The moment we found out we were moving to Panama, the first thing I told Cory was “For our first break, we are going to Peru!” Anyone who knows me well, knows how much I’ve always wanted to visit Peru and how I’ve never really shut up about it. Well I will finally stop talking about wanting to go there, but I can’t promise I will shut up about my experience there. 😉 Peru was everything I had hoped to be and so much more! Our holiday consisted of trekking, exploring ruins, more trekking, and sandboarding in the desert. Cory’s brother joined us this trip which made it the perfect way to spend Christmas and ring in the new year!
We started out in Cusco for a couple of days to acclimatize to the altitude, then off to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu! This was such an important adventure to check off of my bucket list as I had been dreaming of this for about ten years. Initially, I was going to do the 4 day trek by myself, because Cory isn’t much of a hiker, but the more Cory researched, the more he wanted to experience it as well. He was hesitant to commit to a 4 day trek, so we compromised and agreed on the 2 day trek! It actually worked out perfect, because we were able to do other treks throughout our trip. Our tour company (Alpaca Expeditions) was AMAZING and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to hike the Inca Trail. They were vegetarian friendly and our meals were hearty, plentiful, and most importantly, delicious. The excellence in the food was something that I was not expecting, but it was greatly appreciated after working up a massive appetite. Our day started bright and early at 4AM, and after 10 miles of hiking, we reached the sun gate by 4PM. One of my favorite things about the trek was exploring the ruins called Winay Wayna which can only be accessed through hiking the Inca Trail. There was no greater feeling than descending from the sun gate down to the ruins of Machu Picchu. It was such a euphoric moment in my life knowing that I had accomplished something I had been dreaming of for so long. As we took in all of the glory of Machu Picchu, I couldn’t help but get teary eyed. With our tour, we actually were able to view Machu Picchu twice. Once after a long day of hiking, and then again in the morning after we camped. We were super lucky with the weather, and both days were bright and clear which is rare during rainy season. (The second day was better in my opinion.) The clouds rolling through the mountains made it even more dreamy, and I never wanted that day to end.
After our Inca Trail excursion, we spent the next three days in the quiet town of Ollantaytambo. We spent Christmas day hiking yet another mountain, exploring more ruins, and walking around the town. The roads in Ollantaytambo are over 700 years old! The next day we hired a diver to drive us to Moray and Pisac. The day was about a 10 hour day and it cost us about 30 dollars. We stopped off in Urubamba for lunch and we asked our driver for a spot that was vegetarian friendly. He stopped in this tiny alley that didn’t really have a lot going on, but the restaurant was the second best food I’ve ever eaten (Behind the Inca Trail food, obviously). My favorite stop of this day was Pisac. The ruins were absolutely breathtaking and the markets were so vibrant and colorful.
After three relaxing days in Ollantaytambo, we were off to start the crazy travel part of our trip.
We were headed to the mountain town of Huaraz, which is quite difficult to reach. First, we needed to take a one hour flight to Lima. Then we stayed the night there and relaxed to prepare for our 9 hour bus ride the next day. This is definitely the not so glamourous side of travel. Our hostel in Lima was gross and smelled like a garage, and while the bus was a luxury bus, taking a double decker bus through the mountains is not for the faint hearted. Our first excursion in Huaraz was to Laguna Paron. This was to help us acclimatize and prepare us for the trek to Laguna 69. We took yet another bus through the mountains to get to Laguna Paron. At one point our bus lost momentum going uphill and we almost reversed off the mountain. Despite the drama, Laguna Paron was absolutely breath taking! Cory and Chad decided to skip out on Laguna 69, so I was all by myself for this one. I was pretty nervous for this hike because the bus ride to Laguna Paron was terrifying and I was all by myself. I was talking with my tour guide about Laguna Paron and he was mortified when I told him we went via bus. He told me that their tour company only goes to Laguna Paron in vans because of how dangerous the road is. This instantly made me feel 100 times better about the bus ride to Laguna 69. There was only one other female solo hiker, so we teamed up. This hike was hands down the most difficult hike I’ve ever done. My mantra for this hike was “You can do anything for 6 hours.” It proved to be right, and when I wanted to give up so many times, I wouldn’t allow myself to. Before doing this trek, I saw a picture of Laguna 69 and told myself “I HAVE to go there.” Little did I know all of the obstacles I would endure: Crazy bus rides, problems breathing with the altitude, and not really knowing what to expect! All of the hardships were definitely worth it once I reached the Lagoon. I then figured out I was the first person from my bus to reach the lagoon, which was such a girl power moment for me! I waited for my fellow female hiking buddy for the trek back down, and we took our time as we basked in the glory of what we had just accomplished.
Side story: We were the only people to make it back to our bus on time. Our tour guide had to go on the trail to get about 5 hikers. This made us about 2 hours late getting back to town. I had agreed to meet Cory and Chad in this little plaza in the town. None of us had cell service so I had no way to tell them that we were running significantly late. On top of it all, it was New Year’s Eve so the amount of people and traffic was absurd. When I finally found the boys, it looked like they had seen ghosts. They were both so terrified that I had gotten taken or something. When I was booking my tour the day before, I had joked that they would feel terrible if I did the trek by myself and something bad happened to me… oops. Now it is just a funny story, and maybe next time they will just join me!
Our final stop of our trip was to the oasis town for Huacachina for some relaxation and sandboarding! I’m not going to lie, this part of our trip was my least favorite. It was really fun, but compared to everything else we had done, it was the most underwhelming. On top of that, the town was super touristy. The first day, we just relaxed by the pool and enjoyed some drinks for the first time on our trip. The second day we went sandboarding in the desert! Riding around in the sand buggies felt like a rollercoaster. We were taken to three different dunes to go sandboarding, each one increasing in size. When we reached our second dune, everyone in our group chickened out going down first because of how big it was, so I volunteered as tribute! I wasn’t expecting to gain so much speed, which made it a little scary, but so much fun! I don’t think I’ve giggled so much before.
Peru is such a beautiful country that is so rich in culture and extremely diverse! We trekked where the mountains meet the jungle, hiked to glacier lakes, went sandboarding in the desert, and enjoyed the coastal town of Lima (We used Lima as a hub for transportation so we really only ate and slept here. We also watched Aquaman in theaters. Haha). Learning about Incan history and checking items off of my bucket list is something I will never forget! There is so much more to Peru than Machu Picchu, and I’m so glad we were able to really explore the country. It is seriously one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to! Stay tuned for our next adventure!