Thursday, March 20, 2014
Peru. Machu Picchu. Both were on my bucket list, so when I got the chance to visit this October, I was beyond words excited. There wasn't enough time to actually hike the Inca Trail (also, I lack the stamina, upper body strength and overall good attitude for this) so we were going to do the Lazy Man's way. And I was pretty OK with that. We flew to Lima, and then Cuzco, staying in Cuzco just long enough to feel enormously affected by the altitude and then it was onto a bus bound for the Sacred Valley. Cuzco and I would meet again, but lucky for me, the next encounter would be eased with the help of Coca Tea and altitude medicine. We arrived about a hour plus later at our hotel, Tamboo Del Inka, in the Sacred Valley, which would act as our home base for the next few days. The hotel is brand new and graciously decorated in a modern South American style. I had the chance to check out the spa, which I highly recommend. It was a great way to unwind after a long journey. (Jugos naturales for breakfast) The next morning, we were up early to catch the bus to the train station. The train ride took about 2 hours and was super comfortable. There were large windows with amazing views of the river along the way. If you're trying to see Macchu Picchu, but have time restraints like we did, this is the way to go. Once we arrived in Macchu Picchu, we were ushered to an area where we waited for a small bus to make our way up the mountain to the entrance of the ruins. I'm not really a small bus, up a mountain side, no guard rails kind of girl, so it was a pretty harrowing experience for me. I think, white knuckle would be the best way to describe it. I learned too late that hiking up was also an option. Since we had been on planes, trains and automobiles for the bulk of our trip and had done little actual hiking, I would have preferred this method. Needless to say, we hiked down. After the bus ride from Hell, we were there! The entrance to the majesty of Macchu Picchu! Just like entering a new country, you're required to show your Passport, and you even get a cool little stamp. Our guide brought us in, and there it was….all the photos you've seen are accurate, but nothing prepares you for the real thing. It was stunning, large, lush and green. A fog rolled in which obscured the view, but made it all the more magical. For the next 4 hours, we strolled around taking it all in. There was a light rain which helped to dissipate the crowds. Llamas grazed in the tiered garden sections and everything was peaceful. You're pretty much free to roam Macchu Picchu as you wish; very few areas are restricted to visitors. It's a relaxing experience, so different from other popular tourist attractions with large crowds, lines and strict security guards. It gives you time to reflect and really appreciate the beauty of what you are seeing. I'll never forget it. After several hours, we made our way to the café area outside the park and toasted the day with some ice cold Cuzquena beers. It was the perfect end to the perfect experience. We hiked back down and made it just in time to catch our train back home, saying a sad farewell to this beautiful place. (retail therapy, Peruvian style) Cuzco was next. And we were pumped. Pumped, and a little nervous…I've always had issues with altitude, and of all the high and mighty places I've been, Cuzco was the highest clocking in it an impressive 11,200 feet. Lucky for me, our hotel was oxygen enriched. This plus altitude sickness meds from the pharmacy helped to ease the pain. We stayed at two different hotels, located side by side. One a former Monastery, the other formerly a Convent. The convent was my favorite :) (enjoying some Coca tea in lobby bar) Our suite was beautiful and complete with an on-call butler who whipped up Pisco Sours on request. THIS is living, people! When we weren't enjoying our hotel, we were out and about exploring Cuzco. The narrow cobblestone streets are picturesque, opening up onto courtyards. One such courtyard was home to Map Café, a tasty spot we discovered for lunch. The food was modern Peruvian and so delicious. We also enjoyed Limo for it's impressive list of sours and other cocktails using traditional Peruvian roots and herbs. Eucalyptus Pisco Sour? Yes, please. Located a short, but staggering walk uphill was Sacsayhuman, another lesser known Incan ruins site. It offers impressive views of Cuzco and is worth checking out. Like Macchu Picchu, the ruins are open and visitors are free to wander as they wish. More llamas, more peacefulness. Peru is good at both. We walked back downhill and just in time…clouds heavy with rain had rolled in. It was suddenly a monsoon. Itching to go back out and explore the city, we braved the rain and made it across the way to Inkazuela, a cozy little place with fusion stews and curries. There was a roaring fire in the corner, and a chalkboard menu with inexpensive wine and food. It was a mellow way to end such an amazing trip. The next day, we headed home feeling energized by our trip to Peru. A beautiful country with an amazing history and rich culture, we feel blessed to have experienced it. Mission accomplished.