To put it in one word, Peru so far has been amazing. From floating along the stunning Lake Titicaca to embarking on a five day trek to Machu Picchu, from discovering the hidden gems of Cusco to exploring the arid desert-scapes, I’ve had a brilliant time and learnt a whole lot about the country’s fascinating history.
Today was a highlight – a new-found friend and I cycled through the National Reserve of Paracas, a chilled-out beachy town where I´m currently sitting, and (once again) found ourselves properly lost. Thankfully some sort of security guard speeding through on a motorbike stumbled upon our confused selves, laughed in our faces and told us we’d gone about 10km too far. Essentially we were headed for the middle of an open, empty, sand-dune dotted desert with absolutely no-one else around and nothing but a swig of water/half-eaten muesli bar left to our names – pretty good job Mr knight-in-shining-armour arrived when he did.
The reserve itself was beautiful – think miles of golden sloping desert, craggy coastlines with rough-and-ready seas and hardly any sign of life in sight apart from our own gleaming selves. Paracas as a town is small, quaint and traditionally beachy town with a row of inviting fish restaurants serving ceviche – raw fish in lime juice – and other local dishes, alongside a peaceful strip of sandy beach and a beautiful sunset by night. The Ballestas Islands – aka the ‘poor man´s Galapagos’, dotted with seals and penguins (although *warning*, named the poor man´s version for a reason) – are just a boat-hop away. I came here from Huacachina, a tiny place a few kilometres away from the city of Ica with a beautiful oasis in the desert, where sand-buggying down the steep dunes and praying for one´s life is the main attraction – and one that´s definitely worth it.
A few days relaxing in the Peruvian desert was in call after several days spent exploring the streets and clubs of the bustling, tourist-ready city of Cusco. I did a chocolate workshop at the ChocoMuseo, a heavenly cafe/shop just off the Main Square (Plaza de Armas) which offers free tours and tasters for the cocoa-obsessed. Cusco is a foodie heaven for anyone – Aji de Gallina, a curry-type chicken dish prepared with peanuts, spices and bready sauce – was a personal favourite.
Every corner and alleyway in the city offers something different and after a few days wandering the cobbled, historic streets I still hadn´t seen everything it had to offer, though I´d definitely recommend a climb up to Cusco´s version of Christ the Redeemer – Cristo Blanco – which offers stunning views over the whole city.
Outside of Cusco it got even better – I decided on a whim to embark on the five-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, supposedly one of the harder routes, and found myself camping in sub-zero temperatures, trekking over 70km and dangling off a zip-line (/screaming for my life) 300m above the jungle. More on that in the next post – stay tuned…