Travel - Peru
I've been getting way too lazy lately. I'm after spending a lot of time in Peru but no update in a while so here it is.
As a first, I do have photos before posts - https://www.flickr.com/photos/141018258@N06/albums/72157665016508909
Cusco - Machu Picchu
I spent roughly 3 weeks in Cusco and absolutely loved the place. Possibly my favourite city I've been in in South America. The main reason for that is because the central area is just really nice to walk around, during the day and at night. It's just really pretty. Add in how cheap the food can be at the markets, all the tours you can do from here and it's easy to see why this place seems kind of like a central hub for tourists.
Just to give a rough idea on time, the first few days I didn't do much as I parted ways with the columbian girl, can't remember if I mentioned that she picked up an injury so headed off, and I organised myself a little. Then I booked the Salkantay tour after much debate on which trip to do to Machu Picchu. After that I got back, rested a bit again, did a day for Rainbow mountain and then booked myself in for a week of Spanish lessons in San Blas.
If you end up spending a lot of time in Cusco itself, I imagine a lot of that will be in the San Pedro market. This is where you can buy all your fresh foods, lunch, drinks, clothes etc. Lots of stuff basically and where I ate an awful lot. Soup, meal and drink only costing you 5 Soles (A bit over a dollar) but you'll also find street food around the area and small homely restaurants which will serve similar meals for similar prices. If you want, you can of course spend a lot more and get much nicer/fancier meals but you'll be spending at least five times more on it.
As I mentioned in Cusco itself, it's a nice place to walk around. The Plaza de Armas area is really nice with a catedral and church, nice views of Cristobal. You can walk to the Cristobal or walk to some other nearby sites like the Moon temple. Also around this area are the vast majority of tour operators so make sure to price them and see what you can get. A lot of them are exactly the same.
If you want some basic Spanish I do recommend the school I went to. They were able to teach me some very basic stuff but I've already managed to use it a tiny bit here and there. Hopefully I keep on practising it and maybe do some more lessons.
Anyway on to the main event, the Salkantay trek and Machu Picchu. I actually booked 5 nights and 6 days in total. I decided to stay an extra night in Aquas Calientes (where MP is) and get the bus back the following day as it's a lot cheaper than the train. I spent $200 for the trek, sleeping bag and extra night. I was with a group of 12 people in total and absolutely loved it. The first two days in particular of the trek are amazing and difficult. You're at a peak height of 4600 meters so you definitely need to climatise before doing the trek or at least bring a healthy stash of coca leaves. Day three and four are a bit more relaxed and more so half days. I'd argue not as interesting either. For some extra cost you can go to a thermal pool and ziplining. I'd recommend the latter if you haven't done it before, for me it was fun but I didn't really need to do it again.
Just in case you aren't aware, you just carry a day pack when you do the trek, all the rest of your stuff is carried, they make the tents for you etc and cook all the food and it's pretty damn good. That said, do still bring a few snacks and plenty of water, you'll have to buy some as you progress anyway.
On the day of Machu Picchu, pretty much all the tourists who've trekked are up for about 4am and down at the bridge, waiting for it to open at 4:30am. Once that happens you make the 40-70 min ascent to the actual entrance of Machu Picchu which opens at 6am I believe. It's around now that you realise it's super cloudy and there is no chance you'll be seeing any sunrise. :) Once our tour guide spotted us, he just told us to wait inside by a bench and he'd go through the tour of the place. That was pretty disappointing really, after all that walking and getting to the entrance with only 10 people there, only to be told to wait.. and watch everyone walk past you.
However, I will say that seeing all the clouds around you is extremely cool and I am glad we got to look at that. It just makes everything seem so high. So I loved that and the eventual transition to a clear day roughly around 11am. The really cool thing about Machu Picchu is that even though there are loads of people there, you'll find somewhere to just chill out and relax. a group of 5 of us were constantly doing that, walk somewhere new, sit down there. It's really nice. You can also trek up Machu Picchu mountain and Waynu Picchu mountain however you have to book both in advance, MP Mountain a day or two (before the trek) and WP 2 weeks before I believe. I've heard both are amazing but didn't do either unfortunately. I walked out to the Sun Gate which turned out to be a lot further away than I had thought, 45 mins both ways but it was totally worth it. You get another great view of the place. In the end, we were there for about 12 hours. Up at 4am and left for about 4:30pm I believe, absolutely shattered.
I had some hassle with the hostel I stayed it where I decided to move to another and the bus the following day back at Hydroelectrica was interesting to say the least, waiting for your name to be called out, but it all went well and I was back in Cusco at about 9pm the following day.
The other trek I did was up to Rainbow mountain which is even higher, an altitude of 5200 meters! It cost 90 soles (included the entrance fees) and includes breakfast and lunch. Again it's a long day so bring some snacks, there is a big gap between breakfast and lunch. It's going to take roughly 3 hours to get there, 3 hours to trek up and 2 and 1/2 to trek back down. I was up there relatively early so I was able to just sit back and soak it in for longer. It's an absolutely beautiful vista of colours. Don't pay too much attention to pictures, especially in Cusco itself as they are definitely photoshopped or at least saturated but it's still really impressive.
Considering I was here for 3 weeks, this is probably a short post but I did more so live here I'd say, it felt like that with going back to school for a week. Also, as I mentioned, I've been lazy and have probably forgot a few things. But yes.. Cusco.. Highly recommend it!
I got a 16 hour bus to Ica from Cusco. Realistically you should get a taxi (5 soles) from here to Huacachina but as usual with me after a long bus, I like to stretch a bit so I walked it.
I was only here for 2 days and the main reason was to go sandboarding. So I booked a tour with a sand buggy and boarding for the following day and spent the first day mostly wandering around the very small town, oasis and surrounding desert. It’s extremely touristy and the other thing is there are a lot of mosquitos so cover up when they are active.
Anyway, 8 of us went out in the buggy the next day. Now the buggy itself was fantastic fun and driving around the desert and checking out the sunset were all fantastic and well worth it. However the actual sandboarding itself was non existent and not even sand boarding. It was mostly just lying down on the board and going down so that was super disappointing. Make sure to ask them about the boarding before you book. You can just grab a board and get fitted from the town itself and now I wish I’d just done that too. That said being around the sand definitely isn’t as fun. Constantly blowing in your face and climbing up dunes is a pain. Still I might see if I can try somewhere else.
Oh man, it's been a while. I didn't do a whole pile in the rest of Peru and since it has been so long, I don't expect the following two posts to be too detailed.
As usual I'll try to get photos up as soon as I can but it'll probably be a while.
I made my way to Lima from Ica and stayed at the 1900 Backpackers hostel. This was actually a pretty cool hostel as it was refurbished from an old museum I believe. They also did some good walking tours, cerviche cooking lesson and dinners so all in all it was really good.
In terms of things I did in Lima, I did all the above tours I mentioned so I did get a good grasp of the historical centre but Lima is absolutely huge so I didn't venture too much further out. One of the funny things to happen is that I ended up staying in the same room as a girl who I'd just stayed with the previous few nights in Huacachina. Just a random thing that shows how much you cross paths with people.
Most people who stay in Lima don't seem to like it and really I just think that's the general consensus when you travel in a city. Realistically you need a friend to show you around at least.
Well it was already interesting before I made my way to the coastline town of Mancora. About an hour outside of Lima, the bus I was travelling in crashed so my journey was extended from a 17 hour trip to a 21 hour trip, we spend about 4 hours just waiting for a new bus. Not a major deal anyway, I've genuinely gotten used to these long bus journeys... a far cry from me as a kid complaining about a 3 hour trip to Dublin.
Anyway I mainly went to Mancora because I wanted a break from trekking. I had the choice to go to Huarez which had another multi day trek but I just needed to refresh a bit first. So going to the coast to learn how to surf seemed like a solid plan. I had a dorm booked at Taroland but I think it was being renovated or something as the owner decided to put me into a room with 2 beds and bathroom for myself so that was already a great start.
Since I arrived later than expected on the first day I just decided to stroll around the town and beach. Now I'm not really a beach person and this town/beach was as standard as it gets. Extremely touristy and not a particularly nice beach but it was genuinely a nice change.
The following day I got up pretty early to surf. Lessons cost 50 Soles and go on for roughly an hour. Now calling this a lesson is a bit lenient really. They give you the basic idea of how to surf on the sand and then take you out, then they help you to paddle out and once you do get far enough and a decent wave comes in (which is pretty often in Mancora) they hold onto the board for a while so it's steady when you get up. So really it's more like a ride. I kept asking about turning with the board and the instructor just kept saying to go straight which was really annoying. The other slight downer was that my snowboarding injury flared up again (pulled chest muscle) due to slapping off the board every time you have to jump back on. So that's been at me a bit since then which is slightly worrying but hopefully it'll settle again.
The other great thing in Mancora is the cerviche, since you're by the coast, it's all seafood. It's not particularly cheap in comparison to how life was in Cusco but it's not too expensive. I did go to one restaurant twice which was owned by an Irish guy and my god did they have an amazing cerviche with mango, coconut and avocado in there. I need to remember that one when I go back home.
I could of gone to check out some giant turtles an hour away but the tours were just a but too touristy for me. Apparently you can just bus out there yourself for about a quarter of the price. Instead I planned Ecuador. Unfortunately I had to call off my trip to the Galapagos Islands just due to how expensive it is to get there and just the place itself in general. Hopefully I'll go there on holiday sometime. And with that I had to figure out how I'd make it all the way to Banos.
And the end to another country. Peru actually feels a bit weird to me as realistically I just spent a lot of time in Cusco. If I'd been a bit more intelligent and had some more energy for treks I probably would of gone to Arequipa and Huarez too but overall I absolutely loved Peru and could see myself going back to check those places I missed.
The trip to Machu Picchu alone was worth it. An absolutely incredible experience I'd recommend to everyone.
Hopefully you enjoyed these posts and if you've any questions, just let me know.