Things I Loved and Hated about Travelling in Peru
We ended up spending close to 6 months in Peru. It wasn’t planned that way. There is just so much to see in this huge country, especially if you leave the Pan-American Highway. Many places and experiences in Peru, I really loved. But some, I really hated. I know that ‘hate’ is a strong word, but ‘love’ is too. It really was that extreme!
I’ll start with the negative because the positive list is much longer.
Things I hated about Peru
When we drove through Peru in 2008, there were very few car owners about. It was difficult to find a place to leave the highway because there seemed to be very few side roads and no driveways. We returned 9 years later to find many more vehicles on the roads. And the drivers, in general, are really terrible. They overtake or cut corners on blind bends, they stop in terribly dangerous places, and the drive really fast.
In the cities it’s made worse by the moto-taxis. They are 3-wheeled motorbikes, which carry passengers. There seems to be so many of them. They clog up the streets, darting in and out of very small places, expecting every driver to see them and make room. We also came upon them in the countryside, where their speed was often too slow on fast roads for real safety.
You would think our big truck would be daunting to the drivers of these much smaller vehicles, but it seems not. They don’t slow down, but just continue on their way. It almost appears that they just expect us to disappear. Juergen would often say: “The horn replaces the brakes and the brain”.
I’m sure this driving style is probably due to lack of education and experience. Cars became accessible to too many people, too quickly. They seem blissfully unaware of the possible horrific consequences if that other vehicle doesn’t get out of their way.
I started out saying that Peru must be the dirtiest country I’ve been in since Mexico – but by the end of the 6 months I was really convinced that it is the dirtiest country I’ve ever been in, even surpassing India in the 1980s!
I’m talking about garbage – you see it dumped everywhere. When driving through beautiful mountains, looking for a pull-out to stop and have lunch, they are invariably full of dumped rubbish – building rubble, broken glass, or just plastic bags full of household waste. And if there are no pull-outs, then it is tipped over the side, down the hill.
But it is worse in and around the cities, where it is just left on the footpaths or dumped by the roadside on the outskirts. It creates a great impression when arriving in a new place. The worst city we drove through was Chiclayo. We were following a 4 lane, dual carriageway with a median strip. Normally you would expect some trees, perhaps grass or flowers. In Chiclayo the median strips, as well as the footpaths, were piled with plastic bags full of trash. And the smell in the heat was terrible.
Once again, this may be the fault of too many consumer goods being generally available too fast; a lack of infrastructure to deal with it; and also a need for education in what waste does to the environment.
With the rubbish problem, as with the drivers, the many signs you see along the highways just don’t seem to be doing very much in terms of educating the population.
Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
There are loud speakers on all sorts of vehicles – gas or water delivery, fruit and vegetable vendors, advertising of events, but especially rubbish trucks. Yes, there are rubbish collections in Peru. I clearly remember the experience of being woken abruptly around 6am in Yura, a quiet little town with thermal baths just outside Arequipa, by the clinking sounds of Für Elise at full, distorted volume! And repeated continuously. Once we had recovered from the shock, we discovered it was the rubbish truck. We had to endure this noise until they had finished collecting in our vicinity. Then it was someone else’s turn to be rudely awakened.
Recently, in Ecuador, I thought I heard someone whistling along the road early in the morning. It was not unpleasant or loud. When it stayed around for a while I noticed it was repetitive, and realised it wasn’t a person at all. It turned out to be the rubbish truck. But it was nowhere near as annoying as our experience in Peru.
Things I loved about Peru
It seems such a shame to me that people visiting Peru are often only looking for Inca ruins. Machu Picchu is almost being loved to death. There is so much more to the history of Peru. I was surprised and excited to learn that it is one of the ‘cradles of civilisation’ – it has more than 5000 years of history.
We learnt so much about ancient Peru in our visits to museums and archaeological sites that weren’t Incan.
5000 Years of Peru’s History at the Larco Museum
Pachacamac: 2000 Years of Peru’s History near Lima
Karajia Cliff Tombs: Remains of the Mysterious Chachapoya
New Cable Car Gives Easier Access to the Kuélap Ruins
Better Stop for the Captivating Museums in Lambayeque
Kuntur Wasi ceremonial centre and site museum;
Ventanillas de Otuzco – burial niches of the Caxamarca;
Cumbe Mayo – an aqueduct that is likely over 3000 years old;
are all mentioned in our post about Cajamarca .
The former capital of the Wari civilization
is mentioned in our post about Ayacucho .
Incan Ruin Sites
Despite the fact that their empire lasted not much more than 200 years, they certainly left an impressive legacy behind. We were happy to revisit the Sacred Valley, and to see the striking ruin sites , which give testament to the advanced structure of Incan society.
We stopped on the way to Ayacucho at Tambo Colorado, a well-preserved adobe fortress of the Incas.
When visiting Cajamarca, we also discovered the historically important Cuarto del Rescate & the thermal waters of Los Baños del Inca.
Peru certainly has its share of colonial cities and we visited all we could.
Cusco is an outstanding colonial city and we were happy to re-visit it on both ends of our tour of the Sacred Valley. But it is over-touristed – more so than in 2008 – and will continue to be. I don’t think we would want to visit it again.
Ayacucho is interesting because of its recent history, and the fact that it would really love to be on the international tourist route, but isn’t quite – yet!
Lima’s colonial city centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although we spent some time in the capital this trip, we didn’t revisit the historic centre – we had done so in 2008.
Chachapoyas is all white-painted and wooden balconies – its city centre is a lovely place to wander about in. From this city you can access some of the very interesting pre-Incan sites of Peru.
9 Places to Visit near Historically Important Cajamarca
Is Arequipa the Most Beautiful City in Peru?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I never get tired of looking at mountains. The Andes have provided us with some spectacular scenery in South America, and Peru is no exception. The views that just go on forever; the incredible colours due to the different ores and minerals; and experiencing the cool after the heat of the coast and interior lowlands.
Pisco to Lima – Central Highlands Scenic Route
Forget Bolivia’s Death Road – Drive the PE-3N in Peru!
When I wish I could shrink BERTA, our overland vehicle
Even the road from Ayacucho to Huancayo, The Carretera Central Sur, is not a road for the faint-hearted! See link further above.
Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.
Part of the appeal of mountains anywhere are the lush, green river valleys you discover amongst them. The Colca Canyon is not just for condor viewing; although, if you are lucky enough to see some, they are certainly magnificent. After the dull browns and greys of the Atacama Desert near the coast, this green valley was certainly soothing to our eyes. There are terraces on every conceivable part of the mountainsides; full credit to the people who have made a life in these mountains and high valleys for centuries.
Overlanding La Selva, Peru’s Enormous Amazon Rainforest
Visit Lamas & Wayku – Local Advice at its Best!
My Sister Came to Visit
It doesn’t happen often, but it is always lovely to share our journey with someone we know and love. She’d always wanted to visit Machu Picchu – and who hasn’t? We were in Bolivia and on our way to Peru. So, why not meet in Cusco?
Out of the Ordinary: Travelling with Family in Peru
It was a time to catch up on: blog posts, sorting and filing photos, jobs around the ‘house’ and so on. We were preparing ourselves to leave Peru and enter a new country. The owners, Melba & Jacques, offered us beachfront parking under coconut palms, a clean bathroom for long, hot showers, a washing machine, Wi-Fi, home-made bread & yoghurt, Pisco sour, ceviche, relaxation, and, best of all, sensational sunsets over the Pacific Ocean – something you cannot experience in Australia.
After 3 weeks, we were ready to get on the road again.