My husband surprised me on Valentines with a trip to Peru, date TBD for later in the year. My Valentines card contained a paper airplane that unfolded to a collage with the words “7 Days in Peru” across the middle. Yippee!
I had never thought of visiting Peru but the idea of a trip together is always exciting. So, I started researching about Peru. Ancient civilizations of the Incas, Machu Picchu, the Andes Mountains, the mountain-side pod hotel, Amazon, Ayahuasca ceremonies, the busy capital of Lima, colourful cuisine, the colonial history, and more. What a cool place to visit!
Also, Peru suffered from devastating floods in March so we felt that our tourist dollars would be of mutual benefit.
Off we went in May!
There is so much to explore and experience in Peru but we only had one week and had to allow a few days to acclimatize to the higher altitude.
We started off in Lima, staying in the district of Miraflores. Since we love water, we headed straight to Larcomar plaza which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It’s a touristy place but we were happy to chill and admire the view of the sandy + rocky beach while we recovered from the late night 8-hour flight.
We wandered along Avenida Jose Larco, the main strip of Miraflores, and strolled through Parque Kennedy where we discovered kittens peaking down at us from the trees. There was a booth in the middle of the park promoting awareness of the feral cat colony living there and asking for donations. I was so touched that there is a group of people caring for these feral kittens and cats, just like back home in Toronto where we have dozens and possibly hundreds of hidden feral cat colonies!
After 2 days in Lima, we flew into Cusco city, near Machu Picchu. This is where two things hit me:
- My cash was missing; and
- Altitude sickness was kicking in.
Cash went missing with my common sense.
I realized that most of my cash was missing from my wallet. All the big bills I was going to exchange were gone. I felt a little sick to my stomach. I retraced my steps and suspected that the money was taken when I went for breakfast at the hotel in Miraflores. I left the wallet in the room and was too lazy (more like worried I’d forget the PIN) to put it in the hotel room safe. That was an expensive 2-day stay at a hotel and a $600 lesson to remember my common sense.
Always take your valuables with you or secure them in the hotel room safe.
It was too late to do anything because I already checked out and flew into another city. Fortunato, my husband had some cash (friends & family get my pun?). I was also spared my debit and credit cards so I still had plenty of options.
While this left me feeling distrustful, I also knew I was at fault for making it so easy for would-be thieves. Hopefully my money went to someone who needed it. We were also fortunate that it wasn’t an armed robbery or anything like that; we were safe and sound. I decided that I would still have a good time in Peru.
Money goes and money comes.
By a stroke of good luck, I found a roll of 60 Peruvian Soles in Cusco (about $25 CAD). Yes! Thank you Universe!
We went from Toronto (altitude 76m / 250ft) to Lima (1,550m / 5,080ft) to Cusco (3,300m / 10,800ft). Later on the trip we would travel to Machu Picchu (2,450m / 8,040ft) and Rainbow Mountain (starts 4,326m / 14,190ft and peaks at 5,200m / 17,060ft).
At higher altitudes (2,400m / 8,000ft and higher), the air feels thinner because there is less oxygen. Since we need oxygen for our muscles and organs to work, our bodies have to adjust to less fuel to do normal functions like breathing and digesting. Different people are affected differently and it doesn’t matter what your fitness level or age is. Symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, loss of appetite, nausea, feeling weak and dizziness.
To acclimatize, limit physical activity, limit alcohol consumption, keep meals light and drink lots of water (a source of oxygen) for the first 1 to 4 days.
Coca tea was a lifesaver for me!
The native Peruvian coca plant, has leaves that can be chewed or steeped in tea to help with altitude sickness. I found coca leaves and coca tea everywhere – free at athe Cusco airport, free at the hotel lobby, and it can be purchased everywhere in and around Cusco.
You can’t visit Peru without seeing its world wonder, Machu Picchu!
We booked our guided tour through Grayline-Viajes Pacifico. The tour started with a 3:15am hotel pick-up. We were driven to the Ollantaytambo train station, where we boarded an Inca Rail train (one of 3 train companies) that took us to the bottom of Machu Picchu. Then after a short bus ride up the mountain, we arrived at the entrance of Machu Picchu around 8:30am. The +2 hour guided tour was very informative.
Machu Picchu is a newly minted Unesco Heritage Site (2010). It is believed to have been built by the ancient Incan civilization and abandoned during the Spanish conquest. It was “discovered” by an American archaeologist/ historian in 1911 and even today in 2017 parts of these ruins are still being restored. It is up in the Andes Mountains and is comprised of carefully placed stone brick single-room houses, a central ceremonial/ recreational field, and tiered agricultural sections on the mountain-side.
Wow, people in the 1400s or earlier once thrived up here! There are so many unanswered questions about this place and its people.
The place we nearly died. (To be continued…)