Leave 9/24 Fly RDU – FLL – Lima arrive 6:00pm 1900 Backpacker’s Hostel
After a wonderful wedding we traveled to my parent’s house in Apex, NC to leave for Peru on Wednesday morning. We flew Jet Blue and I was really impressed, especially since it was a budget airline. There was more legroom than any flight I have ever been on and they served unlimited snacks during the flight. We arrived to Peru in the evening and then took the cab to the 1900 Backpacker’s Hostel where we crashed as soon as we arrived. There was no dinner that night because it was such a long day of traveling.
9/25 Lima walking tour
We awoke the following day in our cozy double bed and went to the main hall of the hostel to get our breakfast of flatbread, jam, and butter. There was also tea and OJ. After breakfast we asked the attendant where we should go and we headed out in search of downtown Lima. It was about 2 km away and we walked around all day. We saw the downtown area with tons of shops, high end to low end and made our way out of downtown to a cross on the hill that I had seen on a map. I was too stubborn to buy a map, so we just walked toward the hill that I thought it was and started to climb it. We went through the ghetto/slums getting there, but the view from the top was pretty good, looking back over Lima. It was just a small taste of what was to come. On our way back to the hostel we were fading and in search of lunch when we came across a farmer’s market selling all kinds of goodies. We had our first real taste of trying to get around in Spanish (we both had 3 years of Spanish in high school) when we tried to order lunch. We didn’t understand much of anything, but we ended up with some wonderful Ceviche and Aji de Gallina. I still am not really sure what Aji de Gallina is other than a soup with the innards of the chicken in it and pasta. After a nice lunch where we later realized we had just ordered appetizers (called entradas), we bought some strawberries from the market and headed on back to the hostel to rest. We went ahead and setup our Salkantay Trek at the travel agency in the hostel. Online in the US, I could only find it for $500, but in Lima I found it for $255 plus $10 to climb Macchu Picchu Mtn per person. It really is unbelievable the difference in cost from buying local versus trying to get it online. Getting up in the evening, we asked the attendant where to go for dinner and we were pointed back into downtown where we didn’t really want to go after walking so much. So we made our way back to town and ate at a Chifa, Chinese restaurant. Walking around afterwards we had a terrible experience at what looked like a gelateria, where we couldn’t buy just a scoop of ice cream/gelato. We ended up with an overpriced dry brownie sundae with freezer burnt ice cream. Off to bed we went after that.
We missed our wonderful hostel breakfast this morning, when we were picked up for our ride to the airport at 7:55, so we had 6 Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. The flight to Cuzco was uneventful and cloudy for most of the time, but when we got close we were able to see the beautiful high mountains of the Andes as we landed at Cuzco’s airport, elevation 3200m. Upon arrival, we were supposed to have airport pickup by a taxi from the hostel, but we missed it somehow and ended up getting our own taxi after a little haggling for S./35. This was a ripoff we later learned as the cab ride should only be S./10. A travel agent accompanied us on the cab ride to the hostel and was able to sell these unknowing tourists a bus tour of the Sacred Valley for the following day. $30/person for an all day bus tour including lunch seemed like an alright deal, so we took it. We made it to the hostel and up to our beautiful room where Cara promptly fell asleep again and I laid around and read for a few hours. Climbing up the stairs, about 15 stairs, to the room left both of us really winded and feeling out of shape from the elevation.
In the evening, we got up and walked around town. We ran into a market, where we promptly spent money like a good tourist and learned through experience how these places work. Never buy at the front of the market because their prices will always be higher. We bought a nice rainbow hooded sweater for Cara for S./45. Always haggle. Prices are never set, even if they say they are. Luckily, I remembered all my Spanish numbers, so was able to haggle for my sweater and got it for S./30 or about $10. After that, we continued down the street to a camping store that had name brand down jackets and rain jackets for cheap. We got Cara a new down jacket for S./200 or $75. This was a steal for a North Face jacket as it would normally cost around $300. I was jealous of the deal, but didn’t see anything in there that I really needed. After our foray into buying stuff, we went and had dinner at a more traditional Peruvian restaurant. We had trout and Alpaca that was quite tasty. After dinner, we headed into the Plaza and were able to watch a concert that was playing that night with local traditional music along with the random interspersed political rallies. The national presidential election was only a week away, so they were all gearing up for that. After an interesting concert, we headed back to the hostel for bed and rest before the long bus tour the next day.
9/27 Sacred Valley Bus Tour
Sleeping in was nice this morning, but the hostel didn’t have free breakfast, so we ate some snacks in the room before getting “picked up” at the hostel for the bus tour. Apparently getting picked up in Peru means someone coming to the door and all of you walking together to where you are actually getting picked up. We got to the bus pickup spot and waited patiently as bus after bus of people left without us. Eventually we got on a bus and were off. We were the only English speakers on the bus, but the tour guide kindly did a bilingual tour allowing us to listen to it as well. We headed out of Cuzco past Sasquaywaman and out to Pisac to see the ruins there. En route, we stopped at a market, that was basically the same as the one we saw in Cuzco, but there were some locals dressed up in traditional clothing with alpacas with them. Cara loved it and went in for the picture with them. After hanging out here and starting to realize that breaks with set time limits really weren’t very exact, we headed on to Pisac to see the ruins. The guide gave a very long speech in Spanish that we didn’t really understand before she gave us an abbreviated version in English. We missed out on walking around the site very much because of how long the speech was. We had about 20 minutes to walk around before we had to be back and we made it back in 25 since it was certainly bigger than it looked. The cool part of this ruin was the mountainside with tons of holes in it that were used for putting mummies in.
We continued to Pisac to look in shops again and we saw our first silver/jewelry shop that was pretty cool. Back on to the bus and off to another town for lunch which was late at 13:00 or so. The lunch was a pretty good buffet of traditional foods. They have some kind of corn in Peru that the kernels are about 10 times the size as they are in the US. We are not sure what it is, but it has a very cool texture and tastes pretty good as well. I was just wondering what popcorn made out of it would look like. After lunch we got onto the bus again and made our way to the ruins of Ollantaytambo. These were pretty cool with more terraces. Cara and I skipped out on the guides long speech in Spanish and immediately headed to the top, so we wouldn’t miss out on exploring it. A great idea as we saw the whole thing plus some. This was a very cool place with naturally running water running through the irrigation system they build back in the 1400s. We made it to the top and ran into our guide who then gave us the tour. She did point out something we had taken pictures of, but hadn’t noticed. There was a face with a crown in the mountainside a distant mountain that was a god of the Incas. It was nice not to be rushed on this quick blitz tour.
After Ollantaytambo, we got stuck in a major traffic jam getting out for about 45 minutes. 2-way streets the width of 1-way streets with semis and tour buses going both ways is just a wonderful recipe for disaster. We finally got out and went to another town over a huge mountain where we learned how the locals spin yarn from alpaca wool and how they die it to make all of the sweaters that we see in the markets. There were ruins here, but we weren’t able to see them because we arrived to late and the sun was going down. After here, we made our way back to Cuzco around 20:00 and got dinner at a nice little kebab restaurant, since Cara had never had these before. To bed we went after grabbing some snack food to prepare for getting up at 3:00 in the morning for our Salkantay Trek.