It was 2000. We ( Martin and I) started thinking of going to South America. A few weeks of studying internet, travel guides and we chose Peru. The preparations began in the spring of 2001.
First of all we read a lot of books, travel-guides and last not least 'internet items': www pages, users groups. I would recommend private www pages and users groups. You can find plenty useful advices and tips there. The authors of the pages have really visited Peru and they do not usually try to advertise any goods, places or services.
The preparations are very important. You should remember about following items:
The very important stage of preparation is plane ticket purchase. The price of the ticket is almost half of your all expenditures ( I presume you are from Europe or Asia). I am from Poland. It can surprise you but the most expensive tickets are in Poland. Polish people earn 20-40% of EU average salaries but plane tickets are 20%-30% higher than in Germany or Holland. It is Polish economy miracle. If you are from Eastern or Central Europe I presume the situation is similar. We bought the tickets in Berlin. We made money transfer from Poland to Germany and the tickets were sent to us by delivery services. You can buy tickets by internet too. The highest prices of the tickets are in July and August. If you want to save some money it is better to go to Peru in May or September. You may go to the airport and try to buy 'the very last minute' ticket. If you are lucky your return flight will be extremely cheap. If you are not so lucky you can spend on the airport a few days waiting for your 'last minute' flight. It is better not to try your luck in July or August. All tickets are usually sold out months before departure. Anyway we bought return tickets (1700 DM) in May.
The departure was at the beginning of July. Although we bought the ticket in May there were only one flight available - from Berlin via Madrid, Santiago de Chile!!!! to Lima.
THE HOLIDAYS began in July 2001. The flight from Europe to South America was a great adventure. I crossed the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer and equator first time in my life. After several hours of flights I made first step on South American Continent. It was the airport in Santiago the Chile. Then we flew from Santiago de Chile to Lima over the Andes. I will never forget beautiful views of the mountains cover with snow and clouds.
Crossing border and customs were completed quite fast at the airport in Lima. At last we were in Peru. When we left airport several taxi-drivers crowded round us. It took us a few minutes of haggling with them and we were in taxi going to Miraflores. The driver recommended the district. He said: 'This is good district'. It means expensive and safe. The driver said that Lima was very dangerous city. He advised not to go out at night. Many tourists are rubbed there. We paid 12 soles (USD 1 = 3,5 soles). Some advices about taxi service:
I was very surprised with the number of taxies in Peru. I think it is not profitable for most of the taxi-drivers. I found out that taxi business is almost the same as unemployment. The people are fired. There is no prospect for another job. They start taxi business. All day they are going around the city to get a client. The competition is huge.
We found accommodation in Lima for USD 25 - very expensive. We went out to see Miraflores in the evening. We were walking around the district. It is modern. Nothing special.
We went to the airport in the morning and bought ticket to Cusco (USD 69+ tax:12 soles). The plane was delayed about 1 hour. The flight over the Andes compensated the delay.
We found accommodation near the center of the city -Plaza de Armas. We paid 10 soles per night. The central square of almost each city, town in Peru is Plaze de Armas. If you want to go to the center just ask about Plaza the Armas.
We had an accommodation so we decided to relax a little. We went to a café to drink Mate de Coca. It is a drink made of coca leaves. Cusco is situated 3400 meters above sea level. Mate de Coca or chewing coca leaves help you to adapt to the altitude.
It was high time to visit Cusco. We had to buy a tourist card (USD 10) to enter most attractions in Cusco.
There are many attractions in Cusco. I liked the most:
There are many attractions around Cusco too. We visited:
Every day we tried to eat Peruvian meals. I must recommend guinea pig (17 soles). It is traditional meal of Peruvians. You must taste it.
In the evenings we went out in Cusco. We picked up Peruvian waitresses and had fun during traditional Peruvian galas.
The time of Machu Picchu came. There are tree options of going to Machu Picchu available:
During the Inca Trail I was impressed by mountain nature. It is so different than Europe ones. The nature is very lush and mostly deciduous at 2500 meters above sea level.
We saw Winaywayna - the settlement of Inca. The ruins remembered Inca's prosperity time.
Next day we reached Machu Picchu. It is great monument of Inca's history. There lived about 1000 inhabitants in Machu Picchu. Most of them were 'upper' class and religious leaders. It took me about 2 hours to visit the magic city. Then we hiked to Wayna Picchu. The mountain next to Machu Picchu. I was tired at the top of the mountain but the view on Machu Picchu was fantastic.
We met some very interesting people at Inca trail. I must mention about French, Norwegian-girl and two Brazilian girls. The Brazilian girl helped me to 'survived' cold night in the mountains.;)
We went to Puno by bus next day. Puno is situated at the edge of Titicaca - the highest navigable lake in the world.
Accommodation cost: 12 soles per person. We visited Puno ( very nice town) and bought an excursion to Uros and Taquila - islands on Titicaca.
We went to Uros by motorboat next morning. The floating islands and almost everything on them are made of Totora reeds. There are 40 islands on Titicaca. Tourists are welcomed on 15 of them. The inhabitants of the islands live on tourist business. The societies of rest of islands live according to their ancestors customs. I visited two of the 'tourist islands'. There were a few huts made of the reeds on the island. All inhabitants worked in tourist business e.g. sold souvenirs. Anyway it was great experience to see and walk on reed island and sail a reed boat.
Then we visited Taquila. There are about 2500 Indians on the island. The customs and culture of the Indians are very interesting. They live in 60 small societies. Married men wear red hats, single - white and red. Married women wear scarf with the striped on their forehead. It is ease to recognize single girls. The most intereshistting customs are woman-man relationships. Before marriage a couple must experience 1-2 years of obligatory trial period. They live together like marriage couple but they must not have children. Follow the rule the inhabitants of the island used to use vegetable contraceptives years and centuries ago. These days they use condoms. When the trial period is over the couple make the decision. If they are satisfied with a partner they will get married. A catholic priest comes form Puno for the church wedding ( and who says that the Catholicism is strict) . The wedding lasts three days. The family and guests of marriage couple have fun but the couple must sit at the table almost all time. Maybe this is the last moment to change the decision ;).
Most of the Taquila's inhabitants work on tourists business. There are many restaurants and café with coca-cola logo on the island.
Next day we visited Indian cemetery in Sillustani. It is situated next to Umayo lake 4000 meters above sea level. At the beginning it was Ajmara Indians cemetery. Inka Indians buried the dead when they conquered Ajmara Indians. There are three types of tombs in Sillustani.:
Going back to Puno we stopped in a small village. Inhabitants
celebrated anniversary of founding the village. There were a big
party there. All Indians were dressed traditionally. They had great
fun with music and beer. We were welcomed warmly and joined the
party. After the party we were relaxed and ready to take our bags
and go to Arequipa by bus.
We were going there in the night. In the morning we were in Arequipe and found an accommodation at Palza de Armas for 15 soles. Then we went to visit the city. There is the interesting cathedral in the city.
We could not go inside because the cathedral was renovated after an earthquake. The earthquake was a month before we visited the city. The earthquake made one of cathedral's tower fall down and badly damaged the other one (see picture).
Then we visited Santa Catalina convent. It was founded in 1579. The convent is situated on 20 hectares!!!! It used to be a strict convent. At the beginning all nuns had the same rights and duties. The convent was badly destroyed by an earthquake. A lot of money were needed to renovate it. Rich families sponsored renovation but not for free. They wanted better life conditions for the nuns - members of their families. The position and life standard in the convent depended on amount of money paid by family annually. 'The rich' nuns had more comfortable cells with gardens and maids - the other 'poor' nuns. In 1870 the privileges were abolished and the convent rules were equal for all nuns. A hundred years later the convent was opened to visitors.
Next we started climbing Chachani (6070 meters above sea level). I had a problem with breathing at 4000 meters above sea level but I kept climbing up slowly. First day we reached 5600 meters above sea level. Night we spent in a tent. The temperature was -10 Celsius degrees. Instead of sleeping I was shaking all night.
We was back to Arequipe very exhausted. It was perfect time to visit Santuarios Andinos museum. There is a mummy of 13-15 years old girl of Ampato Volcano - Juanity. The girl was offered to Apu Ampato by the Inca religious leaders about 500 years ago. Before she was sacrificed to Apu Ampato she had taken part in many rituals. She was given narcotics and blow on her right eyebrow. It made her die. She was buried near the top of Ampato Volcano (6380 meters above sea level). The volcano sheltered the beautiful Inca girl about 500 years. The mummy was discovered in 1995.
Then we went to visit the deepest canyon in the world - Canyon Colca. Two days excursion cost USD 17. We went there by a van. The view outside the car's window was great. We traveled with funny Irish girls. It took a few hours to get to Chivay. We had delicious trout and rested a little in a hotel. In the evening we took a bath in hot springs. Taking a bath we admired mountains around and beautiful girls dressed in warm clothes. The bath made us hungry. It was time for a dinner. Having dinner we watched Latin dance show. At the beginning we only watched but then joined professional dancers. We had great fun till midnight.
Next day we woke up at 5.30 and we were traveling along Colca Canyon. At last we reached the most beautiful place to admire the canyon. At 10 am condors started their days. They were flying majestically over the canyon. The condors are really royal birds. I will never forger them flying over the incredible canyon.
In the evening we got on the bus to Nasca (ticket - 35 sol). In the morning we bought a ticket (USD 38) for Nasca lines and the other attractions.
We visited huge Indian cemetery. Thieves rubbed and destroyed almost all graves. The bones were everywhere.
Next we visited gold mine-museum. The owner presented traditional way of exploring gold.
Then we visited pottery. Pots, dishes were made the same way as Indian made them centuries ago.
At last not least we got on Cesna plane to watch Nasca Lines. The lines were made perfect. The shapes and proportions are perfect. I am still thinking how and why Indians made it centuries ago.
According to our knowledge the Indians could not admire their work. You must fly to see the Indians 'drawings'. During the excursion a guide told us two incredible hypothesis:
We went to Pisco from Nasca. We met two nice Peruvian girls in a bus. They helped us to find accommodation in Pisco. In the evening we had a dinner. First time in my life I ate octopus. It was delicious.
Next day we sailed to Ballestas islands by motorboat. We admired 'candlestick' design made on the coastal hill. It took about an hour to get to the islands. I was enchanted by the nature. There were many exotic birds e.g. flamingos and pelicans. Sea wolves were my favorite animals. They rested on rocks and totally ignored tourists. One sea wolf male was surrounded by a few females. It was lucky male. Only sea wolves children approached to the boats and seemed to pose for photographs.
We also visited wildlife reserves Paracas. The most interesting was:
Last day of our trip to Peru we spent in Lima. We visited The Gold Museum (25 soles). We saw huge amount of militaries. But gold figures were the most interesting. Some of them were erotic. They showed huge amount of sexual positions.
We also visited Cathedral, president palace and a few churches.
We spent at the center of the city all night. To be honest I felt there safer than in Warsaw.
It was the last stage of our trip in Peru. Next day we went back to Poland.
Peruvian are nice and friendly. Most of them are poor but they are very proud.
Many young people dream about migration to France or United Kingdom.
Many Peruvian were surprised that Poland is a part of Europe. They know only two Poles: Pope John Paul II and Malinowski -he built Peruvian railway.
Generally they do not like Jews and American from United States.
They usually wear jeans trousers and jackets. In small towns and village women prefer traditional dresses and hats. They are very colorful. The countryside is much more beautiful than cities.
There are almost no road signs in Peru. Peruvian drivers use horns all the time. Their park there cars on the in the middle of the street. I did not see any car accident when I was in Peru. I presume they are good drives.
Modern architecture in Peru is very modest. Most houses are small. The roofs are covered with sheet steel or even straw.