All posts filed under: Peru

Lima, llama, travel

The Takeaway: Peru

To the untrained eye, Peru seems to be an extension of Ecuador, so much so that we questioned our arrival in Arequipa. With our exit weeks away, we were given the opportunity to focus and catch a glimpse of the essence of southern Peru. She will surprise you while remaining humble about it. Yes, several places will still serve you a thinly sliced piece of grilled meat on a bed of fried potatoes and a side of rice, but it is on you to find the places that won’t. She is more developed than Ecuador and knows just how to make a dollar off of you, but don’t let this deter you. Peru’s infrastructure allows you to feasibly traverse the country and explore the cultural and geographical diversity she has created. Some of our assessments may have been a little harsh, and perhaps unfair due to the fact that we questioned our ability to travel for a year in the middle of our visit, but Peru has a way of bouncing back. Scaling Huayna Picchu …

Lima, Peru’s Savior

We finally got to Lima after our 5 day bus debacle with Peru Hop. It was midnight and we needed a place to crash as we arrived one night earlier than scheduled. I booked a 6 person dorm at Pirwa as it received an 89% rating on hostelworld.com (I would have booked a private room, but they were going for 100 a night! The dorm was only 25). I suppose our check-in host was rather sleepy because the most basic mathematical functions became insurmountable even with her use of a calculator. Finally, she got through it and led us to our dorm. The moment she opened the door, we were slammed with the most terrible odor, as though our room was the final resting place for backpackers’ boots. Every bed was occupied with the exception of two top bunks located across the room from each other. We only had to put up with this bog of unusual stench for 6 hours or so, thus we shrugged our shoulders, accepted our situation and climbed up to …

Peru sea lions

Paracas: Peru on the Up and Up

After a short 2 hour bus ride from Huacachina, we arrived at the small coastal town of Paracas. Peru’s southern coastline is a meeting of the desert and Pacific Ocean that is not to be missed. Tony finally feeling better from his Tripe experience and a full 2 nights without a bus ride (!!) had us in great spirits. Our first morning was spent on a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands. Despite being one of a couple places sold as the “poor man’s Galapagos”, which I find rude and unappealing – this poor couple really enjoyed it. Like many coastal towns in South America, these tours are run by former fishermen and boats that could no longer compete with industrial fishing. This tour by far has the most to see. For a reasonable 50 soles (~$17) it is about 1.5 hours roundtrip to see these protected islands filled with birds, penguins and sea lions! There is also a view of “the Candelabra” said to be put there around 200 BC. Candelabra Penguins Kissing seals …

Huacachina: Peru on the Up and Up

Huacachina is an oasis town built in the middle of the desert. Dunes of sand surround this tourist city and one day is all you will need to experience all it has to offer. We stayed at Hostal Aranas which was a busy, yet quiet hostal. Her amenities included a grand dune in the backdrop, Wifi, a full restaurant/bar, pool, private rooms and dorms. For one night, it was a great place to stay. With our bags secured in their storage facility (locked and bound together by our own security measures) we headed out to sandboard the next day. We took the 4pm tour because it got us back to our Peru Hop bus that departed at 6:30 and allowed us to see the sunset over the lagoon. Strapped in with an over-the-head seat belt and metal bar to hold onto, we raced up and down dunes in a buggy; handing our lives over to a driver that jumped into the driver’s seat and took off with no introduction. Occasionally, he would stop to give …

Peru, Down but Not Out: Peru Hop Edition

Bekah and I were very excited to try Peru Hop after reading so many wonderful reviews on tripadvisor. Unfortunately, we seemed to run into every crack in their system. We doubt this is the norm or more people would write about it. In the end we will likely stick with our version of independent travel vs. a “hop on hop off” tour experience in the future. We chose their “Get to Lima Quick” option that was one 24 hour drive from Cusco to Huacachina, 1.5 hours to Paracas and 4 hours to Lima. This came out to the same price as a flight from Cusco to Lima and added a couple cities we did not have in our original route. This was more expensive than a standard bus to each of these places but we were intrigued by the flexibility and assistance. The Cusco office was seemed overstaffed for the amount of help they gave us, which was nothing. We arrived at 5:50 to catch the 6:30 bus and we were greeted with a “Wow, you are …

Peru, Down but Not Out: Cusco

Although Cusco was far from the highlight of our trip, as you will read, there was beauty to it. We have added images of such in between the tales of woe. Basilica at the Plaza del Armas Our next incident in our serious of unfortunate events was locating our hostal, Umiña, in Cusco. The Hotels.com confirmation page gave us no street address, only a street name, and gave us an incorrect phone number. Every local we asked had never heard of the hostal, which we found baffling. We walked up a large hill to find nothing, downhill to find nothing, but a Frenchman, seeing us struggle with our packs and lungs, helped us out. To our dismay, google maps would only pull up another hostal. We hailed a cab to try our luck with him, still no hostal. This time a local restaurant owner let us use his wifi and we located that devious bungalow in a pasaje between the street we were on and one over, or so we thought. The stairs we had …

Peru, Down but Not Out: Moray and Maras

Our time in Peru was more times than not a warm mess. She gave us so many lemons, that pisco sours became misnomers. The Down but Not Out series will let you in on what Lonely Planet and the Travel Channel do not share. If you disagree, please share your experiences so readers get the other side of the story as well. We had a magnificent time at Machu Picchu and read that the little towns around Ollantaytambo were very rich in Inca artifacts as well. We tried our luck with Moray and the salt mines near Maras. We hiked down Saturday morning to where the collectivos are housed and tried to catch a cheap ride, however, all the drivers said they were going to Ollan. We found a cab driver who offered us a ride for 80 soles to Moray, wait for us there, then to the salt mines, then bring us back. We were not looking to drop that kind of money, but with no drivers heading out and he reassuring us that no …

Machu Picchu, 2 Down, 5 Wonders To Go.

We arrived at a collectivo via taxi in Cusco and literally had our bags grabbed out of the car and shoved into the 15 passenger van. We were looking for a departure closer to 10:30, but with two open seats, we could not pass up this opportunity. A quick glance into the van, I saw a mix of travelers and locals and my gut screamed safe, so on we went to Ollantaytambo. It was a 2 hour bus ride and before we knew it our passenger count jumped into the twenties, but as a group, we made it work. Ollantaytambo may have a lot to offer, but for us it was our stop before heading out to Machu Picchu. There is only one way to get to Machu Picchu which is via train. We boarded our train in Ollantaytambo at 5am and arrived at Aguas Calientes around 7. At this point we freaked out a bit as we had a Huayna Picchu arrival window of 7-8 and we encountered a bus line that was hundreds …

Arequipa, simple yet captivating 

Arequipa is surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes (one that is showing signs of activity) and sits on a fault line. But that is not the first thing you will notice, the true eminent danger is the traffic. It is as if they stole an excerpt from “On Driving”, a philosophical treatise by India. Stop signs do not even produce a yield, moreover, they seem to encourage the driver to cutoff the right away path. As a pedestrian, this can be rather alarming as you must always be on high alert as you navigate through this “misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms”. Traffic lights guarantee safety to cross streets, but they are so few and far in between. Sidewalks too can be tricky as they are often times so crowded, you must step on the street to get through, and you can imagine what predicament this may put you in. Eventually, we figured it out; thankfully by trial and no grave error. The key is know timing, wait for cars to get so congested they create a gridlock …