|After a 2 hour flight to Madrid, where Paddy took full advantage of the "free" alcohol, we caught a connecting 12 hour flight and flew into Lima, Peru where I was amazed to find how old the city was.
|Capital cities in my experience have always been vibrant, busy and full of modern high-rise buildings. Lima on the other hand, was old and dusty (not dirty). Very few modern buildings existed, and many of those that did were due to people like us wanting nice hotels to stay in.
We did a city tour of this fascinating city, seeing Lima's historic downtown, with visits to the splendid baroque monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo and the beautiful Plaza de Armas and San Martin, before exploring the majestic Archaeological Museum, filled with relics from Peru’s past civilisations. The nicest place was the ocean front, where there were lovely gardens including a kissing statue, and people zooming overhead as they para-glided in the wind.
|Leaving Lima we flew to the former Inca imperial capital of Cusco where we stayed for our next few nights. Here we had chance to sample the local delicacy of Alpaca (which was pretty good!) whist being entertained by Peruvian dancers accompanied by a band playing the local instruments including the panpipes. You will probably be pleased to hear we did not get round to tasting Guinea Pig, but after being told it was mainly gnawing on the skin, and after I had had food poisoning it was not top of my agenda!|
|We managed to stumble on a local festival and also a wedding while we were in Cusco, which were wonderful unplanned events. We also saw our first Inca ruins, which included Saqsaywaman where the Incas have managed to fit HUGE stones together in a perfect manner to create their walls.|
|A day of leisure included an excursion to the spectacular Sacred Valley of the Incas and the famous Pisac Indian Market, where Quechua Indians sell traditional Peruvian handicrafts. I also had the delight of paying to use what they called a 'toilet'. I think I was conned!!! We then traveled through amazing Inca-terraced valleys to the fortified settlement of Ollantaytambo where we faced a steep climb to the top of the ruins (which is not quite so easy at altitude as you cannot breathe so easily due to the air being 'thinner').|
|Onto the first highlight of the trip, a once-in-a-lifetime train trip to legendary Machu Picchu. Not really the day to get food poisoning and be feeling ill, but yes, I managed it. A 4 hour train ride (not much fun when you feel ill with all the swaying and bumping) that climbs the mountain and then rattles down into the fertile plain of the Urubamba Valley, passes Ollantaytambo and goes on to Aquas Calientes. On leaving the train a small bus drove us up the steep mountain to the world’s most photographed fortified mountain, and the most famous Inca site of Machu Picchu.
It was as amazing as all the pictures I have ever seen, and in a beautiful setting. After over 2 hours of walking around the site it was back down the mountainside in a bus to the town where the rest of the family tucked into pizza, Paddy had 2 HUGE beers (just short of a litre each) and I continued to feel ill! Then of course we had the pleasure (not!) of a 4 hour train ride back to Cusco. Entertainment was provided by dancers in what looked like balaclava's. We were told in the shops that they were Halloween masks. When we finally got back to Cusco all I wanted to do was collapse into bed, but my stomach obviously did not want me to sleep as I lay awake with violent stomach pains. Never mind, at least back at the hotel I was able to take some much needed medication…
|We left Cusco and spent a number of hours on a bus driving through the snow-tipped Andes heading to Puno (during which I slept most of the way as I was still feeling pretty lousy). We stopped off at Wiracocha where we saw some ruins and a local craft market, before reaching the highest altitude of our trip at 14,108 feet above sea level.|
|Puno is a small town on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca - the worlds highest navigable body of water. We took a small boat out to the floating reed islands of the famous Uros Indians. The reed islands are what the name implies, made of reeds. The roots are quite thick, and then broken down reeds are laid on top where the normal reed grows and that is what you walk on. A strange experience as your feet sink a little into the straw like structure as you walk. This Titicaca tribe has lived on the lake for centuries and they rely on the reeds for pretty much everything. They use them to build their houses, they use them to build their boats, and they also strip the outer bark off and use the reeds as food!|
|It was now time to leave Peru and drive across the border into Bolivia.|