Jul 23 11

Peruvian Perfection, and other South America Highlights

by Emily Benjamin

We’re almost finished in South America, for this trip anyway. We’ve had a chilled 9 days in Brazil, an exciting and fast visit in Chile and Easter Island, four days in Bolivia to recover and almost 3 weeks in Peru. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the continent but all has been excellent.

I haven’t done much writing in the past few weeks, so I though I would make up for it now. Right now I’m on a bus driving from Arequipa to Nazca. It’s not the typical 12 hour drive though – we’re in fully reclining leather chairs, with on-board entertainment, power sockets and Wi-Fi. Oh, and lunch is included. Sounds pretty luxurious, doesn’t it? Although it’s not as comfortable as a king size pillow top bed, or a cushioned sun bed with swimming pool and cocktails, it’s pretty darn good. And it’s giving me a day to catch up on photos and updates from the trip so far. So, let’s recap!

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Nine days, most of that spent eating delicious red meat, drinking caiprihianas, and avoiding muggings. We saw all the main spots, met great people, had lots of fun, but we didn’t get to see much of the city. We also missed out on the rest of Brazil, so we’ll just have to go back sometime. Maybe with a better understanding of Portuguese, and in 2014 for the world cup!

Santiago – The city was gorgeous, the people warm, the food delicious. I’m not usually a fan of soups but I now love cazuelas. I’m not usually a fan of sweet drinks but the terramoto’s have got my vote. And we were told hot dogs were the ‘national dish’ – it may not be an official statement, but they are inexpensive, everywhere and truly delicious.

Easter Island – One place that I can be almost certain I will never see again. That feels like a very sad thing to say, but most people will never get to see it even once. It was a breathtaking island, in the middle of nowhere, with fresh air, beautiful landscapes, tasty food and warm people. It’s not easy to get to, but so so worth it.

La Paz – I’m sure I’ve said it already, but La Paz will take your breath away. We stayed very still here for 3 days, to avoid altitude sickness. But with excellent japanese food, blue skies, a comfy bed and a few diamox to keep the altitude sickness at bay, we were content to chill out after action packed Chile. Unfortunately we missed all Bolivia has to offer, so we will be back to visit the salt flats, death road and the Witches Markets.

Puno, Lake Titicaca, Cusco and Arequipa – All excellent, with the perfect weather while we were there. Cool nights, warm days and blue skies – bliss! The food has been excellent, the sights amazing, the people lovely. I should have learned Spanish, though – it would have been helpful! Will definitely return to Peru, to see some more of these cities and the north, as well.

Machu Picchu – Wow, wow, wow. We did a one day Inca Trail, from 104km, about an hours train ride from Ollantaytambo. It was tough but amazing, with such stunning views the whole way. And that was before we even reached the Sun Gate! We did it in perfect timing, as well – hiking from 8am, we reached the Sungate a little after lunch, when all the 4 day hikers had already cleared out and Machu Picchu looked empty (at least from a far). Although I know what to expect from it now (pure awesomeness) I’d potentially return, maybe next time with a helicopter!

In Peru, we’ve spent most of our time under the care and guidance of Adios Adventure Travels – http://www.adiosadventuretravel.com/.  They picked us up from Copacabana and took us over the border into Peru, and from there we’ve been expertly guided from Puno, through Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, Arequipa and Colca Canyon, and now Nazca and Lima. After reading about them on a forum, where we had been researching the pros/cons of using Gap or Intrepid, we saw a few excellent reviews of Adios, a local company. And I hope to now add to those reviews – they have been simply stunning. Adios is owned and run by Vidal, based in Cusco. We met Vidal on day 3 and he is lovely, a gentleman, and an absolute star. He is not only well known in Cusco, he is loved by all, and we can see why. And it was such a pleasant surprise to meet the owner, which I am sure would never, ever happen with a bigger, international group. Jacquie, his trusty side kick based in the US, was a godsend. She arranged everything for us, from pick up to drop off, on the dates we chose, the times we chose, all to our specifications. And they were cheaper and 100% more flexible that some of the big names. Take that, industry! And imagine our surprise when we discovered that we were travelling on our own, with no big-group-hassles, and that our accommodation was absolutely luxury. Wow wow wow. I would recommend them 200%, and absolutely, definitely travel with them again. Outstanding!

Enough gushing from me though – we’ve got just another 3 days in Peru to enjoy before the final country on the trip – USA! And just to make sure I’m well rested after all the fun in Peru, we’ve got some comfort lined up… a cushioned sun bed with swimming pool and cocktails for five days! Heya Miami!

– Cheers, Em :)

 

Filed Under → Words
Jul 13 11

Puno to Cuzco

by Emily Benjamin

All aboard the Inka Express! Although, it’s not actually express. You can get a real express bus between Puno and Cuzco and it will take you about 6 hours. Our bus took 10 hours – but with fantastic stops along the way, and a yum buffet lunch. We set off from Puno at 7.30am and stopped first at Pukara, for a museum of Inca carvings and relicts. Second stop, La Raya, to see the highest point so far at 4300m above sea level. A quick lunch before setting off for the next two stops – Raqchi and Andahuaylillas. Raqchi is the remains of an old Inca village, set between the mountains. Andahuaylillas is famous for it’s church, which although it is undergoing repair and renovation, was still lovely. And with those four great stops, it was back on board and into Cuzco, for our last days of rest before our Machu Picchu trek!

 

Filed Under → Travel
Jul 12 11

Puno, Uros and Taquile

by Emily Benjamin

I couldn’t believe we were in Puno already. We had been arranging our tour of Peru for almost a year, through Adios Adventure Travel. For the record, they have been amazing – creating a tailor made holiday for us that includes all the big sites, dates and locations that we requested, and lovely, knowledgeable guides. I can’t recommend them highly enough. And it’s only been 4 days so far! Our first stop was in Puno, approximately 4 hours from Copacabana in Bolivia. Here we got a quick tour of the city before a delicious dinner, and an early night to prepare us for the next day – a full day out on Lake Titicaca. In the morning we visited the reed islands of Uros, and were ‘welcomed aboard’ the floating home to 10 local families. The sun was warm but there was ice on the seats – I can only imagine how cold it must get out here during the night! By lunch, we were on Taquile, taking a short trek around the island before a delicious local lunch. It was a full, awesome day, and a great start to our time in Peru.

Filed Under → Travel
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