A Travellerspoint blog

June 2012

Peru - Lima & Barranco

22 °C

Lima, the capital of Peru and the country's biggest city. A lot of travellers seem to pass right through due to bad reports, but we loved it. They city centre was full of bright yellow buildings, beautiful big plazas, good shopping and friendly people.

We stayed in the centre for a few nights in Hostel 1900, a very cool converted mansion. We explored the sights including climbing the bell tower at Santa Domingo Convent for good city views, visited the catacombes in San Francisco Convent which was a sightly claustrophobic experience, and saw a modern photography exhibition. The Inquisition Museum was also interesting, with info on how the Spanish tortured the locals when they arrived (good but all in Spanish!). We lost Paul a few times and sampled some Ceviche...a local dish made with raw fish, fresh lime, chilli and onions, yum!


We then had a few quiet days in Barranco, a really nice suburb of Lima just next to the popular suburb of Miraflores. It felt more like a little beachy town than part of Peru´s capital city. Nice restaurants and cake shops on every corner and our hostel was on a street overlooking the water. Deb treated herself for her last 2 nights in South America staying at a guesthouse called 'Second Home', had an entire floor to herself with huge ocean views. Our hostel called The Point had a great mix of people and we joined in on a game of 'flip cup' followed by a good night out.

The winter weather in this part of the world is a little strange. The temperature sits in the low 20s but it´s constantly misty or hazy and the sun rarely shines! So if feels like its about to rain at any minute, although it never does (apparently they only get 3mm per year)...No tans for us yet. Next up, a night bus north to Huaraz...hopefully a little smoother than the last!


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Peru - Pucusana

21 °C

We were edging closer to the coast and about to see the ocean for the first time in a few months and we decided to step away from the tourist trail and check out the small fishing village of Pucusana. We arrived at night and after realising budget accommodation options were dives, we treated ourselves and stayed in a hotel. The town had a nice enough setting, a cool blowhole, a cliff shaped like Jesus (according to the locals) and fresh fish served right by the water... but the murky beach, strange smells, ordinary food and odd people meant we were off to Lima the next afternoon...


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Peru - Huacachina & Ica

22 °C

Huacachina, a fading 1970s resort town set around a natural lagoon in the desert amongst towering sand dunes....the accommodation optins are pretty ordinary but we were lucky to find a brand new, cheap and clean hotel called Hostal Sol De Ica. The town right near Ica is described as a gringo playgroung by the Lonely Planet and it was just that. Our 48hrs here (you don't need any longer) consisted of a pisco tour, which started out sampling some of the pisco distilled nearby, and ended in a roudy discotheque where we met a group of locals and danced the night away. Followed the next day by sand boarding on the giant dunes surrounding the town, and if we hadn't been feeling so seedy we may have opted for a dune buggy tour too! Instead we checked out sunset from the top of the dunes overlooking the vast desert, wow.


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Peru - Nazca Lines

23 °C

The three of us caught an overnight bus to the Nazca lines...possibly one of the scariest points of the trip so far. We were on a narrow road weaving along the ocean when our bus stopped at 2am...turns out there had been a massive landslide 3 vehicles in front of us which had blocked the narrow road and would´ve crushed anything in it´s way... A few hours later we were on our way again, thanks to a rescue crew and some gutsy truck drivers who cleared the rubble. Arriving in Nazca alive, minus a few windows, smashed by the rocks that had been crumbling down around us! All part of the fun, This is Travel!

We sorted out a 35 minute scenic flight at the local airport. In a small 4 seat plane with 2 pilots we flew over the mysterious symbols and lines. The plane cut out a figure of 8 around each shape, and despite the masses of turbulence and a girl in front making use of the sick bag, we kept our breakfast down. Lucy, being not quite so brave after the nights events, opted for the more conservative option of the 'viewing platform'.


Thought to have been made by the Nazca culture over 1,000 years ago, the mystery is how did the symbols and lines get there, as they can only be seen from above. They consist of shallow markings made by clearing away the darker rocks on the surface to reveal the lighter sand below. Some are long lines stretching out for kms, others are some interesting looking images of monkeys, birds and other animals.

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Peru - Arequipa & The Colca Canyon

23 °C

Arequipa is a grogeous city with many cast iron windows and gates, and buildings made from while sparkly volcanic rock from the surrounding snow capped volcanoes! There are a few sights in town that have managed to survive the many earthquakes that have rocked the city. The Monasterio Santa Catalina built in the 15th century by the Spanish, is massive and took over a whole block in the city centre. The architecture and brightly coloured walls nearly tricked us into thinking we were in Spain. The central plaza was a great spot for a menu of the day for lunch or dinner overlooking the square, competing with prices for a supermarket dinner!


We took on the nearby Colca Canyon (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!),which is a spectacularly deep valley in dusty cactus surrounds! We hiked down into the canyon and back up the 1,100m incline over 2 days, with about 12hrs of hiking we stayed overnight in the small village of Cosnirhua. Despite Deb fainting from the sun and our last hour of climbing being in darkness, we made it to the town of Cabanaconde in one peice! Our refuge (Hostel Dadoo) was a welcome sight, the first guesthouse we stumbled across which happened to be brand new and the best find in town. After some pizza and pisco sours at Pachamama (mother earth), we reminisced on the breathtaking condor lookout. This is where we saw the GIANT condor birds soar past for an hour or so early in the morning. (yes we are now bird watchers!)


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Peru - The Inca Trail & Machu Picchu

17 °C

It was a great 4 days and luckily the only rain we got was on the first day, just enough for Lucy to christen her giant poncho and for Paul to use his beloved eVent jacket (too cool for Goretex!). After that we had gorgeous views especially when we reached the highest point on our second day, Dead Womans Pass at an altitude of 4,200m. Luckily there were no dead women to be seen despite the massive climb and icy wind...! The name refers to the outline of the pass looks like a lady lying down.


The 38km trek over 4 days doesn't seem like a lot but doing it at altitude with the inclines and declines certainly took its toll, so we were thankful to our tour company, Peru Treks, who made the trip very comfortable. We had a crew of 20 plus porters to look after our group of 14 people.. tents set up for us everynight, woken up each morning with hot tea, and even for lunch stops we had amazing hot food served literally on mountain sides!! It blew us away... These guys work so hard.

We saw some ruins along the trail and some spectacular scenery but the best was definately saved until last, Machu Picchu on the final day...even with a 3:00am start! After a brisk uphill scramble for an hour or so we made it to the sun gate to see the sun rising over Machu Picchu ruins. It really was magnificent...and the surrounding scenery. It´s perched on top of a mountain, surrounded by even taller lush mountains on every side. It´s hard to imagine how the Incan people managed to build it there 600 years ago. After a tour through the massive site later that morning, we spent the afternoon exploring the site and the nearby inca bridge.

If you ever get the chance, get to Machu Picchu!


We stayed in Aguas Callientes that night after the trail and struggled to pry ourselves away from the hot shower in time for dinner with our group. A quaint and car'less little tourist town with a train track running right through the middle. We passed through Ollantaytambo on our way back to Cusco and checked out some impressive ruins along with a nice lunch.

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Peru - Cusco

19 °C

Our first two days in Cusco were consumed getting ourselves organised for the Inca Trail.. Which involved dodging the many ' painting' and 'massage' offers on every corner and spending a whole afternoon trying every bank in town to withdraw US dollars! We were also very spoilt and stayed at the absolutely gorgeous Tierra Viva Hotel, just off the main plaza (an early bday present from Deb to Paul). It took a while for us to get used to the fact we had towels and toilet paper supplied...and that we didn't need to wear thongs in the shower! But we settled into the crisp white sheets and buffet breakfast without a problem.


Celebrations for Semana Santa (religious week) filled the main plaza as the town congregated to watch processions carrying giant floats which must've weighed an absolute tonne. We had to take a few swift side steps on a couple of occasions to avoid getting trampled, when the poor men carrying them lurched from one side of the street to the other! Escaping unscathed around the corner we found more festivities in the form of hundreds of beer tents providing the local cuisine 'cuy' (guinepig) whole, glazed with teeth gripping a garnish we couldn't bring ourselves to sample the delicacy!


The centre of town has gorgeous cobble stone streets, multiple European style plazas lined with eateries, and a lookout which was worth the climb to get up close to the giant statue of christ, illuminated over the town at night.

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Peru - Puno & Lake Titicaca

20 °C

We crossed into Peru and our first stop was the dusty and shabby town of Puno...some nice buildings and from the lookout, a great view over the lake...it also offers trips out to the famous and extremely touristy floating reed islands on Lake Titicaca. After we recovered from the pushy and loud local salesmen flooding us in the bus terminal (a big change from the quiet Bolivians we had grown to love) we soon found ourselves on a boat trip out to the islands. It was well worth the trip, as we jumped over the squishy islands which felt like you may plunge through into the lake at any minute, met traditional inhabitants of the islands and got to enjoy some local (and slightly painful!) high pitch singing as we were farewelled on our floating reed boat!


After 5 months away we were both looking forward to some new company, so we welcomed Paul´s sister Debbie and friend Shelley with open arms as they joined us for the next few weeks of travel!

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Bolivia - Copacabana, Lake Titicaca & Isla Del Sol

18 °C

We made it to the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. We took a bus from La Paz and arrived in the evening just in time for sunset - wow the sunsets here seem to last for hours...The lake is massive and it felt like we´re on the edge of a very calm ocean as opposed to a lake.

Copacabana had a good feel to it, a mix of tourists in one area and locals in another next to the little bustling market. Nice chilled foreshore restaurants, and great views from the nearby cerro (hill) lookout.

After a couple of nights we took the boat out to Isla del Sol (Island of the sun), and after a few hours cruising we arrived at the northern town of Challapampa. A small village with many farms and animals roaming around....pigs, donkeys, sheep and llamas! We found a gorgeous place to stay right on the beach, literally a few steps from the water all for the mighty sum of $3.50 each.

We explored ruins further north including a fascinating labyrinth, ate with some locals and polished off a bottle of red on the beach as the sun went down... The next day we set off on a 3 hour walk to the south of the island to a small town called Yumani, passing through small towns, multiple makeshift soccer pitches and even more donkeys....cue ¨EEOOOORRRR¨ we´d never actually heard donkeys make this sound until we arrived here..they don´t stop! Here we found another room with a great view over the lake and another stunner sunset, before heading back to the mainland the following day...feeling like we´ve done just a little bit of walking at altitude in preparation for the Inca Trail...!


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