After our trip to Costa Rica in 2000, Dad and I were looking for another adventure type trip and decided upon Peru. Why Peru? Well, I’ve always been fascinated with the Incas, even when I was a little boy. Plus, just the idea of climbing up to Machu Picchu sounded exotic and exhilarating. So using the same company as the Costa Rica trip, we made plans to go to Peru.
Dad came out to DC for a couple of days and then we headed south. We flew from National to Miami to Lima. Our flight from Miami to Lima was a ready eye, and a short one at that. You depart at 1130PM and arrive at 510AM. So we arrived in Lima feeling less than fresh. We zipped through customs and someone was there to meet us at the airport. It was warm and dark as we drove through Lima to our hotel. It was hard to get a feel for the city, but my first impression was one of a fairly modern city. Our hotel, the Jose Antonio, was in the Miraflores section of Lima. Miraflores means “look at the flowers” (or something like that, my Spanish needs help) and there were flowers everywhere. It’s hard to believe that most of the coastal section of Peru is actually desert like. The major cities on the coast are along rivers and require significant irrigation. Anyways, we made it to the hotel and tried to sleep for a couple of hours. We meet with the rest of the tour group at 11AM for our initial briefing. It was here that we became familiar with the Peruvian drink: Pisqo Sour. It’s their national drink and is quite god, even at 11AM. It’s got a sort of mild tequila flavor to it, and then it is top with steam egg whites and cinnamon. I know, sounds awful, but it’s not bad at all.
Our guide, Leyles, gave us the run down and then it was time for the obligatory city tour of Lima. After lunch in a soccer themed restaurant, we wandered the city a bit and then went to the national archeology museum. Most people think only of the Incas when they think of Peru. But there were actually many pre-Columbian type cultures in Peru (and Ecuador, Chile, etc) that pre-date the Incas. One of the more fascinating bits we learned at the museum is that most of these cultures valued warfare and that they practiced a form of surgery on their injured. When a warrior received a serious head wound, the “doctors” would use a stone rod thing to pierce the skull to relieve the pressure. So there were all of these skulls with big holes in their heads. Lovely. After the museum, we headed back to the hotel as we were getting up at 345AM (aren’t my vacations restful?) to catch the flight to Cusco.
Up way before the crack of dawn, we made our way back to the airport and then boarded our flight to Cusco. The flight was only about an hour, but the big issue was the elevation. We went from sea level to almost 11000 ft. So the air was thin here and you could feel it. We stopped at a hotel in Cusco long enough to have some cocoa tea which is supposed to help with the altitude. (Side note: you can’t take this tea back into the US because the drug dogs seem to like it. But there are of these t-shirt that say “Cocoa leaves are not drugs.”) After our tea fix, we boarded a bus to go to the Sacred Valley. Most of the valleys in the Andes are shaped like V’s with very little arable land, thus the terraces you see everywhere in pictures of Peru. The exception is the Sacred Valley which actually is more U-shaped and has a sizable amount of arable land. Leaving Cusco, we stopped at one of the old Inca gates to look at some ruins. Before entering the capital of the Incas, visitors had to cleanse themselves and there was a spring there that they used.