Vamos a Perú !!!
With Camille, a french girl that I met in the Spanish classes, we decided to go to Peru, and visit the famous Machu Picchu.
We planed to have 10 days in Peru, but actually we realized it was a bit short to do a lot of things, so we mostly travelled in buses than exploring the areas.
So, we left Santiago early morning (4:30 am) Tuesday 20th of November, thanks to Camille’s boyfriend, who drove us to the airport 🙂
We landed in Iquique in the morning, and found our way through the desert to get to the city (40 km away). The landscape was surprising: The city, the coast, the beaches, the huge mountains and small dunes behind the city, and after that, that’s it, nothing more : it is the desert for a few hundreds of kilometers…
A bus drove us for 4 hours to Arica, a desert city as well.
The landscape on the road was beautiful and a bit scary as well, going up in the mountains, on the edge of canyons, everything was dry around, dunes, rocks… not much vegetation, except some oasis in the canyons…
We didn’t stay long in this city, and just took another bus to Tacna, in Peru.
In Tacna, we booked our bus for the day after, to Arequipa, and found a small hostel next to the terminal, before the night came. Because the time changed of 2 hours, it was night at 18:30!
In the morning, getting up at 6:00, the sun was already shining for a while! That was really disturbing!
The bus to Arequipa was fine, the landscape still a little strange, desert, canyons, oasis… and we made to the city in the afternoon. We found our really nice hostel wild rovers (recommended from friends) and went a bit through the main plaza, some streets, and a restaurant where we ate alpaca!
On Thursday we enjoyed the city, went walking around the hills of the city, the “old” part, and along the river, enjoying the view on the volcanoes around.
On Thursday night, we went to the bus terminal and got in a bus to Cusco. (That was really really short when I realized that I left my wallet in the taxi, 30 minutes before the departure of the bus… :-/ and luckily, with the help of the girls in the hostel and other taxi drivers, we found the right taxi and he brought it back, with everything in it! He got a really nice tip for this action!)
The bus trip was for 10 hours, and I got sick really quickly. The drivers were not that good and the road was really windy! Eventually we made it to Cusco early morning, and found a hostel to rest. Cusco is 3300 meters high, we had to walk pretty slowly in the steep streets to not be too tired and to not miss oxygen!
We went through the city and few agencies to find a 3 days tour to Machu Picchu, and chose one late in the afternoon.
We met the guide in the evening, and everything started feeling wrong and not really organized… like the walking times changed, the first hostel without warm water, the prices of the extra activities… but anyway, we were in the tour, leaving the day after!
On Saturday, we left early our hostel with only a small backpack with the minimum of the stuff for 3 days. We met the group for the tour and it looked nice!
But after a few minutes, another guy came and decided to take us with him, in his bus with another company (because I paid with my visa in another office, so they were fighting to know with who we were supposed to do the tour…) And afterwards we started to be worried about the tickets for the machu picchu for example, or the train ticket back… so we asked questions to this guy, who just answer a little bit, without proper answer… and we did not like it at all ! So we were in this other bus, with other people who were doing another tour than us, for 4 days… We were really confused… But anyway at some point we arrived on the top of the 4300 meters high mountain (Abra Malaga), cloudy and rainy 🙁 The bus stopped a few kilometers later, a bit lower, that the rain and the fog were not too dangerous to ride down the mountain with the bicycles.
Unfortunately, because the 2 guides didn’t know in with group we were supposed to be with, we ended with bicycles and knees/elbows protectors, but no helmet… pretty bad in this situation, the road was wet, and how would you trust a Peruvian bicycle?? So we went down as slow as possible… and we made it a bit later to get out of the rain (completely soaked of course), and started to enjoy the view in the Valley.
We arrived to Santa Maria, at the bottom of the Mountain, where we had our lunch. We took a “taxi” to Santa Teresa afterwards, in the mountain, on a dirt road, on the edge of the steep mountains, through small rivers… a bit scary, but really nice!
In Santa Teresa, we went to hot springs, they were really warm and clear! 3 different pools, and “natural” warm showers at the bottom, in a really nice looking valley!
We went to bed after trying a few Peruvian pisco sour, and a shot of local tequila… and ate Alpaca again!
On Sunday, we woke up, ready for hiking all day! We walked to the Hydroelectric station in the valley, had lunch there and walked again along the train track to Aguas Calientes (there is only the train to go there, or walking).
In the hostel in Aguas Calientes, we tried to have a warm shower, but it didn’t work, the warm water was broken… That was pretty bad for a city called Aguas Calientes (=“Hot Waters”)! No chance…
We went shopping a bit for the day after and to have dinner in a restaurant with the group. There, we finally got our tickets to Machu Picchu, with the entrance to Wayna Picchu as well. (Wayna Picchu is actually THE famous mountain that we can see everywhere, taken from the Machu Picchu)
We got up at 4:00 am to pack our stuff, and start walking to the entrance bridge. The bridge opened at 5:00 am and we were able to start hiking up to the Machu Picchu Site. It took us almost 1 hour and a half, and we were pretty exhausted when we arrived on the top.
On the top, we had absolutely no view at all: the fog was everywhere!!!
We found a guide for the day, explanation about the ruins and a lot of speculations… because everything there is speculations about the ruins: what happened, and when… every single guide had a different opinion/idea…
And the fog started to get up…
After a one hour with the guide, we left the group and went to the Wayna Picchu entrance, to go up this 2600 meters high “hill”.
The track was really steep, going through rocks steps… It took us a bit more than one hour to get on the top of the mountain, which was actually a pile of rocks to climb! Congratulations to Camille, who has vertigo, and is not sportive and made it! A lot of people didn’t do that!
The view from the Wayna picchu was really nice, and as there is only 400 people allowed per day on this part of the park, it was relatively quiet! (Except for a few Indian old women who were really loud and annoying)
We had a bit of our lunch on the top, made funny pictures, and went slowly down hill again, to reach the ruins part again.
We got up on the main view point, above the site, and after a bit more walk around in the really hot sun, we napped in a lawn… and when we were rested, it was time to walk down. We were pretty tired when we finally reach Aguas Calientes around 19:00.
And then, everything started to go wrong… We went to the restaurant to pick up our train tickets, and surprise, the time of the train, which was supposed to be at 21:30, was 18:30! So we missed our train… we tried to buy another ticket for the train at 21:00, but the guy at the counter of Perurail said it was full, so he can’t sell more tickets. We told him that we didn’t need a seat and that we could just stand somewhere for one hour and a half, but his answer was : “there are rules and we can’t go over it…” well, yea, in Peru, of course… we heard a bit later that there was a “free coach” with the tickets for sale half an hour before the departure of the train… so, we went back to the train station, and ask for these tickets. And then, some people said “yea, you just have to go there to buy them”, so we went again to the counter and as it was the same guy, we couldn’t get them, and his answer was : “it’s only a coach for the locals”…
After a lot of tries to convince him again and a lot of crying, we bought some tickets for the next train at 5:30 in the morning, and got back to the streets and found an hotel to stay for the (short) night. We were exhausted (we woke up at 4 and walked a lot) but needed again to get up at 4:30 the next morning…
So we did, and took the train, we were 5 people in the “tourist coach”, and it was a really really bumpy trip… it was barely possible to sleep, because the train was moving so much that it was difficult to not hurt our arms, legs, heads against the window or the armrest or anything else :-/ (And it was expensive!)
We arrived to Ollantaytambo, a “city” where we had to catch a collectivo (taxi with a defined route for a few persons) to reach Cusco. We bargained the price of the collectivo, and drove there. We were 6 Peruvians and 2 tourists in the car. When we got to Cusco, we asked the driver where were because we had no idea, the driver barely answer and said we need a taxi to go to the terminal… :-/ we paid the price we decided, and he wasn’t happy, he expected the double. He told us that he needed to feed his family, and that we should pay more… We answered that if the 6 Peruvians in the car would pay 1 sole each instead of nothing, we wouldn’t have to pay 16 soles! He got angry and grabbed my bag… He realized he made a mistake when 2 angry girls jumped on him to take it back 🙂 I gave him the money, he went away and insulted us… the only world we got in his sentence was “perras” (meaning bitches).
So, we found our way to the bus terminal and got a bus ticket to Puno for the afternoon, because we lost the one we booked for the morning…
In the evening, we arrived to Puno, slept quiet well even if we were at 3800 meters high, and got up quite early in the morning to have a chance to walk a little bit along the lake Titicaca and catch our next bus to Tacna around 9 o’clock.
We were a little bit in a hurry to leave Peru after the bad adventures we had with different Peruvians, so we took a collectivo from Tacna to Arica, in Chile!! When we crossed the border and got our Chilean entry stamps on our passports, we felt a bit better!
In Arica, we slept in a nice hostel, run by a Kiwi guy (from New Zealand, with the accent as well… 😉 )
On Thursday, we walked in the center of Arica, and took a bus to Iquique. The road was still beautiful, and when we arrived there we went walking on the beach, relaxing!
Camille went to the airport around 23:00 and the Peru adventure was over.
I stayed in Iquique a few days, and went to San Pedro de Atacama on Sunday 2nd of December, in the middle of the driest desert in the world…
More stories about the desert experience in the next article…