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Off to see Peru! Part 1

Lima, Paracas

overcast 60 °F

I started planning a trip to see Switzerland and Europe so I contacted Anita. She has stayed with me many times over the years when she comes to the US for rock climbing. Anita stores her van here so she can get on the road in a few days. She had been in the Us for almost 6 months and left in May. We discussed me visiting her once she was situated back in Zurich. We were e-mailing back and forth and it became apparent that Plan A would not work. Anita was working as a climbing guide and did not have her own place. OK, time for Plan B. Peru and Machu Picchu has always been on my Bucket List so I started planning. I read several blogs and quickly found out the Peru Hop bus was the best way to get around Peru. You can also book all your rooms thru Peru Hop but I priced it out and decided to go with Booking.com instead. Since I wanted my own room, I could not take a chance and just wing it once there. That works if a hostel dorm room is OK. The Peru Hop guides ask before arriving in each city: "who needs a room?" They will find you something in that city. I compared flights and then booked a flight with Avianca Air. I then had to plan a route and how many days in each city. Since I was not in a hurry to return to Vegas, I decided to stay 30 days in Peru. That was too long IMO and I recommend 3 weeks. Some only stay a week and then out. You can see Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu in a week but are always on the go. My departure day, Sept. 12th arrived and I had nephew Kevin drive me to the airport. I took SW air to LAX, then Avianca Air to Lima, stopping briefly in El Salvador. It was an OK flight but the downside was arriving in Lima at 1:30 am. I had e-mailed the place I was staying in Lima and was assured I could check in that late. I got my bag and met a Peruvian lady at baggage claim. She has Parkinson's and asked me to help with her luggage. While waiting she shared that her brother was an Uber driver and was coming to pick her up. We walked out of the airport together and I met her brother. I showed him where I was staying and he agreed to take me there. Thank goodness for smart phones as had never heard of Hostel Mochica or the street it was on. His phone took him straight to my hostel in about 20 minutes. He charged me 20 sols ($7) what I found out later was about right. He woke up the guy sleeping behind the front desk and left me to check in. The guy spoke zero English but had a smart phone, found my reservation and gave me a room key. I would be there 4 days and would settle up in the morning. I was very tired but did not sleep well and was up at 9 am. I went to the front desk and met Alex, the manager. I paid $47 for 4 nites and ask Alex what to see first. I got cleaned up and he called an Uber taxi for me. Alex would walk down the stairs with me to speak to the driver. The price, name of the driver and what car he is driving is on the phone. Alex would tell him where I wanted to go and what to pay. It was always around 7-10 sols ($3) to Plaza de Armas. I found out that every city in Peru has a Plaza de Armas or parade square. Horrible traffic even after rush hour. The driver let me out as close as he could get to the plaza and I started walking. There is street art on many pedestrian paths and I stopped for some. Walked into a church, got a few shots and continued on to main plaza.
The plaza is very busy with tourists and touts either selling souvenirs, maps or tours. I heard four guys quizzing a tout about what they would see on the different tours. I could tell they were Americans from one of our southern states. It turned out they were from the Atlanta area. After a few minutes of chatting, I decided to join them on the tour they were taking. Cheap enough, 15 sols ($5). We sat on the top of the double decker tour bus. A mistake as I got too much sun. It was cloudy but you still get plenty of sun. The tour went to Miraflores district of Lima. Miraflores is on the ocean and is one of the better neighborhoods of Lima. Many upscale hotels, restaurants, and shops are here. This is where you get on the Peru Hop bus to start your trek to the rest of Peru. I got some interesting photos, then back to main plaza.

Once back at the plaza, I walked over to the Convent of San Francisco. It is famous for its catacombs. It is reported that over 25,000 bodies are housed in the catacombs. I took what photos I could. They don't allow photos once in the catacombs. Here are much better ones taken by pros or those that ignored the rules.I waited for the English language tour and joined about 20 others for our tour. Our guide spoke English but his accent was so strong I could only pick out a few words per sentence. Part of that could be that I am hard of hearing! There are plenty of works of art in here besides the catacombs. After the tour I bought some street food then walked to a street I could catch a taxi to my room. I heard 40 sols from the taxi parked by the St. Martin plaza, passed and kept walking, A cruising taxi quoted 15 sols to Plaza Norte. All the drivers know it and none have heard of the hostel I am at. Better to get off at Plaza Norte, shop for food and walk back to the hostel. I bought some fruit and bread,that would do for dinner. I try to stay in shape while on the road: walking daily, my stretching routine, sit ups, push ups plus exercises with stretchy bands. I will just say, 'exercise' when I do my routine. TV, exercise, shower, bed by 10 pm.

I was up at 8 am, did my exercises, clean up and to see Alex. He got me a taxi, 8 sols to Plaza San Martin. Photos, some key chain souvenirs, hat, back to main plaza for the Changing of the Guard at the Presidential Palace. It takes too long and is close to boring. You cannot get close enough for any decent photos. I then bought a tour of The Cathedral of Lima that houses the Museum of Religious Art. 10 sols and was worth it. Plenty of beautiful paintings and art here. Worth an hour or two. I bought some bread and walked to Church of Jesus. Photos, but it is not worth the effort to find it. I was tired of walking and started looking for a taxi. I got quotes from at least 5 drivers before one agreed to 15 sols back to Plaza Norte. Inside the mall, I bought fruit, bread, milk and walked home. TV, exercises, bed by 10 pm.

I was up early the next day as I had to get over to the Miraflores area to catch my Peru Hop bus. Alex got me a taxi, 15 sols to the Kennedy Plaza McDonald's. That is where the Peru Hop bus picks up in Lima. I had paid $200 for the full route: Lima to Cusco. It is a hop on hop off system. You can stay 1 day or 10 in each city between Lima and Cusco. We left at 7:15 am and headed for Paracas. Our guide Maria introduced herself and the rules while on the bus. Basically behave yourself and the toilet can only handle #1. If you need to poop, do it before you get on the bus or wait for the next stop. We stopped for lunch after a few hours, eggs, toast, fruit was 15 sols. Next up is the the secret slave tunnels at the Hacienda San Jose. They are basically boring IMO. I took a few photos and quickly got tired of stooping over to get thru the tight tunnels. There is limited headroom and after the first 2 tunnels I opted out and waited for the group in the lobby. I met Barb & Cindy while in the lobby and we started chatting. About my age, they were having trouble with the tunnels as well. Both were from Seattle and were going all the way to Cusco as well. Once back on the bus we head for Paracas.

The main reason to stop here are the Ballestas Islands and the Paracas National Reserve. They call the Ballestas Islands the 'poor man's Galapagos'. Peru Hop stops at the Hotel Los Frayles on main street and we all pile out. Maria tells us the schedule for tomorrow. Then the taxi drivers crowd in to take you to your hotel. Most hotels are an easy walk as Paracas is quite small. I looked at a local map of the city and walked to my place, the Itchus Paracas. It is located about 200 meters from the Hotel Los Frayles on a dirt road. It was a small but OK room. Our guide Maria told us that we could meet at her fave restaurant at 8 pm. I decided to pass as it was farther than I wanted to walk and my side street had no lights. I really did not want to walk back at 9 or 10 pm on a very dark street. I unpacked, walked down to the beach and took some photos. Found a sandwich shop on the main street and that was good enough for dinner.
Some exercises, shower, bed. I was up with the sun, cleaned up, packed and checked out. You can leave your luggage at the Los Freyles Hotel while on the island tour. They have a decent BF for 15 sols, eggs, bread, fruit, yogurt, tea. I sat with Barb & Cindy and we chatted until time for the bus. With hindsight, I would stay at Hotel Frayles. With BF included, it is not that much more than my hotel. At 10 am we all meet Maria for our tour of the Ballestas Islands. We join the hundreds of others also in line for the boat tour of the islands. It is about 2 hour tour for 50 sols and is worth it IMO. I took plenty of photos of sea lions, penguins, birds, the rocky shoreline. It was cool enough for a light jacket while on the water. A jacket also helps from getting too much sun.

Once back we had 45 minutes until our bus left for the Reserve. I bought a pair of sunglasses as mine had broke on the tour, 30 sols. More walking, photos and time for the bus tour of The Paracas National Reserve. It was cool and windy, jacket needed. We walked several areas, photos and back on the bus to get our luggage then off to Huacachina.


Posted by vegasmike6 07:05 Archived in Peru

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Hi Mike,good read so far on your Peruvian trip Mike,looking good so far !


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