It has been 10 days since returning back from Peru. Somehow, I have been feeling extremely tired after this trip. Unlike my normal trips, this one was more of an adventure. Lots of walking and trekking. I lost four pounds. Huh, a new campaign for travel agencies: Want to lose weight? Go hiking up the Andes of Peru.
Like each time that I travel, I am glad to be back home. There is nothing better than seeing your loved one waiting for you at the arrival terminal. There is nothing better than sleeping in your own bed, without all the foreign noises permeating through the wall.
This trip made me realize how small this world has become. For instance, I was enjoying a morning sip of coffee and reading a local Lima newspaper, el Comercio. Guess what news was in its entertainment section? It was reporting the death of Lydia Sum (aka as Fei Fei), an extremely popular Hong Kong comedian. It felt surreal reading about her death via an article written in Spanish. I still fondly remember my high school years in Hong Kong, when Lydia Shum was a fixture of the evening TVB entertainment hour. Nobody went to bed before watching her comedy skits.
Ok, some notes of my trip. Right now, Peru is in one of its most stable periods, politically speaking. However, anyone can sense an undercurrent of discontent. Privatization has created a façade of stability. If you are member of the group that is making money, you are extremely happy. The issue is that there is still a huge mass of people who are not improving economically. For them, the last election was stolen from Ollanta Humala, the charismatic former army general. There is also a belief that the whole country was sold to foreign corporations, primarily to Chilean companies, without any safeguards to Peru’s own wellbeing. Personally, I am not surprised. Peru has always swung between extremes. Its main failure, like in a lot of third world country, is the inability to move the majority of the population up the economic ladder.
As for visiting the country, I would definitely stay a few days in Lima and savor the air of a Spanish colonial past. Lima has become a city of extremes. Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco are the main districts where the mestizo middle class is hiding. The center of Lima being given, basically, to the Peruvians arriving from the provinces. It is quite a contrast. I have spoken to guys who have not touched the center of Lima for ages. They just stay in the suburbs.
If you are going to Machu Picchu, then I suggest sidestepping Cusco and heading directly to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. I had Ollantaytambo as the base and it worked perfectly. The lower altitude and green scenery lifted one’s spirits. Cusco is gray and greedy. Talking about greediness, a trip to Machu Picchu is almost beyond the economic scope of most Peruvians. The entrance fee is $40. There is a $12 bus trip, and the train itself (from Ollantaytambo) cost $120 round trip. You can reach Machu Picchu via cheaper route (see here) but it is for the young and foolish. At least everything seems to work on time.