My wife Mara and I were married in June of 2013 and this trip was planned as our honeymoon, but also doubled as a family reunion of sorts. My wife's father is from Peru but she has never been there, which meant there was a lot of family that had been waiting a long time to meet Mara. Naturally, I was excited to get a lot of pictures but didn't want to bring a lot of gear. After going back and forth I finally settled on my D800E, a 35-70 2.8 macro lens and lot of cards. It all fit into a very small shoulder bag along with 2 batteries, charger and a shutter release cable. I was also able to pack a lightweight tripod in my main pack.
A TRIP TO THE ANDES
We first flew to Lima where her father Dino met us at the airport and we took a cab to the neighborhood of Santa Anita, where we met our first family members. Waiting at the house for us were Mery and her husband Gustavo, Nena, and Richard. After getting aquainted over some Pisco and cervezas, we were exhausted and turned in after a couple hours feeling very happy that Mara had finally met her Peruvian family. The next few days were set aside for a 14 hour bus ride through the Andes to a small town called Andahuaylas where stayed the night. On the ride there, we were given an idea how serious altitude sickness can be. There was an older woman in front of us, and she became very sick once the we started going up in elevation. She experienced vomiting and diarrhea throughout the night, and without getting too detailed, I'll just say it went from bad to worse. Lucky, for us and everyone else, we were spared that fate and made it to Andahuaylas feeling pretty good. The next day, we paid a quick visit to the Sunday market with Dino's friend Hector and his son and were quickly off again in an hour plus cab ride through the Andes to the Town of Huancaray, where Dino was born.
We spent a few hours in Huancaray walking around and visiting with some of Dino's friends. We were treated to lunch thanks to LuzMaribel, who owns a small convenient store/restaurant. She makes lunch everyday for the towns people and whatever she decides to make that day is what you get. She made an exception since we were guests, and prepared us fresh trout and cuy. Cuy of course is better known to us as guinea pig and is a traditional Andean dish, usually prepared fried in oil or roasted on a spit. While preparing lunch, LuzMaribel and her daughter wanted to show us their honey bees and collect a sampling of the fresh product for us. Unfortunately for her daughter, the smoker she was using to keep the bees at bay was jammed and since she was wearing only a sheet, they got inside it and she was stung multiple times. Luckily she was able to be treated at the local medico for her stings. Not for nothing though, as the honey was delicious. Lunch was served shortly after, and the locals were lining up for a good meal. We started with ceviche and were then served the trucha and cuy. The fish was delicious, but when it came to the cuy, I was having a hard time. I knew it would be served whole, but seeing it with it's teeth and a few remaining whiskers still intact, I couldn't get the image of a cuddly first pet out of my head. I did my best though and ate what I could as the rest of our table would occasionally glance at my plate and wish they could grab the cuy from out of my hands. Mara had it worse though. Aside from the occasional fresh fish, she doesn't eat meat, and ended up with a half cuy even though she said she didn't want any. A few tears were shed but she didn't have to eat the cuy.
After lunch, we took a short walk across the river to the town of Navidad, where Dino had purchased the house his mother lived in. It needs a lot of work, but he has plans to fix it up soon. Afterwards we met back up with Hector who had been visiting family and got in another cab for our ride back to Andauylas. On the way back, our driver must have fallen asleep, because he managed to go off the mountain road. Luckily, he veered into the hillside instead of off it! Either everyone was also tired, or things like this happen regularly because noone was too alarmed about the situation. I followed suit and helped push the car back on the road as mountain traffic started to line up and honk at each other. Safely back in town, we were able laugh about the situation over some drinks.
After spending another night in Andahuaylas, we took an 11 hour bus ride to Cusco, where we arrived around 6 in the morning and checked out the market before it was too busy. After some breakfast, checking into our hotel and making sure we secured plane tickets back to Lima, Dino headed back to the bus station and Mara and I were left on our own to do sightseeing. Since we didn't have a vehicle, and weren't interested in joining any tour groups, we walked a lot. We went to some museums, explored the area a bit, ate delicious food, explored the San Blas neighborhood and the Cristo Blanco. We had already been in the Andes for a couple days but the mate de coca came in handy with the altitude.
We had 2 full days to explore before heading to Machu Picchu for the day and then returning to Cusco.
Most people come to Peru, travel to Cusco, acclimate, and then take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. With our itinerary, we didn't have time for the hike and instead took the bus, train, bus combo up to the Sacred City. Being Summer in Peru, it was the wet season and there was a bit of rain in Cusco at times, so we were prepared to get some at Machu Picchu also. Whether you take the trail, or the route we did, things are very regulated and it seemed almost like the magic was gonna be sucked out of the experience as we were in seat after seat and line after line. If you don't have a ticket into the city, you do not get in. However, after passing that final ticket counter you're in and the magic feeling returns. There's even a novelty passport stamp that reinforces that feeling. When we got there it was quite sunny and there were a lot of people there. Mara and I and one other lady were in a small group with a very knowledgeable tour guide that knew everything about everything! She had a lot of great information, and we were learning a lot...and then the clouds came in. At first it was just some light drizzle, but that soon grew to a light downpouring that along with all the people, made it difficult to get the photos I wanted. Also, my lens choice limited me to how wide my shots were and due to that, I feel I missed a lot of shots that I really wanted. Despite all of this, it was still an amazing experience. I would like to return in the dry season and really spend some time exploring.
After a quick plane ride, we're back in Lima to spend the next few days getting in more family time. I'm glad we were able to stay in Santa Anita rather than the typical tourist stops of Miraflores or Barranco and experience a taste of what real Lima feels like. The neighborhood stores and markets had everything to offer at a fraction of the more affluent areas. Mara bought a hat at an outdoor market around the corner from the house for 13 soles, and we saw the same hat in Miraflores for 160 soles! It also meant we had more time to bond with family, which included delicious home cooked meals and some pisco sours. One afternoon we went to visit Mara's oldest aunt who lived in a house that many years ago was on it's own plot of land, but now the city had built a cemetery near it. We had to walk behind the cemetery to get to her house where she also had some live stock and a bit further down, there were some ruins. Another day was spent at Mara's cousin Jessica's apartment for lunch. There was a bit more family and friends to meet, and then after food there were a few drinks and a heavy karaoke session. We had a few other adventures in Lima, but the best thing was getting to meet family and feel like we were a part of everyone's lives even though we had just met.
Limenos love going to the beach on the weekends. If you drive South from Lima, you will come across numerous beaches packed with umbrellas and people escaping the urban sprawl. Our plan was to try and go somewhere where we could relax by the ocean and take a couple days to enjoy our honeymoon with no agenda other than relaxing, but we had to first escape from the masses. It was decided that we would go to Paracas as a starting point, with the option to go to Pisco, Ica, Huacachina or maybe even Nazca afterward. Dino drove us down the coast and Mery and Gustavo came along for the ride. Over the course of the 2 hour drive we had a mini adventure starting at one of the road side eateries, where they had play sets and rides, games, livestock and trampolines. We also made a stop in Chincha Alta and El Carmen, areas where there is the highest concentration of black Peruvians in the country. In El Carmen, Mery took to the streets in search of a dessert known to be made by a local woman, we just had to find her. After walking down a few colorful streets, she found what she was looking for and we were back on the road. When we got to Paracas, it was jam packed with weekenders finishing off Sunday before going back home. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, we talked it over and decided to treat ourselves. We had plenty of options on where to go, but we ultimately decided since it was our honeymoon, to splurge on an upscale hotel and stay in Paracas for a few nights and relax rather than bouncing around and maybe never getting a chance to fully settle in. After a delicious lunch by the ocean, Dino, Mery and Gustavo went back to Lima and we transitioned into getting used to doing nothing. That lasted a day before I couldn't take it anymore and demanded an adventure. I needed just one adventure for the day, then we could sit around and do nothing. In Paracas they have the Islas Ballestas, and the Paracas National Reserve, which are both great for biodiversity in fauna and wildlife. Not wanting to spend too much money on tickets for ferries or tours, we decided to take a taxi to the peninsula and into the National Reserve. I chose to go to playa roja hoping to get some good pictures of the red sand and hopefully some of the many birds that are there. Once we got there, I realized I didn't know how we were going to get back so I offered the drive more money to wait for 30 minutes, and then bring us back to town. Well, 30 minutes of course wasn't enough time and I also wish we had planned better and seen more of the peninsula. And the sea lions on Islas Ballestas. Next time. It was still a fun little adventure before sitting around and relaxing for the day. The next day we went sandboarding, which was something we planned on doing before we left for Peru. Just a few miles outside of town are thousands of miles of desert and sand dunes waiting to be rode. Not only do you get to cruise down giant sand mountains on boards, but the companies that provide these tours also take you on rollercoaster like rides in dune buggies! Way too much fun! The dunes we went down were fun, but next time I want to go to Cerro Blanco in the Nazca valley, where there is a dune over 600 meters (1,968 ft) high! Although we had a great time relaxing, we also had some bumps in the road. One of them being buying our bus tickets back to Lima for the wrong day, which would have made us miss our flight home. Had Dino not called us at 1 in the morning after we sent him our itinerary, we would have had to buy new airline tickets. Luckily, we got there very early in the morning, and the bus company Cruz del Sur got us on the bus we needed to be on.
BACK IN LIMA
We arrived in Lima early enough to pack, do some final exploring, hit an amazing local mall and make it back to the house for a final goodbye. Waiting for us at the house was another aunt we hadn't met yet, with some kind words for us. Over some last pisco drinks, we had some hugs, and a couple group photos before we were off to the airport, and back home to our routines. Our whole time spent in Peru was only 15 days, with us only being in any one place no more than 3 days in a row. Peru has everything, and we can't wait to see more of it. Desert, beaches, rainforests, mountains, ruins and of course food! Oh and family. There's always more family to meet with the Arestegui's!
Our whole time spent in Peru was only 15 days, with us only being in any one place no more than 3 days in a row. Peru has everything, and we can't wait to see more of it. Desert, beaches, rainforests, mountains, ruins and of course food! Oh and family. There's always more family to meet with the Arestegui's!