Great Views, Difficult Andes Trek, Crowded Reed Islands, Expensive Country
Without doubt, Peru is a beautiful country, and our trip proved that the Andes is one of the most majestic mountain ranges on the planet. The highlights of our trip were: 1. The beautiful Ballestas islands off the coast of Paracas, where a lot of sea lions lazily dotted the islands along with dozens of penguins and lots of birds. We also saw interesting species of crabs and other shell animals. 2. The 4-day hike along the Moonstone Trek in the Andes - this was the most enjoyable part of our trip. The stunning views of Mount Veronica on the 3rd day kept us in awe, and the climb to the summit of the trek at 4,600 metres above sea level. We also walked through lovely meadows and farms along the way. Funnily enough, Machu Picchu was not the highlight of the trip, even though it was a nice experience to be there, it somehow seemed crowded and overflowing with tourists, taking away the calmness and serenity that is typically expected of such places. Be warned that the Moonstone Trek is a difficult one, and altitude sickness is a reality. You will feel the lack of oxygen and are most likely to feel nausea, headaches and vomiting. I did throw up on the 2nd day of the hike. Also note that altitude sickness can afflict anyone, even the most well-built or muscular or athletic of people. Just because you are very fit and may even be an athlete or sportsperson, do not think that you are immune to altitude sickness!! Peru is an expensive country, and the prices are marked up at tourist places, and shopkeepers will not negotiate prices lower than 10%-15%. You may find some products cheaper in Lima than in the tourist towns like Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes, the town closest to Machu Picchu. ** Warnings:
- Many restaurants add a 10% service charge to your bill without your consent in advance.
- There is a "tipping" disease in the country, and you will find many occasions where the tour leader will ask you to give a tip to just about every service person you encounter, like a bus driver, the backup/alternate driver, the boat captain, etc.
- If you are a vegan or vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions, you will need to choose your food carefully and remind the waiter many times. They do not seem to understand or appreciate these dietary restrictions too well.
- Even simple things like a cup of coffee are overpriced in certain towns like Pucara, on the way to the city of Puno. Overall, Peru is a lovely country, but go there knowing what to expect.