A Travellerspoint blog

Peru (part 1)

Fun and games in Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley while preparing for the Inca trail, 23-28 October

Straight after the Rugby World Cup final (have I already said New Zealand won???!!!) we were off to Vancouver airport for our flight down to Peru :)

There was some palava at the airport as we were told we didn't have our ESTAs (!?!) which were needed for the privilege of spending 2 hours at Houston airport. 30mins and $14 each later we had these ESTAs. I believe we will need to repeat the process again on the way back too... At least at Houston we were able to have a good laugh at a few very silly Americans ;)

At Lima we were met by our hotel's taxi driver who got us outside the airport building only to lose his taxi! Not the best place to be standing around with all our stuff as he scooted around the car park. But 10mins later he pulled up - in the most rickety taxi in the place. He didn't need to worry about it being stolen. Finally, after being bumped all over Lima in the middle of the night, we arrive at "Safe in Lima", our hostel for the night. We breath a sigh of relief as a guard opens the gate and we enter a quiet enclosed pocket of security. Our room is clean, quiet and with a good supply of hot water, everything we could want before crashing (although there was initial confusion as the C and H are the opposite way around here, 'caliente' being hot in spanish).

At 8am the following morning our favourite taxi man was there waiting for us for our return journey to the airport, in rush hour. Luckily rush hour in Lima is better than in London. There was just one jam down on the beach front where there had been an accident, phew. At Lima airport we were greeted by very polite and friendly Star Airline staff (a pleasant change from Continental & United Airways) and a few hours later we were in Cusco! And wow, was it hot! We weren't expecting 30+ degrees at 3400m, but have since found out that when the sun is out, that is what you get.

Accommodation was needed and a friendly Carlos offered us a nice looking place for $35, plus he had a car that wasn't held together with gaffer tape. Alas, in our knackered state he took us to a different hotel first which we decided was fine. And it was not until late evening when all the Peruvian tourists returned, and then 3am when our neighbours decided it was an appropriate time to converse at the top of their voices (which saw a semi-naked and rather pissed off M knocking on their door - they soon got the message).

Carlos organised our next three days in the Sacred Valley and then we struck out to do some organising of our own - sorting out the final details of our Inca Trail trek with our tour company, SAS, and trooping around ATMs to get enough cash out to pay for it all and hitting the ATM limits.

Near SAS we found a great local restaurant - M had a yummy soup and 'bisteak', I had Alpaca :) We also found a colourful little bar where all the profits go to supporting an afternoon school and community projects for kids. We shared a two pint bottle of beer and then realised that altitude and alcohol aren't the best of friends (was that a hangover or the first signs of altitude sickness at 3am? Hmmm).

Another disturbed night's sleep was followed by our Sacred Valley tour. This reminded us both that we don't like tours. There were 2 Inca sites visited and we got an hour at each with the rest of the day being either in a very hot coach (which soon smelt of sick courtesy of one of the passengers), being left at markets for shopping (boring!) or being fed a touristy lunch. Our guide's catch phrases were "this is the most important Inca archaeological site" and "go take a nice picture and wait for me"!

But Carlos came good with our guest house in Urabamba - a large house in which we had both a bedroom, bathroom and a lounge area. And it was quiet! We slept like babies for 10 hours.

I'm horse riding in Urabamba, part of my birthday pressy :-) M comes up to the stables with me to see me jump on my Caballyo and check that my pressie is up to scratch. Oswaldo and I amble along the road on our horses and quickly discover that my Spanish is better than his English, and that is not saying much!! But we still have a great ride up to the Salt Pans of Maras. And I like the envious looks I get from tourists who are seeing the Salt Pans the normal way on foot :) In the steeper sections, Oswaldo instructs me to dismount and lead my horse, Condoro. I do, but I can't help thinking that my Joey or Gally (two of my horses from back home in NZ) would have done it without breaking sweat. The Peruvian horses have a beautiful walk, they flick their forefeet in little circles with each step. But they are clumsy and slip around which makes me direct every step that Condoro makes. And in doing so I come away with a minor war wound from an overgrown cactus which embeds itself in my temple, ouch! Still, less ouch than slipping over the cliff!

Back at out guest house I find M, and he has discovered where the local market is and we go check it out! There are literally 101 types of potatoes, maize, rice, live chicks and ducklings, tights and underwear filling the large dirt field. As we leave the market we see lambs being packed into the back of a taxi! In search of some lunch we find a little cafe which is also a place where local kids can come and learn theatre skills and come and do performances. The Danish proprietor serves us up some great pumpkin soup and a sandwich full of avocado and other goodies, and this is washed down with yummy pancakes.

Onto Ollyantaytambo (try saying that after a few Pisco Sours!) and we find ourselves staying in a noisy guest house, with a busy road right outside, and creaky floorboards. Not quite the lodge that we had been sold, but the views of the ruins were good. We manage to find a great local eatery, which promptly fills up with locals, a good sign, or maybe they were just following us! We eat Sopa de Fido (pasta soup) and a Saltada de Lomo (a beef dish with rice and chips) and have our waitress run to the local shop when M asks for a beer! Later at a more classy joint we try a couple of super strength cocktails, which leave us buzzing for hours and wondering what was actually in them!

The next day, we finally get a proper breakfast (bread and jam gets very boring!) and we are set up for a morning's walk on the other side of the Ollyantaytambo valley. We find the path up to the ruins, which were old Inca storehouses. The views are stunning and the sun scorching. Only 3 hours without sun cream on the tiny patch where my watch usually sits has left me with a nasty burn, lesson learnt!

As we waited for our lift back to Cusco, we were lucky enough to see our first hummingbird. Fascinating to watch as they hover to get the nectar and so quick when they move to the next flower. Fingers crossed that we get to see the Gould's Inca hummingbird, which apparently lives in the area near Machu Picchu.

Back in Cusco after another ride where sometimes it is better not to look at the road ahead, crazy crazy drivers, we rush around getting enough cash to pay for the rest of our Inca Trail tour. Having eaten in lots of local places, we fancied somewhere a little nicer, and treated ourselves to a fancy restaurant overlooking the main square. Excellent service, and we were very surprised by the Peruvian wine we choose, a Temparanillo made by an Italian family that have been living and making wine in Peru for over 150 years. Rich and fruity, yum! The food was equally good, I go for a slow cooked rack of lamb with noodles, and M is very happy with his perfectly cooked fillet steak, with local vegetables and a cream cheese sauce, an unusual combination that worked surprisingly well. We treat ourselves to a taxi back to our hostel, and are told the next day, that at that time of night, a taxi is the only option.

I wake with a cold so we decide that it's time for a very chilled day. Washing, packing, then at 7pm we have our orientation with our guide for the Inca trail, Hilbert. We'll need to be up at 4:45am, so decide on an early night....

Posted by DebandMatt 10:52 Archived in Peru

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