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Published: October 24th 2018
Finally, someone has come to visit me! My friend Kelsey came to visit me for 2 weeks and we had an AMAZING time. It's because we were both HIGH ENERGY. This was my kind of trip. We spent a week in Chile and a week in Peru seizing every day. We woke up in the mornings and walked until night fell. Although we're both foodies and ate like champions, we somehow managed to lose weight during this trip. Yes, we walked so much that we actually slimmed down. Haha!
I'd always wanted to go to Peru but when I was a student, I didn't have the money so this was my chance. Plus, I've always wanted to share my Chilean treasure with someone from back home so they could experience this side of the world that I enjoy so much. Kelsey and I had traveled together in the States before and although our personalities are different, we travel very well together. The energy level is just through the roof. We are two people who love to travel and explore all that is humanly possible in a new destination. There's a shared thirst and enjoyment there. We always joke and say
we're "down for whatever." It's like, "You wanna go eat guinea pig?" "Yeah." "Do you wanna walk along this semi-treacherous path, over looking the ocean?" "Yeah." "Do you want to separate and get lost in Machu Picchu?" "Yeah!" "Do you want to eat lunch with this totally random guy we just met?" "Yes!" Anything that either of us could possibly suggest, the other one was down to do. And that's rare! As a result, we were completely in sync. We always wanted to do the same stuff and so didn't have to settle. And whilst we partook, didst we enjoy. We often looked at each other with rosy expressions, feeling the sheer satisfaction of life. This was the life that we were living and it was extraordinary.
When we arrived in Lima, the coastal capital of Peru, the weather was hot and humid, yet delicious. I could already tell that we were no longer in Chile. We walked outside of the airport facilities disoriented, having no idea where to go. We knew what hostel we needed to get to yet didn't know how the transportation worked in Peru. Cars and busses chalked full of people zipped around each other
perilously. The adventure was already beginning. We followed a faceless horde of people to what appeared to be a bus stop. We weren't sure. We just stood where all the other people were standing. Kelsey read that in Peru, unlike in Chile, you should bargain. So we did. We asked a couple of taxi drivers how much they would charge to take us to our hostel in Mira Flores. We bargained one driver down to 20 soles. He said he couldn't do it for that cheap because it was a long drive. We didn't believe him. Everyone has game, right? "Never mind," we said, and began to shut the door. Suddenly he agreed to the 20 soles and so we hopped in.
As the taxi pulled off, I took in the surroundings. They were sketch. Extremely sketch. I thought to myself, "Ah, okay. So this is Peru." The buildings around the airport resembled slums. Numerous buildings were incomplete, as if they had started building and ran out of money to finish. Yet people were still living in the unfinished buildings. Also, I thought Chileans drove crazily! No, Peruvian drivers make Chilean drivers look like saints. I'm not exaggerating when
I say that I feared for my life. I honestly didn't know if we'd make it to the hostel. On the highway, cars swerved in multiple directions and some cars even faced sideways going against the highway traffic entirely. Horns blared incessantly and drivers cut each other off as if it were a sport. Red lights were a joke. Cars went no matter what color the street light was. What STOP signs? Mere street decoration apparently. It was insane!
Surprisingly, the longer we drove, the quality of the houses improved. In fact everything improved, even the weather. The previous sheet of gray was replaced by a blue sky. The streets got nicer as did the overall scenery. Suddenly my eyes lit upon the ocean's sparkling water, the lush green vegetated cliffs on the opposite side of the highway and the cute, environmentally conscientious, pod-shaped recycling bins on the beach. "Ah, this is ALSO Peru" I thought to myself. It was positively lovely. I inhaled the fresh ocean air and smiled.
The taxi driver flirted, to entertain himself I suppose. It really was a very long drive! Almost an hour. Suddenly I felt ashamed of the 20 soles that
we had agreed on. When he pulled up in front of Pariwana Hostel, I wanted to kiss the ground! We had made it in one piece! We thanked him warmly and handed him the 20 soles we had agreed on plus 5 more. Fair was fair. :D
The Mira Flores district in Lima is a modern, upscale, pedestrianized neighborhood with ocean views. It is the stunning antithesis of the areas surrounding the airport. I guess Mira Flores appealed to my inner bougie because I absolutely loved it there. Everything was nice, pristine and clean. Even their grocery store was chic. Kelsey and I ate breakfast in Pariwana, even though it wasn't check in time yet. They were nice to let us do that. Then we explored nearby until check in. After shopping for toiletries we sat amongst the flowers in the plaza and played with stray kittens in the kitten garden. It's a place where they let the stray cats live. Guards and visitors come by and feed them daily and if you want to adopt one, you just take it home! They were so cute!
When our hostel room was ready, we showered, changed clothes and immediately
joined a walking tour of the nearby Barranco district. The Barranco district is Lima's arts district where bohemian meets posh. We ambled through colorful, mural filled streets surrounding mini mansions and enjoyed the cliff-side view of the sea. Artists sold their goods along the path. It was a laid-back tour. Afterwards Kelsey and I stopped at a restaurant and had delicious ceviche and pisco sour. When night fell, we attempted to catch a bus back to Mira Flores but ended up missing our stop by a long shot and getting lost. Good thing the area was safe! We walked, asking for directions along the way, but didn't mind the deviation as the night air was so refreshing.
The next day was a traveling day. We woke up and headed for the airport in Lima to fly to Cusco. Unbeknownst to us, we'd be stuck there for hours as each and every flight on Peruvian Airlines was delayed indefinitely. After reading reviews, this was actually the norm. Kelsey was livid and thought that we should receive free tickets in compensation. No such luck. But they did give us and everyone else a free deli lunch with a sandwich, a drink
and some Doritos so we wouldn't starve to death. I was content with that. After finally getting to Cusco, we then had to travel by taxi to Ollantaytambo to be closer to Machu Picchu. We bargained for a private taxi fee of 180 soles because there is no such thing as "the going rate" for taxis in Peru. Everything was fine and dandy until we seriously started wondering if we were getting kidnapped. Had we just paid to be abducted? At first we enjoyed the sights and snapped pictures excitedly. "Oooh, more unfinished buildings, random farmland, cows and lots of rolling hills." But after winding through those rolling hills for a good two hours, we got worried. The sun had set long ago and we still were not there. We should have been there. I asked the driver how much longer until our destination and he said, "soon." Suddenly, he veered off the main road, onto a smaller dirt road, next to some unlabeled building and got out the car. He said "un momento" and disappeared. Kelsey and I had no earthly idea were we were or what was going on. Had we just paid to be sex-trafficked?? We sat
I still can't believe we ate this... Haha
there and tried not to panic. "Should we make a run for it?" we discussed. But we didn't know where we were! Plus, he was an older gentleman, so he couldn't be unscrupulous, right?? Ten minutes later, the driver re-appeared, started up the car and U-turned to access the main road once more. Phew... I guess we were going to be okay.
Upon arriving at Ollantaytambo, it was late and we were starved. The small village was quaint and filled with a strong police presence. Peruvians really take care of their tourist areas. That's when Kelsey suggested that we eat guinea pig at one of the restaurants in the plaza. So being the adventurous people that we are, we did. We got a kick out of his fried guinea pig face because he looked happy. At least he "fried" happy? Haha! It was yummy, with crunchy skin. Kelsey said it reminded her of duck. That was cool until we flipped him over and saw some green gut-like liquid at the bottom. That killed it for me. We couldn't eat any more.
The next morning, we opened up our window in awe. That's when we truly saw Ollantaytambo in
its entirety. Instead of just a one-plaza village in the middle of nowhere, it was actually a small village nestled in between mountains containing ancient ruins! That was a pleasant surprise. And when we stepped outside to look around we discovered rows and rows of artisan booths with all sorts of Peruvian treasures. We went to the ATM to extract money for a tour of the ruins but couldn't make it. Our mistake was stopping at the artisan booths along the way. Completely losing focus of our original objective, we went wild shopping. Alpaca galore! I got an alpaca pancho, an alpaca bag and blanket, alpaca scarves. Kelsey got what appeared to be a rag doll, alpaca sweaters, and gifts for her family. We bought so much that we ran out of money and had to go to the ATM again. Then we went and shopped some more, continuing to lose our minds! Afterwards, we left our things in the hostel and decided to walk to the ruins this time with only one eye open. Haha
Once we made it to the ruins we got a nice, simple tour from a local. It was great but climbing those ruins
was a work out. We were dying. Soon after that it was time to ride the train to Aguas Calientes which is the small town at the base of Machu Picchu. We rode to the train station in a zany mototaxi akin to the bat mobile and that was fun. The train was a relaxing and elegant ride which included booth seats, ambient Peruvian music and snacks. There was even an automated tour feature which told us facts about the surrounding area as we went along.
Aguas Calientes was a cozy village surrounded by lush, fog covered mountains. When it started to rain all of the colors intensified. It was beautiful. The damp weather didn't dampen our enjoyment in the slightest. Of course not! There were more artisan shops and good restaurants all around so these two foodie-shop-aholics were in paradise. We topped off our alpaca craze by eating alpaca for dinner. It was delicious! Then we washed it down with a Peruvian staple, chichi morada, a purple-corn based drink. Afterwards, we explored more and ended the night with full body massages in a nearby parlor.
In the morning, we headed up to the mystical Machu Picchu. There
was the option to hike up. When I suggested that, Kelsey quickly slapped some sense into me. We couldn't even walk up my hill in Valparaiso. There was no way we were going to be able to trek up a mountainside. And those ruins in Ollantay nearly killed us. Haha she was right. There was no way. So we caught the bus for $24 USD each, round trip and it was worth it. Up, up and up we went until we arrived at Machu Picchu. Next to us on the bus was Matt, a man from New Jersey. Upon hearing us speak English, he enthusiastically butted into our conversation. He was relived to be able to talk to someone as he did not know any Spanish. Matt was comical so Kelsey and I linked up with him. When we got off the bus, tour guides awaited as visitors thronged the entrance. Matt asked a guide if he could give the 3 of us a tour. When he said yes, Matt offered to pay for everything. Kelsey and I tried to chip in but he refused, saying that it was his treat. Cool. We weren't going to argue!
was during the rainy season but it didn't matter. Visibility was low in some areas due to a dense fog moving around like a smoke screen. Sometimes we were met by a gray wall, but soon the clouds would shift to where the entire valley could be seen. It gave the whole experience a mystical, ethereal feel and we actually loved it. So we galivanted about that ancient mountain top, shamelessly, and high on life. Llamas roamed around, completely at home, and we roamed with them. After the tour, Matt treated Kelsey, Gilbert, our tour guide and me to an expensive buffet at the restaurant on top of Machu Picchu. It was surreal. We accepted and stuffed face happily. After exchanging numbers with Matt he caught a bus back down the mountain. However Kelsey and I weren't done exploring this ancient place. We couldn't get enough. Due to the season there already weren't as many visitors as usual and when it started to rain, even more people dissipated. Luckily we had rain ponchos. So we donned them and continued on our merry way. This time we decided to split up because Kelsey wanted to find a sequestered corner to draw
and paint and I wanted to write poetry and reflect on life. So we separated for an hour to really soak up the experience. And ironically we both ended up talking to llamas.
At last, the day was coming to an end and we had to descend the mountain. That's when we entered into a traveling frenzy. We caught the second to last bus down, power walked to the hostel, grabbed our things and immediately sprinted for the train station as the rain began to fall steadily. Then we caught the train back to Ollantaytambo and hailed a private taxi to drive us the 2 hour stretch back to Cusco. He only charged us 100 soles because he lived in Cusco and was going home for the night anyway.
The next morning we were in Cusco and decided to explore all day. The food was still delicious. In fact, every single meal that we had in Peru was delicious. It's hard to go wrong there. However I wasn't a fan of the weather in Cusco because it's 2 miles above sea level. I was done with the constant cold and rain. Plus, we had to drink a lot
of coca leaves to fight off elevation sickness and couldn't walk too fast without getting winded due to the thin air. But Cusco was pleasing to the eye. The architecture was stunning and we enjoyed exploring all the historical buildings and shopping. That night, although we had planned to go to a night club, we ended up listening to music in our room and fist pumping from our respective beds instead. It was comical. We were like old people. Cold and tired, that was as close to partying as we could get. Haha
The next day after exploring the Sacsayhuaman ruins, we ran into a girl from Finland who had also been on our walking Barranco tour in Lima. When we stopped and had lunch with her she told us all about how she ran into her ex-boyfriend there in Cusco. How bizarre is that? Half way across the world, they stumbled upon each other. We marveled at what could be fate, and then caught another delayed flight back to Lima. I had booked us a hostel fairly close to the airport but when we pulled up, we weren't in love with the area. So we asked the taxi
driver how much extra he would charge to just take us to Mira Flores. It was worth every cent.
The next day was our last day in Peru and we had to live it up. The weather was warm and the sun was shining. Cusco was Kelsey's favorite place but Lima was mine. I was glad to be back. I threw on some shorts and we promenaded all around Mira Flores. Then we strolled along the rocky beach where I got slapped hard by a wave and we had the best snow cones of our lives. Next, we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring downtown Lima and its many wonders. We started off visiting an ornate cathedral that Kelsey said was the nicest cathedral that she'd ever visited outside of the Vatican. Highlighting Moorish architecture and adorned with gold, this church was lavish. There were even creepy crypts underneath which we also visited. After that, we ate a cheap meal at a restaurant that was almost as cheap as the 20 sole meal Kelsey and I had eaten before flying out of Cusco. It was a small restaurant near the airport and after 2 full entrees,
appetizers, a pitcher of fresh squeezed lemonade, 2 deserts and hot chocolates, we felt almost criminal paying the equivilant-to-$6.00-USD bill, with tip included. Mouths agape, we left the restaurant as I wondered if I had indeed studied abroad in the wrong country! Peru is SO much cheaper than Chile. And Peruvians are more environmentally conscientious too. Recycling bins are a thing there whereas they totally aren't in Chile. But then I remembered the crazy driving, and so no, maybe I was in the right place. Each country has its pros and cons. But paying $6.00 USD for 2 full course meals was hella awesome. Not even gonna lie.
We went to a few more museums and ambled around the city until dusk. Finally we hailed a taxi. Oddly, the man had bars around the entire drivers seat. Kelsey and I looked at each other eyes wide. I asked him why he was behind bars and he said because after getting robbed and almost killed a couple of times, he had to do what he had to do. "Dang, so Lima has hood life", I thought. He dropped us off and we grabbed our bags and ate more ceviche. Then
we hailed another taxi to take us to the airport. As I sat there, with my phone out, the taxi driver told me to roll up my window and hide my phone because it's common for people to drive or walk by and steal your phone through the window. "Dang, that's rough" I thought, and quickly obeyed.
At the airport, I hugged Kelsey goodbye. It had been an unparalleled trip full of energy and adventure, a trip on steroids. We'd savored one of the wonders of the world and also survived abduction scares and perilous taxi rides. And let's not forget we dined like kings for only $6.00 USD. I still can't get over that. Haha She could return to the United States and I could return to Chile, proud.
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