Well the last few days have been quite eventful, after much deliberation lindsey and I decided to go on a four day three night Incan Jungle Tour. On the 27th we set out at 6 in the morning on our adventure with 15 other travelers and one guide. The first part of the trip was to go up to 4,300 meters and ride mountian bikes down the mountian. Due to my recent biking adventures we abstained and watched the other fools get on subpar bikes and hurtle down a mountian highway in the pouring rain. We then arrived at our first accomidation of a gas station where a dog with fleas was kicked out of his room so we could sleep there (joy). We then became the high matience americans because we complained.
The 28th we rose at 6 am to hike (we had no problem getting up and leaving). We then trekked through the jungle on an Incan trail for 8 hours. It was beautiful at times we gained 1,800 meters and looked out over the valley at the raging river and others we walked beside it. We then finished our long hike at a hot spring. It was awesome!!!
The 29th we got up early again and hiked again for another 6 hours. We then arrived in the bustling tourist town of Augas Calientes. This town is formed for the pure fact of giving tourists a place to sleep before they journey to Machu Picchu! But the hostel was clean and dog free!!!
Today we woke at 3:30 and hiked for a hour and a half up hill to be the first to enter Machu Picchu!! It was truely an Epic place. It was amazing to walk where the Incas tread 100s of years ago!! Tonight we take a late train back to Cuzco and tomorrow an early flight to Lima!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Hope everyones Christmas was good. Selina and I had a great German
dinner after getting to talk to the fam for a bit on the phone. Cuzco
seems to have everything and I couldn´t help but order the tenderloin
with spetzle and have a glass of red wine. The spetzle were good but
not nearly as good as moms.
We spent today browsing trek companies and finally decided on an
alternative from the Inca Trail. We´ll be doing a 4 day 3 night trek
staying at hostels in small villages. Check out our itinerary below.
We´re pretty stoked sans the biking and rafting parts. We dont want
any injuries so well be hiking all of it.
In search for one of our Trek companies, which no longer existed, we
found ourselves far enough away from the tourist areas to enjoy a
lunch for about $1.50 a piece. Their sign outside had many options but
really that just means that you might get one of those options. We sat
down and without asking we were brought a bowl of chicken noodle soup
(good for my cold!) After that we had an option of something we
couldn´t understand in spanish or chicken. We went with chicken. Good
choice the neighboring table was served some sort of fish. To finish
off our lunch we were served some sort of red flowery drink. I forget
the name but Selina said it was a Christmas drink made from flowers
that only bloom in December.
Other than that we have really enjoyed Cuzco. We wandered off the
beaten path into some of steets with local markets and shopping. It
was crazy. Their were tons of vendors obviously with their Alpaca
goods but the food vendors were off the hook. Katy would have a field
day with the assortment of meats, veggies, fruits, spices and a lot of
stuff that I didn´t even know what it was. You name it they had it.
Although I probably saw one too many pig heads and chicken claws than
I needed too. Selina and I were tempted by the long row of chocolate
vendors and I was disappointed that we had just eaten lunch before we
got there. Some rows of vendors cooked up food right there on the
spot. We could have sat down and enjoyed a bowl of soup or freshly
made smoothy form any of the many many vendors.
Well, we´re off to get some pizza. Suposedly Cuzco has the best in
Peru because of a special cheese that they use.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Just another update and hello from Selina and me. I think my last
email ended in Arequipa. The next morning we took a posh bus ride to
Puno for $25 but I would have paid $50. It was probably the most
luxurious part of our trip with first class seats that reclined,
movies, and snacks. The 6 hour ride was absolutely beautiful and very
similar to places in the US around Colorado, Utah or Arizona. The one
surprise were some flamingos in some small mountain lakes. Yeah,
Our bus ride got us into Puno, the largest Peru town around Lake
Titicaca, in the late afternoon. We hopped into a cab for about $1 to
get us into the main area of town and started our search for a hostel.
After bargaining and seeing a few rooms we ended up at one of the
worst of the bunch out of pure exhaustion. The elevation was starting
to hit us and at that point we didn´t care where we were laying our
bags. We walked around the streets of Puno and stopped for some Coca
tea in hopes to remedy our weary bodies and pounding heads. After an
hour rest we went to run some travel errands. Dropping off some dirty
clothes at a laundry (the one thing more expensive than in Chicago),
looking for a book exchange, and picking up some fresh fruit and
veggies to take to the locals on our lake visit the next day. By the
time we ventured through Punos streets and picked up some Chifa
(Puruvians version of Chinese) for dinner we were exhausted and ended
up in our hostel room. We were a pretty pathetic sight with gross
Chinese, in a dingy room, freezing and Selina´s elevation sickness
getting the best of her (puking). At 6 am the next morning we were up
and heading for the bus station. Unfortunately missing our trip to the
islands on Lake Titicaca, but also giving us more time in Cuzco to
relax and plan a fun hiking trip to Machu Picchu. Puno was not a loss
though, the markets were fun to experience especially around the
holiday season. Rows/stands of meats, potato, grains, etc. I guess the
Lima version of the Westside market but not as sightly. Although the
food looked good and the prices were right!
Yesterday we made the mistake of taking a ¨"local" bus and not the
tour group bus to Cuzco. Luckily the bus tickets we chose were first
class leaving us with decent window seats which was way more than our
options of standing or an armrest on the upper level. The views were
again beautiful. We were both feeling sick and nauseous but it was a
good experience to see the small towns and mountain farmlands. We
pulled into Cuzco around 8 and had a cab drop us off in one of the
nicer neighborhoods surrounding the main Plaza de Armas. We luckily
stumbled into a nice looking hostel within our budget. It feels a lot
like being at camp with bunk beds and timbers lining the ceilings. The
only thing we cared really about were clean beds and hot showers (or
at least luke warm). We settled in and ventured out finding some Thai
food which was a welcome surprise. Peruvian food is fine but we were
over bread, white rice and chicken. We ended the night early and were
excited to crawl into warm beds. The occasional firecrackers were
going off as we crawled into beds. By midnight the city´s sky was lit
up. Up and down the mountains and through the streets people were
setting off bottle rockets which created a display much like shooting
stars all around you. Every few seconds a large firecracker would
appear high in the sky somewhere in the city lighting up the sky.
Luckily our room has a small window on the second story and I got to
watch the show from my cozy pjs. Happy birthday Jesus.
And here we are on Christmas. After getting a good night rest Selina
and I (now with a cold) had a relaxing day walking up and down the
streets and around the plazas of Cuzco. It reminds us very much of an
old European town. Maybe its the small cobble stone streets or the
backpacker haven that we have stumbled into. After visiting Arequipa
and Puno we seem to blend in a lot more. We picked up some local
crafts for souvenirs and found a great coca/chocolate shop. You will
all have a sample of some unless I eat it all on the plane ride home.
Hello and Merry Christmas to you guys!!
Well after a very fancy bus ride to Puno we arrived and I pretty much instantly got sick from the altitude. Puno was small and pretty but I pretty much spent all my time in the crappy hotel sick. I did get to see Lake Titicaca and all of its glory.
The next morning got up early and went to the bus station to go to Cuzco which is about 1000 meters lower. After 7.5 hours on a bus through the Andean countryside we arrived in beautiful Cuzco which looks like an European city built on huge hills made of many squares. Today we have walked around shopping and drinking cocoa tea which is supposed to help with the altitude. Tomorrow we are off to find a trek to Manchu Picu
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Selina and I have been keeping busy the past few days and have covered
a lot of ground in experiencing the Peruvian culture. After our last
emails we had a few hours to relax back at our hotel before venturing
back out to check out a little bit of the nightlife that Miraflores
has to offer. In search of dinner we circled the main square a few
times not wanting to make the same mistake as we did for lunch. We
ended up at a moderately priced restaurant where we had our waitress
laughing at us when we were confused by how to eat our appetizer. Cold
corn on the cob with a dipping sauce and cheese.
The next morning we woke up early for our flight to Arequipa on
Peruvian Airlines. This is a new airline that just started flying this
past fall. Their planes looked like they were made of recycled plane
parts from the 1980s. I´m glad we landed and that part of the trip is
We´ve been enjoying our time in Arequipa just bumming around the main
square of the city and into the neighborhoods. Our hostel is decent
with a nice staff that endlessly tries to sell us tours to Arequipas
neighboring Colca Canyon. We decided that hiking the Grand Canyon was
enough desert hiking for one year and declined the 3 hour bus ride to
look at another big hole in the ground. What we were really excited
about was a museum that has a frozen body of a 12 year old girl,
Juanita, that was offered to the volcano gods as a sacrifice by the
Incas. The artifacts were discovered by a geologist after the
neighboring volcano erupted and it´s ash thawed the frozen ground
enough to reveal Juanita and the trail that the Incas had taken
hundreds of years ago. Everything from her skin, hair, clothes and
other offerings were preserved in the frozen ground. In the early
evening we wandered the streets and came across the main downtown
markets with everyone out and about shopping for the holidays. At
first it felt like Arequipas version of the cluster of people on
Michigan Ave. (Obviously not nearly as big). The farther we got from
the main square the more the lights of the store fronts gave way to a
market feel. I started to go into a booth with shoes and realized
about 20 feet in that it might have been an endless black hole of fake
Addidas and Converse. We resisted the bootleg DVDs and went in search
for dinner. We ended up having a great 5 course meal for 23soles which
is about $8 each of soup, chicken, potatoes, crepes, coco tea, and of
course a pisco sour.
Today we have kept just as busy wandering the streets enjoying some
more market areas and views that look out over Arequipa and some of
the nearby volcanoes. I visited the main cathedral in town and had a
few minutes to say a quick prayer. Their nativity seen was gigantic
and I´m sure will be a site on Christmas. (definitely an easy place to
forget your children haha) We also spent part of our afternoon
visiting the Santa Catalina Monastery. It is considered one of the
most impressive colonial structures in the city and takes up a few
city blocks. The monastery was built in 1579 but has not been open to
the public until recently in the 1970s. Very good experience but our
tour was probably a little bit too long when the only descriptive
verbs our guide could describe things were as ¨old.¨ No shit.
Well we´re off to grab a small dinner and then bed. Early 6 hour bus
ride to Puno in the morning. We are hoping to go to one of islands in
Lake Titicaca, Amantani Island. They are the only island that is part
of Peru that has a small family run inn. Hopefully we won´t have too
much of a problem with the Christmas holiday.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Just wanted to send an update, Selina and I made it to Peru safe and
sound last night. It was a long day of flying with a six hour layover
in Costa Rica. We had an airport pick-up pre scheduled which worked
out great. Our driver was very friendly, a women born in Lima, who
gave us some good tips for visiting the city. Last night we didn´t
venture out much since it was late and not safe to be walking. But we
did enjoyed some Mexican style food "pollo" chicken tacos that we
found right next to our hotel. And obviously we had to try our first
(and second) Pisco Sours. A peruvian drink that even had me taking a
few Excedrins this morning.
Today we slept in and decided to have a relaxing day bumming around an
area of Lima called Miraflores. It is probably the most affluent area
in Peru. We had a 20 minute walk to the beach this morning, stopped in
a grocery store (to our surprise very similar to Whole Foods) and then
had lunch at a steak restaraunt. The main attraction in the beach area
isn´t necessarily the beach itself. Miraflores sits along a cliff edge
and at the bottome of it is a rocky beach, some surfers, and a few
families and beachgoers. Along the ocean front cliffs is a beautiful
park which Selina and I called the "Lincoln Park" of Lima. We were
hoping to have an ocean view for lunch but the only thing that we
could find was very similar to a shopping mall with a Tony Romas and
Starbucks. Unfortunatley we headed in the wrong direction and
eventually ended up eating at an expensive steak house due to our
hungary bellies. Lets just say it´s a good thing I´m no longer a
vegetarian. The meat platter that the table next to us ordered was
very impressive. Although the beach front wan´t necessarily what we
expected it was still beautiful and we saw an awesome display of
paragliders flying off of the cliffs.
Right now Selina and I are at an internet cafe in one of the main park
areas of Miraflores. Since our hotel is a little pricey ($60 a night)
we found ourselves a hostel for our return visit over New Years Eve.
Other than that we´ve enjoyed the outdoor parks, shops, neighborhoods
and cafes that the area has to offer. Its about time to head back to
our hotel to wash up and relax a bit before finding dinner this
evening. We´ll be calling it an early night since we have an hour
flight out to Arequipa tomorrow morning.
There hasn´t been anything too shocking on our trip. Other than the
language barrier things are relatively easy to figure out. I´ve
learned how to say, "no, hablas espanol" "I do not speak Spanish¨"
Selina has been keeping us afloat from having some phrases down after
her 5 weeks in Panama this summer.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
After a very long journey (left apartment to blue line at 11pm, airport at 12;30, 2 am flight, 3 airports and 7 hours of layer over time) We arrived in Lima Peru!! Our hotel owner meet us at the airport and drove us to the hotel. We put down our backpacks and ventured out the door looking for a pisco sour!!! Found them around the corner at a Mexican Resturant we sat outside on the patio eating fresh gauc and sipping our drinks.