After Lima, we had a whirlwind two weeks. If I’m being honest, those 14 days were a blend of a lot of things and there was a lot we’d avoid if we were to do it again.
At this point, our group became larger, approaching 15 people all traveling together. The bonus here was that these are some of the best people both of us have met. A primary goal of the year was to meet new people and make friends from all over, something we’ve been doing in hostels the whole time. But this group in particular was something special. Each of the individuals we traveled with was unique and hilarious, and each made their own different impact on us and our trip.
On the other hand, traveling with 15 people presents complications. It’s near impossible to satisfy everyone all at once, and finding alone time can be tricky, even if you’re good at demanding it like I am. We wouldn’t change our time with this group in any way, but it would be dishonest of me to paint only a rosy picture here.
That said, this large group made its way down the coast of Southern Peru as follows:
1. Paracas, known lovingly as “Poor Man’s Galapagos.” Emphasis on the “poor,” de-emphasis on the “Galapagos.” Like yes technically we saw wildlife if three penguins 167 feet away and 2 sea lions counts as wildlife but it’s certainly nothing Darwin would write home about. Huacachina is located in the Atacama Desert, though, which is absolutely stunning. IG, though, see below for other “must dos” in the desert, so TBH I’d say skip Paracas.
2. Huacachina. Is. Stunning. If I told you to close your eyes and picture a textbook illustration of an oasis (which I would never do because I’m not an incense-burning yoga teacher utilizing visualization techniques) you would picture Huacachina. Amidst sand dunes as far as the eye can see is a literal circle of green trees and blue(ish) water. The town is tiny but it doesn’t even matter because it’s so fucking cool to look at. The original plan was to spend only 2 days here but that quickly turned into 5. During that time we spent:
· 2 days lounging at a pool and drinking Pisco sours (the official drink of Peru).
· 1 evening going sandboarding and sand-buggying. The system works as follows: Tourists voluntarily pay money to an individual with suicidal tendencies. This man drives you and your fellow tourists at 346 mph over the sand dunes in what is supposed to be a “joyride” but is more analogous to a kamikaze mission flown by Japanese fighter pilots. At four points throughout your tour of hell the driver stops at the top of a sand dune and hands you a sandboard (again, for which you paid). You are then expected to careen down the sand dune at a speed rivaling that of the drive in which you partook. (Actually TBH it was pretty fun but also terrifying). Then you watch a peaceful sunset, pray to whichever god you choose to say thanks for keeping me alive, and then head back.
· 1 day at a beautiful winery, eating and drinking with our friends. Fun aside: Our hostel advertised the winery tour as 50 soles/person, but the winery told us once we got there that the winery was actually free, meaning we’d just been duped into paying 50 soles to our hostel for the “wine tour” when we each could have paid 15 soles to catch a cab to the free wine tour. Except as fate would have it, we hadn’t paid yet, giving us leverage with which to tell our hostel owner to fuck off. In the end, we didn’t pay, and the hostel the next day changed the sign advertising the tour to say “must pay in advance.” Fuckers.
3. Arequipa – beautiful colonial city in Southern Peru with not much to do but makes for a very relaxing few days. We got lost strolling the cobblestone streets and looking at the wonderful architecture. There is a museum there called the Museum of the Mummified Child, telling the story of an archaeologist studying Inca culture, who discovered atop a volcano two Inca children that had been sacrificed and perfectly preserved by the ash raining down on them. Seeing a mummified corpse is eerie, but the museum was a win.
4. Colca. Fucking. Canyon. All right y’all, I just need to shove back from my desk and take my glasses off for a second. This shit is the second biggest canyon in the world, and it’s undoubtedly beautiful. How*fucking*ever. The tour we did was a 2 day trek down into and then back out of the canyon. Nick and I both were incredibly disappointed in the tour for several reasons and I’m going to need you to listen to them for just a second:
· “Free breakfast” on day 1 means bread and coffee. Do NOT get me started.
· The “hostel” at the bottom of the canyon provides a wooden plank on which to sleep on and a threadbare sheet. AND THAT’S IT. I don’t know what kind of twisted Phantom Tollbooth reality these people are living in but that’s not a bed.
· The big-ass sign advertising “happy hour, 2 for 1 pisco sours” is misleading because, as the rude bartender will quickly inform you, this place offers neither happy hour, nor pisco sours, nor any drinks at a 2 for 1 rate. Oh also, they charge you to use the outlets. Piss off.
· The trek back up to the top of the canyon begins at 4 am the second day, and includes 3 straight hours of rocky, uphill climbing (as you are literally climbing your way out of the world’s second biggest canyon). Know what it doesn’t include? BREAKFAST! Oh, I’m sorry gringos, did you want some sustenance before you engage in several hours of rigorous cardio first thing in the goddamn morning? LOL JOKE IS ON YOU BECAUSE THAT’S A NO CAN DO.
When all was said and done, Nick and I were grateful to have seen the canyon, but if we’re giving advice we’d say get yourself to a lookout where you can snap pictures from the top of the canyon. No need to climb down.
5. And our last stop in Peru was our favorite: Cusco. My baby. My precious city. Cusco the beautiful. So Cusco is another colonial city built literally on the post-genocidal ruins of the Incas. The city was the Inca capital so the Spanish treated it with the utmost respect. Not only does Cusco offer more breathtaking architecture, but there are a plethora of fabulous restaurants (Jack’s café, anyone? Vegan food at Greenpoint?!) and coffee shops to enjoy. Cusco is the jumping off point for 2 of Peru’s most famous attractions as well:
· Machu Picchu. Heard of it? Yall, this was once again a failure of Peruvian tourism because everything we paid for was a straight up lie but it didn’t even matter. MP absolutely lives up to and exceeds the hype. Everyone’s pictures are taken from the lookout point at the top of the compound because that’s where you can capture a view of the whole area, but the tours let you get right up in there. First, you’ll work on your buns of steel because if you don’t take the bus with all the rich, white people you climb 43,000 steps to get there (I was truly living for the exercise!). Then, you’ll get the full tour of the place including its history (my wet dream, Nick’s cold shower), how it was built, where to take the best instas (you know, the important stuff) and they end the tour with free time to wander around. Only piece of advice is to watch out for bugs because the place is riddled with sand fleas. If you’re not familiar, sand flea is Spanish for “literal Nazi-inspired death trap” and refers to bugs that have no problem attacking your legs in a 1-2 maneuver: first they make your legs bleed when they bite you, then they leave your legs to break out in the allergic reactions to end all allergic reactions as you writhe around in excruciating pain for 5-6 days. If I hear a single one of you say “stop complaining, you’re traveling for a year! You’re living your best life!” I swear to god I will hear you through the computer and mail you a box of live sand fleas. I’m serious. Try me, Brenda. But anyway Machu Picchu is totally great you should totally go.
· Rainbow mountain. The Incas were rampant homosexuals so they named their favorite mountain rainbow mountain. Is what I wish were true but it’s really just a dope looking mountain that's stripey AF because #geology and you can climb it and take pictures there. Absolutely go. If you don’t plummet to your death on the narrow mountain road your wide bus is expected to navigate (adventure!) then you won’t be sorry. Also next to rainbow mountain is the red valley, so named because it’s a red fucking valley and you feel like you’re on Mars. Also, there’s a Peruvian civilian who sits at the entrance to Mars and tries to charge you money to go here but he’s an actual liar. Don’t pay him. He’s just a guy with a diploma from Trump University who thought of a genius business plan in which he makes a living by tricking all the gringos into giving him money he’s not authorized to collect. But anyway the Red Valley is totally great you should totally go.
I do have give a special shoutout to Thanksgiving 2017. Nick and I were both pretty bummed to be missing Thanksgiving and being with the members of the family we don’t feel like murdering with an ice pick (kidding, love you all). In the end, we accumulated 16 people including us (only 1 other American), rented a beautiful AirBnb, and feasted for 48 hours. 3 Americans taught the 13 foreigners what it means to be grateful for something (kidding, but we did show them how dope American Thanksgiving is!), and we all felt truly #blessed to be able to celebrate with such good food and such good people. To those of you reading this, thanks for making Thanksgiving 2017 one for the books. To those of you not reading this, fuck you you told me we were friends and you promised to read my blog.
All right mon petite cheries and that’s that! To conclude, Peru has SO FUCKING MUCH to offer and should be on everyone’s list! I’d definitely say, in all seriousness, be on the lookout as a tourist just because many people will try to rip you off, and be assertive, but Peru is an amazing country with an abundance of activities and experiences to offer. A+, Peru. Except the sand fleas. Please work on that.