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I treked this route in September 2006 but I have taken information from from Ruska who posted in the Lonely Planet thorntree . He wrote an article called ‘Cusco to Machu Picchu in 8 USD’. I also used information from Micah Allan who wrote a story about walking to Aguas Calientes.I also took information from from a site about Peru.
There are many ways in getting to Machu Picchu that doesn’t involve getting the expensive ‘tourist train’ or the overcrowded and expensive ‘Inca Trails’ whether it be the traditional one or the newer but equally organised trails like Salkantay. So popular is the Inca Trail, is that you may have to book six months ahead of arriving, paying deposits online or on the phone via a credit card.
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
Map – Choquequirao – Peru (September 2006)
For those who want to do it on the cheap, they are many options. The most obviosu one would be to get a local bus to Ollantaytambo and walk along the tracks to Aguas Calientes but this is no longer possible as guards at km 88 and km 104 will send you back because you are entering the park and you therefore require a trekking permit. Walking out of the park from Aguas Calientes to Cusco is not aproblem for them.This option is explored more fully below.
There are two further options explored here.
(1) If you are interested in trekking independently – I would recommend the trek I undertook last September (2006) from Cachora to the Inca ruins at Choquequirao and onwards to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.
(2) The second option is going on Public transport from Cusco via Santa Maria, Santa Teresa, Hidroelctrico, Aguas Calientes to Maccu Pichu.
OPTION 1 – TREKKING
In September 2006, I posted a notice in various hostels in Cusco looking for trekking partners to undertake an independent trek from Cachora to Machu Picchu. It took nearly a week before I had a volunteer from Australia to take the trip with me. It is a sorry state that most backpackers will spend $400 on the Inca trail or take the privatised Peru Rail when so much more is avaialble at much lower prices.
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
Map – Choquequirao – Peru (September 2006)
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
My map of how to get to MP on the cheap. Its pretty self explanatory. The symbols are walking, train and bus.
After buying a local map of the route, we took some information from Aprus-Peru Trekking Company. Their price per person is $555 per person (April 2007), based on a minimum of 2 people. Others charge up to $1,200.00 (Culturas Peru). We did it for about $40 dollars each including guide hire, pony hire, camping equipment hire and food (excluding Machu Picchu Entrance). Its a rather big difference. While some commercial agents will take 2/3 donkeys per person and a riding horse, it you do not need 4 course meals every day, one donkey for two people will be sufficient. You can get a good intoduction to these alternative Inca trails from a recent New York Times article. There was a second article in June 2007 called ‘The Other Machu Picchu‘. Lots of inaccuracies, but it does say ‘Several travel agencies in Cuzco organize tours to Choquequirao with pre-arranged accommodation, transportation, guides and mules or horses, typically for about $300 to $400. SAS Travel on the Plaza de Armas has a good reputation (51-84-255-205; www.sastravelperu.com).
What to Bring
* Snacks or high energy trekking food (even nuts, raisins etc). Impossible to find condensed trekking food in Cusco. Enough food for your guide as well.
* Two litre bottle of water (one to drink out of while the other is purifying). At least 10 purification tablets per person.
* Sleeping bag and mat.
* Tent for two (and your guide might have to slip in as well if it rains).
* Gas, Plates, Spoons, Lighter, matches, Knife, Tin Openener
* Washing paste and wire brush.
* Changes of clothes for cool and hot, humid weather
* Flashlight (head light) with extra batteries for you and guide.
* Good trekking footwear and socks
* Plastic poncho, as well as other suitable rain protection
* Alcohol (for gifting to mother earth at appropraite times and when it rains)
* Swim-suit & towel
* Mosquito repellent
* Sunblock and sunhat
* Extra rolls of film or well charged batteries for your digital camera.
First of all, great advice was given to us at the ‘South American Explorers Club‘ at choquechaca, 188, No.4 in Cusco. (www.saexplorers.org). I would like to thank Miguel Jove for his advice there. The gave us the name of a guide called Celestino Pena who is the head hocho over there in terms of guiding and mules. (The locals we met there said he only gives his guides 10 Soles per day while the independents give their guides the full 20 Soles per day).
I received this email in October 2006 and is quite useful.
I can’t recommend a guide – all I can say is that we didn’t have a good experience with Celustino Pena. He tried to rip us off and take advantage of us. Make sure you negotiate how much for their return (seeing it is a one way trip and they are not likely to pick up new passengers or luggage in Huancacalle) Celustino tries to charge you 8 days there and then 8 days for the return!!!! They should be able to return in 2-3 days.Andean friends believe that you dont even bring up the return in the negotiations – because of course they will charge you for it………. but I don’t know.
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
South American Explorers Club – Choquequirao – Peru (September 2006)
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
Map of Whole trek – Cachora – Choquequirao to Machu Pichu- Peru (September 2006)
He can be contacted at a public phone at 083-830252/832039/9712967 (mobile). Otherwise he can be found at the San Martin Hostal (A Media ouadra – De Plaza de Armas). Another guide is called David Bimbery (083-830028). Anyway, their details can be got at the South American Explorers Club. You do not need to book ahead. You can hire the donkey and guide once you get to Cachora.
We paid 127 Soles for camping year for 7 days (tent, two sleeping bags, tent, gas, pots). We also purchased three gas cannisters (7 soles each) with right of return for unused ones and water purification tablets. In terms of food we spend about 100 Soles – 82 Soles for supermarket food (noodles, cereal, tuna, flavouring) and about 20 soles in market food (rice, pasta, cheese, onions, styromfoam cups). You can not buy much food along the way (at the campsites) but guinea pigs can be purchased from local households and they will cook it etc and give a give guinea pig/ potatoe dinner. You might want to buy flaouring for your water if you dislike the taste of purification tablets. You will drink at least 1 litre per day.
We left our gear at the hostel in Cusco for free and carried as little as possible.
The guide will not have alot with him. He is given a few soles to feed the donkey (although they usually eat grass along the way) and told to bring the donkey back safely. In fact, he will take more notice, look after the donkey more than the people he is guiding. Donkeys are an important part of life here and good donkeys are very likely to be stolen. Alot of guides leep with their donkey or check on it a few times a night as they are responsible for it and the donkeys owner (they are worth a few hundred dollars). It is your responsibility to feed and lodge your guide. While some guides will be happy to point out the sites, help you cook and sleep under the stars, be prepared to get stuck in. Make sure to bring food that the guide may prefer and donate any unused food to him on his way back (plus tip). The donkey is not for riding on. Tough! Usually, the guide may ask you to trek on an hour beforehe starts off as he can pack up and take his time. He usually catches up a few hours in. Make sure to offer with water and snacks as he will have none.
Attached is a map of the route. Compared to the Inca Trail, it is quite difficult although possible for the moderately fit. While Day 1 is quite easy, days 2/3/4 can be tough especially in the heat and mossies. Al lcamping is free, but be cool and buy something from them (a few potatoes, or a beer) or do what we did (gave 5/6 packets of noddles to the people we stayed with) which they were happy with. Most of the families have kids – pens, paper, school books would also be welcome.
Day 1: We departed Cusco at 7am by public bus. We got a bus from Cusco to Cachora (which is the Abancay bound bus). Just tell the driver to want to get off at the road to Cahora (not the ruins there) in a place called Saihuite. From there you can either walk to Cachora or else take a Collectivo (Shared taxi) to town. Its about a 40 minute walk. There is only one building on the bend of a road so its easy to miss it (about four hours from Cusco) so make sure to tell the driver. We paid 5 soles to a taxi driver for both of us to take us to Cachora from the Abancay road (shared taxi – I was in the booth!). If you do book ahead, you can get Celestino Pena to collect you from the road.
We got to Cachora and talked to one of the association guys there. We wanted a guide and Pony for five days and were willing to pay 20 soles per day for each (yes, the donkey makes as much as the guide) including two additional days pay for the guide and donkey to get back from Collpapampa through a shortcut over the mountains back to Cachora. They wanted 30 for each. We decided to have lunch and decided to grab another indepndent guide ASAP as we really wanted to get started before 1.00pm. Any later and it may be dark when you get to the first campsite. Our plan was to do the Aprus trek (9 days/8 nights) in 5 nights, six days (plus 2 additional nights in Aguas Calinetes). We walked down the main street and saw a lady with a pony. We asked if she rented it and she said yes and beckoned us to her house where the husband and kids were. They were happy with 20 Soles per day / 20 Soles for a guide. The wife headed off and found a young lad of 18 called Miguel who would be our guide. He was a cheery lad with a good personality but had only done the trip once before. All he had with him was a change of shirt and a few soles the husband gave him for donkey food. The husband also provided the harness and kitting / web to contain the tent/ food and sleeping bags on the donkey. The two of us carried our own days packs with our clothes and anything we wanted during the day. Anything that is put on the donkey cannot be retrived again until the donkey was unpacked.
After lunch we headed off on this 16km stint. It is a 2 hour hike to Capuliyoc (2915m) from where there are beautiful views of the Apurimac valley and the snow-capped peaks of Padrayoc and Wayna Cachora. You will likely see many Condors here and poisonous Tarantula spiders. Once at the peak after two hours, there is a great viewing point on the right which you can climb. The total hiking time today is about five hours and its downhill for about three hours. Its a easy trek (the easiest of all the journey) but it was dark when we reached the basic camping site. We quickly put up camp and ate. The mossiess here are vicious little bastards. Cover yourself with spray and give some to the guide. I forgot my elbows and woke up with about 40 bites on each. There is usually a water pump at each campsite and a hole in the group for the toilet. Very basic but after you first day and an early start – finding sleep is no probelm.
Accommodation: Camping at Chiccisqa.
Day 2: Departing early, we descended to the magnificent Apurimac River (1550m). You can see the trek up the mountains towards Choquequirao as you go. It looks hard and it is. Its not the length but the steepness. They were building some entrance gate and hotel at the bridge so fees will be added here soon. After crossing over the river we began our climb to Santa Rosa which was a killer. You can buy a refreshing cane drink here (no alcohol) but is a hard trek. Santa Rosa is about half way and we stopped there for 20 minutes before continuing towards the ruins. The commercial agents usually camp at Maranpata (an hour before the ruins so taht they can have a good start te following morning when heading back to Cusco). The climb from the river takes about 4 hours and is tough. We hiked to the ruins, set up camp and hit the ruins. The commercial agents usually leave it until the next day. We spent spend the late evening in the ruins campsite which is the best equipped of all the sites on the trek. They had toilets etc.
Accommodation: Camping at Choquequirao campsite
From a New York Times article in June 2007 called ‘The Other Machu Picchu‘.
Choquequirao’s builder, Topa Inca, chose his city’s site and design precisely because of the similarities to Machu Picchu, the city of his predecessor, Pachachuti, according to Gary Ziegler, an independent American archaeologist who worked on the first Choquequirao excavation. The two cities were about the same size and served the same religious, political and agricultural functions. But because archaeologists long underestimated the importance of Choquequirao, the city’s existence was known for almost 300 years before the first restoration was begun in 1993. It is still only 30 percent uncovered. The Peruvian government is just beginning to plan for large-scale tourism there. In 2006 Choquequirao drew 6,800 visitors, according to Peru’s National Cultural Institute, more than double the total in 2003 but a little more than 1 percent of the number who went to Machu Picchu.
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
Choquequirao Ticket – Choquequirao – Peru (September 2006)
Click on the picture to see it in its original size
Back of Choquequirao Ticket – Choquequirao – Peru (September 2006)
Day 3: While most commercial treks will more fully explore the ruins on the morning of the third day we headed off but saw many Inca Ruins (without restoration on the way). We stopped at most of these to explore them. Most commercial treks will stop at Pinchinuyoc soon after but we contined to Maizal. Killer trek from the river to the campsite. it was hot,it was steep and overgrowth with no breese. I Felt I was going to collapse. It was seriously one of the most pictureesque camping sites in the world. When I say camping site, I mean there is just a family farm and a piece of ground.
Accommodation: Camping at Maizal
Day 5 : We departed at 7am, and walked uphill for about 3 hours through semi-jungle, to the Victoria Mines. We visited the ancient mines and some Inca Ruins before climbing an hour more to the pass of Abra Victoria. (4130m). There are spectacular views from the pass as we descend to the village of Yanama. (about 2 hours walk). Its a really nice village area with lows of greenery and stone walls.
Accommodation: Camping at Yanama
Day 6: A day of mountain peaks. In this day we walked for seven hours, rising early to appreciate the chain of snowpeaks. We lightly ascended to the second pass which is the highest of our trek at 4850metres. After the pass we descend for three hours to the Valley of Totora,where most commercial treks will stop for the night. Although it was pouring rain, we decided to move fast and camp at Collpapampa which is another 1.5 hours on and which is part of the Salkantay trek, so this is the first time we met other trekkers (who were on organised tours).
Accommodation: Camping at Collpapampa
Day 7: If you want you can use a hot spring here. Its at this stage we waved goodbye to our guide and donkey. We decided to carry ourselves the restt of the day. We gave him any left over food and a tip. The only downside and its a big one – is taht for the first time, we were carrying all our gear (tents, gas, sleeping bags etc) but we felt we could get to Aguas Calientes in one day at a push. Was it a good idea – only if you leave at 7.00am or so.
Today we walked (bused) for nealy 14 hours, but the whole day is descending or flat and scenery changes scenery and different varieties of plants typical of the high jungle – known in Spanish as the “eyebrow of the jungle”. While most people stop at La Playa and its campsite, we wanted to trek all the way to MP. It was about seven hours to La Playa and we heard of a truck that moves fruit from La Playa to Saint Teresa about noon everyday. When we got there, there were no buses taht day but locals said they usually do, but not until 3/4pm. Anyway, we were there for hour eating passion fruit when we got a shout from the driver to get into a commercial truck. I think we payed 3 soles each.
Santa Teresa is a nice village with quite a few Aljamientos. There are excellent Thermals 20 minutes walk from town, which cost 5 soles (much betters then the ones at Aguas Calientes!). Santa Teresa is the ending point of the Salkantai trek, so from here the continuation is the same as for the trek. From Santa Teresa you have to go to the football field and from there to the river. Here you cross the river by hand cable car. At the other side you walk to the road. Its a good 20 minutes from the town to the river.
Trucks to Hidroelectrico (planta hidroeléctrica) leave regularly from the near the river in Santa Teresa, bringinging workers back and forth starting early morning till about 15:00. When we got there there was one other local guy who confirmed there might be one last truck. The ride cost us two soles each and takes about fifteen minutes. They are playing canny and have produced a book of tickets to sell to tourists for I think was 10 Soles. When you tell them no, two soles – they point to their ticket book and say 10 soles. They don’t sell these tickets to locals. Bullshit. It is possible to walk the way, about 2 hours, but it’s a bit on tough walk on a hot day, especially when trucks pass back and forth.
The truck stops at the railwaytrack. From here it’s 10 km flat walking. Walk along the track, you see escape routes. These will take you to the upper railway track to Aguas Calientes. You have to sign your name at a small building and then you can start walking. The walking is not difficult but walking on the rail you have to take smaller steps than you used to so the walking speed is slower than normal. If you don’t want to walk, the train leaves daily at 15:00 and costs 8 USD(!). The railroad actually goes around Machu Picchu, look at the mountain to your right as you walk.
From the Hidroelctrico it is about 2.5 hours (less then 10 km) of easy walk along the railroad to Aguas Calientes. If you are too lazy, the trail leaves daily at 15:00 and costs 8 USD(!). We found this quite difficult. While some say it should take two hours, its about three.
Once we got to the have three hours of climbing, two hours of descent and 2.5 hours of relatively flat walking as we follow the train tracks into the village of Aguas Calientes. A soak in the thermal baths here are often the perfect respite for aching muscles!!!
Accommodation: Hostel in Aguas Calientes
Day 8: Cultural day. The next morning you can walk up, this will take about 1 hour to 1.5 hours depending on your condition and acclimatisation. The gates open at 6 am. Walk from town via the same road the busses take to maccu pichu. You walk past the parking lot of the busses, cross a bridge and after the sign to the museum (don’t take that path) look for a path up. Probably you’re not the only one going up early in the morning, so follow the other flashlights. It’s a clear path no trouble following it after you found it. Not enough walking? Walk up to Huayna Piccu (gates open at 7 am) and after that to the Temple of the Moon(caves). After a nice day of walking (up) you can walk back to Aguas Calientes.
Accommodation: Hostel in Aguas Calientes
Day 9: Getting Back
We went back the same way, starting again at 7.00am and walking back on the tracks and taking a truck back to Saint Teresa. 2. Trucks leave Hidroelectrico to Santa Teresa till about 15:00. You can also get the train. The train leaves Aguas Calientes between 12:00 to 13:00.This truck driver pulled out his book of ‘tourist tickets’ with a smile and wanted 5 soles each. We got hime down to 3 soles each and told hime to keep his tickets. When we arrived at Teresa, we were told the recent rains had closed all the roads and the bus drivers were on strike as it was too dangereous to travel. Normally, you can take a bus to Santa amria (costs 6 soles and takes about 2 hours) or a colectivos which goes hen full (6-10 soles, depending on the number of people) but there was no transport to Santa Maria or no buses from Santa maria to Cusco.
We were really stuck until we saw some locals lads jumping into a dumper truck. We followed and jumped in for 5 soles each and got a lift all the way to Quillabamba. While we passed through Santa Maria, there were no buses going directly to cusco as the roads were closed. Tahts why we continued onwards to Quillabamba. Normally, Cusco bound buses pass Santa Maria at about 09:00, 13:00 and between 20:30 to 22:00. You can book a seat through one of the shops around for 15 soles, or wait for the bus and pay 10 soles
Day 10: Still Getting Back.
Anyway, it was about 4 hours to Quillabamba, but found where were no buses to Cusco until about 4.00am (15 soles). A bummer as we had to wait there all day for a seven hour journey back to Cusco. Great scenery on the way back.
(of couse, this explains the way of getting from Aguas Calientes back to Cusco. If you are not doing any trekking, buses to Quillabamba, which pass through Santa Maria, leave from Santiago de Pess terminal, at around 08:00, 13:00, 19:00-21:00. These buses pass throught Ollantaytambo, The ride takes 6-8 hours. You then take a Bus/ Colectivo from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa (6-10 soles). A bus goes from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa just after the night buses from Cusco arrive (at around 03:00-04:00 am). The bus costs 6 soles and takes about 2 hours. )
Note: According to the BBC, in February 2007 a 80-metre long Carilluchayoc bridge, which crosses the Vilcanota river near Santa Teresa was inaugurated in February, despite a court order prohibiting its construction and protests from the government and environmentalists.
Its unlear to as to whether this bridge is open to tourist traffic i.e buses.
Getting back – Another Option
Finally, you can also walk back to Cusco or Ollantaytambo Via Aguas Calientes. The route is from (Km110- Aguas Calientes), to Km104, Km88, Km82, to Ollantaytambo and Cuzco.
Start early, it will be a long day. First the path next to the railway track is a nice path but after a couple of km, after the helicopter landing place you have to walk on the track. Just look around you and you will see Inca terrases and ruins. You pass another hidroelectrico and at km104 there will be “Macchu Pichu police” This is the begin point of the 2 day Inca trail. We had no problem and could continue our walk. Around Km96-94 you will find a kind of trainstation where you can shelter in case of rain and or have lunch. Around Km90 start looking for Inca trails, the main one will be on the left side. Km88 is another “Macchu Pichu police” point. On the other side you will see a lot of Inca ruins but you’re not allowed to cross the bridge unless you arranged some tickets in Cuzco. At Km85 and a few km further you will find some ruins not on the map, Qanabamba and Salapunku. Around here there are good camping places.
At Km82 there are a lot of empty tourist busses going back to Ollantaytambo, Cuzco after delivering the Inca-trail people.
Km90 till Km82 is the nicest part from the track. After that, you can continue walking, all the way to Ollantaytambo, but for 1 SOL pp we took a bus. Also good to know, if you want to walk it in 1 long day and at 14:00 there will be a bus to Ollantaytambo, so if you want to catch this one start early, and expect to walk 4km/h (sounds easy, but with campinggear and walking on the traintracks, it ain’t easy!).
Well, the time is approaching when I fly to South America for four months. Next week in fact. Yep, four months… not too long a time, not too short a time. No real plans of yet … I stay in rio for a few days and head north. Loooking forward to it!!
Brazil is not as dauting as I have been to Brazil before so I know what to expect .. fear. When I first landed, I spend the first 24 hours looking over my shoulder, keeping a grip on my bags etc but it passed. I stayed in a hostel called Jucati which was fine. They organised some cool tours to pre carnival gigs. Yet, by 9.00pm, every traveller was back at the hostel, drank on the steps and only left in groups of 5-10 people when heading out to hit the nightlife.
I wasnt robbed / mugged during my stay but alot of travellers were. Alot of it waspetty crime. Many had their watches, baseball hats and sunglasses stolen by kids, others had their gear stolen on the beach. There was no violence involved. Anyway, the hostel were paying off to local cops to park outside our hostel most of the day. They also hired off duty cops to join in on any tours to football games etc.
I hate associating Rio with crime but its on travellers minds. A local story by Associated Press may explain why!
Crimes spark tourism concerns in Brazil
By MICHAEL ASTOR, Associated Press WriterSat Aug 19, 3:32 AM ET
The murder of a 19-year-old Portuguese student on Copacabana beach and a rash of robberies have rekindled concerns about security in Brazil’s top tourist city, where authorities have tried several initiatives to make streets safer for visitors.
Andres Costa Ramos Bordalo was stabbed to death Monday by an assailant who stole his knapsack. Although police stepped up patrols, at least 22 tourists were robbed this week, police said Friday.
Bordalo’s daytime murder shocked many in Rio. The city has one of the world’s highest homicide rates, but violence rarely spill out of shantytowns. On Thursday morning, two knife-wielding men stole a video camera from a group of Chinese tourists. One of the men was punched in the face as he challenged the attackers, police said. The previous evening, six men on three motorcycles intercepted a tour van carrying 14 tourists from various nations. Two men armed with pistols boarded the van and drove the tourists around for 10 minutes, stealing their money, cameras and watches, police said.
“Rio is beautiful … but I’m never coming back here,” Ioland Jobert, 25, a South African who was aboard the van told the O Globo newspaper.Ricardo Anderoli, the chief of police for tourists, said he believed the van robbery was carried out by a gang specializing in car theft that has recently targeted tourists. Rio has an annual homicide rate of around 50 per 100,000 inhabitants. But officials say the crime rate in upscale neighborhoods is no worse than in other large cities like London or Rome.
One notable exception is the Copacabana beach district, the heart of Rio’s tourist district where some 40 percent of crimes against tourists occur, mostly holdups and purse snatchings. This week, three Colombian tourists were robbed at knifepoint on Copacabana. In recent years, state officials have beefed up police patrols, created a special tourist police department and deployed cameras along the beachfront in an attempt to reduce crime, but success has been limited. Last year, 2,737 tourists reported being robbed in the state.
On Wednesday, Rio de Janeiro state police chief Hudson de Aguiar Miranda offered to provide police escorts for tourist buses from the airport to downtown hotels, a drive that passes through some of the city’s most notorious shantytowns. But most tour operators reportedly turned the offer down, concerned that police escorts would only further frighten tourists.
Earlier this year, 33 British tourists were robbed at gunpoint after their bus was stopped on a highway from the airport to downtown Rio, but since then no similar incidents have been reported.
I have book my first three nights at a hostel called POUSADA FAVELINHA which is open around a year.
I like the idea thats its away from Copa and centro (the danger spots). The way I see it, theiefs are attracted to the places where tourists congregate .. mainly Copa.. and so a lot of tourist crime occures there. This hostel is somewhat ‘out of the way’ and only has room for 14 guests.
I read about the “Little Slum Inn” in Reuters during March.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) – Breathtaking views high above Rio de Janeiro’s beaches and mountains can be yours for just a few dollars a day — if you skip pricey hotels and sleep in a slum.
Rio’s slums, or favelas, are infamous for drug and gang violence. But a new hostel called “The Little Slum Inn” is attracting adventurous tourists, mainly from Germany, France and the United States, who dare to live amid the grit and poverty.
“This place isn’t for wimps. If you are uptight, you can go stay at the Copacabana Palace,” said co-owner and shantytown dweller Andreia Martins, 31, referring to the luxury beachfront hotel where the Rolling Stones stayed last month when they played a free concert for more than 1 million people.
You can only get to the jungle-covered hillside slum of Pereira da Silva on foot. Most of its 1,900 residents live in unpainted brick hovels they built themselves on irregular lots.
But the hostel owners say staying in the slum is safe. It has buried its violent past and gained a reputation as one of Rio’s calmest favelas since police killed a neighbourhood drug lord in a shootout seven years ago. A police squad also trains there, so gangs avoid the slum.
Residents of most of Rio’s 600 shantytowns are not so lucky. Thugs employed by drug traffickers walk narrow streets with AK-47 assault rifles on their shoulders. Bloody clashes with police and rival gangs are common. Slum dwellers who work long hours for low pay as maids or gas station attendants then have to come home to a slum where they risk getting caught in gunfights.
Martins’ clients at the Pousada Favelinha, as it is called in Portuguese, are tourists who pride themselves on avoiding glitzy tourist haunts and travelling off the beaten path to remote places like Laos and Cambodia.
Each room in the white, three-story inn has expansive terraces overlooking Rio’s bay and cosy furnishings.
A room with a double bed costs about $35 a night. It costs $15 a head to sleep in a large room for single backpackers.
Her neighbours like the inn because it brings money into the community. Martins is working with the community association to set up a free health clinic staffed by visiting foreign doctors. She employs two residents from the slum to run errands and clean and refers guests who like lots of beer to bars at the base of the hillside community. Martins says she is making decent money but complains of long hours.
Monday 30th of January 2006
The departure of my flight was at 14:05 from Krakow and arrival at 15:40 at Gatwick. Teh full price of my ticket including taxes etc was 81.90 PLN. I was up around 9.00am and headed to the Milk Bar I saw in yesterday. I had soup, bread, biggas and a sprite for about 15 Z. Bargain.
I walked to the street where the girl at the hostel said the 192 passes. I was waiting for about 10 minutes and there was no seat to be had. A 2.70 Z ticket should do (purchased at most kioks and validated on the bus) but I purchased a 3,10 Z (billet Godzinny) just in case they pointed to my bag as an extra passenger and fine me. It happens alot in Prague, Slovakia and othr places. A big backpack means you should get an extra ticket. It took about 25 minutes to get there so I was there for noon for a 2.05pm flight. Dead early. It was very, very busy for such a small airport. All budget airlines.
I had to wait an hour to get checked in. Usually (even Ryanair) allows 10-12kg on ahnd luggage. While my bag was small enough, Central Wings only allows 4 kg as hand luggage. Jesus, a box of tissues would weigh that. I did not want to argue and had to check in my bag. I had purchased a bottle of water with my last bit of change so I just hung around until the flight. it was delayed 30 minutes which was a bummer. There is nothing to do at the airport. The duty free is as big as a toilet. No disstractions here. I waited around until it was time to head back. Alot of Polish people leaving to work in the UK. A lot of tears at the airport.
On a postscript/postnote (after my tirades against stray dogs in Romania) Brigitte Bardot slams Romania for dog cull (February 4, 07:15 PM)
BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Former French film star turned animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot slammed Romania on Saturday for culling stray dogs after a Japanese man was bitten to death in Bucharest.
The capital’s mayor Adriean Videanu announced immediately after the incident last Sunday that the time stray dogs could be kept in shelters before being put down would be shortened. The 68-year-old Japanese businessman bled to death in central Bucharest after a stray dog bit him in the leg, severing a vital artery.
Foreign tourists often cite the packs of dogs roaming freely on the streets of Bucharest among the reasons they shy away from the capital of Romania, which plans to join the European Union as early as in 2007.
Dozens of people are bitten daily. Bucharest residents are split, some advocating culling and others feeding the stray dogs on the streets and building makeshift shelters for them. The 100,000 stray dogs in the capital are considered a legacy of former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s decision to demolish many houses in the 1980s. Dogs were abandoned by people rehoused in small flats.
Overll, I really enjoyed my few weeks in Budapest, Romania and especially the Ukraine. I had done little planning before ahnd and I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful old Saxon fortified towns. Sibiu was my favourite spot, such a lively buzz around town.. certaintly a city looking ahead and forward looking. I can see why it will be joint European Capital of Culture in 2007. Cant fault the cheap costs as well. The Ukraine was also excellent, and I will make it abck there as soon as possible before their governement changes their minds about VISA Rules. If a pro-Russian governemtn gets abck in at the end of March, I can see the rules changing. No, overall, well worth it except for dowdy Budapest which is a summer destination.
Sunday 29th of January 2006
I arrived at the new bus station at 6.45am (about 20 minutes early). I felt pretty tired, had no local currency and it was pitch dark and very cold outside. I decided to wait there until the sun started to shine so I stayed there until about 7.45am before walking through the train station and then onwards towards the royal mile.
The domestic bus terminal has now been moved to ul. Cystersów which lies east of the train station. It’s quite a journey into town so either get a cab or jump on tram number 4, 10, 15. International buses arrive and depart from ul. Bosacka (E-1). It’s right behind the train station, so just follow the signs wyj?cie do centrum.
It was Sunday morning, and and there were hardly a soul on the street except a few police men on patrol and a few cleaners. While I hadnt realised yet, there had been a terrible incident about 40 miles away in where 60-67 people had died. People were already going to churches to say a prayer.
A city forged in battle, war, conquest and fate, Krakow is in many respects the most Polish of all this great nation’s cities. The ancient seat of kings and intelligentsia comes steeped in legend and myth, and evokes the most fanciful of images, from dragons occupying the catacombs of Wawel, to Tartar hordes repelled at the gates, to an earnest Vladimir Lenin plotting revolution while sitting in the city’s cafes. Krakow’s history is the stuff of fantasy.
Back to the future. The budget flight boom confirms this nation’s transition from a country people are queueing to leave, to a country people are queueing to enter – the crowds that rotate around Wawel and fall out of the Irish pubs later on are all the evidence you need.
While much of Poland was left a heap of rubble at the end of WWII Krakow escaped wholesale destruction; a lightning fast pincer movement from the Red Army forcing the Nazi’s into flight before they had a chance to dynamite the city. Today Krakow’s dusty courtyards and web of streets are home to some 2.3 million registered artworks, and some of the most significant historical sites in the country.
If you’ve just got a day to spare (woe you) do your best to hit the highlights of Kraków. The old town is the sensible start point, and be sure to walk what is known as the Royal Road: starting at Floria?ska Gate make your way past the Sukiennice and St Mary’s Cathedral in the town square, and down ul. Grodzka where you will pass the church of St Peter and Paul.
The walk concludes at Wawel Castle: the defining landmark of the city, and in itself worthy of several hours of exploration. Just south of Wawel the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz is a must visit, and points of interest include the Old Synagogue and the Remuh Synagogue and cemetery. Those following the Jewish trail should also pay a visit to Oskar Schindler’s factory (soon to be opened as an art gallery) in the Podgórze district, as well as a taxi ride to wonder around the forlorn landscape that was once home to Plaszow labour camp.
Kraków is often referred too as Poland’s cultural capital and art highlights include the Czartoryski Museum (featuring Da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine) and the Wyspia?ski Museum. A visit to the Jagiellonian University Museum is a good way to spend a spare hour, while fans of Pope John Paul II should take a walk around his former residence, nowadays housing Archdiocesan Museum.
I had stayed in Nathans Villa Hostel before, and I knew how to get there by walking. Straight down past the castle etc. I was taking a few pictures so I did not arrive there at reception until 8.10am. I checked in with reception and put my bag in storage. I was cold and tired so i helped myself to cofee and 30-40 minutes on the free Internet they have. It was there I read about the accident in KATOWICE which killed over 60 people.
I went out to seek a Milk Bar – a Polish cafe that serves hot but cheap food. I found one and had Zurek (sour rye meal mash), followed the unofficial national dish, bigos (sauerkraut with pieces of meat and sausage) which was lovely. So lovely, to te big surprise of the waitress I ordered a second dish of it. Its just that after no sleep I was in need of a bit of food supplement. The bill came to about 20 Z – nothing really for a great meal.
I then spend a few hours checking out the Kazimierz district.
I also paid 7 Z to see Isaac Synagogue. I am not Jewish so these buildings and history do not resonate with me. I know the history but have no emotioanl connect.
I went to the square and then walked around the town before heading back to the hostel. I had the whole 4 bunk bed dorm to myself in this clean, bright and warm room. Very nice hostel with its own bar downstairs. See pictures of the new bar in their website. I was talking to a guy who worked there for years (amybe owner) and said last year they got maybe 12 people a day stating in January but now its 25 a day and most weekends in Jan/Feb are booked out. He said alot of American students saying in europe (exchange students in Prague, Paris, Budapest) come for weekends.
It was 3Z for a pint of Zywiec beer (pivo) betwwen 5-7 so I had a few beers and talked to various peole who were coming and going. You also get a free shot of alcohol token when checking in. I could then use one of their many DVD’s to use in their dedicaated cinema with surround sound or join in in a free Polish language learning class. I stuck with the beer and atching Series 1 of “the office” with a few others. By the time we watched that and “lost in Translation” , I was pretty drunk and had an early enough night. I couldnt really get that film (the end anyway). At least I had my own room to relax in.
Saturday 28th of January 2006
I was up early (around 9am) and breakfast was included in the price. There was nobody in the office, nobody to ask whether I could leave my bags there and no breakfast. I mentioned it to a German guy who lives in the apartment building (I had met him yesterday and he is aquainted with the hostel management). Ah well, I headed off and walked into town to buy a few things for some colleagues back home (a bottle of Voka and a few KG of Ukrainian Chocolates which are first class and which the country has a fine reputation for). It was Saturday and there were alot of street markets open. They ranged from Arts and Crafts inluding some great paintings to big sheds food of food/meat/fish vendors which was quite exciting. For breakfast, I headed into another dive of a place for a chicken dinner.
I then walked to the town hall in the main square. You can go there and buy a ticket to go to the top of the building to give upa birds eye view of the old city.
Rynok (Market)Square. The building of the City Hall was completed in 1835 after its predecessor collapsed in 1826. The clock tower is 65 m tall with 350 steps leading to its top. It is open for visitors presenting a stunning view of the entire city*. Houses on Rynok Square were built between 16th and 19th centuries in different stiles and survived several fires and remodeling. Most buildings have 3 windows on each floor. Only very rich owners could afford tax put on extra windows. Statues of mythological gods guard the square on each corner: Neptune – god of the sea among the Romans. Adonis – in Roman and Greek mythology god of nature and fertility. Diana – Roman goddess of the hunt and of the moon. Amphitrite – the ancient Greek goddess of the sea.
I took an elevator up and then a couple of flights of stairs which were old and narrow. When I got to the top, I got a blast of freezing cold air.Jesus, it was cold up there but you had great views of the city and surroundings. Its a very pretty town but alot of flat complexes on the outskirts, much like any other town or city in the former USSR.
from there I walked to the High castle Hill:
The High Castle is the name of the highest hill (413 m) overlooking Lviv. In the 13th century the kings of Halych built a fortress at the High Castle Hill. With the spread of fire arms the significance of the fortress diminished and in 1704 it was conquered and ruined by the Swedish troops of Karl the XII. Since then the fortress at High Castle has never been rebuilt. The High Castle summit with the winding path is man-made in honor of Lublin Union of 1569 that united Poland and Lithuania into one state. The only remnant of the fortress is a part of its southern wall which is guarded by a stone 400 year old lion brought here in 1874. The broadcasting tower and the television center were added in 1957.
It took a good 30 minutes to get up there via a park but the views were excellent. Still, bitter cold…. I did not spend long up there and headed abck down to do a little sightseeing which included visiting the Remnants of the Golden Rose Synagogue.
I walked abck towards the hostel to visit this site……
It was Saturday and there were at least 10 wedding parties flting about. They were in a queuw to take shots in fron of a religious monument on the main square. You would need to be well wrapped up today. Still nice to see. I am going to finish up with some various shots of the city.
I headed back to the hostel quite early … when it got dark as I had not much business left in town. When I got back, again no staff or guests. I actually went abck to bed for an hour. If I wanted too, I could have stayed an extra night free. No staff – Jayus, what a business. When is a hostel a hostel, just because they ahve three beds in a room? No staff, no maps, no advice, a broken TV but stiff, it was pretty good, clean and safe. ……… and they left my brekfast on the bed..yeah.. It might have been there 8 hours but I ate it including the cold coffee… It was very generous with sandwiches, sausages, bread etc. Ate the lot.
I gave the keys back to the building block reception (an old lady) and walked back into town to catch a 1 hy bus back to the bus station. I was mad early (an hour and a half)a nd the place was deserted. I had a few sips of volka from my flash and waited until 10pm which was departure time. There were no other buses left to go and at last a bus arrived. About 20 people were going so there were enough seats that people did not have to share. There was a German guy trying to invest int he Ukraine sitting in front of me and we spoke and we had an inquisitve Ukrainian girl behind me who also joined the conversation. We were quite a long time at the border, even though it was empty. Unlike my Romania to the Ukraine experince, which I stayed ont he bus, we all had to get off and take our bags into the main building. They gave up all customs declaration form to fill up (Which was in Ukranian) which the German guy and I did mot fill up. I was up early and I gave hime my passport. He just smiled, said hi and let me pass. They searched the bags of most of th other passengers.
They then let us stew there for an hour, doing nothing which was strange. it was 1am or so, in a big cold building with no staff. Fianlly we were allowed go through. After 5 minutes, we then gave up our passports which was another 30 minutes. Everybody got their passports back except me. I was worried that they stamped my entry forma nd not my actual passport when entering the country… but I finally got it back (dont know what the delay was… my passport is fully full with no spare pages and alot of stamps) and they stamped my passport.. so I have an exit stamp but no entry stamp. It was straight through Polish customs with no hassles.
Friday 27th of January 2006
I arrived around 7.00am in Lviv. I said goodbye to the two Ukrainian girls who had offering me oranges and chocolate for breakfast. They also put away my bed sheets etc. I walked to the ticket counter to arrange a train ticket for tomorrow night to Krakow (Craacow) but she said the only train going on the 28th was a 7.00am train for 200 hy).
Lviv – Krakow: from http://www.travel.inlviv.info/howtolviv.php
07.14 – 14.55 Duration: 8:41
13.56 – 20.45 (change in Przemysl Gl.) Duration: 7:49
08.30 – 13.44 Duration: 6:14
I thought it over but it would be better for me to take a night option. I would check the buses later. I went outside and had been advised on the Internet to take the number 66 maxi taxi bus.
It was just 1 hy for the bus ride and had read that my hostel would also be on this route. On the hostel website, they said get off after 15-20 minutes at the Khymychna stop but all bus stops are cyrillic so I missed it and went as far the end of the 66 bus route. I stayed on and came back. Once I saw spires etc, guessing that must be the old part of the city (town centre), I got off and explored the old town for about 3 hours. I tried the Tourist office but it was closed. from what I saw I liked. There was a lot of ice on the streets but it was been cleared away.
Lviv was once described as an undiscovered pearl of Europe. It has a very long history reflected in its architecture and way of life. Unlike many other cities of Ukraine, Lviv survived almost unscathed in WW2 and was spared by the Soviet government that left and preserved numerous architectural landmarks in the city.A visitor to Lviv could appreciate it as an old truly European city and at the same time could find so many reminders of the Soviet era. Everything east of Lviv, for thousands and thousands of miles all the way to the Pacific Ocean, is what so many westerners call Russia. West is Europe. So Lviv is a turning point – the last bastion of Europe before a vast expanse of the East.
I had printed out a map of the town from the hostel website showing where it was in relation to the town and opera house. Once I found the Opera building, I knew i was on the Main street, and I just had to walk along the Chornovola ave. till the crossroad with Khymychna street (15 min.). I knew when i reached there, the bus does pass it. Its where the Jewish Monument and garden is. From then on they are signs.
Youth Hostel ‘Afena’ is located in the center of Lviv, some 15 min. walk from the Opera and the Main street (Svobody Ave.) Youth Hostel ‘Afena’ is open all year-around. English-speaking reception is open daily from 9 am till 6 pm. Tourist information in English and Polish available. 24 hour check-in.
Once I went in, its an ordinary building block. Theres a bar inside beside the lobby and the hostel is on the 2nd floor but there was no one there. I went to the building attendant and he rang somebody. 20 minutes later a lady turned up. Its open all year but alot of flustering. Seems they dont get many guests. I paid 13 Euro for a single bed in a 4 bed dorm (normal beds). There was a TV but no wires or plug but nice external showers and a sink. I was tired but headed off a few minutes later. No lockers, no maps, no advice. You would not know it waa hostel, until they say it was. They gave me a key for the room. No other guests.
I walked back into town. The Lets go guidebook said the number 5 tram will take you to the bus station. I got on and paid my 1 hy. I went to both depots to the both ends of town aand no bloody station. I had wasted a lot of time looking for the Number 5 in the first place. Bloody guidebooks. I walked back into town and luckily the tourist office was now open. There was a german guy inside who was very helpful. He told me how to get to the bus station and I purchased a map for 2hy. Their website has good information.
I then took the 71 bus ( other buses will suffice including the 7, 7A, 37, 81 and 35). It took about 15-20 minutes to get to the station but its the last stop so thats cool. It was easy but a ticket to Krakow for tomorrow night. It cost 98 hy.
12.00 – 21.10
19.50 – 05.00 (on even days)
22.00 – 07.10
I found the cyrillic language in Ukraine difficult to translate especially menus as no english Translations existed. I had a couple of beers (I think I can order a beer in 102 different languages) but meal time was different. I was forced into a restaurant in a amrket place that served chicken only. I only had to get two points accross: (1) whether I wanted a full, half or quater chicken and (2) which part of the chicken i wanted (leg, breat, thight). I ordred a half chicken with bread, sauces and a drink for 20 hy. I went back to the hostela round 8.00pm for a shave and a shower and went abck into town. I didnt go out out, I should ahve as the women here are pretty damn beautiful but I had an early enough night. I actually slept like a log. Maybe I didnt sleep so good on the train last night.
Thursday 26th of January 2006
I went to the bus station around 11am and spoke to one of the drivers. He walked me to the bus heading to the Ukraine and asked me whether I needed a VISA. Never was I so happy to see a battered bus take me out of this town. I purchased my ticket north to the Ukraine for 200,000 lei. The comapny was TASA Suceava. Remember you can not buy tickets from the sation, only from the bus driver. I was in the bus at noon, as I was sick of the town. I purchased breakfast (soup, bread) at a restuarant and got a few things like water for the bus journey. I had about 20,000 lei which I gave to a cripled young in his 20’s. looked like he was in a crash or something. His skull had been smashed and looked like some surgeon did do a great job in putting him abck together. Lots of beggars in town but not pushy.
I was happy to wait in the bus for an hour reading. i did not want to miss the bus. i just wanted to leave the town and was delighted to get going. there were about four other passengers. One thing is, the driver takes your passport for 20 minutes for some reason. I hate leaving it go, but he was a jolly, friendly guy. i got it back in one piece. Anyway, the need to leave town was of greater importance than my passport.
There were a few passengers picked up along the way. The Romania guards were cool. In all and this is no joke, I did not have to leave the bus to cross over. No bags were checked. No questions asked. A guard came, took everyones passport and asked me “How are you?” in a big smile as if he had been practising this line for weeks. I said I was good and asked him how he was. He was “good” too. The bus driver had given us immigration entry forms fot the Ukraine and had asked me if I needed a VISA. From last summer, I know we dont but immigraion is immigration. We got back our passports after 5 minutes. I had been stamped out. The bus driver gave all our passports to a female passenger to hand out. She gave a great show of it. Mr. Belrussia, Mr. Romania, Mr. Ireland!!!!”
We went about 2km to the ukraine side. Again, no hassles, no crowds. Just one guard came in and took the passports. One of the passengers asked the guard “You speak good English, yes” to a bemused border guard. Again, five minutes later, the passports came back but instead of stamping the passport, they stamped the exit part of the immigration card I filled up. I though this unusual, was worried and hoped I would not lose it before my exit.So I had company from the Ukraine border to the bus station in Chernivtsi. A guy in late 20’s came up from back of the bus to sit with me. We talked about everything and anything from Irish folk music to the forthcoming elections in the Ukraine. He has a LORD OF THE DANCE DVD with him…. We arrived about 3.00pm so its a pretty short hop from Romania proper. It was a busy bus station and I wasnt going to leave him go until I got a little tourist advice, but no worries as he wanted to be my guide for the evening. i had planned to stay here a night but because I was stuck in that blasted Suceava for 2 nights, I had to get a train north to L’viv (lviv) tonight.
The tram was just .50 downdown (the 293 tram). We were packed like sardines. We left our bags aat the station and he helped me buy a sleeper (2nd class) to Lviv. I think it was 15 hy. Very cheap.
We spend the next three hours exploring the city from the theatre to the university. At the university we had buns, sald and coffee. He had a Cd of Ukraiian folk music so he went into a shop to get me a copy. He also paid for tea in a restuarant with 20 hot dovuts each. No matter how much I protested that I wanted to pay, he was more adament that he pay. He was about the same age as me. He was leaning English from a 1985 Ukrainian un9versity book. I could not help but laugh.. They had case studies about African Americans going into American hotels and been refused service or a room. There were then questions about the case studies. The book was full of sterotypes and ant-American bias. He was a welder by trade and was happy to show me family photos and tell stories.
But christ, he would not let me put my hand in my pocket to pay for anything. Crazy. He had no access to phone or email, so we swapped addresses.
It was now 8.00pm and my train was 8.50pm. We had a beer at the station and said our goodbyes. He really helped me out here and made my visit to Chernivtsi a memorable one.
There was a guard/attendant at each carriage entrance. She checked my ticket and it was easy to find my bunk bed. There were 2 girls there in this 6 bed compartment. Its open to the corridor. its best to get one on the ground as the bags can go underneath (like a drawer) which can only open if you lift up your bunk. That means no one can steal your stuff unless they move you off the bed.
The two girls (who were visiting their grandmother in Chernivtsi) were from Lviv and were good craic. They spoke a little English and one of them (the uglier of the two 🙂 ) kept smiling and staring. I though she was a bit touched in te head. Anyway, they kept offering me sweets, oranges and so on.
In the 6 beds next to us were five Ukrainians who were drunk as lords. They were playing cards but also ahd two bottles of vodka. One of them kept chatting the girls up. He was in his 60’s but whenever he got the chance slapped one of the girls on the arse and was making (I imagine) a few lewd statements. They took it in their stride. They kept asking – “Do you know what he just said?” in a bewildered look. I dont know what they expected me to do about it… defend their honour !!!!
The attendant came by and you rent fresh white sheets for you duvet, bed and pillow for 3 hy. I had a little drink of vodka and had a peaceful night in which I slept pretty soundly.
Wednesday 24th of January 2006
So I was back in Suceava around 3.00pm and tried the bus station for a bus to Chernivtsi in the Ukraine. There was only one piece of information on the whole of the world wide web and it said there were three buses a day. I went to the bus station and all they did was nearly clear me from the place. No luck what so ever. I did not know what to do as I had not planned to stay here at all. There is no bus service within the city .. just these maxi taxis that ply the city… They serve different routes and cost 10,000 lei which is pretty good value.
I had the guidebook “Lets go: Eastern Europe” which had little to no information on the town, no maps, no transport, no accomodaion etc. I had the address of the Class Hotel which I had picked up in the hostel in Sighoroara. After asking about a half a dozen people where the street was with no luck I had to get a taxi. I hadnt slept since 2 days back. I had walked around Hura for a full day in bitter cold with a 12kg backpack and I was wanted to see a bed.
I was horrified to find out that my destintion (the location of the hostel) was near the railway station where I had just come from. I could have taken a maxi-taxi back up for 10,000 lei. As the taxi meter ran up to 90,000 lei (about 5 minutes beyound the train station in the middle of no where) we reached the hostel. A lady came out and roared back for the taxi not to leave. She said to the taxi driver who had perfect English that the hostel would be closed until march. Feck….
What a fecking day. No sleep on the overnight train, 5km walk from Hura into town, bitter cold, no bus to Chernivtsi, having to take my first taxi during my trip (against my unwritten rules) and now this. No place to stay in the middle of nowhere in the cold and it was getting dark. The lady at the so called hostel told the taxi driver her sister owned a Bed and Breakfast but it would cost 500,000 lei. I had little choice. What else could I do. I would have to pay for another taxi ride there.
So I get back in the taxi, and I am pissd off. He has good english so we chat. We is self emplyed taxi driver and likes to travel. He learned his English off the television. About 20 minutes later we get to the Bed and Breakfast. I ask him how much expecting the worse and he says “no charge”. I cant believe it – a taxi driver not charging. She knows I am a student, have had a tough day and as he is self employed, its his choice. I thank him.
I walk into the Leaganul Bucovinei Bed and Breakfast Suceava
Leaganul Bucovinei is a 3 star Bed & Breakfast in Suceava, Bukovina. It is situated in the green, residential area at the exit of Suceava (towards Bucharest). The rooms are fully fitted at modern standards, with en-suite bathroom. The coziness and silence of the area, the proximity to the town (5 minutes walk) as well as the excellent positioning towards access routes are our key success factors to make your stay as pleasant as possible.
What can I say. I am showed a room by a very greasy, very shifty looking character. He says it costs 800,000 lei. I look shocked and say I went to the hostel, spend 200,000 lei on taxis (I lied, sorry) and now he wants 800,000 lei after the day I had. He recognises I am pissed off and he shows me a smaller room for 700,000 lei. I haggle him down to 600,000 lei but he wants me to pay him right then and now, with my backpack on. I pratically kick him out of the room. I am exhausted and as soon as I lie down, I fall asleep.
I went down to the fecker around 8.00pm and paid him. He also demands my passport which he keeps to my dislike. I have to eat and order soup, bread and chicken. After a terrible meal, he comes out with the bill. He has charged me twice for bread and has doubled the price of the chicken meal (as stated in the menu). He said it was heavier than advertised on the menu. This was a packet of frozen out of the packet grilled chicken with undercooked chips. Lousy chicken at that. I demand the menu and checked it off against the bill. I paid him for what I ordered and nothing more and no tip. He just laughts and smiles. What an absolute prick. I dont hate many people, but at that moment I hate this guy with a vengeance.
I go up, have a shower and go to sleep. I want to leave this town first light tomorrow.
Thursday 25th of January 2006
I was up around 9.00am and took a maxi taxi into town. I went to the train station with my little map of Romnania and the ukraine with a few sentenses written underneath the page saying I wanted transport (bus – autobus or train – trenul) to Chernivtsi / Cernivci in the Republica Ucraina. I had no idea what she was saying (like yesterday). She was shaking her head and pointing out the door. No help. I pleaded with all and sundry without help. Blank stares.
I headed to a few travel agencies without success (they tried to be helpful) until I went to the Agencie de Voyages. The lady in there said the VOG 19 train from bucharest to Moscow via Kiev passd the station around 13.37pm. I thanked her and headed straight to the station with a maxitaxi number 1 costing 10,000 lei. I asked the information person there (no English) about it. She saw the Vog 19 and said it passed between 13.19 and 13.34. After alot of misunderstandings, you have to wave down the train or it stops for a few minutes. It has no definite time of arrival and you can not buy a ticket until you board the train. It was all very stressful. I waited at that station in the cold from noon until 2.00pm. There was no bloody Russian made train with international amrkings passing. I went back and forth to the information desk. He was getting nowhere and I was fed up. i waited there until 4.00pm. Feck, arse. I was a little mad. From further investigation after this trip was completed, the train does not pass every day…..
LVOV via CHERNOVCY and SUCEAVA
Bucuresti Nord 07.27 – Suceava Nord 15.01 – Chernovcy 02.05 – L’viv 11.50 R382 Bulgaria Express (the direct wagon departs Bucharest on Tue, Fri and Sun) What the hell.
I walked to the maxi taxi (10,000 lei) number 1 and went to te bus station, wanting to take any bus in any direction but hopefully Budapest that every evening. I did not care that I didnt want to go back there and my flight was out of Poland – Krakow. I tried a few international bus offices and all they had was Germany, austria, Italy (i was VERY tempted). All the buses to Cluj on the way to budapest (and where there are buses running all night to budapest) had finished and I just wanted to get back to Budapest (and change my flight home from Krakow to Budapest). I wanted to save a nights accommodation and take the 10pm bus to budapest and then catch a train to Budapest or Krakow from there – which would have cost an arm and a leg. Bummer, feck it all.
I decided to walk down town and get my first bite to eat all day. I had my backback on all day as well. It was now about 5.00pm and I passed Hotel Suceava on the main street. I decided to head in and check about buses to Budapest and there is a travel agency in there as well. There was a guy in there called Stefan who spoke perfect english because he had studied engineering in England. He calmed me down and sat me down. He ran the bus and train stations for me. Spoke to them and said there was without a doubt a bus from the bus station at 1pm every day. You could not buy this ticket in the bus station but from the bus driver from noon on. He reassured me and we chatted. He spoke up for Suceava and recommended a few places to stay. Thank god I met this guy, or I would be walked back to Ireland.
I had the brochure from a Bed and Breakfast called Villa Alice given to me by Stevan from the travel agency within the hotel. it was slightly more expensive than the Bed and Breakfast I had stayed in last night, but I wasnt going back to that place. Too far away and he was a greasy unlikeable man that owned it. I got pretty lost in trying to find Villa Alice. i was walking for about 40 minutes. I finally asked a lady on the street. Again, she spoke French but no English, but she was very kind. She walked me the 10 minutes to the accommodation door. Very kind of her and we had a nice conversation about the places I had been.
When I entered, the guy said he had no single rooms for 699,000 left but after telling him I would simply go to the Hotel Suceava for the same price, suddedly a room became avaialble. Bullshitter!
The room was small, but I was tired and cold from a day doing nothing- sitting at the bloody train station, walking around with my backpack all day long. I had a shower and cut my hair, my nails and watched some romanian folk music on the TV.
I let around 9.00pm to find some place to eat. I finally found (only a few places here) a small street with 4/5 fast food’ish type places. I walked in and ordered basically was 1/2 a chicken, salad, chips and bread for 145,000 lei. Two nice girls (sisters) worked there and we spoke a while.
I walked a few minutes to a cosmo modern bar called “gang” which the travel agncy guy had recommended. Very nice, very civilized. Probably too civilized for a guy like me who likes his spit and sawdust bars. I had a pretty early night.
Wednesday 24th of January 2006
I arrived to Suceava at about 7.00am in the morning. I wasn’t very impressed my the cold. it was bitter. I mean I did not want to leave the cold train. Without doubt, the coldest day since I stated this trip. Vey countryish town, in that most people were rough looking (in a rural sense – wearing wellingtons). My first impression was a farming area. I headed straight to the ticket counter and asked for a ticket to Gura Humorului. Gura humorului is located 17 km from suceava.
No problem – just 35,000 lei. One thing was it said: Gura Humorului Ostrad on the ticket. i thought that was a staion outside of town – past the main station. I did not have long to wait for the train which are quite frequent. It was a cold journey and I wondered whether I should stay in Suceava for not. An hour passed and I was a station called Gura Humorului and I mistakenly got off. It was the middle of nowhere. Just one bulding in the middle of the countryside. no town, nada. It took me 10 minutes walking past a timber factory before I got to a road. Left or right. Left or right.
Mistake number 2: I went left for about 2km and I asked directions at a service station. They pointed back where I came from. Now, I had not minded the cold up until now. I rather enjoyed the change in temperatures and the picturesque snow, but I was frozen. I had never been so cold in my life.. even with gloves, balaclava, good coat etc.I had no feeling in my right thumb and my toes felt like blocks of nice. I had two pairs of pants on, two pairs of socks. Every time I breated out ice appeared on the balaclava. The hair within my nostrils had frozen. Seriously, I felt my nose block up with ice.
I turned back the way I came and tryed to hitch a lift into town without any luck. Its a smallish towna nd there wasnt much traffic that time of the morning. On my way abck in .. about 3km… I came accross 2 different fields full of garden gnomes (gnomes). I think they were pointed towards a Manger (where Christ was laid after birth). I am unsure. I only took a few shots asmy hands and fingers were too numb to press the shutter.
I continue on my walk frozen and once I got close to town I popped into a cafe for a hot chocolate for 8,000 lei. I at down and warmed up. I then continued into town. It seems the painted churches in this district atract alot of tourists during the summer. I got this advice from Alex on Virtual tourist Forum..
“First, Bucovina is the name of the region the monasteries lie in, Suceava is the name of a city there. A few of the monasteries can be visited on the cheap by using public transportation: take a train (a few trains a day) from Suceava towards Cluj or vice versa and get off at Gura Humorului. In front of the railway station there usually are independent (i.e. not working for a travel agency and often cheaper) drivers which organize tours to the monasteries. You can ask them for a tour and see what the price is. If it is too high, walk straight until you meet the main road. To the left, 5 minutes later you will meet a signpost showing the way to Voronet Monastery (4 km.). If – from the point where you met the main road from the station – you turn right, after 10 minutes you will reach the centre of the town; just from the small square in front of the Best Western there is a signpost showing the way to the left to Humor Monastery (6 km.). After visiting these two (of which Voronet is more interesting, take it as a personal point of view), you can also visit Moldovita Monastery; on the same Cluj – Suceava railway, take a train and get off at Vama (West of Gura Humorului), change for a local bogie and go to Vatra Moldovitei, where you can visit Moldovita Monastery; mind you there are only a couple of trains a day between Moldovita and Vama; from Moldovita there is a single early morning bus farther to Sucevita, possibly the most beautiful of them all, but you can also try to hitch-hike. Apart from these monasteries, you can also go to the less visited by foreigners, but nevertheless beautiful and a Mecca for Romanians given its history, to Putna Monastery, by local train from Suceava. Logistically speaking, I would go to Suceava, then from there to Putna, back to Suceava, on to Gura Humorului with the side trips to Humor and Voronet, then on to Vama and to Moldovita, then back and on to Cluj / Maramures, depending on your schedule.
Generally, time and effort-wise, I would pick Putna (as something different, even though not painted on the outside like the others), Voronet and Moldovita, with the possibility of also going to Sucevita hitching or by the 7 AM bus.
You can find a map of the area here. The town has a population of 15,837. According to a Wikipedia article the turning point in the town’s history was the disastrous fire of May 11, 1899 which destroyed most of the town – more than 400 houses, including many Jewish businesses and homes.
I walked into town and then walked straight out the other side over the bridge in order to walk to Voronet Monastery (4 km.) I hitched a car and got a lift. Nice guy but I read some place even if you get a lift in Romania you are still expected to pay 50% of what you would ahve paid by either bus or taxi so at the end of the journey, he asked for 10,000 lei. He did in a funny, kind way and with a laugh explaining the cost of petrola nd how much it would ahve cost by taxi. I was happy to give it in this cold. anyway this monastry is pretty famous and even has its own Romanian Stamp.
Vorone? is a monastery in Romania, found near the town of Gura Humorului. It is one of the famous painted monasteries, found in southern Bucovina, now in the povince of Suceava, close to the border with Moldova. Often known as the “Sistine Chapel of the East”, the frescos at Vorone? feature an intense shade of blue known in Romania as “Vorone? blue”.The monastery was established in 1488, with St. George the Martyr as its patron saint. The exterior paintings were made in 1547. It remained a working monastery until the start of Habsburg rule in 1785, and only became a religious retreat again after the fall of communism in 1991. The tomb of the monastery’s first abbot, St. Pious Daniil the Hermit is found at the monastery.
I did not have to pay any entrance. The door on the exterior wall was open. There was a shop and reception inside which was also empty. i think it may be 50,000 and another 25,000 if you have a camera. I walked around the site, feeling a bit guilty about walking in unannounced. i was the only person there. after 20 minutes, I simply walked out again. Noone there.
I found a new article in the Washington Post about the monastries. Hee are exerpts:
Afterward, we drove the few miles south to Voronet, the oldest of the monasteries. It has been dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of the East,” and the comparison does Michelangelo credit. Swathed in a satiny indigo known as “Voronet blue,” it was the most beautiful church I’d ever seen.
The famous blue derives from lapis lazuli stones imported from Egypt, explained Slemco, whom we’d hired for our last day in Bucovina. As with the other monasteries, the formula for creating the exterior colors died with the painters, so the frescoes can never be repainted — when a piece fades or flakes off, it is gone.
Slemco talked us through the Orthodox calendar painted just inside the entryway. He showed us the altar with its icon of God holding a Moldavian scarf, representing the universe. With the skies darkening, he hurried me to the west wall to show me the “Last Judgment,” Voronet’s — and Bucovina’s — masterwork.
All the monasteries have apocalypse frescoes, but Voronet’s is the most overwhelming, and seemingly the one designed to elicit the fiercest identification from its intended audience of peasants and warriors. Angels sound the final call on a bucium, a local shepherd’s horn, and send turban-headed sinners tumbling toward a beastly Satan. The apostles watch from a grandstand of Romanian thrones as Jesus weighs souls, with Turks and Tatars prominent among those awaiting judgment. Everybody gets a shot at salvation, Slemco said, describing this image as an olive branch extended to unbelievers and enemies of the state.”
Anyway, I walked back into town – another cold 4km and tried to find the real railway station … without success. i even followed the lines. Where was the bloody thing. I then walked out at least 6km to what I felt was the road to Humor Monasry – no luck and I got lost but it was enjoyable. Men spread waste on horse and cart, women washed clothes in the field by ahnd. Very absic rural life here. I then saw a sight I will never forget. Three horse and carrts were on the way up the road towards me. I wish I took out my camera or had a cmcorder. There was no driver on the first and second horse and cart. The horses simply went by dragging their loads. On the 3rd cart, 3 people were laid out in the back. Two were drinking heavily, the third slumped out ont he back. Totally wasted. It was amazing!!
Anyway, i headed abck into towna nd took a few snaps!!
When i got back to town from my lost wandering, I tried to find a place to eat when sudendly I saw a train come into town. I basically ran after it until I found the elusive train station hidden behind houses. When I saw the train I followed it and there it was behind a big fense and row of houses – the railway station. The train was just about to go and I didnt have a ticket, but the conductor just told me to get on. Gura Humorului was fine if you just after the churches and a little bit of rural life. The place is full of places to stay – I mean over a hundred pensions at least. So off I went back to Suceava.