Peru! Lake Titicaca and Lima

I couldn’t go to Peru without seeing Lake Titicaca and the famous floating reed islands. This is the highest navigable lake in the world and I spent way too long on boats on it. I get seasick so this expedition took a lot anti-nausea tablets!

Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca

When I booked the tour of the Lake, I was under the impression that we’d be on a new, comfortable, fast boat. That was far from being the case. The boat we were on was old, smelled of diesel, only 5 people were allowed on the roof deck at a time in case it collapsed. Definitely not up to code!

The floating reed islands
The floating reed islands

It’s amazing that these reed islands don’t float all over the lake! The locals have mastered not only layering up the reeds to hold large amounts of weight but also the art of anchoring them to the lakebed.

After exploring the islands and enjoying a ride on a reed boat, it was time to head to Isla Amataní for lunch and to meet up with our hosts for our Island home stay. Myself and my friend paired up with an English couple and were hosted in a quaint blue house by __ and her gorgeous 8 year old daughter.

 

Amantini Island
Isla Amantaní- views from our home stay.

When we arrived, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. After lunch, we started to walk to the top of the Island and a storm started rolling in. We got to the top, took some pictures, and made it back to the house just as the heavy hail began.

image
Top of Isla Amantaní

The next day, there was still hail on the ground but the sun was up and it was another beautiful day. We got back on the rickety boat and headed for Isla Taquile.

We had lunch on Isla Taquile at an outdoor restaurant with gorgeous views before heading back to Puno and the end of the tour.

Isla Taquile
Isla Taquile

After Lake Titicaca, it was time to head back to Cusco before flying to Lima and from there, home.

Lima
Lima- found Paddington Bear!

We had a full day in Lima and spent most of it walking along the cliff top paths and laying in the parks of Miraflores. We spent the better part of the afternoon watching the paragliders taking off and land, drinking fresh squeezed pineapple juice, and relaxing.

Lima
Lima- the Christmas decorations at the shopping centre were amazing.

Although this was a whirlwind tour, I loved every moment. There is so much still that I haven’t seen but that just means I get to plan a trip back!

 

Peru! The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The trek is four days (well really 3, the last day is hardly anything). Beginning at KM82 and ending at Machu Picchu, it’s challenging but well worth the blisters and painful knees. Even in the rain. Along the way, you hike over Dead Woman’s Pass (4200 metres above sea level), see inca ruins and walk on some original Inca paths. Day one is easy, it’s a leisurely stroll compared to what’s to come.

Inca Trail day one
Inca Trail day one

Day two is the hardest, the hike ascends nearly 500 metres up to Dead Woman’s pass and is tough. It left me gasping and with low blood oxygen levels (yep, altitude sickness is a bitch). The walk down to campsite is tough on the knees- I was grateful for my walking poles then.

creek crossing on the Inca trail
creek crossing on the Inca trail
Dead Woman's Pass. The highest point on the Inca Trail
Dead Woman’s Pass. The highest point on the Inca Trail

Day three was flat compared to Day two. It’s the day you walk through the cloud forest and 90% of the path is original Incan paths. It’s beautiful. The narrow stone paths, tunnels and Incan ruins along the way all tease at how close you are to the end.

Intipata on the Inca Trail
Runkurakay on the Inca Trail
Incan tunnels and paths
Incan tunnels and paths
Intipata
Intipata

Day four. You’re up at 330am so the porters can pack up the campsite and run down the mountain to catch the only morning train they’re allowed on home. It’s a short walk to gates of the National Park (which doesn’t open until 5am) and from there it’s not long until you reach the  Sun Gate where (weather permitting) you get your first look at Machu Picchu.

Machu PIcchu
Machu Picchu

The day I arrived it was rainy and foggy. We didn’t see anything until we walked into the ruins proper. I didn’t care. It was my birthday, I had hiked for days with a seriously painful hip, ruined my knees on the descents and made it to the top of the mountain. I set the challenge months ago and succeeded. It was worth the pain, the cold, the wet. I won’t be doing it again though.

Peru! Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Wow! My trip to Peru has come and gone and now I’m left with a living room full of dirty clothes and souvenirs!

My first challenge was getting to Cusco: from Melbourne that involves four flights. In Lima we had to clear customs, drop our bags and board the final flight to Cusco. The airline lost my bag. The result was that I missed the connecting flight and LAN put me up in a 5 star hotel in Lima until I could get another flight!

Having made it to Cusco, I had no idea how the altitude would effect me. Not well evidently. I live at sea level, Cusco is more than 1000 metres higher than the highest point in Australia. No amount of preparation at home could have prepared me of that. I felt dizzy and slightly sick but pushed through it. It’s all part of travelling to new places. Stairs, however, were not my friend.

La Catedral on Plaza de Armas, View down Choquechaka, Cristo Blanco overlooking Cusco

My first visit to an Incan site was at Sacsaywamán. It’s an Inca ruin of both religious and military significance. Although it seems huge, only about 20% of what once was stands today. The Spanish conquistadors tore down many walls to build their own buildings. (You can read more about the site here.)

Sacsaywamán

After a few days acclimatising in Cusco, It was time to join up with the tour to hike the Inca trail. I couldn’t do that without being my usual clumsy self and slipping in street (after having some Pisco Sours) and pinching a nerve in my hip. Ouch. Being stubborn, I refused to let that hold me back. I was going to be at Machu Picchu for my birthday and I was not getting there the easy way!

Before beginning the trek, we got to visit a small village where the local ladies were making yarns from Alpaca fleece in the traditional way and weaving. It was a lovely insight into the work of making many of the souvenirs I’ve bought for friends and family (gloves, jumpers, scarves and a blanket)

Weaver, alpaca, and hand dyed wool
Weaver, alpaca, and hand dyed wool

We also visited two Incan sites at Pisac and Ollantaytambo- a teaser of what was still to come.

 

Pisac
Pisac
Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo