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Published: August 15th 2018
After completing the Salkantay Trek and reaching Machu Picchu with my brother Shawn, we were back in Cusco and boy did we ever need a rest day. We were staying at a hostel named Milhouse in a six bed dorm that we were sharing with some of the others from our trek. Doris and Misha were checking out but Katie had switched out of her hostel and was joining us in ours. We slept in for the first time in what felt like a while, and got up to have an abundant breakfast in the dining area. We hung out with Iceland, Sara and some of the others. We all had a few things to take care of and today would be the day to do it. A pressing matter for most was the overwhelmingly pungent smell coming from the dorm rooms, caused by, not only our stinky shoes, but our sweaty and wet clothing. It was time to bite the bullet and go to one of the numerous places that provided laundry service. The one we went to was just down the street. I have a feeling they overcharged us when they weighed our clothes because of all the dampness
that added a lot more weight than there actually was. Then we headed out with Iceland, Doris, and Sara back to Machu Picchu reservations. Iceland was going to be leaving the next day to go to Lima, but the girls were also looking at checking out the famous Sacred Valley and Rainbow Mountain that was in the vicinity of Cusco before moving on, as were we. I really enjoyed having done the Salkantay Trek through them and I think we all did so we went back to see what they could offer for some tours to these other places. From a logistics perspective and because it is such a touristy area, it made sense to go through an outfitter as the cost to time ratio meant that we could hit multiple spots quickly and efficiently compared to using public transit. We ended up getting a deal and signed on for tours the next day and day after that. We then stopped by an ATM (Mutired) near the Plaza de Armas to pull out more Soles and stopped by a local clothing shop that produced items made of Alpaca fur. We all bought shirts that reminded me of Ugly Xmas sweaters.
We then parted ways for a bit, the girls went to some other shops, Shawn and Iceland went to get haircuts and I popped into the hostel and backed up some of my photos. Not long after they returned and we left again, this time with Sebastian, on our way to the San Pedro Market. My small notebook's mouse pad seemed to have malfunctioned so I bought a cheap wireless USB mouse along the way. One at the market we had ceviche for lunch and then walked around observing some of the trinkets for sale. We returned to the hostel and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around.
That evening we had dinner plans at a restaurant named Papacho's in Plaza de Armas with a bunch of our Salkantay trek group that were still in Cusco. A large number of us walked over from the hostel (Iceland, Shawn, Misha, Katie, Doris, Sara, Francesco, Sebastian) and we met up with Amber, Christine, Vivian, Eline, and later on with Eline, her boyfriend, and PA. It was a pretty festive dinner. I always marvel at how, when traveling on the road, you can connect so quickly with others. Is it because
you might share certain perspectives or be more open minded? Is it because you and they both know that you'll eventually move on and most likely never see each other again? I'm not sure exactly but it is something that I do notice when I travel to places and meet other travelers. This particular restaurant served gourmet burgers and they were pretty good. After dinner we went back to our hostel and headed up to the bar as it was beer pong night. We proceeded to have the most epic beer pong match ever. I was teamed with Shawn, Katie (from New York), and Eline's boyfriend, Daniel who had lived in the states for years but moved back to Lima recently, as far as I understood. We named ourselves team Canada. We faced off against Vivian, Eline, Sebastian (all from Netherlands), and Francesco (Italy). They would be team Europe. The match lasted at least 45 minutes, and that could be because we all sucked or maybe just had a lot of unlucky shots. In the end we were down to one cup each and after multiple attempts I managed to get that final shot in for our team. We erupted
in roars of victory! Then we had some more beers. At this point it was getting pretty late and I was thinking that some sleep would be a good idea. Peer pressure won out and Shawn and I were persuaded to come out to a club back in Plaza de Armas called Mama Africa. We decided we would come out for just one drink. We got there and they all gave us free Rum and Cokes and terrible club music was playing of course. Usually the "only one drink" rule never works but we finished up and bid our companions goodbye and then did the seven or so minute walk back to the hostel. It was about 0200 in the morning at that point.
I felt a strange sensation and rose from my slumber to realize that someone was stroking my arm and trying to speak with me. "Daniel?", he asked. "You are going to the Rainbow Mountain tour today, yes?" I frantically tried to figure out what was going on, where I was, why there was a Peruvian man stroking my arm, what day it was, and reason if I was in fact going to the Rainbow Mountain
this morning? "No, wait, I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be going to the Sacred Valley today," I replied. It turned out that there had been a mistake with the lists and that the driver for that tour had shown up and asked one of the hostel staff why we weren't ready for the pick-up? Unfortunately I had been awaken at 0430 and only had another hour and a half to sleep before having to get up for real. Apparently Iceland and Sara had been subjected to the same thing! We walked over to Machu Picchu reservations and boarded a minibus with other tourists. We all said goodbye to Iceland, who had walked over with us, as he was heading to Lima on this day. I will always remember him as a genuinely awesome guy, one of those people you might recall fondly years down the road when you reminisce about a trip.
Our first stop would be the site of Cinchero about a half hour outside of Cusco city. The Sacred Valley of the Incas has many historic sites remaining of the Incan empire. Many such as Machu Picchu had been Incan citadels, but there were also many
temples and sites that had been developed for agriculture. The Incan were a highly advanced civilization for its time, and created agriculture systems such as developing varied levels of terrain to create micro climates that would allow them to grow a variety of different crops within the same area. It was still early and Shawn was quite hung over from the previous night. We spent a bit of time walking around Cinchero and then got back on the bus and headed to Moray, another really cool looking site with multiple levels that were terraformed for agriculture. After this we continued on to the salt mines, which blew me away in terms of visually unique terrain. A subterranean stream, very high in salt water, feeds hundreds of man-made ponds and once the water evaporates, large quantities of salt remain and are then collected by locals. I dipped my finger in the stream and brought it to my mouth and it is indeed one of the saltiest things I have ever tasted. I walked in between the ponds for a bit and took plenty of pictures. After this we made a stop in the town of Urubamba and ate lunch that was
provided. Then we continued to Ollantaytambo, where we climbed up more ruins. Finally we reached Pisac, the last stop for the day which was another famous Incan citadel. Although by this point it was raining so hard that we cut our visit short and returned to the bus. We then returned to Cusco by the early evening. Once we got back to our hostel, I discovered that Iceland had gone and developed some photos that he had taken of Shawn and I during our Salkantay Trek. We were deeply touched. The girls had wanted to hang out later that night but I was very exhausted and had to be up even earlier the next morning. I chose to sleep instead.
The alarm rung loud and clear at 0330 and I was promptly up. Sebastian and Shawn were up as well and we quickly got ready. We went out to the common area of the hostel and were met with Sara and Doris. We all waited for our transport that would be collecting us. Today we were planning on traveling to see the Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca. Rainbow Mountain, from a geological perspective, was quite the interesting site,
standing over 5000m and composed of various mineral layers, giving it the distinct look of a rainbow. Supposedly many people claim that it is thanks to global warming that we can actually see the mountain, as several decades earlier it was covered with snow and remained undiscovered. Once on the bus we met up with Ryan again, who was staying at a different hostel. His cough seemed worse than when we were on the trek, something seemed to be brewing in him. Our bus ride took about 2 hours. On the way we had a stop at a rest area and ate some shitty tasting breakfast. So far it seemed as though the day was going to be sunny and clear. I had heard that most people visit Rainbow Mountain early because the clouds and rain tend to move in by the afternoon. Our hike started at 4500m and gradually rose in elevation. I wouldn't call the terrain difficult by any means, the only true challenge was catching your breath because of the high altitude. As expected there was loads of people due to the fact that this was now a famous tourist site, but it seemed like there was
an interesting mix of foreigners and Peruvians alike. Many locals in the area had horses that they hoped to rent out to people who weren't willing or couldn't make the trek on their own. I stuck with Sebastian, Shawn and Ryan as we worked our way to the top. The views around us were incredible! About two hours later we reached the top of the view point where we could get great views of Rainbow Mountain and other towering mountains in the distance. We then descended and took a right towards the entrance to the nearby Red Valley, which as the name suggests, consists of red soiled valley and surrounding mountains. There Sebastian and Shawn had a improvised walking stick battle. We stuck around for a little while enjoying the views and then backtracked and began the descent back to our starting point. Ryan had been having some issues with his cough, but rejoined us and we had some interesting discussions about world issues as we walked. Once we were back on the bus I began to feel some upset stomach symptoms but just associated it with the high altitude. It was about three hours back to Cusco. Back in
the hostel, I decided to take the night easy but I also wasn't feeling all that great. I couldn't pinpoint it but something was definitely off with me. It was too bad because it was King's Day, a national holiday back in the Netherlands, and we had been invited to join the Dutch girls at their hostel where there was to be celebrations. I ended up going to sleep somewhat early.
I woke up at around one in the morning and rushed to the bathroom to empty my guts. I then went back to sleep and then woke up a few hours later and did it again. By the early morning I had had diarrhea multiple times. As I feared, it seemed as though I had developed some traveler's diarrhea. This was not the first time I've had this, and certainly wouldn't be the last, but unfortunately Shawn and I were slated to leave back to Lima. We packed up our stuff and I used the bathroom whenever I had the chance. I decided I could control my bowels well enough and would forgo taking any anti-motility drug because I knew that taking them could prolong the illness and
keep the bacteria inside and brewing. Out is always better than in with cases like this. We got to the airport and got onto our Avianca flight on standby. It was a turbulent ride back to Lima and I wasn't feeling great by any stretch. Back at the airport in Lima, I had no appetite and needed to sit often. I decided to take an antibiotic called Cipro that I kept in my first aid kit to expedite my recovery. Shawn got us into the lounge and luckily we fond some comfortable seats. We ended up spending about eight hours there! By this point my diarrhea was subsiding and I was feeling stronger. Then at around midnight we walked over to the gate and looking through the glass I saw my girlfriend Bev coming out from the Air Canada Rouge flight that had just landed. This would be the same plane that Shawn would be boarding to go back to Montreal in less than an hour. Bev joined us and saw that I wasn't at my strongest. We hung out until Shawn had to board and so we bid him farewell. I had swapped out my brother with my girlfriend
apparently! The adventure would be continuing but we would first spend a night at the airport trying to get some sleep.
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