Our Peruvian adventure began on June 25th. We flew from White Plains to Atlanta to Lima. We saved quite a bit by not flying out of our usual NYC airports (Newark, LaGaurdia, and JFK). Getting to White Plains was quite easy. We took a Metro North train from Grand Central to White Plains station and then it was a short cab ride to the airport. The flights to Lima went well. We landed in Lima just before midnight. Our original plan was to go to the other terminal and sleep in one of the airport lounges for a few hours because we had an early morning flight. When we tried to go in the other terminal, we were told it was closed and wouldn’t be open until morning. Not wanting to sleep in the airport (though we saw plenty of travelers doing this), we opted to go find a nearby airport hotel.
While taking our taxi to Manhattan Inn Airport Hotel, our taxi driver was trying to convince us that it was a hostel and that he had a better one to take us to. We think that if he had taken us to his preferred hostel, he would have gotten some sort of kickback. We firmly told him that we had reservations (we didn’t) and insisted continuously that he takes to Manhattan Inn. Aside from his constant cajoling, the ride was uneventful and quick.
One of the ways in which we save money when we travel is that we book some of our hotels online at the last minute. Hotels don’t want empty rooms and they slash quite a bit. If you know a hotel will have plenty of empty rooms or there are tons of choices around and don’t mind a little uncertainty, you can afford to wait. We walked in, saw what the rack rate was, asked to use a computer and booked ourselves a room online for far less than the listed price. Manhattan Inn was clean and comfortable airport hotel, nothing fancy. Just a place for us to lay our heads for 6 hours. In the morning, we got a pretty decent breakfast of bread, one scrambled egg each, coffee, and juice. Then we got into a taxi and back we were at the airport.
We took a short flight from Lima to Juliaca, the closest airport to Lake Titicaca. Our final destination for that day was Puno, another city about 45 mins away. We had no idea how we were going to get there once we arrived at Juliaca. We stumbled upon Rossy Tours, which was a shuttle bus that ran back and forth between Juliaca and Puno (15 soles one way per person). We didn’t have any soles with us, so we negotiated to pay $10 total. The ride to Puno was fast and easy. Getting off, however, was a different story. The lady who collected the money (different person from whom we negotiated the price) wanted $12, rather than the $10. After a heated argument between Ben and the lady, we compromised at $11. I was happy with the outcome because I didn’t want another long ride back to Juliaca to find the guy who said we could pay $10.
As we stepped out of the shuttle bus, a parade of people dressed in various indigenous costumes, dancing and playing music marched through the street. Puno celebrates many different holidays and festivals throughout the year. We were lucky enough to arrive for San Juan, San Pedro, and San Pablo (June 24-29). We stopped to watch the parade. Then we walked over to the main square where the parade started. There were hundreds of spectators and almost as many people in costumes waiting their turn to be in the parade.
After watching for several minutes, we went to our hotel, Conde de Lemos, which was near the main cathedral and square. Conde de Lemos is a very nice hotel. The room wasn’t anything fancy, but our room was on the top floor and we had a lovely balcony with a view of Lake Titicaca and the main cathedral.
We went to La Choza de Oscar for dinner based on Tripadvisor reviews. People raved about the juicy pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken with fries and a salad) and its cheap, cheap price. The restaurant is divided into two sections. The front section is where the tourists sit for the Peruvian dance and music show that they have each night. The back section is where the locals sit and the prices are lower too for the exact same food because you don’t get the show. Ben and I wanted to sit with the locals (and we wanted the low prices) and we ordered our food. This plate of pollo a la brasa costs 25 soles in the front, but only 11 soles in the back. Less than $4 for a quarter chicken, fries, and a salad. It was a bargain.
Freshly squeezed juices are VERY popular in Peru. And unlike in the US, the juices are quite cheap too. Juice is a bit different in Peru. I think they mix water with the freshly squeezed fruit because the juice isn’t as thick as the juice in the US. Though the liquid is thinner, the juice is still delicious. We drank lots and lots of juice while in Peru.
I just had to order quinoa ice cream for dessert. Until that day I had no idea that quinoa came in any other form other than it’s usual grain-like form or as a flour. The ice cream was good. The texture was a bit sandy, but still creamy, with a coffee-like taste. It was unusual and I was really glad that I tried it. The ice cream was “expensive” relative to the cost of our entree. The ice cream cost about as much as our entry.
Conde de Lemos had a great breakfast spread. I wish I could have enjoyed more of it. Unfortunately I was feeling nauseated from altitude sickness. Puno is 12,000 ft above sea level (higher than Machu Picchu). You can’t predict who’s going to get altitude sickness. We brought acetazolamide (brand name Diamox) with us. You’re supposed to take the medication before you reach high altitude, but Ben and I don’t like to take medication unless we have to. So I woke up feeling sick, so I took a pill. While Ben was plowing away through breakfast, I sipped on some juice trying hard not to throw up. Ben was a good sport in putting up with me that day. I’ve never been pregnant before, but I imagine what I felt that morning was very close morning sickness. I seemed to have developed an acute sense of smell. Normal things that don’t normally turn me off, the smell of them made me wretch. Poor Ben was forced to sit at the far corner of the table with his plate of food as far away from me as possible. Eventually he had no choice but to put his plate on another table because I kept on complaining about the terrible nauseating smell. Thankfully the medication kicked in and I started to feel much better an hour later. Just in the nick of time for our adventure visiting the islands of Lake Titicaca.