Peru (1)

Tuesday 12th February 2013

 

What a fantastic trip!!

 

Using the wonders of modern communications we were able to finalise our plan and book most of our Peru trip within a week.  So on Wednesday 23rd January we packed our backpacks, locked up the boat, cadged a lift in the staff bus to Panama City and stayed there overnight ready for an early flight from Tocumen airport to Lima the following morning.  The taxi trip to the airport was a bit scary – the driver seemed to be asleep much of the time and we spent most of the journey wandering across the three lanes of motorway.  Fortunately we made it in one piece and had time to spare to look for a new camera in the dury-free shops.  Our Olympus waterproof had given us good service, but the screen had become dark and difficult to see – it wasn’t just ‘point & shoot’, it was ‘point, shoot & hope you got your target’!!  We were looking for a Canon Power Shot D20, waterproof to 10 metres and shockproof to 1.5 metres, both essential for us, and we were pleased to find just what we wanted.

 

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First photo taken with the new Canon D20 at the boarding gate.

 

The Copa Airlines flight was on time and very comfortable.  Three and a half hours later we were picked up at Jorge Chavez airport in Lima and driven across the city to the Posada del Parque where we were booked for the night.  It looked fine from the outside and was in a pleasant, quiet setting, but inside we were not so impressed.  It was rather rundown and not as clean as it could be.  Our room had a door to a private patio area outside, but the door did not even close, let alone lock.  The tiles in the bathroom had the potential to give me a migraine if I spent too long in there!  But for the price it would do, and there seemed to be somebody there all the time so we didn’t worry too much about the security aspect.  We dumped our bags and went to explore the city.

 

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La Posada del Parque, Lima                                                                                                        The migraine-inducing bathroom!

 

Lima is a busy, noisy capital city and we enjoyed strolling around taking in the atmosphere and sights.  As we only had a few hours here today and tomorrow morning, we decided we would do most of our sight-seeing when we return in a couple of weeks.

 

On Friday we took the overnight bus to Arequipa.  This took 16 hours, but was not an uncomfortable night because we had fully reclining bed-seats.  The hostal in Arequipa was definitely a step up from the posada in Lima, even though the same price, and our room was very clean and comfortable.  We had risen from sea level at Lima to 8,000 feet at Arequipa, but neither of us was affected by the altitude.

 

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The Plaza de Armas, Arequipa                                                                                                   Two of the three volcanoes that surround Arequipa.

 

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Feeding the alpacas.                                                                                                                      An early Eiffel-designed bridge.

 

On Monday 28th we left our bags at the hostal in Arequipa and set off on a two-day tour to Colca Canyon.  This involved travelling by minibus to an altitude of 14,000 feet, and the tour operator introduced us to the locals’ remedy for altitude sickness – coca leaves.  Yes, these are the leaves of the coca plant from which cocaine is derived, and legal in Peru.  Firstly we stopped at a roadside café for ‘mate de coca’ – an infusion made from coca leaves.  Then, back on the bus and a few thousand feet higher, we were shown how to make a wad of coca leaves and put it inside our cheeks to chew on.  It tasted disgusting and made the inside of my mouth numb.  I decided I would stick to coca tea or coca sweets if I needed help with the altitude!

 

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Our café stop at 4225 metres above sea level.                                                                     On the high plain.

 

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Llamas & alpacas roam freely in the high plain National Park.

 

By the time we arrived at our hotel, I was beginning to feel the altitude and thought I would miss out on the hike before lunch, but I was assured by the guide it was not far and on a level, so decided I would go.  Do not believe young, fit guides.  Their idea of ‘not far’ and ‘on a level’ may not be the same as yours!  I made it, but wasn’t feeling too great by the time we made it back to the hotel, so gave lunch a miss and went to bed!

 

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The hike was worth it for the view.

 

Next morning felt much better, and we set off early for Colca Canyon in the hope of seeing the condors soaring on the rising thermals.  No such luck, but the views of the canyon were breathtaking.

 

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Colca Canyon, no condors sadly.

 

After lunch we returned in the minibus to Arequipa for the night, before catching the bus to Puno the next morning.  We were both looking forward to seeing Lake Titicaca.  We’ve been to the Dead Sea, which at below sea level is the lowest body of water in the world, and now we were to visit Lake Titicaca, at around 13,000 feet, the highest body of water in the world.