We have been back for a couple days, which has allowed time for some thoughts to bubble up to the top of my head regarding our trip to Peru. First: Peru is not an easy destination. We started out OK in a metropolitan city at sea level, but the fun really started when we flew to Cusco…11,500 feet above sea level.
While the Sacred Valley is one thousand feet lower, and Machu Picchu decends all the way to 7,950, our two days in Puno took us back to 12, 550. Our highest elevation was touring the Inca cemetery which required a climb to near 13,000 feet. And it doesn’t matter where you are in the Andean areas if you have to climb a flight of stairs or steps at a ruin site. I had trouble sleeping in Puno…after waking up, it seemed so hard to relax and drift back off…and then I checked my heart rate and realized it was considerably above normal. Our hotel actually provided oxygen to those who requested it. So, we got used to walking and climbing at a really slow pace. We finally escaped the heights by flying to Puerto Maldonado, elevation: 150 feet !!! But then we had to deal with 90+ temperatures and 90+ humidity…So our breath was back, but our movements brought automatic perspiration along with it. BUT, none of this is insurmountable if you are in decent shape and have moderate tolerances…and the reward is extraordinary beauty, whether mountains, rivers, ocean, or relics. So don’t let the physical demands stop you…just come with an understanding of what you will be facing.
Second: The Peruvian people were very friendly. Locals waved at our transportation as we drove past. Service was high quality at the hotels and restaurants. Even the soveigner hawkers took “no” for an answer and backed off before becoming pushy. The country has a history of insurgency but it seems to have become a stable democracy.
Third: Peru has a sense of style. They pride themselves on the quality of their food. The older women wear clothing of vivid dyes and colors. The younger generation wears tight fitting styles that are more revealing and less colorful.
Fourth: Peru is about the same distance from NYC, for example, as London…BUT, it is almost due south so there is no jet lag.
Fifth: While advertising themselves as being on the Amazon, the actual Amazon is 1000 miles and one country away. But it doesn’t really matter. An example in our country would be a comparison of the riverboats on the Ohio River that paddle-wheel past Cincinnati or Louisville instead of St Louis. Same tropics, vegetation, and aura.
Overall, I feel Perú is a unique destination…I know that can be said about almost anywhere…Like, the flats and isolation of western Kansas are unique. So maybe my comment is a matter of degree.
I love the mountains, and I haven’t yet seen the Himilayas…And yet, the Andes are strikingly beautiful and unmatched by any that I have seen thus far…Perhaps it is the contrast of the valleys and lakes that magnify the vistas of the surrounding mountains…for example, the photo below. How on Earth did the Inca till crops on these terraces, with death one little slip away???
It is the history of ancient civilizations that were so primitive, yet so advanced at the same time…This is the story of Peru: a country forever tied to its past, yet attempting to navigate the demands of the contemporary world. Well worth the journey and exploration…