Part 1: Getting to the Sacred Valley is Not Easy
Part 2: The Most Awesome Hotel Ever
Part 3: When in Urubamba…
Part 4: A Town Called Olly
Part 5: Can You Pass the Salt?
Part 6: How to Get to Machu Picchu
Part 7: I Came, I Saw, I Conquered (Machu Picchu)
Part 8: My Love Affair with Starwood Continues
Part 9: Hats Galore in Pisac (and other things)
Part 10: Cusco: The Highs and Lows
Part 11: 10 Things You Can Buy at Cusco’s San Pedro Market
Part 12: Exploring Cusco’s Countryside
Part 13: Regards from 12,000 Feet
Part 14: Lima – The Worst Capital City Ever?
Part 15: The Children of Peru
My final post on my Peru trip comes a good six weeks after it ended. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what was awesome, what was a little less awesome, and what was the opposite of awesome.
- I did not get kidnapped or mugged! In preparing for this trip, I read many a horror story about tourists who were either kidnapped by rogue taxi drivers in the middle of the night and forced to withdraw large sums of money from an ATM machine or mugged in plain daylight. Thankfully, our trip was uneventful in both these respects. We took normal precautions that anyone should take when traveling, and we were fine. I have returned stateside with my computer, my iPad, my iPhone, my DSLR camera and passport. Definitely a huge highlight.
- I did not get (too) sick! We similarly heard horror stories about people getting very ill either from altitude sickness or from eating Peruvian food. We came prepared. We took altitude sickness medication before we landed, and arranged our trip strategically to acclimate to higher elevations. We certainly experienced some common effects from the lack of oxygen at over 10,000 feet altitude, but nothing that seriously impacted our trip. We also drank bottled water and largely avoided eating raw, unpeeled foods.
- The SPG hotels. I used my points to book rooms for us in the two Starwood hotels that coincided with our itinerary in Urubamba and Cusco. As I reviewed here and here, these hotels were beautiful and very relaxing.
- Collectivos. Collectivos are a great and cheap way for getting around Peru’s countryside and, in my opinion, a hysterical and authentically Peruvian experience.
- The children of Peru. As I detailed in this blog post, I had a great time taking pictures and interacting with Peru’s adorable children. I loved seeing their faces light up when I took a photo and showed them the picture on the digital screen. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand anything they were saying except “photo!” Their enjoyment (and mine) superseded our language barrier.
- The salt pans. Sure, people come to Peru to see Machu Picchu, and that was certainly incredible. But I had never seen anything like the salt pans in the Sacred Valley, and seeing new things for the first time is always something special.
- Making new friends. Travel is a strange and wonderful thing, bringing people together who may never have met otherwise. If we had been sitting next to one another on the subway in New York City, we probably wouldn’t have said a word to each other simply because that is not what people do. We go about our daily lives and don’t strike up conversations with strangers. But what is considered odd in the monotony of our regular lives is deemed normal when traveling. We met some wonderful couples from Canada, New York, and New Jersey and exchanged email addresses. We may never see each other again, or we may become lifelong friends. All because we were visiting Machu Picchu on the same day. That is truly an amazing thing.
- Hanging out with my good/old friend. Although we live only three and a half hours away by train, it seems like Lisa and I only spend significant time together when we travel to a foreign country. It was great to get in some quality girlfriend time. We were long overdue.
- Remembering why I love traveling. When I left D.C. for Peru, I felt weighed down by the turmoil in my personal life and wondered if I should have prolonged the trip. But once we landed in Peru and our adventure began, I remembered why I love traveling: It takes me outside of myself. Real life disappeared, at least for two weeks. We got caught up in the beauty and the newness of this amazing country.
- Peru’s unrivaled beauty. Peru is a beautiful country with soaring mountains, colorful farms, historic ruins, and rolling hills. What is there not to like?
- The persistent lack of wifi. Lame, I know. While some people love going away and shutting off all of their gadgets, I get anxious without 3G. I am addicted to technology, and the first step is admitting it. So here I am admitting it.
- Getting dressed. This sounds odd so let me explain. Mornings and nights are chilly in Peru’s winter climate, especially at higher altitudes. Daytime is warm and extremely sunny. If I wore my Uggs and fleece in the morning, it was just right until about 11 a.m. and then I was sweltering and stuck carrying my fleece around. The opposite had me shivering in the morning. I never knew quite what to wear, and while this is not exactly an earth-shattering problem, it was a mild nuisance.
- Our hotel in Aguas Calientes. When it comes to staying overnight near Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes is the only show in town (unless you want to fork over $1,000 a night on Machu Picchu mountain itself). Because tourists have no other option, prices in this small town are absurdly inflated. A mid-range hotel cost us $150 a night, but it wasn’t exactly the Hampton Inn. Case in point: I had to blow dry my clothing thanks to the persistent humidity in the hotel that left everything a little damp.
- Lima. In fairness, we only had four hours to explore Lima before our flight home, and a good portion of that time was spent navigating Lima’s horrific traffic. That said, what we saw we did not like. Read more about our quick trip to Lima here, but overall, we were extremely unimpressed. It was cold, rainy, dreary, and not particularly interesting.
- Exhaustion. Let me be clear about one thing: I am not a morning person. I don’t like getting up early and I usually can sleep pretty much anywhere. But for some reason, I consistently woke up between six and seven a.m. throughout our trip and could not fall back asleep. A fellow traveler attributed this phenomenon to the altitude and perhaps he was right. By the end of the trip, the early mornings caught up with me and I was completely wiped.
- Constantly flying. We saw a lot on this trip and I wouldn’t change our itinerary at all. But Peru is not Europe, and the unless you want to spend hours and hours on a bus in which you may or may not get mugged, your best bet for getting around the country is to fly. In total, I took seven flights in two weeks and it grew wearisome by the end.