Oct 23, 2010

PERU Travel Blog


Welcome to the Lost Incan Empire!
During my senior year in college, being a Spanish Major, the school department was offering a trip down to South America; Peru. In the beginning, I was a bit hesitant about making the commitment to travel to Peru, the reason being; I was lacking sufficient funds to afford this trip. That was when I started investigating and soon discovered that the International Department at CSUSB offered a $1000 scholarship if you agreed to write a research paper (topic of your choice) once you returned from your trip abroad. I couldn't say no to that :) Here you will find a short summary of places I visited on our trip, travel tips, along with some of my own suggestions that I wish someone would have told me before my voyage! *Please note that the currency in Peru is in Soles (3 soles= $1 US)

Lima, Peru
Our trip itinerary consisted of the visitation of 2 cities; Lima & Cusco. First on our stop was Lima. At first site and on the first day there, to me, Lima seemed like every other industrial city; museums, shopping centers, public parks, and taxis EVERYWHERE you looked, etc. We checked into the Hotel & Casino Boulevard, which has no casino, but was a very safe and clean hotel. It wasn't until we visited Pachacamac, that I got to see the real side to Peruvian culture.
Pachacamac
Pachacamac is Lima's major archeological site. I was completely awed as I was entering the site in its ruined state- I can only imagine what the peoples of the era must have thought and felt as they entered this enormous religious center dedicated to Pachacamac, “He Who Animates the World.” Despite several centuries of archaeological work little is known about this complex and the daily activities that went on here. When traveling this sanctuary, our tour guide (which we picked up at the entrance; bargained a really good price) informed us that hundreds of years ago the natives of Pachacamac surrendered cult to the sun and to the Earth. As creepy as it sounds, while one walks around the old temples, one can feel the magic attraction to this sacred place. It is believed that this place was inhabited since the year 200 up to 1533. Pachacamac really is an amazing piece of archeology. My congratulations to the Peruvian people for preserving and continuing to work on this magnificent site. I don't think it is a part of the UNESCO heritage site- but it should be.
Huaca Pucllana
Next on our itinerary was the Huaca Pucllana, which is another well known archeological site in Lima. What surprised me about this site was that its literally located right-smack in the center of the Miraflores district. The communities around it seem to be immune to the natural beauty of this place. When we asked a local what he thought of HP, he simply stated it was a big sand bowl that needed to be taken down to build more houses. Geezz... talk about being un-appreciative. The price for Admission: 5 soles (about $1.50). There are guided tours in English or Spanish & the tours run at specific times no matter how many visitors, so you may luck out with a semi private or private tour. Like the pyramids in Pachacamac, the structures and temples in Huaca Pucllana were also dedicated to the sun god. Although Huaca Pucllana is ancient, it’s a relatively new attraction. Grounds opened for tours in 1984 and excavation is ongoing. If you climb to the top, you can take in a panoramic view of downtown Lima and a bird’s eye view of just how intricate the ruins are. Huaca Pucllana once stretched nearly eight square miles. Currently, it is less than two and a half. Towards the back part of the site (and near the end of the tour) you will be able to walkthrough a small zoo area containing wild ducks, llamas and cuy (guinea pigs) as well as samples of native plant life and crops. There’s also a small flora and fauna park on the grounds, and a gift shop with a small selection of native crafts. During our visit, we were fortunate enough to see the official Peruvian Dog, 'el perro chino'. It is estimated that it will take another 15 to 20 years to finish excavations and restorations to the site.
Cusco, Peru
After our adventures in Lima, we took a domestic flight out to Cusco. We where told we'd be staying downtown for a couple of days before continuing our trip down to Machu Picchu. We checked into Hotel Ruinas. Personally, Cusco was my FAVORITE city! It’s such a beautiful, small town- it reminded me of why I’ve always wanted to live in a small populated city. The architecture in Cusco is beautiful. I visited all the Catholic temples and paid my respect to the saints. Although the town is small and very accessible by foot, our group decided to pitch in and rent a motorcycle. It turned out to be my most memorable adventure in Cusco. That damn motorcycle got us in so much trouble! While driving down the streets in Cusco, which in reality are more like corridors because they're so small, one of the side mirrors falls off. Just like that, no warning, it just falls. 
We didn’t hit or bump into anything, it just fell. So there we are scared shitless because the motorcycle dealer is holding our friend Jonathan's passport (we rented it under his name), and we're thinking we're going to have to abandon Jonathan in Peru, because we signed a paper stating that if anything happened to this bike, we'd pay $11,000 US. It was the funniest, and at the same time most worried, afternoon I spent in Peru. We ended up going to a local convenient store and bought super glue. Yes, super glue... hahaha! There we are outside the hotel gluing the mirror back on and praying to God it'd stick. Fortunately for us, and Jonathan, the mirror did stick quiet nice and we were able to return the bike w/out anyone noticing. Even though upon returning the bike, the mirror was the FIRST thing the lender inspected. It was almost as though he was expecting the mirror to have fallen off (possible scam?). As soon as he saw it was intact, he returned Jonathan's passport and he & I BOOKED it back to our hotel w/out looking back. Seriously, we RAN!
Machu Picchu, Peru
 So my trip to MP started out like every other tourist- w/a 3 hour train ride from Cuzco, to Machu Picchu town. Yep, you heard right... MP isn't located in Cusco but in the outskirts of Peru in a Pueblo (town) called Machu Picchu. With that begin said, bring some entertainment! I was going MAD on that damn train ride! I know 3 hours may not seem like a lot, but when you’re stuck in a moving tin can w/nothing to do but look out your window... you start to loose patience! Seriously, the train cargo didn't even have a bathroom, so make sure to go before or hold it in! During my trip I had my BF's Tetris game. His high score was 22000, by the end of the train ride my score was 85000.

Upon arriving to MP town, we gathered our belongings and checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Machu Picchu Inn. Now, this is far from being a 5 star hotel, but it met our needs quite nicely. All we were looking for was a safe & clean place to stay; we got that & more at the MP Inn. If you’re not picky, this place is perfect; located right in the center of town, literally across the street from the bus station and a few blocks south of the famous "Thermal Springs" (which we did get to visit, but we're not so great).
The next day we took our 30 minuet bus ride up the mountain to MP, "The Lost city of the Incas". If I have ever been sight struck, it was when I had my first glance at Machu Picchu... Wow. Just wow. Our tour began w/the history of MP when Francisco Pizarro and the Spaniards arrived in Peru in the 1530s looking for gold and treasure the Incas destroyed much of the Inca Trail which lead to MP in order to protect it from being destroyed. It worked! MP remained hidden high in the Andes for nearly 400 years until American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins in 1911, most of which was overrun by the jungle. After some quick stops, explanations and mandatory photo-ops, we were allowed to go off on our own. Of course I continued taking hundreds of pictures, literally, and just walked around and did some exploring of my own. I think what makes MP so amazing to look at is the location more than anything; right smack in the middle of the Andes Mountains at approx 8000 ft above sea level. 
Also, all the myths that surround the city, like how they managed to cut and fit the stones so perfectly together, let alone move them up the mountain, remains a mystery to this day adding to MP's mythical aura. When dusk was approaching, we went ahead and took the last bus ride down the mountain. SCARRIEST bus ride ever! On the way up the mountain, I guess I was so eager or excited to finally get to MP that I didn't pay much attention to the bus ride. But on the way down I was praying! The bus loops back and forth the curvy roads of the mountain, it didn’t help that we were going down hill on an already vertical road. The bus was so close to the edge (which dropped down hundreds of feet to the river valley below) that I seriously let out a scared shout, more than once... on one of those occasions, the bus driver simply looked back at me- threw his head back w/a laugh and said "ha, tourists!"

Peruvian Food: Totally RANDOM, but nothing compares to Peru's Chinese food!! Oh my frekin' gosh... it’s THE BEST! Our group was literally addicted to a restaurant called the Xin Xin out in Lima. My favorite dish; the Wong Tong Frito. Just saying the name out loud makes my stomach growl. DELICIOUS! During our stay in Lima, we also tried the national Peruvian plate; Ceviche- but we had it marinated w/Limes and NOT butter! It tasted WAY better that way too! During our stay in Cusco, my friend Susan and I decided we want to give Peruvian pizza a try... I’m not going to lie, it was far from great. The crust was super thin and in my opinion there was way too much cheese and not enough tomato sauce. It filled me up quick but it didn’t satisfy my hunger. For our last night out in Cusco, our tour guide decided to take us out to a fancy restaurant for dinner and a show. The food itself was typical; rice, chicken, soup- but we were given the opportunity to try cuy (guinea pigs). Now, I know what you’re thinking "ew gross", so don’t hate me for saying I actually had some. After my trip to Australia, I was literally kicking my own ass for not trying kangaroo when I had a chance. So I thought to myself, this is a formal Peruvian plate, I have to try it. I promised myself to get involved w/the culture as much as I could; so I went for it. It tasted ok, it’s very similar to chicken, but chewy. If you’re ever given the opportunity to try cuy (or anything new for that matter) you should go for it. That way you can't say you missed out!
Coca Tea: I usually don’t talk about drinks, but I have to mention the famous Mate de Coca (Coca Tea). As you may have guessed, this herbal tea is made up of.... *drum roll..... leaves of the Coca Plant. Yes, you read right, Coca plant- as in the same plant that’s mixed w/other nasty chemicals to create Cocaine. The actual amount of cocaine found in the plants is a VERY small percentage; .4%, if I remember correctly. So don't be afraid to try it. We where given some as soon as we arrived in Cusco. Due to the altitude of the city, may of our group members (including myself) felt a bit light headed, but after having a relaxing cup of mate de coca, we were all doing fine. I drank about 3 of those bad boys and I slept like a baby. I was up early the next day and ready for my Cusco adventures :)
Extra-time??? 
To be honest, this is was my first trip in which I thought, "Holy Jesus, I think I did everything I had planned to do & more!" My Peru trip was so much fun & educational; I don't think I would have had time to do anything else! Our tour guide did try and convinces us to go "sky sailing" but I, for once, was way too tired the day they offered it & plus it was kind of expensive... so I said no thanks. Now that I look back, I think it would have been nice to fly the Peruvian skies... One day I'll go back! If you’re planning a trip to Peru, all I can say is keep an open mind and take lots of pictures! Don't be afraid to go out at night. Peru is just like any other country... it’s as safe as you make it. Set limits for yourself, (I’m sure you don’t want to be walking around Polvos Azules at 1am, even though I’m pretty sure its open) but also have fun! Well my friends, I hope this blog was helpful in some way, & if you have ANY questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
 Peace&Love, D

8 comments :

  1. Wow, that sounds like so much fun! I've always wanted to travel and study abroad, but then again I'm afraid to. ;)

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  2. Hi Alex, if you ever get a chance to study abroad, TAKE IT! Trust me when I say you wont regret it! You might get a bit home sick at first, but it's such a great experience that in the end it will all be worth it :)

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  3. Perú es lo máximo, gracias por tu visita. Espero vuelvas pronto y visites un poco más el norte :)

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  4. Yeppi.Good to see these pictures.these pics makes me sure that you had a great fun in Peru. Last year i went to Peru with my friends we enjoyed a lot. We hire a travel agency and their guys helped us to make our travel tired-less and comfortable. Beautiful location with eye catching land-scape. I would love to travel again.
    ________________
    Peru Travel Packages

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  5. Trekking along IncaTrail was the most fabulous experience of my last vacations in Peru.Peru is the only place where one can feel the true serenity amidst the serenely beautiful nature.

    Sherry Brown

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  6. Diana,
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It is nice to see you traveling the world at a young age. if you or your readers are interested in the spiritual side of Peru with a transformational journey, check out: http://flowingspiritjourneys.com/
    I wish you all the best!

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  7. Nice Blog.
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  8. Salkantay Trek is the alternative to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was recently named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine.

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