Monday June 3rd (In transit to Lima)
We flew from Portland, Oregon to Lima, Peru on Lan Chilean Airline. The flight over was fairly uneventful aside from us being marked as a security risk of sorts. They stamped a red stamp on our tickets that said – security- which apparently means every airport we go to we get the full search: Empty your pockets, inspect your bags, check you out with the wand, and then a thorough pat down. It was a little annoying. It was rather different for customs in Lima. We landed and went up to the customs person. He asked if we both just had one bag, glanced at our passports and then sent us along.
Before we left we made some reservations at a hotel we found on the internet since out flight did not arrive in Lima until after midnight on the 4th. The hotel was supposed to pick us up at the airport, however when we got there there was no one holding the sign of our hotel among the numerous touts holding signs for hotels. So after some waiting around and bargaining with a taxi driver we took a taxi to the hotel. After waking up the caretaker we muddled through some confusion and figured out that we got our dates screwed up. We had reserved the hotel for June 4th, which was in actuality the date of when we got there. But in hotel terms we should have reserved the room for the 3rd. So we figured that out, but the hotel was full. So that didn’t help us too much. The hotel caretaker took us in his van to his other hotel, the Plaza Francia Inn, which he said was not as nice, but it was more in the center of town and cheaper, so that was fine by us. It ended up being $14 a night for two beds in a room of four bunks, but no one else ever ended up joining us.
Tuesday June 4th (Lima)
We rested up a bit from our flight and checked out some of the sights of Lima. We checked out the main cathedral in the Plaza de Armas and the church of San Fransisco. There was a very cool crypt in the basement of the church of San Fransisco. Seeing all those human bones laying around always amazes me because it is something that you never see in the U.S.A. Those were just a couple of the first of many Plaza de Armas and San Fransisco churches that we would be seeing in Peru. We also saw a demonstration of sorts. As a large group of people marched around there were riot police following them the entire way. They were in body armor and had a van with water cannons mounted on top parked around the corner.
We visited a torture device museum, but we were too late for a guided tour so we just got to wander around and see devices on our own. We figured that they devices were used by the Spaniards on Incans that didn’t want to accept Catholicism. Ouch!
We felt like we had our fill of Lima for that point and we would check out anything else we wanted to see when we got back in a couple weeks for our departure flight. We bought airline tickets for Cuzco for the next morning for $82 each.
Wednesday June 5th (Cuzco)
We took a short flight to Cuzco from Lima. Trying to figure out which gate we were supposed to leave from was kind of a headache as we were a couple hours early and apparently they were not used to people being that early and I don’t think they knew which gate they were leaving from yet. But a couple hours of waiting around solved that problem. On the flight we got our first introduction to the delicious Inca Cola. We took a cab into town and walked around for a while scouting out places to stay. We found this cool little hotel named Hotel Sueria II that had very friendly and helpful people working at the desk. It cost 30 sols (about $10) a night for a double room. I started feeling a little ill from altitude sickness, so I drank some mate and just took it easy all day. I was fine after a good night of sleep. At night we checked out some of the local taverns. We went to two different “Irish Pubs,” though we didn’t see anyone who looked Irish there besides the gringos drinking. We did get to see the first game of the New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Lakers NBA Finals game, even though our team (the Nets) ended up loosing the series.
Thursday June 6th (Corpus Christi day in Cuzco)
We slept in until 12:30pm, which felt nice on the soft comfortable beds of the hotel. We checked out the Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas and the church of San Fransisco. The religious holiday of Corpus Christi was held today. Giant floats were carried around the main plaza by large groups of men and boys. On these floats were various religious figures that were lavishly decorated. In the middle of the night we heard lots of banging on the door to the hotel across the street from ours. There were two gringos who were drunk and missed the closing time of their hotel. So they were out there for what seemed like a long time banging on the door and I think eventually they came to our hotel and slept there.
Friday June 7th (Cuzco to Machu Pichu)
We had to get up around 5am to make it to the train station in time for the morning train ride to Aguas Calientes, which is the small village at the foot of the mountain where Machu Pichu is. We were going to walk to the train station but the super cool old guy at the desk of the hotel was highly concerned about us walking so early in the morning and insisted that we take a taxi. So he went out into the street and flagged one down for us.
The train ride to Aguas Calientes from Cuzco was $35 and took about four hours. I guess in the years before we went they had second class trains that one could take but now they make gringos take the tourist train.
Aguas Calientes was a pretty small place. Pretty much just a transit point between Cuzco and Machu Pichu. There were plenty of hotels, restaurants and stores/market places. The prices here seemed slightly higher then in Cuzco, probably because it was smaller and had such a large number of gringos constantly there. We ended up staying at Gringo Bill’s hotel. It cost $30 for a room with a bathroom. The place was pretty nice with a big lounge room and a bar and restaurant and everything. Overall though the whole town was not very busy when we were there so the hotel was pretty dead and closed up.
We ate lunch and then took the bus up the hill to Machu Pichu. It cost $9 to take the bus up the hill. The alternative is to walk, which we saw a few people doing. But there is plenty of walking to be had once you actually get to Machu Pichu so we decided to just stick with the bus.
To get into Machu Pichu the tickets cost $20 a person. I got half off with my student ID card, but Thomas had to pay the full amount. We walked around for about three hours and saw all of the ruins. There were lots of people on guided tours and such. But we just referenced the map and information in our guidebook and gave ourselves a self guided tour. Also, when we were sitting down and resting near spots where tour groups would stop we listened in to what the tour guides would say to get another perspective on things. Then we caught the bus back down the hill. At the top of the hill a little boy wearing traditional Inca clothing started running down the hill at the same time the bus left and ended up beating the bus down the hill at which point he hoped on board and collected tips from the tourists. I had heard about this beforehand and so when we were waiting around before the bus left from the top of the hill I saw a group of boys hanging out and I starting talking to them and asking them if they were the ones who ran down the hill. They said they were and they told me that they got to do it once or twice a day, depending on how many boys showed up and how many busses ran up and down the hill.
Once we got back to the hotel Thomas took a thirty minute shower. I am pretty sure that this depleted the entire hot water supply of the village as I never felt hot water during the duration of our stay there.
Saturday June 8th (Machu Pichu to Cuzco)
My journal entry for today:
Busted up Machu Pichu.
Busted up Aguas Calientes on a super shopping spree.
The train ride to Cuzco busted us up.
Watched Lewis bust up Tyson at the Irish Pub.
Now I’m busting up my bed.
We rose really early and caught the bus up to the top of the mountain to catch the sunrise. When we paid for our tickets to get into Machu Pichu Thomas paid the guy and was supposed to get 8 sols back (about $3) and the guy told Thomas he didn’t have change or something. He was telling Thomas something and just kept waving him on without given him his change. I was already through the line but Thomas came and told me so I went back and talked to the guy in Spanish and the 8 sols appeared pretty quickly.
Up at Machu Pichu it was really foggy, which is usual. So we did not see the actual sun rise up. But it was still an awesome sight. All of the fog gradually burned off and kind of opened up the valley so you could see it all. I highly recommend making it up there for the sunrise. We hung around the ruins for the afternoon then went back down the hill on the bus and caught the afternoon train back to Cuzco. We caught some more sporting events and then got a good nights sleep in.
Sunday June 9th (Cuzco & Sacred Valley)
We took a tour of the Sacred Valley, which is the area around Cuzco. We saw several ruins and the beautiful valley surrounding Cuzco. I did some super bargaining for the tickets for the tour and got the price of the tickets down to 25 sols which was about half as much as they started. We opted not to get the lunch which cost 20 sols as we figured we could find something on our own. However when the tour bus stopped for lunch it was in a town but in a somewhat remote spot and it was way easier to just eat at the place where everyone was stopping. But by paying then we had to pay 28.50 sols. It was pretty good food. An all you can eat buffet. Not really though, they only gave us one plate and that was it, so we had to load up to get our fill. But it hit the spot.
The tour was very interesting. It was kind of the typical tourist deal, with convenient stops at markets just ready to sell the gringos some great souvenirs. But what can ya do?
The tour went from 9am to 6pm so when we got back we went and ate at a small restaurant just off of the main plaza and then we went and watched the NBA finals.
Monday June 10th (Cuzco)
We took an organized tour of the city of Cuzco today. We had already seen quite a bit of the city, and many of the other people on the tour had just arrived in Cuzco. But it was kind of fun and we did get to see some things that we had missed out on. Our tour guide was named Antonio and a much better guide then we had the day before. Right before we left on the tour, we had Alpaca-kabobs for lunch. Normally I would feel bad eating such a cute furry animal, but I thought I should try out the local cuisine, and the guinea pigs were just way to unappetizing. We went to the same restaurant we had the night before for dinner and they gave us the remote to the TV so Thomas chose Platoon which was on.