The Wish List Tourist: Peru, the traveller’s dream

Machu Picchu in Peru
Machu Picchu in Peru

A Northamptonshire woman has set off on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

You can follow her progress with the Northants Telegraph.

Rebecca has been enjoying mummies, deserts and the historical delights of Peru.

I entered Peru with only one expectation – to see the picture postcard Machu Picchu.

What I got was day after day of diverse treats which took me from dune buggying in the desert to snowball fights on top of the Andes.

A parasite I picked up along the way that wiped me out for a week could not ruin my memories of this country.

I even enjoyed camping there. A big step for me. Huge.

The overland border crossing made it immediately apparent how little I knew about Peru – I was greeted with tuc tucs and beaches, hot dusty streets and pelicans.

This wasn’t how I saw it in my mind’s eye.

Waltako Beach, near Punta Sal, was a little bit of paradise and a base for turtle watching, sea sports and spectacular sunsets.

I was simultaneously enchanted and petrified swimming with such graceful, but sharp-toothed, creatures as the green turtle.

They came so close they touched me and that, teamed with shoals of blowfish, is unnerving, but I loved every minute of it.

Historically and archaeologically Peru is hard to beat.

Machu Picchu and the Nazca lines go without saying, but Chauchilla Cemetery and Cahuachi Pyramids are in a class of their own.

To get so close to mummified remains of people who lived up to 2,000 years ago was eerily exciting.

The tour guide and archaeologist let us in on a find of his own which was left in the ground close to where it was buried hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago; the foot of a child, perfectly preserved in a sandal.

Its survival had sadly been jeopardised by grave robbers, looking for gold and cloth relics worth millions of dollars, who had discarded it.

And then I had the extra special advantage of enjoying Peru by being there during Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

I, and everyone else in the tour group I was with, had the pleasure of staying with a family close to the Inca remains in Raqchi.

To wake up on Christmas morning to a home-made breakfast of fruit, potatoes, eggs, panettone, tea and coffee was a meal I will never forget.

We were also treated to dressing up in traditional Peruvian clothes and a dance in the small town square before heading off to Cusco where we partied with the townspeople six days later until New Year’s Day.

Peru, for me, is a traveller’s dream – worth dedicating time and plenty of energy to.

Travellers’ tips

I caught the Inca Rail train up to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo – it’s a fabulous journey.

For the best views book a seat on the left-hand side of the train.

If you’re travelling on a budget and fancy a bit of cheap extravagance, you can spend time in a top hotel for the price of a coffee and use its wifi.

Eat: Ceviche

Drink: Pisco

Loved: Driving along the splendid coastline of Peru.

Hated: The extraordinary lack of care the Peruvian government gives to its precious ancient heritage.

Where I stayed

Hotel Inka Path, Ollantaytambo

Casa de Melgar, Arequipa

Where I ate

Restaurant Olamo Terraza, Lima

Ary Quepay, Arequipa

Where I drank

Deja Vu, Arequipa

What I saw

The Ballestas Islands, covered with sea lions and their pups.

Peruvian hairless dogs.

Herds of llamas.

Female farmers carrying out backbreaking work in the fields.

Complejo Arqueológico Huacas del Sol y la Luna, Moche.

Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan.

Complejo Arqueológico de Chan Chan - Palacio Nik-an.

Condors in the Colca Canyon.

Lake Titicaca, Puno.

Musical memory

Changing of the guard at the president’s palace in Lima, to the brass band renditions of El Cóndor Pasa and the most famous of movements from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

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