Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Cusco, Machu Picchu, Puno and Lake Titicaca!
Hey hey hey! We're baaaaack at it! Why Peru? Well, one night Matt and I sat down and separately wrote out a list of places we wanted to visit. After reviewing each other's list, Peru was among the places on both of our lists. We checked the time of year and narrowed down the places that are best visited in June and others places best visited in the winter. Fast forward a month later, after signing up with a company that sends free emails with crazy cheap flight alerts, we caught the travel bug SUPER FAST. It was maybe 10:00AM on a Saturday when we received an email with cheap flights to Peru. After some quick, thorough (and if you know me - I mean THOROUGH) research, we had two tickets booked to Peru by noon that same day. So, here we are! Preparing to immerse ourselves in a new culture, ready to try new foods and excited to learn about the history of the Incans. And if you haven't looked up Machu Picchu - do it now! Follow along and enjoy the journey!
GETTING TO PERU: 6/13
Planes, trains and automobiles - literally! We drove to Old Saybrook, CT to take the Amtrak train to South Station in Boston to catch our flight at Boston Logan - phewf! The train ride was beautiful and very comfortable, especially the beginning along Connecticut's shoreline. As a last-minute decision, we decided our bags were too heavy and that we likely overpacked out of comfort and decided to ship home quite a few articles of clothing in Boston before getting to the airport. Both flights went well and were on time with not much turbulence at all! We landed in Panama City for our connector flight to Peru with a half hour to get to our next flight who was announcing LAST CALL as we boarded (another phewf!) With Panama City (and Peru) an hour behind us, we started to feel a little sleepy on the plane. Unfortunately Matt wasn't able to sleep much, though he totally benefitted from the free movies and games on the screen behind each seat. Oh, and me? I was drooling with my neck kinked against the wall. But trust... I was well aware and wide awake once we landed because noone was going to trick me into a sketchy cab ride. After landing in Lima (!!) at 1:00AM we had to quickly catch a cab. Now, I read probably way too much about visiting Peru, with Lima in the forefront considering it was our first destination. And I read a lot about people posing as fake taxi drivers, fake Uber drivers and how they will charge wayyyy too much for a ride across town. Once we stepped foot outside (at 1:00AM, mind you) we were bombarded with men asking us if we needed a taxi or were looking for an Uber (I don't think they realize how Uber works - it's an app for goodness sake!) After some stress, pressure and light tension... we finally found our Uber driver who was parked elsewhere but walking around looking for us. Not going to lie... I was sketched out until Matt pulled up the driver's profile and he was legitimate - but you never know! We got to our lovely Airbnb around 2:00AM (3:00AM Connecticut time!) and found ourselves in the bed within minutes.
Day ONE: 6/14
holy moly... we had a full day of exploring, eating, PARASAILING (whuuuut) and taking our time throughout it all. After traveling at full speed throughout Europe, we are loving the time we can take throughout this trip. We walked downtown Miraflores (the area of Lima that we stayed in) and explored all along it's coastline. Similar to our travels along Cali's coast, this Pacific Coast city is misty, cool and temperate. This is Peru's winter. And let me tell you - if this is as bad as it gets I will take it!! There are buildings, stairwells and stores that are all open to the sky and any weather that comes its way because there is hardly any precipitation... besides last night that is (way to make me a liar, Lima.) However, Lima is the second largest city in South America and it is situated in a desert. That means very minimal water waste and very few preparations for rain. The coast line juts out hundreds of feet above sea level as it drops down to the shore below. We walked down to the bottom and Matt said the water was surprisingly not as cold as we expected. We watched paragliders above us with complete awe. How freaking scary and amazing is that? People gliding above us with nothing but a parachute above them catching the air currents coming off the Pacific Ocean. We sit down for a moment to watch people hop off the ledge, float around the coastline touring the edges of Lima, and returning safely within ten minutes. Matt is staring, contemplating. He's going to do it. I can see it in his face, there is a mix of apprehension and a never ending list of excuses that he knows, in the end, are all bullshit. So he decides... He gets up, walks over and signs over his life. Well, not quite. But he might as well have! I stood there a slightly nervous wreck as I watched my somewhat nervous boyfriend (the same boyfriend who is kinda sorta afraid of heights) about to parasail with some stranger from Lima. He hops off, glides into the distance and I stood in the same spot waiting for that dude to come back ASAP. And I was so happy when he did. And so was he! He freaking loved it. And I was so so proud and happy that he just went for it. How crazy! We grabbed lunch at a place that didn't speak a lick of English (score) and was filled with locals (double score). We had the most delicious ceviche (a famous dish in Lima) and arroz con pollo (because yes it was one of the only things we knew on the menu okay?) followed by a tour of Huaca Pucllana, an ancient abode clay pyramid nearby. A quick break at 'home' and we grabbed dinner later on at a Peruvian restaurant that we thought was authentic only to find out too late that most of the guests were speaking English (lame) and the menu came in English (double lame)... and Eminem was on the radio. Oh well, it was delicious but it certainly didn't beat El Fogon.
DAY TWO: 6/15
Woke up in Lima, fell asleep in Arequipa! After a restful night’s sleep in our Airbnb, we woke up to shower and pack up for the next move. Matt ventured out to grab himself a coffee while I finished up getting ready. He came home and said with a grin, “my Dad used to do the same thing on our family trips… he’d go out for a walk by himself to grab a coffee or beer.” Like father, like son (-: (HI BRUCEY!!). Anyways, we grabbed breakfast at a place recommended by our Airbnb host and it was soooo delicious (Matt used some profanity to describe that as I type, I’m going to go with ‘so’ baha) before making a new friend, Johnny. He was our Uber driver to the airport and he knew some English. Him and Matt talked the whole way, about their lives, families and our travels. After only a few misunderstandings and some translation, Johnny wanted to be friends with Matt on Facebook – so they did! He wants Matt and him to chat using Messenger to practice their English/Spanish together. How fun!! He was such a good guy and we wish him the best with him and his baby boy! Our flight to Arequipa overlooked the Andes almost the entire way (drool) and had a little turbulence, but nothing intolerable. Arequipa is sooooo gorgeous. The second largest city in Peru and it is situated 8,000 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by thee volcanoes and has mountainous views at every horizon. The buildings are all white as they were built using volcanic stone. The sun goes down early here, around 5:30, so we walked the area as soon as we arrived at our hostel. The rooftop lounge had a beautiful 360 view of the city and all it’s lights. Some nighttime exploring brought us to around 10:00PM where we cuddled up and enjoyed the live music playing outside our room. Tomorrow – we see the town in daylight!
DAY THREE: 6/16
Our full day in Arequipa! We walked to a restaurant for lunch as recommended by our hostel host. The air was filled with exciting energy today – Peru was facing Denmark in futbol. A soundtrack of crowds cheering and booing echoed throughout our walk to lunch. We accidentally walked into the restaurant’s entire workforce eating together at a long table while watching the game before the restaurant had even opened! Matt had guinea pig for lunch but I could only stomach a bite. Matt, however, ate the whole thing! He’s a beast! Some observations from our walk - we’re starting to learn the ways of the roads here – which I have yet to mention are a little crazy! We’ve taken quite a few Ubers and most of the time we have had to turn our heads sideways to avoid our nerves taking over as these cars nearly scratch each other as they merge, accelerate and brake. Also, fun fact, intersections barely have stop signs. So cars go through and basically whoever goes through first wins. We’ve seen so many near accidents but they never happen! Taxis have numerous kinds of beeps that we lost count. We think it’s their code for telling other cars that they’re coming through. And pedestrians know this. So they just walk into the road at any moment knowing cars will stop eventually. It’s insane at times – but guess what? It works! We’ve said so many times this trip how there are so many less rules here. Dogs run freely off their leash in Lima, airport security is a less strict than the US. Mind you, some things are better when regulated. But we’re definitely noticing how people mind their own here for sure. We’ve also noticed how innovative the locals are when working on streets, homes, etc. They may not have the resources or technological advancements yet that expedite their working process, but that certainly doesn’t stop them from working. We spent the afternoon planning our trip to Colca Canyon tomorrow and after some overthinking and overwhelming options (for those that know me know this can be a real problem of mine...it's actually awful), Matt brought me down to Earth and reminded me we’re going to have a good time no matter what happens, because we have each other. And he is SO, so right. We decided to have dinner nearby and search the local shopping plaza for alpaca sweaters (no luck). But we love it here. Arequipa has beautiful mountain air, incredible views and plenty of pedestrian friendly areas to explore. Tomorrow we take off very early (3AM!) to start our next adventure – Colca Canyon!
DAY FOUR: 6/17
Today began with a 2:40AM wake up call. No, that is correct… 2:40AM! We were picked up at our hostel in a 22-passenger van to venture to Colca Canyon. I popped some Dramamine immediately after waking up because I was not risking motion sickness for a four hour ride through the Andes. Surprisingly, the ride was not bad at all. Most passengers, Matt and I included, slept lightly for the first hour or two. But once that sun came up, I could not stop staring out the window. The views are insane… snowcapped mountain tops surround us as we wind along the paved roads. The sun is coming up and we’re watching shadows form and the cool blue morning light turn warm. The frost on our van is slowly starting to thaw. Our first stop around 6:30AM was in a little town about an hour from our final destination where the locals cooked breakfast. Matt and I opted for our own bars and such and while the rest of the group ate, we walked the farm that this little shack was situated. We introduced ourselves to the locals and admired their land and farm animals. We quickly used the out houses and jumped back in the van to the next stop – Cruz Del Candor. This area of Colca Canyon is home to the candors that use thermal winds to soar from the depths of the canyon to the tops of the mountains. At this point, we are over 10,000ft above sea level and neither Matt nor I are experiencing any real signs of altitude sickness – something I definitely researched too much about and worried incessantly about. Fingers crossed this acclimates us for the rest of our high altitude trip! We arrived at a tiny little mountain town called Cabanaconde where we’ll be staying the night. This is definitely the most remote we have ever been and it’s wonderful. There are no paved roads, no clothing stores and barely any access to WiFi. It’s super chilly in the shadows and super hot in the sun – and the sun is so strong. But we honestly love it. We chatted with a girl traveling alone for months on end from the Nederlands. We walked around the town’s center consisting of a slow-trickle fountain and church and ventured to the town’s outskirts where locals are farming, putting their clothes out on a clothes line and walking donkeys. Dogs run stray and will follow/lead the way whenever they catch your attention. It was only around 2 and we were ready to sleep. But we pushed through and went a local spot where the bottom floor is a money exchange and the top floor serves limited food and coffee while futbol plays on the TV. Locals sit around and cheer on their country while Matt and I utilize their WiFi for the blog. Between the 3AM van pick-up, sharp mountain turns, high altitudes and minimal ‘entertainment’ I conjured up ideas on how I thought today would be. But today was epic. The views, the weather and the rustic way people live… They don’t just survive, they thrive. They use their land for food, clothes and entertainment. And we love being immersed in it all.
DAY FIVE: 6/18
We woke up today with one plan and one plan only – to trek down Colca Canyon. Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world next to Tibet and is 11,400 ft. deep! The Grand Canyon is the fourth deepest in the world. In the town we’re staying in, Cabanaconde, we start at an elevation of 10,784 feet and will hike down to an elevation of 6,689 feet. That means on our way up from the canyon’s base, where the Colca River runs, to the top of the canyon we will have an elevation gain of 3,895 feet. Mind you, we are already over 11,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains. In Connecticut, we are around 39 feet above sea level – so our bodies are already working way harder than normal to attain the level of blood oxygen that we need. Luckily neither of us experienced any real side effects from the altitude. We started our independent trek at around 8:00AM and the views are incredible. But WOW is it steep. We were definitely more confident going down than we were coming up. The hostal owner told us it would take 2.5 hours down and 3.5 hours back up and that it can be done in one day but its most popular to do it in two. But we like a challenge (and to be tortured apparently!) so we decided to do it all in one day. It only took us two hours before we were at the depths of the canyon dipping our toes in the Colca River. We took some pictures, stared up at the crazy cliffs above us and began our ascent back to the top of the canyon. Remember – we are about to gain 3,895 feet while starting at over 6,000 feet above sea level and then ending at around 11,000 feet above sea level. The closer we got to the top, the thinner the air. And oh my goodness… did we FEEL IT. I don’t think either of us have done anything as exhausting in our lives. We encouraged each other the entire way and took so many breaks - it was a serious challenge. Not only is it a constant… and I mean genuinely constant… incline the entire way, but the afternoon sun was super strong and the dry, hot mountain air was beating on us the entire way. We didn’t speak of our reservations any part of the hike because we both knew we didn’t have much of a choice but to do this to the end. After it was all said and done, we admitted to having some serious doubts on whether we were going to make it or have to turn around and stay at the oasis overnight (there were bungalows you could sleep at). We made it to the top in about 4.5 hours, an hour longer than what is typical of the locals. I nearly cried of joy and exhaustion after reaching the top! As we were hiking, we kept looking up at the massive incline above us guessing where we thought was the end. Come to find out, the highest point we could see was in fact our ending point. Our town is surrounded by mountains so we had wishful thinking that those mountain tops we were seeing were in the distance. An experience like today’s really puts you into a different mindset. You are only focusing on moving forward, steadying your breathing and watching your footing. We sipped, gulped and chugged water when we needed to and we paused, sat and collapsed when we needed to as well. It was a rough day that was so tough on both our lungs and our bodies, but we were so proud of ourselves and each other for accomplishing it together. We knew throughout the whole thing that we had each other and that allowed us to really channel some serious encouragement and positivity that brought us to that top. It was crazy painful and intense, but we loved it and will definitely remember it for years and years. Oh and a side note (!!) today happened to mark the 6th anniversary when Matt and I had our very first date! I don’t think either of us could have ever expected a date quite like this.
DAY SIX: 6/19
Ay dios mio. I think I woke up 50 years older than I am. Oh wait, no no… that’s just how my body feels. I have never, EVER, in all my years of sports and religious gym days have ever felt a kind of sore that I feel today. I failed to mention in yesterday’s post the string of events that happened after we showered and began to unwind last night post-hike. Matt had a series of cramping episodes – like BAD ones. He must have been seriously dehydrated (though he is prone to leg cramps, etc. whereas I am not) and the poor guy was hunched over with first inner thigh cramps, then foot cramps, then upper back cramps and the grand finale was a stomach cramp that literally created a visible bump on his abdomen. After downing water, Gaterade, Advil and some essential oil (which probably did nothing it just smells lovely), they finally subsided. For goodness sake - Matt and I hiked Mount Washington a few years back and we weren’t half as sore as we are today! It is difficult for both of us to stand, to get out of bed, to walk down to breakfast, to step down off the sidewalk! I’m not kidding! It’s almost embarrassing how we wince at every move. Our legs are dead. Shot. Done. They are in need of a serious massage or rest. But we don’t have that option and we’re okay with it. Today we leave the sleepy desolate mountain town of Cabanaconde for Arequipa where we’ll stay another night and take off early for Cusco! We took a van with two other couples and our driver Raul and stopped at some viewpoints along the way. The twists and turns and Raul’s speed were extremely nerve racking. Some areas nearly dropped right off. And let’s just say that I am very glad to be sitting in our hotel in Arequipa typing today’s summary for you. We grabbed dinner at a reasonable hour and are relaxing our sorry bodies for the remainder of the night.
DAY SEVEN: 6/20
Yay sinus infection! If the sore muscles weren’t enough to make me want to curl up under warm blankets and rest, I have since acquired some form of a sinus infection where my face hurts, my nose is stuffed and my throat feels like we’re in… well, a desert! Because we are! Matt had a sore throat yesterday as did I, but we assumed it was from hiking and breathing in such tough conditions. Turns out he’s feeling much better, but I’m definitely battling something. We woke up at the crack of dawn to catch an early flight to Cusco! Flight was short with lots of leg room and an empty to seat to our left (score!). Matt jammed out to some tunes provided by the flight and we flew over mountains, volcanoes and eventually came across Cusco. The city is 11,000 feet above sea level and is the place to go when you want to see Machu Picchu. After a tough time finding our Airbnb, we finally settled in and walked the city for goods, food and sights. A little afternoon hiccup with my fall classes registration not working forced us to stay home for a few hours but after it was all said and e, we ventured out into the chilly night to grab dinner. Cusco is celebrating Inti Raymi which is the Incan Festival of the Sun. The city center, whose ground is made of cobblestone and very reminiscent of old European cities we’ve visited, is filled with pedestrians and blocked from any vehicles. We happen to stumble upon the nightly dancing and praising as we left the restaurant. We stared in awe – it was almost tear-jerking how beautiful and symbolic the lines of dances were and how spiritual the people were. This isn’t something I have ever seen in the United States. There is a certain communal passion and cultural resemblance that is missing from our country. Whenever I see cultures practice dance in a spiritual way, I get goosebumps. It’s so heartfelt and rooted in history. People of all ages participated, groups of women, groups of young men, while flutes and drums played a mesmerizing song that you would remember immediately after hearing. The rituals and dancing commenced after about 15 minutes and they began their prayers. After some much needed convincing from Matt (some would say I’m stubborn), I bought a down jacket because I definitely did not prepare for the temperatures here. Definitely the first (and hopefully only!) time I have bought a winter jacket in June. It was due to reach 39 overnight – Fahrenheit! The highs are barely high and the winds are real. After a couple of super-hot showers and snuggling under some heavy alpaca blankets, we planned to rest without an alarm for the first time all trip!
DAY EIGHT: 6/21
Woke up feeling like poop! Almost instantly I had this voice in my head telling me how lame this is that I don’t feel well enough to do things on our trip. I always heard of people getting colds while traveling but it wasn’t ever me. But it turns out, hiking at high altitudes, under crazy weather changes in a country full of dusty roads, dry air and wood smoke might make you susceptible to a sinus infection – so here we are! But Matt reminded me of something that helped me accept it all – we have nothing planned, literally not even tomorrow night’s sleeping accommodations! And we have lots of time to do the one last thing we came here to do. Sometimes I forget that this isn’t as much of a vacation as it is a travel opportunity. We are not relaxing every day. We’re enjoying our days, but we’re also doing a lot with less sleep than usual and different eating patterns. Matt insisted he is fine exploring on his own for a bit… okay okay, maybe it was me insisting that I was fine with him going because we all know how fun it is to explore a new place on your own! So I stayed in bed almost all day under the heavy, warm blankets with a heaping pile of used tissues and nose drops to my left and with chap stick and a 4-pack of clean tissues to my right. Matt checked out Sacsayhuaman (pronounced sexy woman!) which is an ancient ruins and historical site way above the city on a hill. He took pictures with llamas (lol!) and came home with a little gift to cheer me up. He is the sweetest, most patient man EVER. Ever… Peru is playing France today in soccer and I can hear roars and cheers from our room. He texted me pictures of his food and view as he joined locals at a nearby bar to watch the game. I finally got my butt out of bed and we had a delicious dinner and watched the second night of the Festival of the Sun celebration. We will be here for the next few days and hopefully get to Machu Picchu very soon!
DAY NINE: 6/22
Woke up feeling a little better today but definitely still fighting some sinus pressure and a cough. We explored this crazy busy market called San Pedro. It is streets and streets lined with all kinds of food goods. One street was strictly dedicated to selling raw meats while others were just for vegetables and grains. This is where all of the locals purchase their raw materials to cook. All the kinds of grains and fruits you can think of! It was insane and super busy with locals flooding the streets. Pedestrians run that area! We walked to where Matt explored yesterday and grabbed some gifts along the way. The weather is so unpredictable – it’s hot and you find yourself sweating only to cool off in the shade and get goosebumps and put your winter jacket back on. You can never dress appropriately in Cusco – it’s insane! We shopped around and planned our trip to Machu Picchu! Booked the train ticket to leave Cusco and booked an Airbnb room for a few nights while we leave our bags there to travel lightly to Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu. We stopped at a nearby market of clothes and you guessed it - llamas! Maybe you didn't guess it... but the pics say it all. They're so cute! We dropped our bags off at our cheap Airbnb and walked back to our hotel for our early(ish) start tomorrow.
day TEN: 6/23
An early start today but we’re traveling light so it’s fine! We caught an Uber (which are just savvy taxi drivers on the app learning the many ways to acquire riders) and headed to Poroy train station, a 20 minute ride up in elevation from the city center. Our train ride to Aguas Calientes takes about 3 and a half hours and winds through the mountainous terrain. But the best part? It has huge glass windows and a partially glass ceiling allowing us to view everything around us as we move. Although we were assigned seats which were facing the opposite direction of where we were moving, there were so few people on our cart that we were able to sit wherever we wanted (which was great for me considering I get motion sickness when sitting backwards!) yay. The ride included a ‘free’ drink and snack which was definitely appreciated considering we didn’t allocate the time from breakfast. My cold was bothering me, so within minutes I was knocked out looking super cute with my mouth agape while Matt played Solitaire with actual cards (old school, son!). We had only one stop in Ollyantatambo and picked up a few passengers before our final destination. Aguas Calientes is SO COOL. It’s this developed little town full of places to eat, shop and sit. A town divided by the Vilcanota River, it is the passageway to Machu Picchu and has trains coming in and out all day. It is surrounded by beautiful rugged mountains and you’re either walking up or down – no in between! There are a few bridges that connect the two sides and it also has a big market full of the many good we’ve seen time and time again. We gave ourselves plenty of time to explore and make the most of our time here after purchasing our bus tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Machu Picchu. We grabbed lunch at a place recommended by our hotel host and walked all of the town until dark before settling in and watching the one English channel (it had 'Crazy, Stupid Love' on so SCORE!).
day ELEVEN: 6/24
BEEP BEEP BEEP! It’s 5:00AM, our room is dark and we were both awoken in the middle of a deep sleep. Matt was FOOLISHLY considering sleeping in a bit longer but HELLO – we are about to go to Machu Picchu! We were awake, dressed, packed up and heading to the bus by 5:30AM. Machu Picchu opens at 6AM and by the time we were headed up that way, tons of other buses had already arrived and unloaded their passengers. The road to Machu Picchu has sharp, narrow turns and these buses are not for the faint of heart. The best thing to do besides stare down your death while looking over the steep edge at the town below is to close. Your. Eyes. And let go. We arrived to a huge mass of people (unfortunately) also waiting to get in and our first thing was to see the Incan city before our very eyes. We hiked as far up as we could before reaching the overlook that provided epic, early morning views of this old citadel. Most people stayed in that area and began their exploration of the city, whereas Matt and I turned a different route and walked the mountainous path to the Sun Gate. Backpackers from the 2-4 day trek were making their way down as we caught the first rays of the day on our ascent up. We walked all the way until the path turned around the mountain and lost it’s view of the old city. We snapped some early morning light pics and headed back to explore the rest of the land. This area is insane – the buildings are made entirely of stone and are carved to wonderfully into blocks that are seamlessly put together. Structures of this kind would be impressive in modern day, but the fact that the Incans built this so many years ago is insane. The very size of these stones are incredible. Around 50% of the areas construction time was dedicated to the foundation and draining systems. Years later, around 300 Spaniards came in and wiped the community away and left nothing but the structures they built. It was filled with tourists by 9:00AM and we found ourselves making our way to its exit. We explored all the areas, took our time and paused to revel at its massiveness. Many people rushed through, were taking annoying selfies at every corner and many thought it was okay to stop for a breath at the top of any staircase (no.). Matt agreed, these people were tourists hiking, not hikers touring the area. And we could tell. But we were so glad we arrived early to see the gorgeous morning light (I was geeking out at its warm hue and shadows) and relaxed the rest of the day before our train ride back to Cusco later in the afternoon. Matt made friends with some locals partaking in a huatia, or an ancient method of cooking where you build an oven into the ground using hot coals and place the raw foods inside and they cook/steam/smoke for a while. He bought his two amigos, Victor and Phoelix, a grande beer and was one of the first to try the potatoes as they were ready. It was so sweet and they loved how interested Matt was in their traditional method of cooking, especially midday in the middle of all of these hostels and gift shops! (Photos from the huatia in next post!)
DAY TWELVE: 6/25
Today was a relaxing day (aka a slow day (: ). We switched Airbnb locations, ate all day and walked the city some more. The city always has people to watch, things to see, so that’s what we did – we relaxed! For the first time almost all trip, the sun was out all day and it was temperate. No jacket needed for most of the day. We relaxed midday at our cozy comfy hotel room (shoutout to Montesinos!) Had some lovely, long hot showers (soooo needed considering last night the water was shutoff after 8PM! LOL) and relaxed the rest of the day. For our last night here, we had dinner at a nearby restaurant that we ate at a few months ago and the food was delicious as usual (Inka Grill). Tomorrow, we take off for Puno! (Photos are from the previous day's huati that Matt photographed and took part! Left the camera at home today.)
day thirteen: 6/26
A relaxing day in Cusco! Had complimentary breakfast at our Airbnb/hotel before checking out, enjoyed ANOTHER round of hot showers because this place had the best hot shower in all of Peru (or at least compared to what we had been receiving) and packed the rest of our things for the remaining days. For the first time all trip, we have the rest of our trip planned out. Hotels, flights and all! Mind you, we only have 5 days left – but still! Feels good to be sort of planned. We grabbed a quick bite to eat for lunch at a place where the locals eat and grabbed a taxi to the airport. With plenty of time to spare, we checked in and made our way to the gate. Rut row – our flight isn’t leaving out of that gate. In fact, we were supposed to be boarding at the time the gate number changed on the screen. Suddenly we have no gate to board from and no way of finding out what to do next. After an hour’s delay and some much confusion shared amongst ourselves and the surrounding crowd, we finally loaded onto a half-full plane to Puno. Matt and I had no one to our sides, in front of us or in back of us. In fact, the back 6-8 rows were completely empty! The ride was a bit turbulent but the view of Lake Titicaca as we flew over Juliaca was beautiful. After an hour-long drive consisting of mostly this huge, flat, straight road that lead us into Puno, we arrived at our lovely Airbnb overlooking the city up on a hill. We ate at a nearby restaurant and walked the city at night. The sun went down around 5:15PM! It was dark before we could see Lake Titicaca in person. But tomorrow – we tour!
day fourteen: 6/27
Another early morning! The sun was beaming through our window over Lake Titicaca as we awoke around 6:30 today. We hopped into our day clothes, packed up our backpacks and waited outside for a shuttle van to bring us down to the lake for our tour of the floating islands of Uros and the island of Tequile. The driver was super friendly and made us feel very comfortable about the trip ahead. We joined about 20 others on a boat with an upper deck to make our way to Uros. We stopped and saw how these floating islands are actually floating (!!) and how they’re built and maintained. They use reeds from the lake as the floor base of the island and also as the materials to build their homes. It is insane how innovative they are with these reed material. They make boats (that we were able to ride on for about 15 minutes) and trinkets and such. We could feel the island bed move as we walked across it – and these people live here! So crazy. On our little ride on the reed boat, Matt helped steer and paddle as the woman took a break to collect some money. We ventured next to the island of Tequile for an intermediate hike, lunch made by the locals and a walk around the center before departing back to the mainland. The ride to the Uros was about 20 minutes from Puno and the ride to Tequile from Uros was about an hour and a half (and that was the fast boat!) Lake Titicaca is insanely big. When looking around you, it feels like you’re on the ocean (but much smoother of a ride). It is 60% owned by Peru and 40% owned by Bolivia. The tour guide joked that the Titi is for Peru and the Caca is for Bolivia (silly man). Once docked, we walked to eat where some locals were and grabbed ice cream. A walk to a nearby overlook to marvel at the city below as it meshes into the lake while the full moon illuminates the sky was the perfect way to view the city. Tomorrow, we go back to Lima!
day fifteen: 6/28
Morning! We grabbed some meat and salsa pastries at a nearby street stand and ate them in the city center. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but there are so many stray dogs in Peru! In Puno, they are all you can hear at night and in the early morning… barking away. But this morning, the sweetest, shy and probably once-abused dog approached us as we snacked. He looked part Labrador, his tail tucked between his legs and clearly underweight. Matt went back to the food stand and bought a few more pastries to share with the poor pup. He wouldn’t get close to us but we’d throw or place the food down and he’d approach with extreme caution before downing the bite. After our sad farewell with that cutie, we took an hour’s drive back to the airport for our final stop in Peru – back to Lima! Our flight takes off super early Saturday morning, so tonight will be our last night of accommodations in Peru. We’re staying in Barranco this time, a region of Lima known for its art scene and bohemian feel with the old mansions. We were starving and came across a few issues where restaurants closed midday between the country’s typical lunch and dinner hour (3-7). But we finally grabbed some ceviche and jalea (fried fish and seafood) before venturing along the water to see that crazy view of the ocean below. The entire coast of Lima has a huge drop off similar to Block Island or the Cliffs of Moher, but not as high. There is black netting that holds the loose ground back in case of movement or slide. It’s kind of scary to be honest, but at night the foggy coastline is illuminated by the city lights as we walk to grab a drink and snack and it’s absolutely stunning. Nighttime walks along the coast like tonight’s remind us so much of Califorinia’s foggy, damp coast and New Orleans steamy seaside city. There is so much Spanish influence in the architecture and so many palm trees it could be hard to tell the difference through a photo. Speaking of which! Didn’t bring my camera along today as it gets dark early and we landed midday, so tomorrow you will see for yourself!
day sixteen: 6/29
Our last day in Peru! It’s so, so bittersweet. We’re excited to see Nouji and be home in our own bed and eat familiar food. But this place was awesome. We had such a great time. We saw parts of humanity that we loved. We saw people live a way completely different than what we’re used to and it really opened our eyes in questioning what is right and what is wrong. Is there a ‘better’ way to live? Is having so many amenities, comfort and distractions such a good thing? We can’t honestly say. We saw families working together. We saw people smiling and laughing with worn clothes, dirty shoes and full bellies. The ironic part? We were most annoyed or irritated or disappointed in humanity when tourists were involved. Yes, we are tourists, too. But we try to be very conscientious of how our actions are perceived by others and how our attitudes are taken. We try to be so grateful, so humble and most of all, patient. We talk with locals, ate like locals, we smiled, we moved out of the way, we talked quietly in public settings. And we loved being here. We loved having our eyes opened to such a simpler way of life. Cabanaconde was our favorite spot because we saw people living farm life amongst the mountains and valuing things we value ourselves. We saw people valuing family, respect and relationships over material bullshit. Our culture is rife with status, imagery and materialism that we lose sight of the basics in life. Good food, family, outdoor life, animals and companionship… these are things we saw valued here. And we’re sad to say goodbye! We explored Barranco all day today and took our time knowing we have literally all day to do whatever we wanted. Our flight is at 4AM and we are sleeping in the airport tonight like the cool kids we are. We gave ourselves a good laugh at that thought, us sleeping in the airport. We cracked up after I said, “it’s good we’re doing this now, sleeping in the airport, while we don’t have kids”… as if it’s some sort of desirable experience that would otherwise be jeopardized by children. Yeah, we’re silly. Like Matt just said, “it’s more of an… experiment… than an experience.” Well, I guess we’ll see how it goes! (:
LEAVING PERU: 6/30
We spent the night in the waiting rooms and benches of Lima's airport. Although it seemed smart in hindsight to save a buck, we probably could have used the sleep! Who knew airport benches weren't the most comfortable? Our phone alarms went off at 3AM to get our butts moving and ready to board our 4Am flight (while we're young, am I right!?) This trip was more than we could have expected... it was dangerous, trying, risky and tiring.... but those are the kind of trips that make memories and make it all worth while. We loved Cabanaconde, loved seeing a culture so different from our own and loved seeing areas thrive with their own ways of living. This is a trip for the books and one that we will reminisce on for years to come. Everything here is so unique - the food, the people, the land and the culture...all so rooted in their indigenous roots and so true to their ideals. We'll miss the idiocentric car alarms, sights and sounds... but we're happy to get back to showers, warmth and our kitty. Until next time, Peru... Adios!