05 Nov 2019
I know it has been a while since my last post. In all honesty, it has been way too long. For a while, all of my outside of work time was occupied with studying for the GRE (which thank god is now over, but I will likely have to retake if I am seriously considering getting my MBA). However, once that was over I went into full summer mode which mostly meant way too many trips, way too much fun and not that much time to reflect. In the winter, the weather kind of forces me to write more and interact less with people.
For this post, I am trying something completely new. As many of you know, I travel quite often and a question I get from a lot of people is “how do you do so much travel?” and I often say “I don’t know”. In this post, I will get a very detailed view of my two weeks in Peru. I have included links to the places I went to (hopefully people can use these as a resource) and an idea of how I spent my time. I won’t really dig into my experience or how certain things made me feel as I have not completely processed those things yet. The idea of this post is to give someone an idea of how they can spend two weeks in a different country on a budget and solo (which I was for about half of this trip). This post is especially long and I’m not sure if you all will enjoy reading it, but let’s see how this goes. It was fun for me to write because I just wrote short snippets of my days as they were happening and I didn’t feel the same kind of writer’s block I have felt when writing other pieces.
If you have any questions about this trip, solo travel, traveling on a budget or anything else related to travel please feel free to email me!
Madison (my travel gal for this adventure) and I arrived on Saturday around 4 pm after many many hours of travel. Lima was cloudy and gray, it literally felt like we were in the marine layer. Nonetheless, the coastline was stunning and coming from the Bay Area this weather was not unfamiliar. We got to our hostel (paying about $12 per night) and went to Raw Cafe, a delicious vegan cafe for dinner, it was so lovely. We were staying in a neighborhood called Miraflores which was super nice and cute. In the evening we walked around the main square, checked out some cool free art exhibits and I ate lots of churros. We went to a wine bar near our hostel to get Madison her fix of Gluten-Free snacks and went back to our hostel, where we dance salsa in the rooftop for a little bit and went to sleep.
Sunday we embarked on a journey to see the city center/ historic center. The architecture was really beautiful. I ate like 3 churros during the span of an hour or so (they were only s/1 each so around $.33). There was a “changing of guards” ceremony which happens every Sunday and the new guards (for the main fancy government building) parade around in horses. Madison loved it. We soon found another free art exhibit about Mario Vargas Llosa who is a famous Peruvian writer. We wandered into Chinatown and quickly became overwhelmed by the busy streets and our hunger. We went back to our neighborhood and had a fancy amazonian lunch at Amaz( very creative cuisine). Then we walked around Barranco, which is a very cool artistic hood with lots of coffee shops and surfing, this reminded us of some of the hipper parts of San Francisco. Leaning into the gray weather, we got hot chocolate and snacks at this adorable cafe and sat until we had enough energy to mobilize. We walked all the way back home and went to a seafood place for dinner, Madison and I were in conversation for like 3-4 hours and it was really lovely. It’s really special to be able to get really deep in a conversation where it feels like you can’t even notice that time is passing by.
Madison went on a long run and I got ready for my flight to Arequipa. Madison and I split for about half of the trip. I got ready, said goodbye and headed over to this highly recommended bakery, after a 30 min walk during Lima Monday rush hour, I ate a delicious avocado, tomato and hummus sandwich with a latte from Pan de la Chola, which I totally recommend. I sat and wrote in my journal for a bit. I took an Uber to the airport and got on the way to Arequipa (stopping at the lounge to read and relax before my flight). Landing in Arequipa was a total 180 from Lima, I felt the altitude immediately and the sun was super harsh, it’s a desert kind of place. My hostel here was so super chill and I felt right at home, I chatted with people and chilled for a while before going for the first dinner and this yummy vegan place, as I walked there I was impressed with the beauty of the city, it really is special. After the first dinner, I got a mani-pedi and had a really nice conversation with the women who did my nails who was from Venezuela and had just fled 8 months ago. After, I got dessert at a crepe place. I had an early night and slept really well.
I got up for breakfast and met people at the table, I chatted with a woman named Colleen from LA who was also traveling alone and we wanted to do the same things during the day so we tag teamed. In the morning I went to Alpaca World, which is a place where you can feed and learn about alpacas. It was super nice. Then we went to this convent, an extremely beautiful piece of architecture. We then went to a very traditional Peruvian place for lunch and it was in this outdoor location 3km away from the city center, we then walked back to the town market which was massive! The fruit section was so impressive and we got some ice cream. We then walked back to the square where I contemplated getting churros knowing it’s too close to dinner time and I have literally been eating nonstop. We go back to the hostel and get ready for a fancy dinner that Colleen was generous enough to share her reservation to. We walk back to the hostel and say goodbye as I have to be ready to go on my trek at 3 am the next day :0
I’m up and ready by 3 am, our tour man Edgar, who was such an amazing guide picks us up and we hop on the bus to Colca Canyon or Cañon de Colca (this article is a great resource for anyone hoping to learn more about the trek) with like 20 other people (this tour cost about $70). We sleep until about 7 am and stop for breakfast, I met this really nice German couple who’s doing their first backpacking trip together! We go back on the bus and stop about 30 mins later to see condors! They’re so incredible and they are native to this canyon. Then we start the hike, the Colca Canyon is the 4th deepest canyon in the world, twice as deep at the Grand Canyon! It was incredibly beautiful, today we are descending about 1600 meters in about 7 hours and walking 16km. While it was exhausting it was also incredibly beautiful! I made new friends, Tara from Sydney, Dan from the UK, and Chris from Amsterdam as well as other amazing people on the trek. After the very long trek, we arrive at the town called “oasis” dipped into the pool ate dinner and were in bed by 7:30 pm to get ready for our 4 am start.
I woke up at 4:15 am to get started on the ascend back up. It was still dark and I could see the beautiful bright stars. The first hour of the trek was lots of switchbacks up. I made it up the 1300 meters in just about 2 hours (big feat). We took a group photo once everyone made it up and got on our way to breakfast, then hot springs (for muscle relaxation) and then lunch. At this point, I took a bus going to Puno instead of back to Arequipa (This makes the tour about $70 instead of $40 if you go back to Arequipa). The 6-hour bus ride awaited but luckily I was with Tara, Dan and the German couple. We stopped at a few places to play with llamas, look at El Misti (Peru’s most famous active volcano) and drink plenty of coca tea (helps with altitude sickness and it’s like a microdose of coca, although completely legal and accessible here— they even have coca candy!) In Puno I will be staying the night in the floating island Uros on Lake Titicaca (the biggest navigable and also highest lake in the world). Tara decided to join me for this adventure and after finding the taxi that was arranged for us, we met our host Vidal and he took us on a 10 min boat trip to his home. This one of the coolest things I’ve done— being wrapped in a blanket and looking at the bright bright stars (new moon today) was so beautiful. Tara and I were sharing a room and spent about 30 mins looking at the sky and chatting (even with the below-freezing temperatures— oh yea I forgot to mention weather is so whacky- during the day it can be as hot as 25-30 celsius and during the day it can be anywhere from -5 to 5 celsius.
I woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise— while still in bed in the super cold weather, Tara got up and said everything was covered in frost. We got a wake-up call from Vidal for breakfast and indulged in the avocado and fruits provided for breakfast. We hung out on the island at peace until about midday. We played with Dalens (a 5-year-old cutie) and read and wrote. Vidal’s dad, Edgar took us on a little trip around Uros and explained some of the significant things on the islands. The most fun part though was when he left Dalens drive for most of the trip! He kept yelling titanic as he almost stumbled into the various floating islands. I asked Edgar many questions and was really happy to be able to communicate! Apparently, when they decided to “move” from their bigger family they literally cut their part of the island and it took them a whole week to float it to its new location. Once we said goodbye and got dropped off at the port, we got a taxi and went to Tara’s hotel, we left our bags got lunch(thanks to happy cow) and went to our next adventure— pre-Inca burial ruins. They were super tall and the history was very interesting. We got back to the city, had dinner and I took my overnight bus to Cusco!
I arrive at 5 am and got a taxi to the hostel, took a little nap and went for a 7 am yoga class with Madison (who I am finally reunited with) and Dan (who I met in Colca Canyon) in Cusco. After, we went to a delicious vegan place and then explored the Cusco market. Then we finally checked into our hostel, took showers, got ready and went to lunch at another yummy vegan place. Madison and I played Yahtzee and chatted for a while, I got a huge smoothie. We wandered and spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to get to the scared valley the next day. We also went to our 5-day trek briefing to get deets and after we had yet another amazing meal at another vegan cafe down the street from our hostel.
Today was our sacred valley tour day. We were on the road from 8 am to 7 pm and hired a driver to take us around. The sacred valley is super cool and each site has so much detail to go into but there were lots of ruins, cool salt mines, super cool markets and lots of views! Starting tomorrow I’m going on a 5-day hike to Machu Picchu.
9/2 to 9/6- Monday to Friday
During this time I was on a 5-day trek to Macchu Picchu that I booked with Macchu Picchu Reservations.
The link above gives a pretty idea of the 5-day trek was like. I definitely felt the altitude and the various climates had an effect on me. Here is a short description of my experience.
9/2: We start the trip in Cusco and take a bus to the beginning of the hike. We know today will be a really cold day and prepare accordingly. Luckily, we only have to carry daypacks and horses will carry up to 7kg of our stuff. We also have all our food taken care of (and the company is pretty good about accommodating for dietary restrictions). We walk up to a really steep lake and had the rest of the evening to hang out. In the night, it got very cold but it was necessary for us to sleep at this altitude in order to acclimatize.
9/3: Today was the toughest day, we hiked up the “gringo killer” which is a series of switchbacks meant to kill the gringos. We made it to the top (4600 meters) and got glimpses of Salkantay, but for the most part it was very foggy. It started hailing at the top and when we began to descend the hail turned into heavy rain. We still had a few more hours of hiking and this day was pretty miserable due to the cold and wetness.
9/4: This day was pretty chill with only a few hours of hiking (4 or 5 versus 8 or 9). The temperature starts to get warmer and the hiking goes from alpine to semi jungle and less cold. We descend to a town where we there are hot springs, which is a really nice luxury. We spend the afternoon there with our group, then we come back to our campsite, eat and (most people, not me) party.
9/5: Today we get to walk part of the original Inca trail. It is a steep incline and the hike is mostly jungle, which is super pretty. We hike for about 8 or 9 hours and most people are feeling really tired. It takes us about 5 or 6 hours to get to Hidro Electrica which is the closest you can get to Aguas Calientes (gateway town to Macchu Picchu) without going on the very expensive train. After lunch, we walk for about 3 hours by the train tracks until we get to Aguas Calientes which feels like a Times Square of sorts. Madison and I finally have access to a shower and a bed! We eat dinner and get ready for our big day in Macchu Picchu tomorrow.
9/6: Today we wake up to go to Macchu Picchu. We initially think about walking up but decide it is wiser to take the bus (for $12) up and save our energy for walking around the ancient city. Our day in Macchu Picchu is magical to say the least. We spend a few hours in the incredible city and head back to Cusco via train. Fortunately for me, Madison decided to use her SPG points on our night in Cusco so tonight we are staying at an extremely nice hotel that used to be a convent. We trek back from Macchu Picchu and all we want to do is have dinner, relax and sleep. This hotel has a nice spa and I spend the evening in the sauna, melting slowly.
Today was our last real day in Peru. I begin this Saturday the same way I started by last Saturday. I go to a yoga class at Healing House and this time meet Tara, who was in Bolivia. After, the three of us get brunch and Dan joins which makes for a wonderful reunion. The three gals go on a shopping spree through the various different markets of Cusco. We check out a variety of different markets and everyone gets what they need. We get back to the hotel, pack, do a little more spa time and say goodbye to Tara. We take a taxi to the airport and fly to Lima for the first leg of our adventure to go back home!