A Travellerspoint blog

#barcaloha

Here is the background story on how I ended up in Hawaii four days after Peru:

Five summers ago, I studied abroad in Spain. Earlier this year, a few friends from the program and I had mentioned a reunion trip, but we never planned anything. Then, we found out our friend Jon was moving to Hawaii for a six month rotation for his job. He extended an open invitation to visit him. It was busy season, so it took one text from Stacey to convince me to purchase a plane ticket to Hawaii. I did not really take into consideration the whole returning from Peru four days before jetting off to Hawaii situation. If the term “YOLO” is still popular with youth today, then I believe it is 100% applicable to this situation. Free lodging, cool friends, a creative vacation hashtag (#barcaloha = Barca (abbreviation for Barcelona) + Aloha) and a semi-local Hawaiian to act as a tour guide are enough reasons for me to take a trip to Hawaii.

Four days in between vacation did not give me much time to regroup and plan for Hawaii. The night before my flight, Stacey and I were discussing our early morning flight. I thought the flight was at 7 am. Stacey informed me the flight was actually at 6:30 am. Then, I mentioned I needed to see how long the drive was to Bush airport. Stacey quickly informed me our flight was out of Hobby. I felt like the unprepared Alyssa of this trip (see previous Peru posts to learn about Alyssa). Despite my ill preparation, I strolled into the appropriate airport with enough time to visit one of the four Dunkin’ Donuts in Houston. We flew to Dallas where we had a lengthy layover allowing us time to get breakfast tacos. While eating our breakfast tacos, we observed the table next to us was a big family with lots of little, loud children. We both said, “I hope they aren’t going to Hawaii.” Then, we heard the mom tell her son that they weren’t staying in Dallas. They were going to Hawaii. Karma.

Upon arrival in Honolulu, we drove to Kapolei where Jon lives. On our drive, we learned that the speed limit in Hawaii is very slow, 55 MPH, and the scenery on the leeward side of the mountain is ugly. The leeward side of the island is dry. In this case, the southwest side of the island is the leeward side. We arrived in Kapolei after a 45 minute drive. Jon lives by three resorts and a mile away from the beach.

Jon gets an A in hospitality management for giving us leis. After reading his Hawaii travel book, we learned that is it disrespectful to take off the lei in front of the person who gave it to you. We were exhausted from our flight and the five hour time difference, so we went to an early dinner at Roy’s which is a popular Hawaiian restaurant. Jon filled us in on some Hawaii lingo at dinner. For instance:
• They abbreviate macadamia nut as mac nut. Thus, we all ordered the mac nut crusted fish to blend in with the locals.
• Flip flops are called slippers.
• Hawaiian shirts are called aloha shirts, and people wear them regularly there. A pupu platter is an appetizer platter.
• The “w” in Hawaii is pronounced like a “v.”
• You will never be able to pronounce Hawaiian words correctly, so give up now.

Day 1 in Hawaii, we went to the Spitting Caves which was a quick detour on our way up the east coast of the island. They are located in a residential neighborhood and are really gorgeous cliffs that waves crash into giving off a fine mist (aka “spit”). Afterward, we hiked nearby at the Makapu’u. There were old army pillboxes from WW2 at the top of the trail. Our last stop of the day was Lanikai beach where I got my first sunburn of the trip. Day 1 wrapped up with dinner at Monkeypod right outside of Jon’s neighborhood. The food in Hawaii is heavily influenced by Asian cultures. Other than that, all the food is normal American food.

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Day 2 in Hawaii, we drove to the North Shore. First we stopped in Haleiwa to eat acai bowls. On the mainland, we pronounce it “ah-sigh-eee.” In Hawaii, they look at you stupidly for pronouncing it that way. They simply call it “a-sigh.” An “a-sigh” bowl is filled with acai smoothie, granola, coconut flakes, berries, and honey. It is scrumptious, and something Stacey and I have tried to recreate since we have returned to the mainland. After downing our acai bowls, we went to Waimea Bay for the day. The beach at Lanikai had very calm waves. Waimea Bay’s waves were ridiculous. We kept moving our chairs farther and farther back to prevent because the waves kept crashing on us. The lifeguards made announcements every five seconds telling families the waves were too dangerous for children on that day. We decided to see if we could survive the crazy waves. Honestly, you could not get out of the ocean on your own accord. You had to wait for a wave to carry you on to the beach. At one point, I saw Stacey and Jon get thrown by a wave all the way up on the shore. Surprisingly, we did not drown.

On our way back to Jon’s, we stopped at the Dole Plantation. If you have ever wanted a Dole bumper sticker, t-shirt, and various other souvenir items with pineapples on them, visit the Dole Plantation. We stopped to see the pineapple cutting demonstration; however, we missed it but luckily got to sample a piece of delicious pineapple. The Dole Plantation is definitely a tourist destination you can skip.

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Day 3, we stopped at a little bakery to get poy donuts and then hiked Aiea loop trail which took a couple of hours. It is through the forest in central Oahu. It was completely shaded and relatively flat. After the hike, we drove pass Wakiki Beach which is the most popular beach in Hawaii. The street by Wakiki is populated by upscale designer stores. We decided to go back to the beaches where Jon lives instead of battling crazy crowds at Wakiki. The beaches are called the Ko’olina Lagoons. They are a hot spot for Asian weddings. There are a couple of wedding chapels along the lagoons. On the 45 of every hour, the bells will chime, and a wedding party will head to the beach for pictures. We happened to sit right where the pictures were being taken. I hope the photographer could photoshop us out of the wedding pictures for the 3 weddings we witnessed that day. Day 3’s big event was sampling Dole Whip. Dole Whip is pineapple flavored soft-serve ice cream and something the mainland should start selling.

Day 4, Stacey and I ventured to Pearl Harbor after an acai bowl. We were there the first weekend of June which is high tourist season. We arrived around 8:30 am and went straight to the ticket desk to secure our USS Arizona Memorial tickets. The tickets are free for the USS Arizona Memorial. You can reserve them in advance, but Stacey and I were living life on the edge and decided to do walk-up tickets. The guy informed us the next tour was at 1:30 pm. Then another guy came by and offered us tickets to the 10:30 am tour. Yes, please. We credit our fortune to the fact that we actually put on make up and real clothes that day. We also bought tickets for the USS Bowfin Submarine and the USS Missouri battleship. The Bowfin tour could take 20 minutes or an hour, depending on how slow the people are in front of you. In our case, we neared the one hour tour mark since we were behind an older couple who needed to take a picture of every single item in the submarine. What do these people do with these pictures when they get home? What poor grandchild is forced to look at every single one?

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After we visited the USS Arizona Memorial, we took a bus to Ford Island where the USS Missouri is located. Stacey and I opted for a self-guided tour of the battleship. The USS Missouri was commissioned in 1944 and then decommissioned in 1992. We did a speed tour of the boat because we were starving. Post Pearl Harbor, Stacey and I found a local sandwich shop in Honolulu to eat at. Then we decided to we need shave ice. Please note it is not shaved ice with a “d.” It is simply shave ice. Then, we noticed the famous donut food truck was parked right next to the shave ice stand we visited. The Leonard’s Bakery food truck serves malasadas which are Portuguese donuts that are similar to beignets. Stacey and I returned to Jon’s apartment with serious sugar headaches. That didn’t stop us from getting Kona coffee ice cream after dinner though.

Our last day in Hawaii involved us eating acai bowls, going on a run, and sitting at the Ko’olina lagoons to further aggravate my sunburns. We flew back to America, and after sleeping on a flight, I rolled into work at 10:30 am and realized my summer vacations were over. In the words of Eminem, “snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity.”

Posted by lsto90 14:53 Archived in USA Tagged harbor hawaii_oahu_pearl Comments (0)

Alpaca my bags and head home now

Per the usual, Alyssa and I woke up at the 4 am, tried to sleep til 5:30, and failed. We caught a cab to the airport at 6 am for our 8:30 am flight to Lima. We thought the Arequipa airport would be as hopping as the Cusco one, and boy, were we wrong. Our driver zoomed down side streets and got us to the airport in record time. Then, we found out the cab ride was free. We still are not sure why but think our hotel paid for it, or a warrant will be out for our arrest if we ever return to Peru. Check in and security took approximately 5 minutes, leaving us a ton of time to do nothing because it is the Arequipa airport where there is nothing to do. Upon arrival in Lima, we stored our bags at the luggage storage located right outside of the baggage claim. We managed to stuff our bags into one locker for 38 Soles.

We took a taxi to Miraflores (translation: look at the flowers) which is the most upscale neighborhood in Lima. It is full of expats, nice restaurants, and cute cafes. Plus, it is along the coast. Per the podcast about Lima to which I listened while in Cusco, you only need one day in Lima. The day you fly out should be plenty since most flights have late night departures. When in Lima, eat and maybe see some of the colonial architecture.

We started with podcast suggestion #1. We went to El Pan de Chola for coffee. This cafe makes bread from scratch. A giant loaf will cost you about $4. Little did we know that we could buy bread by the slice; thus, Alyssa and I decided to carbo load for our flight. We bought a giant loaf of sesame seed bread and coffee. This cafe reminded us of Tout Suite in Houston or of any other hipster coffee shop with its exposed brick floors, wood walls, cool mason jar light fixtures, and Børns playlist.

We walked a few blocks to La Mar Cebicheria which is highly acclaimed as the best restaurant for ceviche in Peru. The Peruvian take on ceviche includes lime juice, a certain mix of spices, and chili, and served with corn, onions, and sweet potatoes. La Mar was an awesome restaurant. It was all covered outdoor seating giving you the illusion you are indoors. The other diners were a mix of tourists, expats, and the best dressed Peruvians we had seen yet, reaffirming the claims that Miraflores was an affluent neighborhood. We ordered cocktails and two types of ceviche. While it was delicious, we couldn't finish our lunches. There is only so much lime juice acid "cooked" fish one can eat. We believe there is a location of La Mar in San Francisco as well, so if you never make it to Lima but do go to SF as a Canadian tourist insisted on calling San Francisco on our rafting trip, check out La Mar.

After lunch, we got the valet guys and a random guy sitting on a bench outside the restaurant to flag us down a cab to La Plaza de Armas (the main square of Lima). We finally got a cab and headed to the center of town. We got stuck in terrible traffic, so the cab driver and I attempted to converse in Spanish to pass the time. He then asked if I were married which is when I decided to stop the conversation. The driver informed us it was impossible to get to the plaza. He basically refused to sit in anymore traffic and said we were too far to walk. Alyssa and I decided to forgo the free walking tour that met at the plaza and return to Miraflores. The 20 soles cab ride that was to take 30 minutes to Plaza de Armas turned into a 50 soles cab ride that went a net of zero blocks. Pretty sure we got ripped off.

We walked to el Malecón, which is the long park running along the coast in Miraflores. It has a jogging and biking path, soccer fields, and great viewpoints. It is kind of like Venice Beach, at least from the movies I have seen. We watched little kids play soccer and discussed amongst ourselves how the highway below has a ton of signs saying you can't swim at this portion of the beach and signs pointing toward evacuation routes in case of tsunamis. Alyssa and I had forgotten that Peru had a lot of seismic activity until our trip here where every tour guide mentions volcanoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes and where there are signs warning of all these natural disasters everywhere.

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After the park, we needed ice cream at the cute ice cream parlor called Amorelado (clever name: Amor (to love) + Helado (ice cream) = Amorelado). We used their wifi for a minute while listening to expat kids fluently discuss their surfing lessons in both English and Spanish. Then, we headed back to El Pan de la Chola for more coffee, wifi, and hipster atmosphere; after all, we woke up at 4 am and needed all the caffeine we could get.

While on coffee break #2 of the day, Alyssa constantly checked our flight time and discovered the bad news that our flight was delayed from 12:30 am to 3:30 am, thanks to the Houston rain. We then voted to try Uber in foreign country. YOPO (You Only Peru Once, so might as well Peru in an Uber). I am not sure if using Uber abroad is recommended, but it seemed easier than flagging down a cab again. We got an Uber to Fiesta Restaurante in Miraflores which was on San Pellegrino's annual list of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America. We had reservations at 7 and discovered no one in Lima eats until 9 pm on a Saturday. We had the restaurant to ourselves, ordered passion fruit Pisco sours, onion soup, duck and rice, and beef tenderloin. We were so exhausted when the food arrived, we barely ate any of it. The waiter seemed disappointed, and I assured him we liked the food but needed a nap.

We Ubered to the airport which once again proved my theory that Peruvians love 1980s and 1990s love ballads and also have the best karaoke playlists. We have noticed this in every taxi and tour bus we have taken, at the tiny store at the end of our bike ride, and just passing by people and restaurants. We are talking every Michael Bolton and Celine Dion ballad, the Spanish version of "Dust in the Wind," and the list goes on and on. As for the karaoke playlist, "Footloose," "Time After Time," and a few selections from the Grease soundtrack. As we pulled into the airport, I heard those first few familiar notes of "Staying Alive" and excitedly said "OH MY GOSH! THE BEEGEES! YES." Alyssa's reply was far from enthusiastic: "I think I have only ever heard my mom say that." Well, looks like Alyssa's mom and I should be best friends.

We got our luggage, checked into our flight, and then wondered how we would pass six hours when out of nowhere I saw a spa in the airport. For a 87 soles, I got a manicure and pedicure. The entire time, I was wondering how sanitary a Peruvian manicure and pedicure was. I decided I would risk a nail fungus for the equivalent of $28 USD. What else was I going to do with 6 hours and the leftover 200 soles I was toting around? The manicurist was overly concerned with the state of my feet even though I assured her they were fine and looked the way they did because I run a lot, an ogre stepped on my toe at a Walk the Moon concert, and my family has wide feet. At the end of the day, I am going home with a foot fungus from this pedicure, so does it even matter? She also said I wouldn't have enough time for nails to dry. I reassured her 6 hours was plenty of time. After spending my remaining soles on a 30 minute chair massage and writing this entry, we finally boarded the plane to head back home to the Lone Star State.

Alyssa and I learned a lot on this trip as detailed below:
1. We can go 10 days together without killing each other. Success. We don't need to hang out together until July.
2. At baggage claims in Peru, dogs will sniff your bags for fruit. You can't bring fruit into other cities there via airport. The dogs weren't very effective. I brought fruit into Arequipa. Oops.
3. Planning in advance is overrated. Just look up your destination on a map the day of the trip, and you will be fine.
4. Tierra Viva Centro in Cusco is our favorite hotel in Peru.
5. Peru has a lot of potatoes and quinoa. If you don't like either, have fun trying to eat here.
6. Stop signs are optional. On that note, only attempt to cross the streets when the locals cross the streets.
7. Honking is required. You honk when you pass a pedestrian, a car, a cyclist, a bird, a snail, etc. You honk when you go around a corner, up a mountain, through a stream, etc. Always honk.
8. Roads typically have streams running over them. Sometimes the water is a foot high. It is normal.
9. My favorite driver was the Bob Marley t-shirt wearing driver on our trek who fittingly only listened to Bob Marley.
10. Cuy (guinea pig) is a delicacy that looks like road kill when cooked traditionally.
11. Follow dog gangs. Please refer to the previous post for details.
12. We now know how to kill bed bugs. Not that we have bed bugs, but if we do, the pilots on our trek told us how to kill them. Also, always use bug spray in the jungle.
13. Roosters crow at 4 am in Peru. Someone needs to tell them that 4 am is too early for such nonsense.
14. The Virgin Mary is portrayed as a mountain. The locals were responsible for decorations on Catholic Churches when the Spanish occupied the country. As such, they portrayed Mary as Pachamama (Mother Earth) in whom they believed.
15. LAN Airlines knows how to efficiently board a plane. The first 14 rows board through the front door. The last 14 rows board through the back door. Get on board, all you American airline companies.
16. You know how the dad on My Big Fat Greek Wedding believes Windex cures everything? Well, Alyssa now believes baby wipes cure everything.
17. We should have practiced more Spanish before this trip.
18. Peruvian food is delicious. We never had a bad meal and are looking forward to comparing it to Peruvian restaurants in Houston.
19. 1,772 steps to Macchu Picchu at 5 am is worth it.
20. In Peru, you are guilty until proven innocent. This fact is the one thing Alyssa highlighted and flagged in her Nat Geo book before our trip. Not sure why she thought it was relevant.

...and the list goes on and on. One thing is for certain, we loved our first trip to South America, and we plan to return one day. Rio for the 2016 Olympics, anyone? We are accepting donations to fund the "Laura and Alyssa put the "fun" in fund" fund for our next South American trip. Pleas be generous.

Posted by lsto90 16:09 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Protests, Cactus Attacks, and Dog Gangs

After a few days in Cusco, we headed south to Arequipa with a 7:30 am flight on LAN Airlines. Alyssa and I discovered that the latest we will able to sleep on this entire trip is 8:30 am. Otherwise, we have had a series of early morning departures, including a two 4 am ones and one 3 am one. We don't believe in the whole rest and relaxation thing on vacations.

Note: the Cusco airport is hopping at 5:45 am. There are tons of early morning departures from Cusco and not enough staff, so get there early.

I have contracted what I have dubbed the "Peruvian Llama Flu." Really, it is just bad allergies because we think the rooms we stayed in on our trek had mold in them. Thanks to my sniffling and coughing, the lady next to me on my flight moved to an empty seat nearby giving me ample space on the hour flight to Arequipa.

Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city after Lima. It is in the south, inland, west of Lake Titicaca and south of Cusco. When we drove from the airport to our hotel, Los Tambos, we noticed a ton of police in full riot gear. Upon arrival at our hotel, we learned there was a 2 day protest in Arequipa, and we had arrived on day 1. The protest is against the establishment of a copper mine that will pollute the region's air and water. Supposedly, protests against this mine have been going on for over a year, and earlier this month, some people died in the protests. Thus, the government sent in tons of police and a military tank to keep this one under control.

The protest was mainly in the Plaza de Armas (main square right by our hotel). At one point, the protesters marched through the streets, and Alyssa and I scampered down some side streets to get out of their way. We did visit the Plaza de Armas a few times to watch the demonstration. I instantly had flashbacks to the one time I ran into armed police and a tank at a protest in Athens. Thanks to the protests, most of Arequipa was shut down.

We visited the Santa Catalina Monastery which was GIANT. It was a city within in a city. Back in the day, those nuns had some spacious apartments. After an hour there, we met the Arequipa Free Walking Tour guide in San Francisco Plaza. Alyssa and I were the only two people on the tour with Carlos. Since a lot of streets were blocked off for the protest, we got the abbreviated tour that ended with a potato and Pisco sour tasting.

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We napped, grabbed a drink on a rooftop terrace, and ate at Zig Zag which is a highly rated restaurant here. Alyssa and I didn't see what the big deal was, but we were also really tired so maybe the meal was fantastic.

After a few hours of sleep, we had a 3 am pick up for our tour of Colca Canyon. The bus was completely full, but the rude French man insisted his backpack needed its own seat even after Alyssa tried to tell him otherwise. Finally, some poor passenger chose to sit with the French man's backpack under his seat. We ate breakfast in Chivay, the largest town in Colca Canyon, before taking the bumpiest road ever to Cruz del Condors. The condors usually fly across the canyon in the morning which is why our bus departure was so early. We saw a few condors fly across the valley, and then we headed to Cabanaconde, the smaller town in Colca Canyon. Note: Cabanaconde doesn't have an ATM, so make sure you have enough cash for your stay before arriving here.

We stayed at Pacha Mama Hostel (Pacha Mama means Mother Earth) which has no wifi or heat (it is around 36 degrees here at night), but it makes up for these shortcomings with a good hostel atmosphere that is conducive to meeting other travelers, hot showers, and a small, cozy restaurant serving brick oven pizzas. Plus, it is like my version of Cheers here. Everybody knows my name, and they were definitely glad I came.

We set out for a 3 hour roundtrip hike to the Kallimarka Ruins. The trail was not marked very well and included walking across a pasture full of horses, traversing a flooded road, dodging running donkeys, and skillfully maneuvering around the bulls (not the Chicago ones) that had taken up residence on the trail.

All was going well until Alyssa decided to jump across the flooded road, slipped a little, and grabbed on to a cactus to keep her from falling. She had a giant cactus attached to her arm but removed it too quickly before I could take a picture of it. She then removed inch long cactus needles from her shoulder, arm, and hand. She still has small needles in her arm and hand that will probably result in a trip to the doctor who specializes in homeless care when she gets back to Houston. We googled poisonous cacti in Peru and discovered there is only one poisonous cactus here. We don't believe it is the one she had embedded in her arm, but we aren't 100% sure.

We were about 10 minutes from the top when we decided we were sunburned, tired from our 3 am wake up, and hungry. We turned around and went back to town. We ate lunch at the one place with wifi in the town and sat there for a few hours chatting with tourists from the UK and Holland.

The Dutch tourists told us to visit the Mirador (viewpoint) which was a quick 15 minute hike. Before the sun set, we legitimately followed 2 dogs to the Mirador. They somehow knew where we wanted to go and led us straight there. The dog gang has been our favorite tour guide. I am also quite positive following a stray dog through the Peruvian wilderness is not suggested by Lonely Planet, Rick Steves, or Frommers, but it has our stamp of approval. When in doubt, follow a dog gang.

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We saw a sign pointing to another landmark, but once again, the trail wasn't marked well and ended at a fork in the road. We decided to trust another dog to lead us and headed down one fork. A local saw us and asked where we were going. She then advised us that it was "tarde" (late) and that the trail we chose would be "peligroso" (dangerous). Luckily, I remember enough Spanish vocabulary to have understood that the trail was too dangerous in the late afternoon. We turned around and headed back to town where I broke down and bought a llama sweater. We weren't expecting it to be so cold here at night, so I only brought a t-shirt and shorts and left my other clothes in Arequipa. I now can dress up like Bill Cosby for Halloween too.

We ate at Pachamama in the cozy, rustic restaurant there. The tourist to table ratio was unbalanced forcing you to sit with other travelers and talk to them. An elderly German couple sat with us and told us about their 6 months of traveling. Europeans love long vacations. I have noticed this before, and this trip has reinforced it. Everyone we have met is traveling for a long period of time.

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After dinner, Alyssa and I passed out around 8:30 pm and were woken up at 4 am by a rooster. The rooster continued to crow all night. We managed to sleep til 7:30, making this the most sleep we have gotten this entire trip. After breakfast, we boarded an Alimira Travel tourist bus for an 8 hour drive back to Arequipa. The bus made a few stops, including one for lunch in Chivay, before arriving in Arequipa at 5:30. Immediately, Alyssa and I headed to dinner at Capriccio before checking into our hotel with plans of passing out ASAP.

Posted by lsto90 16:23 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

I say Macchu, you say Picchu

Alyssa and I started our Macchu Picchu (MP) ascent at 4:20 am. We walked for 25 minutes to the first check point for MP. It was like a mass exodus from Aguas Calientes as a lot of tourists begin their trek at the crack of dawn. I felt like a coal miner walking to work. Everyone had on headlamps and walked in silence to the check point to get in line. Note: if you plan to do a 4:20 am hike, get a headlamp. They are awesome and practical for every day matters, including peeling crawfish in the dark, reading a book in bed at night, sweeping your floors to ensure you get every corner, scooping water out of your flooded car in your dark garage, dressing up as a coal miner for Halloween, etc.

At the checkpoint, you show your passport and ticket. You must buy your ticket to MP in advance. There is a limit of 2,500 tickets per day, and each year 900,000 visitors visit. Similarly, if you want to hike the Inca Trail, there are only 500 tickets per day available and the hike takes about 3 days.

Once we passed the checkpoint that opens at 5 am, we climbed 1,772 steps to the entrance of MP. The hike took a little less than an hour, and we climbed 1,350 meters of pure misery. The first half of the hike was very steep. Everyone hiking kept taking breaks, so we didn't feel super out of shape when we stopped to rest. The second half of the hike was more gradual and did not require taking breaks. Travel tips: if you aren't a fan of the Stair Master at the gym, save yourself some misery and pay a few dollars for the bus. If you want to hike, go at 5 am when it is cold outside and of course, bring the aforementioned headlamp. Also, bring some water and a dry t-shirt to change into at the top. We ignored the advise to bring a clean, dry shirt (not that we have any of those) and froze at the top.

The second checkpoint is at the top and opens at 6 am. At the checkpoint, there are bathrooms for 1 Nuevo Sol (about 30 cents in USD), snack bars, and the bus station for all those people who want to look pretty and clean in their MP pictures. Once you pass the second checkpoint by showing your passport and ticket, you are allowed to exit and re-enter the park 3 times. Use your bathroom breaks wisely.

We met with Jimi, our tour guide, for about a 2 hour tour. MP means "old mountain" in Quechuan and is not the original name of the archaeological site. No one knows what the original place was named. An American, Hiram Bingham, discovered MP in 1911 and brought National Geographic and some Yale scholars back in 1912 to begin the excavation of the site. MP is one of the 7 new wonders of the world.

Jimi explained to us that the Incas had 3 gods-- the condor, the puma and the snake which represent your spiritual, personal, and after lives. Their beliefs are reflected in the Inca cross which looks like there are 3 steps--one for each god- carved into it. Jimi explained to us the Incas were super geniuses in astrology and agriculture. There 3 windows that tell you which month it is based on where the sun is shining. They knew about the magnetic north in directions and aligned architecture with the solstices and equinoxes. Further, they once again had terraces for agriculture similar to Moray. Each level was suited for specific crops and tiny irrigation canals provided water to each terrace.

From Macchu Picchu, you have access to two mountains, Macchu Picchu mountain and Waynapichu. Both have limited tickets per day. Waynapichu only has 400 tickets per day and looks absolutely frightening. Macchu Picchu mountain has more tickets each day. Alyssa and I bought tickets for MP mountain a couple of days in advance for $10. After climbing 1,772 steps plus a ton more at the archaeological site, we voted against the 3 hour round trip hike to MP Mountain.

Instead, we wandered around MP for a few hours. From MP, you can take a 30 minute round trip hike to the Inca Bridge and a 1.5 round trip hike to the Sun Gate which is the main entrance to MP for those who hike the Inca Trail. We wandered around for a while, ran into some Aggies, and took selfies with some llamas. Also, starting at 9 am, you can stamp your passport with a cool MP stamp. MP was beautiful and after about 7 hours of MP, we decided to hike back to Aguas Calientes for lunch. The descent down the 9 billion stairs took us about 40 minutes plus the 25 minute hike to the town. By the time, we arrived in Aguas Calientes, we were starving, dehydrated, and 100% disgusting. We stopped at a restaurant, and I finally ate alpaca steak. It tastes like beef but a little tougher.

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We had a couple of hours to burn before our train to Cusco, so we visited the market and stocked up on garandillas. Garandilla is a fruit similar to passion fruit. With more time to kill, we stopped at at French bakery Alex had brought us the night before. After a pastry and coffee, we retrieved our backpacks from our hostel and used free wifi before catching our train to Cusco.

There are numerous trains from Aguas Calientes to Cusco via the Poroy or Ollantaytambo stations. The Poroy station is 20 minutes from Cusco. The other station is much further. It is important to book your train tickets in advance. Back in March when I bought our tickets, a lot of Poroy options were already sold out. Our tickets cost $101 each. I see what you did there, Peru Rail-taking advantage of tourists. Good business strategy.

Our train to Poroy took about 3.5 hours. The train plays weird elevator music the entire time similar to LAN Airlines. They also offer free snacks, so I finally tried Inka Cola which is a popular soft drink here. If you are the one person who is keeping Big Red in business, you would love Inka Cola. If you are like the majority of Americans who detest Big Red, you will hate it. It tastes the same but is a bright yellow color. After a 20 minute taxi ride, we arrived at Tierra Viva Centro to check in and retrieve our bags we stored there while on our trek. After some hand-washing of our dirty clothes, we are headed to bed.

Posted by lsto90 21:03 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Inca Jungle Trail

Sunday, we embarked on our 3 day alternative trek to Macchu Picchu (MP). There are various ways to get to MP: train, hike the Inca trail, or an alternative trek. We chose an alternative trek called the Inca Jungle Trail with Lorenzo's Expeditions which was recommended by a friend who went last year. The first leg of our trek started with a 6 am pick up and breakfast at Lorenzo's Lodge in Cusco. At breakfast, we were outfitted with waterproof pants and jackets that were bright orange and black.

There were 10 of us in total. Alyssa and I were the only ones doing the abbreviated 3 day expedition. Everyone else was doing the 4 day trip. The first leg of our trip was together. We drove 3 hours to Abra Malagra where we were outfitted with BMX protective gear, including a jacket, gloves, helmet, shin guards, and knee pads. Then, we began our 34 mile descent through the Andes. The ride was on a narrow asphalt road that had a steep drop on one side. When oncoming traffic passed by, it was a little frightening. Only one girl took a tumble, and I am proud to say it was not Alyssa or me (shocking).

We took two breaks (one includes Oreos, score!). The last part of the bike ride was flat and required us to actually exert energy. It was hot, and were wearing BMX gear and thick waterproof pants and jacket. As Alyssa put it, "I felt like a wrestler trying to drop a weight class the day of the match." We should have taken performance enhancing steroids prior to this bike ride to be on the same level as Lance Armstrong was during those 7 Tour de France disqualified wins.

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We drove to Lorenzo's Lodge in Santa Maria which overlooked the jungle. They prepared us lunch of guacamole (they are huge guacamole fans), fruit juice, steak, and rice. For dessert, we had bananas covered in honey and toasted quinoa (they love quinoa too). It was delicious! Six of us decided to go rafting on the Urubamba River. The river flows to the Amazon, and we rafted the class 3 rapids. The guides insisted we jump into the freezing cold river not once but twice to enjoy a nice swim.

We went back to the lodge and chatted with the other guests while waiting for dinner. Doug from Sweden told us his girlfriend Sarah had just told him about a guy who got stung in the shower while on vacation and died. Right after that discussion, Doug got in the shower and was stung by something. We thought it was hilarious due to the coincidental nature of the event. We also just added his sting to the list of various insect bites we had all gotten that day. I believe I have 40 no-see-um bites, or they are bites from some poisonous creature indigenous to Peru. We'll find out when my arm falls off or something.

For dinner, the guides cooked us celery soup, fried rice with quinoa instead of rice, chicken and Pisco sours. We learned that soup is traditionally served as the first course for lunch and dinner.

After dinner, Alyssa and I went to bed early. We didn't ever hear our roommates come in.

Day 2 started at 6 am with a breakfast that included Oreos. My kind of breakfast. Alyssa and I left the other group of 4 day Trekkers and went with our guide Alex to Santa Teresa for some ziplining. There were 6 cables across a river valley. They claimed the 300 meter high cable was the highest zipline in South America. Do we believe him? No, but it was cool anyway. The coolest thing about ziplining were the bathrooms. The bathroom stalls had three walls. The missing wall allowed for a great view of the jungle for when nature calls. I then realized while ziplining that from cable #4, you can see straight into the bathrooms.

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After 2 hours of ziplining, we drove 30 minutes to Hidroelectrico to enter Macchu Picchu Park. We hiked Camino Aguas Calientes for 7 miles to reach Aguas Calientes which is also known as Macchu Picchu Pueblo. It is at the base of MP. The path runs along the railroad tracks. After 30 minutes of hiking, we stopped at Gabriel's Restaurant. Along the trail, there were a few restaurants, and Lorenzo's Expeditions is partnered with Gabriel's. Here, we ate potato soup, chicken and risotto made of bulgur wheat. For dessert, we had apples soaked in wine and cinnamon. We then took a 30 minute nap in the hammocks at Gabriel's before departing for the next 3 hours of hiking. While hiking, Alex pointed out avocados, bananas, and arabica beans that all grow in the park. Alyssa almost made us cross a river by stepping from one railroad tie to the other and avoiding the giant gaps in between. After a few feet, we turned around and opted for the pedestrian walkway. Alex put two coins on the railroad track before the train came and gave the flattened coins to us a souvenir.

We strolled (more like crawled) into Aguas Calientes around 5 pm and checked into our hostel, Tocoy el Timbre. What we should have learned from Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, was that you need less clothing than you think. Carrying a roughly 10 pound backpack for 7 miles is not the most enjoyable experience, but we made it.

After a dinner of lomo saltado (a Peruvian beef and vegetable survey, we bid farewell to our tour guide Alex. We have to wake up at 4 am to hike to Macchu Picchu, so it's time for bed.

Posted by lsto90 19:09 Archived in Peru Tagged peru jungle trail expedition picchu inca macchu lorenzo's Comments (0)

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