Peru is country with a well defined gringo trail and we worked our way north from one hike to the next. First stop was the Colca Canyon, famous for being one of the deepest canyons in the world at 3,191m and for it's condors. We did a great 3 day hike deep down to the bottom of the canyon. The trail was of the old Inca variety, winding impossibly down the sheer rock canyon face. Accessible only by foot or donkey, it is still the only way to reach the small villages that we passed through. We stayed the final night in 'the oasis', literally a green oasis with palm trees and big blue swimming pools that was so out of place after the small poor backward villages that we had been hiking through. The final morning was a pre-dawn 3 hour slog from the bottom straight up to the top. It was made even harder with the altitude and lack of breakfast!
Next stop on the gringo trail was the Sacred Valley area of the Inca culture. The heart is in Cusco, where all the tourists get organized, start their trips and are cajoled into spending lots of money (massages, laundry, equipment, food all at elevated prices!). The city itself is really nice with many impressive historic buildings and public spaces. We did two day trips into the Sacred Valley, visiting the ruins of Pisac and Moray. Then we set off to the main attraction- Machu Picchu on foot. We chose to do the most scenic and strenuous trek regularly offered- the Salkantay, and were very glad of our choice. This 5 day trek wound through mountainous farmland and took us up and over a 4,600m pass next to the towering Mount Salkantay peak and surrounded by tropical glaciers. We then descended a very long 2,600m vertical down into the jungle on the other side and followed the river to the base of Machu Picchu. The final morning we got up obscenely early to hike up for the sunrise and were greeted with eerie clouds for our efforts. Thankfully they soon cleared and we had a great day up at the ruins, taking a million photographs and enjoying lunch with the resident llamas (see my favorite photo of the trip).
After the heights of Machu Picchu we headed for coastal Lima and spent a couple of days consuming way too much good food. From there we took an overnight bus north to Huaraz, we splashed out and got 'super cama'- almost vertical! The buses behaved much like airplanes, with ticketed seating, luggage check-in, security, service attendants, food and movies. They even fingerprinted us and took a video of our faces for security. Huaraz is located in the Cordillera Blanca- the second highest mountain range in the world with 22 peaks over 6,000m. From here we did a trip into Lago Llanganuco in the beautiful Huascaran National Park and also did a days mountain biking trip.
Two more extremely uncomfortable overnight buses saw us arriving bleary eyed into Mancora- a popular beach resort right near the top of Peru. Here we got plenty of sand, surf and sun while taking a 3 day kite surfing course. The first day was spent handling the kite, the second, dragging ourselves around in the water (in a very controlled manner of course). The last day we were judged to have enough control to strap on a board and give it a go! We both got up and riding but are definitely not master kite surfers yet- it is a tricky sport that will take some time but is additively fun!