Shawn and Erin Around the World travel blog

Cusco, Peru

Plaza de Armas - Cusco, Peru

Cusco breakfast - $3 each

Mountain Biking to Machu Picchu

The "alternative hike" to Macchu Picchu

Peruvian way of crossing a river!

Train into Aguas Calientes - Near Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Peruvian Boy trying out Shawn's camera

Peruvian Girls near ruins outside of Cusco

Pisac Ruins - Near Cusco (Can't lose Erin in the ruins with...

The amazing carving abilities of the Incas

Monasterio de Santa Catalina - Arequipa, Peru (Amazing Monastery!!)

Monasterio de Santa Catalina

Our plane to see the Nasca Lines

Nasca Line Alien

Isla Isabela - Galapagos

Our bungalow on Isla Isabela - $15 a night

Volcano Tour - Isla Isabela

Volcano Tour - Isla Isabela

Isla Isabela

Albatros Birds (They mate for life)

Blue Footed Boobies

Water Iguana

Giant Tortoise on Isla Santa Cruz

Seal taking a nap!

Giant Tortoises on Isla Santa Cruz

Giant Tortoise chopping away!

Giant Stingray


White Tip Sharks

Erin and Shawn diving

Shawn diving off the boat

Shawn at one with the lava!

Seals posing for us

Baby Seal

Erin and Seals

Archipell II - Our boat

Frigate Bird (Males do this when they want to mate)

Baby Seal

Final Toast of the year on the Equator!

Arrival in Heathrow Airport

After 15-minutes into a 14-hour bus ride from Copacabana (Bolivia) to Cusco (Peru) we realized that we had made a mistake to sit near the front. A man was shouting and waving the book he had distributed through the bus, one sitting on my lap. It wouldn't have been so bad if we had known what he were saying, but it was all in Spanish, very fast and loud Spanish. He went on, and on, seemingly without breath, for some 30-minutes and then collected the books and money for the books people kept, gave the driver his cut and jumped off our bus to wait for another. Each journey was the same throughout Peru, except that some salesmen would hand out sweets, others performed magic tricks or told jokes. You never get bored on the bus, might get a headache but never bored.

Peru is a vibrant country, full of culture and history. We found Cusco to be the cultural capital, the former Inca Capital, a city of cobbled streets, countless churches and museums, great food (especially "Jacks"). We found a fantastic artist area where you can buy the most fantastic paintings and silver jewelry - our pack weight increased by several pounds in just a few days!. The city was constantly buzzing with street parades and tourists excited about setting off to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. We checked out countless travel agents and the earliest we could get on the trail was in three months time, this was the one thing in the world we found that you need to book ahead of time! That is if you want to walk the original trail. We opted for an alternative route in which you downhill mountain bike in to a valley and hike for a couple of days, parallel to the original trail. The mountain biking was fast and scary, our adrenalin pumped up even more by some shear drops at the edge of the road and bikes equipped with dodgy gears and worse still suspect brakes! Erin had just gained her confidence and started taking the curves with some speed when she went over the handlebars at a tight corner, landing on some rocks. Thank goodness they provided a helmet, so fortunately all she had to show off later were a few bruises and scratches.

The hike was not for the faint hearted either, with up to 10-hours plodding along through rainforest, riverbeds, over broken bridges and crossing rivers in suspended cages for two. Don't do this if you have a fear of heights. The views became ever more breathtaking the higher we climbed and the goal of Matchu Picchu was well worth the journey. The city was carved granite blocks, on top of a mountain, and lost to the western world until 1911, when an American historian stumbled upon it. We visited early in the morning, before the tourist train arrived at 10am. Before then the ruins were peaceful and shrouded with mist. It allowed us the time to wonder about the past civilization that created these massive carved building blocks (with up to 32-sides), all slotting perfectly together.

Moving from here to southern Peru we were further amazed by the massive geoglyphs and lines etched in to the desert at Nazca. The scale of these geometric shapes (each over 500 ft long) was so great that we could only view them from a plane! The planes were often referred to as the "chunder rockets", and as you tip and turn your way around the 30 or so figures the 15 minute ride begins to seem like a long time! As for the geoglyphs the most current explanation for their creation, was for rituals to the gods for water, the shapes often following the groundwater flow direction. Makes sense when you live in a desert. Although many still claim they were formed by Aliens.....

Another stop on our tour of Peru was Arequipa, another charming city, surrounded by mountains and a volcano. The buildings are often white, made of light-colored volcanic rock, non-more impressive than the nunnery, previously home for 450 nuns and completely shut off to the outside world until 1970. It is a City in itself.

From Peru, we made our final stop for the year in the Galapagos Islands of Equador, a two-hour flight due west from the mainland. If you want the sea life experience of a lifetime this is it. The wildlife are not tame, they just are not afraid of humans. We had booked a cruise for 10-days around the islands but arrived on the islands a couple of weeks early. We wanted to chill out on one of the outer islands, Isabella, which we reached via a couple of the small ferries running between the islands. Not a fun experience for Shawn, who still had not got his sea legs - must get them soon!. Even without taking a cruise the wildlife was just fantastic. You go for a swim in the sea and end up with seals playing with you, swimming straight at you and turning away at the last minute to circle around. That terrified Erin, who screamed through her snorkel - attracting yet more curious seals. We ended up with eight seals with us on this occasion, and upon getting out we looked back to see all eight heads poking out of the water with a look of "ohhh! don't want to play anymore!".

We spent the day's horse riding up the volcano, kayaking to see "blues footed boobies and penguins", visiting the giant tortoises and running along the deserted beaches to get back in shape. Then on a night ate the best fish dinners over an Ecuadorian beer, with Peace and quiet. To us then it was paradise. You can get a very good flavor of the Galapagos by just visiting some of the islands via ferry, without the expense of a cruise. Having said that the cruise we took was lovely, so many islands, soooooo many turtles, boobies, frigate birds, seals, iguanas...............and some great people with which to enjoy our last week of a fantastic year, a fantastic honeymoon.

So after 13-months on the road; visiting 37 countries on 29 flights; traveling on 34 trains, 69 buses, 17 boats, fellucas and longtails; hiring 22 taxies, 8 auto rickshaws, 6 cycle rickshaws, 2 motor bikes and 10 rides on various animals ranging from horses and donkeys to camels, not to mention the odd bicycle, kayak and finally up a few mountains and through a couple jungles on our tired feet. During the year we had slept in hotels, hostels, on planes, in buses, boats, on the deck of a boat, in a few tents and even under the stars on a couple of nights. We had been bitten (bugs are everywhere!), jostled, bumped, pushed, occasionally ripped off but never robbed and always welcomed by all countries, all people, especially the multitudes of smiling children. So we boarded our last flight in Equador bound for London with many memories, feeling more part of the world, glad to go home to see friends, happy to be still well and finally content in each other. Lvd it - Erin and Shawn.

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