A Travellerspoint blog

North Perú

Chiclayo, Trujillo, and Huaraz

rain 15 °C
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We´ve just returned to Lima from our little trip up North-- our last week of traveling on our own.

We took a loooong bus ride to Chiclayo last Friday. To be more specific, we were stuck staring out the windows at the foggy Panamerican Highway for thirteen hours. The bus arrived in Chiclayo two hours late, and we only got one bathroom break for the entire trip. They did let us stop for lunch at a café that served baked goat meat and chicken soup complete with a chicken foot in it. (I still ate the soup but not the foot--I was hungry but not that hungry.) When we finally got to Chiclayo it was late and we were exhausted-- we were ready to check in to a hotel and go straight to sleep. And that´s just what we did, only we had to sleep in our clothes and skip brushing our teeth because our backpacks were still at the bus terminal in Lima-- the company forgot to load them onto the bus. Oops.

The next morning, in the light of day (and after the bus company had delivered our packs to the hotel from the overnight bus from Lima), Chiclayo was actually a pretty nice place. Clean and sunny (unlike Lima), and with a busy, bustling atmosphere that we immediately liked. There wasn´t a ton to do in Chiclayo, but we kept ourselves busy for a few days with the archaeological museum in nearby Lambayeque and the market in town.

Then it was off to Trujillo, just three hours south on the Panamerican. Trujillo is one of Peru´s biggest cities, and it didn´t have as much character as Chiclayo. On Monday morning (not too early, of course)we headed out on a local bus to the ruins of Chan Chan, one of the biggest pre-Columbian cities in the Americas. The city was massive, stretching for miles on both sides of the highway. The Chimu people built the city out of adobe bricks, and over the years the elements have worn down the bricks giving the place the appearance of a giant sand castle half-destroyed by a big wave.

After checking out the ruins and the little museum, we headed to the nearby beach town of Huanchaco to appreciate the sunny, if chilly, day and have some seafood for lunch. Then we headed back to Trujillo in time to catch our overnight bus to Huaraz.

Huaraz is a city up in the central Andes that´s famous as a center for mountain sports. Sergio and I aren´t really mountain sports people, but we thought we´d check out the mountain scenery for a few days anyway. After trying to acclimatize a little in the city, on Wednesday we headed up into the mountains for a night at a lodge in the middle of nowhere.

Thinking we´d be clever and save a few soles, instead of taking a taxi to the lodge we took a local bus up the mountain and walked the rest. Trying to follow the lodge´s directions turned out to be more complicated than we thought, and after walking up the mountain for what felt like a looooong time, we found someone who spoke Spanish (Quechua is the main language up there) and actually knew where the lodge was. "Oh that´s very far from here. You should have come up there other way. It´s very complicated to get there from here." Just what we wanted to hear after an hour of walking at 4,000 meters. Anyway, the nice woman, dressed in colorful native clothing and with a little girl in tow, took us back down the mountain and pointed to the next hill over, telling us to go straight down to the little creek, jump over the creek, and then climb the mountain to where there was a group of houses. "When you get up there, ask for Alex´s hotel."

Getting down to the valley and jumping over the creek was easy enough. We looked up at the mountain from there. The woman, waiting to make sure we got there okay, was standing at the ledge where she´d left us, gesturing at us to climb up to the houses. We´d done climbs that steep in that elevation before, in Bolivia, and we knew it would be really hard but that we´d make it if we took our time. We scrambled up through the fields, finding footholds in the dirt, stopping every few minutes to catch our breath. We finished the little water we had. When we finally made it to the top, we just collapsed onto our packs, exhausted, and didn´t move for at least fifteen minutes.

The woman was right, though, and from there it wasn´t far to the lodge and we finally made it, tossing our packs onto the floor and collapsing onto the chairs outside the lobby.

And after all that I actually managed to convince Sergio to go hiking with me again the next day.

Now we´re back in Lima for a week of much-needed relaxing before our families get here.

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Posted by libby242 16:13 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

The Amazon

Iquitos, Perú

semi-overcast 26 °C
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When Sergio and I got off the plane last Wednesday in Iquitos, the first thing we noticed was the heat. Lima is cloudy and chilly. The Amazon is... well it`s kind of cloudy because it rains every day. But it´s hot, really hot and humid. Not that we didn´t expect that-- it´s the rainforest, after all.

We spent one very hot night in a creepy little hostel with jaguar skins on the walls before we starting our jungle tour. On Thursday morning we took a boat to the lodge we´d be staying in for three days. The lodge was pretty rustic-- no hot water and no electricity, but who needs a shower or electronic entertainment when you´re in the rainforest? We ate jungle food-- plantains and yucca and papaya every day.

Our three days in the rainforest were spent sloshing through the muddy forest or gliding along in a boat on the river. We saw animals, mostly domesticated and on show for us tourists but we saw a few monkeys up in the trees and plenty of bugs (especially ferocious, evil little mosquitos and more than a few cockroaches). We visited a native village, which was very touristy but kind of fun anyway.

Some people warn that visiting the rainforest can be disappointing-- I guess because it´s a lot like the forest anywhere, and it´s pretty hard to see the cool animals like jaguars and anacondas. But Sergio and I weren´t disappointed and it was a really cool experience. The noise at night (mostly from toads) is louder than any city street could be. And the forest smells strongly like rain and rotting leaves. And the Amazon River itself could not disappoint-- it´s far wider than any river I´ve ever seen and it´s a murky brown color from all the sediment it´s carrying from the Andes all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. And the people speak a weird language that they call "Castellano" for some reason but is really a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, and Yagua.

And just when we thought we couldn´t take another meal of fried fish and yucca, it was time to head back to Iquitos where they have pizza and burritos, and tomorrow it´s back to cold, rainy Lima. That sounds pretty nice right now.

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Posted by libby242 15:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lima

overcast 17 °C
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We´ll, Lima is our final destination and we´ve been acting like it. The last week has been all about relaxing, taking walks and eating good food. Oh and sleeping and reading and watching TV.

For our first few days in Lima we called a hostel in Miraflores home. We took our time wandering around Lima´s rich, clean neighborhoods, eating at fairly expensive restaurants and generally living the good life. We wandered in and out of department stores and we walked along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Then on Friday we finally checked out of our hostel and lugged our getting-heavier backpacks to Sergio´s mom´s cousin´s house in Pueblo Libre, a residential area sort of between Miraflores and downtown Lima. Then we basically spent the next few days doing what we had done in Miraflores but exploring new neighborhoods. And sleeping in later each day.

We like Lima. It´s nice to be in a big city again, with the wonderful sounds of traffic people everywhere. True, we haven´t seen the sun in a week (although we know it´s still up there since it provides some light if not warmth). The food has been... interesting. In a good way, mostly. Sergio finally made it to Chinatown here in Lima after hearing his whole life that Chinese food is better in Peru than in the US (never mind how it is in China, and you´ll have to ask him for a verdict). And we both bravely ate anticucho de corazón (Peruvian shish-kabob featuring cow´s heart) at a hole-in-the-wall place around the corner from his aunt´s house.

Now that we´ve been in Lima long enough to get comfortable, we figure it´s time to move on so we´re getting on a plane (our first in South America) for a week in the Amazon. But then it´s back to Lima for a few more weeks of hanging out and eating weird food.

Posted by libby242 18:52 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

The Road to Lima

The South Coast

overcast 17 °C
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We finally managed to drag ourselves away from the comforts of Arequipa on Friday, when we got on an overnight bus to Lima. We weren´t going to Lima just yet though, and we got off early in the morning on Saturday in Ica, about five hours south of Lima on the Panamerican highway.

Not that we could see Ica, or anything along the road as the taxi driver took us to Huacachina, the little town where we were actually staying. Everything was covered with opaque white fog. Anything more than ten feet away was pretty much invisible. It´s lucky the taxi driver could see enough to get us to our hostel in one piece. That´s how the entire south coast of Perú is in winter-- covered in thick, sun-killing fog.

As the day wore on and the fog began to part enough for the sun to shine a little bit (I don´t think we´ve seen the sun since), we could see that the entire town of Huacachina was surrounded by mountain-sized sand dunes. We´d had no idea earlier in the morning. But the now-visible sand dunes were what we came to Huacachina for and later in the afternoon we jumped on a dune buggy for a trip into the desert.

The point of the dune buggy tour is pretty much for the driver to speed up and down the dunes scaring everybody to death. Basically like a roller coaster except scarier. We made it through that too, though, and the driver stopped us at the top of a huge sand dune so we could sandboard down it. Sandboarding is fun because it´s like snowboarding except not as cold and it takes no skill, so we were speeding down nearly vertical slopes in no time. When the sun set and we couldn´t see where we going anymore, we got back in the dune buggy to speed back to Huacachina.

Since that was pretty much all there was to do in Huacachina, on Sunday we caught a bus to Pisco, another few hours up the coast to Lima. Pisco is a bigger town than Huacachina, but still not particularly exciting and more than a little run-down. Our hostel was down a tiny dirt road littered with trash and full of stray dogs. But we weren´t there to see Pisco, we were there to see the Islas Ballestas, known in guide books as the "poor man´s Galapagos."

Seeing the islands meant waking up extremely early (and no coffee anywhere!) to take a bus to the port at Paracas, where we caught a boat to the islands. After about twenty freezing-cold minutes on a little boat, we stopped at the islands to look at the wildlife. Mostly that meant birds, lots of birds, and lots of bird poop. The islands were absolutely covered with it, and the place smelled like it, too. In Perú though they call the poop guano and they harvest it and sell it for a lot of money as a fertilizer.

Among the birds, though, were little Humbolt penguins. And lounging on the rocks were sea lions, hundreds of them laying on the beach and playing in the water.

Then it was back to Pisco to catch an afternoon bus to Lima, our final destination. Well, we still have a month here and plenty more travelling to do, but getting here is still the symbolic end of our journey. It took us three months and thousands of miles, but we´ve made it.

It feels really good to be in a big city. We´ve mostly been in the middle of nowhere since we left Rio two months ago, and for now we´re enjoying the sound of traffic and the smell of car fumes. Well, and the food and the shopping.

Posted by libby242 15:23 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

The White City

Arequipa, Peru

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Well, we´ve officially been in Arequipa for a week-- a long time in the backpacking world. Aside from our rough start and a super-noisy hostel, we´ve had a nice, relaxing time here.

We spent our first few days just hanging out-- walking around the city center a little bit, trying restaurants, going to the movies. And then we spent our next few days, well just doing all that some more. I am not ashamed to say we spent an entire day sitting on bean bags and watching TV.

Finally on Sunday, after a comedy of errors involving lost peices of paper and wrong numbers, we got a hold of Sergio´s relatives here and on Sunday and Monday they showed us around their city a little bit. And okay, we saw another movie.

Then yesterday we decided we had better actually do something in order to justify spending so much of our last precious weeks here, so we headed out on a two-day tour of the Colca Canyon. The Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world, or so they say around here. The scenery was beautiful and we had a nice two days. The highlight was the hour spent watching the endangered Andean condors soar across the canyon at the Cruz del Condor.

I think Sergio and I may just be ready to move on from Arequipa though, and we´ll be heading up to Lima (with a few stops along the way) soon.

(no photos because I´m out of space for June... oops!)

Posted by libby242 15:30 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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