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Old 24th June 2013, 17:23   #1
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Default To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!

PROLOGUE

I still remember around the same time, last year, during a travel forum community India Meet, some of us were huddled in a small room in Theog (Himachal) and were discussing our “Dream International Destination”. More than half of us, including I listed Machu Pichu, Peru as the dream destination.

I have no idea why Peru got such an over whelming response. Maybe it is an ultimate fantasy land optimized by the scenes shown in movies like the Indiana Jones or The Lara Croft’s? Movies that show forgotten temples deep in jungles, movies that thrill us with old civilizations doing psychedelic rituals, movies that take us on the trails of lost treasures. Or maybe It’s just the Tintin Comics and his adventures in Peru (Prisoners Of The Sun) that kindle the sense of adventure in our own mind and hearts and experience it for ourselves.

Bur do dreams come true?

My answer will be a big YES!!

I do not believe in luck, I always believe that opportunities are always around. With the right kind of planning, the right kind of effort and with some positive attitude in due course of time you will be presented with an opportunity that you have to grasp to realize your dream.

Such opportunity was offered to me by Air France. They were having an online contest in which you had to write an article about a trip that you had taken in no more than 500 words. Then you had to ask your friends to vote for your article via Facebook. In the final round the top 10 most voted articles would be judged by a panel headed by Author Chetan Bhagat. The best judged article would then get the grand prize of 2 tickets to fly anywhere in the world on Air France in Executive Class.

I conciseed my travelogue “When I went Walking To Tibet (When I Went Walking To Tibet - Kailash Mansarovar Yatra-2011)” and entered it in the fray. Luckily lots of friends voted for me and my article based on the voting managed to be on the 4th position. Finally I guess the jury liked my article enough to vote it as the final winner.

Hence I won two tickets to the destination of my choice.

DECIDING THE DESTINATION

Deciding the destination was proving out to be more difficult than winning the tickets, because here the wifey got involved. My wife Parul, always wanted to go to US for a vacation and I have never been too keen on a US Holiday. Don’t ask me why but I have never been keen for the US.

Anyways, since Parul made an equal effort or maybe more in coaxing her facebook friends to vote for my article I thought I might as well give in to her demands and agree to go to US with her. So US was more or less decided.

The plan for US was to reach Seattle at Parul’s Brother’s house, then take a return cruise to Alaska from there and afterwards hire a car down the West Coast till The Grand Canyon and return back.

The flight tickets had to be issued before the end of 2012 and it was already mid December. None of us had a valid US Visa so that was top priority. Getting US Visa turned out to be a very simple process. It was simple maybe because I really was not keen on the Visa and was hoping they would reject mine as I still was in half a mind for the US trip. So the tension of not getting a Visa was not there.

With the US Visa stamped I still was not sure. The last date for the issue of the ticket was approaching and then I decided to cheat. Without consulting my wife I mailed Air France to issue us open tickets (to be utilized with year 2013) to Peru which were mailed to me immediately.

I know Parul was disappointed but I guess she was sweet enough to understand that I would have been more happier going to Peru Than anywhere else.

Hence Peru it was.

PERU PLANNING

PERUVIAN VISA
Peru has a small consulate office in Delhi. The process of getting a Visa is very simple. You can either give your passports directly or thru an agent in the office with the supported documents. Your Visa will be ready within a week.

I decided to go to Delhi and submit My & Parul’s passport at the embassy and get it collected and couriered back by my cousin. No appointments required and It did not take more than 5 minutes at the embassy.

TRIP PLANNING
Because Peru is not that popular a destination with Indian’s I realized that most of the tour companies within India were just acting as agents for companies that organize tours in Peru. As agents mean commissions it meant that the price for itineraries would also go up. I then tried to search of international companies that specialize in South America and also found a few. But these companies apart from being expensive (the dollar rate plays a big role here) also did not have all the places within Peru that I wanted to visit. For e.g some would include Lake Titicaca and exclude Nazca or vice versa.

So I decided to make my own itinerary and do my own planning and bookings. This so far has worked out the best as I feel if not more, I would atleast save 50% of the cost by doing my own planning. Plus I will be staying at better Hotels than the ones offered by these Tour Companies and also visit all the places within Peru that I want to visit and spend as much time as I want to at these places.

DECIDING THE ITINERARY
Once I decided that all the planning will be done by me the next step was to get on to doing some research about the places that I wanted to visit in the 15 days time we had in Peru. This research did not take much time as I realized that most of the tour companies offered only one route (+/- few cities) which is known as The Gringo’s Loop in Peru.

After studying The Gringo’s Loop offered by top rated tour companies on the net I decided on my itinerary. The best part was that now since I was not on a guided tour, I could omit what didn’t interest me from the loop and add whatever I wanted to.
After some research my itinerary looked like this:-

21st May : Arrival Lima and relax
22nd May : Lima
23rd May : Afternoon Bus From Lima to Nazca and explore Nazca ; Over night at Nazca
24th May : Nazca Lines flight and then Bus to Arequipa
25th May : Arequipa ; Over night at Arequipa
26th May : Arequipa to Chivay ; Overnight at Yanque
27th May : Yanque
28th May : Chivay to Puno (overnight at Puno) by 4m express
29th May : Puno to Uros (Lake Titicaca) back to Puno ; Overnight Puno
30th May : Inka Express from Puno to Cusco and further reach Ollantaytambo; over night at ollyntatambo
31st May : Ollyntatambo
1st June : Inca Rail from Ollantaytambo to Augus Callientes ; overnight at AC
2nd June : AC to MP back to Ollantaytambo; overnight Ollantaytambo
3rd June : Cusco
4th June : Cusco
5th June : Cusco to Lima flight and Lima to Paris flight
6th June : Paris
7th June : Paris
8th June : Paris
9th June : Paris to New Delhi
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Old 24th June 2013, 17:28   #2
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MAKING BOOKINGS

Once the itinerary was set and I knew more or less the number of days I was to spend at each location it was time to start making the bookings. Pre booking can always be risky if there is a change in plan so book wisely and always keep in mind the cancellation policy before you book anything

I started doing some more research about each city that we were to visit and gathered all the information about the city and how to reach the city. There are numerous travel forums and blogs that are present on the net and they are a good way to start your research. I realized that there were mainly two types of bookings that I had to make and those are:-

1. Inter City Travel
2. Hotel Bookings

Intercity Travel
Like in India, even in Peru Inter City travel ticket prices are based on how much time prior to the departure day do you book. This is valid for all Bus, Train and Air Travel by which we will be travelling. So the faster you start your planning bigger the chance of getting the really discounted tickets.

Travel cost I realized is not that high in Peru. It is at par with Indian Travel costs. Also like in India there are reports of robbery and looting that come occasionally from public transports. So the biggest worry for me was to book on buses and trains that had good reviews and were supposed to be tourist friendly (basically staff that speak some English). Again travel forums were of big help. Best is to search for reviews and then book according to what the previous travelers have to say

Booking tickets, for all modes of transport, be it train, be it bus or be it flight was the biggest challenge. Sometimes the website did not work, sometimes the money did not get accepted and most of the time the English translation of the site was horrible. So the best is to be patient and keep Spanish to English translation open on google

Hotel Bookings
While booking the hotels it’s all about what you want from the hotel and your budget. Few things that were in my mind before I started to look for hotels were

1. My budget was 50USD per night of stay in a hotel (including taxes)
2. No Shared Bathroom
3. The breakfast should be included in the rate
4. The hotel should have mostly good reviews on booking sites.
5. The hotel should be within reach from the bus/train station of the next/previous destination (goggle maps come in handy here)
6. If you get all of the above and also that you do not have to pay any advance and yet get a confirmed booking is the best scenario. The reason for not paying anything in advance is that you lose a lot of money in online exchange of currency.

With these points in mind I started to look out for hotels in the online sites like booking.com, hostelbookers, expedia, tripadvisor etc etc. I started to take one city at a time and started to compare the rates and started reading views on various booking sites.

Not every criterion can be met so I so I started short listing hotels that matched most of my criteria. Then I started sending them individual mails to see if I would get even better rates or confirmed reservations without advance or even maybe a free car pick up from the bus/rail station if I contacted them directly would be nice. This trick worked with some and I booked with then directly and with some I had to book via booking sites.

Even after booking with the booking sites I made it a point to send these hotels a mail and asking for confirmation about the booking and also asking them about the balance payments due after checking out. This was just to double check.

With all the booking done it was time to plan the Intra City Travel.

INTRA CITY TRAVEL

When you planning a trip abroad on your own it is also very essential to find out the different places of interest that you would want to visit in and around a city. Unlike guided tours, where they will pick you up from the hotel, take you around the various places of interest and drop you back at the hotel in the evening, here you have to manage your own tickets to monuments/museums and your own transportation. It sounds a bit difficult but some research and planning can save you lots of money on travel.

Here again I took every city individually. I referred online sites and forums and shortlisted the things we would be interested in doing in a city. Basically, in a place like Peru, its more about showcasing Inca civilization by means of ruins or museums. I do not want to visit every museum in every and every ruin along the way so I shortlisted the best of the museums and the best of the ruins (apart from Machu Pichu).

Apart from all the history, Peru is also famous for Its high passes across the Mighty Andes and all the natural beauty that surrounds the mountain, the high altitude lakes and all the flaura and fauna. So I decided to spend a few days in exploring the mountains, the canyons and the natural beauty as well.

Once it was certain what I want from every city I shot a mail to every hotel that I had booked in to send me the quote of a tour from the hotel side. These quotes though still a bit on a higher side but are definitely cheaper than a fully guided tour. Another good thing by taking a tour from the hotel is that there is at least some accountability if something goes wrong during the tour.

The other way of exploring a city is to hire local taxis and ask them to take you around. Though very cheap if you can bargain but might not be the best thing to do in Peru as they are not considered the safest.

What is considered safer in Peru is the “collectivos” or "Combis". These are taxis that leave when all seats are full. Lot of tourists use them to travel and are considered the cheapest and relatively safer.

I have booked some trips from the hotels and wherever I was confused in those cities I have decided to take a call once I reach there.
For e.g. I am getting a quote of 100USD per person for a 40 minutes flight over the Nazca lines. But if I go to Nazca airport directly and approach the companies that do the flights, I can get the flights as cheap as 50USD. So have decided to book directly once I reach Nazca.

PERMITS AND TOURIST TICKETS

Every country makes money on tourism so why not Peru? I realized that there are permits and tickets to be bought for all the touristic places to be visited in Peru. While most of the places have individual tickets but the Colca Canyon and most of the places in Sacred Valley (around and except Machu Pichu) have a collective ticket that can be bought. This ticket is called the BOLETO TURISTICO.

This collective ticket lets you enter numerous places of interest within stipulated time frame (10 days). One can also buy partial tickets but the validity of these tickets is less (1-2 days)

These tickets can be bought at the first place of interest you visit either at Colca Canyon or at The Sacred Valley. So That is also very simple.

MACHU PICHU SANCTUARY (MP)


Machu Pichu for most is the highlight of the trip. So buying tickets to enter is also very important. Govt of Peru only allows 2500 visitors per day at MP and only 400 out of these 2500 can trek up to the Huyana Pichu Mountain next to MP. These tickets are on first come first serve basis and during season (June – September) time these tickets sell out very fast.

There is a govt website that sells these tickets online. The problem is that the site is in Spanish and is not working most of the time. But again patience & Google translator pays and with some perseverance you will get your permits eventually.

So make sure you do get your tickets before the quota finishes.

There is also the Classical 4 Days trek to Machu Pichu. There are separate permits for that and I believe these permits are very few and because there is a huge demand for these amongst the Gringo’s they sell out months in advance. I have not researched on them as yet so I will not touch the aspect.

Later on during the travelogue I will mention in detail how to reach MP by train/bus.
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Old 24th June 2013, 17:41   #3
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Now to start with the actual travelogue : -

INTRODUCTION TO PERU


1. ABOUT PERU
- HISTORY
- CULTURE & RELIGION

2. GETTING STARTED
- WHEN TO GO
- MONEY
- INTERNET
- TELEPHONE
- SAFETY AND SECURITY
- TAXI'S AND TRANSPORTATION

3. FOOD AND BEVERAGE


HISTORY

History of Peru dates back to 20,000 years back when apparently some nomads and hunters crossed over the Bearing Strait from Asia and made their way south towards South America in search of greener pastures.

Slowly these tribes and nomadic groups started to domesticate animals and started to cultivate land and became the early settlers of Peru.

Peruvian History can be broadly classified into three main sections, namely
• Pre-columbian/ Pre- Inca Peru
• Inca Empire
• Colonial Peru
• Independent Peru

PRE- INCA PERU (15000 BC – 1438AD)

As a result of Nomadic tribes settling down many societies developed within Peru. Most of these early settlers have reported to have settled down along the coast and in the Andean mountains. These societies were involved in farming, domestication of wild animals and also ceramics.

These coastal cultures eventually began to decline as a result of recurring floods and droughts. In consequence, the societies, who dwelt inland in the Andes became more predominant and started to flourish in Peru.

These societies over due course of time developed advanced techniques of farming, gold and silver craft, metallurgy, ceramics, pottery and other skills. One of these societies based in the Cusco region rose above the rest to form the Inca Empire

CERAMICS FROM PRE-INCA PERIOD
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GOLD ORNAMENTS FROM PRE- INCA PERIOD
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INCA EMPIRE (1438 AD – 1532AD)

Though the Inca Empire started to rise in the 12th Century but it was limited to Cusco and neighboring areas. In the 14th century the Incas started to expand their empire and within a period of 100 years expanded their empire from Southern Columbia to Northern Chile, including some highlands of Bolivia and Argentina. Cusco being their capital and Quechua being the official Language.

This was known to be the Golden Period of The Incas and during this time the famous Machu Pichu “The lost City Of Inca’s” was built.

The Inca’s excelled in art and architecture and built a lot of other citadels all across the empire. The use of stone for building purposes is still something that world admires. The inca’s also experimented with cultivation and brought in new methods of cultivation. The wealth of the Empire grew due to the abundance of Gold and silver that was present in the mines.

INCA’S PROFICIENCY IN ARCHITECHTURE, USING STONE BLOCK ONE TOP OF THE OTHER WITHOUT USING MORTAR

AT SACCSAYHUMAN RUINS
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STONES FINALLY CUT AND POLISHED AT MACHU PICHU
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The Incas also managed to unify most of the tribes within Peru but some tribes were still against their rule. This eventually was one of the causes of their downfall against the Spanish Conquistador’s. The other cause being an epidemic that wiped out half of the Inca population during that time. As a result the Spanish easily walked through the Inca Empire and whatever little resistance they got from the ruling Inca’s were quashed by their superior Guns and the use of Horses, that the Inca’s had not seen till then.

COLONIAL PERU (1532 AD – 1824AD)

Attracted to the richness of Peru and the great Inca Kingdom, the Spaniards decided to control the region. Slowly and steadily with an advanced Army aided by lots of infighting within the Inca’s the Spanish defeated the last of the Inca’s and the Colonial Rule started.

Some people say that before the Spanish came the Land was called “Beeru” but the Spanish could not pronounce the word properly and hence the word PERU came into existence.

Almost 300 years of Spanish Rule saw a lot of Spanish influence on Peru. Quechua language took a back seat and Spanish became the predominant language. Lots of Colonial Churches with their intricate art and paintings till now bear the testimony of Spanish Influence over Peru.

COLONIAL CHURCHES
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COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE
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But as in case of all the colonies the Peruvians were also getting tired of their rulers using them as only laborers’ and not giving them any position is the societies, high taxes and also plundering the richness and not giving any benefits in return.

Finally after lots of armed rebellions and futile attempts by the Spaniards to keep their colonies Independence was achieved in the year 1824.

INDPEPENDENT PERU (1824 AD – TILL NOW)

What followed after Independence was border disputes, civil wars and military dictator ships. In 1980 civil rule returned in Peru after Presidential Elections. In the 21st century lots of economic reforms see Peru as one of the highest growing countries in the world with its currency being one of the most stable currencies.

CULTURE AND RELIGION

I found the Peruvians in general to be a very relaxed lot. Everything happened at its own sweet pace and no one seemed to be in any hurry or anything. Apart from being relaxed they seemed to be a very courteous lot and any eye contact leads to a smile and a loud Beunas Dias (greetings). Though I did see quite a few drunk and happy Peruvians but never saw an angry one.

Like all big cities even the big cities in Peru are moving fast towards economic growth and local traditions and customs have taken a back seat. The latest generation is fast progressing and their clothes are up to the market trends. In smaller cities you will still find some people from the older generation still wearing traditional clothes and keeping their old traditions alive but mostly you feel it is done keeping an eye on the tourists. Basically the clothes and traditions are just left for fancy dresses in school.

IN BIG CITIES THE CLOTHES ARE JUST USED AS FANCY DRESSES TO BE WORN IN SCHOOL COMPETITIONS
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IN SMALLER TOWNS YOU DO SEE SOME KIDS WEARING TRADITIONAL CLOTHES
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OR THE OLDER GENERATION KEEPING UP THE TRADITIONAL CUSTOMS
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BUT YOU FEEL MOSTLY IS FOR THE TOURISTS
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Not sure about education but I could see that lots of emphasis is paid on sports especially Football. There are football fields everywhere, even in the smallest of villages. Peruvians love FC BARCELONA and Messi is the favourite of all

NIGHT FOOTBALL PRACTICE AT AGUAS CALIENTES
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A FOOTBALL PITCH AT NAZCA
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LIFE COMES TO A STANDSTILL WHEN AN IMPORTANT MATCH IS ON
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Peruvians are predominantly Catholic so Christianity is the main religion in Peru, reaching to about 82% of the population. All of the population speaks Spanish and about 20% of those still speak Quechua and about 5% of those also speak Aymara.

Peru’s economy is apparently the 42nd Largest economy of the world and is the fastest developing country. Its economy is based on agricultural, mining (gold/copper/zinc), fishing and lately tourism.

LOCALS HARVESTING POTATOES
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Did you know that Peru is the home of potatoes? It produces around 3000 varieties of potatoes.

NEXT POST...GETTING STARTED!!!
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Old 24th June 2013, 17:52   #4
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GETTING STARTED

WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit Peru is from June to August. Being in the Southern Hemisphere this is the winter season for Peru especially if visiting the Andean Plateau. Rule of the higher you go the colder it gets is true for Peru as well. Its also the driest during these months hence these months are the most preferred months to travel.

Although, I personally think May could be the ideal month to travel as it’s the end of the rainy season (Not that it really rains a lot in Peru yet, December to May are considered the wettest months) and it’s not really that cold in the highlands as well. May also does not see a lot of tourists so you still can manage a lot of off season bargains.

MONEY
The currency of Peru is the Neuvo Sol. At present the Sol was trading at 2.70 to a dollar, i.e.

1 USD = 2.70 Peruvian Neuvo Sol

Once you land at Lima Airport you will find a few ATM machines from where you can take Sol’s out for your initial expenses (All ATM machines apart from the exchange rate also charge a commission) or you could change your USD/Euro’s (mostly) at the money exchange counters. Usually these exchange counters give a very poor rate hence the best is just to change enough so that you can reach your hotel in a Taxi.

Money can also be exchanged at most of the hotels but I would suggest that you walk down the touristy areas of the city where you will find a lot of “Cambios” or Money exchange shops. Usually these shops give the best rates, with a maximum difference of 0.03 Sol’s from one shop to another. Another way to change money on the streets (mainly Lima) is by approaching money exchange dealers that wear a special yellow/orange jackets and do business on streets. They do give good rate but you will have to bargain a lot with them.

AGENTS IN YELLOW/ORANGE JACKETS EXCHANGING MONEY
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In Peru Dollar bills that are torn or are mutilated will not be accepted. So be prepared that each dollar bill that you give will be scrutinized thoroughly. Even when you give a Peruvian Sol note, more likely than not it will be checked thoroughly as well. Apparently a lot of fake ones are in circulation hence the issue. So if you refuse to accept a torn/mutilated Sol Bill, there is no harm in that and the other person will not feel offended. Luckily I had no issues with fake or torn currency notes.

Just for information, the largest Sol Bill that I saw was a hundred and the smallest bill was a Ten. Below that everything are in coins. So expect your wallet to be heavy and full of coins.


INTERNET
There are many internet café’s around in all the cities in Peru. The average cost per hour of surfing being around less than a dollar. Most of the guesthouses and hotels will provide free Wi-Fi which is quite an easy way of staying in touch with your friends and family around the world.

Though the speed of internet is not very fast (like developed countries) but still it is fast enough to do what you mostly would need on whilst on a vacation.


TELEPHONE
There are only 2 telephone operators in Peru. One being Movistar and the other being Claro.

Getting a Sim card from any of these companies is a very simple process. You just need to give a Xerox of your passport and you can get a sim card for as less as 1 sol. All you need is wait for it to get activated, keep on getting it recharged from many of the “Recarga” or recharge shops and use it.

BUYING A MOVISTAR SIM CARD WAS VERY EASY
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So with the lack of proper competition, like how it is in India, unlike India the cost of calling and receiving calls in Peru is pretty expensive. For e.g calling India from a Movistar Sim Card was about 3 USD per minute and we had to pay about 1.20USD per minute even to receive international calls on a Peruvian Sim card within Peru.

We had an Indian (Vodafone) sim card as well. So any incoming was received on the Indian Sim (priced same as receiving on Peruvian sim) and outgoing was made on the Peruvian Sim.

But what I would suggest is that if possible use any of the VOIP applications to make international phone calls. Skyp'ing saved us tons of money while keeping in touch with our family in India

SAFETY AND SECURITY
Any country, developed or developing, has its shares of problems regarding safety and security and Peru is no different. For me nothing untoward happened in Peru to us so it will remain one of the safest places I have visited in the world!!

But having said that, I strongly believe that one’s safety is in one’s own hand and it’s you yourself who is primarily responsible for your own safety.

Though most of the tourist places are relatively safe but still a few untoward incidents have been reported.

Here are a few tips towards safety and security whilst in Peru

1. Always be aware of your surroundings and be alert to situations.

2. Whilst is a new town, take some time to soak in the atmosphere.

3. Avoid empty and dark streets.

4. Do not flaunt that expensive watch or the phone or the jewellery.

5. Try to learn a few words of the local language, especially greetings, thank you and sorry!!

6. Always agree on a price before, especially where bargaining is prevalent, be it for a taxi or whilst shopping. (Taxi precautions in the next part)

7. Being helped while in a foreign country always feels nice. But this help might bring you more trouble. So do your homework properly and be an informed traveler so that you might not require that help ever.

8. Always keep the number of your Guesthouse/ Hotel handy so that in case you are in trouble you can contact them immediately.

9. Never let your credit card out of your sight.

10. Use of ATM’s should be done during the day and on busy streets.

Basically safety is all about common sense and you will find cops all over the streets in Peru that is rather very comforting to see. There are some police who are especially stationed for the tourists and they are very helpful and do speak in English as well.

EXTREMELY WELL PRESENTED COPS
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COPS STATIONED AT MOST OF THE PLACES GIVE A FEELING OF SECURITY

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EVEN POLICE DOGS CAN BE SEEN DOING THE ROUNDS
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TAXIS AND TRANSPORT VEHICLES

The strange part about Peru is that anyone owning a car can put a Taxi sticker on his vehicle and operate his vehicle as a taxi. There are no meters in the taxi and the rate has to be pre-negotiated before sitting in it. If you are a group hailing a taxi make sure when the rate is negotiated to be specific about if the rate is for a single person or for the group. Taxis are not that expensive if being used within city. A maximum of 10 soles should be the rate (except Lima)

ONE OF THE OFFICIAL TAXI’S
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Most of the crime that is reported from Peru is from the Taxi’s so also make sure that if you hail a vehicle it is a taxi that is associated to some company (usually the company’s number is displayed on the taxi) Also make sure that your gates are locked and windows are rolled up as lots of snatching incidences have also been reported. If you have luggage, make sure the boot of the car is big enough to hold the entire luggage.

When you first arrive in Lima, best is to go to one of the few authorized taxi counters just outside the exit gate and hire a taxi to your hotel from there. These taxis have a fixed rate that is displayed on the board. Though these rates are a bit on the higher side but these Taxi’s are your safest bet especially if you have just arrived in a country after a long long flight and are still getting used to the surroundings.

We used “Taxi Green” the first time we arrived in Peru and after that once we got used to the surroundings we used to hail taxis from the street.

Other cheaper way of traveling within a city is the Mototaxi’s. These are something like our auto rickshaws or the tuk tuk’s. Then in some cities, for smaller distances, there are also the cycle rickshaws.

CYCLE RICKSHAW & MOTOTAXI’S
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For travelling from one city to another (long Distance) I strongly suggest to take the buses from one of the reputed bus companies. Reputed ones being Cruz Del Sur, Oltrussa, Ormeno, and Tepsa. Though these buses maybe a bit more expenses than the others but atleast the level of comfort is very very high. These buses also only stop at the designated places hence the safety of passengers and the luggage is also very high. All these companies have online booking facilities so you could book in advance. Advance booking also has a benefit as first few seats are sold at a really really discounted price.

ONE OF THE LUXURY LONG DISTANCE BUSES
To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-dsc09452a.jpg

If the distance between the city is not much you can think of travelling in regular buses but be carefull as to where they place your luggage and your own safety. You can also take mini vans called “Combi’s” that act as smaller buses and stop en route for passengers. We took buses and Combi’s when we had to travel between Ollantatytambo and the cities around and we had no luggage

A VIEW INSIDE THE COMBI’S
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Another way to travel between cities that are closeby is by taking minivans called Collectivo’s. These run from point A to Point B and do not stop in between. They will only start from point A once full (usually takes a maximum of 15 mnts) and even if you have to get off in between you will have to pay the price till Point B. These are much more comfortable and safer but a little more expensive than the buses or combi’s but way less expensive than private taxis. We used the Collectivos when we had luggage and in between Cuzco and Ollantaytambo and back and in between Cuzco and Pisac and back.

Point to note is that Lima has no central bus station hence the long distance buses start from their respective offices. make sure of the address and how to reach there before you start. Collectivos and combis for various places also start from different locations, so be aware of the location beforehand.

Food and Beverage in the Next Post!!
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Old 24th June 2013, 18:13   #5
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FOOD & BEVARAGE - Peruvian must have's

RESTAURANT FOOD

Peruvian food has mostly meat as its main dish and because Peru grows so much of potatoes, every dish has to have some sort of potato preparation in it. Very few vegetables are served and are mostly in the form of salads. Meats are usually dry and for dressing you will be offered mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and a mint dressing.

Most of the restaurants apart from having an A la Carte menu also offer a TDH Menu as well. The TDH menu usually consists of a choice of soup, a choice of main dish, either vegetarian or non-vegetarian and a non-alcoholic drink. These menu are enough for 1 person and are priced at about 6 USD a menu. Confirm that these prices are inclusive of all taxes.

A look at how a Menu looks
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Some of the top rated and most popular dishes are

1. Rocoto Relleno
To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-20130525-14.37.46.jpg

It’s a dish that originated in the city of Arequipa. Rocoto is a capsicum chilly that is 10 times stronger than jalapeno. Rocoto is boiled over and over again with vinegar to get rid of the spiciness and then stuffed with cooked minced meat or with quinoa (for vegetarians). It is topped with cheese and served with potatoes and egg.

2. Alpaca

Alpaca Milanese
To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-20130525-14.38.00.jpg

Alpaca Steak
To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-20130527_143922.jpg
Alpaca is a small camel like animal that is found in abundance in the Peruvian Highlands. Its meat is considered to be a delicacy and very healthy as it’s very lean. Its served in various forms.

3. Pollo A La Brassa
To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-20130529_194439.jpg

Polo a la Brassa being roasted in an oven
To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-alabrassa.jpg

Also called the Peruvian Chicken is basically a roasted chicken that originated in Lima but apparently has spread to all over the Continental America. It is whole roasted chicken flavoured with aromatic herbs and garlic. It’s a whole meal in itself especially in restaurants where they serve it either 1/8th or 1/4th or ½ or full along with unlimited salad and a soup to start with. A whole meal of 1/4th chicken will cost about 12 soles so it aint that costly as well.


4. Trucha
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Trucha also known as Trout fish is another common dish that is available at most of the places in Peru. It can be served in various forms

5. Cuy Al Horno
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Cuy is the Peruvian word for a Guinea Pig and “horno” in Spanish means oven roasted. So this basically is an oven roasted Guinea Pig. Though it may appear awefull with all its limbs and mouth and teeth present but it’s a delicacy in Peru and hence it is expensive. Expect to pay atleast 50 Sol’s or about 19 USD for the whole guinea pig. But you can also order half of it to start with and see if you like it or no.

We tried our best to like it but we could not so ended up wasting a lot of it. Its also a lot of hard work to eat a Cuy as its mostly bones and not much of flesh. Its acceptable to use your hands while eating this dish. Apart from being roasted cuy can also be served deep fried.

6. Lomo Saltado
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(pic of pollo saltado as we forgot to click lomo saltado pic)

It’s basically strips of beef stir fried with onions, capsicum, other vegetables, soya and vinegar. Though it is a Peruvian dish but it does have an Asian influence. It’s served with white rice. Beef can be replaced with pork, chicken and other meats.

7. Chifa

Lot of Chinese immigrants that came to Peru started to mix locally found ingredients to substitute the authentic ingredients. Over a period of years a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian cuisine originated and that is called “Chifa”. Chifa is also a term used for restaurants where such cuisine is served.

Chifa turned out to be a great change for us from eating dry meat and potatoes every day. You can take a combination where they give rice, noodles and a gravy for about 4 USD per person and its more than filling. We enjoyed the fried rice, noodles and cooked vegetables “Chifa” style.

8. Ceviche

Ceviche is basically raw fish served with lemon. Fishing is a big industry in Peru coastal areas and the Humboldt Current that flows along is extraordinarily rich in marine life all year around. Like all sea food Ceviche is best had fresh so best is to try this dish in Lima and around the coast

We decided to give Ceviche a miss due to my allergy to shell fish.

9. Pachamanca
To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-dsc01382.jpg

Literally translated in Quechua means Pacha = Earth and manca = pot. This cooking method dates back to Inca times where various meats, potatoes, herbs and vegetables are layered and covered with hot stones and placed under the earth. The heat from the hot stones and the herbs and the juices from the meat result in slow cooking and a flavourfull product.

This type of cooking is usually done at feasts. We did not try this but were lucky enough to witness Pachamanca being dug out.

10. Pan
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It’s basically bread but an integral part of a meal especially breakfast. Peruvians will have it at any time of the day and just as it is if they are hungry. Its crusty on the out but soft in the centre. Its best, like all breads, right out side the oven.

A local bakery baking bread
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11. Self catering
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A lot of hotels/guesthouse in Peru offer you their kitchen to use. So another way to have meals the way you like them is by visiting the supermarkets (in big cities) and getting pre cooked food, heat them at the hotel and eat them in the comfort of your room. This could turn out a lot more cheaper as well. We avoided doing this as we loved what was offered to us at restaurants

STREET FOOD
Street food apart from being cheap can also be exciting. In a place like Peru where usually people do not speak any language other than Spansih understanding what is being cooked just adds to the adventure of eating.

Cleanliness and hygiene can be a big issue in street food, but I found the vendors to be pretty clean, using all hygiene measures like plastic gloves and caps while serving. Also while choosing a street vendor I usually choose the one that has the most number of locals present as generally that is the one that turns out to be the tastiest and the most safest.


1. Pollo or Chicken
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In Yanque we saw this lady serving a plate full fried chicken with pasta, rice and French fries all for about 2 USD. There was a huge rush of locals waiting for their turn to be served. We decided to try it and we were not disappointed as this turned out to be one of the tastiest and the hottest meal that we had in Peru.

Lady and her trolley
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2. Picarones
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These are deep fried pumpkin doughnut rings that are dipped in flavored sugar syrup. They are sweet and spicy at the same time due to the various spices used in the dough. They can be had as a snack or as a meal

3. Anticuchos

These are various types of grilled meat on skewers that has a baked potato in the end. The most popular type of meat being heart of a cow. These are served all over in Peru.
We tried it once but before we remembered to take a photo we had finished it. So it’s best to have it as a snack on the move

4. Empanadas
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My personal favourite snack. Its basically a patty filled with either a meat or with cheese and ham or with cheese, ham and bacon. You can have these packed and substitute a couple of these for a meal if you are on the move.

5. Tuna Fruit

Tuna fruit on cactus
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Tuna fruit after peeling
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I am not very fond of fruits but this has to be one of the best fruits I have had. But since it grows on cactus someone experienced has to remove it from the plant, brush off the fine thorns and peel it before you can have it. It is very sweet and found all over the Andean Highlands

Some other things that were really tasty but I do not know the names
To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-dsc01836.jpg

To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!-dsc01827.jpg

BEVERAGES

1. Pisco Sour & 2. Colca Sour 3. Chicha are beverages that are made out of local products. Rules of the forum board does not allow me to post in detail about the same so a bit of Googling will help

Chica is made and served at Chicherias and in the Andes, a pole with red plastic bag indicates where Chicha is being prepared and being served

A chicheria with a pole and red plastic bag
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The non-alcoholic drink made out of corn is called Chicha Morada.

4. Inca Cola.
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An iconic Peruvian product and one of the few soft drinks in the world that the Coke and Pepsi could not defeat so Coke decided to buy it out. But still the nationalism and pride is so much that in Peru it’s not sold under Coke’s name.

It is very sweet and has a lemony bubble gum like flavor to it. First time I did not like it but later found it to be very nice. A must try whilst in Peru.

5. Coca Tea
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Coca, a type of leaf, cultivated in the Andean Plateau, is the main ingredient to make cocaine, but if you ask the Peruvians, it is not a drug. In fact coca leaf has been used for centuries in the Andes for its therapeutic value.
Chewing Coca leaf with a little bit of lime stone is considered to be a cure for lots of aches and pains. In fact a lot of surgeries have also been said to have done in Inca Era with the patient chewing on coca leaves. Chewing on coca leaves apparently keeps you awake for a long time.

These days a lot of Coca leaf tea is served everywhere as it helps in acclimatization. We did drink coca tea liberally and it did help us to acclimatize.

Next Post : Trip report

Last edited by deky : 24th June 2013 at 18:27.
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Old 25th June 2013, 09:37   #6
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Absolutely brilliant travelogue Deky, i really envy you that you could visit such places in your shipping career and also a trip like this. Cheers buddy superb photos of the food , am salivating just by looking at them.
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Old 25th June 2013, 10:12   #7
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Feels like as if I'm traveling around Peru. First of all, congratulations on winning the air tickets. This is such an excellent write up and can be used as a reference for anyone traveling to Peru!
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Old 25th June 2013, 10:51   #8
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Absolutely hooked to this thread! Detailed, Practical, illustrated with pictures. Loving it! Waiting for the Trip Report!

This reminded me of the Travelogue book in Marathi by author Meena Prabhu titled "Dakshin Rang"
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Old 25th June 2013, 11:20   #9
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Congratulations on your achievement! Winning is important and for a travel aficionado there is nothing cooler than winning free travel tickets

I've always dreamt of visiting Machu Pichu from all the movie references that you've mentioned and also the fact that my BIL managed to do a hike and bike trip there a couple years back. He too found it mesmerizing!

Thanks for the wonderful pictures and a brilliant travelogue. Waiting on hearing more of it!
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Old 25th June 2013, 11:27   #10
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Absolutely amazing stuff!!! It's like I'm watching a show on Fox traveller. Keep it coming, can hardly wait for the next post from you. What will I do till you come back? Will stalk your profile for other travelogues.
EDIT: Rated the thread - 5 stars

Last edited by Farukh : 25th June 2013 at 11:29. Reason: Added content
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Old 25th June 2013, 11:41   #11
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Awesome! Really love the details and the organisation of the trip report. Looks to be a good and long and detailed thread that will run into huge number of pages

Really appreciate the patience to write up all the details. Keep it up and give us the next part quickly with some Indiana Jones-esque pictures!
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Old 25th June 2013, 13:00   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkhatau View Post
Absolutely brilliant travelogue Deky, i really envy you that you could visit such places in your shipping career and also a trip like this. Cheers buddy superb photos of the food , am salivating just by looking at them.
Thanks buddy, just got lucky with the tickets I guess and the only place in my mind to visit was Machu Pichu hence the trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joe1980 View Post
Feels like as if I'm traveling around Peru. First of all, congratulations on winning the air tickets. This is such an excellent write up and can be used as a reference for anyone traveling to Peru!
Thanks. Will be happy if the report helps anyone with their Peru trip planning

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmplog View Post
Absolutely hooked to this thread! Detailed, Practical, illustrated with pictures. Loving it! Waiting for the Trip Report!

This reminded me of the Travelogue book in Marathi by author Meena Prabhu titled "Dakshin Rang"
Thanks!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 9thsphinx View Post
Congratulations on your achievement! Winning is important and for a travel aficionado there is nothing cooler than winning free travel tickets

I've always dreamt of visiting Machu Pichu from all the movie references that you've mentioned and also the fact that my BIL managed to do a hike and bike trip there a couple years back. He too found it mesmerizing!

Thanks for the wonderful pictures and a brilliant travelogue. Waiting on hearing more of it!
Thank you. Peru is indeed magical and mystical. Though Machu Pichu is there but Peru has lots of other things to offer as well

Quote:
Originally Posted by Farukh View Post
Absolutely amazing stuff!!! It's like I'm watching a show on Fox traveller. Keep it coming, can hardly wait for the next post from you. What will I do till you come back? Will stalk your profile for other travelogues.
EDIT: Rated the thread - 5 stars
Thank you for the rating and the kind words!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sach.sri View Post
Awesome! Really love the details and the organisation of the trip report. Looks to be a good and long and detailed thread that will run into huge number of pages

Really appreciate the patience to write up all the details. Keep it up and give us the next part quickly with some Indiana Jones-esque pictures!
Thanks Sachin, lets see if I can do justice to Indiana Jones-esque type photos.

LOG CONTD..

21/05/2013 : DELHI – PARIS – LIMA

We had no option (because of our free tickets) but to fly Air France to Lima. That meant transiting Paris. Delhi airport seemed to be organized and a welcome change. Now I am comparing things with 8 years ago, that’s when I last flew out of the country. But with the new T-3 Terminal everything looked newer and brighter and cleaner. It was nice to see the officials, including the government ones, greeting and wishing passengers a safe journey.

The check –in, the security and the immigration was really quick and soon we had loads of time to kill before the Air France flight to Paris took off. The couple of hours that we had were spent in the ITC lounge (thanks to my wife being a chef with ITC) having snacks and coffee and discussing about the trip and getting more excited about it in the process.

The flight to Paris was about 9 hours and with the times difference we were at Paris ,Charles De Gaule (CDG) airport at around 0630hrs local time. CDG is a very busy hub with loads of flights taking off and landing every hour, but surprisingly at that hour the airport was absolutely dead. So much so that even when we had to change terminals for our connecting flight to Lima we had to pass through security again and at the security gate, out of 10 checking points only 1 was open and that resulted in a huge Que of people.

Luckily we had time for our connection so there was not much of a rush for us. But the good point was that CDG was so dead that even the Duty Free shops had not opened so luckily Parul could not spend any money. After freshening up we roamed around a bit, had some breakfast and were ready for our flight to Lima.

Paris to Lima is almost a 13 hour long flight. We had luxury seats but still 13 hours sitting in an aircraft can be tough and it was indeed turning out to be rather boring. We chatted, we saw movies, we read some books, we chatted more, we counted imaginary sheep, we slept a bit but still the time never seem to pass. Anyways the plane finally landed in Lima and due to the huge time difference of 10.5 hrs between Peru and India and after travelling for 26 hrs that included the flights and the layover we still managed to reach Lima by 1630 hrs on 21/05/13. Flying east meant we had saved a day, but landing in Southern Hemisphere meant we had to get our warm clothing’s out as it was winters!!

Getting out of Lima airport was another pain. The thorough immigration check and thanks to the luggage belt malfunction we ended up getting out only after 1.5 hrs of landing.

NOTE:- An important thing to note here is that as a foreign tourists you can save loads of taxes on accommodation. So to prove that you should keep the immigration receipt/ counterfoil that you receive at Lima airport safe. All hotels/ guesthouses will want to see and take a Xerox of that

Lima airport is at one end of the city and the 30 kms drive to the main part of Lima takes around 45 mnts to 60 mnts depending on the traffic. We quickly changed 50USD so that we could take a taxi and as suggested by loads of guide books we looked for “The Green Taxi” counter outside the airport.

The green taxi is considered the safest and has fixed prices displayed on its counter. The counter is manned by an English speaking person who helps you out with the taxis. If you arriving for the first time in Lima and do not speak Spanish this I suggest is the best and the safest way to go. As per the displayed price we payed 40 soles from the airport to the hotel.

The Taxi ride from the airport to our Hotel which was in the main historic district of Lima took just over an hour. It was about 1800 hrs and it was rush hour. It did not take long for me to realize that the traffic in Lima city is as bad, if not worse than what it is in India. Everyone seemed to be in a rush and even smallest of the spaces between vehicles were immediately filled up due to rampant lane cutting. You will find people selling water, snacks, books etc etc at traffic lights and even at the known jam prone areas. Made a mental note of keeping the taxi doors locked all the time. So it didn’t seem much different than how it is in India.

Another thing that was apparent was that the sun sets here very fast. By 1830 hrs it was already dark. Another mental note for self was to plan the day accordingly and to finish the entire site seeing for the day and come back to the hotel by this time in future.

Thanks to the discounts my wife gets at Sheraton Hotels we had decided to give ourselves a treat and book ourselves at Lima Sheraton for the 2 nights we had in Lima. The check in at the hotel was smooth and the rooms were as nice as you expect from a 5 star hotel.

Another important thing that was to be done was to pay and gather a bus ticket I had reserved with a tour company Inka Express between Puno – Cuzco. Luckily the agent from the company was waiting for us at the Hotel and the money and the tickets were exchanged quickly. Another incident that made me realize to be careful while dealing with people was that I realized that the final bill for the tickets was 5 USD per person more than the actual agreed rate. Luckily I had all the email correspondence handy and after showing the agreed rate the amount was reduced.

Once we settled in the room, all the travelling and the time change started to hit us. All of a sudden we started to feel tired, so after a quick wash and change and a hurried dinner we crashed for the night.

Now for some photographs:-

Enjoying ITC hospitality till the departure of our flight from Delhi
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Dead CDG airport
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With nothing to do had a hearty breakfast at CDG
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The excitement about Peru building higher as we take the next flight
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After flying for 13 hours we slowly start to descend and saw lush green forests. This is the only time we saw the Amazon River
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The forests gave way to some settlements
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And then came the bone dry barren mountains
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Finally view Lima City coast
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And out of the airport. I was dying to have a smoke after 15 hours of no nicotine. (Peru airport is non-smoking)
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Our Hotel in Lima
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LIMA>>>>TO BE CONTD!!!
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Old 25th June 2013, 13:21   #13
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What an awesome start to a travelogue. There could be no better detailing than this about any destination. Travel Houses should take inspiration from this travelogue.

Hooked on to this but shall read leisurely.
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Old 25th June 2013, 13:59   #14
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Default Re: To the Lost City of Incas - Peru on a Budget!

Wonderful Deky. Always been an admirer of your logs for the details that you provide and also the different destinations (and routes).
And congratz on winning the contest.
And after being there, I hope your wife was happy with the destination

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Old 25th June 2013, 14:13   #15
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@deky - First congrats on winning the contest. But i am not surprised that you won the contest. Your logs are excellent and filled with all the details for any person to start a journey after reading the logs.

As always this log is as well very detailed. Not sure if i would go to Peru any time but then any information is always good to have.
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