May 2003

Hello again. Here's the news from Peru.

On arriving in Tumbes, Peru, they did a nice job of making us feel like we were back home in Paris again: nurses, teachers, and farmers were all on strike. The farmers were burning tires and blocking traffic, so no busses were running and we got to see a bit more of little Tumbes than we'd planned. On the plus side, I could get an appetizer, drink, and big main dish for about US$0.80. But on the negative side, Tumbes is small and dusty with nasty mosquitoes. Bus and taxi drivers were genuinely startled when we said we didn't need a ride into Ecuador because we wanted to stay in Tumbes.

The central square (pretty much the whole town, really)

But after a few days we were off. A 22 hour bus ride through Lima got us to Huacachina. Here I got to try sandboarding on the big dunes. Not bad... but doesn't really measure up to snowboarding. And then one of the highlights of Peru: dune buggies. The roller coaster ride over huge dunes was great fun, although it was occasionally terrifying. We actually left the ground as we would head over the top of a dune and then plummeted down into unseen terror.

View from a dune View of the dunes Matt speeding down a dune Dune buggies Sunset over the dunes

Next we went to Nazca and saw the ancient lines in the dessert. The forty-five minute ride in a little Cesna airplane was a bit harrowing, but I couldn't pass up the unique chance to see the famed lines. Seeing them up close you could get a better feel for their size, and for how in the world they could have gone undetected for hundreds of years... even having the main highway go right through a couple of them. Current theories all agree that other current theories don't really know what the lines are all about.

Ancient mummies Cesna before takeoff Spider Hummingbird

Next it was on to Cuzco (or Cusco, or Qosco, depending on whom you ask). The city itself was fun and much bigger than any other cities I'd been in recently, but I was very aware of being on the Gringo Trail here. At first we just wandered the town, looked at ruins, booked our tickets to Machu Picchu, and said "No, gracias" every 90 seconds to postcard salesboys, restauranteers, and tour agencies.

Fountain Temple of the Sun Cathedral on the Central Park Other cathedral on the Central Park

Rather than walk the full four day Inca Trail, we decided on a more leisurely train ride and then a full day exploring Machu Picchu. The ruins are in great shape and definitely live up to the hype. We also got to hike up Huayna Picchu early in the morning (before too many other tourists were there) for great views of the ruins and surrounding mountains.

View from our hotel (you can just barely see Machu Picchu between the mountains!) Machu Picchu ruins with Huayna Picchu in the background Angela and mountains Matt and mountains Machu Picchu ruins from Huayna Picchu Matt and goofy-looking llama Huayna Picchu through an Incan doorway The ruins again (later in the day)

Before leaving Cuzco we visited some other nearby ruins and markets. The Saqsaywaman (and Q'enqo) ruins aren't nearly as elaborate as Machu Picchu, but the Incan walls--which include some enormous stones--are still pretty nifty. In the market we finally got a first real souvenir: a blanket made from Alpaca wool. I thought we did pretty well bargaining from an initial offer of 80 Soles down to a final price of 55. But I've already met someone that got the same blanket for 40 Soles. Oh well.

On the zigzag wall On a corner Zigzag wall from a distance Q'enqo

Then the final stop in Peru was on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Puno. Fortunately, I enjoyed eating alpaca for dinner the first night. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the state of my stomach for the next couple of days. Fortunately, that didn't detract from our boat tour. We stopped on one of the floating Uros islands where people still live in their traditional lifestyle: adding reeds to to the top of the island to make up for the decaying reeds on the bottom, and selling trinkets and postcards to tourists. It was interesting, but the 'real' island of Taquile offered a better hike and better views of the lake.

After that brief "highlights of Peru" tour, we were ready to cross the border into Copacabana, Bolivia.

Floating Uros Islands Floating reed island with floating reed boat View of Lake Titicaca from Taquile Island Central square (and gift shop) of Taquile La Paz is nestled into the snow-capped peaks in the distance

Last modified: 14 September 2003