Macho Peak(u)?

I know. That’s got to be about the worst title yet for one of these blogs but the child within me just couldn’t help it! I am of course talking about Machu Picchu — the jewel in the crown that is Peru — one of the most ecologically diverse countries on the planet and also one of the most visited countries in South America. Peru has so much to offer and whilst Machu Picchu may enjoy the widest reputation worldwide it is just one of quite a number of amazing and indeed jaw-dropping experiences that visitors to this fabulous countries can enjoy from the Amazonian jungles up by Iquitos to the hard-to-get-your-head-around architectural legacy left behind by the enigmatic Incas in Cuzco, Sacsayhuaman or Ollantaytambo!

I spent a memorable two weeks in Peru some years ago and it still ranks among the highlights of my global travels to date and is definitely a country that i want to return to in the not-too-distant future. Prior to going there, I was most looking forward to seeing and experiencing the Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu and whilst each of them lived up to my expectations and more, it was the ruins of the Inca temples in Cuzco and Ollantaytambo that just blew me away because i just couldn’t get my head around the fact that this civilisation which was effectively stone-age as they hadn’t discovered how to mine or smelt metal, had managed to construct temples and other buildings whose stone work was so precise that you would struggle to better it even today in terms of its exactness, if you were slicing polystyrene blocks with lasers! You could almost let yourself believe that they had built these structures using some highly advanced, out-of-this world technology and yet we know that that is most unlikely.

Fishing for and catching piranhas (and eating them — not tasty!), finding gigantic insects that didn’t appear to have featured in any David Attenborough wildlife documentary that I had ever seen and paddling a traditional dugout canoe with some local Indians and eating delicious giant catfish were just a few of the highlights experienced during the course of a week spent aboard a riverboat that sailed up and down the Ucayali — one of the most important tributaries of the Amazon itself.

Lima itself is a huge, sprawling city that boasts a fine range of quality restaurants with many of them featuring some of Peru’s best-loved local culinary inventions — ceviche and pisco sour! The Lima suburbs of Miraflores and San Isidro are where the vast majority of foreign tourists congregate and you can enjoy all that these two upmarket areas have to offer in terms of shopping, entertainment, local handcrafts, dining out and beautiful public parks.

Be prepared though for the symptoms of altitude sickness when you fly into Cuzco as the city — gateway to Machu Picchu — is located at an altitude of around 3,400 metres! Symptoms include: inability to sleep, constant, dull headaches, loss of appetite, tiredness after little exertion. It affects people differently so you could be one of the lucky ones that doesn’t experience any of the above symptoms but be prepared as they can seriously detract from your enjoyment of the experience. Most, if not all of the symptoms can be erased by taking sirochi pills which I presume include some extracts of coca which is what the locals chew on. You can purchase them in any local pharmacy in Cuzco and the relief that they provide is almost immediate — within two hours in my case.

This short blog of course does no justice to the richness and diversity of experiences that you will have when you visit Peru but it will hopefully whet your appetite for what must be one of the most fascination countries on earth!


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