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.

Peru, a cradle of civilisation, has much to love – and some things to hate. This wall mural from the Franciscan Convento de Santa Rosa de Ocopa shows many aspects of Peru - past and present

Peru, a cradle of civilisation, has much to love – and some things to hate. This wall mural from the Franciscan Convento de Santa Rosa de Ocopa shows many aspects of Peru – past and present

Things I hated about Peru

Drivers

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.

Here in Chiclayo you see how the moto-taxis take up every available space. This is taken out of the front windshield. If you're driving a truck like Berta through this, you often can't even see them all.

Here in Chiclayo you see how the moto-taxis take up every available space. This is taken out of the front windshield. If you’re driving a truck like Berta through this, you often can’t even see them all.

Driving in cities in Peru is moto-taxi hell. Although there are some enlightened cities who ban them in the city centre, or sometimes altogether. This is Ica.

Driving in cities in Peru is moto-taxi hell. Although there are some enlightened cities who ban them in the city centre, or sometimes altogether. This is Ica.

 

Rubbish

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.

It's a shame Peru hasn't got it's act together where rubbish is concerned. We stopped to photograph the beautiful landscape and this dump of broken glass and other trash was right there where we pulled off the road.

It’s a shame Peru hasn’t got it’s act together where rubbish is concerned. We stopped to photograph the beautiful landscape and this dump of broken glass and other trash was right there where we pulled off the road.

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.


Noise

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.

This is a photo of peaceful Yura, just outside Arequipa. It was here that we were woken so shockingly by a garbage truck!

This is a photo of peaceful Yura, just outside Arequipa. It was here that we were woken so shockingly by a garbage truck!

Things I loved about Peru

Ancient History

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.

Related Blog Posts:
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 .

 

 

A very small but interesting ruin site we visited in Huancayo - Templo de las Manos Cruzadas. There are so many small ruin sites all over Peru. We really enjoyed finding new ones. This is one we haven't published before.

A very small but interesting ruin site we visited in Huancayo – Templo de las Manos Cruzadas. There are so many small ruin sites all over Peru. We really enjoyed finding new ones. This is one we haven’t published before.


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.

The short, but impressive Incan Empire is on display in this amazing stonework.

The short, but impressive Incan Empire is on display in this amazing stonework.


Colonial Cities

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!

Although a bit over-loved by tourists, Cusco is one of Peru's beautiful colonial cities. The Incan influence just makes it more interesting.

Although a bit over-loved by tourists, Cusco is one of Peru’s beautiful colonial cities. The Incan influence just makes it more interesting.

It's the intricately carved white sillar stone that makes Arequipa the most beautiful colonial city in Peru - in our opinion.

It’s the intricately carved white sillar stone that makes Arequipa the most beautiful colonial city in Peru – in our opinion.

 

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.

Cajamarca has some colonial gems like the Belén Monumental Complex and the Plaza de Armas, but it is more renowned as being the place where the Inca Emperor, Atahualpa, was captured by the Spanish and eventually executed in the plaza.
 

 

They all have their own character and beauty, but the World Heritage listed Arequipa – The White City constructed of volcanic sillar stone – is certainly one of the most beautiful colonial cities we have ever visited. And, as a special bonus, the Santa Catalina Convent is an interesting, relaxing and attractive place to spend some time.
 

 


Mountains

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.

It's always a delight to see colourful mountains and Peru provided us with these on the way to Ayacucho from Pisac.

It’s always a delight to see colourful mountains and Peru provided us with these on the way to Ayacucho from Pisac.

On our first visit to Peru back in 2008, we travelled mostly along the coast – except to go to Huaraz and Cusco, and the regions surrounding them. This time we left the coast as often as possible and headed into the mountains and beyond.
 

 

Sometimes the roads we took were more like an adrenaline rush than a pleasant drive through stunning scenery. Some of them we wouldn’t want to drive again, but we are glad we did it once. We experienced breathtaking vistas that come from driving a narrow road, along the side of a mountain, which rises steeply above and falls to the startling depths of valley below.
 

 
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.

Colca Canyon is not just a place to see Condors. It is a fertile valley with terraces that seem to go on for ever. The mountains in the background make for a stunning vista.

Colca Canyon is not just a place to see Condors. It is a fertile valley with terraces that seem to go on for ever. The mountains in the background make for a stunning vista.

When we visited Colca Canyon, we were lucky enough to see a number of Condors soaring on the updrafts quite close to our viewpoint. They are certainly amazing creatures.

When we visited Colca Canyon, we were lucky enough to see a number of Condors soaring on the updrafts quite close to our viewpoint. They are certainly amazing creatures.

 
And this trip we dropped down to the eastern side of the mountains to visit La Selva – the rainforest, which is such a large part of the Amazon basin.
 

 

This is La Selva (the jungle) of Peru. Water from these mountains flows into the mighty Amazon.

This is La Selva (the jungle) of Peru. Water from these mountains flows into the mighty Amazon.


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?

It was with Bron and Bob that we re-visited the Sacred Valley of the Incas; we also took them to Puno, where they had the chance to visit the Uros Floating Islands in Lake Titicaca; and finally to Arequipa.
 

 

We had a lovely visit, as you can see by this common expression of sisterly love!

We had a lovely visit, as you can see by this common expression of sisterly love!


Swiss Wassi
By the time we had travelled through Peru, and experienced all of these amazing things, we were tired and needed a rest. It was then that we pulled into Swiss Wassi, near Zorritos on the far north coast of Peru, and discovered this perfect place to take a holiday.

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.

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Peru, a cradle of civilisation, has much to love – and some things to hate. We spent a long time in Peru and saw a lot more than most tourists do. Outside the main tourist regions, Lima and the Sacred Valley around Cusco, you will discover many surprising traces of much older civilisations – dating back over 5000 years. But you are also confronted with the ugly side of this country, like the trash and the insane traffic. Read our summary of 6 months travelling in Peru!

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A lovely sunset at Swiss Wassi on the north coast of Peru - the perfect place for a holiday.

A lovely sunset at Swiss Wassi on the north coast of Peru – the perfect place for a holiday.

After 3 weeks, we were ready to get on the road again.

Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

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18 Responses

  1. Love your opening photo of the colorful wall mural especially but all of your photos are incredible. We too, had a love/hate list of things we noticed throughout our full-time travels in Central and some of South America and the ubiquitous garbage followed by early morning/late night noise were right at the top although it was the heat that finally chased us out. However, our list of all the positives far outweighed the negatives and I have to agree with you that learning some of the history and seeing many of the ruins was fascinating. Loved this recap of the highs and lows of your time in Peru!

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks Anita. Peru was really outstanding in the extremes of the love/hate dichotomy, although we have experienced it in other countries in both Central and South America. As for the heat, in South America we manage it by going higher or lower – the mountains are always lovely to visit.

  2. Why on earth would a rubbish truck play Fur Elise? What a way to ruin a beautiful tune. I agree with you that whenever Peru is mentioned in Australia people just assume the only thing to visit there is Machu Picchu and it is such a shame. David and I spent a week in Lima once and loved it. We even hired a car and drove, although I can’t say i enjoyed that bit.

    • Yasha says:

      They keep discovering more and more ruins and antiquities that there is always something new to see in Peru, if you’re interested in archaeological sites. I can’t recommend enough, the idea of looking beyond Machu Picchu and the Inca Empire.
      I remember being so proud when I learned to play Fur Elise on the piano as a kid. Now it’s completely spoiled for me.

  3. Carol Colborn says:

    Quite a summary of your immersive travel around Peru. It is not quite clear to me though…you did visit Macchu Pichu too, right? But with all of that, I agree that it is not only about MP!

    • Yasha says:

      Yes Carol, but not this trip. This is our second time in South America and we visited Machu Picchu in 2008. We were in the Sacred Valley when my sister visited this year, but we waited for them in Ollantaytambo while they visited the famous Inca site. We feel that one time at Machu Picchu is enough – the place is being over-loved so we had our share of it back then.

  4. I love Peru and certainly agree that the driving there can be nerve-rattling. I would not be brave enough to drive there. I find being a passenger is stressful enough!

    • Yasha says:

      I’m also not brave enough to drive there. Luckily I have great trust in Juergen’s driving abilities so I don’t even have to be a stressed passenger – well not all the time…
      I’m not sure which was worse – the city traffic or the very narrow roads. At least on the narrow roads there was some amazing scenery. The Andes in Peru are just wonderful.

  5. Well, you loved more than you hated and what you loved in Peru is right up my alley. I’ll be adding Peru to my bucket list!!

    • Yasha says:

      Good idea – but my advice is to make it soon. The longer you leave it, the more crowded the most popular sites will be. But then you can always take some back roads in Peru and still have a wonderful experience.

  6. I’d so love to see so many of the historic sites and cities in Peru that you mention here. I can deal with the bad driving (assuming I’m driving or my husband and not trusting my life to a stranger), but the rubbish you describe is a real turn-off. I saw similar in Egypt along the Red Sea coast. People just flinging trash out car windows, and then, not surprisingly, snorkeling around reefs where trash was caught on corals. If only governments realized how important cleaning up trash is to their tourism industry!

    • Yasha says:

      I agree – it’s the government who needs to be proactive in this. They need to provide education and public information to train the people to use the available infrastructure – and to create more as needed. The rubbish was really the biggest turn-off in this beautiful country.

  7. Lis says:

    They were crazy drivers in Peru back in 1992 too! I can’t image more of them having cars would have improved it any! You’re braver than me

  8. Gilda Baxter says:

    Sounds like there is a lot to love about Peru. Like you I hate noise and bad drivers, but that is the downfall of many other countries in the world. You have inspired me to visit Peru, I just hope it will be sooner rather than later. Safe travels 😄

    • Yasha says:

      I agree that noise and bad drivers can be found in other countries, but somehow the drivers in Peru seem to be almost worse than any I’ve experienced. Or I’m getting to be a grumpy old woman with no tolerance ;-)
      Definitely try to make it sooner rather than later. So much to explore.

  9. Bron says:

    Brilliant summary. Although we didn’t get to see all that I can understand your love affair, and hate sometimes, of stunning Peru xxx

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