Sunday, August 14, 2016

EXPLORING PERU


It’s easy for me to love and romanticize this country. From the traditions still kept through wardrobe and rituals, the textiles are both colorful and detailed, and majestic Machu Picchu! At home I have a few Peruvian friends. They grew up in Peru and moved to the United States as adults. Seeing the children here reminds me of my friends, in my mind, I’d say, “Oh, there is a little version of so-and-so.” It's heartwarming! While leaving Cusco to Lima, I listened to a podcast called Hidden Brain, and they had an episode about vacations. One of my takeaways is that awe-inspiring vacations are the best! Peru thanks for being so awe-some!

PERU IN THREE WORDS:

If I had to describe Peru in three words they would be: 
Sacred. Hidden. Treasure.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We landed in Lima, explored a bit and then headed straight to Machu Picchu. After we stayed a few days in Cusco and then headed back to Lima.

LIMA- I could never drive in Lima. I sat in our taxi many times gasping and pumping an imaginary break. I’m sure this annoyed our taxi drivers thankfully they know what they are doing and we’re totally safe. Our host Antonio grew up in Lima, lived in the United States, and returned back to Lima. Funny enough he lived in Sacramento. I laughed so hard listening to his stories about his life and hosting other guests. I enjoyed staying at his home located in a great neighborhood.

MACHU PICCHU- Wow! Stunning and I’ve never felt so small. The world is so beautiful we are so lucky to live on this planet; this appreciation drives my environmentalism. The train ride to and from this site was so beautiful too!

CUSCO- A tranquil town tucked into the mountains of red dust with a beautiful town square.   

WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT PERU?    

Here are a few things that surprised me about Peru. 

LIMA- Um, there is an entire park dedicated to cats, cat lovers rejoice! We had to pick up our train tickets at the mall, which was the best super coolest mall I’ve ever seen! You would never know this mall existed because it’s under a cliff next to the ocean. There are so many vegan/vegetarian options and people hanging out with their cellphones playing Pokemon Go!

MACHU PICCHU- The train ride was pretty awesome! The bus ride up to the site is scary as hell. You have to pay extra to go up to different mountains and bridges while at the ruins. And now I think I’m officially obsessed with Alpacas!

CUSCO- Plaza de Armas is really beautiful. I like the way restaurant logos have to blend in and can’t stand out; doing so makes the advertisements less jarring. In the town square you can take so many photos with different baby llamas.
 
WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT IN PERU? 

Breakfast in all locations had a variety of the following: pastries, bread with butter and jam, eggs, avocados, tomato, coffee and juice. I loved these simple and delicious breakfasts! Lunch or dinner you can find: empanadas, veggie burgers, lentils, rice, beans, pizza, Chinese food, Mexican food, raw vegan restaurants with Peruvian dishes. I had a Papa Rellena also known as a stuffed potato. 
 
TIPS- In this section I've laid out tips if you're interested in traveling here...

DO:
LIMA- When you visit the beach go to the Lacomar, a mall within the Cliffside. There is a really great place to get veggie burgers! After you’ve explored downtown, China Town, and Plaza de Armas, Kennedy Park, and Barranco, catch a movie, most are in English with Spanish subtitles. And don't forget to pack and take your altitude sickness pills, you'll thank me later. 

Transportation- Around the city we used a taxi, negotiating the price before getting in. If you’re flying to Cusco with Peruvian Air give yourself extra time. Peruvian Air does not allow online check in and doesn’t have a kiosk to print your boarding pass. It took us an hour to get our boarding pass, 45 minutes to get through security, coming and going our plane was late and we never landed on time.

MACHU PICCHU- Stock up on snacks while in Lima because the same snacks will cost more in Machu Picchu. Getting there, Peru Rail was really great, snacks included, sometimes not vegetarian friendly. The bus to get up to the site has long lines but they go pretty quickly. If you get carsick easily pack a barf bag.

Know what your ticket includes before you get to the site. When you purchase and print out your ticket it will show if you paid for the few mountains and bridges, you cannot pay at the site to explore these places.

Transportation- We flew into Cusco from Lima. Took a taxi to Ollyantombo. From here we caught a train to Machu Picchu (you can only get there by train.) While there we walked everywhere. We used a bus service to go up to the site and return back into the town where pretty much everything is located. We took the train back to Ollyantombo and a taxi to Cusco.

CUSCO- Wander around Plaza de Armas there are hidden alleys and it’s fun to get lost. There is a cool church filled with detailed gold shrines and it has stairs to go up and look out onto the square to take great photos.

Transportation- We used a taxi to get around town and to the airport back to Lima.

EAT:
LIMA- I’d recommend the “Fake Burger” at the Lacomar. There is a ton of western food and Chinese food options. If you’re vegetarians like me you can go into any small restaurant and ask for rice, lentils, and beans. 

MACHU PICCHU- Catering to tourist had a variety of whatever you’re feeling that day. I didn’t see as many Peruvian vegetarian options as I did in Lima.

CUSCO- Down a random alley there is a Shaman raw/vegan/vegetarian restaurant. I had the Papa Rellena also known as a stuffed potato filled with tofu, spinach, and green onion, covered in a cream like sauce. I also had quinoa with tomato and avocado. I drenched in olive oil, salt, and pepper it was so good! 

STAY:
LIMA- Stay in the Mira Flores neighborhood. It’s super central and has everything you could ever need.

MACHU PICCHU- All of the accommodations are in walking distance to the train station, which empties out into a shopping area. I really enjoyed the bed and breakfast we picked!  

CUSCO- Any of the neighborhoods surrounding the main square would be ideal if you don’t want to feel stuck in the center of it all.

While staying in Peru I learned more about different sites that I’d like to come back and visit one day until then, “Chao-Chao.”