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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : The Peru a dedo

Peru, land of travelers and explorers, but also land or archaeologists and nature lover.  The Machu Picchu, Cusco, the Lake Titicaca, the Inca civilization, the Nazca lines, the Altiplano… I had all those names on my mind, but now I would have the opportunity to discover them.

I traveled the country from the north coast, poor in nature and desert.  Then, I orientated my journey towards the Cordillera of the Andes and then the Altiplano on my way to Bolivia. I crossed the country from the northwest to the southeast in approximately five weeks, still by hitchhiking.
Traveling like this has been a real adventure and an interesting way to discover the country.

Once again, the words coming to my mind at the moment to describe the country are diversity, cultural richness and beauty. All those breathtaking landscapes! Also, the previous civilizations have let some incredible sources of information about their culture and their ways of living.

The current civilization seems to be inspires by the previous ones.  The Peruvian has an interesting way of life, even if trying to understand everything of it can be much more difficult than we think. The Peruvian seems to live a life quite hard and tough.  I could realize that by having interacted with him.
Rocks, sand, altitude and Inca ruins… Welcome to Peru!

 

Differences of climates and landscapes

To compare, the Peruvian landscapes were as beautiful as the feminine population of Colombia.
As I said, I arrived in Peru by the coast. This one is strangely very different from the one of Ecuador, which was humid and tropical. The Peruvian coast was absolutely dry and desert. On some part of the road, I could imagine myself for some moment on the desert of Syria or Jordan, that I had the chance to cross when I started my journey in February 2008.

As in Middle East, I could find some donkeys on the Peruvian coast, which was desert and rocky…


…Or even sometimes looking like the Sahara in Africa


The only common point that the rest of the landscape and the Peruvian climate has is the dryness of it.  Of course, I am not talking about the tropical area of the country which is again very humid.

Let´s talk about the Altiplano for example. If we are studying this word for some minutes, we can understand its meaning. Indeed, in Altiplano, we have “Alti” for altitude and “Plano” for plain. The Peruvian Altiplano deserves its name as it is located at more than 4000 meters high.

Because of this altitude, it is very important to get there slowly, step by step, if we don´t want to have those headaches (commonly called here ´´Soroche´´).

Once there, you can finally enjoy the landscape with its incredible yellow colors, its lights at the sunrise or sunset. The vegetation is getting rarer at this altitude. Only some pieces of yellow grass can survive there. Also, as I said, the altitude being closer to the sun, this one allows us to watch some incredible colors, comparable to the never ending days of Alaskan summer.

The yellow colors of the Altiplano


The sun, incredible for the sunset

The highlight of a trip in the Altiplano is without doubt the arrival on the shore of the Lake Titicaca. This one is the highest navigable lake in the world. Of course, few lakes can welcome boats at an altitude of 3800 meters high.

The Lake Titicaca, seen from the city of Puno

In this part of the world, you can also see this animal that is so typical to Peru. This animal never hesitates to spit if one get shim angry!
Yes, the lama.
The lama, or its cousin the alpaga are living on this mountainous area, eating the yellow and green grass, depending of the seasons.

As I don´t know how to make a difference, here is a lama… or an alpaga

The Altiplano is a part of the Cordillera of the Andes. Those very famous mountains are crossing the whole South America on its length. It can look very desert on the Altiplano, but has also more vegetation like in the Valley of the Incas.



History and culture

If you don´t know what the Valley of the Incas is about, you surely may have heard about the “Machu Picchu”. Those ruins are today part of the 7 New Wonders of the World.
Built on the XV century by the Incas, the Machu Picchu is a city situated on the top of a mountain. Today, the ruins are still well conserved but the view on the natural landscape is even more incredible.

The Machu Picchu

The Inca civilization is without doubt the most known in Peru. Those one let a very important architectural Heritage, even if the Spanish conquistadors were keeping building on the top of the Inca´s building foundations.
For example, in Cusco, it is possible to see some wonderful Inca stones in the city center. It is very interesting to realize that they weren´t using anything to stick most of the stones because they were cutting them in the perfect size.

The stones that the Incas made were getting perfectly together, like here in the Machu Picchu…

It is also possible to find many Inca doors in the old city center of Cusco.
Here I am at the entrance of one of them

However, the Inca civilization hasn´t been the first to have inhabited in Peru, far from that even. Have you ever heard of the Moches, the Nazcas and the Chimus?
The Nazcas can maybe tell you something. They let behind them huge lines on the ground, representing monkey, bird or even spider.  I didn´t have the opportunity to see those one, because you can only see them if you are flying over those incredible fields.

Nevertheless, here is a picture of one of them, taken from internet

Near Trujillo, some buildings are coming from the Moche Civilization. The golden age of the Moches was between IV and VII AD. Today, it is possible to see two temples that are in fact pyramids, the Huaca del Sol and the Huaca de la Luna.

The Huaca de la Luna, close to Trujillo

The last civilization that came to inhabitate in this part of Latin America was the one who latinized it. The Spanish conquistadors let a European Heritage from the time they were there.  It is also very interesting to see that almost every central square of every city is called “Plaza de Armas”.

I really liked the one of Trujillo, in the north of the country.
The Plaza de Armas in Trujillo

The Spanish is the official language in Peru, but there is also another native language that has this statute. You probably have heard of the name which isn´t really unknown: Quechua.
Quechua is widely spoken in the Sierra. It looks like some languages used by the Maya Civilization in Central America. I personally didn´t understand so much to it but I feel like encouraging them to keep practicing this piece of their culture.

A street name in Quechua in Cusco

I had the chance to watch a concert of Quechuan music and interpretation.  The association that was organizing this event was working to save this language.

I am sharing with you a little video of some parts of the concert
Click here to see the video of Quechua music

And also a picture with the local band at the end of the event



Habits and Customs

At a street corner, on a terrace…  It happens very often to be surprise by the local customs when we are traveling. Here are some pieces of it.

It is said that it is easy to recognize a tourist while this one is visiting a place. Indeed, a tourist appears often to look toward the sky, studying every corner of a place. When you are from an area, you may go from A to B without even thinking to know if the windows have been sculpted by someone or someone else.
Me, I am a tourist, so I realize this little detail on the roof of the Peruvian houses. Indeed, many locals like to decorate their roof with some original objects.

On the road, close to the village of Andahuaylas, a family has decorated their roof

We aren´t in Times Square in New York, neither in Piccadilly Circus in London and even less Place Vendome in Paris. Nevertheless, the fashion is here at the dog´s clothes. Even in the most lost corners of the country, I had the opportunity to watch those animals walking with all these pieces of tissues. That was quite funny.

The fashion in Peru is currently taking care of the dogs…

In Peru, we can´t really say that we are thinking about the protection of the artists. I would even say that we are very far from it. As many developing countries or of the Third World, there is a huge market of pirate music and movies. Even on some DVD, you can read this: “pirateria no es un delito es un trabajo » (pirating isn´t a crime, it is a job)

 « Pirating isn´t a crime, it is a job» in Ayacucho

A job, let´s talk about it. The government is obviously continuously promising to create some. Finally, this seems to be the same thing in every country. However, a fact attracted my attention. I arrived in Peru during the campaign for the municipal elections.
The propaganda for this event has been very surprising. The different political parties don´t hesitate to paint the wall of the houses of the locals to influence them to vote for one or another.  Some Peruvians told me that the parties are paying the inhabitants to paint their wall, but it happens that sometimes…No. Imagine now the reaction of the inhabitant coming back to his place that has being totally painted during the day!

On top of that, this isn´t a little paint, like here in Ayacucho

The national drink.
I think that I have very rarely seen a soda more popular than the Coca-Cola in my journey. In Peru, yes. The Inca Kola is the famous national drink here.  It comes with every meal, is sold at every street corner. It is now more popular than the God Coca Cola. The Inca Kola is bright yellow, like the Powerade/Gatorade and it tastes like chewing-gum. On my side, I am taking the opportunity to get in their trucks!

Come on Inca Kola-Stop!


 

Hitchhiking in Peru

It is not very easy to travel that way in Peru, so we can say that every means are good… You will understand very quickly.
The Peruvian is a person who is quite shy and worried. Because of that, it has been difficult to stop vehicles at some times. Nevertheless, it works much better to talk directly to the drivers if you want to move on. The petro-stations of the Pan-American road have been very good spots for this activity.
Even if the Pan-American road is wonderful and asphalted, it doesn´t cover the whole country.  Many roads were getting fixed, eventually opened between noon and 2pm.
In those occasions, I was using the tools of the local workers.

 

Those roads that are getting fixed are sometimes very impressing, especially in the Sierra. It happens that some incredible cliffs of 1500 meters are bordering the road without any protection, except the care of the driver…

Some cliffs are sometimes bordering the road in Peru

The others thing is to not be difficult on what you can find. I had some surprised thanks to this.

In Trujillo, the truck drivers allowed me to jump on the back of his vehicle. This one was full of closed buckets. My driver told me that it wasn´t dangerous, that it was like water. When we arrive in Chimbote, situated at around 100 kilometers further, his coworkers were taking off this load from the truck. After a while, I realize that one of them were actively moving, trying to take off something from his clothes. I looked closer and realized that his black trouser was becoming white. I succeeded to have more information about what happened and learned that this “water” was in fact sulphuric acid!

My journey between Trujillo and Chimbote, on the top of closed buckets of sulphuric acid!

Peru is a big country. The distances are quite long.  It has happened to me to have to spend the night outside. If many truck drivers can sleep in their cabins, they sometimes use the “alternative plan”. In this case, I volunteered to do it, which means sleeping on hammock under the truck.  It was also important to not forget the sleeping bag because the nights can be cold with a dry climate like this.

The hammock under the truck

Finally, crossing Peru by hitchhiking made me add a new vehicle to my collection. This one, I had to look for it in a way. As I said, the strike of the train company allowed me to walk on the tracks. As it wasn´t any traffic, the workers could do their jobs in a better way. They were using a sort of wagon to go from an area of the train tracks to another. By chance, they accepted to help me to go further in my direction.

The wagon-little-train-hitchhiking!



Enjoyment is in the dish

Based on rice, potatoes and a soup for the started, the South American cuisine is quite monotonous.
The Peruvian cuisine is quite similar, but in more diversified, which helps to appreciate the whole thing.

On the coast for example, the seafood is completing the rice, like here with an omelet of crawfish.

 

The most famous coastal dish is without any doubt the Ceviche, which can be found from Central America to South America but always a little bit different from one country to another.  This dish is a mix of raw fish marinated in lemon juice, onions and tomatoes.
The famous Peruvian Ceviche

The menus got some variations.  Sometimes, read well, because you can have some surprises. In Ayacucho for example, I could realized that the menu was offering “Chicken with a coca-cola sauce”. What is the taste of it? I didn´t have the chance to try, but I am still looking forward to… Maybe like the chewing-gum taste of the Inca Kola!

The Menu of the day, pollo a la coca-cola (chicken with a coca-cola sauce)

At the end, I like to eat on the side of the road or on the street because it helps a lot to have interactions with the local population. We are often talking about the assets or the disadvantages. I think that as a traveler, it is good to give more life to the local economy because it touches every layer of the population.

In Trujillo, this vendor was teaching me how to cook the meat on the street

In Lima, this cook didn´t want to give me her secret before the picture!

To give you more desire to find more local dishes hidden at every street corners, here are some pictures.
The traditional  ice-cream vendor in Ayacucho

 

And its friend selling juices, excellent !




I am getting to the end of my crossing of Peru, which has been very interesting. As in Mexico and its Azteca and Maya culture, the Peru Inca, Moche or Nazca culturally offered me a lot.
Also, the incredible landscapes entertained me while I was staying for all those long hours on the back of the trucks, driving along those rocky roads bordering the never-ending cliffs. Peru has been closer to adventure than to tourism and I am thanking him for that.

Today, I am preparing myself to discover a new country, the only one of South America with Uruguay to not have ocean:  Bolivia. I arrive now close to the 3 years of my journey and I still have this curiosity that the traveler needs. You can count on me to keep on discovering, now to Bolivia, then to Chile and Argentina to it southest point: Ushuaia.

See you very soon for some new adventures!

Jeremy



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