Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cusco & The Sacred Valley

Alright, I was going to try and wait til tomorrow to type things up but as Jason and I were talking over a drink this afternoon we realized how much had happened just in the last two days alone so I figured I better get it down while I can!
Once again I am going to include some photos at the end because it's easiest that way. The photos don't even begin to describe how beautiful it is here. And there are many more photos to come later...I'll probably make one big posting just about my favorite pictures : )
Ok down to business:

Day 3: Lima to Cusco
Well I had a bad feeling I was cursing myself by saying I hadn't gotten sick yet. Wrong choice. Literally minutes after I posted the first update I got sick and was sick most of the night before we left for Cusco. I felt so terrible that I was kind of crying and thinking that there was no way I could survive a plane trip in a few hours let alone the altitude sickness so many people talk about. What was I thinking? Did I really think, me, queen of sensitive stomachs could get through this trip scott free? Not a chance. 
I eventually fell asleep and felt pretty terrible still when I woke up. I choked down some bread for breakfast and we were on our way to the airport. I was trying to have a positive attitude about it because Cusco is what I had been looking forward to the most. Cusco=almost to Machu Picchu. Enough said. So I held that barf bag close in the plane and prayed I would not need to use it...that would be embarrassing...and I should know I have had to use a few barf bags in my day (when I was younger and sick on the way to Disney). But thanks to God or the Incan Gods or whatever it may be, as soon as we took off in the plane I felt 100% better. I was able to eat some more breakfast (this airline serves HOT food! Just like the olden days in the US) which helped even more. 
We flew over some of the hugest mountains I have ever seen to get to Cusco and had to swing around a huge mountain range to make the landing (kinda freaky). But we made it safely and my fear of not being able to breathe due to the altitude was immediately calmed as well...I felt ok, and so did Jason. 
Once again, a super nice guy with a sign with our names on them picked us up and brought us to our hotel. 
He told us all about Cusco and I was immediately in love with the city just as I suspected. It's narrow cobblestone streets, huge center square, and sweet beautiful people were exactly what I had dreamed about ever since I first realized I wanted to come here. 
Our hotel was right off the main square, prime location. And once again a much nicer place than I expected. However, when we walked up hill to get to our hotel for the first time I realized what altitude sickness felt like and I think Jason did too. I had heard about and read about coca tea (made from the coca plant...aka how they get cocaine) and they offered that to us when we got there. It's an energizing tea that doesn't make you high or anything like that but rather just helps your body to acclimate. It did indeed help and I was so happy about that. But during the time I was re-oxygenating my brain, the tour guide was going over a detailed itinerary of our next three days in Cusco. Needless to say I remembered zero of what he said and Jason had to repeat it all to me later...haha. 
After a 20 mintue cat nap we were off to tour the city. We saw some churches and museums as well as an old temple. It was pretty neat. 
If you recall a few paragraphs back when I said I remembered zero of the tour guide's explanation about our's where that comes into play a little more. What I didn't realize about the tour we took after that was that it wasn't just a walking tour of the city but rather we were also taking a bus up to 4 different incan ruin sites. So when I wore my sundress on the tour...the sundress that seems to pick up a lot of wind easily and fly in my face so all can see my ass...I didn't really realize that was such a poor choice. And a poor choice it was! When we got to the ruins it started to rain and was VERY windy. That made for a not as pleasant as it could be rest of the afternoon. It was still really interesting but my sundress issue plus the climbing/hiking to even higher altitudes were not a good combination. It's embarassing to admit really. But it happened and it was pretty funny looking back so it's all good. Note to self: dresses and flippy floppies are not for hiking. Ah duh.
In that tour group as in all others so far, we were the only people from the US. I was so surprised by this, but it makes it pretty interesting to talk to others. Somehow even people from other countries know that Minnesota is cold...they would be right. That's precisely why we are here. Generally a nice 65-75 degrees. I got a nice sunburn on my shoulders to prove it. Youch. 
After the dress debacle and the tour was over we came back and got ready for dinner. We got to go to a traditional folkloric dinner and dancing show across the main square. It had a yummy buffet with all sorts of different foods. Peruvian and otherwise. I put some ceviche on my plate but wimped out and didn't try it. Raw fish...I just am not ready for that yet. I know it's supposed to be amazingly good but it looked like wet cat food to me. Sorry. 
One of my favorite parts of seeing the native culture and people of Cusco has been the people dressed in traditional Incan clothing and the llamas, alpacas, and sheep roaming around everywhere. They are so cute! If you don't know what an alpaca is, look it up. Cutest animal ever. If we ever live on a farm I want one as a pet...and I am not kidding!
So last night at the dinner show, Jason sits down with a plate of food and some seemingly good looking beef or pork. I asked him what it was and he said it was alpaca meat. I almost puked in my mouth and cried at the same time. I know, I know...I eat cows and they are cute...pigs are cute....blah blah blah. But seriously? Alpaca? Eww. No way was I going to try that.
Other than the alpaca, the dinner show was awesome. The peruvian music was very soothing and different and when we were sitting there watching them play music, I had the realization that I am here. In Cusco. I am actually here. I am so happy and so excited and so thankful. And then I teared up. Shocker. 
After dinner, we retuned to our room and used the jacuzzi (or yacuzzi if you're wondering) in our room. Yeah, we are spoiled. After that we were toast and beyond tired. It was a warm night sleep without any fresh air flow or airconditioning but eventually we fell asleep. We are far to spoiled with all our amenities at home that's for sure. 

Day 4: Sacred Valley
Bright and early this morning (as many of you know we are not exactly morning people...but have forced ourselves of course during this trip!) we grabbed our packed up bags, ate some breakfast and headed out on another tour. 
Today was all about the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It was filled with beyond stunning views of mountains and (of course) valleys. We stopped at several scenic viewpoints and a few Peruvian markets. When we got off the bus for the first scenic stop, the guy behind me said, "I see you didn't wear a dress today...probably a good idea". Haha. Turns out one of our fellow group members and his wife were on today's tour as well. And he was right. Today I wore hiking capris, hiking sandals, and other various and sundry hiking friendly clothing items. See, I learn from my mistakes. 
We walked around one big Peruvian market in the tiny town of Pisac in the middle of a big valley. In an effort to not spend too much money, Jason and I decided on one souviner item for each of us. He got a really cute Peru soccer shirt and I got a necklace pendant that is an Incan calendar. We found all these at the market. It was a pretty cool place, it had a ton of woven crafts, clothes, and jewelery like all the other markets we had seen but this one also had fresh fruit, meat, and drinks. We got a fresh squeezed (right in front of our eyes) orange juice which was taaasty! Just as we passed through the food area we saw a huge group of people charging through an alley with a huge banner and big signs chanting something in spanish. I kind of panicked because I was like...oh great we are going to be in the middle of a riot...nah. As we looked closer, some of the signs had pictures of condoms and babies. The people doing the march were students from the local high school promoting condom use for a school project. It was pretty funny because a lot of them looked pretty embarassed to be there. Jason even got a free condom out of the deal. They were passing out prizes...haha. 
After market we got dropped off at different restaurants (according to our pre-organized tour) for lunch. Jason and I were alone at this adorable restaurant in the middle of nowhere between huge mountains. It was quite nice for being so far out. We had a great buffet lunch sitting in the outdoor seating area. Jason had been harassing me telling me that I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't try ceviche and alpaca. I pouted for a little bit and then came back with a little of both items on my plate with no real intention of trying the cute animal meat or the cat food appearing seafood. I just wanted to look cool to him. But then I thought about it and I realized that's what's fun about traveling...trying new things. So I sucked it up and tasted both. Ceviche=eww. Alpaca=meh...tasted like meat but all I could think of was it's cute face. After I ate it Jason told me he had to do everything in his power not to make an alpaca noise as I took a bite. What an ass. 
The waiter at our restaurant was very friendly and nice and spoke great english. Somehow (and not surprisingly) he and Jason got on the subject of football (american football) and to our surprise this guy knew pretty much everything about this year's season so far. We weren't sure if South American's cared about football or not, but apparently this guy did! He was yet another kind, sweet person we met here.
After lunch we went to Ollyotaytambo (probably spelling it wrong) which was an old fortress built by the Incans on the side of the mountain. We took a hike up to the top which was a very good workout. It was very steep! It had great views of the city below and other mountains and valleys. While we were up there we saw the train that will take us to Machu Picchu tomorrow. Ahhhhh can't wait. 
Our tour guide today was very attentive and very nice. We also met our first fellow American today. She was in our group and she has been here for a month teaching english in a school for homeless children. She has two months off work every year and this was her first time out of the country. How inspirational! She is heading back to the states on Saturday but she was a very nice woman to talk to. How brave to travel here alone for over a month! 
The other couple we met that were also with us yesterday are from Australia. They were so sweet and friendly and were enjoying an empty nester's trip which started in Peru and will be ending with a long cruise to Antarctica. Also....very cool! They are going to Machu Picchu tomorrow so we hope to see them again.
And finally, for the best part of my day...
I had found a hotel in the Sacred Valley (an hour and 1/2 outside Cusco) that I really wanted to stay in. It's in the middle of nowhere and looked incredibly peaceful. Our travel agent was nice enough to work it out for us to stay here for one night. So when we left Cusco this morning, our hotel locked up our big bags and we packed a backpack for the next 2 days. We will return to that hotel tomorrow night. But after our tour ended today, we got dropped off at this hotel on their way out of the Sacred Valley. It is exactly as I pictured it. It's gorgeous, peaceful, and fabulous. We have a nice open aired patio outside our room. The windows are currently open and we are listening to a thunderstorm passing through the's heavenly! 
We enjoyed a delicious Peruvian drink when we got back and sat on the patio of the bar facing the mountains. We were alone and it was wonderful. We talked about how proud we were of ourselves for getting up so early...early enough to eat breakfast every day (that's a feat!) and how proud we were that we haven't taken any naps yet. We like our naps on vacation. 
Well those drinks+appetizers+sun burn+ hiking=we can't be proud of not taking a nap anymore because we took a long wonderful nap! But hey, there isn't much to do here but ''be'' and so we are just being who we be. : ) 
The hotel has a planetarium which has shows each night. It's one of the best places in Peru (maybe even South America) to see stars I've read but unfortunately due to the thunderstorm they had to cancel the show...not many stars to see with all the clouds. But that's ok, thunderstorms are great too. So we ordered room service, are watching a movie and listening to the storms and will likely go to bed soon. 
Tomorrow we are going to Machu Picchu. I can't beleive it. I am SO EXCITED. I hope it doesn't rain too much since I have all my camera equipment with me. Time will tell but I am sure it will be just wonderful. We catch our train to get there VERY early tomorrow, spend the day there, and then take a train all the way back to Cusco and to our previous hotel. Saturday morning we leave for one more day in Lima and then Ecuador. 
The adventure continues....the pictures start with us heading to Cusco : )

The picture above and the ones below are from the start of today : ) Notice I am not wearing a dress...


  1. Love your stories so far Bri! What an awesome experience!!! Love you!