A Travellerspoint blog

Lima

A 1-day stopover in Peru's Capital

During my previous trip to Peru, I spent a couple days in Lima. And from what I remember Lima is certainly a place you should visit while in Peru, but not charming enough to warrant a stay longer than a few days. Yeah, it's safe (only if you stay in the Miraflores or Barranco districts) and there are plenty of nice restaurants, pubs, and cafes, but traffic congestion as well as the noise pollution you find in most big cities are a bit overwhelming. And because Christine and I tend to enjoy smaller cities/towns more (think Baños), we only planned to stay in Lima for a few days.

While eating dinner in Huanchaco one night, Christine and I crossed paths with a couple we had met in Baños the previous month. They were on their way to Huacachina, a small desert oasis lying on the outskirts of a town called Ica south of Lima. We googled Huacachina and discovered that sandboarding and dune buggying are popular tourist activities there. Well, as you may guessed, we decided then to take yet another detourtrim a couple days from Lima in exchange for Huacachina.

Now that we only had 1 full day in Lima, we tried to make the most of our time there. We stayed at the Flying Dog Hostel right in the heart of Miraflores, so everything was within walking distance. After grabbing lunch on the popular pizza street, we walked to the Malecon, a very modern metro center overlooking the western coast of the city and consisting of many North American brands such as Starbucks, Tony Roma's, and the North Face. The coastline here reminds me a lot of rocky shoreline typically found in much of Northern California. Afterwards, we roamed around the area where there are many colonial sites and parks, as well as restaurants, cafes, and other retail stores. I must say though, the McDonald's and Burger King are an eye sore. But I was very impressed by how well maintained and clean this area was. The people here actually properly dispose of their garbage! The smell of urine did not permeate the air along streets where you find bars and pubs. I did not notice much graffiti or defacing of public property. While walking around at night with a camera, I was definitely more at ease here than any other big South American city (i.e. Quito, Guayaquil, Chiclayo). As far as the other parts of the city, we didn't have time to visit so I cant say how or if anything has changed since my visit a few years ago. In hindsight I wished we had alotted more time here. I don't think I gave Lima a fair shake. I guess we'll just have to come back in the future.

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Surprisingly a lot of public greenspace

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Pizza Street

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Lima's coastline

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El Malecon

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The very happening John F. Kennedy Park at night

Posted by TravellingFries 11:01 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Huanchaco & Chan Chan

Exploring the Chimu Kingdom by day, Relaxing in a Surfer's Paradise by night

Huanchaco is a small sleepy surf town on the coast of Northern Peru, 15mins from Trujillo. This is totally my kind of town - small, quiet, chill, beach town! We spent a couple of days here relaxing and visiting the famous Chan Chan archaeological site nearby. We were originally going to skip the Chan Chan, but of course, yet again, we were convinced that the pyramids of Chan Chan were a 'must-see' in Peru (yes, Danny and I are both easily convinced :P). We joined a one day tour to see the archaelogical sites, and the rest of the days were spent drinking cold beer on patios, taking walks on the beach, and watching sunsets over the horizon - life is gooood! :)

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Day Tour
When we first found out that we were the only 2 English speaking people on the tour, we thought, oh shit, not again. We were bracing ourselves for another bad tour, but we lucked out and it turned out that there were 2 guides for the tour - one spanish and one english. This means that Danny and I had our own personal tour guide! Above that, she spoke almost perfect english AND she is currently studying archaeology. Score!

We visited the Huacas Del Moche first which is an ancient Peru complex for the Moche culture between 400 and 600 AD. It consists of 2 temples: Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun) and Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon).

Huaca del Sol - excavation currently closed due to lack of funding
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Huaca de la Luna Museum
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Huaca de la Luna archaeological site
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After lunch, we went to see the Chan Chan archaeological site, which is the largest Pre-Columbian city in South America. Built in AD 850, Chan Chan served as the capital of the Chimu Culture until it was conquered by the Inca Empire in AD 1470.

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Everyone raves about the Chan Chans, but I personally think the Huaca of the Moon was much more impressive. I'm excited to come back in 5 years or so to see the rest of the Chan Chans fully discovered!

Posted by TravellingFries 10:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Sipan

Discovering the undiscovered around Chiclayo

The original plan was to go straight through to Lima from Chachapoyas, but after numerous other travellers told us how amazing the Tombs of Sipan were, we decided to make yet another detour. This time a 10 hr detour to Chiclayo haha.

The main attraction here is the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum. On more than one occasion, we were told that the museum is considered to be the top museum in South America so naturally we had to see what the hype was all about. The full day tour included a visit to the archaeological site of the Tucume Pyramids (and onsite museum), the actual Sipan archaelogical site, and of course, the star attraction - the Real Tombs of Sipan Museum.

So why exactly is Sipan so important?
The Sipan archaeological site is considered to be one of the most significant discoveries in the last 30 years because some of the most important archaelogical remains of the Mochica Culture have been uncovered. The main tomb of the Lord of Sipas was found intact and untouched by thieves...at least that's what wiki says haha. Of course we wouldn't know because 90% of our English speaking tour was in Spanish (even after we were specifically told it would be an English tour)!

The Tucume Archaelogical Site covers over 540 acres with 26 major pyramids and was once considered a major regional center.
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Tucume Museum
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Peruvian hairless dog outside museum

Sipan Archaeological Site - only 10% discovered, 90% to go!

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Tomb of the Lord of Sipan

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Funeral chamber of the Priest

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Another funeral chamber

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Real Tombs of Sipan Museum - no pictures allowed inside museum so this is the only photo we have haha
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Lunch - El Pacifico
At lunch, we shared a table with a couple from Vancouver who were born in Peru but immigrated to Canada. They were super nice and patiently explained each item on the menu for us. They even let us try some of their dishes, which were traditional Peruvian dishes (and turned out to be the best Ceviche we had in Peru).

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Ceviche con Mero - Mero fish ceviche VERY good!

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Palta rellena con pulpa de cangrejo - Peruvian dish made of avocado stuffed with fresh crab meat (like huge chunks)! Taste a lot better than it looks here haha.

Danny and I were both slightly disappointed in the tour for a various reasons. First off, even though we requested an English speaking guide, the guide spoke primarily in Spanish 90% of the tour (he would give Spanish explanations for 10 mins, and then turn to us and give us 2 sentence explanations in English). I guess we should have specified for an English TOUR instead of just a guide who spoke english.

Secondly, the tour size was huge. It started out a small group of 10 or so, but for some reason, random people kept joining our group. By the end, it was almost 20 people to one guide.

And lastly, the last 2 sights were very rushed and we barely had enough time in the Real Tombs Museum, which was supposed to be the main attraction.

Up until this point, Danny and I were lucky and have had good luck with all our tours/guides. It wasn't until after this tour, that we realized how heavily a bad guide can affect the entire experience of the tour. It was unfortunate that our tour operator didn't follow through, as we both feel that with a better guide, we would have enjoyed (and understood) the sights a lot more.

Posted by TravellingFries 09:49 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

The Pre-Incan Ruins of Northern Peru

Kuelap, Pueblo de Los Muertos, and Karajin

Chachapoyas was not on our original list of places to visit, but after chatting with some people back in Quito, Danny and I were convinced that we had to see the Fortress of Kuelap (often referred to as the Machu Picchu of Northern Peru). So we decided to make the detour (and let's face it, itineraries are made to be broken - Danny's words haha) and so here we are!

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Plaza de Armas in Chachapoyas

As soon as we arrived in Chachapoyas, we immediately booked a tour to visit Kuelap. There was an option to hike to Kuelap, but that would require starting the day at 2am, and that was just crazy talk. So we settled with a ride up to Kuelap, but would hike down and rejoin the tour at the bottom of the mountain.

Kuelap
Kuelap was constructed by the Chachapoyan people dating back to pre-Inca culture around 6th century A.D. The entire complex is roughly 600 meters in length and 110 meters in width, and situated at the summit of a mountain overlooking Utcubamba Valley at 3000m above sea level. The fortress is a huge complex comprising of over 400 stone dwellings, and buildings of civil, religious, and military purposes. Many of the buildings had decorated walls and cornices or protruding friezes. Surrounding the fortress is a massive stone wall roughly 20m high. As a security measure, there is only one access corridor, so narrow such that only one person can enter at one time. Kuelap was inhabited until around the pre-colonial period, and it has been speculated that the reason for their departure was the occurrence of a widespread disease.

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Possibly a future Tourist Center?

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Entrance to Kuelap...

...and finally, KUELAP!!

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Hike down from Kuelap to the town of Tingo to meet the rest of the tour.

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Celebratory dinner!

Pueblo de Los Muertos
We were so impressed by Kuelap that we decided to book another tour to see the nearby Pueblo de Los Muertos (City of the Dead) and the Karajia Tombs, (and partly because there was no way we would spend longer getting here then actually being here haha).

Pueblo de Los Muertos is a collection of stone tombs that are situated along the ridge of a mountain. They were built by the Chachapoyans between 1100 A.D. and 1350 A.D. Unfortunately, the tombs have been heavily destroyed by looters and the roofs are no longer there.

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Karajia
Karajia (or Carajia) is a Chachapoyan archaelogical site located in Utcubamba Valley. Along the side of a very steep cliff are seven sarcophagi (stone coffins typically displayed above ground), each standing about 2.5 meters tall. Their condition has been preserved primarily because of their location - 25 meters up on a cliff. An eighth sarcophagus was destroyed, most likely from an earthquake in the 1920s.

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Posted by TravellingFries 09:10 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Goodbye Ecuador, Hello Peru

A 2 day border crossing adventure

Day 1

Vilcabamba to Zumba
Danny and I are up and packed ready to leave our hostel at the ungodly hour of 5:30am (the bus is supposed to arrive between 6-6:30am). It is transfer day, but not just any transfer day...it's border crossing day. Neither Danny nor I have ever overlanded between countries before, so we had no idea what to expect. The plan was to catch a bus to Zumba and then onwards to cross the border via the La Balsa Border, which from what we read is supposed to be the most relaxed and chilled crossing of the three from Ecuador to Peru. At the bus stop we met two other travellers who were also overlanding to Chachapoyas, Peru as well, so we decided that it would be easier to stick together. Strength in numbers! The bus arrived at 6:20am and we got settled for the 6 hr ride. The bus started off full but within an hr, most of the locals got off - there were only about 6 of us left on the bus. Yay 2 seats!

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And so it's true...in Ecuador, it is very common to find yourself sharing a bus with animals. In this particular case, the man sitting in front of me was holding on to his chicken haha.

Just as described on other peoples blogs, the pavement ends about an hour into the ride, and we would not see pavement again until a day and a half later.

An hour or so into the ride, the bus stops. I wake up confused, are we there already? There apparently is some road block ahead. The bus driver gets off to investigate and comes back to tell us that the road is closed due to construction.

Bus Driver (in Spanish): "Road closed until 12pm"
Me: "12pm?"
Bus Driver: "Yes 12pm."
Me (eyes wide open): "12pm?!?"
Bus Driver: "Yes!"
Me (on the verge of a freak out): "It's 8:30am!!"

Bus Driver shrugs and leaves to go sit on the side of the mountain with the rest of the drivers. Haha nice.

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4 hr delay due to road closure...

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...Chris is not happy!

And so we wait...

At noon the road opens and we are back on track (well, 4 hrs behind schedule). The next 4.5 hrs were spent maneuvering through muddy mountainous roads (and I thought regular paved mountainous roads were bad...). The distance from Vilcabamba to Zumba is only 100kms, but due to road conditions and our 4 hr delay, the whole ride took us a gruelling 10 hrs.

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Horrible road conditions

Zumba to La Balsa
The original plan was to catch a ranchera (open side truck) from Zumba to La Balsa where we can cross the border into Peru. But it is already 4:30pm and it's still another 2 hrs to get to La Balsa. Decision time. Should we spend the night in Zumba, or try to cross the Border to Peru today as initially planned. The last ranchera was at 5:30pm, so there was still time. However, that would mean doing the border crossing at night - I was nervous enough doing the crossing during the day, but at night?! No one was sure what to expect, and we were not sure if there would even be collectivos from the border of Peru to the next town. But where would we stay in Zumba (it's not exactly a touristy town), and besides, we might not make it all the way to Chachapoyas the next day. No one wanted to spend 3 days overlanding, so we decided to head for Peru.

Ranchera arrives right at 5:30pm and off we go.

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Danny: "Cool, isn't it just like a Disney Land ride?!"
Me: *rolls eyes*

If we thought the last 10 hrs was bumpy, we did not know bumpy until now - the next 2 hrs was more windy unpaved mountainous roads in a wooden open sided truck. As we rolled through the mountains, the sun began to fade. The scenery was actually very spectacular, the sun setting around the mountains, only I was a little too anxious to enjoy the view. It got dark fast, and we were still not at the border yet.

Ecuador/Peru border
We finally arrived at the border at 7:30pm...we look around, er, where exactly IS the border? All we see is a makeshift bamboo bar where children are volleying a ball over. We asked around, and sure enough, this is the border.

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Finally arrived at the border!

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The 'border gate' haha

We were led into an office, where a guy filled in our departure forms. We took several photos of the homemade border gate and walked across the bridge - Hello, we are in Peru!

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Finally, PERU!

Once again, we looked around, er...where is the immigration office? After some confusion, we finally found the office and filled in our entrance forms and was granted 30 days in Peru. We exchanged for some Peruvian soles and we were good to go! Hm not nearly as painful as I thought it would be...but getting here was only half the battle...

La Balsa to San Ignacio
Luckily there was still one collectivo left. So we all hopped in and began our ride to San Ignacio (not before our driver took one last swig of his beer with his 2 buddies at the bar haha) - sigh of relief, we would not be sleeping at the immigration office tonight! 40 mins later, car stops. Uh oh, what now? Of course, more road construction. Luckily we only waited 15 mins. We only enjoyed 15 mins of pavement before the road turned back to gravel. At least we weren't in the ranchera.

We finally arrive at Hostel La Posada in San Ignacio at 10pm! This dreadful long day has finally come to an end, and we can finally relax...WRONG! When we returned back to our hostel after dinner, we found a few not so welcomed 8 legged visitors in our room. Cockroaches! And this was supposed to be the best hostel in town?! As you can imagine, we had a very restless night.

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Even Danny is NOT impressed!

DAY 2...so the journey continues

San Ignacio to Jaen
The 4 of us check out and head off to the find bus station. Surely enough, 10 mins later, we walked to an intersection where people started shouting "Jaen? Jaen?" at us. We stood in the middle of the intersection trying to decide which company was the least sketchy...we ended up randomly picking one since they were all equally sketchy haha.

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About an hour after we left San Ignacio, we finally hit pavement again! I swear I will never take asphalt for granted ever again.

Jaen to Bagua Grande
Arrived in Jaen and quickly grabbed a 3 wheeled taxi to the 'other terminal' where we could catch a bus to Bagua Grande. Once again, as soon as we arrived at the terminal, people started shouting at us again: "Bagua Grande? Bagua Grande?" After much negotiation, we finally settled on a collectivo and were on our way. This was probably the most comfortable ride yet. We sped thrugh the roads while the driver blasted Ecuadorian music, and he even bought us sugarcane to snack on.

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An hour later, we arrived at Bagua Grande, and a van was already waiting for us. We took a quick bathroom break, stretched our legs, and climbed into the collectivo for the last leg of the trip!

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Bagua Grande to Chachapoyas
3 hours later we finally arrive in Chachapoyas!! We made it!! Haha

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So in summary, it took us nearly two full days from when we left Vilcabamba to arrive in Chachapoyas! Was it painful? Not as bad as I thought (but then again I always assume the worst haha). The border crossing was way easier than I thought (we read from other blogs/travel books that some immigration offficals refuse to give entry stamps unless they were paid off, or travellers getting their packs stolen while trying to catch taxis). The road delays were more or less expected, although we were expecting 1 or 2 hrs...not 4 hrs! But we were still able to make all our connections and arrived in Chachapoyas safely..so I would consider this border crossing a success! :)

Posted by TravellingFries 19:20 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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