Wow this is the longest post I wrote so far. I understand if you don’t feel like reading all of it. But in any case I hope you like it!
We are now in Peru, a stop we made to visit another wonder of the world (Machu Picchu) and to participate in another volunteer project. Our flight leaving Rio was very early (6am) so we slept very little the night before…
We arrived in Lima in the morning. We took a cab to our hostel, but this time it was a little different: we were going to meet my grandmother and my brother. Last January they decided to join us on this part of the trip and visit Machu Picchu. I told my grandmother it was going to be tough, specially since we had a very tight and tiring schedule, but she made her decision and now there were they.
So we wake up at 4am the next morning (our second day straight) and went to the airport to fly to Cusco. We decided to fly because the price difference wasn’t so big with the bus, but bus takes 18 hours… we already had this experience with Iguazu so we gladly took a 1h20min flight!
We arrived in Cusco early in the morning so we had a full day to visit the city before leaving for Machu Picchu. Only the way we planned things we had to leave that day to arrive in Aguas Calientes (the small town right next to the wonder of the world) at 1am the next day. We planned it so we were definitely going to visit Wayna Picchu because they only allow 400 persons a day and its first come first serve. Wayna Picchu offers an amazing view of Machu Picchu so there was no way we were going to miss this.
Anyways Cusco is quite a nice city. It used to be the capital of the Inca Empire mainly because it’s so high. Its altitude is around 3400m! Many tourist come through here to reach Machu Picchu and find themselves staying a day or two more to really appreciate this town. It’s a perfect city for tourists because everything is walking distance, even an amazing view on the city. We visited the city walking around the many squares and we really enjoyed it. I started feeling a bit weird because of the altitude and the lack of sleep, but I managed (with some pills and a dose of oxygen). Cusco was a short stop, but a great one.
So to reach Machu Picchu, our train leaved from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (the only way to reach Machu Picchu) at 11:30pm so our plan was to walk around Cusco until 4pm and then go to bed until 19h30 and take a “colectivo” to Ollantaytambo. As you can see it’s quite difficult to reach Machu Picchu. From Lima it’s 1 plane, 1 “colectivo”, 1 train and 1 bus! Including the park entrance fee, the food, the round trip and the hostels; visiting this wonder of the world gets quite expensive! And don’t get me started on the shopping… Peru is full of amazing typical handcrafts. Everyone bought at least something. I got a nice sweater and Jimena bought funky socks, 2 earings, a purse, a sweater, a hat and maybe something else she didn’t show me…
After some well deserved rest, we headed out to Ollantaytambo with a little van. Going there we went down altitude-wise and I felt better because at some point I felt my eyes wanted to pop out! My deodorant was a rolling ball and when I wanted to use it in Cusco the thing popped out! All the bottles had to depressurized when opened the first time. If you brought a bottle of coke from lima and you opened it in Cusco, the reaction is the same as if you shake the bottle for 10 minutes!
We reached the train station 1 hour ahead of schedule so we try to catch a nap since we are all exhausted. Remember Jimena and I haven’t had a full night sleep in the last 3 days and my grandmother is 70 years old. I guess Grégoire was fine. The train left at exactly 11:30 and 2 hours later we reached Aguas Calientes. My original plan was to wait until 5:30 to take the first bus up the Machu Picchu, but we decided to stay in a cheap hostel close to the Ticket office. The room was small and the beds also, but for 2 hours of sleep we weren’t going to complain. At 4:30am we woke up and got ready to finally reach Machu Picchu. But first we had to buy the park entrance tickets. They were extremely expensive (530 soles for the 4 of us) but we didn’t have any choice, but to pay at this point. Also we needed bus tickets and they were 15$ US each for a 10 min bus ride. Also I forgot to mention the train is also ridiculously expensive (50$ US each for one way)! We emptied our pockets, and went to do the line for the bus. Already a huge line was formed and it wasn’t even 5:15 yet. All the people arrived early for Wayna Picchu, but I estimated we were about 200 persons in front of us so nothing to worry about. At 6:00am we arrived in front of the main gate. Before entering an employee stamps our tickets allowing us to enter Wayna Picchu at 10pm. We were really lucky since he stopped stamping shortly after us. We finally made it up, our tickets are stamped and the archeological site lies meters away from us. But just before entering, we had a small breakfast at what is probably the most expensive cafeteria in Peru.
Machu Picchu was absolutely amazing! Since we arrived early, the place was still empty and we managed to catch amazing pictures of the ruins. It’s surrounded by even bigger mountains and clouds slowly passing by with the wind. Machu Picchu is not as big as I thought, but you really want to see everything. It takes about 2 hours to walk around, but 1 day to see everything there is. Some places have amazing sceneries and other a lot of history. Adding the lamas (a baby lama was born the day before we arrived) and the hundreds of birds flying around Machu Picchu, it’s my favorite wonder of the world by far.
At 10pm everyone was ready to hike Wayna Picchu, even my grandmother. The hike was going to take about an hour at our speed so she asked us to leave her behind and that she would go at her own rhythm. The hike looked very steep. We figured she might reach half-way then wait for us at the entrance after. Grégoire took the lead leaving Jimena and me at the back. After only 20 minutes we were already tired! The stairs were very steep and narrow. Plus the rain made everything slippery. 40 minutes after, we had crossed many people who were taking breaks, among them Grégoire that handed me the backpack saying it’s harder than he thought. We continued anyways and finally we reached the top! We had an amazing view of Machu Picchu and the surroundings. Unfortunately I think Wayna Picchu was too tall to get a good view of the wonder, nevertheless it was truly stunning. We took a couple of pictures, placed a new lock and headed down the long way towards “The Great Cavern”. Going down felt great. About 40 minutes later we reached the cavern and wow what a disappointment. There was nothing to see but a small hole with some window shape in it with a bench in the middle. We took some boring pictures and headed back. The problem with going back was going back up. At this point we barely had water left and the road back asked us to hike up 3/4 of Wayna Picchu. We did it, but it was painfully hard for all of us. We couldn’t see the end of the steep stairs. Finally we reached the common trail. I was the first one to arrive and far away, close to the exit, I saw my grandmother. I let her know where we were by shouting ‘grand-mère’. She turned around, waved back and said she went all the way up! At first neither of us could believe it! But later we found out it was true! Some woman took a picture of her at the top (because she didn’t bring her own camera) and confirmed us she really did reach the peak. We were making jokes about her making it all the way up so you could imagine our reaction when we learned that she actually did! Following the hike, obviously my grandmother wasn’t in shape (to be honest, neither were we) to visit more so we slowly walked back to the bus and headed back to Aguas Calientes and we reached Cusco 6 hours later.
Jimena and I had to leave early the next day since we were heading to Huancayo to do more volunteering. After a short stroll in the city we said goodbye to my Grandmother and my brother. My grandmother told me later that it was the most beautiful trip she ever did. It was nice. We arrived at the airport at 12:30 because our flight was at 14:40. No one was waiting to check in and the guy and the counter looked at us very weirdly and said there was no flight at that schedule, that it was moved to 12:55 and it’s the last flight of the day! Turns out this was our flight and we were the only two missing passengers on the flight. This happened because in order to buy tickets they refuse the transaction if you don’t use a domain email (hotmail, yahoo and gmail are not accepted). I had to buy the tickets with my friend’s email and he would forward me any email regarding this flight. I guess he forgot that one…
So convinced we might make it, he started registering the luggages while I ran to pay the airport tax fee. Then we ran more to the checkpoint were we passed straight through, because they were escorting us. On the other side a lady waved at us to run some more. 5 minutes after we arrived at the airport, we were in our seats with the plane pulling back! A new personal record! We arrived in Lima, at the time our flight was supposed to be departing… we spent the whole afternoon at the airport, relaxing since our next stop, was Huancayo, cultural and commercial center of the whole central Peruvian Andes area.
The bus was overnight. But for some reason, we stopped for a while in the middle of the night. I didn’t bother to check why since I was to tired, but at six in the morning (time at which we were supposed to arrive) the bus was still not moving. I was getting really curious so I woke up Jimena and told her we hadn’t moved for 3 hours opened the curtain and outside the bus was surrounded with snow! Snow had blocked the road crossing the Andes and all the buses had to wait for the road to reopen. Jimena and I didn’t mind waiting, what we minded was the weather! Turns out Huancayo gets really cold at this time of the year. The city is 3 200 meters high and has a micro climate. All I brought was shorts and t-shirts. The rest of my stuff was in the dirty clothes bag.
We were greeted by the guy responsible of the organization called Neto. He immediately took us under his wings and told us we will be staying at his place with his wife Eli, daughter Marifer and more volunteers. We would have a private room and all 3 meals included if desired for a very good price. We agreed, dropped the luggages in our room (it wasn’t very clean, but the beds were nice) and headed to our project at “Escuela de aza”.
The school is not that far from the center yet the roads aren’t done properly, the houses looked abandoned and dogs were ruling the streets. It’s a poor region, but I never felt in danger. The people in Peru are the nicest we have met since the beginning of our trip. The school was quite big compared to the other buildings around it. It’s a public primary school. The administration consists only of Victor, the principal and 1 teacher per classroom (sometimes less…) so they were really happy when they saw us arrive the first day. They asked us to teach English. We mostly taught vocabulary since the children really liked to know how to say “lobo” or “pato” in english.
We stayed only for 1 week so we could do much with the kids, specially since we taught 1 different class everyday… So we tried to focus on getting them interested in English by playing games and singing songs. In the end it worked for some of the kids, but others found our class as a break for the usual discipline their regular teacher has. They were walking around the class, talking to each other and threw stuff around the class…
Teaching in Spanish was quite a challenge for me. Luckily, Jimena was always around to correct me when I said something wrong. It wasn’t my first teaching experience, but definitely the hardest.
Apart from the volunteering experience, Huancayo was a definitive test for the altitude. Everyday I felt dizzy and my back hurted. My hands and feet were constantly cold even under 5 sheets with all my clothes on. On the last night I was shaking for 2 hours straight! Luckily coca teas were always a cure. Also since Huancayo is so high the weather gets quite cold compared to Lima. Only we didn’t plan it was going to be like that so all I had with me was the sweater I got in Cusco and a dirty pair of jeans. I wore them everyday…
Huancayo was a last-minute stop in our organization. Normally people stay longer, but we had to leave since our flight was booked way before we decided to come and volunteer here. Nevertheless we had a great time. The people were amazing and the projects were fun. I recommend Carismaperu for anyone with an interest in visiting Peru, but to experience the real side of the country and meet people who genuinely have an interest in making their community better.
Lima was the last stop in Peru. We only had a week-end to visit the biggest city of the country so we needed a plan, we had none. Huancayo was so tiring for me, I didn’t bother look into the city’s attractions.
We arrived early morning and my ears were completely blocked. The altitude was finally back to normal, but I still felt sick. We stayed in the hostel for the whole morning to recover from the last part of the trip. Jimena slept 3 more hours! Around 15h we figured it was time to move. We stayed in Barranco which is close to Miraflores, the nicest neighbourhood in Lima. We walked along the coast line (Lima is one the few capitals next to the ocean) the whole afternoon and visited places like “Larcomar”, an opened mall next to the sea, “Parque del Amor” where couples come to make out and laugh together, and “Parque Kennedy”, a park in the center of Miraflores full of artisans. Later, we wanted to catch the Super Full Moon rise, but unfortunately the sky was very cloudy… At least we had a good view of the sunset. Afterwards it was time to go back home and fully recover from Huancayo’s altitude.
The next day we felt like new! We woke up around 9h45 and I felt great for the first time in the last week. The plan was to visit the center and “Parque de la Reserva”. We found a group organizing free walking tour of the center at 11am every day. We took a taxi to make it on time, but we never found the tour… Later we found out it was suspended until late March. So we took a map and started walking around the different attractions. The center is quite impressive. The main square in really big and is surrounding by many interesting buildings and colors: A massive Church in front, bright yellow buildings right and the President’s House on the right. We behaved as good tourist and we shopped around a little bit before taking a tour by bus of the further key points. Lima looks really good from a double-decker bus!
After the tour we stopped at a small Peruvian gastronomy festival (but we already ate unfortunately) and saw some typical meals like the ‘cuy’ which is a cooked guinea pig! Following our little excursion in the center we walked to “Parque de la Reserva”. The park is well-known to have the highest water fountain in the world. It also had many original fountains. Some of them were interactive, like a maze or a tunnel. The park was getting crowded when we arrived because the best time to visit the park is early night when all the fountains become alive with colors. The main fountain offered a show of laser lights, but frankly it was more a distraction to the water show. Finally the highest fountain was definitely the best part for me. It reaches up to 80 meters! It’s quite impressive to watch. Jimena and I starred at it for a good 10 mins before heading back for the hostel.
Peru was quite a full stop. We visited 1 wonder of the world, we worked in another volunteer organization and we visited another capital. It went by really fast, but we had a great time.
Now the last part is coming up, yet we just reach half of the trip! Jimena and I will be staying in Costa Rica for 2 months next to the ocean for a well deserved relax time (travelling is exhausting!) we will be working 4 hours a day in exchange of free accommodation. We will also offer some of our time to the Cabo Blanco natural reserve and I promised myself I was going to learn how to make websites and basic java coding so I downloaded some guides from the internet.
See you next week
Thank you very much for reading me!