I'm not sure if this will have more than one part yet, but it might. Either way, Peru would be the start to a different traveling style for me in the form of solo traveling. During my time in Houston, I left every 3-day weekend and holiday break. Basically, in my time in the South, I left to another country or city every single holiday I could. Thus, this October will most likely be the first month in about 3 years or so that I won't fly on an airplane. Even though I'm a skilled airplane travler, I'm a bit tired of them. I spent a lot of time visiting friends in different cities during my 3 year stint in the South and especially during my time in Houston.
Japan I had my mom's friend, Italy I had Julia, Mexico I had college friends, Canada, France and England I had family, but Peru I had no one. Peru was the first time I would go solely to a country to visit it purely because I wanted to. Therefore, I would pay for everything myself and I wouldn't be meeting nor traveling with anybody to Peru. A scary thought for many, especially for a single lady though I consistently see German women doing it and have no idea how. This is overall not so scary for a guy who seems to blend in with most countries minus Orient Asian ones.
Anyways, the purpose of my trip would be to see Cuzco and the great Machu Picchu; everything else would be an add on. Speaking of that, I practically breezed through Lima, which was the first time I didn't actually see a capitol in a country that I visited. However, I heard I only missed out on the city center. Also, a couple random things about Lima airport, the surrounding is super dangerous so take caution. Dunkin Donuts is in the airport! The people in Lima are taller and fairer skinned than the more indigenous people of central Peru i.e. Andes and the Amazon, so it's got that northern v. southern thing I guess.
Onto Cuzco. Arriving at the airport, I hopped on a taxi through the streets of Cuzco to my hostel, Peruwana. This was a party hostel that I wouldn't recommend for anyone over 30, but certainly to anyone in their 20s. More importantly, as we drove through the streets, I realized that Peru would be the poorest country outside of Mexico I would see. Peru would be the full on third world experience with Nestle and Coca-Cola running the advertising show on all the old-school concrete/brick and stone buildings. Anyways, my hostel was great as I would end up meeting a few people who I am now Facebook friends with. This would be the first I would gain international pen pals (internet pen lol) in the form of a Brazilian, Chilean, white girls from Texas, a Seattle girl who never stops traveling and is responsible for any of those overlooking Machu Picchu pictures you'll see in the photo album. I also met a British couple who really wanted to see the South; which for a foreigner has got to be WTF!. Before all that the first order of business was acclimation to the altitude. The Andes are higher than any spot in the US, I think, so therefore one has to get used to the altitude. This means either getting a prescription or doing what I did and sleeping the whole first day. This effort totally worked as I had no altitude sickness. I thought this was hilarious because at first it was hard to walk a small flight of steps.
While I would be exploring Machu Picchu later on, I first checked out Cuzco. The city is very cool in its own right and is a sister city to Florence and Kyoto - old school walkable cities with relics everywhere. The city center, the Plaza da Armas is cool in the day or at night. The Avenida del Sol ends with an Inti statue, there are churches, the San Luis neighborhood, which is hilly with some great views of the city - be careful here - stray dogs, and the Queracancha though I'm not a 100% sure how you say it but it's where you can see the weird Incan/Colonial fusion occurring in Peru. I had a Spanish tour guide and understood what she said about the star alignment, the burial grounds and all that as my Spanish was still fresh. Also, Peruvian Spanish is similar to Mexican Spanish so it is slower unlike Cuban and Dominican Spanish which I'll post about in another blog. For food I had some great juices, Pisco sours, Cuscano beer, Anticuchos (cow hearts - so amazing!), Alpaca (healthy tough meat), butifaras (an odd sandwich), some amazing baked cookies/mini-canolis, cuy-which is basically a whole roasted pig though I didn't know where to find it-and guinea pig empanadas. Other strange things were the Inca Cola that tasted like bubblegum..., the rice in little round bowl shapes, and triangular napkins. It was cool to see all the items, people going to Spanish Mass, the Quecha (indigenous people), who had their bowler hats and wrapped up babies. One thing to note is that the Quecha speak a whole other language that isn't even Spanish! As such, most of the people were shorter and darker than their Lima counterparts; must be the mountain air.
Fun note before I make this into a Part 2. While hanging out with my new travel friends, we would experience a blackout in another country which means the whole city is dark, minus car lights. The people can still cook with gas, but you can't see a thing. Check in next time for Part 2. which will cover all the ruins I saw and Machu Picchu.