Living the high life in Peru

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September 28th 2017
Published: September 29th 2017
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We travelled down from Ecuador via one of the most efficient border posts ever ... some things do change apparently. We headed for the beach and ended up in Mancora, a former fishing village turned into a Peruvian surf beach town. The place is famous (in Peru and beyond) for the waves and especially for the opportunity to kitesurf very long waves. There was enough wind to do some kitesurfing but there were no waves so that was quite disappointing. We enjoyed the seafood, walked the long stretch of beach and after a few days jumped into a bus to Trujillo.

Trujillo is a city with both beautiful colonial architecture and pre-Inca ruins all around. We visited some museums and some huge ruins. Parts of these were remarkably well saved from the elements and it was interesting to see the differences between the different cultures.

From Trujillo we went to Lima, a city that has transformed itself from quite a dangerous capital city to a modern lively Latin American metropole with some of the best restaurants of the world. (The last time I (Merijn) was in Lima in 1998 things were quite different). In Lima we visited the Museum of Memories in which was quite clearly shown what the period of “La Violencia’ has meant in Peru. It was again, as in other countries in this region, difficult for us to grasp why all the violence, extortion and inequality was needed to get where they are right now.

A totally different perspective was shown in the Mario Testino museum where photographs, installations and videos were shown about abundance, decadency and beauty. Mario Testino is a famous fashion photographer and it was very interesting to hear his story and see some of his work.

The Peruvian cuisine, with fusion and Nikkei, has influenced the culinary world quite a bit and we thought to try and get a good taste of it. The food was spectacular, for example the different ceviches in the small restaurants in the area we stayed at (Barranco) and also the beautiful nuevo-Andino cuisine at top restaurants Maido and Costanera 700. We’ll put the food pics in a separate blog post for whomever is interested.

After having fed ourselves well for a few days (and having blown our budget as well) we flew across the Andes to Cusco. Cusco being at an altitude of 3,399 meter above sea level immediately made us gasping for air and gave us a headache so we took it easy for a few days. We walked around the ancient city, visited some museums and Inca structures and were unexpectedly treated to an Inca folkloric performance.

We decided to rent motorcycles to ride through the Sacred Valley and visit some of the Inca ruins there. This happened to be the best way ever to visit this valley, which is normally done by very touristy tours only. We loved to ride through the spectacular valley and enjoyed amazing views of the high peaks surrounding us.

After a little research we decided to do the same again for Machu Picchu. We rented a motorcycle (Judith now got on the back) and rode again through spectacular scenery with amazing views. We took some shortcuts and d-tours to get to nice roads and to get to some ruined cities on the way to the mother of all Inca cities Machu Picchu. The saying ‘It’s not about the destination but about the journey’ came into our minds very often. The roads, the views, the landscape, the ride itself were already worth the trip.

The second day of this trip we rode over a high pass and through steep canyons before we hit a dead end. We knew this in advance so we parked the motorcycle and walked for two hours over a rail track to Aquas Calientes, the entry point for Machu Picchu. Next day we joined all other tourists and went up to Machu Picchu, which really is the mother of all Inca ruins. The weather was good so we got great views of the ancient city. We walked through the ruins just by ourselves and were impressed by the size and sophistication of this city. We walked back along the rail track and spent the night in a small town in the valley. The last day of our DIY Machu Picchu road-trip we rode back, again over the high pass which was now covered in clouds and it was extremely cold with a visibility of max 2meters. At the highest point we luckily could warm ourselves with some coca tea in a locals’ house where the guinea pigs were freely walking around, not aware of their fate being a local culinary specialty.

We spent a night in a bus travelling from Cusco to Arequipa, which was an unexpectedly nice city with a perfect climate, and not as cold as Cusco. From Arequipa we went to one of the deepest canyons in the world, the Colca Canyon, which is said to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the US! We spent the night in a remote place called Cabanaconda on the edge of the canyon, where most of the local indigenous Quechua are dressed in colourful clothes and headdresses.

We walked first to a viewpoint to see if we could spot any condors, which we did not, and then walked down a steep patch into the canyon, to the bottom where there is an oasis. The walk down was beautiful with a constantly changing scenery and took us only two hours. After a nice relaxing break, lunch and some swimming-the hike up, which was still only a bit more than 5 kilometers but with an elevation difference of more than 1 kilometer, was pretty tough. Completely knackered we got back to the village.

One day in two busses brought us from Cabanaconda via the high plains to Puno, at the shore of the Titikaka lake which is one of South America's largest lakes and the world’s highest navigable body of water. Puno itself is not extremely interesting although we enjoyed the sunny weather, at an altitude of almost 4000 meters above sea level it is both cold and sunny, just like wintersport. We spent half a day visiting the Uros floating islands, close to Puno, which are made out of reeds, inhabited by the indigenous Uro people. The islands are somewhat an open air museum but this way their culture and the islands are kept alive and we found it interesting to meet the Uro people and having them explain how they live and continuously build their floating islands.

We are heading to Bolivia tomorrow so we are about to leave Peru. We have been travelling through Peru from north to south the past 25 days and we loved 'living the high life' here. Meaning we have especially enjoyed the gastronomic highlights of our trip until so far and we have spent a large part of this stretch at high altitude. Some roads we have been riding through the Andes mountains were easily higher than 4000 meter and we are currently writing this blog post at an altitude of 3856 meters above sea level overlooking one of the biggest lakes of the world (Lake Titikaka).

Additional photos below
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6th October 2017
Colca canyon

Colca canyon
We loved our time in Peru and loved the Colca Canyon and watching the condors fly. It is lovely.

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