Hola! First off let me apologize for the serious blogging hiatus! I have been procrastinating on getting a post up about my new home and school in Santa Marta, and sorry to get your hopes up, but I am going to put that off just a little bit longer because first I want to blog about PERU!
Schools here in Colombia are currently on a three week summer break which obviously was the perfect opportunity for a much needed VACATION! Not only did I get to go on a wonderful 10 day long trip through Peru, but after a long 10 months in Colombia I was reunited with my best friends Lindley and Lindsey! I have been best friends with Lindley for 17 years and Lindsey made her grand entrance into my life around 10 years ago so needless to say these girls have been a huge part of my life and I have really missed them! After so many months of planning and anticipation the trip absolutely flew by and so many things happened so I will try to give you the Cliff’s Notes version:
I left Santa Marta and made the trek all the way to Cartagena because unfortunately I booked my tickets when I still lived in Bayunca. I flew to Bogota and had a five hour layover and then headed to Lima. After a VERY long day of traveling, during which I had many mishaps including having to use the restroom in a complete stranger’s home during a torrential downpour, I got upgraded to first class on my last flight! Who would have thought my first time flying first class would be in the Peace Corps! When I got to baggage claim I frantically scanned the room for my friends but they were nowhere to be seen. So I did the next obvious thing and hid from them so when they rounded the corner I would be standing there waiting like, “Oh hey, fancy meeting you here!”
We spent two nights in Lima and enjoyed wandering through the city taking in the beautiful architecture, cool weather, some ruins, and plenty of shopping (AND MY FIRST STARBUCKS IN 10 MONTHS!). I was SHOCKED at the level of English spoken in Peru. Every person I encountered from business people, to waiters, to vendors in the mercado ALL spoke some English. In terms of what this does for tourism, this is something Colombia is definitely aspiring to emulate and I would love to see achieved. When I did speak Spanish to Peruvians it was effortless as the Spanish was much slower, quieter, and clearer than I hear here on the coast of Colombia (Costeñol, anyone?)
Next, we flew to Cusco and spent two and a half days enjoying all this ancient-meets-modern city has to offer. We took a city tour, strolled through the plazas, shopped in the markets, visited ruins, and hit up pretty much every café offering hot beverages and desserts in the entire city. The quaint little streets and beautiful plazas reminded me a lot of Europe. We also made sure to sample some local cuisine like lomo saltado, aji de gallina, ceviche, tamales, rocoto rellena, and of course a few pisco sours! We did not eat cuy (guinea pig) or alpaca because let’s face it…they are just too adorable to be eaten.
The Inca Trail was booked long in advance of our trip so after lots of research we decided to take an alternative 4 day trek through the Lares Valley to Machu Picchu. Our guide’s name was Hilton (like the hotel) and he was a funny, slightly awkward, but very nice little Peruvian man who lead us through small villages, beautiful countryside, and steep mountains. He spoke some English, but I was glad to be able to converse with him in Spanish as well. We got picked up at our hotel before dawn and started our trip with a three hour car ride zig-zagging up the side of the mountain. I was like, “If we are going to spend four days with this guy, I want to get as comfortable with him as possible.” So I took that opportunity to projectile vomit all over the side of the road as well as all over the pants I would be wearing for the next four days, about two feet in front of my new pal Hilton. Camp was set up waiting for us when we finished our hike each day. In the morning we were woken with cups of coca tea and given about a half an hour to get ready and pack up before breakfast. After breakfast we would take off and hike until we stopped for lunch, then hike a few more hours after lunch until we reached camp for the night. Our meals were all prepared for us throughout the trek and they were all delicious. Each meal started with soup, then a meat with two starches and sometimes a veggie, and finished with tea. We had a squat toilet or a real toilet that were behind people’s houses for us to use each night. We knew that this trip would be chilly, but unfortunately, we seriously underestimated HOW chilly. I would say the most shocking moment was when we hit the summit on day two and stepped into a full blown snow storm. At night we slept wearing all of our clothes, hats, gloves, multiple socks, and cuddled up in our sleeping bags. Since returning to Colombia I have discovered that I suffered mild frostbite or ‘frost nip’ in five of my toes due to a combination of the cold and my tight boots/wet socks. Whoops! Apparently this Phoenix-bred/tropical beach dwelling girl isn’t cut out for the cold!
On the last day we went to Machu Picchu and there is no way to describe it other than to say that it was everything I had imagined it would be. It is a beautiful intersection of amazing natural beauty and stunning manmade ancient ruins. When you walk through the homes you can imagine the people who lived there and walked across those very stones. You can look out over the breathtaking mountains and know that is the same landscape the people who lived there hundreds of years ago looked out over every day. We had a great guide who explained the history and then we had the rest of the day to wander and explore. About an hour before we left the sun FINALLY broke out and it was a warm, sunny, green paradise where I could have stayed forever.
Unfortunately we could not stay forever so we bid farewell to the llamas and headed back into Aguas Callientes. We grabbed a bite to eat and spent the rest of the day making our way back to Cusco where we enjoyed one last hot drink, repacked, took some long awaited HOT showers, and called in a night. Early the next morning we were off to the airport and headed home.
The people of Peru were by far the kindest people I have encountered in my life thus far. They are a quiet, tranquil, and giving people. The scenery was like a dream, silent except for the whistling wind or the occasional llama or sheep, an endless expanse of green grass and mountains that seemed to stretch into heaven. The cities were bursting with life and all of the spirit I love about Latin American culture. This trip was exactly what I needed to come back to Colombia refreshed and ready to jump back into my life and work here. It was hard to say goodbye to my friends again, but I was so thankful to have had such a wonderful adventure with them and I am looking forward to the next adventure muy pronto :)
Until next time……..paz y amor.
P.S. A big thank you to my parents who sent me lots of clothes and things from home, Lindley and Lindsey who brought me lots of treats and pampering things, and all my other friends who wrote little notes in the card the girls brought. I love you all and miss you mucho!