A Travellerspoint blog

Peru

MEMORIES OF PERU

THINGS I DID AND DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO WRITE ABOUT AND WANT TO REMEMBER

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Here are some of the things that I noted while visiting Peru.

1. Tourism – they have it all figured out. Tourist sites are well equipped. They manage thousands of tourists daily with relative ease. But when you drive through areas with no tourist attractions, the poverty is very apparent.
2. Although tourism plays a large role in the country’s economics, mining is still the number one resource.
3. Bathroom tickets. Not only do you pay to use the bathroom but you get an actual ticket to show you paid but there is no one to check it. You also get a little toilet paper.
4. Winter ( July/ August). Cold in the morning and evening but blazing hot and super sunny in the daylight hours. Layers, layers and more layers.
5. Guinea Pigs. People really eat them and love them. Not so good and very boney.
6. Woven products – in beautiful colours everywhere.
7. Alpaca everything. Meat, wool, sweaters, blankets.
8. 100 % baby alpaca ma’am. Everything is genuine baby alpaca according to the sales people but it is too cheap to be true. When we asked our guides, the stuff that is cheap in the markets is still wool. Usually a blend of adult alpaca and lamb’s wool so still a good deal.
9. Alpaca are very fluffy so there is lots of wool to make all this stuff. Isaac loved touching the alpacas.
10. People eat Alpaca. We ate alpaca and liked it.
11. Machu Picchu. Tick!
12. Worst wifi ever. I have been in the jungles of Guatemala and the boonies of Indonesia and had better wifi. First world problem.
13. Incredible blue opaque skies. Even more vibrant against the lush green at Machu Picchu.
14. Peru is a multilingual nation. Its official language is Spanish but in many places the aboriginal languages, Quechua and Aymara also have official status.
15. Altitude effects. We felt a little dizzy on arrival in Cusco and noticed it when walking uphill. Machu Picchu was great as it was lower. BUT Puno and Lake Titicaca were higher and more challenging. No one had “altitude sickness”, which is the typical headache and nausea, but we sure felt it when walking around. Hotels at this altitude and higher generally had oxygen available.
16. Random numbness. Apparently from oxygen deficiency. Our lips, feet, hands, heels would periodically be full of pins and needles or numbness.
17. Coca leaves. Sold every everywhere. Served for free as tea at hotels to help deal with altitude sickness. Sold as candy for altitude sickness. Are a stimulant and locals chew it like crazy. They are used to make cocaine but that is not the “official” use.
18. Primarily a Catholic society. The second most popular organized religion is the Church of Latter Day Saints. In addition, most people still practice traditional beliefs, offerings to Pachamama or Mother Earth, a tradition that started even before the Inca’s.
19. So many seniors hunched over from years of carrying heavy loads on their backs.
20. Potatoes, over a hundred varieties. I think the black potatoes were the absolute worst.
21. Quinoa, 22 varieties. Often served with little flavoring.
22. Peruvian chocolate. Figured that would be an ok gift but at $10 a bar, forget it. Especially in a country that is relatively cheap.
23. A decent meal is about $10 without drinks at a nice restaurant.
24. The currency is the Neuvo Sol; one Canadian dollar is 2.5 Nuevo Sol.

Posted by curlygirl 14:43 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

LIVING INSIDE A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE

LAKE TITICACA - UROS, ISLA AMANATI AND ISLA TAQUILLE

sunny 22 °C

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This has been a very special couple of days and has been the highlight of my trip so far. Isaac is struggling to say this is better than Machu Picchu but it is a close one even for him.

Today we visited the highest navigable lake in the world – Lake Titicaca. It is probably the second most well-known site in Peru especially for the Floating Islands of Uros. I remember seeing images of these islands many years ago on the cover of a magazine and dreamed of one day getting there. Well I did and they did not disappoint. The people of Uros build their own island out of reeds and the 100+ islands are floating on the lake, held down by an anchor in the very shallow water. It is hard to imagine that people still live like this although their lives have definitely changed with thousands of tourists who visit each week and the few modern amenities they now have. They have limited electric provided by solar power and modern boats. They build the reed boats mainly for the tourists and we sure enjoyed our ride.

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Secondly we visited the island of Amanati. This is perhaps one of the coolest things we have ever done. We decided to do a home stay with a local family and it has been simply amazing. Although there is no bathroom ( we had a chamber pot in a room for the night) and limited electricity, again powered by solar panels, I feel like I am in paradise. Our rooms were perfect. Simple with many many wool blankets. You could barely lift it to get under which was good because it was very cold. Some views of the island remind me of Tuscany while our courtyard and view are strikingly like Greece. Our house mama, Justus lives with her husband Aldofo and their daughter. They are lovely. We had an exceptional meal of fresh wild trout with quinoa and local potatoes outside in the glorious sunshine.

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I took a few minutes to play with their daughter and her friend. We had a little game of volleyball.

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There was an optional hike to the top of the island but we are all struggling with the altitude so we opted out. It was hard enough climbing up to our house. Saying that, while the others took a nap, I had to climb higher to see what I could find. I walked very slow.

Once I got to the main square there were many people coming home from work. I hinted for a ride in the wheelbarrow but that only fetched a laugh and a pant of breath. One of the ladies blew a bubble just for my picture, I think.

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I laughed when I started photograph these sheep who came towards me because I didn’t know who would move first. Then these two ladies came along a shoed them away.

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This evening after another delicious meal, vegetables and rice, we got dressed up like locals and went to listen to local musicians. We didn’t stay long because I was feeling like crap. Light headed and tired although another side effect of altitude is insomnia and I didn’t sleep great.

The sunset shows the Bolivian mountains.

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Our party

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This morning after another high carb meal, pancakes and bread, we made our way to the third island,Taquille island. Here we were to do another steep uphill hike to visit a textile factory but we all opted out, feeling like we really need a quiet day to acclimatize. Instead we went to the pickup point and walk a small hill to a restaurant where we saw a textile display and learned why these beautiful handicrafts have received a UNESCO title. What was most interesting is that the type of the hat they wear tells the marital status ( I am wearing the baby's cap above) and it is the men who knit and the woman who weave. A good knitter makes a good husband. One of the men form Taquille who got on our boat home, sat outside knitting the whole time.

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It was brutal watching them climb straight uphill with the heavy packages.

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A really terrific couple of days. Fascinating in fact. We are now back in Puno for our last night in Peru. I can hardly believe 10 days have passed but we are excited to venture into Bolivia in the morning.

Posted by curlygirl 15:15 Archived in Peru Tagged peru uros armanati taquille Comments (8)

A VERY FLUFFY ALPACA AND A ROUND OF OXYGEN FOR THE TEAM

CLIMBING HIGHER ON THE BUS RIDE FROM CUSCO TO PUNO

sunny 22 °C

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I am writing a very short note to say that we are safely in Puno.

We took a 10 hour tourist bus today from Cusco to Peru. This ride included 5 stops along the way to visit historic sites and scenic views and took us through the Andes. It also gave us a chance to catch up on some sleep after a lot of early rises.

We also continue to ascend. The altitude in Cusco is 3400 meters and in Puno it is 3827 meters. We are all doing fine. Perhaps a little light headed and since our hotel was offering 10-minute oxygen shots we decided to give it a go. It is supposed to help with sleep too.

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I said to Isaac this morning that I was surprised I didn’t enjoy the train because I usually like trains better than buses. He said, “mom that doesn’t make sense. Trains are about the countryside and buses are about people and life which is what you love”. He is so right and was spot on today. When we were not napping, we saw so much of rural life. I was really wishing I could get out and take pictures. Still it was fascinating.

We leave tomorrow for two days on Lake Titicaca and will be back in Puno on Friday evening so I hope to post then.

Here are some shots from our day. I had to take a few pictures from the bus because I just can’t get over how blue the sky is here. I think it may have been the same in Chile but it is almost opaque with the deep dark blue. These might be a little darker because they were taken from the window but still so surreal. Even more so, when the clouds rolled in.

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Locals in the markets.

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They carry their children on their backs. I saw this lady pop her son in and tie him up on her back. So big, his feet poked out. She told me he was 18 months old. Within minutes he was asleep.

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The braids can be decorated on the back.

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A few posed for pictures.

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I had my three year old Isaac back when we saw, or touched this alpaca. He keep saying, "he's so fluffy" and was losing his mind.

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Amazing views at the highest point on the route.

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Inca sites

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Beautiful churches

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Posted by curlygirl 19:04 Archived in Peru Comments (5)

LLAMA DRAMA

SIDEWAYS FEET CONQUER MACHU PICCHU

sunny 25 °C

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There are few words and no pictures that can really capture what we saw today. But, since I am not a woman of few words or pictures I will share a little about our day at Machu Picchu, one of the 7 wonders of the modern world.

We opted not to begin our day too early since we were not interested in the sunrise. There is really no beating the crowds since there are about 2000 people there before 8 am each day. It starts with a long line for the bus that will take you the 20 minutes to the entrance. It is wonder I didn’t quit right there. The driver drove so fast around hair pin turns that were way too close to the edge of a cliff for me. I hated it. We did make it safely along with the thousands of others transported there today.

We first walked up to the point where most of the postcard pictures are taken.

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We spent about 3 hours with our guide, and a great group of ladies from the states, touring the site and learning about the history of the Incas. It was amazing how much thought and work was put into every part of the city. We saw lots but there is tons more to be seen. There no issues with the breathing at all today but again, we descended to do Machu Picchu.

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When we booked this trip we were given the option to book an additional hike so we said yes, without much research. We learned yesterday from our guide it is a brutal hike with very narrow trails and my follow up research indicated that there are places that require you to crawl hand and knees though rock formations. It is the highest point at Machu Picchu. So not for me. We considered the smaller adjacent mountain but could not reach it in time for our scheduled entrance. These trails require bookings months in advance and limit the number of people daily. We were quite pressed for time or we would have done the Sun Gate which our guide said was the easiest add on and a friend reported to be fabulous. Still a 45 minute + journey. Instead of rushing we decide to stay safe in the ruins and explore the main areas. It did not disappoint and we had no worries of sideways feet slipping of a narrow path with someone plummeting to their death.

We did have some time to stalk the local and very friendly llamas.

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The llamas turned a little crazy as we were leaving when one of them tried to mate with another which was met with rejection. This was quite funny and they would run past in full pursuit/chase many times almost knocking tourist off their feet. Security had to break it up. Not sure how successful that was since when we glanced back for one last look at the city, we saw the lamas three high. We might refer to that as a threesome but I prefer to call it the Inca triple. I am, of course, applying my newfound knowledge about the Incas and the constant reference to things in three, representing the world below, the current world and the world above (afterlife).

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To be honest my biggest stress about today was bathrooms. I pee enough every morning but our altitude sickness pills are a diuretic so it is even worst. On our jungle hike I was peeing constantly in the trail so I couldn’t imagine how I could manage for 5-6 hours. There are bathrooms at the entrance but that’s it and there are no woods, trees or anywhere to pee otherwise. I am pleased to report that I adequately dehydrated myself enough that I managed the entire time and wasn’t dying at the end. Given the heat I was forced to take little sips of water but still made it. Really this has to be a problem for others besides me.

We returned to Agua Caliente in time to grab a bite before heading back to Cusco. Isaac and I opted to try another local delicacy, Alpaca. It was delicious. At first it looked like beef but when cut was more like pork. It actually tasted like pork with a bit more sweetness. For the record they don’t typically eat Lamas.

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I am writing this on the very long train ride back. The train is relatively comfortable but not for 3 hours. They provide a snack and drinks but it is feeling a bit long now. At one point, I felt like I was on a bad cruise ship. This guy dressed in rainbow colours, wearing a devil’s mask began dancing in the aisle. This was followed by a fashion show by the guy and girl who served us our snack. The sweaters were lovely, but not cheap and they were very aggressive in their sales pitch.

In any case, nothing could ruin this wonderful day that was topped off with clear blue skies and perfect temperatures.

We are spending all day tomorrow on a bus to Puno. The bus ride is tailored for tourists and stops at several points of interest along the way and it has wifi! Not sure if I will post tomorrow and after that we are 2 days with no wifi, running water and maybe no electricity. But I will be back as soon as I can.

Train to Machu Picchu area

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and a few more

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Posted by curlygirl 03:55 Archived in Peru Tagged peru machu picchu cusco Comments (6)

SO, DID YOU EAT YOUR PET GUINEA PIG WHEN IT GOT OLD?

ADVENTURES IN THE SACRED VALLEY ON THE WAY TO AGUA CALIENTE

sunny 24 °C

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I am writing from Agua Caliente, the town that is the base for visiting Machu Picchu. It is a bit of dumpy little town but I am sure it exists simply to serve the ruins. It doesn’t matter at all because we have arrived here after a spectacular day in the Sacred Valley with the most amazing views.

Our guide for the Machu Picchu portion of our tour, Elvis (self-described as the king of the mountain) is wonderful. He is so knowledgeable and is really taking care of us. He joined us 8 am this morning in Cusco and we set off to visit the Sacred Valley. First we had the panoramic views from above.

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Then we traveled on to the town of Pisac set right in the valley where we first visited the Pisac archeological site, the largest Inca ruins in the area. The views were amazing as were the terraces where are built layer by layer dragging soil from around the region so that each layer had a difference quality of soil for growing various produce. Very impressive.

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The we went to the famous Pisac market for a few purchases. This was a lovely market and 40 minutes was hardly enough but we had a train to catch. I loved all the colours and the group of school children who came by walking hand and hand in pairs.

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As we were making our way to our lunch stop, we went through the town most famous for its guinea pig farms and it had tons of road side stalls. Our guide suggested this was the best place to try it and explained it was his favorite dish. I can’t say it is ours but we bought one just to have a taste. When in Rome right? Isaac was asked the question in the title.

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We fit in one more set of Inca ruins, Ollantaytambo, before heading to the train. This was a steep climb and if it is an indication of our ability to breathe going uphill, tomorrow’s climb of Machu Picchu will be a slow one.

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The train ride was perfect. The views were amazing riding through the mountain ranges and the train had windows in the roof so you could really see everything. They even served us coffee and a sandwich.

So here we are, ready to face another world UNESCO site and one that has been on my bucket list for a long time. We are both well. The dry air is killer and you feel short of breath quickly when walking uphill but otherwise feel as normal as we get. We are definitely feeling some effects of the altitude. Isaac has been reporting intermittent numbing of the mouth, nose, and hands since we got to Cusco which is apparently normal and nothing to worry about. Just the body adjusting. Today, I had the numb hand and later the bottom of my foot. It is the strangest thing. But again, completely normal.

The weather was amazing today. Hope that keeps up. Better than home, I hear.

The wifi is even worst at this hotel so I am off to see if I can find some better wifi over dinner.

Posted by curlygirl 18:26 Archived in Peru Tagged peru valley sacred cusco Comments (3)

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