(What do you know… internet, in the middle of nowhere in the Amazon Rainforest! So here’s the last two day’s updates – enjoy!)

Up at 6:00am. Things to do 🙂

For some reason I just couldn’t sleep past 6:00am – very irritating as I’m cream crackered. Ho hum. First job, get blog updated & uploaded – tick. Second job, have breakfast – tick. Third job, head off to Cusco to explore & buy presents 🙂

I obviously can’t say what I’ve bought & where I went, otherwise it’ll spoil it for those I’ve bought presents for, but I’m pleased with what I bought & hopefully those back home will be too – I’ve just got to work out how on earth to get them home now… I didn’t think about that when I bought them! Lol!

I didn’t really see anyone from the group while I was out – I briefly saw everyone for lunch & when we went on a ‘little trip’ to somewhere in the hills that I can’t tell you about otherwise it’ll give the game away – & was quite happy walking around Cusco. It’s such a beautiful city, with so many Inca references still remaining, it was a real pleasure just wandering round on my own.

I’d asked Angel’s advice on a couple of things I wanted to buy & he had drawn me a map of where to go for them. This meant walking in to the real authentic back streets, away from the tourist areas, & it was fascinating to absorb myself in the busyness ‘behind the scenes’ as it were.

After a tiring journey to & from the hotel several times to firstly get my Visa card because one of the shops I’d chosen didn’t take MasterCard (even though there was a sign in the shop that said they did), and then returning to the shop to find they didn’t take Visa either (even though there was another sign that said they did), and then going to find a cash point to withdraw some currency… I was a sweaty mess again! Running around like an idiot in (a) this temperature & (b) this altitude of 3300m (11000ft) is not the cleverest thing I’ve ever done – especially as the hotel is at the top of a hill!

Anyway, I managed everything in the end & arrived back at the hotel around 5:00pm. The room key wasn’t in the pigeon hole & walking to our room I found it was locked – so I guessed Francis was either ‘around’ or still in town shopping. I decided to use the time to upload some photos from my camera card to the blog (as Polly had told me off for running out of space on the iPad & being unable to upload any Machu Picchu photos). I’d bought from town an adapter to plug my camera card directly in to the hotel’s computer – the theory being I could upload them directly from the card.

I had to do this covertly as all the USB slots had stickers over them to stop people plugging devices in – so I very discreetly (& sneakily) plugged it in & it worked. However, the hotel’s upload speed was absolutely pants I found & in the end it took close on an hour & a quarter to upload about 6 pictures. Still, at least I got some up – even if they had be on the smallest setting to get them to upload! As soon as I can I’ll get some proper high res ones up 🙂

By 6:30pm – with our Amazon Rainforest briefing set for 7:00pm – & still no sign of Francis, I went up to the room one last time in case he’d sneaked past me & gone up to the room. No – still locked. So I went to reception & they kindly gave me the master key to get in. No-one there. Very strange. Still, I was able to have a shower & get ready as we were set to go straight out after the meeting.

6:55pm, room door opens, there’s Francis – with a very apologetic face. He’d been to a chocolate factory (!) & had taken the room key with him by mistake! Oh well, no harm done 🙂

Our briefing followed: leaving the hotel at 9:00am, fly out from Cusco Airport to Puerto Maldonado deep in the lowlands of the Amazon jungle at 12:15pm, arrive approx. 1:00pm & collect baggage, travel to our lodge in the Tambopata Rainforest Area by motorised canoe in time for lunch at around 2:00pm. The rest will unfold once we get there. The whole thing sounds very exciting & yet another – although probably the final one now – fantastic experience.

Once the briefing was over, we travelled by minibus up into the Cusco hills to a new restaurant which had only been opened a short while. Angel told us to just wait & see what we thought when we got there…

The minibus pulled up at the side of quite a narrow street, nothing special in appearance & lined predominantly with high whitewashed walls with doorways built in to them. It was through one of these doorways that we were guided. As we walked through in to the restaurant, the view of Cusco at night just opened up before us – it was quite breathtaking. It was like looking at a clear sky full of stars, except instead of stars there were thousands upon thousands of streetlights, bright against the dark streets & alleyways beneath. We could clearly see our hotel, the Plaza Major, many of the places we had visited, the streets we had walked through over the time we’d been in Cusco – it was just fascinating.

The ambience & feel of the restaurant was great too – owned by two friends & staffed by further friends, the atmosphere was easy & relaxed & we instantly ‘belonged’ there. The plan for the restaurant short term was to cater for groups, like ours, of up to about 20 people. However, as word gets around about the place they may well open this up to regular diners. The layout of the place was just one big room, with the kitchen set up in the back corner. The kitchen was open, surrounded by a bar-like perimeter so you could see your food being prepared & cooked & really feel part of the whole experience.

The menu was simple with 3 choices of started, 4 choices of main, & just a single choice for pud. For my starter I had mashed potato balls stuffed with 3 fillings: smoked trout, fresh marinated olives, & shredded chicken in a creamy sauce. For my main I had a beautifully tender chunk of tenderloin beef, with an elderberry sauce & a juniper berry sauce, with freshly stir fried vegetables. The pud was a tall glass filled with fresh fruit & a Pisco Sour based White cream sauce. All washed down with a very pleasant robust Chilean red shared between Mike & myself. The whole meal was amazing – & probably the best of the trip when combined with the great venue.

The 3 courses were a set price of 35 soles (£10) & was without question one of the best buys of the holiday! None of us wanted to leave the the place, but it was soon time to head off. As we left the dreadlocked, wooly hatted, amiable restauranteurs & the sound of the Peruvian charango & samponia music behind us, we walked down and down back in to town talking about nothing else but the fantastic experience we’d just all had!

As this would effectively be our ‘last night’ (Amazon tomorrow night & the night after, Lima the night after that but flights heading out from quite early for some the next day), I decided to join the ‘youngsters’ for a glimpse of the nightlife once the ‘first shift’ of the night had finished. First was the Irish Bar. Walking into the bar was a bit like going through that curtain in the fancy dress shop in Mr Ben. Suddenly Cusco was transformed into a dark wooded, Guiness selling, beer smelling bar – I could have been back in the UK! Our resident Ireland specialists Bill & Chris assured me that, considering we were in Cusco, the pub was a very credible real Irish bar. I looked a bit out of place with my glass of red wine though!

Next came the club! 11:00pm is when the clubs start coming to life. As we entered Mythology I was greeted by a wall of sound & a room full of people gyrating madly… it was a scene I’d not been witness to for many many years! I think I may have had my mouth open for a good few minutes, just agog – I couldn’t remember a time when I ever danced like THAT, but I guess I must have at some point. One thing I knew was that I was far too old to even consider doing it now!

I think the thing that took be aback the most was Bill. Now Bill, throughout the trip, has been of gentle nature, an amiable easy to talk to guy. A steady walker, just taking everything in his stride (see what I did there?). An all round nice guy. Upon entering through the doorway of the club, however, he became like a man possessed! Suddenly he was transformed into a disco diva – knees bent, arms up in the air moving left to right forward & back, it was fantastic! The only thing missing was a spotlight – that would have made the scene complete. As I looked around there was no-one that could even hold a light to Bill’s moves. Brilliant.

An hour was enough for me & I headed back to the hotel to pack my backpack ready for tomorrow. As this tonight will be the last internet connection until Lima I emailed Polly earlier to say I’d FaceTime her at 2:00am (8:00am UK), so I wanted to make sure I was all done in time for that too. It was lovely to speak to her – & to each of my sleepy faced boys, except Owen of course who’d been up for hours already fighting battle after battle with 3 toy soldiers & an orange… that boy, he has a great imagination! & I got to say hi to Uncle Roger too – as Polly is down in Godalming visiting our favourite relatives 🙂

As Polly & I were talking the front door of the hotel rang & a rowdy rabble fell through the door at about 2:35am – it was our gang of course! It seemed a good time to sign off, so I said my goodnights.

So, I’ll say my goodbyes too – will update you with life in the Amazon Rainforest asap!