We have been on a whirlwind since arriving in Peru! Generally this is not how we like to travel but because we have already booked our Machu Picchu trek (Oct. 30!!!) we are making our way south rather quickly to get to Cusco early and acclimatize.
Day 1 & 2 – Lima, Peru: Nightmare On Elm Street
As mentioned in our last post, we had our first shit Air B&B experience. We had arranged to stay two nights in Lima. The home had good reviews (Clair: Except for the ONE review – I should have listened to that one!) and the pictures looked fine. Our host had been kind enough to arrange for airport pickup ($20 CAD). We’d heard from enough people to arrange transportation ahead of time as the taxis outside the Lima airport aren’t always safe. We met our driver and made our way to the neighbourhood of Miraflores. Miraflores and Barranco are two of the nicest neighbourhoods in Lima and most likely where you’ll want to stay if you’re visiting. The driver was an absolute madman but it’s his job right?! As soon as we arrived we knew this was going to be weird. The house really really smelled awful, like rotting fish and dog. We were shown our room which had two double beds that were covered in hair and cigarette burns. Clair went to use the bathroom and then didn’t because there was so much mold and scum covering EVERYTHING. Kik went to go put some milk in the fridge and the kitchen was unlike anything he had ever seen before in his life. There was also no lock on our door, which is fine… but not really if you’re hosting guests through Air B&B. But it was late, and we were in a new city so just kept our clothes on and went to sleep. The next morning – we just left. We emailed our host as we ran out the door. Childish? – Possibly. Necessary? – Yes. We found a great hostel down the road called Mana Hostel. The building could use a bit of a touch up but the people who work there are amazing. One of the staff, Erik, sat down with us and helped plan our entire trip through Peru!
Once we were settled in we immediately felt better. Lima is an interesting city. We went for run along the ocean that has a great walk and bike path and even workout stations. We went for a super long walk to this restaurant called Salto del Fraile where every hour this guy jumps of the rock into the massive waves below. I can’t explain this – it just happens! There are really nice cafes (Make sure to check out Dedalo Art and Handicraft) and great restaurants.
On our second day we grabbed a cab ($5 CND) and headed into the historic centre of Lima. We headed straight for the market and it was pretty insane! You can literally buy anything in there. This market seemed slightly off the beaten path as we didn’t see any other tourists in the market and definitely got a few stares (and “I love yous”) as we walked around. We never felt unsafe though. We wandered around and ended up eating some terrible food and then headed home. It gets pretty chilly at night in Peru, so bring a jacket!
Day 3-4 – Paracas, Peru: The Poor Man’s Galapogos
We were up super early to catch a cab for our first Cruz del Sur bus to Paracas, Peru. These are considered luxury buses but they are super reasonable for what they offer. We definitely recommend them. The seats recline, they have lots of legroom, leg rests, they play bingo, and they play the WORST and most hilarious movies (so far we’ve seen: Eddie the Eagle, Batman V Superman (this was ok), My Name is Doris (horrible), My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2…. you get the idea). It took us about 5 hours to get to Paracas. It’s pretty surreal getting there. Having come from mostly jungle, being in the middle of the desert is slightly eerie. We stayed at Paracas Backpackers House. It was nice and clean and they adopted a street dog while we were there, so they are 100% in Clair’s book. We rented some bikes from them and headed to check out the National Paracas Reserve (a 20km bike ride). About 5 km in, Kik broke the pedal completely off his bike so we had to turn back, which was disappointing but the wind was so strong it wasn’t THAT disappointing. The next morning we were already taking off to the desert oasis in Huacachina, Peru but we decided we had time to check out Islas Ballestas (aka the Poor Man’s Galapagos).
At 8:00 AM we headed to the docks, jumped on a boat and took off. The first thing you see is the Candalabra. There is no consensus on why this geoglyph was built but this article outlines some theories. Then we were off to see the animals who inhabit the islands. There are about a million birds shitting everywhere and Sea Lions (not Seals). Guano, not just a part of the Ace Ventura movie, is actually a huge resource in Peru. We were also lucky to see some penguins. We made it back just in time for our one hour bus to Huacachina ($10 CAD pp). Pro tip: Some hostels offer direct shuttles to Huacachina for the same price, but because we had already booked with Cruz del Sur we got dropped off in Ica which is the town less than 10 minutes from the desert oasis. Had we known this we would have just taken a shuttle, as there’s not much to see in Ica.
Day 4-5 – Huacachina, Peru: Little Dune Buggy In The Sand ♫
We stayed at Deserts Nights Eco Camp which was really nice as long as you are ok with staying in (fancy) tents. The pool is clean and the service and food was pretty good! Having a pool was great as it gets super hot during the day but the nights quickly become very cold at sundown. We had one night and two days in Huacachina, which was perfect for us. We spent the first day hanging by the pool, drinking pisco sours, and walking around the lagoon (it’s small). On day two, we did what we came here to do; dune buggy and sand board. For around $20 CAN you get a 2 hour tour. We did the evening tour (4 PM), which we would recommend as it’s not blazing hot and you get to watch the sunset from atop a sand dune. It was like a scene from Mad Max.
The tour itself is really fun but be aware the sand boarding part was literally hurling yourself head first down a sand dune without any safety gear. There’s no ‘beginner’ hill. Also, our guides compared to others out there were pretty tame with the sand buggies. Some of these guys were totally insane ripping up 90 degree angles! We made our book directly through our hostel.
Day 6 – Arequipa, Peru: Get Me Off This Bus!
After the tour, we grabbed a cab back to Ica ($4 CAD) and waited for our overnight bus to Arequipa. This was our first overnight bus, so weren’t sure how it would play out. It was pretty decent. Having neck pillows is a must, although they do hand out pillows and blankets. We arrived in Arequipa this morning and checked into Hostal Orkkowasi Casa de Montaña. We were pretty much bags of garbage today. Half because no matter how luxurious you never sleep that well on a bus, but also because we are at a higher altitude at this point. At first glance, Arequipa is exactly what we thought it would be, a cute university town. Tomorrow we’re going to check out the walking tour and check out the local market.