A Travellerspoint blog

In Search of the Peruvian Hairless Dog

Photo Friday!

I wasn't going to leave Peru until I spotted the elusive Peruvian Hairless Dog. Ever since the Obama's were offered this peculiar breed, I just had to see one for myself. Well, I did see one. Two actually. Did I get a picture? No. But I did capture these fellows. Peruvian Hairless Dog, eat your heart out.



To say Peru has an abundance of canines is an understatement. In fact, we encounted pooches in every place we visited, including the floating islands of Lake Titicaca.

The cats of Puerto Rico have nothing on Peru's dogs.

For more photo friday fun, visit Delicious Baby!

Posted by Jennylynn 10:22 Archived in Peru Tagged animal Comments (2)

Arequipa Astounds

Discovering an unexpected gem

As our taxi sped through the narrow cobbled streets of Arequipa, I immediately felt a surge of excitement as I witnessed a new and exotic side of Peru. The dozens of bustling cafes and nightclubs which lined the historic avenues spilled out into the streets. It was a warm Saturday evening, club-goers dressed to the nines, strong hints of cologne and perfume lingered in the air, and perspiring drinks adorned like jewelry. Throw in a beach and we could have been cruising the Miami strip.


Arequipa was unlike any other city we visited in Peru. With a population just shy of a million, Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and serves as a commercial and industrial hub in Andean Highlands. While all of Peru has been rocked with dozens of devastating earthquakes, Arequipa is also plagued with volcanic eruptions every now and then. Needless to say, Arequipa has risen from the ashes and become a pulsating, metropolitan center.

Our primary focus in Arequipa was food. After living off saltines for five days Dan and I were ready to tantalize our taste buds and bulge our bellies. In Peru, the dollar goes a long way. This meant we spent nearly every meal dining on five star foods for mere dollars and cents. We’re talking four course, premier chef, and white table cloth service for under $25 for two people. I was in heaven. Of course my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, and having just recovered my stomach could only handle several bites before throwing in the towel. It didn’t matter, what we ate in Arequipa was delicious, filling, and divine.


Now I have failed to bring up a very sad fact about Peru, but since we’re on the subject, I suppose it’s time. Peruvians eat guinea pigs.


Yes, those furry little creatures kept as childhood pets. If you’re anything like me, you probably had one growing up. Although please tell me I’m not the only one who named my male guinea pig Bozo and then discovered one morning that Bozo had three babies and was really a girl. I can’t be the only one. Sad but true, guinea pig is sort of a specialty in Peru. While wandering about in Arequipa we came across a home with a cute little guinea pig hutch out front. There were probably a dozen or so furry critters frolicking about in their hay. I was so delighted at my find until I realized they were probably not pets.

But let’s change the subject, no reason to dwell.

Arequipa was so stunning that I feel even pictures do not do it justice. The highlight was easily the Santa Catalina Monastery where we spent a good portion of a day wandering through the quaint alleyways and terraces.


The Monastery has an interesting story. It was founded in 1580 and only women from very wealthy, high class Spanish families were permitted to serve. While I’m sure they had the best intentions, the nuns continued to live their lavish lifestyles within the convent walls. It wasn’t until 1871 when the Pope himself sent Sister Josefa Cadena to whip the place into shape. Today the 20 or so nuns are on much better behavior and live within a small section of the sprawling convent.


Towering over Arequipa, which already sits at an elevation of 7,800 feet, is the cone shaped volcanic El Misti at nearly 20,000 feet and her sidekicks Chachani and Pichu-Pichu. They are quite the sight and a force to be reckoned with. Nearly all of Arequipa has been rebuilt using Sillar, a volcanic rock from the eruptions which litter Arequipa’s history.


We didn’t want to leave Arequipa. Between the cobbled streets, plentiful gourmet food, and easy pace of life, it was the type of place that I like to call home. I could have easily settled into their lifestyle and never returned. However, looming El Misti and the frequent occurrence of earth trembles left me feeling a little anxious. Then again, Seattle is awfully similar, we’re not unused to earthquakes and we sit directly underfoot of Mt. Rainier. Maybe that’s what made Arequipa home to me. Mother Nature makes life unexpected and interesting, and perhaps that’s why Arequipa is home to so many.


Posted by Jennylynn 13:30 Archived in Peru Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca

No visit to Peru is complete without taking a tour of the floating islands on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. Although some may say the islands have lost their authenticity, we found them to be an interesting and educational glimpse into the lives of the locals who inhabit them. Sure, they may be touristy, but before becoming a travel destination, real people lived real lives on these floating islands of reeds. Today locals may have the ability to live on solid ground, but they choose to live on these islands and eke out a living from fishing and tourism. While there are several places to embark on tours of the islands, Puno is Peru’s busiest waterfront hub, and it was here that we found ourselves after a very long bus ride from Cusco.


As we had been battling illness for a couple of days, we were in much need of some R&R. Our first night in the city was spent holed up in our tacky Motel 6 style hotel room at Plaza Mayor eating saltine crackers for dinner. The beds were soft, there was cable TV, and we had hot water about 50 percent of the time, so pretty much it was the Four Seasons of Puno. The location was convenient to the Plaza de Armas where about every 30 minutes a new festival or parade took place (Peruvians are notorious for celebrating just about everything). In fact when we first visited the Plaza it was filled with tractors for the celebration of agriculture – we couldn’t have been more thrilled!


The next morning we ventured down to the pier where we signed up for a boat excursion to the islands. As we sat waiting to board our boat we watched as many groups of tourists followed their English speaking guides onto their respective boats. It seemed like we had been waiting forever before our guide hustled us aboard a rather dire looking boat and dutifully handed us our life jackets. Warily we took our seats and then proceeded to listen to the safety instruction – in Spanish. Now Dan and I both speak only a handful of Spanish phrases, everything else goes in one ear and out the other. We both figured once we set off our guide would translate to English. No such luck. If anything at least we assumed he would translate as we visited the islands. Nope, never happened. Instead we endured a full day of island hopping with plenty of Spanish commentary. In the end it didn’t really matter as no language is needed to enjoy the sunshine, welcoming locals, and festive dances. Plus Wikipedia filled us in on the details later.


The Islands we visited were part of the Uros Islands just outside of Puno’s harbor. This collection of 42 islands is inhabited by about 2,000 Uros people. Some islanders choose not to welcome tourists, while other dance and sing to lure you in. While visiting one of the islands, we were taken out on their reed boat for ride. While our guidebook had encouraged tipping for such joy rides, we were taken aback when once in the middle of the lake our “driver” demanded we each pay a fee. He then proceeded to drop us off at an island that was fashioned with a general store, restaurant, and tourist shop. On top of each reed hut we noticed solar panels generating electricity. Inside each room, TV’s and radios were blaring. This must have been the lacking authenticity we warned about.


Back aboard our boat we stopped at another island where through a clever miniature demonstration we learned how the islands are constructed and how the people live off the island. We were each given a totora reed and encouraged to eat the white fleshy part, or the root segment. Fearfully Dan passed up the offer to try the reed, and although still sick, I chomped into mine out of respect for the locals eagerly awaiting my response. It wasn’t half bad, and almost had a soft celery like flavor. Totora reeds are rich in iodine and are consumed by the islanders to prevent goiter, and they also apply the reeds topically to relieve pain. The reeds are used to construct the floating islands and are replaced every several months as they begin to rot and sink. Walking on the reeds was a challenge, not only do you need to avoid the soggy spots, but each step causes you to sink deeply into the reeds.



Although we had no idea what our guide was saying, we knew our tour was nearing the end as our fellow passengers lined up to board the boat. Back at the pier we set out to explore the water front. While Puno lacks character and is quite congested, we found the water front to be an oasis of calm. Here a boardwalk runs the length of the harbor and souvenir shacks sell tourist goods. It was an escape from the poverty, congestion, and pollution of the city and the place where we ended up spending most of our time.


At the end of the day we boarded a rickshaw for a quick ride back to the hotel. As our driver pedaled us through speedy intersections we braced ourselves for potential impact. Thankfully we returned unscathed.


Overall, Puno as a city was not our favorite place in Peru, but the waterfront and the ride to the islands was its saving grace. Language barriers and cultural differences aside we felt the islanders to welcoming, warm, and friendly. Although authenticity may be compromised, we still found the experience to be completely unique and foreign. With our cultural infusion we headed to Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city and a sprawling metropolitan hub. Puno and Arequipa couldn’t be any more different, but we were excited for the change of pace and for a meal that didn’t come from a saltine cracker box. Stay tuned.


Posted by Jennylynn 18:50 Archived in Peru Tagged boating Comments (1)

The Inka Express

Photo Friday

While Dan was nicely recovering from his bout of food poisoning, I was in the midst of a full-blown altitude sickness meets food poisoning meets exhaustion diagnosis. Not one to let such details get in the way of my travel experience I continued to trek through our itinerary as planned. It just so happened that the day I was at my worst, we would be travelling nine hours on the Inka Express to get from Cuzco to Puno.


It actually wasn't that bad. Dan resumed camera duties, while I napped between "scenic and historical" stops along the way. Although, I have to admit, I could have done without the stops and just slept the entire time:


As you can see, standing was of some difficulty. If you ask me the names of the stops or the places we saw along the way, I will tell you this. We stopped at a bunch of ancient Inca ruins and all I saw was the view of some rocks or a bench as I slumped over such objects for support.


Our first stop was at Andahuaylillas. An attractive church in the middle of nowhere. Sadly, no photos were allowed inside, but it was every bit as ornate as the churches scattered throughout Europe.


Dan said the scenery was beautiful, but not to worry he took about 785 photos of everything so that I wouldn't miss anything. There were lots of photos of sheep, alpacas, and llamas.


Supposedly along the way we stopped at La Raya, the dividing lines between the Cuzco and Puno regions. This pass sits at 14,000 feet, yet the mountains still tower above. I say supposedly as I can't really recall much from the day.


Dan was starting to get pretty good at the photos out the window. The first half of his shots were blurry and crooked. By the end of the day I think he had finally figured out to get a good shot from a moving vehicle.


I was relieved to arrive in Puno, if only so that I could fall asleep yet again. A nicely arranged cup of coca leaf tea was a great relief and soothing way to end the day.


For more Photo Friday fun, visit Delcious Baby!

Posted by Jennylynn 08:44 Archived in Peru Tagged bus Comments (0)

Getting out of Aguas Calientes

Although the journey to Machu Picchu was fraught with anxiety and fear (i.e. “Wow our bus is hanging onto the road by only three tires!”) we couldn’t be more excited to do it all again.

Aguas Calientes left a lot to be desired. It was plagued by touristy restaurants and overpriced souvenir shops. The entire city could be circumnavigated in less than ten minutes. The only reason this poorly developed town exists is to serve as the gateway to Machu Picchu.


We had originally planned to stay one night in Aguas Calientes. This would have allowed us one morning to discover Machu Picchu before the hordes of tourists arrived. Instead, our one morning in Aguas Calientes went something like this:

Me: Uh. Dan. You know how you spent last night bowing before the porcelain throne?

Dan: How could I forget?

Me: Yes, well. Maybe next time you will make it to the toilet before emptying the contents of your stomach all over me while I sleep.

Dan: Well that’s the least of our troubles. We don’t have water.

Me: What do you mean, we don’t have water?

Dan: Just don’t go in the bathroom.

The morning continued as such. Obviously our early dawn navigation to Machu Picchu was out of the question. Instead I navigated the city for an actual “Doctor” who could get Dan out of his food poisoning dilemma. Luckily I was able to find one who was willing to climb the 493 stairs to our hut on the cliff, for a price. He gave Dan a concoction of drugs and went on his merry way.

We had several hours before our train was set to depart. Dan couldn’t move. So I abandoned him in at an Internet café while I wandered about hoping to find some sort of cute, charm that Aguas Calientes was perhaps hiding. Instead I found this.


Ten minutes later I was back at the café, counting down the minutes until we could leave this two horse town. Dan was miserable, and although I felt sorry for him, I was secretly giddy with excitement for dodging the bullet myself. Oh, but my turn would come.

Finally aboard Peru Rail Dan fell into an easy slumber, while I put the window down, propped my camera up, and set out to make the most of the situation. It was truly one of the most peaceful moments of my life. The sun was slowly setting behind the hills and the mountains gave off the warmest of hues.



We briefly stopped to allow another train to pass. It was here at this junction that a dozen or so children gathered hoping some well-to-do tourists would toss out some money, candy, or the most prized: a pencil. The train stewardess’ warned us not to throw anything out the windows, but I witnessed several people do so. The children were elated, as if a pencil was the greatest gift of all.


The train ride ended just as the sun set, it was then that we made the dark journey home in a bus that clung to the cliff side by possibly only three wheels. We survived, but just barely. Dan was still suffering from violent stomach cramps and I had the panic attack of my life. Supposedly what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but in my case it was right around this time that my stomach started to feel not quite right. Ah. The joys of traveling.

Posted by Jennylynn 15:42 Archived in Peru Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

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