After exploring the world of the Inca around Cusco and Machu Picchu, we knew that our time in Peru was coming to a close. But before we headed into Bolivia (arrived today!), there were a couple of things left in Peru that we wanted to see and get done.
First and foremost, and definitely not fun at all, we needed to get our Bolivian visa from the consulate in Cusco. This extremely expensive visa ($160 + $10 processing fee per person!) is only required for Americans, as it seems we do the same to Bolivians, so it's a reciprocal charge.
Technically, the whole visa process can be done at the border, but we wanted to just get it out of the way ahead of time. So after more than an hour at the Bolivian Consulate of filling out an online form, printing proof of a booked hotel, writing up an itinerary, getting passport pictures, and paying $340 in US dollars cash (there's more that I won't get into), we finally got our gorgeous and hard-earned visas. And best of all, we met a couple of awesome motorcyclist Romanians there too, Cezar and Nicolai.
To be fair, what we had to go through is nothing compared to what Bolivians and people of many other nationalities have to do to get into the US, if they can get in at all. So I really should not complain.
With our visas in our passports, we were ready to leave Cusco, and headed south toward the city of Arequipa where a new back tire was awaiting us. But just a day's ride from Cusco was the Instagram-worthy tourist spot called Rainbow Mountain, or locally known as La Montaña de los Siete Colores or Vinicunca. It does look beautiful in all the pictures, so we thought we'd give it a go.
We stayed the night in a small village near the mountain called Pitumarca where sheep and alpacas were herded through the streets and the women dressed traditionally in wide skirts, tasseled hats, and long braids. From there we left in the morning and enjoyed the gorgeous ride to the mountain trail base. After paying our ten Soles entrance fee (~$3), we headed up the mountain on horseback for 50 Soles (~$15) a person since I wasn't too excited to do the steep hike at high altitude (it starts at 14,000 ft/4,300 meters, ends at 17,060 ft/5,200 meters).
Though we were practically the only people on the trail, once we got to the ridge of Rainbow Mountain, there were tons of tourists who had come up the other side, all taking buses from Cusco. Despite the amount of people, the views were stunning with blue skies, beige stones, green fields, and red earth striped with yellow and turquoise minerals. We could even clearly see the snowy peak of the sacred Ausangate mountain.
Above I've put both the photoshopped picture of Rainbow Mountain and the untouched one for you to compare. Yes, unfiltered doesn't look as awesome, but in all honesty, pictures don't do it justice because it's such an incredible feeling to stand there and admire such superb natural beauty in person. Maybe we were just lightheaded from the climb, but the view impressed me, and I'm so glad we went.
Further on our way to Arequipa, we passed by a beautiful spot quite by accident called Tres Cañones, or Three Canyons. It was on a dirt road with a few parts that were somewhat washed out, but the ride was definitely worth it, not just for the Three Canyons view, but the amazing ruins nearby (Mauk'allacta) and strange rock formations following it. I'm sure in the dry season this road would be just fine, but it was so much fun to ride, I would recommend it at any time of year for those who enjoy going off-road.
Our last stop before Arequipa was Chivay, the tourist gateway to Colca Canyon. Unfortunately, even though there is a road going along this extremely deep canyon, you have to pay 70 Soles a person to access it. Tim and I weren't going to hike in anyway because of my foot and we had a date to catch with our new tire in Arequipa (our old one had a slow annoying leak). So we sadly skipped the canyon and went on to Arequipa.
The road from high-altitude Chivay to warm and sunny Arequipa was twisty and paved, but not as spectacular as I'd hoped. Desert and trash was the view throughout, and we had to dodge tons of trucks making their way to this concrete-producing city outside of Chivay:
At last we arrived in Arequipa. It's Peru's second-largest city after Lima, but thankfully it did not compare to the grimy urban mayhem that is Lima. Instead, Arequipa has a nice colonial center with lovely stone buildings made from the white volcanic rock of the nearby Misti Volcano. It was also where we met the fine people of Peru Moto Tours who helped us get our brand new tire (MotoZ Tractionaire, best rear tire in our opinion) and new brakes.
We also had the fortune of meeting up with a traveling motorcyclist who we'd been following for a long time: Eglé, and had a great time in Arequipa having beers and even splurging on some Starbucks coffee with her.
From Arequipa, we headed toward Bolivia on the main road to Puno, which was definitely nothing to rave about. It was nicely paved (until a gravel shortcut we took to skip Juliaca), but boring. Best part about it was that there were vicuñas everywhere, the llama's endangered wild cousin.
Finally, we came to our last stop in Peru and a place with one of the weirdest geographic names ever: Lake Titicaca. We even heard a local joke that since the lake is split between countries, Peru has the titi side and Bolivia has the caca side (though they say the opposite in Bolivia of course). But seventh-grade humor aside, it was originally pronounced Titi-haha, and it's been a dream of mine to see this high-altitude blue gem of a lake with its unique floating islands.
Made of the totora reed and its roots, these islands were first constructed as a way for the Aymará-speaking people to escape the invading Incas, and have been a tradition in the region ever since. They even make their houses and boats out of this buoyant material.
I'll admit, the tour we went on to see these islands was the most touristy thing we've done yet. Authentic would not be a word I could use to describe this, but as these are islands and I don't have a boat, it was the only way I could see to get out there.
And the extra hour and a half ride it took to visit the non-floating island of Taquile was not worth it in my mind (and that was on the fast boat). Taquile is just a regular island, but I did enjoy getting a glimpse of the local culture of Quechua-speaking people that live there. And I understand that the money spent does go to the preservation of these endangered communities. But if I had to do it again, I would try to stay overnight on a floating island to get a more authentic experience.
That was yesterday, and today we are still on the shores of Lake Titicaca, but this time we are in Copacabana on the Bolivian side. Because we'd gotten our visas prior, crossing the border wasn't too bad, and now we're catching up on some computer work before heading into the interior of Bolivia, our 12th country!
We'll keep you posted. And if you want the latest photos, videos, and updates, don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Until next time...
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