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Adventures on Machu Picchu

By |June 3rd, 2013|Photography, reviews, travel|

Last but not least of the Peru series- a belated Machu Picchu post!  adventures-in-machupicchu

After a day and a half of acclimating in Cusco we woke up at 4am and loaded up on a small bus with our tour group. The bus ride was a couple hours and dropped us off at a train station. The train was really cool- the ceiling was made up of windows  so we could see the breathtaking views as the train meandered through the Andes. On either side we were surrounded by peaks thousands of feet high- it made me feel very small!  We were on the train for about an hour when it suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere and the conductor announced that those on the tour were to exit. Outside there was a small sign indicating we were at the mouth of the Inca trail. Our group for the shortened Inca Trail hike was about 20 people, a mix of ages and backgrounds. Everyone was really friendly and we even met some other Los Angeles folds- sucg a small world. We ended up hanging out with them during the trek and just recently had dinner with them in LA!

The hike was intense. We were scaling full on mountains, and the incline was super steep. The trails were very narrow and there was no railing or protection from the thousand plus feet drop right next to us. The good news is that it didn’t rain on us. We had a few sprinkles but for the wet season we got very lucky. I was hiking and concentrating on not slipping on the already wet trail I was super thankful that it wasn’t pouring on us- it would have been miserable! The scenery was gorgeous. Throughout the day we passed by different Inca ruins, each progressively more impressive. We stopped for lunch at Winay wayna which looked like a mini Machu Picchu. Everything was so green and lush and I took way too many pictures. Somehow photos can never capture the immensity of nature, but I tried!

After a full day of hiking we made it to the Sun Gate, the entry the Incas used to get to Machu Picchu. As you climb the stairs and turn the corner you are confronted with the magical sight of Machu Picchu laying out below you in the distance.   We enjoyed the view and then continued on our way down the mountain to the site itself. As we descend the view was obstructed and our guide made us close our eyes and led us hand in hand for the last few steps. When we were allowed to open our eyes Machu Picchu was laying in front of us. We had time to sit and look at everything and then headed down the mountain for the night. We stayed in Agua Calientes, a small town at the base of the mountain. As the name implies, there are hot springs in town which we excitedly headed to after dinner. Turns out the “hot springs” were giant baths of natural spring water that looked and smelled super gross! We rallied though and enjoyed a beer to “kill the germs”. The next day we got to spend the full day on Machu Picchu. Our tour guide led us around for the first hour or so. It was neat to learn what historians thought about everything, but I was surprised that a majority of the information was just speculation. In reality there are very few facts known about the place. After the tour we had free time to walk around and check everything out. After a few hours Steve and I found an empty terrace and just sat there taking it all in. Definitely a sight we will remember for years to come!

love and candy,

lindsay

Adventures in/on: The Amazon

By |May 30th, 2013|Photography, travel, Us|

I’ve been putting together an album on Shuttefly of our Peru trip from back in January. Although I’m not surprised it’s taken me 6 months to get around to it, I am surprised that I never finished my blog posts about the trip! If you missed it, I decided to do a short post about each city we went to because each part of the trip was so unique. I wrote about Lima and Cusco and then forgot to write about Machu Picchu and the Amazon- my two favorite parts of the trip! Silly me. So here goes, some very belated details on our trip to the Amazon in Peru! adventures-in-the-amazon

After Cusco, Steve and I took a flight through Lima and on to Iquitos. Iquitos is a quirky city in NorthEast Peru, located on the bank of the Amazon River. It is completely surrounded by water and only accesible by plane or boat. When we touched down we were greeted with a torrential downpour of rain and intense humidity making us instantly aware that we were in a whole new climate! We took a cab to our digs at the Nativa Apartments. It was a great place to stay, not super luxurious but clean and conveniently located near the bank of the River and the Main Square. The owner is a super sweet ex pat from Florida who kindly gave us restaurant and sightseeing advice. There isn’t too much to do in Iquitos, but we enjoyed sitting at the cafes along the river enjoying the amazing views of the Amazon. People were very friendly and we were surprised to meet many ex-pats who now call Iquitos home. We had to be up early so after dinner, some beers, and walking around we headed back to bed. The next morning we were picked up bright and early to head out on our jungle tour!

We booked our tour months in advance with the tour company Mayuna. I highly recommend this company to anyone thinking of checking out the Amazon! The staff was very friendly and professional. They helped us gather our gear and drove us to the dock to load onto the boat. The trip up the Amazon to the lodge was about 3 hours. It was breathtaking at first and surreal to be riding on the Amazon. Then after about the second hour it all began to look the same and I began to wonder how on earth people navigated the river without GPS! Our boat was by no means glamorous- but it did have a motor. We passed many boats that were not as lucky and that took days to travel from other cities and small villages to Iquitos where villagers bought most of their supplies.

We stayed for three days at the Mayuna Lodge in the jungle. Mayuna is an eco lodge so the only electricity was in the common areas and solar generated. We had our own little hut which was lit by lanterns and up on stilts to keep it dry. The ceiling was made of leaves and branches and the water in the bathroom was straight from the Amazon! Everything was very well maintained though and the food was surprisingly delicious! It was refreshing to be away from technology and really just unplug from everything. In our spare time we played cards, chatted and relaxed.

Each day was packed with planned activities. We would get up around 6am for morning outings, go out again in the afternoon, and then after dinner go on night excursions. This allowed us to see all aspects of jungle life. We saw a ton of cool animals; sloths, monkeys, alligators, bats, tons of different birds, and yes- giant snakes!

Most of our outings were on small motorized boats allowing us to get up close to the wildlife. One of the highlights came on the second day when we went piranha fishing. Piranhas are so fast and fierce that as soon as your bait hit the water they would use their razor sharp teeth and eat it right off the hook! In order to catch them you just had to yank your pole up and hope to catch them in action. Not to brag but yours truly just so happened to catch the most fish- much to Steve’s dismay ;) . That night they cooked the piranhas up and Steve got to enjoy the fruits of my our labor. (I don’t eat fish- not even piranhas!)

When we weren’t on the boat we were hiking through the jungle spotting animals and trudging through mud. The only negative was that there were tons and I mean tons of mosquitos everywhere. Even in the heat we had to wear long sleeves and pants to try and protect ourselves. And of course, massive amounts of mosquito repellant!

On the last day we enjoyed a picnic breakfast on the boat and had the opportunity to swim in the Amazon! After the snake sightings and piranha fishing I opted out- but Steve went for it. While he was swimming, a group of pink dolphins (yes they really exist!) swam up nearby. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen! Unfortunately they were tough to capture on camera, but I don’t think Steve or I will forget that experience any time soon! As amazing as other parts of Peru were, the Amazon was truly a unique experience unlike anywhere I have been before. I loved it and really recommend it to anyone who loves adventure and wildlife!

love and candy,

lindsay

Cusco Recap

By |February 12th, 2013|travel, Us|

adventures-in-cusco I absolutely loooved Cusco. We stayed in the charming San Blas area where the streets are so narrow that you are forced to walk because cars don’t fit. Cusco is also at a really high elevation so we had a fun time hiking with our bags uphill to our hotel the first day! Thankfully, aside from being short of breathe and lightheaded, the altitude didn’t cause any major issues for us. We loved walking around the city streets and checking out the small family owned restaurants on every corner. Most only had a few tables in them and the food was literally cooked to order- meaning it was pretty standard to wait 45 minutes plus for your food. Steve was adventurous and tried “cuy” aka guinea pig (pictured below). It came out fried and fully assembled- claws and all!

IMG_0572

Gross. He also had an alpaca steak, another traditional dish. I tried a bite- it was kind of like a really gamey lamb. The food was still tasty but not as great as in Lima. The city is definitely geared towards tourists and a lot of people spoke English and there was even a KFC and Starbucks in the main square. In fact we saw KFC’s all over Peru, more so than in the US- random! I think our favorite restaurant finds was Marcelo Batata because of the awesome panoramic rooftop view and the tasty cocktails.

On New Year’s Eve we went to a cute outdoor restaurant Pachapapa for a prix fix meal. They gave us all sorts of yellow New Year’s swag to wear. “Yellow” is good luck on New Year’s in Cusco so everyone was wearing ridiculous yellow flare, including us! After dinner we headed down to the Plaza de Armas where all the festivities were taking place. There was live music and fireworks EVERYWHERE. For hours. It was ridiculous. Every man, woman, and child (yes children) were setting off firecrackers in the streets, from balconies and from every angle. It was awesome and terryfing at the same time. At one point the roof of a nativity scene in the middle of the square caught on fire from a stray spark! There (of course) was no fire truck so everyone just started throwing beer on the flames until they finally went out. Crazy. Then at midnight everyone started circling the square 12 times as part of the NY tradition. By this time things started to get nuts with people spraying booze into the crowd and jumping around mosh pit style. I was taking a photo of the madness and took my hand off of my purse,  I look down and my purse is unzipped and someone had taken my wallet! (my Tory Burch wallet steve had given me for my birthday :( ) I wasn’t going to let it ruin the night though and so we kept on celebrating. Then someone started setting off fireworks IN the crowd. We got hit on the legs by some sparks and decided we should probably head to safety. It was definitely a New Year’s to remember!

The next day Steve and I went on a tour bus to see some of the local Inca sites. We went to the Santa Catalina museum which was a convent that the Spanish built over Inca ruins. Then the bus headed to Sacsayhuaman (photos above) a military fortres the Incas made out of huge rocks- some of them requiring thousands of men to move. It was really impressive- even in the rain! The tour also included stops at  Tambomachay, a tribute to the water Gods, Puca Pucara, an entry to Cusco with breathtaking views, and Qenko, a cave area used to worship the earth Gods. It was awe inspiring to see how the Incas were able to make such intricate and sturdy structures without the use of modern technology. It was also great to get out of the city itself and see the gorgeous countryside. We ended the day with a lovely dinner and some wine at  Cicciolina with Matt and Ashley. Definitely would recommend that place.

We woke up at 330am the next day to head to our Machu Piccu trek!

love and candy,

lindsay