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Peru Redux - Northern Edition

View World Trip 2012 - Actual on dariusz's travel map.

Peru is one of those countries that a traveller can return to over and over and never get bored. It just offers so much diversity in terms of activities, terrains, history and cuisine that there is always something new to discover. It’s like someone compiled a smorgasbord of backpacker lures and put them all in one relatively small box of a country. You will undoubtedly be hooked no matter what type of backpacker you are.

We first travelled to Peru 2008 and it was truly an adventure of a lifetime. Among many other things we went sand boarding down giant sand dunes, flew over ancient desert lines, stayed at the home of a traditional Lake Titikaka family and of course trekked to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. We loved every minute and Peru quickly became the standard that we would compare all other trips to. However when we left we knew that there was still much more to see and we promised ourselves one day we would come back. This trip finally provided the opportunity to keep this promise and this time we decided to concentrate on northern Peru as we made our way down from the Ecuador border to Lima.

We started at the small beach town of Mancora near the border with Ecuador. Immediately we went for sea food and of course the world famous Peruvian Ceviche. If you don’t know what Ceviche is then don’t even try to find out unless you are going to Peru. You will be almost certainly disappointed anywhere else. We loved the food in Mancora but unfortunately very little else. The beach is dusty and full of garbage and the vibe in the town is decidedly on the seedy side. We left after a couple nights towards the city of Trujillo.


We really didn’t know what to expect of Trujillo but we knew there were some really interesting ancient desert adobe cities and pyramids in the area so we thought we’d spend at least a couple of nights. As it turned out we actually ended up staying much longer because we enjoyed the area so much!

Trujillo is a very charming, safe and clean midsized town and nearby Huanchaco has a far better beach vibe then Mancora. We loved the fact that it seemed every block had at least 2 or 3 stores or restaurants with display carousels full of yummy deserts. The public transportation actually has route numbers (Gasp!) which makes it really easy and cheap to get to anywhere you need to go. There is even a bus route that goes right by the ancient city of Chan Chan and continues on to Hunachaco for a day at the beach. There is really no need to bother with taxis but if you like even the collectivo taxis have route numbers posted on their windshields so that it’s easy to tell whether they are going in your direction. Huanchaco is a true beach town with a great beach front promenade and some really interesting reef fishing boats. You can occasionally see one of the fishermen grab a boat and run out into the water or another one bring a boat back. That’s some impressive core muscle strength!


After Trujillo we headed for our last taste of the Andean mountains in the famous Cordilleras near Huarez. The town itself is set in an almost surreal setting in a valley surrounded by no less than 6 snow caps over 5000 meters high. The $30 per night (splurge!) hotel we got offered a panoramic view of all of them from the rooftop where they serve their breakfasts. It was a wonderful way to start each day.


There are tons of options for trekking in the area but we were a bit limited on time and health. The time had to do with our upcoming flight from Lima and the health had to do with Kristines poor beat up knees. We decided we didn’t want to push too hard because we wanted to save her joints for the Himalayas so as far as hiking we just chose to do a single day trip. The day trip we chose to do was to a Lake called simply “Lake 69”. Sounds boring right? Well it is anything but that! We needed to hire a taxi to the start of the trail in the actual national park but luckily we were able to arrange the ride with a wonderful French couple so that we were able to split the cost 4 ways. The hike to the lake offered some of the most awe inspiring larger-than-life nature views I have ever seen in my life.


The hike also offered a couple of brand new personal experiences for me. The first one was actually chewing coca leaves. We’ve both drank tea made out of Coca leaves before and enjoyed it but we’ve never tried chewing. The guys we rented the taxi with happened to have all the necessary ingredients for the process, so we decided to try it. The chewing is supposed to prevent altitude sickness and fatigue, which is why the locals do it, so because we had just recently arrived at altitude and were already doing a strenuous hike we thought we would try it. I have to say that I didn’t feel any fatigue or altitude effects while I was chewing the leaves for the first couple of hours. The problems began when I spit them out and proceeded up the last incline up to the lake. I have never felt altitude sickness before, but I’ve seen Kristine suffer from it many times and it did not look fun! Well, this time I got to experience it firsthand. It’s a horrible feeling of complete exhaustion but yet not exhaustion. You walk 2 or 3 steps and your heart starts racing as if you just sprinted full out for 100 meters. You have a pounding headache to go along with the racing heart. Yet you are fully aware that it’s not your muscles or your conditioning that is causing this. Your muscles feel fine and you don’t feel tired but yet your body refuses to obey you. I started getting angry thinking that I’ve climbed higher and tougher places than this and I was not going to let this hike defeat me. Finally we made it to the top and I simply just collapsed at the side of the lake. As you can see it was worth every little bit of effort.


Posted by dariusz 03:39 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Reflecting over our last border crossing in the Americas

This post is a bit out of order and a bit different since it won't contain any photos or videos. It's just that crossing over into Peru a couple of days ago made me reflect a bit on the trip thus far. We are going to be flying from Lima on to India in a couple of weeks and this event also marks approximately half our trip being over. In 100 days we crossed over 11 borders, covered approx. 8000 kilometers, met some of the coolest people, experienced countless wonderful and different cultures and had more adventures and unique experiences than it's even possible to write about.

We didn't set out looking to "find ourselves", we aren't trying to escape a bad situation and it's not about getting any special insights for us. There is nothing wrong with that being the reason for travelling as you do learn a lot about yourself while you travel since you really only have yourself and whoever you're travelling with to rely on. However, the reason for us is much simpler, we just want to experience life and get to know a bit more of this little rock we call home for the incredibly short time we get to be here. It's the experience of travelling itself which is more than enough of a reward.

When we initially set out I was wondering if I would really get tired or bored of travelling after a month or two as some people predicted. After all we have never really traveled for more than a few weeks at a time. We've met plenty of people who have done it for months or even years but we've never tried it ourselves. I think that question has been answered now. I really don't understand how it's possible to get bored of this. I mean it's not like you are doing the same thing each day. In fact no two single days since we've set out on this journey have been the same. Every single day brings an entirely new experience, place, people or culture. If anything going back to our regular lives will be difficult because then really every day is more or less the same.

When we used to travel for just a few weeks we'd always meet a people on our way who took months to travel and think "Wow they are so hard-core!". The funny thing is that now that we're travelling for 8 months we keep meeting people who have been on the road for a year, two years, or longer. It's hard to even call this travelling since they spend months in a single country or even city and actually live there. We met one guy that has been "on-the-road" for over 20 years since his mid-twenties and generally spends at least a year in every country he goes to. He works everywhere he goes of course, usually helping out in hostels, and seems to have established a bit of a brand for himself in making hostels successful. The point here isn't that we'd like to take years to go away, but rather that what we're doing is not really all that extreme, and in fact the continuum of possibilities and ways to live your life is far wider than the impression we get when we follow the day-to-day back home.

I also think the key to a trip like this is to take things day-to-day and be extremely flexible in terms of your plans. Our trip has not gone at all to plan and we couldn't be happier about it! We added Guatemala and much more of Colombia than we expected (We LOVE Colombia!) but took out Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia. It's better to see less countries but do it comfortably and well than rush to meet some predetermined plan. This attitude has also helped our budget quite a bit and we are now well under the estimated cost for this point in our trip. We are spending under $500 per person per week and believe me when I say we're doing upscale backpacking. We've met plenty of people who are getting by quite comfortably for about half that amount. These costs include EVERYTHING, accommodation, food, transportation including all flights, trips, entrance fees, border fees etc. etc. etc. Compare this to the cost of the average all-inclusive and it's easy to see how the companies marketing those make so much money. I guess the point here is that really anyone can easily afford to do this if they really want to.

So now the time is approaching to leave Latin America and go across the world to Asia. It will be a completely different experience, very different cultures, no more spanish (No Mas Espanol for the first time in months!), and i'm sure some unbelievable adventures. We can't wait!

Posted by dariusz 07:36 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

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