|The wife and I traveled to the nation of Peru recently. I didn't really want to go, but she gave me the option of Africa, Antarctica, or Peru, and Peru sounded like the least worst option. We
It was a good trip. We booked it through a travel agency that organized most of the accommodations and provided tour guides. We had to book some of the in-country flights, but it wasn't too bad. The in-country flights were short and cheap, and the airports didn't make me feel like a criminal (looking at you, Newark).
- flew into Lima and toured around the Miraflores district
- flew to Cusco and acclimated to the 11,000-foot elevation
- toured around Sacsayhauman, Pisac, the Sacred Valley, and Ollantaytambo, visiting various Incan ruins and archeological sites
- took a train to Aguas Calientes and hiked around Machu Picchu (8000 feet)
- took a train back to Cusco, then a flight to Puerto Maldonado, then a boat on the Tambopata River to stay in an eco lodge
- toured around the Amazon rainforest, admiring colorful wildlife and terrible bugs
- flew back to Lima, toured around the historic center, then flew home.
The people were nice and were eager to show us their country and tell us about their ancestors. The language barrier was there a little bit, but most people spoke English way better than our attempts at broken Spanish.
The history and architecture were pretty amazing. Most of what remains are rock walls and structures made of carved granite, worked by hand, and hauled into place by simple manpower 500-1000 years ago. It's mind-boggling to think about, and it's awesome that so much is still there, but it's a shame the lousy Spanish conquistadors hauled a bunch away to built their stupid gaudy churches.
The elevation was a bit challenging at times, but we took it slow and acclimated fairly quickly. We knew to keep hydrated, not drink a lot of alcohol, and generally not overexert ourselves the minute we got to high altitude. By the time we got to Machu Picchu, we felt fine walking all around the mountaintop fortress.
The jungle was our least favorite part for a variety of reasons, the least of which was the size and quantity of spiders. It was the dry season, so at least the mosquitos weren't too bad. We did get to see several species of monkeys as well as a giant gathering of colorful macaws at a clay lick, so that was cool. But living in constant fear of finding a spider in your shoe, or stepping on a spider on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or rolling onto a spider in your bed ... those parts weren't cool. Maybe I was overreacting; maybe I barely made it out alive.
Another thing that diminished our jungle experience was the food poisoning (or related illness) we contracted almost exactly the moment we reached our bungalow in the jungalow. There was limited electricity, and limited plumbing, and that made things less than ideal as we nearly shat ourselves to death. It's ok though, we're better now.
In positive news, the exchange rate was good, so it was fairly cheap to eat, stay, and fly within the country. The food was good, though fairly simple and/or similar to American faire. I did manage to eat alpaca, which tasted like beef, and cow heart, which wasn't great.
Wildlife encounters: At the peak of Machu Picchu, a lizard was on the ground by my feet, looked up at me, jumped on my leg, crawled up by back and down my arm onto the rock wall behind me. Later in the jungle, our tour guided caught a baby caiman (freshwater crocodile) and handed it to me as he explained all about its anatomy and lifestyle.
All in all, this was a good trip. There were some ups and downs, but it was positive overall. That said, we probably won't be going back. #travel