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Peru Roundup... My thoughts, advice and reflections on Peru

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I recently took a trip to Peru, in which I visited Lima and Cusco, as well as a number of Incan ruins, most notably Machu Pichu, one of the new 7 wonders of the world.

I thought I would share my advice, reflections, and ideas with you all. I absolutely loved Peru, it tops the list as one of my favorite countries, and I would love to go back.

First off, my general tips and advice:
1. Learn Spanish: Peru is a 3rd world country, and one of the least English-speaking countries that I have visited. Not knowing at least some Spanish would make things much more difficult.
2. Always keep toilet paper with you: No bathroom has toilet paper... ever. Also be prepared to pay for bathroom use, very few are free.
3. Get used to getting asked for your passport: Peru has a very strict entry and exit system through immigration. You can not check in to a hotel or make a reservation without providing your immigration card and passport, expect every one of them to take at least one photocopy. It is annoying, but a requirement nonetheless.... there is most likely a Peruvian running around somewhere that just became Tom Hearn, a new-born American.
4. Get the most updated American Dollars before you go: I saw a statistic that 24% of money in Peru is counterfeit, and Peruvians know it. If your bill is torn in any way, or is not the latest, watermarked bill, they won't accept it.
5. Get your immunizations: At least Yellow Fever and Hep B, you cannot get back into the US without your immunization card.
6. ACCLIMATE!: If you are going to Cusco or Machu Pichu (which if you are going to Peru and are not you should be shot) make SURE that you acclimate. This means that the first day you enter Cusco you need to eat lightly, drink some Cocuo leaf (yes, the stuff cocaine is made from) and sleep for at least a day. Some of our group members took Dyamox which is a prescription altitude pill which seemed to help a lot. There is also an over-the-counter solution available in Peru which I took and it worked great. DO NOT go walk around the first day as badly as you want to. Everyone in our group that acclimated was fine except for 3 that got up and walked around the first day. Cusco is 13,500 feet above sea level, get used to not being able to breath, and certainly don't plan on running any marathons. This was much more of a factor then I was expecting, and altitude sickness is no joke. Being in shape or being overweight, it makes no difference, it takes one to two days for your red blood cell count to properly make changes, and a month to completely and properly adjust.

As far as where to go, here are my recommendations:
1. Machu Pichu: This is a given, it is absolutely incredible. I spent two days here, most spend a full day. If you have the chance I would recommend getting up EARLY and seeing the sunrise... it was incredible.
2. Lima: A cool city, but at 9 million strong and not that much history, you only need a day here. Take a city tour, and go see the museu de oro (Gold Museum).
3. Cusco: We used this as a staging point, and it is a very cool and cultural city. It has a very European feel, and the people are very nice.
4. Pisac: The Incan experimental cultivation ruins, go see these, they are awesome.
5. Saqsaywaman: Ruins above Cusco, this place is awesome and has a great panoramic view of Cusco as well.
6. Tipon: Another Incan cultivation center, with running canals and cultivation that are still fully functional after thousands of years. I would highly recommend this as well.

Now, suggestions on food and drinks to try:

1. Lomo saltado: Traditional Peruvian meal consisting of corn and varying types of beef, very good.
2. Pisco sour: Pisco is an alcohol made from corn (like many other things in Peru) and the Pisco sour is a 100% Peruvian drink made from Pisco, sugar, egg, and a few others. It is very, very good, but be warned, they are much stronger then you think.
3. Cicha: A Peruvian alcohol brewed from corn as well, which is consumed as strait corn alcohol. I personally didn't think it was very good, but it is very popular among the locals in Peru, and worth a try. Be careful where you try it, Cicha comes in different forms, one is drinking grade, the other is cleaning grade. Drinking Cicha from somewhere that the person didn't know what they were doing can cause blindness, ceisures, and kill you, so don't say you weren't warned.
4. Cuy (pronounced koo - e): This one is a little more "exotic." Cuy is fried Guinea pig, which is very popular among Peruvians. I personally didn't like it at all, but wouldn't be caught dead saying I didn't try something.
5. Civeche (pronounced see - vee - che): A traditional Peruvian dish made from raw fish and lemons. Once again I didn't like it, but had to try it.
6. Alpaca: Most people find it very odd that they eat Alpaca (a llama-like animal) but I actually thought it was REALLY good. It is similiar in taste to pork, but much more rich.
7. Llama: Personally I didn't like it, it was very tough and game-y, but once again I had to try it.
8. Anticuchos: This might gross a few out too: Anticuchos is cow heart, which is eaten off of a stick, very similar to how we eat shiskabobs. I actually thought it was really good too, wish they had it in the US.

Well hopefully you enjoyed the Peru rundown, let me know if you have any more questions. I will post some comments with links to pictures as I add them.

Peruana Tom Out.


Lance said on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008 @ 2:20 PM

OMG...I can't believe you ate a cow heart. I love civeche.

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