We’ve come to the point in the report where there is sure to be some finger pointing and name calling. We’re prepared for it and, look us in the eye when we say this, it’s really okay. We (almost) deserve it.
...here goes nothing...
...we decided to skip Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world.
I know, I know. It seems ridiculous but hear us out.
Getting to Machu Picchu is a severe pain even when you have your own vehicle. There are essentially two choices: get fairly close with your own vehicle and walk or break the bank and take a train and bus. After finding that we legitimately could not buy train tickets for less than $250 a person (the cheaper seats were sold out) and getting rejected again and again by hotels and hostels in the area, we gave it up. We are just here at the wrong time - high season. Plus, seeing as my Mom is a major history buff, I have a feeling a trip to Peru is in our near future with my family.
Instead of heading North from Puno to Cusco, we moved NorthEast towards Colca Canyon. Because of the great height of the surrounding mountain peaks, Colca is legitimately TWICE as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA! It is 13,650 feet deep. Absolutely mind blowing.
The winding, quality pavement made it a really pleasurable ride. What made it even more pleasant was knowing that we left the crowds behind at Machu...
Ah, the joys of riding a motorcycle in the mountains of Peru in winter.
As we summited before dropping down into the canyon, the landscape became other-worldly and harsh. As we rode along in complete isolation, the nice pavement, looking as if it had been ripped to shreds by the elements, a certain excitement grew in my stomach and I realized that THIS was a big part of the reason that I love to travel: to see parts of the Earth that will never be tamed by man.
Finally we came to our first glimpse of the canyon. It took nearly an hour to wind our way down to the humble town of Chivay.
After paying a hefty fee to enter the park, we rode around Chivay for awhile before realizing that everything was severely overpriced. We instead rode to the tiny town of Achoma and found a spacious hostel for half the price of what we were seeing in Chivay. Plus, there was some serious action going on...
We walked into the square to find that a music video was being shot near the fountain. Bad lip syncing, frantic dance choreographer, mouthy director = good times. The town was exactly what we were looking for. Hardly any tourists, quiet streets, lots of locals milling about.
Just really, really lovely.
After a seriously freezing night (even though the hostel provided 3 floor heaters, it was frigid!) we headed off for a failed shot to see the endangered Andean condor. With that behind us, we decided to move on towards the colonial town of Arequipa.
It was on the way to Arequipa that my South American confidence got us into trouble. We were winding our way down a curvy mountain road, all the while passing a herd of big trucks, when the traffic stopped dead. A huge number of trucks lined the side of the road and I did what felt natural: I continued riding along. All of a sudden, a police car came round a bend from the opposite direction and began honking and flashing its lights. It stopped right in front of us with a skid and an officer jumped out and began screaming curses at us. He ran up to the sidecar and began pushing it backwards. Not wanting a fight, we jumped off too and pushed it to the side of the road. He gave me a bit more finger-wagging, jumped in his squad car and sped off. 15 minutes later, traffic began to move as usual and we went on our way. I’m still not sure what happened...
After a dusty, curvy ride in which Kristen literally got car-(bike)-sick, we arrived in Arequipa. After only going the wrong way on a one-way once, a serious accomplishment in this town, we found a decent hostel near a monastery and went out to explore.
Arequipa is a cool place. Surrounded by 4 volcanoes (one active) and with the entire town center declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we really enjoyed the feel. It is definitely a bit touristy and a bit crammed with traffic but it does have quite a few things to do.
Probably the biggest attraction in town is a highly preserved, 500 year old mummy affectionately known as Juanita the Ice Princess. This Incan girl was sacrificed on Ampato Mountain and was hidden until 1995 when nearby volcanic activity released her from her icy prison. She is kept in a museum in a glass case under freezing conditions to keep her preservation complete. Photographs are prohibited, although I tried to get some spy shots with my iPhone (too dark), so I’ll have to borrow a picture from the internet.
Disclaimer: not our photo!
The whole atmosphere of the viewing chamber is pretty creepy. Low lights, very quiet, dead body. It was here that we had a serious laugh. In our group was a couple of kids, maybe 10 or 12 years old. The boy was looking carefully into the case with his sister peering over his shoulder when a loud banging sound came from behind the curtain to their left. They literally ran away, screaming - we hope so badly that some of the staff play tricks every once in awhile...
All this talk of mummies is making me hungry. Food in Peru is CHEAP. Like really cheap. We paid $3 for the meal pictured to the left. In the bottom right of the frame is my love - caldo, a soup with a huge hunk of beef, potato, and veggies. Yum.
And spent dusk at Santa Catalina Convent which was stunning. I think Kristen may be contemplating becoming a nun if she can live there...
After having an altogether great experience in Arequipa, it was all topped off when this guy drove by:
As a child of the 90s, any fan of Transformers is a friend of mine.
Next up: the sand dunes of Huacachina.