We flew straight from Galapagos to Lima to jump over the not so noteworthy expanse that is northern Peru. We spent the first few days in Miraflores (the Gringo area), which is what you’d expect for a more affluent section of a large city. Walkable, neat outdoor mall on the coast that afforded a nice sunset or two, and a reasonable selection of coffee shops and vegetarian places in the main area.
The actual historical area is more downtown. I took my traveling companions on a typical “too long” walk through it, but we made it to the main square (Plaza Major de Lima), where I grabbed this picture of the government palace.
Our main object was to visit Parque de la Reserva, the famous water park in Lima. It consisted of a bunch of installations that all involved water spouting in some way or another. I guess droughts aren’t really an issue here. Anyways, I took some pictures of these things.
There were actually like 10 (or more) of these, from bridges you could walk under to just large fountains to look at. This one allowed you to jump in and out as the spouts went down. Like in that level of Lion King for Sega Genesis when the lava would geyser up from the ground and roast Simba. It’s the same level with all those damn bats.
After visiting the waterpark, I sent my sister and her boyfriend back to Miraflores in a taxi for their Peru Hop trip to Cusco. I took an AirBnb about 15 minutes away in a more “local” neighborhood. I had the entire 3BR to myself, and it cost 50% less than any of the apartments in the Miraflores area.
The nearest Starbucks was a 30 minute walk; a walk I made just about every day. There were a bunch of things that distance, like a mall and a Papa John’s. So much walking. Good training for my hikes I guess.
I also had a market close by, so I mostly hung out, cooked, went to Starbucks, and worked for a couple weeks. I did go to the Monastery of San Francisco (Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco), which has the second largest collection of underground bones in the world. Kind of freaky, especially if you don’t like old human bones.
I also went to Kulcafé Cafe a couple times, which was nice to hang out for a bit and drink a coffee and work. The veggie places weren’t much to write home about, and my starred map of Lima is mostly just where the Starbucks are. So if you have any questions about where the Starbucks are or which ones are best, I’m an expert on the matter.
My Uber driver to the airport was from Venezuela, so he said some things to me in Spanish which were probably interesting. Like, I think he has a house and a car in Venezuela and the girls there are really pretty. That Uber ride and the taxi ride back from the water fountain bookended my alone time in Lima, and were the two longest conversations I had over those two weeks.
So I flew to Cusco for this festival thing, and to await the finishing of my sister’s Salkantay trek. Like most festivals, this one had a lot of parades, music, and people dressed up. Which is the worst combination of things in the world. Watching the traditionally-dressed Peruvians get absolutely trashed in the square afterward was kind of amusing though.
Surprisingly, my sister and her boyfriend survived their Machu Picchu trek, so we decided to go to Rainbow Mountain a few days later. It’s called that, because it’s a mountain, and it looks like a rainbow.
It was a rather difficult uphill hike the whole way, and the locals lined the pathway with mules taunting you to rent one for the way up. Kind of rude.
I’m saving the majority of my Cusco experience (aka Machu Picchu) for my trek in another month, so we moved on to Bolivia. Bolivia charges a ridiculous $160 visa fee and is run by a crazy person, so that doesn’t make a great first impression. It’s a beautiful country from a natural perspective, but it’s shit otherwise.
Our first stop was in Copacabana (not the Barry Manilow song), where we were sequestered for a day because a local priest was stealing money or raping people or both. Never really figured out what happened there. It was a cute, dusty tourist town that allowed access to Isla del Sol, where we also spent a night.
We then went to La Paz for a couple nights, which I didn’t care for. No Starbucks, who can like such a place. I took my own tour around the Witches Market (selling all the normal souvenirs, plus weird potions and stuff) and wandered the streets for a while. Couldn’t convince anyone to bike Death Road with me (something about the name scared them), so I’ll have to save that for another time.
My sister’s brilliant itinerary included 3 overnight buses in the course of 7 days, so we took one of those to Sucre, Bolivia. This was probably the only town in Bolivia I actually liked. This is their “white city” – was a little more upscale, nicer architecture, and had a few coffee shops and vegetarian places I could go to. You can also learn Spanish there. You can also not learn Spanish there, which is what I did.
It’s famous for having some of the longest stretches of dinosaur footprints in the world. We saw those, and here are pictures.
Tiny props are very useful to take pictures on the Salt Flats (our next stop), so we browsed the cemetery looking at children’s graves for ideas. That idea ended up being quite good, but not greater than the morbidness of it, so we left feeling kind of bad.
Another night bus landed us in Uyuni, Bolivia, home of freezing cold weather and a horrible hostel that wouldn’t let us sit inside until things opened. So we just went and booked our Salt Flats Tour and got on our way.
First stop, abandoned train yard. Westerners built it to mine gold and silver and whatever else, then abandoned it so it could become a meager tourist attraction fifty years later.
The main attraction for this trip was the Salt Flats, especially since the national park was closed and we couldn’t see the Green and Red lagoons. But we got to see the Salt Flats just fine, where you’re supposed to use props to mess with perception and whatever. My sister took some good pictures, but here’s the one I took.
We ended up traveling around in a jeep with an older Canadian couple living in Mongolia, who ended up being pretty enjoyable.
The moon was too bright to get a proper night sky, but one night we went out and the guide pointed to random stars and said it was a llama or something.
If I could turn back time, I’d just do the day trip and save freezing in tiny hostels in the middle of a desert for two days. But you can’t turn back time, so you freeze for a couple days and people ski into trees. But during the days it was actually quite nice, and they brought us to a couple places worth going.
Not sure where this one was, but it’s just a tiny town on the side of the desert with lots of cacti and creepily accessible human skeletons.
Another fun photo opportunity that the Salt Flats provide are the reflecting pools. So you stand on them, and take pictures of your reflection. Since I am one person I was not able to do that, but I took a picture of the mountain’s reflection.
My sister got some photos, but since when has this been about actually posting good photos of things? Never.
We also went to this Fisher Island thing, but it was a few dollars to get in and we could see the cacti from the waiting area, so we just chilled there instead. Like, after a while you understand the concept of cacti and salt.
And then we went to a cave. It was weird.
Then, after being angry at the tour people for making us pay a lot to get to Chile, we paid a lot to get to Chile. The view of the Atacama desert along the way was quite nice, so I took a picture even though we’d return in a few days for a proper tour.