Yesterday we said goodbye to the first country of our trip, Peru, and entered our second country, Bolivia. We have had an amazing time exploring Peru over the past three weeks but we have also had time to think about a variety of things.
We have only visited four of the main tourist areas – Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon and finally Puno and Lake Titicaca. Each of these areas is very different to the others, but there are also lots of similarities. The one similarity that is impossible to avoid noticing is the rubbish. Not all cities in Peru have a waste collection system and this is especially noticeable on the outskirts of the cities where rubbish is thrown onto the side of the road or down the hills. This rubbish issue is only exasperated by the fact that tap water is not drinkable. As a consequence everyone drinks water out of plastic bottles. It is estimated that over two hundred million plastic bottles are produced in Peru each month and, with recycling only really starting a couple of years ago, most of these end up in landfill or simply dumped by the roadside. Every tourist site we have been to, regardless of how remote, we have been able to see litter discarded in the bushes or on the side of the path. Chatting to our guides it seems that most tourists are responsible and take their litter away with them and the worst of the problem is down to the locals not taking pride in their local environment. No matter how many times we heard this, I can only believe that the amount of tourists really isn’t helping matters. We have tried to be careful, but still ended up buying two or three bottles of water per day. Multiply this by the number of tourists and you can start to understand understand the scale of the problem. We picked tour companies that believed in their local environment and provided boiled water to us in order to reduce the number of bottles required. We were also very conscious about where we discarded the bottles – looking for places that offered recycling wherever possible.
Another issue we kept noticing was the poverty. In the centre of the main tourist cities and towns it wasn’t so obvious but by taking buses between each place we saw the shanty towns on the outskirts. If we had flown then we would not have noticed these. Everytkme we saw one of these places it was difficult not to think about how very fortunate we are to have what we have, as well has having the ability to travel the world to see amazing sights.
For all the negativity above, however, Peru really is an amazing country. The history it offers, such as learning about the Incas, makes it a fascinating place to travel around. In what feel like three short weeks we have barely scratched the surface of what this country has to offer. You could spend months in Peru and still not discover everything.
I am really glad that we chose Peru as the first stop on our world tour as it has got the trip off to exactly the kind of start we were after. It has treated us to some really beautiful sights, such as the numerous Inca ruins along the Inca trail, watching Machu Picchu appear out of the morning mist, watching Andean Condors gliding along the rim of the Colca Canyon – one of the world’s deepest – and finally seeing the Uros islands – floating islands made from reeds on Lake Titicaca.
We are now over the border in Copacabana, Bolivia, still on the shores of Lake Titicaca and, despite being only 8km from Peru, it already feels like a very different place.