Thursday, August 11, 2011


As our time in Peru comes to a close, both Ryan and I have felt like taking it easy, so we broke up the trip from Cajamarca to Trujillo with a stop in Pacasmayo. This sleepy beach town was an easy place to pass a few days listening to the ocean and doing as little as possible. We stayed in La Costa Dorada where we had a front-row view of the beach on the top floor of the hotel for a sweet $20.

Highlight: You can walk out onto the longest ( and possibly most rickety) pier in Peru for a cool sol. If you do take this walk, don't bring little kids as there are large chunks of pier missing throughout. Here are a few pics:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


A fruit cart in Cajamarca.
We followed our trip to Chiclayo with a six-hour bus ride to Cajamarca, a beautiful mountain city surrounded by hills still sprinkled with gold. It was here that the Spanish killed the last of the Inca Emperors (even after he filled two large rooms with gold to placate them). They did give him one break, however--instead of burning him to death, they only strangled him because he had agreed to convert to Catholicism.

Ryan was coming down with something so we took it easy here, and fortunately, Cajamarca is an easy place to relax. The central plaza is a large, well-maintained affair flanked by stunning churches missing a piece here or there (the Spanish purposely built incomplete churches here to avoid a tax from the monarchy). Here are a few pictures from the area:

San Francisco Cathedral, on the central plaza

View from the local Mirador. It costs one sol to climb to this well-maintained park. Reach it by walking toward the white and blue church on the hill, visible from the central plaza.
View #2 from the mirador.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chiclayo, Sipán, Túcume

Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas in Chiclayo
After a leisurely stay in Chachapoyas, we took the night bus down to Chiclayo--a city that reminded us more of Detroit than anything we've seen so far in Peru. But like just about everywhere else in Peru, modern Chiclayo is blessed by ruins scattered here and there.

We took a 15-pasenger van (packed, of course, with 24 passengers) out to a vast, dusty site called Tucume. Here we strolled through the 28 adobe pyramids where first the Sican and then the Chimu people once lived. This is another site where excavations and restorations have only just begun, which means that everything is crumbling but also open to roam. These pyramids were in use from about 1000 AD until the Spanish conquest.

If you follow the main trail through the park, you can hike up the hill where the Spanish once executed those who refused to convert by throwing them to their deaths.

In addition to Tucume, we also enjoyed our visit to the museum that is home to the excavations at Sipan--a site where the Moche people buried their dead in the most elaborate of ways. Although museums here are often single rooms filled with broken pots, the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan is slick and definitely worth the visit. It's packed with  adornments made of gold and precious gems, not to mention the Lord of Sipan himself and the countless others who were buried alongside him.  You can visit both the museum and Tucume in the same day via combis. No tours necessary.

The museum that houses the Lord of Sipan in Lambayeque. Expect long lines. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chachapoyas, Kuelap, Gocta, Karija

After a few days in the searing jungle, Ryan and I headed down to the far more temperate city of Chachapoyas via a six- (read nine-) hour bus ride. Chachapoyas, which is the capital of the Department of Amazonas, is a beautiful town tucked high into the cloud forests where the Chachapoyan people faced conquest first by the Incas and then by the Spanish. Although the town itself has a number of well-preserved colonial buildings as well as a slow-paced, friendly atmosphere, the real attractions here are the surrounding landscapes and ruins.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


After a pleasant stay in the Sacred Valley, we headed back to the jungle. This time we visited the city of Tarapoto in Peru's Amazon. There is only one word to describe this city--hot! In three words, I would describe it as hot, hot, hot!

Going to Tarapoto feels a bit like stepping into the 1950s. Burgers are cheap, turquoise and aqua are the colors of choice, and young people only come out at night to show off their motorcycles. Literally everyone here has a motorcycle (or mototaxi) and there is no limit to the number of people who will pile on a single bike. Grandma, baby, and even the family dog--everyone can be seen enjoying the closest thing to air conditioning this city knows.

Below are a few pictures from the area.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Machu Picchu

Loads of people travel from all over the world to see what has been named one of the new ¨Wonders of the World¨--Machu Picchu. After traveling a bit in the Sacred Valley and seeing quite a few Inca ruins, I wasn`t sure how impressed I would be with Machu Picchu. The ruins at Ollanta and Pisac were, after all, rather impressive.

But Machu Picchu did not disappoint. It was just as spectacular as everyone said it would be. The ruins themselves are extensive and completely open for the exploring, but the seemingly tropical mountains in which they are situated are possibly even more impressive. The two together are--to be cliche but honest--a once in a lifetime experience. Although the prices in the area are exorbitant--Aguas Calientes, recently re-named Machu Picchu Pueblo, feels more like Times Square than a Third World country--they are indeed worth the spectacular views of this mysterious architectural wonder.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Ryan and I have spent the past few days in Ollantaytambo--an area surrounded by Inca ruins. Below are a few pictures from the area. Tomorrow we go to Machu Picchu!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Písac and Inca Písac

The Incas built a surprising number of enormous stone structures into the mountains of the Sacred Valley, and we were able to quite a few of these today outside of Pisac. Here are a few pictures from our hike:

Impressive terracing

Ryan outside the Incan citadel that used to protect the southern entrance to the Sacred Valley

Lake Titicaca and La Isla del Sol

Given a few days travelling around the world´s highest navigable lake, I cannot recommend Lake Titicaca more for those seeking some stunning views and heart-pounding hikes. Below are a few photos from our trip to the Bolivian side of the lake, including photos of our hike across the Isla del Sol.

We spent our first night in Copacabana, a pleasant town on the shore where you can get a nice set meal for about $5.  Here we hiked up the town´s Stations of the Cross to catch a tranquil sunset and some nice views of Copacabana from above.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rurrenabaque, San Miguel del Bala, and a lot of wild pigs!

Over the past few days, Ryan and I have seen a slew of wild pigs, the world´s largest rodent, angry monkeys, happy monkeys, parrots, toucans, cayman, and more insects than I care to remember. We`ve been taking in Bolivia`s Amazon in Rurrenabaque and its surrounding environs.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

San Juan in Sucre: "The Coldest Night of the Year"

Last week, we celebrated San Juan with some friends here in Sucre. San Juan marks what is supposed to be the coldest night of the year, although there have been a number of other nights that have challenged that title.  Bolivians celebrate San Juan much like Americans celebrate the Fourth of July--bonfires, fireworks, and hot dogs.  Here a few pictures from the evening:

Traveling in Sucre - The White City

After spending about five weeks in Sucre, Ryan and I have come to feel that we know the place. The White City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early 90`s thanks to its all-white downtown colonial architecture.  Plaza 25 de Mayo is certainly one of the most pleasant places to stroll in Sucre, and it was also the site of the initial South American declarations of independence. It was at La Casa de Libertad that Simon de Bolivar met with a delegate of lawyers and statesmen to draft the first Bolivian constitution.  Although he was asked to be Bolivia`s first president, he refused, envisioning instead one large country that would have united most of the countries of present-day South America.  Instead, Antonio Jose de Sucre was named Bolivia`s first president, and the city still carries his namesake today.

A statue of Simon de Bolivar in La Casa de Libertad

Sucre is a wealthier city in comparison to La Paz, known for its lawyers, pleasant views, and relaxing cafes.  Many of the people here identify either with their Quechua heritage or have largely adopted Western culture, while most of the residents of La Paz identify strongly as Aymaran. Predictably, these factions have produced political tensions, and many of the people of Sucre seem wary of the current Aymaran president, Evo Morales. Indeed, the people of Sucre insist that Sucre is the capital of Bolivia while those in La Paz insist that it is La Paz. Although we`re still not sure who to believe, we know that Sucre houses the judicial branch of the national government, while the legistlative and executive branches are located in La Paz.

A government building on the plaza.
Among the Sucre highlights is Parque Bolivar--named (like many many other places) after Simon de Bolivar.  Cotton candy at Parque Bolivar costs ten cents, and you can climb a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower in the center of the park.

Inside the mini-Eiffel Tower at Parque Bolivar

Outside the mini-Eiffel Tower
We also visited the city`s cemetery, where bodies are stacked one atop another in individual coffins. It was a bit of a morbid trip but recommended by many other tourists.

Sucre´s main cemetery

There is also no shortage of parades in Sucre, as we´ve stumbled upon them accidentally more times than we can count.  Just about every school and police station has a marching band.

One of many parades outside our window at Biblioworks
There are two large markets in Sucre--El Mercado Central, located just off the main plaza, and the Campesino Market, a bit farther off. You can buy almost anything you need at the Campesino Market at a good price, but it may take you hours to find it!  We spent a few days trying to track down a lamp, which we eventually located in a toy store.  You can buy entire slabs of meat here, but it`s best to think about how long that slab has been hanging among dogs and flies before investing. We tend to stick to vegetables (one kilo of tomatoes costs about twenty-five cents!).

Ryan looks at mantas at the Campesino Market
You have no choice but to buy spices in bulk.
Vegetables in the Campesino Market
 Lastly, Sucre is known (or has tried to become known) for its dinosaur tracks. There is a park here where you can see some original dinosaur tracks as well as a number of statues, but it´s really an attraction for children.  Nonetheless, the city has benefited from some of the world´s most unique phone booths.
In Sucre, you can call your friends from the belly of a dinosaur!
With its temperate climate, colonial architecture, numerous plazas, and relaxing cafes, Sucre has been an excellent place for an extended stay, and we could easily live in such a city.  Nonetheless, we´ll be heading out before we know it!
Streetview, Sucre, near the city center.
One of many white churches in Sucre.
View from our roof over Sucre

Sunset over Sucre, from La Recoleta.