So this was Peru, take two. For take one, I got stuck in Cusco for 8 weeks, and I didn't end up seeing very much else (not that I regret that — Cusco rocked). This time, I traversed the entire length of the country — from Tacna and the Chilean border, in the south, to Tumbes and the Ecuadorian border, in the north — and I saw plenty of that which lies in between. It's been a hectic four weeks, heading north through the place. It's been filled mainly with adventure and with expeditions, but also with sun and with relaxation. I'll have seen more of Peru than of any other country in this whole trip (I ain't spending 3 months in any other single country): and yet, even after all that, I've only just begun to discover what my new second home has to offer.
I've done pretty good on the adventure front, for this particular stint in Peru. The 3-day hike in the Cañon del Colca was everything I expected, and more: the scenery surpassed my expectations; the hiking was challenging enough to leave me satisfied; and all that protest business at the end made a ripper of a finale to it. Huaraz, equally, was everything I'd been looking for: the Santa Cruz-Llanganuco hike was perfect for the DIY style of adventure that I was seeking; it was challenging without being ridiculous; and the Laguna 69 was a delicious icing on the cake.
I'm leaving Peru having done a lot of adventurous expeditions; but there's simply so much more to be had around here, that I've already got a long list of all the things that I didn't get round to, and that I'll have to try out for my next visit here (and who knows when that will be?). On the top of this list are the hikes of Choquequirao and Ausangate, in the Cusco area. After the amazing experience that was Salkantay, hiking near Cusco is just begging to be explored further. Also high on the list are: the climb of the El Misti volcano, in Arequipa; the 8-day Cordillera Huayhuash hike, and one of the Alpamayo hikes, near Huaraz; and the river trip through Peru's eastern jungle, from Puerto Maldonaldo to the isolated city of Iquitos.
Unfortunately, I've rushed this journey through Peru more than would have been ideal, had I had more time. Getting from one end of the country to the other in a month is no small feat. However, I'm reasonably happy with the way I managed it. For my three big places — Arequipa, Huacachina, and Huaraz — I spent a week in each spot, and really felt that I covered them properly. Nazca was a hole: half a day did it more then enough justice. Lima (take two) scored a full weekend: perfect amount of time for it, considering that it's a big and uninteresting city, and that I've already been there. Chiclayo and Máncora (½ a week each) could have been done more thoroughly: but hey, I really need to do the whole north of Peru thoroughly, and that will simply have to wait until another trip.
It's been a bit rushed; but sadly, Ecuador will be even more so, as I only have three weeks to explore the whole place. In Ecuador, I'll have to be picky about what I see, unless I want to spend the whole time running around frantically, like a headless chook. Anyway, sometimes you find a really good place, and you let time drag itself out there — as I did in Cusco — and then later, you have to pay the price of not having as much time left as you'd like. Such is life.
The north and the coast of Peru really was a new experience for me. All that I really saw of the north was Chiclayo (Máncora doesn't count, it's just a tourist den); but what I saw was both beautiful, and starkly contrasting to the culture of the south and of the mountains that I've come to know. In the north, they're much more relaxed, the streets are much less crowded with tourists (you actually feel like you're surrounded by locals, which I like), and the weather and the cuisine is much warmer and more tropical. Chiclayo seems like one of the best parts of what northern Peru has to offer, and I can't wait to return some day, and to explore this sight-filled and less-ventured part of the country.