Machu Picchu & the End of Peru

Machu Picchu & the End of Peru

To very briefly set the scene, we had celebrated our last night with the rest of the group in Cusco, hadn’t slept and had taken advantage of the many free drinks offers. After the final goodbye’s to the others, our guide found us and seemed a bit confused by our current, non-sober, no-sleep state. I’m sure he’s seen similar before though and after a quick shrug of his shoulders we took the world’s most uncomfortable minibus towards the start of our 4-day adventure to Machu Picchu, South America’s most popular tourist destination, and one of the places I had dreamt about visiting since I first booked my flight. There are a plethora of different ways to get to Aguas Calientes, the town that sits in the shadow of this great ruin, the most famous being the Inca Trail. Unfortunately, you have to book that months in advance and my plan of not really having a plan was going really well. It also costs a lot and they close the route in February anyway. So we decided on the Inca Jungle, an adventure trek which started with mountain biking, included trekking, zip-lining and hot springs along the way.

We arrived at the top of a misty mountain still feeling a little worse for wear. It turned out that the mountain biking was actually all on road and smooth tarmac road at that. After getting padded up, helmets on, we set off from the back and started the long and windy descent. After a few minutes I found I had overtaken everyone around me except the guide and when I looked around I was joined only by Adam and Ed. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t feel a little extreme after partying all night and now leading the rest of the group down the mountain… The guide kept us from going too fast and perhaps getting a little carried away and after a couple more hours we finished the day. It was a good hangover cure and a great way to start our Machu Picchu journey but we definitely had some unfinished business with the mountain bikes…Luckily Death Road in Bolivia was waiting, which I can now mention as it’s been done and I’m still alive! No need to give the folks any more reason for sleepless nights! That evening we spent the night in Santa Maria, had a stroll down to the river and caught up on some much needed sleep.

Getting kitted up with the compulsory hi-vis jackets
Dark glasses necessary after the night before
After the first hour’s descent
The river on the left with the road we were riding down, winding its way down the right hand side of the mountain
Chilling on the bridge after a long 48 hours
Santa Maria

Day 2 was a hiking day with several breaks along the way, the first was to visit a mischievous monkey. We were warned not to let it get near watches, bracelets etc as it would have them off in a flash. It was entertaining to watch but its life essentially seemed to be waiting for tourists to arrive while chained to a door with about 2metres of leeway which I wasn’t the most comfortable with. We continued to climb up a mountain and the next stop was a little better. Again, there was a token monkey along with some other animals and some typical food found and made in the jungle around this area. After sampling fresh juice, honey, pure chocolate and getting painted with traditional markings we continued. We now met a part of the Inca trail and we were treated to incredible scenery and some of the best hiking footpaths I’ve come across.

Mischievous Monkey
Looking innocent but he bit most people…
Second mischievous monkey of the day found my banana in my rucksack
One of the strangest/coolest animals I’ve ever seen
Laid back and hungry, he just wandered around the table where he was placed eating everything in sight. Once the food was up he had a nibble on my finger but didn’t have quite the same vicious bite as the monkeys
Us with our new war paint on…
Looking back down the valley towards Santa Maria
Our guide, David, talking to us about ”potates’ that grow in the world and ‘potates’ that grow above the world’.
Picturesque bridge and one of the more normal crossings of the day

The majority of the day, we were close to a crashing river, whose power was simply staggering. After using a rickety old rope bridge to cross the river we marched on for another hour or so until we saw some people on the other side. From this distance it wasn’t clear how they had got there but as we rounded the next corner it soon became apparent. We were to cross the wild river and the 250m or so gorge in a bucket bridge. We were soon pulled across and paid our 5 Soles each for the pleasure, although I’m not sure what the option was if we didn’t want to pay.

Adam and Ed on the bridge with several slats missing
Looking down the valley on day 2. The snowcapped mountain in the background is Salkantay
Our other guide, the other side of the path where another landslide had recently hit
Bucket bridge in action with people halfway across
View of the ‘bridge’. The owner of the bridge operated the pulley on one side and the guides operated the other. We just sat.

As the day neared to an end we walked the final couple of miles and arrived at a natural hot springs. This one was a little more commercial than the one we had experienced in Colca Canyon but in an almost equally unbelievable setting. With three pools, varying in temperature, we spent the evening relaxing there, jumping from pool to pool and beer to beer. The night was spent in Santa Teresa and after a hearty meal we hit the ‘main strip’, a street with a couple of bars at least. Spanish was practised, friends were made and good times were had. There had been a change in our 3-man wolf pack as we all decided to get a reasonably early night. Zip lining was on the cards for the next day and we decided to be fresh for it, a decision never seen before when the three of us have been together.

The view that greeted us as we arrived at the thermals after a long day’s walk

So, the following morning, with reasonably clear heads we were driven to the zip line centre. After being harnessed up and a quick 30-minute climb, we reached the first of the zip lines. One-by-one we were connected to the cables and sped off across the valley. The second of the lines was the longest, a huge 1.5km across a massive gorge. It was a lot of fun and I can’t help but mention the entertainment provided by one of our South Korean friends on the trek. I assume she didn’t understand the instructions despite her good English and she didn’t decelerate as she approached the end of the line, this lead to her stopping in about half a second and being thrown upside down on to the cable. I would feel guilty mentioning this but she was okay after being untangled. Of course on the next run, she was terrified of the same thing happening and stopped about 30m before the end, panicked and began to scream. It’s easy enough to pull yourself to the end but in her state of fear one of the guides had to go and rescue her. Everybody found this hilarious but tried to depress their laughter except her boyfriend who laughed wildly throughout and didn’t seem to offer any help or sympathy. The rest of the course passed reasonably uneventfully with the final zip line ending in the middle of a valley rather than on solid ground. We were then lowered down through the tree canopy at the speed we determined. I may have accidentally hit the guy in the eye and after I answered his question of ‘Do you like speed?’ positively, he had no hesitation in dropping me at high speed and stopping my fall a couple of metres above the ground which I’m sure he took great pleasure in, fortunately so did I.

View from the top of the first zip line
Ed
1.5km zip line across the valley
Adam
Superman position on the final zip line

The final activity of the morning was a high suspension bridge which traversed yet another of the valleys in the area. Only a few of us chose to do it and the guides enjoyed trying to swing us off. Of course, we returned the favour as they neared the middle and wobbliest parts of the bridge.

On to the rope bridge
Not the easiest time to take a photo
Me on the rope bridge

The excitement of the morning reached an end and we were next taken to a large hydroelectric dam, just a few miles from Aguas Calientes. After lunch, we walked the train line for around 3 hours amidst yet more unbelievable scenery. We caught our first glimpse of Machu Picchu way above on the top of one of the valleys before finally arriving into the town. The evening was spent relaxing and preparing for the following day, a 4am start was on the cards to allow us to be amongst the first people up there.

On the way to the dam, first sign of man’s input on the river
Still on the way to the dam
Amazing views along the train line
More views…
Me…and views. I should probably explain that my photos fit a lot better on the page if I write a caption. The problem is I’m running out of ideas for things to write.
Arriving into Aguas Calientes

One of my main concerns about Machu Picchu was the number of people that I was going to have to share my experience with. Luckily, our visit coincided with the wet season meaning there would only be close to 5,000 people and not the 10,000 it reaches in peak season. This was about 4,980 people more than my experience at Ciudad Perdida so I was a little sceptical. Additionally, there was a risk that our views would be obscured by clouds or we would spend the day getting drenched. We had heard from Hanna and Katrin that their visit was a bit of a disaster with neither of them being well, Kati being soaked to the skin before they had even arrived and the majority of the day being spent in clouds of mist. We were definitely a little apprehensive as we sat in the hostel the night before listening to the rain hammering down on to the roofs around us.

As we awoke in the dark and looked out of the window the rain seemed to have stopped and we set off at typical wolfpack double pace. We reached the turning point where we stopped retracing our path along the train tracks and started the climb up the steep steps. By 5:50am we arrived and waited for the rest of the group to assemble. The day started with an uninformative tour and in all honesty all we wanted to do was go off and explore the incredible ruins by ourselves. We were finally ‘released’ and enjoyed an hour or two just admiring the jaw dropping surroundings. When I have been asked about my Machu Picchu experience by other South American travellers, I always respond with ‘No hay palabras, en ingles o en espanol’ which simply translates to, ‘There are no words, in English or Spanish’. It’s a bit of a cheesy copout but really, it was an incredible place and I hope the photos I have can give you an idea of the day we had there.

First views as we ascended to Machu Picchu
And our first views across Machu Picchu
The site before too many tourists arrived
This is where a lot of the food was grown
The mountain in the background is Huayna Picchu, which we climbed later in the morning
The sundial at Machu Picchu
These pools of water were used by astronomists to observe the stars, rather than look up. They could also point and refer to individual stars easier using these.
A few wisps of cloud was about all we encountered
First photo of the day for the three of us
Standard Machu Picchu photo taken from the top
Wolfpack conquers Machu Picchu
Adam and Ed up to no good in the trees…

We had been recommended by a number of people that while we were there we should climb the neighbouring mountain, Huayna Picchu. I am very glad that we took this advice as we got a different perspective of Machu Picchu. There is a limit of just 400 people a day who can climb this so it was a little more peaceful than the experience in the ruins themselves. The climb was very tough, steep, narrow and with ladders and caves that just wouldn’t be allowed back in the UK. After a tough hour’s work we were the first to the top and had the best of the views while we enjoyed lunch.

Ed as we started the walk up Huayna Picchu
Looking down on Machu Picchu
The path lead us through some caves…
…And gave us some more great views
On the summit of Huayna Picchu
Lunch at the top 

We then decided to walk a little further and go and see the Gran Cavernas. The path became more ridiculous, more incredible and we were really one of the few people to visit them that day. The walk back from the caves was almost entirely uphill and by the time we returned to Machu Picchu we needed more food, more water and a sit down. The beautiful site was now inundated with the type of tourists who take a bus to the top, stay in posh hotels, don’t go anywhere without their guide and don’t even consider the idea of learning Spanish or integrating with any locals. Perhaps you can tell, not my favourite. Luckily, it threatened to rain, in fact, even one of the locals said it was going to, so the trashy tourists scarpered. Fortunately, the wolf pack had waterproofs and a bit of rain wasn’t going to stop us making the most of our one day here.

Adam at the start of the path
Ed climbing down one of the ladders
Ed photo shoot as we arrive at the caves
The Gran Cavernas
The houses built into the rocks and also another temple
The path was literally cut into the cliff
At times it was underneath the cliff
The last of the ladders as we returned to Machu Picchu

Eventually, as darkness approached (still no rain) we made our move and started our walk back down the steps. It had been one of the most incredible days and despite my concerns about the number of people at the site, in my opinion, the Peruvian’s had done a good job of managing the demand against preserving the experience of visiting the site. We arrived back into Aguas Calientes tired, smelly and ready for a beer. We killed some time until our train was ready and immediately all passed out as soon as we sat down. After a 5-minute change to take a bus from Ollantaytambo back to Cusco, we fell back asleep and made it back to our hostel around 1am.

Huayna Picchu on the right
Looking up the site with Machu Picchu mountain in the background. This is another option to climb…most people do neither.
A renovated house designed to give an impression of what it would have looked like
Final view of the day, with an almost empty Machu Picchu
Waving goodbye to Machu Picchu

The next day was to be our last night in Cusco so naturally we planned to celebrate. That day, we went with some Chileans to the market and while there we were told there were strikes planned for the next two days. It turns out the Cusquenan’s weren’t happy as there had been gas shortages in recent months. This is despite the fact that the region around Cusco supplies not only a lot of Peru with gas but also areas of Chile. It seemed a plausible reason to go on strike although it did mean we were spending three days longer in Cusco than expected. No buses meant we were ‘trapped’. Of course, the three of us were devastated to be stuck in a beautiful mountain town with a cracking night life and travellers from around the world to share our experience with…

Police on the streets of Cusco
We heard a few fireworks but there didn’t seem to be any violence
View from the main plaza in Cusco
For some reason the colours in Cusco appeared more vibrant than normal, not just on the camera but in reality as well
Cusco
Looking down to the main plaza and the town of Cusco from one of the surrounding mirador’s
Cusco by dusko (sorry)

The next three or four days were a little blurry, we met a lot of people including making friends with some more Chileans who along with Argentines, seem to make up the majority of travellers we have met. We moved to a different hostel, witnessed a hostile, hostel takeover, saw a large police presence on the street and enjoyed our terribly difficult time ‘stranded’ in the town. Eventually though, services resumed and we begrudgingly hit the road again. Peru was over, it had been a most amazing country: beaches, waterfalls, mountains, valleys, gorges, canyons, rivers, deserts, islands and jungles complimented with hiking, swimming, zip lining, partying, sand boarding, dune buggying, wine tasting, penguins, sea lions, condors and of course, countless great people. Yes, it’s safe to say Peru treated me very well and I would recommend it to anyone.

Surfing Sand & Crossing Canyons

Surfing Sand & Crossing Canyons

After a 20 minute taxi from Ica, we arrived to the oasis of Huacachina. We had entered the desert and were surrounded by sand dunes towering over the small town. Unfortunately we arrived in the middle of a power cut for the whole town. We reconvened with Adam, who had taken a brief break from the wolfpack, and scouted out the only restaurant where there was power. Within five minutes a fellow Englishman, Andy, who we had now met several times appeared. We were joined by his girlfriend Kate and two German girls, Hanna and Katrin. Little did we know, we would spend the next two weeks together. Eventually the power came back, we had a small party in our room with Ed and Adam on guitar and the rest of us watching, chatting and drinking. The next day was a ‘tough’ day spent almost entirely at the pool, unfortunately Ed spent the day ill in bed (apparently not a hangover). Early evening, we began our trek up the highest and steepest sand dune near to the town. We realised we had probably made the wrong choice when on the sand dune on the opposite side of the town, we could see lots of people, whereas on ours, no more than about 20. After taking two steps forward and sliding one back for about 45 minutes we made it to the top and were rewarded with incredible views. In true British (and German) style we had packed carefully and enjoyed the sunset with rum and coke, a classic South American choice. After descending the sand dune in the dark, in no more than about two minutes we ventured out for the evening. Surprisingly, for a desert oasis, the night life in Huacachina wasn’t bad.

Adam (left), Andy (right) and Katrin & Hanna a little behind
Adam celebrating reaching the top…almost
Oasis desert of Huacachina
Drunken karate in the desert…
The wolf pack…minus Ed
Huacachina sunset
Buried in the sand…Kate behind me after a touch too much Rum…

 

Our final day in Huacachina was without doubt, the most exciting. Ed´s hangover, I mean sickness bug, had disappeared and we had booked on to a sand dune buggy/sand boarding tour. I had befriended one of the locals and being in a group of 7 gave us a bit of leverage. For very little money at all, we were driven out into the desert at breakneck speed, we ascended and descended the dunes like on a roller coaster and stopped a few times to get the boards out. Generally, the biggest and steepest sand dunes were chosen for this. It quickly became apparent that although standing up was possible, it was much faster to lie down and descend face first…okay then, that sounds like the most sensible thing to do. Actually, it was fine and we all loved it although I have to admit the girls were faster, I put it down to less weight. After watching our last sunset in the desert, our short, yet incredible time in Huacachina was over and we had all booked on to a night bus.

Out on the dunes
Looking towards Ica (I think)
Kati, Hanna, Me & Ed in the buggy
The Wolfpack original…Me, Ed & Adam
Wolfpack Mk II, complete with nick names, from left to right. Kate ‘Hamster’ Hammon, Kati ‘Oma’ Adam, Hanna ‘Hamma’ Hess, Adam ‘Colorado’ Heath, Me, Andy ‘Spandy’ Reed & Ed ‘Bad Brains’ Geater
Blurry Huacachina by dusk

Somehow Ed and I were upstairs in normal seats whereas everyone else was downstairs in beds! Anyway, despite this oversight from the others, Ed and I slept very well and we arrived into Arequipa early morning. We experienced the joys of travelling in a large group with a bit too much faffing around before finding a taxi and a decent hostel. Not that I wasn’t enjoying travelling with all of these people but I had always looked at the big groups standing in the street before with disdain, still, it definitely had its benefits too and we were in good company. The reason we had come to Arequipa was because it was the gateway to Colca Canyon which I am told, is the second biggest canyon in the world and over twice the size of the Grand Canyon. Guess that means I’ve now been to both canyons and waterfalls bigger than anything in the US…and who says America does things big? Before we set off on our trek it wouldn’t have been right to experience a night or two in Arequipa. The second night we decided the most sensible option would be to just not sleep and we had made some friends from Brazil so Ed, Adam and I had a quick night out, met the others back at the hostel at 3am and we all took the bus to Chivay.

Bustling centre of Arequipa
Hanna looking slightly more awake and sober than Adam and Ed
True love
View from Condor Point on the way to Chivay

After a 5-6 hour journey on which we slept almost completely, we arrived. Following some ‘umming and arring’ we set off on the right path and within minutes were staggered by the scale, the beauty and the gradient with which we were descending. It was hard walking, especially in the heat and after 4-5 hours we were relieved to see the Germans flirting, I mean talking, to some locals in a truck. We quickly caught up and jumped in the back. It probably saved us a couple of hours and after another 30 minutes walking we arrived to our home for the night. We had decided to camp and Hanna and Kati decided to join us. It definitely competes for the best camping spot I’ve ever been in. We were 50 metres from a river in the middle of a canyon. 30 metres down the hill we were treated to thermal baths, one being right next to the river and very hot, perfect to relax in after a days walking (and yes, with a beer). Darkness soon set in and we retired for the night, tomorrow meant another day of walking, firstly, more or less out of the canyon, then along one of the sides before descending back down into an oasis for the evening. The first day had been a hard one but great fun, with amazing views, good people and great conversation. They say a picture paints a thousand words so now you can stop reading and just look…for a moment.

My wonderful wolf pack…all looking happy before we had actually done any walking
The path we took over on the left as we ventured deeper into the canyon
My camera doesn’t even begin to capture the scale of this
One of the world’s worst packed rucksacks with one of the world’s best views
Hill Billies in the canyon…
Crossing the river before arriving at LLahuar for the night
This photo was taken whilst sitting in a river side, natural hot spring as the sun went down
The hostel/restaurant where we camped and the only building in miles

With the second day the challenge continued, the first few hours all uphill as the heat got worse. We ate lunch at a mirador (view point) whilst listening to music and with an incredible view in every direction. With bellies full we began our descent towards the oasis of Sangalle, many hours later and after another tough descent dodging a recent land slide we arrived into another paradisical hostel. Complete with swimming pool, food and alcohol, we passed the afternoon relaxing in a completely surreal environment. The sunset we were treated to that night was unbelievable and one of the best I’ve come across. For some reason, Hanna and Kati chose to get a room that night, apparently our offer of a half broken tent with two smelly English chaps just wasn’t good enough for them!

Looking back down the hill towards our first camp site
Ed with a cactus and a massive canyon
Kati, Hanna, Ed & Me…Andy and Kate had set off before us and Adam left us behind as we walked up the canyon
This isn’t an eye, it’s the sun with a circular rainbow around it of course. I never knew these existed before.
Adam waited for us for lunch, along with our canyon dog, Bear.
On the left is our path back down the canyon to Sangalle, the oasis, on the right you can see the path we took to leave on our final day.
The Germans
Thought this cliff wall on part of the canyon wall looked pretty cool
Friendly men fixing the road after a land slide, we stopped for a good chat as they stood and worked on a perilous ledge all day
Adam with the cliff from one of the photos above in the background which you can see is just a small part of the canyon wall
Descending towards the oasis with swimming pools in our sights and smiles on our faces
Nearly there
Every night they drain the pool, so naturally the three of us played in it…
Bear getting an early night after ‘guiding’ us all day. This was the last time we saw him as he left early the next morning to guide some other tourists.

Our final morning was the one we had all been dreading. We were in the depths of the canyon and had to walk straight out. The zig zag path was not for the faint hearted and we had decided the night before, that we would all set off at different times, as to arrive into Chivay around the same time. Kate and Andy set off at an ungodly hour which I don’t even know about, followed after by Hanna and Kati. Adam, Ed and I planned to leave at around 7am, but after a slow rise and a lazy pancake and coffee breakfast it was around 8am when we finally made a move. The gradient and the narrow path didn’t make for the best of conversation and we were soon on our own as we made our way up. My competitive spirit just about kept me up with Adam and after an hour or two we caught the girls who welcomed us with comments that can’t possibly be written down on here. We didn’t need to be fluent in German to know they weren’t very happy we had caught them! Ed was not far behind but sadly missed my gift and note of moral support. Eventually however, we all made it back to the town and caught a bus back to Arequipa. After three hard days trekking we were due a hot shower and a good night’s sleep. What we actually got was another night bus, this time to Cusco.

Too late for sunrise but a good first view as I looked back down the canyon
Yet more staggering views with no words to describe the scale
Ed’s bananas and motivational note which he never saw…Keep on trucking :)
One of the few times I’ve forced myself to take a ‘selfie’
At the top looking ‘left’
At the top looking ‘right’

I originally planned to include the infamous Machu Picchu in this post, but I’ve now realised this one is plenty long enough already. We only had a couple more days as the seven of us before we set off in different directions. Kate and Andy would be heading south to Bolivia, Hanna and Katrin to Machu Picchu but with limited time, on a shorter tour than us. We enjoyed our last couple of days together in a picturesque tourist town, some of us got rather drunk and a lot of fun was had. The photo below is the last evidence of two amazing weeks of travel together. It was likely we would bump into most of the group again however Hanna was heading north back to Ecuador and then back to Germany. A final goodbye was shared with some a touch more emotional than others. After the success of our no sleep, night out preparation in Arequipa we decided to employ a similar tactic for Machu Picchu. Eventually 6am came round, after a quick coffee and clumsily packing our bags, Ed, Adam and I were the first to leave.

Somewhere between a late night or an early start
Final night out together

Peru Begins: Beer, Wine, Pisco & Sea Lions

Peru Begins: Beer, Wine, Pisco & Sea Lions

We made it to Mancora and immediately bumped into Adam who has become the third member of our ‘wolfpack’. I mentioned in my last post we were keen not to spend too much time and money in crazy beach towns so we limited ourselves to just 3 days in Mancora. Seven days later after a few too many beers, many late nights and a few failed surfing attempts, we finally escaped the grips of the town and left for Chachapoyas. Our time in Mancora was great though, we met a lot of lovely people, visited a beach full of turtles with Lucia and Paula, our new friends from Chile and finished most nights with Ed playing guitar on the beach into the early hours. Sun, sand and cervezas is a difficult combination to beat!

Paula, Lucia the ‘sirena’ (mermaid) and me

 

Tortugas en el mar
Turtles in the sea

 

Adam, Ed, Lucia, Me and Paula
The Mancora Wolfpack!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took a bus from Mancora to Chiclayo which wasn’t the most exciting of places although we were only there for a few hours so it would be unfair to judge it. Twelve hours later we arrived into Chachapoyas in the early morning, we didn’t have much time but managed to find a hostel and take a full day tour to Kuelap which is an ancient ruin that predates the Incas and is actually bigger than Machu Picchu. The walls surrounding Kuelap are up to 19m high and almost 6oom long. Apparently it took over 100 years to build and over 200,000 tonnes of rock. We took a tour which was done in English and Spanish, really good practice for learning a language. Later that day we returned to Chachapoyas and had a calm relaxing evening, a long way from the bright lights of Mancora.

One of the three narrow entrances into Kuelap. They were built like this to force people to enter one at a time.

 

Enjoying the stunning views around Kuelap

 

Some of the English contingent being nosy neighbours in Kuelap

 

The poorer living areas with smaller spaces per family

 

A restored house and views across the ruins

 

Not really sure of the history behind this guy…

 

Our final day in Chachapoyas took us to Gocta Falls, Peru’s highest waterfall. It was originally deemed to be the fourth highest waterfall in the world but that’s now changed as it’s considered as two separate falls. Still, at over 500m, it’s the 16th highest and amazingly impressive. We had a two hour walk through the beautiful surroundings, immersed in the jungle but with views of huge valleys all around. As we approached the falls, we were treated to, somehow, even more stunning sights with the entire falls in an eye shot. The story behind Gocta Falls is perhaps more surprising than the feature itself. It wasn’t until 2007 that a German explorer ‘discovered’ the place. Of course, there were locals who knew about this for a long time before but it was believed that a mermaid inhabited the pool below the falls and most people kept away from the site. After talking with my guide, Tia, she explained how there used to be monkeys there but with the influx of tourists, they had now scarpered further into the dense jungle. It was a little sad to hear her talk about how the place had changed but she was also grateful for the job opportunity it had given her and many others from the area.

Gocta from a distance
The two falls of Gocta, which is why its 16th highest in the world and not 4th

 

We decided to swim in the pool at the bottom. We didn’t see any mermaids but it was really cold

 

All along the path there were signs similar to this one. This (very roughly) translates to:
When the last tree is cut
When the last river is contaminated
When the last wild animal is hunted
Money in the account cannot be eaten

 

After returning from Gocta, we wasted no time and took a 13 hour bus that night to Trujillo. We parted ways with Adam there as he was heading to Huaraz whereas Ed and I went straight to Lima. Three hours after arriving into Trujillo, we left again to spend another 11 hours on a bus. It was easily the best bus we’ve been in with nice food and lots of spaces for us to spread out on, so it was a bit of a shock when one of the staff came and told us that our rucksacks hadn’t been put onboard! Fortunately, they were able to be put on the next night bus and we were only without our bags for a matter of hours. We entered Lima around midnight and I was glad that Alfredo, a friend from my university days, was waiting for us at the terminal. Like, most of the capitals I’ve seen in South America so far, Lima is huge and navigating it at midnight after over 20 hours on buses was not what we wanted.

Alfredo was a great host, it had been almost five years since we graduated and apart from a brief coincidental reunion in Barcelona I hadn’t seen him. We immediately settled into a life of luxury at his house with a private bedroom, playstation and TV in the room! It was helped by the maid who prepared us breakfast, lunches and snacks as we wanted. It made it a little difficult to leave the house! Once Alfredo finished work on the Friday we left Lima and made our way south to a place called Asia. I felt privileged to be seeing this place as although it’s a very popular destination for Peruvian’s, not many foreigners get there. Well, we were impressed by the accommodation we had in Lima but it was nothing on the house Alfredo’s auntie had in Asia. Complete with swimming pool, relaxing areas and a balcony with sea view as well as delicious food our life of luxury continued. It was a long way from the stuffy dormitories and cheap almuerzos (lunches) that we’ve become accustomed to.

 

The dining room where we were served food as and when we requested

 

Alfredo´s auntie´s house in Asia

 

View from the balcony

 

Sunset in Asia

 

A few moments later as the sky changed

 

Final moments of the sunset

 

We returned to Lima at the end of the weekend and on Monday we spent the day with Lori, a friend we had made in Asia. She took us on a tour of various places around the city. We started at her sister’s apartment in Miraflores and walked along the coast after eating some delicious Peruvian seafood. We finished in Barranco and stopped off at Larcomar along the way. Barranco was a very nice area with many colonial buildings and a bohemian vibe to it. The early evening was spent enjoying the view with a beer or two before we sampled more Peruvian food. On the menu was anticucho, or cow’s heart and picarones which is kind of like a fried donut. The cow heart was absolutely delicious and we owe a big thanks to Lori for taking us to lots of the interesting places in Lima.

Anticucho con chocolo y papas (Cow heart with corn on the cob and potatoes)

 

Sunset in Barranco, Lima

 

Lori, Me & Ed

 

The coastal view from Miraflores, Lima

 

The following day Ed and I went to one of the cathedrals, we chose this particular one as it has the infamous catacombs underneath. We made the bold decision not to wait for the English speaking tour but just to take the Spanish one. Although interesting neither of us were blown away by it and unfortunately they don´t let you take photos in there so I haven´t got any skulls or bones to show you. We had a walk around the centre of Lima, explored the main Plaza and then met up with Alfredo once he had finished work. We enjoyed some more fine foods before going to Plaza de las Aguas. It was a light/water show and was really impressive with images being projected on to the walls of water. Just before we called it a night we were taken up to the top of one of the best viewpoints over the city. It was more residential and not a normal tourist sight. It was our final night in Lima and a great way to finish an amazing time with good friends. I can’t thank Alfredo enough for his generosity but if you happen to read this Alfredo, THANK YOU!

Plaza de Armas

 

Ed, Alfredo & Me fine dining one last time before we hit the road

 

Plaza de las Aguas

 

Plaza de las Aguas

 

Plaza de las Aguas

 

Plaza de las Aguas

 

Plaza de las Aguas

 

Plaza de las Aguas

 

Alfredo & Camila

 

Ed in Plaza de las Aguas

 

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Lima by night

After leaving Lima, we continued south with our first stop in Paracas. Paracas is the closest town to Islas Ballestas and is home to millions of birds, as well as thousands of sea lions and some penguins. It was essentially our second attempt at seeing the poor man’s Galapagos and it was time to make amends after our failed attempt in Ecuador. We took a boat tour out to the islands, unfortunately you aren’t allowed to access the islands by foot but we understood why once we arrived. The rocks were covered with birds and the inlet beaches full with sea lions. The noises were interesting and humorous with hundreds, if not thousands of sea lions chatting away. We made our way through the islands and managed to spot one group of penguins. I realised I’d never seen them before and was a little like a kid in a sweet shop but I also know that I’m going to have to get closer in the future!

We passed this on the way to the islands, it is similar to the Nazca Lines, nobody knows how or why it is there…

 

Arriving to Islas Ballestas

 

If you look closely, you can see the penguins. This is why I want to get closer…

 

Rock formations on the islands

 

The silhouettes of the hundreds of sea lions

 

This guy relaxing in the sun

 

This bird stuck out with its bright colours amongst the others

 

After returning from the islands we didn’t waste too much time before we made our way to Ica, we had our first couchsurfing experience here although Luis, our host, was a tour guide so for a small price he took us round some wineries, fed us and took us to his family´s fruit plantation. The winery tour involved lots of wine tasting and also Pisco, the infamous Peruvian drink. By the time we finished we were ready for a night out and it had all been provided free of charge. After witnessing a couple of other unique Peruvian experiences we called it a night. The following morning, breakfast was grapes, mangoes, tuna (a fruit from a cactus, not the fish kind) and an array of other fruit freshly picked from the trees. Luis explained several times that ‘It’s only good if it’s fresh’ and ‘If it’s not fresh, it’s not good.’ This became the phrase of the next week or two.

 

Wine storage

 

Inside the winery

 

Vines as far as the eye can see

 

At the first of the three wineries, we were stood at the top of a tower where the clock and bell still control the worker’s shifts

 

Ed just about to be served a taster. The wooden tube is put into the barrels and then straight into a glass to sample

 

One of the barrels with the carrying device. It takes at least two people to move one of these

 

Uvas (grapes) in Luis´family´s fruit plantation

 

Transportation, still used today

 

Prize for whoever knows the name of this fruit

 

Cactus with tuna fruit on

 

Tuna, picked straight from the cactus…a dangerous occupation

 

Our short time in Ica came to an end but we only had a short trip down the road. The sand dunes and the desert in Huacachina awaited us, following that we would be hiking in a canyon over twice the size of the Grand Canyon before making our way to Cusco to mountain bike, hike and zip line our way to Machu Picchu. Excited would be an understatement…