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16.09.2007

From Rio to Lima …

The cheapest flights in Brazil leave at unholy hours, so again we left the very cosy Trip Hostel in Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro at 04:00 am and we finally hit our pillows precisely 24 hours later in Lima at 02:00 am local time. This budget journey included a 12 hour stop-over in Sao Paulo. Any stopover in a city of 17 millions has to be superficial and unrewarding, but truly there is not much to see no matter how hard the Lonely Planet and the Tourist Office try to promote the historic center. If anyone does stay in Sao Paulo -...[more]

Category: Peru

18.09.2007

Lima - Miraflores and El Centro

Arriving in Lima turned out to be quite a shock … Winter here on the Pacific Coast really means winter, not like in Rio de Janeiro where temperatures climb up to 32 decrees Celcius during the day. Here at night temperatures fall far below 10 degrees and during the day hardly get over 15. On top of that, it is damp, which makes it so much worse AND the sky is always grey. We are basically wearing all the warm clothes we have brought ... Locals sit in windy café wearing winter coats, ponchos and heavy jackets. Doors and windows are...[more]

Category: Peru

20.09.2007

Trip to Nasca

The 7 hour long bus trip from Lima to Nasca made us familiar with long distance bus travel in Peru. Most tourists choose to travel with the “Cruzero” service of Cruz del Sur, a company that runs more than 130 state-of-art busses. For those who still worry about security on Peruvian busses, read on ... It is basically like travelling on a plane. You check in your luggage, receipt is attached to your ticket. You then go through a metal detector and when boarding the bus the passengers are videotaped. The busses are equipped with GPS...[more]

Category: Peru

21.09.2007

Flying over the Nasca Lines

Flying in a tiny Cessna across the Nasca Lines is why people from all over the world come to this small city in the desert. The lines only were discovered once commercial airplanes started flying over the area in the 1930s, but tourism only started to pick up in the 80s, when flying became affordable. Our hosts, Hedwig and Abdon from the highly recommendable budget Brabant Hostel, booked us a flight for USD 45 with the only airline that has brand new Cessna planes with no sidebars. This is important to take good photos from the...[more]

Category: Peru

22.09.2007

The Chauchilla Cemetery

A sight less often visited in Nasca is the Cemetery of Chauchilla, a truly groovy place about 25 km north of Nasca right in the desert. The cemetery was used by the Ica-Chincha, a civilization that lived in this region long before it was conquered by other cultures, the last one the Inca, who also used this cemetery. Scientists estimate that there might be 2000 graves, but only about ten were fully excavated and restored. The Ica-Chincha mummified all of their deads and buried them in graves about 1.5 meters deep, either in single...[more]

Category: Peru

23.09.2007

Three days in Arequipa

Another night on a bus took us from Nasca to Arequipa. But this time we succeed in getting two seats on the first floor of the Cruzero bus from Cruz del Sur, which are normally booked out far in advance. The seats almost fully recline, are wide and extremely comfortable. So we could at least sleep a few hours and arrive not too tired in Arequipa. There we checked into the Hotel Tambo Viejo, a very pleasant place with a nice garden and a roof terrace to relax from the bustling city. We stayed there three days, one of which we did...[more]

Category: Peru

24.09.2007

Going to the Colca Canyon

The bus ride from Arequipa to Cabanaconde was our first experience with a “Servicio Economico”, that means the normal local buses, not the luxury ones for tourists. These buses cost 3 times less than the latter, but still offer an acceptable level of comfort, at least for a day trip. Actually Heidi liked them better because there is no air-conditioning, just windows. And people watching is so exciting, especially looking at the local women in there bulky, brightly-colored skirts and hats. All these women entering the bus carried a...[more]

Category: Peru

27.09.2007

Trekking the Colca Canyon

At the Hostel Valle de Fuego, we booked a 3 days / 2 nights tour with a local guide. The person at the hostel convinced us to choose another route than the one we had planed, which is quiet easy to do because you could see the two places where you stay overnight, Tapay and Sangalle, from the Mirador in Cabanaconde. This is probably one of the more common routes, but since there are so few tourists trekking the Canyon, it really does not matter. Well, the route suggested by the hostel would take us from Cabanaconde down to the river...[more]

Category: Peru

28.09.2007

Cruz del Condor

The best way to see condors is to leave Cabanaconde at 06:30 am, get off the Arequipa-bound bus at Cruz del Condor after a 30 minutes ride and catch the next bus that passes there at around 09:45 am. There are three reasons why leaving so early: first you can only spot condors early morning or late afternoon, second the light is better in the morning and third because the Mirador called Cruz del Condor is packed with groups of tourists as early as 08:30 or latest 09:00 am. When we left early in the morning, we were surprised how...[more]

Category: Peru

01.10.2007

Discovering Cuzco

After another 9 hour overnight bus ride from Arequipa, we arrived in Cuzco. At 06:00 am, we found out that Cuzco was far more touristy than any other place we had been so far in Peru. Often, we were the only guests in a hostel. In Cuzco, the first two places we tried were booked out, including the famous and not so cheap Loki Backpacker, with more than 145 beds! We found shelter in the Hostel Sol de Los Andes, which was as freezing cold as all the other places, but clean and really cheap for Cuzco. A double room with private bath...[more]

Category: Peru

02.10.2007

First steps in the Sacred Valley - Pisac

After some considerations we decided to join the crowds and visit the famous Pisac Sunday market. Many organized tours include Pisac in their itinerary before continuing on to Machu Picchu. This small city is only an hour from Cusco and collectivos run the route constantly for 2 Soles, so we decided to do a day trip. Only a tiny part of this huge market serves local trade, the vast part is aimed at tourists. Everything is sold there, from blankets, Alpaca knitting, jewelry, pottery or any other souvenir ... It is a bit of a zoo,...[more]

Category: Peru

03.10.2007

The Sacred Valley - Urubamba

Two days after our trip to Pisac, we continued our travel to Urubamba, a smooth 2 hour ride from Cuzco in a collectivo for 3,5 Soles (1 USD), where we spent a day and a night to see the famous amphitheater-like terraces in Moray and the Salinas near Maras. This one day in Urubamba turned out to be a fantastic experience off the beaten tracks … Yes, that exists in the Sacred Valley, you would never guess when arriving in Cuzco! To visit the two places leisurely takes half a day if investing in a taxi, which we did, but it was worth...[more]

Category: Peru

04.10.2007

The Sacred Valley - Ollantaytambo

The next day, we gave in to the rare luxury of allowing a taxi driver to take us to Ollantaytambo, 20 km away for just 10 Soles (3 USD), whereas the public bus costs only 1 Soles per person. It was quite an experience since we were chauffeured by an obviously ultra-religious gentleman who made a cross sign each time we passed a church, a cross on the roadside or other religious symbols, which happened quite often. In Ollantaytambo, we found ourselves back on the gringo trail, with one tour bus chasing the other, either dropping off...[more]

Category: Peru

05.10.2007

Going to Machu Picchu

Unless you approach Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, all tourists going there MUST take the train from Cuzco or at least from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Round trip, with only 30 kilometers each way, costs an incredible 57 USD per persons from Ollantaytambo in the backpacker train. The more comfortable Vistadome costs no less than 76 USD. Perurail has a monopoly on the route and therefore can ask for whatever they want! There are additional cheap, local trains that cannot be used by tourists, but only Peruvians, which is fair...[more]

Category: Peru

05.10.2007

Magic Machu Picchu!

Unless you approach Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, all tourists going there MUST take the train from Cuzco or at least from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Round trip, with only 30 kilometers each way, costs an incredible 57 USD per persons from Ollantaytambo in the backpacker train. The more comfortable Vistadome costs no less than 76 USD. Perurail has a monopoly on the route and therefore can ask for whatever they want! There are additional cheap, local trains that cannot be used by tourists, but only Peruvians, which is fair...[more]

Category: Peru

05.10.2007

Climbing Wayna Picchu

After about an hour of exploring the ceremonial section of Machu Picchu, we decided it was time to climb Wayna Picchu, the world famous mountain “behind Machu Picchu”, before it was getting too hot. It is a one hour climb for averagely fit people as we are, but not that difficult because early morning the trail, basically stairs, is in the shade. Only four hundred people are allowed to climb each day, and at 10:00 am, right when we returned, the quota had been reached. You can only wonder what it must be like in July or August, the...[more]

Category: Peru

06.10.2007

Saqsaywaman

Coming back from Machu Picchu we stopped for another two more nights in Cuzco, the old Inca capital, to collect the luggage we had left behind in different places and refuel our energy by simply staying in one place. The only sight that was on our agenda was the Inca ruins at Saqsaywaman, a 40 minutes walk north of Cusco. We lack a word to describe the enormous expanse of this old Inca settlement. Nowadays one can only see 20 % of what it once was like in its heydays. The base of the main complex was a three storey terrace built of...[more]

Category: Peru

07.10.2007

Bus trip between Cuzco and Lake Titicaca

There are several possibilities to go from Cuzco to Puno, the hub on the shores of the Lake Titicaca. The one we had planed was to take one of the few trains still running in Peru. Unfortunately, the price of 130 USD for 390 km made us change our mind fairly quickly. So we chose to cover that stretch in a tour bus run by Inca Express that links the two cities, making five stops at various highlights on the way. The bus basically takes almost the same route as the train, but only costs 30 USD, including a guide, lunch & drinks on the...[more]

Category: Peru

08.10.2007

Sillustani

The funeral towers of Sillustani about 35 km west of Puno are, apart from the floating islands, one of the main attractions in the area. These towers date back to pre-Inca time about 1.200 AD and an estimated 95 of these “Chullpas” may have adorned the wind-swept Altiplano at that time. There are three types of these cylindrical towers, depending on the social rank of the people buried in them. All were covered by a roof and had only one tiny opening facing east. Each year at the summer solstice, these were opened to allow the sun...[more]

Category: Peru

09.10.2007

Lake Titicaca - The Sacred Lake

Lake Titicaca was the “Sacred Lake” of the Inca. There are many legends about the origin of the Inca Empire. One of these says that Viracocha, the main god or creator god, had his children, Manco Kapac & Mama Ocllo, spring from the water of the lake to found Cuzco and the Inca dynasty. A sacred rock on Isla del Sol, in the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca, is worshipped as their birth place. At 3.820 meters, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. With a surface of 8.500 square kilometres and a depth up to 283...[more]

Category: Peru

09.10.2007

The Yavari Project

Another highlights we headed for was the “Yavari Project”. The Yavari is an old steamship that was built in Great Britain in 1862, then was put into 2.766 boxes and shipped across the ocean to Peru. After a short train journey the boxes were carried across the Andes by mules. In Puno the ship was put together, by that time six years had passed from the producing of the boat to its maiden journey, on Christmas Eve 1870. The steam boat was originally powered by lama dung and only in 1906 did it receive a semi-diesel engine. In the...[more]

Category: Peru

10.10.2007

Peru: Budget

All in all, we spent on average almost exactly the same amount of money per day as in Venezuela: 33.5 Euros or 47 USD. Yes, the present exchange rate Euro-Dollar is the best thing that could happen to us! Peru is to some extend a very cheap country, especially coming from Brazil, but classic tourist activities can be at times really pricy. In order to get an understanding for the cost of living in Peru, some information about the level of income might help. For an unqualified job, the standard salary can be as little as 300 to 350...[more]

Category: Peru, Budget

11.10.2007

Peru: Summary

Peru is the third country we have visited in South America, after Venezuela and Brazil. These three countries on the same continent are actually three totally distinct worlds. Differences are huge! Those impressions will always stay in our mind when thinking of Peru: (x) Our disgust and anger about what the Catholic Church did in the name of god in South America in the time of Conquistadores, destroying systematically one of the greatest cultures in history! Considering the Pope’s comments during his last visit in South America,...[more]

Category: Peru, Summaries