My time in Peru was busy. When I wasn’t caught up with the TEFL Course and all the work involved I was out sightseeing and making some awesome memories. Every weekend offered an opportunity to see something new and I took full advantage of my free time.
Tours booked through tour companies typically involve some sort of tourist-trap pit stop such as this one. On our way to the Salt Mines we stopped by this cuy (guinea pig) farm/ souvenir shop. They sold hand-made goods and demonstrated the unique procedures involved in color dyeing many of the merchandise they sell. As expected from a tourist trap, their goods were really expensive. They did sell authentic alpaca goods as opposed to the cheaper synthetic replicas found in and around the Cusco marketplace. As usual, I was on a budget so of course I didn’t purchase any souvenirs from this stop.
Maras Salt Mines
Now this was a really cool place. The Maras Salt Mines aren’t the largest in the world – that title belongs to the Salt Mines in Bolivia. Still, this was a very cool place to visit. The salt-evaporation pools are a long time natural resource for the locals dating back since the Inca era. Upon exiting there are a lot of souvenir shops where you can pick up various salt products for cooking, therapeutic, and so forth.
After visiting the Salt Mines the next stop was Moray, an Inca agricultural station that is impressive in size and innovation. It is now an archaeological site primarily used for tourist attraction however. The entire Sacred Valley region was definitely a neat experience and I highly recommend fitting in these tours into anyone’s travel schedule during a trip to Cusco. These trips go along very nicely with each other and they are typically sold as a package deal, and are surely not to be missed as they add a lot of insight to the old ways of the Inca.
Small towns such as this one are commonly found in the outskirts of Cusco. They are typically quaint little towns which feature traditional architecture and a very laid back way of life. I really enjoyed strolling through these kinds of small towns as I felt that they added a lot to the already rich Peruvian culture. Plus you can find better deals shopping in these small towns than you would in the various tourist trap shops.
I worked-in some sort of major outing for most of my weekends during my month and a half stay in Peru. One of those major outings included visiting Lake Titicaca and Taquile Island. Taquile is as traditional as they come. Only about 2,200 people inhabit the island and it is a place where tradition and culture thrives – there is no private or public transportation, no tourist accommodations and no restaurants, only a few stores selling basic necessities are found here. Though there are many hills and lots of rough terrain – traveling anywhere on this island is done solely on foot.
Life on Taquile Island is not easy; everyone works – children must learn to work from the age of eight; boys are taught to knit while girls are taught to make yarn and weave. Taquile Island is world famous for their high quality textiles. The people live by three simple rules: do not steal, do not lie and do not be lazy. Everyone on the island works and though much of its rich tradition is actively being conserved, tourism onto the island has been steadily increasing as it successfully generates a steady income alternative for the locals in and off the island.
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and it is recognized as the “highest navigable lake” in the world. The many Floating Islands found around Lake Titicaca are man-made by the Uros people. The islands are made of thick float-able reeds which naturally grow in the lowlands of the lake; Uros people gather these reeds and are able to create and maintain the islands by continuously adding reeds to the surface.
Each island houses several small huts where generations of a single extended family reside. The only times a family member leaves is when they marry and they opt to begin a family of their own. There are more than 1,200 Uros living on the 60 plus islands spread across Lake Titicaca.
Fires are a real threat to these islands as the dry reeds can be highly flammable. Since there is no electricity on the islands – candles were widely used until solar panels began making their way in to prevent the fires. Possibility of the islands floating away under a heavy storm is also a concern but much easier to control than a destructive fire.
The Uros Islands have become one of Peru’s most popular tourist attractions, allowing the Uros to supplement their hunting and fishing by conveying visitors to the islands by motorboat and selling handicrafts. This was one awesome experience that I truly enjoyed. If you visit Peru, do not skip out on visiting Lake Titicaca, it’s just awesome!
And last but certainly not least was my visit to the Zoologico Mundo Andino in Tipon. The Zoo is about an hour bus ride away from downtown Cusco. The entrance fee to this Zoo was cheap, about $1.50 and you have the option of getting up close and personal with a few exotic animals for a little extra cash. The Zoo is located on the hillside of a mountain and there are dirt paths that lead to the top where the great condor lives. All of the animal enclosures are hand-made and all things considered, the animals seemed content with their level of care. I usually don’t enjoy going to Latin American Zoo’s but my TEFL Trainer suggested visiting if we wanted to handle a three-toed sloth, and I definitely wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. There is also a large condor you can pay a few extra soles and take a picture together. I have to admit – it was a jarring experience, the condor’s overall size is intimidating. It stands directly behind you and shadows you as it spreads its large wings, while you sit there faking a happy smile and praying it doesn’t find your ears too appetizing. I don’t know of another place I would have the opportunity to do any of this so I am glad I had the chance to visit. I highly suggest anyone visiting Cusco to pay this place a visit as it is worth your while.
As I mentioned before my days were packed with things to see and do – there was never a dull moment. I hope that you get to enjoy what Peru has to offer as much as I did. Happy Travels!