I had every intention of creating a Peru Travel Diaries piece like I did last year with my Spain and Morocco trip. Then February went by, March crept up on me and April just vanished, like that. The last few months have been a bit hectic for me—moving, turning 31, becoming a first-time owner of real-live plants (!)—so I never got around to compiling my experiences into blog posts. Since I really want to share some of my travels with you guys, I decided to go ahead and split Peru up into just two posts. I’ve curated a selection of pictures and will give you a brief synopsis of my day there based on my log.
Day 1 (on the plane)
While it’s still soaking in that one of my best friend’s (Jenny) and I are actually going to South America, I can’t help but feel pretty darn proud of myself for jumping at the opportunity to take a trip without mulling over it for days (or even months).
This happens to be the first trip I planned as far as where we are going to stay, places to eat, how to get around, what kind of transportation to take, what to do, etc. I’m excited but a bit nervous since it really is something new for me and neither one of us has ever been to South America. Throwing this together in 3 weeks was hectic but let me tell ya…the hardest thing was trying to figure out whether or not to buy hiking boots. (I did buy them and promptly traded out the ugly brown shoelaces for red ones. Would you have expected anything else from me?) Also, I think I may have found the cure to my pre-plane travel anxiety. Wine. Good wine.
Day 2 (Lima)
Since we were going to be in Lima for the next couple of days, I wanted to familiarize myself with the area. Grabbing a map, directions from the concierge, my trusty Lonely Planet travel guide and our awesome instincts, Jenny and I set out to see what Lima was all about. We walked up and down Avenida José Larco (one of the main streets) and ventured into local coffee shops, stores and visited Parque Kennedy (which happens to be filled with cats). We ate at a local sandwich shop and discovered this amazing spicy sauce/salsa. Seriously, they need to “Sriracha” that stuff and sell it by the bottle—it’s really that good. Then we headed towards the beach to meet some friends and ended up at Larcomar. Which is a huge, modern shopping center sitting on top of the cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. The view from up there is fantastic, especially during sunset. After taking what seemed like a million super touristy pictures, we headed to Pescados Capitales for ceviche. This was my first time having it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who travels to Peru. It tastes so fresh and the seasoning/juices they put on it…yeah…you’ll not find that anywhere else.
Day 3 (Lima)
Today we ventured to a couple districts surrounding downtown Lima. We first made our way to the Inca Market in Miraflores. It’s quite similar to the souks in Morocco but MUCH tamer. No one is hounding you to buy anything or yelling out “India! India!” to you. Then we taxied our way to Centro Histórico (historical center). It was packed with people and unfortunately we didn’t get to go to some of the sites and buildings listed in the guide. However, we got to walk around and it was quite interesting to see the similarities in architecture between Lima and Spain. The colors, detailing and structure of the buildings reminded me a lot of the Gothic District and Gaudi creations in Barcelona. I also got to eat churros and all of the caramel from one squirted out on to my clothes. Cool points for me. According to LP there is an awesome sandwich shop called El Chinito nearby so we went try it out. They first make a sweet potato patty, add a spicy onion-sauce mix and pile on whatever meat you want. Out of the few bites that I had, all I can say is that it was pretty damn good. I highly recommend it. We then zipped out of that area and into the Barranco district (which is about 25 minutes South of Miraflores). Here we ate burgers, had ginger ale pisco sours and drank Lima-brewed beer at the Barranco Beer Brewery. Since we hadn’t had enough to drink or eat, we went to another cool bar called Ayahuasca and ate Chiffa (Peruvian-Chinese food). Yeah, the food was not as awesome as Jenny and I thought it was going to be. Plus, it gave us a hell of time for the remainder of our trip (if you know what I mean). To end the night, we took some altitude sickness meds for our trip to Cusco the next day. We live on the edge.
Day 4 (Cusco)
Today we arrived in Cusco. As soon as we got to our hotel (which turned out to be more igloo-looking rather than tropical, garden-chic as described online), I decided to take a shower. Turns out a huge ass spider wanted to just hang there from the ceiling while I did this. It was quite an uncomfortable situation—me…no clothes on…dripping wet…a spider…one cramped shower – you know how it goes. Unfortunately, Jenny got food poisoning earlier in the day so she wasn’t able to explore with me. Cusco is an adorable, charming city with quite a European-esque feel to it. I walked around Plaza de Armas and some surrounding streets, soaking in the heat and realizing that I was getting more and more tired by the minute; so I decided to visit the Choco Museo. Where I not only tasted and learned about the history of the cocoa bean but I also found out that there is no limit to what you can do with it (i.e. turning it into chocolate deodorant or even chocolate condoms…go Peru!) While I was here, I decided to rest and sip on some chocolate caliente (hot chocolate). Now this is where Starbucks needs to step up its game. Instead of serving it to you prepared in a mug, you make it yourself. They give you a small bowl of cinnamon, another of cardamom, a small pot of steaming hot milk and a huge dollop of thick, gooey, sweet chocolate. Yeah, I chunked the entire thing of chocolate into the mug, poured in the milk and downed it—all while sitting on the balcony overlooking the Plaza Regocijo.
Then it hit me. The sickness (and the reason behind all the tiredness). I spent the rest of the day confined to a bed next to Jenny’s. If it wasn’t for wi-fi and “Friends” on Netflix, Jenny and I would have only had each other (eh), Powerade, Imodium and a toilet.
Cusco to Ollantaytambo
Day 5 (Cusco to Ollantaytambo)
Somehow, we got our sickly selves up so we could head out to a small town, Ollantaytambo, which would give us easy access to Machu Picchu. While checking-out of our hostel in Cusco, we met Keri. If you guys want to know someone with serious baller status…she’s it. She happened to see us struggling with the front desk (mainly because our Spanish sucks) and came to save the day. She got us a taxi to Ollanta, had our luggage locked up so that we could venture out into Cusco and check out the Plaza de Armas, gave us some tips on how to cure our stomach bug (turns out she is a nurse), and told us where we could get meds + food. Then we found out that she used to actually live in Ollanta, owned a restaurant and started an NGO there. She drew out a map for us and told us to check out her restaurant, which she recently sold. Basically, she’s our hero.
The scenery from Cusco to Ollanta is a site. I could not stop staring and our driver was kind of enough to give us information about the history of the area. He even stopped at another small town, Urubamba, and took some pictures of us. As soon as we arrived in Ollanta we headed to Keri’s ex-restaurant, La Esquina. Ricart, the new owner, turned out to be an insanely awesome guy who took really good care of us. I guess that’s why we ended up eating there like 2 or 3 more times before we even left Ollanta.
Then we went off to search for our hostel. After 20 minutes of winding turns and dragging Jenny’s “India suitcase” across 10 minutes of cobblestone, we got to Casa de Wow. Yeah…not so “wow”. I don’t know if it was the sickness, if it was the rain or what…but the second I stepped in, I wanted to leave. The room was cramped, had wooden bunk beds, hard mattresses, we did not have the private bathroom I had asked for, there were bugs and ants all over the walls and in the beds. Jenny called it “glamp-ing”, I called it “hell no”. Plus, the owner who is American had gone back home to Georgia for a bit and her husband did not speak English at all. I was quite disappointed in the place considering it is listed as one of the top hostels to stay at both on AirBNB and in the Lonely Planet guide. Jenny and I tried to nap, but eventually we got up to check out the town. It started raining (the weather in Peru is very unpredictable) so we ended up back at La Esquina. Ricart made us camomille tea to help ease our stomachs (coca tea tastes horrible and did nothing for us) and gave us some chocolate chip cookies for the trek back. After what seemed like hours, neither one of us really wanting to go, we dragged ourselves back to the casa, in the rain and cold. The next day we moved out.