From almost the moment I crossed the border and wound up in the seaside town of Mancora on the country’s north coast, Peru was my favourite Latin American country so far (at least until I arrived in Bolivia a month later).
The Pan American highway runs right through Mancora.
Trucks steam through town and throw up clouds of desert dust and grit. No one seems to mind, though and it’s Southeast Asian style chill, a place for long lazy breakfasts and lying in the sun.
…and eating a lot of chocolate brownies.
An overnight trip on a surprisingly comfortable Cruz del Sur bus later and I was in the dreary, overly concreted town of Huanchaco.
The rain was misty and constant – it could have been Britain, and it could have been the Irish sea.
Not that I felt it was a waste of time. After all, it was where I cemented my love affair with Inca Kola:
and for the humble alfajor, shortbread cakes filled with dulce de leche.
In Lima, I wondered what all the fuss was about.
It didn’t seem particularly unsafe to me. I even managed to conquer part of the bus system.
But to be fair I spent my four days safely ensconced in the wealthy barrios of Miraflores and Barranco.
And I finally tried ceviche.
Lima is surrounded by shanty towns. Hugely dense at first they slowly begin to give way to desert. The cost of water in these places is several times that of water in Miraflores.
The Nazca lines were underwhelming.
Then, high into the Andes.
Arequipa was bright, crisp and busy.
The road to Colca Canyon soared above 5,000 metres, the highest I’d been since Tibet.
The bus crossed high passes and vicunas roamed the altiplano.
And the Quechua women selling trinkets reminded me of other traders I’d met on high roads continents away.
Fully acclimatized to life 3,500 metres above sea level, no time amount of time in Cuzco was long enough.
For shopping, for eating, for people watching. For putting off thoughts of the Inca trail I’d signed up to complete.
But I made it in the end.
And then it was time to climb higher, Puno, to Lake Titicaca.
And onwards to Bolivia.