Our first stop in Peru was Puno on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. Puno is only 2.5 hours from Copacabana, but the difference from Bolivia was immediately obvious. The town was more built up and westernised, the people appeared to be more money orientated and it was noticeably more expensive (which wasn't hard as Bolivia was so Cheap!!!).
Our first stop was a rushed tour to the floating islands on Lake titicaca. The islands and everything on it are totally made out of the reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca from the floor, huts, beds, seats and even there boats which they took us a ride in . The Indigenous people still live on the islands and now make their living out of selling there arts and handicrafts to the visitors. As you can imagine the islands were extremely touristy but it was very interesting spending a few hours there.
After here we went to the city of Arequipa in the heart of Canyon Country. It was very picturesque and Colonial, with the majority of the buildings built from the local white volcanic rock. The main attraction here was the Colca Canyon, the worlds deepest canyon. Not having
learnt a thing from our Mt Kinabalu experience we (stupidly) decided it would be a good idea to spend a few days trekking in and out of the canyon, so we hired a guide and off we went. The first day we hiked down the canyon for 7 hours, where we walked across old Inca viaducts, through small villages and saw pre-Inca tombs, before eventually ending up at base of the canyon at a beautiful oasis. The oasis was very green and had several swimming pools, where we had a swim and a well deserved beer or two. The accommodation was basic to say the least.........in fact it was a straw hut with holes and sinking mattresses......we prayed it wouldn't rain that night as we would of got really wet!!! The next day we got up at 4.30am ready for the climb back out. We didn't think it was going to be that hard, as it was only 1000m up!!! It took us just under three hours and it about killed us, we blamed the altitude but it was more a case of being unfit!!. Oh well you live and learn.......or not in our case. The views over the 3
days though were well worth the agony, it was an absolutely amazing trek and seeing the giant condors at the end was a real treat. The Giant Condors live at the base of the canyon and every morning they glide up to feed, they are huge and have a wing span of about 3 meters.
Arequipa is also home to Juanita, a preserved Inca mummy who was sacrificed on Volcano Ampato to appease the mountain gods (a normal ritual in Inca times) and to prevent the volcano from erupting. She was only about 12 when she was sacrificed and her frozen body was uncovered following an expedition to the top of the volcano. She is now preserved in the museum along with the artefacts (bowls, animal objects, cups etc) that were buried with her in the ritual. (There are also 3 more mummies from the same mountain here, but Juanita is the best preserved)
The main attraction in Peru is obviously The Lost City of Macchu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, which is where we headed to next. We stayed in Cuzco which is where all the tours and trains for these ruins start. It is a really
beautiful Inca city with spotless cobbled streets, plazas and endless museums. As its the nearest main city to Macchu Picchu, it is extremely touristy and very expensive. We really struggled to find a reasonably priced accommodation and food, even the sights like museums and churches were really expensive to go in. There are two main ways to get to Macchu Picchu, by trek or by train, having killed ourselves trekking the Colca Canyon we decided we would go by train but when we priced it up, the trip was going to cost us 125 pound each for one day. We couldn't believe it! The majority of the cost was for a one and half hour train journey between 2 local villages as there was no direct road to go on. After careful consideration we decided to boycott it in principle........someone was ripping off the tourists (Peru rail)............and we decided to save our money and spend it in another country!!! (rant over).
However we did go on a day trip to the Sacred Valley where we visited the Inca Ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, which were magnificent and very interesting. We had our fill of Inca Ruins and just brought
a few postcards of Macchu Picchu so we had an idea of what we missed (our boycott however did manage to save us US$499.50.......so there's a quick tip for saving money, have a stance and see nothing!!).
Our last stop in Peru was Lima, the countries capital city. The journey took us 22 hours by bus and we were a bit apprehensive as we had heard a lot of bad press about the place being dangerous, un-interesting and had terrible weather. We stayed in a grotty guest house in the suburbs of Miraflores. I think we can confidently say that this was the worst hostel we have stayed in to date (and that's saying something), I don't think the sheets or bathroom had ever been cleaned and the breakfast consisted of hot water and manky coffee. On a plus side the location was very good and the owner was nice!!! We were only in Lima for half a day so we only got to see the miraflores water front and shopping centre and the neighbouring area of Barranco, which was all very pleasant.
Our next stop is Guayquil in Ecuador, where we plan to fly to the Galapagos
Islands. We decided to fly to Ecuador to save us from some horrendously long bus journey´s and dodgy border crossings. We do seem to have left the dodgiest countries till last so it should be a very interesting(?) last 3 months.
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