Edit: Actually posting this just now, since there is very limited internet speed here in Venezuela!
What better time to start writing about my trip(s) in Peru than on my last day in Lima, Peru. To be honest I didn’t think I’d be traveling so much during my time here in Peru, but there’s just so much to see and visit that you can’t help it. And to make things worse, Peru has a great (and cheap) long distance bus traject all over the country. There are tons of different bus companies that offer you great service depending on the price. I’ve actually taken one where they actually serve food in the bus with a … uhm… bus attendant and the seats were nearly fully reclinable. Though I’ve heard some stories of hijackings of buses, this type of hijacking doesn’t only happen in Peru, but also Brasil, so don’t think that it only happens in Peru.
Anyway, I figured I’d split up my travel stories in a few blogposts since it’ll be way too long for 1 single post. I’ll just skip the “boring” parts and only mentioned the highlights. At least I’ll try… I have the (bad) habit of saying one thing and doing something totally different. Once you start writing and thinking back ’bout the times you realised there is just too much to mention it all.
Just a short itinerary of my route: Lima > Cusco > Machu Picchu > Puno > Lake Titicaca > Arequipa > Colca Canyon > Paracas > Lima. Quite the few destinations for a little more than 3 weeks in Peru.
I arrived in Lima the first time around 5 in the afternoon from a sunny Santiago de Chile. On the way to the hostel from the airport there were 2 things I noticed. There were a shitload of chifa‘s around and that it was crazy cloudy. Not the kind of cloudy in Belgium or right when it’s about to rain, but it was thick and gray and dirty and…..after some research I realised it was smog. And apparently Lima is known for its smog. Anyhow, not really interesting I guess, but the second thing were the chifa’s, these are actually Chinese restaurants that serve fried rice and other typical Chinese food. Being a Chinese backpacker I was quite suprised to see so many Chinese restaurants, however, to my disappointement, most (if not all) of these were run by Peruvians. But that didn’t stop me from trying the food as a “real” Chinese. The wonton soup was pretty average, the wonton looks like a semi real one but didn’t taste as good as the real one. Then I had shrimp fried rice, shrimps were no problem for them, but the fried rice was just so-so, to be honest, I missed some good curry sauce.
Lima does have a few things to offer to the tourist, but in about 2 days, you should’ve seen it all. On my second day I met up with a local couchsurfer with whom I was supposed to stay with. Since she had family visiting, we just settled for a meet and greet. We walked around the city a bit and she showed me some of the places in Lima. Mind you, this was the time before New Year so the streets were pretty packed with people selling all kinds of yellow stuff for new year. Anyway, highlight of the day was that I tried some really good anticuchos. My friend told me it was actually beef heart but in fact anticuchos can be of any type of meat. But of course the most popular and traditional one is from beef heart. Sorry no pictures of the food though but managed to snap a picture of dessert, picarones.
Honestly, I wasn’t really wow-ed in Lima, I didn’t expected to either. But I did like it that there were still arcades and where the youth are still really into playing arcade games. I’m not talking just randomly playing but they actually have the same games from Asia here, like the Dance Dance Revolution games and the other beat-button-smashing games.
Cusco is a city high up in the mountains, about 3400m high and I felt it for sure. The first couple of days I had a major case of altitude sickness which kicked my ass badly. But that didn’t stop me from going to a Couchsurfing meeting the first day and some minor partying afterwards. I’m so hardcore it hurts sometimes… I know….
Once I got used to the altitude, I started to explore the city itself a bit. First thing I noticed that there were TONS and TONS of tourists. I’ve been to other touristic destinations before but this kind of tops it. Everywhere on the street I hear English, German, French and even some Dutch people speaking. And I’m not even counting the people from South-America itself. How I noticed? The colorful “Inca” pants that you might have seen people wear before.
Actually Cusco as a city has only a handfull of things to actually visit, but the view around Cusco is just simply amazing. You are surrounded by the mountains and there is feel of Inka everywhere. Quite magical feeling. The real sights are actually around Cusco, there are tons of Inka ruins you can visit around Cusco with tours or just by yourself in a few days. No need to travel for days like Machu Picchu. Downside is that you have to buy this boleto turisto pass for like 130 soles for all the most touristic sites. Since I didn’t have much time to visit all the sites and the fact that I’m a bit cheap, I passed on the boleta and just settled for just seeing Machu Picchu. But if you have the time and money, be sure to visit some of the historical ruins around Cusco, you won’t be sorry.
New Year in
In my last post, I wrote about celebrating Christmas in Chile, which means New Year is coming up real close and I’m celebrating it in Cusco. Actually the story begins on the 30th of december. My host in Cusco, took me to a really local club that he planned to go to on the 31st and decided to take me there to check it out before too, since it’s been a while too that he went there. Everything started all good and well, Peruvian music blasting from the speakers, people dancing and the club is semi packed with Peruvian people. Then one of the friends from my host said we should go to another club, one with more girls. Me being the tourist, I just went along with it (I swear, it’s true). But little did I know, was that the next club was actually a hostess club with some rather nasty girls dancing around in skimpy bikinis. I’m not exactly a prude, but ugh, this was quite….. an experience. I did learn that these girls were quite smart in making the guys spend money. In just 30 mins, they managed to make the guys spend about 400+ soles on just beer and company. Not my kind of thing, so I kept trying to bail out, but my host did say that we go out together, we go home together. Fair enough I guess.
Anyway that experience made me not want to spend new year the same way and end up in an even more awkward situation. So I decided to meet up with the Couchsurfing people and hang out with them for some clean fun and celebration.
Oh and by the way, here in South America they have certain traditions for new year:
- One must wear yellow (for luck or everything) or red (if you want to find love) underwear, but this must be a present from someone
- One must run around the main plaza 3 times with a suitcase, symbolizing that they want to travel and hopefully this will come true
- One must eat a grape and make a wish for every month in the new year
- One must give their first hug to a person of the opposite sex if they want to find love in the new year (Not sure in Peru, but it is in Chile)
I think I did all 4, eventhough I didn’t get my yellow underwear as a present. Still counts!
While doing all this and waiting for the clock to strike midnight, we were just standing on the main plaza which was packed with people and people firing fireworks. And no, not just the fireworks that shoots up the sky, but also the ones that explode really loud. And it was E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E! Hence the title, new year in Bagdad. It was so bad that we actually had to find another place to stand to avoid it. Seriously annoying. While we were running around the plaza (tradition 2), I actually saw some people in the crowd throwing fireworks to the people standing on the balconies of the restaurants. Crazy shit!
Anyway, after all the traditions, some of the people ended up going to clubs others went to the house of a couchsurfer to chill there. I went with some people to the house but soon left with a handfull of people to find a place to dance. We ended up in a reggae bar/club thing. Never thought I’d be celebrating new year in a reggae bar, but heck there was a good atmosphere and the music was decent so I just went with it. At around 4:30 in the morning we called it a night and started to head home when the sun was about to come up. I said goodbye to the people and went home to sleep. That was New Years Eve 2011 for me.
On a sidenote, for some reason I woke up around 11-12 and wanted to look for some food so I headed to the Plaza. I expected a warzone with broke bottles and trash everywhere, but no! The place looked just like any other normal day, with just a few bottles here and there and some trash. But it didn’t look like there was a huge party there just less than 12 hours ago. Amazing.