Monday, 14 April 2014

Peru without Machu Picchu


We must be the only Australians EVER to come to Lima in Peru and not go to Machu Picchu. David, as regular readers will know, detests tours. Since the only practical way of seeing Machu Picchu is on a tour, in the company of crowds of other tourists, David point blank refuses to go.


While I do love a good ruin, he probably has a point. One of the downsides of travelling a lot is that it is easy to become a bit blasé about big attractions. I draw the line at thinking the Great Pyramid is just a pile of rubble in need of a good 'renovate or detonate', although David mentioned something of the sort when we were there, but I must confess I did wonder what all the fuss was about when we visited Pompeii.

I know that the setting is spectacular but I rather think Machu Picchu would, like Pompeii, be a little under-whelming - or at least not over-whelming enough to make all the effort of getting there on our own worthwhile. So, for better or for worse, there it is - we had a few days to spare at the end of our trip and thought a taste of Peru might be fun - but no Machu Pichu.

Without the distraction of Peru's most famous Inca ruin we are able to savour Lima; in a way our countrymen cannot. We are here for four days, staying in the up-market area of Miraflores.

Lima's international airport is ultra-new and modern, designed I think to give travellers a false sense of comfort before they are ejected into the noise and chaos of the city. Almost immediately we leave the confines of the airport our car with driver (even David is not lunatic enough to hire a car from this airport), becomes engaged in a giant metallic rugby scrum. Ten or fifteen lanes of traffic converge into three or four. Cars, trucks and buses press against each other with only centimetres to spare. Any space is immediately devoured and automobiles dart in whatever direction they sense might give them an advantage. It is hard to see how anyone can go forward in this tangle of machines. Looming nightfall adds to the confusion. Our driver seems completely un-fazed. I admire his nerves.

We have stumbled into Lima at rush hour. It is like Cairo on steroids. After our driver runs his third or fourth red-light - (not normally a religious person I have half-closed my eyes and am praying silently) - we realise the lights are all red and the traffic is being waved through by police with light-saber like luminous batons. Even this is frantic. The policemen's arms are pumping furiously as if they must do their bit to contribute to the chaos.

Finally we find the highway. It is dark by now and we travel for more than an hour, dazed and confused. The traffic is still thick but now moving quickly. It is hard to believe that Lima can be this large. We have the sea on our right and massive cliffs on our left although it is difficult to be sure in the dark. I wonder how our driver can possibly make a profit. Can David have confused the price and mistaken the US$20 fare for $US200? After one more final gridlock exiting the freeway we arrive. The price is indeed $20 and the driver seems delighted when he is paid in greenbacks rather than the local currency.

We are exhausted and spent. We have one day to recover before we pick up our hire car. Even David looks worried.

For my review of the Lima Hilton - click here - and if you absolutely must go to Machu Picchu  - click here  - for a post written by a fellow travel blogger who specialises in Sth America.


The highway we came along - by day

Busking with a difference

These guys perform in the traffic then pass the hat before the lights change.

Miraflores by day

A reminder of Valparaiso



3 comments:

  1. we did MP as independent travellers...so yes it can be done and it is truly spectacular... one place i though photographs do not do reality justice!!

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  2. I try to avoid the really touristy attractions too but sometimes there is no denying why they are popular. I would probably either join a very small group or do it independently I think. Some great on-the-ground advice on your site!

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    1. Hi Malinda. Thanks for the comment. There are sometimes ways to avoid the crowds even in the most touristy of places but you have to get lucky or really know what you are doing. We once did an almost deserted Nile Cruise because we accidentally picked a date when the Esna Lock was closed. It turned out to be a fantastic mistake. We and a small group of others had the cruise boat to ourselves. It was like living the Agatha Christie novel "Death on the Nile", without the death of course.

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