Showing posts with label peru. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peru. Show all posts

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Trip Guide - Peru

In April 2012, mr A, two friends and I took a trip to Peru. We we're lucky enough to explore a little off the beaten path. Below shows the details of where we went, where we stayed, and what we did. Feel free to comment or e-mail me any questions you may have. I'd love to help :)

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu

Peru - Part 4 (Machu Picchu)

Machu Picchu. You can't say the words without pictures of grandeur popping into your head. Having been, I can promise that it lives up to those pictures and more. Being at Machu Picchu was one of the most memorable experiences of my lifetime and I highly suggest everyone make the trek. This is truly a location where words cannot do it justice...

Travel Tips (before I lose you to the beautiful pics)
  • Take the early train. Seriously, give yourself as much time as possible to spend at the top
  • Buy your tickets before going. The government recently restricted the number of visitors allowed each day, and you don't want to go to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu!
  • Buying tickets is going to be a hassle. The system isn't great. We all had to try different cards until something finally took. Be Patient.
  • When booking your train to Machu Picchu, I suggest using PeruRail and booking the Vistadome car. The scenery is beautiful and this is one of the best ways to see it (it also comes with breakfast!)
  • If you are fit, hike up Huayna Picchu, If you are really fit, hike up Wayna Picchu (you're going to have to make sure you get there in time, they stop letting people climb after 11am)
  • Go for the hike to Intipunku
  • Knowing the history, we explored without a guide and LOVED being able to roam at our own pace
  • You can get your passport stamped after completing the hike up Huayna/Wayna Picchu, and you can get a second stamp at the welcome center at the entrance to Machu Picchu

PERURail to Machu Picchu

scenery on the way (see, i told you that the vistadome cars we're awesome!)
getting ready to go up Huayna Picchu

stairs on the way up to Huayna Picchu
view from Huayna Picchu of Machu Picchu (or as I call it, Pikachu Mountain)

view from Intipunku

Machu Picchu

Thoughts on hiking the Inca Trail
We were unable to hike the trail as our schedule did not allow it. If you are thinking about doing it, do not be discouraged by the idea of hauling around backpacks full of camping equipmen.! A lot of tour companies have extra employees go with you who will carry your items, set up your tent, and make your food. If the opportunity ever arises for me to do it, I would hike the trail in a heartbeat!

 Peru was an amazing place to visit and one that I suggest to anyone who brings it up. Going to Machu Picchu on the last day was an excellent way to end our Peruvian adventure. Viva la Peru!

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu
Overall Trip Guide

Peru - Part 3 (Cusco)

As Frank Sinatra sings, 'come fly with me, let's float down to Peru'. I'm not sure why he uses the word down, as the elevation in Cusco is 11,200 ft (higher than Machu Picchu I was surprised to learn).

left: mr A taking a break, the altitude differential hits you as soon as you walk off the plane
right: the common Peruvian cure? coca tea

The city of Cusco is very pedestrian friendly and I suggest putting a day aside to just roam the streets. There are many local vendors (I got a great wool sweater) that sell everything from art and clothing to touristy knick knacks.

A note on the altitude: I was personally very worried about how I would react to the altitude given that I also have asthma. I spoke with my doctor and received pills (Diamox) specifically designed to aid with altitude sickness. The best way I can describe the effects is that you feel a little drunk, and winded after walking around a bit (doesn't help that Cusco is hilly!) A common Peruvian treatment for altitude sickness is coca tea. This works since the coca leaf is the base for making cocaine. Pro Tip: If you have any sort of job in the security/government realm, I suggest checking with your security officer before indulging.

Viva El Peru!

Cathedral of Cusco located in Plaza de Armas

mr OMG and I at Plaza de Armas

streets of Cusco

From Cusco, you can take many day trips to the sacred valley nearby

you get beautiful views from every angle

factor in lots of stairs for any Inca ruin

our group <3

there's a lot of Peruvian culture going on in this pic

One of the best views of Cusco is from the Cristo Blanco. It's easily accessible by cab.

Getting a cab: You're cab driver can easily become your guide to the city. If you find a cab driver you like, ask him to show you around to a few of his favorite places! They'll likely wait while you explore whatever locale you're at so it's like hiring a personal drive (for way less!)

Cristo Blanco

Cusco at night as seen from Cristo Blanco

After exploring the city, seeing the nearby ruins, and talking with other we meet along the way, we were so ready to go to Machu Picchu.

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu
Overall Trip Guide

Peru - Part 2 (aka my favorite part)

Okay, seriously? I could go on for HOURS about my experience at the Refugio Amazonas Eco Lodge and the exploring we did in the nearby rainforest. First off ...

Getting there
Landing at the airport in Puerto Maldonado is probably like landing no where else you've ever been before. It's one open-air building where the airline agents not only check you in, but also direct the plane once it's landed.

In order to get to the Regufio Amazonas Lodge, you take a 4 hour boat ride up river. Many of the others on the boat slept but I was too enthralled with the scenery! You pass by small villages and locals transporting their goods (usually fruit) to bigger towns to sell. Along the way you stop at a research center where you have to sign in so they can keep track of visitors to the protected area.

Tip: You can get your passport stamped here!

boats to take you up river

messing around with the fancy lens we got for the trip

Along the way your guides will point out many of the interesting plants and animals that you pass while on your trip.

this butterfly is known for eating the turtles tears

macaws kissing (that lens really came in handy!)

the capybara aka gross monster

Refugio Amazonas Lodge
Okay really? This is my idea of paradise. You get off the boat and start an uphill trek to the lodge. You walk for about 20 minutes through dense forest and then all of a sudden, BAM! The lodge is right there in front of it. It's BEAUTIFUL.

me seconds before my life was changed
When you first get there you get a short introduction to the lodge. There is only electricity for a few hours a day, you are provided three meals, oh and there is a bar and a spa. The best part about the lodge is how open it is. The main lodge has very few full walls, most are open to the forest surrounding you. Even the rooms have only three walls! Each room is missing a fourth wall and is open to the forest. Because of this, each room also has a safe to put any snacks you may have on you in case some cheeky monkeys come into your room.

Tip: During the introduction they'll ask if anyone has any food allergies (I have a dairy allergy). They take note of this and are extremely accommodating. That night for dinner, everyone was served lasagna, and I got a different dairy-free meal. 

eating at Refugio is the closest I'm ever going to get to Hogwats

missing fourth wall, aka best hotel room ever

they may not have electricity, but they have beer!

looking into the main lodge

walkway to the rooms

 Early in the morning we left for a canoe ride at a nearby pond where we were able to see a lot of wildlife

After the canoe ride it was off to explore the forest!

mr OMG & I fit inside this massive tree!

we visited a local farm where we tried local fruits right off the branch!

one of my favorite activities of the day

view from the top with the sun setting

well deserved beer after a day of forest trekking!

Unfortunately we only spent two nights here so it was time to go way earlier than I would have liked. I would suggest spending at least two days in this awe-inspiring place, more if you have the time! It was a quicker 2 hour ride back to Puerto Maldonado and then a bus ride back to the airport and we were gone. Though, we did meet one more friend ...

talk about a cheeky monkey

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu
Overall Trip Guide

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Peru - Part 1

First off, let me just say, if you think the only thing to do in Peru is hike the Inca trail and see Machu Picchu you couldn't be more wrong! A group of us went in April 2012 and we spent one day at Machu Picchu, and nine days exploring the vastly different terrains that Peru has to offer. Because of this there is no way I can tell you everything in one post so I'm going to split it into four different ones.

Part 1: Haucachina Oasis, Nazca Lines & Paracas National Reserve
Part 2: Puerto Maldonado/Amazon Rainforest
Part 3: Cusco
Part 4: Machu Picchu
Overall Trip Guide

We were picked up from the airport early in the morning and started through Lima to the Oasis at Haucachina. On the way there we stopped at a few villages that specialize in Pisco, a grape whiskey made in the wine making regions of Peru. It's also the liquor needed to make the national drink of Peru, the Pisco Sour!

left: old way of storing pisco to ferment
center: pisco for sale (we left with a couple)
right: pisco sour (pisco, simple syrup, lime juice, and an egg white on top)

After getting a morning buzz on Pisco Sours, we arrived at the Haucachina Oasis. Good News: It looks absolutely beautiful (minus all the tourist-y shops and restaurants)! Bad News: 20 or so years ago the lake emptied due to the nearby town, so the water is now artificially pumped in to keep the oasis look up. In Haucachina there are about three things to do: boozing, buggies, and 'boarding (sand boarding that is)

left: having a drink while watching the sunset over the dunes
center: dune buggies!
right: sandboarding

view of the oasis from the top of the dunes

sunset over the dunes

Nearby the Oasis is Nazca, home to the Nazca lines. No one knows exactly how these (extremely straight) lines and creatures were created, and the best way to see them is from the air.

TIP: these tiny, vomit-inducing airplanes are not for the easily motion sick. trust me.

left: astronaut
center: straight nazca lines
right: hummingbird

On the way back from Nazca we stopped a small workshop that specialized in traditional Nazca pottery. These native pots were still being made the old school way by one of the most life-loving people I've ever seen. Toby walked us through the process of making them (he uses oil from his face to add the shine to the pots) and we (of course) all walked out with a few souvenirs

Next we went onto the Paracas National Reserve which was established in 1975 and is the oldest marine reserve in Peru.  I can't nearly describe all the playful animals we saw, so here are a few of my favorite pics!

Ballesta Islands, each rock was COVERED in birds


plenty of seals tanning themselves, I liked this ones expression!

landing in the water

I swear this guy wanted to eat me

the contrast of the red sand (from the red cliffs nearby) against the yellow-y rock was beautiful
I would easily say no trip to Peru is complete without a trip to the Paracas Natural Reserve, this is especially a must if you love animals! Another most do if you're an animal lover is visiting the Amazon, which takes us to part 2