The Intrepid Lumbering through South America. First up, Peru. Wandering the ancient ruins of sand-strewn pyramids of Pachacamac right outside of Lima or walking the beaches next to extravagant summer homes of what I could only assume were owned by the incredibly rich top 1% of Peruvians seems like a lot for a span of my first week in Peru.
As you can guess from the title, I’ve decided to split my journey across South America into separate pieces. There’s so much to tell about my 7 weeks. While I would’ve jumped at the chance to spend a considerable amount of time in each area compared to just passing through, I believe I do still have insightful views into each country along the way.
With that said, lets start with Lima. I flew from Salt Lake City —> LAX, LAX—> Mexico City, Mexico City —> Lima, Peru. It took a total of 17 hours, a relatively short sprawl of flights compared to flying up to 15,000 miles into Antarctica.
Any time in the air can be tiring, though. I do wish I either got a long layover in Mexico City to hike into the forests surrounding the area in search of Monarch Butterflies or, at the very least, landed during the day time to take full advantage of the Mexico City International Airport. We can only hope there’s time in the future 🙂
The Lima International Airport was easy enough to navigate, as I flew with a distinguished airline and used my miles for a free flight down south (hurray travel hacking!). My friend that I met up with wasn’t so lucky. He had left 3 days earlier with American Airlines from Florida —> Texas, Texas —> Lima, Peru.
As anyone knows, flying with American Airlines isn’t always the most pleasant experience if everything along the way isn’t perfectly executed. I once had my bags, along with an entire pallet of my fellow Antarctic participants baggage, lost for days while we were flown from the continental United States to New Zealand.
During this particular time when my friend was traveling through Texas, there was a hurricane about to hit the coastal cities of Mexico. This natural disaster deterred any flight flying through the entire Atlantic coast of Mexico for several hours.
The Dallas airport was in mayhem with several hundred passengers stranded in the international terminal. My friend was one of these unfortunate souls.
He eventually made it, arriving only about 6 hours ahead of me. We hung out in his hotel room until check-out, asked the hotel concierge for directions on how to obtain a Peruvian sim-card for my phone, and got a metered taxi into Miraflores district of Lima.
If you’re staying in Lima, Miraflores is likely the safest area in the city for a tourist. A wide range of options for accommodations along with many ex-pat bars and a convenient leeway into Peruvian culture that many cities in South America don’t offer.
If you’re looking for comfort (which I don’t necessarily recommend for the start of your trip), stay in the hotel line named Casa Andina. There’s several options, ranging from a relatively cheap hotel room comparable to any Marriott in the USA to a ridiculously priced higher-end version.
I would opt for a meager hostel that has single-room availability that’ll likely cost around 30 USD a night. You’re not staying in the city for any extended time so that price will drop even more if you’re looking for cheap.
For me, I rarely like bunk rooms with 5-8 beds in them so I generally splurge for the slightly pricier room. I’ve tried saving a few dollars in various other cities and hate being woken up by drunken strangers staggering into the room at 3 AM when I have to catch a bus at 5 AM.
We walked the streets until dark and got freshly fried churros in a small shop around the corner of the hotel. I also found a park, curiously named Kennedy Park, with an unusually high population of cats wandering around. They also had free wi-fi while sitting on a bench petting kitties so I took the opportunity to tell my mum that I’m still alive.
The next day, we found a tour to ancient, sand-covered pyramids hidden in the sand about 20 miles out of Lima. Pachacamac, the ancient Peruvian temples for the surrounding people, were unusually interesting.
Just 3 years before, a Belgian scientist uncovered a huge tomb full of 80 remarkable mummies after excavating more of the pyramids. They were hidden in Pachacamac from years of sand being blown over the ruins. It’s amazing I had never heard about them, as I consider myself relatively versed in many major announcements in the scientific field.
Once we ended up back at the hotel, I prepared myself for weeks of difficult bus rides through the Peruvian mountains. I found a great up-and-coming hop-on, hop-off bus company to travel with. They take you along the Peruvian coastline down to Arequipa and Colca Canyon, over to the border of Bolivia along Lake Titicaca, and up to Cusco.
The first leg of my journey had us picked up on the narrow streets outside our hotel room. We started out with a great tour of the memorial statues right outside of town that commemorated the war between Chile and Peru. It was a beautiful hillside perched outside of Lima that looked over the coast of Lima and the massive capital city.
Our bus drove through sand dunes and desert to reach a roadside bakery that served fresh-made bread stuffed with meats and cheeses. I had an entire breakfast plus a bag of bread for the road for 2 USD. From there, we ended up in this stunning historical plantation that hid slaves in tunnels underneath the property so the owners never had to pay taxes.
Our day progressed with a tour of these tunnels, winding through the property through two distinctive, narrow entrances. As we left the plantation, I remember specifically thinking of how such a pristine place could have harbored such a horrible past. I guess that’s how life goes and we moved on.
We ended up in Paracas around 4 PM that night. I got settled in my room and wandered through the small streets outside our hotel. My friend and I walked the coast line until we had no idea where we were, as all the houses we passed were unbelievably elaborate for such a poor part of the country. Many had pools in their backyards, just feet away from the ocean. We joked that they must be vacation homes for the local drug kingpins.
While walking back, we accidentally walked into an elaborately fancy resort on the coast. Nobody seemed to notice we were there, as there was security everywhere. They seemed to think that we were guests so we just walked their property until we found a way out of their gated fences.
I got some beautiful photos of the sunset over the Paracas coastline, complete with the local fishermen returning home from a long day at sea. I also accidentally wandered into a photo shoot of some seemingly important woman on the pier, in which they really didn’t even notice I was there.
I ended my night with a tasty meal in a restaurant on the third flour of a building overlooking the ocean and most of the small village. I got to know many of the people that would end up traveling with me for the next several weeks, as we were all traveling to the same cities.
The next morning was vibrant and sunny, though apparently no place opens in Peru before 11 AM. Peruvians are notorious night owls, mostly having fun and partying most of the night away. Come to think of it, most of South America doesn’t operate until lunch time the next day for many of the same reasons. We made our way to the pier to with some friends we met the night before.
We ended up on a speed boat filled with a tour guide, driver, and 15 other people zooming our way across the ocean to the Poor Man’s Galapagos, otherwise known as Islas Ballestas. I’m not really a fan of the aforementioned nickname of these Isles, since it’s completely different from the Galapagos but everywhere around Paracas had it plastered on the walls for boat tours so who am I to argue?
I’ll stop here, as I’d like to go into farther detail about the Paracas Peninsula and it’s main “export”, though what they’re exporting can be quite repugnant. I’ve got my site in high gear now, with much more frequent updates, blog posts, and even recipes to come since I don’t have to work at getting so much of my site running.
Also, I’ve made a new photography Facebook page here so go and like it! I’m enjoying winter at the South Pole so far and I’ll likely post an update of the goings-on around station along with a few articles on what the science experiments that our station revolves around are, among other topics I’d like to share. Thanks for reading!