Like a couple of times before, we had a different expectation about Lima. Sure, on the way from the airport to the city center there were some really dirty and poor parts. But once we arrived in our hostel in Miraflores, we were surprised by this trendy quarter of Lima. Miraflores is close to the sea and has many good restaurants and lovely coffee places with nice patios where you can enjoy the sun.
During sunset we roamed at the promenade and found some people doing slackline, acrobatics or other exercises close to the shore. It is a nice atmosphere and you wouldn’t even think you are in Lima.
As we had already pre-booked our next stop, we unfortunately continued our travel after a day in Lima.
It was not in our initial plan to surf in Peru. But as we heard that there are some insane breaks along the coast and as we were not lucky with the waves in Hawaii, we decided to stay for a week in Punta Hermosa. The village is sleepy, small fisher town and not touristy at all. The streets are still sandy and most of the houses are basic. The surf Hostel had a couple rooms, lots of short boards and wetsuits (yes, the water was really cold) to rent. At the day we arrived there was the biggest festival of the year in town. So when the evening started, we were surprised that there was still no one around at 10pm. There was a big stage built up, but not a single person around. But as soon the first band started playing plenty of people came out of nowhere and after a while the whole place got packed. Seems like Peruvian parties start a bit later 🙂 At around 11pm they began with the highlight, a firework as we haven’t seen it before. We are used that fireworks get shot from the ground and you can watch the spectacle from a distance. But in Punta Hermosa, they built up a metal framework which they connected to the firework. Once they started, one firework after another got activated at the metal framework, creating figures as a cross or a church.
It was something different and sometimes also scary because burning pieces flew around and some almost burned a little shop nearby.
The next day we went surfing on our own. There are a lots of breaks around. We found a good one where we had to walk for 20 minutes. Usually the owner of the Hostel and his friends are going surfing every day but they skipped on that day because they were still drinking and partying in the morning. The waves in Punta Hermosa are quite powerful and the water is ice cold. For some reason the area around the village used to be very foggy and when we were surfing we reminded of Mordor (for those who know the movie Lord’s of the Rings). As the conditions were difficult, we regretted not to have our own equipment, as the wetsuits were in a bad condition and so thin that we were freezing after a while.
As the owner was not the friendliest, we were lucky to have met a Swiss couple in the same Hostel. We were getting along really well and went surfing together for the rest of the week. They are already travelling for about a year and all of us were happy to share some stories from home. As we felt for the first time a bit homesick, it helped to talk to some people from home who already traveling longer than us. As they came from the reverse side of our travel route, they gave us the advise to take the “Peru Hop” bus which goes from Peru to Boliva and you can hop on and off whenever you want and at multiple cities. As we didn’t have planned any further for Peru and Bolivia at that point, we booked our ticket with Peru Hop and it made our trip a lot easier in the end.
In order to catch the first bus with Peru Hop, we had to make our way further south to Paracas. It is a small town at he pacific coast and close to a national park. But as Nina got a cold again probably due of the cold water while surfing, we skipped on the national park. As there is not much to do in Paracas apart from the national park, we only relaxed for two days at the beach, trying to recharge our batteries.
Our next stop was Huaccachina which is an oasis in the middle of the Peruvian desert. It is famous for sandboarding and for sure we had to try this! But first we took a seat in a buggy car bashing through the desert and dunes. We were a bit skeptical thinking before the buggy ride is probably more a snail ride. But in the end it was a real rollercoaster and we’ve to admit, we sometimes wished for a bit slower pace 🙂 While driving through the desert we stopped at some point on a high dune to ride down in our snowboard or skies. It was so much fun! So after we’ve missed apparently one of the best winters back home in Switzerland, we at least stood once this season on skis/snowboard. And for those wondering how it feels, sandboarding/skiing actually feels pretty close to powder.
After our great excursion to the desert and a night in the Eco Desert camp we had to take the bus to Arequipa with a stop to see the Nazca lines. The bus started at 1pm and we arrived the next day at 5 am. That makes a 14 hours overnight bus ride… Yes, traveling can feel exhausting.
We only heard positive things about Arequipa beforehand. And it’s true, the city with it’s old colonial houses, churches and beautiful buildings really has its own charm. The center of the city is the vibrant Plaza de Armas which is surrounded by a cathedral and several restaurants and coffees. But in terms of historical buildings, the true highlight for us was the Santa Catalina Monastery. We visited the Monastery with an evening walking tour that is offered twice a week. Luckily it was only the two of us and the guide, showing us around the huge 20.000sqm building. Up until today, there are still about 20 nuns living in the cloister. The beautiful colored walls and paintings were stunning and we enjoyed learning more about the history of the Monastery.
Apart from historical buildings, Arequipa also has to offer something else: Really good food.
And how to explore it else than with a cooking class?
The cooking class was actually the best both of us ever had so far, which was due to the really good kitchen chef that learned cooking in France. After the class we’re now experts in cooking Ceviche and Lomo Saltado. So drop us a message if you want to invite yourself for a Peruvian dinner 🙂
From Arequipa we continued to Cusco. That means going from 2300m to 3400m and our first experience with chewing Coca leaves…not the best taste. Since the beginning of our trip we already had planned for a 5 day hike in Cusco, the Salkantay trail. But when we arrived in Cusco, we gave it another thought, because we both were not into another long hike yet and because Nina was not fully recovered yet. So in the end, we just did a day trip to Machu Picchu and to the Rainbow Mountain. As we’ve expected, Machu Picchu was an extremely touristy trip, also since everyone who visits, needs to do so with a guide. So it was difficult to feel something special about the place, when you’re walking the whole time in a line of tourists. Still, it was impressive to imagine that centuries ago the Inkas built this completely remote place at an altitude of 2500m. We also learned that Machu Picchu has a problem with too many tourists, and some of the buildings are actually sinking because of the weight of all the visitors trampling along. That’s why they are restricting the number of tourists from year to year. Further, the government is promoting the so far less known Choquequirao, which is a similar Inka sight that so far is only accessible with a 5 day hike through the bush. But in 2019 a cable car to the “little sister of Machu Picchu” should be finished, creating an alternative to Machu Picchu.
After a long day visiting Machu Picchu which also means sitting for hours in busses and trains, we were looking forward for a more active day, hiking up the Rainbow mountain. The rainbow mountain, also called Vinicunca is famous for its 7 different colors, making it look like a rainbow, and is 5.200m high. So that is 400m higher than the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in entire Europa. When we started the hike at around 4000m, we didn’t know yet what it means to hike up about 1000m at such an altitude. But the closer we got to the 5000m the more we realized that the air is indeed getting thinner and you’ve to breath much quicker. The last meters to the peak were painful and we had to take step by step, but the view absolutely made up for it! We had a super sunny day and as we were hiking up quickly, there were not too many tourists around us at that point.
After we came we got down again and arrived at our bus, Patrick started having extreme headache and to feel close to vomiting. Luckily when driving downward to Cusco, he was feeling better. But lessons learned: Don’t mess with altitude sickness and now we admire even more those people who climb up those 5000+m mountains.
In Cusco itself we spent two sunny and really pleasant days. The city certainly is not only a starting point for all the different tours and hikes, but has its own flair. We were even lucky enough to have seen a holiday parade through the central plaza de armas. And once more, the food and coffee was again really incredible.
If we have to say what surprised us most in Peru, it’s actually the food and the people. The quality of the food is really great, you get coffee as good as in Italy and even the chocolate is tasty 🙂 And when it comes to the people, they are one of the nicest we’ve ever met and they always have a smile on their face.