South America Top 5 Countdown
Here’s the final installment of my Top 5 countdown from my last trip, to South America. To recap, here’s the full list:
2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
3. Salar Uyuni & La Paz, Bolivia
4. Puerto Iguazu & Salta, Argentina
5. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
The South America trip wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Peru. For the last few years I’ve been meaning to visit this ancient country, and climb it’s iconic Machu Picchu. The rest of the countries were just icing on the cake. But more memorable than the amazing ancient civilizations, the gorgeous sceneries, and the delicious food were the people. The Peruvians, although a diverse population, are different from other South American countries because of the prominence of its indigenous people. Together with Bolivia, Peru has a rich indigenous culture which is rare in other countries, especially Brazil and Argentina. But within the indigenous population there’s quite a diversity, and I found the people living more inland and in the mountaneous regions to be very hospitable, humble, and hard working. Nowhere was this more noticable than during my trek through the Inca trail and visits to the underlying villages.
Besides Machu Picchu and Cuzco,the capital Lima also exceeded my expectations. Aside from its lying next to the Pacific ocean and it’s very modern cityscape, the food and culture were also amazing. There’s a saying among Peruvians that if it moves, we eat it. So it’s no surprise that guinea pigs are a delicacy; but if that’s not your thing then even ‘mainstream’ food items are transformed by a Peruvian’s touch. For a metropolitan city its size, the number of indigenous people also impressed me. However, upon visiting places like Peru and South America in general, and even New Zealand and Australia a few years back, I can’t help but feel ashamed at how successfully the North American native population has been annihilated from this continent. Even though Peru and her continent had its share of entire civilizations being wiped out by its Spanish conquerors, the indigenous people did not share the same fate as ours. This was mostly due to them being more advanced and united against a strong and powerful conqueror.And Peru had the strongest defenders of all in South America. As a result, Peruvians are quite different from the others, and truly represent a unique culture. And it was in this country, within the ruins of Machu Picchu, and inspired by the locals, that a young Ernesto Guevara would conceive a revolution that would bring the people of South America together one more time.
So if you’re thinking of visiting South America, Peru should definitely be in your itinerary. Hiking the Inca trail and visiting Machu Picchu is no doubt a very spiritual experience, but its people, food and culture will also leave you breathless.