I’ve started writing this while we are waiting to board our bus to Puno and then to Copacabana in Bolivia. Hopefully we won’t have any problems on the border because we’ve overstayed our visa here in Peru. We’ve overstayed for a few reasons, one being that the annoying customs man only gave us 30 days for some reason (most people get at least 60) the other being that there is just too much to do in this unbelievable country! So much so it’s impossible to cram a months worth into a blog so I’ll have to be brief.
After 5 nights of just chilling in Lima (which is a lot nicer than what it was 6 years ago) we caught a flight to Cusco, the tourism capital of Peru and the former capital of the Incan Empire. We were meant to catch the same flight as Dad who joined us for our Cusco adventure, but that didn’t eventuate, instead we just had to hang out at Cusco airport for him to arrive. It was really great seeing family again and both Sheena and I enjoyed having Dad’s company and I’m glad Dad really enjoyed his time in a very different cultural environment, however I doubt he will be rushing to join me on any high altitude treks again :p
This was my second visit to Peru and my second time on the Inca trail. Last time as most of you know I got very sick and didn’t have a particularly enjoyable time of it. This time was a different story, not only did all 3 of us complete the trek in good health besides Dad experiencing the for the first time the effects of altitude (finally at the age of 27 I have found a physical activity that I‘m better at than my father!!!), we also had clear weather that allowed us to see all the wonderful snow capped mountains and valleys I missed before due to previously trekking in the wet season. It made for a completely different and more beautiful experience. We were also accompanied by a fantastic guide Christian who we had all to ourselves, his passion and knowledge about the Incas made the trip that much more enjoyable. The finale of a fairly perfect sunrise over Machu Pichu made for an unforgettable 4 days!
Back in Cusco and after a few days rest and sight seeing we took off for a couple of days white water rafting. Once again it was a lot of fun and I’m fairly sure Dad will be back to do it again, he is much more at home on the water than on a mountain! After the rafting it was time for Dad to go home… a fairly fast couple of weeks with very little down time but all of it was great fun…
Fun on the river
You’d think that after all that activity Sheena and I would be quite tired…. Well we were, very tired… so we thought it was a good idea to go to the Amazon jungle for 8 days… So on to a freezing bus bright and early to drive 10 hours, sleep one night… sit in a boat for 7 hours, sleep one night… sit in a boat for another 6 hours all so as we could arrive in Peru’s Manu National Reserve Zone. Manu is a highly protected area of the Amazon jungle and only gets about 1600 visitors per year, so we felt pretty lucky to be able to experience such a unique environment. We went with the purpose of spotting lots of wildlife and although we weren’t lucky enough to see any jaguars, we did get up close and personal with many different species of monkey, vultures, tarantulas, boas, poisonous frogs, toucans, caiman (crocodiles), and the very rare giant otter. The mosquitoes totally sucked as did the sand flies, we came back looking like we had the measles and once again it was an exhausting and hot experience but well worth the time and effort.
Back in Cusco, I was hit with something that gave me a nasty fever… Poor timing considering we had a 10 hour bus ride to Arequipa early the next morning. Waking up feeling rather shit, we caught a cab to the bus station to find out that our travel agent was a dirty liar and got us tickets for a different much cheaper company pocketing the extra money we paid for the better bus. Sleeping most of the way we made it to Arequipa in one piece. After briefly worrying that I may have malaria, we finally realised it was just a nasty stomach bug.
Arequipa is a really interesting colonial city built by the Spanish at the foot of 2 active volcanoes. Good thinking. The area is also prone to earthquakes and during our time there I felt a small tremor, which is apparently a weekly event. Arequipa had a couple of great sights such as the Mummy Juanita, the frozen child sacrificed on the top of the Ampato Volcano, and the Monastery of Santa Catalina, a mysterious place only revealed about 40 years ago. The Monastery is also a photographers dream with it’s beautifully painted walls and plant life throughout.
Monastery of Santa Catalina
A few hours outside of Arequipa is the Colca Canyon which is famous for it condors. You get so close to the condors as they fly over your head only metres away, the only place in the world you can get that close.
I’m finishing this blog in La Paz, Bolivia (we had to pay a whopping $5 fine for overstaying our visa), and I should mention we never actually made it to Copacabana. Our bus broke down on the way to Puno and we missed our connection. So instead we stayed in Puno one night and visited Titicaca from there. A trip out to the man made Uros Islands where locals still live was spectacular due to the bizarre nature of the islands and also the beautiful sunset which lit up the lake gorgeously.
We’re at the end of this blog now, you may notice the gaping absence of food discussion. This was to be expected as Sth America is not really known for it’s culinary delights. Having said this, Peru is definitely trying to push it’s own gastronomy and restaurants serving good quality local delicacies are popping up. We did get to taste some good dishes such as Roccoto Rellena (stuffed peppers) and of course Ceviche which we had in the best ceviche restaurant in Peru filled with locals chowing down on tasty fish cooked in lime and chilli. Now we’re in Bolivia and we’re back to eating pizza every night :p
Time to eat some more pizza.