Hello, it’s Lily here 🙂 I am the ‘little’ in @biglittletrip I am nine-years-old and am travelling with my mum for a year all around Latin America. Mum has asked me to write this next post about Peru to explain why it is a child-friendly destination. I definitely loved visiting the country and Peruvian people are really nice, so here are my top ten tips for things to do…in Peru!
The first place we visited when we got to Lima was a park full of cats. Kennedy Park in Miraflores is really unusual because it is in the middle of the city but has loads of cats living in it. They are a mixture of stray cats and cats that have been abandoned by their owners. There are cared for by a team of volunteers who feed them every day but they can be petted by anyone walking through the park. I spent about an hour there and stroked about fifteen cats. One of the downsides of travelling is that you have to leave your pets at home. I have a cat called Licky who is black and white and extremely affectionate but we’ve had to leave her with a cat foster mother whilst we are away. She sends me pictures of Licky every month so I know that she is doing OK, but it was nice to cuddle the cats in the park because they reminded me of her.
There are loads of Llamas and Alpacas in Peru because they like to live at high altitude and the parts we went to were quite mountainous. Just outside Cusco we visited the Awana Kancha Living Museum where you can feed Llamas and Alpacas. We got there at lunchtime and the Llamas were really hungry – one of them made a terrible noise and spat in my mum’s face which was hilarious. There was a bundle of grass and flowers to feed them with and once I’d given them something to eat they soon calmed down. I also got face-to-face with a baby Alpaca which was absolutely adorable.
It was really soft and candyfloss textured because it was a Huacaya Alpaca with a fluffy fleece. They also had the Suri Alpaca that had long, dangly woollen fleeces that went all the way down to their feet and looked quite silly.
Peruvians use the Llama and Alpaca wool to make everyday clothing and costumes for special occasions. A lady showed us a special root that they squash up and foam up to wash the dirty sheep wool with so it is nice and clean for weaving. The Peruvian women also use the root as shampoo to wash their own hair – they all had silky, smooth hair tied up in long plaits. The root is quite magical as it stops their hair from going grey – mum said she would save a fortune at the hairdressers if she had a shampoo like that.
I am doing homeschooling as we travel but I am also learning lots of random things from the places we visit. In Peru, I learned about the different plants and materials that can be used to dye wool. One of the scarlet red dyes is made from Cochineal – a beetle-like parasite that grows on Cacti. When you crush up the beetles and mix them with lemon juice they make a vibrant red dye. This red dye is also used for lipstick but I would never put crushed beetles on my lips. What was even more disgusting, is they told us they use children’s wee to fix the colours on some of the clothing – ewww!
The traditional costumes are really bold and outgoing. We spotted some women in Cusco dressed in their fancy costumes holding an extremely cute lamb. I went over to pet the lamb and the ladies asked me if I wanted a photo of them. They gave me the lamb to hold and I gave them Ginger – my stuffed toy that has come everywhere with me. The lamb was heavier than Ginger and so warm and fluffy but beware, you will need to pay the both the ladies to take a photo with them as that is the way they earn a living from tourists.
Mum only had enough money to pay one of the ladies and the other one got a bit annoyed with her.
– Lily posing with Peruvian women in their traditional costumes –
One of the main reasons people go to Peru is to visit Machu Picchu, the remains of an Inca city. You can do a four-day walk on the Inca trail to get Machu Picchu but we took the train and a bus which was much easier. The train was really good fun, they gave us cake and the ticket collectors did a fashion show modelling alpaca jumpers and ponchos that they wanted us to buy. Another guy dressed up in a rainbow sheep costume and danced up and down making weird noises – I don’t know why!
Machu Picchu was really amazing and I enjoyed visiting it. The city was never finished because the Spanish invaded but luckily the people living there were warned and escaped into the jungle. It is built on a mountain top and is really high up, if you fell off the edge you would definitely die. There are lots of Llamas roaming around the ruins and munching on grass – they don’t need lawnmowers to keep it neat because the Llamas are the lawnmowers. There were also Llamas there in Inca times – the Inca used them for wool and meat but would also sacrifice them to the gods. Only the black Llamas were sacrificed as they were the most precious and rare and because the Inca thought that black was the purest colour.
They say that an American, Hiram Bingham, discovered Machu Picchu but our guide told us that is not quite true because there were two Peruvian families living in the ruins when he supposedly found it so it had never been completely lost in the first place!
Some parts of Peru are really high altitude and you have to be careful not to get altitude sickness. We were OK, but one day when we were doing a walk quite high up I started to see red spots and felt really tired so I had a rest, we went lower down and then I felt better. Lots of amazing things grow at high altitude and we discovered all these different types of potatoes that were called Andean potatoes because they only grow in the Andes. They are a cross between a roast potato and a sweet potato, they are really knobbly and come in different colours like green and yellow. I’ve never seen them in Sainsburys but you might be able to get them in Lidl.
One day we had a special Inca ‘pacha mama’ meal – pacha mama means mother earth. They put the food on hot rocks, cover it in wet sheets and bury it in the earth to cook. They made us chicken with different types of Andean potatoes – I was a bit worried that the food would be dirty but it was fine and tasted nice. There were some guinea pigs in cages next to the restaurant and I discovered that the Peruvians eat guinea pigs which I thought was barbaric! Who would eat a guinea pig? They are so cute and fluffy!
Maras Salt Ponds
A long time ago, before tower blocks existed, tectonic plates mushed together to form the Andes – the seabed got pushed up and seawater got trapped in the mountains. The salty seawater has been trickling back down for thousands of years and has made salt ponds at a place called Maras. To be honest, some of the day trips my mum has taken me on have been downright boring but I really enjoyed visiting Maras – the ponds look really amazing like they are made from powdered sugar. They have been digging up the salt here since before the Inca times and you can still buy salt here.
I enjoyed dipping my fingers in the stream that was filling the ponds – it was 60% salt and only 40% water so you can imagine how salty it was.
We went to the fruit market in Lima and were amazed to find a papaya that was twice the size of my head that they were selling for the equivalent of about 50p. They had tons of other exotic fruit on sale and we tried a few. My favourite ones were the little golden berries – they were super sweet, half tomato, half berry and grew inside a little leaf pod. I discovered lots of new fruit that I didn’t know existed, there was a green one which had skin the texture of a mermaid’s tale with white flesh and black seeds inside. It was so sugary that it tasted like fresh candyfloss from a funfair. You couldn’t have eaten a whole one because it would have given you a major sugar buzz.
There are some really stylish shops in Cusco but they are very expensive so make sure you bring lots of money with you to go shopping here otherwise you’ll end up broke. Mum bought me a minty green carved heart with wings for my bedroom and treated herself to 100% baby Alpaca jumper which was really fluffy. There were also quite a lot of old ladies selling things on the street such as dollies, purses and handbags all with the traditional weaving on them. Most of their stuff was lovely but some of it was a little bit dodgy and fell apart quickly. I bought a dolly for my friend Maya and a handbag and two bracelets for myself.
There is lots of really kawaii street art in Lima – my favourite was of a little creature eating an apple. We also went to a really good art gallery, the MATE Museum owned by Mario Testino, a famous Peruvian photographer. There were photos he’d taken of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, there was also a room full of photographs of Princess Diana and a beautiful crystal studded dress in a glass case that she’d once worn. I’d watched a documentary about her recently with my mum and knew that she’d died in a car crash. She was really pretty.
There was also a visiting exhibition of brightly coloured flying carpets that twirled around but whilst we were looking at them they started to get really tangled up with each other and we had to tell the security guard. I got a bit worried that he might think I had done it but I don’t think I did – anyway, he managed to untangle them. There is a great gift shop at the gallery that sells brightly coloured masks, pictures of models like Kate Moss and even Rubik’s cubes.
I think Peru is a good country to visit with children my age or older but I think younger children might get a bit bored as there wasn’t any good toy shops or soft play areas. My last, but probably most important, discovery is that you can buy Nutella covered pretzels at Lima airport – such a fail but so delicious!
I hope you liked all my tips for visiting Peru.
Lots of love
Lily J xxx