Peru – One of the Best Trips EVER
Our trip to Peru was an exceptional two-week learning adventure! I keep telling everyone it was like summer camp for adults.
We spent the first two days in Lima, staying in the Miraflores neighborhood overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With the seasons reversed in the southern hemisphere, it was the very end of winter there, which makes Lima a bit foggy and misty; however, we were lucky and got some sunshine. We explored the Miraflores and Barranco neighborhoods, as well as the historic city center where we toured the San Francisco Monastery, Lima Cathedral, the Santo Domingo Convent and more.
LIMA Interesting/Funny things:
. . . the taxis in Lima can be problematic. About half of them are unlicensed and you have to be a little careful what kind of cab you get into. So, we mostly used Uber to get around—which was very easy. One of the times we needed an Uber, we had to walk out of a big pedestrian shopping area to a cross street. While we waited, a man came up to us . . . all friendly and such, striking up a conversation, asking how we liked Lima so far blah blah blah. Then the scam started. (We KNEW it was coming.) He explains how they used to have different currency, and he pulls one of the old bills out. “Here – I’ll give this to you as a souvenir.” Then he asks if he can’t trade us for a bit of American currency. Ha ha ha ha . . . yeah, sure, we’re going to pull our wallets out. Good way to lose your wallet.
My Spanish was rusty . . . but you quickly adapt, especially for important things. LOL For instance, when I realized that I’d left one of my cosmetics at home, I had to try to figure out how to explain what I needed in Spanish . . . La cosa para la piel cerca de mis ojos caundo no tengo bastante duerme . . . the thing for the skin near my eyes when I don’t have enough sleep. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked, and I got what I needed. (And – my daughter Keeley who lived in Peru during college – helped me out with some slang ways to say “cool” – bacan or ¡Que chévere! – I used them when appropriate and received the appropriate shocked looks that I knew these two bits of Peruvian slang, and RJ would reply (dryly), well you’re getting your use out of those phrases.
Upper Amazon River Expedition
Then we met up with our National Geographic / Lindblad group to fly to Iquitos to begin our Upper Amazon River cruise . . . the next 8 days were just spectacular. I can’t say enough good things about the Delfin II river boat, their crew, or the Nat Geo/Lindblad staff. There were just 14 cabins and on our cruise, only 25 passengers. There are three decks, but my favorite place was the open-air lounge on the top deck, where the bartender would happily mix up a delicious Pisco sour! Yum!
We started in Nauta on the Amazon heading to the Pacaya-Samaria Preserve first on the Rio Ucayali, which led to the Rio Zapote and onto the Rio Pacaya. Later we went back to Nauta and took the Rio Maranon (which is the upper boundary of this rainforest preserve). Most days we had a pre-breakfast skiff ride out to spot as many birds (we saw more than 80 different bird species overall) and other animals we could find at the early hour. Then back for breakfast and some interesting morning programming, which included photography instruction (both camera & iPhone), the medicinal plants in the rainforest, info about indigenous communities, tropical fruits – so many delicious ones that we simply do not get in the US, and specific sessions on many of the animals we were seeing. So you were always learning something new. Then lunch and an afternoon skiff ride for more animal spotting or a jungle hike. Back for dinner, and then a preview of the next day’s adventures along with perhaps more educational programming.
- Finally seeing the famous pink river dolphins in person!
- Swimming in the Amazon River!
- Exploring the rainforest canopy where you walk on suspended swinging bridges to get from platform to platform. Very cool. (Bacan!)
- Visiting a semi-remote riverside village.
- Going out for a night skiff ride to spot nocturnal animals – bats and caimans mostly. (They hand out safety glasses to wear so you don’t have bugs pelting your eyes. The naturalist on each skiff has a spotlight and the air is just thick with insects—looks like snow or rain.)
- Getting to see the giant Victoria water lilies.
- Walking through the jungle and seeing a baby sloth, an anaconda, and a tarantula – eeep!
- Seeing so many different kinds of monkeys.
- Having sandbar cocktail hour and finishing with a little Amazon River mud facial.
- Making 23 new friends . . . This was such an ideal group size with interesting travelers from so many different occupations and backgrounds. It was a delight to get to know them all.
Cusco - Sacred Valley - Machu Picchu
After the cruise was over, we flew back to Lima and onto Cusco the next day. . . phew, you really feel that altitude at 11,000 feet above sea level. I was grateful our travel medicine doc prescribed altitude sickness pills. Cusco is a beautiful city, and our hotel was the fabulous Palacio del Inka in a 500-year-old mansion. We had a day there, before heading to see some of the Incan ruins of the Sacred Valley, our favorite site was Ollantaytambo. From there we caught the train to the town of Aguas Calientes, to be in position to see Machu Picchu the next morning. There are no roads in, so train or hiking is the only way to get there. Our hotel here was delightful as well. The Sumaq is right on the Urubamba River, which rushes by just outside your window. Gorgeous.
Machu Picchu was absolutely stunning . . . you’ve all seen the pictures (and here are a few more) but being there in person is truly a breathtaking moment (and not because of the altitude.) The history of this pace is so interesting . . . no one knows exactly why it was abandoned by the Incan civilization, but the ruins are spectacularly well-preserved.
We definitely crossed off some bucket list items on this trip, but there’s still so much to explore in Peru that we didn’t see. Now, it’s time for me to grab some more books because while we learned a ton on this trip, it’s certainly piqued my interest to learn more about so many topics!