Peru

We landed in the afternoon in a very grey Lima. August is wintertime, and you could definitely tell. It wasn’t very cold, but it was grey and rainy. Our guide Maritsa picked us up at the airport and took us in to our hotel in Mira Flores. We had some sightseeing during our way. The most interesting was to see all the people along the highway in to the city. They were everywhere! Walking in the middle of the road, waiting for the bus next to it, children playing (!) on it. When we got to the hotel we rested for a while and went out to get something to eat.

The following morning we took a city tour to see Lima properly. First we went to the love park in Mira Flores. It was a really nice Gaudi-inspired park by the sea. Our tour continued and we got stuck in a huge demonstration. There is a program in Peru where volunteers give free milk to poor children. For some reason the government wanted to cut their finances so people were really angry. It was a bit embarrassing going by a luxurious bus through the crowds.

We went to see the old post office and then on to Plaza de Armas to look at all the beautiful buildings surrounding it. The cathedral was very beautiful and it was interesting to see how the Inca-traditions lives within catholicism.

There was a change of guards outside the government palace when we stepped out of the cathedral. We looked at it for a minute, but there were more interesting things to see. An ethnic group of musicians from Cuzco were standing on the stairs to the Palace of the Archbishop. A lot of people were curious and gathered around them. They were there as tourists like everybody else. First they were a bit shy, but after a while they started playing their instruments. Unfortunately we had to leave since the demonstration came closer.

On our way back to the hotel we got stuck in the demonstration again. It was really embarrassing. We were close to the hotel so we could have walked, but they were determined to drive us there. Some people were rather irritated so it felt unnecessary to push our luck driving through the crowds.

We got back to the hotel eventually and went straight out again. We ordered half a chicken each, no idea if it was half a chicken or half a filet. It was definitely half a chicken! We strolled around by the ocean and looked after handicrafts. We did find a very nice set of paintings that we didn’t buy since they were so expensive. Of course we regretted that later.

There was a really early transfer to the airport the next day. We would eventually find out that 4.30 (or even earlier) was a very common wake up call on this trip. Jenny wasn’t to happy about getting a wake up call earlier then she thought she needed, being used to get up 10 minutes before the train leaves for work every day. We felt like we were being wrapped up in cotton. People carrying our bags everywhere and checking them in on the flight. Very nice, but we are more used to the backpacker-style.

We met Nina and David from the UK at the airport and had a nice conversation with them. You could really feel the altitude when we landed in Cuzco. Some people needed oxygen, but we were feeling alright. They even sold oxygen on cans, like they do in the Spaceballs movie. We had a lot of fun about that one, that’s for sure.

When we got to the hotel we enjoyed our first cup of coca-tea. You drink it against altitude problems, and we have no idea if it works or not, but we had it during our entire stay. We took a walk to get something to eat before the city tour and came to a lovely restaurant with a really nice caesar salad. We got back to the hotel just in time for the tour. A group of people had arrived from Copacabana to celebrate the Copacabana saint so they were having a parade on the streets. It was nice to see.

Since we were on a high altitude it was really cold. We had studied the weather forecasts before we went and it was showing +20 degrees. We had absolutely no idea that +20 could feel like +5. We were constantly freezing during most of our trip.

Our first stop was at Sacsayhuaman, Inca ruins a couple of kilometers from Cuzco. The place was huge. We also went to Puca Pucara, a small fort ruin. We stopped by a lookout where we had a nice view over the city. The bus took us downtown to the center of the Inca Empire. The Spaniards built a cathedral on the ruins of the ancient Inca Palace, but you could still see remains of the old palace.We went to see another cathedral in town where they were just about to take one of the saints out for a procedure. It was really nice to see. When we got out of the cathedral we just about had it with the cold air. It started raining so we took of for the nearest store to buy some gloves and an extra jumper. We were really tired so we went to the smallest little kiosk imaginable where a little lady made the most delicious club sandwiches we’ve ever had. After finishing up we went to bed.

A new early wake up call for an excursion to Ollontaytambo. It was even more cold this early morning and the heat on the bus was not working. We were wearing six layers of clothes and were still freezing. We stopped by a very foggy lookout to get some air before we continued to the sacred valley.

Ollontaytambo was a real treasure. The village was absolutely adorable. It was very nice situated among the mountains. It was very old-fashioned and had really nice alleys. We went to see an old fortress before having lunch. It was amazing to see how the Incas had been able to build the buildings on the mountain side.

In the afternoon we went to see the market in Pisac before going back to the hotel. Ollontaytambo was very beautiful and we wanted to stay there. Ironically we were going back by bus the following day to go to Machu Picchu. There were plenty of us who wanted to stay in the village and go to the train station directly in the morning. Would have saved us some hours of traveling and we could have climbed the mountains all afternoon.

The following day we had an even earlier wake up call to go to Machu Picchu. The heat on the bus was still broken, but we wore seven layers of clothes so we managed. 🙂 When we got to Ollontaytambo we took a train to Machu Picchu. The environment was very much alike the nature around the Tranzalpine in New Zealand, so it was so so. They had built up a commercial village around the train station in Machu Pichu. It was very “touristy”, but we left immediately by bus to go to the ruins. We fell in love with the huge mountains around Machu Pichu right away. They are absolutely one of our finest memories from South America.

When we got to Machu Picchu it was actually sunny and warm outside. We left most of our clothes in lockers and went for a four hour guided tour. We had a beautiful day and it was really interesting. Afterwards we had a picnic in the grass, just enjoying the scenery.

We took the bus down to the little village and had a beer with Nina and David before going back to Cuzco. The train crew had a fashion show on the train. It felt rather weird listening to Dancing Queen from very bad speakers in the middle of the Andes while the crew were trying their best to act like models, with varying results. At least we had a good laugh.

The next day was a long nice bus ride from Cuzco to Puno. We stopped in a couple of really cute towns along the way. Nina bought some nice watercolor paintings in Andahuaylillas that we missed. We also stopped by the ruins of Racchi where the farmers still used the same water systems that the Inca people created 500 years ago.

When we got to Puno, which is a city situated next to Lake Titicaca, we went immediately to a boat to visit the Uro Indians. They are living on Lake Titicaca on little islands made out of reed. They try to keep their old traditions alive, even though it’s getting harder to keep them. It was fantastic to walk around on the wobbling islands and see how they lived. We took a boat trip as well before going back to Puno. We had dinner and went to bed.

The next day we got a new guide and left Maritsa behind. The new guide had blankets in the bus (god bless her) and kept talking the entire day. 🙁 We went to the border to enter Bolivia. Since they were celebrating Copacabana there were a lot of people trying to cross it. Our first stop was Copacabana and the church dedicated to her. It was beautiful and amazing to finally see it. We had met people all along our way that were worshiping her so it was a special feeling to finally see her church.

We took a catamaran to the Island of the Sun where we were told the history of the Island and were shown the nature and gardens. According to the legend this was the home of the Sun God. The views were spectacular. We participated in a ceremony and saw a museum before going back to the boat. Dinner was served and a bus was waiting for us when we got of to take us to La Paz.

Photos from Peru