Hi everyone, 

Finally I have been made to type the e-mail, albeit under close supervision from Preetha. Hope everyone is well.

I think we left off in Arequipa, having just arrived in the afternoon. After checking into the hotel we decided to go exploring in the city. First stop was the Santa Catalina convent only recently opened to the public. It was fairly interesting to see how the nuns lived in the past, being confined within the walls of the convent from about the age of 14 to the day they died. I presume they found fulfilment!! After that we wandered into the centre and found a Hare Krishna restaurant hoping for some spicy food, to no avail.

Went to a posh restaurant in the evening - by Peruvian standards anyway - and had a good meal. A minor problem with the drinks when we asks for wine but got water. Not sure whether he was then going to turn the water into wine or not but in the end we got a very small bottle to share. 

Next day we had our trip to see the condors at Colca Canyon. We were picked up at 8.30am so we had a bit of a lie in!! We had to drive to Chivay first which was a long, dusty, bumpy 4/5 hour trip but the scenery was amazing. There were seven of us in the minibus, and unfortunately we were joined by two Belgian amateur photographers who insisted on stopping everywhere and then wandering off. We wanted to leave them behind but the guide made us wait - although she really wanted to leave them as well.

Anyway, we got to Chivay around 3pm and had lunch. I managed my first taste of Alpaca. This is a smaller and much more cuddly version of a Llama. Still it tasted quite nice, like liver says Preetha which she hates. We had the option to try guinea pig but it is served with the head and little legs attached but we bottled it - tastes like chicken apparently. After lunch we went onto the hot springs which fortunately were much better than those at Macchu Pichu. These were quite clean and there was a separate pool for tourists. The temperature of the water was about 35-40 degrees centigrade which was too hot for me but Preetha enjoyed it. As we wallowed in the pool we watched the sun set behind the mountains - fantastic. 

From there we went onto our lodge. Having dropped off a few of the others first at rather dodgy looking establishments we were getting a bit worried when we drove into the middle of nowhere for ours. We continued down a steep, dirt track in complete darkness and were starting to wonder if we should have bought tents and sleeping bags with us. Fortunately the lodge was excellent. We had dinner although we were not sure what it was and a bottle of wine. Again we had problems ordering the wine. We only wanted a half bottle so when we were shown a normal size bottle we gestured to say we wanted a smaller bottle. We were given a smaller bottle - in height anyway - but it was twice as wide!! Still we managed to force it down. 

Next morning we woke at 6am to watch the sun rise from our bed. As the lodge was in the middle of a hill overlooking the canyon it was spectacular. We had breakfast on the patio at 7am and then had a wander around the farm. We think that it was really a ranch. There were many horses, llamas and lots of land with streams running through it. 

We were then picked up and taken to the canyon where the condors could be seen. We drove through the longest, darkest, dustiest tunnel possible. If you broke down in there you would probably either get run over or die of asphyxiation!! We made it though and as soon as we got there we saw a condor flying overhead. They have a wingspan of about 3 meters and are part of the vulture family. They were very impressive as was the scenery - the canyon below. We saw in total about 5 or 6 and one came very close, almost showing off to all the spectators. 

On the way back we stopped off at a couple of villages. In one Preetha managed to get a falcon to land on her head!!! We have pictures to prove it. We stopped for lunch in a rather rundown shack, not expecting too much. Preetha had the stuffed peppers which were way too spicy for everyone else on the tour but she enjoyed. This was the first time that Preetha was the only one to finish all her meal!! (although I had to finish off her soup). 

Got back to Arequipa and had an early night. Would have been more restful if there hadn't been gunfire all night. Didn't really know why!! 

Next morning we again woke to gunfire, although we eventually found out that it was May Day celebrations of the workers. We then went to the airport around noon for our flight to Juliaca. Juliaca is close to Lake Titicaca, which apparently is the highest navigable lake in the world. We were certainly quite high up and I could feel my breathing getting harder again. I thought I should have acclimatised to this by now!! Preetha had no trouble as she kept on telling me!!

From Juliaca we had a short drive to Puno where we stayed for a couple of nights. Arrived in Puno around 6pm and it was dead. We had a wander around the town - which took 5 minutes - and then had dinner and got some more coke to go with our rum and relaxed in the evening watching films. 

In the morning we were picked up a 7.15am for a trip on the Lake. We stopped at the Islands of Uros, which are floating reed islands. To explain these islands are made from reeds cut from the lake, together with layers of rocks and basically float on the lake, and would move with the tides. They were not very big although people did live on the islands which can't be too exciting a life. From there we then had a further 3 hour boat ride (which felt like the slow boat to China) to the Island of Taquile. This was a much larger island where we had pleasant walk uphill to the village centre. Unfortunately there wasn't anything in the village to do, but we did have a nice meal - kingfish fresh from the lake. We then wandered around to some ruins before catching the boat back. On the way back we chatted to a nice family of Brazilians from Rio. They were going on to do the Inca trail so we gave them some tips. They gave us a few ideas of where to go in Rio. 

Got back for another night in Puno. It was much busier than the previous night since there was a music festival going on. 

The next morning we were picked up at 7am for our bus transfer to La Paz. The previous night we had been phoned up by the tour company to say they would pick us up and take us to Copacabana. We told them that we didn't think we should go there and told them it was La Paz. They then told us we would get another bus from Copacabana to La Paz. We shouldn't have believed it!!. After a two hour bus ride we passed through the Bolivian border and reached Copacabana only to find we were not expected. The guide had been given a different itinerary to ours so we had to get back on the bus to go back to the border. Although Copacabana is in Bolivia it's on a peninsula that can only be reached through Peru so we had to go back over the border through Peru to reach La Paz a different way. Because the border was quite busy with tourists when we got there the second time our guide decided it would be much quicker to smuggle us illegally across the border and back again at a different crossing. 

We then met another tour company who took us onto La Paz - who had been waiting two hours for us because of our detour. On the way we stopped at some ruins and had a box lunch followed by an interesting trip to a museum to learn about the ruins and a bit of Bolivian history. The ruins were quite impressive especially as only a fifth of it had been excavated. Our only problem was that we both suffered a bout of the runs. We think the extra two hour delay on our boxed lunch must have been too much. 

We drove into La Paz, arriving from above and driving down into the city with spectacular views of the city spread out below and on the hillside all around. 

Checked into our hotel - the worst so far which is unfortunate as we have the most number of nights in it with no tours pre-booked. Noisy neighbours again or perhaps the walls are too thin!! 

We went for a walk in the evening and the streets were absolutely packed - reminded us of Leceister Square at the weekend, although this was a Wednesday - don't people have jobs to goto in the morning!! Had a big meal of a loin of pork (massive) and a healthy cannaloni for Preetha. Neither of us could finish our meals and my plate was only a third empty!! 

That's about all for now. We have another couple of days here and have booked a trip to the highest developed ski resort tomorrow morning. Probably not the place for Preetha to learn to ski!! 

Take care and keep in touch. 

Love and hugs 

Paul & Pip