Cusco to Lima

 

It was a 3:30 start, which after broken sleep and the events of the day before had me a little worried. We got a taxi to the airport in Cusco, which is the coldest airport I have ever experienced. After checking in, we headed to the departure gate, which was also freezing. The departure gate was interesting. The lady brought her own laptop, microphone and speaker to make the announcements. :)

We got on to the coldest plane I’ve ever been on. I don’t remember seeing people on a plane in coats and woolly hats before. :) After a quick flight we got to Lima airport, where I said goodbye to Debra, who is flying back to Northern Ireland, via Miami and London.

Having a 14 hour layover in Lima, I decided to check in to a hotel at the airport and sleep for a while. I also upgraded my flight home to a business class flight. The combination of the Machu Picchu trip, airport hotel and business class flight home have added up to quite a lot of money, but if I get home in a reasonable state, it will be worth it. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Machu Picchu

 

At about 04:00 we were queuing for the bus ride to the base of Machu Picchu. I started to feel a bit ill again. A little after 05:00 we were on the bus driving up to the base of Machu Picchu. It took about 30 mins to get there, most of which I spent trying not to puke.

I was very dissapointed with the entrance to Machu Picchu. It felt like the entrance to a theme park. There was even Machu Picchu WiFi. We were there to witness wonder and spectacle, but seemed to be getting Disneyland. After being on the verge all morning, I puked and felt much better.

When we eventually got through the turnstyles, we started to walk up the hill. The stairs are quite steep, but nothing I would be worried about if it weren’t for the altitude. It makes it feel like hard work, so you have to take it slow. I used the turns to my advantage and mostly hid the fact I was repeatedly throwing up. After a few minutes we got to area that overlooks the former residential area of Machu Picchu. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Machu Picchu, chances are you’ve seen the one taken from this spot. A few levels up and we were at the guardhouse, which gives an even better view. I puked there too. :) For me, this was all I wanted to do as far as Machu Picchu was concerned. I wanted to stand there and see this for myself. Everything else was a bonus. People visit several times and spend days there. This was really all I wanted. :)

After that we walked down towards the residential area. At that point, I really felt like I was done for. I told Debra to carry on and I walked down to the entrance to look for medical attention. I finally got to see the medic, and puke in her bin a few times. She injected me with a concoction of anti-nausea and electrolytes and left me to sleep for a while. By the time Debra returned I was feeling much better. Interestingly, it was nothing to do with the altitude. My blood O2 was fine. It was pretty similar to what happened to me in India. I’m starting to think it’s nausea caused by a type of migrane, induced by lack of sleep.

Anyway, after my rather brief visit to Machu Picchu, we were heading down the mountain in the bus. We got some food and chilled out before boarding the train to take us back to Cusco and the rest of our luggage.

The train journey back took about 3.5 hours. Lot’s of great sights, only marred by some intensely annoying children, who were complaining about being bored. Why do adults drag children along to this stuff? They don’t enjoy it and ruin it for everyone else!

Back at Cusco, it was a quick taxi ride to the hotel, where I puked and went to bed. We were hoping to have a brief look at Cusco, but it gets dark so early in Peru, there really wasn’t time.

I would like to say I got a good night’s sleep, but the hotel we stayed at was so noisey. I woke several times in the night because of fireworks, music and general noise in the town, which made the 03:30 start the next day even harder to cope with.

Now I know this all sounds really negative and bad, but it was worth it. Machu Picchu is one of those places I always hoped to see before I died. The fact it nearly killed me in the process is besides the point. :) I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t been so beaten up by two weeks of travelling and presenting it would have been a breeze. Part of me thinks it would be nice to go back and see again, but part of me thinks I’ve done all I wanted to do. It is a very expensive experience, but worth it in my opinion.

I wasn’t really in a fit state to take photos, but fortunately Debra was and she let me have a copy of them, which you can see here. I especially like the ones of me looking like dreadful. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Update 1: I think it is great how much work they are doing to preserve the Machu Picchu site, but the amount of rebuilding is a bit of a concern. At the moment, about 30% of the site has been rebuilt and the work is continuing. If too much is done, it ceases to be an ancient site and becomes a modern site in the style of an ancient one. They need to tread very carefully, or risk taking the final step and completing the transition to Disneyland!

Update 2: At no point did I see Pikachu! Apparently, Machu Picchu and Pikachu are not the same thing. Who’da thunk it?

Lima to Cusco to Machu Picchu

 

With the tour over, Debra and I had arranged to spend a couple of days visiting Machu Picchu, before heading home.

We woke up early on Friday to get a flight from Lima to Cusco. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, got to our gate and saw a list of delayed and cancelled flights to Cusco. The weather was too bad in Cusco for flights to take off and land. Luckily, after a while the weather apparently cleared in Cusco, allowing us to take a flight which arrived about 1 hour late.

We had arranged to drop our luggage off at a hotel in Cusco a day early, then continue on to Machu Picchu. The taxi ride to the hotel was interesting. Cusco has some very narrow streets that are barely wide enough for get a car through. It was quite hairy at times. We eventually got there, dropped our bags off and continued in the taxi to Ollantaytambo, which took about 90 mins. This allowed us to briefly see some of the sacred valley up close. During the drive I had a funny turn, which I put down to the high altitude. Debra said I looked green. By the time we got to Ollantaytambo and got some food I was feeling better.

While we were waiting for the train, I noticed the arrivals/departures screen on the wall had a session of TOAD running, doing some queries. By the time we had cameras ready, it was gone and the announcements screen was back. Debra went on the hunt and found a lady in an office that confirmed they (PeruRail) were using Oracle. :) We got on the Vistadome train, which has lots of extra windows, including in the roof, which is essential if you want a good view of the mountains around you. The train has a rather narrow gauge, which is a little disconcerting at first. The train takes you to Aguas Calientes, now known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, which is the best place to stay if you plan an early visit to Machu Picchu.

Just a quick word of warning, I did not like Machu Picchu Pueblo at all. It is a great setting in the mountains with the river running through, but it is one giant tourist centre, full to the brim with restaurants, markets and tourist shops. Many of the write-ups about Machu Picchu talk about it being ruined by tourists. This town proves the point! We bought our bus tickets for the next day, grabbed some food and headed to bed for an early start.

Cheers

Tim…

Update: Here is a quick montage of the journey to Machu Picchu.

LAOTN Tour (Southern Leg) : Day off in Lima, Peru

 

I actually got a day off from travelling and presenting yesterday. I would have loved to see Macchu Picchu, but that would take more time than I had available, so instead I went to see Pachacamac, which is about 30 minutes from the city. It is a really big site, about 10 hectares. It must have looked amazing in its heyday. One part of the site is a cemetery, where they estimate there are 40,000 mummies. What with that and the whole human sacrifice thing, it was kind-of freaky. I shall have to get some more information about it and scare my nephews with the story. :)

I took quite a lot of photos, but they don’t really do the site justice.

After the tour I took my second visit to Wong (a supermarket), to embarrass myself by trying to buy food without knowing the language. The people in Peru are really friendly, so I hope they find my cluelessness amusing, rather than annoying.

After stuffing myself with bread, fruit and Inca Kola, I spent a few minutes in the hotel gym. I think I probably burnt off about one tenth of the calories I ate. :)

IncaKola

This morning was a very early start. My alarm went off at 03:45. I was showered, packed and out of the hotel by 04:30. The trip back to the airport was not as much fun as the trip from it. The roads were very quiet, so there were no Fast & Furious moments to write about. :)

The hotel told me to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight. Although the place was really busy when I arrived, I got through check-in, security and immigration control really quickly, so as I write this, I have about 2 hours until my flight. The journey is a 3-4 hour flight back to Santiago, Chile, followed by a 2+ hour flight to Montevideo, Uruguay.

Cheers

Tim…

LAOTN Tour (Southern Leg) : PEOUG…

 

Jonathan Lewis‘ sessions (over WebEx) about “Designing Optimal SQL” and “How to Hint” were extremely popular. The room was full and the audio and slides were very clear. I would say approximately 3/4 of the audience were wearing the simultaneous-translation earphones. Everyone looked very focussed! It was a pity Jonathan couldn’t make it in person, but this was a much better alternative than cancelling his sessions!

My sessions seemed to go down well. In the second session, I nearly fell off the stage at one point, one of my slides went weird for a minute and I got a little static electric shock, but this just added to the excitement. :) I got some questions at the end of both sessions, which is always nice to hear. Listening to a question over a translation service is strange though. :)

I’ve heard Michelle speak at both events so far and I keep on thinking to myself, I really don’t know enough about security! I’m not a newbie, but there is still much more I could know. We’ve crossed paths numerous times in the past, but I’ve never had an opportunity to speak to her much before this tour. She’s a cool person. Very approachable and she knows her stuff! Another Oracle geek to add to the “good person” list. :) Sadly, this was her last event, so she’s making her way home now.

Jonathan, Michelle and myself had 2 sessions each and Ultan O’Broin had a session in English too, so that was 7 hours of English content today. Thanks to the translators and those who braved listening in their second language.

At the end of the conference we had a little celebrity moment when people wanted photos taken with us. My face hurts from smiling so much and it was hard work keeping my stomach sucked in for so long. :)

A big thank you goes out to the organisers of the PEOUG event and also to the Oracle ACE program for getting me here.

I’ve got a day in Peru tomorrow before I fly to Montevideo , Uruguay for the next event.

Cheers

Tim…

LAOTN Tour (Southern Leg) : Arrived in Lima, Peru…

 

Yesterday did not start so well. My sleep was rather erratic, so I woke up in a bad mood. The taxi ride to the airport in Chile took a long time because of the traffic, but I had allowed plenty of time, so I still got to the airport with 2 hours to spare. For some reason I was not able to use the check-in machines, so I had to wait in a very long, very slow moving queue. That in itself was annoying, but more annoying was there seemed to be lots of staff at the counters just chatting, rather than dealing with the people in the queue. Airports are annoying at the best of times, but this sort of thing makes my blood boil.

After getting checked in, it was time to go through immigration control. Once again a long queue. This time there were two people processing the queue. One seemed reasonably efficient, but the other guy looked like he was chatting to people as they went through. One family went through his desk and he stamped the passports, then chatted to them for about 10 minutes. They appeared to be laughing and joking. It was now time for my plane to board and I was practically volcanic.

I got through security and rushed to my gate. The wrong plane was there. I checked the boards and they still said my plane was meant to be there. After a bit of panic, I realised the previous plane at that gate had not taken off yet. Rather than updating the departures board to say there was a delay, they just kept the same information on them, relying on the fact you would work it out. I was now on the verge of supernova.

We finally boarded the plane and I sat down in the smallest seat known to mankind. Everyone had brought on too many pieces of hand luggage, meaning I had to leave my laptop half way down the plane from where I was sitting. Why don’t they just enforce the rules? They say one piece of hand luggage, then let everyone on with three, plus coats and handbags and a baby with a pushchair, then try to ram everything into the overhead compartments. It’s never going to work and it’s likely to break sensitive electronic goods in the process. All the mass in the universe had now compacted into an infinitesimally small space and I was at the smallest fraction of a second before the big bang took place…

Just before I had a complete temper tantrum, the staff on the plane disarmed me by being really nice. That was very lucky, or I would probably have missed this leg of the trip while cooling down in jail…

The flight was pretty uneventful, apart from the snoring of the guy sitting next to me.

I arrived in Peru, and got a taxi to the hotel. This taxi ride will probably be one of the highlights of the tour. My taxi driver was a robo-babe from beyond infinity.  She cranked up the radio in the car, playing a rock station, then proceeded to drive like she was being chased by the devil. At one point about eight lanes merged into 2 and she beat down lorry drivers and bus drivers like they were little grannies on push-bikes. Driving in Peru seems to be based totally on commitment. If you drive like you don’t want to live, you get priority. This woman was immortal, so we were bound to come out on top. After a little over an hour, we arrived at my hotel without so much as a scratch. I think I should have been scared, but I felt like a little kid saying, “Do it again!” She really should be the star of the next Fast & Furious movie!

So all in all, a very good end to an extremely frustrating day…

I slept OK, but I’ve still got some catching up to do, so I hope I don’t spend the whole day yawning. I’m just about to go down and register for today’s conference. Wish me luck!

Cheers

Tim…