I can’t say that Peru was my favorite country so far. Most of our time was spent on the coast, which is dry and sandy. Basically just a big desert. It got tiresome to drive through starch landscapes with touches of green popping up only rarely. The big cities also left something to be desired. We spent a couple days in Lima, but didn’t see much appeal. We stayed in the Miraflores neighborhood, which is very commercialized with lots of American stores and restaurants. It didn’t feel very unique. It did, however, have a lovely lookout over the Pacific Ocean which we enjoyed a few times on walks with Leia.
One of the most frustrating parts of Peru were the police. It seemed like we got pulled over every time we saw a cop, at least after we passed Lima. Actually, the first cops we really encountered were incredibly nice. We were hoping to find a place to do sand boarding in the Sechura desert. We asked a few gas stations, but we ended up going in a circle so we saw a couple police officers and decided to ask them for help. They guided us to a dirt road and told us it was down that way. After driving for several minutes, the cops came riding up behind us on their motorcycles to tell us we had turned the wrong way. They drove us to a different area, which incidentally did not have sand boarding (or really anything but cacti for that matter). We tried to better explain what we were looking for, but of course nothing like that was available in the area. We still thanked them for all their effort and invited them to get a soda with us, but they told us they couldn’t because they were in uniform and didn’t want to give the wrong impression to the town.
After that, our experiences with police have gone downhill. First, we got pulled over for driving without our lights on. In the middle of the day. In the cloudless desert. We were informed that it is law to always drive with your lights on and every tourist knows that. We were never told this at the border and it is, in my opinion, a stupid law. The cop kept up with how important it is to drive with your lights on, while several cars and trucks drove by without there’s on. He told us it would be 320 sol fine (about $100), but clearly didn’t care about taking us to the station to pay. He preferred for us to settle it there with him.
Unfortunately for him, we had almost no money on us. We were actually hoping to find an ATM as soon as possible so we could have some cash on hand. He settle for what we had on us, which was 10 sol (about $3). We didn’t want to encourage bribery, but we really just wanted to get on our way.
After that we got pulled over countless times for having tinted windows. Apparently Peruvian cars have to have a permit to have tinted windows. No one looked at our car at the border or mentioned anything about tinted windows to us, so we had no idea this would be an issue. Andrés has spent a ridiculous amount of time arguing with the cops, telling them we are only in transit through the country and that they told us at the border that it was not a problem (which is a little white lie). Finally they will let us go, but it gets us more and more frustrating with the cops each time it happens because it seems like they are just fishing for bribes. And really, aren’t there more important things they can be spending their time on?
In Peru’s defense, we didn’t do many of the top spots, like Machu Picchu or Lake Titicaca. We’ll do those on our way back up at the end of our trip. I’m sure there will be lots of amazing things to do and see once we are in the interior. And even on this part of our trip in Peru, we did see a lot of really cool stuff like the Islas Ballestas (aka the poor man’s Galapagos), ruins for pre-Inca civilizations, and the Cañon del Cola (the second deepest canyon in the world, twice as deep at the Grand Canyon). We also really enjoyed Arequipa, the second biggest city in Peru. It had amazing volcanos surrounding it, a lovely main plaza, and some really good food.
Anyway, we are saying hasta luego to Peru and are now onto Chile!