Liz and John's South American Grand Cruise 2014 travel blog

Traditional dress in Cusco

John at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Atacama Desert

Wednesday 15-17 January

Days 15-17 Callao, Peru. John leaves for Machu Picchu

We didn't dock in Callao, the Port for Lima in Peru until half nine and John was leaving for his expedition to Machu Picchu at half ten. We were up early because John had to pack an overnight bag and we both wanted some exercise before he went. I had my swim and he walked around the deck a few times. I was so sorry to see him go but I'm sure I'll get some great descriptions from him when he gets back. And again he's promised to take lots of photos.

I had a quieter couple of days because the ship was virtually empty so had a chance to read, write up my diaries, play the piano and my ukelele, practice my singing for the choir and playing in somewhat depleted. I met some interesting people so had a chance to meet and talk to a lot of the singles who were not going on any excursions. I got an email from John saying he'd had a ball so far and the hotel at Cuzco was great.

On the second day there was a show which was excellent. It was called Folkloric Music and Dance and they illustrated showcased music and dance from three different regions in Peru. It was put on by the Morenada de Puna, Vakicha de Custo and Marinera Nortena.

I had a late night and knew I had a long excursion tomorrow to see the Colonial Highlights of Lima and look at the famed Larco Museum. I was quite apprehensive about doing an excursion without John but knew I had to give it a go. In the end I coped really well and the Peruvian guide was really helpful and kind. I had a wonderful day.

The tour of Lima City Centre was really good. The traffic was frenetic and the drivers awful. Apparently it's one of the worst places to drive in the world. We were in a big bus but all the vehicles, both big and little, was going all all over the place in different directions, not taking any notice of any of the road rules or speed limit, cutting in front of each other, no indicators, going right in front when it was bear left only etc etc. I have no idea hoe we didn't see any shunts or indeed too many dented vehicles. It was absolutely crazy!! We were shown the three beautiful squares in the middle of the City with their old colonial buildings including the Royal Palace, the Central Justice Building and several cathedrals. Some of it was impressive but there were a lot of not so nice areas with buildings sadly in the need of repairs and ones that obviously didn't follow any sort of building code. Lima is a city that has a lot of earthquakes so there are no significant high rise buildings. There were a few up to about 12 floors but they were few and far between. The other interesting thing is that they have only about 2 inches of rain per year making it the driest capital city on earth. They get all their water from the rivers and underground bores. Yet the city is surprisingly green I presume from irrigation. The highlight of the trip was visiting the Larco Museum. It was a museum housing many thousands of artifacts dating back to up to three thousand years ago. Some of it was amazing and I was really pleased that I went now. An added bonus was that there were multiple ramps so that I could negotiate most parts of the museum in my scooter. There was one section of the museum with erotic art but one of the Americans were 'disgusted' and said the artefacts shouldn't be on show. Honestly, he said he was happy that everyone in the States is allowed to carry a gun for protection but historical artefacts showing people having sex was offensive. I didn't impress one of them by photographing one of the artefacts!

I was really tired when we got back at half two and I expected John to be already in the room however he had got back from Machu Picchu so I sorted myself out and went up to the library to write up my diary and spreadsheets and have a cup of coffee. He joined me at half three and had had a ball, although was very very tired. We downloaded his photographs to my iPad to look at them in detail. He told me about it all and sounded as though he had a wonderful time.

He'd left the ship at eleven and was transported to Lima Airport where he got on a jet to fly to Cuzco which was at about 9000 feet. That took him nearly an hour and a half to fly over the Andes. He'd booked a 'standard room' at one of the hotels, the Libertador Palacios Del Inca. Which was actually built on Inca Ruins then finished off by the Spanish. Obviously there were some modern touches but he said the hotel was amazing and the ultimate in luxury even though he'd gone only 'standard' and not luxury.

He had the afternoon exploring Cuzco, which was a lot bigger than he had imagined but still very traditional in dress and architecture. He would have liked longer to look around but he still had another hour tomorrow. He had a very traditional Peruvian Buffet for dinner together with a show with singers and dancers which he enjoyed. He felt the effects of the altitude by getting a bit breathless when exerting himself and also had a headache which settled with eating and enjoying some coca tea.

Next day he had a really early start to get onto the train from Ollanta Station at Cuzco. He travelled in a Vistadome train and had a wonderful view of the magnificent scenery. The journey took a couple of hours but he thoroughly enjoyed it in the comfortable train. They arrived at Aguascalientes Calientes Station where they got onto a bus for the final transfer to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately there has been a severe landslide a couple of weeks before so they had to get off that bus, walk around the landslide, then get onto another bus. Finally they reached the awe-inspiring archaeological site.

He had a chance to walk around for a couple of hours and thankfully took heaps of photos so that I could share some of it with him. The site is enormous and in pristine condition and he had a great guide who was able to talk about some of the history of the site specifically and the Incas in general. He returned to Cuzco that evening and was back in Lima the next day. When he got back to the ship, he was exhausted but so excited about what he had seen. He joined me in the cabin and we looked at the photos and chatted for ages about what he had seen.

I'm so glad he went even though I would have liked to have gone with him. John said there was no way I would have managed but having him as my ears and eyes was great.

We had dinner and then went to the show and listened to a soprano singing a lot of old Musical stuff. She was quite good but I think we were both too tired to really enjoy it. The clocks went forward an hour so we were losing an hours sleep. Still we have a sea day tomorrow so there wasn't any pressure to do anything at all!

Saturday 18 January

Day 18 Sea Day on the way to Arica Chile

We had a welcome lie in and ordered breakfast for eight. The sea was smooth and we were looking forward to a restful day. However I decided to pick up my breakfast plate from the tray that was on the bed and the boat went over a bump. I tried to step backwards to keep my balance but although I managed to deposit the plate of scrambled eggs intact on the table but fell backwards squarely across the metal bar of the battery on my scooter. It didn't do me a lot of good. The medical team on the ship saw me and I had an X-ray of my shoulder and back. There was nothing broken thank goodness but the soft tissue injury with bruising was going to make me sore for a few days. I was really impressed with the care I received especially from the Aussie doctor who had a long career with the RFDS. Also, I wasn't charged. I have no idea why because I told them that it was my carelessness for not holding onto something when there was a swell. Still I didn't argue!

We didn't do a lot for the rest of the day apart from Trivia, watching a film and going to the show. John also managed to fit in some Chilean wine tasting which he enjoyed.

The show was a guy called Frank King, an American comedian and although I was a bit doubtful at the beginning with quite a few Americans walking out shortly after it started, the people who stayed were rewarded by a very funny show! It was typically American humour and I didn't get all of it, but some of it was incredibly funny with a universal appeal.

Sunday 19 January

Day 19 Arica, Chile

We'd both been booked on an excursion in Arica but the doctor had suggested I didn't go. I was very sore but disappointed again to see him go off on a trip. He would have to be my eyes again. Still I had a chance to rest up a bit. When John got back after his 6 hour excursion, he'd had a really great day seeing the Atacama desert and visiting a tiny village perched high in the hills of the desert. There had obviously been multiple waterways cutting through the mountains but now the rainfall was near zero and the water used in the village was from wells. The desert was nothing like ours. It was absolutely barren and in only one place did he see a large cactus growing. He brought back lots of photos again and it was great to look at them. It's almost as good as my being there. We'll be doing the next tour together in Coquimbo in Chile.

We did our Trivia again and the questions were really hard. We thought we'd got about four questions right and there was an awful lot of guessing. However we ended up getting eleven and we won. Revenge was sweet when you consider some of the more 'professional' teams! Afterwards we then decided to go and talk to the Future Cruise Consultant and ended up booking another Grand Cruise. This time we booked another Grand Cruise - same state room but this time visiting lots of European Cities. It's called the Grand Mediterranean and is 55 days on the Prinsendam. It leaves on 12 March 2015 so we'll be disappearing for another couple of months! We looked at the World Cruise on the Amsterdam but that was really out of our price range and we've got to really like the Prinsendam.

The next couple of days are sea days on our way to Coquimbo so my next update will be around the 23rd. I hope I'll be fully recovered by then as I'm feeling better today after having a very cold swim!

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