Notes for Travelers to PERU-Part 2
6. Arequipa: Nice town to roam. Bought quite a bit of high quality and amazing colors of (baby and mother)Alpaca Yarn at the distribution center in town (Michel) in the San Lazaro District. Treated ourselves to one night at La Casa de Mi Abuela which was great. Used Giardino Tour Service at La Casa de Mi Abuela to book our trip to the Colca Canyon. We went to the Museo Santuarios Andinos at their new location (our 2004 edition of LP has the wrong address) where we saw the 'ice princess, Juanita"; really amazing treasure. The serendipitous finding of the princess is an incredible event.
7. Canon del Colca: Wow, went with a tour group and bused, from Arequipa to Chivay/Colca. Spent 2 days, 1 night. Watched the Andes Condors soar 6' overhead, foxes in the wild, Indian burial sites carved in the hillside, and women tending goats the traditional way, with a stick and a click in her voice (don't mess with this grandmother!). Spectacular experience. Also, drove through the National Park where we saw roaming Vicunas, Alpaca, Llamas. In the small town of Chivay, you can watch the men and women machine embroider the traditional hats, with their intricate designs, without a pattern and very, very, very quickly. John was just smitten by the men sewing. Amazing site! We had lunch at Casa de Mamayacchi that was incredible. The tour group stayed at Casa de Mamayacchi, except the Amberchan's, as they ran out of rooms, so we were relocated to a in-town place called Colca Inn (which wasn't bad, just apart from the group). After lunch, we hiked around Casa de Mamayacchi and that was great.
Some folks went to a Hot Spring in the area, too.
8. Puno: We didn't much like Puno; it is a pop-off place to elsewhere. Although, there was a great brick oven Pizza Restaurant there, where lots of locals haunt. Sandwich sign on the sidewalk, oven in the front entry and a spiral staircase to the second floor party room. And, we went to La Casona Restaurant which had traditional local foods. We did jump off from Puno (All Way Tours is who we used) to tour by boat, Lake Titicaca. We arranged for a night on an island where we lived with an Indian Family for an night on Amantani. Bring the family a "host" gift of fruits (especially, Apples) as they don't get these on the island. We had a great time living with the family, eating what they eat (potatoes of all forms), a simple meals and in the evening, dancing in traditional Peruvian Indian clothes. The girls all wore the billow skirts and layers of blouses and wraps. We looked like we gained 50 pounds (even skinny Sami). Even John was dressed for the occasion in a sarape. And we danced and we danced to the village musicans to Andes tunes. My best finds for unique and high quality macrame/stone necklaces were found at the top of the mountain on Amantani, when we climbed at sunset to the top. I bought creations by Isidro Ventura Lujan. I wish, I could have bought his entire blanket of macrame work. Inexpensive, but we only brought so much cash. Who would have thought, they'd be shopping at the top of a mountain on an island??? Also, available are plenty of beautifully handmade alpaca scarves, gloves, hats.
9. CopaCabana, Bolivia: Gaby wanted yet another country stamp in her passport, so we took a bus to Bolivia. Which turned out to be a great stay at the Cupula Inn ($24/night/ 4-persons)-very clean and a nice restaurant. A very relaxing 2 nights of just resting on the lake. Good prices on Alpaca wear. Traveling in Bolivia is really inexpensive.
10. Cuzco (stay at least a week or two. We stayed 1 week before the Inca trek and 1 week after. Altitude adjustment is a must, so why not do it while you are enjoying Cuzco. Plenty of sites to see around the City (e.g. Ollantatambo, Moray, Sacred Valley, Pisac). The City is great for roaming and good food. We frequented our favorite Japanese Restaurant (Kin Taro) at least 6 times (yummy, trout sashimi and Sami loved the Inka Rolls; say "hola" to our favorite waitresses: Doris and Rosemary), The Real McCoy (British place with great Curry and Roasts and PG Tips TEA! Run by Jody), and finally, a place to enjoy some of the best chocolates (hand made) on calle Choquechaca, one block north of the Pre-Columbian Museum. There are tons of good restaurants, so enjoy eating in this city. We loved just sitting on the steps of the Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas and watching the clouds come and go at the end of the day.
Two must see museums: the Pre-Columbian and the Museo Inka. As well, take the tour through the main Cathedral to see the Peruvian version of the Last Supper. We stayed at a funky but wonderful place called Hostel Frankenstein (it is in the LP book). s/v Soy Libre and we stayed there and we made a pasta dinner in the kitchen at the Hostel. This was a favorite night in all our memories. Hostel Frankenstein has a pet Iguana and a sweet dog, Bruno. Owned by a ex-pat German, nice guy-Gunther; but run by a Luis, Peruvian, an even nicer guy. As I said, it is funky, but we loved meeting the stream of Europeans who came through it. Get the rooms on the third floor and do your hand laundry as you view the roofscapes of Cusco. It is close to the town center and near the Llama Path office. We did most of the tourist things in Cusco. We went on the City Tour and the tour of the nearby sites around town. Soy Libre stayed in Ollantaytambo which they liked. Andy (Soy Libre) found the flea market, where he and John found inexpensive widget and gidgets on one Saturday (it is out on the edge of town by the bus depot) and I found knock off convertible pants for $8. You can buy everything for your trek in Cusco.
11. and finally....the Inca Trek to Machu Picchu (www.llamapath.com) Michelle and her staff are very responsive and great to work with. Gaby loved the food on the trek; best pasta Alfredo that she has every had. I, was the old lady of the group at 54 and thus lagged behind all 13 in our group, so Alex was my private tour guide (I was soooo lucky). By lagging, I saw a blue and yellow tanager, wild begonias and mini-black lichen. John was lucky to be with Jose (guide) in the middle of the pack as on the 3rd day, a small group took off on a little impromptu side trip to yet another Inca site. And Gaby and Sami kept up with the 8, twenty-somethings of the group, always at the front of the pack. They bonded with an Aussie/Brit who they stay in communications with even now. Our group of 13 were really nice people; we were lucky not to have anyone incompatible with us.
Trekking through the Inca sites to Machu Picchu really influenced our impressions of Machu Picchu and the Inkas. John is convinced of his theory that the trek was made by foreign tribes before they reached Machu Picchu thus making MP similar to Camp David. You trek so long and hard, that one is ready to negotiate on arrival at MP. There are many theories for MP and it is great to hear about them as you trek. Trek on the path leading to the sun gates at sunrise...wow. WOW!
Yes, MP is spectacular, but the essence of the place becomes more, more and more fantastic with the trek. Hardest hike I have ever made. I was exhausted but satisfied that we'd done it (all on our own pace). We felt like we had made a pilgrimage rather than merely "visiting" a wonder of the world. When in MP, do climb, Huayna Picchu (the sugar loaf peak in all the photos). It is amazing. We stayed 2 days in Machu Picchu. After the trek, we were soooo tired we only lasted a few more hours and then we needed to crash. The next day, on our own nickel, we toured around the site of Machu Picchu and climbed Huayna Picchu. IF you can't get a reservation on the Inca trail, there are other trail options. Unless the rules have changed, only 500 people/day are allowed on the trail. That number includes the porters and guides. Our group included 13 tourists, 2 guides and 16 porters. Drink Coco Tea, chew coco leaves; it helps with the altitude conditions and breathe often. It hailed when we trekked...that was fun--slushy and a little slippery, but we just slowed down...worth the rainbows and glistening landscape when it stopped. Did I mention, this was an INCREDIBLE experience?
We took 2 tour books: Lonely Planet Guide to Peru and The Inca Trail by Richard Danbury.
1. Bring memory sticks for your digital cameras. This is a very picturesque country and people. John used rechargeable batteries for all our MP3 players and cameras. No problem recharging in the hostel rooms.
2. We never purified our water. We did buy bottled water, even to brush our teeth...everywhere. Bottled water is everywhere. Carry TP every where; none provided.
3. Unless you travel in the peak season, only once did we make a hostel or hotel reservation ahead of time. And, we made our bus reservations the night before. Never a problem for 4 people traveling.
4. Highly Recommend: MP3 players as we found that this helped us on the long bus rides. One bus ride was over 28 hours long. We kept our sanity and our dispositions by listening to music.
1. Not enough time to see the entire country of Peru: Wish we could have gone to Caraz-Laguna Paron, Sipan, Sillustani, Chachapoyas, Iquitos, Ica,and the Rio Amazonas.
2. Not enough time to see Bolivia or go to Argentina or Chile.....
Guess, we aren't through with traveling through South America, but it is time to head to the Galapagos, South Pacific and then back to California....Maybe, in our next phase of cruising, in ahhhhh, perhaps the year, 2015, you'll see a renovated s/v Encanto cruise into an anchorage where we can enjoy some spirits and laughter.
Take care. Be Safe and continue to live your dream....
Judy (John, Gaby and Sami)