Posted by: Ali | March 21, 2010

A Visitor’s Perspective

Welcome to my guest blogger, Mom.

We’ve just returned from ten days in Peru. Ali did a great job of arranging our trip. We saw and did a lot of different things, most of which Ali has already written about. I thought I’d write this blog entry to add our perspective.

Our trip took us to Lima (on the coast) and Cusco province (in the highlands), a good quick overview of the country. Lima is big, noisy, and fast — the people speak fast and drive fast. Cusco, the city, is also big and the drivers are still crazy, but it seems a bit quieter. The rest of Cusco province that we saw was beautiful countryside, mountains, rivers, and small towns.

The route to Machu Picchu was closed due to the recent heavy rains, but we were still able to see lots of amazing Incan and other ruins at Pisac and Ollantaytambo (both in the Sacred Valley) and in and around the city of Cusco. Because tourism is a large part of the economy in their region and it wasn’t the tourist season, we were always being accosted by locals trying to sell us their wares or get their photo taken for money. Even little children would smile sweetly on a curb holding a puppy or lamb and ask us to take their photo. The only llamas we saw in Peru were in zoos or getting their photos taken with old women in traditional dress at tourist traps. We did see herds of sheep with goats and donkeys in the countryside.

The food was good everywhere. I was expecting to eat beans and rice frequently, and we never had that. We did have lots of rice and potatoes, and a fair bit of chicken and corn. And fruit — fruit salads (bananas, papaya, pineapples, oranges, and apples, all local) and fresh juices. Lots of restaurants and corner stores sell fresh fruit juices made to order, including Ali’s favourite, fresa con leche (strawberries with milk), not currently in season. The soups were good, we tried ceviche, and we were given Pisco Sours on a couple of our adventures.

Things we are glad to get back to are flushable toilet paper, water fountains and potable water in general, vehicles driving in the marked lanes, and better air quality — basic necessities for a healthy society. We think we have poor air quality in North America, but when air pollution from car exhaust is literally in your face every time you walk down the road, what we have here is great by comparison.

I’m also glad to get back to waste separation. That seems to be an untapped opportunity for Peru, especially with the millions of plastic water bottles being used. The challenge would be how to organize it. We did see some separate public bins for organics and inorganics in Cusco, with paper being considered inorganic. There was at least one compost garden there, so likely the organics were being put to use.

We really enjoyed our trip to Peru. The people we met were friendly and helpful. Tourism is a big industry there. We were careful but never felt in danger in any way, aside from the risk of traffic accidents. We rode the buses and combis, and were often the only tourists on board. And then there was the day we were scheduled to return from Cusco and there was a general strike on in the province for the day. The buses and taxis weren’t running and we were lucky to find an ambulance willing to take us to the airport.

It’s fair to say that our trip to Peru was an adventure!


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