Updated: Jun 2, 2018
Our cozy little flat in Cusco was the perfect spot to begin our Peruvian adventure. The owner of our apartment also owns a tour company and she arranged for two tours for us during the week.
We wandered around the main plaza, Plaza de Armas, and could already feel the rich culture of Peru. There were many people wearing traditional Peruvian attire, carrying huge sacs filled with plants and flowers on their backs. We could hear live music coming from every corner or the square. Benjamin and I were happy to stumble upon a chocolate festival, and he sampled the goods. I captured the Plaza in a painting, exaggerating the rich colors created by the light on the buildings.
Our first tour was on ATV's in the sacred valley. Although I had never driven an ATV, and was told "no choices", I was excited to throw Benjamin on the back of the muddy vehicle. We whizzed off to the beautiful historic agricultural site of tiered levels of land the Peruvians used to grow different crops based on the temperature at each level. Next, we made our way through tiny Peruvian towns, where we saw families living in clay brick houses. Children that were half of Benjamin's age were working in the fields with their parents.
The second stop on the ATV tour was the salt mines, where salt is still being created by evaporation pools for medicinal and epicurean purposes. We saw a few llamas on the way back, including one who wanted run away with the circus!
After a couple of days enjoying town, we boarded the very early PeruRail train to Machu Picchu. This train was one of our great expenses on our trip and after traveling on the train, I know why it is priced the way it is! The attention to detail including the staff uniforms, entertainment, and the food service was impeccable. Benjamin and I enjoyed the Vistadome train, with glass surrounding us, we saw so many beautiful vistas on our three and a half hour journey.
Once we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we purchased our tickets to Machu Picchu and our bus tickets to the entry gate. The bus ride was a winding but short 20 minutes, and we arrived at the front gate by 10:30am.
It is very difficult to describe the amazing feeling when you first enter Machu Picchu. This ancient city, built into the side of a mountaintop is not only a wonder of architecture, but of sheer beauty. It is believed that the Incans built their "secret city" as a royal estate or a sacred temple. They also used it to hide from the Spanish Conquistadors during the 16th century. Benjamin and I walked through the 170 buildings, hundreds of terraces, and thousands of steps all day. Benjamin especially loved meeting the llamas!
After we had explored the site, we took the bus back into town. We stumbled upon a beautiful restaurant overlooking the river, and enjoyed warm soup while it rained. Our train wasn't quite ready to board, so we took the chance to shop in a traditional Peruvian marketplace, picking up a couple of souvenirs.
Our next adventure was via bus through three more archaeological Incan sites. We walked even further than we did visiting Machu Picchu and saw ancient towns and the sun temple. The Incans were so in tune with the solstice suns that they built temples on top of mountains where the sun crested during those dates. They even built towns at the base of magic mountains that reunited the four solstices of the year.
We hopped a flight to Juliaca to stay in Puno above Lake Titicaca. Our next flat had a beautiful view of the lake and a little more space to stretch out.
The town of Puno itself is small, but not quite as charming as Cusco. We walked through the amazing central market where eggs, seeds, and fruits and vegetables of every kind were for sale.
That same day, we wandered in a celebration of The Virgin Mary that included hundreds of school children in costume, and signs that were made in the square out of natural items such as corn that stained the street purple.
The Plaza de Armas in Puno is home to the only restaurant we tried, Bar Mojsa. I enjoyed the Peruvian lamb and Benjamin had another bowl of chicken soup. We will always remember Peru for it's wonderful soup.
As Lake Titicaca is the main attraction in Puno, we eventually wandered down to the port to jump on a boat. We decided on the floating islands of Uros. Our fare was only $3.75 for a three hour tour! The thirty minute boat ride took us to a man made island, made from reeds and mud. Each house on the island is also made of reeds, but they've recently added solar panels to add electricity to each hut. Once of the residents on the first island invited us into her home. It was so tiny, colorful, and well kept.
Our group took a large reed boat to the second island, where Benjamin ordered fried chicken. He declared it to be the best he had ever tasted!
Our trip to Peru was full of culture and smiles. The people of Peru are so hardworking and kind, they make you feel right at home even even you trip over the language barrier. The landscapes are something that we will never forget.