Peru is blessed with more than its fair share of natural splendor. There are 3 distinct ecological regions of the country: the desert coast, the mountainous highlands, and the Amazon Jungle. My personal experience can only speak to the breathtaking beauty of the first two. In the desert, I first visited Huacachina; it is an oasis straight out of a Hollywood film. The massive dunes surrounding the water and palm trees are used for sand-boarding, an experience unlike any other. My next visit was the Islas Ballestas, which are commonly called the “Poor man’s Galapagos Islands.” Birds filled the sky above the rocky and photogenic crags of the islands. Moving inland, I have experienced the beauty of Puno and Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca has an area of 3,200 square miles and is over 12,500 feet above sea level. It is an incredible sight to see such a large freshwater lake surrounded by mountains. Because of the altitude, clouds barely hover over the lake and often touch the peaks of the surrounding mountains. The culminating and most significant of my outdoor experiences was the Inca Trail, the iconic 4 day trek to Machu Picchu. Around every turn and through every pass, my gasps for air were accompanied by gasps of wonder and awe. Paired with nature’s magnificence were intact Incan Ruins that were never found and destroyed by the Spanish. These ruins somehow feel more authentic and pure than those near Cuzco, for there are few people and the preservation is superior. Of course, I must mention the natural and man-made beauty of Machu Picchu, Peru’s own wonder of the world.
The Peruvian government acknowledges the ecological and archaeological riches within its borders, and therefore has taken a great deal of caution to preserve them. However, in Peruvian daily life environmental cautiousness is often not a concern. In the towns surrounding Cuzco, it is common for trash to be strewn throughout the land and the streets. When only organic materials were consumed in these towns there were less problems with this habit, but the commonality of plastic and glass became difficult. Instead of using trash bins like in the US, people in Cuzco leave uncontained trash out by the street. When I was engulfed by the black fumes of a bus while waiting to cross the street, it literally hit me that vehicle pollution is also a significant problem. There are not any enforced regulations about vehicle pollution here. The most commonly practiced environmentally friendly habit I have witnessed in the city is the use of public transport; that is something we could often use more of in the U.S. Even if the vehicles are dirty, there are less of them on the road than there would be if people all drove themselves. The people will need more education about environmental concerns before the populated areas can match cleanliness of the more well-known tourist attractions.