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Published: January 27th 2012
MANCORA (01/08/12 - 01/12/12)
Since I loved the town of Montanita so much, Nicci and I decided to stop at a similar city in northern Peru called Mancora. This was nice cause it broke up another long bus ride it would have taken to get from Ecuador to Lima. Now we had a ten hour overnight bus (for only $17) that crossed the boarder at 4am into Peru. We were lucky cause I decided to book ahead at one of the most popular hostels in the world, Loki Del Mar. The hostel was amazing, seemed like a nice resort with a big pool overlooking the ocean, balcony for every room and a huge lounge and bar area with many games like ping pong, giant Connect-4, pool and much more. About 15-20 people from our bus raced there but everyone but us were turned away cause they didn’t have reservations.
Our first day we started drinking by the pool early cause thats what Loki is known for. We played cards with our two Canadian roommates, Ryan and Cam, and some Irish, Welsh and Aussie guys. It was a pretty drunken night which ended with drinking on
the beach at some street party till 3am.
We started drinking early and played card games with our two Canadian roommates, Ryan and Cam, and some Irish, Welsh and Aussie guys they had met. Played a new card game, forgot the name but I will call it Riding the Bus, before playing Ring of Fire. Started getting pretty drunk but hostel bar closed at 1am and we had to leave. Took us forever to get the entire drunk group to go anywhere but finally made it to the beach for a little street party and more drinking till 3am. Most nights here consisted of just some drinking but I for the first time on this trip, something I ate made me sick. I survived two weeks in India without getting sick but something got me here that basically put me out for the next 4-5 days. I don’t know what it was cause the food here was really good. I even had one of the best steaks of my life at some small place across from the hostel.
Luckily, most days consisted of just laying out and watching some surfing on the beach so
if I had to be sick anywhere on this trip, I am glad it was here. Two of the days had MONSTER waves and we heard that only the best surfers should be out there cause two surfers died on the first day cause of extreme currents. These were the biggest waves I have seen, easily two to three times the size of me. There were also a good amount of market stalls which Nicci loved and I ended up buying some vintage Mancora t-shirt for 25 soles (about $8). Scattered throughout the city was a type of dog that Peru is known for, a Peruvian Hairless dog. Think the ugliest dog in the world with those crazy blonde mohawks. I kept trying to get pictures of them until some guy I bought water off of had one behind the counter which he let me play with. Yes, some Peruvian guy let me play with his hairless dog he keeps behind the counter (insert joke here). Man are they ugly.
LIMA (part 1) (01/12/12 - 01/14/12)
After all that relaxation and planning the rest of the trip in Peru, I decided it
would probably be best to do Cuzco and Machu Picchu before heading to Lima and catching my flight home. The biggest problem was the bus from Mancora to Cuzco would have taken two full days on a bus so I decided to take a bus to Lima and catch a one hour flight to Cuzco. So that night I had to catch a 17-hour overnight bus to Lima that but this time on the posh Cruz del Sur bus line. Cruz del Sur had crazy security for a bus, first they check passports, then the search you and your carry-on bags, all while being videotaped. Once everyone is on board, they walk around with a video camera and seat by seat they videotape everyone while saying what seat they are in. They also have on board cameras watching all the time. Kinda creepy but it turned out to be the best bus I have taken on my entire trip.
I got into Lima in the afternoon and got a hostel close to the airport cause my flight didn’t leave till the morning. On the way to the hostel the taxi driver attempted to scam us by first
driving us into the wrong neighborhood and then once at the hostel tried to double the price cause of the extra driving. I got the hostel owner to help explain to the taxi driver we had a set price and I refuse to pay more since I had the address and phone number of the hostel written down, and if he didn’t know where it was he should have called, not my fault. The hostal was Hostal Las Fresas and despite being in a kinda shady neighborhood near the airport, it was actually pretty nice and had a very helpful staff.
Since the bus to Cuzco would have taken another 24-hours, I just payed a little extra and got a 1-hour flight to Cuzco with Star Peru for $84.
CUSCO, SACRED VALLEY & MACHU PICCHU (01/14/12 - 01/20/12)
First some history. Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire. It is located right in the center of what is known as the Sacred Valley, the surrounding mountains form a valley that the Inca’s learned how to farm and use to form an empire which was the most powerful in
South American history, Cusco being the center of it. It is another high altitude city at 3,226 meters and is a UNESCO site. The Inca’s only ruled for a few hundred years until the Spanish came bringing war and disease but they are famous cause they took the best aspects of many different cultures and created amazing buildings, textiles, roads and many more social aspects. I never thought I would be so interested in Inca history but now that I saw this stuff, I was amazed.
When we landed at the airport we were immediately approached by people selling things and pushing products in your face. This would occur all over Cusco while I was there. The worst is when you are walking and they jump out right in front of you and basically stop you. When you try to move around them they stay right in front and it just would get so frustrating to walk anywhere. That and the high altitude is probably the only things I didn’t really like about Cusco. It was a beautiful city still lined with the Inca’s original walls and amazing churches from the 1500s by the Spanish. The hostel
I stayed at was Pisko & Soul and was a cool old building with a friendly staff. Although I was still feeling a little sick, I tried Alpaca meat for the first time and it was actually really good. Another night we had dinner at Alda Yanapay which is a restaurant that donates its proceeds to a children’s charity and school and it decorated like a fun child’s room with stuff animals, games and fun hats everywhere.
Much of our time in Cusco was spent shopping since this was the last few weeks of our trip. I bought many little things but Nicci went crazy buying things. After letting this soak in during the night, I got a little jealous how happy she was and I went on a buying spree the next day. I started by buying a backpack to put everything in before I bought a water color painting, three matching canvas paintings with the frames (yes I am now an art collector) and several other small things. While walking around that day I was bit by a dog wearing an army sweater while I was walking by. About 50 people walked in front of
this dog and nothing but something about me walking by it made it go crazy and jumped on my back and bit my arm.
We found a nice lady that owned a tour agency that actually spoke some English. We ended up booking two bigger tours through her, the first was a two day one night trip to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu (517 soles or $191) and the other was a 9-hour bus tour from Cusco to Puno (120 soles or $44) but both include the entrance fees to everything and she gave us a free t-shirt and butt massage.
To learn some of the history we also stopped at the Inka Museum. The coolest part of these were the mummies and skulls they had, but there were also many ancient ceramics pieces. We also stopped at the ChocoMuseo, a museum and shop all about chocolate. During our first few days we always saw people taking pictures next to this wall but never really understood why. So one night we just started taking pictures next to it before we looked it up on the internet. Turns out it was one particular stone
on the wall that everyone was taking pictures next to but we didn’t know that yet. The stone is a 12-sided or angled stone which shows how detailed the Incas were in construction and never used any type of cement, just laying these huge rocks on each other.
SACRED VALLEY (01/18/12)
The Sacred Valley of the Incas basically connected all the main cities of the Incas and formed a road lined with farms and towns centered around the Urubamba River. Some of the main areas of the Sacred Valley were Cusco, Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu and the valley connects them all.
The first stop of the tour was a market just within the area of Pisac were I bought my mother one of her many magnets. This was your typical market in Peru. Every stall in every market in every city in Peru sells the exact same things. Next was a quick photo stop overlooking the valley at Mirador Taray. Next was one of the first Inca ruins in the city of Pisac. Here was the ruins of an old village, military fortress and the Temple of the
***EMBARRASSING MOMENT***** It is here where Nicci fell over backward in three slow-motion stages while trying to take a picture of me. Each time she thought she regained her balance but within a second was falling over again before she finally went down. Nicci, don’t be embarrassed, not more than 100 people saw it. I think that was the last picture she has taken of me.
After a buffet lunch in the city of Urubamba, we made a visit to one of the most important and impressive Inca ruins in the city of Ollantaytambo. This city was the main headquarters to the Inca army and served as a royal palace. Pictures can not show the size of this place as well as the size of the enormous rocks used to build it. In all of the Inca sites, there are many smaller but interesting touches they used. For example, they shaped a part of the mountain across from Ollantaytambo into an Inca face. Nicci and I had to leave the group here in Ollantaytambo cause thats were you catch the train to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. Our train was with
Inca Rail and took about one and a half hours of a very scenic, relaxing ride surrounded by mountains. As soon as we got to Aguas Calientes it started to rain. Aguas Calientes is the launching point to see Machu Picchu since it is only three miles from it and it is the closest town. This night we went to bed early because we want to beat the crowd into Machu Picchu so we have to be up early.
MACHU PICCHU (01/19/12)
Woke up at 4:30 am to try and catch one of the first buses onto Machu Picchu despite being the lazy way of doing it. I did have a tour booked already which meets outside the gate at 7:30 but I really wanted to get some pictures before it was packed with tourists, and I am glad I did. It was raining that morning when I arrived but you are at one of the top sites in the world so nobody cared. The biggest problem was the clouds. They come and go so fast and because of our altitude they can cover the entire site within seconds making it impossible
to get pictures. Nicci and I used the first hour in there running through and taking some quick pictures which you can see everyones colorful ponchos. I also used this time to do my Where’s Waldo pics here.
Machu Picchu was one of the only Inca places not destroyed by the Spanish because they never found it because the surrounding mountains made it secure. In fact for hundreds of years it was only known by the local farmers in the area until 1911 when one farmer took an American explorer up there forever changing tourism in Peru. Machu Picchu was a sacred city where the chosen residents were nobility and priests. Machu Picchu is separated into two sectors, one is the agricultural sector and the other is the urban sector with all the ceremonial buildings and temples. It was believed to have many gold artifacts which were looted by locals after it was abandoned. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the new 7 Wonders of the World!
Our guided tour lasted about 2 hours, they took us to various look out points to get more overview pictures before going into explore the
ruins a bit more closely. One of the sites I saw was the Temple of the Sun in which the windows line up perfectly to the summer and winter solstice. Many of the carved rocks line up perfectly with the north, south, east, west directions like Intihuatana, the main ceremonial rock where sacrifices were made to the gods. The mountain that forms the iconic backdrop to the ruins is actually called Huayna Picchu (or Wayna Picchu), which I booked to climb ahead of time. Since I wasn’t doing the Inca trail because you have to book that roughly six months ahead of time since they only allow a certain number of people on the trail at any time, I decided to get some exercise and climb Huayna Picchu. I did have to book this roughly four days ahead of time because they only allow 400 people a day to climb it. I was assigned to the 10am slot along with 200 other people (the other time slot is 7am) and after about an hour of queuing, I finally got in. This is a pretty steep mountain which we climbed from the entrance on Machu Picchu at 7,740 feet to the
summit at 8,020 feet. The climb was kinda tough cause its all stones with a few ropes in really steep places, the stones were all wet from the rain that morning, the heat and lastly, I am an out of shape American who hates steps. After about an hour of climbing we finally reached the top and we were sore but it was all worth it, the views of Machu Picchu were amazing and once again, pictures can’t do it justice. Once we got back down with our jelly legs, we had to catch the bus back to Aguas Calientes and right to the train back to Ollantaytambo and a bus back to Cusco. By the time we were back we were dog tired and I quickly grabbed McDonalds (which was one of the nicest ones I have ever been to with amazing pictures and Inca sculptures everywhere) and went to bed.
BUS TO PUNO AND PUNO ITSELF (01/20/12 - 01/21/12)
Another early start as my tour bus to Puno with Inca Express left at 7am. A nice and comfy bus with a great guide who spoke very good English. Our first
stop was an old church called Ruta del Barroco Andino in a town called Andahuaylillas. Don’t judge a book by its cover. The outside of the church didn’t look like much but the inside was beautiful. It reminded me of the Sistine Chapel. There were huge amazing painting lining the walls with large gold frames on them. The down side, we couldn’t take pictures inside.
The next stop was to see some more Inca ruins in another small town called Raqchi. This was a very impressive Inca complex which housed one of the most important Inca temples to the god Wiracocha, the creator of all things. The next stop was a quick photo stop at a place called La Raya where there was a stunning lake which reflected the mountains behind it. This was the highest altitude spot on the trip at 14,172 feet. Besides some photos, there were markets stands and kids with baby lamas that we took some photos of, and I bought another woven hat for 10 soles (about $3). The last stop was in another small town called Pukara where we visited a museum with pre Inca artifacts from about 2,000 years ago.
We finally arrived in Puno nine hours after we left on what turned out to be a very good tour, well worth the money. However, because my trip is coming to a close soon, I don’t have much time to spend in the remaining cities, so only one night in Puno, which turned out to be enough. We checked into a place called Inka Rest which booked a half day trip for us the next morning.
Puno is known for being the biggest city on Lake Titicaca, the worlds highest navigable lake. The tour I booked was to the famous floating islands on Lake Titicaca called the Uros. These were islands that were lived on for thousands of years with several hundred descendants still living on them today. The islands are made up of totora reeds which they also use to make boats. When we arrived we were welcomed by one of the families that lived on the island with the ladies in their bright traditional clothing. They explained to the group how the island is made and how they live and survive on them, although it was in Spanish and Quechua (the Inca
language). When you take a step, your foot sinks a few inches, very weird feeling. One of the highlights of Peru though!
AREQUIPA (01/21/12 - 01/22/12)
After the floating islands, we caught a bus (Cruz del Sur again) to the second biggest city in Peru, Arequipa. The bus did come in later than expected and we didn’t check into our hostel, Arequipa Backpacker’s, until around 10:30pm. We did walk around real quick to search for some food and instantly regretted that we are only staying in the city for one night. The next morning we headed out and explored the city on foot. There was a main square with a huge cathedral at the center. Around the city were lots of colonial Spanish era buildings and mansions. After swearing that she was done buying stuff, Nicci made another big purchase on a door hanging, and I must admit it was a good purchase despite it going to be a drag to carry the last few days of our trip. Our last few hours were spent watching the Baltimore Ravens blow their chance to make it to the Super Bowl before catching another
long bus ride to our last city, Lima.
LIMA (01/23/12 - 01/27/12)
It was only supposed to be a 15-hour bus ride but ended up taking 18-hours to get to the capital, Lima. Got into a cab which took us to our hostel Barranco Backpackers in the Barranco district of the city. The hostel was very nice and had an amazing view over the ocean and was one of those hostels where everyone gets to know one another.
Since these were the last few days of my trip before I go home for a little, Nicci and I thought we would take it easy. Spent one day at the beach, another at a mall in a nice upscale area where we ended up going bowling (I won by the way) and more or less just chilling and packing our bags.
Peru turned out to be one of the best countries I visited on this trip. It has everything and due to the number of tourists that come here every year, it makes it easy to get around. Besides being
pretty cheap on most things, they certainly don't do things small. For example, almost every restaurant does a set menu for 12-15 soles ($4-5) and that usually includes a three course meal, all being huge portions, with a drink. You can go from surfing and beaches to the Inca ruins in the Andes in a matter of hours. They also have part of the Amazon basin here but I didn’t get a chance to go, maybe next time. Machu Picchu turned out to be better than I expected and I would definitely rank it up there with any site I have seen in my life and would highly recommended everyone try to see it at least once.
Now I am going back to Ohio today were the TV is all in English and fast food is plenty. I am planning on being back for only a few weeks then I am off to London to visit Nicci for my birthday, then to see some of the stuff in Europe I wanted to see before, then back to London for Nicci’s birthday! Stayed tuned for some more adventures and thanks for reading!
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