Well, That Was Fucking Terrible

It’s hard to complain sitting in a five star hotel wrapped in a bright white fuzzy hotel bathrobe, and wearing cute little hotel slippers, but I’m going to try my absolute best!

Saturday we arrived in Cusco, the hotel sent a car to pick us up from the airport which was very nice. The driver worked for a tour company and asked if we wanted to do any tours while we were in Cusco. He had a tour book in the car, and we had already decided we wanted to go to Rainbow Mountain. He took our name, and said he be back tomorrow at 5am to pick us up. He was very pushy and we both got a bit of a dodgy feeling about him, so we decided to visit the tour company office to make sure. Sure enough he was trying to overcharge us for the tour, $50 USD vs. $28 USD. He was clearly going to keep the extra for himself, but that’s between him and his company. We booked a tour to Rainbow Mountain for the next day.

As promised, at 4:30am a large 20 person Mercedes sprinter van showed up, the woman had our name on her list, and we loaded into the van like the cattle that we were.

This is clearly the 4:00am thing to do in Cusco. The vans go from hotel to hotel gathering their tourists before heading out of the city to the different locations. They do this at top speed racing through the cobbled streets without the day to day traffic to contend with. Being a passenger in one of these vans required full participation, it was a core work out trying to stay in one’s seat.

Once the van was full we began the journey to our destination. The journey was also driven at top speeds. Our driver had zero regard for his passenger’s comfort, as he was quite literally drifting the van around corners, tires squealing and all. He was also most comfortable on the wrong side of the road. Passing other cars, vans, even an ambulance (with lights flashing- on its way to the hospital) at one point. He owned the wrong side of the road, the oncoming traffic was merely a small inconvenience.

We stopped for breakfast at what can only be described as a tourist warehouse. Multiple vans stopped here at the same time. We were herded into a large room with long rickety tables and food was rapidly flung in front of us. Everyone had a single gelatinous pancake, and a bowl of old fruit. I ate as much fruit as I could stomach. The coca tea was good.

It was here that we learned that we were not going to Rainbow Mountain. We were in fact on our way to Humantay Lake….the exact same lake that we will hike to during our 7 day trek. Of course by this time we were two hours into a road trip and there was nothing to be done, but go to the lake.

It turns out that there is no tour to Rainbow Mountain on Sunday, but we wanted a tour on Sunday, so we got one! Peruvians are very helpful. They were a little confused as to why we were upset. A tour is a tour!

At the end of the day, despite the 6 hours of nauseating van ride, the hike was at least beautiful. And we got a very good taste of what our next seven days will be like.

The horses were for the tourists who couldn’t make the hike. The poor beasts looked miserable going up, but they seemed to enjoy running down hill.

By the way hiking at altitude is really hard! Our training paid off, but breathing was a bitch. From base to the lake was a 3,000 ft elevation gain. The lake rests at 13,800 ft. It took three breaths during the hike to get the same amount of oxygen as a breath at regular/ accustomed altitude. I could feel the lack of oxygen in my muscles as well. The pressure in my head was the oddest thing. It was in spots. It felt like I was wearing a too-tight hat. The cocoa candy helped, but I was definitely feeling a bit woozy. The tree hour speed-racer van ride home has really put me off of #vanlife, and I’ll be ok with never stepping foot in another van for many many moons. Matt has had almost no issues at all with the altitude, and hasn’t the entire trip. Which is total bull shit in my humble opinion.

Tomorrow we begin our seven day trek!

Thanks for reading my rantings,

Matt and Jill

Arequipa Cont.

On our last day in Arequipa we crossed the river and walked about a mile from our hotel to the Yanahuara Arches. It was a mostly up hill walk and we had a great view of the entire city and there was a lovely park. Up until this point, we had mostly stayed in the downtown area. The arches and view were well worth the walk.

We also visited the Museuo Sanctuaries Andinos where the frozen maiden Juanita is located. Juanita is the mummy found in Peru, not far from Arequipa. She was an Inca sacrifice from about 500 years ago. We were not allowed to take photos and had to leave all electronics in lockers. The tour starts with a short 20min. movie which is interesting and informative. There is a small four room museum that contains all of the gold and silver figurines, woven blankets, clothing, and pots found in the sacrificial graves. In the last room is the mummy, still frozen, she is heartbreakingly small and tiny. She was at most 12 years old.

We finished the evening at a restaurant called Zig Zag. The food is served on a volcanic rock and it sputters and spatters while it continues to cook right at the table. We would highly recommend this restaurant. The power went out while we were there and the staff just lit more candles and continued on without hesitation. Unfortunately we don’t have photos of the amazing food, because it was served in the dark. It was fun and highly memorable. The photo is of the bib they provide, since the meat is still cooking.

Some reflections on travel in a foreign country.

Travel can be exhausting, mostly in a good way. The brain is always on high alert everything is new and different, all of the senses are on overload. Being continually aware of your surroundings for security and for sure footedness is mandatory. Unfortunately it is so easy to slip into what is comfortable.

Our first day in the hotel in Arequipa, I tripped going up a flight of stairs. My brain felt like cotton candy from the altitude, and I wrongly assumed that stairs were stairs no matter the country or city. I was very wrong. I have a large green and purple welt on my hand to remind me of this fact. Matt has a large welt on his forehead from the overhang on the same flight of stairs. Remaining aware of ones surroundings is imperative when traveling, even if it takes a little more energy.

We have also noticed a markedly different cultural norm here, that is not present in the U.S.. People in Peru have no problem picking their nose in public. Initially Matt and I were both very much for it. So much freedom! Yeah, you go, get that crusty boogie! Especially since the air is so dry and dusty. Then when we were eating lunch yesterday, I saw our chef do it. Then he did it again, and he was going for the gold! I am maybe ok with this particular lack of freedom in the states.

All of our best,

Matt and Jill

Lima, Peru – Day One

For such a large city (almost 10 million people) we have very much enjoyed our day here. We have had amazing food, a beautiful walk along the sand bluffs, and saw some beautiful parasails.

We started with breakfast at our hotel, then walked to the beautifully manicured John F. Kennedy cat park, where the city cats live. Locals feed them and there was even a small cupboard with food dishes and a donation box.

We kept walking, found some tourist markets with stall upon stall of gift merchandise. We were still quite tired from the long travel day yesterday, so we stopped at the lovely open air cafe for tea.

Then we walked to the sand cliffs and spent a few hours there walking and watching the parasails. They looked so peaceful floating on the air. There was also lots of art along the trail, statues and mosaic murals. We also discovered a chocolate museum where we sampled chocolate tea which was delicious!

After all the walking we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon nap and barely made it back out for dinner, but I’m so glad we did! My meal had ginger air on it which is a flavored light foam and it’s so fun to eat! It was also the best fancy food I’ve maybe ever had!

It’s time for a good night sleep because we have a morning flight to Arequipa where we will spend three days getting used to altitude and exploring!

Matt and Jill