Date: October 2012
Where: Peru & Amazon Cruise
This was our first visit to Peru and I can highly recommend it as a tourist destination, with sophisticated cities, amazing history, world class archaeological sites and incredible nature. 28 of the world’s 32 climate zones can be found in Peru and with that a huge variety of wildlife and plants. When you include great food, wine and friendly people, what more can you ask for?
Places visited: Lima, Lake Titicaca, rail trip from Puno to Cuzco, a 7 days hike over the mountains from Cuzco to Machu Picchu and then finishing with a 3 day Amazon cruise. This report covers all but the lodge to lodge mountain hike, such a wonderful and comprehensive experience that it deserves its own special write-up.
We flew with Air Canada to Lima from Vancouver via Toronto. At first glance it seems like that would be a big detour, but even though Lima is on the Pacific coast it is in fact further east than Toronto. Lima airport is new and modern, it is 16 km outside the city center and, in a country where licensing of taxis is a sale cialis bit spotty, it is a good idea to have a drive arranged. Your hotel will be able to arrange for a reputable company to pick you up.
Lima has over 8 million inhabitants; it has a restored colonial center, a great selection of museums and an impressive what can i use instead of viagra coastline.
The two main upscale areas are Miraflores and San Isidro. Miraflores is more touristy with a lot of hotels, shops and restaurants. San Isidro is quieter. It is the financial center, home to celebrities and cialis price ontario a number of embassies. We chose to stay in San Isidro where our hotel was on a side street across from a park of olive trees, it was a nice place to rest up after the long flights. We did a lot of walking in Lima, some of the main streets have linear parks with trees, walking and bicycle paths between the two lanes of traffic which makes it very easy to walk.
This was our first trip to Lima and two things really surprised me. The first was the weather. Lima is located in a desert area just 12 degrees south of the equator so you would expect it to be really hot, but because of its location between the mountains and the ocean the weather is moderate with an average temperature of 24 degrees Celsius. It is also one of the driest capitals of the world. It has two seasons, grey skies with low lying clouds pretty well constantly from May to November and morning fog but otherwise clear from December till April.
The other surprise was the food, it was delicious. Peruvian cuisine is beginning to get a reputation around the world and rightly so. It varies from region to region using local produce in imaginative ways in a fusion between European, Andean and Asian cuisine. Ceviche is being made with many different ingredients and of course a pisco sour (or two) is a must when in Peru. In Lima, the must-do restaurant is La Rosa Neptune for the location and the food. It is located out on the water in an old British style pier pavilion. During the day
you can watch the surfers right outside the windows, and it is the perfect place for a pisco sour at sunset. While you can see the ocean and the shoreline from almost every window, I recommend making a reservation in advance if you want a window seat.
After Lima we flew to Lake Titicaca, a huge lake bordered by Peru and Bolivia. At 12,500 feet it is the highest navigable lake in the world. You can certainly feel the air is thinner! We were met at the airport by a guide who took us to see the archeological site of Silustani. It is a cemetery built by a civilization that occupied the area before the Inca domination and they built these massive towers on the highest point. Beautiful views, but I ran out of air before reaching the top unlike my husband whom it didn’t seem to bother. From there we drove the 1 ½ hours to our lakefront hotel on the outskirts of Puno.
The next day we went by boat to visit one of the approximately 40 floating islands. It was a fascinating experience. The islands, the houses and the boats are all built of reeds. The reeds compact so you have to keep adding new reeds and after about 20 years you have to start on a new island. The local people, the Uros, continue to live like their ancestors did and maintaining the system of communal life. 20 or so families live on each island until that island breaks up and then they move on to other islands.
Taquile, an island known for its weavers, was next. We met some of the local people and saw the beautiful work they make. The crafts are divided by gender, the women weave and the men knit. The men on the island wear a sort of conical hat with a coloured tip at the end. If you are married the tip is red, if you are looking the tip is white and if you are just not interested it is neither. Saves a lot of confusion! There is no confusion either about setting the date for a wedding; they all take place on May 3rd when the planet Venus is visible.
After that we arrived at Suasi Island where we were staying for the night. It is a privately owned island, very charming and peaceful. It rained that day and it was cold so it was a pleasant surprise to get to our room after dinner and find a roaring fire and a hot water bottle in the bed. The next day was bright and sunny and you really felt the charm of the place. We went for walks around the island, beautiful views from the highest point with the mountains of Bolivia in the background. We saw llamas, vicunas and alpacas and also our first chinchilla. It looks just like a rabbit from the front can you buy viagra without a prescription but when it turns it has a long curved hairy tail. A four hour boat ride then brought us back to our hotel near Puno where we overnighted and got ready for the next part of our journey.
Tips: Going straight from sea level to an altitude of 13,000 in the course of a 1 ½ hour’s flight can really affect you. In fact I would recommend that you visit a place with lower altitude for a couple of nights to let your body adjust. We didn’t do that and I didn’t feel that well for the first couple of days. Bring sun block and a hat. With the thin air you can get sunburned very easily. If you are staying on one of the cialis pills for sale smaller islands it is handy to just bring a small overnight bag and leave the main part of your luggage at your Puno hotel.
Train from Puno to Cuzco
From the biggest town on Lake Titicaca, Puno, we took the train to Cuzco, the historic Inca city. The train is reminiscent
of the old luxury Pullman trains cost for viagra at walmart from the 1920s, the journey is about 10 hours long, but it is very enjoyable and relaxing. It goes across the Peruvian Altiplano with the magnificent Andean mountains in the background, past small villages and settlements where people live much as they have done for many hundreds of years with the women still wearing the traditional clothes, some of the fields being plowed by wooden plows pulled by ox and you can see vicunas and alpacas. La Raya is the only stop along the trip. It is a cold and somewhat desolate place and the highest point of the trip at 4,321 meters (14,178 feet).
The service was great, morning coffee, 3 course lunch with wine, etc., and afternoon tea. The back of the train has a bar and an open observation car and it is a great place to chat with tourists from all over the world. If looking at the scenery, eating, having the odd nap is not enough, there is also entertainment in the bar with Peruvian music and folk dance and a fashion show featuring great woolens made of the desirable alpaca wool. To me this is a much more interesting way to travel from Lake Titicaca to Cuzco and an opportunity to see a lot of the countryside.
As the plane glided in for landing in Iquitos we got the first glimpse of the mighty Amazon River; trees and water as far as the eye can see. Iquitos is the largest most remote city in the world having no roads to the outside world. The look and size of it changes from season to season, as the water level of the Amazon can change by up to 40 feet. Other than taxis there a not many cars as most people get around by 3 wheel rickshaws. Iquitos was the center during the large rubber boom in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th before the seeds
to the rubber trees were smuggled out and huge rubber plantations were
started in Asia. Like many boom towns it has a slightly decayed feel to it with mansions that have seen better days and lots of interesting stories. For example, is generic cialis safe to take there is an iron house there built by Monsieur Eiffel for the Paris exhibition. One of the rubber barons bought it to take it as his home on the Amazon, however the water levels were too low and it ended up in Iquitos where it was split into several buildings. One of them still remain, rather ugly and out of proportion.
Iquitos is now the home to a small luxury cruise line that was started just 5 years ago. With 24 passengers and a crew of 21 you are well looked after. The ship is rather odd looking but the inside is very airy and spacious with cabins sizes of 240 square feet. Each cabin has a king sized bed and huge picture windows so you can lie in bed and watch the shoreline, the birds, pink dolphins or maybe a family paddling by in their dugout canoe.
The day starts with an excursion after breakfast in 10 passenger tenders each with a naturalist on board, back to the ship for lunch, a lecture and a siesta and then a second excursion in the afternoon or early evening. There was something new and interesting to see every time. The pink and grey fresh water dolphins unique to the Amazon, bird watching, sloth and monkey spotting, walks in the rainforest, visits to local villages, swimming in the Amazon (can only be done in certain areas), going for a paddle in the canoe of a local Indian, piranhas fishing to name but a few of the experiences. We were out one evening when the guide caught a small alligator which was duly released after posing for photos. We also spotted the world’s largest rodent, the capybara, at 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet in length it almost looks like a small hippo.
The food on board was excellent and the dinner each night was a 4 – 5 course tasting menu where we got to sample many local delicacies. The 3 guides were all native to the area and had grown up in some of the small remote villages that we visited. They were very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna and the medicinal properties of the plants.
We were there during the low water season, but I think it might be more interesting during the high water season which is from December to May. The cruise was a 3 day cruise, which for us was just the right amount of time and a nice way to relax at the end of a busy holiday before returning to Lima and Vancouver.
Things to bring: Hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, sunglasses, long sleeved shirt and pants and walking shoes. It is also a nice idea to bring school supplies to donate to some of the local schools we visited on the Amazon.
Lodge to Lodge Mountain Hike
To follow in a separate report, later this year!