An unforgettable encounter with the land of the Incas
My name is Oliver from my native Toronto, Canada and this is my personal experience which I hope it will give some insights to those travellers wanted to travel to Peru.
Back at school, I was good at history in general and what fascinated me the most was South America, the Incas. For many years it became a dream to travel through these lands. However, after finishing all my studies, I am not sure what happened with the trip I dreamed. After got graduated I got married, I grew up my children and I traveled anywhere in the world with my wife, but left aside in some way to travel to Peru.
Tasting my first encounter with Peru.
One day, I heard colleagues at work talking about their experience of Peruvian food at "Mira Toronto" restaurant, the excellent food and attention they had when they got there.
I raised an eyebrow, Peruvian food .. Uhm that's interesting, so I asked the restaurant address to my colleagues. Later, at home, look at the TripAdvisor reviews to get some additional feedback, and visit their website to have an idea on the kind of dishes I could try but everything seemed new to me. We have to go Kelly! I told my wife, who nodded in a good way. The place seems very nice! Kelly commented when arriving at the restaurant, so my wife was pleased with the choice.
This was my first encounter with Peru and I was thrilled, and nothing better than a welcome drink, the ‘Pisco Sour’. While presenting the drink, the waiter made a comment "The Pisco is from Peru", of course, I thought (I did not know that Chile also tries to claim this fabulous drink as a registered trademark, when it is not of its origin). The food was fantastic, from the classic 'Ceviche', 'Grilled Calamares', 'Ribs', Picarones 'Donuts' and a chocolate bomb, a delicious treat.
Meanwhile, I was sharing this fantastic time with Kelly, I read a sign that said "Welcome to Peru, the land of the Incas", and a Machu Picchu travel come to my mind and that was it. The next day, I was looking for travel agencies to undertake my trip to Peru, especially those that could provide a local experience, comfort, etc. I must say that it was an arduous task to find the best guided tours to Machu Picchu or the one that I thought could equal my expectations.
It was when I came across the name of the agency Machu Picchu Peru I read about them, their equipment, experience, etc. Then, I contacted the tour operator to find out more about my destination Machu Picchu all inclusive trip and made a reservation for a Lima and Cusco tours.
Travelling to Peru
I found out if you are travelling within Peru, airlines running the domestic flights such as LATAM would offer you a good discount if you get also their international flight all of it as one package. We were traveling on an economic flight thus not chance this time in getting a luxury tour to Machu Picchu but that was fine.
In August time, I was leaving Toronto at 17:45 flying for around 10 hours and arrive very early in the morning at 06:45 am to Lima. Overall it was a good flight and service.
An enthusiastic representative of the company a young man welcome us, at Lima airport and transfer us to Miraflores district in Lima.
My first impression at this hour of the morning time is that Lima is a very busy city but once you reach the coastline and cliffs, the ocean views will somehow charm you.
Miraflores a town that emerged from the ashes.
Our accommodation was super at one of the ‘Casa Andina premium’ in Miraflores. After setting in the hotel, my wife and myself went to explore, Miraflores town and the surroundings. Ramon will provide us with some advice so we can get the most of this leisure day.
We ended up walking on the malecon and reaching few spots to see from the cliffs the surfers having a good time. We notice a restaurant down the beach named ‘ Rosa Nautica’ or Nautic Rose, Kelly was keen to get there which it was not difficult to reach. The Nautic Rose is a fine restaurant with a great ocean views and an excellent menu, the food was delicious and we highly recommend this place.
On the following day, we will be exploring the old city centre accompanied of Ramon who will guide us through the city.
In 1879, Peru had a war with Chile which lasted 5 years, the war was for the possession of saltpeter from the lands of southern Peru and Bolivia. In the last years of the battles, Chile won the war and with its troops arrived upto Lima when reaching its shores, Chilean troops sabotage the spas of Chorrillos, Barranco and Miraflores. These districts were burned down, looting everything in their way by Chilean soldiers because most of this district were used by the aristocracy of the time. When Ramon explained to us while we passed the pacific ocean somehow I could recreate everything in my mind. After the war, Chile occupied for another 3 years Lima city until a peace treated was reached. Thus, you will notice in Lima city, monuments to their defeated heroes who defended the city until the end.
Years later Miraflores got rebuilt and restored, and it has become a point of encounter of many tourist worldwide before getting some Machu Picchu travel deals or to other parts of Peru. The district can offer you very fine restaurants, great views from their marina, good shopping centres. Also you will admire and witness the pyramid left by the very first settlers of the ancient Peru which was used by the Incas at some point as veneration place.
The old city and its monuments
Ramon took us to the old city centre and to be honest the more you get into the old city the traffic becomes subreal. Lima has a population of 10 million habitants and I heard Lima county council is developing new traffic systems to improve the flow of transport around the old town and most Lima districts.
Our transport left us nearby the Sheraton hotel and from there we started walking in direction to the old city centre. I could imagine the splendour of this city years ago showing all its buildings at its best. The old town is very colonial one, showing most of its buildings and streets from a past that wrote history for many of its local people.
I was impressed by the colonial buildings of the main squares, as well as the main cathedral. We observed the changing guards at the presidential palace. In the old city, we went to eat nearby at the ‘Peru gourmet bar resto bar’ they have an interesting set of menu of creole food. Afterwards at a walking distance ‘ The Pisco Palace’ attract our taste for such fantastic drinks.
Ramon our guide, show us some streets in this old city centre and explaining us the history behind their names as well some of it’s tales, so much traditions around us.
On our way back to the hotel, we visit the Museo Larco and fantastic exhibition of Inca and pre Inca artcrafts and jewellery. This museum is an old colonial mansion which was built on top of pre-Inca construction on its premises its has an exclusive restaurant which would serve you a extraordinary gourmet food, or aperitives, very impressive.
Finally, we visited ‘Huaca Puccllana’ in the heart of Miraflores this was a pre-Inca construction which was at the time facing directly the Pacific Ocean and served as a home for its residents. The Incas who dominated all this lands used also all this constructions at some point which were considered sacred by them. You cannot missed such impressive building full of ancient past and served for a us as a preparation of our Machu Picchu tour package.
We were a bit lucky because August in Lima is winter time and humidity can be high but in the mountain is sunny due the dry season, and that’s where we were heading at the end.
Our tips for Lima will be:
- Be open minded, and easy your expectations on the local traffic.
- Get some local currency especially if you want to get something from the local shops.
- Learn some Spanish words..gracias, por favor, permiso..etc in general people are kind towards tourist and do smile even more when you said one of this words.
- Peruvians in general bargain when purchasing something so don’t be afraid in doing it..’nada menos?’ ‘nothing less’.
- When trying some local food, be sure in asking if it is not too chilli.
- Do try some local refreshment drink from the Peruvian amazon region ‘The Camu, Camu’ is perfect and healthy full of vitamin C.
- If you don’t speak the local lingo is better to walk around with a guide.
- Just take it easy on the ‘Pisco sour’ and don’t forget that ‘the real one is from Peru’.
The heart of the empire, Cusco.
Once you are arriving on the plane, you immediatly notice Cusco green valley and mountains such an amazing feeling.
We will be spending few days in Cusco, and wanted to know the most of it without involving in a hard adventure.
After being transferred to our hotel in city centre, we got our briefing on the days ahead by our guide tour. My first impression of Cusco, town, is a mix of culture town because meanwhile travelling on the local shuttle to the hotel, you will notice the mixture of the architectonic colonial buildings, setting up on polish stones from Inca periods.
On the following day, our tour guide gave us a good explanation on the constructions around the cit. It come out that during the Spanish conquest most of the Inca Temples and buildings were destroyed and louted by the Spanierds. Cusco itself was constructed by the Incas on a shape of a Puma figure because they consider this animal as a sacred one of the Andes. Kelly and myself were atonished by the shape of Inca walls as we were walking on their stones streets. We visited the Temple of the Sun or ‘Koricancha’ and by its size and history it causes respect because many people die defending what they consider were their vision of the world.
Is not all about the money!
The Inca and its descents were a very well organised culture in which the value of money didn’t exist, from that context is fascinating to know that everyone play a role within their Inca society. Our guide show us another parts of the city in which the challenge of raising Inca walls make Incas shape the stones into fantastic angles. An example of this mastering is over the 12 angle stone, fitted in perfect harmony with another stones to make a wall. Once again you will be surprise by the engineering the ancient people have achieved on irrigation systems, from which still working fountains and channels bringing water to Cusco city. Asides of seeing all this Inca constructions, we visit colonial churches and museums all them showing us so much art making a fusion between this two cultures. We went to San Blas Mirador to get a perfect view of the whole Cusco town and after get a refreshment at a very nice restobar called
‘ Limbus’ thanks to its great views of the mountains and town, Kelly and myself we fall each other once again.
A Sacred Valley full of surprises
The following day, we travel to the Inca Sacred Valley which I have to said is extremely beautiful, so we went to visit some villages, interact with the locals at the artisan open market. During the Inca period, the Sacred Valley was important for its fertility and grown of corn to make ‘chicha’. The golden fermented crop, still important in the villages and you can tried chicha so after few of those brews you will feel more happier.
The Sacred Valley is impressive for its andean mountain range from which some rivers come from and giving life to most parts of all these valleys.
We have also an interesting time meeting locals at a location named ‘Chinchero’ a charming small village full of artisans and farmers. I found out that each village stamp their own design on their hand made textile or artcraft thus, it will be not the same art from village to village.
At the end of our tour we went to a place called ‘Ollantaytambo’ a village with an outstanding past because in situ exist an Inca temple carrying the same name of the village. Ollantaytambo fortress will make you think twice on the type of engineering the Incas used to bring up such huge stones. Kelly and myself couldn’t comprehend how the Incas master such grade of achievement without getting any machinery aid. Fine wall stone made, water fountains, irrigations system, their architects were cautious in placing all of this polish stones in perfect order. The Incas wanted to preserve at all the times a harmony with nature so their buildings will not contrast with it.
After exploring Ollantaytambo, our guide take us to ‘Maras’ and ‘Moray’ being the first an open salt field mine from which the locals are getting this element. The salt fields are a beautiful scenery to watch as their white salt fields can reflect the blue andean sky. Later on we went nearby to Moray site which contains unusual Inca ruins, mostly consisting of several terraced circular depressions at approx 30 m (98 ft) deep. As with many other Inca sites, it also has an irrigation system. The first theory in place is that the circles were used as a experimental farming because the temperature inside the circles are changing gradually from top to bottom.
As we were going back to our hotel in Cusco, my brain stuck on the process of assimilating all the information i witness during my trip. All I know, about this culture during my school age it has been paid off meanwhile travelling around this land. So far, I have been very pleased with the all organisation and care I been provided during my tour and we are more than excited for the coming day.
A train journey for an encounter with my destiny
Today we were heading to a train station to embark to a train journey on our way to Machu Picchu.
Many Peruvian railroad lines owe their origins to contracts granted to United States entrepreneurs Henry Meiggs and W. R. Grace and Company but the mountainous nature of Peru made expansion slow and much of the surviving mileage is of twentieth-century origin. It was also challenging to operate, especially in the age of the steam locomotive. Once at the Poroy train station, it gave me the feeling I was in a kind of movie made back in the past century. I was very surprised by the comfortable carriages provided for this trip, they were fitted with large windows even on a part of ceiling, so you can get panoramic views of the Inca Valley at all the time. The train journey was fantastic and service in the train superb, getting the most of the andean landscapes around us.
Few hours later we were getting to ‘Aguas Calientes’ town and from there a bus will take us to the nearest spot before getting to the checkpoint control in Machu Picchu.
Personally this was my final counter, Kelly look at me all the times and knew how much this journey meant to me. We passed the control together, hand by hand and we walked a small trail bordering a mountain, when all the sudden the first signs of stones being made by the Incas where showing off in front of us. We kept walking quietly as I was feeling my wife hand closing strong mine. The big mountain, Huayna Picchu was there as it was protecting the rest of the Inca construction, there are not words to describe such feeling. Just to absorb the moment because I knew it will be last time I will be admiring such notable legacy left in place. Our guide show us some Inca recints and explain us the most he could about each section, there were rooms so perfectly being constructed with windows facing the green valleys. There are some theories on the use of this royal grounds, one theory pointed it was a retreat place for the Inca and royal crown another one is that Machu Picchu occupied a special place in the "sacred landscape" of the Inca. Machu Picchu is built at the top of a mountain that is almost completely encircled by the Urubamba River, which the Inca named the Vilcamayo, or Sacred River.
The andean cosmology vision
The rising and setting of the sun, when viewed from specific locations within Machu Picchu, aligns neatly with religiously significant mountains during the solstices and equinoxes. The Inca believed the sun to be their divine ancestor. It's an example of cosmology intertwining with sacred landscape that is virtually unique in the Andes and that takes on a degree of sacrality because it combines the Earth and the sky, which are also combined in Incan thought.
After the tour inside Machu Picchu, we have some time to wonder the site by ourselves so we did the most we could during the free solo visit.
Finished our encounter with an ancient past left there to all of us, we sadly have to go back to take or train back to Ollantaytambo and Cusco city. In the way back, we engage with some travellers who also gave us their impressions about Machu Picchu. What if these people were left alone for another 100, 200 years?. Well, the answer is unknown.
All we know, is that the Incas have another vision of the word a very different one occident cultures from which it will remain their legacy to us for good.
Kelly and myself got quizzed on the Amazonas, desserts as well as other regions of Peru. Indeed it is a fantastic country to travel with some many places to visit and perhaps next time we will come over with rest of our family. We are grateful to the staff who made this trip an unique one and it was an excellent choice to select your tour company to made our dream come true. We have now full of stories to share with our loving ones back to our home land.