The people of Peru

In Antwerp we know only one peruvian guy. He works in our neighbourhood and is always, always happy. Rain or shine, whenever you see him, he’s smiling, and will make you smile too. After only a few weeks of travelling in Peru, we start to think it comes with nationality.

– Peruvian Jorge, working as a courier in our neigbourhood – pic by Charliemag –

We started our trip in Peru in Cusco. Very touristic Cusco, as it is the capital of the Inca’s and the doorstep to visiting world wonder Machu Picchu. The entire year we haven’t seen any city so filled with tourists, tour agencies, tourist restaurants and thousands of souvenir shops. OK, we’ve been to places in Asia where we weren’t alone either, still Cusco feels like (one of) the biggest. But while those other hotspots sometimes worked on our nerves (you were constantly offered tours or souvenirs, prices were high and service low), this didn’t happen in Cusco at all. The local people were kind and happy, in a relaxed way. Not pushy at all. What a nice surprise!

– so many souvernir shops, still no hassling. What a difference with Asian souvenir markets –

This first impression continued. While in Aguas Caliente, the village at the entrance of Machu Picchu and even more focussed on tourists, we had a similar feeling. The receptionist from our hotel gave us super advice for our visit, without any sense of selling us the most expensive deal, rather the opposite. Just honest, friendly and helpful. Nothing fake or pushy, simply refreshing!

– Machu Picchu is very very touristy –

We left the touristic part of Peru by bicycle, heading north through the big and beautiful mountains. The rides were tough, but the many villages on the way were great for a stop, delicious and cheap food, and friendly faces. Kids were waving or starting a conversation. Elderly people on the side of the road all said ‘buenas dias/tardes’. And besides some weird looks and giggles at us, the white giants cycling, we felt relaxed and safe and very welcome.

More than once we were invited at people’s home. And at each occasion the peruvians quickly offered a tea, roasted mais, soup or cheese. These people are poor, living on paved soil, all still cook on wood (and not all have an extraction hood so the fumes stay in the room to be enhaled), some have a toilet but definitely not all. But while they’re poor on money, they’re rich in smiles and hospitality.

– peruvian country side kitchen –

– even when the people are poor, the table is always full –

A lot more is still possible here. While some countries are overregulated, in Peru ‘todo puede’. With a little money (very little), there’s always somebody willing to help you with the smallest thing. I really love it when people are still flexible, creative and entrepreneurial, instead of hiding behind the rules. Whether it goes for transporting our bicycles or guiding us around.

All this makes us question how good all this ‘evolution’ in our western countries sometimes is…

– sharing a meal with Octavio and Hugo, our guides in the beautiful valley of Choquequirao. No big advertised tour, just a Warmshowers host and his friend making a little money while showing us one of the nicest areas of Peru –

– It’s not easy to make the peruvians smile for a picture –

Before coming to South America, we had some small worries about how safe it would be on this continent. And while the TV in restaurants show a lot of criminality (especially in Argentina), so far it just seems a lot of blabla. Of course there are things going on, mostly in the big cities, like in any big city (in Europe too). But the countryside feels really relaxed and safe. We could easily trust strangers with all our goods and money. So if you hesitate travelling down here for that reason, hesitate no more!

– one of the many lovely murals –

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