I have heard so many mixed reviews on Peru. As with any country you can find some amazing sights and then not so great cities. However by the time I departed Peru, I felt lucky that I had the opportunity to see some of the best it had to offer. Was it similar to Colombia? I don’t think so. The people are different and the scenery and specialties it catered for were different. However it will remain a place I will return to and perhaps even work there next year. Can there be a higher form of praise?
So the worst bit first. Lima. I was not a fan. Arriving at the airport from Bogota, Colombia I was instantly assaulted by how much busier it was, how unfit for tourists it felt and generally how much grayer it looked and felt to me. Staying only 2 nights was enough. As with any city there are the richer, safer areas and then the poorer and generally more dangerous suburbs. Obviously the tourists are herded to the Miraflores/Barranco districts. They are lovely, wealthy but with no real atmosphere. The shops are a bit more expensive, the communities are closed off to tourists and you find yourself wandering the streets wondering what to do with the time you have.
After giving up on the Lima lifestyle I spent 4 weeks in the mountains. I think it was exactly what I needed and ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done. The Peruvian Andes are just spectacular. Most opinions of Peru come after visiting some of the more obvious places. Cusco, Huacachina, Arequipa, Lima, etc. However the moment you step outside of these and head somewhere a bit different you start seeing a bit more of the real Peru. The people in Huaraz and the surrounding towns were friendly, inquisitive and relaxed. Sitting on a collectivo (local bus) heading back from a day hike, I had a small girl offering me fruits and with limited supplies in my bag I offered some mints back. It was a great journey of broken Spanish and English but not something I would expect to encounter in the more popular tourist spots. It’s obvious that a poorer country is going to exploit the tourists where they can. I would, you would in order to feed and shelter your family. The poverty across South America is clearly apparent. In order to avoid being ripped off, then learn a bit about them. Don’t be so scared and get involved. It’s really that easy.
My views on South America are relaxing and broadening with every week I spend here. I think back to when I first arrived in Colombia and I was nervous, a bit scared and unsure as to what I was doing here. Now I’m just enjoying it and whenever I can, I meet locals and get involved in the bustle of their everyday life. Maybe it’s also a bit of me missing the daily routine of working life. I don’t miss the grind, the daily boring consistency. I miss the ease with which you can just forget to worry about how to get somewhere, where to eat, how you’re going to meet new people, how much you should pay, the list goes on. While travelling you are constantly adapting to a new place, new people, new habits, new foods, the newness of it all can be tiring. I know the instant it stops however, I will be itching to carry on again.
If you are travelling through Peru then try and work out one or two different towns/cities to stop at on the way. Mix it up. I went to Huacachina on the way to Cusco. It’s a not exactly different or off the beaten path. In fact it seems to survive only because of tourists. However it was so different from everything else I had seen. It was fascinating and an easy break on the long trip from Huaraz to Cusco. I almost wish I had spent some more time in outlying towns however my need and want to move on with the trip took over. I am now writing this in Bolivia, a country I was going to skip after all the bad press I received about how dangerous it is. Rubbish. It’s a fantastic place and I’ll explain why when I can cover it off with my final impressions.
So in summary, Peru is a place I won’t forget. Which is becoming a theme for most places in South America. Don’t expect it to be as raw and local as Colombia, simply because of it’s popularity with tourists worldwide. However embrace it, enjoy it and adapt.
Thanks for reading!