17.01.2016 - 17.01.2016
The day we arrived in Peru we had left our hostel in Galapagos at 6am and arrived in Tumbes after 10pm. It turned out to be the town's anniversary which meant a big party in turn but we weren't remotely up to enjoying it, although the music playing in the square as we searched for an ATM was rather nice. We got offered a discount of about 40% on our accommodation if we paid cash and left by 7:30 the next morning - a classic example of the way things work here!
We therefore had another early start the next day and arrived in the beautiful beach town of Mancora before 10. We spent a very enjoyable couple of days relaxing and enjoying the beach and the amazing food in this town. On our first day we went to a quiet local kitchen which had the most amazing fresh ceviche! It was so good we went back again the next day - fresh fish, lime, chili, onion and some crunchy Peruvian beans which really added to the texture.
After lunch we bought a few beers and relaxed on the beach. The water was surprisingly cold, compared to the warm temperatures in Ecuador but we still went for a swim.
We had a good life admin day the next day, getting washing done, finding a sim card for Peru, booking a bus to Lima for that night and squeezing in a nice long walk along the beach. There were a lot of pelicans around the fishing boats which David loved to see.
That night we had a 20 hour bus ride to Lima, leaving at 6pm. Within ten minutes of the bus leaving a toddler in the seats next to us threw up all over her mum, not an auspicious start.... Fortunately it was all uphill from there, as the seats were reasonably comfortable and the drive smooth and we were reasonably refreshed when we arrived in Lima.
We found our AirBnB accommodation and looked around the neighborhood. That night we went to the airport to meet our friends Michael and Morgan who would be with us for the next 3 weeks. The next day we went to Miraflores, the touristy area of town which was really pretty. We went shopping at a traditional market, and spent the afternoon at a park playing Frisbee and the first of what would be many games of 500.
That evening we met Peter at the airport and then headed to a park with some amazing water and lights.
The next day we explored the city centre which had an impressive square with *sigh* the usual grand old government buildings and churches - maybe we have been traveling too long!!!
We also did a tour of the San Francisco monastery which had a lot of extremely intracate artwork. Apparently the church is also famous for the many pigeons living outside, which David and Peter tried unsuccessfully to chase.
That night we flew to Arequipa, which is about 2,400m above sea level. We had a great hostel which was right by the centre of town. The first morning David and I managed to go for our first run of the year - what altitude sickness?!?!?
That morning we discovered an amazing crepe cafe and then went white water rafting. The rapids were a fair bit smaller than the ones we had rafted in Ecuador but I enjoyed myself more because we had the entire tour to ourselves and were with old friends for the first time in a long while.
The next morning we got picked up at 3am for our 2 day hike in the Colca canyon. The morning was rough, but we revived a bit after breakfast and stopped at a condor viewing point. The canyon is one of the largest in the world and the native people have lived there since before the Aztecs, and have cut terraces into the steep sides of the canyon. The lookout was impressive, and David saw a condor while I used the bathroom!! Luckily 2 more flew below us about half an hour later so we all got to see them.
We started our trek with our guide Jose, and 3 Chileans. We descended from about 3,300m to 2,200m and had lunch which a cute old lady at a small village in the valley cooked for us. The views were spectacular, but we were a little worried as we would have to walk back up the next day!! That afternoon we walked along the canyon to our hostel, in the very aptly named 'Oasis'. It had a much appreciated pool which was fantastic after our big day of walking.
The next morning we left at 5am and climbed straight up the hill we had descended the day before. The Chileans in our group has really struggled the day before so they elected to ride mules up but our group was made of tougher stuff!! It was hard work and the altitude and temperature both fought against us more and more the higher we got! Unfortunately David got an upset stomach but there was really nothing we could do for him so he just pushed on through. We made it to the top just before 9 - did I mention how good the views were?
We had a much needed breakfast and then headed back to Arequipa, stopping along the way a few times for lookouts and some hot pools to relax our already sore muscles. That night we jumped straight on a night bus to Cusco.
We arrived in Cusco at 7am and had a hearty meal at a nice cafe. By then David had come right enough to order the big breakfast! We found some accommodation and had a lazy day looking around, catching up on our sleep deficit and taking it easy, as Cusco is about 3,400m above sea level.
The next day we did a tour of the sacred valley. I had managed to catch whatever David had and felt rubbish that day but it was still a really good tour, although it included the usual annoyances - we got dropped at a market, silver shop, and weaving town where people try to sell you everything under the sun. This is part of the sales pitch ("traditional markets, explanation of silver processing and traditional weaving") but is really a chance for a select few shops to get a busload of tourists dumped in their shop for 20 minutes if they give a 5 minute presentation. We also saw three Inca ruins and our guide was really knowledgeable, with stories about the religious beliefs, Spanish influence, and the purpose of the original settlement.
Peter, Morgan and Michael being touristy.
The next day we went to a chocolate museum in Cusco. We did a tour and learnt about the process to make chocolate. Afterwards we enjoyed the delicious treats at the cafe, including the Mayan hot chocolate with chili and honey.
After that David, Morgan, Michael and I did a cooking class! We made pisco sours, a Peruvian cocktail with pisco liquor (a fortified wine), lime juice, sugar syrup, and raw egg whites. I actually found it a bit too sour for my taste, but Michael made his with passionfruit rather than lime and his was delicious.
We also made Aji de Gallino, chicken in a creamy, garlicky chili curry which was delicious. The cooking school was really well run and we had a great time.