There are reasons things become standards, and in a lot of ways, Peru is THE standard backpackers destination. So many of my friends (and a few enemies) have been to Machu Picchu and gotten in the iconic picture that I almost felt I didn’t need to do it. Still the appeal is obvious and being in the region I couldn’t pass it up. I’m glad I didn’t.
I arrived in Lima and went to a hostel that was supposed to be good, it was a giant renovated mansion with around 25ft ceilings. Very interesting. I got real happy when I saw one of my favorite travel quotes painted on one of the walls.
I actually ran into more problems in Peru then anywhere else on my travels this year.
- In one day both my credit card company and my bank decided to screw me over and I spent about 4 hours on skype arguing.
- Two 22 hour bus rides in two weeks. The first was about 10X worse. The driver was swerving recklessly through the mountain passes, twice skidding a tire off into the gravel. The seats were not that comfortable and I sat next to an older man with the worst breathe I’ve ever smelled. This was with the Tepsa company, on the way back I did the same trip with Cruz de Sur and it was 10X nicer.
- I’ve hiked/trekked/climbed with people while they were sick and I felt bad but apparently not bad enough. On the second day of my trek I ate or drank something bad and then vomited the rest of the day and my stomach wasn’t 100% for over a week.
- Once I got back in Lima I somehow lost my little travel wallet. Luckily I only had cash in it but it was about $80 american in new soles.
Now, on to the good stuff.
Cusco is a cool mountain town. It’s reminiscent in some ways of Namche in Nepal, though much more of a cosmopolitan city, with automobiles and classy stores and restaurants. It was also extremely tourist driven, but that wasn’t very shocking. The Inca trail is so popular that they limit it to 500 people a day, charge outrageous prices and still sell out all days months in advance. I decided to sign up for a group hike on the Salkantay trek, which is one of the alternate Inca trails. It’s a 5 day hike which goes up to the 15,000 ft Salkantay pass at the foot of said mountain and offers beautiful mountain scenery and hot springs with a finish at Macchu Picchu. I thought about doing independently but I was solo and found a great deal with a group so I jumped on it. Highlights of the trek were Salkantay itself, some bouldering at 14,000 ft wearing my running shoes, a bunch of Andean condors and the hot springs at the end of day three.
Then on the fifth day we made it up to Machu Picchu! In the last two months I’ve seen quite a few ruins and to be honest I was feeling a little “ruined out”, MP changed that. Like Angkor Wat earlier this year, this is not a ruin it’s a work of art. This time it’s more the setting then the buildings. The amount of work it must have taken to drag that stone up those mountains is amazing.
I think the highlight of MP was actually going up to the top of Huaynapicchu, which is the tall skinny mountain that towers over MP. There were incredibly steep stairs up most of it and an amazing view the entire hike, but especially at the top.
After the trek I hung out for a couple days in Cusco and then headed back to Lima. There are many other great things to do in Peru besides MP but unfortunately I didn’t do too many. I thought about heading to Iquitos in the Amazon and Huarez in the mountains but I didn’t have my yellow fever shot and decided I got enough mountains in the Cusco area. So instead I decided to head for Rio de Janiero Brazil for what was to be the last country in my epic trip! Before I left I went for a long walk through Lima, including the bluff over the beaches where they do paragliding. Very cool.
For more pics check out here.