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Old 2nd March 2011, 02:10   #1
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Default Peru - Land of the Incas

First attempt at writing a travelogue!

As many of you know, Peru is a country located in South America. People in India know very few things about this wonderful country and continent in general. So this is a humble attempt to spread the knowledge

First question many of you must be wondering about is
Why Peru?
Couple of main reasons..

1. I am a bachelor working and staying in New York City and I have many bachelor friends who are willing to experiment and see many different cultures around the world. So when we started scouting for place to go, Europe was out of question, since everyone wanted to go there for Honeymoon Africa and Asia were out, because its too close to India, if we are going to fly half way round the world, might as well go to India. So that leaves just South America. Plus South America is very well accessible from United States than anywhere in the world. So makes sense to visit it from US as a base.

2. Within South America, there are many places we can visit. We had about 10 days to spare, and we wanted to minimize the number of countries that we squeeze in because of Visa costs and airline costs. When we started researching a bit more about each country, we realized that each country has a lot of stuff for which even 10 days will be less. Then one fine day, one of us found a flight deal on NYC-Lima-NYC for $199 which made us choose Peru automatically. For the uninitiated, Lima is capital of Peru.

So after deciding the dates and destination, next major hurdle was Visa.

Luckily, NYC has consulates for all countries in the world. So after downloading all forms from the website and filling them up meticulously, I reached Peru consulate at 7am on one fine morning.

Peruvian consulate is an example in inefficiency. NO ONE knew a word of English, even the numbers they call out are in spanish, so I was quite lost for some time. They had 3 windows to accept the documents and people behind all the windows were solving each others problems together.

Even at 7am there were a LOT of Peruvian people present, apparently, every Peruvian national comes in US, has to come to consulate to do some sort of registration. So that constitutes for around 90% of the work that these consulates do.

After waiting in line for 3 hrs, my patience snapped. But then someone made me go to the window, as my number had been called multiple times in spanish!! Who would imagine that any consulate in NYC doesnt have a single English speaking person!!! After I went to window, the process was quite smooth, the visa was done within 15 mins and the officer told me to come after 2 days to collect my passport by using Translate app on his iphone.

When I went to collect the passport, it was pretty smooth experience. I got passport within 10 mins, but it was a shock to see the stamped visa. Visa was just a piece of paper with handwritten details and a postage stamp like thing on it Pretty naive in today's age of computer and finger prints etc.

My friend was a bit unlucky, when the consulate people came to know that he was a software professional, they made him fix their printer before giving his passport back. Other friend could not get the visa because he had earlier handwritten passport. Peruvian consulate needs Computer printed passport, pretty ironical, when their own visa details are hand written.

So after getting visa and flight tickets, next part was planning the trip and getting all logistics in place...
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Old 2nd March 2011, 04:34   #2
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Wow..Peru...Wonderful. Definitely you would have visited Manchu Picchu. I am eagerly waiting for pics.

NYC-Lima-NYC $199..unbelievable. Is that all included? Which airlines you traveled? That price is a real steal. I just checked from ATL, nothing less than $1000 for another few months.

That was funny experience at consulate.

Keep the details coming & thanks for sharing.
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Old 2nd March 2011, 04:34   #3
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Interesting start abhijitaparadh.. cant wait to see the beauty of Lima..
Did you visit Machu Pichhu
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Old 2nd March 2011, 07:58   #4
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Great start to a unique Travelogue. Don't know much about the country so would be following the thread closely. Waiting for further updates.

By the way is it a safe destination? Again showing my ignorance here.
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Old 2nd March 2011, 07:59   #5
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

NYC-Lima-NYC was $199 without taxes. With taxes it came upto $270
Still very cheap.

We traveled by TACA airline, which is well renowned in South America.

Yes, I did visit Machu Picchu.


Peru is safe in the same way that Mumbai is safe...There are occasional crimes here and there, but if you stick to general common sense and be aware of the situation around you, you should be fine. We even met a group of teenage girls from France who had come all the way to Peru and South America for 2 months backpacking tour..

More may be later tonight or tomorrow..

Last edited by abhijitaparadh : 2nd March 2011 at 08:02.
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Old 2nd March 2011, 08:47   #6
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Nice and something different. Truly variety is spice of life.
As earlier said even I would be waiting for Macchu Picchu snaps.

It must have been fun in the Andes. Did you get to see the amazing Llama as made famous in Tintin's Prisoners of Sun!
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Old 2nd March 2011, 09:15   #7
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Looking forward to this. Always wanted to visit two 'civilization 'places we studied in History classes - Egypt and Incas
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Old 2nd March 2011, 09:17   #8
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

This would be one of its kind on here. If my memory serves me right, we don't have a travelogue on any Latin-american country. So, looking forward to it matey. Don't keep us waiting here for too long
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Old 2nd March 2011, 09:53   #9
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Default Planning !

So once we decided on Peru, I visited my local library and got a whole lot of guidebooks about Peru. There is tons of cultual and natural diversity in Peru. Following places are of major tourist interest

1. Lima : Capital of Peru and probably the most "Americanized" city.
2. Cusco : Historical Capital. Gateway to Machu Picchu.
3. Machu Picchu : Lost city of the Incas which is located high up in the mountains. New wonder of the World.
4. Lake Titicaca : Highest navigable lake in the World.
5. Arequipa : Famous for its wool work
6. Colca Canyon : Canyon deeper than Grand Canyon
7. Nazca lines : Mysterious lines and figures which are drawn over hundreds of kilometers in desert.
8. Amazon : Rainforest and start of the might Amazon river.
9. Paracas Peninsula, Ica : Beaches, watersport etc
10. Mountains of Huayhuash : Many snow clad mountains and glacier fed lakes

So, it was impossible to see everything in the 10-11 days timespan that we had in mind.

hence, we decided to follow "The Gringo Trail" - thats the most common route that most tourists follow when they visit Peru. We added a small extension to Amazon rainforest to the trail. So our final plan was somewhat like
Lima - Cusco - Machu Picchu - Lake Titicaca - Arequipa - Lima - Amazon rainforest near Iquitos.

I you plot this on map, it becomes a nice circuit with Amazon as extension.
Although Colca canyon and Nazca lines also come on on the way, we simply didnt want to rush things, so we skipped them.




Once we had the route mapped reasonably well, we started to worry about internal transportation.

One thought was to take flights as and where possible, to save time. But upon research we came to understand that, some journeys were truly scenic and we had to do them by road. Also, although Peru has some local flight companies, they are at best unreliable. They change flight times as they please. (which we experienced hard way...more about that later).

So ultimately we decided to take flight to Cusco and Iquitos because the distance was way too much to go by road. Flights to Cusco are quite a few and are quite reliable since Cusco is a major tourist hub and millions pf tourists come there each year to go to Machu Picchu.
Iquitos flight was tricky, just one local company flies there and that too one hop. No direct flight. Tricky in the sense that, Iquitos is located right in between amazon rainforest, so weather is very unpredictable. And the local flight company flies in a small dinghy plane, it cant fly in extreme rain or extreme winds.

Still we decided to take it. Internal lights are fairly reasonable. May be $100 per flight on an average.

We also debated if we should do the highly publicized Inca trail -It is a 4 day trek through Andes mountains which starts near Cusco and ends at Machu Picchu. But we didnt have 4 days to spare, so we decided to take Perurail trains rom Cusco to Machu Picchu.

Then there was question of hotels. Since we were visiting almost all touristy places, every place has tons of Hotels to suit your budget. We chose reasonable 2/3 star Hotels and the rates never crossed $35 for a double room. Yes, it is that cheap.

I decided to call one of the hotel, since most hotel websites are static pages, you cant reserve online.

'Hi'
'Hola'

'Do you speak English?'
'Yes, English'

I am already sold on that Hotel after horrible consulate experience.

'I wanted a double room in your hotel from xx to xx'
'Sure, we have plenty'
'Cool, how do I reserve the room? Do you take Visa credit card?'
'No advance, we pick you up at Airport and take to Hotel....Name?'
'Abhijit'
'Ok, you are all set!'

I had read that, hotels dont need advanced payment or any security deposit etc. Being used to Indian/American mentality, we are not used to such "trust". But this is unbelievable. And this is true all over the Peru. We didnt pay advance for any Hotel and still we had our rooms reserved on specified date. Later, we booked hotels over email, and carried the reply email printout with us as confirmation. But we were never required to show the reply email printout, everything was all set !

After my experience in Peru, I can confidently say that, Peruvian people are genuinely simple and warm at heart, just that they are just beginning to get flow of tourists visiting their country, so they are not tourist-ready yet. No one will do you any harm, you may find their ways of living a bit strange, as they are not "Americanized" yet. But thats the fun and novel experience

Here is a teaser pic of Machu Picchu


So finally, everything was booked. Internal transportation, hotels etc etc. And we were raring to go!

Then disaster !!

Severe rains and floods washed away a major portion of Peru rail track and Machu Picchu was disconnected from the World for indefinite time! Even Inca trail route suffered damage from landslides and people near Machu Picchu were required to be air-lifted to safety.

We were eagerly watching the news every day, debating whether to cancel the whole trip if Machu Picchu was not possible. But thankfully, just a week before our scheduled departure date, Peru rail managed to make service available to Machu Picchu partially by train and partially by bus!

So yes.. trip was back on !!
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Old 2nd March 2011, 10:00   #10
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Wonderful tourist destination which has lot of history. I have seen Peru only in movies and not to forget the scenic rides in the movie "The Motorcycle Diaries".

Looking forward for you pictures.
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Old 2nd March 2011, 10:00   #11
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Supposed to be one awesome business destination with good natural resources and a friendly government. Things look good for this country.

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Old 2nd March 2011, 10:08   #12
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Quote:
Originally Posted by abhijitaparadh View Post
After my experience in Peru, I can confidently say that, Peruvian people are genuinely simple and warm at heart, just that they are just beginning to get flow of tourists visiting their country, so they are not tourist-ready yet. No one will do you any harm, you may find their ways of living a bit strange, as they are not "Americanized" yet. But thats the fun and novel experience
Well each place should have and retain its unique culture and hope it remains the same.

Heard a lot about this place and looking forward for your travellog
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Old 2nd March 2011, 10:18   #13
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Oh yes, I forgot late Titicaca. That would have be real fun ensconced in the mountains.
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Old 2nd March 2011, 10:27   #14
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

As Punzabi said, this is probably the first South American Travelogue here. South America is my second must see destination, after Masai Mara

Very informative and yet very interesting writing, Abhijitaparadh (very interesting observations too).
And that was quite some planning you have done there.
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Old 2nd March 2011, 11:24   #15
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Default Re: Peru - Land of the Incas

Awesome. It's been my dream to visit Machu Pichu for a long time now. One of my friends visited Peru as part of her world tour 2 years back. She had great things to say about the country. Looking forward to the rest of your travelogue. Great start .
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