Tag Archive | peru

A better packing list for Peru

Previously I wrote about what I was bringing to Peru on my Pre-Peru post. While I didn’t pack a lot, I found that I could have packed better. I’ve included my original packing list below.

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I only used one black sweater so one just hung out in my suitcase the whole trip.

I only wore 2 out of 3 of my long sleeved shirts.

I never wore any of my tank tops.

I probably could have done without the leggings. I did wear them but perhaps another clothing item would have been more beneficial. At the very least, I could have just packed one pair.

I could have also done with just one pair of jeans. I only wore both pairs because I had them. There’s laundry everywhere so if you do happen to get your clothes dirty, you can easily and cheaply get them washed, dried and returned to you in a few hours.

I never wore my pair of heels. Everywhere we went was very casual which was a bit of a disappointment as I did want to get dressed up and be fancy at least once.

I never used the hand warmers. I tried to use them one night when camping, but I forgot to read the directions and I really didn’t need them anyway.

I never used my water purifier tablets. I found that if I filled my water bottle up in the morning of our hiking treks and then again at lunch, I had more than enough water to last the day. There also weren’t many options to retrieve dirty water along the Inka Quarry Trail.

I did end up buying a fake pair of North Face pants that converted into shorts. I strongly advise bringing a pair of pants like these. I wore them the entire time we hiked and would not have been happy in jeans or leggings as the temperature varies a lot during the day. It also rained and even with a poncho, your pants are going to get wet. You’ll be much happier wearing quick-dry pants.

I also bought a pair of plastic shoe covers but they were just annoying to wear and I ended up throwing them out after hiking. Just make sure your shoes are waterproof (mine weren’t) and you’ll be fine.

Another useful thing I bought was an over the shoulder purse/bag that was sold everywhere. This came in really handy as I didn’t want to carry my backpack around on days that we weren’t hiking. I guess sometimes I’m just a bit of a fashionista!

So this is what I could have left home: 1 black sweater, 1 long sleeved top, 2 tank tops, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of leggings, heels, hand warmers, water purifier tablets. That’s like an armful of stuff!

I also should have switched my messenger bag with a nicer day bag and a pair of jeans for North Face-like pants.

Every time I travel, I become a better and lighter packer. I am still always amazed at the people who pack just one or two outfits and make them work for the whole trip. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people, but I’m determined to always pack in a carry-on no matter how long my trip is!

The beginning of the end……… Puno to Chivay

After my crazy fun birthday night, I slept for an hour and then headed out to jump on a 2 day tour to Colca Canyon where I’d see condors flying around in their natural habitat. I used Colca Tours to book this tour but I wouldn’t recommend them. If you do use them, be sure to get the name of your lodging prior to the trip along with their address and phone number. Also, confirm whether or not you will be picked up at your hotel for the hot springs tour in Chivay and at what time. Most, if not all, tour companies book you on the 4m tour. This means you will possibly switch buses at a rest stop when you stop for a snack on the way to/from Chivay. Find this out when you book your tour so you aren’t confused when it happens. Since I didn’t know about any of this, I spent a good part of the two days being confused and a bit stressed. I like routine and am not really fond of surprises. Tell me who, what, when and why and I’ll be a happy camper.

Anyway, the bus was on time and had a friendly tour guide. As is typical, a small bus picked up everyone in Puno, but what was surprising was that the little bus took us all the way to Chivay. We made a few stops at Lake Lagunillas and at a volcano viewing site, Patapampa. At the viewing site was also a place where Peruvians stack rocks and make wishes. We also stopped to see spindly legged animals, Vicunas, and a huge lot of llamas in Pampa Cañahuas.

Lake Laguinals

Lake Lagunillas

Vicunas

Vicunas

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wishing rocks

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Upon arrival in Chivay, I was personally escorted to find my hotel since the tour operator didn’t tell my tour guide where I was staying either. Chivay is really tiny so I think no matter where you stay, you’ll be in a decent location. Although, some of the nicer hotels might be on the outskirts of the main center. Fortunately, my hostel was just off the beaten path so I only had to walk a few short blocks to the center which had a nice park, church, food, etc. Since you only spend one night in Chivay, you really don’t have to splurge on anything more than a hostel with heat and hot water. Although you if you shower properly with shampoo and soap at the hot springs, you can do without the hot water as well! My hostel was located off of Av Siglo xx a block or so past the college, down one of the blocks to the left. Of course I can’t remember its name to recommend it. 😦

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With the toIMG_1658ur, you arrive in Chivay in the early afternoon. This gives you plenty of time to have lunch, people-watch in the park, take some pictures, walk down the pedestrian only street with the statues and shop the market. The market in Chivay is more for locals than tourists but you may find something interesting. You can also partake in lots of street food if you so desire.

 

The hot springs bus picked me up around 4pm. It was a short ride to the springs. There you are given a free locker and access to showers and changing room. There are several tubs to choose from – both indoor and outdoor. They give you about 45 minutes to spend at the springs which is plenty of time. Make sure you remove all your jewelry prior to going to the springs as the water will damage the metals. I advise only using the outdoor springs. We had to switch to the indoor one after a violent thunder-hail storm suddenly started and it just wasn’t as good.

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After the springs, you are dropped back at your hotel and you have just enough time to shower, go out to eat dinner and come back and pass out as by this time, you are going to be exhausted and not want to do anything but sleep!

Puno and Lake Titicaca – go ahead and giggle….you know you want to

After spending the morning in Machu Picchu, we had lunch in the MP town, then took the train back to Ottalaytambo. Immediately upon arrival, we were ushered into a bus and whisked away for a 2 or 3 hour drive to Cusco again. I don’t understand the logic of the timing of going back to Cusco via bus, but that’s a question that Intrepid Travel must answer.

Only pic taken on my Cusco free day

Only pic taken on my Cusco free day

It didn’t seem to make sense to take the train to the bus when we could have gotten there faster by staying on the train. I also don’t understand why we didn’t just spend an extra day in Cusco when we were there in the first place. For me it ended up being a day of rest because I wasn’t feeling well and the group left me so I didn’t even have the option of spending any time as a group. I hit the shops but didn’t buy much as I am not one to buy lots of touristy trinkets. I also had a great dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. The place even had a live band so that was fun.

The next morning we took a bus to the bus station in Cusco and got on a bus to Puno for a 5-7 hour ride. The bus was two levels. I had a prime seat in the front of the bus although the window had a huge crack in it.  The bus was very hot but I was able to sleep, watch a movie and listen to music so the time went quickly. I hear the lower level was the air conditioned with leather seats, but I don’t know if that was accurate. Interestingly  our tour guide sat on that level…….

Random church in Puno

Random church in Puno

In order to get to Puno, we had to drive through some really dingy looking neighborhoods and when we arrived at Puno, it didn’t look much better. Fortunately, our hotel was right near the main center so the area was good. We went out for dinner as a group at what seemed to be an American Italian restaurant then went to bed. Talk about a boring two days!

Fortunately, the trip started to pick up again. Our last trek together was to Lake Titicaca. We were joined by other random people. The tour was in both English and Spanish. Upon arrival toIMG_1282 the homestay island of Amantani, we were separated into groups of 2 and were escorted to our home for the night. My roomie and I ended up staying in a house with the tour guides as well which was nice because they were able to translate for us as the owners didn’t speak any English, only Quechua. Our house was nice with a flush toilet and even a shower but others were not as lucky. We helped our lady shuck peas from her garden which was an odd experience since it was pretty much in silence. Other than that we didn’t really have any interaction with her. She didn’t eat with us or try to communicate at all.

IMG_1265Soon after we settled in, the group trekked up a mountain to see the view but I stayed behind because I was tired of being abandoned on the trail. Turns out that wasn’t the best idea for two reasons – one the trek was easy so I could have done it and two after sitting by the polluted shoreline for a while, I got IMG_1367lost trying to get back to my house. I had to play charades with people to try to get home. Ultimately, someone took pity on me and brought me to his house which was conveniently right next to a bar! My house lady found me eventually and we went back to the house to have dinner. Next we were rushed into costume …..well, their native clothing and ushered over to a party. (I don’t know how they keep that black cape on their head. Mine kept pulling my head and tilting my head back!) The party turned out to be a lot of fun, but again, we were rushed out at a certain time when the natives were ready to go to bed.

IMG_1436The next morning we took the boat to Taquille Island for no real reason. You have to hike all uphill again and while you do see a really nice view, it seems to just be an excuse to charge you for lunch. Overall, not worth the bother. On the way back to the boat, I was again left behind but this time it was with two additional people. We ended up asking directions and had to trek over giant rocks on the shoreline to find the port. This was another huge fail on both Intrepid Travel and the local guide. They didn’t even look for us and we were missing for a long time – enough time for everyone to take a swim in the lake.

Finally we went to the reed islands which is the whole reason you go to Lake Titicaca. Surprisingly, there were a whole lot of mini islands instead of a few bigger ones. It was interesting to see them, but of course, you then get pressured to buy the stuff they are selling. They only sell a few things that they make and they import the rest of their stock – seems a bit silly but as they have no other income, I guess they have no choice. IMG_1487

Once we got back to Puno, we settled back in and then got ready to go out for our last night together. We went to a dinner at a place with a show, Balcones de Puno. The show was fun – native dancing with lots of energy. Afterwards, a couple of people came out with me for my birthday and that was a ton of fun – bars, Latin dancing and karaoke. Great night! At the end, we were locked out of the hotel……might be nice if they told you ahead of time that they were going to chain the gates and make you stand outside banging on them to be let back in. It also makes me think that if there was a fire, these hotels are probably not the safest places to stay. Overall, it was a fabulous way to end my time with the group!IMG_1529

Machu Picchu!!

IMG_1154_SmallThe ninth day of this trip finally got me to Machu Picchu which is the only reason anyone really goes to Peru! What really stood out to me about MP is that hardly anything is roped off.

Perfect relief spot - on the way to the Inka Bridge entrance

Perfect relief spot – on the way to the Inka Bridge entrance

Just like in Egypt, you can touch whatever you want (even though you shouldn’t) and you can even manage to pop a squat in a semi-secluded area without getting caught by the guards! (Note to Peru: you really should put one bathroom somewhere in MP – perhaps by the entrance of the Huayna/Wayna Picchu) Another side note: I can understand the logic of not putting in a bathroom that would destroy historic land and also that if you have to pee, you will leave MP and free up space for other visitors, but come on! Have some humanity! 🙂

 

 

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Even llamas tour MP!

I definitely advise getting on that first 5:30am bus to MP. If you go later in the morning, you will miss out on the typical tourist pictures that you know you want to get. Also be aware of the outdoor café at the base of MP; count your change and demand service. They seem to be slackers and thieves.

As for MP itself, of course it is amazing. When you first get there, the hike is up a ton of stairs. The rest of MP is completely manageable. The views are worth it. This is the first tourist pic you will get when you climb up most of the stairs from the entrance.IMG_1047_Small

 

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Chinchilla....I think

Chinchilla….I think

 

Peru Jungle Lodge – No lions, tigers or jaguars…oh my!

Boating in the dark

Boating in the dark

Day 3 of tour / Day 2 of Jungle Lodge – We had a 4am wake up call to go see birds and otters, but we didn’t see any otters.

So lush!

So lush!

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We sat around in the boat for a long time and barely saw any birds but it was a pleasant trip anyway.

On the hike back, we saw a ton of monkeys and got some awesome pictures. They were everywhere and were so close to us.

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Back at the lodge, we had a snack of bread and cheese rolls, and then we went on a hike to the lake where we saw a ton of Macaws. We had to sit in a hut and look thru these tiny windows and be really quiet, but it was really awesome.

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IMG_0580 (Small)Afterwards, we had an afternoon snooze, then headed out to see the medicine man via hike and boat. It was slightly interesting, nothing exciting. The rain poured down on us but even though most of us had ourIMG_0571 (Small) ponchos, we still got pretty wet. We learned about how they find these leaves and bark and cook them for different lengths of time and they supposedly cure different diseases or things. We got to try three different medicines – one to make you happy and see crazy things, one to cure or prevent cancer and one to make you either horny or work like Viagra. Go figure!

IMG_0584 (Small) On the way back via boat we saw a double rainbow in one direction and then a beautiful sunset in the other. We got rained out of a night hike so hung out and had a few IMG_0590 (Small)drinks instead. Unfortunately, the Contiki tour group arrived to the lodge that same day so our quiet time was interrupted by crazy young people – when did I get old???

Life……..it’s all about the pictures!

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Peru – Lima & Miraflores – Day 1 of tour

My first full day in Peru accomplished a lot. After having a mini meltdown back in my hotel room when I couldn’t manage to hail a cab to take me to Miraflores, I put on my big-girl panties and hailed a cab easily on my first try (second try?) by walking to the left of the hotel and standing on the corner by the church for all of thirty seconds before a cab flashed his lights at me and picked me up. However, I didn’t negotiate a fare and paid twice as much as I should have to get to Parque Kennedy in Miraflores – twenty soles. I was just happy to get a cab and didn’t feel like arguing. The ride from the hotel to Miraflores was much longer than expected – we had to take a highway and went through another ghetto to get to the better area of Lima.

I walked thru the park which is just a normal park with some statues and flowers and continued on my way down Larco Street to the beach. You just walk all the way down until you hit the beach. Easy peasy!

Some of the shops at Larcomar

Some of the shops at Larcomar

Right in front of you is the shopping center that has all these stores and restaurants tucked into the sides. It is very nice. I had breakfast overlooking the ocean- well at least trying to overlook the ocean. It was very foggy and you couldn’t see anywhere but down; at least I got to see the semi sand / rock beach and waves crashing into the land. Breakfast was good and I grabbed some water and then continued on my way to the north (to the right if you are facing the beach).

The real beach down below

The real beach down below

As close to a "beach" as I got

As close to a “beach” as I got

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first hit a random park where I met a Peruvian guy on a bike and then we went together to

Lovers intertwined

Lovers intertwined

IMG_0048 (Small)Parque del Amor where there is a huge statue of lovers entwined. Supposedly people go there to hook up or get engaged or something. There are nice mosaic tiled walls and it’s a great place to sit and read or people watch. However, I had no time for any of that; I had places to go! I took advantage of the park’s free Wi-Fi and got my GPS to pull up directions to Huaca Pucllana which is old ruins right smack dab in the middle of the city. I had to wait for a 45 minute English tour but it only cost 12 soles which was great. The guide was interesting and easy to understand.

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana

To get to the ruins from Parque del Amor, you just walk away from the water to Grau, then left onto Grau which turns into Elias Aguirre and the ruins will end up being right in front of you. You just continue along the right side of the ruins to the entrance!

After the ruins and getting hit on by yet another guy (I guess Peruvians like the gringas!), I tried to get a taxi back to the hotel, but they wanted to charge me 30 soles so I said no and walked two blocks to a main street where I found a cab for 10 soles. He didn’t know where he was going so he had to ask for directions 4 times; still was well worth the price.

Future travelers – become acquainted with the streets near your hotel and if possible, have a map on hand to show taxi drivers; most of them have no idea where streets are in Lima.

I finally got to the hotel, then had to switch rooms right away from a single to a double with my roommate. Met up with the group – great people and only 6 of us. Met our guide Bobby, did orientation and then a tour of downtown Lima. Saw the president’s house, bishop’s house, library, church, catacombs and ate a yummy empanada and churro. Overall, the tour was less than interesting but it was better than sitting in a hotel room.

Other than getting a sunburn, it was a really decent day. Afterwards, we came back to the hotel, rested for a few then had dinner at the Bolivar hotel which was really nice and tasty and reasonably priced for how fancy it was. Came back to the hotel early and got ready for our trip to the Amazon Jungle the next day.

First pisco sour - not a fan

First pisco sour – not a fan