In October 2013, I went to Peru as part of my travels around South America. Here are a few musings/tips from my time there:
– Peruvian women talk really fast and walk really slow. The men stare a lot.
– At 5″3′, Peru makes me feel like a tall person. It’s awesome!
– If you’re going to Cusco or the Amazon (hell, anywhere but the coast it seems) and you’re given the option of taking Diamox or any altitude sickness drug – take it. I was unable to due to allergies, but if you can, do. Everyone deals with altitude sickness differently – some people might not even have any symptoms. I was most worried about my breathing, having just gotten through a bought of bronchitis before I left – but my breathing was not an issue. I also didn’t get the headaches that most people got…I only got vomit. Four days of non-stop vomit.
– If you are flying in to Lima from Santiago, or you’re flying within Peru, I highly recommend getting a window seat. The views of the Andes are spectacular!
– My name, Erin, is extremely foreign to Peruvians – no one can pronounce it, let alone spell it. Thanks to my Spanish teacher for teaching us the alphabet at a class I actually went to. Equally, my last name, Bingham, is famous in Peru – Hiram Bingham re-discovered Machu Picchu – but no one can actually pronounce it. It’s like me, an Aussie, trying to pronounce some of the Chinese names of my clients when I worked on an IT help desk…awkward.
– Everyone thinks I am American – I just screw up my nose, shake my head “No Americana, yo soy Australiana!”. And just like that we’re friends. There doesn’t seem to be a hatred for Americans here, like I have experienced in many countries – but there does seem to be some annoyance for the ones who come in without a lick of Spanish. Although apparently being Aussie and not knowing a lick of Spanish is okay…
– Peru has some of the craziest traffic I have encountered – second only to Egypt. There doesn’t seem to be any road signs, let alone any road rules. And yet, I didn’t see a single accident – everyone seems to know what they’re doing. So just hold on and let the driver do his thing. Similar to Egypt, drivers use the horn to signal and let other drivers know where they are – so it can be a noisy trip too.
– Outside of Miraflores in Lima, Peru is quite a poor country. I was quite shocked by the poverty, it was not something I had expected (crappy research on my part). There’s lots of decaying buildings, people begging and people trying to rip you off.
– A lot of the women still dress in the traditional garb – but I did not see any men wearing anything authentic. I even saw a woman in fashionable jeans and a shirt, with one of the traditional “baby carriers” with Inca designs slung over her back.
– There are stray dogs everywhere. But apparently they’re not stray, they belong to people – they just live outside. And there’s lots of them. However, I didn’t see any “road kill” and all the dogs seemed very traffic aware. None of the ones I encountered seemed to be aggressive. One even ended up near the Machu Picchu entrance (he caught the bus up?) and followed me around for a bit, trying to get to my lunch. He was very polite and gentlemanly.
– Similarly, there seems to always be a lot of humans on the street to. They just seem to be there. There were a few times when I thought to myself, why on earth are you standing there, what a random place to stand. Perhaps they just like to be outside…
– Lima airport is one of most chaotic I have ever been in – just go with the flow and look for the guy with a sign with your name on it. Definitely arrange a lift before arriving – it takes the stress out of it. The drivers will usually speak broken English, and a bit of broken Spanish helps on your part too.
– Lima airport is also the self-confessed “best airport in South America”. Erm. No. There are only three food options after security and two of them are the same thing. All the good stuff (and by that I mean, fast food) is before you go through security – but I am one of those people who likes to get through security and then chillax. I ended up having a chocolate croissant for breakfast at Lima airport because I have a thing about pre packaged sandwiches… And everything is really expensive! Three times the price of what you’d pay in the outside world.
– ATM’s spit out the money before the card over here. Don’t be a dipshit and leave your card in the ATM at the airport, realise when you get to the hotel and then have to call home to cancel it…
– Everything in Peru is sweeter than my western pallet is used to. The tomato sauce “ketchup” is like pure sugar.
– Inca kola tastes like bubble gum and will make you hyper.
– Limon means lime. Limon tart is actually key lime pie.