Honeymoon in Peru – Cuzco and Whitewater Rafting

10/3 Rest

The next day saw us sleep in and then get up in time to grab breakfast before they quit serving it. We stayed in the hostel most of the day just resting and relaxing after an exhausting Salkantay Trek. The Salkantay Trek was spectacular and certainly was the highlight of our trip to Peru.  We highly recommend it to anyone that wants an adventure trip.  It certainly did not feel like a normal backpacking trip to me, since we had mules carrying gear for us and guides setting up camp and cooking, but it was fun nonetheless.

We headed out to lunch at 14:00 after lots of downtime. We went to Fuego’s, a very American restaurant known for its burgers.  I had an Alpaca burger while Cara enjoyed a regular American Cheeseburger.  They were some of the best burgers we had ever had, and with the lunch special, it came out pretty cheap for a fancy meal like we had. It came with a dessert as well where we had carrot cake and crème brule. After lunch we walked around town some and ordered up a horseback tour for the next day.  After a short day out on the town we headed back to the hostel and went to sleep again.  This rest day was necessary and well deserved after the trek.

10/4 Horseback Riding and Changing of Plans

We got up and had breakfast in the morning before heading out for our horseback tour at 9:30.  We were informed that we would have a complimentary cab ride up the mountain to the tour location, but we would have to walk back on our own.  I paid attention to the way up, to make sure we would not get lost coming back, but it was really simple since we were on the mountain above town and we could still see Cuzco. The horses were really short and stocky and definitely did not move too fast.  They looked as if they did this hike everyday and weren’t overly excited about it, but it was kind of interesting to see the countryside in a new fashion for me. The saddle was about the most uncomfortable thing I have ever sat on, and Cara agreed, that the saddles were super terrible. We rode the horses up to 2 Inca ruins one of which was the Temple of the Moon.  We got a guided tour through one in Spanish, but we understood enough to get the gist of the tour.  It was pretty cool that they had designed one spot to catch the sun just right on the summer solstice. The views during the tour were great since there are no trees up on top and it was a clear hot day.  After riding for about 2 hours, we returned to the starting point and walked down the mountain.  It took longer than expected to make it down the mountain since we were running out of energy from lack of food. Eventually, we made it down and wound our way around town for 45 minutes before we eventually found the highly rated La Boheme Creperia. We both had the special which was a ham, cheese, and egg crepe, a chocolate crepe (dark and white), and a glass of some kind of local juice. These crepes were fantastic and very, very large.  I was suspicious that they would not fill me up, but Cara and I were stuffed after finishing lunch.

At this point, we were wondering what we were going to do for the rest of our trip in Cuzco since we were supposed to fly out in 2 days.  We walked around to the various travel agencies (800+ in Cuzco) inquiring about trips.  There was a one day rafting trip we could do, but it was 4+ hours of bus rides and less than 2 hours on the river.  That just didn’t sound good to me. There was also a Jungle tour of the Amazon, but it wasn’t going to work out to do that since it didn’t leave until Wednesday when we were leaving Peru.  Eventually we came across a 3 day white water rafting trip that sounded pretty good, and we returned to the hostel to mull it over. It took some convincing to get Cara to agree to it, since she had a traumatic experience on an inflatable kayak when she was 5 but we decided to do it and went back to book it. We made sure it was still available, then rescheduled our flight to leave late on Wednesday from Cuzco to Lima just in time to catch our flight back to the US.  After rescheduling the flight, we went back to the whitewater rafting agency and sat around for an hour as the owner called a million people to find another guide for the overbooked trip. Eventually it all worked out, and we were in for our 3 day rafting trip. Stoked about that we went to Pacha Mama’s for dinner where we had the traditional Peruvian delicacy, Kuy (guinea pig) for dinner. It was actually pretty good considering all of the bones in it, and it came with a papa rellena, which is a meat-stuffed fried pastry. Our kuy was prepared with a non-traditional prep as well. The head was left attached and the whole pig was on the plate, while usually it is served butterflied open with no head. After presenting it to us, they take it back to the kitchen to cut it up before we eat it.  The head was super fun to play with as a puppet. After a successful day, we went to sleep in anticipation of our upcoming whitewater rafting trip.

10/5 Whitewater Rafting Day 1 – The Short Day

We arrived at the whitewater rafting location for pickup at 9:30 as we were told, and no one was there.  We walked around the Plaza for a bit and then arrived back at 10:00 and still no one was there.  We were wondering if we had heard correctly, were definitely getting worried as it approached 10:30 and still no one had showed up. Alas, at 10:25 our guide showed up and took us from the shop over to where the bus was waiting.  We got on the bus with 40 Israelis and headed on out to the Apurimac River at 11:00. Apparently, South America in general, is where all of the Israelis go after their stint in the military that is required. All males are required to do 3 years and females to do 2 years. The bus ride to the river was very long, taking almost 5 hours total before we arrived to the river at 16:00. The ride was another sketchy ride on the edge of the mountain way away from civilization for hours on end. Arriving to the Apurimac River we had a lunch prepared for us and waited as the guides got all the boats ready and gear out for us.  We all got a sleeveless wetsuit, and a green water jacket that was super flattering on all of us! We got on the river at about 17:00 in time to raft for a grand total of maybe 15 minutes before arriving to camp for the night.  It was okay, since the trip was the same distance total regardless of distance per day. Camping was not so comfortable on the sandy beach, but I was able to scoop out a butt hole in the sand, making it more comfortable. We had dinner at 21:00 and then turned in for the night.

10/6 Whitewater Rafting Day 2 – Long Day on the River

Awaking in the morning we packed up camp and put it all on the boats and got on the river by 8:30.  It was a nice morning to be on the water, though it was not too warm. Getting on our boat, our guide, Victor (aka Bacteria) went through the safety one more time and we were off.  We paddled pretty much all day long and went through lots of rapids.  The rapids on this river were of all classes, from class 1 all the way up to class 6.  We did not go through the class 6 crazy rapids.  Instead the guides took the boats through as all of the passengers walked around.  It looked absolutely insane taking the boats through those big rapids.  The ones we were traversing were hard enough. I am so happy that our guide was as good as he was because he showed us a great time without ever tipping us over.  I was worried that Cara might not enjoy the experience, but with Victor piloting the raft, we stayed upright and I caught lots of big smiles on her face. We had a chance to jump out of the boat and do a swimming rapid at one point and it was pretty awesome, even with water running up my nose.  Cara wasn’t about to have any of jumping in the cold river.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump in a raging river even if it was cold.  We rafted for 6+ hours on this day and it was awesome.  We were so tired at the end of the day and were happy to get to the campsite where we setup our own tents. We got shafted tonight with a crappy tent that the wind blew the sides into.  I could have set it up better, but without stakes it was not possible.  We were on the beach for about 5 hours before dinner and the sand and rocks were really starting to hurt our butts after sitting on the raft all day. Meals were not memorable on the this trip compared to the Salkantay Trek. Sitting here, 2 weeks later writing this, I cannot come up with what we had for dinner, so it certainly was nothing to write home about. We went to sleep right after dinner and dessert.

From Camp 1

Camp 2

10/7 Whitewater Rafting Day 3 – Final Day of Fun

We got 3 hour on the river today after packing up the camp in the morning. The rafting was pretty good again we got wet pretty early in the morning, going through a rapid that came right over top of the raft. Luckily, the sun came out about 9:00 and warmed up quickly to be really nice outside. On the way down the river, we saw a lot of good rapids, but they seemed to be getting farther and farther apart. My arms were getting really tired of paddling towards the end of the trip especially since we stayed in the same seats the entire trip, which meant we never got to switch our arms doing all of the work. Towards the end of the rafting trip we went down a super soaker of a rapid to get us all nice and wet at the end of the trip.  The last one might be the most memorable as the kayaker went ahead to make sure it was safe, gave the thumbs up, and then we plunged over the 2m high waterfall down to the flat river where we pulled out. We had a great trip and we are both excited to have more rafting in our future. I was very appreciative that Victor kept us upright and showed Cara a good time in the water. After packing up and lunch, we headed out and got back to Cuzco around 16:00.  We headed back to the hostel, showered up, and went out to dinner. After a lot of mediocre Peruvian food on the trip, we were excited to come back and have some Pizza.  We knew we liked Pacha Mama’s, so we went there again for dinner and split a pizza that was of true light Italian style. After dinner, we enjoyed dining on 2 dessert places as well as doing our duty as good tourists and buying souvenirs for seemingly everyone you know or kind of know. After our last dessert, we were tired and went back to the hostel for more sleep.

We walked around this class 6 rapid

 

 

10/8 Final Day in Peru

We awoke not having a schedule, packed up and left our bags at the hostel until we were ready to start our trip home at 17:00. We toured the Choco Museo today and enjoyed some cacao tea made out of the shells of the cacao beans. It was pretty cool to see how chocolate is made and we definitely enjoyed our time during that tour. We checked out some more stalls at markets looking for the one souvenir that I had seen that I really liked. I wanted a fancy knife that had the 3 animals important to the Inca on it, the Puma, the Condor, and the Snake. We eventually found one that I liked and bought it, which concluded our souvenir buying time in Peru. We enjoyed the lunch at Fuego’s so much from before our whitewater rafting trip, that we visited again and got some more superb burgers and onion rings. After lunch, our food babies made, we walked around town some, relaxed in a park and got ready to go.

Crazy looking parade on a Wednesday. No idea what the holiday was.

We were sad to leave Peru after such a fun trip, but we left with the knowledge that we had done as much as we possibly could in our time there.  We shall return to South America some day to do an Amazon Jungle trek/tour and look forward to that day. We will not be short on traveling in the coming months and years as we move to China and start our new lives together.  Overall, I cannot think of a more fun honeymoon, even if it was atypical.  Atypical is what we do, and it is what makes our lives so much fun.

Honeymoon in Peru – Salkantay Trek

9/28  up at 3:00 for pickup at “3:30” actually 3:40  bus to Mollepata Salkantay trek to the gap 20k

We awoke at the ungodly hour of 3:00 and were down at the lobby at 3:30 with our bags packed and left in the hostel locker room. We had a backpack full of stuff for the mules and smaller backpacks for each of us. Our guide got there at 3:40 and took us by foot to where we were going to meet everyone else. It took awhile for the guide to pick up everyone and get everything organized, but Jorge, the guide, had us all packed, on the bus, and off by 4:30. The trip used to meet an hour later, but there is a big construction zone on the way there and they only let traffic through it for 4 hours per day, so they bumped up the meeting time to get through it.  We were on the bus for about 2-2.5 hours on the ride there.  Most of us missed tons of beautiful scenery because we were exhausted and asleep. Oh well. Upon arrival to Mollepata, we unpacked and went in to get a breakfast of bread and butter. We could have gotten a different breakfast, but it was much more expensive and we were ready to go.

It felt good to finally have made it to Mollepata to start the Salkantay Trek, the main reason we came to Peru.  The trek goes from Mollepata to Macchu Picchu over the course of 5 days/4 nights. The first day of hiking was along dirt roads for the first 10 km and then made its way onto small foot paths up high in the mountains. We were stopping every 30 minutes or so for breaks and enjoying the scenery.  Cara and I were in better shape than pretty much everyone else there, so we were off enjoying the scenery while others were huffing and puffing just trying to make it up the mountain.  The first day was pretty much uphill the entire day. Almost every stop had little huts on it that were selling bottled water and snacks/beverages. We didn’t waste our money on this and drank water from the glaciers or boiled water most of the time. At lunch time we were about 12 km into the day and many were feeling the effects of the walking. The food was amazing, with a 3 course meal for lunch.  It started with a guacamole plate, then some kind of hearty soup, and then main course that always consisted of a lot of rice and some meat. This was pretty much the format for every lunch and dinner of the entire trip. We were super impressed with the quality of the food. The cook brought in all the food and cooking equipment with him via the mules, though the first day it was possible to drive it to the destination.

The group on day 1

After lunch we continued to hike for another 8 km to the final camp.  We weren’t sure at the time, but we could pretty much see the camp from where we ate lunch.  It was up the valley we were hiking along, way off in the distance.  The hiking in the afternoon was real nice, since it wasn’t steep anymore and the views were spectacular.  We got the chance to look down on a rainbow next to a mountain across the valley from us. It tried raining a little bit, but it stayed away for the most part on day 1 of the trek. Right before we got to the camp, we passed a really fancy resort lodge that had about 10 huge bottles of supplemental oxygen piped into the house to keep it at sea level oxygen levels for those weenies that can’t deal with the elevation, but want to see the scenery. It was grand up there when the clouds parted and we were able to look up to the peaks of some glacier covered mountains. We debated which way we would be going in the morning, but no one was sure. The camp was real nice, since at 3900m above sea level you are above the treeline, there was a lot of wind.  The camp had a tin roof and tarps around it to keep the wind out, and the tents were pitched by the trekking staff inside of there. It felt strange not to put up my own tent, but it worked out. We had the chance to take some photos before popcorn came out as snack along with tea. Then an hour later, dinner came out with soup and main course.  More great food as always from our group cook.  Each group hiking was about 12 people and had their own guide, cook, and horsemen. After dinner we all went straight to bed since we had gotten up super early and wake up time the next day was 5:00 hiking by 6:00.

Looking down on a rainbow.

9/29  up at 5:00 for breakfast with pancakes hike 24k over 4629m Salkantay pass, snow, rain, hurt foot

Day 2 of the Salkantay Trek started with the cook coming around at 5:00 and saying “Coca Tea?” to everyone.  He was offering coca tea to everyone as a wakeup drink. The coca tea is the local remedy for altitude sickness.  I have no idea if it works or not, but it tastes alright with some sugar added to it. We packed and had a breakfast of bread, butter, jam, cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, and pancakes with dulce de leche. We were on the trail by 6:15 and on our way.  Luckily Jorge had us going before the other groups, so it was nice to hike not too much in a line of people.  The hike up was pretty hard starting at 3900m and peaking out at 4629m at the Salkantay pass. The hike up to the pass was beautiful hiking through the rockfalls and enjoying the clear skies and views of Humtay and Salkantay the 2 big peaks we were hiking through. I was wearing my new sweater for part of it, since it was pretty cold up there, ~5C. When it got warmer or I heated up from hiking, I took it off and hung it over my back.  I lost it part way up somewhere, but didn’t realize it until we were almost to the top. Luckily, one of the Austrians from our group grabbed it and brought it up to me, so I didn’t have to go down too far to retrieve it. We arrived to the top of Salkantay Pass as a group and got our picture taken with signs. Jorge, the guide, was supposed to explain to us about the history of the pass, but the snow was picking up, so we just started down to stay warm.  The descent was steep and on loose gravel/boulders along with being wet from the snow.  As we descended the precipitation changed from snow to rain and it got worse to hike through as it got more and more muddy and slippery. Cara and I donned the rain jackets, which were nice, but didn’t cover our legs and it got real cold.  We made it down to a hut that looked like lunch after almost 2 hours of this descent, but it didn’t end up being lunch.  There was still another 20 minutes of hiking past that. We waited there for 30 minutes for others to arrive, but our group was still not all down, so we continued to lunch with directions from Jorge, and arrived to lunch. We all took off our wet jackets and packs and donned the down jackets. As we hung out in the lunch shelter, much like the camping shelter from the previous night, we warmed up and the rain stopped. The view across the valley was amazing with 10+ waterfalls rushing down the wall from the rain and the glaciers melting. We were starting to enter the Cloud Forest on our descent. We were approximately 14 km into the hike for the day and enjoying finally warming up.

Almost to Salkantay Pass

Mules carrying all our gear

Salkantay Pass in the snow

After lunch the hiking was better since it wasn’t raining, but the trail was soaked and muddy, but the forest was very interesting to watch go by. The trail was also steep and hurt the knees and feet on the descent.  Cara was having a really hard time with the descent because her shoes were killing her feet and her knee was bothering her.  The descent from the gap started at 4629 m and ended on the day at about 2800 m, so we had come down a really long ways. We were looking down the valley towards shelters we could see and counting down the distance until we arrived.  Luckily, we rounded a corner and we arrived, much to our surprise, to the camp we were to stay at. This was the strangest camp I have ever been at, since the guides had pitched our tents on the second floor of this hut. This was to keep the rain and wetness off of our tents. Cara and I had nice air matreses that we had brought from home, so it wasn’t a big deal to sleep on the wooden floors. We took our shoes off upon arrival and went and stuck our feet in a little stream by the camp.  I had my feet in it for about 10 minutes straight to lower the swelling, but Cara put her feet in and screamed from the cold. She eventually put them in there for 3 minutes and had enough.  I walked around barefoot all night to let my feet air out and recover from another long day in shoes. Dinner was another good feast starting out with popcorn and then moving on to soup and main course. We talked with our hiking group for a little after dinner before turning in again pretty early. We slept well that night, though others did not because of loud drunk guides below them.

Camp for the night

9/30 Salkantay Trek Day 3 – to Santa Teresa

Awaking at 6:00 felt like a luxury after getting up so early the past 2 days. The cook had tea for us in the morning and prepared another wonderful breakfast. After breakfast we headed out for the hike for the day.  This was the first day of hiking that was not straight up or straight down, but was nice rolling terrain.  We hiked down to the river along the road and then got on a trail that paralleled the river.  The hike was nice, rolling along the riverside with lots of stream crossings on sketchy bridges.  The bridges were made by placing 2 large logs across the stream and then taking little sticks and going between the logs.  Most of the sticks were not nailed or secured in place and made it extremely unstable to walk along. I enjoyed the novelty of these while Cara was not really a fan. They made for an adventure. We also crossed one sketchy landslide which had a path about 1 foot wide before it dropped off to oblivion to the river below. We made it through the hiking today without much issue and arrived into La Playa, where we would break for lunch and say goodbye to some of the members of our tour group who bought a 4 day trek instead of a 5 day. Luckily, Jorge, the guide, stayed with us and sent the others on their way.  Cara and I were ready to hike after lunch, but were told we were getting on a bus for the ride to Santa Teresa. IT ended up being the right move to make, since the roads were super sketchy and there weren’t any trails to follow down to the town.  The bus was a good ride with the dirt road barely wide enough for one bus, let alone 2 trying to pass each other.  It was crazy when they tried, because it certainly was not an optimal situation.

Jorge the cameraman and guide

We arrived into Santa Teresa about an hour after we had left on the bus ride and got set in camp. We promptly left and took another bus down to the hot springs where we would hang out for 2 hours. To get into the hot springs, you had to take a “shower” in a very cold stream coming down the mountain.  This was so cold, you couldn’t do much more than touch it before you were chilled to the bone. Cara’s face was priceless  when she stepped in the shower.  We got in the first pool which was supposedly 25C. Staying in there for about 2 minutes, we moved over to the 30C pool. The 30C pool was really crowded with people for whatever reason, so we moved right on to the 35C pool.  It was pretty warm, but the entire pool was not 35C.  There was naturally heated water that rolled into the pool and heated it up. This water was super hot, but felt nice to relax in.  Cara and I stayed in this pool for about 90 minutes, remaining long after our other group members left to dry off. One reason for staying in the pool was the mosquitoes were really bad outside the pool. It felt really nice to relax in the pool and it got us ready for the hiking to come the next day. Upon return to the camp, our cook had dinner ready which was a fancy show for sure.  Since it was the last day he would cook for us, we had a cucumber penguin and flambéed bananas as part of the dinner menu. The bond fire party that night was pretty cool, but Cara and I retired for the night at an early 22:00 compared to many others.

10/1 Salkantay Trek Day 4 – to Aguas Calientes

We did not have to rise until 7:00 in the morning.  The plan was for most of the group to go ziplining, but that included skipping a significant section of hiking.  The hiking was along the road and wouldn’t be that exciting, however, Cara and I had come for the hiking, so we were set on hiking. Plus we had to pay extra if we wanted to go ziplining. We were going to be the only ones hiking, and we were okay with that, but when Jorge offered us discounted ziplining, Cara convinced me that we should do it, since it would never be cheaper or more affordable that right now. She was right. We paid S./80 per person to go ziplining on 6 ziplines that spanned 800+ meters. The ziplines ran from one mountain to another way above the valley floor and the views were amazing, but it was really about the adrenaline rush of soaring above the valley. I wanted to take pictures on the way across, but couldn’t really figure out a safe way to do it, since you were trying to keep yourself from twisting and hitting the wire while sliding along. After an exhilarating couple of hours on the ziplines, we headed on down to Hidroelectrica via bus.  This was another nice sketchy ride, but I enjoyed it once again.

Lunch was served in Hidroelectrica, before Jorge and what remained of our group made our way up to the train tracks and hiked along them over to Aguas Calientes.  This was quite an adventure, even though hiking along train tracks sounds like it should be really boring. This hike included our first views of the Lost City of the Incas (Macchu Picchu).  We were 1000m below the city and it was crazy to think about how they built it up on top like that. This was the nice part of the hike before the storm came over the Macchu Picchu and slammed into us with full force. We could see the rain sheets coming in the distance and it started out light, but quickly turned to downpour and then to hail. Jorge, Cara, and I made it to a shelter to wait out the worst of the rain, but several others were out huddled under a tree, one of them without a rain jacket. When the rain let up, we started hiking again, but the rain started to pick up once again. It didn’t matter, we had to make the hike and our shoes were already soaked, so we just sucked it up and enjoyed the novelty of hiking and singing in the rain.  At least it wasn’t very cold. We arrived to Aguas Calientes in light rain and were shown up to our hostel room, where Cara and I both had nice hot showers to warm up after getting chilled from the rain.  We weren’t really getting very wet from it, but it was enough to chill us on through.  After warming up, we went to dinner as a group and had an okay final meal together.  It was nothing to write home about after the superb food prepared for us during the trek.  We walked around town a little bit before heading to bed. We had to push and shove our way through the political rallies that were going on.  These rallies would go on through the night until we were supposed to get up at 4:00.

Rain came and was super fun…NOT!

10/2 Salkantay Trek Day 5 – Macchu Picchu

Today was supposed to be the highlight of the trip, and it was certainly one of the most memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.  I was up from 23:30 all the way through the night with some kind of intestinal bug. Cara then got up around 2:00 with the same crap bug.  There is not telling if it was food poisoning from dinner or a bug from the water, but our guide caught it as well.  We skipped the meeting of our guide at 4:30 and hiking up to the top.  We were supposed to arrive at the top by 6:00, but we got out of bed at 7:15 and then bought bus tickets to the top.  We were so out of energy that even walking to the bus was difficult.  We made it to the bus, and got our ride to the top and were able to enter Macchu Picchu.  Macchu Picchu is a truly amazing place and you can tell how it was a spiritual center from all the views around. I could definitely live in a place like that. We walked around the ruins for 4 hours taking very frequent and long breaks. We got a chance to see it all, but the enjoyment just wasn’t there so much because of how drained we were from the sickness. There were some token llamas there that were pretty cool and inquisitive animals. I don’t think I have ever been somewhere, though, with as many tourists and cameras flashing away. I definitely was a part of the tourist stream, but so many seemed to storm along with their cameras and not stop to appreciate the enormity and sanctity of the culture that Macchu Picchu represents. Cara and I eventually made it to the highest point in the ruins where we laid down and took a short nap before heading down, again via bus. We had paid to hike up Macchu Picchu mountain, behind Macchu Picchu, but we were in no state to do the hike.  The pictures and views from the top of that looked amazing as we looked through our tour mates pics, but it was not to be. When we got back to Aguas Calientes around 13:00 we met up with our tour mates and hung out at a French café. We were both starting to feel better and sitting down definitely helped it. We had 5 hours to waste before we would start the journey back to Cuzco via train and bus. We enjoyed the café for a long time and then strolled through the markets. We made it back to Cuzco late, around 22:30 and got into our new hostel, VIP Hostel, which was a big improvement over Intro Hostel in price and amenities.

 

Honeymoon in Peru

Leave 9/24 Fly RDU – FLL – Lima  arrive 6:00pm  1900 Backpacker’s Hostel

After a wonderful wedding we traveled to my parent’s house in Apex, NC to leave for Peru on Wednesday morning.  We flew Jet Blue and I was really impressed, especially since it was a budget airline.  There was more legroom than any flight I have ever been on and they served unlimited snacks during the flight.  We arrived to Peru in the evening and then took the cab to the 1900 Backpacker’s Hostel where we crashed as soon as we arrived.  There was no dinner that night because it was such a long day of traveling.

9/25 Lima walking tour

We awoke the following day in our cozy double bed and went to the main hall of the hostel to get our breakfast of flatbread, jam, and butter.  There was also tea and OJ.  After breakfast we asked the attendant where we should go and we headed out in search of downtown Lima.  It was about 2 km away and we walked around all day.  We saw the downtown area with tons of shops, high end to low end and made our way out of downtown to a cross on the hill that I had seen on a map.  I was too stubborn to buy a map, so we just walked toward the hill that I thought it was and started to climb it.  We went through the ghetto/slums getting there, but the view from the top was pretty good, looking back over Lima.  It was just a small taste of what was to come.  On our way back to the hostel we were fading and in search of lunch when we came across a farmer’s market selling all kinds of goodies.  We had our first real taste of trying to get around in Spanish (we both had 3 years of Spanish in high school) when we tried to order lunch.  We didn’t understand much of anything, but we ended up with some wonderful Ceviche and Aji de Gallina.  I still am not really sure what Aji de Gallina is other than a soup with the innards of the chicken in it and pasta.  After a nice lunch where we later realized we had just ordered appetizers (called entradas), we bought some strawberries from the market and headed on back to the hostel to rest.  We went ahead and setup our Salkantay Trek at the travel agency in the hostel.  Online in the US, I could only find it for $500, but in Lima I found it for $255 plus $10 to climb Macchu Picchu Mtn per person. It really is unbelievable the difference in cost from buying local versus trying to get it online. Getting up in the evening, we asked the attendant where to go for dinner and we were pointed back into downtown where we didn’t really want to go after walking so much.  So we made our way back to town and ate at a Chifa, Chinese restaurant. Walking around afterwards we had a terrible experience at what looked like a gelateria, where we couldn’t buy just a scoop of ice cream/gelato.  We ended up with an overpriced dry brownie sundae with freezer burnt ice cream. Off to bed we went after that.

Wonderful ceviche

9/26 Cuzco

We missed our wonderful hostel breakfast this morning, when we were picked up for our ride to the airport at 7:55, so we had 6 Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.  The flight to Cuzco was uneventful and cloudy for most of the time, but when we got close we were able to see the beautiful high mountains of the Andes as we landed at Cuzco’s airport, elevation 3200m.  Upon arrival, we were supposed to have airport pickup by a taxi from the hostel, but we missed it somehow and ended up getting our own taxi after a little haggling for S./35. This was a ripoff we later learned as the cab ride should only be S./10. A travel agent accompanied us on the cab ride to the hostel and was able to sell these unknowing tourists a bus tour of the Sacred Valley for the following day. $30/person for an all day bus tour including lunch seemed like an alright deal, so we took it.  We made it to the hostel and up to our beautiful room where Cara promptly fell asleep again and I laid around and read for a few hours.  Climbing up the stairs, about 15 stairs, to the room left both of us really winded and feeling out of shape from the elevation.

View from the hostel room.

In the evening, we got up and walked around town.  We ran into a market, where we promptly spent money like a good tourist and learned through experience how these places work.  Never buy at the front of the market because their prices will always be higher.  We bought a nice rainbow hooded sweater for Cara for S./45. Always haggle. Prices are never set, even if they say they are.  Luckily, I remembered all my Spanish numbers, so was able to haggle for my sweater and got it for S./30 or about $10. After that, we continued down the street to a camping store that had name brand down jackets and rain jackets for cheap.  We got Cara a new down jacket for S./200 or $75. This was a steal for a North Face jacket as it would normally cost around $300. I was jealous of the deal, but didn’t see anything in there that I really needed. After our foray into buying stuff, we went and had dinner at a more traditional Peruvian restaurant. We had trout and Alpaca that was quite tasty. After dinner, we headed into the Plaza and were able to watch a concert that was playing that night with local traditional music along with the random interspersed political rallies. The national presidential election was only a week away, so they were all gearing up for that. After an interesting concert, we headed back to the hostel for bed and rest before the long bus tour the next day.

9/27  Sacred Valley Bus Tour

Sleeping in was nice this morning, but the hostel didn’t have free breakfast, so we ate some snacks in the room before getting “picked up” at the hostel for the bus tour.  Apparently getting picked up in Peru means someone coming to the door and all of you walking together to where you are actually getting picked up. We got to the bus pickup spot and waited patiently as bus after bus of people left without us.  Eventually we got on a bus and were off. We were the only English speakers on the bus, but the tour guide kindly did a bilingual tour allowing us to listen to it as well. We headed out of Cuzco past Sasquaywaman and out to Pisac to see the ruins there.  En route, we stopped at a market, that was basically the same as the one we saw in Cuzco, but there were some locals dressed up in traditional clothing with alpacas with them.  Cara loved it and went in for the picture with them. After hanging out here and starting to realize that breaks with set time limits really weren’t very exact, we headed on to Pisac to see the ruins.  The guide gave a very long speech in Spanish that we didn’t really understand before she gave us an abbreviated version in English.  We missed out on walking around the site very much because of how long the speech was.  We had about 20 minutes to walk around before we had to be back and we made it back in 25 since it was certainly bigger than it looked. The cool part of this ruin was the mountainside with tons of holes in it that were used for putting mummies in.

We continued to Pisac to look in shops again and we saw our first silver/jewelry shop that was pretty cool.  Back on to the bus and off to another town for lunch which was late at 13:00 or so. The lunch was a pretty good buffet of traditional foods. They have some kind of corn in Peru that the kernels are about 10 times the size as they are in the US.  We are not sure what it is, but it has a very cool texture and tastes pretty good as well.  I was just wondering what popcorn made out of it would look like. After lunch we got onto the bus again and made our way to the ruins of Ollantaytambo. These were pretty cool with more terraces.  Cara and I skipped out on the guides long speech in Spanish and immediately headed to the top, so we wouldn’t miss out on exploring it. A great idea as we saw the whole thing plus some.  This was a very cool place with naturally running water running through the irrigation system they build back in the 1400s. We made it to the top and ran into our guide who then gave us the tour.  She did point out something we had taken pictures of, but hadn’t noticed.  There was a face with a crown in the mountainside a distant mountain that was a god of the Incas. It was nice not to be rushed on this quick blitz tour.

After Ollantaytambo, we got stuck in a major traffic jam getting out for about 45 minutes.  2-way streets the width of 1-way streets with semis and tour buses going both ways is just a wonderful recipe for disaster. We finally got out and went to another town over a huge mountain where we learned how the locals spin yarn from alpaca wool and how they die it to make all of the sweaters that we see in the markets. There were ruins here, but we weren’t able to see them because we arrived to late and the sun was going down. After here, we made our way back to Cuzco around 20:00 and got dinner at a nice little kebab restaurant, since Cara had never had these before.  To bed we went after grabbing some snack food to prepare for getting up at 3:00 in the morning for our Salkantay Trek.

 

Star trails from Rich Patch, VA

This is my first star trails experience with an intervalometer and my sweet new Tokina 11-16mm wide angle lens. I took 5 minute exposures all night and then stitched them all together to this one that ended at about 5AM. The night time ones have more stars, but my personal favorite is this one with the sky becoming a beautiful purple hue and silhouetting the tree.