Peru beyond Machu Picchu!

“It took my breath away. What could this place be? Why had no one given us any idea of it?

– Hiram Bingham, Lost City of the Incas.

These were the words of American archaeologist Hiram who discovered the existence of the great Inca Empire. The secret which was only known to some locals in the said region opened up to the word, was recognized as a wonder of the world and most importantly became a part of the bucket list of places of travel, for millions. It was never a part of my bucket list, but the moment Rony proposed South America as a travel destination I was sure we have to visit it.

Most tourists go to Peru to visit Machu Picchu. So did we. But after having done the trip, we can assure you that there is much more to Peru than Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is indeed beautiful, breath-taking and mystical. But every other place we stayed which includes Lima and Cusco had something to offer.


View of the Andes from the plane

The planning

From the very beginning we were very clear that we do not want to do any of the Inca trail treks. There are a number of packages which allows you to trek from varying points. The number of days it takes to reach Machu Picchu could range from 7 days to 1 day. The most picturesque one according to may websites is the classic 4-day Inca Trail trek that starts at km82 – 82 kilometres along the railway from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.

Considering only a limited number of tickets are issued to visit Machu Picchu every year, the first thing we did is to book the same. It was a tough job to find the official site, considering there are hundreds of websites online. Once we found the right one, we were disappointed that we could not get the tickets to climb Huayna Picchu–  the mountain which we see in the back ground in all the post cards.


Huayna Picchu  is the one in the background

We had to be content  with tickets for Machu Picchu and Montana. Rony, who booked these tickets, two months in advance was surprised to see the hike to Huayna Picchu booked till February next year. We were a bit disappointed then. But in retrospect we don’t regret it. My stamina clearly would not have let me climb Huayna Picchu. Once we had the tickets to Machu Picchu, we sort of worked backwards and booked our stay in Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu along with the flight to Cusco and train tickets to Machu Picchu.


Once the tickets to Machu Picchu were booked, we had to figure out how to get there – which was the most difficult part. Considering we were landing in Lima, we decided to say there for 2 days. This was a great idea since we did take some take to get over the jet lag. We also managed to meet up with the husband’s friends and do a bit of shopping.

Upon a great deal of research on the internet, we found that Miraflores was one of the best places to stay in Lima. The basic requirements for a hotel for us was it should have free wifi, airport pickup, centrally located and below 100 USD. Colon Hotel at Miraflores met all our requirements and hence we booked it. We liked the hotel, but would have liked if it was a little more luxurious for the price we paid. No complaints about the service and 100 marks for its location. It was at a walk able distance from the market, Larcomar (the famous shopping centre) and restaurants.

The shopping we did at Mercado Central got me smiling when I saw the prices of the same items at Cusco, Aguas Calientes or at the airport. The  Peruvian nativity scene, postcards, ponchos, fridge magnets , jewellery, paintings were all way more cheaper in Lima than in any other place Peru.  Some pictures we clicked while shopping!


The best find of the trip according Rony was the Lomo Salltado.This dish is a typical Peruvian dish made of marinated steak, vegetables, & fried potatoes  served over rice. For a Malayalee Christian, its rice and beef. It is indeed on one of the best dishes I have had too. We also loved the Peruvian Ceviche. In fact any dish consisting of beef or fish couldn’t go wrong for the simple reason that it was fresh! The fact that they used a lot of onions to any dish appealed to me since I love onions in any form. Peru, also has a lot of fusion cuisine. The husband’s friends took us to this restaurant which had Peruvian Italian cuisine. We totally loved it. For drinks, we tried the Peruvian beer (Pilsen Callao, Cusqueña and Cristal) and the very famous Pisco Sour. I preferred the touristy version of Pisco Sour to the original since it was little more mild and less sour. I am a total tea drinker, however in Peru I only had coffee. We looked forward to the breakfasts because of the amazing coffee they served.


Pisco Sour




Lomo Salltado





There are many historical places of interest in Lima. However we were in a mood to chill and just walk around the city. Hence didn’t visit any. For anyone who would like  to combine the shopping and eating spree with some  sight seeing, the trip advisor will be a good site to look up.  The only place we ended up visiting is the Parque Kennedy which gives shelter to hundreds of stray cats. Do read this interesting article on it.

  cat 1


Rony broke his spectacles on the flight. So we had to get a new frame for him before leaving for Cusco. While doing so, we met Estevan at an optical store. Along with helping us communicate with the salesman, he gave us some amazing tips for the travel ahead.  Thanks Estevan!

While in Lima, if you are a fan of chocolates do visit the Choco Museo. It is a chocolate lover’s paradise. While Rony was buying a goodies to take back home, I clicked many pictures of the place. Its so artistically done up!

Since we both believe that walking around without any specific agenda is the best way to see a city, we did it in Lima. Some pictures we took while doing so:


From Lima, in order to reach Machu Picchu we had to fly in to Cusco and take a train from Cusco. Cusco gets rank 1 in the places we visited during the entire trip. The cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and the amazing art galleries made the stay in the Cusco enjoyable.To be fair, when we planned the trip, Cusco was considered only as  a stop over on our way  to see Machu Picchu. We didn’t know that Cusco as a city had so much to offer. Since we were flying to a higher attitude most travel sites suggested that we stay a day or 2 at Cusco to acclimatize. We did so. Estevan, the random friend we made in Lima asked us to carry a insect repellent and also take the Sorojchi pills. This did help us have a comfortable trip. The husband who had read about mosquito bites in Machu Picchu had carried an Odomos which worked perfectly! So as we saw other tourists buy expensive insect repellent we had a hearty laugh and thanked our very own Odomos for protecting us.


An advertisement for Sorojchi Pills on the streets of Cusco

We hadn’t really booked any place to stay at Cusco till the last moment. Rony went through and found a hotel called Rumi Punku  for our stay at Cusco. We couldn’t have asked for more. The pictures below say it all. An amazing room, excellent service and good location.


We were received at Cusco the airport by David who then we realized runs a tour agency as well. He took us to the hotel and also helped us plan our itinerary for the next day. Though we felt we paid more than we should have, the guide (Leon) and driver (Herman) who took us around Cusco were excellent. We are people who prefer travelling on our own. But this choice was totally worth it. Leon who is a local, explained every site we visited in great detail. Because of the gamut of information we got from him, we did not take a guide in Machu Picchu the following day. We saw the entire site using  guide book.

On the day of arrival at Cusco, all we did was chill, walk to the square (Plaza de Armas), drink some beer and eat some Llama.

IMG_1711 A dish made out of Llama

The next day after a simple yet filling breakfast at the hotel we were received by Leon and Herman Who took us to some Inca and pre Inca sites in Cusco. This is when we got to know that the Incan Empire extends beyond Machu Picchu. We bought a pass which gave us entry into number of places – The Boleto Turistico, however managed to see only a few. This was also because we took our time and did not rush to cover all the places. After all it does not make sense to see the place without experiencing it.  Since many of the sites were vast and involved a lot of walking, I gave up at many points . Rony went ahead and saw it in great detail. I found a good spot to sit and clicked a lot of pictures!

Each one of the places we visited deserves a separate post. But for now I leave you with some pictures clicked by us!

After a long day of travel, we got back to the hotel, freshened up and stepped out for some food. On our way to the main square, we found some amazing art galleries from where we got a few paintings for our new home. Will post some pictures as soon as we have them framed. Cusco has an art school wherein students study art for about 5 years. The training they get in the school along with the amazing culture helps them create paintings which are a true reflection of the beauty one sees around!

Cusco is one city where the both of us could spend a week just walking around, visiting the ruins and eating at local restaurants. For most Peruvians its an ideal destination for a short holiday or a break. Rony’s friends did mention that they do travel to Cusco once in a while – not necessarily to go to Machu Picchu. Some pictures of our random walks along the streets of Cusco






Getting married and travelling the world – amongst other things!

A lot has happened between the last post and this one. Finding the man, getting to know him, dating  and finally getting married to him took up considerable amount of time. Hence the blog was completely ignored. Getting married was a fun affair. I will definitely post a few pictures and also write about some fun moments during the wedding some time later. The man, who is now the husband was very clear about the first travel destination as husband and wife. So even before deciding the wedding dates or venue we had zeroed on the destination – South America. Had the choice been left to me, I would have clearly chosen some place closer and less hectic. Thanks to him, I had the best trip of my life.

South America, being a huge continent (the map of which I know better than Asia now), we had to choose the places we could cover in 3 weeks. Since two of husband’s friends were getting married to each other in Uruguay around the same time we were very clear that Uruguay is going to be one of the destinations. To be fair, the fact that we were invited to their wedding is one reason we went ahead and actually made the trio happen! We had decided that we could do 2 more countries within the time we had. My husband (Rony) was very keen on going to Brazil and I wanted to go to Machu Picchu. So the initial idea was to go to Peru, Brazil and Uruguay. However the ticket prices to and from Brazil were too expensive and we would go  over budget. We explored other options like Argentina and Chile. Chile looked like a good option since we would get to visit some of the best vineyards in the world and also visit thee Patagonia. So considering the budget within which we were working and the places of interest we zeroed down on Peru, Chile and Uruguay.


We were very clear from the beginning that we shall not use any travel agencies for making our itinerary. Hence it really got down to the two of us having endless conversations over phone and messenger in order to decide the trip. Another decision we had made is not to over shoot our budget. Though I am a great fan of air bnb and Rony is a fan of hostels we decided to stick to hotels for this trip, which increased the budget. But thumb rule was to book only hotels less than USD 100 dollars a day.

When we started planning, we understood that it was not as easy as it looks! So, firstly I studied the map of South America quite closely. Rony is relatively better at geography and had already done a trip in Central America so he knew the map well! The first challenge was obviously to get a cheap yet comfortable air travel to and from South America. Travelling 25 hours at one go is something either of us have never done. To and fro from any of these countries was way more expensive than flying into Peru and flying out of Montevideo. This was very surprising for us since it’s usually costlier as compared to flying in and out from the same country. Having found this out, the next hurdle was to find a route through a country which didn’t not require a transit visa for Indians. We found the answer in KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The overall experience was excellent!



imageFlight Details

Having booked the tickets the next step was to apply for visas. An Indian passport does not give you a visa on arrival on any of these countries. Hence we had to individually apply for visas for each of these countries. It was relatively easier for me since I was working in Qatar, holding a Qatari Work Permit. Rony had to engage an agent and submit hundreds of documents. Our visa application stories calls for a different post. We had the opportunity to come in contact with some amazing people as well as some not so amazing people in the course of visa application. Let me leave that for another post.


Visa for Peru – Check!


Visa for Chile – Check!


Visa for Uruguay  – Check!

For any visa application we had to show bookings for stay and flights for internal travel. Bookings for stay were all done through Booking. Com. We picked those hotels with Zero cancellation charges. We made some changes prior to the trip but retained some. All flights for internal travel within South America were done in local airlines based on the number of days we wanted to spend in each country. Some of the pointers we kept in mind while booking the flights were:

(i) Not take an early morning flight since I love to wake up late;

(ii) Try not to reach a new city late at night;

(iii) Ensure that we have a minimum of 23 kg baggage allowance in all flights ;

(iv) Check the distance between the hotel and the airport ;

(v) Try to do overnight travel in order to save time;

(vi) Travel light! We didn’t manage to travel as light as we wanted to. But at the end of the day we didn’t pay excess baggage in any flights even with our shopping.

At the end of the trip, like every other trip we did feel that we could have done a lot better, seen more, shopped more, travelled lighter, spend lesser, spend more time in one place rather than the other. But I guess, everyone feels that at the end of any trip. The good bit is we realized that we can indeed travel together as a couple, our interests are similar in many things, we were able to accommodate the interests that differ and enjoy it too, we were able to bring back a lot of great memories and memorabilia for our new home. And most importantly we are looking forward to our next trip.

Wait for the next post about the county that we loved the most –Peru!


Pluto and the other planets!

Dil Dhadakne Do is about Pluto and his solar system (family) – the Mehras. As much as the planets have a motion, speed and characteristics of its own, every member of the Mehra family has a life, pace and individuality of their own. However as much as the solar system binds those the together, the concept of family keeps these individuals together under one roof.

Dil Dhadakne Do is definitely set in a strata of society which is probably that is enjoyed by very few in India. However the problems they face are something universal across any society  I think the idea of presenting it this way was great since people who do not want to really understand the issues, the subtle humour, sarcasm and emotional connects can definitely watch this one for the amazing cruise, the beautiful places and the tastefully dressed characters.

Let us discuss the characters and the issues in this so called ’dysfunctional family’. There is a husband and wife (Kamal and Neelam Mehra) who have lost love for each other, but are sticking together since divorce is ‘not acceptable, in the society’. They have a daughter (Ayesha) who is trying to make an unsuccessful marriage work since a divorced daughter may ‘not acceptable in the society’ and who is repeatedly reminded she is no more a Mehra. The daughter reminds us of the son –in –law of the Mehra’s (Manav) who in this century thinks that by ‘allowing’ his wife to work he is a man of today and is professing the concept of an independent woman. The son Mehra (Kabir) is the most common of them all – someone who hates his job and is scared to take the ‘risk’ of following his passion. Delete the cruise, the lovely locales, the super-rich family and these characters sums up almost every other family we see in India.

Dil Dhadakne Do is not my favourite movie of Zoya Akthar, but is definitely a movie to watch out for just to see the way she has dealt with these characters, the amazing narration, the absence of jarring back ground music (which was refreshing), the subtle humor, the even more subtle use of sarcasm, the sea, the adorable Pluto, the fearless Farah and my favorite Sunny!

When it rained




4. Lets place this one here!

What if…..

This according to me is the most dangerous phrase in the world. As much as it leads to you to explore the innumerable possibilities in the world, it also leads you to question everything that happened in your life.

What if Lakshmi had not gone for shopping that day?

What if I had not agreed to baby sit so that Lakshmi could go shopping?

What if I had agreed to baby sit but not let her take the car?

What if Meenakshi had cried a little more like every other time and made her change her decision?

What if she had worn the seat belt?

What if it had not rained so heavily that day making visibility so poor?

What if a Mumbai had shown the so called ‘spirit of Mumbai’ and ensured she reached the hospital on time?

What if the hospital had her blood group available?

What if she had survived a few minutes more just to see Meenakshi and me before her last breath?

What if I had not decided to move out of our house post Lakshmi’s death?

What if I had not requested a lift back home with a stranger from the airport?

What if I had not noticed the same stranger sitting at the window and drinking her tea?

What if Meenakshi had not smiled back at her?

What if the same stranger had not let Meenakshi and me into her life?

What if Meenakshi had not accepted the same stranger as her mother?

What if…………..

The thoughts were just about to wander away when Meenakshi’s giggles brought me back to reality. Mom and daughter came into the room, completely drenched. They seemed happy and in a world of their own. I didn’t feel like disturbing them.

She quickly changed Meenakshi’s dress and gave her to me. She seemed to be not in a mood to change and was longingly looking at the rains outside as if she wanted to go out and get drenched. As soon as my gaze caught hers, she quickly picked her clothes and went to change.

There was a lot of silence between us. But it’s a comfortable silence. A silence we both enjoy. The rains continued.

When it rained


Somewhere between and

It was yet another rainy, in Mumbai. The rains make the city a lot dirtier and disorganized than it is. Ever since the monsoon started travel in the city has been difficult. Half the cabs in Mumbai break down during monsoon and the rest get stuck in the traffic. Yesterday had to forcefully share a cab with someone staying in the same building, because of the non-availability of cabs. The lady didn’t seem quite pleased with my request, but obliged. I probably would have never asked a stranger to give me a lift had Meenakshi not been at home. I wanted to reach home and be with her at the earliest.

Sunday mornings becomes useless during these months. I do not get to do my early morning run or go for play tennis. Now days the baby’s cries wake me up in the mornings. Unlike other kids, Meenakshi wakes up very early in the morning. My mother insisted that I leave Meenakshi with her since she needs mother’s love. After Lakshmi’s death, I did think that it was a reasonable decision and did leave her for a few days with my mother. But then I realized that at the cost of getting a mother’s love from her grandmother, she should never lose out on my love. She does not have a mother and she will have to live with it her whole life. But she does have a father and hence she need not live without him. Though I think my reasoning is logical, I do think I am selfish too. I hate to be alone and she brings in life to the house.

The rains continued stopped for a bit and I was worried about my plants. The heavy rains and strong winds end up spoiling my terrace garden every year. I was taking a quick glance at them from the window when I saw my new neighbor across the window. She seemed to be having her morning coffee sitting at the window still – completely lost. She did look familiar but it took me sometime to realize that she was the one with whom I shared the cab the day before. She did look different then– detached and very un-emotional. She did look lost today but not un –emotional. Our eyes didn’t meet and I was glad. It would have been embarrassing.

The nanny brought Meenakshi to me. She looked fresh, lively and all ready to play with me. As always she started pushing the window and didn’t stop until I opened it. She was a free child and loves fresh air, wind and the rains –very unlike me. Her giggles and cries did attract the neighbor’s attention. And I think their eyes did meet. I saw her smiling at Meenakshi and got surprisingly got a huge smile in return– quite unusual of Meenakshi.

Suddenly I realized that I was very similar to Meenashi as a kid. Used to smile at everyone I meet. I was a happy child and very sociable. After Laskshmi’s death I have been socially very awkward. I just feel that everyone around wants to talk about it and hence withdraw from any kind of general conversations. But every minute I spend with Meenakshi, I revive a part of me I had forgotten or rather have been dormant. Old memories re-emerge fresh and new and in a completely different form. Today she taught me to be socially active, just by a smile of acknowledgement.

As my thoughts wandered away she kissed my nose and looked straight into my eyes as though she is reading my thoughts and will lead me to revive those emotions of the past!

My wonder girl!



Sleeping, watching television, going out with friends occasionally and watching movies (the trailers of which interests me) are things I end up doing over weekends. The first movie I saw in the new city is O Kadhal Kanmani , which I loved. Will soon write about the movie and why I loved it.

This post is about the second one I watched –Piku. One of the major reasons for me to watch the movie was Deepika. There has been a lot of news about her which were not connected with her performances. Two major controversies were with respect to her interview on depression and footage on women empowerment – both of which I loved.

Well, Piku. The posh Delhi that it is set in, the portrayal of a typical Bengali family, the beautiful Deepika Padukone, the super talented Amitabh Bachan and Irfan Khan does form an integral part and brings in a lot of beauty and character to the movie. But all of this does not take away the most beautiful relationship portrays – that of a father –daughter.

The childish and persistent behavior of an aged father and the irritation that causes to the daughter is something that we see in everyday life. It is great that the director chose to show the real side of life. However I would have loved to see the way the two individuals react and manage the situation had they been put in a surrounding which did not have luxuries like driver to take Piku to office, man –servant to look after the father, a spacious house in CR, Delhi, a doctor who comes to home upon a phone call, an office/ business which gives you flexible working hours, a good financial status, relatives who are not judgmental, friends/ colleagues who are understanding.The reaction of the characters will definitely be different, ,may be unpleasant and definitely much more closer to reality.

All said and done, I still love the movie for the unadulterated elements it gives you – be it music, dialogues or life. I wish to see more movies like this.


I have never liked or taken a keen interest in English songs. It’s a friend who introduced me to the limited number of songs that I can recognize. It was during the time of Google /Yahoo chats . The friend used to sent me the names of the songs that he liked and felt I should listen to. One of the first songs that the sent me was a Bob Dylan number (The answer is blowin’ in the wind) and I loved it.

Years later another friend introduced me to this beautiful song -Rise up (Yves Larock). It’s her caller tune till date. I still remember there was a time when other than hearing to her happy voice, hearing the caller tune was an added incentive to call her!

Today when I look back, I realize that the little that I know about English music and the perspectives I have, is all credits to them and a couple of other friends who did the same. They are people with a genuine taste for good music and hence I got a bit of it too. Does this not apply to any environment or any kind of perspectives that one has in life? I have always formulate a perspective based on the exposure I have got on that subject. My perspective may be different from each one of them but the foundation will always decide the range or probabilities of the perspective I can have. Today, my perspective on English music is different from the two friends who introduced them to me, but definitely somewhere X to Z (assuming the first friend’s choice scores an X and the second friend’s an Z).