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Peru (not backpacking)

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Peru (not backpacking)

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:15 pm

Peru, Nov 27-Dec 7, 2015.
This was not a backpacking trip, but rather a group trip with my husband’s Spanish class. It was during rainy season (pretty much precluding backpacking) and was mostly cultural with the purpose of speaking a lot of Spanish (I do not speak any Spanish!). Although it was a bit agonizing to be so close to backpacking I really wanted to do, and not be able to do it, I got a good overview of Peru. I would love to go back and do some actual backpacking a bit more away from the tourist traps.

The flights both down and back were brutal with the usual delays. We left Sacramento noon on Friday and arrived in Lima 8AM Saturday. A private bus took us to our hotel in Mirafores during rush hour. They drive CRAZY in Lima! Then another crazy bus ride to the downtown plaza and the market. We went to another district for dinner and took local taxi back to the hotel.

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I was ready for a sleeping pill and a good 8 hours of sleep that night! Back to the airport in the morning and we flew to Cusco. Getting off the plane at 11,000 feet was not that bad. I drank gallons of coca leaf tea that was always available in the lobby of the hotel. One whole day was spent in Cusco touring the city to acclimate.

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Next day we toured a site in the Sacred Valley and continued to Aguascaliante, part way on bus and the last hours on the train. I really liked the train. We arrived late in the evening. Next morning we got up at 4AM and took the bus to Machupicchu for the sunrise tour, but it was foggy and no sun until late morning. I hiked up to the ridge (the sun notch). It was about another 1000 feet gain, with not much of a view. Then back to the ruins for another look. I would have loved to stay longer but the group was leaving at 1PM. (That is the trouble with group tours). Then back on the train and bus to Cusco for another night. Both my husband and I spent the entire night sick- probably some bad food in Aguascaliante.

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Thankfully the next day all we did was a long bus ride to Puno. Next day we boated to the floating islands and Amantani Island for our home stay which included a climb to the top of the mountain (rock paved road to 13,000 feet) for sunset and wild indigenous dancing with a live band. We stayed with a wonderful couple who had a 6-year old boy.

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Next day we boated to Isla Taquile to see another culture, and back to Puno for the night. .

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The next day’s bus ride took us to Chivey, and over a pass at 16,100 feet elevation! We stopped at a little town with an unusual playground in the middle of nowhere above 13,000 feet! In Chivey, the hotel was quaint and beautiful and we spent several hours in the hot springs.

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Next morning we could either do the zip-line or a tour of Colca Valley; we chose the tour.

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Then it was another long bus ride to Arequipa where we arrived just in time for dinner. Next morning we toured the town and flew back to Lima at 8PM, just in time to get on the flight back to Dallas. We were literally running to the next plane, and arrived in Sacramento at 2PM. Needless to say, we are still recovering from lack of sleep and the time change.

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I really liked Peru. The lack of environmental laws or ability to live environmentally soundly has left the roadsides strewn with litter and most water highly polluted. On the other hand, the lack of personal cars has saved much of Peru from air pollution. Regardless of poverty, the people were very happy. The public spaces and transportation are well used. We got a large dose of “Inka pride” with our guides- all whose first language was their native, second Spanish and third English. The tour we took was highly “touristy”- sort of like those busloads of tourists in Yosemite Valley. I would never to another tour like this, but would go back in a heartbeat to do some real backpacking and my own agenda.



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Re: Peru (not backpacking)

Postby rlown » Sun Dec 13, 2015 9:55 pm

A nice report WD.

Not planning on going there, but your story was done well.

I don't like asking "Donde' esta el baño?", and I'm afraid I'd be asking that a lot down south. :)
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Re: Peru (not backpacking)

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Dec 14, 2015 8:56 am

We had 14 people in the group and stayed at and ate at relatively high-end hotels and eateries, yet about half had digestive distress for at least a day, and one fellow was quite sick with chills and fever along with stomach upsets. The rest of us had the typical few-hour bout of "Montazuma's Revenge". Each day I treated a liter of water (with chlorine tablets) and we used that water for tooth brushing. I could taste the iodine in the rice that we ate at the home-stay family. In spite of all precautions, I think part of the problem is that at 12000 feet, boiling water is not hot enough to kill bacteria. So the old adage of "eat cooked food only" may not always work. On the other hand we had a few who ate food right out of the local markets and did not get sick.

I was surprised at how well I did at altitude. I actually ran up a hill at 13,000 feet after only 3 days of acclimation. I think the "equatorial bulge" allows more oxygen for a given altitude when you are near the equator. Yet one member who was overweight and really out of shape, suffered horribly- I think she actually had beginning pulmonary edema. I am not sure if the coca leaf tea helped due to the coca leaf or simply helped hydrate. I drank a ton of it.

Interestingly, I found myself always disoriented because the sun is straight overhead. I did not realize how much my internal orientation is relying on the location of the sun and shadows. I usually have a really good sense of direction; in Peru, I did not!

Peru has become quite a tourist trap. My daughter went over 10 years ago and it was less so. We did do the classic tourist route, so this is to be expected.
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Re: Peru (not backpacking)

Postby Hobbes » Mon Dec 14, 2015 9:31 am

Wow, a photo of Daisy! How many women would kill to have long braided hair?

We did an almost exact version of your itinerary 10 years ago this February. I had a different experience when I got off the plane @ Cusco - my first steps were a little bit wobbly. A few days later after our return from Machu Picchu, we spent a night & full day in Cusco. Since we were better acclimated, I noticed Lima residents who had flown up for a quick getaway weekend all leaned on each other as they tried to stroll around. LOL

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We had a chance to spend a few days in Lima both before we left for Machu Picchu, and again afterward. Peru has some great surf, so I was doing a little research before we left to see if I could fit something in. I ended up getting in contact with a State dept DEA liaison stationed there who was a member of a local surfing club. Even though we had just gotten in from LA around midnight, he was there the next morning @ 8am to whisk me off 20 miles south to go surfing - he even had a loaner board. It was actually pretty big & really fun at Punta Rocas. Even better, when we returned to Lima from Cusco, he took me, my wife & my son back to PR - they hung out at the beach club while we surfed with his friends/contacts. (Once again, big & fun - Peru is known for always being big.)

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When we came back in, we had a catered beach party literally right where you paddle out and back in.

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Maybe 10-15 people, all upper class Peruvians or US nationals used to being waited upon hand & foot. It's a big cultural thing, but (Spanish) Peruvians will not carry **anything**. There is a constant presence of people willing/begging to carry your items (did you notice this at the airport or taking the train up to Machu Picchu?). So of course there are beach boys there to caddy your surfboard the 40 yards from the water to the racks. Sort of crazy, but that's the way the 3rd world rolls.

Hiram Bingham wrote about this in "Inca Lands":
http://www.kellscraft.com/IncaLand/inca ... tents.html

Peruvian gentlemen always regard the carrying of a load as extremely undignified and improper. I have known one of the most energetic and efficient business men in Peru, a highly respected gentleman in a mountain city, so to dislike being obliged to carry a rolled and unmounted photograph, little larger than a lead pencil, that he sent for a cargador, an Indian porter, to bear it for him!


We haven't been back since, but why wife really wants to go to Argentina. If we do that, we'll have to swing by Chile, which also has great waves.
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Re: Peru (not backpacking)

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Dec 14, 2015 10:36 am

Hobbs- evidently you did not imbibe enough coca leaf tea! (it is called matte if they add mint leaves). The indigenous really swear by their coca leaf- all men carry pouches and constantly chew it. They have a big issue with the US government's program to destroy coca leaf plants (supports the cocaine trade). We made sure to dump all our coca leaves before we went through US customs!

I overheard two ladies from Colorado who had done the Inka Trail to Machupicchi. They said it rained all the time and the backpack was less than ideal because of it. So as much as I wanted to backpack, probably better I did not.

Yeh, locals hit on you for everything. "Soles" for trinkets, services, carrying your stuff, crafts, alpaca clothing, information. When walking the streets looking for a place to eat, every establishment has a hawker out on the sidewalk to aggressively "sell" their menu. Everything cost "soles" (the local money)- using a bathroom, water, photographing locals, every viewpoint. Almost all trails require a "guide" and fee of course. The road we took from Puno to Chivey is the second highest highway in the world and had several toll stations. Thankfully the exchange rate is about 3.5 to 1 so most of these fees are small change to us.
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Re: Peru (not backpacking)

Postby Hobbes » Mon Dec 14, 2015 5:19 pm

My wife's uncle did a portion of the Inca trail a couple of years ago. He booked through a high-end 'eco' group, so they arranged porters - all he had to carry was a small day pack with snacks, water, etc. Even so, he mentioned the trail isn't that well maintained, and can get a little sketch in areas where portions have washed out along cliff sides.

I had some coca tea at our hotel in Ollantaytambo, but never chewed on any of the leaves. You need to drive by the federal pen to get to the beaches south of Lima; my contact mentioned some Americans were doing time for drug running. A little bit of a Peruvian 'Midnight Express' for those attempting to get clever.

Sort of a side question, but did you notice how S Americans, um, "celebrate" the female form? Commercials, billboards, general street attitude - not quite like Brazil, but still overt.
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Re: Peru (not backpacking)

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Dec 14, 2015 5:50 pm

We spent little time in Lima, so no, I did not notice sexy billboards. In fact, in the hinterland where we were, there were not even billboards. I was always with my husband, so I may have not been treated as I would have been if I were alone. I stuck to him like glue, because he is fairly fluent in Spanish and I am not.

By the way, there is a red umbrella in the photo at Machupicchu. I think the red umbrella in the photo in Arequipa is the same one! Quite a coincidence- did not even notice this until I processed the photos.

In our hotels, there was no means to heat water, so I used the coca leaf tea (always very hot) in the lobby and added instant coffee or miso soup. I brought my backpack titanium cup- very handy. Also very glad I brought chlorine water treatment tabs. But I am a creature of habit- several times I put my toothbrush under the tap and started brushing. I am so thankful I live in a country with clean drinking water! I am pretty minimalist, and can do without a lot of civilization, but clean water is so important. We do not even think about it- but it is really awkward living where water is highly contaminated. And I do not mean slightly contaminated like some mountain water - but really ugh! contaminated. They dump all the raw sewage from Puno (about 200,000) into Lake Titikaka. All the fish in that bay are dead. The water in Aguascaliente is yellow - I kept flushing the toilet and then realized the water was pee color. All the anti-environmentalists in our country need to go live in Peru for a while- they may sing a different tune after they have to deal with no regulations or at least no enforcement of regulations. Same with driving. There are road signs and center lines, lane lines, but nobody pays any attention. Really crazy.
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Re: Peru (not backpacking)

Postby Hobbes » Tue Dec 15, 2015 9:17 am

So you missed the Sat night dance parties? It might have been where we were staying in the Miraflores section by Larcomar (http://www.limaeasy.com/shopping-in-lim ... s/larcomar). Sort of reminded me of a more dignified & family oriented South beach in Miami.

Anyway, we took a stroll away from the beach and came across a big square/mini-park. It was a warm afternoon trending to evening and there were hordes of young, middle-aged & elderly couples dancing all the classic S American dances, with the usual street vendors and tons of milling people around enjoying the day.

I really liked Cusco as well - I'm glad we spent the extra day to get around, including the central market. Here's a saturated shot of the fountain/church:

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Re: Peru (not backpacking)

Postby windknot » Tue Dec 22, 2015 11:34 am

Thanks for sharing, WD! Cool place, I need to get there someday.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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