Our holiday to Peru was delayed when our flight from the UK to Amsterdam was cancelled due to the adverse weather conditions, we finally left 48 hours later which created lots of problems with having to re-book our missed internal flight in Peru as well as places we had booked to stay in. There could also have been a big problem when we were checking in at the UK airport when the staff told Jun she needed a visa to get into Peru, we told them she didn't and produced the letter we had received from the Peruvian Embassy when we had wrote to them to confirm Jun didn't need a visa at which point they said OK (seems they had been consulting an outdated visa guide book). Finally got aboard plane then had to wait while it was completely de-iced, we then had a 4 hour wait in Amsterdam ( spent some of it in the meditation room) followed by a 13 hour flight into Lima by which time we had been up 22 hours. We then had to locate the local airline office LPC Peru to re-book our flight to Cusco for the next day for which they charged us an additional $70 then followed the mayhem of trying to get a taxi to go to Mira Flores in Lima ended up chasing them all away and asking two policemen where the green taxi company was and took one of there's and by the time we got to the hotel at Mira Flores we had been up 30 hours.
The flight wasn't till the afternoon so after breakfast we had a lovely long walk along the coast firstly passing three fire crews working to put out a bus fire just around the corner from the hotel, had a lovely coffee on a balcony jutting out over the Pacific Ocean and visited a lovely Catholic Church, then back to collect our bags and the taxi owned by Henry ( lovely man) back to the airport and the inevitable flight delay before arriving in Cusco after 5pm the landing was a bit spectacular coming across the mountains then a very sharp turn before dropping down in the valley. We felt the effect of the altitude immediately and started to chew the Coco leaves and drink lots of Coco tea. Again taxi drivers hassling you wanting 60 Sol ( £12) to take us to the old historic quarter where we were staying we got one down to 20 and later found out even that was to much. After unpacking we laid down to rest and slept till 11pm then decided to just get into bed and we slept till 5am.
The next day after breakfast we went for a walk and to buy the tickets for Machu Pichu and Peru Rail, I had a headache but Jun was feeling ill so we went back to hotel Jun went to bed and I went out again on my own and visited the San Francisco Convent and Monastery a very beautiful place and while I was walking around I came across this couple with a guide and as we entered an upstairs room she stood in the centre and sang Ave Marie I had goose bumps down my back later we all went up to the bell tower and roof and on the way back I asked her if she would sing it again and let me video it to show my wife who was back at the hotel poorly and she did. she also showed me in another large room that you could stand in one corner with your ear to the wall and she went across to the other side and whispered to the wall and I could hear it as if she was stood right next to me.
I went back to the Hotel but Jun still not feeling well so I went out on the evening for a walk and get something to eat and bring something back for Jun. The next morning we went out visiting museums and the Convent of St Theresa's Carmelites and bought tickets to go on a tour of the Sacred Valley as we intended to go nearly all the way of the tour but get off at Ollyamtambo to catch the train to Machu Pichu, but Jun started to feel unwell again so we went back to the hotel, then I went out again and visited the Church and Convent of De Santo Domingo which was built on a Inca site of which you can still see, I found a very hippy Vegan restaurant on the way back and we went there on the night.
We checked out the next morning and waited for the tour bus which didn't arrive so we rang the guy we had booked with and he came with a taxi and we caught up with the bus and set off on the tour of the sacred valley visiting Chinchero, Tupac, and other Inca sites with great views across the valleys and mountains also visited a local village and watched them processing and natural dying of Alpaca wool, as we walked in an Alpaca jumped up on Jun and I had my camera ready to get the shot. We then went to Moray a pre Inca site to see the famous circles, there were a group of young Koreans on the bus and they asked me if anyone had told me I looked like Walter White from the TV series Breaking Bad, I said yes quite a few and they said they had looked at me then did a internet search to look at him to compare. There was also another Korean on board who was the Head Chef at the Korean Embassy in Lima and had been taught by Gordon Ramsey ( who he said had made him cry) he was a real character I found him stood on the top of the hill overlooking the circles videoing himself singing "I did it my way". We then visited a valley with huge salt pans apparently the second best in the world and after lunch we arrived at Ollyantambo and the amazing Inca site there, but what a climb to the top but well worth it, the guide showed us the quarry site for the granite blocks which weighed upwards of 40 tons each it was down the valley and right up the top of the other side and still no one knows how they did it or even how they cut it. Recently 240 people from the town tried to pull a block weighing 40 tons using ropes on level ground and managed a couple of feet, after this we said goodbye to everyone else and went to the station to catch the early evening Peru Rail train to Aguas Calientas for Machu Pichu arriving in a very heavy downpour, but we had to still get the bus tickets to take us up to the top the next morning then made our way to a little not very nice place to stay the night, we set off next morning just after 5am and there was already a lot of people waiting for the buses and it was still raining, what a ride to the top sheer drops in places and no barriers, when we got in to Machu Pichu we climbed up to the highest part but it was covered in clouds and mist but as it started to clear it made for very dramatic shots, and what an amazing place it took your breath away and then later we bumped into our Korean friends again and on the way out I had my passport stamped with Machu Pichu. We went back down to the town once again experiencing the sheer drops had a lovely meal overlooking the raging river that ran through the town then caught the afternoon train back to Ollyantambo and looked around for someone to take us back to Cusco managed to get on a mini bus and only paid 10sol each and he eventually set off shouting out of his window every few minutes "Cusco" "Cusco" "Cusco" till his bus was full but what a crazy driver I couldn't believe some of the things he did, but we arrived safely in Cusco nearly 3 hours later and we collected our bags and went to another place to stay in the San Bas area with our own kitchen etc.they provided wonderful breakfasts with terrific views, the San Bas area is full of artisans, craft shops,markets and festivals great place.
The next day we walked around more of Cusco visiting museums and archaeological sites as well as going back to the Convent De Santo Domingo and booking our tickets to Puno on the Cruz De Sol bus. On the way back we stopped at a local café and Jun had a local delicacy part of a sheeps head and they managed to put together some veggie dish for me, we went back to where we were staying and then went out again at 5pm I had some street rice pudding which was delicious then we stood and watched a wedding and were invited in to the church, we also watched some great street dances and then went for something to eat and got caught in thunder/lightning/hailstone followed by rain so arrived at a local café drenched and Jun had the local dish of Guinea pig there.
Checked out the next morning early to get to the bus station for a 6:5 hour bus trip to Puno, very comfortable seats that reclined right back like first class airplane seats. About 1 hour before arriving at Puno we drove through a "city" called Juliaca which is now the dirtiest city I have ever been to, I have never seen so much rubbish anywhere and the roads were non existent with mud and dust everywhere, very noisy and terrible looking buildings and in all this I saw a few small areas of grass also covered in litter with signs saying "keep off the grass".
Arrived in Puno and took taxi to jetty on Lake Titicaca ( 200 miles long and 40 miles wide) where boat took us out to the reed island we had booked what a fabulous place, we were staying with a family who live on one of the islands and their families had lived on them since the Spanish invaded. They really made us feel welcome and they told us a great deal of the history and about their culture. After settling in they gave us a canoe to go exploring which was great and that night was one of the loudest thunder storms I have ever heard, the whole lake lit up with lightning followed by torrential rain ( and not a drop got in). The next day they took us to other reed islands as well as going on a reed boat to meet more locals and visiting a school where we had photos taken with the children and teacher, we cheered up one little boy who had been crying as it was his first day at school.
On our way back to Puno I managed to get to see a famous ship in the harbour there the Yavari It was built as a gunboat/cargo/passenger ship for the Peruvian Navy in England in 1862 then boxed up into 2,766 pieces and sent around Cape Horn as cargo. It took six years to transport all the sections of the boat to the lake, carried over the Andes by llama and on horseback, reassembled by English engineers and finally launched in 1870 and has now been fully restored as a B&B.
We then set off by bus again at 3pm heading across the mountains in heavy rain and going over huge potholes for the city of Arequipa arriving there at 9:30 pm and staying at a little hotel close to the city square. The next day after a fantastic breakfast on the roof of the hotel with stunning views of the city and the mountains in the background including a volcano we set off walking around the centre and then visited the Convent of The Monasterio de Santa Catalina, what an extraordinarily beautiful and very large place, everywhere painted bright blues, deep reds and flowers everywhere with such a feeling of silence and tranquillity this was the home of Sister Ana de los Angeles died in 1686 and Beatified by Pope John II. it has to be one of the best Religious sites I have visited, we also visited the impressive Cathedral in the square and spent time wandering about the old area enjoying the life and architecture of a beautiful city.
The next day we booked ourselves on a open top bus excursion around Arequipa and the surrounding countryside which we both really enjoyed one of the places we visited was a park where Jun went for a horse ride and a alpaca farm which just happened to have the shop next door selling the clothes. The following day we made our way to the airport for a flight back to Lima which of course was delayed and no information given, we only knew when it had started boarding when Jun asked me to go for a walk around to check and I found the boarding line tucked away in another area all together to where it was supposed to be, so we arrived in Lima at 1pm instead of 11am and met Henry who took us back to Mira Flores, later we walked down to the coast and spent a couple of hours in a bar at the end of a great old pier drinking pisco with the large waves crashing around it. The next day we went into the city centre and visited the Cathedral and went down into the catacombs, not the place to be if you suffer from claustrophobia. we also visited the Presenditial Palace, no changing of the guard that day unless you count the police relieving the previous police on duty by a casual walk over and shake of hands, but did get some great shots of Jun with them fully kitted out with machine guns etc. We found two local cafes which we ate in and went back too one for Jun with the local speciality of fish soup and the other a veggie café for me which cost us about 12sol (£2:20 each). Later we got the tram/bus out to Barranco a seaside place very run down with old colonial buildings which apparently was the place to be in the 19th century, but now peopled with artists, drop outs, hippies, great atmosphere so we stayed there till night. we were walking down one street and I pointed out a house to Jun which had a second floor and conservatory on it with lots of statues and plants at which point this old guy who had been washing his car came over and invited us to go in as it was his house he showed us all the statues and paintings that his wife had done before she died we had a chat took some photos and left. A bit later we passed a church on a hill overlooking the ocean and the front looked really nice and well maintained but the rest of it was decayed and covered in ripped tarpaulins and housed dozens of small vultures. On the evening we found this restaurant in a old building which looked like a ex warehouse which was owned and run by a family from Argentina for generations, I said to Jun it's like we have walked onto the film set for The Sopranos or something, after that we walked all the way back to Mira Flores.
The next day we checked out and Henry took us to the bus station to get tickets down to Paracas to visit the nature reserve and go out to the Ballestas Islands, the bus wasn't leaving till the afternoon so we took the time to visit The Museum Larco which houses the biggest collection of Peruvian Culture anywhere, all in the ex Governors House and with beautiful gardens. We took a taxi back to the bus station and traffic was very heavy and we were late so this time I was glad he drove like a madman as he got us back just in time.
We drove down the Pan American highway and arrived at Paracas after nearly 5 hours, we tried to book tickets for the return the next day but they were full so that started a frantic search to find another bus company, I wanted a coffee but as Jun rightly pointed out to me by saying " we can get a coffee anytime but not bus tickets!" We asked one woman in the street who took us to a very run down room/office with a family in it obviously run by the matriarchal old lady in a wheelchair who sold us two tickets on a bus leaving the next afternoon. Jun was very unsure about this so we asked the guy in the hotel who went back with us and spoke to them but he didn't look so sure as well, and then when we booked our tickets for the boat we asked the guy there who said he had never heard of that bus and pointed us to another bus company who happened to have 8 seats left so we went back to "The Family" and asked to cancel, you thought we had just greatly insulted them all and they all started talking together in a corner eventually I said we will give you some money to compensate you after which we got our money back.
The next day we went down to the jetty for our boat and it was closed went back to the agents who told us all boats were cancelled due to bad weather around the islands so that was the end of that we just waited for the 3:30 bus back to Lima arriving back at 9pm picked up our luggage from Mira Flores and went to The Grand Hotel Bolivia for our last night in the city centre, it was a hotel built in 1920 and many famous people stayed there but is now well past its sell by date but still had the faded opulence and was huge I said to Jun the corridors reminded me of the Overlook Hotel in the film " The Shining". The next day was Jun's birthday and we spent it sightseeing including visiting the famous Monastery of St Francis of Assisi spectacular building and history and huge catacombs full of human remains. On the afternoon we managed to get on a local open top bus that was full of Peruvians and they let us do half of the 2 hour tour around the city and out to the more run down areas, at one point we passed the café we had been in a couple of times and the staff recognised us and were shouting and waving. After this we went back to the hotel and Henry picked us up for the drive back to the airport in very heavy traffic for our flights back, which left on time 13 hours to Amsterdam 2 hour wait then 1 hour to Durham Tees Valley and picked up by our friend Paul and home.