23.05.2011 - 07.06.2011 26 °C
Our last week in Peru basically sucked... What I wrote before about it being so lovely and nice and the people being so friendly, was not exactly researched enough, or so we found out. We left our host family on the day we were going to Lake Titicaca and we said goodbye, gave them presents etc and got into the taxi. Firstly the taxi driver tried to charge us 6 soles (a journey double the distance is usually 3) amd we bargained down to 4 but little did we know, he was planning to scam us again. He dropped us at the bus station and we started to get all of our bags out of the car, a had brought most of mine from the back seat but before I had a chance to pick up the last bag the taxi driver started to drive away. James' bag was still on the backseat. I chased after the taxi for about 300 meters up the road but when he saw me he accelerated and was going much to fast for me to catch up with him. It all happened so quickly that we didn't catch his numberplate either. When I got back, James' knuckles were bleeding, he had punched the wall.
There was really nothing we could do, if we hung about in Cusco not only would we have no accomodation or food but we couldn't be sure that the police would catch him, or even attempt to catch him, so instead we got off the bus. The people from the spanish school were really helpful, they couldn't file a police report for us so instead they contacted the british embassy and told them what had happened. It was lucky in a way because James had given me his passport and Yellow Fever Card to hold on to, all his other documents were in the folders, along with his brand new hat, the guide book for Guatamala, his sunglasses, his warm clothes and a few toiletries too. It wasn't the worst thing that could have been taken, but all the costs add up and most of the stuff he needed in the next few days.
Anyway, so we were told to make a police report when we got to Puno that evening. We had a 'cultural bus journey' to Puno which was really terrible. The guide said 'You Know' and 'My friends' after every single sentance, so in the end even the japanese tourists were laughing when he spoke. We were shown around a church, an Inca temple and a museum which were all very nice, but i would have prefered to get there earlier instead of spending the whole day on the bus. On the way to Puno we also broke down twice and then when we finally got there all hell broke loose.
We weren't allowed to drive into Puno by bus, because the people of Puno were demonstrating. We had heard about this but we didn't really know what to expect. There were chards of glass all over the floor, burn marks from where people had thrown fire and everything was shut. We could hear the protests from our hotel which was quite a few blocks away, but instead of doing the sensible thing and staying inside like we were told, James and I had to file a police report. We literally joined the protest at one point, following the people who were carrying home made axes, poles and rifles down the roads. They are protesting because the president has signed a contract to say that a canadian company who owns a lot of mines in Peru has permission to dump waste into the water there, so all the farmers and people who live off the land are suffering because of it. They are also getting no compensation for this. So to be honest I think it's fair enough, and if I were in there situation I'd probally be throwing glass bottles at things too.
The police station was literally in the middle of the protest. There were about 200 riot police all lined up outside making sure no one came through. However inside the police station, no one seemed interested and everyone was sitting around and watching 'Hitch' with Will Smith in it. We walked in and told them what had happened, but they just laughed. We were prepared for that to be honest, our friend had her camera stolen and when she went to the police they thought it was hilarious because ''Everyone knows....'' that cameras are stolen to be sold at the market. They said they would do the report anyway, but only for a tip.
We walked back through the crowd again to get to dinner, this time they had turned a little hostile towards us and were shouting in spanish, I felt like telling them that I wasn't a canadian so they could shut up. It was a little intimadating any how.
The next day we got the boat to the floating islands and then Amantani Island on Lake Titicaca. It was very pretty but very touristy and a little over the top with trying to act like it wasn't tourity. We stayed with a family for two nights, one on Amantani Island, and one on Taquile Island too. It wasn't great though, there wasn't anything to do. So we were looking forward to going back to Puno and watching the riots, but then we were told that Puno was now unsafe to go to. The president has 2 weeks left before the next election and he basically said that the next president could deal with it. This made the whole of Puno pretty angry so they have smashed us everything (including the hotel we were meant to be staying in) and have started a new habit, of throwing rocks at tourists. So we had to get a local boat that was leaking so badly that the driver kept having to fill up buckets of water and drop them out of the boat, to mainland and then a bus to Juliaca. We were pretty annoyed because three of us had paid for transfers from Puno to Juliaca airport the next day, but we still had to pay for this bus journey which was meant to be included. All the others who hadnt paid started screwing at us because we said that we should at least get a discount, but they weren't the ones losing money, they also told us to stop moaning about having to stay in Juliaca when all of them were put on earlier buses so they could leave....
Im not exaggerating when I say that I would rather have sat in the toilet in Ghana for three hours than stayed in Juliaca (and considering I couldn't go in for a minute without throwing up, you'll understand how serious i am) We came to know it as Julicrapper just because that is pretty much the only way to explain it- crap. We drove through it on the way into Puno the first time and all said, oh im so glad we are not staying here! The people of Julicrapper do not pay taxes because there is so much illegal trading with Bolivia (where they are on the border with) that they have basically been told to sort themselves out. There was sewage all across the roads, everywhere was dirty and horrible and we were advised not to leave our road, because it was too dangerous.
So we were pretty glad to leave for Lima the next day and then Guatamala the day after. We had a flight through El Salvador and had a little wait in the airport. The flight from El Salvador to Guatamala was absolutely terrifying!! They said over the speaker in the plane that we might hit some turbulence as we went over several thunder storm, but it wasn't that that was scary. We got so close to the huge balls of Lightning that I could the plane would deffinately catch fire! The whole plane lit up and then went pitch black. I was extreamly glad to gety back on the ground!!! When we reached Guatamala City we were a bit dissapointed because no one was there to pick us up, and as you probally know Guatamala City is one of the most dangerous cities around. I asked a security guard for help and he gave me his phone and we rang the agency and they came and collected us, he was so nice, he really helped us out. It turns our Real Gap (the bain of our lives!!!) forgot to tell the company that our flight had been changed, so the woman who was picking us up had waited all day at the airport for us and then got home just as we called.
We are staying in a host family in Antigua, the tourism capital of Guatamala. The family are absolutely lovely and cook some of the best food I have ever tasted!!!! Antigua is really beautiful! All the houses are different colours and there is such a nice feel to the place. You can't walk down the street without every person saying 'Buenas Dias!' The people are so lovely, and they really seem proud that you would want to come to their country. The traditional clothes that most of the women wear are so beautiful too, a long skirt with a big waist belt and a patterned shirt, and the men are usually in their sombraros too, they don't wear them because they want pictures taken of them by tourists so they can get money either, they wear them because they are honouring their culture, which I think is brilliant.
On the first day we got to Antigua we were thrown straight into our project. We are working with an excellent charity called 'From Houses to Homes' which build small houses in 5 days for families who live in poor conditions, they have also built a school and a medical clinic which all families they have built for are welcome to. It is well organised and actually really good fun; you work in a group of at least 5 volunteers and 2 Guatamalan Builders and bascially laugh all day. The first house that we built was for a family of 9, a mother and father, one daughter and 6 boys! They were living under plastic and bamboo sticks (live a lot of poverty-stricken communities in Guatamala) in a single room filled with beds. We worked with a belgian girl, Nike, and boy, Robin, and a german boy, Sebastian, and built the house in five days as planned. On the last day we had to paint the house and I painted James and Sebastian red, and they retaliated by painting Robin. We go to the project in the back of a pick up truck and then get dropped off in the main square every day, so on that day we got some pretty strange looks!
This weekend we went to Monterrico, which is a huge tropical beach and is absolutely beautiful. The hotel we stayed in 'Pez De Oro' was really over priced and pretty crap for what it really was (an open roofed bungalo with a mosquito net that didn't fit over the bed and 10000000 mosquitos.) I hadn't been bitten once in Guatamala but that night I was bitten 56 times! When we arrived at the hotel we were shown around by a man and then shown where the rip tides were on the beach, he then asked us if we wanted to do a Mangrove tour, which we had read about in the Guide book. It is a tour where you go into the mangroves and see various crocodiles and birds and fish etc, we said we'd do it and paid a deposit and were told we'd be met at 5am the next morning so we could go at sunrise. So at 5am at sunrise the next day we were waiting, and at 5-30am we were waiting. Eventually we gave into the fact that we had been scammed and just went back to bed. So that was a bit of a downer, and a waste of precious sleeping time too, but we only lost a couple of pounds. The pacific waves in Monterrico were amazing! I have never ever seen waves like them! They are so incredibly big and fast and if you get dragged under you find yourself on the other side of the beach in seconds. We had a really good times in the waves, and they deffinately made up for our terrible morning.
This week we have started a new house with 3 Americans for New Jersey and Conneticut. We are on day 2 at the moment but I still can't get over how good the project is. We are hoping to go to Tikal Temple at the weekend
I don't have my memory cards with me so I can't add any photos, but I will put them all on my next blog.