I am still alive! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted because I’ve been having such a great time!! The “Gringo Trail” had led us at last to Cusco, Peru!
One of the most important cities for the Incas who had tribes that spread all the way from Ecuador to Argentina and Cusco is at the very center of it all. You may think of Machu Picchu as the capital for the Incan Empire but it was actually Cusco, Machu Picchu was a super secret place only for the royalist of royals and it also was college for the Incan’s who brought the smartest kids from all over the regions to study.
While we’re on the topic, Incans are actually not Incans, only the elitist are considered Incas the rest of the people are considered Tawantinsuyu which means four regions however I’m just going to keep referring to them as Incans because its easier to spell.
We first stayed in Cusco for four days which wasn’t that eventful because I was still feeling sick. I did go to a shop and try some crazy volcanic clay cleanse thinking that it might help flush everything out. I did feel quite amazing afterward but the experience was really interesting I’ll say. It took about five miserable hours which I spent chugging down as much volcanic water As possible while pacing around the upstairs of a rickety old shop while the shop worker, who only spoke Spanish, attended to customers leaving me wandering how the heck I found myself in this position. A couple hours into the session I really old guy came in and I was informed that he was the “medicine man” and I very talented healer for Ayahuasca ceremonies. Apparently he was there to take some promotional pictures. He was dressed up in traditional Andean clothing. As they’re taking pictures I’m still walking in circles trying to make the volcanic clay water do its thing faster when they beckon me to join and be a model in the pictures. I’m standing before this man, hands in a praying position, as he’s blowing smoke on the crown of my head, I’m really starting to think what in the heck I’m doing here. Needless to say the volcanic water finally worked and I got the heck out of there. It was a very interesting experience.
Two days later we found ourselves on the Inca Jungle hike to Machu Picchu. The hike took three days and was amazing!
We started out riding mountain bikes down a mountain pass and rode from the cold mountain climate down to the hot humid jungle climate which was really cool to see changing as you rode down the mountain. Once we got to the bottom some of us went white water rafting which I hadn’t paid for but one of the girls wrecked her bike on the way down and couldn’t go rafting so she gave me her spot. It was a lot of fun but definitely a little scary.
The next day we had an 8 hour hike through the Jungle. The first day had rained a lot and all my clothes were wet and its nearly impossible to dry your clothes when its almost 100% humidity outside so I ended up hiking in my sarong. Durning then hike we got to see all kinds of jungle animals including a monkey that stole one of the girls glasses and her camera case.
On the way our guide taught us about the of plants and how they’re used. We got to try cocao which is the plant the chocolate comes from (really tasty); ate avacados and bananas from trees; and painted our faces with a bright orange plant.
I even ate termites from a tree which weren’t bad at all as long as you eat them really fast so you don’t feel them crawling around in your mouth, and oddly they taste like mint.
We learned that Incas used the trail we were hiking as a messenger trail. There would be hundreds of young boys waiting along the trail who would run 2 kilometers at a time and hand off the message to the next runner, it was said that it took them only three hours to deliver a message from Machu Picchu to Lima which by bus takes about 17 hours! The best part of the hike is that it ended at some hot springs we got to soak our soar muscles in.
The third day we walked along train tracks and a winding river into a small town just outside of Machu Picchu. Along the way our group decided to stop and swim and relax by the river.
It was a pretty special spot because we were the only ones there and from our swimming hole you could see the back part of Machu Picchu way up on the mountain top. The whole area is truly a scared place the “energy” is very uplifting and peaceful. All around you can see butterflies fluttering about, you can hear hundreds of different birds chirping and the smell of sweet nectar from the flowers blooming.
We spent the night in the town and the next morning got up at 4:30 am to be one of the first through the gate to Machu Picchu. We still had to hike up a mountain side which consists of 1,700 steps but we made it in an hour. All the previous day’s hiking truly paid off once we set eyes on the ancient city.
It’s definitely one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to and I highly encourage anyone to make a trip to Peru and see Machu Picchu. You are literally in awe standing before it.
The architecture of the place is amazing all the stones that make up the city are perfectly cut to fit next to one another perfectly and the technology they had is highly impressive to say the least. The Incans had a giant compass that lines up perfectly with the cardinal directions. We had even tested it out with a compass app on an iPhone and it couldn’t have lined up more perfectly. They had windows that lined up with the sunrise on the winter and summer solstices, they also had viewing pools for studying the sun, the moon and the stars.
The Incans built hundreds of terraces all around for experimenting with growing different types of food in different climate settings. They came up with a way of preserving food, especially potatoes, that the South Americans still use to this day. In fact some archeologists discovered some preserved potatoes that dated a hundred years or so and were able to eat them! There is so much the Incas were aware of its hard to imagine they were a civilization from hundreds of years ago.
Upon our arrival back into Cusco, Sarah and I decided we would spend only 2 more days there and then make our way to Bolivia- we ended up spending 19 days total in Cusco!
We got back and I was finally feeling better and so we were able to explore the city more. We got to the point where we were looking at apartments for rent and almost stayed their for a month or two in our own place since apartments are only about 300 soles a month with is about $120! Had we know we were going to stay 19 days total we probably would have rented a room but we kept extending our reservation day by day. We even got a night or to free because we stayed at the same hostel so long. We met several travelers who were going the same direction as us and became really good friends and decided to travel as a group.
It started as a group of 7 and now as I’m writing this we’re a group of 12! Six Australians, three Canadians, two Americans(Counting me) and one Sweden. We all bonded over one of the Aussies birthdays and went out to the clubs, which are crazy. You walk down to the main plaza and there’s about 20 guys trying to usher you into their club they all have vouchers for free drinks so I literally never paid for drinks. I met a Chilean guy from the hostel who taught me how to salsa dance (If you ever get a change to learn salsa I highly recommend it). The clubs also stay open until about 5am so there was a couple times I regretfully saw the sun come up. I took up some yoga classes in Cusco and also found myself in a little love affair with an Argentinean, too bad he didn’t met the criteria of owning a vineyard and a horse ranch or I would be in Argentina right now, never to return.
Very reluctantly, in our newly formed group, we finally left Cusco with Bolivia on the horizon. Now in Bolivia I still look back on the time I had in Cusco and will always hold that as one of my fondest memories in South America…
Almost two months into my travels I would like to take the time to list the things I’m grateful for back at home:
1. Toilet paper- many bathrooms don’t provide it
2. Getting to flush the toilet paper down the toilet
3. Toilet seats
4. Feeling safe
5. Good roads
6. Clean water
7. Clean food
8. Having an idea and being able to act on it- traveling makes you think about what your doing with your life and career And sometimes you want to act on all the ideas you have but its not really possible while traveling
9. Quality bread and cheese
Now for the South American things I’m grateful for and will miss when I eventually leave this amazing place:
1. Being able to get all kinds of food from street vendors
2. How cheap things are
3. Fresh fruit juice stands on every corner
4. Need headphones, a car steering wheel or underwear? You can find these anytime of the day, anywhere at any of the numerous street vendors
6. Siestas everyday
7. Fiestas every week
8. Extensive bus systems that take you anywhere you want to go in the country
9. The “Anything goes” attitude
10. Set ‘menu of the day’ for around $3 or less- which usually consists of a huge bowl of soup; a main dish of rice, chicken, potatoes and a salad; juice and a dessert.
*list to be updated as the trip progresses