Peru is the third country we have visited in South America, after Venezuela and Brazil. These three countries on the same continent are actually three totally distinct worlds. Differences are huge!
Those impressions will always stay in our mind when thinking of Peru:
- Our disgust and anger about what the Catholic Church did in the name of god in South America in the time of Conquistadores, destroying systematically one of the greatest cultures in history! Considering the Pope’s comments during his last visit in South America, saying that the indigenous population desired the arrival of Christianity, the position of the Church remains more than cynical and definitely unacceptable!
- Coming from Brazil where you find an immense ethnic diversity, Peru has a surprisingly homogeneous population, with a very high percentage being of indigenous descent.
- Many women, even in large cities like Arequipa, dress in traditional clothes, in smaller places in it almost the norm. And we are not talking about those who hang around touristy places to have their photo taken with a baby lama!
- Traffic noise, and the pollution that comes with it, is sometimes overwhelming, especially in Lima and Arequipa, which are the two biggest cities of the country. There are very few privately owned cars, but fleets of taxis and lots of “Collectivos”, which are the worst polluters, engulfing the surroundings in black exhaust fumes.
- If Brazilians cannot live without showing one or two thumbs up to express agreement, Peruvian drivers cannot live without permanently honking to get whoever’s attention: other drivers that should make room for them or are not moving fast enough, traffic police when they get them waiting too long, potential customers for taxis or “Collectivos” …
- Houses & buildings that are never finished, or sometimes only started and then abandoned, as well as very little concern for maintenance.
- Extremely cold places with doors and windows opened, as if it was not cold enough, no matter if hotel rooms, restaurants, museums, stores …
- There is no public place where you cannot find a TV-set on full volume with people watching poorly acted romantic soaps or ultra violent series. This is especially true in local eateries, where you cannot escape the screams or shootings of the TV.
- Cheap local eateries always offering the same dishes on their menu: “Pollo con arroz”, “Lomo saltado”, “Tallarin”, “Trucha” in the south …
- And last but not least … Absurd price differences between local eateries and tourist places: for the same meal prices vary from 1 to 15, the only differences are that tourist restaurants have table cloths and an English menu!
The highlights of these four weeks in Peru were:
- Watching the sunrise over a completely deserted Machu Picchu and the spectacular scenery around in total quietness between 06:00 and 06:30 am.
- Marvelling about the scenery of Coca Canyon during a 3 days trekking and the condors at Cruz del Condor, especially when four of these Condors landed on a rock a few meters away and started teasing each other.
- The Museo Sanctuario in Arequipa exhibiting the famous “Ice-Princess”! This was one of the best insights of the Inca culture and civilisation we have had in Peru.
- Nasca, not only for the famous lines, but because we took the time to see the Chauchilla Cemetery, the local museum and the lecture on the theory of the Nasca Lines.
- The terraces of Moray and the Salinas near Urubamba in the Sacred Valley, a beautiful day off the beaten tracks …
- The garden of the Hotel Tambo Viejo in Arequipa, where we could seat and relax, away from the busy street and the heavy traffic pollution.
What we would do differently:
- Be better prepared for cold temperatures: we both got sick in Lima because of the cold and the humidity and it took weeks to completely recover because of the height and the cold.
- Not go to the Hostal Vallee del Fuego in Cabanaconde and not book a trekking with them. They have no idea about what they are talking about. Fure is not an interesting destination in the Canyon, there are much nicer villages. We do not understand that all travel guides (Lonely Planet, Le Routard, …) rave about this place …
- We could not enjoy Lima because of the climatic shock and the fact that we both got sick immediately.
As a conclusion?
We spent four weeks discovering only a small part of Peru: Lima & Nasca, Arequipa & the Colca Canyon, Cuzco & the Sacred Valley, Puno & the Lake Titicaca. It was rather not enough than too much. This country is simply fantastic, with unbelievable remains of one of the greatest civilization in history! If going there, our main recommendations are: take your time to enjoy this trip, do not try to see everything. Try to live not only in tourist ghettos, but discover also the local eateries and the local markets, it offers so much better value. And no matter what travel guides say, do not get paranoid, Peru is a safe country!
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