Our time in Peru has come to an end - we are moving on and leaving behind some awesome memories and great new friends. I thought it would be good to try and review and reflect on our time here in Peru, and ponder some of the highlights, and the lowlights of what we have seen (in some cases the highlights and lowlights run together).
Initially landing in Lima we were a little concerned about what we had got ourselves into - the airport, as with many big cities is surrounded by poorer districts. So our first impression of Peru was a wild taxi ride through the slum areas of Lima. We both looked at each other and said - ¨This is what we wanted!¨.
Where we stayed in Lima ended up not being so bad. Miraflores and Barranco were probably the nicer suburbs of Lima.
Our Intrepid travel group would have to be listed as a highlight, along with our leader Augusto. We made great friends with all in the group - and hope to catch up with many of them along the remainder of our trip, and also back in Australia when we return.
Pisco was probably the first lowlight (after the Hotel Espuranza in Lima). Unfortunately the place had been devastated by an earthquake months earlier, so there was really not much to do or see there. Lucky it was only a night. The place also smelt quite strongly of fish, a side affect of being a seaside community I guess.
The desert Oasis and Nazca were definatly highlights. While the flight over the Nazca lines was a little scary, observing the lines from the air was defiantly worth every second in that small plane.
Another observation was that after Lima, the general quality of the Hotels improved. We were expecting Lima to be the best, and things to go down hill from there, however this was almost the opposite - the exceptions being the very small remote towns where we had on very basic hotels, but these even stacked up to the Lima accommodation in their own ways.
The overnight bus ride from Nazca to Arequipa was, while exciting and reasonably comfortable, probably a lowlight due to the scariness of driving at night through the Andes - feeling like the bus is going very fast around some of the sharp corners, or overtaking through corners was not a great experience, and it was better to be asleep so you just couldn´t see what was going on.
Arequipa was a lovely city, we all wished we had some more time there to explore. It was the first nice city we had been too. While it was at altitude (which had its way of affecting all of us), it was lovely.
On the topic of altitude, I think I could list this on my lowlights. I'm not certain if it was the altitude, the food, or the coca that made me ill, but I defiantly cannot face coca anymore.
Coca, Coca tea, and Coca lollies are meant to assist with the affects of altitude. So as the altitude increased, our consumption of coca products did as well. Initially it was great, but as I became ill, I think associated my sickness with the Coca (an I don´t doubt that in some small way it may have contributed). The meer smell of coca now makes me feel nausious!
Seeing the Andes close up was defiantly a highlight - these mountains are so amazing, its an incredible experience.
The Colca Canyon was both a highlight and a lowlight for me. This is were I first became sick, putting a dull spin on everything I did. Shivay, the first small town we arrived to in the Colca Canyon was nice - simple but nice. I enjoyed the hot springs there as much as someone with an ill stomach and pounding head could.
Seeing condors flying in the canyon was defiantly on the highlight list. This was amazing. Personally we think that condors are rather ugly birds, but they defiantly make up for it when they are soring through the canyon - very spectacular.
Sabyu, again is listed as both a highlight and a lowlight. For me, being ill while on the first home stay was difficult, and made it hard to enjoy the experience - although I did defiantly try. And in retrospect this home stay was nowhere near as well prepared or organized as our home stay near lake Titicaca.
Puno was alright. I would not list it as either a highlight or a lowlight - it was just part of the trip. Lake Titicaca, and the Uros islands was defiantly a highlight. This was amazing to see and experience. Our local guide ended up being a little bit of a dud and no one really liked him from our group. As I mentioned, the home stay near lake Titicaca was great. We all though that we could have probably done with only the one home stay - two home stays 1 day apart was a big ask especially for those of us who weren´t so well.
Cuzco was defiantly on the highlight list - we all loved the free time we had here, and the city it self was beautiful. We also found what I believe to be the best eatery in all of Peru - Peki´s. This was a tiny sandwich bar about 100m from our hotel in a narrow street on the way to the main square. We discovered this place early on and the news spread like wild fire through our group - great fresh sandwiches (actually toasted rolls), and burritos!. Pekis was a rest bite for us weary travelers from the continuous Peruvian food.
While i'm on the topic of food, I might as well cover off our favorites that we encountered on the way.
Yes we did try Ginnie Pig - it was in small pieces and had been fried, so it was rather like eating small chicken wings. It wasn't bad. Not really sure what it tasted like but I went back for seconds.
We also sampled Alpaca - although the Peruvian medium rare appears to be the same as all their other ways of cooking red meat - over done and a little tough. It was nice, but just tough.
Laura's favorite, that she discovered early on was a dish called Lomo Saltado - basically a stir fry containing rice, beef strips, onion, red pepper, and chips.
Ceviche was another dish I attempted - raw fish prepaired in vinegar and lemon juice. Not bad, but I only had it the once.
Out of everything on our time in Peru, Machu Picchu was what we were waiting to see - and we weren't disappointed. It was fantastic - everything we had hoped it would be and more.
Our time in the Amazon was also brilliant - we both loved it and wished we had a little more time to spend there just to chill out and relax.
So all in all a fantastic trip that we will remember for ever.