We had a really tough time after getting to Houston. We originally boarded the plane, but they had an issue with the door where it wouldn’t register as closed. They took a look and decided they couldn’t use the plane with it like that. We got off and waited for several hours while they found another plane that had been undergoing maintenance. They eventually brought that plane around and we got to the Lima airport. Luckily Gate 1 had people there to get us and we made it back to the hotel without further incidents. The hotel was very nice, and the breakfast there was pretty good. We got into the hotel at 4am and went right to sleep.
Day 1 – Lima
We were very tired when we got up for the morning tour, and I was falling asleep standing up while in the crypts below the cathedral. It was very impressive the number of skeletons they had on display, and the way they sorted the bones was more than a little disturbing. The femurs had been placed in long rows of crossed pattern and the skulls were in a large circular pit about 8 feet across and 6 feet deep. We walked out to the Plaza de Armas and it was absolutely gorgeous. I really liked the look of all the enclosed balconies, but when I found out they were for women to see and not be seen it dampened my liking of them a bit.
We then took the bus to the Miraflores district where Stephanie, Jeff, and Patty got off. I stayed on and enjoyed the views as I headed back to the hotel for a much needed nap.
That evening Steph and I met up with Sebastian and Iris. They took us to a really nice Jungle food place. For a bit of background Peru is split into three broad regions, Coastal, Highlands, and Jungle. Iris is from the Jungle area and she showed us a great time with her local cuisine. I really enjoyed all the different fruit juices she got for us. We took a stroll down to the park, where they had lots of semi-feral cats. They were very friendly and had a society that took care of them. We walked over to the ubiquitous British pub and got a typical set of Peruvian drinks, Pisco Sour and Chilcano. We got back to the hotel and got some good sleep after that.
Day 2 – Cuzco
The next morning we got up super early, had a spartan breakfast as the hotel didn’t serve breakfast that early, and got on a flight to Cuzco. Mauricio the main tour guide was from Cuzco and I really enjoyed all the things he talked about as we got into town. We had a bit of trouble getting used to the air at 11,000 ft. That didn’t dampen our spirits as we drank a few coca teas and got a nice lunch at the restaurant across the street. I had the typical quinoa soup, and it was delicious.
We then headed out to the animal sanctuary where we got to see some amazing animals. The llamas, alpacas, puma, mountain cat, and Andean condor were all amazing sights. The macaws, tucans, monkeys, and hawks were also neat to see. Stephanie also liked seeing the bunnies and Guinea pigs, even though they weren’t rescue animals. Most of the animals there had been rescued from black market pet rings, and they were hoping to reintroduce them back to the wild. Stephanie left her phone in the van, and we had a small crisis as we called them, but the van came right back and all was well.
That night we went to the Cuzco Planetarium. It was decent, and we got a good look at Jupiter with the great red spot facing away from earth. The most interesting thing they talked about was the dark constelations where the Milky Way is blocked by dust. They pointed out the great black llama and a few other dark constelations. They also went over the inclusions in the Incan instructions that corresponded to astronomical measures and how that related to agriculture. The most interesting was the white llama terraces.
After getting back we had an amazing dinner at the top rated restaurant in Cuzco. The food was amazing, but none of us got anything particularly adventurous.
Day 3 – Machu Picchu
We got up very early and had a decent breakfast before getting on the bus to Ollantaytambo. The view while crossing the sacred valley was amazing, and the city of Ollantaytambo was gorgeous. If I were to go back I would want to stay there and walk through the old city. We then got on the train to Aguas Caliente, and the train ride was phenomenal. The train had windows in the ceiling and Mauricio talked about all the amazing things we were seeing along the way. When we got to Aguas Caliente we went straight to the bus and got up to the top of Machu Picchu without incidence. We found out the name of the city isn’t actually known, since Machu Picchu means old mountain, and that it is known as that because that is how the farmer who lived there referred to it.
The tour of Machu Picchu was great, and is hard to describe. We got to see all the neat parts that are still open. I’d love to include something like this in a game I make. It would also be interesting to recreate how it would have looked originally with idols in place, people working on crops, and roofs on.
After the tour we started walking up the Incan trail, Kaijen and I got about 2/3 of the way to the sun gate and decided to turn around. Michael and Steph decided to run up to the sun gate and then run down. We were a little tight on time, which is why the running and turning back had to take place. Michael and Steph made it and Michael got a few pics from there, I would have broken my ankle had I tried this since the train was mainly large rocks that weren’t flat. They made it back down about 10 minutes after us, which was pretty impressive. We met up with Calixto and he got us to town in time for lunch, which we weren’t expecting to make. He got in a little trouble since we had run off without our downward bus passes. The trip back was uneventful and everyone was tired so not much happened.
I wasn’t as tired as everyone else when we got back, so I went to the main square in Cuzco and decided that the most politic time to try Guinea pig would be that night, so I found a restaurant called Plus that had a single seat on the balcony overlooking the square. It wasn’t my favorite, but I could see how people who grew up with it could really like it. It was a little tough for me with too much work around all the small bones.
Day 4 – Cuzco
The next morning we got to sleep in a bit, as there was an optional morning tour that we declined. It was a great morning to just walk around the city, which we did.
Steph, Patty, Kaijen, Jeff, and I walked to the market. Michael wasn’t feeling well (which I think was related to the run up to the sun gate the previous day). The ladies got a lot of bags/purses and I got some fresh fruit (orange and passion fruit). Steph also got one of the giant breads for all of us to share, and it was pretty tasty. There was way to much of it for us to finish then, and it ended up lasting us until the end of the trip as a random snack. We went to the Chocolate Museum, which Steph and I had been to before in the Dominican Republic. I really enjoyed the chocolate museum still, and bought one of each type of dark chocolate almost.
We then went to lunch in the main square, again on one of the balconies, but this time we had a simpler meal. It was just Kaijen, Steph, and I, as Jeff and Patty wanted to get back more quickly, so they grabbed McDonalds. I was amused that in the old square of Cuzco there is a McDonalds, a KFC, and a Starbucks.
The afternoon tour was nice, with us going through some more coopted Incan construction turned to church construction. The tour was interesting, and I wonder how much of it was true, since they haven’t taken the construction apart to see if their hypotheses of the construction are true or not.
We were then left to our own devices in the main square, and we decided to go off to the close by artifact museum. It was ok, with the highlight being several mummies, which I wasn’t expecting at all.
That night we had an amazing dinner, with some better prepared Guinea pig. There were also some really interesting dances and songs performed for us. I really liked the band that played while we ate. There were some other tour groups there, and last to come in was about 100 high school seniors from an all girls school in Lima. The highlight of the night was when they were doing the Alcatraz dance, which is when one person dances with a tissue pinned to their back like a tiny tail, while someone of the opposite sex tries to light it on fire with candles. This was hilarious to watch, but even better when they brought me and one other guy from our tour group up on stage to try. Steph got a video and we look like idiots trying to get the tissue to catch, and even more like idiots dancing to keep ours from catching (and failing).
Day 5 – To Puno
The next day was another early morning, but not too early. We got on the normal bus, since the bigger bus that would take us across the highlands couldn’t go into the old city. At the bigger bus we started through the outskirts of Cuzco, with Mauricio narrating most of the things we were seeing, including what each little town was known for; Guinea pigs, breads, silver, etc. We stopped off in a local school (I’m told this is a Gate 1 thing) and it was very awkward. Some of the people in our group, mainly retired teachers, really enjoyed it. The people I came with just found it odd. The next stop was at the highest point in the journey. It was hard to walk around, and even going up a small set of stairs got me out of breath. The final stop was a little rest stop just before the final town, where the local airport was, with nothing of note there.
We got into the city in the late afternoon, then Mauricio showed us the main shopping street where we got some nice dinner and did a little shopping. We got a toy for the kitties made of alpaca wool and they ended up really liking it.
Day 6 – Uros and Tombs
We got up at a decent hour to go to the Uros, small floating islands made of reed roots and stacks of reeds on top. This was one of the most unique places I’ve ever been. They took us to a small island that was for 4 families, and they showed us the kind of fish they eat, the stoves they cook on, and how they make many of the things on the islands, as well as the islands themselves. All of this was very fascinating, and during the explanation a kitty came over and rolled around in my lap. It was adorable, and very similar to archer kitty, which means it blended in fantastically with the reeds. The kitty sneakily ate the demonstration fish when nobody was paying attention, which is what I think it does for most of its food. Mauricio said it was a pet, and not for keeping the island clear of rodents. We then got a nice boat ride to the main island where the store was docked and got to look around a bit more. It was a very interesting experience.
We headed back to the city and grabbed some lunch at a place on the main square called Mojsa, which had really good food and is where we ended having dinner as well.
We then went to some tombs outside of the city. These tombs were on a peninsula of a gorgeous lake, which was a little bit higher than lake Titicaca. The tombs were interesting, especially being able to see the different civilizations and their very different building techniques. The lake was prettier and more worthwhile to see than the tombs I think.
Day 7 – Lima
Early morning. We got to the airport around 6am for our flight back to Lima. We got to the hotel around 11am in Lima. This was our last day and we decided that we really needed to try the Chifa cuisine. Madam Tuson was recommended by Mauricio and it was close enough that we could get there. We were lucky to get seating in the first wave of customers, despite being the very last to be seated. This made our food come the slowest, and our waiter got the order wrong since he didn’t understand Steph very well, and was trying to pull off the I don’t need to write things down. I don’t think everyone was good about recognizing when people didn’t understand them on this trip, the waiter getting orders wrong being a good example. It seems like the default for the service industry in Peru is smile and nod (which is the default for most people in this situation). This leads to lots of miscommunication that could be done better with a good point at the thing you want or write a number kind of interaction.
After lunch we went to one of the most amazing things on the trip, the Larco Museum. It had so many interesting artifacts, including a small gallery of the sex related artifacts. A large portion of the sex artifacts were devoted to blowjobs, surprisingly. There were many gold crowns, tons of pottery, and many cat shaped objects. The grounds of the museum were also amazingly beautiful, with the walls covered in vines that were in full bloom while we were there.
We then had our farewell dinner, and it was clear that Mauricio was running out of energy. I feel a little bad for him, but know that he really loves doing the work. He was a great guide and I enjoyed most of the group we were with.
On the way back we got stuck in Houston again, this time because the flight coming in was delayed. I would think they would know a lot sooner that when they’ve announced it if the previous flight is running slow. Jeff and Patty got on an earlier flight, and so they got back about 4 hours before us. We got back and got to spend a nice bit of time with the kitties, catching up on our shows, and ordering in from one of our favorite restaurants.