Country of Contrasts

Rusty Wilson

Four weeks to travel Peru is perfect and what a super destination. Old blends with new; high mountain terrain contrasts with the coastal plains; wealthy flower encrusted mansions give way to neighbouring brick mud homes; the bustle of work moves softly into pan pipe serenades; and the cruelty of a tragic history is surpassed by the genuine warmth of a people with a zest for love and life.

\'NascalinesStarting with the ancient culture on Taquile Island and the floating reed Uros Islands in Lake Titicaca to the quaint college town of Puno, one finds oneself immersed in a life so preoccupied with today that your own world is easily left behind. Taking the train from Puno to Cusco (or on days the train doesn\'t go, the road follows exactly the same route), glimpsing spectacular mountain passes, one soon finds that simply getting around in Peru is challenge enough. Historical Cusco and surrounding towns of Pisac and Ollayataytambo are must sees on a historical ruins note, not to mention the market in Pisac - which is far better for bargaining when it\'s not a major market day!! Then of course the awesome Machu Picchu is a destination in itself.

Peru is so much more, the seaside towns of Pisco and Paracas on the road to the Nasca Lines - which are again a feat so awe inspiring that one can\'t even begin to imagine a culture so advanced. When enjoying the pristine beauty of Arequipa just see if the Santa Catalina Convent can\'t still hold some of its former ominous power over you too! Throughout Peru try the local dining delicacies from seafood to hearty mountain soups, you will soon become a convert to the many zesty tastes and textures.

I was absolutely alone when I discoverd the charms and power of Machu Picchu. Due to a rail strike only a few people could be flown in by army helicopter and I soon left my small group behind. The power of the mountain and its\' former inhabitants will live in my heart and soul the rest of my days.

The ruins of Pisac are some of the very best examples of Inca stone craftsmanship, while the nearly three hour trek to the very top, the truly incredible views and the spectacular photo opportunities - not to mention the truly scary narrow ledges - are burned in my memory. I wouldn\'t have missed a moment of it.

Peru is a very reasonable place to travel compared to other countries in South America. It is safe and obvious that there is a real effort to keep tourists happy. The people throughout Peru are a pure delight and so easy to meet even on organized tours.

Three quarters of Peru is jungle. The headwaters of the Amazon start here and our planet depends on it for our supply of oxygen. The colour, sounds and unsullied splendour of the Peruvian jungle are just too amazing to describe. My three-hour boat ride into this bit of heaven is one of my most precious memories!

Local crafts and especially the hand knit alpaca products are a real bargain.