Saturday, February 26, 2011


Well here I am in Peru!  I didn’t really know what to expect coming into this portion of the trip, but was excited that I was going to be able to communicate at least a little bit by resurrecting me high school Spanish skills!  When I arrived in Peru at 5:30am a week ago I was exhausted, but was quickly perked up by my, shall we say, invigorating, taxi ride to my hotel.  If only the world of Ninetndo were real I swear I was in a game of Mario Kart, and was waiting for us to spin out on a banana peel!  After a nap to rejuvenate myself I took a bike ride tour throughout the Miraflores and Barraco parts of Lima, which are on the coast and so scenic.  I also took a two hour walk through the city, arriving home to learn that the pre-moistened suntan lotion applying towelettes don’t work very well as I had a splotchy burn all over my arms and neck!  They were right when they said the sun in Peru is intense! 
I met up with my Gap Adventures tour group that afternoon and we took off to Puno, Peru the next morning.  As we tried to land in Cusco on our way to Puno we learned that the airport was closed due to visibility and had to fly around in circles for another hour or so (given that I only just recently overcame my fear of flying, I was not surprised that I started to revert back to it and envisioned us as the top story on the news as the airplane that couldn’t land, was running out of fuel from circling the airport, and was going to have to make an emergency landing without landing gear, and the airport had hundreds of police, ambulances and fire engines on site, etc.).  Ugh!  But we made it safe and sound!  
Once we finally got to Puno, altitude 3820m (12,530 feet), I started feeling tingly and dizzy so I started drinking water after water to do away with altitude sickness.  That didn’t work however and after dinner I went straight to bed and became sick enough that we had to call a doctor in the middle of the night!  Things continued to go south from there and I had a miserable few days filled with shortness of breath, vomiting, chest pressure and tightness and rapid heartbeat.  I missed out on a few days of the trip - a homestay on the island of Taquile in Lake Titicaca and hiking the Lares Trek (the alternative to the Inca Trail which is closed in February for routine maintenance).  While I was disappointed, I still got to see some amazing things and got to go hiking at lower altitudes!  We toured the Uros Islands which are floating islands in Lake Titicaca.  Each island is made out of layer upon layer upon layer of reeds, which are also used to create beds and houses.  I was amazed to learn that because of solar panels, many of them now have electricity, TV and radio!  Each island houses about 5 or 6 families and an animal or two, mainly chickens and cows.  It’s a much different way of life which is so normal to these people.  It was fascinating!  For the sales pitch portion of the trip we were taken in pairs to their homes, dressed up in traditional clothes and were sold their woven tapestries.  I couldn’t help but give in when Gabriella the woman selling them kept pleading to me, “But Katy, but Katy,” but I negotiated well, so all is good! 

We travelled through the mountains from village to village, stopping at areas of importance.  We had an incredible guide named Manuel who really made you feel like you were getting the inside view of the Peruvian culture.  He had such an amazing perspective on life and said something that will stay with me – “If you’re having a bad day and nothing’s going your way, remember that somewhere there is land so beautiful that will take that all away.  Try in your mind to transport yourself to another place.”  I went to two Incan ruins sights, one in Pisac and one in Ollantaytambo.  They are very well preserved as they were so well built.  What these people knew about architecture and masonry was astounding.  These structures are going to stand forever!  And they’re flawless!  Unfortunately many of them were unfinished, mainly due to the fact that they took sometimes up to 200 years or more to build.  For Pisac specifically the Incas had to bring the massive stones from a quarry 6km away by pushing, pulling and rolling them through the valley, then they had to get them up a ramp along the side of the hill on which they were going to go.  Once there the rocks had to be formed into a square, carved until they fit just perfectly, hoisted onto the wall (without any machines or pulleys), positioned just so, polished, etc.  Incredible! 

We travelled on to the Sacred Valley which is some of the most fruitful land where they grow corn with kernels as big as marbles.  Nearby in the village of Caccaccollo, Gap Adventues supports a spinning and weaving cooperative.  It is occupied by woman whose husbands are away much of the time working as porters on The Inca Trail.  They showed us how they turn wool into yarn, dye it and weave with it.  They each have a hut where they sell their goods which are made of alpaca wool. 

Between Caccoccollo and the Pisac Market, I couldn’t help but buy some beautiful things.  But I had to talk some sense into myself and force myself to stop buying.  Although all the stuff you see below (blanket, gloves, purse, 2 hats (do I really need two???)) only cost me the equivalent of $35 USD!

Next we moved onto Cusco, which is a sprawling city, bringing together the history and traditions and the present.  There are beautiful plazas everywhere you look with a beautiful church as the anchor for each.  The majority of the people in Cusco, and all over Peru, make their living by selling goods they’ve made.  Some have shops, but most sell their goods on the streets.  They approach you multiple times a day to sell paintings, jewelry, woven dolls, cards, massages, manicures, etc.  I must have said “No gracias” about 70 times today.  There are little girls selling woven bracelets who stare up at you with their big brown eyes pleading with you to buy something. 
“Bracelet senorita?”
“No gracias”
“Only 10 soles (Peruvian money)”
“No gracias”
“Por favor senorita…5 soles”
“No gracias”
“Senorita, por favor,muy bonita” 
Then she pulls a little cloth doll out of her bag and it starts again.  It really tugs at your heart strings.  That is until a little boy came up to me asking to shine my shoes (which are cloth by the way) and I said, “No gracias” and he said, “F*** You!”  What?!?!  I was shocked!  This kid was like 10 years old!
Peru is a whole other world than from the United States.  The country has a way of pulling you in and making you fall in love with the culture, the beauty of the land and the people.


  1. I feel like I've been there now! Great pics. Mom

  2. Now that I'm back at work and the frustrations of everyday life, I keep Manuel's words in mind. From your Facebook posts, sounds like you had a great time in Costa Rica. Happy travels in Europe!