Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Exploring Peru and Machu Picchu


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Peru is a hot destination right now.  The allure of visiting one of the 7 Wonders of the World is drawing tons of people to visit Machu Picchu.  When planning my trip to Peru I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I knew the main attraction was taking the classic picture on the famous Machu Picchu. Besides that one moment I didn’t truly understand how amazing Peru can be!  I definitely would say the Incan Ruins and the Peruvian food were really the highlights of my trip.


I booked my trip through nativepathstravel.com (Bivouac’s recent travel partner).  One of the perks is having a packing list curated by the professionals at Bivouac, so I knew I would be well prepared for my trip.  A couple standouts from that list are:


  • Wool baselayers (crucial for layering and for multiple day use without the smell)
  • Sunscreen (while the expected temperature only said 60 degrees, the sun is VERY STRONG because of the elevation)
  • Water Purifier (unless you want to buy 50+ bottles of water, bring a purifier and water bottle)

City Sights


I arrived in Lima at around midnight and couldn’t wait to check in to my hotel to drop by bags. I stayed in Miraflores, a vibrant neighborhood with many restaurants and bars, so after checking in I went out to explore the town.  If you want to try a local Peruvian beer my favorite was Cusquena Dorada!


My city package included private car and tour guide so the following morning I visited the archaeological museum Larco Herrera, Catacumbas at San Francisco Church, and the various neighborhoods around Lima.


For lunch we stopped at a outdoor mall overlooking the ocean, Larcomar. I had an Incredible lunch of Conchitas a la Parmesana at Popular, and for dinner I ate at Huaca Pucllana which is located at a Pre - Inca ruin site from the 5th century. The local favorite cocktail is called Pisco Sour, as the name suggests it is a sour but refreshing. I ate Alpaca and Guinea pig for the first time and I have to say, they taste like chicken. Just kidding. They are both unique and delicious though.


Planes, trains, and...boats


The next morning I took a flight to Cusco, located at 11220 feet above sea level. I met up with my guide who suggested I chew some coca leaves to help prevent altitude sickness.  


We spent the day in Cusco and visited temple of the sun or Coricancha, the ruins at Tambomachay, Q'enko with huge rock carvings, Sacsayhuaman which overlooks Cusco and is home to the Sun festival, Inti Raymi. Every June 24th, locals recreate the traditional Inca ceremony to celebrate the god Sun.  Dinner was at the MAP café which was another highlight meal of the trip, having one of the best dinners I’ve ever had.


The next morning we travelled to the Sacred Valley, only an hour away from Cusco is Pisac.  We stopped at hillside Andean farm and I got to feed llama, alpaca, vicuna, and look at some local tapestries.  We also visited the archaeological ruins and then the local artisan market where I got to try a local delicacy of corn on the cob with Andean cheese.  The kernels are 4 times as big as american corn, and empanadas baked in clay ovens with smoky flavors.
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After, we headed to a Inca salt mine, Maras.  On our way back from the salt mines, the guide spotted potato harvests, therefore it was “Huatia” time,  which is a traditional way to celebrate the harvest by building a stone oven, make a fire inside and wait for it to go out before throwing some potatoes inside and bring the oven down. Wait for an hour or so before digging in between the stones and dirt, finding these beautifully cooked fresh potatoes.


After lunch at Pakakuna Restaurant in the outskirts of Urubamba, we took off to Ollantaytambo., the only Inca City that is still inhabited today.  Visited more ruins and went to our hotel to get a good night rest before Machu Picchu.



Next up, Machu Picchu!
We embarked on an early morning train ride to Machu Picchu, otherwise known as Aguas Calientes. We had to get off at kilometer 106 since originally planned 104 was blocked by a landslide.  We took a 4-hour hike on part of the Inca Trail and stopped at a hidden Waterfall.  (picture)Huinay Huayna. We hiked to the Sun Gate which has great views of Machu Picchu.


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My next adventure was a guided 9-hour bus tour to Puno.  We stopped at Racchi ruins climbed to a viewpoint and the Temple of WIracocha. I was definitely ready to check into Casa Andina, a premium hotel, at the end of the day.  


Last on my list was to visit Lake Titicaca, the highest natural lake in the world. We chartered a boat and toured around the lake. We  stopped to visit various reed islands and had  the opportunity to sample a freshly caught trout by a fisherman who served it with potatoes. Have I mentioned the food was fabulous?!


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By now we are at day 10 of my trip and all that is left is flight to Peru then DTW. Trips like this are so paradoxical and have a way of making me feel I was gone for so long, yet also feeling like I was there such a short time. This is why I am grateful for cameras. Taking pictures helps me remember all I did and saw, and blogging about it helps ingrain it into my memory.


To me, traveling is a way of life, but I don’t always want to take ordinary trips. Sometimes I need the wild and unknown, sometimes the luxury of a 5-Star hotel, yet don’t want to be left to totally navigate myself in a culture I am not familiar with and being surrounded by people whose language I don’t speak can at times be intimidating. This is why having an arranged trip with a local guide can make, and will make all the difference. They know the culture, language, and all the best places to go!

- AJ Davidson



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