If you missed the first installation this honeymoon story, you can find it here!
A few hours flight from Quito is Lima, the capital of Peru. There had been reports of problems on the border between Ecuador and Peru around the time we were in South America and the British Embassy issued a border warning when driving through, as attacks and thefts by bandits were becoming more common. We didn’t want to risk this (especially on a night bus crossing) so we flew. Our Peru adventure was to be roughly 22 days, then crossing into Bolivia for six days, then back for another seven or so days in Peru. We planned to visit Paracas, Huacachina, and Cuzco, and also trek one of the world’s 25 best. Our action-packed three weeks were intense. Very long bus journeys, heat, adapting to high altitude, trekking in heat, rain, hail, snow… every conceivable weather condition you could imagine.
When we landed in Lima, thick smog and the grayness of pollution covered everything. We only spent two days there at the newly-opened Westin Hotel. We walked through the historic sites of old town, tried traditional fish ceviche, chocolate churros, and the traditional drink Chicha morada. The main tourist attractions were separated by rather large distances, so we had to rely on local taxi firms. We didn’t have enough time to use buses—the queues and changes were chaos. We would get hotels to call local approved firms.
After Lima, we went to Paracas, a small town known for its wildlife reserve just off the coast. We only spent a morning there; the town is still rebuilding from a 2006 earthquake and there’s nothing to do apart from visiting the Ballestas Islands (also described as Peru’s mini-Galapagos). Our tour only lasted a few hours, but we saw Humboldt penguins, hundreds of sea lions, and an awe-inspiring quantity of birds. The Ballestas Islands are not as impressive as the Galapagos, but are a good option if you are on a strict budget.
Our next stop was Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of nowhere. The town is famous for its sand dunes, beautiful sunsets, and buggy rides. We stayed at the Desert Night Hostel and booked our two-hour buggy ride through there. It was wild—the driver kept doing steep high turns and leaving us on the highest of the dunes to cruise down on the sand board. The dunes were so high I could hardly see the bottom of some of them. To finish, we stopped on a high dune to watch the beautiful sunset. Following a swim and some food, we got on a bus for a 17-hour ride to Cuzco. Talk about twisty roads! By the end of the ride, I was so glad it was over. We spent a little bit extra to get a seat on the lower floor. The bus maximized comfort with wide, reclining seats, personal TVs with internet, pillows, blankets, and even decent food. Tea and coffee were included. What else could you want from a bus ride!
Cuzco is a beautiful city with well-preserved architecture. Most tourists prefer to stay here than in Lima, but you do feel the altitude. It is also colder in the evenings. Cuzco has nice restaurants, super people, and beautiful mornings overlooking the mountains. Most tours to Macchu Picchu start from here. We opted for two options to visit Macchu Picchu. The first was the Orient Express Hiram Bingham train ride and the second was a 5-day trek called the Salkantay.
The Hiram Bingham was a truly lavish experience; we were looked after so well. We arrived via Aguas Calentes and took the bus to the Sanctuary Lodge at the Macchu Picchu (the only hotel at this World Heritage site). This allowed us to explore Macchu Picchu in the late afternoon with nobody else there, and to see the famous sunrise early the next morning. It doesn’t matter how long you look at pictures—the real thing is just so breathtaking.
We felt that if we only took the easy route on this trip, we would not fully appreciate it. We opted to take the Salkantay trek back to Aguas Calientes because the traditional Inca trail was not only fully booked, but also had bad reviews about commercial, overcrowded campsites. We trekked through diverse landscapes for five days, camped near glaciers, and reached the famous Apacheta Pass. The first night at the glacier was incredibly cold, but the sky was so clear that it felt like you were looking at the entire Milky Way. We descended into a tropical jungle before getting back into town.
After a few days of relaxing, we headed towards Puno near Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the world. We stayed for a day and took a tour of the Uros floating islands. Most people stop at Puno to visit Uros, but I personally think Puno was a waste of time. The town was not particularly safe and there was nothing to do. Even the lake was dirty. We couldn’t cancel our accommodation and we couldn’t cross the border into Bolivia before it closed, so we were stuck until the next day.
The following day was a four-hour bus ride to the Bolivian border along the coast of Lake Titicaca, and a rather unexpected ferry crossing across the lake itself. Watch World Travel Buzz to read about it in the next installment of this honeymoon adventure!