Hopscotching around Peru - The Gringo Trail
Unfortunately, we made the plans before we knew I would be living in the Cordillera Blanca – so they did not get to see this beautiful section of Peru – instead we did the popular “Gringo Trail”. The gringo trail comprises the southern part of Peru taking visitors to Machu Picchu, now one of the 7 wonders of the world, and deservedly so. After Machu Picchu, the next destination is normally Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world and home of the floating civilizations.
This blog will be kept short, because the pictures can easily do the talking, but I’ll give a short synopsis of the trip. We started out in Lima, the capital of Peru and flew to Cusco (picture is the square at night), which was the capital of the Incan empire. Cusco is about 11,000 feet high which makes every traveler not accustomed to elevation stay there for a few days before venturing on any hike. The city is beautiful…but very touristy. In fact, there are tourist police to keep venders from hassling tourists too much.
Ruins of the fallen Incans lace through the city and spending a couple days visiting the various sites is a great way to pass the time while adjusting to the altitude. The city was designed to be the shape of a puma, which has obviously been lost, but one of the neat ruins above the city that was not destroyed is the ‘head’ of the puma (pic to the left is in a passageway), a place called Saqsaywaman (meaning ‘satisfied falcon’). The best way we found to cap off the day and welcome the night is to take advantage of the hour long full-body massages for 20 soles (about $7.00).
After a few days in Cusco, we set off on the Inca Trail, a 4 day hike through the mountains to Machu Picchu. Through the hike you ascend Andean passes, descend through cloud forests, and pass numerous smaller Incan ruins that become more marvelous as you get closer to Machu Picchu. After the Spanish began their murdering of the Incans and little hope remained of defeating the Spanish, the Incan chief assigned a group to destroy all paths leading to Machu Picchu due to its importance in the Incan religious beliefs. That’s why the lost city remained intact without discovery until the early 20th century.
After getting our dose of ruins, mysticism, and exercise, we headed to Lake Titicaca (around 12,600 feet) for a day and took a boat trip around a small part of the lake. Lake Titicaca is known for the floating handmade islands that began about a thousand years ago as peaceful people tried to escape the emergence of war-happy people. For hundreds of years the people on the islands led their own lifestyles and their culture has remained as it has been over the centuries…but the sad irony of tourism is that the island culture slowly becomes distorted by tourists who want to get a glimpse at that isolated distinct culture (perhaps a catch-22?). (Picture is the quintessential picture of Machu Picchu...looks fake, huh?)
Afterwards, we descended to Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa where we finished our vacation in comfort and relaxation. There is plenty to do and see in Arequipa, but we were quite happy to eat well and get some sleep and take in some of the nightlife. I passed some of the time by getting my first tattoo (I’ll put a picture on the next blog).
All in all, it was an amazing trip. I spent a little too much money as I almost forgot I am a Peace Corps volunteer…but well worth all of it.
Thanks for reading. I’ll post another blog soon about my Christmas and New Years experience.
Jennifer and I in Lima before a bender. Jen and I are friends from my glorious time in DC. She works for the Dept of Agriculture and luckily, she was in Lima for work the same weekend I was meeting with Jeff.