Touring Peru

Right towards the end of my exchange in Chile, my parents arranged for us to meet in Peru. We’d been wanting to travel there for a while and it was convenient for me to meet them halfway before I went back to Mexico.

They booked a 10-day trip trough the main and most touristic cities of Peru. I’ve never been a fan of the all-inclusive traveling method, and given the fact that I was in the midst of my last days of my exchange I didn’t really do any research regarding the places and cities we were going to visit. I left it all to my parents’ criteria and just went along with it (which was kind of a really big mistake since I missed out on actually investigating and being informed about the places I was going to be seeing).

As with most of the people’s travel bucket lists, Peru has always been a dream destination of mine, primarily because of Machu Picchu. There’s a reason why The Wonders of the World have earned that title and, in my experience, they usually are a really big deal (even if, on the downside, they’re so crowded you can have a hard time actually enjoying them). Machu Picchu appealed to me specially because since I was a little girl I’ve always been a fan of visiting and admiring every archeological site around Mexico (we have a fair share of them) and I have always had a fascination of learning everything related to ancient cultures. Still, there was a part of me that was kind of nervous that this extremely famous and world wide known Inca city was not going to live to my expectations. I’d heard all kinds of opinions of people that had already been there and I was extremely eager about it.

I flew directly form Santiago to Lima, where I met my parents after almost six months of being away from home. The first few days were kind of weird for me, as I had just said goodbye to some of my very close friends and some really important people I’d met in Chile. My exchange had just ended so my feelings were all over the place. This, and the fact that the first few sites we visited in Peru were, in my opinion, some of the least impressive ones, made my first few days in this country not so formidable or amazing. From Lima we flew and started our trip in Juliaca, we visited there some archeological sites that didn’t really impress me much because I though I’d seen prettier and better similar spots back in Mexico (again, I wasn’t in the best of moods). Thankfully, both my attitude and the magnitude of the next few stops escalated in beauty in a very quick way, so that I ended up being in total awe with some of these Peruvian places.

The first remarkable excursion was our day trip to Puno. We visited Lake Titicaca (I was surprised to find out that this was actually a real place and not just a made-up lyric to a Latin kids’ song) where we got to see all the floating islands of the Uros, which are a set of artificially created islands were some of the Quechua people still live in. It was really amazing and impressive to see how all these native people live, besides the fact that it was an absolutely beautiful and very peaceful place. The lake is an astounding shade of blue and the whole landscape is just really wonderful. This was definitely one of my favourite places to visit.

We left the city of Puno to go by bus to Cusco. I’m usually not a fan of bus rides but this one was completely worth it only because of a 10 minute stop we made at “La Raya”, which is a spot in the frontier of these two cities and it’s completely magical. The scenery of this place is of a stunning range of mountains with the bluest of skies and just nature all around. Pure and wonderful nature.

We finally arrived to Cusco and visited the main plaza and cathedral and all the touristic spots of the city but, even though it’s a very cute town, these places weren’t really that appealing to me. Also, I was already getting super impatient of getting to Machu Picchu, so I couldn’t really focus on anything else.

It’s important to be aware that from the moment you arrive to Peru everyone advices you to take it easy and beware of the altitude sickness. I already knew I’d probably had trouble with this since I’d already experienced it in the past. Unsurprisingly, I got it since the second or third day we arrived to this country. I especially had trouble with it in Cusco (which is located at an altitude of 3400 metres or 11200ft). Fortunately, the worst day was probably the first one and I managed to feel not so terrible by drinking coca tea religiously and by not making any kind of big efforts. For the lucky people who have never experienced altitude sickness it basically feels as if all your strength was taken away because you were hit by a bus, or someone hit you on the head with a baseball bat… or both. All of this pain is combined with nausea, so yeah, not fun at all. I think besides the coca tea I took some medicine and I still felt kind of uneasy and really tired, but fortunately the day we visited Machu Picchu I had no symptoms at all.

We didn’t do the Inca Trail or any of those typical fit-backpacker trips to get to the top of this World Wonder, which really bummed me out. By this time, I’d already figured out that my kind of favourite traveling was done in the low-budget, high intensity way, and I also love nature and exercising, so the Inca Trail seemed like a dream. Since I was traveling with my parents, we weren’t really fit to do things the hard and tiring way, we were going to visit Machu Picchu in the travel-agency arranged kind of way, which was still cool but not the whole experience I’d longed so much to have.

Long story short we got to the top by train (to the Aguas Calientes station), and then to the entrance of the site by bus. We also had a tour guide trip included to explain everything about Machu Picchu while we were inside, which I absolutely hated. We were told we only had around 3 hours inside this majestic place and around an hour and a half was wasted listening and following our guide around. I remember I was so mad I told my parents I wanted to ditch our guided tour since the beginning, but we stuck out till the end and my anger was only appeased because once we started walking around on our own, I was completely mind blown. Machu Picchu was everything I’d imagined and more.

This magical wonder is of course filled with a crazy amount of people, which kind of makes the experience less unique, but still, once you are free to wander around you can manage to find a few spots where you can just admire the grandeur of it all almost by your complete self. And this are the moments that I live for. My God being able to just sit in this amazing place and imagine how people used to live there so many years ago…. There are just not enough words for me to describe it. It really is an incredible place. Besides the ruins and the city, you are surrounded by the most extraordinary landscape, ever. You get to feel so humbled and surprised by nature, and by how the people that lived there were so much more connected to it than we ever will. I was bursting with a feeling of peace and happiness, it genuinely left me speechless and I felt like I could’ve stayed there forever.

*I usually relate songs to events or periods of my life, and I clearly remember that in this time Ed Sheeran’s “X” album had just come out and I was obsessed with it and throughout most of my Peru trip I had Tenerife Sea’s “Should this be the last thing I see, I want you to know it’s enough for me” lyrics playing over and over in my head, I felt like they just truly mirrored my thoughts.

My experience in Machu Picchu filled me with happiness but at the same time it was kind of bittersweet. I felt so lucky, delighted, and just thankful with the universe to be able to admire such beauty, and at the same time so frustrated and sad because I was just given around 4 hours in this gorgeous place. Like so many times before, I decided I just had to come back someday.

The day after Machu Picchu we visited Valle Sagrado, Pisaq and the Fortress of Ollantaytambo, which were some other really cool and interesting archeological sites, but nothing compared to what I’d already seen. I think this is probably a very unfortunate fact for all the spots of Peru, having to compete with Machu Picchu is impossible. Maybe that’s why you never really get to hear a lot of all the other magical places they have; at least I never had before and they have some pretty amazing sites.

After Cusco we went back to Lima and took a tour around the city, again, nothing out of the ordinary, and then we headed to Paracas. This last stop of our trip was a complete surprise to me. We came here to do the Nazca Lines excursion. I’d somewhat heard about this “lines” before in like alien related movies, or articles, but I didn’t even know in which part of the world they were located, or if they were actually real. Turns out they were in Peru and I was about to fly over them. If, like me, you have no idea what I’m talking about, the Nazca Lines are a series of large ancient geoglyphs (large designs produced on the ground) in the Nazca Desert, in southern Peru. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and scholars believe they were created by the Nazca culture between 500 BC and 500 AD. Hundreds are simple lines and geometric shapes but more than 70 are designs of animals, such as birds, fish, and monkeys or human figures. Other designs include shapes, such as trees and flowers. These lines were created in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish/grayish ground beneath.1 To put it in a simpler way, they are HUGE drawings and figures on the desert that can only be seen from the sky, or from very high spots, and there isn’t really an actual explanation to the actual purpose of their creation (so cool and mysterious). They’re pretty unique.

We arrived at a small airport in Pisco and boarded a really small plane that flew over the main lines and it was amazing. My mom got extremely airsick because this little plane had to actually dive and turn and twist and do all kinds of extreme maneuvers in order for us to be able to appreciate the lines, but there they were, in the middle of the desert, huge and so clear… it was astonishing.

The ride was not that long, and it really was crazy but I was so surprised of it all that I think my body just forgot to get nauseous, cause I usually and really easily do. I left this place feeling so confused as to why not more people had mentioned it before, and that I’d never heard or read about it anywhere, because I really loved the rareness of it. It left me wondering and thinking about the mystery that surrounded it all, it was just wow.

The Nazca Lines were definitely a surprise and huge plus for me in this trip, and I realized I really should have done way more research before visiting this beautiful country.

Our final excursion was to the Ballestas Islands, we took a boat ride through them and got to see some penguins, sea lions, different kinds of birds and another Nazca line (the Chandelier). It was the best way to finish our trip because it was so relaxing and peaceful to just enjoy the beautiful weather, and the nature that surrounded us.

We flew back to Mexico the next day and I was just completely overwhelmed, thankful and perplexed by everything I had just experienced and lived. I just couldn’t believe it all. I just kept on thinking and singing in my head that, even if it were all the last thing I’d seen, it truly had been enough for me.