Team Brutalism just returned from a trip to Lima, Cusco, and the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. It was both our first time in South America and first time traveling with an organized tour. Planning for this trip happened very recently and was scheduled for the Christmas holidays, when both the Omicron variant of COVID was spiking and thousands of flights were being cancelled due to employees getting sick and quarantining. Pretty much everything needed to go exactly right for this trip to be successful and for us not to get infected and detained in Peru, and fortunately...it did!
|Our route. We generally like to travel in a cat's eye formation.|
(Boring, explain-y disclaimer: We are fully vaccinated and boosted. Additionally, we did at-home tests before we left to ensure we were not bringing COVID with us, even though this was not required for fully vaccinated people. We flew Copa Airlines, which required/enforced KN95 masks while onboard. And finally, Peru's COVID rate is much lower than ours in the US. All of these factors made us feel it was worth the risk to keep our plans and take this trip - something about which we made a final decision three days before we left.) Phew!
As with all of the trips we take, we learn a lot, which I'm thrilled to share with you in a handy bulleted list format.
Peru travel, what we learned:
- When you are apprehensive about traveling in a group because you have never done so before and don't know what to expect, you will be delighted with the people who are part of your small group, including your amazing tour guide. We were three of just 10 people in our group, which was the right size and mix of well-traveled, interesting people who were also (most importantly) a lot of fun. We even had a bonus group member join us in the jungle and she was such a great addition to the group, we were sad when her trip came to end and she had to leave us. Best of all, there were four kids in the group and our daughter was thrilled to have other kiddos around. We are now all friends on social media and feel like we have such a bond and would love to see any of them again down the road.
(Bonus: the organized trip removed all the usual logistical stressors for us on this adventure trip. We were on the go constantly on every mode of transportation: buses, planes, boats, trains - and we just had to show up. Heaven.)
- The Miraflores neighborhood of Lima is lovely - which I suppose is what you'd expect from a name that literally translates to "look at the flowers" - and the Barranco neighborhood is artsy and cool (which is a little more of a head-scratcher as Barranco literally translates to "cliff"). An interesting part of this neighborhood is an abandoned church whose roof is slowly being pecked apart by the vultures who sit atop the structure. It looked like something out of a Hitchcock movie. A movie that should possibly be titled, "Miravultures."
|Christmas decor at our hotel in Miraflores.|
|Vultures. Eating a roof. As they do.|
- Lima is a culinary destination for a reason - oh my god, the food! You will enjoy ceviche many times including one version you make during a cooking class. You will also have causas, alpaca, great coffee, great chocolate, pisco sours, and the black corn drink chicha morada which you have (randomly) tried before at the Peruvian-influenced restaurant in your neighborhood at home.
- Based on the what is being sold in market stalls everywhere, you learn that Peruvians have a penchant for both Panettone and yellow underpants. Panettone because of the Italian influence and yellow underpants because it is tradition to wear a pair of yellow underpants inside out underneath your clothes until midnight on New Year's Eve, which you then flip around when the clock strikes twelve. You understand that yellow represents luck and happiness, although you will question what kinds of NYE parties these are that require the removal of pants. You will then become determined to get yourself invited to one.
|Luck and happiness, briefly (heh)|
- When you forgo a pre-dinner shower in the rainforest one evening, opting instead to sit on the porch at the lodge and sip a local starfruit IPA while others from your group wander by and join you one-by-one to have a beer and visit until your whole group is assembled and the kids get involved in a rousing game of Jenga and the soundtrack consists of Titi monkeys calling to each other in the trees above and the lodge staff brings out salty plantain chips fresh from the oven...you will realize you have achieved total contentment. Total stinky, sweaty contentment, but contentment nonetheless.
|Trying 'noni' - a superfood fruit that|
smells and tastes like blue cheese.
|My daughter loved it.|
- You will see cabybaras, macaws, caimans, yellow porcupines, howler monkeys, Titi monkeys, tarantulas, bullet ants, snakes, bamboo rats, piranhas, and countless other creatures on your boat ride and evening hike through the jungle. This will fascinate you. What will terrify you is when you leave the dinner table to use the women's restroom at the lodge and when you turn around to lock the door, you see a gigantic, meaty gecko on the wall of the restroom. You will do some sort of jig out of the bathroom while screaming your head off which will cause all guides and children in the group to come running.
|Capybaras. We sadly did not get a photo of the 'gecko jig'|
- You will think you are in pretty decent physical condition until you are hiking straight up, at altitude, in a KN95 mask.
- While you will feel bad tourism has been so negatively affected in Peru due to COVID, you will also appreciate visiting Machu Picchu at half capacity and never feeling crowded or unsafe in other tourist areas.
|Watching the clouds part and dramatically reveal Machu Picchu|
was one of the cooler things we've ever experienced.
- When your guide takes you to a scene-y restaurant/bar overlooking Cusco and you see the most amazing cocktails at the next table, you immediately order one without even asking what the ingredients are because that is totally secondary to your enjoyment:
|When I finished the drink, Barbie raised her arms in victory. |
She then did a downward dog. (And she apparently
got the memo about yellow underpants.
Though hers appear to be constructed from cotton candy.)
|Running around the block |
with a suitcase.
- When your tour guide graciously invites you to his family home on New Year's Eve - GO! New Year's Eve is a big holiday in Peru and you'll experience all the traditions, food, and family that are central to this celebration. This includes fireworks, running around the block with an empty suitcase to manifest travel in the coming year, brushing people with a wheat sheaf that has money attached to bring prosperity, and singing the Peruvian equivalent of "Auld Lang Syne" before eating 12 grapes for luck. It is amazing and generous and such a cool part of the trip that you'll be forever grateful.
|Andre's family |
|Wheat sheaf and soles|
|More fam and yellow|
And more photos from the trip:
|Kids all bought matching chakana necklaces as mementos.|
|Little cutie. And a baby alpaca.|
|Maybe next time...|
For what we learned, Indonesia and Hong Kong, click here For what we learned, Costa Rica, click here For what we learned, Iceland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, click here For what we learned, London, click here For what we learned, Bahamas, click here For what we learned, Italy, click here For what we learned, Southern Spain, click here For what we learned, France and Morocco, click here