Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the wonders of world and can be a very long day when done in one day. Kalindra and I had such a short trip that we needed to do the one day trip and not the two or three or four day route that is also available. Our adventure went a little like this…

Taxi pick up at 6:20am to go catch our 2 hour bus ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.

Train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes for about 1.5 hours

The only train that goes to Aguas Calientes

Bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu for about 30 minutes

View from the bus on the drive up

Once we finally arrived to Machu Picchu we had to play Marco Polo trying to find our English speaking tour guide. The place is a mad house and takes away from a little bit of the magic that is meant to be Machu Picchu.

Waiting to enter Machu Picchu

You have to have a entrance ticket and valid passport to enter Machu Picchu and for some reason Kalindra was stopped again for reasons we still do not understand.

Once inside Machu Picchu we found our tour guide and we were taken on a 2 hour tour explaining the history of the area and some of the main temples and buildings.

Peaceful Machu Picchu

A collage of Machu Picchu

I am glad we took the time to visit such an awesome place!

Ica…Day 2

After the weirdest day of travel I have ever had I am pretty sure sleeping in and having a relaxing day was exactly what was on the schedule for the day. We slept in to receive a phone call at 9:00am alerting us that breakfast would be over at 9:30am. Somewhat still half asleep we made our way down to enjoy a lovely buffet breakfast that was included in our room rate. We woke up to a gorgeous day and realized we needed to take advantage of this. What else would we do in Peru but lay by the pool and relax? So relaxing by the pool is exactly what we did!

Pool time

Our friend we had made the night before stopped by and told us she would not be able to go to the sand dunes with us but gave us her cell phone and the number of a guy to call. Kalindra and I spent most the day relaxing and enjoying the hotel before our adventure to Huacachina. We went a little early and explored all that Huacachina had to offer. Then our real adventure began with an awesome dune buggy and a crazy driver. I had never ever seen sand dunes like these and the ride was like being on a roller coaster. The drivers know exactly where they are going like the back of their hand and I felt incredibly safe the entire time.

Perfection in Huacachina

Then came the sand boarding. Some may start on a small hill that doesn’t seem so scary. Instead, since we were with a friend of a friend, we started on a dune that I thought looked insane! We laid on our boards and down we went! Turns out the ride wasn’t so scary. Then we went to the next dune that looked like I would die if I went down it. Once again, turns out it wasn’t so scary. And onto the last dune…or dunes I should say. This was a double dune where you had to catch enough speed on the first dune to make it over the second one. All and all I would say this was an experience I am not sure you can have anywhere else.

Sand dunes everywhere

We took some time to watch the sunset and take a ton of pictures before our crazy ride back to town. Of all the days in Peru this was one of the most fun! We had a light dinner and easy taxi ride back to Ica followed by a little tv and girl chat. This was an absolutely perfect day in Peru!

Ica…Day 1

Day one in Ica did not turn out the way it was meant to. We had planned to arrive early in the morning and we had even secured an early check in at our hotel. We were going to freshen up and then see what Ica had to offer. Instead we didn’t end up checking into our hotel until after 3:00pm.

Allow me to go back a few hours and finish the story of our terrible bus trip. Once we switched buses and we were back on our way we had a peaceful night of sleeping and some odd movies in the morning to pass the time. We made a little stop in the middle of nowhere for lunch and confirmed with the bus “hostess” that Ica was about 2 hours away and that is where we were getting off. Kalindra and I were getting excited that our bus trip was almost over. As we were driving along we started to see signs that said Ica this and Ica that but the bus was not stopping. As soon as we started to think we had completely passed Ica I found our bus “hostess” and asked where Ica was and when we would be stopping? With a look of shock for a moment she tells me we already passed it and calls up to the driver to stop. We came to a screeching halt and we were dropped off on the side of the road at a gas station with no apology and no idea of how to get back!!!

When I get angry I get quiet but when Kalindra gets angry she yells. There may have been a language barrier but they understood that we were angry and upset and that they were absolutely no help. We asked if they could call a taxi and were told one would drive by eventually or a collectivo (a little bus that picks up and drops off anywhere along the road). They gave us our luggage and drove off without an apology or anything. Kalindra and I stood there baffled and confused about what to do next.

There was a group of local guys sitting around and one old man came to us and tried to help us flag down a taxi. All we got was a smile and wave and probably a giggle as they saw some tourists on the side of the road just trying to get to Ica.

We finally gave into the fact that we may have to walk along the highway back to Ica and started what we were told was about an hour walk. At ths point we were flagging down anything that looked like it would stop. A taxi, a collectivo, a truck full of workers in the back…anything. We were tired and grumpy and couldn’t believe this was happening to us. I was wearing flip flops and stopped for a second to open my luggage and put on some flats which I thought would be better for walking. We must have looked absolutely pathetic because at this point a truck pulled over and two brothers from Peru but who live in San Jose, CA took pity on us and took us to our hotel. One thing you have to understand about Peru and most South American countries is that it is very common for people to help out other people and give them a ride to where they need to be, unlike the USA. These guys were literally like angels out of nowhere for us.

We finally checked into our hotel Villa Jazmin 23 hours after leaving Cusco!!!

Not wanting to do anything but sleep, we walked to the local market to pick up some water and snacks for our room and stopped at a little place called Pizza Car for dinner.

Delicious pizza

Shortly after speaking with the proud owner about where we were from he mentioned that his daughter-in-law was from Seattle. For those of you who don’t know, Kalindra is originally from Seattle. This was a pleasant little surprise and over comes a very American girl from Seattle to talk to us. She met her husband in Spain in a bar and they have lived in Peru for over a year now. This just goes to show you how small the world is.

We had a lovely dinner and walk back to our room where we laid in bed and watched tv for the first time this trip. Sometimes a little creature comfort after a long day like we had is exactly what is needed!

Cusco…Day 4

Our last day in Cusco started out a little slow. Kalindra wasn’t feeling very well and I decided to venture out to buy our bus tickets to Ica. We were going to take the overnight train on Cruz del Sur that left at 6:00pm. I went to our favorite little travel agency and they told me the bus was sold out. A little panic came my way and then I was told there was another bus company called Movil Tours that had a bus around that same time. Tickets were booked and back I went to collect Kalindra.

We walked around the city and Kalindra managed to find another local artist named Paulino who she bought a gorgeous watercolor from to match the one she had previously purchased. Once again, these are the little gems that you are able to treasure forever. We also stumbled across a little local Sunday market and Kalindra finally found the alpaca sweater she has been looking for all of her life (or at least since arriving to Cusco).

There was a wonderful festival going on again and a local boy told us that it happened every Sunday to celebrate Cusco and Peru. I have come to discover that Cusco really likes to have their parades.

Our last meal was at a cute little place called Amimanera where we met two guys from San Diego basically hiking their way through Peru. They were in Cusco to decompress and then start their next adventure which would take them up to 15,000ft elevation. There are many ways to see a country and I am pretty sure hiking is just not what I am looking for.

Finally it was time to say adios to our wonderful hosts at the hostel and head to the bus terminal. A short taxi ride later and we were in the middle of what seemed like the Grand Central Station of Peru. There was craziness all over with every different bus company trying to get you to book with them. I ran around collecting little snacks for the bus not knowing what adventure was really in front of us.

The bus from Cusco to Ica is about 12-16 hours depending on what website you read and how the driver is driving. We thought a 6:00pm bus would be perfect since there are sleeper chairs available and it would put us in Ica in the morning and we could enjoy our day. We could have not been more wrong!

Crazy bus time

First off, the bus showed up a little late and so we departed a little late. This is something that happens in Peru a lot so no red flags started there. Then within about 20 minutes we were stopped for what seemed like forever because of a parade. There was no way to get through and we just had to sit and wait it out. Annoying yes, but what are you going to do about it? Luckily, dinner was served and then a movie was put on to pass the time. All was going well on a very windy and steep drive through the mountains to Ica and we were all drifting off to sleep or in the case of the person diagonal from me, passed out and snoring. This is how the drive should have continued.

All of a sudden we hear a loud smack and the bus comes to a halt on the side of the road at about 10:15pm. It sounded like we hit a pot hole so we assumed the tire would be changed and off we would go. Obviosuly something was seriously wrong because a few hours later we got an update that we will have to change buses and that they should be here soon. We sort of drift off to sleep again but the bus turns off all the lights and completely shuts down. I start to let my mind run wild and think that of course we will be part of when vacations go wrong and get robbed since we were just sitting ducks. Around 3:00am our bus starts up again and drives for a few on a busted tire to meet the new bus we are going on. A 5 hour delay on our already long bus ride was not what we were looking for!

Luggage was switched and we were back in our seats and sound asleep and that is when the adventure gets really good! But since I have broken my trip down in days, the adventure continues in my next post so stay tuned…

The view from the bus the entire drive!

Cusco…Day 3

Most of day three was all about Machu Picchu which will be another post to come. But after coming home from Machu Picchu Kalindra and I met some more people from LA that were staying at our hostel which is always a fun experience. We decided we would spend our last night in Cusco out of the hostel since we did not have to get up early and went walking around the town.

Kalindra managed to make friends with a homeless dog that followed us around for blocks and blocks and blocks. I have a feeling she may be looking into Peru doggy adoption from the states.

We ended up running into our new friends and bar hopped with them to some of the local places. After a few hours we had to throw in the towel since we were so tired and went home but not after being followed and hustled by little kids trying to get us to buy some gum. All I can say is these kids will be fantastic sales people when they get older!

Cusco…Day 2

After a very long first day in Cusco sleeping in was exactly what was needed and sleeping in is what we did. Kalindra and I had a very leisurely morning around the hostel and ventured out to book our trip to Machu Picchu, visit some Shamans and have a nice lunch. Needless to say, that is not how the day turned out.

Lunch was at a delightful place called Los Balocnes Grill where a fixed menu of an appetizer, soup, entree, dessert and drink was only 30 Soles ($11.50 or so). The fixed menu is a common practice here and a great way to try a lot of different food.

We started our tour operator hunt to book our Machu Picchu tour for the next day. This is something you can book on your own but you need the following:

Transfer to the bus stop
Bus to the train station
Train to Aguas Calientes
Bus to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes
Ticket to Machu Picchu
Then all of that in reverse to get back

For the sake of our sanity we thought it would be easier to go through a tour agency. Let me say, this became a hunt and a half. We stopped at various tour operators which are all over Cusco and many would not help with a one day tour, others were a bit pricey, while others were just not in their office! We thought we had found a great one and went to pay with a Visa and they wanted to add on a 15% fee for using a credit card! We were out of there within in a matter of seconds. Feeling a little frustrated and realizing we were missing the window of time to visit our Shamans, we jumped into one last agency which was wonderful. She had our tickets booked and ready to go to start our adventure at 6:20am the next day.

Many people say you should book your tickets in advance which is a great thing to do, but if you want to keep your schedule open, then wait until you get to Cusco and just wing it!

Feeling a little down and unsure about what to do with our day, we stopped at Paddy´s for a drink which is a 100% Irish owned pub at 11,156ft elevation where they claim an Irish car bomb is the official drink of Ireland.

Paddy’s

Feeling a little better we walked out to stumble upon a parade for Virgen Real Delaalmudens. Nothing like a little impromptu culture to make the day turn around.

Along with the parade we were able to hold baby sheep (or maybe alapaca as we are not quite sure) and stumble across a wonderful art gallery where the artist was recognized as one of the best artists for watercolor in 1986 and had his work featured in a museum in New York. These are the experiences no one tells you about in the travel guides.

Kalindra and the artist

After a little shopping therapy (things are very inexpensive) and a change of clothes, we ventured out to see what was going on for dinner. We came across a curry house called Korma Sutra and indulged in some delicious food and a bottle of wine from Chile. With such an early morning ahead we stopped by the store for some snacks for the morning and wine for our room and ended the day with some girl talk and wine in bed.

Post dinner wine glow

Sometimes the best days are those that take you by surprise and this was one of those days.

Cusco…Day 1

After reading about the epic evening in Lima we had, you can imagine how I felt when my alarm went off at 6:45am to catch the taxi to go back to the airport for the flight to Cusco. A seamless taxi ride and very easy check in with Peruvian Airlines, and Kalindra and I were ready to get on the plane and start our next adventure. Somehow we were graced with having seats 1A and 1B and immediately fell asleep on each other for the short hour flight to Cusco.

Upon arriving to Cusco we were bombarded with tour operators trying to get us to book a trip with them. This is the last thing we wanted to deal with since a nap was in store. The exchange rate at the airport was very favorable so we finally exchanged some dollars for Soles. Anyone traveling to Peru should know they are very picky about the bills they will accept to exchange. If the money is somewhat old, has writing on it or even a little rip, they will not allow you to exchange the money.

Haggling with the taxi drivers was very annoying and we finally gave in for 30 Soles (about $12) for the ride to our hostel which means we totally overpaid. An annoying little tour operator got in the front seat of the taxi and tried to sell us trips the entire way. We ignored her and took in the scenery of Cusco. Our taxi was not able to drop us off at the front door since the streets are so narrow and a truck was stopped part way down. Regardless, we got out and walked and finally arrived at Pisko & Soul.

Upon check in we were greeted with coca tea which is meant to help with altitude sickness and a very funny owner named Pedro. He made us giggle and pass the time until our room was ready.

Coca tea

Once in the room it was time to refresh and get going to see what Cusco had to offer. We walked around the streets until we found a cute place called KusiKuy to eat and had some wonderful food with an amazing server named Nestor who spoke great English. We tried a traditional dish called Papa a la Huancaina which is boiled potato with spicy cheese sauce. Two other specialties of the country are alpaca and guinea pig. I haven´t gained the courage to try either yet.

Papa a la Huancaina


At this point we were exhausted and just needed a nap. Kalindra went and got a massage while I napped. And by nap I mean I slept for 4 hours. It was absolutely heavenly!!!

Kalindra had a friend from her days at Four Seasons Dallas who lives in Cusco so she picked us up and we went out for a drink and dinner and learned some great insider places to go sort of off the grid from the normal travels. More to come on that as we experience them.

We returned to our hostel for free Pisco Sour night and met some other people staying here. Pisco is a liquor made from grapes and Peru is famous for Pisco Sours.

The day finally ended and as soon as our heads hit the pillow, we were knocked out. Until tomorrow…

The traveling duo

Lima shows her true colors

I decided to go to Peru because a Travelzoo offer made it super cheap! And now, here I am. The day started off with a flight at 2:35am where Kalindra and I thought we would have our own rows. The plane was pretty empty so this was a large possibility. Instead, I end up with a seat between me which is not so bad but poor Kalindra ends up with a snoring monster next to her. Headphones were the only saving grace for this leg of the flight.

The traveling pair

We land in Costa Rica with about 15 minutes to board our next flight and after realizing it wasn´t going to board on time, we walked around. Kalindra decided on a quick 10 minute massage from a little spa just near our gate. Something is to be said about things being easy.

Finally we make it to Peru and customs was easier than anywhere I have ever been. But someone (Kalindra) had their dog nestle in their suitcase prior to leaving and the little drug/fruit hound followed her all around. Needless to say, we had a little stop at customs to ensure we were not smuggling anything in.

We were greeted outside the airport with our names on a sign and a taxi driver that did not speak very good english but still managed to give us a proper introduction to the city including pointing out a charming little place to get chicken and papas called Norky´s. We have yet to try it but the trip is still young.

We make it to our hostel for a bit of relaxation. But being in a new city, that is the last thing we thought about doing so out and about we went. We walked around the streets of Lima taking in the sites and finding that crossing the street was the scariest thing about the city. We made sure to follow a local so we didn´t get hit by a car.

Finally we made our way to a mall as any proper person does, and found a cute little place to eat and finally try this pisco everyone had been talking about. A lovely meal and a few Pisco Sours and Peru Libres later and we were back to our hostel.

Pisco Sour

Peru Libre

We are staying at this charming little hostel called 1900 Backpackers Hostel. A super cute place with a great happy hour as well. The best part however was that we met some people that live in LA and just a few blocks from us!! Leave it to the world to put you together with people that you could have met just leaving your neighborhood for a night or two.

Miraflores night out

We played a little pool and became friends (you know how that happens at hostels) with some people and decided we should see what Lima was all about. After a stop in a few places we decided it was time to go home and get ready for our early, early, early flight to Cusco in the morning.

Thus far this has been a great little trip and I look forward to see what the rest holds for us. Pictures will be forthcoming and most likely added to this but for now it is all words.

Oh, and one of my favorite parts is I already finished a book and was able to leave it here and pick up another. There is something to be said about this type of traveling!