Peru Flashback

After we have written so much about our own experiences, it is now time to talk about the country we have travelled to. Fortunately, it turned out that it is extremely easy and very rewarding to travel to Peru. Readers of our blog have already noted the amazing variety of landscape, fauna and culture – ranging from the capital of Lima, which at some places looks like a city in Florida or California, over the Andes to the Amazon Basin.
However, what really made us love the country were the people, who are always willing to help You: You can ask every person for the right bus to take, and if You do not find anything in the shop You are in, they will tell You which one of their rivals may have what You are looking for. Moreover, they do not even try to charge You more than they do for the locals, which is not state of the art in other countries. But keep in mind that they only speak Spanish, so a few basics are nearly mandatory!
Travelling here is convenient and cheap, at least if You have time on Your side: Not all things will work from the start, but by being patient and friendly all trouble can be overcome. And since we have spent several weeks here, even a blocked road does not yield a lost day, but means some more hours of reading or relaxing at the terminal. You can reach nearly every town by bus, and especially the comfortable night buses offer a great opportunity to save time and money for the accommodation.

So, after all, Thomas would sum it up: Peru is a bit like Argentine, but of course not quite as good.

Cusco and World Wonder “Machu Picchu”

If you are in South-America, there is at least one place you cannot miss – and might it be deserved or not, you will have to visit it: Machu Picchu. Thus, of course also we went to Cusco, the former Inca capital, and stayed there one day for seeing the last traces of the Incas. Especially the “Fortaleza Sacsayhuamán” and the “Convento de Santo Domingo”, located above the Incas’ sun temple “Coricancha” are interesting and can give you a small glimpse of the masterpieces from this highly developed culture. Unfortunately the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro (“el cuidador de chanchos”) and the Catholic Church have done a really good job and destroyed almost everything or built new buildings on top of the Inca walls. But luckily those walls are a lot more earth-quake proof and hence they stayed intact while the rest of the newer construction just fell apart.

Thanks to Yuri, the owner of our hostel, we could book an alternative trail to Machu Picchu, namely the “Inca Jungle Trek”, which is a lot cheaper and less touristic than famous “Inca Trail”. Accompanied by our guide William “Wallace” and 12 Chilean fellows we passed 4 unforgettable days together. On the first one we had a crazy bike ride 50km downhill from 4300m to 1300m towards Santa Maria. Unfortunately it was raining a lot and Esteffen got a little bit cold (but did not get ill, so no need to worry, Kristine), but I must say that personally I really enjoyed that kind of weather because it made the ride even more adventurous: with the fog you couldn’t see very much where you were driving to and you had to cross lots of small rivers which almost made you fall down and of course even wetter. Luckily the guide let me go faster than the group so I could pedal quite hard and I stopped freezing all the way down, and at the end we all arrived “sano y salvo” at our first overnight place. The next day we trekked a lot through the “selva”, where we could eat lots of super-tasteful mangos, and also on a former “camino de los Incas” – quite vertiginous but very impressive view. After a relaxing stop at some hot springs we went to Santa Tereza where we stayed for the second night. On the third day we walked to Aguas Calientes, the rather touristic village at the bottom of the Machu Picchu site. Without knowing it we circled around the whole mountain on which the famous ruins are located. Continue reading

Arequipa y Canyon de Colca

Yes, we did it …. want to know what exactly I am talking about? Well, sorry, but you’ll have to read through the whole entry, as I like to tell the things rather chronologically and unfortunately for you we fulfilled one of our “desafíos” at the end of our stay in this region!

So we arrived to Arequipa, also called “The White City”, more or less one week ago and stayed at the Bothy Hostel for two nights, which allowed us to visit this charming Andean city (at about 2300m in altitude but definitely not looking like this with nearly one million inhabitants, called Arequipeños and NOT Peruanos). Especially the historic center and its architecture deserve to be “World Cultural Heritage”, with lots of colonial and religious buildings. Among others, we visited the “Santa Catalina Monastery”, very impressive due to its size, the deep colors and its former organization: the whole area is just like a smaller town located inside a town, where the nuns were not allowed to get out and the “normal folks” couldn’t get in, which seems a pity to us because the place is simply too nice and luxurious for wasting it during such a strict way of life. However, the nuns were not quite acting as Christian as one would expect – most of them had several maids for cooking, washing, sewing etc., and the poorer nuns could sell their belongings to the rich ones (of course too much mercy is not appropriate in this place, but at least the basic principles of capitalism had passed the big walls).  Continue reading

Amazon, selva, animals… but NO rain!

Whoever named the rainforest like this, we really cannot understand why on earth such an expression was chosen – after conducting an exhaustive long-term study of 4 days and 3 nights at and around the Rio Ucayali (one of Amazon’s two main source rivers) without a single raindrop, we conclude that the name rainforest is rather naive and should be replaced. As alternative we suggest to the scientific community “Selva de Gilber”.

“Selva” is nothing more than the Spanish term for the rainforest. Starting from Pucallpa, we did an excursion to some lonely places of the jungle. Since it is winter in this part of Perú (while logically at the same time it is summer in Lima), the whole area is flooded and hence can be accessed easily by boat. To do so we hired a guide named Gilber (60 years old, has lived all his life in the jungle), who took us with his “peque-peque” to lagoons, canals and over the VERY huge river Ucayali. During this trip, we slept in a lovely wooden cabin, covered with a palm-leaves roof and resting on pillars. Actually most houses here are built in that style due to the flood lasting several months every year.

The fauna is quite amazing: we saw sloths, monkeys, rose and grey dolphins, thousands of birds and millions of insects, who Esteffen didn’t like as much as I did (the exploration of the Amazon’s insects also continued during the night in our sleeping bags, especially with the high diversity of “cucarachas”). All the other animals are rather difficult to detect, but fortunately not for our guide, who is able to recognize a toucan in a distance of at least 30 meters while passing by boat and preparing a meal (which has always something with bananas – I think we ate at least 1kg “platanos” per day, so my mum was wrong when telling me that one banana each day is enough). Afterwards we needed 10 minutes to get to the point where we were able to see the toucan in a distance of less than 5 meters …. additionally Gilber also found an alligator in the middle of the night at our house, so obviously he can detect animals even while sleeping. The only explanation we have so far, is that he founded the “selva”, thus it seems justified to name the forest to his honor! Continue reading

Lima – holiday is better than studying

…. and beach is better than office!!

At least that could be how we would resume the beginning of our world-trip. By “we” and “our”, I now mean Steffen and me, since I met him in Lima after a relaxing night flight from Argentina to Perú (I almost overslept my flight during my transit in Asunción :P ). We were located at the Hitchhikers Hostel in the Miraflores district, a very nice location with beach, cliffs and luxurious houses, but the hostel was a bit too tranquil, means we did not meet many other guys (maybe partly due to the Dakar-rally that is starting tomorrow from here). Nevertheless we had a nice new year’s eve where we saw many fireworks along the coast and later I also went to a “boliche” which was quite okay.

Lima’s old town in the center is very beautiful, especially the “Convento de San Francisco” with its history and catacombs was worth a visit. On another day we had a crazy trip with Eduardo from Mar Adentro Excursiones to the “Islas Palomino”, where we could see lots of different birds, penguins and of course with the highlight “nadar con los lobos”, i.e. swimming in the middle of the sea surrounded by sea lions :D This experience was kind of weird but really fun, we were simply not expecting something like that, where the sea lions are touching you and jumping right over your shoulder. Have a look at the photos to get a small impression ;-)

Definitely the most interesting trip was going to the “pueblos jóvenes”, which from the outside we first thought to be the poorest districts with endless hills full of bad huts where 60% of Lima’s population live, looking like the Brazilian favelas where you’d better not go into (we changed our opinion about that). We were guided by the German agricultural engineer Alois Kennerknecht, who lives in Peru for 25 years. He explained us that in fact economically this areas are not that bad, as they are used as a good possibility to make money: you invest and build such houses on an empty place, far away from the existing infrastructure where there is nothing, then after two or three years the government will have extended the streets and brought water and electricity, and you can resell your “cabaña” much more expensively. And in fact once we were inside these villages we actually never felt unsafe, but rather could see the purchasing power (supermarkets etc.) and that the houses are not in such a bad shape. We also saw one of the biggest cemetery of the world. Continue reading