Long time, no blog! I have so much to tell you so I’m going to try and get back to posting more regularly and plan on writing some catch up blogs. I’ll start with our trip to Peru from May 2016. Rob and I started talking about where we wanted to vacation in May last summer because we knew we would have a few weeks to go on an awesome trip post graduate school. I’ve never traveled abroad so Rob was kind enough to let me pick the destination (he has been to several places in Europe and Australia). I instantly chose Peru. For some non-specific reason, I have been wanting to hike the Incan trail to Machu Picchu since taking several Spanish classes in college. We started planning our trip last fall and this winter and settled on a 10 day journey to Peru, including a 4 day/ 3 night hike on the Incan trail to Machu Picchu. I’m going to try and give you a brief overview of our itinerary and share some of my fabulous Iphone pics 🙂
First stop: Cusco, Peru
Fortunately, Peru is on Central time so there was no jet lag to deal with. However, we did have to factor in the altitude. In Cusco, we were hanging out around 8,000 feet and on the Incan trail, you hike to upwards of 11,000 feet. Because of this, all of the guide books recommend spending a few days in acclimatizing in Peru before starting the Incan trail hike (or any of the other hikes). I also got a prescription from my primary care provider for Diamox which is an altitude sickness drug that I took prophylactically during our trip (it does make your hands, feet, and parts of your face go numb…). We could definitely feel the altitude! Climbing up stairs and walking up hills in Cusco was so much more breathtaking (literally and figuratively). While getting “adjusted” to the altitude in Cusco, we explored some historic sites and also took a day trip to the Sacred Valley from Cusco. Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire. Side note- I have never seen so many stray dogs in my life! They are all over Peru and generally just ignore humans. It took all of my energy not to try and play with/pet them.
Second stop: 4 day/ 3 night Incan trail backpacking trip with Alpaca Expeditions
After a few days in Cusco, we embarked on our Incan trail hike with our tour group. Our group consisted of 3 nurses from Washington, a group of 6 friends from Canada, and us. We were all similar in age which made hiking with them so much fun! We also had a fabulous guide and assistant guide, chaskis (porters), a chef, and a sous chef. This was definitely glamping. All we had to carry each day was a day pack with things we would need while hiking with plenty of water. The chaskis carried the rest and they are AMAZING. This hike would have been so much more tough and dare I say not doable for us if we had to carry everything. It was plenty challenging as it was. While the concept of having all of these support people is a little strange, it’s really how everyone does this hike. There are lots of tour groups in Peru that lead hikes on this trail and a few others and they all work similarly. What made the trail specifically challenging was that there are no switchbacks. You are either going straight up (usually rock stairs) or straight down them. At some points, I felt like I had to stop every couple of stairs to catch my breath. However, despite these “challenges” it was so worth it! (I could see how people really struggle and don’t enjoy the trip if they aren’t athletic natured and minded to begin with though.) This hike was definitely the highlight of our trip. We were able to see parts of the Andes that you would not be able to see without hiking and were also able to visit some magnificent Incan ruins that are along the trail. While a fair number of people hike the trail daily, we never felt crowded and there were some days where we didn’t see many other people besides those who were with us. Because we were able to see some large Incan ruins without having hoards of other tourists around, we felt like Machu Picchu, while spectacular was also a bit of a let down. On the last day, we woke up at 3am to get to Machu Picchu for sunrise and it was incredible. But once we got down to the site at around 7:30am, there were already tons of tourists who had come in via bus. Machu Picchu was quite noisy and crowded- something we hadn’t experienced for the past 3 days on the trail. We also really bonded with our group by the end of the trek and were sad to separate! And…I could go on and on. Here are some pictures which can’t quite capture the beauty that was the Andes….
Stop 3: Lake Titicaca, Peru
After our hike, we flew from Cusco to Juliaca and then took a cab to Lake Titicaca, about an hour away from the airport. This is the highest fresh water lake in the world and is at about 11,000 feet. While the lake was beautiful, we didn’t enjoy this part of the trip as much. We went out on a boat tour one day and met some local people who are still maintaining ancient cultures. We also visited a floating island made of reeds where some communities still dwell. This felt very touristy to us and also just didn’t settle quite right. While these communities do make money from tourists who purchase their goods, I don’t like the idea of going to watch how “other” people live their lives. We were able to visit some pre-Incan ruins on our way back to the airport and that was probably the best part. I wouldn’t recommend taking time to visit Lake Titicaca if you ever find yourself in Peru.
We had so many airport/flight disasters on the way back from Peru but I will just stick to the happy memories. This trip was so fun and I would definitely recommend going to Cusco and hiking the Incan trail. I’ve also heard that the Salcantay trail is fantastic too. I’ve definitely got the hiking bug now and would love to do more similar trips. It’s wonderful to see beautiful places and be physically challenged at the same time!