Peru is this crazy amazing whirlwind of landscapes that makes your head spin and your lungs ache from the dramatic changes in altitude. We went from blistering beaches to tall mountains to crumbling ruins to big cities to windswept deserts to more beaches to more cities on more mountains, to these little ruins also known as Machu Picchu, to these wild rainforests also known as the Amazon, to colonial capitals and to a floating town built on reeds on top of the highest lake in the world.
We started in Mancora, a sleepy seaside neighbourhood with one infamous party hostel, Loki, the hottest ticket in town. There, you wake up with the sun –setting that is, and curl your eyelashes for the night ahead, dancing in the moonlight, hooked on a feeling. We then escaped to the mountains, Chachapoyas, for Kuelap, one of Peru’s largest but most overlooked Incan ruins, so remote we had to take 4 overnight buses in 6 days to get in and out of there, so that we ended up spending more nights on a bus than in a bed that week.
Exhausted, we trudged to Laguna 69 in Huaraz, which boasts some of the most spectacular hikes in the world. Revived by the crisp air, valleys overrun with wildflowers, and waterfalls feeding spools of winding oxbow lakes, it all culminated in a series of snow peaked mountains and the bluest of lakes. So brightly, boldly blue that all the blues that came before it wept at its own lacklustre colour and a karner butterfly shed its wings in shame.
We hurtled on to Lima for Sophie’s birthday and celebrated with a champagne breakfast the morning we got in, the bubbles keeping us going long into the night at a local joint. The next day, we crawled out of the house only for brunch at El Pan de la Chola, an inspired café flooding our senses with roasted coffee and “the best sandwiches I have ever had in my life” –Lainey Allen, 2016. Its crusty, buttered bread was overstuffed with homemade hummus and avocado; marinated eggplant and feta; fresh pesto and oozing cheddar. Lima, and Peru as a whole, had some of the best food of our trip: crispy falafel wraps slathered in garlicky tahini goodness; delicious fresh homemade pastas; Pisco sours with a twist of lime, crushed brown sugar and frothed with egg whites. We also ate ourselves silly in Arequipa, inhaling exceptional vegan sushi with deep fried tofu and mango slices, paper-thin crepes with caramelised pear, goats cheese and nuts, and woodfired oven pizzas.
We saw penguins waddle and sea lions sunbathe in Paracas, the “poor-man’s-Galapagos” which was us to a tee, and sand-boarded down towering dunes in Huacachina, an oasis buried in the middle of the desert. On one evening, we trekked up to the ridge of one of the surrounding dunes, sliding down and losing half a step for every step taken in order to catch the sun set over vast wasteland. It was beautiful, almost indescribably so, just because it was so different from any other terrain I’ve experienced before, and its all just sand and light and shadows. We laughed and rolled around and wondered whether we could be the only people ever in the world to touch a particular grain of sand.