We spent 29 days in Peru, it is now time for us to make a small assessment.
First of all, here is our route
- 2 days in Arequipa
- 1 day on the Colca canyon road
- 3 days hiking in the Colca canyon
- 1 day in Cusco
- 1 day in the Sacred Valley
- 1 day of trekking preparation in Cusco
- 7 days trekking looking for the Choquequirao
- 3 days in Cusco to rest
- 2 days in Nazca
- 1 day in Lima
- 3 days in Huaraz
- 2 days in Trujillo
- 2 days in Chiclayo
- 3 nights in AirBnB in Cusco and 1 in Chiclayo
- 5 nights in bus
- 8 nights hiking
- 11 nights in hostel/inn
The fourth country on our road, Peru was a beautiful and pleasant surprise. We were expecting to cross the most touristic country of South America, to wander among the tourists being amazed at Andean smokescreen, finally we were pleasantly surprised by this country and its inhabitants.
We completely fell under the spell of the South of the country, its cities with colonial tracks or its green valleys with luxuriant forests. We wandered during the rainy season, in March. Then yes, we systematically folded a wet tent or even soaked, our clothes aired sometimes three days to dry, we walked in heavy mist during a whole day and we reached a lagoon perched at 4,600 m slapping with wind and snow mixed with rain. But you know what? We regret nothing! Travelling in Peru during the rainy season will have offered us some spectacular landscapes that we will not forget.
Moreover, speaking about spectacular, Machu Picchu, classified among the Seven New World Wonders is considered as an unmissable for any trip in Peru. However, we decided not to go there. Several reasons for that: the tourist torrent visiting every day this archeological site does not please us and weak ruins; the fact that every movement of the visitors is controlled by guards and cords of circulation; the high price of entrance, without being sure how it is used.
Peru has an incredible archaeological wealth! To give you an idea, the Incas, who are the most famous by their art of the war and by the construction of Machu Picchu lived “only” two centuries from 1300 till 1500. Bye the way, Machu Picchu is only one of their realisation among so many others; Cusco area is overflowed with sites still covered of vegetation. We went off to explore one of them, we speak about it later.
Do the names of Caral, Chan Chan, Sipian speak to you? These places are a wealth for the country: Caral is the oldest pre-Colombian city of South America, built between 3000 and 1800 before Jesus Christ; Chan Chan is the biggest city of adobe of the world (construction of clay, sand and straw, to refresh your memory, it is this way or there) built by Chimus who lived between 1000 and 1400 after JC; Sipian, territory of the Moches (pronounced motché) between the year 100 and 700 after JC, known for their unequalled hydraulic knowledge at this time and their mastery of the ceramic and the goldsmithery, marvellous! These places are only some examples. We visited two museums dedicated to the last two quoted sites. Besides, refusing to go to Machu Picchu, we went to another inca city, Choquequirao (“golden cradle” in Quechua), called often “younger sister of Machu Picchu” the site would be bigger in fact; today only 40 % of the constructions arose from the forest. To go there, 2 days of hiking minimum. A project of cable railway between two valleys, validated by Peruvian government, would waste the tranquillity of the place, but at the moment, we are enjoying! We decided to go by ourselves there and we slept and trudged in the middle of ruins, surrounded with a half-dozen of visitors. Not the big crowd! We pursued our walk 5 other days through remote valleys, accessible only by walking, unknown inca ruins, we crossed high passes which tested us to arrive at the end, in the last morning, on a mirador of Machu Picchu. This trek was the hardest we made, 94 km, 6,175 m of positive difference in height and 7,180 m negative difference in height (without counting the visit of Choquequirao, where nothing is flat!). Our small Peruvian challenge! To continue on numbers, a quick glance at our expenses during this week trek: 63€ / person, campsite, food, entrance of the site, the outward trip and return on Cusco. To give you an idea, the only entrance of Machu Picchu costs 40 €, the stay is usually 200€ / person for two days and one night.
Other pleasant surprise of the country, the smile and the humor of Peruvians! In the South especially, we met smiling people, delighted to exchange two words with us or to direct us.
Finally, the last pleasant surprise, the food! Well, we have to admit that we did not really taste the Peruvian cooking. At the same time, being vegetarian in the country where the chicken is king, where the fish is cooked in all the way and where the guinea pig is not a pet, is not simple! Nevertheless we enjoyed delicious dishes, copious, sometimes organic, sometimes completely vegan. For that purpose, Cusco, city where we thought only as a tourist place, turned out to be multicultural and very open in particular in term of gastronomy! We gave ouselves a treat ; -)
Concerning our farming discoveries
Peru was the first country without volunteering. We had found a host in the Amazonian forest, east of Cusco and had to go there just after our trek. Not having received indications from the host despite our numerous reminders, we finally gave up the idea of this stay…
To compensate, we observed lands around us!
In our big despair, we find the lack of respect of the people to the earth. Even on high plateau, more than 4,000 m, kilometers away of the first villages, there are waste along every road and path. People throw their residues through windows and say a few minutes later having respect for the Pachamama (the earth). For us that remains a nonsense…
Fortunately we had beautiful images. Magnificent cultures where in the middle of corns field grow wild flowers, alternations of culture and a lower use of pesticides.
Moreover, concerning the consumption of pesticides, Peru has a consumption lower than the world average with in 2014, 98 kg of used pesticides per hectare of arable land (over the same year, the world consumption was 138 kg of pesticides by hectare of arable land and 152 kg for France (Source: The World Bank).
Following the example of Bolivia, we were pleased to wander in the local markets where everything can be bought in bulk, even if it is necessary to insist and to be fast to hand its cloth bag not to receive a plastic one… We indulged ourselves in particular for our 7 days trekking, we were almost able to realise zero-waste shopping.
We did not keep the exact detail but globally on 29 days we produced as not recyclable or not biodegradable waste:
- 1 plastic wrap which packed a sandwich
- 1 bag of pastas, 1 of oat and 1 of polenta, leftover from Chile
- 1 bag of pastas and 1 of wheat
- 3 bags of tomato sauce
- 1 straw (we thought of making a perfect round, and at the last moment, bim!)
- 2 packagings of toilet paper
- Some medicine
- 1 bag of spices bought in Argentina
- 1 brick of almond milk (we spoke about homemade hot chocolate with almonds crushed during the whole trek that we were obliged to buy one at our return!)
- 4 bags of chocolate (we needed strengths for the hike ;-)!) then again 4 because they were excellent!
- Dental floss
A financial point to conclude
With Bolivia and Ecuador, Peru is considered as one of the cheapest countries of South America. The average budget per day per person seen repeatedly was 25€. The difference with other countries, we find everything for all budget! Example in Cusco, several luxury hotels are offered to the visitors (500€ pernight, we hesitated to crack …! ;-)), but it is as well in this city as we took one of the least expensive rooms of our stay, 8€80 for a double one to have breakfast for two. Still in Cusco, we made an vegan orgy in a restaurant which we warmly recommend (psst, go to see the Green Point!); the lunch, more than copious and flavourfull, for 3€70!
Not having made volunteering, but quite a lot of cultural visits, archeological sites and museums, we have for once a budget rather similar to the classic backpacker. Nevertheless we had no problem to be below 20€ per person!
We hope that you liked reading our balance assessment of Peru. You can find our other series on the following links. The portfolio is here and the production of the pupils of Quinson it is for soon!
Good reading on Yakoilabas!