Peru | Vacation | March 2016

The trip started out bright and early on a Saturday morning. We had three layovers on the way to Cusco; D.C., Miami, and Lima, Peru. The flights to D.C. and Miami were great. We had a two hour layover in Miami so we grabbed some lunch, shortly after that I was in the bathroom getting sick. I barely had enough time to board the plane before I was getting sick again. I spent the whole 6 hour flight from Miami to Lima, going in and out of the bathroom (I only left so that other people could have a turn). *Yes, I know this isn't a great way to start a blog, but it's how I started my vacation, unfortunately.* We got through customs in Lima, Peru just fine, we went to get our bags and mine never showed up. I was about in tears while I was talking to the airport workers (who barely spoke English). There I had spent my whole flight in the tiny airplane bathroom getting sick, I just wanted to change my clothes and go to bed, and I couldn't, my bag got lost in Miami. Thanks American Airlines.....

By the time we flew into Lima it was already almost 10pm, then losing my bags and having to talk to the workers, it was almost midnight by the time we left the airport. We checked into a hotel right across the street and spent the night. Our flight to Cusco left at 9am the next day.

By the time we arrived to Cusco (pictured above on the left), we had about two hours before our first tour started. We grabbed lunch at our hotel (pictured above on the right) and got on our way. Our first tour was through Cusco City and the ruins surrounding the city.

We started at Saqsaywaman, pronounced sexy-woman. This was the the Incans gathering place for festivals. Their stories state that all of the walls here were built by hand and all of the rocks were carried up into the mountains by the people as well.

If you're wondering what that brown animal is in the grass, it's a dog.

Fun fact: Dogs are not pets in this country. The are free roamers and the natives actually ignore them and tell you not to touch them. One of the Americans on our tour went over and started petting and playing with one. The dog ended up getting attached to her and followed her around and even tried to get on a train with us. It was breathing and walking weird so I figure it had health problems.

Tambomachay was the next stop on our tour. It was the highest elevation that we were at the whole week. Located at 12,352 feet above sea level, that's WAY above our 902 feet above sea level in Columbus, Ohio. Usually people will fly in and take a few days to get acclimated to the high elevation before going on any tours, but with us having just a short time in Peru, we did this tour on our first day. It tested our health for sure. An older lady on the tour decided to stay in the van because she knew she couldn't handle it, my Dad said he was feeling light headed walking up the path, and I felt it getting harder to breathe as we went higher. Our tourmates all seemed to slow down as we got higher because of the uphill hike and thin air. But we made it to the top and the view was spectacular!

After that we headed back into Cusco City to the Centro Histórico (Historical Center). We went to the Plaza De Armas ,which is the plaza that the city revolves around.

Pictured above is the Catedral del Cusco. We took a tour inside but no pictures were allowed. The whole inside was full of gold details, sculptures dressed in traditional Incan clothing, mirrors everywhere, and the catacombs under the church.

Pictured below is Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun). All of these rocks were hand carved to fit together like a puzzle by the Incans. Notice the windows are trapezium shaped, the Incans believed that this was the sturdiest way to build. Also, the walls actually lean inward too because of this. This is where the Incans would worship the sun and the moon. It also used to be full of gold, but throughout the years it has slowly disappeared.

We went back to the Plaza De Armas for dinner that night. Basically everything on the first floor were shops and everything on the second floor were restaurants. We ate at the restaurant pictured above with the brightest lights to the right of the picture. Dad and I tried Alpaca meat here. I thought it was pretty good, it had a very strong taste but it was still good. I just don't think I could eat too much of it. Literally every restaurant that we went to during this trip had delicious food.

We woke up bright and early the next morning too. We started on our tour through the Sacred Valley.

The picture above was our first stop in the Sacred Valley. We basically just got off the bus, the guide gave us a brief history lesson, and on we went. It was so pretty here though, everything seemed so calm.

Our next stop was a rescued animal farm. I think this was way better than any zoo back home. They let us go in with some of the animals and get SO close to the mountain lions.

Pictured above is an Alpaca. Pictured below is a Llama. One way that you can tell them apart is llamas have longer legs. One of my main goals of this trip was to get a picture with a llama. All because of The Emperor's New Groove TV show from my childhood. My goal was acheived!

This is a Condor. This bird had so much to do with the rise of the Incas that they based so much off of it. We were actually in the cage with these giant birds and they made them fly right over our heads and land right behind us. It was really cool!

Fun fact: Guinea pigs are a specialty food down here, almost like steak to us Americans.

These poor guinea pigs. They were in a cage and we travelers said "awww". When the local opened the lid to the cage, they scattered. Little did we know at the time, that they eat these guinea pigs on a daily basis. Actually, after we left the shelter, we saw a local down the road holding them roasted on sticks, trying to sell them to us to eat. It made all of us tourists sad because they're pets to us but food to them.

This is all the wool they use to make all the pretty patterns. They use the wool from the Alpacas and Llamas and dye it different colors with natural items then it all gets woven together like the woman is below.

That is a Peruvian Hairless Dog. They are naturally hairless to handle the hot weather better.

Our next stop was Pisaq. Another Incan town based at the top of a mountain. The tour guide said this one was used for guards to watch for traitors coming in.

This is a close up of the mountain beside us. Those tiny black holes that you see are actually burial sites for Incans. They used to dig holes and carry the dead bodies up the hill, stuff them in the hole, and that would be their final resting place.

Hiking up and around this little town wasn't bad, but coming down was super scary. The steps are very narrow, very steep, and if you take one wrong step, you fall off the edge of the mountain. The handle bars were probably added for our safety but they were very unstable and when my Dad put his hand on one, it broke, hence why he's barely holding on now.

Our last stop for the day was Ollantaytambo. Right at the entrance to many of the ruins and tourist spots are these little markets. Tourism is the locals biggest source of income. Almost everything they sell is handmade.

This little mountain is another burial hill. If you look closely, it's in the shape of a Condor. Like I said before, the Incans really worshiped those birds.

This is an example of where the Incans would bathe themselves. They channeled the water down the mountains into several of these throughout the city. This one was for women. I can tell because it has the knobs on the sides, which the women used to help get in and out.

After we visited Ollantaytambo, we were taken to our next hotel (pictured above). It was so gorgeous and peaceful. Pictured below is the sunrise over the mountains.

Fun fact: One of the most famous plants in Peru is called the Coca plant. It is what cocaine is made of. In Peru, they put the plant into tea and food and other things! The tour guides would offer it to us if we were feeling dizzy or sick from the altitude because it's supposed to help settle your stomach, but we never drank it. We had to be careful what we ate or drank because we didn't want to accidentally eat it and then have it show up on a drug test at our jobs, because it can stay in your system for several weeks.

Pictured above is one of the gateways to the Incan trail.

The next morning we woke up super early and got on the train to go to Machu Picchu. The train ride was almost two hours, but it was one of the prettiest train rides that I have ever been on. It was also very humbling. I think as American's we sometimes don't realize how good we have it. On this train ride we passed towns that were literally crumbling on the people living in them, we passed a little girl walking to school with dirt all over her face, we passed the "Willy Wonka River" as the locals called it because the river was literally brown with sewage.

Fun fact: In Peru they don't have clean water. When you use the toilet you're not supposed to flush toilet paper, you're supposed to throw it in the trash can. Their water doesn't get filtered, it just goes into the rivers and ocean.

The train took us to a town called Aguas Calientes below Machu Picchu. This is where we boarded the bus to go up the mountain. The bus ride was kind of scary going up there. The roads were so little and they had two way traffic (tour buses) going up there. When another bus would pass us, we would literally be less than a foot from the edge of the cliff (with no guard rails).

We have arrived! We checked our bags at the gate and started on a two hour guided walking tour.

Fun fact: Llamas literally just roam around the ruins. They'll get right up next to the people and everything.

Pictured above was how they told time. The sun shining on the four posts would cast certain shadows throughout the day.

This was their church. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and it still standing pretty well today, that's amazing.

Pictured above to the right is the sun dial that the important people used.

Pictured below are the rocks that Machu Picchu was built from. Again, the legend says that these were carried from all over the country to this site, then carved into the shapes to build the town.

This was our tour group for the week. There were people from all over the USA and even Australia just in our little group. Notice that most of us are in long sleeves, jeans, and hats. The air is so thin up in these mountains that even though it was a gorgeous day, you burn super fast. I got too hot in my sweatshirt so I took it off, put sunscreen on, and still got majorly burnt on my arms. Even the back of my hands burnt, I've never had that happen before. It was by far the worst sunburn that I have ever had.

After we finished the guided tour we all went our separate ways. Dad and I followed part of the Incan trail through part of the rain forest.

You know how you hear about people dying at Machu Picchu, well this is probably why. The path that we followed was no more than three feet wide at it's widest part, no safety rails, nothing. Just one bad step and straight down the mountain you go. Like below, my foot is as close as I could comfortably get to the edge, and after that, it's straight down. Kind of scary!

We walked until we got stopped by this gate. They had closed it off because it was unsafe. But that wood is how the Incans made bridges to cross. I don't think I would have wanted to cross that every day, especially carrying what they had to carry!

For about the 50 feet before they closed the path, there was a safety chain drilled into the mountain. Above is a really good picture of just how it dropped off beside the path and you can even tell how high we were on the mountain. Below is a good picture of just how narrow the path got.

This was not a staged picture at all. The llama was just standing there and I had to get a picture of it. Emperor's New Groove!

The mountain in the distance is called Huayna Picchu and there was a storm rolling in to the right of it in this picture. Such a cool sight! 

Fun fact: Mother Nature was to the Incans, what God is to Christians.

We left Machu Picchu and went back down to Aguas Calientes. They had this giant market there. If you even looked at something that was in there, the locals would literally follow you until you bought something from them. But it was so cool walking through there and seeing all of the handmade items and all of the color and patterns.

After eating dinner at a pizza shop in Aguas Calientes, we took the train as far as we could go (two hours), then a driver picked us up and drove us two more hours to our hotel back in Cusco. Then the next morning we woke up and got on a plane and flew back to Lima, Peru. Wow, what a difference in the way people lived, just between the two cities.

The view from the top of the cliff, to the view from the bottom. If you follow the yellow railing, that's the stairs that we hiked down.

More sewage floating in the water, gross. The beaches here were rocky, no sand at all.

One night with our hotel view like this then off we went. We flew from Lima, Peru, to Miami, Florida, to Washington D.C. and back to Columbus. Even with me being sick flying down there, I think flying back felt like it took so much longer!

The brown in the picture above is sewage in the ocean.... and people were swimming in that! Gross.

Peru was such an amazing trip! It was so beautiful and so humbling. I'm so honored to be able to travel to amazing places. I can't wait to see where my adventurous soul takes me in life!