I visited Peru (again), to catch up with my brother visiting Peru for the first time – and to call in at some of the places I didn’t have the chance to see on my first visit to Peru. Once again, Peru didn’t fail to impress… what a remarkably beautiful and diverse country!
– Rainbow Mountain and surreal beauty – only very recently was this opened up as a ‘day trip’ option from Cuzco however now it is one of the most popular short trips available from Cuzco. Now you can see poster pictures of Rainbow mountain on almost every single tourist agency in the City. Not surprising given how surreal it appears. Although a day trip – it is a long day, after being picked up at 2:30am from Cuzco, breakfast at 7am, then 3 hours hiking at altitude – the main viewpoint is at 5000m. The views were simply stunning – dozens of layers of different colored rock and sediment layered in a mountain that has been pushed 90 degrees onto its side. The sideways snowstorm we faced as we started the final ascent turned out to be a blessing in disguise – most people at the top turned and left, we when we arrived at the top – the weather mostly cleared and we almost had the view entirely to ourselves.
– El Misti and a lesson learned – a massive 5800m volcano overlooking Arequipa. We attempted it without a guide or 4×4 transport – a decision we regretted badly. On the first day we started from 2900m and didn’t reach the trailhead at 3400m until around 1:30pm: in effect we lost half a day energy and time which proved to be costly. The size of this mountain is deceptive when you begin the ascent – rocks that appear to be only 30 mins hiking away, are actually several hours away. Camping on the side of the volcan provided spectacular views of Arequipa at night, and at sunrise. The second day made it just over 5200m before realizing we were running short of time to be able to complete the full ascent. It was a brutal walk back down the mountain and all of the way to the nearest paved road – another 7km away – this is where the 4×4 pickup would have been a godsend!
– Mollendo beach off the gringo trail – following the recommendation of a taxi driver in Arequipa, we decided to get off the tourist trail and head to a local beach a couple of hours from Arequipa. We befriended an extremely accommodating and welcoming family at a restaurant who were delighted to have some Australians in their town and for their son to practice some English with. They insisted on driving us to a beach where locals go, and it was picturesque spot. It was a reminder how friendly the locals are especially away from ‘gringo zones’.
– Colca Canyon a deep picturesque canyon – the Colca Canyon is remarkably deep, and can provide a strong challenge for those seeking a multi day hike. We were lucky enough to spot a couple of massive condors, who effortlessly glided from one side of the valley to the other, and over the peak with impressive speed. The scenery to and from Colca Canyon is memorable, dry deserts, massive snow capped peaks above 6000m, and deep winding valleys, for me it was just as impressive as the valley itself.
– Jungle near Puerto Maldonado – just like the amazon in the north, the amazon in the south of Peru feels like a world away from the Andes, the desert and the beaches that make up other parts of Peru (although it is a little more accessible than the north). We took a day trip to Lake Sandoval, and saw amongst many other creatures: macaws, caimans, monkeys, many types of birds. However the highlight for me was seeing the single family of beavers that inhabit this lake. There were 8 beavers in all, they would all dive underwater at the same time, then after perhaps half a minute, would start appearing back at the surface, some with fish that they were happily chewing on and the others seemingly chatting with each other, The jungle was hard to leave (as it is in the north) but were were on a tight time frame – we wanted to get back to Cuzco for the xmas party!
– Fireworks and Xmas in Cusco – it is hard being away from family and friends on xmas, but at least I was with my brother. At Cuzco, on xmas, the locals go a little crazy letting off fireworks. It is a lot of fun and reminds me of Diwali in India – and equally as hazardous! We had stocked up on a quite a few fireworks, including these exceptionally large ones that really impressed the locals – nicknamed ‘mortars’. It was an adrenaline inducing and heart pounding night – protective gear such as gloves, beanies,and even glasses if you have them are a good idea!
– Reflective NYE in Pisac – I was a in a reflective mood at NYE and preferred to be in the chilled, alternative community at Pisac rather than party central of Cuzco. Pisac was lovely, very serene, friendly locals, and a small but significant celebration. This is another one of the those small seductive cities that some travelers get ‘caught’ in as it is so charming and seems to have a magical energy about it – especially after the hordes of tourist buses exit the town mid afternoon.
– Downtime in Huaraz – in Central Peruvian Andes sits Huaraz – a trekking mecca in South America. It has some famous treks including the Santa Cruz trek and the Huayhuash Treks. Unfortunately I was there in January which is the off season and I came down with a nasty case of food poisoning. I spent the first week literally lying in bed and lost quite a bit of weight – one of the fastest ways to lose weight! (along with hiking Patagonia, backpacking in India, or tackling an Ironman). After recovering and slowly getting my strength back, I did several day trips, including to Chavez, an ancient city with a deep history and sites that have survived the test of time), Pastoruri, getting up front and personal with some rapidly disappearing glaciers, and some giant Raymondi plants, and to several local Cities in the valley.
– Teaching Yoga at Huanchaco – initially I was only going to stay at Huanchaco for 1 or 2 nights on my way to Lima, but I ended up staying over a week. As with most travel, it is the people you are with that make the experience enjoyable and memorable – I stayed at a relaxed and great hostel with a fantastic bunch of people from around the world (Frogs Chillhouse). Before I knew it, I learned that the resident Yoga teacher was traveling elsewhere, and I found myself teaching early morning Yoga classes on the beach. I contemplated registering as a volunteer at the hostel and staying even longer. But after a few days of sun, surf and late night music parties on the beach – I knew it was time to keep on the move… too much of anything isn’t good for you!
I’ve now been on the road for a long time – longer than I initially planned, and now feel “I have had my fill” – and I’m ready and actually really excited to get back into work. I’m looking forward to returning to a weekly and daily routine and being a productive member of society again! So many things I’ve learned and gain from this trip however – perhaps for another blog post..