If you forgot to experience and explore
when being in such a tourisy place like Peru
The oldest ancient ruin is nothing more than just a backdrop behind the entrance
USA > Mexico > Peru - 2012
Peru Itinerary - Cuzco > Puno
Finally I landed in South America, where I officially began my life as a nomad. From now on, English is not a must, Internet is not a must, heater is not a must. Nothing is ever a must in this world, unfortunately I had forgotten it so long.
It was windy, rainy and freezy the night I arrived in Peru. After having a shower mixed with hot and cold water inside a rough but cheap hostel, quickly I hid under the blankets to keep myself warm. I really wanted to rest but I felt like Altitude Sickness had already invaded my body, that I was suffering from migraine, gasping and rapid heartbeats, no way I could close my eyes to start dreaming. From that moment I finally understood the duty of a nomad is actually to live well one's life. That I have to eat enough, sleep enough and keep myself warm enough, before I could have enough strength to embrace this beautiful world.
Cuzco has varied temperatures in within a day because it is 3400m above sea level, that´s why it might be cold during nights but hot during days. The next day after I woke up I saw sunshine through the window and I felt my body functioning back to normal, I left the door to begin my journey in the ancient world . Plaza de Armas, located in the central area, is built with old churches and low buildings, that gives a truly historical feeling. Unfortunately after a detailed scan I realized it is actually another tourist district in a copied style, that in and out of the plaza there are globalized brands waiting to serve you and travel agents eager to sell you, to remind you that you are just a tourist for sure.
I more enjoy experiencing life with locals than seeing palaces and statues. Next to Avenido del Sol there are numerous alleyways that sells groceries and provides dinings for its people, where I could eat and shop like a local. The area is actually very close to the plaza, but the prices are comparatively much lower, that's why I bought it here a couple of winter clothings and daily essentials.
You must pay a visit to Centro Artesanal if you loved folk art and craft. This market has more than 300 distinctive stalls that sells all kinds of clothing, jewelries, decorations, leather goods, music instruments, wood carvings and many more, sure you will find something to fall in love with.
The reason I went to Peru is certainly because of Machu Picchu. In the beginning I planned to take PeruRail to visit the City in the Sky, but then I chose a bus tour that costed me USD 125 because I thought I was smart and I wanted to know people. Yes I did save some bucks and made some friends from the bus, but in return I had the most suffering experiences.
Although this two day tour was included with return rides, several meals, a night of lodging, plus the entrance ticket, most of the time we spent were being squeezed inside the very crowded 14 seater van that had more than 14 people. The countless curvy roads between Cuzco and Machu Picchu are covered with sands and pathed with stones, that made me seriously sick all the way. Not only I couldn't properly breath, I kept throwing up until there was nothing I could throw. Even though I was lucky to had met several angel hearted Chilean friends who took care of me all the time, still I had to suffer more than 9 hours of horrible ride before we finally boarded onto a train to head to Agua Caliente, the small town located at the foot of Machu Picchu. Gosh I almost collapsed the moment I got off the train, the journey I had was indeed life threatening.
I didn't really sleep because our guide told us to meet at 5am, but the worst part was that my period came when I woke up that morning! Fxxk! My biological schedule was never on schedule since I left home! Fxxk! Why visit me today when there are thirty days to choose from! Fxxk! I no longer wish to go any City in the Sky I really don't! Arhhh... but... well... after a quick reconsideration, I decided pack my stuff to embark my painful trip. Any solo female traveler would encounter some torture of this kind anytime on her road but still need to move on and go, right here it is just an exercise for me at an early stage, no way I could waste the hardship I already suffered from yesterday.
It was said on the itinerary that our guide would bring us up to the mountain and explain us inside the ruin, however I only met him once downhill and I never saw him again. I was in extremely low energy level so didn´t care if we were losing each others just by coincidence or if someone was being irresponsible, I went to purchase the USD 17 return ticket and then I boarded onto the bus alone. It is not difficult to imagine that Machu Picchu is a super tourisy district, that the entrance and exit and everywhere is full of queues and guides and groups. After I took my map I followed a tour that I randomly chose, overheard a lesson of history, and then I started wandering alone, explore the Inca city on my own. Machu Picchu is speechlessly beautiful, it is surrounded by splendid mountains and graceful clouds that makes it a picturesque landscape hanging up in the sky, being in such tranquil place one could feel the genuine peace our world should meant to have. Although I was too tired to climb up to the highest point for the best view, the energy around me had already well comforted my body and well cleaned my soul.
The reason I chose the USD 55 luxury bus Incas Express to go to Puno not only because it has a good reputation, also because I wanted to see more on the way. Inca Express is actually a one day tour between Cuzco and Puno that has a daily departure, the itinerary includes a number of landmarks that shows you to Inca ruins, highland scenery and historical old town, etc. I think the price is absolutely reasonable because our guide explained it so well all the stories behind and we had an enjoyable buffet lunch, as well we were served with free refreshments on the comfortable bus.
Although Puno is even colder as it is at 3800m in altitude, I felt really lucky because Quechuas Backpackers had provided me with wifi, hot water and services, just everything I needed. For a price of just USD 10, I got real hot shower, clean comfy room, and also scrambled eggs in my breakfast, this hostel really deserves my compliment.
Puno is a simple and rough. Buildings here are mostly unfinished because owners don't want to pay the tax of a finished building. That's why brick walls are all around to make it a desolate town. Still, a small tourist district is found next to Plaza de Armas, where international dining are charged with international price. However, I more enjoyed walking inside Mercado Central to see what kinds of meats people eat, and dining with local price that every local could afford to give.
Traveling as a nomad, not only I ought to remember to keep my body warm and my stomach full, also I ought to learn to bargain the price and save my money. The thing is I got no return day, nor I know when I will settle in one place, the best I could do is to spend my budget wise enough so to extend my route long enough.
Puno has a lot of cruising tour to Lake Titikaka, that departs everyday from mornings to afternoons, and makes the business really competitive. It is not so difficult to bargain such a popular tourism product because everywhere you can see a travel agent and everything they want is a traveler like you. My half day tour costed PEN 35 (USD 14) but I only paid PEN 20 (USD 8), almost half the price from they asked. At 3800m above sea level, Lake Titikaka is the highest navigable lake on earth, where many of its islands are inhabited by self-sufficient aboriginals. The Oros Islands that I visited has a settlement of few hundreds families, their ancestors had to escape from Inca Empire so they used floating reeds to make themselves islands to live, several hundreds years had gone and they still live the same way they used to be, riding on reed boats and catching fishes everyday in the mighty lake that they forever belong to.
Besides, bus tickets that are sold by hostels are usually more expensive, therefore it is wiser to check the price and do the purchase at the station. The central bus station in Puno is located next to the lake, which is in within a walkable distance from the centre. There are many bus companies inside the station, that come with many different prices to take you to a same destination, and the one I chose to cross border to Bolivia was Tour Peru that costed me PEN 35 (USD 14). This company is not the cheapest among others but it is recommended by many travelers, as well I saw it with my own eyes that their buses are double decker tourist bus that I felt secured. South America is well known for its robbery and kidnapping stories on the road, therefore it is really important that you know what you choose to be your vehicle.