The best of 2015: Journey to Peru and Brazil

If someone ask me why I choose Peru, I will answer that I want to experience sunrise in Machu Picchu before I die. As simple as that. I know it will not be easy but I always believe that nothing is impossible.

From the first time I saw the flight itinerary from Jakarta to Lima, I knew this trip will be more than just a trip. I will fly half around the world for almost 29 hours plus transit time about 10 hours in 3 different airports around the world. As I’m not that wealthy, I will spend 29 hours in economy class. It’s not that scary though. You can eat, watch movies, sleep and repeat it again for at least seven times then you will survive.

Flight itinerary:

  • Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur by Air Asia (2 hours)
  • Kuala Lumpur to Doha by Qatar Airways (8 hours)
  • Doha to Sao Paolo by Qatar Airways (14 hours)
  • Sao Paolo to Lima by LAN (5 hours)

No visa required for Indonesia’s passport holder when visiting Peru. However, there’s no direct flight from Indonesia to Peru and the closest country served by Qatar Airways is Brazil. Hence, we should apply Brazil visa as we will use different airlines from Sao Paolo to Lima, the capital city of Peru.

“Why do you want to go to Brazil? You have to fly across 2 continents. Don’t you want to go to Europe? It’s easier” — Those questions popped out from Brazil’s embassy staff when I submitted the visa application. Indeed, it was a tricky question for me. If I don’t have to change the airlines, if Qatar Airways has route to Lima, I will not apply Brazil visa. But of course, I can’t be that honest. I need the visa, remember?! So my answer was “because your country is so exotic” — I know, what an answer. However, it did work. Two weeks later, I was granted a Brazil multiple entry visa for one month. Don’t want to miss the chance, I added Rio de Janeiro in our journey.

Sao Paolo

My friends and I only have 5 hours in this city before flying to Lima. And it’s enough to see that Sao Paolo may become a sister city of Jakarta. The skyscraper buildings, city landscape, highway road, even the slum area in Sao Paolo are similar to what we have in Jakarta. Like in other big city, you can feel the crowd by strolling around the downtown area in the afternoon.

Story from Sao Paolo: The LAN airlines ground crew in Sao Paolo airport almost gave me heart attack when he said that I need visa to enter Peru. It’s impossible that new agreement  between Peru and Indonesia was made within 48 hours without any news before, and it’s weekend tough! Thank God, he was just mistype the country name.

Lima

Located 1500m above sea level, Lima is one of the cloudiest city in entire Peruvian coast. However, the rainfall is very low and this city only has around 1300 hours of sunshine in a year. Yes, you will always feel gloomy in here.

I stayed overnight in B&B Hostal Tradiciones in Miraflores area. The lodge is so homey. My friends and I arrived at 10 AM and the owner allowed us to have early check in. The breakfast was served as well! He also introduced us to Coca tea, a herbal tea from coca plant to prevent altitude sickness. Yes, you are allowed to consume coca plant!

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Recommended places to be visited while you are in Lima: Plaza San Martin, Hotel Bolivar, Plaza de Armas, Cathedral de Lima, Plaza de Merced, Palacia de La Union, Archbishop’s Palace de Lima, Casa de La Literatura and last but not least, Larcomar Mall. Note: each city in Peru has Plaza de Armas.

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Cusco

In the next morning, we flew to Cusco for one step closer to reach our dream, to see the majestic Machu Picchu. At the sun rose, the Andes mountain range was welcoming us. I cried. Tears of happiness. That morning flight from Lima to Cusco was my most scenic flight ever.

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After one hour flight, we arrived at Cusco, the capital of Incan empire. The city is twice higher than Lima so you have to be prepared for any symptoms of altitude sickness. Drinks lots of coca tea may help. As we have to catch train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, we booked a transport with Percy as our driver. I would recommend to use private transfer instead of public transportation as the view along the road is stunning! You can stop anywhere and anytime you want.

We chose Inca Rail to bring us to Aguas Calientes, the nearest village from Machu Picchu. The ride will be in 1.5 hours and you have to stay awake as the view along the track was amazing. You may read the complete story of Machu Picchu in this post.

Recommended places to be visited while you are in Cusco: Salineras de Maras, Moray, Chinchero Weaving Village, Plaza de Armas, Checacupe, Raqch’i Archeological Site, Church de San Pedro.

The Inca people believes that the season for upcoming year will be determined from the weather start from 1 – 12 August. When we were in Cusco, it was raining on August 11th. Hence, the rainy season for next year is estimated will be started on November. This will help them for farming preparation.

Salineras de Maras is basically an ancient salt mines located in the sacred of valley. Yes, the mines are not in the sea-side. The salt comes from the evaporation of high salinity ground water. It takes at least a month for the process. The water are flowing naturally and then directed by a system to thousands of square ponds. There are 300 ponds in this site. Each pond has 3 layers, where the first layer is for human consumption. L1183450

Moray is the name of Agricultural Laboratory of the Incas. First impression when seeing this site may lead you to a landing point of UFO, but it’s not. There are three large circles in this site which differentiate by its elevation. They used this place to cultivate the seeds. The Inca people definitely have outstanding knowledge about irrigation. Up to now, there’s still on going research funded by Government and entrance fee paid by tourists.

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What I like when traveling around the world is the chance to learn about culture. A country should have its unique to differentiate from others. Weaving might be the common traditional culture, but visiting Chinchero Weaving Village gave me another perspective. The product has no pattern involved, each work comes from the mind of the artist, the weaver. Although 80% of Peruvian is Catholic, they still believe what they have from the old Inca, the belief to the sun and mother earth (Pachamama). They still do whorship to the nature for prosperity, health, etc. The most important element for Inca people is rainbow that comes from the sun and water from mother earth. Beside the symbol related to mother earth, the pattern might tells you a story, commemorates an important events, or showing you the life in Sacred Valley of Incas. They use variety of plants and minerals to create beautiful colors for the wool.

Puno

For those who wants to visit Peru, it is recommended to do road trip. Why? you will be able to stop anywhere and anytime you want. We missed several beautiful spots just because the bus did not stop or had limited time given by the bus company. One of the examples was La Raya Pass, a beautiful mountain range located in 4,313 m above sea level. You will pass this place on the way from Cusco to Puno. Unfortunately we only have 10 minutes to capture this breathtaking scenery.

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The highlight of Puno is Lake Titicaca. The largest lake in South America which located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It’s also the highest lake in the world with 3,812 meters above sea level. The most famous island in this lake is Uros island, also called floating island. This artificial island made from floating reeds (totora). There are 3 – 10 families lived in, depend on the size of the island. Each island will last at least 30 years.

How to build the island: The islets are made of totora reeds, which grow in the lake. The dense roots that the plants develop and interweave form a natural layer called Khili (about one to two meters thick) that support the islands. They are anchored with ropes attached to sticks driven into the bottom of the lake. The reeds at the bottoms of the islands rot away fairly quickly, so new reeds are added to the top constantly, about every three months; this is what makes it exciting for tourists when walking on the island. This is especially important in the rainy season when the reeds rot much faster. Each step on an island sinks about 2-4″ depending on the density of the ground underfoot. As the reeds dry, they break up more and more as they are walked upon. As the reed breaks up and moisture gets to it, it rots, and a new layer has to be added to it. It is a lot of work to maintain the islands. Because the people living there are so infiltrated with tourists now, they have less time to maintain everything, so they have to work even harder in order to keep up with the tourists and with the maintenance of their island. Tourism provides financial opportunities for the natives, while simultaneously challenging their traditional lifestyle. (source: Wikipedia)

Chivay

From most people on the planet earth, Peru is Machu Picchu. It similar with Bali is Indonesia. But it’s not. Before this trip, I might be one the those people. But the journey from Puno to Chivay changed everything. Let the pictures tell how Peru has mesmerized me. It’s truly beyond my imagination.

Colca Canyon

It’s 6 AM in the morning but there are more than 100 people gathering in this place for one purpose. To see Andean Condor, the largest flying birds in western hemisphere. This bird is national symbol for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Equador, Peru, and Venezuela. There are only 2700 birds left today and keep continue decreasing.

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Arequipa

The last city in this trip is Arequipa, the former capital of Peru. The major attraction in this city is the historic center which a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Unforgettable moment in Peru: Celebrating Indonesia’s independence day at Indonesian embassy in Lima. Before flying to Rio de Janeiro, we stayed overnight in Lima. It was August 17th, the day when Indonesia declared its independence. “Let’s go to the embassy, they should held ceremony today” my friend said. 1 hour later, here we are, waiting on the lobby of the embassy. A staff escorted us to meet the ambassador. They were having lunch at that time. They were so welcome. Maybe because only few Indonesian people visit Peru (we have to fly over 2 continents, remember?).

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Rio de Janeiro

Visiting a non English speaking country is quite challenging. Even most people in the tourism industry of that country can speak English, it is recommended to learn the language before you go. Peru and Brazil have different official language even they are neighbor. Peru has Spanish while Brazil choose Portuguese. I myself prefer Spanish to Portuguese. In Spanish, you just have to speak what is written. Different with Portuguese which has French flavor on it.

We have a funny experience about this. In Rio, we chose to use private tour as Brazil has a high crime and we can’t speak their language. The first day in Rio, Adrian ask our tour guide where does Gisele Bundchen (we pronounced her name as Gisel Buncen) live. The former supermodel was born in Rio. Surprisingly, the tour guide said he doesn’t know who Gisele is. It took 10 minutes for them to argue about Gisele. Finally, the tour guide realized and said “oh, you mean Giseli Binch”

Recommended places to be visited while you are in Rio: Corcovado Mountain, Christ de Redentor, Favela area, Sugar Loaf, Maracana Stadium, Ipanema beach, Copacabana beach, San Conrado beach, Escadaria Selaron.

As a football lover, it’s beyond my expectation that I can visit Maracana Stadium. I will never forget the chance to sit in the dressing room and taking picture with the most handsome goalkeeper on earth, the one and only, Manuel Neuer.

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Tips when visiting Brazil:

  • Bring cash, never withdraw money from ATM. Change your USD in the airport. If you have to pay with credit card, please put your eyes on the card when they processing it.
  • Don’t dress like tourist
  • Better to not use your expensive camera in Favela or when strolling around the city at night.
  • Stay close with your tour guide.
  • Prepare eye drop, there are lots of handsome and beautiful creatures in this city. Keep calm and enjoy.

For more illustrated journey, you may visit my web album:

Story from Lima Machu Picchu Cusco Puno – Chivay – Arequipa Rio de Janeiro

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