On the Peruvian roads

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Peru is a country of 1 285 315 km2 and various landscapes and reliefs. Therefore, going with the sidecars from the North-West to the South-East offer various riding experiences.

At the North of the country, alongside the Pacific coast, we crossed for the first time a sandy desert over many hundreds of kilometres. From a side of the road to the other one, the sandy dunes are breaking the monotony of the road; the experience is amazing. The asphalt draws long straight black lines contrasting with the yellow of the sand. Sometimes, the wind is blowing away the sand going on the asphalt before to go under our wheels.

For our itinerary, we chose to cross Lima to reach Ica before to go to Ayacucho. For now there is no road avoiding the capital. The major road crosses Lima from North to South by passing by a few metres away from the historic town centre. In the trafic, from the highway, we can glimpse the bell tower of the cathedral. We needed almost 4 hours to cross the capitale (15 kilometers). We progressed, a few metres by few metres, between lorries and buses, the trafic being jam-packed.

At the South of te capitale, on the Pacific Coast close by the Pisco city, there are vineyards as far as we can see. Vines are very tall and have a shape of arbour over hundreds of kilometres. The parcels are disproportionate and cultivated by big wineries to make the most famous Peruvian drink: the Pisco. This alcohol contains about 40% abv and is obtained after the distillation of grape juice.

For us, this landscape was a breath of air after the deserted scenery of the North and the hard crossing of Lima.

Other geographic area and other scenery, we went alongside the “Cañon del Pato” during 55 kilometers when we wanted to reach the Huascarán Park from the coast. The road is narrow, not wider than a lorry, and weaves in the bottom of a canyon created by the river bed. A breathtaking landscape, we were feeling very tiny between these massive cliffs on each side of the road. Many tunnels with no light or any safety measures were spicing up the journey. As we were not able to see the other vehicles coming in front of us, we needed to play a lot with the horn. We understood at this moment the utility of the big South-American horns. Indeed if unfortunately a car didn’t hear our signal, we needed to go out of the sidecars to push and go backwards. After a nice half-day to follow the curves of the river, we reached Caraz city, the entry of the Huascarán Park.

In Peru, we also enjoyed to use paths again. The first time was to reach the Maras village. We wanted to use a major road but we saw roadworks 10 kilometers after the Izcuchaca city. A worker showed us the path going towards the right hand-side to reach Maras. Cautiously, we asked him the conditions of the road and the relief of the path. The nice guy wanted to reassure us: “the path is not very stony and goes up a little bit before to be flat to reach Maras”. Without a doubt, we used the path. But it’s at this point that we started to put his advice into perspective. The path was going up during over 10 kilometers. The descent was not a lot but the rain of the precious days was making the journey tough. Plus, a flock of sheep crossing in front of us made us stopped for a break in a slope, it was hard to move forward after this stop..

Towards South by going to the Colca valley from Espinar, we used one of the best paths from the beginning of the trip, between Condorama and Yanque. Its good surface allowed us to ride easily over its hundreds of kilometers. Being in the middle of the Colca park, the path offered a breathtaking view over its lake and the “Castillos de Callalli”, which are huge cliffs shaped by the wind.

Sadly and despite the beautiful Peruvian landscapes, we noticed again one of the major issues of our 21st century: the waste management.

With our personal and professional activities, we are very sensitive to this. Our wish here is not to judge a country but only to tell you what we sadly saw. In this fight for the environment, we know the part of responsibility of the companies of mass consumption. However, we wish to tell you the reality of what is happening to highlight the lack of investment by the Peruvian society and specifically by its local authorities.

Indeed, in Pérou there is everything to do for the waste management. We have been chocked to see open-air tips on the road for a dozen of kilometres. As they are indicated by signs, these spots seem to be tolerated by the local authorities. In the urban area, we didn’t see many bins and the recycled bins don’t exist. In addition, the waste is not collected regularly and its not rare to see bin bags ripped widely by stray dogs eating the content.

By chatting about this issue with Peruvian people, everyone was unanimous about the topic and regretted the presence of so much waste alongside roads and paths. In addition, we were not able to count anymore the number of people caught in throwing intentionally a packaging in the nature. In the next few years, we hope the local authorities will be able to invest in the awareness and eduction of gestures of eco-citizen.

We have also been surprised that the most modern building in each city or village crossed is the football playground (five-a-side) covered where the teenagers meet to share the « Pelotta » or simply to chat sheltered from the bad weather or the sunshine.

During our experience on the Peruvian roads, we also crossed symbolic vehicles of the country. From the first kilometres, we got used to the main local specificity: the rickshaw on the Peruvian asphalt. This is the main mean of transport for the inhabitants of villages and big urban areas. These three-wheel motorbikes are everywhere! Each driver plays with the design, the football clubs and superheroes are mainly shown on the stickers. There are more present than Nike, Adidas and the brands of energetic drinks. For the ones who have enough money they will opt for a rickshaw with a covered « cockpit » to shelter from the bad weather or the sunshine.

These vehicles are snaking in each small spaces, creating their own lane between the cars or alongside the sidewalks. The driving rules are subsidiaries. To simply summarize: despite the signs, the rickshaws have the priority even if they are coming in the opposite direction on a one-way street. Last thing to be attentive: the signals being not used, if you are following a rickshaw you need to be aware that he might stop at any moment to let the passenger going out.

On the Peruvian asphalt, we have been many times overtaken by old Volkswagen Beetle. These old models are being refurbished by local garages and get a new life from the North to the South of the country. Each one has its own character depending on the driver’s personality. They are sometimes repainted with funky colours or decorated with cute little flowers. Sometimes, it’s more “showy” with lower body frames touching almost the road, noisy escapes or big speakers in the boot, to draw attention.

Upon our arrival in Tumbes, first city crossed in Peru, we did a “race” with one of them in the traffic of the city. Each one in his own lane, we overtook him before he overtook us and so on… while a red traffic light was creating a trafic jam. We admitted the victory of this Beetle being the first at the trafic light. While waiting the green light, the driver went out of his car to give us a cap as a souvenir of this slow “race”.

The other king on the Peruvian roads is the coach. Main mean of transport to reach a city from another one, they are everywhere on the major and secondary roads to serve the smaller cities. Each one of them has it’s own coach station including a huge hall with a shop for each company saying loudly the next destinations available. Each one offers the same destination, but the times and prices are very different depending on the bus quality. This last criteria can be important as the big cities are usually separated by over ten hours (Lima-Arequipa = 16 hours for example). By going close by these stations, we cross regularly backpackers going back on the road for the next destination.

Maybe they will follow us alongside the Titicaca Lake in Bolivia, our next destination?

Peruvian encounters

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Chio & Béto

After many days on the road, we crossed the Peruvian border on the 7th November and we arrived in the small seaside city of Cancas. We discovered the Pacific Coast, its warmth and waves. We enjoyed the amazing hospitality from Chio and Béto to recharge our batteries in the fine sandy beach while looking the endless horizon. When I was a kid, I was looking the ocean and my dad always asked me if I could see America. Today, The Peru is under my feet and I am looking for Asia on the line separating the blue of the ocean from the blue of the sky.

Chio and Béto live in a house on stilts. On the ground floor, the sand has replaced the tiles in the kitchen and living room. Next door, the restaurant is overlooking the ocean with a direct access to the beach. The specialities are Ceviche and Tiradito (the Peruvian specialities made from fish and seafood).

We arrived at their home at the sunset (around 6:30pm on the North of Peru), Béto welcomed us with our first Cusceña beer (which we consider as the best Peruvian beer), before to enjoy a delicious “Pollo à la braza”.

The next day, after a lie-on, we went to Mancora, 30kms away towards South from Cancas. We did some food shopping in the covered market to prepare a “French diner” for all the family. At 12:30pm, we went to the French school of the city to pick up Lucas and Isma, the children of Chio and Béto. Here, the school year is from March to December and the kids are at school from 7am to 12:30am. In spite of learning French, the specificity of this school is to give surfing classes. 

Lucas and Isma were proud to go back home by side-car and taunted their classmates when the engine started. But after a few kilometres, both of them fall asleep, with the gentle noise of the wind. After a basking afternoon on the beach, we are cooking a chicken in a salt crust and tarte Tatin. At the time for an aperitif, we shared with the kids a glass of the most famous soda in the country: the Inca Kola. Secretly, they stole the pack of Cheetos we wanted to share and went to eat it in front of the TV. We continued chatting about fishing, cooking and travelling during all the evening. 

When we woke up, the day started by a swim in the sea. During the breakfast, a whale and her baby offered a beautiful show. We were captivated by this unique moment offered during over thirty minutes. We enjoyed the beach for the rest of the day before to share a barbecue in the evening. On the grill, squids and fishes cooked slowly. The next morning, we left this little piece of heaven and headed towards South. 

Oscar & his vineyard

Once crossed Lima, we arrived around four o’clock in Imperial. When we went out of the city, the sat nav showed the little path to take, on the left side of the main road. We went forward a few hundreds metres before to park the sidecars in front of a big wooden portal. Around there is a portico made of iron and on the right-hand side, there is a small mailbox named “Viña de Oscar”. We rang the bell just above and then we waited patiently. Oscar opened widely the door of his house. Behind him, a pretty and welcoming garden just before the entry of the vineyards. 

Once the motorbike parked in the shadow, we took a seat in the garden. Oscar was happy to offer us his favourite cocktail: the Garden Mojito. He made it with the Pisco from his grapevines and the mint growing at the end of his garden. We enjoyed discussing, sometimes in French and sometimes in Spanish ; about France where he worked a few years, wine and the growing of grapevines. Once the Mojito and the Pisco de la Casa tasted, we went to explore the vineyard. For Oscar, producing wine is a pleasure but not a commercial activity. Therefore, there are only a few rows of grapevines behind the garden, on a length of around 600m. Oscar takes care of this parcel on his own to make a few bottles of Pisco and wine for him and his friends. He didn’t wanted to make us taste his wine as he believes French wine is better than his. In Peru, the wine is sweet and similar to Port or an aperitif that we know in Europe. 

 The majority of the grapes produced on the Coast is distiled to make Pisco and only a small part of the grapevine production is used for making sweet red wine. The wine similar to the French wines, do not have many consumers here. Therefore, the production is very low. 

After a tennis table game on an old Cornilleau table and a pizza from the restaurant at the corner, we went to sleep. 

When we woke up, Oscar offered a breakfast with local specialities. Before to say goodbye, he kindly gave us a bottle of Pisco that we will bring with us until we reach Chile. At the end of the morning, the Ural crossed the big wooden portal. Behind us, a little piece of heaven is closing his doors…

Traveller’s tips – the Machu Picchu

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If you are going to Peru, the Machu Picchu is a must to see. Every year, one million of tourists visit this archeological Inca site.

The Machu Picchu, a lost site surrounded by mountains

The Machu Picchu is a site lost in the mountains. Perched on a mountainside, at its bottom there is the Aguas Calientes village (also named the Machu Picchu village) which is not reachable by road with your own vehicle. We left the sidecars in the previous village, Ollantaytambo. To reach Aguas Calientes, many options are possible…

  • The easiest solution but also the most expensive is to take the luxury train going through the valley and stopping directly in Aguas Calientes. The time of the journey is around 1h30. But it will cost you around 100€ including the return from Ollantaytambo. It’s also possible to take the train from the main train station in Cusco.
  • Two companies are offering these trips: Peru-Rail and Inca-Rail. Both have similar prices. 
  • The alternative solution is to yo take a shared taxi (named “bus colectivo”) to the Hidroelectrica station (its the name of the closest parking to the Aguas Calientes village which is at the bottom of a hydroelectric plant). This will cost around 5€ per passenger. The “colectivo” arrives from Cusco around 9am and parks on the main square of the Ollantaytambo village. This trip is like a little adventure, 3 hours on the road in the mountains ending by thirty kilometres on a path alongside a ravine!
    Once arrived at the dam, there is a nice 10-kilometre hike between the railway of Peru-Rail and the river, all of this in a deep forest. When looking up, we can see the Machu Picchu for the first time.

Climbing up the Machu Picchu

To climb up to reach the entry of the Machu Picchu, there are two possibilities: 

  • By foot: this is a hike of one hour with around 1 700 steps to climb. 
  • By bus: with air conditioning and heating, it will take 20 minutes and  around 30€ including the return.

Buying tickets

To buy your tickets for the entry of the Machu Picchu site, it’s possible to book online before your trip.

If, like us, you can’t know the date of your visit, you can buy tickets at the office of the Tourism Ministry (open until 9pm) in the town centre, on the day before your visit. 

Three different tickets are offered to visit the Machu Picchu 

  • Simple ticket for the Machu Picchu (2 500 visitors per day)
  • Ticket for Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu (400 victors per dayr)
  • Ticket for Machu Picchu + Montaña Machu Picchu (800 visitors per day)

Usually, there are availabilities for the simple ticket to visit the Machu Picchu. The Montaña is not as famous and there is usually no need to book in advance. However for the Huayna Picchu, the tickets are sold out very quickly, specially during the high season (May to September) which means the tickets need to be booked one month in advance.

It’s not possible to buy a ticket to climb both summits: Huayna Picchu and La Montaña, it’s a hard choice to make if you wish to climb up one of them.  

Climbing up the Huayna Picchu

During a previous trip (in 2011), I have climbed the Huayna Picchu with the group going at 7am. 

The sunrise over the site is a magical moment, the crowd is not there yet. The empty site offers a breathtaking atmosphere. 

During the ascent, there are still a few people (well, much more than during the ascent of La Montaña).

The path to the Huayna Picchu is shorter (around two hours to go and come back) but harder: steeper, several stairs, narrow and winding paths (if you suffer from vertigo, it’s better to climb La Montaña). 

The Huayna Picchu offers an unusual view over the Machu Picchu. However, the most famous view that you can see on any postcards, is the one with the Huayna Picchu in the background, that you will not be able to see here. 

Climbing up La Motaña of the Machu Picchu

Climbing La Montaña, the mountain overlooking the Machu Picchu, is less famous than the Huayna Picchu and offers a beautiful panoramic view to its visitors.

The path of La Montaña is the longest (2h-3h to go and come back) but less challenging (for the ones who have the vertigo, there are a few impressive passages but which should be fine as the path is quite wide). Once we climbed the 2000 steps and the 500m of difference of height, the viewpoint offers a panoramic stunning view over the Machu Picchu site and the Urubamba valley, the river crossing the Sacred Valley of Incas. 

Our stay between Ollantaytambo and the Machu Picchu

  • Day 1:
    Arrival in the evening in Ollantaytambo
  • Day 2:
    6am – waking up

    7am – looking for a “collective” bus  d’un bus colectivo
    (we learn that the bus coming from Cusco will not be on the main square of the village before 9am so we opted for a mini-van leaving Ollantaytambo at 9am)

    9am – leaving by mini-van 

    1pm – arriving at the Hidroelectrica station 

    4pm – arriving in the Aguas Calientes village 

  • Day 3 :

    5am – waking up

    5:3l0am – breakfast at the French bakery

    6am – starting to go up to reach the Machu Picchu

    7:30am – arriving at the door of the archeological site

    9am – starting to climb the Montaña of the Machu Picchu

    11am – lunch break on the top of La Montaña of the Machu Picchu

    12:30pm – visiting the archeological site

    3pm – going down by foot towards Aguas Calientes

    9pm – leaving with the last train* with Inca Rail to go to Ollantaytambo

  • Day 4 :
    Leaving Ollantaytambo

(*) The colectivo buses leave the Hidroelectrica at around 3pm to reach Ollantaytambo at the end of the day. We haven’t opted for this option, to take our time on the  Machu Picchu site. Indeed, with the time for hiking and go to the Hidroelectrica station we would have needed to leave the site at 1pm at the latest. 

Peruvian experiences

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After more than thirty days in Peru, we had unusual experiences.

Surfing over the Huanchaco waves

In Peru, the Pacific waves offer the opportunity to enjoy (again) the pleasure of surfing. In the seaside Huanchaco city, the surfboard is king. With a foot on the barrier of the pier and hair in the wind, surfers are analysing the spot. Locals are mixed with Westerner tourists to surf on this regular wave breaking on the wooden pontoon. 

While we are walking on the promenade, a local surfer starts a conversation with us in French, happy to speak the language of Moliere. Many decades ago, he spent a few years in France. We speak about surfing in Europe and the Huanchaco spot that he knows perfectly.

Following his advice, the alarm rings at 6am the following day. At this early time, I have the waves only for me. Incredible! The last session on the Plouharnel beach (Brittany area), was a few months ago. But the feelings are coming back quickly. After a few take-off to warm up, I am surfing on a good wave bringing me back to the sand. Exhausted, I am going back to the hostel for a shower. It’s 10am, it’s time to start the day!

Robbery while travelling 

ravelling, it’s not only have good time. But the hardest moments are leaving us unforgettable memories. Robberry is feared a lot by travellers. With the stories from other travellers, we’re getting prepared, adopting sometimes absurd strategies. But this kind of thing will always happen when you least expect it. 

For us, it’s happened an evening during our stay in a family hostel in Ica. We arrived at the beginning of the evening and chose our beds in a shared room with an Italian. After unpacking, we went in the shared living room to share a beer with Luigi. A new traveller arrived with only one little bag. He chose the last bed available in the shared bedroom. After 5 minutes, he went out of the hostel saying he will get some food, but he never came back.

Ten minutes later, we noticed the robbery of my mobile phone and one of the lens of Emilie’s camera. In this small hostel with only six travellers, we were less vigilant and didn’t locked our locker. A mistake which was the opportunity for a robber. Once the frustration gone, you need to put things into perspectives and be positive to enjoy the next adventures. 

Pizza evening with iOverlanders

Travelling on the roads of South of America means also meeting other globetrotters to share unique moments with them. Arriving at the Casa de Amelia, we didn’t expect an improvised evening with Margarita pizzas. All the ingredients were there: a good traveler atmosphere, a large friendly table and a pizza oven. We just needed to find some food in the little shop next door to make the dough and to add veggies on our pizzas. The evening finished late (well, the travellers go usually to bed early and follow the sun’s pace…) with pizzas cooked one after another one. Itinerary advice are shared between people going towards North and the ones heading to South while drinking a few beers. 

Enjoying an Inca Kola

There are flavours to please everyone in Peru! The Peruvian cooking is famous across the world but the following lines are focus on a product that you can find at each corner of the country which, however, never crossed the borders: the Inca Kola soda.

It’s in all hands and in all fridges. The walls of the houses in the villages are fully painted with the brand colours: yellow and blue. The yellow is golden, this is also the colour of this drink. Is this golden colour is due to Incas loving this metal? Maybe! In any case, for us it was not a proof of quality but its popularity pushed us to try it. We enjoyed our first yellow and blue bottle with Cio and Beto’s children. This very sweet drink surprised us for this caramelised taste. Once approved by the team, it was a new alternative to Coca Cola during the crossing of this country. 

Enjoying a “Caldo de Cabeza”

The trip lead us to the summit of a Peruvian col in the rain. We stopped in a shop without a door, just the time to be protected from the rain and and to get warm with a lunch. Described by the lady of the house as a meat soup, Marie and I wanted to try the ‘“Caldo de Cabeza”, with the hope this dish will warm up our body.  

When the señora brought our dish, Julien had a smile. In the middle of the soup, a sheep jaw was floating. Being hungry and cold, we had enough motivation to eat the potatoes and other pieces of meat, and therefore did honour to the Chef. But it was a bit hard not looking the teeth of the sheep while eating!

Watching a football match on a Sunday 

In Peru, the national sport is definitely football. You can play in the largest and smallest cities and it’s the opportunity to gather the youngest and oldest Peruvian, from the poorest to the richest around the “Pelota”. The Sunday afternoon across all the country, you can find Peruvian people next to the stadium supporting the local club. 

In a small street of Cusco, while going down from the archeological site of Sacsayhuaman, we have been surprised to hear the passion of the fans, without even have the stadium in our eyesight. Intrigued, we have followed a man wearing a football top in one of the small streets and we discovered the small stadium in the area. On a Sunday, between three walls of massive buildings, there is an amateur tournament between different teams of the local area playing on the asphalt ground. At the opposite of the substitute bench, there are the supporters sat down on a rock with a beer and encouraging their friends. We sneaked in, just the time to watch a match and to enjoy this specific atmosphere offered by the amateur sports, no matter the discipline or the country. 

Receiving toilet paper and biscuits as gifts in a service station 

Regularly in the service stations, we exchange a few words with the staff being curious about our vehicles. In the Urubamba city, our passage by the Repsol service station was not an exception to this “rule”. After presenting our travel and the sidecars specifications, the petrol pump attendant showed us the photos of his 150cm3 motorbike. We started to discuss about his passions and the 2-wheel universe in Peru. We never enjoyed to take as much time as this day to get petrol. Just before to go back on the road to Cusco, he gave us two rolls of toilet paper and two packs of biscuits to celebrate our meeting. A goodwill gesture that we will never forget as it was spontaneous and unexpected. 

Prendre un colectivo avec une classe de lycéens péruviens

To go to the Aguas Calientes village, at the bottom of the Machu Picchu, there is no possibilities with your own vehicle. We chose to take a “colectivo” (an independent bus from the travel agencies). 

To find our vehicle, we went on te main square in Ollantaytambo at 7am. When we arrived, a grandma spoke to us. We explained that we hope to find a colectivo to go to the Hidroelectrica Station which is a few kilometres before Aguas Calientes. She turned her back on us, just a few minutes to make a call and came back to say a colectivo could take us at 10am. We waited patiently on the square while having a breakfast. An hour later, another van driver told us he was able to take us in the next few minutes for cheaper. So we told to the grandma that we will go with him if she cannot offer the same price. Upset, she shouted at us and the driver that we finally followed. We went to his van parked in the next street.

In front of the door, there were Hernandez (an English teacher in a high school in Puno) with 8 students who were waiting for us. Once our bags held on the roof, we took a seat in the mini-bus. But there was a problem. We were 14 people for only 13 seats. So we needed to squeeze on a bench seat. The van started and the adventure of a four-hour journey on a small steep road in the mountains began. The landscape was beautiful, the students danced and sang on the Peruvian pop hits. The atmosphere is friendly! Once the col reached, we did a break in a small village. The students took this opportunity to buy a huge quantity of bananas for sharing with us. In the meantime, Hernandez cut a cactus and put it on the van roof. He wanted to bring it back to his school as the students do not have the opportunity to see this kind of cactus there.

The trip ended on a mountainside, on winding and dangerous roads where two vehicles couldn’t cross each other. We crossed fingers and closed our eyes during these thirty kilometres separating us from our arrival point. When we were out of the van, we did a few photos with all the class and the cactus, before our paths diverged. 

The adventure continues!

From Arequipa to the Bolivian border – 7 days – 2 335 metres above sea level

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We are leaving Cuzco to go to Arequipa. On the road, there are many buses making the journey between both cities.

Après une petite journée de route nous faisons étape à l’hôtel Chuquicahuana tenu par un couple charmant dans le petit village de Checacupe. Nous dormirons sous nos tentes dans leur champs, les chambres étant toutes occupées par des médecins et spécialistes de la santé délivrant quelques soins gratuitement aux habitants du village.

After a riding day, we are stopping by the Checacupe hotel owned by a welcoming couple in the small village of Checacupe. We will sleep in our tents on their fields, the rooms being occupied by doctors and specialists giving free treatments to the village inhabitants.

The next day, we are going to Winicunca to discover the rainbow mountain. We are leaving the main road and we continue our journey on a track during around 30 kilometres. After a last steep hill, we reach the refuge indicating that the last five kilometers need to be done by foot. The landscape is glorious, the red colours of the surrounded mountains contrast perfectly with the snow-covered summit and the blue of sky with no cloud. The hike is not easy, the difference of height of 5000 metres make the effort harder. Indeed, two British couples have preferred to climb up with a horse. Once reaching the next summit, the 7-colour mountain reveal its beauty. With the sunshine, we can see perfectly the different stripes of colours. The surroundings over 360° is incredible. After this ‘wow’ moment, we are going backwards and go back on the sidecars to continue our journey towards South.

We make the choice to leave the main road going by Juliaca, too much traffic for us and we prefer to pass by Espinar to go directly to the Colca valley. After going up the 7-colour mountain, we are a bit late on our schedule and we arrive by night in Espinar. On the road at the dusk, it’s a bit chilly but there are beautiful colours lighting up the mountains and surrounded field.

The next day, after crossing the Consorama village, we are going towards the Yanquee village and we use the nicest track from the beginning of our travel. With no traffic, we can enjoy the glorious landscapes over the mountains alongside the “Lago del Colca”, a huge artificial lake with an intense blue isolated between summits.

After many loops, one after another one, we arrive at the entry of the Colca valley.
A few kilometers, and we reach quickly the “Mirador del Condor”.The place is well known by everyone to enjoy the show offered by the condor family living in the mountainside. After waiting some long minutes and even doubting that we will see this majestic raptor, it’s finally by going a few hundred metres further away that we can see a show of 4 majestic condors. They will fly back and forth above our heads until making our heads spinning.

A few kilometres further away, it’s at Arequipa, the second city of Peru by the number of inhabitants, that we will spend the two next days. Arequipa, also named the white city, due to the colours of the walls, seduce quickly its visitors. The “Plaza de las Armas”, main square of the city, is full of animation from the morning to the evening. It’s a place very nice since the traffic has been forbidden. Another thing not to be missed in the Peruvian cities, it’s the covered market which here offers again an amazing show of life, colours and smells.

We will take advantage of this stop by doing gift shopping for our families during this Christmas season, before to go back on the road towards the Titicaca lake and the Bolivian border.

On the road to Juliaca, we are nicely surprised by the colours of the “Laguna de Laguinillas” that we can see from the roadside. By getting closer to the edge, we can see beautiful pink flamingos eating planktons in the colourful water of the lagoon. We didn’t hope to see those birds here and were thinking to make a detour to observe some by finally we have been lucky enough to meet for the first time this unusual bird.

Once we reached the Titicaca lake, we are going along it until reaching the Bolivian border. We made the choice to cross at the small border post of Kasani to continue our road alongside the lake and to reach the Copacabana city in Bolivia. Here no carnival or capoeira, but other advantages that we’ll tell you later.

Where to eat?

Omphalos Cafe Restaurante Vegetariano
Calle Bolivar 107, Arequipa, Pérou

In a small square courtyard, just after the « Plaza de las Armas », we are enjoying here a vegetarian menu for nothing. Delicious food, perfect with an Arequipeña, the local beer.

AQP Burger Compagny
Sucre 306A – Cercado 054 Arequipa

At this place, we enjoy delicious burgers at a good price. The spot is well known by the backpackers who can meet on one of the two big tables in the small restaurant.

Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas – 9 days – 3 310 metres above sea level

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After a quite night in the small village of Limatambo, it’s time to meet the Inca civilizations and their secrets. Our entry in the Sacred Valley will be by the Maras village.

In spite of our wish to opt for the road, it’s by path that we will reach this pretty village due to some roadworks After a generous “almuerzo”, we go towards the famous Salinas, just a few kilometres away further down the village.

Built by the Incas, the 3600 ponds are still used today to harvest salt. This white gold is coming from a source of salt water imprisoned in the adjacent mountain. It releases a small stream providing water to each pond. 

We continue our journey by a stop in Ollantaytambo. This charming village, being similar to villages in the French Alpes, is today highly frequented by tourists due to its strategic location being at the gates of the Machu Picchu’s Valley. In the past, Inca made this city one of their main military bastions to defend the entry of the valley. We can still visit the remains. 

The next day, at dawn, we are going on the main square of the village, hoping we will find a bus to reach the hydroelectric central of Santa Teresa. Then, the aim would be to walk to Aguas Calientes, the village at the bottom of the Machu Picchu as it’s impossible to reach the village by vehicles (except by train). 

It was not easy to negotiate four seats at a good price to reach our destination. After waiting and negotiating during two hours, we are finally on the road to the hydroelectric central in a mini-bus shared with a classroom of high-school students from Puno in Peru. The road to Santa Teresa is winding but very nice. Plus, the students are creating a good atmosphere in the mini-bus. Once arrived at destination, we start the small hike alongside the rails of Perurail. When looking up, we can see for the first time the Machu Picchu perched at the top of a mountain. 

After a 2-hour walk, we reach the Aguas Calientes village also named the Machu Picchu village. At this highly touristic Peruvian village, we can find hotels and restaurants at higher prices than usually. After going around in the small streets, we finally find a room and burgers at acceptable prices. 

After a short sleep, the alarm rings at 5am. We can’t resist for a breakfast at the French bakery in the village. Nothing better than a pain au chocolat to start a hiking day. Straight after,  we start the climb to reach the entry of the Machu Picchu.m ; a 5-km hike with 1,500 steps.

Once arrived at the site, the game is to find the perfect spot for an unusual photo and away from the tourists. After getting friendly with a llama for a selfie, we climb the mountain of the Machu Picchu and its 2,000 steps over a 550-metre. After this physical effort, we are well rewarded. Clouds are going away and the sunshine reveals a breath-taking view over the archeological site with the mountain of the Huayna Picchu in the background. 

After seven hours spent between the temples and the vestiges of the Incas city we are going back down to Aguas Calientes to grab the Inca-Rail which will bring us back to Ollantaytambo where our side-cars are waiting for us. 

On the way to Cusco, we continue the discovery of the Sacred Valley by visiting the archeological sites of Moray and Chinchero. 

The first is a site where the Incas did agri-food experiences. Its architecture is made of several circles used to grow plants and study their water needs. Therefore, with this architecture, the circle in the middle had a better irrigation than the higher terrace.

Then, we stopped by the Chinchero site, a major Inca city during the golden age of the valley. There is an impressive church in the village with an inside integrally painted. (Sadly, we cannot show a picture as this is forbidden to take any photos to keep the paintings in good conditions.)

This part of the travel is ending with the visit of the Cusco city. There is a unique ambiance where we can feel a strong energy that locals call “la energia indigena”. This atmosphere is particularly present in the covered market in San Pedro where there is perpetually an effervescence. The white walls with coloured balconies, the religious buildings and all the buildings with a colonial architecture increase the travellers’ appeal to visit the city. Perched on the top on the city, the impressive archaeological site named Sacsayhuaman is closing this sacred part with the secrets of the Inca civilisation. 

Where to eat?

Avenida Imperio de los Incas 520, Aguas Calientes

Not that easy to find a place to dine, nice and at a good price in this highly touristic Peruvian city. After long minutes of researches, we found the rare gem. This restaurant has a burger menu with appropriate prices and great taste, all of this accompanied with an enjoyable decoration and playlist. 

Mercado San Pedro d’Ollantaytambo

For a Peruvian breakfast, there is nothing better than going to the market to find a sandwich with egg-cheese-avocado served with a fruit juice. The day begins at his best, without spending too much. In the Ollantaytambo village, there is no exception. We are going up at the second floor of the covered market to find what we are looking for. 

Où boire un verre ?

Mirador de San Blas

This small shop offers a pretty terrace with three or four table. To reach it, you need to climb up a few steps behind the Plaza Mayor. The bar located on the heights of the city offers a breaking view over Cusco. We recommend you to enjoy a Cusqueña beer at the sunset time. Trigo, Dorada or negra, the shop has all the recipes.