Peru explorer day by day
"How we booked our trip..."
We booked our tour through Orquidea Tours agency. Planned itinerary was custom made to fit our needs for a 10-day long stay in Peru, and entire arrangement went very smooth. I would recommend this agency to anyone planning a trip to Peru on a budget. They offered 3 star hotels along the way, all the transfers to and from airports and exciting one-day tours.
"Peru Explorer Day 1"
We arrived to Lima on May 18th around 23pm.
First impression of Lima and Peru was - lots of dynamics and action. I remember not being able to stop looking at the scene surrounding us at the airport already. Two little girls approached me right away and started chatting and giggling, tons of independent tour agents were offering tours, hotels, currency exchange and other services to us. In front of the airport building many policemen very well armed were taking control. Even the parking attendant had a huge gun.
At the airport a couple of drivers from our agency picked us up and took as to the hotel "Santa Cruz" located in Miraflores.
Ride to the hotel was exciting as well. Traffic lights, stop signs don't have much use in Lima. They are only one more reason to honk, as a warning that one's passing through. It was difficult to find one car that was not damaged. Small buses are the most popular vehicles in Lima, and they were all full of people.
Our hotel was decent and clean, in quiet neighbourhood, even though we didn't care much since we only spent four hours in it. First bad news waited for us at the reception where we were told that our 7am flight to Cusco had been cancelled, so we will have to take another one flying over Arequipa at 6am.
"Peru Explorer Day 2"
During this day so many things had happened that it was almost unbelievable that they all fit into only one day. That was definitely the longest, and most amuzing day of my life. Here is how it started...
They woke us up at 4am so we could have our quick breakfast (butter and jam), and in a few minutes we were on the road again, this time back to Lima airport...
...so after 2.5 hours (instead of planned 45 minutes), making a stop at Arequipa (not really on the way to Cusco) we arrived to Cusco around 8:30am. I have to mention here that I was impressed by the brand new planes and most attractive stewardesses on this flight...
First photos were taken already at the airport. Band playing andean music was expecting us there giving us good indication that we arrived to a fun and tourist oriented town.
We couldn't waste time since we had to make it to a Sacred Valley tour, and due to the flight cancellation we were already late. I still managed to buy my first (and last) bag of coca leaves. They tasted awful...
People from Orquidea picked us up and transfered us to our hostal...
Orquidea Real hostal is located 150m away from Plaza de Armas - center of Cusco. It is an old colonial house transformed to a hotel. Rooms were clean and authentic, there was hot water and all other normally included accessories. Some rooms have a view at a city (ours didn't have any windows).
To get to the hotel from the street you have to climb a few stairs and that is when I felt first reaction to high altitude.
This is a photo of a fireplace (not operational one) in our room.
Sacred Valley Tour - Pisaq Market
So we left our luggage in our rooms, took smaller backpacks with us and right away got back on our bus. Now being already late, we were supposed to catch our tour that had already been departed to Sacred Valley.
Entire situation caused our only problem with the Orquidea since thay charged us US$5 per person extra for this service. We agreed since the flight cancellation wasn't their fault.
So after an hour of pictoresque ride we caught our tour in Pisaq Market. It is a small charming village located in the Sacred Valley surrounded by mountains. It
is basically one big market, where we did our first shopping in Peru. All
souvenirs are cheap, and locals expect you to negotiate for the price. We were amateurs here but later we caught on.
We continued our trip after one hour...
Sacred Valley Tour - Ollantaytambo
...Now we joined our original tour with an english speaking guide who gave us first lessons in inka history.
We stopped in the village Ollantaytambo, where we did a tour of some Inca ruins (photo), and got introduced to famous Inca terraces.
It was also our first test, since we had to climb all these stairs on our first day at 3000m altitude. I started feeling very light headache and my heart started beating faster...
Sacred Valley Tour - Urubamba Village v
Our day started at 4am, so after all this sightseeings and shopping we got really hungry. Agency gave us coupons for lunch in Urubambe village(photo). Self serve lunch was excellent, so we had a chance to taste local dishes for the first time. Also the weather was great so we enjoyed their nice patio.
...The day was still beautiful and sunny, so after a lunch break we continued our trip towards Chinchero Market located at some 2,500m a.s.l. More examples of Inca terraces can be found here, as well as an ancient church, and a colorful marketplace.
I had my first encounter with locals here, more specifically girl by the name Marinella, 7 years old, but thinking as a 30 year old one. She told me that she walks 2 hours every day to get here so she could sell her goodies (candies,
wallets, etc.) and support her family. She sounded very serious and she wouldn't accept my answer that I will buy something later.So I bought my first bubble gums in Peru here...
We visited more Inca ruins along the way and we finally arrived back to Cusco around 7pm. Took a quick shower and went out to explore Inca night life.
We got hungry and since we all were eager to SEE and taste famous guinea pig we headed to "Kusikuy" restaurant specialized in typical Peruvian dishes. It is located close to plaza de Armas, address is Plateros 348.
On the photo you can see house special "cuy al horno" (baked guinea pig ). You can imagine our reaction when we saw a "rat" on a plate. Cameras were flashing for a few minutes...It tasted sort of like chicken, but it was stuffed with some mint tasting plants that changed its original flavour. I ate mine but I wasn't too impressed...
Here we also had local specialty drink - pisco sour - peruvian excellent and refreshing cocktail made out of pisco liqueur, lemon juice, and egg white.
After the supper our group split in half, tired ones went to sleep, but five of us continued our day of a lifetime.
We went to "Ukukus", club right next to the restaurant where we had our supper. There is no charge to enter any club in Cusco, and usually locals on the street give you coupons for free drinks. This club was fun, they had a live latin-techno band playing and a small dance podium. We were too tired to sit or stand so we danced until 1am when we finally gave it up and went for a well deserved sleep.
"Peru Explorer Day 3"
Leisure Day in Cusco
By now we all experienced light headaches and shortness of breath once in a while, and that didn't bother us much. We had a free day in Cusco to spend just browsing and shopping.
After having another "continental breakfast" at our hostal - consisting of bread, jam, butter ( I got sick of this food in Peru...), and excellent peruvian coffee we headed to Cusco downtown.
We decided to split and meet in Plaza de Armas at 2pm. At that time, a friend of mine suggested we take a walk to an archeological site located on a hill above the town - about an hour walk, and we agreed.
in about 45 minutes we got to the entrance gate to this site. During this walk we noticed that Cusco is much more than Plaza de Armas. It is a big town with some 300,000 people, and lots of attractions.
While we were thinking whether to pay 21 soles (US$6) for entrance to see some of the local ruins, another local guy approached us and offered a 3-hour horseback ride (!) for 15 soles (US$4.50) per person with guides (himself and a buddy). We agreed. That was the best decision of the day. Two funny guys were our guides and we got to enjoy breathtaking views at Cusco and its beautiful surrounding nature on a back of the horse. Well these horses would probably be retired if they were born in Canada, but in Peru they were still in working
At 6pm we returned to our hostal so we could meet the guy that was our guide during 4-day hike to Macchu Picchu that was supposed to start tomorrow.
He gave us all the details of what we can expect, what to carry as a day pack, what to let porters carry for us. We also got maps of the trail with marked camping spots.
Even though we knew, he reminded us again that day 2 is the most difficult one, but he also calmed us down by saying that there is no rush and everyone can walk by their own pace.
That evening we went out just for dinner (no food experimenting) and returned quickly to our hostal to get ready for a big day tomorrow - start of our inca journey!
"Peru Explorer Day 4 - Start of Inka trail!"
By this day we got used to waking up early so at 4:30 we were having breakfast. We left our luggage at the hostal and they kept it safe during our 4 day hike. At 5:30 we were on our bus heading to our starting point - km 82 of the trail.
We had our first accident after an hour of a ride - flat tire. In minutes many children from local houses gathered around us looking at us curiosly. We had bunch of candies as we already got used for this kind of situations.
We continued our trip passing through Ollantaytambo at km 68 (photo) once again, and after that, the asphalt road dissapeared, and the last 14km was very life treatening experience. We were passing through local villages along Urubamaba river where at certain spots cows and sheeps were causing major traffic problems.
At around 7:30 we arrived to starting point - km 82 at 2,600 m.a.s.l. Our cooks made us breakfast, coffee, and coca tea. Here we also bought bottled water and walking sticks. Water can be bought along entire inca trail, so the purifyng pills we brought with us were never used. Water price gets more expensive further you walk and at some points it costs 8 soles per 2l bottle. Average price is 5 soles. None of us got sick even though we brushed our teeth with running water and had ice in our drinks.
We started our trek escorted my native quechua porters going through semi-arid terrain along the Urubamba river with magnificent views of snow capped mounta Veronica.
After around 3 hours we arrived to Llactapata, an ancient inca citadel that protected the entry to two valleys, where we made a first longer break and our guide told us stories about this site.
An hour later we had our first lunch. Porters got here hours before us so they could set up the tents, and prepare lunch. At every break they would provide tea, snacks, and clean water so we can get refreshed.
Rest of the day (some 3-4 hours) was all uphill and then we finally got an idea of what is expecting us next few days. It was not easy, it was hot and we started making breaks more often.
Our first camp was close to Yuncachimpa at some 3,300 m.a.s.l.
Here we had our first supper. Wo what did we eat over these few days. Everything was really tasty and a highly balanced diet. Here are example of meals:
Butter, bread, jam, crackers, with choice of coffee, tea, or chocolate milk. They would also give us snack bag.
LUNCH and DINNER:
Various cooked meals, like rice with sausages, pasta with tomatoes. We always had soup and dessert. I had enough but some people complained they didn't have enough.
Overall we were very satisifed with food and entire service by our group of 17 porters, 2 cooks and 2 guides.
It was pretty warm in a tent so my +6C sleeping bag seemed like the right choice.
"Peru Explorer Day 5"
We woke up early (again) so we can have our brakfast and start our most difficult second day on time. My wet cotton shirt from previous day didn't dry so I had to carry it on the top of my backpack. So bring polyester shirts, they are very handy since it is difficult to dry clothes along the trail.
We took it easy at the beginning since today we were about to reach the highest point and first (of three) passes along the trail - Dead woman's pass.
After few hours we made our first longer break at the Llulluchapampa camping site with stunning views. Real washrooms are also here. We were already at 3,850 m.a.s.l. and it was getting harder and harder to breathe and walk uphill.
While we were walking slowly, porters from all groups were passing us by. They carry around 30kg and actually run uphill. They hardly ever make breaks and are amazing.
During second day you leave last village with electricity and running water, and you get into complete wilderness.
This girl lives with her family in a village at some 4,000 m.a.s.l. no water, no hydro here...
It took us 6 hours of constant uphill walk to finally reach Dead Woman's point at 4,200 m.a.s.l. It was an opportunity to relax but not for long since it was freezing here!!! Just take a picture and RUN!!!
This point carry its name by the shape of a surrounding mountain top that is supposed to look like a woman lying on her back. We couldn't clearly see it, it got a little cloudy.
Right behind the first pass, we saw llamas and alpacas for the first time running freely in the nature. There are some in Cusco, but those ones are only used by locals as a tourist attraction.
My friend also saw a condor here but by the time we had our cameras out it was too late. I was surprised that there were absolutely no animals except for these llamas and alpacas, some tiny birds, and butterflies.
Our campsite was located another 1.5 hour light walk downhill from here, with cold shower for brave ones and real washrooms.
The most difficult day was behind us.
"Peru Explorer Day 6"
Third day was the longest (8 hours walking), and for some (me) the hardest. I got a little sick (cold and altitude) but I made it.
First three hours were difficult going uphill again, but after reaching second pass at Qochapata it got easier. Some people noticed that it is easier going uphill than downhill - I disagreed.
Scenic wise this day was the best. We also passed through two more passes and the rain forest here, where we a short rain caught us. Rain ponchos we bought in Cusco were helpful here.
The photo is in front of Inka Tunnel built in stone close to our third camping spot.
Second part of the day it got easier. We passed through another well preserved Inca site Phuyupatamarka and then our guide took us along some secret shortcut from where we could take a peek at Macchu Picchu for the first time.
Another bunch of film was used when the double rainbow appeared, wow what a sight...
We arrived to 3rd camp site around 6pm. This was the biggest camp so far with warm showers (5 soles), inka disco (!) and other services.
We were only 3 hours away from Macchu Picchu, and now was the time to celebrate with our porters and cooks and thank them for their amazing help. We collected tips for everyone and made a small ceremony on their behalf.
"Peru Explorer Day 7"
We only had 2 more hours to reach the Sun Gate from where we could clearly see Macchu Picchu. The day was beautiful and clear so we could relax, wait for the sun to come out and enjoy the view.
This photo was taken around 7am from Sun gate.
Macchu Picchu only 1 km away...
Around 10am we found ourselves standing on Macchu Picchu ground. At this point I could tell that hike was the only right way to come and see this place. Three days spent exploring smaller inca ruins along the way were like a preparation for facing this amazing town. Seeing Macchu Picchu in its full glory on the fourth day was the biggest reward.
Until 2pm we already finished our tour, gave a farewell to our guide and after having a break in a patio in front of the Macchu Picchu entrance we decided to take the next bus to Aguas Calientes. Hot springs in that village sounded so appealing at the time.
Bus leaves every 10 - 15 minutes and around 3 pm we found our selves in a messy but charming village of Aguas Calientes.
Big market by the Urubamba river and plenty of dogs expected us there. Our 2 star hotel "Urpi" is very nice and it is located right next to the train station. It has a big terrace with a view and only one employee. This 15 year old boy was our receptionist, liftboy, cook and server. We had two problems with him - he did not speak any english at all (my basic spanish came in very handy
here) and it was very difficult to find him. He was either playing ball outside or watching cartoons in his room while we were waiting for our breakfast or keys.
Hot Springs, where we were supposed to relax and take a warm bath, turned out to be a big disappointment. It looked kind of dirty and pool water did not look very appealing to us.
Funniest thing about Aguas Calientes is that it has a train track going right through its center. So we found ourselves having dinner in the patio in one of the restaurants when the train whistle got our attention. The train passed only a meter away from us.
"Peru Explorer Day 8"
Day spent at Aguas Calientes was the only day during our stay in Peru where we did absolutely nothing. We had some short hiking plans for today, but during our breakfast we figured that we are at the point where walking wasn't considered kind of entertainment anymore.
So we spent a day just hanging around the village, shopping for souvenirs (at the point we also got tired of that as well).
We went for lunch to "Inca Wasi" restaurant, and most of the people got stomach problem after having their pizza. I had some sort of local version of shishkebob with alpaca which was OK (I didn't get sick).
Our train was leaving for Cusco at 4pm. There are three types of trains - local only for Peruvians, backpacker one (ours) and the first class. The train ride was fun as well. As certain points I felt like I was on a rollercoaster. It was shaking so much that we were all jumping up and down.
Also scenic wise it was very enjoyable, but it got dark around 6pm so we couldn't see much.
We arrived to Cusco around 9pm. Train was little late since along the way there was no electricity for an hour, so we make an hour break in the middle of nowhere. At least I had a chance to practice "el condor pasa" on my andean flute.
It was our last night in Cusco and we decided to go out - we picked "Mama Africa" bar. We collected so many free drinks coupons on the street that the choice was obvious. Nothing local here. But the place was packed, atmosphere was great, and DJ played an never heard mix of latin, rock, metal, eightees, pop, and rap music. Everybody danced...
"Peru Explorer Day 9"
We said goodbye to our hotel staff and Cusco this morning. We all were so tired that we slept during our 45 minutes flight back to Lima. I was so tired I didn't even notice whether stewardesses were still attractive as on our flight here...
Our international flights were all around midnight so we had all day for Lima. But also we were on our own here, since we said goodbye to our Tour people in Cusco as well. So here is how our Lima adventure started...
Be very very careful at the Lima airport if you are exchanging money or looking for a transportation. One guy from my group got a fake 100 soles bill from the regular currency exchange booth.
We now had to find a transportation for 11 people to downtown Lima, pickup after 2 hours, transfer to Miraflores and then return to airport. We spent maybe an hour trying to negotiate the price and entire arrangement with several local tour agents (these were the only dishonest people I met in Peru). They were trying to get us on the bus and then negotiate the deal. At that point I really saw how useful it was we were bigger group of people.
So we turned them all down and then a new guy showed up that offered us transport to Lima downtown for 50 soles. He also offered to pick us up from Miraflores in the evening for the same price.
Since we only spent a day in Lima, I did not get any lasting impressions of this city. I noticed mix of rich and poor neighbourhoods, lots of pollution, and many street vendors selling everything pretty much.
We got tired of downtown very quickly and now we started looking for transportation to Miraflores. Now when we needed them the most, there was no taxi-buses in sight. So some locals pointed us to the direction of nearest bus station, and that is where we went.
So how does the bus service function in Lima? We spent fifteen minutes soaking up the atmosphere around the bus station in order to get some answers.
I thought I learned my lesson and decided to take some initiative. I waved the first bus that came by and the bus really stopped in the middle of the street blocking entire traffic. Every bus has 2 employees - driver and ticket controller/bus ride advertiser. First one honks at every bus stop, and second one yells inviting people on the street to join them in the joyride. So I decided to use my newly learned tricks in negotiations and I appoached the bus standing in the middle of the street with cars passing behind my back. My plan was to actually negotiate the deal for 11, not knowing that this is a regular bus with official ticket fares. Of course the ticket guy figured that I am some
stupid tourist asking to get ripped off so he offered us a "great" deal - 25 soles for everyone.
Luckily at that point my friend found another bus and we all jumped in. The fare to Miraflores was 1 sole per person...
Bus was so much fun. Loud samba music was playing that we all (including the driver and other passengers) started to shake in rhythm.
Once again we got amuzed by scary ride through Lima city, and our driver acted like he was competing in formula one race.
Miraflores was an excellent spot for us to relax and summarize our Peru
It is located on the beach, and we spent the rest of the day relaxing in an open mall made by western standards. Subway sandwiches, McDonalds, dollar shops are
here, but also very nice restaurants with a beautiful view at Pacific ocean.
Beach impressed me the most. It was difficult to reach it since we had to go down this very steep cliff, and the stairs exist only half way. But this cliff actually makes the beach unique and interesting.
Parque Del Amor
I wasn't aware of how romantic Peruvians are until I saw "Parque Del Amor". It is a park of love located on the coast in Miraflores. What makes this place so
romantic is the statue of lovers in the middle (photo), romantic thoughts
written all over the mosaic walls, and the beautiful view at the ocean.
So many couples were located here that some of them were making out only meter away from each other...
This was actually the end of my Peru trip. We called our driver and he transferred us to the airport. It was an amazing trip, and I would certainly go again to this beautiful country.
Thanks for reading my travelogue. I hope you had fun reading it as much as I had writing it.
This is an excellent photo a friend of mine took of a stone in Ollantaytambo - it you look closer you will see a face of grumpy man...