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Peru: Day 13 and 14

As I write this, I’m sitting at a restaurant in MiraFlores, about 45 minutes from the Lima Airport. I flew in this afternoon, arriving around 3:30. My flight back to the states (fly through Houston then back to Chicago) is not until 1am, so instead of sitting at the airport I decided to get out and find the best ceviche I could. Several people in Puno told me to go to MiraFlores, so here I am, at a restaurant called Punto Azul. 

Yesterday was absolutely fantastic. The bus picked me up at my hotel at exactly 7 and we headed to the port to load the boat for the Lake Titicaca tour. I decided on a one day tour of the Uros Islands and Taquile Island. There are lots of these tours available, and you can go just about anywhere to book it. I would have preferred an overnight, or even staying on the island, but I was out of time! 

Seriously perfect day for the trip. The tour guide was awesome and I learned a lot about how the Uros people live and how the island was built. Really very cool how they built it and to stand on it. We got to sit in one of the houses and really just learned a lot about their culture. 

This is one of the women who demonstrated how they built the island, using props!! The guide translated for her, as they don’t speak Spanish but another language. It’s similar, but has its differences. 

Check out more about the Uru people and Uros Islands here:

Uros and Taquile

They sell their works… jewelry, textiles, and pottery… so I bought a few things. Everything goes to the families that live on the particular island, so it felt good to support that. 

Next we took what they call their Mercedes Benz over to the other side of the island where you can get a coffee or pastry and get your passport stamped, which was kind of cool. This is the Benz, which costs 10 soles to ride. At one point I helped row and it was SO HARD! Not like rowing a canoe, this was FOR REAL. I don’t know how they were doing it, but the woman took back over once she realized I wasn’t helping the cause (which was my intent but that went majorly south, lol). 

Anyway, next was Taquile Island which was really cool. Of all of the things I’ve experienced on this trip, I learned a lot here. For example, did you know that the word textile comes from text and originated from using cloth, etc. to tell stories? Never knew that. It was really interesting to see all of the different kinds of hats and belts, etc. that all represented something (married, single, having authority, etc.) and told a story through their images. No one belt is the same and each tells a unique story. Super interesting stuff!

Next was lunch. Traditional Peruvian lunch of quinoa soup and grilled trout (very fresh) with rice and vegetables. And Peruvian beer! It was very good. During lunch we learned about how they use the herbs to create a paste that they add water to to create shampoo. I served as a volunteer to test it on my hair. It was no herbal essences “yes, yes, yes!” experience even though our guide wanted it to be (he kept calling it the sexy shampoo, haha), but alas, I believe them I guess. 🙂 Anyway, the larger point is that they live off the land… They get everything they need right there. 

Finally, the boat ride back. Since most people got their views and pics on the top deck on the way, I guess they were done so I was basically the only one up there the entire ride back (about an hour and a half). It was lovely and a great peaceful return from a great day. 

I ended up at dinner at the same restaurant from the night before (I know, I should have tried something different but I wanted that ceviche!!!!). This time I got guinea pig legs and then the best chocolate mousse ever. While the presentation of the guinea pig this time was easier to stomach, it was fatty and I didn’t enjoy it all that much. 

The bus came this morning to take me to the airport and successfully made it to Lima. Now I just need to get back to the airport later for my 1am flight.

I’ll write my final blog post likely tomorrow on my return. Or once I get some sleep. 🙂 

#atpeace #feelingstrong #happybritt 

Peru: Day 12

Like every day on this journey, there is always something new and interesting in store. 

Grabbed the bus at 7am to drop me to see the condors in Colca Canyon before heading to Puno. The plan was to marvel at the condors for awhile and then catch the next 9:30 am bus to get me to Chivay in order to catch the bus from Chivay to Puno, the important one that I’ve already mentioned that only runs once a day. 

It was very beautiful but also very full of tourists at this hour. I did manage to see several though, and they’re gorgeous. Check out a brief description of the Andean Condor here:

Andean Condor

Here’s a few pics. This is one place I really wished I had a better camera!!! 

It was really very beautiful the way they soared through the Canyon. Anyway, I asked the guy patrolling the stop to make sure I was at the right spot to catch the next bus. I was. Waited until around 945 and asked another local selling things at the bus stop about the bus and she said yes, it would be there at 10. I had to go to the bathroom at this point and I finally saw the sign. She said I could leave my things there while I ran down. 

Now I know what you’re thinking, that the bus came and left and I missed it!! Alas, no. I did NOT!! El bano will not get in my way again. Hahah! 

I came back, asked her again, she called another over, they chatted, and the bus that was supposed to come was evidently broken (whatever that means). Anyhoo, this gal said she could take me on her tourist bus (smaller, personalized) and get me to Chivay in time for $15 soles. Fine, done. I need to get on that bus! So they were able to fit my bag and we were back on our way. (Is this a big scam they run? I don’t know. At this point I don’t care. I just need to catch that bus so if it is, it works!!!) Sidebar that another girl who had been with me on the early morning bus from Cabanaconde got on at the next stop and I stopped her, wondering, and she said that apparently the bus was broken. Ha! So if they got us they got all of us. HA!) 

Met a couple on the bus from the UK on Easter holiday so I was able to speak some English for awhile. I mainly spoke to the guy who was born in Massachusetts, while his partner it sounded like (from his accent) was from the UK. I talked with him for quite awhile about our travels and we laughed and it was really nice to be in an English conversation again. 

We got to Chivay in plenty of time. I checked my bags in to my tour bus stop and went to the square for lunch. 

If I haven’t already said this, every single square or Plaza looks very similar. Some are more traveled and cater to more tourists, sone are very rural and rather uncivilized. But they’re all generally the same. And if you stay near them, you’re usually fairly safe. 

Anyway, pizza and a beer! The pizza wasn’t nearly as good as the one I shared with Cesar in Pisac but it was food and I was thankful. 

Got to the station on time and the bus left on time. And THIS BUS… THIS BUS HAD IT ALL! I mean not exactly (and who knows because I’ve only experienced the public bus), but it was fully functional, I didn’t have to wipe off the seat first, and we used the left lane to pass OTHER BUSES! Simply grand. The other major feature is that we made two formal pit stops. What the whaaaaa?! Am I in heaven? And they accounted for us and didn’t leave anyone. It was a great ride. We even had “a guy” that told us where we were at points and gave us a recommendation on tea at one stop to help acclimate to the now new altitude (much, much lower than Cabanaconde, which is evidently one of the highest, hence my bloody nose). 

It was actually really good and I feel okay now, so Yay! 

Got dark and rained and I saw a fair amount of lightning, which was beautiful. It actually reminded me of Florida. 

Dropped off, made it to my hotel, and now I’m at an amazing restaurant down the street for dinner called La Table de Inca. It’s spectacular. Three course pre-fixed menu… App, entree, dessert for $80 soles. That’s about $25 US for those of you paying attention. Unreal. 

Trout ceviche; spectacular. 

Beef tenderloin with some kind of reedonkulous potato and cheese pie. Good evening, calories. And then, creme brulle for dessert. Seriously. 

#ideservethis #treatyourself

So the bus is picking me up at 7am for the Lake Titicaca tour. It’s a day long tour and then they drop me back off at the hotel. One more night then I’m off to Lima and then home. 

PS. I can barley walk from yesterday’s extravaganza. So, tomorrow I sit on a boat across Lake Titicaca. No hiking. Right????!!!! 

#treasurelife #fortunate #youreallyonlyliveonce

Peru: Day 11

Picking back up from yesterday, I’ve decided to just keep the life changing emotional feelings stuff to myself. 🙂 Let’s just say I will never forget it. 

Anyway, I will finish out the rest of the day. Picking back up with the story, my only option was the mule. Since I’m alone, they wouldn’t take one from the Oasis up so they brought one down to pick me up which would not get there until around 4. Didn’t feel good about it, but it came down to my only option. 

Also, the springs are not available to the public, you have to stay at one of the hostels in order to visit them from what I could gather in Spanish. So, I sat at the hostel who arranged the mule for me writing my blog and enjoying the sound of the springs and just being in nature. 

I asked about paying more money for a mule from there so it would only go one way, but I believe she was saying they’re accustomed to it and it’s okay. Truthfully that didn’t make me feel any better because that’s what people say about birds as pets, and its just not true. 

Anyway, I’m thankful for this mule and that I worked this out because my body couldn’t have gone back up the mountain yesterday. I was exhausted. So for those visiting Colca Canyon and wanting to see the oasis, stay there overnight and head to the next destination in the morning. I think the trek back up would probably be doable for me in maybe 3-4 hours but certainly not the same day as trekking down. This is like 100 times more difficult than Observation Point in Zion was. 

Unfortunately the reward yesterday in terms of the destination was not quite what I thought it would be, unless I majorly missed something (which I could have). I didn’t have any access to the Interwebs, only could rely on what the locals said so who knows. But the old lore holds true… that it’s all about the journey. It was a treacherous downhill climb and I’m glad I did it, and there were beautiful views of the canyon all the way down. 

Sidebar… The three ladies I met at the top… Delice (UK), Amanda Marie (Canada), and Yvonne (Ireland)… had all quit their corporate jobs to travel the world. They had actually met each other along the way and now all three had been together a month with lots of future plans. They reinspired me and we exchanged info in case I were to ever end up in that situation… 

The mules finally came and there were about five or six that all came trotting down from the mountain looking happy, which made me feel better. I would ride one back up with the guide (or as I’ll call him handler) on another. 

I hopped on and we were off. This was my selfie at the beginning before I realized it would take every ounce of strength I had, mentally and physically to get this accomplished. 

The reality was that it was the most terrifying and treacherous experience of my life so far. I have never been so scared. Started out on Roka and he was okay but very hard on my knees in the stirrups and super scary. Roka seemed to get tired (or as I learned later I think the handler maybe wanted to test the younger horse with me) so I got on that one. He didn’t want to move much and got lots of yelling and whipping from the handler. 😦 He did move and at one point turned to go over the side of the mountain. I freaked and ended up falling halfway off, holding on for dear life, the handler yelling and the horse stopped. I managed to get back on, at this point in so much pain, and the handler started yelling at me. Now, he didn’t know any English, but from what I could gather, the fact that I freaked and got nervous was the problem and I couldn’t do that. He was NOT happy with me. I told him I understood, I shut up, apologized, and told myself that from that point on, I would have to trust the horse. 

Anyway, we swapped horses again and I was back with Roka who I rode for the rest of the trip. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Straight uphill now, Roka even slipping at one point, and taking the very outside track around each drop-off to avoid the rocks in the middle. Several stops to wait for the handler and horse behind us and at those points Roka would be standing literally on the edge. I took deep breaths and tried to remain calm so that Roka didn’t have any idea how scared shitless I was. 

The other thing was the amount of whipping the other mule was getting. Made me sad, ugh. But the handler was walking almost all of it, holding onto the tail of the other horse to pull him up, which was nuts. We stopped some along the way so he could rest. It started raining pretty hard and we kept at it. I felt for the handler at this point and considered what a different world this was that they lived every day. 

Anyway, long story long, we finally made it and I couldn’t believe it. Getting off of Roka was so hard because at this point I was in so much pain, not just my knees but my back and neck and butt. I gave the handler a very large tip, hugged Roka and walked back to my hotel. 

It was an experience I’ll never forget. Then I met David and Nancy from Vancouver, who saw me leaving in the morning. They asked if I made it and I briefly told them the story. They had walked the rim and I told them that was a great call. Such a nice couple… We talked for a bit and then they left. I had alpaca for dinner and then headed to bed for 6am wake up call for the bus (buses) to Puno. 

Craziest experience ever. Glad it’s over. 

#missionaccomplished #thankfulforlife

Peru: Day 10 and 11

Tonight I’m choosing to post yesterday’s events and the first part of today. My experience today has been so emotional and life changing that I don’t really have the words right now. I’ll get there. But for now I’ll post the draft I came up with earlier.

——–

So many feelings right now. As I initially set out today on my trek, I wanted to scream, I’m back baby! Feeling much more confident, my weak moment passing, I was excited to hike down into Colca Canyon to the oasis. More on that in a moment. 

Yesterday I took a day long bus from Arequipa to Cabanaconde. Now, typically this bus is supposed to be 5.5 hours, but it took us close to 8. Upon entering the bus, I immediately knew this bus had seen better days, ha! It was dirty, and old, but there were some other tourists on there with me. 

I settled in for the journey, when about 30 mins in we got a flat. The bus pulled over for them to fix the flat, which took probably 30-40 mins.

Then we were back on our way. I was the only American, that I could tell. There were two guys from France and a few from Australia at the front (I overheard them talking) and quite a few from Lima around me. Once we got rolling again, we probably made at least 20-25 stops along the way. It was really very interesting the locals that we picked up. There were kids, older people, families. It was also interesting the different climates we went through as we headed up the mountain. 

(These women are packing and carrying their stuff to be taken on the bus in the luggage compartment, although not all of them rode with us, I believe two hopped on). 

One of the stops was to get gas. Now, it’s not a normal gas station it’s just a pit stop at the side of the road where they have a funnel and pour gasoline in. A few people got off the bus and I thought I’d quickly run into el bano. Grabbed my tissue (PS, there is never any toilet paper in Peru so carry some with you… Also it doesn’t always go into the toilet but into a bucket). Anyway, I digress. I paid my 50 Peruvian cents (like maybe 15 cents US) and went out back to the outhouse. I was quick, mind you, but I came back out front and the bus was gone. Uh, yeah!! He totally left without me. I looked to the right and saw it driving and off I went running, hailing it down. A few trucks tried to beep at the bus and it finally stopped. Not sure what I would have done since all of my belongings were on that bus and we were in the middle of nowhere. I did have my passport and cash in my pocket, so I probably would have grabbed one of the people there and said “tengo dinero, vamanos” and tried to catch up with it. Anyway, major blessing number 1 for the day and number 8001 for this trip. Also reminder that no one’s taking care of Britt except Britt! Did people notice I wasn’t there? Maybe. Maybe they couldn’t stop the driver because we experienced this later, also, when the bus almost left three people. Luckily for them, they had others with them that stopped the bus. Ha! I’d post a pic but, ya know I was running to catch it so couldn’t really focus on that. 🙂 

Lots of beautiful sites along the way, including spotting a condor flying through the Canyon, which I will see more of on Monday. Gorgeous views of the Canyon. 

About 2/3 of the way through I got a bloody nose from the altitude (first altitude issue I’ve experienced on entire trip) and the three people from Lima gave me some paper towel and rubbing alcohol. Evidently inhaling the alcohol closes things off and stops the bleeding, and it worked. Thank you to those folks! 
Finally arrived at my hotel after not eating all day around 5 and absolutely murdered a huge piece of lasagna and and bowl of andean soup. 

I am one of the few staying here, because they had to open the dining room for me and I was the only one eating dinner. Granted it was early. The food was very good and hospitality very nice. Bed early for my trek on Day 11.

And this is where we pick up. As I write this, I’m sitting at a hostel in the oasis waiting for a mule to take me back up to Cabanaconde. Now, I knew I was in for a strenuous downhill journey, but this was something else. If I thought observation point in Zion was hard, this was a whole new level. 3 hours straight downhill in rocks and dirt. I fell a few times and my hands blew up to a massive size. My pack holds two liters of water and I was long out before I was done with my hike. Took lots of pics, but this was insane. Major hard on the knees and you have to be super careful. 

Three things went through my mind as I was hiking down:

  1. I’m so thankful to be able to do this now, because I won’t be able to much later in life
  2. How in the hell am I going to get back up? 
  3. My mom would not want to know I’m doing this

LOL!! Mainly number two was my obsession. My original thought (before I ever started) was how hard can it be, and I’m sure I can make it back up the same day. But once I experienced going down and passed people along the way who were much more fit than me, I had to reconsider. Now this was not a happy or proud moment for me as I wanted to do both and to prove to myself that I could. But in this case, I chose smarts against determination (this is where mom would be happy!). While this is not like me, I knew there was no way I’d get back up today. I met a few girls at the top before I started the descent who had trekked up that morning and it took them three hours. More on them later, but they were world travelers and they had only done the hike up, not both. I estimated that it would take me approximately 5 hours going back up because of how tired I was and the sheer altitude change that I’d have to tackle. Even if I only spent an hour at the springs, I’d still be pushing it to get back before dark and I don’t have a flashlight or gear for that. I also faced the limits of my body physically and I finally acknowledged that I couldn’t do it. The other two options were to stay down here for the night and trek back up tomorrow or ride a mule back up. Now I had considered the mule already, but I saw one on his way up on my trek and he looked so tired and I felt horrible for this guy. I thought to myself, how can I spend a week caring for animals and then do this to a mule? It just doesn’t seem right. Unfortunately I don’t have time to stay down here because I am catching a 7am bus tomorrow morning to head to Puno. There is only one bus tomorrow from Chivay to Puno and I need to be on it bc I have already made all other reservations. 

What happens next? Stay tuned… 🙂 

Peru: Day 9

Tonight, I’m going to be honest and super vulnerable and and express that I’m feeling rather lonely. To say this to all the people who are perhaps reading this blog (including those I’ve met along the way) is not easy for me to do. While this trip has been so empowering, it’s also so challenging in so many ways. 

I share my experiences and mostly the good about every day, but there are downsides. I get lonely. And sad. I do continue to focus on my blessings and I am not complaining by any means. I am continuously thankful for this opportunity and that I have the means to do it. It’s just that it’s a lot to tackle and it gets a little overwhelming and lonely sometimes. 

I guess I just want to share that as awesome and fierce as I sound, I have down days and lonely days, and the past two days have been that. I miss my friends and my family. I miss the human  connection that I so need in my life. I miss laughing and the security that laughing brings. I miss being heard and understood, just by my same language. I miss my bed (ha). I miss knowing where I am and what to expect. I am getting more and more in touch with the Britt I have missed, but it is a difficult journey and not always as it seems. 

I really don’t mean to sound as if I’m complaining or whining, because I’m absolutely not. I’m well aware of how privileged I am and am humbled by that almost daily on this trip. Trust me. I just want to share that life has its ups and downs no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what you’re doing. I am proving to myself my own strength everyday, but I’m also struggling at times to make it through the day. Granted, I do it, but it has been very challenging at times. 

So I guess tonight I just want to say:

  • Thank you, my wonderful sister, for telling me what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. I love you. 
  • Thank you to my friends who have been here every step of the way, thinking about me and just supporting my journey as a whole. You all know who you are and I’m thankful for every one of you. 
  • Remember that as green as the grass seems on the other side, there are always burdens and hurts and pain and experiences and feelings that we can’t see. We see what we want to see, and what people tell us (e.g., my blog), but we never know what is really happening behind the scenes. 
  • Sometimes we don’t know how to be or what to say or how to act, but the feelings of understanding and acts of forgiveness are so important as we all go through this journey of life.

Anyway, that’s that. 

Today I woke up early to hammering and drilling (maybe 630 or 7) and I know most of you will say get your butt up by then, but I didn’t sleep great so was wanting to sleep in anyway, and evidently it was next door. After breakfast the manager apologized profusely and promised me a discount on my room. I said it was okay, it wasn’t his fault, but he insisted. It is clear they care about customer service here (I’ve seen that quite a bit in Peru) and I really appreciated his attentiveness to the issue. Great hotel (Hotel Katari). 
Anyway, a short siesta after breakfast when they stopped hammering (thank you!)  and then a Peruvian lunch, corn and cheese:

It was fine but not my favorite. 

Anyway, then I went to the Museo Suantarios Andinos, which was super cool, but no pics allowed. It was a museum showcasing frozen mummies who were sacrificed in the Andes in the 1500s and discovered in the 1990s. It was very interesting. Juanita, the 12-13 yr old girl/mummy found with organs and liquids in her body, is in preservation Jan-April every year so I didn’t see her body, but I did see one of the children that they found. They found maybe a total of 11-15 that were sacrificed. Serious craziness and very interesting exhibit. 

At that, I just finished some amazing onion soup, very different from how we eat it in the states, so much more delicious! Also, I ordered guinea pig, because you kind of can’t leave Peru without trying it, and I’m nervous as hell. It’s coming with the head, and yes, I’m going to post the pic. This is a very traditional Peruvian dish that I’ve been scared to try, but I just had to. 

Yum!!! And here is the guinea pig :

I know right, looking right at me. I mean, I guess it’s like we eat chicken, but the head is still on and I guess that freaks me out a bit. I did pretty well, but when it came to the head, I peeled back the skin and saw the eye sockets and almost vommed, so I was finished at that point. I felt accomplished and I did what I came there to do (BTW, good restaurant and truthfully very tasty and well cooked… (Restaurante Vingaro) ). Then I had this and it may have been the best brownie I’ve ever had in my life:

So yeah, I feel better! Headed back to the hotel soon for an early bus out to Cabanaconde where I will stay to hike Colca Canyon before heading to Puno for Lake Titicaca and then back to Chicago on Thursday.  

Not sure what to say tonight on my signoff… 

#alwaysblessed #livingthroughthechallenges #thankful #lifeisneverwhatyouexpect 

Peru: Days 7-8

So I’m going to combine the last two days because it has sort of run together, although it’s been great. 

The night of Day 6 I headed to Cusco via train from Machu Piccu. I bought a bimodal ticket through Peru Rail because it only dropped from Machu Piccu to Ollantaytambo (left around 5pm and took about 2.5 hours). From there, I had to hop a bus to Cusco which was about a 2 hour ride. 

The rail ride was fun! Some traditional Peruvian dancing up and down the aisle by this guy:

Next was a fashion show featuring all of the alpaca goods. I think I may be alpaca’d out (I don’t know how to write that). Anyhoo lots of nice looking stuff, and I fell prey to humbre muy guapo and caved for yet another scarf. Hahaha 😀

No, I did not buy a man’s scarf, I’m just showing the variety. 🙂

They worked it and we fell for it. We, meaning the Australian couple sitting across from me. She bought that black wrap and I bought a scarf. We were the only ones in the car to buy anything, which probably says something, but who cares. HA! 

Anyway, finally arrived at my hotel around 9pm. The hotel sent a car for me after a local call to them (local phone on the side of the road). The hotel was quiet and two twin beds again. It was late and I was hungry but there really wasn’t anything around (hotel was called Torre Dorada) so I ordered some chicken soup. I think they made it fresh for me because it tasted so. 

Anyway, 5am wake up call today to catch my flight to Arequipa (geez, can’t believe all this has been in one day). Got in around 8am and I’m staying in the most lovely hotel. They sent a car for me last minute and got my room ready so that I was able to check in at 9am! Staying at Hotel Katari and somehow I got the presidential suite for about $165 US a night. This room and hotel es muy bonita!!!

View from my room down into the plaza:

Ridiculous. In this pic from the outside, my room is the one on the right, so only a couple with this view:

Anyway, lovely. I also made it in time for breakfast, which is on the rooftop with this view:

Gorgeous. 

Anyway, changed my clothes to shorts (first time this trip!!) and headed out. First I stopped at a little place to finish booking my trip and tickets and voila! Done. Will head to Cabanaconde 4/1 and from there do Colca Canyon and then bus to Puno and do Lake Titicaca. Lots of travel and tickets in there that I had to book. Turns out the little agency I stopped in was super helpful (thank you, Yudy) and didn’t mess with me (as far as I know, hahha!). 

Next off to the Santa Catalina Monastery, which was awesome. Once again, hung around for a few minutes at the front to see if I could join anyone (20 soles by myself or 10 with others). Thanks to Jan and Mike, we had our group!  While I’m on a 5 week vacation from work,  Jan and Mike are on a three week vacation from their children (21 and 22)…ha!! Great couple from California and we had a fun time chatting after the tour. The tour guide seemed displeased with us for some reason and would start talking in places before we were even there. 😒 But we laughed it off and made the best of it. Mike and Jan were in a tour with eight people and were pleased with the planning aspect being taken care of, which is nice. For those of you that are planning Peru, I do think there are good tours, you might just have to look around. They are also doing the Inca Trail, which is AWESOME! This is a 3 night/4 day tour through the Inca Trail. Parts can be very difficult and it is very tiring but sounds amazing from what I’ve read. 

Anyway, a few pics from the monastery. They say it’s a city within a city, and it truly is:

Once again, I could post pics all day but I won’t. 😀 Thanks to Jan and Mike for letting me join them and for the good conversation!

Next was lunch at Zig Zag and it was ridiculously DELICIOUS! I finally found the good food. First I had raw trout and salmon with dill, olive oils and capers:

So amazing. Next was tomato soup with basil and some gorgonzola:

So yum. Yum Yum Yum. 

Headed back to my high society life at the Katari for a chat with my bestie (much needed, thank you friend!! 😘) and a quick siesta.

Woke up and headed out to catch a little street show:

Then to Museo de Pisco AQP for dinner. I keep wanting salads and fresh vegetables and fruits, but I like to stay on the super safe side on the food. Concerns around rinsing the lettuce or fruit in water are enough to keep me from eating them. So, I ordered wings! Ha. Super breaded so not real good, but given the late lunch it hit the spot okay. Fun little restaurant to sit at, though, and write my blog. They’re playing red hot chili peppers, so it can’t be that bad. Haha! 

Speaking of, they play a lot of American music here… I think for the tourists. You have to hit more of the local small spots to hear something else. 

Anyway, will head back soon and sink into my lovely bed and appreciate a good night sleep after a very long day. I feel blessed to have grabbed this hotel. I treated myself, but it feels good. 

I’m once again extremely thankful for the opportunity to do this and for the pleasures I am enjoying from my hard work. It’s totally worth it. It feels like I have been working so hard for so long and I just plain forgot how to live and how to take care of myself. It’s such a good reminder when I talk with people about living life and doing it while you can because there is no promise of tomorrow. 

Signing off… 

#workinghardpaysoff #thisisliving #stopandsmelltheroses #rememberyou

 

Peru: Day 6

Day 6 was some much needed downtime and planning the remainder of my trip. Since I wasn’t able to hop to Ollantaytambo, I used the time to get a little extra rest, do some planning, and have a leisurely lunch in the Plaza. Lunch was at Incontri del Pueblo Viejo, recommended by the hotel and also received very good ratings. So good that I’m here again today updating my blog 🙂 

Decided that I’m going to do Colca Canyon (near Arequipa) on my own and then book a boat tour for Lake Titicaca in Puno. So, I got more reservations confirmed and learned more about what I’m going to do. 

After lunch I headed to the hot springs. It was rather crowded and grossed me out a little, but I did it anyway. Ha! 

The pool closest in the photo is the cold one and then they get progressively and the other four are warm, getting progressively warmer. The third, crowded one has a rocky bottom (like small pebbles) which was interesting. 

I braved the cold pool twice and ended on it because it was exhilarating. It’s that shock to the system that sometimes you really need! 

Oh, I found this entertaining 😆

Hehehe!! 

Then I sat upstairs for a bit just to relax and people watch. Hit on a drum for a few with a guy who was playing which was fun, haha. 

Then I headed back, showered quickly, and headed out for dinner. I ended up back at Treehouse since it was so good before and got some phenomenal pasta…yum!!!

Then back to the hotel and bed. Not a whole lot to share but needed a day of downtime which felt really good! 

Tomorrow is the train to Cusco where I’ll stay the night and fly to Arequipa on 3/30 for my next stop. 

Oh, this pic is for my mom. So random as I was walking by and I thought of how much you’d love it! 😘

Until tomorrow… 

Peru: Day 5

Wow. I must say, every day seems to get a little better, which is surprising since every day feels so awesome. 
Today I started early (around 5) to check out of my hotel and head to the train station. My taxi was waiting for me and I made it in plenty of time. 

The rail ride was AWESOME. Peru Rail is a great experience. The views were spectacular and the service was great. Coffee and some kind of quinoa fig pastry that was actually really good.

The views were seriously amazing. That’s Carmen, in the first picture who was with her husband Cesar. They are from Spain but Cesar travels between Chile and Spain for his job, one month in each. His English was very good so we had some very good conversation. Carmen’s wasn’t bad but not as strong. They were a really great couple and made the ride more enjoyable. I had some questions about my Machu Piccu ticket and Cesar was able to translate them to one of the rail guys to get answers for me. 

Also, we passed this:

Welcome to the Skylodge… three transparent pods (and a restaurant on the right) clinging to the side of a 400 ft cliff, and you have to scale a sheer rock face to reach them. Read about it here, but no thank you!! Haha. 

Peru Skylodge

This is a thing!!!!!! My God. 

Anyway, some other great views, and we finally arrived in Machu Piccu in Aguas Calientes. I was smart enough to book a hotel walking distance (like literally two mins) from the terminal so I dropped my bags at the hotel and headed off to the bus terminal to buy a ticket to get up to Machu Piccu. You can walk it, but it’s about an hour and a half and strenuous and I was concerned I’d be pooped by the time I got up with a lot more hiking to do. 

The ride up was a bit frightening on the edge of the cliff, but I convinced myself that they do this all the time and I’m not in control. 🙂 

Hard to get many pics from the bus, but I did catch this one, mainly because I think this must be a Hermes (maybe?? I don’t know my brands all that well) scarf this guy was wearing and I’m wondering who wears that to hike Manchu Piccu, lol??! 

Anyway that’s just rude of me and I digress. 

Once we got there, I considered checking it out on my own first. I freaked out a little at the beginning because I somehow lost my ticket or forgot it at the hotel, but I was able to provide my passport and they brought it up and I could get right in. Once in, I met an American couple from Seattle that said they had done it with a tour guide and without a tour guide and recommended a guide. So, I went back outside to the entrance and started talking to a few people. Basically there are a lot of individual guides outside and many people that want to form small groups to save money on the tour. I talked to a couple of groups and found a good one for 20 sols per person, which is really cheap from what I heard. There was a couple from South Carolina, four British guys on holiday, and three siblings from Canada. Great group and we had a great time. Totally worth the guide because you learn a lot of history and he explained everything we saw. Everything was just amazing. Some pics from the tour:

(You have to love his hat!) 

Those are just a handful of the photos I took and other things that we got to see. It’s hard with the blog because I really want to explain all of the pictures, but I’d be here all day and I have more to do haha!! 

A note for people wanting to travel to Peru: Huayna Picchu is supposedly a great hike to take (the largest mountain you see in the pics) but you have to sign up pretty far in advance since they only take 200 people a day. There were people in my tour group who had done it and described how challenging and terrifying it was at times with no guard rails and being on your hands and knees! It is a very strenuous hike but evidently very much worth it for the views. So if you want to do this, make sure to sign up far in advance. 

Also, when booking your tickets, it can be very confusing. I had signed up for a mountain hike along with Machu Picchu, which is the smaller mountain to the left of Huayna Picchu, but the entrance time was at 7 a.m. only, which I did not realize, and wasn’t able to make it given when my train got in.

Anyway, after the tour was over and hearing what the rest of this group had done already with their day, I wasn’t satisfied to just be done. I was hungry but one of the siblings mentioned they heard a lot of people got sick at the cafe. So, even though I was hungry, I went for another hike to Sun Gate. Now, if I thought I was conquering my fear of heights before, I definitely did it on this hike. It started raining towards the end of our tour, and never stopped after, so I did this hike in the rain. Some of the rocks were kind of slippery, but it was rather intense uphill. Nothing that can’t be done, but some rather scary moments where the trail got tight. It took me about 2 hours round-trip. Interestingly enough, at this point the fog had rolled in and there were very few views for much of the hike. 

Another tip to those wanting to travel to Peru: I would honestly just spend the money and buy two days of tickets for Machu Picchu. The weather is extremely unpredictable here, and apparently on Sunday it was foggy the entire time and no views could be seen. Imagine how disappointed you would be if you planned your trip around this and weren’t able to see anything. I was very thankful that I got the views I did. And it was kind of cool to see the fog roll in and see nothing once I took my own hike. Clouds rolled in and out and I finally made it to the top, and felt accomplished. A few pics from this hike:

My boot shows how close I made it to the edge, haha! 

Me, soaked, and looking mighty fine:

And one final pic to show the difference in views between the beginning of the day and the end:

Again, I could go on and on with pictures. It was an incredible day.
Made it back down to catch one of the last buses back to Auguas Calientes. Now, I will say that the nicest hotel isn’t always important to me, but the safest and closest is. For the couple of nights here in Machu Piccu though, I booked a pretty good hotel (Casa del Sol). Some might think or say the hotel isn’t that important because you’re not spending much time there (I say that sometimes), but being soaking wet from hiking through the chilly rain for the past five hours, Karla at reception being so friendly and able to speak English very clearly, receiving a pineapple mint welcome drink, getting to my hotel room where my bags were already there, music playing, chocolates waiting, and the sounds of the river coming through the window, made all the difference in the world. 

The above is right out my window. 

A hot shower and I headed down for a glass of wine at the bar. 

Met a couple from Australia, Will and Jackie, and we talked for quite awhile. They had arranged a personal tour guide for their entire trip to took care of all of their scheduling, reservations, etc. They said all in, including airfare, for 22 days they probably spent about 35,000 Australian dollars total (so about $17.5 each who would be like $13K or so US). It sounds like a lot, but probably worth it for those who want to travel to Peru and not deal with making all of the plans themselves as I have, especially given how long their trip is. 

Anyhoo, I went to dinner at a nearby restaurant that was recommended (Treehouse) and it was delicious. I tried Alpaca for the first time (I know, I know, taking pictures of the guys and then eating them, but just focus on the circle of life). It’s sort of like steak, and you order it cooked the same way, it’s just a little bit tougher. Also tomato soup that was phenomenal. 

Yum, Yum, and Yum. I heard English (Yay, Hahah!!) and met a couple sitting next to me from Boston, Colleen and Ben. Colleen was accepted into medical residency in New York, and Ben was about to enter law school, so their move to New York is soon. We chatted for quite a while about the different things we were doing. Super awesome couple who are very driven and going to have a great life together! 

Between Will and Jackie and Ben and Colleen,  it was great to be able to connect and communicate again in my language. While the exploration so far has been phenomenal, it is very different in that I have not been meeting as many people along the way.

Anyway, time to end this so I can get out into the day. Evidently no train tickets are available to Ollantaytambo, which was my plan for today, so instead I’m going to go to the hot springs for a little relaxation. Another tip for Peru travelers is to make sure all train tickets are booked in advance. 🙂 

Another incredible day. So fortunate and blessed. And heights, I’m kicking your butt! 

#brittbefierce#thankful

Peru: Day 4 

Wow. So this journey is FOR REAL. If I didn’t think yesterday was interesting enough, today beat it by a landslide.

Words for today: smarts, risk, balance, vulnerability, patience, understanding, strength. 

Yeah, today was quite the day. 

Thinking I now had this whole thing down, I walked outside this morning to get a motorcar, head held high, knowing exactly where I was going, ruling this place like a local. Within the first 2 mins, the first guy I hailed wasn’t understanding or taking me anywhere. I said forget it and walked on (as the shame made its way in and I started to feel a little defeated already). He came back around and somehow we agreed he would take me to find a bus to Pisac (wth, I said 2 sol and hopped in)!

He went to the bus terminal, after trying to stop a few along the way via some quick honks. (PS, the honking here is just weird and crazy and totally out of hand, although potentially necessary depending on what I’ve seen). Everyone honks. Like even more than in Chicago. They honk for dogs, they honk in case someone wants a ride, they honk to pass, they honk when they’re at a stop and they don’t like it, they honk when there’s a light, they honk when there’s a person, they honk FOR EVERYTHING. Seriously I thought Chicago fire dept had the biggest honkers… I was wrong. 

Anyway, ahem. 

Having learned what I did yesterday, I promptly told the motorcar driver that this wasn’t right, that I couldn’t go direct to Pisac from the terminal (yesterday we stopped there first until the motorcar understood I needed to get to Pisac and explained the same). Evidently all the shared rides were full so I’d have to take a personal taxi. He sat for a minute while literally about ten taxi drivers showed up for the bidding. I paid him his two soles as he left me to deal with the bidding war. Started with one who wanted 80 soles to get me to Pisac. Recall that this is already so much better than the 150 the taxi wanted direct yesterday (note that the terminal is only like 5-8 mins from my hotel (2 soles) so it doesn’t really make a difference in price) . A few more came up and then one for 50 soles. He had words with the other guys (hahahha) and I accepted and he swept me off. 

So, what I needed to get to was the Pisac Ruins at the top of the mountain. From what I read online, you have to agree with a taxi on the cost once you get to the entry point (where you buy your ticket) to get to the top (where you start your hike). So, I thought I’d go ahead and try to negotiate with my current driver. Luckily I knew from researching that it would likely be another 20-25 soles to get to the top, so we agreed on 75 total. That worked for me. Granted, you need to understand that this guy doesn’t speak a lick of English and I barely speak a lick of Spanish, so we used the Google app to communicate. Agreed on cost up the mountain. He would take me there and make sure I got in. 

When we got there he asked if I wanted a companion and basically what I was doing the rest of the day (remember, all via Google translate app). We talked about different places I wanted to go etc. And he said he would wait there until I was done with my hike and then take me to Pisac for lunch and then to Moray ruins and then back to Urubamba. We agreed at 150 total and I said great. Didn’t pay him anything and left him at the base of the mountain. 

Meanwhile, holy crap with the Inka Ruins… Words cannot express nor can pictures capture but I’ll try with pics only:

I could honestly post pics all night, but it won’t capture the magnificence. Trust me. 

I hiked off the beaten path a bit, but didn’t do the whole thing all around because I had a couple more destinations in mind for the day, and I knew I had to head to Machu Piccu tomorrow early. For those of you that are planning this trip (Molly!) you should follow the path around the mountain as you can see in the below pic to really explore and allow yourself closer to three hours depending on how much you want to stop and look around, take pics, etc. 

Also a helpful guide:

http://theonlyperuguide.com/2014/12/hiking-pisac-ruins/

Anyway, I made it back up (hiked my way down and then back up)  and Cesar was still there. I asked him and learned, once again via Google translate app, that while he waited he listened to music. Inquiring minds like mine need to know. Ha. (And crap, how boring is that?)  

Next on what we agreed to was Pisac for lunch. He took me there, picked the restaurant, and we shared a beer and got two personal pizzas. 

I sat outside for a bit while I was waiting and listened to the dancing and music at the market and then joined back inside with Cesar to eat our pizza. It was really delicious, and I can say that since I live in one of the pizza capitals of the US. YUMMMMM! 

Meanwhile, keep in mind that we cannot communicate at all minus the Google app and understanding something here and there. His English was literally as bad as my Spanish. So we sat and ate. I learned that he had a daughter and a girlfriend and he learned I did not. Bahahahha. 🙂 

Next we decided instead of Moray we would head to Chinchero district (per my request). Now I thought this would be more convenient than Moray, which is beyond Urubamba but I didn’t understand that we had to go through Urubamba to get to Chinchero, so totally had to go around. Anyway, we decided on that (and agreed on 170 soles at this point for the day and to get me home)  and he first took me to the textile market there. It was very cool to learn how they cleaned and died the alpaca wool. I bought a little scarf and had some lovely tea. 

By this time it was raining hard. When we got back in the car, Cesar said I should see the ruins so he drove me up. Although it was raining, it was still amazing. 

After that it was time to head back to Urubamba. The rain was hard but it was beautiful, this experience of just driving through the rain in silence, just enjoying the views. 

We got to the hotel and Cesar asked if I wanted to grab a drink in the Plaza de Armas. I hadn’t been there yet and have to get up super early for my train to Manchu Piccu (meaning I wouldn’t have the opportunity) so I agreed. We found a little spot and had a drink and chatted more via Google translate. Ha! 

(PS, please don’t judge… One of the most amazing things about this trip has been to not put makeup on). Also that scarf is what I bought at the textile place. He then dropped me at my hotel and I thanked him profusely for such an awesome day. I gave him 200 soles, plus the lunch and the beer. All in all, that was a great day and a great deal to have a personal tour guide all day. Who knew???? 

Today I feel accomplished and happy. It is risky to travel by yourself and you have to be careful and also trust your instincts. You have to keep a certain smarts about you (e.g., Cesar knew that I was meeting a friend for dinner at my hotel. Was I? Of course not!!! I don’t have friends here, lol! But you have to think the entire time when you’re a woman alone) and also be willing to risk a little for the adventure. Being aware and smart and prepared is everything. You have to know enough to know exactly where you’re going (even if you don’t) and that you know exactly how you can get there (even if you don’t). 🙂 

Shew, did not see today coming. Who knows what is in store for tomorrow. Peru rail to Machu Piccu in the morning and hoping to be able to drop my bags at the hotel before my hike. 

If not, I suppose I’ll figure it out. 

#goodnightfromperu#youcanamazeyourself#lifeisgreatwhenyoucanletgotoliveit

Peru: Day 3

I don’t have any idea where to even begin about today. 

Word of the day is most certainly “thankful.” Other words that come to mind are proud and courageous, but I’m definitely settling on thankful. 

Thankful for (only to name a few):

  • eventually finding my hotel this morning 
  • technology (I very rarely say this but it saved me today in several cases being able to follow the map, even with my taxi driver, and using the translate app for things I really needed) 
  • electricity that is back tonight but wasn’t working this morning 
  • the man getting off the bus who told me to ride to Calka and then transfer because the direct bus to Urubamba stopped running at a certain hour 
  • getting back to my hotel safely in the dark with two bus rides and a motorcar 
  • negotiation skills
  • not getting mugged or screwed over monetarily
  • my strength, courage, confidence, intelligence, health, and sensibilities 

Honestly that just touches the surface. My morning taxi arrived Cusco at 730 and we left shortly thereafter. Cost was 80 sol which is pretty cheap for an hour long ride. It was a beautiful drive and managed to communicate with my driver un poquito. 😊 If you look closely you can see the town I was headed to… 

We finally found the hotel, but not without having to stop twice to ask directions from a local. This hotel is in the middle of nowhere, although it seems everything is in the middle of nowhere here. Dirt rock roads and no names, but we finally found it. It’s quite beautiful on the inside but I will admit I was concerned and anxious. We had to turn around several times because we dead ended on dirt roads to nowhere!

Took advantage of arriving early with a nap because I didn’t sleep last night… I think a bit of anxiety about today and my next locations. Still need to firm up reservations for the next part of my trip which I’ll do a bit of tonight. 

Headed out for lunch and requested a taxi to Pisac, which is supposed to have some lovely views, some spectacular Inca ruins and a couple of good spots for lunch. Personal taxi would be $150 sol but the bus was only $4 sol if I could get to the terminal. So, I left the hotel gates (already scary leaving my little commune here haha) and caught a motorcar to a bus sitting by itself supposedly going to Pisac. What I rode in basically looks like this:

Here’s the pic I took from the backseat :

And yes, I fit!! Anyway, a few others joined the bus and we headed off. Many stops along the way and good views. Kind of cool to pass through all the towns and happenings. Such a different world here, but the scenery is breathtaking. 

Made it to Pisac for my 4 sols. All I had was 5 so he got a tip. Took a little over an hour. Anyhoo instead of paying $50 US I ended up paying about $1.50 and got a good experience out of it. 

Started poking around and headed to lunch. 

Ate a late lunch at Ulrike’s and got a three course meal… Pumpkin soup, lasagna, carrot cake, and a local beer for $11 US dollars. Not bad!! Great food and a great view. 

Next I went through the market. I got there toward the end but saw as much as I needed. Noticed the tour buses with people sitting on them waiting and I was once again thankful that I was on my own. 

Time was passing quickly and I needed to get back before dark. I needed change so stopped by a couple of places before I realized I’d need to buy something to get it. So I stopped at a hotel and got what I needed. Sat outside for a minute and lo and behold… Haiiiiiiiii baby alpaca!!!!!! Lol. 

Just hanging out. Hilarious.

Then I was off. This is where things got a bit dicey. Kept asking the buses that went by if they were going to Urubamba but none were. The drivers indicated one was coming but I don’t think we were communicating (bahahhahaha, no crap). Thanks to the older man on the bus, I figured out what to do. Once I caught that bus, that driver helped me and walked me to pick up the connector after making the other stops nd emptying the bus. By this time it was dark and still a long way to go. A bunch of people joined along the way and it was so crowded people were standing. Pitch black on a bus in the middle of nowhere, Peru, by myself with no Americans or anyone who spoke English in sight. Got to Urubamba, found a motorcar to drop me at the hotel for 2 sol. He knew where he was going, thankfully. Entered the gates and felt an amazing sigh of relief when I saw this:

Now I’m back, about to eat some dinner and confirm some reservations for next week. 

I feel really proud that I conquered today. Talk about a culture shock and just a complete 180 from where I was… I go from being out west and meeting tons of people (in my element) to being here, where it’s just me, myself, and I – – struggling to communicate and not sure what’s next (totally out of my comfort zone). What a day. 

Turns out I didn’t have time for the Inca ruins, which are supposed to be phenomenal and rival Machu Piccu so I’m changing my plan a bit and going to head back out there tomorrow just to hike the ruins. Then will head to Machu Piccu on Monday. 

Until tomorrow… 

#thankful#encouraged#bravegirl