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Trip Report Three weeks in Peru!

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Peru - August 24 to Sept 15

As always, I am so grateful for the reports, advice, and wealth of knowledge available
on this forum when I start my trip planning. I am so appreciative of the trip reports, and their resulting entertainment that I always try to submit my own.

We are:
2 East Coast Canadians...have loved travelling to several European destinations. Not foodies, mid-budget travellers. We love exploring, walking, and relaxing on our travels.

Our trip:
First time to Peru (as well as South America)
We had three weeks, but wanted to take our mind, with the wishful thinking that we will make it back to do a more thorough trip as well as hit the northern highlights that we missed completely.

After arrival to Lima:
3 nights - Ollantaytambo
3 nights - Cusco
3 nights - Puno & Isle Amantani
1 night - Yanque in Colca Canyon
3 nights - Arequipa
3 nights - Paracas
3 nights - Lima
(plus one overnight bus trip from Arequipa to Paracas)

Aug 24 (Halifax - Lima)

3am was not a pretty time to wake up, but since we barely even slept, it wasn't too hard to get up and ready for our travel day. Flight from Halifax to Toronto was fine, and had a short (2 hour) wait in TO before boarding the flight to San Salvadore. I was a little nervous about this as we had only an hour and ten minutes layover in San Salvadore. Not to worry - the flight was on time, and San Salvadore is a very small airport so finding our gate was a breeze.

We chatted with 2 couples from Toronto who were also heading to Peru...they were just as excited and anxious to get the trip started as we were. The flight landed in Lima, and we were off the plane and through customs in about 15 minutes...we were lucky to get the green light! Travelling with carry-on only was very helpful as well - we've done it several times now and I wouldn't think to go back to checking bags, at least on the way to our destination.

We chose to stay right at the airport hotel - Ramada Costa del Sol
http://www.ramada.com/hotels/peru/lima/hotel-costa-del-sol-ramada-lima/hotel-overview
It was our most expensive hotel of the entire 3 week trip, but the convenience of being right at the airport for the few short hours we had was worth the cost of the night. It was a decent hotel, and clean, but honestly was pretty basic. We did enjoy the complimentary pisco sour and lemonade provided; We sat for while in the bar, and tried to wind down a bit...Not a chance though, and after a far too short sleep...

Aug 25 (Lima to Ollantaytambo)
We woke at 4:30 for our 6:20 flight to Cusco. After a disappointing breakfast at the hotel (it
seemed they had just faced a huge rush of customers and we arrived just after everyone
left...little food left, and the place was a mess. I felt sorry for the wait staff - they looked
like they had worked 12 hours already and it was not even 5:30am!

A few minutes later and we were waiting at the gate for the flight to Cusco. It was foggy
outside (something I was expected for Lima), and no surprise our flight was delayed... 2.5 hours later and we took off. I was a little panicked as we had arranged through our hotel a driver to pick us up in Cusco and drive us to Ollantaytambo. I tried to connect to the wifi in the airport with my iphone and send a quick message about our delay. I'm still not sure the message actually went through, but regardless, when we landed in Cusco our driver was there holding a sign with our name...when you're tired beyond words after two nights of no sleep, and fairly ravenous it's the small things that get you through (or alternately set you off ;) )

A quick note about Star Peru...we were very happy with the service on the flight. Although it was a very short flight, we had drinks and snacks, and very attentive flight attendants. The service was spectacular, and was a characteristic we would soon realize was the norm wherever we went in Peru.

After a fast drive from Cusco (which didn't seem promishing at first glance from the airport,
but we'll see), Remy our driver dropped us off at Hotel El Albergue
http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g294319-d309726-r177274647-El_Albergue_Ollantaytambo-Ollantaytambo_Sacred_Valley_Cusco_Region.html#REVIEWS

and had a lovely, warm wlecome. We briefly checked in and then were invited to enjoy a pot of fresh coca tea; it was a great wasy to shrug the last bit of stress off froma delayed flight.

We didn't bother unpacking - we wanted to get some walking done after what felt like 2 days of sitting on our butts! Camera in hand we headed to explore the Fortress ruins. Here we purchased the general boleto turistico as we had other sights in mind we wanted to see in Cusco. We had a small map from our hotel, and certainly didn't need it. Albergue is about a 10 minute walk to the main square...we turned left and saw where we wanted to go. On our way, we saw a small art store with some paintings - we wandered in and wandered out after purchasing a large, gorgeous, painting of a street scene in Ollantaytambo. (they wrapped and shipped it - we are now having the canvas stretched onto a frame - can't wait to see it!)

The walk up and around the ruins took a couple of hours, and although we didn't have a guide we really enjoyed the exercise and the outdoors. Before we started the walk though we each had a yummy BLT with guacamole from Hearts cafe (36 soles including drinks).

After the fortress ruins we walked back down to our hotel, and got cleaned up for our 7pm
reservations for dinner, at the restaurant in the hotel. After a little spider incident in the
shower (well, it was massive, but I am choosing not to relive it right now) we walked into a
cozy, candlelit room . The dinner that followed was spectacular - we enjoyed two pisco sours, a salad, a half portion of fettucini with mushrooms and veggies, alpaca steak, and wine (166 soles and very much worth the price). We slept so well (the food, the complete exhaustion, and then add wine) we ready for more the next day!

August 26 - Ollantaytambo

A great start to the day with breakfast at the hotel (included). Fresh eggs, fruit, toast, homemade jam...food in Peru so far was yummy!

We wanted to walk up Pinkuylluna, and although it was steep in parts (and I feared the coming down more than the walking up) it was a great little hike and a fabulous perspective on Ollantaytambo as great views of the fortress ruins. We had a few minutes spent chatting with a guy from Texas who was there for a healing mission with some acupuncturists and massge therapists. We took the opportunity (as this was really our last day in Ollantaytambo as the next day was reserved for Machu Picchu) to wander through the town itself beyond just the main square. We walked through all the tiny streets and got lost (in a good way)...there were lots of great examples of Inca door structures, which we enjoyed discovering. It was very quiet throughout the town, just locals going about their business, and lots of beautiful, happy children.

We made our way back to the hotel, and as we had more than worked up an appetite truly enjoyed the Pachamanca lunch that the hotel set up for us. We had the chance to visit the organic farm the hotel restaurant gets much of it produce from, as well as the farm where lots of animals are free to roam around...before they are transformed by the skilled chefs in the restaurant into a delicious meal! The Pachamanca lunch was delicous, as the vegetables and meats were cooked in the ground using rocks heated to a very high temperature. They had set up a beautiful table for us, and we had a great meal and were entertained by the chickens wandering around. We wished some of the workers would have joined us for the meal (as they did all the hard work the least they could do was enjoy it themselves). There was a ton of food, and we learned later that the staff always looked forward to Pachamanca lunch days as there were lots of yummy leftovers.

After a long lunch, we took a short walk, and then rested in our room.
Dinner (and we were surprising still able to eat dinner after the fabulous lunch) was delicous again - zucchini chicken and pepper mole steak - so good!

August 27 - Machu Picchu

Our train tickets to Aquas Callientes were super early (5:07am). We had purchased the entrance tickets for MP as well as the train tickets to AC a few months prior. The night before, while speaking with Sergio at the hotel, we realized that we really hadn't left our self with enough time at MP itself. Our return train in AC was scheduled for 2:30pm, and we would only have a few hours to explore. We took a quick run up to the place where they sold train tickets ( a few minutes from our hotel) before we went to dinner, and asked what options we had for a later train. There was one at 4:00pm that still had seats - it was Vistadome instead of Backpacker, but was only $17 difference in price so we took them.

Although we were up very early, we were still able to enjoy breakfast at the hotel before
walking out the door to catch our train. And, we were lucky enough to have lunches packed for us by the hotel...they came in handy and were tasty too!

The train took about 1.5 hours to get to Aguas Callientes, and although it was dark for the
first 45 minutes or so, the last part of the train ride treated us to some beautiful mountain
views. No wonder it took so long to discover Machu Picchu - it is really well hidden. We got off the train, and immediated headed to the right to get in line for the bus tickets - and yay - no line! We boarded the bus and a short 20 minutes later arrived at the entrance of Machu Picchu.

The bus ride up was less scary than I was expecting; not once did I feel like we would go
careening over the side of the mountain.By the time all was said and done, we started "officially" exploring at 7:15am - it was going to be a long day! There was a very heavy mist, but we refused to even utter the word rain. I did feel bad for those expecting a sunrise - it just wasn't in the cards for us that day. Looking back at photos, it is amazing to see the first photos we took compared to a couple hours later...the mist cleared and it was a beautiful sunny day. The photos with the mist are actually some of my favorites.

We had chosen not to get a guide for Machu Picchu - we had thought exploring on our own and taking our time would be better - but it was easy to get disoriented, and we didn't really have a "plan" for what we wanted to see in any order. I would recommened either getting a guide (arranging beforehand or getting one at the site) or doing enough research and to come armed with a good map.

We had purchased entrance tickets to Huayna Picchu for 10am, so we thoroughly used up our time exploring MP, and I think would have preferred a bit more time.

We found the entrance to Wayna Picchu easily, and at first it was just Mitch that got in line. Although I had prepared for the hike up, I had read some scary reviews prior to our trip and they started to come back to me during our walk around MP. Once Mitch was in line, I had a quick thought, "I will so regret if I don't do this". So I told myself I would go as far as I could and then just turn around...and in line I went.

Two minutes later after signing my name in a little book of visitors we were walking through some nice trails. At points it was tough (read=slightly painful) but I found the hike easier in actuality than what I had envisioned. I will say without a doubt it was not easy, and we took our time, so what takes a "normal"person 2 hours or less up and back took us three. But we went really slow,and stayed a long time, 30 mins, at the top, soaking in the views and pinching ourselves just a bit - we couldn't believe we were there. I loved it so much, and was so proud of myself for conquering the fear and just doing it. There were some on the hike that were determined to go up and down as fast as possible, but at no point did I feel in the way or that some one was breathing down my neck.

We were desparate for water so it was a quick pass through the areas we didn't see before the hike, before heading to the exit, and purchasing the most expensive water in Peru :). We got on our bus, and had just a few minutes in Aguas Calientes before getting our train back - we were thankful we had changed our tickets the night before. After dragging our tired butts from the train station to our room )yes, it only took 30 seconds, but we were feeling the early morning and the hike. After short nap, we enjoyed our last fabulous meal at El Albergue.

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    Thanks for the encouraging comments! Bear in mind this is a LONG trip report....

    August 28 Ollantaytambo - Cusco

    We had arranged for a driver to pick us up at our hotel and take us to Cusco. He ws right on time, and after saying a sad goodbye to Sergio and the staff at El Albergue, and finishing our great breakfast, we headed on the road. At one point we came across some snow, and loved seeing how the local kids built tiny snowmen right in the middle of the road, and we also got to witness a Peruvian snowball fight!

    We checked into el Balcon, and were sad to see that the snow turned to rain was there to stay. Undeterred, we walked to Plaza des Armas and visted the cathedral and iglesia de la compania. A bit more walking around, and then we headed back to our hotel for a quick clean up. The heater we had asked for before heading out had warmed our room somewhat, but there were high ceilings, and it was pretty cold. The room we had was great, large with a modern bathroom and a huge balcony.

    We walked down to the main square (had to borrow an umbrella from the hotel) and had a lovely meal at Inka Grill. It was right on the main square, so we were expecting mostly tourists, but the food was still quite good. Mitch tried the cuy and was not disappointed. The rain had stopped as we walked back to our room.

    August 29- Cusco

    After a good night's sleep we woke up to a much warmer Cusco -there was sun! We had breakfast at the hotel and were delighted to run into the folks we had briefly met in Ollantaytambo who were there on a healing mission. Breakfast was great, with made to order eggs, fresh bread, jam, cereal, yogurt and great coca tea. We had been finding the coca tea made our fingers and toes numb...we liked the tea but were thinking maybe we were overdoing it with the coca tea and the altitude sickeness medicine (Diamox - acetazolamide) we started taking.

    We made arrangements with our hotel to get an english driver to Pisac. He picked us up and he was very kind and happy, but there was not a stitch of english to be had; we realized this was our issue, not his, and made all attempts to speak spanish and incorporate many hand gestures... He took us to the ruins at Pisac and waited for us to enjoy the ruins. We hired a great guide (Edwin) who was quite knowledgable and spoke excellent english (this cost us 60 soles for at least two hours).

    We got to see the temple of the sun and moon, and took lots of pictures - it was a nice walk and we made our way back to our awaiting taxi. He stopped outside of Pisac market, and we made arrangements (read = hand signals and a small note) to meet back in 45 mins. We walked through the market, but I was just not in the mood to shop...we picked up a couple souvenirs, but looking back wished I would have spent more time there - there was lots of options for shopping for traditional Andean products. We had a scenic drive back to Cusco and our driver, with our halting spanish and gestures, stopped for us to take some photos.

    After dropping us off at the square ( or close enough) we were hungry and stopped at La bodega 138 for some yummy pizza. Afterwards we walked through San Blas area, and down to the Temple of the sun. we ended up back at our hotel, got cleaned up and checked a few emails. The cleaning up part was easy as there was no hot water....

    Our meal layer that night at Uchu was great, and we called it a day after a last long walk around Cusco.

    August 30 - Cusco

    We awoke to a beautiful sunny day in Cusco today, and even more exciting our bathroom seemed to be in the mood to crank out some hot water for showers. We had breakfast and then got a taxi up to Sacsaywoman. We had a great two hour guided tour (we picked up the guide when we arrived at the site) and then had a nice walk down from the site to the centre of Cusco. On the way down we stopped at San Cristobal church, and climbed the (small) tower. We were soon getting hungry and stopped at Jacks cafe for a BLT and huevos rancheros - yum! After lunch we walked around a bit and then headed to our hotel to see if our laundry was ready - not yet, so we walked back to the square and picked up some warm hats and mittens for our next stop.

    We spent some time at Norton Rat's bar which had a great balcony to people watch on Plaza des Armas...after the sun set it was one last pizza at La Bodega and then off to bed.

    August 31 - Cusco to Puno

    Today was an early start - we arrived at the bus station and headed out for a long bus ride. It was a very comfy bus, and there were lots of stops planned, so it didn't seem quite so bad. At one of the stops we had a great interaction with two young girls who needed some help practicing their English for a school project. Mitch was happy to help out, and was videotaped in a little interview - very cute! The drive through Juliaca was a disheartening - poor roads, and it looked very run down overall...Puno was a bit better but we were happy we hadn't planned for a long time in Puno. We checked into Intika Hotel and were pleased with the location and the room. Had a quick walk through the centre of the town, and had deliciious pizza at El buho. We really enjoyed the hot showers at Intika, and the modern decor was a refreshing change to the "rustic" el Balcon.

    September 1 - Puno to Amantani

    We were up early (it seemed to be the theme for this vacation!)and had a good breakfast at the hotel - Mitch had a rought night and wasn't feeling well at all. Nonetheless, he was a trouper and we were super excited to spend the night on Amantani Island. We got picked up and got on the boat - first stop was Uros. It was a nice little stop and I did find it amazing that people were living on these reed islands. The "presentation" was great as it taught us a lot, but the whole thing felt too staged. I understand it is a way for the inhabitants to make money, but perhaps just a little over the top. A couple hours later and we arrived on Amantani. Our host was a lovely woman named Sylvia, and we were joined with a mother/daughter from NYC (Sylvia had two spare bedrooms that she opened up for homestays). The views from the island were stunning - it was remote and rugged. We settled into our room (we were thankfull for the blankets as it was already a little chilly). Sylvia fed us a great lunch of quinoa soup, veggies and potatoes - there was a lot of food but we were hungry! After lunch we chatted with Sylvia and I was lucky enough to purchase from her one of her woven traditional black shawls with beautiful colorful stiching. We went for a nice long hike up to the top of Pachamama; and were very glad we had picked up the hats and mittens while in Cusco. The hike was amazing for photos, and we truly were glad we did it (although the altitude was hitting us pretty hard and we walked slow and breathed heavy!). It was dark on our walk down, and we had time for a dinner of veggie soup, pasta and rice. It was warm and delicious and started us off for a small "dance" wearing some traditional clothes and getting to know the rest of the tour participants and the local hosts. It was fun, but we were ready for bed for sure!

    September 2 Amantani/Taquille - Puno

    5am came way too soon...it was really cold during the night and we had to balance between wanting blankets on top of us and trying not to suffocate - those alpaca blankets are heavy! A yummy breakfast of pancakes and jam, and Syvia walked us down to the boat and saw us off with hugs and waves - I may have shed a tear, but she was just so kind and lovely to us.

    A short boat ride later we arrived on Taquille and it was stunning...we walked from the boat up the island and about halfway around - it was a fairly easy walk and such a beautuful day. We found all the islands to be very unique and were all quite different. After a few hours of walking around and a quick lunch, we were off to Puno. We rested on the boat ride, and had a quick dinner before bed. Mitch was feeling worse, and had a fever and chills in addition to some serious stomach issues so we enjoyed the rest.

    September 3 Puno - Colca Canyon

    It was a rough bus ride from Puno to Kilawasi lodge, but Mitch managed and we checked into cozy lodge. At this point we chose to skip the hike and hot springs, and just took a walk around Yanque. After a few hours (and a little nap in the hammock) we decided to speak to our host at Kilawasi lodge - Mitch was definitely worse and we wanted to know our options. Less than half an hour later a doctor arrived and diagnosed a bacterial infection - a bunch of pills later and he was on the road to recovery! Great service and we were relieved that it was nothing more serious. We had dinner at the lodge with a few other couples who were staying there as well, and had another early night. We were excited for condors the next day!

    September 4 Colca Canyon - Arequipa

    We were sad to leave Kilawasi Lodge so soon; it's the type of place we could have spent a few days and would have enjoyed a little down time - this was turning in to a busy vacation! Our room was great - large and clean and rustic, with a great bathroom. The balcony was something we wished we could have used more. The food was delicous and Guillermo, the manager, was very helpful. Breakfast was great, and we were shortly on the bus ride to see some condors!

    The scenery was spectacular and when we arrived there were lots of people at the viewing site, but there was plenty of room for us to situate ourselves. There were at least 10 condors that day - it was amazing, and we were glad we made this part of our trip. Back on the bus and we headed to Arequipa. We were dropped off right in front of our hotel, Casa Arequipa. It was even better than we expected, and our room was lovely. The staff was super pleasant and gave us lots of ideas for things to do and good restaurants.

    We got a map and walked from our hotel to the main square - it was only about 10 minutes, but we were glad our hoel was located where it was - quiet and removed from the bustle and unbelievable traffic. We took some great photos of the square as the sun set, and then headed to Zigzag for dinner. It was a bit early, but the place soon filled up, and we were lucky to get a table without reservations. Dinner was delicious and we felt really relaxed. We took the advice of our hotel staff and the restaurant staff and got a taxi back to our hotel. There was even a written warning withthe bill at our restaurant that cautioned against taking unofficial taxis, stating there were robbings and even kidnappings associated with the gypsy cabs. We were a little skeptical of this, but decided to play it safe and took taxis for the rest of our stay in Arequipa.

    September 5 - Arequipa

    Today we were excited as our plans included a visit to see Juanita, but first a truly amazing breakfast on the roof top balcony of Casa Arequipa. It was really a great breakfast and was a relaxing start to a busy day; that plus sleeping in until 7am and we were ready to go! We walked to the central part of Arequipa and stopped at the Museo santuarios andinos where we pondered the fate of Juanita. It was a well-put together exhibition and exceeded our expectations. After Juanita we decided to take a our of the cathedral on the main square...the organ inside was beautiful, like the rest of the interior. Our guide took us up to the top of the bell tower for some great photos.

    After the catherdral visit, we had a yummy sandwich at crepisimo! and wandered around a bit, then stopped at a cafe on the square for a cafe and lemonade and to people-watch. Arequipa is a busy city and we found it nice to sit back and just take it all in. After a while we walked back to out hotel; we wanted to clean up and make reservations for dinner, and also planned a visit to Santa Catalina cathedral.

    I was very pleased with our accomodation choice for Arequipa. It's a bit of an oasis in a busy,bustling, beautiful city and we felt very safe. The sitting room was quiet and peaceful (perfect for catching up on journal writing with a cup of tea).

    We had reservations for La Trattoria del Monasterio for 7:30, so at 4pm we made our way up to the square and further on to Santa Catalina. We entered and got a giude; she was lovely and gave us lots of background stories and insights into the history of the monastery. We finished the offical tour just as the light was fading and the fires and candles were being lit. We spend another hour or so wandering around by ourselves; it was beautiful lit up at night; it seemed magical.

    We caught sight of a couple of nuns making their way to a special service that evening; and before we left we heard part of the service and some beautiful singing - behind closed doors of course!

    We left Santa Catalina and had a quick drink before making our way to dinner. Dinner was great, and dessert, tres leches was so good; we basically could do no more but roll out of the restaurant into the taxi - a successful 1st full day in Arequipa.

    September 6 - Arequipa

    I have to say it would take me a long time to get tired of the weather in Arequipa! Anther day dawned sunny and warm, and we enjoyed breakfast again on the balcony, and walked up to the square to check out San Francisco convent. We had the place to ourselves and enjoyed the tour and the terraces.

    We made our way back down to Ave. San Martin where our cooking class was to start. we paid 60 soles each and got set up in the kitchen, along with about 8 others, and an enthusiastic chef Natalia. The menu we chose was ceviche; easier than I thought it would be to make and yummy too! The second was a traditional fried fish with a spicy sauce and rice - it was good enought that I will attempt to make it at home. for dessert we had queso helados, made with quinoa - very tasty! We loved this cooking experiance and thouth it was well put together. The cooking class took about 3 hours and we slowly walked to check out Saint Domingo church, but it was closed. We decided to head back to our hotel and rest before dinner, which was delicious again at La Trattoria, We were tired though and didn't linger after eating.

    September 7 - Arequipa

    We checked out late as we were not leaving Arequipa until the evening, and wanted to take it easy if possible. We stored our luggage and went exploring Arequipa one last time.We decided to walk up to Yanahara to kill some time. It was uphill and took about thirty minutes to get there, but it was nice to get away fromt he car exhaust from the main square. We had a light chicken soup for lunch, and lingered a while. On our walk back we stopped for a few snacks for the overnight bus ride.

    We were a little restless and wanted to get going - Arequipa was certainly nice, but it hadn't been quite what we expected. It was just a place where we didn't feel we needed to spend any more time.
    At the bus station we found our correct bus and settled in for the all night ride!

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    september 8 - Ica/Paracas

    The overnight bus ride went much better than we expected (easier than a long flight for sure). We had made arrangements to get picked up in Ica, however at the bus station we were told the bus did not stop in Ica, only Paracas. After a frenzied email was sent, asking to change the pick up location, we just crossed our fingers. At 7 am the next morning, 12 hours later, the bus made it's first stop, in Ica. As we waited, I heard my name being called; the driver decide to check and see if we were there. After a cranky conversation with the bus driver, we got our luggage and Miguel, our driver, whisked us off for breakfast. Hot tamales and coffee at a local spot and we were good to go.

    First stop was a planned "slow and relaxing" sand dune buggy tour in Huacachina. We were joined by another girl from Britain who had booked a similar tour; we hopped in the buggy and took off. I'd hate to see what their adventurous drive was like! After many hair-raising bumps jaw-snapping landings at what felt like mach 3 speed, we came to a stop on a hill. It was time to sandboard!?! Not what we had planned, but we were game, and after a few runs we were hooked! We took some photos and before long were back in the car heading for a Pisco winery tour.

    Our guide explained the Pisco making, and we tried several varieties - very yummy even at 11 in the morning. We purchased a few small bottles, and then our driver finally dropped us off at hotel in Paracas, Hotel Paracas. The hotel was beyond our expectations, and we got upgraded to an ocean view. The service and the food was excellent. We lounged by the pool, swam and got some sun. We had packed a lot into this day. My favorite part was being delivered the forecast for the next day's weather, accompanied with chocolates :)

    September 9 - Paracas

    Breakfast arrived right on time, and it felt very luxurious to eat on our deck outside our suite. It was delicious, and way too much food. We were picked up at 7:40 and taken for the start of our Ballestras Island tour.

    It was a fun boat tour and only a few bird "accidents". We saw sea lions, penguins, and about half a million birds. We walked along the boardwalk a bit and then started the second tour of the day - Paracas National Reserve park. This was a great tour as well, although the museum at the end was closed. We had lunch at el che, and loved the nice fresh fish. Back at the hotel we realxed for a while by the pool, had a bath and a nap and then went for a drink. The Paracas bar was stunning with fires lit outside, reflecting off the water. Dinner was remarkable, and we then slept really well.

    September 10 - Paracas

    Today was an indulgent and well deserved full day at the pool. We enjoyed sun, swimming and lunch and should have used just a bit more sunscreen.

    September 11 - Paracas to Lima

    Up early to catch our bus to Lima, we had one last breakfast on the balcony, then quickly checked out and got a taxi to the Paracas bus station. It was a very small bus station to say the least. We were a bit confused as we tried to exchange our voucher for tickets - we were advised that we should have come the day prior to exchange our voucher (although the voucher said up to 30 mins before departure). No matter, a few minutes later we had tickets and waited for the bus, which was delayed. 4.5 hours later and were arrived (again) in Lima!

    The bus station was busy, but we managed to get a taxi to our hotel, 3B barancas bed and breakfast. It was a great cozy, place to stay, and we were pleased with our choice. Shortly after checking in we made the requisite stop at Hard Rock Cafe for a shot glass and then headed to Plaza des Armas.

    The cathedral was closing just as we arrived, so we walked a short distance to San Francisco convent where we had a tour of the convent and the catacombs - very cool, yet eerie. We walked back to the main square and after chatting with a local guide for a while, we decided to head back to our hotel. The early mornings were rough!

    September 12 - Lima

    Mitch's birthday! We had a good breakfast at the hotel, and walked from Baranco to Miraflores. There were a few shops that we browsed in, but things were starting to look the same. We walked some more, and stopped for a cafe con leche, where we heard again about a huge food festival going on. We decided to check it out, and grabbed a taxi to "Mistura". We got tickets and headed inside. It was a huge food exposition with so much variety of food; we tried a few things and were really impressed. The location was great as well, right by the ocean. We ended up the food portion with an organic coffee ice cream, and then didn't want to leave right away, so had a couple of mochas and just sat and watched.

    Reservations that night had been made at Huaca Pucllana - and it did not dissapoint. It was a great setting to celebrate a birthday!

    September 13 - Lima

    Our last day in Lima was spent taking in all the sites we really wanted to see, Huaca Pucllana during the day, and also exploring Barancas. Our last meal was at Antica, a pizza place not far from our hotel. There were lots of good recommendations, and we didn't want anything fancy. It was probably the best pizza and pasta of the trip - we were glad we chose it as our last taste of Peru!

    It was another early morning and a full travel day so, we took a last walk back through Barancas and called it a night.

    Overall, our trip to Peru exceeded all our expectations. I had never done so much preparing and planning before a trip; but the reservations we made in advance (Amantani home stay, Ballestras and dune buggy tour, Peruvian cooking experience) were all great.

    This was our first trip to South America, but after such a positive, memorable trip to Peru it won't be our last!

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