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 two 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.
Our trip home to the UK lasted a few months longer than we had planned, but it was great to catch up with all our friends and family , although our waist bands are still in recovery.
Whilst back home I took the opportunity to buy a few parts for the truck, nothing major, but they soon added up. 60 kg later we had booked two extra bags on the plane.
Having read the small print on the Peruvian Customs site regarding importing goods, I knew that bringing in vehicle parts as personal luggage was strictly forbidden. In true team spirit I changed all the luggage labels to Pat's name and off went.
All went well. We changed planes at Bogata without drama . The long wait to see our bags at the Carousel in Lima played tricks on our minds, but eventually they appeared. With the luggage trolley loaded we set off for the airport exit to the public side, trying to not make any eye contact with the bored looking customs officials.
We got within a few meters of freedom when the inevitable happened. " Excuse me Sir, could you just put your bags through this scanner "
Trying to keep our cool we watched the bags disappear down its throat. The first two bags were no issues. Bag three nearly triggered a customs officer party and bag four ( full of parts ) surprisingly went through unnoticed.
The young lady looked at us and to our surprise said " You are not allowed to bring a Vacuum Cleaner into Peru "
Well we had lots of stuff in that bag but neither of us remembered accidentally packing the Vacuum Cleaner. So with confident honesty we declared that we didn't have one. This ladies English was being strained so she handed the case over to a male colleague. He was very nice and we were totally honest about the bags contents. He loved the pictures of the truck and having established that we would be leaving Peru with the parts soon, he wished us well on our journey and the bag wasn't even opened. Think we were a bit lucky there.
Our vehicle had been in a secure storage area about 50 km outside Lima. This area is famous for its dust and i think you could have grown potatoes on the roof when we got back.
When you leave a vehicle in Peru, and many other countries, you have to get an authority from the local Customs department. This involves demonstrating to them that the vehicle is at a secure location and that a local person will be responsible for it whilst in that location. So in effect you have your vehicle permit , known as a TIP suspended and then reinstated upon your return. Its a bit of a process so we elected to employ a local fixer called "Ernesto" to make it trouble free. Well we paid upfront and Ernesto disappeared .We don't feel so bad now as we have since met several other overlanders who had the same experience. Anyway it took 2 weeks of hanging around to get our vehicle status restored and a new TIP issued.
We were glad to say good bye to the hustle,bustle, dust and grime of Lima as we started to head north towards the Cordillera Mountain range , that is part of the Peruvian Andes. Having not experienced altitude for quite some time, getting back to 4000 plus meters took its toll on us .
However, despite some folks telling us that the north of Peru was boring, we soon discovered that the Cordillera Mountain range could hold its own against just about anything we had experienced so far on this wonderful continent .
Lago Paron is a famous high altitude lake that has the most vivid blue waters. Locals will tell you that the the mountain at the far end is in fact the one used by Paramount Pictures. However, Google will tell you otherwise.
It was during these few days that we met a British couple called "Graham and Jane" They were travelling under very challenging circumstances. We found them to be inspirational and hope that our paths cross again soon.
Travelling further north we entered the Canyon del Pato. This 50 km road is famous for its incredible dramatic scenery and endless tunnels . The 50 km took all day .
Heading towards to coastal towns of Trujillo and Huanchaco we found ourselves in an entirely new Archaeological region.
Peru is mostly famous for its Inca and Nazcan empires, both of which have been mentioned several times in earlier posts.
This region had been ruled by a much earlier civilisation known as the "Moche"
They existed in this north western part of Peru between 100 to 700 AD, some 700 years prior to the arrival of the Incas.
They were masters if irrigation and this skill gave them the ability to develop desert areas into thriving agricultural communities.
Like most of the ancient South American cultures, worshipping Gods and offering sacrifices ( some human ) to appease them played a big part in their beliefs.
Our first Museum dedicated to this culture was in at " "Huaca del Sol y Huaca de La Luna" on the outskirts of Trujillo.
It was a very impressive archaeological site which centred around an enormous man made Pyramid structure that had been built up over hundreds of year. Every hundred years or so another level was added, making the site span over 5 vertical levels.
Peru isn't just about History and ancient cultures . The modern Peruvians have shown us incredible kindness and hospitality.
Whilst visiting this temple, we found ourselves in a nearby narrowing street looking for a place to camp for the night. The road was getting very narrow and following the advice of a Police Officer the decision was made to do a 10 point turn and not to continue further. Cheekily I started to reverse into the start of a private driveway, with Pat seeing me back. The owner of the drive came out to see what we were doing and after a small conversation with Pat, he opened his gates and invited us to stay in the family garden. We were greeted with open arms and enthusiasm. Several generations of the family lived there and the extended family were in adjacent houses. A very social time was had and we were showered with gifts of fruits that were grown on their own land. For me these moments are the real highlights of our Journey.
So a big thanks to Felipe and Maria, Carlos and Venus and their children Estrella and Carlos. And a special big thanks to Estrella who practised her English and showed me around their farm. As we were leaving the next day we were all set to drive off and had to delay our departure as the Sister Vicky next door had made us a meal. Not sure we would get this in the UK. We could learn a lot here .
The mountain behind this picture is actually the Archaeological Pyramid of the Sun. What an incredible place to raise a family.
Returning to the Moche people, the second site we visited was at the small remote town of Megdelena de Cao. This differed from the previous locations in that the main burial site was for a woman, which apparently is unique in this region.
We arrived in the more inland town of Cajamarca . Larger than we expected we decided to leave the truck there and go on a road trip on the scooter for a few days. However, all didn't go to plan. The mountain roads were pretty bumpy and someone has obviously told the Peruvian Government that putting huge speed bumps every 25 meters was a great idea. We got to the town of remote town of Celendin and discovered that neither of us could walk straight and our backs were in agony. The next morning the continuation of the trip was thwarted by a puncture, so we decided to return to Cajamarca . I have to admit I was quite relieved to get back.
a quick stop at the Beautiful Mosiac Church of Sanfrancisco at Polloc was worth while.
|Plaza at Celedin|
Whilst In Cajamarca we had the honour to meet a very special guy called Pim. He is a Dutchman who has made Cajamarca his home. Him and his wife have developed a small chain of Ice cream shops in the region and a cafe. The special bit is that he has dedicated his life to helping the deaf community in the area. He has created a school to teach deaf people and their families sign language and his cafe doubles up as an after school club for younger deaf kids. He also employs 7 deaf people and all his staff are bilingual in Spanish and signing. In addition to this this he assists the younger deaf students in their search for employment. We were thrilled to be shown the classes in action. Truly a very special guy.
His Charity is called www.asociacionholanda.org.pe
Cajamarca itself was is a pleasant Historic town
Located in the centre of town is a building called the "Ransom Room"
This is the site of a bit of shameful Spanish history.
In 1532 Ad the Spanish Conquistador "Francisco Pizarro" and his troops arrived in the area and declared to the local leader " Atahualpa" that he had been granted ownership of the kingdom by the Pope. Quite rightly Atahualpa didn't agree with this and a war broke out between them. Atahualpa was captured and sentenced to death. In an effort to save his life he offered Pizarro a huge amount of gold and silver in exchange for his freedom. The amount was negotiated and it was decided that it had to be enough treasure to fill the entire volume of the building now known as the Ransom Room up to the height of Atahualpas reach.
The gold was delivered and Pizarro killed Atahualpa anyway.
Before leaving the area we lastly visited the ancient burial site of "Ventanilla de Otuzco". This served the local Nobility between 1130 bc 1240 ad.
You cant beat a quick overnight stop in the middle of nowhere.
Our last cultural stop in Peru was at the Moche site of Sipan. Named after " Lord Sipan" who was one of the mummies discovered at this site. This in our view was one of the best historic locations.
En route to the coast on the Pan Americana in Chiclayo we nearly became victims of a scam. Whilst in slow traffic a wooden box appeared in the road in front of us. Whilst slowing down the guy removing it pointed to the offside of the vehicle indicating a problem. I ignored him but a few hundred meters later another guy pointed to the same place. Then another guy. I got out to have a look and the third guy tried to convince me that the vehicle had a problem, which it didn't. I then noticed Guy one standing on the pavement. Time to leave.
Once we hit the north west coast it was surprising how the climate changed and it became hotter.
A final quick stop on the beach with some friends Ray ( aka Henry ) and Susan and Stefan and Cornelia.
There are plenty of stray dogs in Peru and Pat would adopt most of them. I turned my back for two minutes and this one got a foot through the door .
Our time in Peru is now over and we are heading for the border with Ecuador .
Peru has been a great adventure for us. We have seen things we had only read about such as Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines, Condors and the Dakar Rally.
We have met wonderful people who we will remember for ever.
The only negative thing we have experienced is the huge amounts of garbage and plastic waste that is very visible outside most towns.
In total we have driven 5956 Km over 142 nights and stayed in 67 different locations.
Lastly, the Peruvian national dog is bald.
Who thought that was a good idea