Peruvian Playtime

“You are telling us we need visas to be in Bolivia? Even if it’s just a layover?”

“Yes, you need a Bolivian visa to be here. Now, you can either pay the 160 USD each or you will have to go upstairs and we’ll send you back to Asuncion.”

We didn’t want to know what “upstairs” meant, but we looked incredulously at the Bolivian customs women. The one at the visa payment desk was nice enough, or at least calm. The other woman wanted us out. This was not how we wanted to start our vacation to Peru.

It was in that moment, we learned the hard way that

to enter Bolivia, even as a connecting flight, you need to have a visa. So we had two choices: pay the visa or go back to Asuncion.

Ending our trip just two hours in was not an option worth taking, so

after

a 2 hour long argument

trying to get out of paying the Visa

and

then

160 dollars later

, we were back on schedule for our dream trip to Machu Picc

h

u.

Towering brown hills envelope the city

of Cusco

on all sides,

and

at a much higher altitude; the city stands at about 11,000 feet or 3,400 meters. “Uh… are you having trouble breathing?” Lisa asked her travel pal. We both wanted to be badass and not feel the altitude or at least not admit it, but when you realize walking, breathing and talking is just far too much for your lungs to handle at on

ce, it’s best to stop for a break.

We spent the majority of the afternoon eating delicious food and

exploring the city, from one plaza to another, all filled with bright colors,

vivid culture, and an

appalling

amount of tourist.

We stayed at a dirt-cheap hostel

(6 USD)

, The Wild Rover, that was surprisingly clean, conveniently located, and had a wonderful staff. Every night had themed parties, drinks specials, and is full of mostly Europeans on their summer break from university. If you want a flashback into your good old college days, this is the hostel for you.

The next day we were slightly more accustomed to the altitude, even dared a few stairs and explored the narrow alleys that wind through the city center with walls that feel as if you could be swallowed into the ancient stonework and spat back out into ancient times. For an amazingly cheap souvenir shop, check out “Asunta” on pasaje Inka Roca, next to the Plaza de Armas. They have wonderful wool sweaters, hats, scarves, backpacks, socks, and trinkets at great prices. Plus in the end you get to take this awesomely fashionable photo!

(Please include our awesome Peruvian garb photo of the two of us!)

(insert photo of Kelsey on stairs) Caption: “We concurred the stairs on day 2

We went through SAS Travel company (as now you must

go through a travel company

to see this Inkan wonder).

We did the 3day/2night Huchuy Qosqo hike with a tour of Machu Picchu included. We were in a group of ten hikers; two from Canada, two from England, two from Ireland, two from South Africa, and then us. Our morning was bright and early as promised, and we were dropped off at the trailhead in the tall hills above Cusco. We hiked through the highlands of the Andes, switching from bare rocks piercing the earth to tall golden grasses that blanketed the hills. Being environment nerds we admired the Peruvian contour farming still being used today to grow their thousands of potato varieties in the seemingly inhospitable mountain sides. Valleys cut deep into the hills, creating dark wrinkles that surely held more farmlands and secret ancient ruins. We continued hiking, slowly climbing to 4,300 meters. So much for acclimating way down in Cusco. But it’s not the way up that hits you, it’s the way down that made one of us sick. Even with the coca tea that’s recommended, and with silly coca toffees we had bought, it didn’t help much.

PCV Recommendation:

Ask your parents if they have had experience with Altitude Sickness, if they say yes. It’s safe to assume you may get it as well, so go

ahead with

getting meds from the PCMO

’s. The Coca leafs can only work so well,

before the sickness takes over.

(Insert photo of llama herd) Caption: “Can you find the last lagging lama in this heard?”

(Insert changing landscape mountain photo) Caption: “One of the views from our hike”

But after many llama sightings, beautiful snowy mountain vistas, a couple throwing up sessions, and a walk through two of the many Inka ruins that the trail passed, we were very grateful to see our campsite for the night just as the sun was sliding down the mountain range. We rimmed the Sacred Valley below, with a sky full of stars winking at us from above; it was an awesome night.

(Insert Kelsey and Lisa group shot at gateway of ruins)

A picture is worth a 1,000 words.

The next morning we did a short hike down to the valley where a minibus waited to take us to the train station from which we would ride to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to Machu Picchu. But

not without trying a glass of Chica, Peruvian cerveza casero, hecho de maiz

)!

(

It had a resemblance to K

o

mbucha, as it is made similarly, with boiled ground up corn, embed of tea.

).

Aguas Calientes is a very quaint town

,

nestled in a deep valley with tall cliffs sounding it. The roaring river is a constant noise in the background as you pass endless bridges between streets. We joined our group for a pre-dinner pisco sours at “Machu Pisco” which is a short walk away from the town center. They are such a delicious sweet drink that is a must-try in Peru.

Our group agreed on a 4:00 wake up time in order to be on the first bus to Machu Picchu. Well, apparently a 100 other people wanted to be on that first bus, so we waited in the long line grumpily. But it didn’t matter in the end because, though we weren’t the first bus, we did get there in time to see the iconic ruins before it was swarming with people. The classic sunrise picture was not possible due to the lazy clouds that were constantly rolling by, but it didn’t matter. We were in Machu Picchu.

Now we aren’t going to lie, Machu Picchu looks just like all the pictures. Two big mountains in the background, slowly dilapidating stone structures in the foreground, with evergreen lawns sprinkled around. But what the pictures don’t show are the hidden gems embedded in the ruins of this ancient town. There’s the cluster of stones in a wall that look like a llama. There is the different stonework depending on the class of person living there. There are the eerily perfectly cut rocks to make 90 degree angles that precisely match its neighbors to form a lattice of bricks, the Condor Temple that gapes at you like an opened mouth beaconing you to cross to the afterlife on it’s stone wing and the beautifully placed stonewalls mimicking the natural curves of the mountain to keep the whole town from crumbling into the river below. And as a seemingly marvelously constructed community,

it was surprising to know that despite the hundred years of work, Machu Picchu was left unfinished, abandoned by the great Incas. And there’s the sad fact that due to tourism this world wonder is sinking five centimeters each year while it’s neighboring mountains are growing by one centimeter. But awe quickly overcame our guilt while we gazed upon the peculiar stone shaped like a compass rose with it’s corners marking north, south, east and west. We saw their irrigation system, still working to this day. At every corner of this maze of stones we turned, there was another wonder to be seen.

PCV Recommendation:We did here rumors about potential closure of Machu Picchu in the next five years, orinstallation of an alternative viewing spot from one of the other mountains. So if you have dreamt of walking through the grounds of Machu Picchu, we suggest aprovechar-ing your close proximity to this wonder of the world.

(insert iconic Machu Picchu mountina photo)

(insert llama rock photo) Caption: “Can you see the llama?”

But quickly it was buzzing with people. So as if we couldn’t get enough of heights, we climbed the “montaña” of Machu Picchu;

behind Machu Picchu, it’s an hour and a half of climbing

up

vertical stairs to reach the top; the one where Lisa was unkindly reminded of her fear of heights as we climbed the stone steps forever upward

, questioning why

we didn’t sign a release of liability waiver for this mountain? But at last we made it to the top.

Cusco’s,

giant rainbow flag waved at the top of a wooden pole, keeping vigilance on the famous Inka ruins below. After a quick snack, and quick precarious photos on the edge we headed back down, and said our last goodbye to Machu Picchu.

We were taken back to Cusco, our bodies weary of the hikes and our minds overflowed with wonder. Luckily we had pre-arranged with this woman who used her home as a hostel to stay the night, and tried to get one last nice dinner in before our flight home, but found we were too tired to fully enjoy it. Luckily for only a few Peruvian soles more

than our hostel,

we enjoyed a private room in the quiet hostel.

The next morning we kept with our routine and woke up early for our plane. After 5 days in Peru, we

sadly

had to say goodbye. The representative at the airport asked us if we had Bolivian visas. We sa

i

d yes with a smile.

Cheers to an amazing vacation full of adventure and with an amazing friend! Until next time!

Written by Lisa McAlpine and Kelsey Eaton

Climbing up Mountain Machu Picchu 

Best vegetarian restaurant in Cusco (7 USD total for 2 people)

A beautiful water fall. 

A super cool Environmental sign. 

We joked about the last llama representing me on the hike,

I was almost always the last one due to such terrible altitude sickness. 

Hiking! 

Super colorful Peruvian garb. 

By far the coolest outfit. 

Town Center. 

A Peruvian girl in traditional clothing with a baby sheep. 

Such creative ways to make fencing. 

The flag of Cusco. 

"We are a life that gives more life" 

The start of our 2 day hike. 

At 4,300 meters high :) 

Our camp site. 

Visiting the ancient Inca ruin "Huchy Qosqo"

The beautiful stonework of the Incas. 

An amazing view of Machu Picchu. 

It's everything you can imagine and more. 

Our tour in Machu Picchu 

Breath. Taking. 

The perfect stonework that was used in the building meant for the gods. In perfect 90 degree angle. 

Comparison of stonework for the labor class. 

Contouring structure that works with the curve of Mother Earth. 

One of the temples for the eagle. 

We hiked up stairs like this for nearly 2 hours. 

So happy, no importa how exhausted I am. 

Lisa and I in the airport. 

Snacks from Peru. 

This carrot is HUGE. 

Mountain eye view of Machu Picchu. 

WE DID IT! 

Pisco Sours, so delicious 

Travel & Foodkelseymeaton