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At last, we’ve come to the final post from our month-long journey in Peru. Our last destination (before one more night in Lima) was the beautiful colonial town of Arequipa, one of our favorite stops. We arrived in Arequipa in the mid-afternoon after taking a 6 a.m. first-class bus from Puno. (Here’s our post about Puno and Lake Titicaca.) The bus ride itself was spectacular and scenic, taking us across the austere high country of southern Peru. And when we say high, we mean it: one of our stops on the journey topped our entire Peru experience, at 4,560 meters (close to 15,000 feet). We passed through a few small towns, each bustling with activity from the region’s mining industry. Since the bus was going on to Chivay, the gateway to Colca Canyon, we switched to a private taxi arranged by the bus company for the final 2-hour descent into…

On our recent trip to Peru, we traveled from the Sacred Valley by train to the city of Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. (That train ride was an unforgettable experience. And, in case you missed it, here’s our post about our visit to the Sacred Valley.) Street scene, downtown Puno We found the city of Puno itself to be pretty unremarkable. It has its charms, but mostly it’s a somewhat grungy agricultural and industrial center for southern Peru. We spent two full days in Puno before taking the bus to Arequipa, and that was plenty of time. Most memorably, we got to explore the lake and learn about two colorful and ancient indigenous peoples based there: the Uros, famed for their floating reed-island homes, and the residents of Isla Taquile with their colorful knitting and weaving traditions. A Life Afloat: the Buoyant Uros A Uros family welcomes a…

All over the Sacred Valley, we saw these “Pucara Bull” ornaments on the tops of homes and businesses. They’re said to bring good fortune to the residents. So many places, so little time. It’s the big conundrum of travel: if you spend too much time in one place, what will you miss that’s just around the bend? As John likes to say, the sand is slipping through the hourglass. Even so, we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in the Peru’s Sacred Valley. We were in Cusco for four days to acclimate to the altitude before our Inca Trail/Machu Picchu adventure, and then stayed in Ollantaytambo for three days afterward. Now, the Sacred Valley has joined the long list of places to which we hope to return. Maybe . . .So what’s so sacred about the Sacred Valley? For starters, it’s the cradle of civilization for the fabled and…

Happy New Year!! Here’s wishing you a bold, adventurous, and fun-filled 2019. To kick off the new year, we’re starting a series on the cities and places that moved us the most during our recent trip to Peru. We weren’t prepared to love Lima. One reason was the negativity we got from some of our friends, including some who have never been there. In keeping with Latitude Adjustment Travel Rule #1 (never form an opinion about a place unless you’ve visited it yourselves), we ignored the nay-sayers and spent four days in Lima at the beginning of our Peru odyssey in October. We bookended our trip three weeks later with a final night in Lima before flying home. As South America’s fourth largest city, Lima has big-city problems: paralyzing traffic, a fair amount of air pollution, and extreme poverty. It’s also got a stunning historical district, fantastic boho neighborhoods, world-class…

As part of our 23-day Peru adventure, Susan and I wanted to experience a part of Peru by rail and enjoy the beautiful scenery that Peruvian Andes country has to offer. The PeruRail Titicaca Train from Cusco to Puno exceeded our expectations by far.  Since we’re usually budget-to-midlevel travelers, this luxury train ride was a bit of a splurge. But we wanted to give ourselves a little reward and a bit of pampering after completing our trek on the Inca Trail. We took an early-morning taxi from Ollantaytambo, where we had spent three nights after the trek, to the Cusco Wanchaq PeruRail station for the 7:50 departure to Puno. The pampering begins at check-in, when the friendly porters take your luggage and escort you to your assigned train car and table. Nice touch! The train features an open-air observatory car with a full bar, and the train cars are decorated in the…

Earlier this month, we realized a dream a year in the making when we walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It was one of the more physically challenging things we’ve ever done, and also one of the most rewarding. There’s so much to tell that we’ve decided to split this post into two. Here, we’ll talk about the Inca Trail experience. In a subsequent post, we describe our encounter with Machu Picchu, the fabled city that so many have tried to understand but to this day remains shrouded in mystery. We’ll also throw in a few tips for folks that are considering a trek of their own. It’s worth mentioning that “Inca Trail” is a bit of a misnomer. The stretch we walked, almost 28 miles, is actually just a tiny fragment of a huge network of trails that criss-cross the Andes and link important Inca and pre-Inca sites. At…

On Oct. 9, citizens throughout Peru turned out to choose their local and provincial officials (in other words, mayors, aldermen, and state governors). And, lucky for us, Oct. 9 was also the day we arrived in the Sacred Valley town of Ollantaytambo — to hordes of Andean folks who had come in from their mountain villages to cast their ballots. Also known as Quechuas, the Andean people trace their roots to the original Inca empire. Their brilliant clothing signifies the village they’re from and the position they hold in their local society, including marital status. Quechua is their first language, but many also speak Spanish. As fate would have it, our hotel was situated on the same cobblestone street as the school that was doubling as the polling place. Normally open to car traffic, the street was closed and a party atmosphere had taken over, with stands serving food and…

We’re feeling a little nostalgic today. Thanks to the magic of Facebook memories, we got reminded that exactly one year ago today, we struck out on one of the biggest adventures of our lives: a four-day trek to Machu Picchu on the fabled Inca Trail. It was a high point in our ongoing quest to visit as many South American countries as possible while we’re living here in Colombia. The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu were so memorial that we covered them in two separate posts, here and here. In fact, that experience was only one slice of our fantastic three-week journey through Peru. Here’s the library of all our Peru posts.  We’re plotting our next South American adventures now, and one area we’re focusing on is the northern coast bordering the Caribbean. A big stretch of that coast is in Colombia, and we have a trip planned there in…

We’ve been hearing about Jardín, Colombia, practically since the day we moved to Medellin. We had a picture in our minds of a fantastic old colonial square with a huge and striking cathedral and brightly painted, neat-as-a-pin colonial-era homes, all set against a stunning Andes backdrop of near-vertical mountains sporting every hue of green you can imagine. That’s exactly what we found on our recent three-night visit to Jardin, and then some. We’re in love with Jardín, and we can’t wait to go back! Jardín Factoids Jardín is one of 17 Pueblos Patrimonios, historical colonial towns that are the best examples of the country’s cultural heritage. Many publications list Jardín as the most beautiful town in the department of Antioquia. So far, we agree! The dominant feature of Parque Principal – in fact, the whole city of Jardín – is the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, a National Monument…

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