Wednesday, 10 April 2013

PERU. MUCH MORE THAN JUST INCA RUINS AND MACHU PICCHU

A little friend on the bus in Iquitos
And of course Machu Picchu
Puno
Got to Puno on the last bus leaving from Copacabana, Bolivia. It was freezing cold in the town and the hostel. The guys I met in Isla del Sol in Bolivia - Vicky and Cristian from Chile and Roger from Peru, came to pick me up from my hostel and we went for some pisco sour which gave me pretty good headache the whole next day.

Peruvian Tuk-tuk
Pisco Sour, dont remeber why they were blue. Still good tho!

Tasting smoothies at the local market
Surtido con huevo
Waiting for the ceviche
And here it is! The first one of many to follow :)
Meat, meat and more meat
The most important thing in Puno (tourist point of view) are the floating islands (Islas flotantes) in Titicaca lake. These floating islands are the home of the Uros tribe, one which pre-dates the Incan civilization. According to their legends, they existed before the sun, when the earth was still dark and cold. You can go by yourself (5 soles) or on a tour (15 soles the cheapest) but the tour is pretty cool cos they explain  how the islands are built and you get to see their houses and even try their traditional clothing. And this way you help the villagers directly.
The floating islands
True "cholita aymara"

Floating islands of Uros

A Colombian guy and his hand made camera was the greatest thing the local kids have ever seen
Still playing with the camera

The kids were just hooked on the whole picture developing process




Going back to Puno
Next day Vicky and Cristian went back to Bolivia cos he had his flight home from La Paz and she had to go back to Cochabamba where she studies medicine and I also left, direction Cusco

Cusco or Cuzco (depends if it´s in Quechua)
Stayed in a very friendly and familiar hostel at calle Hospital 777, run by a group of Argentineans (15 soles). A Colombian guy in the hostel told me he knows a Bulgarian girl in Cusco (and that we look similar) and gave me her number. That was pretty weird, usually im the first Bulgarian people meet so I called her and in 15 min we met at Plaza dermas. Not very difficult to recognize her – Slavic features, high cheek bones..Kalina – full of energy and speaking Portuguese to everyone. She took us to San Blas and then to Templo de la Luna (Moon temple) which I really enjoyed. Kalina became my guide for Cuzco since she knew all the deals with cheap hostels, restaurants, bars… I moved to her hostel, Felix, which costs just 10 sols per night (if you are good at bargaining). 
Granadilla and lucuma. And coffee beans.
Plaza de Armas, Cusco







Plaza de Armas. Cusco
San Blas
Kalinka near the Moon temple
Finally...A Bulgarian (but again only 50 %)
In Kalina`s friend`s house
Gonzalo from Argentina, whom I met in Villa Tunari in Bolivia came the next day and we started to think how to get to Machu Picchu the cheapest way. If anyone wants to know how to go to Machu Picchu cheap, I know everything now, just ask. Inca trail was of course booked till November so no chance there and it is very expensive. The cheapest option is to take a bus to Ollantaytambo (there are Inca ruins as well) and then walk along the rail track to Aguas Calientes (30km). Sleep in Aguas Calientes and 1 h walk to Machu Picchu. The entrance fee is around 45 euros for foreigners or half price if you have ISIC card. Make sure you get your ISIC card (real or fake one) before you go to Cusco, everything is half price with it. I also met some people who managed to get in for free but you have to be very patient and wary, watch out for the guards and pretend you were in already. So there are lots of options of course, if you wanna do it cheap, don’t take the train and don’t go on tours. Other than that there are so many tours – Inca trail (book 6 months to a year in advance), Salkantay trek (around 200$, I´ve heard of someone doing it for 160), jungle tour, organized transport to Santa Teresa or Hidroelectrica and then walk the rail track to Aguas Calientes, another tour including bus to Ollantaytambo and then train to Aguas Calinetes…But all of this could be done on your own, without paying the extra money to the travel agency.
At the end we decided to do the Salkantay trek without a guide which implies carrying the tent, sleeping bags and mats, food and basically everything we need. The locals say that it is the best trek to Machu Picchu, more beautiful than the legendary Inca Trail. It is 5 days trekking, pretty tough, if you are not used to long hikes. We rented a tent and sleeping mats (10/s. a day), it is very important to get a good one cos it is freezing cold up there.
Gonzalo trying the tent we are about to rent 
The route:
Taxi at 4,30 am to Mollepata (15 /S., 2h). Then start walking...almost all the way is uphill to Soraypampa where the first camp site is (4154m) It was freezing cold in the tent, even though I was wearing all of my clothes, including a hat and gloves. Both of us didn’t sleep very well, trying to cuddle up to each other and use the heat of our bodies. The camp sites are free and they can make some food for you, nothing amazing but pretty cheap (5 /S.). Second day is the hardest one – 3,4 h quite steep hike until you get to Abra de Salkantay 4600m, pretty amazing views but the hike is quite tough, especially at that altitude. After that is all downhill, but long……I think we left at 7 am (after all the groups have left already, they got up really early) and managed to get to the camp site in Collpapampa around 6pm and set up our tent. The group that was camping there was quite friendly and we chatted and played games for a bit but after dinner we all died, so exhausted, went to bed round 9pm. At least it was much warmer that night (only 2800m).  Third day walked to La playa, had lunch there (finally some fish, something different from a soup or rice with eggs) and we sneaked into one of the group minivans to Santa Teresa. Once in the camp site, went to las Termas (hot springs) an hour away walking but 10 /s. return. That was such a treat for our dirty, smelly and exhausted bodies. Imagine around 200 people in the same condition jumping into the hot springs! There was a big party at the camp site that night, with a big bonfire and l loud music till early morning, everyone drinking and dancing.
Hitched a ride with some road workers for a pretty good distance all uphill


Unfortunately, not for my pocket


4600






Camp site No 2


A bit crowded but still pretty nice after 3 days of hiking and sweating
Party in the camp
Next day took a taxi to Hidroelectrica (5/S. each) or you can walk 3h on a dusty and rolling road and then 1,5h walk along the rail track to Aguas Calientes. Found a cheap hostel (25 /S. each but with private bathroom, yeye). The bus going to Machu Picchu costs 17$ and the other option is to go up walking (1h-1,5h) which is what we did of course. Got there around 7am and it was already crowded. They let 2000 people enter the Inca city every day but to me it looked much more than that. And all the groups and their group photos all the time are a bit annoying. It still amazing though! We couldn´t go to Huayna Picchu because the tickets are always sold out 5 days  in advance so we had tickets to the other peak, also called Machu Picchu, which in my opinion is more beautiful but more difficult to get to. It is a pretty steep hike but doesn’t take more than 2 hours.
Never ending rail track from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes





Coffee beans


The famous train

Aguas Calientes




The hot springs in Aguas Calientes. Lots of families and kids
We made it!

Had to wait at least 20 minutes to pose for this photo! So many people
Probably the most touristic place in South America but still impressive


Huayna Piccu at the front and Machu Picchu down there


Massive rock fell on the road and we had to leave the taxi and continue walking
After we went back to Cusco, I met up with a few couchsurfers. Went to these hidden Inca ruins with Guillermo from CS who grew up in Cuzco (but now he lives in Portland) and knew everything – bus to Ancahuasi and then walk to Killarum and Tarahuasi ruins. Pretty chevere (cool) and no other tourists around. Most of the locals didn’t even speak Spanish, just Quechua but they all were very friendly.
Somewhere in San Blas

PIM POM?!? Thats a bit too much. Dont wanna mention the other spelling mistakes
Chicha rosada
Cusco from above

Giant statue of Christ crowning the hill next to Sacsayhuamán ruins
Incaria. An alcoholic local drink (made of 12 different herbs), not bad at all
The bar itself was pretty cool. Glad Guillermo told us about it (tourist don´t know it)
Tarahuasi ruins
Tarahuasi ruins
Arequipa  is another top destination in Peru, surrounded by canyons and volcanoes….I stayed with Fernando and Lindsey, a Peruvian-Canadian couple which had a pretty interesting love story. She arrived in Arequipa at the beginning of her round the world trip and stayed at Fernando´s couch and she never left. Now they are married I suppose (the wedding was set for February). Their house was always full of couchsurfers, some of them staying and others who were invited to theirs legendary meals. 

Sculpture workshop on the main plaza
"Las fiestas" of Arequipa just started
The whole CS crowd after dinner
One of Fernando/Lindsey´s culinary masterpieces 
Like almost all the backpackers I went to Cañon del Colca – second deepest in the world, the deepest one is just next to it but not as good for trekking.
I took a bus to Cabanaconde at 8am, got there in the afternoon. You have to pay a fee which is 10 soles for Peruvians, 40 for latinos and 70 for the rest. I told the lady I was Brazilian so I only paid 40 (so all these language exchange classes with Luciano and Cristiano didn´t go in vast (my Portuguese language exchange in Barcelona)J. I stayed the night in Cabanaconde so I can go early in the morning to see the condors, you can only see them in the morning between 8 and 10 am (the bus leaves from Cabanaconde around 6,30 am). After seeing them, I went back just in time to hike down to Llahuar,  took me 4 hours but mostly because I got lost taking the shortcuts or whatever they were, and then going back. It was one of the three possible ways to get down the canion, and the most difficult one but the only one with hot springs. Since the tourist almost don’t come here, I was almost by myself, had my own cabin for only 15 /S. (5 US$), the thermals and stunning views over the river.  
Cabanaconde
 ç




On the way to Llahuar
In the thermals
My room
My room again but I liked it so much that deserves 2 photos :)

Next morning I went 4 hours to Malata, where I had lunch. I learned my lesson tho, you have to get up very early to avoid the sun, otherwise is way too hot and makes the walk pretty tough. Two Peruvian guys helped me find the way to Oasis – they actually took me there, cos due to construction works starting that day, the regular path was closed.  Thanks to them I learnt a lot about vegetation there cos they were agronomist working for the government. Slept at the only hotel with electricity and cold beer in Oasis for 10 soles. I made friends with some of the guys and got promised a bus ride with the groups to Arequipa for the same price as the public bus (but this way I get to see some tourist attraction that I would definitely miss on the public bus). Next morning after all the groups left at 5am, I was waken up at 6am and at 8,30am I was in Cabanaconde, overtaking all the groups. Stopped at the hot springs in Cacapi on the way to Chivay (really touristy so we decided to go down to the river and dip there instead) and in Maca village. 





Oasis




Maca
I chose the river to the thermals


The hummingbird (not my photo)
Went back to Arequipa just to stay one night with Fernando and Lindsey and the Austrians they were hosting left next day to Nazca (10 hours, 60 soles). Got there in the morning and Edgar came to pick me up. In his house I met the other couchsurfers – Polish couple, French and American guy. Exchanged lots of info with them, all of them were coming from the north and going to Cusco.  The huge images, which include hundreds of animals and complex mazes in the Nazca desert, can only clearly be seen for the air giving rise to a number of explanations as to who they were intended for. We were so lucky to have Edgar as a host because he was a scientist working on Nazca lines for the past 10 years and he knew everything. He invited us to see the presentation he was giving in the Planetarium about the Nazca lines every night and that gave me much more information than any of the flights over the lines (100 $ each).
Nazca style bus stop

Some figures and lines I saw from the View point


Nazca
Part of Edgar´s presentation
Ica. My host Berly picked me up from the bus station and I got a whole room for myself in his house. The Ica Valley is also the biggest wine producer in Peru, well something a little stronger than wine… Pisco. There are many winery and bodega tours where you can learn how to make the Pisco Sour and sample, sample, sample the day away. Berly took me to this weird birthday party where we all sat in a circle for 2 hours passing a bottle of pisco around, which was being refilled constantly. Then everyone started dancing in the middle and the end, at around 12pm, we got served proper meal and again eating in circle.

Still sitting in circle
Huacachina is the only oasis in South America, surrounded by massive waves of sand that stretch to the Pacific. It is now known as the best place in Peru to get your thrills on a sand-board and a dune-buggy. You can even fork out the cash to hire your own 4×4 and explore the mounds by yourself, not my case of course. We rented boards for 5 soles and took us almost an hour to get to the top of the hill. I was never good at snowboarding, the few times I´ve tried, but sand boarding could be my new walk of life haha. After Huachachina we went to one of the place providing a free pisco tour (Ruta del Pisco) and degustation afterwards.




Still not convinced
Getting the hang of it


With Marce and his nieces

Lima.  I didn´t like Lima. Luckily I stayed with my firend Liz´s family which made up for it. Liz is a good friend of mine I met when I was Erasmus in Girona in 2005 and since then we´ve been friends. Her birthday is also on June 14th so we celebrated together various times. Her mum and brother welcomed me and made everything possible so that I feel at home in their lovely apartment.  It´s a shame I didn’t take any photos with them L.
Another good thing was meeting Monica whom I worked with in Barcelona before quitting my job and apparently she did the same. We met up a few times, had some Pisco Sours together and went to the Lima´s Parque de Aguas together. It was so nice to catch up with her and remember the funny and not so funny times at work (so happy Im not working any more). I met her boyfriend as well, they had lots of fun stories about their life in Peru (I especially enjoyed how they got on a bus from Arequipa to Lima thinking it was just a 3 hour ride!).
Plaza de armas, Lima
Miraflores, Lima
Made me laugh
Dopec-Cicsa reunion in Lima (over Pisco sour)
Parque de las aguas, Lima
You have to run very quickly before the water spews out
Some people got stuck in the middle for a while


They spell Barca with "Z" in Peru
Trujillo
Enrique’s house was pretty modern but I’ve never seen a house so full of stuff. Every little space in the house covered or full of things (cushions, plates, glasses, paintings, souvenirs, bottles, anything that could be bought), even the walls – on each wall there were at least 3 paintings hanging (not particularly the same style). I basically had the third floor for myself, lovely terrace, my own bathroom..The good thing was that finally I could have proper food cos was sick of rice (all the food is with rice) and Enrique loved his barbeques so we had lots of meat and vegetables. And real coffee, he had a real coffee machine! How such small things can make us happy!
Enrique took me to Huaca de la Luna ("Temple/Shrine of the Moon"). Moches is the civilization after the Incas and Chimú cultures. It is a large adobe brick structure built mainly by the Moche people of northern Peru. The guide was really good and I actually enjoyed the tour (usually I don’t do tours).

Another unknown fruit



Lots of chicha to go
We are more humble..just a jug
Huanchaco draws its fair share of Peru’s surf tourists and it is just 15 min away from Trujillo. Armies of surfers in gray wetsuits stomp barefoot along the sidewalk; some are old pros heading out to the more challenging southern waves, others are new students sticking to the sheltered waters of Playa la Curva just north of the muelle, grappling with their boards, leashes dangling awkwardly (that’s how I probably looked a month later in Lobitos). it’s a great place for both beginner and intermediate students, and a good jumping-off point for daytrips to more advanced waves like Chicama (the world’s longest left). We went one afternoon and I loved it, regretted that I didn’t stay there instead of Trujillo. So much more my style – sea, waves, cozy little restaurants, surfers…not as noisy and busy as Trujillo





Last photo in Trujillo and "rumbo" to the jungle

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