5 - 26 September 1997
Friday the fourth of September it was finally the day to depart. I went on a organized trip with Explore. This is a travelagency from England that organizes trips around the world and sells them in Europe and America. Besides a interesting program I thought also a way to meet some people form other countries.
It started great. I was going to fly from Amsterdam to Paris, Bogota next and then to Lima with Avianca (Colombian). I was in Paris at 10:30 AM. At 12:30 PM I was having lunch with my sister who lives in Paris. The plane arrived at 6, unloading, cleaning, refueling and at 7:30 PM we could go aboard. First they couldn't close the front door and then that they reminded to bring the luggage also, so they opened the luggage compartment. After loading the luggage they couldn't close that either. At 21:30 we had to go out of the plane. After one hour they managed to close it and at 23:00 we could finally leave. Much more to complain wasn't there because it was a relatively new plane, service was ok and it wasn't busy.
In Bogota we could go to the Sheraton on behalf of Avianca. We arrived at 3:00 am local time (8:00 am GMT). At 4:30 after some thorough customs inspection we arrived in the hotel and we could sleep for 2.5 hours because my flight to Lima was leaving at 9:30. Saw the last piece of the memorial of lady Di on 1 of the 5 channels that were broadcasting it over there. Next flight went without any problems and at about 14:00 PM local time I arrived in Lima. So after about 36 hours I was finally there.
Map of Peru (thanks to Lonely Planet)
In the evening I met the rest of the group during dinner. They were already there for a day, made a citytour and went to the gold museum. They told me it was nice but nothing spectacular so I didn't miss much. The group consisted of 6 Irish, 8 English, 2 Americans and 2 Dutch (including myself). The tourleader was a beautiful girl from England. Besides that she knows a lot about Peru and did a nice job. During dinner I started with 2 typical Peruvian dishes, Pisco Sour and Cevische. Cevische is a meal that consists of little pieces of raw white fish together with some onions and citron. I didn't like it all but that's personal. The Pisco is a kind of brandy served with eggcream and is a must.
Day 2: departure from Lima with a bus. First we went to the ruins of Pachacamac. These are about 30k south of Lima along the Pan American highway. They're from a period starting about 500 AD until 1500. It's located on the coast and has some nice views on the ocean and the final shantytowns of Lima. After that we drove further to end that day in Paracas. Around Paracas there is a national parc with some islands included. The next day we stood up about 6 and took a boat to the Ballesteras islands about 40 min. from the coast. Here you see a lot of birds, sea lions and some penguins. The droppings of the birds are collected once a year to be used in fertilizer.
When we went back we took the bus and stopped again in Ica. There we visited the regional museum and saw mummies, skulls and textiles. The climate is so dry everything is conserved very well during centuries almost without rotting. Next just south of Ica we stopped at a vineyard, El Catador were they make wine and Pisco. After lunch there we went further and stopped at an oasis called Huacachina. In Peru you find three mayor geographical parts, dessert, mountains and the rainforest. The dessert is along the coast from the north until Chile in the south.
This day we ended in Nazca.. Nazca is known because of the Nazca lines. These are figures in the dessert made by removing the dark stones from the soil. The remaining light stones form the figures. About the meaning and origin of the figures the experts have different opinions. Maria Reiche, a German scientist who studied the lines for years says it's an astronomical calendar, others say it's to honor the gods and the last thing I heard was a message for people out of space. The lines are probably made between 900 BC and 600 AD. The next day we took a 15 year old Cessna for a closer look from above. I was glad I didn't take any breakfast before, because the pilot made a lot of steep turns around the figures. "Nice" detail was that two weeks before some Germans were killed in a plane crash just above the lines. They went in some unregistered planes and just besides the "monkey" it went wrong. Wrong way of saving money maybe.
Monkey Nazca lines Astronaut
Back on the Pan American we noticed different police roadblocks. In Peru they're very concerned about safety. Terrorist activity is reasonably controlled but they don't want to take any risks. The president, Fujimori is in fact a dictator but many people are happy with him because he stabilized the country by immobilizing terrorism. Because of that the economy is rising and people profit from that. It improves their live and they remember old democracy times didn't bring them much good. Peru is still a very poor country so the roadblocks are sometimes a way of earning some more money. I didn't notice them harassing tourists with these kind of things. Most people I saw were busy trying to make some money one way or the other. I found it remarkably that there were few beggars.
30Km South of Ica we visited the cemetery Chauchilla. Here we saw a lot of mummies in tombs and you saw bones scattered around everywhere. A lot of gravedigging had found place there, but so now and then they find a new tomb. Here the remains were in a nice condition also thanks to the dry climate. The night we spent in Puerto Inca an old Inca-harbor in the middle of nowhere where somebody placed a hotel.
Day 6 drive 250Km to Arequipa at 2300 mtrs. Next day in Arequipa we went to the Santa Catalina convent and after that we went to see the mummy Juanita at the university museum. Juanita was found a couple of years ago when a volcano erupted near Colca canyon and a big part of the icecap melted. She was offered somewhere in the 15th century and thanks to the ice she is one the most intact mummies ever found. Arequipa is surrounded by 3 volcanoes and the view of these is beautiful but strange also because if they're going to erupt the whole town is in danger. We went to the market also. It was a nice market not very big but you must take care in that neighborhood.
Day 8: plane to Juliaca. Here we arrived on about 3700 Mt, 12140 ft for the ones that don't know metrics and we met the second part of Peru, the high plans (altiplano in Spanish) and the mountains. First stop at the cemetery Sillustani Chulpa Tower. The cemetery is besides a "small" lake (lake Umayo) just a little bit higher (about 30 mtrs) than lake Tititcaca but that one is much bigger so this one is really the most highest lake. Chulpa cones from "chulpass" and that means cemetery towers. Here we encountered photo-tourism for the first time. Children and their mothers dress up for tourists who can take pictures from them in exchange for money.
Girl at Sillustani earning some money
After that we went to Puno at 3800 Mt. Puno is situated on lake Titicaca. This lake is on 3800 Mt the highest navigable lake in the world. Especially the first two days we noticed how exhausting it is to be on these heights. Every step makes you grasp for breath. A popular dish here is trout from the lake. Puno is the city to buy your jumpers made from wool. Especially the ones made of Alpaca-wool are great. Alpaca's are a kind of lama's and the quality of the wool is great. These jumpers can be bought for outrageous low prices, say about 13 to 15 US $.
Day 9: a boattrip of 3.5 hours on lake Titicaca to the island of Taquile. After 20 minutes we made a stop at the Uros islands. These islands are made from a layer of reed about 1 Mtr thick so these islands are known by the name floating islands also. On these islands the people live of some fishing but mainly of tourism. Taquile island is an island where people live according old costumes. Some say it must be like the way the Inca's lived. You see only some signs of modern times like solarpanels and cokes to drink. The people live from agriculture and making the famous clothes that they sell mainly to tourists. Man, woman and children are knitting everywhere. We spent the night with a local family on the island. Next day we went back to Puno and had the rest of the day of for buying more sweaters and stuff like that. Unfortunately I brought to many clothes with me so I had to little space left for buying more than 1 jumper.
Two children from Taquile from which the girl sold me a bracelet
Day 11: train from Puno to Cuzco. This is a distance of about 250Km with about 40 stations in between. It started nice because at the first station in Juliaca they decided to repair the train. They fixed the brake on our carriage and the connection between ours and the first carriage. This took about 2 hours so the whole journey took about 14 hours. The train was a diesel one so this didn't go very fast with a highest point on pass "La Raya" on 4300 mtr. Big advantage of such a train is you can sit outside a bit and enjoy the fantastic views on the mountains.
Peru is known mostly because of the enormous Inca-culture. Cuzco was the capital of the Inca-empire. The Inca's flourished between 1400 AD until 1532. In this year the empire was conquered by the Spanish under the leadership of Francisco Pizarro. In about 100 years the Inca's built an empire from Cuzco until Quito in the North, the west border of Columbia, north-west of Brazil until a part of Chile in the south. An important feature of this empire was the tight administrative way of ruling this empire and that the Inca's build a vast network of roads like nowhere was seen before on the world. This combined with the high civilization made the Inca's a unique people.
In and around Cuzco we did a city tour the next day. In Cuzco you'll find a lot of Inca ruins, like Sacsayhuaman. Pronounced also as "sexy woman". Besides the Inca ruins there are a lot of Spanish churches. Unfortunately destroyed the Spanish almost everything of the Inca's in there infinite wisdom. But I must say the churches they have build are beautiful. In Cuzco there're still a lot of buildings with Inca foundations. You can recognize these by the big stones that fit perfectly and don't have any mortar between them. Also these walls are built from the outside going a bit inside because this improves the structure against the danger of collapsing with earthquakes. The next day we had a choice in going rafting following a visit to Pisac, a holy Inca-place or a free day for seeing more of Cuzco. I choose for the last one and went to the archeological museum and the market. The market of Cuzco is a must. It's big and you can find everything there.
Cathedral of Cusco Inca-foundations in the city
Everywhere in the city you see rests of the Inca's. Most churches are in bad shape and because there's little or no money for restoration it will stay like this for the next few years. Cuzco is a cozy town because of the buildings, the market and a lot of restaurants and bars. You'll find a lot of them around the central square "Plaza de Armas".
The following days of this journey were dedicated for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the holy Inca city that was never found by the Spanish.
Click on this photo of Machu Picchu to see the rest of this journey
Last changed: 20-10-98
1998: Jeroen promo
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