Peru Won My Heart

I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Peru, yet here we are. February was one of the worst months to visit certain areas of the country due to rainy season, but I booked the flights prior to knowing. When I discovered this, I got concerned. My research originally told me that it would be the perfect time to visit Lima, the only Peruvian city I planned to visit at the time. I later added some extra time to my visit, and was able to get to Cusco and Aguascalientes. Would you believe that I only experienced five minutes of rain my entire trip? The travel gods were on my side! Here were some of my highlights.

Food

I didn’t have a bad meal in Peru. My notable favorites were Arroz con Mariscos and Ceviche at Cafe Morena in Cusco, and churros at LA73 in Lima. I had coca tea with every meal in Cusco because I was concerned with altitude sickness, but I transitioned to pisco sours with every meal once I reached the lower altitude in Lima! I enjoyed chifa (Chinese cuisine with a Peruvian twist), but I didn’t have the nerve to try cuy (guinea pig).

Art

In Lima, I booked a street art tour of the Barranco neighborhood with Tailored Tours Peru. Brenda was a bright and fabulous guide who knew the history of the street art and the artists that completed the work. We wandered around Barranco, a hip neighborhood with bohemian vibes that some refer to as Lima’s Brooklyn. I loved the energy of the neighborhood and the art surrounding it. It was where I chose to stay in during my visit, and despite feeling safe while there, Barranco is still in progress. We witnessed a fight on one of the streets involving about three men and a woman, and a woman walked out of her home to make sure we knew to be careful with showing off our camera.

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Culture

I had the opportunity to learn about textile-making from some of the women in the Sacred Valley.

Step 1: Get hair from an alpaca that died of natural causes
Step 2: Wash the alpaca hair with a natural soap and a rock
Step 3: String it into the spindle to make it like yarn
Step 4: Die the hair with a natural die
Step 5: Use it to make blanket, poncho, or whatever else you desire

Dying Alpaca Hair

Everyone that sells textiles in Peru will tell you that it’s made from 100% alpaca. More often than not, it is made from a combination of alpaca and acrylic. It’s difficult to determine what’s 100% alpaca, even if it’s labeled that way. I purchased a blanket from these women, and it is supposed to be a blend of alpaca and baby alpaca. This could be a lie for all I know, but I’d like to think that buying from them was better than from one of vendors at the street markets.

Machu Picchu

Planes, trains, and automobiles! Of course I made the trek to Machu Picchu. There was no way that I could visit Peru for the first time without visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Getting there was an ordeal but worth the extra effort. I had to take a taxi, bus, PeruRail train, and another bus from Cusco to the entrance of Machu Picchu for my day trip.

It was just me – no tours and no guides. There was a new rule effective July 1, 2017 that required an official guide for entrance, but they were not enforcing it because I went right inside after handing over my ticket. There were guides soliciting their services at the bus stop to Machu Picchu and right at the entrance if one felt the need to hire one. Once inside, the best views of Machu Picchu were a short ten minute walk to the Watchman’s Hut.

If you ever go, don’t forget to bring your passport so that you can get a Machu Picchu stamp!

Machu Picchu Peru

Sacred Valley

When I first heard of the Sacred Valley, I guessed it was some place that I could receive a spiritual cleanse. In actuality, the Sacred Valley is sacred because it offers Peru’s most precious textiles and crops. The trip was organized by my Airbnb host, and included visits to Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero. It also included a lunch buffet in Urubamba at a restaurant named El Maizal, and it was very tasty.

The Sacred Valley was the highlight of my trip. Every viewpoint was breathtaking. I had such a good time with my guide, Mario, who continuously made jokes about our group being travelers and everyone else being tourists.

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Peru

History

I made it a point to learn about the African influence in Peru. This took me to the small National Afro-Peruvian Museum in Lima. The museum is free, but I had to provide my passport information. All of the exhibitions are in Spanish, so those non-fluent should use Google Translate.

The act of trading slaves in Peru was abolished in 1821, while slavery itself was abolished in 1854. I’ve been spending more time learning about slavery outside of the U.S., and I find it interesting that damn-near every country abolished slavery years before U.S.

Afro-Peruvian Museum in LimaAfro-Peruvian Museum in Lima

I had no idea how rich Peru could be, and it is a country that I will be returning to soon. There was so much that I didn’t get a chance to see, and so much that I want to see again. How fun would it be to gallivant from city to city for the whole summer! Next time, I think I’ll try to fit in Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca, the desert oasis of Paracas, secret slave tunnels in Chincha, and sand boarding in Huacachina.

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