Tag: Colca Canyon

Peru: In Review

Wowsa, where do we begin? Peru knocked our socks off. We loved it there and I am pretty darn sure we’ll be back again someday. Check out what we loved, what we didn’t, and of course, what we ate!

Top Ten

  1. The Salkantay Trek with the Mountain Lodges of Peru (MLP) – Pretty much the best trip we’ve ever done. Amazing scenery, great people, fabulous food, fancy lodges and spectacular hiking. What else can we say?
  2. Machu Picchu – Though technically part of our MLP trip, it deserves its own designation because it was just as good as we hoped it would be, and better.
  3. Getting to see and stay with family – What a treat to have a cousin living in Lima, Peru that was wonderful enough to host us and treat us like, well, family!
  4. Swimming in the Amazon River – There were a lot of amazing parts about our jungle lodge adventure that we loved, but getting to jump in the water and escape the jungle heat for just a few minutes was truly priceless.
  5. The Colca Canyon and the end-of-the-hike oasis – Just when you are getting hot, dusty and tired of walking, the blue-green pools of the Colca Canyon oasis are there to reward your amazing day of trekking with a refreshing soak.
  6. Kayaking around Isla Suasi
  7. The food (see below)
  8. Hot tubs on MLP trip – See, we can’t stop talking about this trip.
  9. Mountain biking in the Sacred Valley – Yep, that was a good day.
  10. Rooftop views of Arequipa sunsets against the surrounding volcanoes

Bottom Five

  1. The protests changing our plans in Cusco – Read Ted’s post about the protest delays. Not a big deal, but obviously not ideal.
  2. The jungle was HOT, too hot – We must sound like big whiners.
  3. Our grumpy host mom in Amantani – Sadly our ‘cultural tourism’ experience was a bit tarnished because we weren’t in the market for any local handicrafts.
  4. Uros floating islands – Tourism exploitation at its worst.
  5. Leaving the country – Could have easily stayed longer. That’s why I know we’ll be back!

Food and Drink – Favorite meals, dishes and drinks

This is really tough. Peru’s food is over-the-top. They are apparently in the middle of a culinary revolution down there. Nearly all the food was excellent – both in taste and presentation. I tell you, I think we need to start seeing some more Peruvian restaurants at home.

  1. Lomo Saltado – What I’d call the ‘national’ dish and served in nearly every restaurant serving traditional food, lomo saltado is strips of beef, served with onions and bell pepper in a delicious sauce/gravy over rice and/or french fries.
  2. Pisco Sours – The national drink. Made from grapes, Pisco is an alcohol that both Peru and Chile claimed to have created. The Peruvian version is made with sugar, simple syrup, sour mix, ice, and blended with egg white.
  3. Ceviche – When ceviche is good, it is really good.
  4. Pretty much all our meals on the Mountain Lodges of Peru Trip – We’ve never taken so many pictures of food in our lives.
  5. Amazing seafood restaurant with Ryan and Angela – One of the Lima food scene’s many gems. We were craving seafood and no one was disappointed!
  6. Eating Amazonian piranha that Ted caught earlier that afternoon.
  7. Set-menu lunches – We were served gigantic portions of delicious food and it cost us less than $2 a piece. Definitely a winner for those of us on a traveler’s budget.
  8. Machu Pizza – Well the name is cheesy but that didn’t stop us from going back again. Probably the best pizza and garlic bread we’ve had on our trip and served with dipping sauces made them even better.

Colca Canyon

One of the most popular side-trips to do out of Arequipa, Peru is a hike in the Colca Canyon. Many tour operators run 2 or 3 day trips to the area and we did a bit of detective work to determine what we wanted to do and if we wanted to do it ourselves or go with a group. We opted to do it independently and decided upon a 3 day/2 night excursion.

Though we would normally take a local bus to our starting off point, a national election had made bus travel super busy as many people had to return to their home towns to vote locally. So wonderfully, Ted was able to bum us a ride to our starting point with a tour operator that was leaving on a guided trip.

After a fairly sleepy first day in a very small access town, Cabanaconde, we headed down into the canyon. Colca Canyon is advertised as being twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon and though it is certainly the case, the canyon itself is actual not nearly as grand. The canyon is beautiful but it rather than wide, it is long and skinny. As you would imagine, the first day of walking was all downhill. There are a handful of little towns at the bottom so when we reached the river around lunchtime, we were happy to be met by a young boy that was hoping we’d be customers for lunch at his home. We happily agreed and were treated to quite a delicious midday meal in a tiny little place that also provided overnight accomodation for weary hikers.

After lunch we hiked some rolling hills and just when the heat of the day and the miles of hiking were starting to tire us out, we caught a glimpse of our final destination: the Oasis. We had heard a lot about the Oasis but nothing quite prepares you for the shock of green vegetation and the sparking blue swimming pools seen from above that contrast with the brown hills and desert cactus that we’d been hiking through all day. From above, the oasis is just that. A beautiful, welcoming respite that marks the end of a long day and place to relax and cool off. I couldn’t get there fast enough!

The accomodations were basic to say the least, but we got to take a dip in a pool and were fed a big heaping plate of pasta so no one was complaining.

The hike out the next day started early to avoid the direct sunlight on the pretty demanding hike up. However, after quite a few hikes under our belt already we made it up and out of there without too much trouble. Little did we know that it would be the bumpy, long bus ride back to Arequipa that would prove to be an equally challenging experience for our sore muscles!

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