My action packed month in Peru; Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu (via Inca Jungle Trek), Vinucuna, Manu (Amazon), Nazca Lines, and Huacachina
06.07.2017 - 06.08.2017
I arrived in Lima late on a very brisk evening. It was stark contrast to tropical Curaçao where I had spent the previous, balmy two weeks.
Passing through the aiport is pretty straight forward. It seems getting a SIM card as a foreigner isn't though.
I rented a SIM card from Claro with a good amount of data for the month ahead.
Lima is enormous! The cab traversed struggling chaos and opulent suburbs before sailing along the sweeping cliff line and finally reaching my hotel.
The English speaking hotel staff were very polite yet curt, a seemingly common vibe for Lima.
Peruvians are pretty funky, and very world aware when it comes to trends.
I browsed the incredible Larcomar Mall, built into the high cliffs, looking over the sea. It's really a must see, even if you just stop for a coffee to enjoy the views! I stopped at M.Bö. They make locally made high fashion from wool and alpaca.
I bought this jacket...
I caught up with my local buddy Juan José and his girlfriend, who were kind enough to show me around.
We visited many of the squares, parks, bustling laneways and streets. It's a great city to explore by foot!!
I flew to Cusco in just under 45 minues.
It's a truly gorgeous city, and was the original Inca capital. It's also tourist mecca. Everything is easy here for mochileros; plenty of great food options, places to buy alpaca clothes, Spanish schools, etc.
I used Cusco as a base for all of my trips, and had a wonderful, hassle free experience...
Almost everyone has the same experience when they arrive in Cusco. A sharp rise in altitude almost always results in some form of illness.
As extreme nausea and fatigue set in, the pharmacy next to my hotel were readily helpful. I took the medication they provided and felt better almost straight away.
I spent the next two days booking my trips, buying essentials and observing the unique and tranquil society go through a period of protest.
In modern society, protests usually involve loud drums, loudspeakers, booming music, some degree of anger, etc.
Here, it's the polar opposite. Almost the entire workforce of Cusco took orderly turns in groups to march, take the stage and speak their case (largely over pay) as their peer groups sat attentively and cheered at the end. It was like the utopian view of conflict resolution. The world could really learn from Peru!!
Huge cascading walls that once formed an enormous fortress with huge silver blocks. Of course the Spanish took all the silver, but parts of the great walls remain. The area also provides amazing views of the city!!
Peruvians love to dance and have fun. They produce a lot of cumbia music. Though it was invented in northern Colombia, made it's way south and found a home in Peru, Bolivia and parts of Argentina. They also have great timba bands which found it's way from Cuba.
In discos you will also hear a lot of music from other parts of the region:
- Colombia / Carribean - salsa, bachata and reggaeton
- Brazil - axè and samba
- Argentina - rock and punk.
I had a great time at Mama Africa, which also has useful dance classes earlier in the evening!
Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu
For me, the Jungle Trek seemed like the most fun and varied option for reaching Machu Picchu, and I wasn't disappointed.
It was a super fun, at times challenging and very memorable four days!
On the first day, I was picked up from my hotel at roughly 4am, and we gradually picked up comrades.
As a group we represented Australia, Argentina, USA, Canada, Israel, Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands.
We then drove through the gorgeous mountains to the peak of one,where we would begin our cycle.
We got into protective gear, adjusted our seats, had a prelimary chat, then launched for a 40 kilometre gradual descend through the mountains.
It was really great fun and a nice, peaceful way to see the scenery!!
The next stage was rafting. We split into boats, got our bearings, sdid afety/rescue rehearsals then set off through the rapids. I think the fiercest we passed through were level 6... fast and bumpy.
It was a lot of fun, and the boats worked well together as a team.
The valleys in the region are immense.
During our trek day we ascended to great mountainous heights over 10 leg-testing kilometres.
We passed through several small settlements where we drank coca tea, and learned about Incan traditions and history.
The views at the top were incredible!!
The day ended with a swim in some thermal pools, bringing welcome relief to sore muscles.
This was a highlight, and a great test for any fear of heights. The zip lines criss cross the enormously high valley, so looking down isn't really recommended. Each line is up to one kilometre long, which gives ample opportunity to build up a lot of speed.
For the final line, the guys offered an opportunity to go in "superman pose", face down, fist forward. I felt like Henry Cavil/Christopher Reeve. It was really amazing!!
As a final challenge, there is an elevated walking bridge where each step lands on a thin pole. It requires a decent amount of concentration and zen to finish.
The walk to Aguas Calientes runs along an old train line through the jungle.
Because the whole region was in protest, some teachers had created blockades as a sign of solidarity. It was a little strange and they simply stood silently. The military police eventually negotiated with the group to let us pass.
Aguas Calientes is a lovely, bustling little town, perfect for launching to Machu Picchu.
We awoke at 4am, and walked down to the gates leading to the path up to site. There are two options, hike up the steep gradient or take the bus. We had come so far, why take the bus? My muay-thai trainers would have mocked me forever...
The walk up is pretty steep, we used it as a bit of a fitness test, reaching the top in just over an hour, a but sweaty, full of endorphins, and in perfect time to enter the park, just as sunrise was about to begin.
Watching the sun climb up behind the mountains and then gradually illuminate Machu Picchu was simply marvellous.
Our guide then took us through Machu Picchu and explained the history, impetus, designs and significance of the site. Sadly, it wasn't inhabited for long as the Spanish soon came crashing in.
I climbed up to the Sun Gate for extra high views, a worthwhile climb!!
Machu Picchu, didn't disappoint. It lived up to the hype for me!!
Mountain of Seven Colours
Roughly 6 hours by bus from Cusco is the amazing geological anomaly, Vinucuna, otherwise known as the Mountain of Seven Colours.
It's a fairly short but challenging hike to the top, but definitely worth it!! The air is very thin at 5200 metres.
The views are nothing short of spectacular!!
There are options to go by guided horse. With jelly legs at the top, a young lady and her trusty steed brought me back to the bus.
Amazon Trek - Manu
I spent three nights and four days on a trip through Manu National Park.
We hiked through the jungle, seeing many wild animals, flocks of incredible looking birds amongst the immense and dense mountainous jungle.
We also explored by raft through tranquil river systems, stopping occasionally to swim.
Though we didn't see any jaguars or gorillas, it was still a worthwhile trip.
My bus from Cusco to Huacachina stopped here so we could see the lines. They are something of an anomaly, and testament to Incan intelligence and mapping.
Huacachina is an adventurers oasis in the middle of the dessert. Surrounding the small lake are a myriad of hostels, restaurants, cafes, travel agencies and discoteques. This is all dwarfed by the enormous, mountainous dunes that nearly every visitor will traverse in Mad Max style dune buggie, and return back surfing the dunes on a sandboard.
I spent three days here, riding buggies, sandboarding, trekking and enjoying the awesome food and nightlife here. Plenty of vegan cafes with Thai spicy offerings and delicious coffee.
It was a great way to say farewell to Peru.
On to Bolivia.....