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Peru, A Country Where Culture and Nature Vie for Attention

k.train4Part 3 of 3: Machu Picchu, Puerto Maldonado and Amazon Basin, Lima

 

By Marga Hart

 

After a quiet morning, we boarded the train to Machu Picchu Town around noon. It was a magnificent train ride through a deep valley, following a river with rapids and waterfalls. Much too soon to our liking we arrived at our destination. Our hotel was a few hundred metres further down the track and had a nice porch from where we watched the river and the many people coming back from the hike to the Machu Picchu ruins, some obviously rather exhausted.

 

From 6:00am buses go up to the famous ruins, but there are also quite a number of hikers. Hotels serve breakfast from 5:00am. We decided that 5:00am was a bit too early for us, but were ready to board the bus by 6:30am. We thought hiking up there should be left to the younger generation.

 

It took the bus half an hour to negotiate the hundred or something hairpin bends up. There were already a number of people visiting when we arrived, but it was not crowded yet. First we had to climb about 100 steps before we could enter the site through the Sun Gate. From there you look down on the ruins, surrounded by the high mountain peaks. The mist was just rising and the view was awesome.

 

We slowly walked down past foundations of houses and outlines of temples. By the time we had reached the exit about two and a half hours later, it was getting very crowded. After enjoying a cup of coffee at the café with a view of the mountains, we took the bus down, had lunch in the town and around 4:30pm boarded the train that would bring us back to Cusco. We thought it was a pity that most of the trip was in the dark. We arrived back at the hotel just in time to get to Pachapapa Restaurant before it closed.

 

Next day we flew to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon Basin in the south-east. This would be our third jungle stay. We left one backpack with warm clothes at the office of the eco lodge in town before boarding the canoe to the reserve at the Tambopata River. Our guide told us we were lucky, as it had rained during the night and the temperature had dropped from 46C to “only” 38C. Well, we were dripping anyway, but forgot all about it when we sailed across the river with a nice breeze blowing and saw a capybara feeding along the river and a macaw picking at a clay lick.

 

Again we were housed in a comfortable reed and palm leaves covered lodge. During the night our path to the lounge and dining area was lit by oil lamps. Our guide discovered so many different kinds of frogs, spiders and other insects during our night walk that I asked him if he had placed them there beforehand.

 

During the first two nights we were treated to fierce thunderstorms and heavy rain, so the third day we had to borrow boots to hike through the jungle, as the water on the path was almost knee high. The first night the rain stopped just in time not to spoil our trip to the clay licks to see the macaws and parrots that come there to eat the clay in the morning. The river was now brown with mud and there was a strong current, but our helmsman brought us to the landing place without any trouble. Going up the muddy river bank was a bit difficult, but we were rewarded with sightings of the beautifully coloured birds, although there were fewer than normal because of the rain.

 

During our four-day stay we saw a caiman, several monkeys, beautifully coloured butterflies and about 60 different species of birds. The memory cards of the video and photo cameras were all almost full when we flew back to Lima.

 

The last day there was our actual 50th wedding anniversary. In the morning we first went shopping for some presents for the folks at home and then saw that a large stand had been erected in front of the Presidential Palace. After inquiring we found out that there would be a special Changing of the Guards on horseback as it was All Souls Day, and that we could watch it from the stands if we could show a passport. We could and certainly enjoyed the show and the skills of the musicians on horseback, supervised by the president and his family.

 

In the evening we celebrated with a delicious dinner in the restaurant of Museo Larco, a great finale.

 

We had been planning this trip for a long time and had high expectations. Peru more than met these!

 

Info: We planned the trip using Lonely Planet’s travel guide and the Internet and booked the flight and trip to Iquitos ourselves. We also made the bookings for Chaparri Natural Reserve. (www.chaparri.org). The other bookings of transfers, buses, hotels and tours for the first part of the trip, from Lima to Arequipa were taken care of by Pocha Cruz (www.exploringperuandservice.com).The tours, hotels and bookings for train, bus and flight for the second part of the trip from Arequipa back to Lima were taken care of by Riksja Travel (www.peruonline.nl).We can certainly recommend Hotel Kamana in the Historical Centre of Lima. Excellent service and very affordable. Copa Airlines flies from St. Maarten to Lima via Panama.

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