Those travel advertising dweebs have got a lot to answer for – out of all the beautifully Photoshopped pictures of snow-capped mountains, charity hill treks and celebratory Machu Picchu poses, the unglamorous reality of altitude sickness doesn’t get a look-in.
Perhaps the sight of a grumpy tourist clutching their head and begging for a darkened room isn’t much of an incentive for potential customers, but it’s something mountain visitors need to be warned about, much like yodelling or the onslaught of posh children mowing down first-time skiers for kicks.
We’d already stayed in Puno, seen the male knitters of Taquile Island, and had our introduction to the crafty building skills of the Incas; now it was time for the final push to Machu Picchu on our Majestic Peru tour (if you need a quick recap, click back to Part 1 and Part 2).
Day 11 – Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
Whilst we didn’t have time to trek up to the higher narrow terraces in the mountains, we got to visit the lower ones, just a short walk away from the town centre in the Archaeological Park. I then popped into the Museo de Chocolate (Chocolate Museum) to refuel, before watching some colourful street processions. Lunch was at the Hearts Cafe, a local business and charity supporting women in highland communities facing issues like nutritional problems or domestic violence.
The mid-point of this trip was all about the altitude and the brilliant views that came along with it. As with the previous days, we veered between exploring urban streets and quiet backwaters, topped off by some time on the water. Here’s the abbreviated version of what we got up to (and for Part 1, click here).
Day 6 – Arequipa to Puno
It felt as though we left Arequipa and the Hotel Asturias a little too soon, and I would have liked to spend more time getting to know the city. However, we were back on the road again and heading for Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca – this time a six hour journey. With frequent stops for coca tea and vicuña spotting, we eased ourselves into the higher altitude, albeit nursing headaches, nausea and dizziness between us.
Peru is undoubtedly one of the most engaging countries I’ve visited. I may have only spent just over a fortnight there, but I managed to pack so much into every day that I don’t feel short-changed. What’s more, I got to meet fellow travellers from around the world and discover the country with them.
If, like me, you can’t afford to spend months here but you’d like to really get to know what Peruvian culture and history involves, guided by experts, you might be tempted by the trip I booked – Majestic Peru, with Intrepid Travel. Knowing how important peer reviews are when picking a specialist tour operator, I’ve broken down my review into three stages so you can get a clear idea of what to expect.
One of the greatest bugbears of modern travelling, for me at least, is the sight of an ignorant tourist whipping out their iPad to document a world-famous landmark. The combination of stupidity and arrogance is enough to make my blood boil, as they ditch the prospect of using a camera or, God forbid, their eyes, to record memories.
Such is my loathing, I figured it was time to take a closer look at why this is so offensive and what you should be doing instead, to look a bit less obvious if nothing else. I’ve taken two prominent locations as examples – in each one I’ve spotted people freely using this gadget to a worrying degree…
A London City Airport survey has found that the average Brit has only visited seven countries, and only 31% have made it to 10 or more of them, despite there being an incredible 193 countries in the entire world that could be explored. This data, which I was reading about in Wanderlust Magazine, really got me thinking about my own travelling past, as it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really started accumulating a respectable country count.
Rather than tally up where I’ve been, I’m going to admit why I haven’t been to as many places as you. It’s time to come to terms with my travel inadequacy and look back on those few countries with fond memories.
There’s a lot more to Peruvian food than marmalade sandwiches a la Paddington Bear. In fact, asking ‘What do they eat in Peru?’ opens up a can of worms (okay, maybe not such a disgusting phrase) or a Pandora’s box (okay, maybe not such an inedible phrase), or a worm-flavoured Pandora’s box(?!) of suggestions.
The honest answer is that Peruvians eat a very varied diet, blending their own signature dishes with a lot of international flavours, so you really won’t struggle to find something you like on the menu. Many waiters and waitresses have great English skills and will be happy to translate anything you don’t understand, helping you to choose something a bit more out of the ordinary.
There’s no better way to spend New Year’s Day than in the company of thousand-year-old mummies, their well-preserved bodies having survived the greed of looters and centuries of exposure to the elements at the Chauchilla Cemetery. Well, it’s at least a more poignant start to January 1st than I’ve ever enjoyed before, albeit with the familiar thump of a hangover, this time from Peruvian wine, lurking in the background.
Throughout my sixteen days in Peru, I was struck by the resurgence of death as a theme, even away from the obvious attractions such as the cemeteries and pilgrimage sites. I found it time and again on the roadside, on the painfully dated telenovelas screened on daytime TV, and in the religious iconography covering everything from portraits to jewellery. Here I’ve examined some of the best examples of the theme emerging.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.