Going to Peru: There Will Be Pan Flutes

That’s the first thing you need to know. In Peru, you will hear pan flutes. In restaurants, on buses, on shuttles, on boats, on the street, welcoming you at the airport, behind you in the bathroom– there will be pan flutes. So many pan flutes. You will start to learn the songs. Every once in a while you will recognize a Beatles tune. It won’t make you feel any better.

There might be altitude sickness. We started our trip in Puno, which is apparently inches from the sun in terms of altitude, and within a few hours I suffered a crippling nightmare of a headache that lasted for two full days. I didn’t get to see much of Puno outside my hotel room. This means I missed the trip to the gigglefest known as Lake Titicaca. By the end of my second, sleepless, miserable night, I was curled in a ball, shouting, “I have an undiagnosed brain tumor that only this altitude has discovered! I need an MRI!” Poor Jason had to hold the sides of my head together like the Cher to my Rocky Dennis. And then when I said that, he didn’t know what that meant, and I began to cry even harder.

There will be llamas. And alpacas. And you will learn the difference, because everyone will tell you. There might be rain, but that clears up. You might find yourself behind the bar on a train helping the bartender make drinks. You will have to decide just about every meal if you’re ready to try the guinea pig. (I never was.) You will once again get mad at yourself for your lack of Spanish skills. There might be trains. And lots of trains. And sometimes those trains are on tracks that run right by your head while you’re sleeping. You might get into a fight over maps, or lack thereof. You might accidentally find yourself climbing windy ruins while wearing a skirt. You might find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no ability to communicate with anybody in charge but you persevere until you are able to explain all you need is a bottle of red wine and two glasses.

You will feel like you’re very far from home and have been in Peru for half of your life. You will be shocked to find that you — POLISH GIRL — have grown sick of potatoes. Despite the warnings, you will try the chicha (it tastes like warm boozy cornmeal), but you will love the Pisco Sours. You will not like Inka Cola, because you do not enjoy drinking liquid Double Bubble.

But at a certain point you reach Machu Picchu, and it’s truly spectacular and you’re so glad you went and you don’t mind the twelve-hour layover in Lima because the airport has a hotel and they give you more Pisco Sours and invite you to their holiday party and you watch girls gathering at the arrivals gate because one of the Backstreet Boys is joining Britney on her tour, which means that Britney isn’t far from where you are even when you feel very far away. Which is kind of the relationship we all have with Britney, I think.

Anyway, Peru was beautiful. I took a lot of pictures. I put a small amount of them here.

Leave a Reply

Comments (


  1. Katie

    I lived in Peru for a while and this totally brought me back. I heard a great pan flute rendition of Hotel California one day that was probably my favorite!

  2. Jane

    So what is the difference between alpacas and llamas? They are both cute!

  3. Sarah C

    OMG – yes. I was in Peru a few years ago. It’s beautiful and other-worldly and there is so much to see (I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu which is one of the best things I’ve ever done) but between the altitude and the god.damn. potatoes I basically had to stop eating for days.

    And as I recall the pan flute song of choice is Flight of the Condor?

  4. Brett

    I’ve long wanted to see Peru. Even set a script there (partially in the flimsy and childishly creative hope that if the script sold maybe I’d get to go see the damned place).

    And I like potatoes just fine, so I’m set.

  5. Joanna L. Castillo

    Can’t believe I just now saw that you’d been to Peru! Been to Machu Picchu 3 times. It was wonderful each time. I lived in La Paz, Bolivia, for almost 5 years and you get used to the altitude…so much so that I used to get sick coming back to the lower altitudes. Landing at the airport in Miami, my lungs would ache from all the heavy air pressure. Wacky.