From the coastal metropolis of Lima to the majestic Andes and the adventurous Amazon, going to Peru feels like you visited three different countries in one vacation. Upon my return when I told friends about my trip, the most common question I was asked was, “What was your favourite part?” to which my politically correct answer usually was, “I loved every bit of it, even when I got sick in Cusco.” But, that got me thinking it wouldn’t be a bad idea to compare the highlights from the trip to discover what my favourite part was (and it would probably help me plan future trips, no?)
The biggest problem in conducting that exercise? You can’t really compare all the unique elements of Peru; it’s almost like comparing Asia and Europe. In fact, packing for Peru felt like packing for a trip around the world – I had to make sure I had warm sweaters, windbreakers, hiking boots and thick socks, while also stuffing my bathing suit, sweat absorbing T-shirts and flip-flops into my backpack. I had to stock up on a supply of both altitude sickness pills and bug repellent (Alas! Despite all those layers of bug spray, they still got me!)
I narrowed down my favourites to two exotic regions of Peru – the Andes and the Amazon – and compared them based on completely random categories. Here’s what I came up with…
Canadians don’t go on vacation looking for cold weather, which is probably why during the last few days in Cusco, I just couldn’t wait to be in the hot and humid Amazon. I guess I should have taken into the account the fact that Canadians also aren’t used to hot weather. When we got to Puerto Maldonado (we were staying at only-5-hours-of-electricity-a-day with no fans-in-rooms lodge), I quickly told myself that I wanted to be back in Cusco and decided to never complain about wearing a sweater again.
They love their Guinea pig and other meats in the mountains (and I am a vegetarian, in case you didn’t know/read my older posts). My favourite meal in the Andes was probably a pasta, which is shameful for a culture-loving traveler. However, you do get sick of eating different kinds of potatoes made in the same kind of sauce over and over and over again (FYI – Peru produces a gazillion types of potatoes). In the Amazon, however, I loved the meals I was served. All the meals were different, delicious, healthy and vegetarian. I even enjoyed home-cooked rice and veggies wrapped in banana leaf during a boating excursion. Yes, I had my lunch on an unstable and overloaded canoe (Insert “I’m on a boat” music here).
Ooohhh… this is a tough one. While the Andes had an unlimited supply of llamas, alpacas and vicunas (all of which are adorable animals and I wanted to bring them back with me), we made a really good friend in the Amazon – Remy (yes, named after our scooter-driving, beanie-hat-wearing, French-speaking friend). Remy The Parrot hung out with us while I read The Hunger Games series on the hammocks, ate crackers right out of our hands, repeatedly said “Hola… hola!” in his cute parrot voice and was simply the cutest bird I have ever made friends with. Now, as a species, I do like llamas more than parrots, but when it comes down to individuals, Remy was the most memorable animal I met in Peru.
Winner: Amazon (but not by much!)
I don’t know if it’s because I have been to other rainforests (Costa Rica and Panama), Puerto Maldonado was pale in comparison to the gorgeous landscape of the Andes. There were times when I thought I teleported to Switzerland and on other instances the mountain roads reminded me of the Himalayas. Even when I was really tired during bus rides, I wanted to keep my eyes open to soak in all the gorgeous scenery. Andes, you take the cake for this category.
I am not even going to bother comparing the people of both regions because Peruvians are very friendly and welcoming across the board. Same with the places I saw, the excursions I went on and the great time I had. But, to answer your question, friends (who have asked me about my favourite part), I guess it has to be the Andes.
The Andes are just beautiful… they are majestic, gorgeous, diverse and stunning, and the life that flourishes within them is equally as appealing, if not more. If you can only pick one of the two Peruvian landscapes to visit, I’d vote you pick the Andes. And for people who are about to disagree with me, I didn’t even use my biggest weapon yet: Machu Picchu, which is also the topic for the next blog post so stay tuned!