This past July we went to Peru with Under 30 Experience. We spent a few days getting to know Lima before we got on a little plane to fly over the Andes Mountains to the old village of Cusco, the oldest Incan Empire. With it being their winter, the afternoons were sunny and a perfect 65 degrees while the evenings dropped down to the low 30’s. We absolutely fell in love with the vibrant colors and winding cobblestone roads that rose and fell with the hills through out the valley. In the evenings they light the fire places and musicians come and play in the warm and cozy restaurants. On our first day in Cusco their was a strike over government issues and high electricity costs. It seemed as if everyone in the city took off work to march and chant with signs through out the town square. Although it was a peaceful demonstration, it is always important to take percussion around large groups of people, in case they turn violent. After exploring Cusco we took a bus into the mountains to explore Parque de La Papa, where five farming villages rest, spread out through the rugged Andes. The Quechua people grow over 1,300 different species of potatoes and are trying to produce the perfect seed that is drought proof and weather resistant. We were welcomed with a traditional opening ceremony where they played music and showered us with flower pedals. We got to learn about their way of life and how important their spiritual connection is to earth. On our last day we took a beautiful train ride along a winding river to the town of Aguas Caliente and then took a bus up to the “Lost City of Incas” in Machu Picchu which was only discovered in 1911.
Important things to know about Peru:
1. They will not accept dollars or soles that are torn (even the tiniest little rip)
2. Unless you’re staying at the Belmond or a 5 star resort, you cannot flush toilet paper.
3. The dogs with homes all wear clothes. Since it was winter time when we were there (most days were very mild and in the 60’s or 70’s) the dogs were all dressed in winter coats or sweaters that were being walked by their owners.
4. The honking. It will startle you every time- but it is just a taxi letting you know they are free.
5. The cabs and buses are dirt cheap. We rode from downtown Cusco to our hotel (probably a 15 minute ride in traffic) for only 5 soles, which converts to about $1.60. One day we took a very old, rundown bus from Pisaq to Cusco for 80 cents. The ride was 45 minutes and they made a special stop for us and dropped us off at the Christo Blanco for sunset.
6. Everything is very very cheap. Unless you go to a really nice restaurant, you will spend virtually nothing on food. Even the nice restaurants that we “splurged on” cost just what an average every day lunch would back home.
7. The customer service was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I felt like Kim Kardashian all week. Everyone was so kind and hard working, I swear they never slept and worked around the clock to make sure we were taken care of.
8. The coco tea. Drink it all day, but NOT after dinner. Everyone complained/joked after our first night that they couldn’t sleep and had weird dreams, but it will definitely wake you up in the morning when you are preparing for a full day of site seeing.
9. The altitude is no joke. I figured it wouldn’t affect me considering I’ve been to Colorado many times. It was actually painful for me the first day- it felt like a really bad hangover (not that I’ve ever had one… mom.) You have to drink tons of water and prepare days in advance. Also chewing the coco leaves really helps.
10. Speaking of water- DO NOT DRINK IT. Getting sick when you’re on vacation is the worst, especially one that requires lots of walking, hiking, and train rides. Not drinking the water means also considering not drinking things made with their water, or food that is washed with the water.
11. The seasons are opposite of ours in the states