The last time I posted, I was sitting on the airplane awaiting my arrival in Peru. After my first few days on the ground, many things have happened both planned and unplanned which has made this trip all the more exciting. If there is one negative thus far, it is that between transportation, lodging, activities, and food, this trip is definitely one of the more expensive that I’ve taken. However, I am not holding back as this likely is a once and a lifetime opportunity. With that being said, below is the breakdown of all the major things that have happened during my first few days in Peru.
Arrival in Peru. Normally flying into a country is a fairly uneventful step in the process of traveling. However, that was not the case this time around for me. The plane landed at Lima International Airport about 8 PM. I got off the plane and went to Peruvian customs. In the line there were medical workers checking for vaccine cards and health declarations (ironically, they only asked for my vaccine card). After about 15 minutes of standing in line, I finally got to the customs officer. I gave her my passport and told her my purpose for coming to Peru. At this point, they normally type a few sentences into the computer, stamp my passport, and send me on my way. However, her eyes started to squinch, and she kept looking back and forth at my passport. You don’t have to be a seasoned traveler to tell that isn’t a good sign. Sure enough, she asked me to get out of line and follow her. I was led to the onsite police station and asked to sit down. I sat there for about 10 minutes until another female cop came over and told me why I was there. Apparently, I looked exactly like a wanted Peruvian drug trafficker and customs thought my passport might have been forged. Luckily, the United States does a great job at watermarking the passports and the officers eventually figured out that it was legit and allowed me to enter the country.
Miraflores District. After getting through the airport, I immediately called an Uber to pick me up and take me to my hotel. I always prefer to get an Uber upon arrival because I feel like airport taxi drivers are just waiting to scam people. The drive from the airport to Lima’s Miraflores District took about half an hour. Ironically, the ride cost about $12 USD whereas that same drive from my apartment to Dulles International Airport would have cost about $65. Miraflores is known as one of Lima’s wealthiest (and modern) districts. Even during COVID times, the streets were packed with people partying on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, it took me about 15 minutes after the Uber driver dropped me off to find my hotel because there was no sign on the outside of the building. In fact, the “hotel” was more like an apartment in which the rooms were being rented out. By the time I got my stuff settled, I was reminded of Lima’s 11PM COVID curfew as stores began shutting at 10PM while police cars rolled through the streets with their sirens blaring. Another annoyance that I encountered during my stay in Miraflores was the inability to go into the supermarket without having a physical passport which I never carry if I’m not moving cities. Despite the rocky start, Miraflores was a lively area filled with historical buildings, modern restaurants, and beautiful parks. I even got to try the renowned Peruvian ceviche which had been recommended to me by most of the people that knew I was going to Peru. I didn’t see much of Miraflores this time around, but I will be staying there again at the end of my trip.
Biking El Morro Solar. Not wanting to let a good travel day go to waste, I decided to book a bike tour through Viator whilst I was in Lima. The company organizing the tour was called GoGo Tours. One of the things that I noticed as I was walking to meet the group was how much of Lima shuts down on Sunday mornings to allow people to exercise by either biking or holding large group aerobics classes in the middle of the street. This was a similar phenomenon that I saw in Bogota, Colombia. The tour company was based out of a garage at a local flea market. The tour consisted of the local guide (can’t remember his name), a guy from Miami who decided to become a digital nomad, a woman from Germany driving through the Americas, and myself (currently on my two-week vacation). I thought it was the perfect size group with each bring diverse circumstances. As for the ride, it was very comfortable for the first 2 hours as we mostly went downhill and many of the roads were closed to traffic (see above). The Lima coast was truly astounding, and I had actually never viewed the city from that perspective before as I was under the incorrect assumption that Lima was more inland than it actually is. That’s exhibit A on why it is good for individuals to travel outside their bubble. After about 2 hours, our made our way to El Morro Solar, a well-known biking trail at the south of Lima’s coast that contains the cities most scenic views. El Morro means “nose” in Spanish. Unfortunately, like many of scenic lookout spots, getting to the peaked proved difficult as the trail to El Morro Solar was 90% uphill at a 20-30% incline. Had I made this trip LAST year when I was in way worse shape, I probably would not have made it to the top given the difficulty of the trail on top of Lima’s dry hot climate. During our ascent up El Morro Solar, we also saw Lima’s version of Rio de Janiero’s “Christ the Redeemer” statute (which was actually given to Peru by Brazil.) We did finally make it up to the peak and will definitely agree that the views were worth the trek. On the way back to the bike shop, we stop at a coffee shop and got a drink. I was able to socialize with the others and learn about their backgrounds which I hadn’t really done in two years when meeting fellow travelers (as I didn’t socialize at all in Puerto Vallarta). Overall, for the $30 it cost to book the tour, it was a great way to kick off my trip and also produced a great experience to look back on.
Cusco. On Monday, I flew from Lima to Cusco to begin my journey to Machu Pichu. Unlike Lima, which is at sea level, Cusco is about 3400 meters above sea level or twice as high as Denver Colorado. The flight from Lima to Cusco was less than 2 hours and I was also able to use Uber to get to my hotel. However, this is an instance where maybe I should have done some better research in both planning my route and booking my accommodation. Upon getting the drop off point, I discovered that the hotel I booked required me to walk up the equivalent of 8 flights of stairs. I was also lucky to find the hotel when I did because there were no signs leading to it and one of the people that I asked directed me in the complete opposite direction. By the time I found the hotel, my lungs were on fire. While I initially thought I was out of shape, it turned out to be altitude sickness. I spent the whole night thinking that I might actually die in Peru because I could not breath. I even had to use an old inhaler to try and get more oxygen. I was so annoyed with the location of the hotel that I cancelled the follow-on reservation and left without getting the free breakfast. Fortunately, as I sit here and write this post, I have gotten acclimated to the altitude and most of my symptoms have subsided. I will be returning to Cusco for three days at the end of the first week of my trip and I hope that my second visit will go much smoother than my first visit.
As I finish this post, I am currently in the town of Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Pichu. I will save my journey to this point for my next post describing my Machu Pichu experience. However, time continues to go by quickly and I am staying busy. I hope to write another post in the next few days to provide an update about this exciting trip.