A Travellerspoint blog

Still in Peru.... and loving it!

A bit of Lima and a lot of Cusco

sunny 20 °C
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Hi! Anastasia here

We were still in Lima when we were posting our last blog, and it was very nice. There are a few things not to miss in Lima besides all the traditional sites and one of them is Cafeteria Manolos, which is close to Parque Central in Miraflores and has been there since the fifties. I think Ryan had the biggest sandwich he has ever eaten (sorry, NY city!) and I tried a fabulous new desert – churros and thick hot chocolate, which is the trademark of this place. It was hard to leave Lima, because it was great and so comfortable, but we needed to push on to one of the most visited places on the planet – Cusco, and subsequently Sacred Valley. So, after shopping around for a bus we found one. Luckily, a lot of the bus companies are very close to each other and we were able to check out at least five companies by foot. It was interesting that Cruz del Sur was by far the most popular company, which everyone and their brother travels by, but it is very expensive (S 185 Lima – Cusco), and the other company Cial with the same style of bus was S 85 and only had five and a half passengers on it. So, do not go for Cruz del Sur, but shop around! Anyway, it took us about 23 hours on the bus to get to Cusco, and we were very tired afterwards. We checked into one of the cheapies that was recommended to us by another traveler, but soon found out that none of the rooms had toilet seats, though equipped with TVs. That did not sit well with Ryan, who threatened to buy one (toilet seat, not TV) and start carrying it around with him, so we checked out the next day and found a better deal.


Cusco was a pleasant surprise – even though the place is definitely touristic, it is also kind of nice to just have a good ol’ burger and beer and listen to some rock’n’roll tunes in one of the gringo bars around here. And of course there is beautiful colonial architecture, grand and overpowering. Cusco was an ancient Inca capital and after the Spanish conquest in 1532 it became the first official capital of Peru. The streets are paved with cobble stones and there are beautiful churches and buildings anywhere you look. So, on our second day in Cusco we set out to walk the streets and see the sites. Just a little walk from our hostel we found the most important square in the city - Plaza de Armas - and, what do you think, there was a parade on it! So, of course we stopped and watched the great festivities with children performing traditional Peruvian dances for a few hours. I have never seen such an explosion of colors before, and of course all was made better by the surrounding scenery of mountains and grand cathedrals. After watching the parade, we browsed around the multitude of craft shops and ended up in a gringo bar with a happy hour watching Euro football cup.


The next day we decided we should go see inside some of the monasteries and churches. So we took a long street called Loreto lined with ancient Incan stones and came up on Santo Domingo monastery and adjacent church. The church was free to visit and had some beautiful paintings, though fairly recent, as well as the old 17th century frescos. The monastery was a great treat for within its walls it had remnants of the ancient Inca temple site Qorikancha, which, according to historians, was the richest temple in the time of it being sacked by Spaniards. Now all the gold is gone, but the stones are still there, bearing witness to time. The monastery also houses a nice little exhibit of colonial art from the Cusco school with commentaries in Spanish and English, which was great for us. After exploring Santo Domingo we walked out and stumbled upon an archeological site housed in the yard of Cusco Ministry of Culture, which had some remnants of Inca houses and even the burials! The highlight was a couple of vicuñas (relatives of llama) running around and spitting on people. We wisely stayed away and took pictures of the cute animals from a distance. This little adventure was free of charge as well. Upon returning to Plaza de Armas we were in for another great surprise – the festival of Corpus Christi, one of the most important events of the year in Cusco. Needless to say, it was absolutely spectacular and continued well into the evening and you may see more pics in the gallery, because we took thousands of them. Unbeknownst to us we timed our Cusco adventure well, for the month of June is the month when most of the festivals happen here, there is something happening here almost every day in June, plus the weather is beautiful and sunny. After enjoying watching the parade we went to a local spa and Ryan got his cheapest massage yet of the trip at only $8 while I got a pedicure. The rest of the evening was spent eating well in the restaurant just around the corner from us called Sumaq and listening to local musicians, who imposed on us during our dinner of alpaca steak. On the third day we explored our first archeological site in The Sacred Valley called Pisac and were back into Cusco, but I will let Ryan describe it in our next entry. Hasta luego!


Posted by Drifters 17:46 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Into the Jungle

sunny 27 °C
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After spending more than a few hours trying to get plane tickets to Iquitos we were finally successful, and at $260 roundtrip for the two of us we felt like we got a pretty good deal too. So we packed up our bags and headed off to the Lima airport at a little after four in the morning the following day to board our very uncomfortable flight. Anastasia had spent a lot of time looking for tours or lodges to stay at when we arrived in Iquitos and we only got one response that sounded good and was within our budget. However, it was just a few hours before we left for the plane, so we weren´t sure if anyone would be in Iquitos to meet us when we arrived. However, we were pleasantly surprised as there was a driver waiting for us at the airport who took us to the owners office in Iquitos. Once we arrived at his office, he went over in deatil what his lodge is like, what tours would be available to us, and introduced us to Danny who would be our guide for the 5 days we planned to spend on the Amazon.

Iquitos is quite an interesting city. There are over 600,000 people living in the city, but it is not connected to the outside world by any roads (boat or plane access only) so it definitely operates on its own schedule. Despite being very loud, it has its charms. Anyway, after getting the overview of our upcoming adventures, we were off to the dock to get the boat to the lodge. We stayed at the Chulla Chaqui Lodge, which is 97 km up the Amazon from Iquitos and only took about 2 hours to reach on a fast boat from town. I will mention I was having second thoughts while waiting at the dock for our boat to arrive. I must have eaten something I should not have in Lima the night before, because I definitely felt like I had a case of food poisining, and was starting to think that heading into the Amazon for 5 days without electricity or hot wáter was not the best idea. But then the boat arrived and it was too late to turn back. As it turned out, I am very glad we decided to push on.

Amazon river

Amazon river


The lodge was a bit rustic and a little less then we were expecting, but our guide was fantastic and more than made up for it. (We were told the Amazon was higher this year than it has been for over 70 years. So a lot of places, including our lodge, were flooded for most of May) Everyday we had multiple excursions planned, and we were always free to change our plans or skip things altogether. The landscape and people we encountered on this trip were so different than anywhere else, it felt like being on a different planet. The lodge was very remote, and with the exception of all the animals and insects around, it was extremely quiet and relaxing. We did a few hikes through the jungle to spot plants and animals both during the night and the day. We went birdwatching in the mornings and watched the sunrise over the Amazon in a canoe. We explored other rivers that feed into the Amazon, went fishing for piranhas, and visited a nearby village to meet some of the people. We saw a lot of different animals including dolphins, monkeys, and sloths and also tons of strange insects and frogs, which you can see pictures of in the gallery. Plus, on our last night we got to meet with a real Shaman from a neighboring village and partake in his rituals as well as some ayahuasca that he had prepared for us, and although I won´t go into a lot of detail on it, it is definitely an experience that everyone should have at least once in their life.


So after 5 days, we left the jungle exhausted, covered in bug bites, but with clear heads, and returned to Iquitos for a night. We happily enjoyed a big pizza dinner in Iquitos after all the river fish we had eaten while at the lodge, and got ready for our flight back to Lima the next morning. We are still enjoying our time here in Lima (It is a really great city) but are planning to head further south later today. So until next time.

Posted by Drifters 07:03 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

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