew his last name, because he did an amazing job. I’ll try to scan a picture of him and put it online later so you can look for him there.
The Cusco to Puno train now leaves at 8am, not 9am. It’s an ok ride, about $30 for first class, and the food was surprisingly good – great roasted chicken. We arrived in Juliaca by 4:30 and caught a minibus to Puno, getting us there well before 6pm. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about puno, but I liked it. A great market town with lots of lively people. There may not be much history there but it still was fun. We stayed at the Hostal Zurit, which was quiet and deserted. We ate at a restaurant directly across from Don Piero’s and had the best arroz con pollo in south america. A real pleasant surprise.
Puno to Copacabana took from 8am to noon, including an hour at the bolivian border. Contrary to some rumors, the bolivians didn’t check us for yellow fever cards. We had no problem crossing over. Upon arrival in Copa a tourist inspector gets on your bus and demands one boliviano from everyone for local upkeep. It’s a scam but they won’t let the bus go until you’ve all paid.
As pretty as copacabana was, I’d have to say it was the most unfriendly place I’ve ever visited in 10 years and 25 countries of traveling. I don’t blame them – it’s as if someone decided to make copa a tourist town without asking the locals’ permission. I constantly felt like no one wanted us there, even the local merchants. One highlight, though, was the new Hostal Cupula, on the hill east of the center of town. It’s a lovely hotel with bright white walls and sunny rooms. Great restaurant, comfy hammocks and a garden, free use of kitchen. Martin, the owner, is German and speaks both english and spanish very well. We stayed in a large triple for $19 a night. I strongly recommend it. We never made it to isla del sol, unfortunately. High winds and waves kept shutting down boat service on the lake.
Copa to La Paz by bus took four hours, including a flat tire on the altiplano. La Paz was a highlight of our trip. I really had a good time. Friendly people, lots of activity, including political protests and police in riot gear. It was a fascinating place. We stayed at the beautiful Hostal Republica three blocks east of Plaza Murillo for $24 a night. I’d strongly recommend the Restaurante Pronto in Sopacachi – delicious, cheap italian food in a classy setting. We also had a good lunch at Pena Huari, on Saganarga, across from the Saganarga hotel. We went back for a Pena there but was a bit disappointed in the dinner. The music was Andean fusion jazz, too, which didn’t do much for me. Lobo is still a popular backpacker haunt. We had decent lentil veggy burgers there. I was warned to not try the soups, though. Breakfast at our hotel wasn’t great so I usually ended up at Cafe Torino, just south of Murillo Plaza. Good breakfast and a few Internet computers to boot. We also had to cancel our plans to visit Tiwanaku – four days in the road local farmers blockaded the roads to protest the government’s coca eradication policy.
On the whole, we had a great time. Be sure to bring lots of warm clothes if you go near titicaca, though. There’s no heating in Copacabana so you never get the chance to warm up if you get too cold…

Back from Peru and Bolivia

Filed under: Peru — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Andy's Machu Picchu sketch
Hi everyone. Susanne and I have just returned from a two-week trek across the Andes Mountains from Cusco, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia. The first word that comes to mind is exhausting: though neither of us contracted altitude sickness, the high elevation gave us both sinus infections and kept us huffing and puffing a lot. (And thankfully neither of us had stomach problems, or as I liked to call it in Peru, Aguirre: Wrath of God…) Overall we had a great time, though. Machu Picchu is beyond words – I wish I could have spent weeks there instead of three days. Cusco was a fascinating town, with its blending of Inca and Spanish colonial architecture. We also visited the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, which was beautiful but frigid – there is no heat whatsoever in the town of Copacabana, so it’s impossible to ever get away from the freezing temperatures. We warmed up by wrapping up the trip in La Paz, Bolivia’s lively capital. Everywhere we went in La Paz there seemed to be a political protest or rally. I’ve never been to a city that was so politically active, and I even live in Washington DC!


On the whole Peru and Bolivia made for a fascinating vacation, though I’ve got to say I’m glad to get back to work…

September 13, 1998

Last Day in La Paz (day 4)

Filed under: Bolivia — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Hi everyone. Here’s the final installment of my journal High Plains Backpacker, which covers my September 98 trip to Peru and Bolivia.
This episode: Last Day in La Paz (Day 4).
And please excuse any typos or minor errors, especially with my Spanish. I’m still editing the text.

September 12, 1998

La Paz journal, Day 3

Filed under: Bolivia — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Hi everyone. Here’s the latest installment of my journal High Plains Backpacker, which covers my September 98 trip to Peru and Bolivia.
This episode: La Paz, Day 3.
And please excuse any typos or minor errors, especially with my Spanish. I’m still editing the text.

September 11, 1998

La Paz Day 2

Filed under: Bolivia — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Hi everyone. Here’s the latest installment of my journal High Plains Backpacker, which covers my September 98 trip to Peru and Bolivia.
This episode: La Paz, Day 2
And please excuse any typos or minor errors, especially with my Spanish. I’m still editing the text.

September 10, 1998

Copacabana to La Paz journal

Filed under: Bolivia — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Hi everyone. Here’s the latest installment of my journal High Plains Backpacker, which covers my September 98 trip to Peru and Bolivia.
This episode: Copacabana to La Paz.
And please excuse any typos or minor errors, especially with my Spanish. I’m still editing the text.

September 9, 1998

Copacabana journal, day 3

Filed under: Bolivia — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Hi everyone. Here’s the latest installment of my journal High Plains Backpacker, which covers my September 98 trip to Peru and Bolivia.
This episode: Copacabana, Part 3.
And please excuse any typos or minor errors, especially with my Spanish. I’m still editing the text.

September 8, 1998

Copacabana journal, day 2

Filed under: Bolivia — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Hi everyone. Here’s the latest installment of my journal High Plains Backpacker, which covers my September 98 trip to Peru and Bolivia.
This episode: Copacabana, Part 2.
And please excuse any typos or minor errors. I’m still editing the text.

September 7, 1998

Puno to Copacabana journal

Filed under: Bolivia — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Hi everyone. Here’s the latest installment of my journal High Plains Backpacker, which covers my September 98 trip to Peru and Bolivia.
This episode: Puno to Copacabana.
And please excuse any typos or minor errors. I’m still editing the text.

September 6, 1998

Cusco to Puno journal

Filed under: Peru — Andy Carvin @ 12:59 pm

Hi everyone. In January 1998 I posted the first of several journal entries from my September 98 trip to Peru and Bolivia. I promised I’d post the rest of my journal in January. Well, it took a little longer than expected, but I’ve finally wrapped up typing it all up. The following messages will include my journal entries for Puno, Copacabana and La Paz. If you’d like to see my previous posts, visit http://groups.google.com and search for “High Plains Backpacker.” [or search my blog now that they're archived here.-ac]
So, without further ado, here’s my entry for Cusco to Puno.
ps – please excuse any typos or minor errors. I’m still editing the text.

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