Peru Part 1 2018, Border Bolivia to Cusco
After 4 weeks of Bolivia and a few days R&R in Copacabana we crossed the border to Peru. Not a smart move to cross at a small border on the start of school holidays. It looked like the whole of Peru had left for Bolivia. The poor one man at the Aduana could not cope and the queue was long (VERY LONG) Strange as we were the only ones leaving Bolivia. We asked Immigration for a 6 month stay as we wanted to see the Dakar in January? This request was granted. Next the Aduana, and our TIP which we also wanted for 6 months. The poor guy full of stress due to the long long queue said no!!!! to our request, but once we explained (with a great smile) that we just received 6 months from the immigration and here to participate in the Dakar rally, he was all ears as he watched the Dakar since it came to South America. 3 Minutes later we had a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) 6 month TIP.
Next stop insurance and data for our phone. Due to a public holiday no shops and offices where open? Lucky, we found an insurance broker in Puno the following day. (amazing that you require an insurance but none are available at the border) Puno is a city in South East Peru right on Lake Titicaca. Population around 150000. Looking for an insurance broker it was interesting driving the truck in the very narrow streets. Online and via friends in Lima it was impossible to obtain insurance? In Puno it took less than 20 minutes? Puno is an interesting city where much of the economy relies on the black market driven by goods smuggled in from Bolivia. In Puno we got lost and finished up in the town’s less developed and poor areas. Very steep streets, unpaved resulting in reversing down some dead-end unpaved streets. (very interesting in a 12000KG truck) We were unable to find the Kuntur Wasi viewpoint. We gave up as we knew we would be back next year. For this trip our main destination was Cusco knowing that when we return to Peru in December it will be rainy season in Cusco and macho Picchu.
The name Peru comes from an Indian word meaning land of abundance, well arriving in Cusco tourist in abundance, people trying to rip you off in abundance, restaurants in abundance, touts in abundance, Tour agencies in abundance, backpackers in abundance and the list goes on. In short it felt like walking in Disneyland. Having said this Cusco is a must visit town but I am not sur for how long. Lucky we had a campsite just out of town away from the hassle and bustle. Main reason people visit is that it is the gateway to the famous Machu Picchu. Cusco altitude at 3400 meters has many tourists gasping for air, for us being around the 4000-meter mark for the last 5 weeks it became something we got used too.
The very steep cobbled streets where perfect exercise after lunch. Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire. This empire covered an area south to Chile & Argentina and North to Columbia and the Amazon region. The Incas were known to be the best stonemasons, but also in planning their cities. For us 2 days walking around Cusco was enough. However, we did find a perfect Café for lunch “Jacks Café”. Our perfect camp site Quinta LaLa was a great place to relax for a few days and meet up with fellow overlanders (Busiest overlander camp we have seen since Jungle Junction in Nairobi. (Kenya 2016) It was now time to book our tour to Machu Picchu. (nightmare) We trusted a guy and got shafted. We should have known better after 14 years oftravel around the world. More in the next update.
PERU PART 2, 2018
MACHU PICCHU & AGUAS CALLIENTES
After 4 days in Cusco it was time to travel to Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes. Machu Picchu the world-famous ancient city located high above the Urubamba river in the Andes Mountains. It has been on our bucket list since I was sent as a marine in 1974 to the Caribbean Island of Curacao for one year.
Machu Picchu sits 2500 meters high and has a superb setting in a semi tropical mountain forest. Despite all the troubles we had with our tour agency (see more below) we had the best guide we could wish for in Machu Picchu. He supplied us not only with an incredible amount of information but also knew how to avoid the huge crowd visiting Machu Picchu. (Las Vegas on steroids) Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Machu Picchu was built and occupied between the year 1550 and 1650. Why the site was abandoned no one knows, but lack of water appears to be one of the reasons.
Around the site are many stepped terraces used for growing vegetables and watered by an aqueduct system. Thousands of steps and walkways consisting of stone blocks connect all areas in the village and the main plaza. The guide explained that most experts agree that Machu Picchu was build as a settlement (llacta) to look after the local economies.
Machu Picchu was a royal estate of Pachacuti, the great Inca who expanded his huge empire. Officially only 2500 people can visit Machu Picchu per day but up to 10000 visited this site when we were there!!! It appears lack of control and corruption allows this to happen. We even noticed a hotel at the entrance to Machu Picchu (Belmont Hotel) and our guide told us with a smile, the only 3-star hotel in the world which charges 1500 USD per night.
On the other end of the scale you could walk the Inca trail between 4 and six days covering several thousand stone steps, tunnels, walls and other obstacles walking between 2500 meters and 4200 meters before reaching Machu Picchu. If you like to save 24USD for the 20-minute bus ride to the entrance of Machu Picchu, you could walk the (very) steep uphill hike!! I would not recommend it. There are options galore to get there, from a 4 or 7-day hike, to all kind of combinations between bus, hiking and train. The most convenient is the train from Poroy to Aguas Calientes.
Our choice is the train with an overnight stop in Aguas Calientes. We were prepared for the many tourists and it should be said that crowds detract from the magic of the experience. I wonder how long it takes before UNESCO stops this overselling of tickets and lack of crowd control? I did ask the guide if they ever considered a cable car system like in La Paz as this would stop damage done by tourists. He told us it has been discussed, the money is available, but the Greenies put a stop to it! AMAZING. Story re the crooked travel agencies is still deveoping awaiting answers.
PERU PART 3
Cusco to Lima
Time is running out for us as we have to be back in Australia in a few weeks for my next eye operation. Not willing to rush through the Sacred Valley we decided that we will return in December 2018 or January 2019 after the Dakar Rally and explore this area in detail. Machu Picchu is a must do destination, but Cusco is not the real Peru and with over 2 million visitors per year a tourist trap full of locals trying to rip you off. It has been given the title of a World Heritage site since 1983, however it is not a city we really enjoyed exploring.
Leaving Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca empire, we followed the valley towards Abancay descending from 3800 meters (the altitude of our camp spot in Cusco*1) to 2400 meters. This was the first time we were below 3000 meters in the last 6 weeks. (*1 the actual town of Cusco is located at 3400 meters). Enroute we bush camped in the valley and enjoyed perfect views. Next we stopped in the town of Nazca. Like Cusco, another Unesco World Heritage Site and like Cusco, the town is a bit of a circus in the middle of a desert. Full of tourists all interested in the geoglyphs, better known as the Nazca Lines. A series of large ancient geoglyphs and some figures are up to 370 meters long. Figures vary from just straight lines to birds, llamas, flowers and trees. We were told they could only be seen from an aircraft (not sure if I would trust the small planes!!) but this is untrue: they can be seen from surrounding hills and also from the lookout right on the Pan Americana Highway.
Anyway to us they looked very disappointing, but maybe this is also due to the fact that those we spoke to all had another story in regards to the mystery. From Nazca we followed the Pan Americana North, bypassing Ica and the Paracas also called the land of valleys and sun. We arrived in Pisco, home of fine wine, Peruvian Afro music and the national drink called Pisco. We bypassed the oasis of South America Huacachina, described as a lush island in a sea of sand. (part of our 2019 trip)
But as they say when in Rome………………, hence when in Pisco drink Pisco (Pisco Sour), 44% alcohol and the colour must be transparent, with a strong flavour and its odour lightly fragant, NEVER PERFUMED. We are told each type of Pisco has its own characteristic taste. The even stronger Pisco is the Pisco Acholado.
Our next and last stop for this trip was Lima the capital of Peru, the country’s commercial and industrial centre. 25% of the population of Peru lives in Lima. The city is congested, noisy, dirty and some parts are depressing. It looks like many migrants from Venezuela are moving into Lima. On entering Lima we were confronted with lots of road works, demolition and reconstruction sites. Unfortunately detour signs and where to go were few and far between. From Downtown Lima to Chaclacayo the traffic was heavily congested and mayhem, in contrast to Miraflores one of the wealthiest districts in Lima.
One has only to compare the elegance of those who stroll through Kennedy Park in Miraflores with the people who beg in central Lima to realize the huge difference between rich and poor. For the great majority of people, access to piped water, sewage systems, inexpensive food, and steady employment are still things they are dreaming about. Lima has a vibrant nightlife with theatres, clubs and lots of Penas featuring folk music which is very popular with the local Lima people.
Provincial and district clubs and associations celebrate weekly with songs, dances, and foods typical of the distinctive regions. Much of Peru’s folklore can be learned in the heart of Lima itself. We really have to say thanks to Hans and Elizabeth for showing us Lima; without them we would have missed out on some of the highlights of the city. It was time to catch a plane home and start planning our next South America trip starting in November 2018. Crossing the Andes and looking down knowing that we did this area in our truck was amazing. Flying into Cairns (Australia)
along the coast confirmed that we live in Paradise. Great to be home again and walk into our house.
PERU PART 4
PERU NOVEMBER 2018.
Lima via the remote Eastern highlands to the Bolivia border.
After 13 weeks at home we have hit the road again. Flying from Cairns to Lima took just over 27 hours including a 7 hours stopover in Santiago. Lima (Peru) is a bustling city with a vibrant nightlife and cultural scene. More important, it is the main gateway to Peru as only very few enter by road like we did earlier in the year. After we picked up our truck again at Carlos 4X4 in Chaclacayo, we were off to explore inland Peru and the highlands. After we did our shopping, we followed the Carretera Central East and made our first ascent over the Ticlio mountain pass (4818 meters) around 130Km East of Lima. Here you also find the world’s second highest railway line in the world at 4719 meters. The weather turned from sunshine into rain, rain into sleet and sleet into snow. Visibility zero and slippery roads made the drive down the mountain a challenge. Once we entered the Mantaro valley the weather cleared. The Mantaro River is the most distant source of the Amazon. South of Huancayo we veered off and followed the track to La Esmeralda. The road is narrow and dangerous with overhanging rocks, parts of the road are missing and in many places the road is bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters, unprotected by guardrails. This is a mountain track with many hairpins and very dangerous drop offs. To make matters worse the rain started to set in making the road slippery. Next, we were confronted with a minor landslide, but just passable, unaware that the road was blocked by a major landslide just a few kilometres further. 7 hours later we could pass at our own risk. This meant we had to drive 5 hours in the dark. Following the mountain track with deep ravines, slippery roads and being just one lane, it involved reversing to let others pass. It’s certainly breathtaking and now I understand why this road has a fearsome reputation.
It remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. I have attached one of our own clips before the landslide and as we did 50% of this road in semi dark and darkness, I have copied a Utube movie from another traveller to show you some of the terrain we tackled. You may question why we drove in the dark? The answer is they may close the road indefinitely, until it would be stable again.
But we made it with our 12000KG 2.5meter wide 4×4 truck despite the many detours. The road through the canyon is extreme. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice. We crossed yet another of the world’s challenging roads of our list. From here we followed the track via Kiten and, Santa Rosa to Ollantaytambo This road is very exciting and sometimes very exposed, an unsecured driveway with innumerable twists and turns. From Santa Maria the road is in perfect condition and we enjoyed Ollantaytambo, the markets in Chinchero and Pisac and the Sacred Valley drive before arriving in Cusco for some R&R at Quinta Lala. You can skip the intro and start around 50 seconds in, which covers the part we did in the day time https://youtu.be/M7aGjyBbEqg
The great part of travelling through this remote part of Peru is that a lot of the agricultural practices are still being implemented since the time of the Inca’s and haven’t changed in over 2000 years. Medicine men still use mother earth as their guide, and we loved the colourful costumes of the ladies. We never knew that over 3000 different varieties of potatoes are grown in Peru! After a few days rest in Cusco it was off to our next destination Lake Titicaca and the Floating islands. Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake at just over 4000 meters high.
We bush camped on the Capachica Peninsula North East of Puno at Playa Chifron. Lake Titicaca has over 50 floating islands made from grass; this area is called Uros (very touristy) however the further away islands are where people still live like centuries ago. The people wear colourful clothes and make things out of grass, weave, while the man go out fishing for a living.
Till next time from Bolivia