Monday, May 28, 2012

Visiting Peru

Exibition Gardens in Lima

Typically, when Luiz and I take off on a travel adventure abroad, we spend 6 – 8 weeks in the country to get a decent feel for the people, culture, food, music and the rest. We move about at a quiet pace. No rushing from bus station to bus station. We unpack our luggage when we settle in at the hotel or hostal.

In this particular case, we had time constraints imposed by Luiz still attending tourism classes in Rio. Luiz had to negotiate time away from class with his instructors. The rules at school included a maximum number of missed classes before you are automatically disqualified from graduating. So we settled on a two week jaunt to and from Machu Picchu.

This year Luiz turned 60 years old on May 16th. His great desire was to spend his birthday wandering the ruins high in the Peruvian mountains. So we planned our itinerary around his birthday.

Basically we hopped on the gringo trail, arriving in Lima, then flying to Cusco, then riding a train to Aguas Caliente and finally a 20 minute mini bus up to Machu Picchu. Then back again.

Our one three star hotel. The towels were in love.
We were not disappointed. Well, actually, we found the price of hotels and hostals a bit high, but groceries, restaurants, consumer goods and entertainment were quite reasonable – certainly much cheaper than here in Brazil. Every hotel/hostal we connected with posted their rates in US dollars. Two and three star establishments ranged from US$40 – US$75 per night.

In Lima we enjoyed several excellent museums, amazingly cheap and tasty meals, and wicked scary private (as in not municiple) bus transportation. Our hostal was located near the Central/Historic district. I recommend the area over Milflores, which gets all the hype.

Spanish/Christian cathedral and convent -- too bad they used the nearby Inka holy site as a "quarry" to  gather stones to build the buildings. The Spanish/Christians were not the good guys...
After a few days in Lima we flew to Cusco, the celebrated biggest tourist destination in Peru. Travel agencies were lined up four and five on every block. Everyone wanted to help you get the train to Machu Picchu, or take you on a jungle hike, or hook you up with a day-long bus tour stopping at numerous Inka ruins (including a tasty lunchtime meal).

Luiz and I bought a tourist discount ticket for $130 Peruvian Soles (S/) that gave us access to 16 different sites (churches, museums, archeological sites, a cultural dance performance and more) over a ten day period. It was a GREAT deal. We went to 11 of the 16 sites. One of the sites was charging S/$70 entrance fee. Most were S/$10 – $30. So we saved a bundle.

We worked with the proprietor of the hostal we stayed at to arrange day trips and our train transportation to Aguas Caliente, the thriving little village at the base of Machu Picchu.

It was a surprise to me that the city of Cusco is actually higher in the mountains than Machu Pichu. From the photos of MP it appears you are way up in the heavens.  But in fact, Cusco is at an altitude of 11,800 feet, with Machu Picchu at 10,200 feet. It was cold up there! Both Luiz and I over-packed Tshirts and shorts and under-packed sweatshirts and long pants. But we managed…

After a few days in Cusco, we caught the train to Aguas Caliente (and then to Machu Picchu the following morning). More about that in my next post.


Jennifer Souza said...

Looking handsome!!!!

Peg said...

You two look fantastic, and happy! So glad you had a good time, and I'm glad we get to read about it and see the photos. :0)