Wednesday 5 December 2018

Hello Peru.

Over the last year we crossed paths with  many travellers who are heading south and for some reason we both felt that we had subconsciously been fed some negativity about Peru.

Subtle comments like "When you get to Peru they all drive like idiots" and "Wait until you see the bad roads and the rubbish in Peru." etc

Well we entered Peru from Copacabana about 5 weeks ago now and I have to say that so far we have not experienced anything negative at all . In fact I would be as bold to say that it is becoming a real highlight for us and we love it here. 

The geographical and archaeological features are amazing. The towns are really pleasant and the people have been very warm and friendly

Yes there is  an unacceptable amount of rubbish on some roadsides and the some of the drivers cause you to hold your breath , but it is no worse than Bolivia or other parts of this continent we have visited.  

Our last post left us on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. The other part of the lake is in Peru and this was the first area we set off to explore. 

Our first destination was the  village of Llachon. 
The local people here were extremely welcoming. We were constantly waved to by the old women who work in the fields and the local children. It was really nice to get such a warm reception .

From here we booked a small local boat, captained by Freddy , to take us visit the Uru community that live on a collection of small Islands made from cut Totora reeds. 

Traditionally these people would live on these islands only venturing to the shore to trade with their land living cousins the Aymara .

Nowadays technology and tourism have reached them and they have adapted to their new found lifestyle.

Now I could tell you it was fantastic and wonderful and the Uru people lived an idyllic healthy life living off fresh fish and sunshine.

Sadly this wasn't our complete findings and I think we both left these island a little bit shocked and saddened. 

Firstly the Uru we met all looked really unhealthy. Their complexions were really poor and all of them had swollen limbs and fingers.

Sugar plays is a major part in the diet here in Peru, especially with the poorer indigenous people such as the Uru.

Both the adults and the children on the island appeared to be constantly consuming it. The kids had huge bags of sweets and always had a mouth full of sugar .

I can't help thinking that the increased contact and interaction with the outside world has had a slightly  negative affect on these folks .

Putting all that aside they were very accommodating and appeared pleased to see us.  One lady showed us how the raft was built and constantly maintained and how the  Totora reeds that grow in abundance on the lake are their life blood . They eat them, build islands and shelters with them and use them as fuel.

That night we camped on the shores of the lake at Chifron Beach. Around midnight we were woken up by two drunken locals on their motorbike. Well after about half an hour talking to Pat ( I stayed in bed )   through the small window in our toilet they soon gave up and left us in peace. 

Not sure what they wanted but this was the first time we have been disturbed in this way.  
Leaving the lake we headed in the direction of Cusco, the capital city of Peru, stopping on the way for a night in the large canyon at Tinajani.

En route to Cusco we stopped in a touristy layby and one of the girls on the stalls had an Alpaca with her. Now don't get fooled by their cute appearance, underneath that cuddly exterior is an angry spiteful beast. 

It was here that I had a lucky escape. This vicious  creature  lunged for me, but luckily I managed to leap out of the way leaving it only one remaining option  .  Bite Pat..   Phew that was close .

Camping Quinta La La became our home for the next 10 nights in Cusco. The owner Millie was delightful and she had lovingly been storing some truck parts for us in her living room for about the last 5 months.

Cusco town centre was really nice and we were lucky enough to meet up with our old friends Jan and Anja and Mauricio and Annaelle again. 

The restaurants were great and the weight was soon  piled back on .

We were lucky enough to be there for Halloween . The Plaza  was full of thousands of families all dressed up. The spooky theme appeared to be secondary , just getting out and dressing up in you favourite outfit was the order of the day. The atmosphere was fantastic. 
I think we could learn a lot from these events  back home.

Cusco is seen by most travellers as the gateway to one of Peru's major archaeological gems ... Machu Picchu, which sits about 100km directly North West . However, its nearest access point by road was actually about 250 km from Cusco.

There are several ways to get there . 
The first is hike for 4 days along  the Inca Trail directly from Cusco.

The second is to drive to the nearest point at the Hydro electric plant near Santa Teresa , leave the vehicle and walk 15km to the remote town of Aguas Callientes, and then either get a bus or walk to the gates of the attraction and return the same way either the same day or stay overnight in Aguas Callientes.

And lastly get a luxury train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo  to Aguas Callientes, taking in the views and a nice breakfast, then get the short bus ride to the mountain top city. 

Its at this point that I would love to say we loaded up and walked the Inca Trail. However, we didn't, we got the train from Cusco  and very nice it was too. We did waive to several weary looking walkers as we passed them, whilst drinking a glass of wine. 

We stayed over night in a local hotel and the next day , in perfect weather, set out for the the city in the sky.

Visiting Machu Picchu was a big event for us . We have always wanted to see it and at times along our journey to get here we felt that it was always slightly out of reach. Now call me a softy but when we got there and stood on the viewing area looking down at the ancient city I really felt quite emotional. I was so proud of Pat for getting there . 

Little bit of history and culture time 

Machu Picchu sits at about 2450 meters above sea level in the  Eastern Cordillera Mountain region of Southern Peru above the Urubamba river. 

This  Inca Citadel  was constructed in the mid 15 century and was a major city in the then ruling Inca Empire. 
This Empire at its peak covered most of western parts of  South America spanning  from Columbia and Ecuador down to the bottom of Chile.

Sadly the invasion of the Spanish saw the Inca empire rapidly diminish and eventually die out. However, evidence of its existence is apparent over most of the Pacific side  of the continent.

After the city was abandoned it was left mostly unattended and over the next 400  years nature consumed it , completely hiding it from view. 

In 1911 an eminent American Explorer  called "Hiram Bingham "  was searching the region for the " Lost city of the Incas" when he discovered the overgrown  Machu Picchu. Believing that he had found his goal he organised the clearing and restoration works to begin.

It is however, now widely believed that the location  he was looking for was in fact the nearby city of Vilcabamba. 

The restoration is still ongoing to this day and in 1983 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Incas were great Builders and Architects . Their love of steps is still very apparent throughout the region. 

However, unlike many other ancient civilisations of this period, it would appear that they hadn't mastered or found use for written text, so most of the assumptions that are made about their culture and civilisation come from preserved paintings, pottery and textiles.

The Sun played a huge part in their religion and culture and 300m above the city sits the Inti Punku or Sungate. 

That night we collapsed exhausted in our hotel room and the next morning woke up wondering how to spend the day as our return train back to Cusco wasn't until early evening. 

Well we didn't have to wonder for too long, having received a phone call from our friend Anja telling us that Jan had fallen ill and they needed me to drive them back to Cusco in their truck from the Hydro electric Plant.

That afternoon I took the train to their location and we set of on the slow overnight journey back to Quinta La La. 

Pat however, in true team spirit,  got the luxury train and had to endure nice food, fashion shows and a visit from the devil.

Thankfully over the next few days Jan made a full recovery.

We left Cusco heading for the regions of Nasca and the coast. 

Hasta Luego

Don't forget you can see lots more photos and our route on the aptly named "Route and Photos" page of this blog