From Bolivia we crossed over into the Peruvian border to the town of Puno. It situated on the banks of lake Titicaca and as such is quite touristy. We just spent one night there and done the tour of the ‘Floating Islands’. These man-made Islands consist of small villages and there are lots of Islands. They are very impressively made but the trip was a little too touristy for us as even though you paid for it, you still were asked for money at various times and to buy gifts etc. It sort of took the good out of it. Puno itself is a nice town with some good restaurants etc. It has a great view of lake titicaca and is a very convenient entry point to Peru from Bolivia. Our visit was very rushed.
Onward from Puno we headed for Cusco. Cusco was the former capital of the Incas and as such is a really impressive city with winding narrow streets and walls with big stones that perfectly fit together without the need for clay etc. a hallmark of the Inca buildings. There are also some very impressive colonial style buildings from the Spanish influence.
Being the centre of the Inca empire menas that there are lots of very important villages near Cusco that contain wonderful Inca ruins. A lot of these ruins are close together and make up what is known as the Sacred Valley. There are days trips from Cusco that do all the important sites in the sacred valley. It’s a very good tour if your short on time and the various sites are fascinating. The Incas were truly a remarkable culture. I think was impresses me the most about them was their foresight. At many of the big sites its possible to see lots of terraces which all together was like one big lab. The individual terraces had micro climates where the Inca’s grew different verities of crops. They would then spread the knowledge they learnt from these ‘experiments’ across the Inca culture. Also the architecture is remarkable. The Inca’s built with such precision that they didn’t even need clay to stick the blocks together. They also put in anti earthquake measures in the foundations and over hundreds of years many Inca buildings survived numerous earthquakes. It really made us wonder that if the Incas were still alive today, what would they have achieved? One of my favourite sites was ollantaytambo. Its a very pretty village with an amazing ruin. We didn't get a chance but I would highly recommend staying in this village if you had time. The ruins themselves are interesting with the trademark terraces and on the mountain opposite you can see another ruin. Its a bit strange as the mountain itself looks like a mans face. These type of features were very important to the incas. When they built thier cities, they often resemble different shapes. Macchu Picchu is shaped like a condor.
Of course the most famous of the Inca ruins is Macchu Picchu. It’s also probably the most asked thing you’ll hear in Peru ‘did you go to macchu picchu?’ In fact I had heard so much about it that I nearly didn’t want to go just out of protest. That would have been a bit foolish though as it is an unbelievable sight. The one issue with it though is how to get there. There are so many companies offering tours and it’s very expensive, especially if your on a budget. We chose to go by car to one village and then to trek 3 hours to the nearest town of aqua caliente where you can reach macchu picchu. It was a bit cheaper than by train but was a disastrous day of travel. The tyres in our van blew twice, we missed one of the road deadlines so had to wait 2.5 hours. As a result we ended up trekking in the dark and arrived at our hotel after midnight. We only got 3.5 hours sleep and had to get up so we could make sunrise. Basically we chose an bad agency although its hard to know which is a really good one. The one thing about Cusco is that while it is beautiful, its very touristy and I did feel like a walking bank machine at times. However, it was all worth if when we entered Macchu Picchu just in time for sunrise. We had 2 hour guide and then we spent several hours wondering around. It was stunningly scenic and the whole place is fascinating. We were meant to trek the mountain of macchu picchu but unfortunately we didn’t make it to the top. It’s a tough hike to the top and on 3.5 hours sleep we just didn’t have the energy. We didn’t mind though as we had a lovely day walking around.
With the Macchu Picchu box ticked, it was time for us to hurry up and get across the country. We needed to make up some time so a few long bus journeys were called for. We first went to Lima and spent the night there. We only had one night there but it did seem like a cool city to explore if we had time. From Lima we went to Huarez. The town itself is not overly impressive but it is at the foothills of the Cordilla Blanca mountain range and the place to organise the famous Santa Cruz trek. This is a 4-day high altitude trek through the country side passing by various mountains & lakes over the 4 days. I was a little bit nervous about it as its high altitude trekking. The highest pass goes up to 4,700m and I was afraid I’d suffer from altitude sickness. The trek however was amazing. I did find it tough at times, especially at the pass but we had spectacular weather, a great group of people, a good guide etc so we were very lucky. It was also not quite high season so it meant we almost had the trail to ourselves.
From Huarez we continued our rush to get from Peru to Ecuador by getting a series of buses. We made a stop in Trujillo and stayed near the beach for 1 night. After that we had to get to Guayaquil to book flights to the Galapagos. We booked the bus but unfortunately the border was closed so we had to go to Cuenca in Ecuador and then onto Guayaquil. The whole thing took us about 26 hours. Thankfully that was end of long arduous bus journeys. While our stay in Peru was short, its an amazing place and we really enjoyed it. I would highly recommend trekking in that Huarez region. There are lots of treks to do and the Santa Cruz one was beautiful. There is of course lots more to do in Peru but like elsewhere in South America you need time. One other great thing about Peru is that there are some really good bus companies so its a bit more comfortable than those in Bolivia. It was nice treat!
Dodging Mosquito Status: Thankfully with the high altitude once again saved us from our enemies. We did get swarmed by horrible black flies at one location on the santa cruz trek but at least they didn't bite!