SCUBA Diving in Koh Tao

What a way to finish the trip. Tul and me now both have our open water certifications and officially have the diving bug.

The rest of our time on the island was spent pottering around on our scooter, getting massages, eating (a lot of) good Thai food and drinking cocktails. An amazing ending to a trip of a lifetime which we’re lucky to have had and will never ever forget.

It’s taken me a while to get these videos online but here they are (there will be 1 more to follow soon).

Island info:

We used Big Blue Diving. It’s certainly not the only diving school on the island, but we found it safe, fun and cheap. Would definitely recommend it. If you use their free accommodation while you’re there then just ask to have a look around because some of it is awful and some of it is not bad. Make sure you check in Big Blue 1 & 2 (there are 2 centres on Sairee beach).

We used RPM in Mae Haad which were not bad. However they did catch us out with a scratch which we’re unsure was there to start off with which cost us £10. Just make sure you take photos of the entire bike and you should be fine. The island is notorious for motorbike scams so make sure you’re careful when renting on Koh Tao. It’s normal for them to keep your passport as deposit.

The Amazon Jungle

The Amazon

What was meant to be a 10hr bus journey turned into 17hrs due to a mud slide on the road, plus we were both dubious about going to the jungle at all (mainly because of spiders and snakes), but once we set off up the river in the long boat towards the lodges we were both excited.

The jungle lodges were awesome. I’d never seen anything like them (thy were a bit like massive tree houses) and they reminded Tul of the ones she stayed at in Kenya on safari. The rooms were all sealed off from the inside with mosquito nets which meant we were safe at night (except for the bats apparently sleeping in our porch and the rest of the sounds from the jungle around us). In the lodges gardens we also saw a tarantula in one of the palm trees each night, plus there were always toucans and macaws (one of which took a shine to Tul) around the place.

Was a nice break after the Inca trail (our longest trek through the jungle was a few hours max), and relaxing by the pool and chilling in the hammocks felt amazing.

We were shown around the jungle close to us and taught how all the different plants can be used for medicine and cooking and ate termites which tasted like bark.

We visited Monkey Island which does exactly what it says on the tin. We went on night safari to see caiman and an early morning jaunt to view wild parrots feed on clay which provides essential minerals for their digestion.

What took us both most by surprise though was a small boat trip on lake Sandovale. This place felt like being on a cloud. We were lucky enough to see a family of giant otters pop their heads out of the water around our boat before disappearing and reappearing on the other side of the lake. We also saw a spider monkey which the tour guide tempted out of the jungle with a banana (so much so that I thought it was going to jump into the boat). And then from being blistering hot sunshine we could hear the rain storm getting closer before we were in the middle of it. Still on the other side of the lake you could see the sun shining, while we were getting drenched, it felt incredible. We also saw the head of a 4 metre long caimen sticking out of the water.

We were sad to leave the jungle behind and both wished we’d stayed longer, but maybe we’ll see what Bolivia has to offer in the way of Amazon jungle…

The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu

We did it!

And that’s the main thing. At the end of day one, due to our tour guide giving us “an extra hour” of hiking, Tul was struggling and neither of us were sure if we’d be able to carry on the next day.

In the morning though, once we were above the forest and dead woman’s pass (the highest point of the trail) was in sight, it was obvious we were both going to manage the entire trek and I’m really proud of her for persevering with it because I could see how difficult she was finding it (she wouldn’t even let me carry her day pack).

Day 3 was incredible and we could both see the hard work paid off. The Brown Andes turned into the Green Andes and most of the day was spent in the high Amazon jungle walking a path of about a metre wide often with a shear cliff face on one side. It was also the first day that the whole group managed to keep together. I also developed a taste for coca leaves which was keeping my energy levels up.

We were lucky to have a great group of people. 1 other couple (Andy and Naomi), 2 lads from New York (Simon and Kendi) and 2 girls from Canada (Erin and Michelle, who were hilarious and left us a note and some goodies for us in Aguas Calientes).

In the evenings we played the card game ‘shithead’, but when our guide played with us he insisted on calling it ‘Chilean head’ (very PC).

Day 4 was a short 5k hike up to the Sun Gate where we saw Machu Picchu for the first time which was awesome. When we arrived in Machu Picchu we had a 2 hour tour which after everything else was actually quite tiring, but it was amazing just to be there.

Day 5, Tul was my wingman for Huanya Picchu, the small mountain overlooking Machu Picchu. She negotiated our bus tickets in Spanish, made sure I was at the foot of the mountain in time for my ticketed time slot and was there to meet me when I’d finished. If she’d have been with me she could have made sure I didn’t take a wrong turn at the first junction on the mountain but I don’t suppose I can blame her for that. I did it in good time, climbing it in 35mins and coming down in less than 20.

We were sorry to leave Machu Picchu but both felt good coming back into Cuzco as I think we both now have a soft spot for it. The heavy Peruvian food is starting to get a bit much now though.

The Inca trail was everything I hoped for and I’m really glad we both made it. However, I think Tul might use the fact that we successfully completed it as a reason to celebrate for the next week…

The company we booked through is and is not the cheapest around but would recommend them for the Inca trail and/or the Amazon expedition in Corto Maltes lodges.

Lima to Arequipa to Cuzco

We’ve been waking up somewhere new for our first 3 mornings in Peru which has been exciting. We’ve been on the move pretty much since we landed which included 2 over night buses on the trot. The buses are really nice and actually good fun although the motion sickness got to Tul. Peru is a nation of world class snorers as well it seems so the ear-plugs have come in handy. You’re also not allowed to take a number two on the buses so the Imodium has come in handy too :-o. The drivers are properly mental here as well and we found it best not to look out of the front window to see how they’re driving.

We’ve settled in Cuzco now for a few days to acclimatise before the Inca trail. Cuzco is just what I was hoping for, although it’s been far colder than we were expecting once the sun’s gone down.

It’s Inti Raymi (the festival of the Sun) here in Cuzco so the locals are in especially good spirits.