The day started perfectly: I bought the bus tickets to Machu Picchu, was at the entrance of The Ancient City on time, had enough time to admire the beauty of the Incas’ world. Taking pictures at every corner, filming the ruins, meditating in the rays of a morning sun, lying on the greenest grass about 6 hours passed. One of the best times of my life. No exaggeration! Читать далее «How to travel Peru in 12 days. Day 11: The biggest FAIL of the trip.»→
Day 11: Being too excited and quite nervous to see Machu Picchu at the right time.
The previous night I took a train from Ollantaytambo and at midnight I finally arrived in Aguas Calientes (=Hot Waters). Right, it’s not Machu Picchu yet. It was absolutely dark outside, only strong street lamps blinded the lights. I came out and made my first step there.
Being in Peru already for so long, visiting ethnic shops, local markets, seeing the natives in such unique clothes had teased me to a great point! I was postponing shopping till Cusco because I didn’t want to carry all my buyings with me during the whole trip. Plus, people told me everything was cheaper in Cusco. I believed… Читать далее «How to travel Peru in 12 days. Day 9: Big-time Shopping!»→
I’m not a fan of excursions and prefer to explore new places by myself, but if I’m short on time or want to get the first impression of the location quickly, I take a walking tour around the city. Nowadays Free Walking Tours based on tips become really popular in the capitals and big touristic cities around the world. I find it a useful and convenient way to get acquainted with a city.
From my own experience travelling around South America, I can pick our three FWT that I liked the best (in a corresponding order).
1. The best one is in Bogota, Colombia. I personally took it twice, while being in Colombia: at the beginning, when I familiarised with the city, and at the end of my time there when I knew Bogota well.
Both experiences were different and showed me the capital better. The Free Walking Tour will tell you the history and the culture of the country, revealing the most curious and unbelievable facts that will leave a lasting impression. You’ll thoroughly walk the historical centre of the city (that you might not do alone). After the tour, you’ll become an expert in how to move around the city, which museums, sights and parks to visit, where to spend an excellent party night and just to grab a beer or a Colombian chicha drink.
2. The second most favourite walking tour I took in Cusco, Peru. The great capital of the Inca Empire is a masterpiece of uniqueness. This city will easily become your favourite Peruvian city because of the Free Walking Tour you take. There’s a big variety of options you can choose from, but I took the best.
Two hours of the tour flew by in one breath. The culmination of the FWT became the view of the city. We went up unnoticeable long stairs in the middle of an unremarkable neighbourhood, and in from of us opened Cusco The Greatest. Its red roofs and endless streets conquered my heart. It looked so complete and united. Better than any other city of Peru from above. I was definitely satisfied with the tour and the quality of it: very informative, entertaining and helpful. Totally recommendable: Freewalkingperu.
3. The last but now least is the Free Walking Tour in Lima, Peru. It’s pretty impossible to see this huge city by yourself in a short period of time. The Free Walking Tour I had in the capital took me by public transportation from the touristic part to the centre of the city, that made a huge difference.
In 3 hours I already knew the city pretty well to understand how to organise my time there later. I saw the main places and learnt about the culture. I shopped a little, sent a postcard and tried a local beer and 5 types of pisco sour. I did it all in the Free Walking Tour! Unbelievable.
The best part of all these tours is that you don’t have to be rich to be provided an excellent service. They all are based on tips and usually, tourists donate 7-10 dollars.
If you had a similar experience, let me know where and how much you were satisfied in the comments below!
Day 8. Arriving in the greatest city of Peru Cusco, going sightseeing and enjoying its unique atmosphere…
You’re welcome to see the video of one of the previous days with the view of the lake and pure nature full of harmony and calmness on my YouTube channel.
After the boat trip to the islands of Titicaca, we’ve returned to Puno to spend several more hours there and have dinner. We asked the owners of our hotel to save our bags till night, so we won’t care it with us or pay for an extra night. The bus to Cusco leaves Puno at 10 pm. and arrives in the city at 4.30 am.
To tell you the truth, the bus ride wasn’t enough to sleep enough even with enough comfort provided by Cruz del Sur company. From the bus terminal, we took a taxi with a quite affordable price that dropped us next to our pre-booked hostel.
I’ve chosen one of the cheapest central hostels with the highest rate on Booking and it was great! Literally one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in and the best during my whole Peru trip. It’s located 10 minutes walking from the central square of the city and is very convenient. Hence, totally recommended: Ukukus hostel.
Even if the check-in time at the hostel starts at 12 pm, we were kindly invited to arrive later and chill in the common space. During this time I took a hot (thank God!) shower, cooked breakfast, studied Spanish (remember, had an exam after the trip?)… Did everything I wanted actually and even petted a cat. What could be better?
The staff was super lovely and explained to us how to orient in the city, recommended excursions, restaurants. The laundry service wasn’t quick enough so I wasn’t able to use it. Ukukus hostel is really (and I mean it) popular among tourists, so make sure to reserve it in advance, as I couldn’t book the second night there, when I spontaneously decided to stay in Cusco for one more day.
The first place to visit was the market close to the centre, where I bought local fruits for breakfast. After I saw this gorgeousness:
It made me fall in love with Cusco. Such a calm and unique atmosphere! Something really special is simply in the air of this city. It’s pretty touristic, of course. But you don’t feel the rush, you see local people, you get a positive attitude (because you’re a tourist that most likely to spend your money there, but still)… Well, yes. The last point about money just hits the mark. There are tens if not hundreds of tourist agencies that offer, sometimes quite busily, their services and excursions. At some point, it becomes very annoying.
Well, yes. The last point about money just hits the mark. There are tens if not hundreds of tourist agencies that offer, sometimes quite busily, their services and excursions. At some point, it becomes very annoying.
Traditionally, we took a free walking tour to get the whole picture of the city. We were actually late to the start point in the middle of the central square, so we have to look for a group of tourists. A lot of history was included in the tour, the information I didn’t know and would be hard to find. And the most priceless (for me) that besides was expressed a personal attitude towards the history, some events and their influence.
All in all, after 1.5 hours of walking around the city we reached the highest point of our route. The view of the city, its red roofs and endless streets conquered my heart. It looks so complete and united. It looks better than any other city of Peru from above.
I was definitely satisfied with the tour and the quality of it: very informative, entertaining and helpful. Totally recommendable: Freewalkingperu.
The final point of the excursion was the restaurant Manka, where we tried pisco and got discount cards for dinner. Later that day we walked around the centre of Cusco, had an enjoyable seviche at the restaurant and went back to the wonderful hostel…
The day before in our hotel we bought a tour for 40 soles (I believe) per person that would take us to some islands on the lake Titicaca. Before I had no ideas what islands could be there, so it was a pretty random choice. Now I wouldn’t worry too much about where to buy a tour or to what place because I guess all the providers will take you to one of the islands at the same place.
The morning of the tour came and I was pretty happy to wake up, as it was too cold to sleep at night. They took us from the hotel by a minivan to a local port. Everything was organised pretty well and very soon we found ourselves in a little boat. Well, yeah, we had to wait in a port for our departure for 40 minutes, but it was a nice to time know each other.
Advice: Use a sunblock cream.
We finally put out to sea and it appeared to be such a beautiful experience. It was a very sunny and a pretty warm and day and on our way to the island I so just pure water and a lot of plants growing in the lake. We passed, once or twice, little floating islands where local people waved us and I personally couldn’t understand what it was.
On an island.
After about 20 minutes we moored near a big island where there were a lot of native people. I stopped on the island but absolutely didn’t have a feeling that everything around was stable, though it wasn’t really shaking. I could feel comfortable as everything was going up and down, up and down. It was a pretty interesting feeling as my body didn’t feel confident and couldn’t explain what was happening. I saw that tens of people were rather confidently walking around and with the time I got used to it too.
Our group set on benches in the middle of the island where was a spare space and 3 native people started showing us a little performance about the history of their nation and these islands. That was really interesting but unfortunately only in Spanish so I had to ask my friend to translate something. They also gave us to try fresh Totora reeds that are used to build these islands. Only two or three of us brought ourselves to taste it and I actually liked it! The reed smells like grass and tastes like a cucumber — nothing special, just very watery and healthy, I guess.
The Uru people (- The Uros) explained that they had to leave the mainland because of a conflict on their boats, had nowhere to go and nowhere to live. So they decided to build floating islands only by themselves from Totora reed that is growing in the lake Titicaca. They just take dry reeds, spread it on the top of the lake surface (apparently a lot of reed 😀 ) to build quite a high layer. Every month they refresh the islands because the bottom that is always in the water rots.
How do The Uru people live?
Naturally, I thought The Uru people are so poor that they didn’t have any comfort of a modern life but I was mistaken. They have several solar panels as well as TVs and some technology to provide them quite a comfortable living. The biggest drawback I’ve noticed for myself of the life on a floating island is cold. The Uros build their houses of reed that doesn’t provide enough warmness. That’s why native people of these islands say their blood if black: because they don’t feel cold.
I am not sure if their children are being educated, have a possibility or a will to go to school. The Uru families make money from receiving tourists like me from the travel agencies. Thus they buy food and provide the whole colony with all the necessary stuff.
How does it feel to be on a Totora island?
I didn’t find any problem being or walking on the island. There is not much difference between these floating islands and the land, except the feeling of being on a ship: they’re not that stable and can probably cause sea sickness.
After the excursion around the island, where I bought a handmade necklace with the name of the place, we made our way towards a capital of the reed islands — the biggest island of the lake settlement. The native people move around on handmade boats from the same reed as the islands. And as the most curious and the most active tourist, I guess, I climbed its second tier and had a chance to observe all the floating land and the lake from above. It was really cool so I definitely advise you to do the same.
As it is supposed to be when arriving in a new country in the capital of the islands they make a stamp in your passport (if you want) for 1 sol (≈ 0.3 US$) that you have visited Isla Utama of Uros Lago Titicaca. It is an official stamp indeed like the one you can get, for example, in Machu Picchu. And as it should be in the capital, in the biggest city, there were so many tourists that the place, unfortunately, lost its unique atmosphere.
Peru — Bolivia.
After the floating islands, our group went to see Taquile island that was pretty far from the previous place and much closer to Bolivia. The plan was to reach the top of the island in half an hour and have lunch at a local (and the only one) restaurant. There are two ways to reach the top of the island: for elderly people, that is meant to be the easiest way, and for active tourists. Well, as I am not as sportive as I want to be it was pretty difficult for me just to go up, up and up. Finally, after 40 or 50 minutes I have reached the restaurant where they gave us traditional Peruvian soup, a meal and a cup of tea if I’m not mistaken.
The island itself is extremely unique. It’s 5.5 x 1.6 km and there are about 2000 people, who speak Quechua language, living on the island who have nothing or no one to support their lives but themselves. Once in a while, they go by boat to the continent to buy some products, but mainly they live on their own, growing vegetables and raising domestic animals. On my way to the restaurant, I’ve seen several territories with some sheep and dogs and even a street store where an old guy sold me a bottle of water (that was quite expensive, but the price was totally reasonable for the place). From the top of the island at your right, you can see Peru and at your left — Bolivia.
The atmosphere of the Titicaca lake.
Standing there on the highest stone seeing two countries feels incredible. You understand how small the world is and how huge it is at the same time. You feel an endless flow of energy that comes from nature, from the air, from the lake and from other plans. I personally found it the most ecological place I have ever visited because literally nothing, but one or two boats per day influence its natural condition.
The way down was much easier and I was boating back to Puno being embraced by a stunning sunset. The last rays of the Sun going through the water creating tens of gradations of orange colour completed my day. Pure life as simple as it is and essential as breathing.