Cara and Erin and I all met at the Ft. Lauderdale airport to get on the same lovely plane (Spirit - not really lovely at all...) to head to Lima, Peru! We arrived safe and sound with all baggage in tow and shared a mildly sketchy van to the center of town at 11pm with 2 other girls from our flight. I had arranged for an airbnb for the 2 nights in Miraflores, but we didn't have cell phones and it was very late and the streets were very busy, so it was a tadddd stressful finding the apartment, but once we did, we got all set up and went to a cafe around the corner for some much needed nosh and H2O.
We got up leisurely the next morning, still acclimating to a new place and went off to walk around and explore Miraflores. The streets were busy and there was much to see! We found a small outdoor marketplace selling all sorts of touristy goods just a few streets down from where we were staying and took notes on how much things were selling for in the capital so we could be prepared for bartering in the other towns. Then we stopped at a grocery, got some picnic foods, tried to decipher all the crazy fruits on display, and walked to the beach. I was the only one who cared about sticking my feet in the water (ended up with wet jeans up to my knees...) and then we sat along the ocean promenade and enjoyed our picnic with the salty breeze. We returned to our apartment to get ready for the evening and found a local restaurant that was offering traditional Peruvian fare, so we got a bunch of plates to split between the 3 of us and some pisco sours! Yummmm. The weather in Lima was pretty perfect and folks were very kind.
I think we all agreed at the end of the trip that Arequipa was our favorite spot. We left Lima by plane and after a 30 min taxi ride through farm land we arrived in the downtown area of Arequipa. I am sure much of our love for this place had to do with the wonderful people at the hotel/hostel we stayed at - La Hosteria - as our new friend Cynthia took very great care of us. We had a great little 3 person room at the top of the courtyard and had fresh breakfast on the terrace every morning with the skyline full of white tipped mountains. The buildings and streets were all very old and charming, lined with cobblestone. This was definitely a wealthier town and the restaurants and shops were delightful. We explored the local food market and I tried some seviche and we sampled some fresh fruit. We had a really yummy dinner (with a few peanut scares!) and some wine at a restaurant where we could watch the cooks through glass windows :) Our most adventurous piece - after being told the 1 day trip to Colca Canyon was not worth alllll the driving - was white water rafting! After Cynthia convinced Cara that it would be okay even if she wasn't a strong swimmer (since Cynthia did it and can't swim at all!) and that the fellas would take great care of us, we signed up and had a heck of a good time! Our raft guide was funny and kept all of us feeling calm, even when the water most certainly wasn't. And the chance to get out into nature after a number of days in a row walking through city streets, was a welcome change, and so beautiful. We ended the day on our way to the bus station to catch our overnight bus to Cuzco (not highly recommended - it was suuuuuper bumpy the whole way, so sleep was next to impossible for all 3 of us)!
INCA TRAIL POST TO FOLLOW!! (it needs its own entry for certain)
Aguas Calientes -
I decided for the final night stay in Peru to book a really cute boutique hotel in the artsy district of Barranco. I am so glad we did! 3B Barranco was amazing, so comfortable after a long haul, and the owner was an amazingly sweet woman who gave us a million things to do in our final hours. We had some of the best food we had the whole trip - mainly tacu tacu, right Cara?! - and visited a local brewery in the neighborhood. We walked back down near the beach, had some delicious cafe con leche (maybe a few!), and explored the shops and sweets. We even returned to the market we found the first day to finish off our souvenir shopping and to get one last mango ice smoothie! Only thing we didn't get to do on the trip was take a cooking class, which is something I hope I get to go back and do!!
It was an amazing 2 weeks and a beautiful country with wonderful people. My recommendation would definitely be that if you want to see Machu Picchu, do the hiking beforehand. It was a beautiful place, but the amount of tourist traffic was baffling after 4 days walking through serenity. So I was very glad to have had that experience before seeing the famous Inca ruins - even if it was the hardest physical thing I've done to date!!