Posts Tagged ‘cusco’

Day 12 – June 5th, 2012

Our first night back after Machu Pichu turned out to be a big party night (Day 11). Day 12 was pretty much a write-off. It got so nuts that one of the guys woke up at 3:30pm and thought the reason why no one was in the dinning room was because it was around 6am and therefore before breakfast. That same guy fell from the bar (one which he was standing) and hurt his knee. He woke up with no memory of the night worried he had gotten into a fight. I didn’t have as big a night as he did, but I still didn’t feel top shape until I relaxed in my room for some tv and a long 3 hour nap.  Though I did watch part of a show called Dr. TV (think Spanish Dr. Oz) where, from what I understood, the doctor was warning the audience of the dangers of alcohol consumption. The irony didn’t escape me.

Day 13 – June 6th, 2012

This was our last day in Cusco. My roommate and I decided to try some of the area’s famous white water rafting. If ever you’re in Cusco, you really need to try the rafting. It’s so much fun! The river started about 2 hours out of Cusco and ran for about 13 km. We were four in our raft (my roommate, some Swedish guy, our guide, and me) and the whole thing was amazing. The third guy in our team, the Swedish guy, told us a few stories from his 6 month exchange to Peru. One of those stories, where a friend of his took a 10 hour night bus bus from Cusco to Arequipa and 4 dudes with machetes came and ransacked the place made us a bit uneasy because we were taking that same night bus that very evening. No jokes.

Day 14 – June 7th, 2012

The 10 hour night bus wasn’t as bad as I expected. There were no machete wielding thugs, so that was good. Plus I was able to sleep! My day in Arequipa consisted mostly of wandering around and eating. It’s a pretty nice place, but it’s much warmer and more spread out that Cusco. Actually, it’s quite beautiful. The city is surrounded but mountain. From the top of the hotel, on the rooftop balcony, you have a terrific view of a few snow-capped mountains. For breakfast, we ate at some restaurant at the market where I had a very filling soup called adobo (basically meat with some thick broth and onion), for lunch I had a bunch of fresh fruits and a fruit juice because I was still full from the adobo, and for supper I had a local specialty, guinea pig! I’m glad I tried guinea pig, but I won’t be having it again anytime soon. It’s a very fatty meat and the meat is, as you’d expect for something the size of a rat, very sparse. Oh! I also experienced an earthquake today! When I first felt it, I thought I was sitting over a metro or something, then I remembered there is no metro system here and I noticed that people were rushing out of their buildings. It was a neat experience, though I’m glad I was outside for it.

A mountain from the top of our hotel in Arequipa

A mountain from the top of our hotel in Arequipa. Beautiful scenery like this abounds in Peru.


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Day 7 – May 31th, 2012

The day started a bit rough. I woke up with a slight headache from what I assume is a coca hangover\withdrawl. Weird. Besides that slightly rough start, it was a fairly low-key day. I guess the main highlight was the ride to the city that preceded my trek towards Machu Pichu. It’s just so scenic here!

A gentle lunch before the Lares Trek

Roughing it for lunch before we set off on the Lares Trek.

Days 8 through 10 – June 1st through June 3th, 2012

G Adventure offers two trek before Machu Pichu: the Lares Trek and the Inca Trail. The Lares Trek takes you through mountains and local villages, ends up in some Peruvian village and is a day shorter, while the more historical and famous Inca Trail goes through Incan ruins and ends up at Machu Pichu. Because the Inca trail only accommodates 250 tourists per day, it tends to sell out fairly quickly. Because of this, I did the Lares Trek, though I’m glad I did. Also, I heard the Inca Trail has loads of stairs. I hate hiking stairs.

Beautiful day on the Lares Trek

A beautiful day for a hike on the Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is an easy 3 day 2 night hike (I’m convinced you could do it in two moderate days or one super hardcore day) through some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever been surrounded by. Giant mountains, deep cliffs, distant snow-capped mountains, wildlife, it was all there. The trek is obviously fully supported by two guides, porters and cooks, so it’s not the most hardcore hike, but there is no way to deny that climbing to 4 600 meters on the second day is a good challenge. For me, it was more of an experience than a true hike. Being in nature, having that fresh air, seeing nature’s awesomeness, that’s what it was about for me. Unlike the Inca Trail, the Lares Trek can allow you lots of solitude, if that’s what you seek. We only crossed one other group during the whole thing. It was so serene. Though I would have enjoyed something a bit longer through the same type of terrain, I have no complaints with the experience. Surprisingly, the food was delicious for something prepared in the middle of mountains. The few treks I’ve done during my travels always have the best food. I think it was even some of the best food I had during the whole trip. Having your private cook while traveling has its benefits.

Feeling small surrounded by such awesome scenery

Feeling small surrounded by such awesome scenery.

The only downside was that the nights were frigid, even in a winter sleeping bag with three layers. Thankfully we only slept outside for two nights. On the second night, we woke up to our tents covered with frost. Just thinking about it makes me shiver!

Tents covered in frost

Warmer than sleeping outside, but not by much.

Day 11 – June 4th, 2012

This was the big day for this trip. Machu Pichu! The advantage of doing the Lares Trek is that you get to have a shower before going to Machu Pichu. You arrive feeling clean and reasonable well rested. People who did the Inca Trail arrived directly from hiking to the historical site, while we had a night in a hotel to wash and rest a bit, though the marching band that paraded in front of our hotel all night didn’t help me fall asleep. Still, it certainly is an advantage of the Lares Trek!

A first sunbeam hits Machu Pichu

A first sunbeam hits Machu Pichu.

Machu Pichu is a spectacular place. It’s practically located in the clouds and it is surrounded by jagged mountains. The skill it must have taken to build that place is mind-blowing. Though for me, the true highlight of the visit was the chance to hike the mountain behind Machu Pichu, Huayna Pichu. Though it’s mostly steps, the view from the peak is breathtaking. I really need to upload some pictures…

Machu Pichu from Huaynapichu

Machu Pichu from Huaynapichu and to the left, the road up to Machu Pichu.

Oh! I haven’t had any coca leaves since the second day on the hike and I haven’t had any 4am headaches! Hurray for not being a coca loaf addict!

We spent about 7 hours at Machu Pichu before making the journey back to Cusco. On the way back, we were treated by a stunning full moon on the horizon over the mountains. I love mountains so much, they make everything seem so much more dramatic.

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This is a day-by-day account of G Adventure’s Andean Adventure tour (tour JLM). Instead of stretching out my posts over a few days after my return, I decided to simply post in chunks when I have access to the internet. Here are the past 5 days. Next time I update will probably be after Machu Pichu in 4 or 5 days. I’ll try to add some pictures too at that point.

Day 2 – May 26th, 2012

We left La Paz for Peru today. To get from La Paz to where we were going, we had to take a long bus ride and a short ferry boat ride across lake Titicaca. Despite it’s grade 2 hilarious name, Lake Titicaca is seriously legit. This is a giant lake, like, massive. If it were a country, it would be the 171st largest (out of 249). It’s bigger than Luxembourg and Hong Kong. Not only that, but it’s 3 800 meters above sea level! Pretty crazy spot. Luckily we crossed it at a point where the distance between the shores is only about 800 meters.After crossing the lake we got back on our bus towards Copacabana (not the famous one though, that one’s in Brasil).  We were warned by our guide that we should pretend to not know him in Bolivia for work visa reasons. Kinda sketchy, but not really. Apparently much sketchier things happen in regards to immigration in Bolivia (the people who were on the previous tour that crossed into Bolivia had to bribe a border agent with rhum and money, though he apparently would have prefered a chicken). We  got off the bus in time for lunch in Copacabana and as people were asking our guide for good spots to eat and visit, the police showed up. Our guide started acting distant and we got the hint that we should pretend not to know him. After lunch, we all returned to the bus, but our guide was nowhere to be found. I won’t use the word crisis, but people started worrying. After all, he was the one with our bus tickets and our hotel confirmation (and the only one who really knew what we were doing for the next few weeks). We figured the best thing to do was to take the bus, like it everything was ok, and cross the Peruvian border. We’d figure it out in Peru. The 3 hour bus ride was full of conjecture and slight agitation. The problem with traveling with a tour is that you’re not really in charge of what goes on since everything is organised for you, it can feel like you’re just along for the ride. We got to our final destination in Puno, Peru. Who was there waiting for us? BAM! Our guide! Apparently the Bolivian police asked him if he knew us/was working with the tour, he said no, and then told him that if that was the case he should get out of Bolivia immediately. So he boarded the next bus to Puno and waited for us to arrive. All’s well that ends well!

A picture from lake Titicaca

A lake as beautiful as it’s name is hilarious (for elementary school kids [and me]).

Day 3 – May 27th, 2012

Today we went to check out some floating islands and indigenous villages on lake Titicaca. The floating village, while cool, had the typical tourist trap vibe to it. We went to see some houses, but while there, we were presented some things to buy. I hate awkward situations like that so much, but at the same time I understand that tourism allows communities that would otherwise not have any resources to continue existing. It’s a frustrating dichotomy. After that, we took the boat for another few hours to an island where we took a little hike up to a restaurant. Altitude hiking rewards you with pretty stunning scenery, but it’s so exhausting. Thankfully a delicious meal was waiting for us in the village on top of the mountain (hill?). Some fresh quinoa soup followed by a delicious fish and rice meal. So good! Afterwards, we went to another island where we go to meet our homestay family with whom we’d spend the night and morning. My roommate Alex and I don’t really speak Spanish, and the family was a bit awkward (to be fair, not as much as we were), so it was a pretty rough start to our stay. We ended up playing marbles with the 8-year-old boy while we waited for supper in the kitchen. There was a celebration of sorts later that night, but I felt a bit run down, so I figured I should be responsible and go to bed early. I think Alex didn’t want to go out in the cold. We both crashed at around 9pm. I’d hate to be sick for Machu Pichu!

Sleeping under 4 heavy blankets to ward off the cold.

Sleeping under 4 heavy blankets to ward off the cold.

Day 4 – May 28th, 2012

Winter (because it’s winter here right now) nights in Peru are cold. So cold that Alex and I slept under 4 heavy wool blankets. Our room wasn’t heated, or insulated, but still. Despite sleeping under 30 or 40 lbs of sheets, I woke up rested and healthy (thank goodness!). Alex didn’t sleep as well, but that’s probably because he had some coca tea after supper. That stuff’ll wake you up. After a nice, and  once again awkward, breakfast, Alex and I went with the father to harvest some barley on his plot of land. The hike up was about an hour, but we took the scenic route. Alex, the father, the son, and I harvested barley for about 45 minutes and then we rolled it up in 60 lbs (I’m guessing) bundles and walked it down to their house using a more direct route. It still took us like an hour though because carrying a giant load of barley on your back using only a blanket and some rope takes some practice. Despite how tough it was, it made for a very enjoyable morning. It was nice to see what daily life islike for members of such a community. After a nice lunch, we were on our merry way back to the mainland. I spent a good hour on the boat ride back removing tiny barley twigs from my shirt, those little guys are prickly!

A picture of a picture of two gringos harvesting barley

I didn’t have my camera, so this picture of a picture taken on a camera phone is the only proof I have that I actually harvested some barley.

Day 5 – May 29th, 2012

Today was mostly a travel day. We went from Puno to Cusco, the main touristic city in Peru. It took us about 6 hours, but the view along the way was stunning. It’s hard to describe, but it looked like we were surrounded by giant mountains of green velvet. I know it sounds really tacky, but it was a stunning view. Having those green mountains, interspersed with distant glaciers, made me feel like I was back in the time of dinosaurs. Lke, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the road was blocked by a brontosauraus gently crossing the road or something. The ruggedness and scale of the Peruvian mountains is something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. Once we got there, I got to walk about Cusco a bit. I have to say, Cusco’s a really cool city. It has a really relax vibe to it. I think staying here for a few weeks while learning Spanish would be a great experience. Perhaps influencing me on this is that I went for supper to a place called Nuna Raymi with another person from the tour and had the most delicious meal. The menu describes lomo saltado as Tender juicy thin slices of beef sirloin sautéed and seasoned with pisco, garlic, coriander, soy sauce and complemented with crispy onion, yellow chili, fresh tomato, served with french fries and white rice (the version I had added this) plus mushrooms, peppers, chives and beer, all this DELICIOUSLY sautéed. I wish I had taken a picture, but it wouldn’t do it justice. Later that night, we met up with the other people at what is billed as the world’s highest Irish pub for a few drinks. It was a good end to a relatively dull day.

A Peruvian house is dwarfed by a mountain

I love how tiny the house seems next to the mountain.

Day 6 – May 30th, 2012

Today was much more relaxed than any day before. We had a guided tour of Cusco with our tour leader in the morning. For me, the highlight was the local market. It was loaded with clothes and food, and had a really nice feeling. Like Jean Talon market if they got ride of all health concerns and started selling clothes and sundries. I like to imagine that if I stayed in Cusco for a few weeks, I’d go to the same merchants on a daily basis and have nice conversations in Spanish about the quality of the fruit or the weather or something. I ended up going to lunch at the market with someone from the group. I wasn’t fancy (it was a wooden bench in front of a table behind which they prepared some food), but it was good, fast and cheap. In the afternoon, our guide brought a few of us to the top of a hill overlooking Cusco. It was a bit rough it make it up, but it was beautiful up there. It was also a great opportunity to break in my hiking books before the Lares Trek to Machu Pichu. It was also a nice opportunity to try the local hiking suppliment, coca leaves…

Cusco from the mountain

A view of Cusco from the top of one of the mountains that surrounds it.

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