A Travellerspoint blog

May 2020

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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Posted by vegasmike6 07:05 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Off to see Peru! Part 2

Huacachina, Nazca

sunny 70 °F

Huacachina is only a few hours away and we get there in time for the sandboarding. This is the main reason Huacachina is such a popular stop. They have massive sand dunes right outside of the small oasis and lagoon. It is really only a small resort that caters to visitors to the sand dunes. The large town of Ica is just a few km away. I checked into my hotel, the La Casa de Bamboo. Small room with my own bathroom for 70 sols. Change into shorts, sandals and go meet Maria at 4 pm for our sand buggy adventure, 50 sols. We meet at Carola Del Sur and then follow Maria around the lagoon to a large sand dune. The sand buggies are at the top so all of us have to hike up this steep sand dune. This is not an easy slog for anyone over 50 and Barb, Cindy and I were dead last to the top. They assign you to a sand buggy and you pick a seat. I sit next to the driver as my knee just would not bend enough to sit in the back seats. Barb, Cindy and the others pile in and off we go. All the drivers try to make it an exciting ride and the women certainly do shriek as we roared over the top of a steep dune and down the other side. We go up and down at least 6 large dunes before our driver takes us to the steepest dune around. He gets out the sand boards, shows us how to wax them and then demonstrates how to position yourself on the board. I watched most of our group go before I decided to try it. Barb & Cindy decided to pass but the rest our group made it safely down the slope, I figured I could as well. As long as you point straight downhill, you will be OK. Lay on the board, grip the rope handles, legs in the air and the driver pushes your board over the edge. A bit scary at first but about half way down I relaxed and enjoyed the ride. It really is fun once you realize you are not going to fall or crash. All of us walk 25 meters to a smaller dune and slide down that one. The driver meets us there and takes us back to our original start point. The second time is better as you know you what to expect. Then a third round. It is now starting to get close to sunset and our driver picks a good spot for the sunset. Everyone piles out and Barb, Cindy and I watch the sunset. We get our photos then the driver heads for our starting point. He again roars up and down the dunes to give everyone another thrill ride. This is the reason people come to Huacachina and do not miss your chance to try sand boarding. All the drivers have a tip jar and point at it when you get out. I gave the guy 10 sols and a few others as well. Certainly not everybody. I find Barb & Cindy and we make our way carefully down the dune to the lagoon. This in not easy going for us as you slip and slide with every step. Once at the lagoon we walk to our hotels. They are staying at the Carola del Sur Hotel and it has a nightly BBQ buffet for 20 sols. Quick shower and then over to meet Barb & Cindy for dinner. I pass on the meat part but they have plenty of pasta, veggies, rice, fruit to keep me happy. A good meal and fun chatting with them and other sand boarders. A young couple from OZ were across from us and they were staying several more days for more sand boarding. They hike to the top of the very large dune right behind the hotel and slide down as many times they can before exhaustion sets in. Ah, to be that young & energetic. After dinner I walked to my hotel next door, exercises, read bed at 10 pm. Best day so far in Peru. A fun day sand boarding and no injuries!

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I was up at 7 and ate at my hotel. 16 sols for oatmeal, French toast, water. Room to clean up, then I walked to say goodbye to Barb & Cindy. They were taking the 8:30 shuttle to Nazca so they could do the scenic flight then on to Arequipa. I thought I would see them again but our paths never did meet. Nice ladies and were fun to chat with while toured Paracas and Huacachina. I walked around the lagoon for photos and some exercise. Room, shower, check out. I left my sandals with the hotel as I would not be wearing them again. Peru Hop leaves at 1 pm from where they dropped us off. Huacachina is so small the bus cannot drive the streets so everybody walks to the meeting point. I meet Ian and Toni again at the pick up point. We had met at the Paracas Reserve. From India now living in Hong Kong, they are touring South America. Our first stop is only 20 minutes away, the El Catador Vineyard. It is hot and I really did not want to listen to the tour guide talk on and on about making wine and pisco. He rattles off English then Spanish for about an hour. I gave up after about 15 minutes and then wandered around taking photos of the vineyard. They have a tasting room and all 40 of us are offered different types of pisco and then their wines. Like all wine tours, they hope you buy something. The vineyard tour is a complete waste of time IMO but I guess the wine lovers would disagree. Peru Hop times everything and this stop allows the bus to reach Nazca at dusk. Back on the bus we are non stop to Nazca. We are reminded each time we get on the bus by our guide that no # 2 on the bus toilet, no loud talking, horseplay or smoking. I never did see anyone that needed to be reminded by our guide to respect the rules. All my fellow passengers are English speaking tourists. Locals don't take Peru Hop, too expensive.

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We get to the Nazca Viewing Platform at almost dusk. It is hot, windy and a long line. One group goes up, photos then down. A one way affair. It is slog to the top for those with mobility issues. Once at the top, I took my photos of the 3 figures you can see from the platform. Best one was the 'tree'. I would not do it again. I am going to fly over the lines tomorrow and this is a poor substitute for viewing the famous lines of Nazca. Once Into town, I quickly realize Nazca is much larger than I thought. All of us that are staying overnite in Nazca get off and are assigned a taxi to our room. Peru Hop pays for the taxi. After a 10 minute taxi ride, I realize my crap hostel is not close to anything. I do have a room to myself with bathroom but regret my choice of hostels. Clean up and then I ask the French volunteers where I can get something to eat. There is nothing close but a 7-11 type store. I buy some bananas, cookies for 3 sols and that will do. I chat with the French girls and find out they are staying in Peru for several months by volunteering at various hostels. Free room, meals for helping out with needed chores. Exercises, shower, read, bed at 10 pm.

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I was up at 7 am and had the bread, tea that the hostel has for BF. The girls went on the flight over the lines a few days ago and told me that the 30 minute flight was the one I wanted. One of the girls had taken the 60 minute tour and wanted off the plane way before that. I have the girls book a 30 minute tour for $80 and wait for the pick up. The van comes picks me up and then several others on the way to the airport. Everyone gets dinged another 30 sols for airport tax. You also must show your passport. They weigh you as the planes only hold 4 and have a weight limit. They put me with 3 other guys and the 4 of us troop out to the plane. The pilot gives us a quick briefing on seat belts and how to get good photos of the lines of Nazca. Once over the first lines, the pilot banks back so the right side can photograph the lines, then repeat for the left side. There are 12 figures on the 30 minute tour and I see what the girl was talking about. After 20 minutes of weaving over the lines in a tiny plane, I was ready to land. Same with the other 3 guys. An hour would have been way too much. Nobody got sick, but the pilots told us that some do and they have air sick bags ready if needed. I banged my shin getting off the plane and blood was streaming down my leg. I showed my leg to a security guard and he walked me to the first aid office. They cleaned it and put a dressing over it. I had some time before my ride to my hostel so I did some t-shirt shopping. I found a good one with the Nazca Lines on it for 30 sols. I caught my van ride to my room and decided to walk to the market recommended by the French girls. I bought some fruit, photos, then back to my hostel. I ask the manager what else I could do before meeting the Peru Hop bus at 7 pm.

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He suggested going out to see the Chauchilla Cemetery that has thousands mummified bodies of ancient Peruvians. For thousands of years the people of this area mummified their dead and they are not too far from Nazca town. The hot, dry climate is perfect to mummify bodies. The manager tells me a couple are going in 30 minutes and I could join them for 30 sols. I have a bite to eat and then off we go. He has a Jeep type vehicle and you need it as part of the way is rugged dirt roads. Our guide gets us started at the small museum and then heads for the shade to chat with the locals. It is very hot, dry and after 10 groups of mummies I had enough of viewing the dead. I guess it is worth seeing but really, how many mummies can you look at before it becomes repetitious. 10 was my, "that's enough" number. There were hundreds more that went unseen by me. I head for the shade, buy a bottle of water and wait for the other couple to finish so we can leave.

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Back at the hostel I pay the 10 sols to use the showers, toilet to clean up. After that I ask the manager how I can get to Mom's Cafe. He tells me he will take me and at 5 pm off we go, I bring my journal up to date and then see Ayan and Toni enter Mom's. I order omelet, toast, tea for 16 sols. We chat about flying over the Nazca lines and compare photos of the lines. His Spaceman is better then mine and he forwards it to me. At 7 pm our Peru Hope guide arrives and walks our group a few blocks to our bus. We get a new guide as Maria went on to Arequipa after letting us off in Nazca. There are no stops on the way to Arequipa and I watch some movies then try to get some sleep,

Posted by vegasmike6 13:07 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Off to see Peru! Part 3

Arequipa

sunny 70 °F

We get in around 6 am and are met with several vans. Peru Hop divides us by where we are staying and I was directed to the correct van. When I booked my room online I told them I would be arriving around 6 am. They said that they had 24 hr check in. I ring the bell and a guy checks me in: $40 for 5 nites, shared bathroom. Looking back, I would pay more and have my own bathroom. Unpack and try to get some rest. I was up at 10 am and then down to the lobby. There is bread, tea for 2 sols in the lobby. I chat with the desk guy while having my tea, bread. He has a map of the city and suggests taking the free walking tour. Short walk to the meeting place and wait for our guide. There has to be 50 of us waiting for our guide to arrive. He has the gift of gab and leads us down the street to our first stop. After reminding us that he works for tips for the 5th time in the first 15 minutes, I bail on the tour. He talks too much and not enough sightseeing. I walk to the plaza and decide to book my Colca Canyon tour after checking with 3 different tour companies. $30 for the 2 day, 1 nite tour. Almost every tourist goes to Colca Canyon once they are in Arequipa. I walk to the daily market for some food, drink and spot a llama backpack. It is a bargain at 30 sols and will always remind me of my trip to Peru. Walk the plaza, photos, snack back to my room, shower, rest. Then up to the roof where they have a common area. Not really handy but that is the only area you can meet other guests than the small lobby. The temp really drops as soon as the sun sets and I go back to my room, read, exercise, bed.
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I was up at 6 am, downstairs, 2 sols for croissant, tea. I pack for my overnight tour and they pick me up at 7:45 am. It takes us an hour just to get out of the city. Too many vehicles for the narrow streets to handle. Our first stop is a rest area where there are llamas, vicunas. There are several owners of the llamas, vicunas and each has put different colored yarn thru the ears of their animals. Plenty of time to take photos, then tip the ladies for letting us pose with their llamas. I had bought some coca lozenges in Arequipa to combat altitude sickness and start sucking on them. We are at 3,700 meters (12,00 ft) elevation and most of us are feeling the affects of the altitude.
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On to our overnight stop of Chivay. We are herded into a large buffet room and I look at what they have for lunch. Plenty of items for me but the price was 30 sols, beverage extra. I decide to pass and ask the guide when I should be back. I have an hour before the van takes us to our hotel. I walked down a side street and see 4 policemen eating at a small cafe. Nobody spoke any English but Alex in Lima had written down rice, vegetables, tea. I had a huge portion of both for 5 sols. I walked back to the buffet and waited for the group to finish. There was large dog on the stop and I started petting her. She was very friendly and like most dogs, just wanted attention. After 10 minutes and talking to her and petting her, it was time to get on the van. I found a seat and relaxed. The dog had followed me onto the van and she put her head on my lap. She then put her front paws on me and tried to crawl on to my lap. I told her she was a good girl and petted her some more. Our guide saw what was happening, took her collar and lead her off the van. The van drives around Chivay and lets each of off at our hotel. I was the only one at the place I picked. It was OK, 2 beds, bathroom. Plenty of blankets as it gets cold at this altitude. We have 3 hours before they pick us up for our folk dancing show and dinner. I unpack, grab my camera and walk to the main plaza. Photos, ice cream and back in time to get on the van for our evening show. Dinner was 30 sols, beverage extra. I passed and walked across the street to a cafe. I pulled out my notebook and pointed to rice, veggies, tea. Again it was 5 sols for dinner instead of 30 plus beverage. I walked back in time for the dancing, I took some photos, room, bed by 10 pm.

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I was up at 5:30, down to office for BF. They serve bread, tea, room to clean up and get on the van at 6:30. We need to get to the condor viewing area while they are flying. Plenty of other vans pulled over and we pile out for the condors soaring overhead . I took plenty of photos but only one I liked. Our guide then walks us along the edge of Colca Canyon for an hour. Took some photos, back on the van. We go back to Chivay for the lunch buffet. Same deal as before: 30 sols plus beverage. I knew I could do better so I walked to the main plaza and found the same cafe as yesterday. Rice, veggies, tea, 5 sols. On the van and we stop a few times for bathroom, llamas, vicunas. Ladies bring them to the rest stops and want a few sols to pose with their animals. Photos, van back to Arequipa. Traffic is terrible and the van lets us out on a side street. One of the guys knows where we are and we walk to Plaza de Armis. I know my way from here, Walk to my room, unpack, clean up. Across the street is a market and I buy some fruit. I eat on the rooftop, then my exercises, read, bed at 9 pm.

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I was up early, my exercises, lobby for bread, tea. Walk main plaza for photos and then I see some Mormon guys in their white shirts and black pants. We had nice chat about their missionary work in Arequipa, also about Utah, Vegas. Back to the main market for a floppy hat for sun protection. My baseball hat will not cut it at Machu Picchu. I took some photos of the market, got my floppy hat and headed back to the main plaza. I bought some food on the way to the room and that will do for dinner. Miguel at the desk confirms that Peru Hop will pick me up at 5:45 am tomorrow.

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Posted by vegasmike6 06:56 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Off to see Peru! Part 4

Puno, Cusco

sunny 70 °F

I am up at 4:30, pack and down to the lobby. Tea, bread and the Peru Hop van arrived at 5:45 am. Shuttle over to the big bus and off we go for Puno. Rest stop, bathroom and a chance to stretch your legs.. Another stop for an overview of Lake Titicaca. Our guide offers the one day Island Tour on the bus, $20 and I sign up. I would recommend using Peru Hop for rooms and tours. You just don't save enough to book rooms on another platform and tours are the same price. They are experts on Peru and it makes sense to use their services.
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The bus stops on the outskirts of Puno and we are transferred to vans. Just like every city since Lima, the Peru Hop bus is too big for the narrow streets. Van shuttle to my room at Pacha Suites, $35 for 3 nites. The nicest room so far. Unpack and then off to explore Puno. I found the main plaza and buy some ice cream as it is very hot walking around the plaza. Photos, then into a travel info office. They showed me a veggie restaurant not too far from my room. I decided to walk to it and check out the menu. It was not too expensive and I would try it tonite. Back to my room, shower, rest. At 7 pm I headed out in the rain. I use my floppy hat as I don't have an umbrella. I really don't like eating alone in a restaurant but did not want another street food meal. It was 14 sols for salad, potatoes, rice, veggies. Back in the rain, exercises, read, bed.
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Up at 6 am for tea, bread, van picks me up at 6:45 then drives around picking up others. Once at the dock area, our Peru Hop guide walks us as a group to the boats. Unfortunately our boat is 5th from the dock. That means you walk across 4 other boats to get to yours. I found it tough going but their were crew members from the other boats to help the women and older folks on to then off their boat. Finally we all are on board and off we go for the islands. There are several reed islands offshore and I guess the captains pick one and let the others know. That way not all of us are on the same island at the same time. We are let off on Uros island. Getting off the boat was not easy either, at least for me. Our guide and an islander help you jump down to the reed island. I was by far the oldest one on the tour and needed the help. The reed islands bob like a raft when you step on them. We are told there is about 6 feet (2 meters) of reed on each island. It is replaced each year as the bottom layers rot away. Our guide tells us that most of the families on the islands never do live on the mainland. Too expensive. Their main source of income was fishing, but now I think selling souvenirs to the tourist is more lucrative. The islanders demonstrate how they make the souvenirs, cook, weave the reeds, etc. I decide to buy a pillow cover for 40 sols. It is very colorful and will go on my bedroom wall. There is a reed paddle boat that takes a short circuit of the island, 10 sols. Everyone in my tour group take the paddle boat, another quick 250 sols for the islanders.
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After the paddle boat, we get back on our boat and we motor to the Amantani Island for lunch. They dock on one side on the island and you walk to the other side for lunch. It is pretty steep going and I am last all the way. I make it but it was an hour hike for me. We are at 13,00 ft (4,000 meters) so many of us are short of breath. I have coca lozenges with me and start sucking on them. I am not sure they help but at least they keep your mouth moist. Our guide stayed with me as the rest of the group were much younger and had no difficulty with the hike. We are lead to several long tables and the set lunch is served. They have veggie and a meat choice. I have the soup, omelet, rice, bread. After lunch and bathroom break, we have to go down a flight of stairs to get to our boat. Tough on the knees but I just let everyone go ahead of me and brought up the rear. Long ride back, photos of the reeds, islands, back to Puno docks. I tip our guide 10 sols as he was helpful getting me on/off the boat plus stayed with me on the hike over the island to our lunch stop. Van back to plaza. Ice cream, fruit, room. I just have fruit, bread for dinner, exercises, read, TV, bed at 9 pm.
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Up at 7 am, into the BF room. I was the only one there and the ladies fixed me eggs to go with bread and tea. There is a coca tea at every hotel and hopefully it helps with the altitude. I walk to the tourist information office to get ideas for the day. The Coca Museum is close by and I walk there, 10 sols. A few photos and then off to the overlook. A lot of stairs but a decent view of the plaza area. I look at my city map and decide to take a taxi to Condor Hill Viewpoint, 5 sols. I now have 620 steps to the top. There are benches about every 40 steps and I rest at most of them. It is hot and a long slog to the top. I made it but not sure it was worth the effort. I try to get in a decent walk everyday, but this is most strenuous so far. There is a nice view of all of Puno, but it is hard on my body. A once in a lifetime event. Photos then the long walk down. Not as bad and I rest every other rest area. At the bottom I try to get a taxi to the plaza. A few stopped but the price was silly, 20 sols for a 5 minute ride. I bought some ice cream, looked at my map and walked downhill to the plaza. There was a parade getting organized, took some photos and then more ice cream. It is really hot and I bought some water to re hydrate. Back then my room. Shower, rest. I just had fruit, bread in my room for dinner. TV, exercises, bed.
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Up at 7 and to BF room for eggs, bread, fruit, tea. Clean up, pack and check room so I don't forget anything. Lobby, van to big bus, Karina is our host, off at 11 am for Cusco. They show some movies like Lion King, Gladiator, try to read. Lunch stop, 20 sols. Soup, salad, pasta, dessert. Buffet style so you can eat quickly and back on the bus. Into Cusco at 6 pm and Peru Hop pays for the taxi to your room. Arrive at Casona Regional, 8 nites for $112 on Visa card. 2 beds, share bath. I did my exercises, shower, read bead by 9 pm.

Up at 7, clean up, bathroom, clean up, to BF room, top of the stairs. There is a US volunteer named Max plus some other girls serving the pancakes, fruit, tea. The front desk guy called Edwin for my trip to Mahcu Picchu. There are basically 3 ways to visit MP. The most expensive and difficult is to hike the Inca Trail into the backside of MP. You have to book it months in advance, be able to hike 4 days up and down the Andes and sleep in a tent for 3 nites. Cost is roughly $800. The cheapest option is only for the young and fit. You really can go from Cusco, tour MP and back for around $100. Here is that option. The overwhelming majority of tourists do the 1 day or 2 day train option. Edwin and I sat down and looked at my options. Your price will be decided by what train company, where you stay in Aguas Caliente. We chatted about what options and it came out to $280. My Visa card would not work for some reason and I went to an ATM with Edwin and paid him in cash. I was a bit apprehensive about that but he has worked with Casona Regional for many years. On to the main plaza for photos, walk around. I met a couple from NYC, Joe & Alice and we walked to several of the churches together. Peru Hop has its main office in San Blas plaza and we walked there. Peru Hop gives you a t-shirt if you ride the entire Lima to Cusco route with them. I got my shirt, bought some fruit, rolls for snack and started walking back to my hostel. I spotted an e-mail shop and brought everyone up to date on my trip so far. Room, kitchen for tea, fruit, bread, socialize. Exercises, shower, read, bed by 9 pm.

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Up at 7 am, kitchen and Max was again doing the pancakes, fruit, tea. There was a young Danish couple there and we got to chatting. They had walked from the hydroelectric plant into AG, then hiked up the switchbacks to MP. You can save $200 if you are fit enough to do the cheap route, I am not in that category anymore. Plaza, photos of a parade, snack. Took a tour that included a famous church, 15 sols. No photos allowed in the church and I got tired of my tour guide. We would walk maybe 15 meters and he would start his spiel. Walk 10 meters and tell us what we are looking at. I got fed up with this and left the tour and started walked back to the plaza. On the way I saw some llamas and alpacas in a small square. I got much better photos than my Colca Canyon llama shots. I gave the ladies 3 sols for using their llamas for my photos. This is how they make their living, I chatted with a couple from Holland that took the photos of me and walked back to the main plaza. It started a light rain and I headed for my hostel. It is about a 20 minute walk back and spotted a real food market. I bought some fruit, bread and waited until the rain let up. Back to the hostel I found out my door would not lock. They moved me to room 101 that has a bath and TV. $5 more/nite. Up to the kitchen to eat, chat, then exercise, shower, TV, bed.
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They fixed my door and I moved back to 204. 101 had a tv, its own bath but was smaller and I could hear street noise. 204 was larger, quieter Upstairs for eggs, bread, tea. Max was off. Today was basically a repeat: walk to the plaza, snack, photos. Stop at the store on my way back to the hostel. I was going to MP tomorrow and was in bed by 8 pm. I have to be up at 4:30 am to meet Edwin and get to the train on time.

Posted by vegasmike6 07:21 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Off to see Peru! Part 5

Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lima

Oct.2 Travel to MP.
I got up at 5:30 am and got ready. I would be in Aguas Caliente (AC) for 1 night and only took what I needed. I was keeping my room so left most of my clothes, gear. I met Edwin in the lobby at 6 AM, taxi to the train station in Cusco. My Peru Rail train left on time at 6:40 am. There was a family of 3 from Texas at my table and they were good to chat with. I got to know more about there lives plus snapped a few photos of the canyon on the way to AC.
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There is a real crowd of people waiting for the passengers. Many were like me and had a guide waiting. A girl had my name on a placard and I introduced myself. I followed her up the main street to the Wonderful Dreams Hotel & Spa. AC is quite steep as the train depot is next to the river and everything is uphill from there. I had a nice room, big TV, roomy shower. I unpacked and headed for Ayan & Toni's hotel. I had some tea in the lobby and waited for them. Ayan came down and told me that they were having a nap. OK, I would meet them for dinner tonite. I stopped at one of the many bars, restaurants on the way to my room. Not much w/o meat but they did have pizza, tea and that is what I had. Paid my 12 soles and went to my room. I got in my stretching, sit-ups, showered and watched some TV. At 7 pm the guide arrived and went over tomorrows plan. He gave me my r/t bus tickets, entrance to MP plus a coupon for my guide. I then met Ayan & Toni at their hotel, walked to a restaurant I saw on the way. Many have a set price and you pick from several options. I went with soup, pasta, bread, fruit. We got caught up and discussed tomorrow. Paid the 22 soles and walked back to my room. Packed for tomorrow and was in bed by 9:30 pm.
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I was up at 5 am, packed my day bag. I would leave my main bag with the hotel as they have a 9 am check out. I walked downhill to the bus station and took a few photos before lining up for the bus. They have dozens of buses and load and leave every few minutes. I took a few photos on the way up but it was foggy and a difficult shot. I went to the rendezvous location and met Rebecca, our English speaking tour guide. Once together, we start walking uphill. We saw some llamas, photos, then up to the high point overlooking MP.
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The main part of MP was hidden by low clouds at 7 am but made for some interesting photos. As Rebecca told us the history of MP and the re-discovery of the site, the sun was burning off the clouds. I saw Ayan & Toni and we chatted briefly. They had a private guide and they headed off. We would meet for dinner.
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By the time we headed downhill, the sun had burned off all the clouds, perfect weather. I took many photos and tried to keep up with our group. There were 8 Romanians in our group and one big guy saw that I was struggling with the rocky steps. He started giving me a hand up and also down when necessary. He also took all the photos that I am in. I was lucky he was in our tour group. I think he took pity on the old guy from Vegas! I walked all of MP that you can w/o climbing Huaya Picchu. By 11 am I was out of energy and headed for the bus.
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Down the hill, then a long uphill walk to my hotel. I got my bag from storage and walked over to Ayan & Toni's hotel. Had some tea while I waited for them. We went back to the same restaurant and I had soup, omelet, fruit, tea for 22 soles. We discussed our MP tour and agreed to meet in Cusco in the next few days. I hit the toilet and headed downhill for my train. The waiting room was packed as a train left every 30 minutes for Cusco. A couple from Canada sat next to me and we had a nice chat while waiting for our train. We had a dance, music presentation on the train back plus a snack and juice. A couple from Cuba sat across the table from me and passed the time back to Cusco. Once in Cusco, I found the taxi driver with my name and he took me back to my hostel. Bad timing as the door was locked and nobody answered the buzzer. After 15 minutes one of the volunteers came back from dinner and let me in. I got in my stretching, sit-ups, shower, brought my journal up to date, took my sleep meds and was out by 10 pm.

I was up at 7:30, up to the BF room, pancakes, fruit, tea. I cleaned up and walked to the Internet shop. I decided to visit the small town of Pisac where they have a lively outdoor market. Taxi to the van staging area, 5 sols. The van took about 40 minutes and was 4 sols. I was the only tourist on the van and they told me when to get off. I got some bread and they told me what street to find the market. There was a light rain as I walked around the market, but not bad enough to hide. I decided to get some souvenirs while I was there. Place mats, bowl, both cheap and very colorful. Back down to the main road, van to Cusco, 4 sols. Taxi to main plaza, then found Ayan's hotel. The manager was Louis, from Venezuela. Very good English and we talked for over an hour while I waited for Ayan & Toni. All hotels have tea in the lobby and I had several cups while chatting with Louis. Finally gave up, left a note and walked to the hostel. I bought some fruit on the way and that was going to be dinner. The door was locked again, no answer to the buzzer, so I sat down and waited. 3 Germans arrived via taxi and joined me waiting to get in. They were going to MP in a few days so I told them about my tour of MP. After 20 minutes one of the hostel workers showed up and we got in. I dropped off my stuff and headed for the shower. The is limited hot water and I knew the Germans would want a shower before bed. It was starting to run out of hot water before I finished. Back to my room, exercise, fruit, read, bed at 10 pm.

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Next day Oct. 5th Friday
I was up at 7, did my exercises, then up for BF. Pancakes, banana, tea. The Germans: Jurgen, Barbara and their friend were eating when I got there. I joined them and we chatted about Germany, Vegas, MP. They told me there was no hot water for a shower and they were not pleased with the hostel. I did not tell them I used up all the hot water before they had a chance to shower. Barbara gave me her e-mail as I told them if their photos did not turn out, I would e-mail them mine. After BF, I cleaned up and headed up hill to the main plaza. I got on the Internet, e-mailed Barbara so she would have my address, also Jean, Kevin, Hanling. I decided to visit San Blas Plaza again. Walked uphill, took some photos, got my free t-shirt from Peru Hop, looked at some souvenirs, and headed back downhill. Stopped at a store for a sandwich, fruit, juice. Back to my room to rest. Plan A was to meet Ayan & Toni for dinner at 5 pm. I walked to their hotel, had tea and chatted with Louis while waited for them. After waiting an hour, I left another note and headed for my room. I bought some bread, fruit and that would have to do for dinner. It is not much fun eating alone in a restaurant and I would make do with food I could take to my room. Read, bed by 9 pm.
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Next day. Oct.6 Sat. Flight to Lima.
I was up at 6 am, did my exercises, up to BF room. Max was there and was doing eggs today. He also gave me a few pancakes as no one else was there. We chatted a bit and I told him I was off for Lima today. Cleaned up, and then got a taxi to the airport.The hostel pays for the taxi if you stay more than 4 days. It was an easy check in and they allow one free bag. I checked my bag and headed for the gate. I had plenty of time and did some reading and brought my journal up to date. Into Lima and outside for a taxi. The guys outside are cheaper than the taxi booths. My hostel is not easy to find so I had him drop me at Plaza Norte, 20 sols. I walked to the hostel, Alex was there, $60 USD for 4 nights. I got room 207, easier Netflix, quieter than 209. I walked back towards Plaza Norte to find something to eat. None of the places spoke English, but finally found one that had pictures of menu items. I got veggie soup, rice, bread for 7 sols. Bought some bread, fruit for later and went back to my room. Exercises, Netflix, shower, snack, bed by 9:30.

Oct. 7 Sunday
Up at 7, exercises, Netflix, out by 10 am for BF. Almost all the places on the way to Plaza Norte were close. I found a street stall open, that would have to do. I saw what others were having and just pointed at their meal. Huge portion of soup, potatoes, rice, 7 sols. Light rain now so decided to kill the day in my room. Bought some snacks, Netflix, exercises, read, bed by 9 pm.

Oct. 8 Monday.
Alex called me a taxi, 10 sols to plaza. I was going to do some shopping before I left Peru. It was a holiday and most places were closed. But by noon, several opened up. I found a colorful table cloth, laptop case, metal llamas for Jean, hot pads for the kitchen. I watched some of the changing of the guard, then walked to Plaza St. Martin, found a taxi to Plaza Norte, 20 sols, walked to my room. I ate at the same street stall as before, 7 sols for more than I could eat. Shower, Netflix, bed at 9 pm.
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Oct. 9th Tues.
Up 7, exercises, clean up, talk to Alex. He gave me a Metro card and directions to bus station at El Milagro. Put 10 sols on the metro card, rode to Kennedy Plaza. Found a souvenir mall, bought a llama for Hanling, llamas for Jean, passport holder for me, back to Metro, walk to same place to eat, 7 sols, room. Shower, Netflix, read, bed.

Oct. 10th. Wed.
Up 7, snack on bread I still had, clean up, pack, check room, Alex called me a taxi to the airport. 20 sols. Thru TSA, check main bag, found my gate, read. Good flight, Naya was next to me and gave me 4 Life Energy Powder. She was drinking it and we chatted about her trip to San Salador, mine to Vegas. Short wait in Salvador, then flight to LAX. They served pasta, salad. 40 minutes to clear US Customs, get my bag, walk to SW Terminal. Check bag, call Kevin and wait. I had granola bars while waiting for my flight, left on time. Not full, so had a row to myself. Into Vegas, got my bag, called Kevin, home. My Peru adventure was over.

Posted by vegasmike6 07:53 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

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