In most South American countries you get a migration card at entry, and the copy of it needs to be handed in at leaving point. Unfortunately I lost my Bolivian migration card and therefore the migration officer didn´t want me to leave the country. The fine for losing the card was 10 USD, without receipt. I´m pretty sure, that the money didn´t end up in the government accounts...
First stop in Peru was the Colca canyon, one of the deepest canyons worldwide with up to 3000m high walls, offering some great hiking possibilities. Due to time constrictions, I just spent one day in the canyon watching the majestic condors from close and relaxing in the thermal pools of Chivay.
On the way to Machu Picchu I stopped half a day in Arequipa, the second biggest city of Peru, also called “White City”, as most historic buildings were built with the typical white colored volcanic stones. Skipping normally most churches, I nonetheless visited the Monastery of Santa Catalina, as this site was top-rated at Trip advisor. It was worth jumping over my shadow, as the monastery is truly impressive, a real city within the city providing some great photo opportunities.
The “Cruz del Sur” overnight bus (9h, reclinable seats, personal entertainment system as in a plane, dinner in the bus, 45 USD) brought me to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Heading on with a collectivo (Shared Van or Taxi) I reached in another 90min the village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, the major transport hub to Machu Picchu. There is no road to the famous site, only a railway. And the Peruvian state shamelessly missuses the monopoly as you pay at least 55 USD for a one-way train ticket to Aguas Calientes (2000masl, aka Machu Picchu Village, 90min ride). Locals pay between 1 and 3 USD for the ride… After a short night in the village, I took the bus from the village to Machu Picchu ruins, also this trip massively overpriced (10 USD for 20min bus ride). I arrived at 5.20AM at the bus station, which was by far too late, as there was already a significant queue to get the first bus at 5.30AM. After half an hour of waiting I got my turn, and few minutes later I was waiting again, at the entrance gate of Machu Picchu (2400masl, entrance fee of 50 USD, ticket must be purchased in advance, limit of 3500 visitors a day). Finally at 06.30 I stepped into the sacred place and headed straight uphill to the ancient entrance gate (“Sun gate”) offering the “big picture” of the entire site. Later, I ascended the Machu Picchu Mountain (3100masl, additional ticket necessary, maximum of 400 persons per day). The panoramic view of the ruins, Wayna Picchu hill and the Urubamba valley as well as the snow caped 6000m mountains in the background was amazing. After descent I inspected the ruins from closer and was quite disappointed. Except some nicely carved rocks, it´s just a heap of stones. Machu Picchu was only built in the 15th century and compared to the much older Mayan ruins in Central America, the Pyramids in Egypt, ancient Roman and Greece architecture and the temples in Asia (i.e. Angkor Wat), it´s a proof to me how completely backwarded the Incas were. To sum up: Machu Picchu is overpriced, overcrowded, the close view is disappointing and only the spectacular natural setting of the site makes it worth to visit.
Same way back to Cusco and another overnight bus to Nacza (14h) led me to the place of the ancient mysterious geoglyphs, only visible from hills or better out of a low-flying plane. We overflew with a six-seater Cessna (35min flight, 190 USD) figures such as the whale, “astronaut”, monkey, dog, hummingbird, condor, spider, lizard, hands, tree, flower and octopus. The largest figures are over 200m across and were created by indigenous Nacza people around 1500 years ago by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the grayish ground beneath. Due to the dry, windless, and stable climate of this plateau in the dessert and its isolation from human settings the lines endured until today.
Next stop on the way to Lima: Ica, host city to the famous Huacachina oasis, a small lagoon in the middle of impressive sand dunes. Beside drinking Pisco Sour (typical happy hour drink) at the lagoon you can spend your time with sandboarding (lying on a wooden board and gliding down the dunes) and sand buggy rides. Great fun for a day!
Another couple of kilometers north lays Paracas, a small village with a port to the Ballestas island, the so called “Poor-man-Galapagos”. On a two hour boat trip sea lions, various sea birds such as pelicans, boobies and cormorants can be observed.
Finally I reached Lima with it´s several millions inhabitants. Founded by the the Spanish intruders, the city has obviously the typical plazas, churches and colonial buildings. And smog, traffic jams, beggars and all kind of streetsellers. Nothing special, except the world famous Fountain Park, built in the 1920s. Perfect for some night shots of the colorful illuminated fountains.
Previous destination: Bolivia
Next destination: Easter Island