Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why Peru?

The older walls (dark grey, in the center) were part of a large Inka ceremonial site but then the Spanish tore it down to make a cathedral and convent, Cusco.

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.

Church belltower.

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 include 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.

Cusco has many Inka archeological sights, some with incredible stonework (those which survived the Spanish looting the stones to build their churches...)

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.

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 bus transportation (as in, not municipal busses). Our hostal was located near the Central/Historic district. I recommend the area over Milflores, which gets all the hype.

Old gate leading to the central market, Cusco.
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 where we stayed to arrange day trips and our train transportation to Aguas Caliente, the thriving little village at the base of Machu Picchu.

View from a second story pub balcony, Cusco.

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.


Meredith said...

God, I love Peru.

Wonderful pictures!

And as we know...we have the walls built by the Incas and then those built poorly by the Incapazes.

Jim said...

Merideth - It was SO APPARENT the difference in quality between the ancient Inka stone construction (sans mortar) and the shifty construction by the Spanish (using lots of mortar).

Born Again Brazilian said...

Our trip to Peru was amazing! We didn't do the typical Inca trail, but another (much more rural) hike and then to Machu Pucchu. Seeing the fog clear away from this ancient city at about 5am in the morning to reveal the structures was one of the most memorable events of my life! Hope you are had a fabulous trip!!

MariaLuvsNOLA said...

Great pics! Peru looks like a spectacular place.