Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Vacation in Peru

We took the girls to Peru this summer, from June 26-August 6, 2017. It is winter in July so it was crazy to pack winter clothes when we were dripping in sweat here in Utah. We wanted to take the girls on a non-tropical, non-beachy vacation. One where they could experience the culture a bit and use their Spanish they are learning in school. They can get tired of museums (teenagers, pffff!) so Machu Picchu seemed like a great choice. Google Translate saved us so many times! As did using Uber to get around because we really didn't have to say anything in Spanish to get an Uber driver. It really is possible to travel nowadays with the ease of technology when you don't speak the language as well as you should. I'm just a fake Mexican who doesn't speak much Spanish. Wah!

We began our trip by flying to Lima, the capital of Peru. We had lots of fun spending a day and two nights there before catching our 1-hour flight to Cusco. (We would spend one more day in Lima at the end of our trip before catching out flight back to Salt Lake City.)
downtown Lima, Peru
reading our travel guide book

Ilene posing with a mannequin with a speaker strapped to its body blasting music. Weird!
scheduling an Uber driver to take us back to hotel
After a day in Lima we flew to Cusco. Actually we missed our flight to Cusco because we showed up at 6pm instead of 6am. So we actually stayed two nights in Lima because we are dummies.

Welcome to Cusco and have some coca leaves as you exit the plane to help with altitude sickness. The altitude is 11,000 feet. It never bothered me seeing as we already live at 4500 feet but we took some coca leaves anyway. :)  And brought a few back to the USA which is apparently illegal. Woops. Coca tea is kinda gross but we drank some anyway just to stay warm.

Once we arrived in the unheated Cusco airport (brrrr!) we booked a tour for the day that took us to the ruins and Pisaq then on to Urubamba for lunch (horrid buffet), then to Ollantaytambo to see more ruins.
Toilet stop somewhere in the Andes

For a few soles you can have your picture taken with the beautiful women and children.

Sacred Valley en route to Pisaq

ruins of Pisaq

Climbing, climbing, always climbing in any Incan ruins

Incan ruins of Pisaq

vendors at Pisaq

After Pisaq and Urubamba  we ended up in Ollantaytambo where we toured the ruins for maybe an hour. We didn't have much time because our train was already booked for that night to take us to Aguas Calientes.
Ollantaytambo, Peru

Incan ruins at Ollantaytambo

We should have planned better to spend more time at these ruins

After an hour in Ollantaytambo we then left the tour bus group to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Village where we would stay the night before yet another bus ride to climb up to Machu Picchu. I honestly had no idea to get to Macchu Picchu required so many planes, trains, buses, and taxis. It's pretty darn remote. The town of Aguas Calientes is, well, kinda weird. The only reason it exists is to cater to the tourists who go to Macchu Picchu. There really aren't any cars allowed there because there are no roads to exit the town from what I could tell. It's just a bunch of weird shady hotels, marginal restaurants, and more Peruvian stuff for sale.

Aguas Calientes, Peru

Aquas Calientes is definitely made for the tourist

our hotel was right along the railroad tracks

After a night in our hotel we got up at 4:30 am to eat breakfast and then stand in the bus line for an hour with thousands of other people. We wanted to get to Machu Picchu early for misty photos.
Long line for a bus to Machu Picchu

Arrived! Early morning about 7:45am

So worth it to get up early for these shots

Just me, enjoying the morning.

Glad I dressed in layers as it warmed up quickly in the sun with all that hiking.

Hallie needed a rest here and there so we sent Paul and Ilene to the sun temple without us.

To say this this place is massive in an understatement. We spent about eight hours at Machu Picchu, just walking all over the many ruins. I think Paul's Fit Bit said he hiked 12 miles and 684 flights of stairs. My calves were sore for days.

How on earth the Incas built all this is beyond me.

Carrying my camera can get heavy so we often took turns carrying it. It is about five pounds with my Tamron 24-70mm lens. It was definitely worth it to me but I admit sometimes wishing I had a pocket camera.
A big dSLR is worth it at a place like Machu Pichu

Hiking and exploring is fun but taking lots of breaks just to enjoy the view and have some snacks was probably my favorite part.

Photographing Machu Picchu was amazing but snapping these kinds of shots with my girls was priceless.
Nikon d750, Tamron 24-70mm lens, ISO 250, f.4, 1/1000

After our trip to Machu Picchu we took the train the next day back to Ollantaytambo where we had the best hotel stay of our trip at the El Albergue. This was our day to do nothing--no climbing hills, ruins, or museums. The girls were really excited to just get a little extra sleep and be lazy. I was too. Travel is hard, fun, and also tiring. I want to go back to Peru just to stay at this hotel. The restaurant had amazing food as well. If the train schedule was possible, I would try to figure out how to stay here two nights and skip the hotels in Aguas Calientes altogether.

Beautiful courtyard at El Albergue in Ollantaytambo.
Cobblestone streets, canals, and Incan walls in Ollantaytambo

Ilene feeding a stray dog in Ollantaytambo
shopping in Ollantaytambo

Markets are at the base of Incan ruins. Crazy.

After Ollantaytambo we took a very long taxi ride (about two hours) back to Cusco where we spent three nights. We were only supposed to stay two nights but Peruvian Air cancelled our flight so our two nights turned into three. DO NOT FLY PERUVIAN AIR. No apologies, no compensation, just a shrug of the shoulders at our cancelled flight. 
main square in Cusco, Peru
The main square in Cusco had either a parade or a protest every single day we were there. We kept trying to find out what the celebrations or protests were for but to no avail. Loved all the colors.

Cusco has an elevation of 11,000 feet. The altitude never bothered us nor gave us headaches (well Hallie whos is 13 did claim the altitude made her sick) but my guess is because we already live at 4,800 feet that it wasn't an issue. However, the city is all stairs and that's when I really felt the altitude. Huffing and puffing everywhere.
stairs, stairs, everywhere

the famous 12-sided Incan stone

admiring Incan walls in Cusco

always a filthy dog or two in Cusco

walked to the top of Cusco!

couldn't get enough of Cusco alleyways with Incan walls

Hallie had altitude sickness and a bit of food poisoning. :(

fruit vendors in Cusco

homeless dogs barking and fighting their for their turf.
 Qorikancha was an Incan temple, with the finest Incan architecture in existence, conquered by the Spaniards who simply built their own church on top of the ancient ruins. Take that Incan empire!
Qorikancha museum was amazing.

vendors outside of Qorikancha

courtyard of hotel in Cusco, the Llipimpac

I learned the hard way that quaint Spanish-style hotels may be beautiful but they are not even heated. We froze. It is in winter in July and I didn't bother to ask if there was heating when I booked all of our hotel stays. The last night we stayed in Cusco, due to our cancelled flight, we went to the Hilton Garden Inn and cranked the heat. God bless American hotels and their warmth!

Finally we made it back to Lima for just one more night. We stayed at the Hilton Miraflores again which is kind of far from downtown but there really aren't any hotels downtown. So we had to take a Uber each time we went downtown. We did a few more tours downtown our last day.

Peruvian tabloids, downtown Lima

The girls wanted to go to the Magic Water Circuit water fountain park on our last night. After a scary walk at rush hour through scary parts of Lima (where a concerned citizen told me to put my camera away) we made it.
Ilene admiring the fountains.

It's winter but that didn't stop these kids from getting wet!

Silly Ilene and Hallie
It was a fabulous 10 days in Peru. Here's how we broke it down. Our first two nights were in Lima, 2 nights in Aguas Calientes, 1 night in Ollantaytambo, 3 nights Cusco, 1 more night in Lima. A fabulous 10 days in a fabulous country. I would go again in a heartbeat. And probably will because Nathan who is still a missionary sure missed out!


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