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PERU | Monday, 1 September 2008 | Views [1009]

Friday, August 29th - Sunday, October 5

Once I arrived Trujillo, Peru (768,300 pop) on Friday, Aug 29th, late in the evening...I met Cecilia´s mother and brother at the door, and they quickly made up my bed for me, and we all went to bed. She lives with her grandma, two brothers, mother, and father.

On Saturday, I went with Cecilia and her brother and one of her friends to check out the beach area and grab a bite to eat by the beach. It was pretty little beach area that they have not far from their house. We also drove by Chan Chan in the taxi, but was not able to stop or go see it again while I was in Trujillo. It is what Trujillo is famous for. The site once formed the largest Pre Colombian city in the Americas and the largest adobe city in the world. At the height of the Chimu Empire, Chan chan contained about 10,000 structures, from royal palaces lined with precious metals to huge burial mounds.

I also went with Cecilia to her gym on Saturday morning, it was nice to get a work out in...I haven´t been able to work out since I left...just limited to situps and pushups...they also had this dance work out class at her gym which I did with Cecilia as well. It was pretty cool, and a great work out.

On Sunday, Aug 31, Cecilia and I went to the gym again in the morning and did a spin class with her which was an awesome work out, and then she had to go to a modeling class, and I cruised back to hand wash my clothes at her house, and just relax while studying some Spanish at the house.

Cecilia was very busy with her studies...she just got back from the Netherlands, and is studying law. She had some exams and lots of work to do when she got back, so she did not have much time to tour me around (I don´t miss the college BS). It was fine for me to sit at her house eating the excellent meals that her mother and grandma cooked me and study away with my Spanish. During the night I would watch TV with her grandma and she would chat to me, but I did not understand her Spanish very well. It is always good practice for me though.

On Tuesday, Sept 2, I took an 9.5 hour bus to Huaraz at 830 pm (35 soles=$11.66) to spend a night or two there to break up the bus ride to Lima which is another 8 hours from Huaraz. I arrived there around 6 am on Wed (Sept 3) and my couchsurfer Victor had his sister pick me up at the terminal because he was up in the mountains and would not be back till Saturday (Victor is a certified mountain guide in Huaraz who has climbed every thing). She took me back to the house and gave me the keys, and then went on her way to study away. I wish Victor would have been around to take me hiking in the mountains, but I guess I will come back soon. It is a pretty sweet city with an amazing view of the mountains. I wish I was feeling better to do one of the 5 day hikes through the mountains. Probably would have to stay around to get acclimitized, and I have a cold right now, so the asthma is not doing that great. I have had a sweet cough for about a month now...no bueno!

Huaraz (88,300 pop) is the nerve center of one of South America´s premier trekking, mountain biking, and climbing areas. The mountainous region of the Cordilleras blanca and Huayhuash are among the highest mountain ranges in the world outside of the Himalayas with pristine lakes, ice caves, and torrid springs. I guess I will just have to come back here when Victor is available to take me up there.

On Thursday, Sept 4th I took a 8 hour night bus from Huaraz to Lima (35 soles = $11.66). I had to make a last minute adjustment to line up a new couchsurfer in Lima because I was having troubles getting a hold of Ambrita who I was supposed to stay with to let her know I would be coming a week earlier than I originally told her. Fortunately, I contacted another girl Lucia today and she responded quickly to let me know that I could stay at her place. I arrived Lima about 6:00 am and then waited at the bus terminal for awhile because the couchsurfer told me to come to her house at 7:30 am before she went to work around 8:15. When I eventually arrived to her house we chatted for a little while and then I had to leave because she was going to work and she did not give me any keys to her house, and she was not done with work until 730 pm. I just packed a small backpack for the day. Luckily, I knew another guy, Pedro, in Lima as well. I called Pedro and he picked me up and toured me all around Lima all day. I met Pedro´s sister when I was in Costa Rica, and she lives in the states now, so she told me to contact him when I made it to Lima. He was an awesome guy, and I told him my couchsurfing situation, and that I did not have any keys etc...he told me to come stay at his place instead, so I actually did not even spend a night at Lucia´s place because I found it wierd that she did offer for me to stay at her house while she was at work.

Everything was going well the first few days at Pedro´s house. He lives with his grandparents right now because he is on vacation from the Cruise Lines that he works for. His grandparents have a house keeper who cooks up all the meals, and had some great food there. After a few days I realized that Pedro had taken money out of my money belt, so on Wednesday, September 10, I decided to move on from their place, and get a hotel until Sunday when I will leave to Huaraz again to do some hiking. During my time in Lima I also got my visas taken care of that I need for Paraguay ($65, 2 3X4 white background photos, copies of two credit cards), Brazil ($130, 2 3X4 white background photos), and now I just need to get my visa for Bolivia if I decide to go there at all with the turmoil going on.

Lima (7.6 million) is a great city, and I was impressed with how clean it is. The government has a lot of people constantly cleaning up the streets. It was twice as clean as Bogota. It is the only capital city that I know of with the ocean. There is definitely a lot of pollution from all the cars on the streets, but I heard they are working on some type of new trolley type transport system. I think once they get that in place the city will be awesome! The price of gas is over $4 per gallon, but yet, the taxis are still extremely cheap. I think the most I paid for a taxi was 12 soles ($4). It goes to show how much we are over charged for taxis in the states.

On Sunday, Sept 14, I arrived Huaraz again for my second time to go trekking in the mountains for four days. Once I arrived I called Victors sister and she let me into their place again...they have a separate house where they put the couchsurfers, so I had the place to myself. I was supposed to be going on the trek at 6 am on Monday, but some people from the group were sick, so it ended up that I went at 6 am on Tuesday, Sept 16th, with an agency (AndeXplora www.andexplora.com) that Victor recommended. It was like $100 with food included for four days, so it was a good price, and then I had to pay an additional 65 soles ($22) for the park entrance fee. The first day consisted of a 4 hour bus ride up into the mountains, and then 4 hours of trekking once we arrived to the mountains. Right before we arrived to our base camp we got rained on pretty good, and upon our arrival, we had dinner and went to bed. It was definitely the coldest night of the trek because my clothes were still damp, and I did not have a sleeping bag that zipped up. I probably slept about 4 hours and after tossing and turning, I got up about 445 am and started running in place outside the tent to stay warm until we had breakfast and some hot tea around 7 am.

On Wednesday, Sept 17th, we took off pretty early around 730 am after breakfast because we had 8 hours of hiking ahead of us. This was the toughest day because we climbed up to our ultimate peak (Punta Union 4750 M). We were hiking with 10 people on the first day (myself, 2 from London, and 7 from Israel), but on the second day two of the Israel girls took a horse back because one of the girls was sick, and the other was her friend, so they left together. So now we had 8 people including me, and everyone was quite friendly along with the 3 different guides that we had. We had the main guide who cooked us up the meals and two other guys that helped cook, and packed up all of our stuff on the donkeys, so we really did not have much to carry at all, and it made for an awesome trip. The trek on this day was probably the most beautiful because once we reached the peak the view was amazing and there was a beautiful blue lagoon as well, and there was even a little snow coming down. After we reached the top and relaxed up there for awhile, we started descending downwards where we ended up posting our tents right in front of this beautiful mountain. The view could not have been better, and it almost seemed fake with the white snow glistening from the mountain in front of our tents.

We had chicken for dinner the first night and the second night they made us up some great steak as well along with excellent soups. After dinner when it was dark outside, the stars up in the sky looked amazing along with the moon and the glistening white snow on the mountains. It looked like something out of a movie. I have never scene anything like it before, and I cant really describe it.

On Thursday, Sept 18th, we got up pretty early again to start out 6 hour trek for the day. We had some breakfast and then went on another beautiful scenic journey for the day. The guide made us lunch for each of the days that we carried in a bag to stop and eat whenever we felt the need. Usually during the trek it was me and the couple from London, and one girl from Israel that ended up leading the pack on the treks and were usually at least an hour ahead of the rest of the group. Once we arrived to our next base camp we had our tents and everything set up for us by the other helpers that guide the donkeys along the path ahead of us.

After our arrival we had a nice spaghetti dinner for the last night to get carbed up, and then the last day was just a five hour trek to catch a bus, and then we all arrived Huaraz around 3pm on Friday. At 1030 pm Friday evening I caught another 8 hour bus from Huaraz to Lima. I arrived Lima about 630 am and then checked into my same hotel again for another night.

On Sunday, Sept 22, I took a 4 hour bus to Huacachina where they have these huge sand dunes. I arrived there about 5 pm, and then checked into my hostel. After that I hiked up the sand dunes which took about 35 minutes to get to the top. I stayed up there watching people sandboard and just admired the beautiful view from up there. That evening I also caught an amazing sunset from the top of the sand dunes!

I stayed at hostel Casa de Arena for one night for (15 soles = $5) which had a nice pool and was a very clean place. The following day I went on a 2 hour dune buggy ride and sandboarding trip at 10 am (45 soles=$15) that was awesome. The sandboarding in the sand dunes was super fun, and the ride in the dune buggy was a little wild and crazy, but an awesome time as well.

On Monday, September 22, I took a 11.5 hour bus to Arequipa (73 soles =$25) at 9 pm. Once I arrived on Tuesday morning, couchsurfer Jose met me at the terminal to escort me back to his house where I got showered up and ready for the day. He walked me all around town, and then I booked a 2 day trek to Colca Canyon through one of his friends agencies (Wasi Inca Tour) for (120 soles = $40 plus 35 soles for entrance). They had food included, the transportation, and one night in a bungalow. The trek actually starts at 1 am, so Jose actually found me a hotel right next to the agency so I would not have to worry about getting to the agency. One of his friends worked at this hotel and I did not have to pay for it. They also they said they would watch my big backpack for me until I got back from the trek on Thursday, Sept 25. Once I got back from the trek I took a 10 hour bus (50 soles =$18) at 8 pm to Cusco.

As far as the trek went...I would not recommend it to anyone. We caught the bus at 2 am and then after the five hour bus ride we made it to our destination where we had breakfast before we continued on with our hike. We started hiking about 730 am, and made it to our bungalows around 3 pm. Around 7 pm we had dinner, and then I was told for the first time that we would have to wake up at 330 am to start our hike for the next day. The last time I checked you usually hike to see the scenery, but with this Colca Canyon 2 day trek I guess you dont because the whole second day trek was in the dark. They also had these hot springs and Condor look out thing included but, after the hike I just wanted to get back to Arequipa, so I caught my bus back. I had three other people in my group, and the one guy from France was cool, and the other two were a couple from the States. She was a little out of shape, and would not quit complaining the whole time, and it got old real quick. After the first day, she ordered the guide to get her a donkey to ride the following morning because she would not be able to do it the following day. I have never heard someone complain so much in my life...she was even complaining on the bus about how loud the Spanish video was on the TV.. Anyways...it was an experience, and I am glad it is over with!!

Arequipa was a cool city from what I saw. It is the second biggest city of Peru (760,000) {2,300M altitude}. Colca Canyon is one of the worlds deepest canyons at 3191m, second to its neighboring Canon del Cotoahuasi, which is only 163m deeper.

On Friday, September 26, I arrived Cusco around 6 am after a 10 hour bus ride, and went to a hostel called Loki that was recommended in the guide book. It was a good hostel with breakfast included for 21 soles*$8 per night. There are not that many couchsurfers in Cusco, but I met up with one named Frank on Friday night, and he offered for me to stay at his place. On Saturday, at 1pm I checked out of the hostel and met Frank to drop my stuff off at his house. I also booked my trek to Machu Picchu which was quite expensive. I paid $170 for 3 days 2 nights, and this included the return train and bus tickets, the food, and lodging in hostels.

I spent two nights at Franks place on the weekend, and then I went back to hostel Loki on Monday, Sept 29. It seemed that he was quite busy, and they were in the middle of moving to a different house, so I did not want to inconvenience them, and I was also heading on my 3 day trek to Machu Picchu at 730 am Tuesday morning.

The three-day Inka Jungle Trail trek was awesome. The first day we took a minivan to about 3.5 hours to Abra de Malaga pass (4319 M) and then let us off to jump onto our mountain bikes and coast down hill for about 2 hours to Santa Maria (1250 M). Then we jumped back into our minivan and they took us to these hot springs just before Santa Teresa. We hung out in the hot springs for a few hours, and then we went to Santa Teresa (1500 M) and checked into our hostel. It was definitely not a great hostel, but they had a bed and that was all we needed. At about 7 pm we had some dinner, and the following morning we woke up at 10 am to start out 5 hour trek for the day to Aguas Calientes (1900 M). We road a cable car across the river along the way and then followed disused train tracks all the way to Aguas Calientes. My feet were quite sore after this from walking on all the stones along the way. The following morning (Thurs Oct 2) we woke up at 4 am to start our 1 hour trek from Aguas Calientes (1900M) to Machu Picchu (2425 M). We arrived Machu Picchu and had plenty of time to take photos for the day, and was quite amazing to see the ruins. If you can get to Machu Picchu early enough in the morning you can wait in line to get a ticket to hike up to Wayna Picchu (2634 M) (1.45 hrs) as well. They only let 400 people go up there a day, and everyone in my group got there early enough to go, but it ended up that I was the only one that went from my group. Everyone else was too tired from all the trekking. It was pretty sweet from up on the top of that mountain looking down on Machu Picchu. After I was done with the trek I came back to Aguas Calientes this time on bus (35 min $6), and then waited till 6 pm to catch my train to Ollantaytambo. Then from Ollantaytambo I had to catch a bus to Cusco. I originally had booked a 4 day trek for the same $170 price because I was told by the company that there was five people in the 3 day trek and five in the 4 day trek. Once we started doing the trek we were all combined for the first day (4 day crew and 3 day crew), and I found out that the only people in the 4 day trek was me and another couple. So, once I found that out I quickly told them I wanted to change to the three day trek and then I was with 2 other guys and 4 girls, and made for a better time. All in all it was a great trek and I would highly recommend it!! (www.nicetourperu.com)

Cusco was a pretty sweet city of 322,000 people {3400 M altitude}, and lots of history of course. Many tourists come to this city for Machu Picchu and everyone hangs out in Plaza de Armas, the heart of the ancient Inca capital. In this area you will find tons of restaurants, Cuscos Cathedral (took 100 years to build), a couple other churches, and tons of people asking you if you want cheap massages. There are also tons of little shops where you can get some really nice hand made clothes.

On Friday, October 3, I checked out of the Loki hostel and caught a night bus south (15 soles = $5) (8 hrs) to Puno. I thought there was a bus every hour, so I tried to catch one at midnight so I would arrive early morning. Unofortunately, the last night bus was at 10pm. So once I arrived the terminal I had to kill some time there until the morning bus at 4 am. I ended up walking around in the terminal to kill time. I seemed like the clock was standing still. I arrived Puno Saturday afternoon around 12:00 and checked into my hotel (Hotel Esther).

Once I arrived I booked a little excursion to these ruins off of Lake Titicaca (25 soles =$8.50) called Sillustani ruins, and also to Euros floating island (25 soles) the following morning at 9 am....returned at 12 pm and then caught a bus to Copacabana, Bolivia at 230 pm (15 soles =$5). It was pretty amazing to see how these people live on these little islands surrounded by Lake Titicaca. The islands are built using layers of buoyant totora reeds that grow abundantly in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. They use these reeds to make their homes, boats, and the crafts they sell to tourists.

Once I arrived Copacabana around 4:30 pm (Sunday, October 5) after the border immigration and continued on 8km to my destination...I checked into my Hotel Mirador which was 50 bolivianos (about $7) and had two beds that looked right out on the water. I can´t believe how cheap things are. I guess paying the $135 for the visa was worth it (also needed copies of credit cards and copy of yellow fever vaccination). My first night in Cocacabana I had the ever famous trout (trucha criolla...one of the worlds largest trout)...was a amazing and so CHEAP!

Thirty eight days in Peru was amazing...so much to do...now ready for a short stay in Bolivia before I cruise into Argentina!

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