Surprising Peru

We arrived in Lima, Peru, with a ten day exploration planned of this country.  None of us had been in Peru before, and had only a hazy idea of what we’d encounter.  Our trip included Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu.  I’ll save Machu Picchu for a subsequent blog posting, and cover the first part of our Peru adventure.

Lima 026 Lima is a surprisingly pleasant city right on the Pacific Ocean.  It’s noteworthy for its almost total lack of rainfall (about three inches per year), its size, and its role as capital of Peru.  Gibson and I played baseball with a great group of young boys here, while Elizabeth and Sterling explored old Lima.  We had a long (way too long!!) lunch at a restaurant with a great view of the ocean and all the Lima surfers.  And we hiked around an ancient burial site in downtown Lima. 

Sacred Valley 047 The next day we headed to Cusco, which was a short flight from Lima.  But the altitude transition was a big challenge.  Lima is at sea level and Cusco is at 11,000 feet.  All of us felt the impact, but none more than Elizabeth!  After just a few hours in Cusco, she was feeling all of the negative effects of altitude sickness, and it got serious enough that she went to an emergency clinic.  The doctors there were terrific, as were the Abercrombie and Kent people in Peru who helped us with the trip.  After an hour in the pressure chamber, and five hours at the clinic, we got our first Cusco day out of the way.  Ouch!

Sacred Valley 037 The next day we explored Cusco, a city of about 900,000 people with a beautiful downtown city square.  After the day before’s adventures, we took it easy in Cusco, and didn’t see a whole heck of a lot.  And I have the impression we didn’t miss much, either.  It’s a pleasant enough city, but I wouldn’t rate it as a “must” on any trip to Peru, other than its role as the gateway to Machu Picchu.  Our biggest disappointment about Cusco was missing out on meeting Barbara Perrins there.  We had planned to meet her on Saturday night, but ended up at the emergency room.  Even though we had never met her (she’s the mother of Nicholas Perrins, who works closely with the next Senator of Virginia, Mark Warner), she was incredibly kind in offering to help us.  It sounds like she’s doing some amazing things in Peru, so that will be yet another reason for us to return.

Sacred Valley 339 Following Cusco, we dropped down a couple thousand feet (thankfully) to explore the Sacred Valley of Peru, which we found fabulous.  It gave us a real view of rural Peru, with gorgeous countryside and some great hiking and exploring.  One afternoon, Gibson and I explored a fascinating set of salt mines.  A small stream, full of salt, runs through  a terraced area which is partitioned into hundreds of small staging areas.  Interestingly, each area is owned by a local family.  Our guide Sacred Valley 350indicated that the families make about $10 per month on the salt they collect from a salt plot.  And there’s no transportation to the salt flats other than by foot, so the locals end up walking 45 minutes each way on the days they work the land.  It gives you an idea of this area’s economy.

Sacred Valley 367 We also saw some great birds, including the Giant Hummingbird, at the place we stayed (Sol y Luna) in the Sacred Valley.  We loved our accommodations, and felt like we could watch this very large hummingbird for hours on end.  We had bushes right outside our hotel room, with a little deck and chair where we could sit, read, and watch these hummers.  I have to admit, hummingbirds are one of my favorites, but everyone in our family was fascinated by these fast-moving birds.

Sacred Valley 358 We were sorry to be leaving the Sacred Valley, but were excited to be moving on to Machu Picchu.  But feel free to check out our photographs of the first phase of our stay in Peru.

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