Leaving Canada in November is energizing. Even though we were departing on a night flight, group anticipation and excitement was high. We were off to one of the most exotic places of the New World. In so many ways Peru is special. Topography and climate hugely vary from tropical rain forest to alto plano desert, from 40C to 0; History spans millennia; architecture is world renown and, culture and cooking is a rich infusion of Spanish, Incan, plus other native nations and, Japanese.
Preparation for this trip took extra thought. We were, after all, packing for 3 climates in our 3 week journey. It was hard to cover the range and keep bag size manageable. But ‘where the going gets tough’, as they say. We managed!
None of us anticipated Paracas, our first stop and a great decompression spot. Oceanside luxury and fabulous food, we stayed for 2 nights, wanting to stay longer. We explored Nasca by air. Although it did take a while to accustom our eyesight in knowing what to look for, by the time we left the area, we were enthralled by artistry the makers of which could never see. But the unexpected highlight for all of us was the open boat trip to the Ballestas Islands and their rich marine life. We’ll never forget the sounds and smells of teeming millions of sea birds and the barking and burping of sea lions perched on rocky outcrops. Spectacular!
You can’t talk about Peru and not mention Machu Picchu (pronounced ‘peek-choo’). We were told to expect more. We were told cameras didn’t do it justice. We were told it was majestic. We were prepared. We saw it and, it took our breath away – no! It wasn’t the altitude. We were high on the thought of the creativity, vision and effort to build such a monument. And at the same time, our thoughts were tinged with sadness thinking about what happened to the Inca at the hands of the Spanish. Conquest is not a pretty thing.
But most fascinating, as our trip through countryside and history progressed, we were amazed and happy to learn that although the Incan Empire was overcome, its people remain – along with customs, food and handicrafts. Today, for many, temples of the sun and moon (gold and silver) are important parts of everyday life and critical to major celebrations. Even local lore and references to Pachamama (the earth mother) are found in local Catholic churches. Beliefs and practices from centuries before Pizarro are alive and well.
You can’t talk about Peru and not mention a lot of things: condors, high altitude train travel, Lake Titicaca, coca tea among them, but space won’t allow it. Peru is a rich tapestry. Today its economy is strengthening and people are generally doing better each year. It’s a positive place full of surprises and affirmations. The experiences we shared and the things we learned brought our group together and formed lasting friendships. Pisco Sours helped. Since returning last November, many of our group have reconvened twice to celebrate our new friendships, enjoy marvelous Peruvian food and, raise a glass to the Pachamama.
This trip is one that will remain alive with us for a long time.