It’s one thing to plan a long trip. The research involved, choosing a destination, preparing the gear; it can all be quite fun for planner type people like myself. It’s another thing to actually buy your tickets, make reservations, put things in a backpack. And it’s a whole other thing to get on the plane and step into the madness of traveling.
My first experience with South America was two years ago in Ecuador. A crazy/scary trip, filled with crazy bus rides, interesting accommodations, great people, and 50 meals of Pollo y Arroz. I was much more confident this time around. I knew the routine of travel in the region. I knew my spanish (better than last time at least), I had my notes on what to bring, and I had my experiences to remember and help remember that as crazy as South America can be, everything always seems to work out just fine.
After getting delayed overnight in Denver due to thunderstorms, we had our lovely 6am flight to Miami with connection to Lima, to arrive at 10pm local time. Six hours on a plane for a tall guy like myself gets old really quickly. Fortunately I had episodes of MST3K to help pass the time. We landed and arrived to a sea of people waiting for people to arrive. Last time I had to hire a taxi just by asking around, but in Lima things can be a bit more dicey with “unofficial” taxis, so we hired a car from the hotel to take us there. He had a sign with “Stuart Herzog” or something on it, but it was for us. 99% sure of that. On our way to the hostel, Jess got to see first hand the driving methods of the area: go fast, be aggressive, keep the horn blaring, repeat!
Sleep came easy the first night, interrupted only by the constant doorbell of the hostel & dogs barking, and we set out the next day to explore the cliff top walkways of Miraflores.
We also went to the old colonial district downtown, where we went to the Convento de San Francisco, a church famous for its catacombs below. Oddly, photographs were prohibited in all parts of the church, including the catacombs, so while interesting, we felt a bit ripped off.
And of course, we found the chocolate “museum”, which was a very short and free history lesson about chocolate, taught by stuffing all types of chocolate type artifacts in your mouth. Conveniently, everything sampled was for sale in the store wide gift shop.
I really enjoyed Lima. We had some fantastic food, the area we stayed in was incredibly safe, and while a large city, fairly easy to get around. Most people don’t give Lima any time at all in their trip, so I’m glad we spent a few nights there. But we had places to go, so we boarded a plane and jetted over to Cusco, a nice 70 minute flight (or 25 hour bus ride for the inclined).
Cusco was impressive. The narrow cobblestone streets, the high fresh alpine air (its at 11,000 ft!), the amazing central square, it all made a good first impression. Forgetting the aggressive street touts enticing you into restaurants or massages, and the massive crowds of wealthy tourists, and it was a lovely city.
We spent a day walking the streets, ended up taking advantage of the massages ($20 for two people for an hour) and ended up walking (and walking and walking) up (and up an up and up) to the Inca ruins above the city, the Saqsaywaman fortress.
Our first taste of ruins in the area, and they were very cool. Three layers of rock wall carefully fit together, crowning a hilltop overlooking the whole valley.
We topped off with more great food, and a great hotel for a few days, but we were ready to continue exploring ruins, and headed off to Ollantaytambo next.