Arizona and Utah Experience

Driving from Nevada, we visited Hoover Dam at the state border and  suddenly we were an hour behind. Clocks had changed, we think. We actually never managed to figure that out! Anyway, we were finally in Arizona, the land of Canyons! We knew our next leg of the journey, Arizona and Utah, were going to be spectacular but we had to be aware of the time we spent at each stop. Sad to say, we were running out of time.

Grand Canyon

After spending a lonesome night on BLM land, we had 150 miles (240 kms) to go before we were at Grand Canyon. I drove the first 100 miles including the drive down the gravel road. It was an uneventful drive except some deer that decided to jump 20 metres away from the van. Shruti drove the rest of the way and got us to the campsite in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. Upon arriving, we checked into our pre-booked campsite and went to see the most famous ditch in the world.

Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

The South Rim is home to the rim trail that stretches for miles. The park has a shuttle bus service to view most of it. We took the bus to the Bright Angel Trail Point and as we got off the bus, we were overwhelmed. As far as the eye could see was Grand Canyon. The rim trail was, as the name suggests, a paved path which mostly sticks to the rim. We decided to descend the Bright Angel Trail and then walk along the rim. Descending down the magnificent cliffs was a humbling experience, these rocks have been around longer than us and everything we believe in.

Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

Upon returning to the rim, we saw a Native American Cultural Show at Hopi Point. This was the place where the hopi people would come to trade with white tourists in the early years of the tourist boom. Today, the hopi house stood as a reminder selling native jewelry. The host and his family brought the native culture live, they sang, danced and narrated ancient stories, particularly those belonging to the Navajo tribe. He was a positive man who blew me away by his view of people apologising to him for injustice against Native Americans. “The past was not in our control”, he said. “We are here today, it is our job to share our culture and protect the present for the future generation”. How wise of him!

Hop Culture, Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

Rim Trail

We walked along the rim trail all day and saw more amazing places like an old artists studio and identified flat tops that were called temples. These were part of the canyon but overtime they have been carved by wind, rain and river. The pioneers somehow named them after Hindu Gods such as Shiva Temple, Brahma Temple and Vishnu Temple.

Grand Canyon, Arizona, USAThe final place on the first day was the Museum of Geology . This was located along the rim and showed exactly what might have happened over time. The colorado river over millions of years, cut the land like knife cuts butter. The amazing thing is that Grand Canyon is constantly changing. It is different each day. Change is nature! Well we stuck around at the museum to catch the sunset, and all I can say is – I’m glad we did.

Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

We were so blown away that we decided to stay another day at Grand Canyon. At checkout time, we asked if we could stay another day. “No!” replied the park ranger, “not at the site you’re on. I have a better place”. We got an even better site! We checked in and then caught a bus to Hermits Point on the West End of the National Park. Once again, the view was overwhelming. Grand Canyon’s might is impossible to describe it. It is 1.8 kms deep, 29 kms wide and 446 kms long. It is incredible 2 days spent in this magical place!

Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

Navajo Nation

A brief view into the Native American Cultural at Grand Canyon got us excited to spend a couple of days in living breathing Native American Nation. We had hardly left the National Park when shacks of Native Americans selling handmade jewelry started appearing on side of roads. Upon crossing the borders of Navajo Nation, we came across a small town of Cameron. It was a trading post dating back to the wild wild west days.

Cameron, Navajo Nation, Arizona

Native Americans still sold jewelry here mostly to tourists going east from the Grand Canyon. We bought some souvenirs and grabbed lunch on the way to our destination, Page, Arizona. We didn’t have any booking for our next stop, Page, and drove into the first RV Park we could find. We asked about the things to do in Page and were told of two things: Antelope Canyons and Horshoe Bend.

Navajo Nation, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend

We visited the Horseshoe Bend that evening. It was best seen at sunset and we were there at 6pm. A little early as the sunset wasn’t going to set til 8pm. The carpark was almost full and we knew we were at a good spot. However, nothing could have prepared us for the view of the Horshoe Bend.

The Colorado river turns around a big red rock almost like the end of a hair pin. In reality though, Colorado river has cut through this rock over millions of years. It’s the bend, the cliff over the river at 300 metres in height and the color of the water which makes the location so perfect. We sat at the edge for hours along with lots of fellow travelers. The sunset finally came and the colors changed. A magical view again!

Horse Shoe Bend, Page, Navajo Nation, Arizona

Antelope Canyons

Another spectacular location was Antelope Canyons. We knew nothing about it till the RV Park recommended going for the first tour in the morning. We arrived 7:30am, paid a tribal fee of around $4 per person for entry to premises, got our tickets and soon realised the entire peak operation was owned by the Navajo Tribe. Our guide, a young Navajo girl, took us to the canyon. The canyon was red in colour, like Grand Canyon.

Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Navajo Nation, Arizona

As we went in further into the canyon, it got narrower. It was dark and the growing rays of sun were shining only at the top. What we saw next in another part of the canyon was incredible. Looking through the camera lens, the lack of light and the angle of the rock made the canyon appear blue and pink!

Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Navajo Nation, ArizonaIn total, we walked around 500 metres inside the canyon. Our guide explained how the canyon was made using sand and water. It was  scientific but easy to understand. We got it. Definitely an amazing place!

Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Navajo Nation, Arizona

The town of Page was a cute little one in the middle of the desert. The major population of the town was brought in to build a smaller dam on the Colorado River. We visited the dam, saw the tours taking place on the lake and watched a documentary to escape the heat. The best part of the town though was Native Americans going around the town speaking their language, following their laws and making us feel like we were in the Wild Wild West!

Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Navajo Nation, Arizona

Decisions Decisions

At this point in the trip, we were inn a dilemma. Number one, we could go east, check out a few national parks and then head towards to San Fransisco. The alternative was to skip everything in the middle and head north to Yellowstone National Park. Having heard so much about it, we couldn’t say No to Yellowstone. The issue was the number of days, mileage limitation and the price of accomodation in San Fran. We killed several birds with one stone by extending our camping trip by 5 days and going to Yellowstone before heading back. YAY to us!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Getting from Page to Yellowstone was a long drive so we decided to break it up. First stop was Bryce Canyon National Park. Though we had extended our trip, we still had to be conscious of miles. The drive from Page to Bryce was 140 miles and that meant we would be over the 100 miles a day mark. Google Maps suggested another way through the BLM lands on unpaved road for more than 40 miles. The area on the border of Arizona and Utah has lots of National Parks and Monuments including Bryce Canyon. Anyhow, we took this road against the advice of an RV driver. The road was very bumpy, almost like the ad for the Aussie Outback. There were some steep hills, sandy stretches and sometimes the dirt road disappeared all together.

Arizona and Utah Border

The area was incredibly rural until we reached the edge of the National Park. A tiny touristy city was setup given the popularity of Bryce Canyon. We entered the park and got a campsite quickly. The next step was to see the famous amphitheater but before that, we needed maps. Heading to Visitor Center, we got some knowledge about the park, grabbed maps and took the shuttle bus service to Inspiration Point.

Blown Away!

This point of the National Park provided a great view of millions of years old rock formation. The view was not only incredible but unique. Wind, rain and ice had cracked rock and separated it making little towers of rock after years of erosion. The towers were called hoodoo.

Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

After spending some time admiring the view, we walked along the rim to get to Navajo loop trail. We hiked down to the bottom of the canyon and experienced something completely different. There wasn’t much light, less wind, the voices echoed and red sand everywhere!

Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

Ranger Talk & Rainbow Point Tour

That evening we decided to attend a night talk by a ranger. The talk was about the sounds of the canyon. It explained the soundscape, a word I learnt during the talk. The sound of wind hitting trees, the sound of Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre, the sounds at the top of hoodoos and the soundlessness at the bottom. The talk really blew me away.

Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

At some point during our hike, we had asked a ranger about Rainbow Point and he recommended us to book the tour a day prior. The bus tour was an alternate to driving 60 miles. Worked for us! The trip started off with us getting on a bus and driving for 40 minutes to Rainbow Point. The guide, a retiree who lived in the area was extremely funny and witty.

Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

On return, we stopped at various points to enjoy the views and different hoodoo formation. We also saw a few pronghorns, a North American antelope, while on tour. It truly was half a day well spent!

Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA


Driving from Bryce to Yellowstone would be long – around 600 miles (965 kms). That meant it would take us around 2 days. Anyway we started our journey and we’re heading North on Route 15. As we were driving through the middle of Mormon Country, we saw an ad for Hare Krishna Temple around lunch time. Perfect! We made a stopover for some great food and some blessings at Spanish Fork, UT.

Well, probably God wanted to challenge us because 50 miles after the Temple, we had a flat tire on a 10 lane highway in Salt Lake City. I felt the van jerk a little but thought its just the wind. Within seconds a lady in another car pointed out and yelled to us. Shruti waved to the traffic while I moved to the right and came to a halt in the service lane. It was hot and we had never changed the tyre. Luckily, I had asked the guy at the head office where the jack was so I knew where to start.

We got the car manual out and started reading. I lifted the jack, unscrewed the nuts and got the tyre out but the new tyre wouldn’t get in place as the van was too low. We went through this 3 times and eventually got the new tyre on and off we went. We survived!

Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

I was shattered by now in the heat so Shruti had to do some driving. Along the way, we stopped at the local Walmart just outside Ogden to stock up and were blown away by the huge wall of soldiers’ photographs from the local area. We had never seen anything like it. It was real America!

Well all set with food for Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, the main issue still laid ahead of us. We didn’t have a campsite for the night and it was Saturday and past 6pm. Of course we were nervous! Once we arrived at the camping reserver areas, all camps were taken up. We decided to try one anyway and there was a cancellation. Woohoo! We spent the night there and left early the next morning to drive to Grand Tetons. It was all working out!

On the way to Yellowstone

Huacachina – Desert Paradise

We were finally done with Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley and we were ready to get out of the crazy tourist area. Little did we know our next stop was another touristy area!

Getting There

We took an Exclusiva bus to Ica from Cusco. We paid 150 Soles, USD 47, per person for this trip which was the most we paid in transportation in South America. They were the cheapest in the “luxury” buses and the only one to provide a bedlike 180 degrees seat. We even had to change the dates and they did so without a charge.

Once inside, we were amazed! A seat that reclined to 180 degrees, with headphones,  and an individual entertainment set with a selection of English movies as well as dinner and breakfast.

Exclusiva Bus, Cusco to Ica, Peru

The journey took 16 hours and we were dropped at the Exlusiva bus terminal in Ica. We hired the only available taxi for Huacachina. To be honest, I had never heard of the place expect from some Aussie saying “Its a sick desert oasis, mate” and I trust my fellows!

Dune Buggies And Sand Boarding

Huacachina is a Desert Oasis. Period. Some say that the oasis is no longer natural and the local office bring tankers of water so tourists continue visiting. Anyhow, real or not, it still amazed us. Right in the middle of the sand dunes is a green patch with palms and a pond.

Huacachina, Ica, Peru

The town is very small – we managed to walk all around it in 20 minutes. We arrived at 7:30am in the morning and most hostels were either still closed or just opening. We took the cheapest hotel we could find and decided to stay for 2 nights before heading to Lima.

Upon our check in we learnt that the hostel organizes dune buggies tour and we signed up for it. Dune buggies in Huacachina look unlike anywhere else. They appear to be a combination of a small truck and a Wrangler Jeep.

Dune buggie, Huacachina, Ica, Peru

The tour started at 4pm with confusion as every other tour in South America. There were three buggies and no one knew where to be seated. After jumping between buggies for 10 minutes, we were ready to hit the dunes. Or, at least that is what we thought! We hit a check post 5 minutes into the ride where we had to pay a 3 Soles per person as dune tax. Beats me why they don’t charge ahead!

Anyhow, the tour started and we got on the dunes. The buggie moved alot and we were convinced it will be a bumpy ride. After some laps of the dunes, the buggie stopped at the edge of a dune. Then whooooaaaaahh we were going down the dune in a bumpy car at a crazy speed. Ah yes, we had seat belts but it didn’t help. We screamed and held on for the next 15 minutes as we went down many dunes. Shruti loved it but I hated it but I was committed and there was no way out.

We stopped to take sunset pictures on top of a dune and then we were it again going down the dunes. It was really an intense experience where my heart was in my mouth. We eventually stopped for sand boarding. We started with a practice run down a small dune. Shruti went sitting on the top and reached down fine. I started out ok sitting but it got bad at the end when I flipped off the board and hit my head on the sand. Ouch!

The second run was much better but then came the final run. It was down a huge dune! Everyone went down in their own way and Shruti cruised down too but I stayed put. The fear of hitting my head again was too great. That ended the tour!

Extended Stay

Until we reached Huacachina, we had been in the mountains for close to 2 months. Everyday of wearing jackets and base layers finally got to us. Huacachina provided an excellent respite from the cold. It was sunny and hot all day so we decided to make a 2 day trip into a 4 day trip.

Wine & Pisco Tasting

The problem was that there was not much else to do in Huacachina other than dune buggies. A guy working at the hotel asked us if we wanted to do a wine tasting tour. We said yes knowing that I wouldn’t be able to taste anything as I was on antibiotics.

The “tour” as it turned out was the same guy driving us around to different wineries. The wineries were all in Ica which is famous in Peru for wine and pisco. The former is the standard grape wine but the latter is a distilled alcohol from a particular type of grape. The first winery we visited had an English-speaking guide on hand to show us around. The guide knew Shahrukh Khan and started chatting to us about him!!! Go figure.

She showed us around the vineyard, the collection point and informed us that grapes here are still crushed traditionally by feet. The more important part though is that the alcoholic pisco as well as grape juice is kept in huge earthen pots standing. Shruti tried the pisco and wine and we decided to buy a bottle of pisco for home.

Winery, Ica, Peru

The next winery was a little more mum & dad business. The complex was big but there was no guide. Our driver/guide gave us the tour here in Spanish which I then translated to Shruti. The weird thing was that the wine cellar was a cellar as well as a museum. It had things like alligator skins, antique pieces and the earthen pots in what was a damp and dark storage yard. The best thing was that you could try wine yourself using a bamboo stick and buy a bottle, a 2L plastic can or a 5L can. What!

Winery, Ica, Peru

It made wine look more local which we loved. It wasn’t your fancy schmansy wine tasting place where a host gave you 1 sip of all and then you were obliged to buy an overpriced bottle which is cheaper at a liquor store. Here you tried a shot or 2 from the earthen pots and then grabbed whatever quantity made you happy or drunk. We ended up buying the baby maker wine or Perfecto Amor which is its real name. It is a sweet wine which supposedly helped raise the population of the district, hence, baby maker. Mmmmmmm ooooh baby! Jokes we bought it for Shruti’s friends in USA.

In the Summertime

Huacachina had not much else except sun and the hotel was pretty average except the bar, pool and 3 dogs. I was off the drinks so we didn’t use the bar much but we fell in love with the pool and dogs. Our day would start with brunch (usually the same spot) and then we would return to the hotel, jump in the pool and laze on the pool chairs while occasionally playing with the dogs. This pattern continued day in day out. It was like we were taking a break from our holiday, you know, just rejuvenating.

Huacachina, Ica, Peru

Up the Dunes

One morning we decided to climb the dunes overlooking the town. We had to start early to beat the harsh sun. Now, the dunes look beautiful and camels look like ships on them but for humans its way tougher to walk on them than on land. We went up a small dune, rested for a bit and then went up the biggest dune in the area.

Up the dune, Huacachina, Ica, PeruThe view got better with each step and the oasis looked remarkable. After a brief rest and some photos, we decided to run down the dune. We felt like kids again! After that workout, we went to a backpacker hostel for breakfast where I had the Israeli breakfast full of tomatoes and bread. I can’t tell you the name now but it probably had a throaty sylable.

Up the dune, Huacachina, Ica, Peru

Final Thoughts

We had a great time in Huacachina with a couple of downers. Firstly, I had my awesone towel stolen off the line by some Peruvian teen girls (thats what the hotel said, we don’t want to blame anyone) but the hotel reimbursed me with exactly the same type which someone forgot. Secondly, because we wanted to end Huacachina with a lazy swim, we left our swimmers for drying and they are probably still hanging in the sun there. Most likely, the hotel will replace those for stolen swimmers.

Up the dune, Huacachina, Ica, Peru

Getting out of Huacachina/Ica was a pain. There was only one company going to Lima which had 2 types of buses every hour, one was faster and didn’t stop while the other was slower. We took the slower one but trying to understand the difference was a pain. In the end, we boarded a bus an hour after we arrived which stopped lots except for a bathroom break. That was the end of Huacachina.

Machu Picchu

The day had finally arrived! We were heading to Machu Picchu. My dream was finally going to be fulfilled. After spending a few days in the Sacred Valley and Cusco, we had a better understanding of the Inca Kingdom. We were ready to see the masterpiece that was never found by the Spanish!

Getting to Machu Picchu

We arrived in Machu Picchu Town, a.k.a, Agua Calientes, on the PeruRail train from Ollantaytambo. We paid USD 64 each for this trip. The lady assured us that she was giving us a left-side seat for the better view. Once we boarded and the train started to move, we realised we were on the right side of the train! There goes Shruti’s photo opportunities.

Train ride to Agua Calientes, Machu Picchu, Peru

To add on, the train ride to Agua Calientes isn’t a scenic one. We did Nariz Del Diablo in Ecuador and that was a scenic ride. On the way to Machu Picchu, once in a while we saw pretty meadows and high peaks but most of the ride was sheltered by trees on either sides. So there goes the chance to see! We felt as though we wasted tons of money. If we had taken the bus from Cusco, it would have been at least USD 100 cheaper.

Train ride to Agua Calientes, Machu Picchu, Peru

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We weren’t welcomed by Incas or Llamas but by the rain. Not the best sign but we were positive. The rain subsided eventually and the clouds flew away. Phew we thought!

Tourist Tax

We stayed two nights in Aguas Calientes because we did not want to rush our visit. It was a very touristy town with Mexican Restaurants and massage parlours everywhere. We had a few meals here before and after climbing Machu Picchu and ended up paying a thing called ‘tourist tax’. Funny enough we did not come across such a thing in any part of Peru, including Cusco. A bit steep!

Sickness and Change Of Plans

I started feeling a little sick in Sacred Valley. It was kind of a strange feeling with fever but no bad throat or funny nose. It progressively got worse and by the time we reached Aguas Calientes I was down with high fever. Therefore, our initial plan of hiking up to Machu Picchu by foot was impossible. To add on to our misery, we had bought permits to hike Montaña Machu Picchu and our slot was between 7-8am. We weren’t sure if that was going to happen though.

Anyway, we woke up early to get on one of the early buses to Machu Picchu. Though the bus service starts only at 6am, the queue starts to form at probably 4am! We were up and ready in line at 4:45am. The bus costed us USD 24 for both, each way.

Bus queue for Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu, Peru

Long Way To The Top

Upon reaching Machu Picchu, we cleared the entry and set about going towards Montaña Machu Picchu. We were supposed to be in the first group going up between 7-8am. I was confident I would be able to do the hike. After all, this is what I had wanted to do for a very long time. But at 6:45am, the rain came down and clouds were all over the place. Not a great start!

Hiking to Montana Machu Picchu, Peru

As we slowly made our way to the top of Montaña Machu Picchu, the consistent rain was slow murdering our hopes for the amazing view. After hiking for 2 hours, we reached the top only to find shelter from rain in the only hut available. All the hikers gathered around, waiting, chatting and trying to cozy up to keep warm. All our clothes and bags were wet and we couldn’t see a thing from the top.

Cozying up at Montana Machu Picchu, Peru

However, while this was a downer, everyone on the mountain was keen to see Machu Picchu yet the clouds wouldn’t allow us. All different ethnicities prayed to their own Gods for the clouds to part and the Sun (ironically Inca’s main God) to show if not for the glimpse at least for the warmth. It took a while!

Crowd at Montana Machu Picchu waiting for clouds to clear, Peru

First Glimpse

At around 10am, after waiting for 1.5 hours, the Sun first showed up and the clouds parted for 10 seconds. The entire crowd went berserk and then groaned together. Anyhoo, in that moment, Shruti managed to get our first shot of Machu Picchu from the top. That was as good as it got.

First shot of Machu Picchu, Peru

We waited and watched the sun and clouds play their hide and seek game. Every 15 mins it would appear as though the clouds would clear but that was nature messing with us. Shruti managed to get a couple of shots but we never managed to see the entire ruins from the top.

View of Machu Picchu, Peru

At 11:30 we decided to head down as we still had to explore the ruins. Luckily, during our descend, we got some clear views of Machu Picchu. Finally!

Machu Picchu, Peru

My dream of seeing Machu Picchu since I was at school was finally coming true. I had seen it in magazines and read about it as Wonders of the World. On this day, I was finally there. As we descended from the mountain, we took some iconic shots of the ruin, mountain and the llamas. It was surreal!

Machu Picchu, Peru

Tour of Machu Picchu

We had been warned about the crazy prices of tour guides in Machu Picchu. When we asked around though, the price was only 30 Soles per person if we did the tour in a group of at least 4. We met a Polish couple up on Montaña Machu Picchu who agreed to join us for the tour.

Group tour at Machu Picchu, Peru

The tour guide, Señor Israel, gave us a tour of the entire complex. He explained why the location of Machu Picchu was chosen, what purpose it served, information about the Inca Empire and the buildings within the complex. There was so much information that it was hard to take in. It really made us believe that Machu Picchu was a Wonder Of The World!

Machu Picchu, Peru

We took plenty of photos around and finally at 5pm, when the gates where shutting, we said our goodbyes. We had spent the entire day, 6:30am to 5pm, at Machu Picchu and it still wasn’t enough!

Machu Picchu, Peru

Cusco – the Inca Capital

The main reason for us to come to Peru was to see and experience the Inca kindgom, mainly by visiting Machu Picchu and Cusco, the kingdom’s capital city. We had heard plenty about Cusco from fellow travelers. Some of the words that were constantly repeated were – touristy, expensive, beautiful. We were ready to check it out ourselves!

Getting In

Unfortunately, Oltrusa and Civa, luxurious and affordable tourist bus companies, were booked out for the Arequipa to Cusco trip. We shopped around a bit and finally decided to book with Transzuela. Although Transzuela didn’t provide dinner, it provided some snacks, a comfortable 150 degree bed, a toilet for use and all for almost half the price, 50 soles per person, USD 15.6. That was fine with us. We had a good meal at the terminal and were ready to sleep on the bus. 7am in the morning, we reached Cusco for another amazing journey.

The taxi driver started speaking to us and when he learnt that we did not have an accommodation booked, he suggested a place for 40 Soles, USD 12.5. We decided to stay there but soon realised it was a bad decision. We planned to move to another hostel the next day. Our first half of the day was just hostel shopping and it didn’t take us long to realise that Cusco was expensive! We managed to find Bright Hostel off Calle Palacio very close to Plaza de Armas for 60 Soles, USD 18.75. The room was new and it seemed a bargain!

Cusco at First Glance

We were still in the taxi when we started seeing Inca influence all around. A monument for an Inca warrior, Tupac Yupanqui, a Golden Sun waterfall and foundations of Inca buildings were everywhere. We knew we were in for a treat.

Tupac Yupanqui, Cusco

The historic centre of Cusco is incredibly pretty and well kept. The 360 degree view from the Plaza de Armas is incredible. One of the best plazas in South America!

Plaza De Armas, Cusco

Touristiest City

As travelers, we know we contribue to country’s economy through tourism and are comfortable with it. In fact at times we do not mind going out of our way to help a local make some money. During this trip we visited plenty of touristy places like Agra and Jaipur in India, Charging Bull in New York but Cusco was another level. There were incredible amounts of tourist traps here. Native ladies would bring a fully grown llama and a baby llama for photos every morning. It was cute but tough for the llamas and llama kids who were dragged around and passed from lap to lap. We did indulge in photos once!

LLlama ladies, Cusco

In the Central Square, there are plenty of shoe shiners roaming around wanting to clean shoes for 1 Sole. But once you agree to get the shoe shined, the ‘bill’ goes up to 10 soles because they applied “colour” or special chemincal on the shoe. We fell for this one as our shoes were very dirty after Colca Canyon. It was an intense stand off at the end where I threatened to call the police and they got agitated. Eventually, we settled for 5 soles for 2 people and walked away.

There are plenty of people selling bus tours every 10 feet, touristy ayahuasca ceremonies and shops selling alpaca clothing for incredible markups. The pull of Machu Pichu (sometimes the only thing people want to visit in Peru) has really transformed the economy of Cusco.

Cusco Bus Tour

There are so many bus tours in Cusco that there is a bus tour traffic in the city every morning. We took two bus tours in Cusco, one around the city to Inca sites and another to the Sacred Valley. The first tour of Cusco was unbelievably cheap at 20 soles per person. Read about the Sacred Valley tour in the next post.

The tour started with us meeting our tour group at the Plaza de Armas. We walked with the group to the nearby Qoricancha Church, passing through an ancient Inca pathway. Here things became a bollywood comedy, it was funny and confusing but we don’t know what happened. Our guide asked if we wanted a tour in English and we replied in the affirmative. The next thing we knew, we were hanging with another group of completely different people.

Inca Path, Cusco

The guide gave us a tour of Qorikancha in English as well as in Spanish. The Incas were excellent builders as well as astronomers and this was evident in the remains of the ruins at Qorikancha. The Spanish built a church over it but the Incan building is still visible. The rocks that the Incas cut were still the most perfect cut stones we have seen. Inca stones, CuscoTo emphasize their perfection, it is important to highlight that they had no chainsaws and other modern tools yet look much better than the Spanish stones. Moreover, Incas could view stars out of a particular door and predict whether the El Niño will occur. Amazing!

Qorikancha, Inca Ruin, Cusco

Our next stop took us on a bus journey to Tembo Machay. It was the highest area above Cusco city. The ruins itself were surrounded by the water streams from the mountains. The Incas thought this was holy and many Incans were buried in the caves here.

Tembo Machay, Inca Ruin, Cusco

Our next stop was the Puca Pucara ruins. The name means the Red Fort, like the one in India. However, that may have been in the older times. The ruins were now of the usual stone color as the other Inca ruins. The ruins were quite small and we were there for only 15 minutes.

Puca Pucara, Inca ruins, Cusco

Our final stop was the mother of all ruins, Saqsayhuaman or as tourists call it ‘Sexy Woman’. As we entered the ruins, we went through a cave which was the centre for burials and rituals. We exited the cave for the ancient water storage for Cusco. It was as big as a stadium and stored water for the biggest city in the empire at the time.

Saqsayhuaman, Sexy Woman, Inca Ruin, Cusco

Our guide told us about the King Tupac Yupanqi who built the temple above the city. The stones of Saqsayhuaman were 100s of tonnes in weight. They were carried to the top without any animals and using only humans. It is a mighty structure that is clearly visible from the centre of the Cusco old city. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. A trip totally worth it for 20 Soles!

Saqsayhuaman, Sexy Woman, Inca Ruin, Cusco


Although we thought we will not shop in Peru, it was hard to resist the shopping in Cusco. The city had Incan textiles as well as real and fake Alpaca outfits. We bought some textiles for ourselves to wear at home as well as some souvenir shopping. Due to us touristy tag, the souvenirs can be cheap in Cusco as vendors compete for sales. We grabbed a few souvenirs as we bargained the vendors down.

Shopping, Cusco


Cusco being a touristy city had some amazing food. We were recommended a Korean Restaurant by an American traveler, Emma and we were not disappointed. Sa Rang Che Restaurant was a little inside a complex off the street. It had Korean speaking people, k-pop music and plastic cutlery, cups and water bottle which is very Korean. We were not disappointed in the slightest!

Sa Rang Che Restaurant, Korean Restuarant, Cusco

Likewise, The Peruvian food was great as well and we were able to get some great lunches in Cusco for usually only 20 Soles. We had one of the best kebabs of our trip in Cusco as well. We found a breakfast place name Jack’s Cafe bar. The breakfast here was a little expensive to the usual Peruvian but it was huge and extremely well cooked. It was like a cafe from Sydney (or another Western city) had moved to Cusco. We were delighted to go there.

Final Thoughts

Cusco is the main city for travelers in Peru. It was the capital of Incas and everything in the architecture and the clothing of the people says so. They may have been defeated but they are not gone. The people and the history of the Kings is still here. It is a shame about the touristiness but as with the food above there are some benefits to it. Without question, a must visit place.


Exploring Puno, Peru

Finally we get to Peru! We worked real hard to get the Peru Visa for Shruti and it worked out in Bolivia. Our first stop in Peru was Puno, the other big town settled along the shores of Lake Titicaca. Read about our experience in the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca right here.

Getting in

We took Trans Titicaca bus to cross over to Peru from Copacabana, Bolivia. The ride to the border was less than 40 mins. After queuing up and getting stamped out at Bolivian Immigration, we walked across the border to Peru. We faced no dramas at either of the immigration offices. The remaining 3.5 hours bus ride to Puno was mostly uneventful.

Cheap accommodation

Our guide in the bus asked us if we had an accommodation in Puno and we didn’t. He suggested Don Tito Inn but we refused to pay more than 40 Soles, USD 12.5. He had no problem with that and agreed immediately. We weren’t hoping for much but the room turned out to be great for the price. We finally had really hot water without electrocution.

2 Day Tour

As we were checking in the hotel, the receptionist told us about possible tours around the area. We were interested to visit the Floating Islands. After comparing two available tours, we decided to go with a 2 Day Tour to Lake Titicaca. The tour costed us 100 Soles per person, USD 31.25, and was scheduled to start early next day.

A tour car came around to pick us up from the hotel and we headed to the wharf. Everyone had been told to leave the big bags at the hostel but Shruti wanted to get to Arequipa as soon as possible afterwards so we took all our stuff on the boat. This proved tricky as we had to walk across 3 boats with bags at the back and front to finally get to our own boat. There our luggage took up most of the storage area as most people had their bags in hand. This wasn’t turning out to be the best!

Lake Titicaca, Puno

We forgot all that soon as we reached our first stop, the Floating Islands of Uros. The islands were built on Totora Reed Islands and each island had 5-6 families living and working to renew the islands every two months.

Floating Islands, Uros, Lake Titicaca

Archaeologists researched as to how and why these people started living on these islands and the outcome is stunning. It seems during a drought in the area, the locals turned to the lake for food and shelter. We spent quality time on the islands and even took photos in the traditional dresses.

Traditional Dress, Uros Island, Puno

Our next stop was another Floating Island but we didn’t take the motor boat to get there. Instead, we went on a “Uros Island Taxi” or a boat which is made of the bamboo, Totora Reed and is rowed. Two men of the community rowed us to the next island for a small fee. The entire floating islands are very traditional, people still wear their dresses and still live their life. Yet it seemed very touristy as though the Islanders are continuing this lifestyle to skin money off tourists.

Uros Island Taxi, Puno

The second island wasn’t much except a shop and we managed to get a stamp on our passports. It was a really weird experience which on one hand was traditional but on the other hand touristy. In any case, we took some souvenirs to remember forever!

Traditional Ladies, Uros Islands, Puno

Homestay – Isla Amantani

Our next destination was Isla Amantani which would be our home for the night. It took 2 hours from the Uros Islands through the reeds and other parts of the lake. As we got closer, we saw people standing at the wharf. We were assigned to a girl with a small house up the hill. A french- spanish couple were to accompany us. It was a tough walk uphill with the backpacks and our host had to help Shruti.

Isla Amantani, Lake Titicaca

Family, Isla Amantani, Lake TiticacaWe had lunch, dinner and breakfast with the family and heard their tale of trying to make some money by bringing in tourists using the roun-robin system used by all villages on the island. However, it hadn’t helped at all with only 3 tourists since January. Moreover, they had invested quite a bit hoping that it will bring in income but nothing of the sort.

Homestay, Isla Amantani, Lake Titicaca

The girl who may have been in her late 20s and unmarried tried to sell us her knitted goods but as luck would have it we had already bought them. Same was the case of all tourists who came there. Maybe only the mayor of the island was earning from this system. The interesting thing were the outfits of the island. Men and Women much like India wore clothes according to their marital status. Unmarried women line our hostess wore white top with flowers like roses to indicate that they are single. Cool system!

Traditional Dress, Isla Amantani, Lake Titicaca

Traditional Beliefs

We visited the Pachamama and Pachatata on the island along with the rest of the group. The belief in the traditional religion was still strong on the island and we stayed in this beautiful spot as the sun was setting.

Pachamama, Isla Amantani, Lake Titicaca


As part of the tour, the village organises a traditional party. We went along with our host on our promise that we wouldn’t stay too long as the her siblings had to sleep. We were dressed up in traditional clothes and got ready to leave. We walked with her in pitch black and arrived in the community hall. There were chairs setup along the wall and one old lady was selling soft drinks and beer. If it wasn’t for the beer, it could be a primary school party.

Homestay, Isla Amantani, Lake Titicaca

Anyhow, all that didn’t matter once the music started. It was high tempo and fast rhythm. We were meant to hold each others hands and move side to side in a big circle. It started off slow but eventually the speed picked up and we were whirling around. It ended soon for us as the kids needed to sleep.

Traditional Dance, Isla Amantani, Lake Titicaca

Upon reaching home, Shruti decided to take some photos of the starry night. Here is one of the night shots!

Night Sky, Isla Amantani, Lake Titicaca

Isla Taquile

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, PunoThe next morning we got ready to visit another island in the the lake. Our guide told us that here again, the system was different. Men and women wore separate clothes according to their marital status. The men wore particular design on their beanies to indicate that they are single while women wore bright colors. As textiles is the main industry on the island, every resident knits and their goods are sold at the main community center at the cooperative office.

Cooperative, Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno

We did a tough little walk to the top of the island where the main square was. We saw men sitting together and knitting which is something unusual in Peruvian society. Another walk and we reached the restaurant for lunch. Here we had a problem, we ran out of almost all the money we had exchanged at the border.

The lunch was 20 Soles, USD 6.25, and that was all the money we had. Shruti had the soup while I had the mains and somehow managed to make it work. When we finally reached Puno, we realised that ATMs in Peru charge up to $5USD to take money out. Bummer!

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Puno

Group Party

Renate, one of the tour members who became friends with us during the journey, was keen to catch up after the tour. Although we had initially decided to leave Puno right after the tour, we thought it would be good to rest and party a little. Everyone who was in Puno that night, including the tour guide, met up by the main square and soon we were heading for a kareoake party.

Our first stop was a bar in the main restaurant district where everyone warmed up over some drinks. The next stop was karaoke close by. No one could beat Shruti in singing classic rock and that got even better after a few beers. Our guide was keen on the party and kept buying more drinks.

We finally left the karaoke at 1am to get to a club. The group was 6 girls and 2 guys and we had absolutely no trouble getting in. However, no one wanted to drink except the guide who had a tour the next morning at 7am. Him, me and a few other tough people managed to finish the drinks. We all danced to reggaeton and finally left at 3am. Of course, no good night ends without early morning food and we grabbed a pizza at a local joint. Here, we met a drunk old man who recognized Shruti and I for Indians and started talking to us about SRK and Kajol. It was a great end to a great night!

Leaving Puno

We left Puno for Arequipa the next morning. We bought the ticket for 2pm but there was no bus to be seen. Finally, at 2:30pm the bus arrived and we reached Arequipa around 7pm. The view was ok but Arequipa looked like a dusty old town. It ended up being better than we thought! Watch out for the next post.