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Our route -I:

01.09.05 - 02.09.05:
  • Puno

  • Sillustani

    04.09.05 - 07.09.05:
  • Cuzco

    08.09.05 -18.09.05:
  • Choquequirao
  • Machu Picchu

    19.09.05 - 29.09.05:
  • Cuzco

  • Pisac

    01.10.05 - 03.10.05:
  • Urubamba
  • Ollantaytambo
  • Moray
  • Salineras

    04.10.05 - 05.10.05:
  • Cuzco

    06.10.05 - 07.10.05:
  • Nazca

  • Huacachina

    09.10.05 - 10.10.05:
  • Ica
  • Paracas
  • Islas Ballestas
  • Pisco

  • NP Lachay

  • Huaraz
  • Cordillera Blanca

    13.10.05 - 17.10.05:
  • Chavin
  • Yungaz
  • Llanganuco

    18.10.05 - 23.10.05:
  • Huanchaco
  • Trujillo
  • Chan Chan
  • Huacas Sol y Luna

    24.10.05 - 25.10.05:
  • Chiclayo
  • Lambayeque

    26.10.05 - 30.10.05:
  • Piura
  • Mancora

    Our route - II:

    12.12.05 - 15.12.05:
  • Mancora

  • Huanchaco

  • NP Lachay

  • Nazca

  • Camana

  •   Peru
    On this page, we (will) describe our experiences in Peru. Apart from the travelogue for this country you will also find a number of links to useful sites, ranging from general information to embassy homepages.

    Written by: Coen

    Good afternoon, where do you come from? From Holland, and is that your car?
    Four Peruvian custom police officers stand around me and want 5 Euro for a fax to some office, blah, blah. Me no understand.
    Laughing and waving we cross the border.
    Our first impression is that Peru is not very different from Bolivia. Still the same concrete white and yellow painted block houses, clay houses and little shops and kiosks with hand-painted signs and, because of the heat, sleepy people in front of it.
    An Uros boat made of reed Our first stop in Peru is the town of Puno at the Titicaca lake. The center is modern and you can get everything here. Striking is the motorized- and bicycle rickshaws that zoom through the traffic like flies. Just like in India pedestrians are nothing so you have to be careful when you cross the streets…

    We book a boat-tour to the floating reed islands of Uros. We sail one hour on an old wooden motorboat before the first reed canes hit the bow of the boat. The morning sun shines on the water and the whole trip we are accompanied by the sound of water birds. Then we see the first floating islands. These islands are made out of reed and are roughly one meter thick. Constantly the upper layer is filled up with fresh reed and the lower layers are rotting away in the water.
    As a hiding place against the Inca aggressors these people built there houses here and now, centuries later, they still live here. There are about 15 smaller islands and 1 bigger one on which they even build a school and a theater. With big Viking-like reed boats the Uros Indians move between the islands.
    We visit 3 of the smaller islands on which the inhabitants mainly live from tourism. The small children smell like animals and directly put on their nicest faces for a photo. I have some oranges with me and divide them under the smallest ones. In return I get a glob of snot on my jacket.
    We walk around on the islands and we look at how the inhabitants live on these islands as if we are in a human zoo.

    Via the Inca grave towers of Sillustani, beautifully situated on a peninsular and surrounded by green hills and water, we drive to Cuzco in one day. En route we pass small villages. In one village they are busy installing small toilet houses, one for each house, financed by a charity organization from the US. Another village is specialized in preparing guinea pigs. From the oven, from the grill, however you like them. Pitifully they lie with their paws stretched and they grin at you with their little teeth.
    A street in Cuzco In Cuzco, Gonna and Helmi, a Dutch couple, offer their garden for camping to tourists who travel by car. We spent a lovely time there, the dogs could play with their dog and there were other travelers as well. The following days we visit Cuzco, capital of the old Inca Empire. It is a beautiful city with many Spanish colonial buildings built on the fundaments of Inca palaces. We walk through the narrow streets, along Inca walls made of perfectly sized stones, which fit together without any cement. The steep alleys are full of knitting old women, selling handicrafts, hats and pullovers. It is a bit touristy though. Children in colorful traditional Indian costumes, carrying a little lamb and pulling a lama through the streets.
    The Plaza de Armas is a magnificent square surrounded by Spanish colonial buildings and churches. Whatever street you enter from here, the combination of Inca architecture and colonial style is overwhelming.
    On the campsite, situated above the old town, we spent the evenings with Brenda, Guido, Claudia and PJ from Holland, chatting and exchanging photos. We celebrate Dorrit's birthday with them. Then is it time to prepare out next trekking. Because we do not want to pay 300 US$ pp for the guided "Inca trail" (which is fully booked for the next half year anyway), we want to try to walk via Choquequirao, a holy Inca city only accessible by foot, over an old local path to the world famous Machu Picchu in 10 days.

    In six hours we drive by bus to the village where we planned to start our trekking. A family allows us to pitch our tent in their garden. When we heave our backpacks on our backs, the first drops of rain come falling down. The bags are heavy with our complete gear and food for 10 days. The first day, after a rough climb and then descending and ascending through a everchanging green and dry landscape, we reach a campsite where we set up our tent between some roaming chicken.
    The next day we descend down to a river, from which we start a killing 7 hour, 1800 meter climb to the ruins of Choquequirao. It is difficult to keep our spirits up because it just keeps going on up. Finally, after crossing a ridge, we saw the first Inca terraces among the dense jungle vegetation. The next morning we visited the ruins.

    The ruins were not discovered until the end of the 1970s. Only a small part is being excavated, the rest is still hidden in the jungle. Archaeologists claim that the ruins of Choquequirao are much more extensive than those of Machu Picchu. It is a magical place, on top of a hill in the middle of the jungle, with a view over 3 enormous triangle shaped, kilometers high mountains, covered with jungle trees. 1800 meters below 3 narrow valleys with rushing rivers converge. Behind us are the ruins with their majestic stairs and long galleries. Amazing!
    Unfortunately we have to keep on moving.
    On the other side of the mountain, our path is descending about 1300 meters through deep forest. Every now and then we see parts of Inca ruins, swallowed up by the jungle. Thick tree roots keep these possible treasure-chests closed; In Peru there is not much money for archaeology.
    Every now and then some locals pass us with their donkeys, horses or lamas on these narrow paths. These old Inca thoroughfares are still being used today, being the only roads into the mountain areas where these people live.
    With sore knees from the steep descent, we find a place for the night.
    When it stopped raining the next day, we started another steep descent through yellow grassy hills with large gnarled trees full of brightly green mosses that look like cobweb. Down the river we cannot find the trail and we lose a full hour searching. After a rough 1200-meter climb over crumbling goat paths along steep mountainsides we arrive at the top of a mountain, completely wasted. On this grassy mountaintop, 3 generations of farmers live in one hut full of dogs, chicken and guinea pigs. Fortunately they sell us 4 of their eggs; we can do with a bit of extra energy for the next day.
    ... Another memorable day: for over six hours we climb 1600 meters through a thick, drizzling and cold forest, via an old slippery Inca path, uprooted in most places by trees. When we finally reach the pass it starts snowing. Quickly over the pass and then down again as far as possible. In the village of Yanama, which consists of 10 houses, we can pitch our tent on a riverbank in a thick fog. For the first time in 5 days, we find a little shop so we can stock up with cookies and we even find a can of tuna fish. The inhabitants of this village are direct descendants of the Inca's and apart from some new wells, nothing changed over the last centuries.
    Two gringos (an abbreviation for the "greenback go home", which the Mexicans used to shout at the North-Americans) with dogs is something they haven't seen yet, and they look at us distrustfully. Because rain is pouring down we have cookies for dinner.
    The next morning it is still raining so we discuss for a while if we should stay to wait for better weather but no thanks: we've already had that one before (see Chile, volcano Puyehue). We also have only one pair of dry clothes left so we start walking. Slowly but steady we climb along a river through a light-green steppe-like valley with grazing horses, slowly approaching the snow capped mountains on the horizon.
    All of a sudden the dogs run away and attack a skunk that was minding his own business between some stones. The poor animal tries to defend itself with a lot of stink, but he has no chance. When we come running to the scene he is already dead.
    We climb on towards the pass at 4700 m and are getting closer and closer to the snowy mountain tops. And we feared great fears..
    With reason too, for to reach the pass we have to climb some two hours more through the deep snow. A snow storm is growing ever fiercer, but it is already too late in the afternoon to return.
    In a cloud of snow, two Indians with a donkey approached us, walking the other way. Sinking up to our knees into the snow and short of breath for lack of oxygen at 4700 m, we stumble on towards the pass. It is getting more and more difficult to follow the traces of the two Indians, as these are quickly being covered in fresh snow. We are very afraid to loose them (they are the only orientation we have) and get utterly lost in this icy white world. The snow hits our faces and the dogs are squeeking of utter misery. But then, after 2,5 hours of climbing and stumbling through the snow, we see a pile of stones marking the pass through the dark gray snowy sky. We both shed some tears for sheer relief. As fast as possible we glide down on the other side of the pass and eventually the snow turns into rain again.
    Down in the valley we see a bunch of clay houses with straw roofs. An Indian farmer allows us to pitch our tent on his land, between pig, geese and dogs. With half-frozen fingers we pitch the tent.
    Colorfully dressed neighbors come to look and help us. They had never seen a tent before! Completely soaked and numb with cold go into our sleeping bags. It takes hours before we warm up a bit. Because of tiredness and the smell of skunk that the dogs brought with them into the tent we lost all our appetite so we had another cookie dinner. ... The next morning the friendly villagers are already waiting for us strangers. One family brings us hot potatoes, another family stirs up the fire and yet another makes tea. Some grimy Indians had gathered in a dark clay hut and here we slurp hot tea and dry our clothes. The only light comes from the entrance and from a small fire in the corner. In the back, on a pile of rags a dirty child is sleeping. Guinea pigs run around on the earthen floor. Two Indians on sandals out of car tires tie up colorful bags on their backs and leave for Yanama, crossing the pass…
    Then we say farewell to these unique and friendly indigenous Peruvians and we continue our trip.
    It doesn't rain much anymore and we walk a beautiful part along the southern slopes of a green valley with a swirling river deep down below us. Then we cross the Santa Teresa valley, covered with cloud forest. 3000 meters high mountains are completely covered with a dark green forest. Therefore it is moist though, and we get soaked by heavy rainfalls regularly.
    After a while we arrive at the crossing with the more trodden Mollapata route, which we follow for the remainder of our trek to Machu Picchu.
    After two days of only cookies, this evening we stuff ourselves with the potatoes and the tuna fish. I always carry some garlic and together with some tomatoes from the field this meal was a feast.
    Via a slippery road along a deep canyon and through banana and coffee plantations the local bus takes us to the village of Santa Teresa. In the 1990s this village was completely washed away by a landslide and because the bridge hasn't been rebuilt yet, we have to cross the river by cable lift, in a small basket with the rushing river 100 meters under us…
    On the opposite side of the river, together with some locals with kit bags and market goods, we cram ourselves into the back of an open truck. After an hour we can fortunately walk again.
    We follow an overgrown path along the railway track through a narrow canyon with steep faces left and right of us. It is hot and small sandflies eat us alive, leaving big red lumps on our skin. The canyon ends at the foot of the hill on which Machu Picchu is being build. We pitch our tent and the next day at dawn we go up to visit Machu Picchu.
    This holy Inca city was built on top of a mountain ridge, surrounded by steep and dark green, overgrown hills. For a few hours we wander about in the labyrinth of these holy ruins.
    Back down again, we try to get tickets for the train back to Cuzco, the only possible way of transport besides walking. The train company is in British-Chilean hands (a monopoly given to them by Fujimori) and do not allow animals in the trains. For two days I discuss with them, telephone with the headquarters and even demand that they order a helicopter for us. It is all no use. No animals and no exceptions. All we can do is walk the 32 km over a railway track to the place where the road starts and we can take a local bus. We report it at the police station because it is also forbidden to walk on the railway track and the next morning we start walking very early. This trekking has no mercy for us.
    32 km on sharp stones and through dangerous tunnels with trains that run randomly at any time. We walk through a broad canyon above a river, with hills full of cloud forest. Later the area got dryer and dryer until only bushes and cactuses remained. On the opposite side of the river is the "Inca trail", so we pass a few nice Inca ruins.
    After 10 hours of struggling on the sharp and loose railway stones, we arrive somewhere where we can take a local bus to Ollantaytambo. From here we immediately take a bus to Cuzco because a general strike is being announced for the next day. We arrive late at night in Cuzco.
    After 10 days, the hot camping shower was like one from the Hilton!

    Back in Cuzco, we spent some relaxing days. Enjoyable evenings on the campsite and breakfast in the sun.
    We had Manali sterilized and we spent much time with Marjan and Igor. Marjan has a workshop where handicapped Peruvians make Dutch cheese, dairy products and jam. Marjan and Igor took us out to eat a Peruvian specialty: cow heart on bamboo sticks. Then it is time to move on to the Sacred Valley.

    Inca terasses The Sacred Valley is an approximately 100 kilometers long valley surrounded by mountains. For the Inca's this was the food store for the city of Cuzco, center of the empire. A river streams through and its climate is favorable for agriculture. There are some sacred temples and several forts on strategic points of the valley.
    We start with the ruins of Pisac. We stroll around the high ruins, along a water source from which the water still runs through the old water canals into the washing basins and along the soldiers residences. Then we pass the endless terraces. An Indian plays on a flute and the clear tunes linger between the mountains.
    The next day we drive to the village of Ollantaytambo. Its arena shaped fort is situated on a hill above the village with terraces underneath it. In the village itself some inhabitants still live in the old Inca houses. In the maze of streets we see colorful Indians in traditional clothes, wearing high hats. From some houses a long cane with a red cloth sticks out. This means Chicha is being made and sold here, a centuries old homemade corn beer. We peep into the small courtyards and houses.
    On one long day we visit several sites by bike. First we cycle to Moray, 3 circular terraces in different sizes. They look like big craters and were used by the Inca's to test crops. Eight kilometers further on are the Salinas. Hundreds of white basins in a gorge are filled by salty water from a source. The water evaporates and the Inca's used to extract salt here. It is still in use and carriers walk around bare feeted, carrying monstrously big sacks of salt on their backs.
    A beautifully dressed Indian woman walks up with us. Fortunately we can speak Spanish with her. We both live in another world. She saw our kind of life on television and we see only a little bit of her life.
    Back in Cuzco, Gonna and Helmi invite us for dinner and so we sit in front of a fireplace with a glass of red wine and crackers with cheese, reading Dutch magazines until the Dutch meatballs are being served…

    Our next stop is Nazca. We have to drive two days to reach it. Uphill, downhill, 2 high passes. Via a huge plateau with bare mountains covered only in short moss we drive through small villages where thousands of alpaca's (a sort of lama) a being kept for their wool. The car has difficulties with the altitude and rattles and smokes in all colors. When we get closer to the coast, it gets dryer and dryer. The complete coastal line from north Chile to the north of Peru is desert area where hardly anything grows. But it is nice and warm here..
    In a desert area of 500 km2, the pre-Colombian Nazca culture left 70 enormous drawings. Because of their size, they are only visible by airplane. Only two of them can be seen from a high watchtower; thus we are able to see the "spider" and the "tree".

    At the oasis lake From here it is not far to Huacachina, an oasis town around a small lake in the middle of the desert, surrounded by high sand dunes. We spent the night here, walk around the lake, passing Moorish style buildings and date palms and we see Peruvian couples in rowing boats disappear in the fringe of reeds. Freaks on sand boards speed down the huge sand dunes.
    In Ica we visit the regional museum to get to know a bit more about the Nazca culture. Here they have a nice collection of mummy shrouds and scalped trophy heads which lips are tight together by cactus needles and which have a hole in their jaw to be tied to the belt of their conqueror. There even is a rehydrated mummy hand. It is 3000 years old but it looks as if it was amputated yesterday.

    We continue through the endless desert landscape with sand dunes in beige and gray with here and there palm trees. The PanAmericana highway cuts through it. It is hot and small streams of drifting sand cross the road.
    To book a boat trip to the Paracas islands, also called the poorman's Galapagos islands, we stop at the National park Paracas.
    I don't care about tourists... The next morning, we speed away from the coast for at least an hour until we reach the first islands. The boat sails in circles along the islands beaches and grotto's that are chock full of penguins, pelicans, cormorants and thousands of sea lions. The young sea lions swim and play around the boat. After two hours of close-ups we return to the harbor where big pelicans beg for fish.

    We continue driving the PanAmericana up north. Near Lima road works make us miss a turnoff and we end up in the center of Lima. An amazing traffic chaos and it takes us hours to get out of the city. North of Lima the police is very corrupt. At every traffic control they flag us tourists down and there is always something we did wrong. They wave angrily with their little books or come after us with the flashing lights on. My "uncle at the embassy" is always effective and if we politely write down their names and ID numbers, we always get our papers back, no charge.
    We leave the PanAmericana to visit the National Park Lomos de Lachay. It is dark when we arrive to find a suitable place to spent the night. A green field in the middle of the desert The next morning, the sound of raindrops on the roof wakes us up. How is this possible?! It never rains here! When I open the door, I see a blanket of clouds. Al sorts of plants and bushes can exist from these clouds and we find ourselves in an oasis of ground plants, on a green field full of purple and yellow flowers. Wow! One whole day we walk around in the park. On the horizon we see the coast and for the rest sand, sand and sand. Only this little area is green and fertile, all the rest is - as far as the eye can see - utter dryness. Like Heidi and Peter we walk through the yellow and green pastures.

    The next stop is Huaraz, the center of the north Peruvian Andes mountain area. The Cordillera Blanca After we climb up 4000 meters from the coast, we find ourselves surrounded by snow-covered peaks. It is difficult to find a suitable place for the night but eventually we camp quietly on a riverbed between some trees. The next morning we drive a beautiful trip from the river up to a tunnel at 4500 meters. The first part we have nice views over the snow capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. Via a mountain lake the road zigzags higher and higher. Then we drive along bald rocks, big gray boulders and along waterfalls. All around us mountain peaks, as if we are driving on a theater stage. On the other side of the tunnel we drive down to visit the pre-Columbian ruins of Chavin. We pass picturesque villages with clay huts, goats, donkeys, and woman in traditional clothes carrying all sorts of things on their backs and grubby little boys that drive along at the back of our car. The underground ruins of Chavin are impressive. From a ceremonial square we enter a maze of underground rooms that has survived time and earthquakes because of its enormous ceiling stones. We return the same day and camp again at the riverside. Lago Llanganuco Waking up early to drive to the Lago Yanganuco. Over bad gravel roads with again nice views over the Cordillera Blanca, through Peruvian settlements with corn drying in the sun and children begging for sweets as we stop for a picture, we arrive at a mint green glacial lake. Here we camp and we walk for two days in the beautiful glacial valley that lies behind, along mountain streams, through stands of old, gnarled trees and always surrounded by snow capped mountain giants. A fantastic area.

    One of the 36 tunnels To get back to the coast we can either drive back or drive through the Cajon del Pato (duck canyon). We decide to go via the canyon. The first bit is asphalt in a broad valley, but soon we get into the ever narrowing canyon. A spectacular gravel road along the mountainside in the canyon with below us a river. Left and right the mountain walls are towering up. The narrow road crosses 36 tunnels. The second part starts in a sleepy and dusty cactus village. We drive below kilometers high and steep stonewalls and the rocky road zigzags endlessly through the stone avalanche area. I feel like I am driving a trekking and fear for the car tires. We have to pass a fresh avalanche from which sand and grind are still coming down. Huuuh. The mountain walls are bare and are colored gray, black and beige. After 3 hours of sweating, we drive on asphalt again and the narrow gorge is broadening as we get near the coast. It even becomes kilometers broad, green and full of crops.

    In the coastal town of Huanchaco we find a good place to camp so we stay here a few days. Every morning I get fish from the market and we walk through the center with its authentic houses. Reed fishing boats The reed surfboards on which the fisherman go out to fish are lined up at the sea front. Chan Chan Further we visit the colonial city of Trujillo with its nice colonial buildings and churches, renovated in bright colors. By bicycle we go to the ruins of Chan Chan, a per-Inca adobe city. We also visit the sun and moon temples of the Moche culture. These are two massive pyramids made of 140 million stones. A guide takes us along the different building periods of 100 years each and along the wall paintings and friezes set free by archeologists.
    In the cellar of a Mobil petrol station in Trujillo, an 80 year old Peruvian of Italian descent created a huge private collection of ceramics. For many years he bought pre-Colombian ceramics from grave robbers on the black market. This way, in the form of hundreds of pots and jars, we were again presented all different cultures we had visited the last weeks.
    There is one more museum we want to visit which is Sipan in Lambayeque.

    When archaeologist Walter Alva found all sorts of archeological items on the local black market in 1987, he knew he had to go and search. After cautious research he could localize the burial mound of Sipan and in a quick action with the police they could prevent further robbery of the graves. They discovered the complete intact graves of a very important Moche leader and about six other prominent persons that are exhibited in the museum of Sipan.
    The former grave robbers have now been educated and work as archaeologists or guards.
    In this museum they presented us some lessons in grave digging. In a modern building we were taken along the different stages of the excavations. Next, the different grave items were presented. Breastplates of pure gold, war ornaments and fine handicraft with lapis lazuli and turquoise set in gold. Further there was an amazing collection of bronze, silver and golden items from the graves. It is prohibited to take photographs because nowadays modern grave robbers rob one museum after another…

    The last bit of the Peruvian PanAmericana first goes through an area in which we think we are already in the Caribbean. Green rice fields, many palm trees and exotically twittering birds. Then we go through a dry hilly area full of oil diggers and engineers.
    Here are the oil fields of Peru and it is hard to understand why a liter diesel should cost a Peruvian 1 US$. That is the amount of money some people earn per day.
    From the top of a hill we finally see the turquoise blue sea again. Just before the village of Mancora it gets greener and full of palm trees.
    Into the valley by bicycle Mancora is a beach paradise with a little street with some bars and restaurants. The roofs are made of palm leaves, the sun shines 365 days a year and "dudes" pass by with their surfboards because here are the best waves of Peru.
    Near a hotel, in front of the beach, we camp under palm trees. On the beach are parasols in different colors, beach cafes and music. In short: perfect!
    Here we want to stay for a few days. Walking on the beach with the dogs, every night another slice of sea fish on the grill, lazing in the hammock, cycling, swimming in the sea and sitting outside until late at night.
    At this wonderful spot we end an interesting and impressive two months visit to Peru. Tomorrow we drive to the border with Ecuador.


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    Our top 4:

    1. Pisac

    2. Cuzco

    3. Paracas

    4. Sipan museum


    In Cuzco:

    Camping Quinta Lala

    home://hccnet.nl/ helmie.paulissen


    In Huanchaco:

    Camping Huanchacos Garden


    In Mancora:

    Hotel Los Garzas


    Pisco Sour:

    - 3 parts Pisco liquor
    - 2 parts brown sugar
    - 1 part lemon juice
    - 1 white of the egg