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How to spend a month in Peru!

My action packed month in Peru; Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu (via Inca Jungle Trek), Vinucuna, Manu (Amazon), Nazca Lines, and Huacachina

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Arrival Lima

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.

Cool Threads

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...
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City Roaming

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!!
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Cusco

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...
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except for....

Aclimatisation

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.

Protests

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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!!
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Sacsayhuamàn

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!!
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Nightlife

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

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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!

Cycle

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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!!

Raft

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.

Trek

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.
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Zipline

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.

Aguas Calientes

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.
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Aguas Calientes is a lovely, bustling little town, perfect for launching to Machu Picchu.
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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.
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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!!
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Machu Picchu, didn't disappoint. It lived up to the hype for me!!
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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!!
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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.
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Amazon Trek - Manu

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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.
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Though we didn't see any jaguars or gorillas, it was still a worthwhile trip.

Nazca Lines

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.
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Huacachina

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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.
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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.
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It was a great way to say farewell to Peru.
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On to Bolivia.....

Posted by SkinnyFists 14:43 Archived in Peru Tagged peru trekking machu_picchu lima rafting cycling cusco huacachina alpaca zip_line aguas_calientes vinacuna mountain_seven_colours inca_jungle_trek aclimatising Comments (1)

Colombia: Santander (Bucaramanga and San Gil)

Paragliding, white-water rafting, trekking, visiting old friends, eating traditional food (including fried ants) and enjoying the wonderful region and culture of Satander.

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Satander

To get you started, here is a video of my highlight in Santander:

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The state of Satander is marvellous!
The capital, Bucaramanga has the highest employment rate in the country and is very well organised, safe and interesting.
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I also had a really super, adventurous time high up in the adventure capital, San Gil
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Long bus journeys…

I woke up early in at my favourite hostel in Colombia ‘Chocolate y Candela’, Santa Marta…. at a weary 5am.
The night man, promptly organised my taxi and I arrived just in time for my bus to Bucaramanga.
Copertran buses as ace!
They have huge reclining seats, strong wi-fi toilets and have new release films (though overdubbed of course) playing.
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It was roughly a 10 hour journey, climbing significant to altitude; from the beach of Santa Marta, to over 2500 metres at Bucaramanga.
Buses in Colombia are perfectly safe, efficient and comfortable though time-saving intercity flights are also very affordable and easy these days through Avianca.

Bucaramanga

My friend German invited me to join he, his girlfriend and parents to visit a few sites and enjoy some Colombian food!
We went to Ecoparque Cerro del Santisimo with amazing views overlooking the city, and impressive statue of Jesus Christ keeping a watchful eye over the town.
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We also went for a traditional Colombian lunch which was seriously a mountain of food!
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Bucaramanga is also famous for it's delicious oblea!
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...an also famous for hormigas culonas (or fried ants)... I tried some and they were delicious!
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I didn’t really check out the nightlife, but my lovely hotel was on the cusp of Zona Rosa with many venues blasting various forms of music.

I’d definitely visit Bucaramanga again.
Some people told me it’s a great place to teach English.

San Gil

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San Gil is a small town surrounded by seriously amazing and jaw dropping terrain, and as such is an adventure sports capital.
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You can abseil down through waterfalls, raft level 5 rapid, bungee jump, go paragliding over the amazing Chicamocha, and so on.
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The town itself is simply stunning. It has an ‘amamble’ formal and courteous atmosphere with lovely parks, nice restaurants and great accommodation options.
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The message I got from most operators here was “tell your friends….”
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The manager of the rafting company I went with told me that five years ago they only have 10 customers per week… now they have around 15 per day… and hopefully this rate increases more ….rapidly ;-)

Paragliding

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This is a truly awesome experience.
I tried it for the first time in Nepal with awesome views of the Himalayas, and the views and exhilaration of flying over Chicamocha was equally amazing.

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We flew high! ....over the canyons, swooping in many directions.
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The views and experience was a definite highlight of the trip!!
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I’ve tried bungee jumping and skydiving also, and have to say paragliding made me the most nauseus…
The advantage though, is that you can really take in the views… and Chicamocha is an amazing example of mother nature at her most epic!!
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Rafting at River Suarez

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Having rafted in some pretty gnarly rapids in Borneo in the past, I thought I was prepared for the rapids here… no way!
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River Suarez has level 5+ rapids that are seriously... BUSY!
The highest level we traversed we level 5.
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My boat worked really well as a team, with very good instruction from our guide, and we managed traverse the rapids unscathed and full of enthusiasm.
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In the briefing we learned about safety, positioning within the boat for different situations, plus rescue.
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...and we ended up really needing these skills during the tricky parts.
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In the quieter, calmer spots, we practiced our safety and rescue routines.
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It’s worth noting that the canyon that the river passes through is seriously gorgeous terrain too.
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Altogether it was a seriously fun, challenging and adventurous day... one of the best in Colombia!
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San Gil is a stunning small town with a tranquil, quiet, yet adventurous and friendly culture.
It is surrounded by stunning, jaw dropping nature. ...
I had a blast; rafting the level 4 rapids of Suarez River and paragliding over astounding Chicamocha.... and had the good fortune of meeting some of the loveliest people encountered this trip.
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Villa de Leyva and Zipaquira next...
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Posted by SkinnyFists 09:27 Archived in Colombia Tagged rafting adventures paragliding colombia san_gil bucaramanga Comments (1)

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