A Travellerspoint blog


Southern Peru

Gringos on the gringo trail

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but we didn’t go to Machu Picchu. If we were to have gone there, it might look something like this

So here’s the deal, seven years ago I came to Peru and backpacked from the south to the north. Upon revisiting Peru, I have found that a lot has changed. The ticket to enter the ruin site of Machu Picchu has quadrupled in price, and the amount of people allowed to visit the already crowded site daily has more than doubled. Paul and I strive to be the type of tourists who don’t put ourselves above touristy stuff. We enjoy being tourists of tourism, but this seemed like too much. This might make us sound kind of redneck, but when we are at ruin sites, we both sometimes leave wondering if we were supposed to get more out of it. Perhaps our lack of research, or accurate historical information might leave us with an impoverished experience. Maybe we should hire guides? Perhaps my merely visual appreciation for these historic works of functional art is not enough? I don’t know. Whatever the reason, the fact that I have already seen Machu Picchu, and that Paul doesn’t place a high value on ancient ruin sites, was enough to strike it off our list. My idea of a rich cultural experience is eating and drinking with local people. Sharing stories and laughs as well as inevitable cultural misunderstandings is what really makes a trip for me. In southern Peru we struggled with being on what is known as the “gringo trail”. We wanted to enjoy all that it had to offer but often didn’t quite know what to make of this particular type of tourism.

We decided to go budget and bought a sacred valley multi ruin site ticket (it still set us back 50 USD a piece). I don’t know why there has been a spike in price over the past eight years, but I sincerely hope that the Incan people whose ancestor’s cultural sites are on display are benefitting. With this price, we were allowed into ten ruin sites, and six museums. We did our best, but got pretty ‘ruined’ after only six sites. My favourite site was the agricultural centre of Moray. This was a half day’s drive out of Cuzco. The Incan terracing was apparently used as a scientific testing ground to determine and utilize optimal growing environments for their crops. It looks pretty damn cool.





We both liked the site of Ollantaytambo as well. There were some impressive rock works, and part of this site’s charm is the quaint town which the ruins overlook. We spent the night in Ollantaytambo happy that we waited out the rain and the parade of colourful poncho-clad tourists to check out the site a half hour before closing. Parades of tourists are, for better or for worse, part of the Incan ruin experience.




Paul’s favourite site was Tipon. It consisted of large terraced fields surrounded by functional aqueducts- one good thing about visiting the highlands in the wet season. This site was a little bit out of the way, buses cannot drive the steep road up to the site, which helped to make it a lot less busy when we got there.





We did what any reasonable tourist would do in Cuzco, which is eat. Paul and I discovered alpaca meat. For those of you who don’t know what an alpaca is, it is pretty much the most wonderful animal ever. It is super cute, its wool is warmer and softer than sheep’s wool (and doesn’t itch) and it tastes delicious. Our alpaca steaks were excellent. They were tender, not too gamey, but also incredibly well prepared on a bed of quinoa risotto. We liked them so much we went back to the same restaurant for the same meal two nights in a row. How’s that for a restaurant review? Cuzco was good for what it was good for: oogling colonial buildings, checking out ruins, and spoiling ourselves with extravagant eating and shopping. We also found mezcal for the first time since Guatemala. Though Cuzco and the Sacred Valley have changed a lot since my last visit, it remains an excellent place to visit, and has a lot to offer. Mom and dad- you have to come here with me someday, you would love it.





Posted by SusieMiller 14:10 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Northern Peru

zona de dunas

It has been a while since we have posted anything on here, and we have now been in Peru for a couple of weeks. So much has happened, and there is a lot to talk about. Starting with our first day in Peru, this country has had a whole different feel. We got into the border town of Tumbes, took out our first batch of Nuevo Soles, and went out for lunch. What to order? I asked the waitress what the restaurant did best, and she recommended the ceviche. For those of you who have not tried a Peruvian style ceviche- you are missing out. This is truly a life-changing culinary experience. Our first taste of ceviche was made with mixed seafood (mariscos mixtos). It included black conch, fish, octopus, scallops, prawns, and various other delicious bits of unidentifiable seafood- all raw. It is doused in a lime-heavy sauce, and served with aji- a spicy pepper specific to the area. According to me, it has the most amazing texture, as well as the perfect mix of tart and spice. Tumbes is known for its regional spin on the national classic so it’s not surprising that whenever we try to order the same dish, it’s never the same. We are chasing the dragon all down the coast and the sheer amount of raw seafood we are consuming is sometimes making us sick. Definitely worth it though.



Another surprise Northern coastal Peru had in store was its arid climate. We had thought we were headed into the wet season, only to learn that Peru’s coast is a desert. Paul had his sights set on catching some waves, so we explored the northern coastal surf towns, unfortunately in the midst of all of South America’s summer vacation- crowded. Though towns were pretty busy, we did stumble upon a strange scene in Lobitos. We rolled into the town’s ‘campground’ which turned out to be a bombed out warehouse. In fact, the whole town looked abandoned. We had to drive around the area and ask at least five locals about where to camp before we actually found the spot. There were ugly-ass hairless dogs (apparently highly prized in Peru) wandering about adding to the eerie feeling it gave of. Luckily the owners and the rest of the campers (mostly Chilean surfers) were incredibly friendly, making it strange and wonderful instead of strange and creepy. We also checked out the alleged world’s longest left hand point break in Puerto Chicama- unfortunately not really going off during our visit. We tried to surf it, but mostly just ended up flailing in the almost flat (now surprisingly cold) water. We are not in Central America anymore. Full wetsuits required.








Northern Peru has brought us our fair share of firsts as well. We had our first break in! Ironically, this happened when our truck was in plain view. Someone jammed a screwdriver (or something like it) into our back lock while we were eating lunch. Our truck was parked on an angle, and the only door we could not see was the back. The thief(s) had just enough time to get in, and make off with our toiletries bag before we finished eating- good thing we eat fast. We were partway down the road before we noticed the back door was open, and another few kilometers before we noticed anything was missing. The biggest piss-off was getting the lock fixed. I guess it’s a good reminder not to become complacent and we were lucky that that’s all they got. It has go us thinking a lot about how our truck must look to other people, and that even though we know there’s nothing of high monetary value in it, it’s still a 4x4 with foreign plates, which will necessarily turn heads in a place like Peru. We also had our first encounter with a corrupt police officer. It was bound to happen eventually. When he pulled us over, he was on about us not having daytime running lights. We chose to make him believe we could not understand, and kept insisting that yes, our lights did work. He eventually got frustrated and showed us a picture of a man paying money to a cop. We pretended not to understand. He threatened to write us a ticket, and take us to the bank. We pretended not to understand. At this point I broke out my best impression of awkward Spanish with a rough American accent and insisted that if he was going to write us a ticket, we wanted to go to the police station. I asked him his name, and his police number and started writing it down. Paul played dumb and shook the cop’s hand introducing himself with an overenthusiastically naïve “mucho gusto”. At this point he was convinced we were complete idiots and a waste of time, and just walked away. SUCCESS! We later learned that some friends of ours had been pulled over for having daytime running lights… shmarmy.

We fought our way through Lima and entered Southern Peru, missing the start of the Dakar rally by a week. Paul was pretty crushed. We headed to a national park on the coast upon recommendation from our friends James and Lauren. Paracas National Park is absolutely incredible. It is a desert playground surrounded on three sides by beautiful coastline. Because we brought our own 4x4, we could drive all over the park- and camp anywhere. Roads are more of an idea, and navigation is easier based on general direction and proximity to water. You really have to see it to believe it. Paracas has changed my opinion of desert camping. I am starting to see the appeal of arid, dry, and vast spaces. When you are away from the water, the sand seems to stretch on forever. There is no reference point to where you are going and where you have come from except tracks in the sand. The contrast of the barren landscape and the rich ocean teeming with marinelife is pretty impressive as well. The marine protected area is home to sea lions, penguins, and countless species of birds, fish, and crustaceans. We bombed around for a day and a half, and ended up hanging out with a large party of Peruvian vacationers. One dude was improvising songs about us while his friend accompanied him on the accordion. At this point when things had just begun to get awkward (when asked, I should always tell people that we are married), who would roll up over the crest of the dunes, but James and Lauren! Paul ran out from the crowd of our new friends flailing the beer bottle that happened to be in his hand chasing down their 4runner. What random luck to run into our buddies in a park so vast. We rolled around for the next couple of days together. Hope to make it happen again.











Al and Laurie- If you want to read my brief captions, go to the photo gallery

Posted by SusieMiller 13:07 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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