Packed and Ready!
Our Osprey backpacks packed with only the essentials, no suitcases, we're traveling light. But of course, this is where the morning stopped going smooth and it got a bit rough. Why would it not? Forgot my Apple watch at home and our flight leaving for SFO was delayed by 2 hours. With a 10-hour layover in San Francisco we headed to Costco. I wanted my steps on this trip to count, got a temporary Apple watch [which we returned after we got back at end of trip]. Then walking around until we needed to be back at airport.
London airport. 5-hour layover. Regretting my choice of shoes for this long of a trip, which was also not a plan to walk in them as much as we did in San Francisco. Angry little footsies.
Finally! We arrived in Tel Aviv. I'm in Israel! Immigration was a breeze. The expectation of Rehan being detained for many hours, and his lubricant ready in his pocket, we were barely questioned. I guess this time he had the token white chick, so his normal greeting was cut short. This seemed way too easy of a start.
Luggage. Waiting. Still waiting. Our backpacks are nowhere to be seen. Shit! Almost everything we had was in those packs. Tail between our legs, frustrated with how "important" it was to baggage claim staff, the lack of caring was amazing. We headed to our AirBnB. It was nice, overlooked the sea and city, but being unable to freshen up after traveling was uncomfortable.
Still no luggage and still in the same clothes, we were making the best of the situation. Rented bikes to ride to Jaffa to see the old port and most of all, hummus! Not just any hummus, the most amazing hummus I have ever tried. Abu Hassan!
Let's just say, still no luggage and this is our last day in Tel Aviv. Checking status of our claim online, trying to stay positive, but I was having a hard time with it. With a fresh change of underwear, but same clothes being worn now for 4 days, we drove to Caesarea and Haifa.
Jerusalem! Such a beautiful, history filled, and one of the oldest cities in the world. Sadly though, still no luggage... ugh. Starting to give up hope and feeling like it was time to wash clothe(s). Walking through the narrow streets, brick walls, cobble stone, and surrounded by three of the major religions of the world; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Took the wrong road out of Jerusalem and here we were accidentally driving through West Bank on our way to the Dead Sea. Ha! We can check that off our bucket list.
Night float in the Dead Sea. It was weird. I had this feeling of peace. The one body of water that I felt totally at ease. No living creatures, no rocks, nothing could nibble on my toes. It was my equivalent of a clean room. Just a nice float in a thick baby oil like sea. My skin felt so soft...and oily.
Crossed the border from Israel to Jordan on foot. Border control took a little more time for Rehan, but we were granted permission to enter. Quick lunch, rented car, then off to Wadi Rum to sleep in a yurt and camp in the sand.
I must say. Out of all the places I have been in the world, Wadi Rum might be one of the most picturesque, eye pleasing, beautiful locations. We arrived at night, but looking up at the stars... no light solution and a large galaxy above us. Breathtaking.
Walk across the dessert, jeep ride, and sunset camel ride. One full day of seclusion, serenity, at peace. No words can describe this place.
Off to Petra. Long awaited, my final modern wonder of the world. Excitement is brewing! Of course, after we pickup a hitchhiker who was also leaving Wadi Rum and heading our direction. Probably not always the safest idea to pickup random strangers, but... he looked fairly safe. We made a friend :)
OMG! We finally arrived. Dropped off our newly founded companion, checked into the hotel, and wasted no time walking over to the park. Petra! Not exactly how I envisioned it in my head, but still a gasping view to unfold. Once you're able to ignore all the Captain Jacks running around trying to sell you something, its quite a remarkable view.
I woke up early to a text from a coworker asking "how are you doing". Odd. Not somebody that normally asks that. Then as I'm fumbling through Facebook around 2am I see another coworker posted, "had a talk with the Bob's". Now I'm curious so I checked my work email. I've been laid off. The whole office is being closed and we've been given our papers. I swing over and hit Rehan, I'm crying, and hand him my phone. Shit! What am I going to do.
Walking around Petra. Dark cloud overhead, metaphorically, not much talking... just hiking, walking, wondering the trails and seeing the various archaeological sites. Rehan trying to have words of wisdom to help me feel better, occasionally saying something that is "too soon", but extremely comforting and appreciative that he acknowledged how I must be feeling. I thank him for this.
12/7: Attended a call for the office closure before leaving for the airport, on our way to Egypt. Just to listen to what was going on since nobody would talk to me until I signed and acknowledged the details of my exit date. Small issue... I was in a dessert, no printer, no fax, and had to return the signed form by end of day today. Challenge accepted. [was able to print and return a picture of it from the hotel in Egypt, by end of day]
Drove up to Amman to drop off the car and head to the airport. Only to finally have the pleasure of seeing the inside of an interrogation room. Rehan seemed relaxed. He's been through this song and dance before. We were released after a bit of questioning and we proceeded on our journey.
And just in case you weren't sure, still no luggage. Day 11 without our bags. The shit show was piling up, but we weren't going to let it get to the better of us. We've arrived in Egypt. The view from our hotel room was amazing, The Great Pyramid of Giza. Standing right before us.
The last standing Ancient Wonder of the World, checklist completed. Besides how rude and aggressive the locals were with the sight of my fare skin and red hair and wanting to take my photo, once I covered up with a scarf it allowed me to look around. Absorb the grandness of being amongst the enormity of the pyramids. How the fk did they manage to build them.
Arrived at the hotel and just happened to look across the lobby and squealed in excitement!
Last day of our trip and our bags FINALLY arrived! 10 days, purchasing necessities along the way, making do with what we had. I will put on and wear all my clothes on this final day!
20% - That was one of our goals when we booked the trip for Rio De Janeiro. We wanted to fall within the 20% of those that visit Brazil that don't get mugged. The other goal, Christ the Redeemer. This was going to be both of our sixth modern wonder of the world, and sadly our seventh wasn't the same.
A lot more planning went into this trip. From safety, areas to absolutely avoid, places of interests, and most of all clothes that would conceal phones, cards, and necessities...again, to hopefully avoid being mugged.
Rio De Janeiro
First stop, of course, Concovado Mountain to see the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. Knocking off another Modern Wonder from the bucket list. In addition to the statue, it also came with a breathtaking view of the city below. Seeing the different neighborhoods and favelas scattered around. A clear separation of wealth and poverty.
Next, Parque Lage and Botanical Garden, a park at the base of Concovado Mountain. Immediately as we approached the atrium of the mansion I couldn't help but have Snoop Dogg and Pharrell playing in my head, "Beautiful". Seeing that video back in 2002, it was spot on. Everywhere I looked, I couldn't help but hum the tune. Was so catchy.
Continuing with following in the footsteps of Snoop, Santa Teresa was the most logical to venture next. Walking through this quirky neighborhood of art, vibrant colors, and steep winding streets, it was almost easy to let our guard down and forget all the hype of Rio being a dangerous city. Was a cute, quant area. The Selaran Steps (Escadaria Selaran) was the main attraction. Arriving just before sun down, the crowds were minimal, leaving the steps almost just to ourselves. Church of our lady of the Candelaria was our last stop just before dark. Such a beautiful church, with a heavy history.
After dark in Rio is not in a tourists best interests. Once the sun starts to go down, find a safe place and call an Uber back to the hotel. Why risk? Again, we're not looking to be one of the 80%.
Copacabana - classic and famous beach. No, we weren't in Rio during the prime season, but still it did not disappoint. People working out on the sand, volleyball courts, and even with overcast sky the weather wasn't too hot but still a bit muggy (no pun intended).
We had one more stop on the list before we headed to Sao Paulo to finish out our trip. Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf Mountain. We attempted to go up the day before, but the low clouds would have left visibility nil to nothing. Morro da Urca is the first stop of a cable car ride up to Sugarloaf Mountain. Allowing for more views overlooking the beautiful city of Rio.
Sao Paulo, the financial center of Brazil. Still with the plan to not get mugged (Yes! this was our main topic of the trip), suiting me up with hiding items in my "garments" and we headed out.
A main stop was Mercado Municipal de Sao Paulo. Probably not making the smartest choice to walk through some sketch areas to get there. Rehan putting on his "mean" face and me nonchalantly, but confidently, making eye contact with those we passed and just kept on walking without any sense of hesitation. We arrived at the food hall. Rows and rows of stalls. Then upstairs filled with restaurants (I won't deny it, we ate most our meals here).
Now, when most trip advisory sites rate a church one of the top 10 attractions in a city but one of the most dangerous for tourists to visit, we had to debate our odds. So far we were on the winning side of safety. Maybe tempt it a little more? Rehan putting on his best stank face, we made the walk for Catedral da se de Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo Cathedral). The cathedral was beautiful. A sort of typical Roman Catholic, gothic revival mix. Inside was stunning, outside structure itself even more breathtaking, turning around and facing the park that it adjoins to... terrifying, but strangely familiar. We laughed. It felt like home. Walking past drug addicts and homeless, all of which was no different than walking through downtown Portland. Of course, keeping our phones hidden, limited photo's, and not being an irresponsible unknowing tourist, we were good.
Our trip was sadly coming to an end. I was going to miss shoving three phones in my bra, along with cash and cards hidden in a secret pocket inside my pants... we had one more stop. Liberdade. Home to the world's largest ethnic Japanese community outside of Japan. Also, one of the most prone areas to be pick pocketed. Its game time. Bumped into, shoved, and pushing our way through crowds, all items still tucked snug and safe in their hiding spots on my body.
We are 20%!
Final weekend of my friends one month West Coast visit, we took a short flight down to San Francisco. Of course, we nearly missed the flight from Portland. Arrived at the gate just before the door closed. I still can't believe we made it. Checked into the hotel, then immediately left the hotel to walk around before it got too late and everything was closed. The next couple days involved a lot of walking, staring at google maps, and besides a few cranky moments of disagreement there were still a lot of laughs, fun, and long conversations.
Union Square, Trolly, lombard Street, Alcatraz (from a distance), Golden Gate Bridge (from a distance), Ghiradelli Square, Pier 39, Fishermans Wharf, Sea Lions
Union Square, City Bus, Street Car, Chinatown, Coit Tower, Transamerica Pyramid, In-N-Out burger
Union Square, Macys, watched a labor day protest, took the Bart to airport
I saw quite a bit over the last 30 days. Things even I have never seen or experienced, and I've lived here for 38+ years. Due to weather, temperature, air quality (smoke from the fires), and overall exhausting the poor guy and needing to give him an occasional nap break... there was quite a bit I excluded from my original plan. Even I was starting to struggle to keep up with myself. Whether it was Seattle, Oregon, or in San Francisco... what we did cover is still quite impressive. Seeing more than many people see in a lifetime.
Photo Credits: Kat Wilson & Santhosh Nemmaluri
Keep Portland Weird, City of Roses, Bridge City, Stumptown, Bridgetown.... along with many others. All being names for Portland. A city I will always just call "home".
For months I had planned my friends visit. Adding in as many of my favorite places, and ones I haven't yet been. Figuring out which were feasible after work vs needed to be grouped together for a weekend. Then the smoke from the fires in Canada rolled in. All that planning was destroyed. Pushing us to stay indoors until it cleared, but still fitting in as much as possible:
I will admit, I was sensitive over Portland. Showing it off like a prized cow. Wanting and hoping my friend would go back and tell all our coworkers how amazing of a city it was. But honestly, it didn't matter. I love this city. Its my home, my city, and I get to enjoy it every day regardless what anyone else thinks of it.
On the same note, he taught me a few things. Stop rushing. Slow down. Yes, I can enjoy the things around me but when was the last time I stopped and looked at something closer? I need to take more time for the things I really enjoy.... or for the things I don't know I enjoy yet, because I don't give myself time to figure it out.
Photo Credits: Kat Wilson & Santhosh Nemmaluri
After a long weekend in Newport and heading up highway 101 to Tillamook, there was still time before the sun was due to set and for us to make a small detour before heading back to Beaverton... plus, it had finally stopped raining.
Driving down highway 26 you can't help but notice a sign that is nothing less than begging for visitors, "It's Down Here to Vernonia" with an arrow pointing. About a half hour through windy roads, you will finally arrive upon a small quant town. A single road, small businesses, restaurants, and repair shops on either side.
I stumbled upon this town a few years back while searching for unique points of interest to photograph. In Venonia's case there is a gem hidden on the edge of the lake just outside of the main town, an abandoned mill building turned into a grafitti park. Now, anyone that knows me knows my heart will skip a beat and flutter at the sight of well done street art. This place does that.
Photo Credits: Kat Wilson & Santhosh Nemmaluri
With a late start out of Portland Friday afternoon, and many hours of sitting in traffic, we finally made it down to Newport four hours later than expected, but thankfully before dark. Spent the next morning on the beach, walking around the small town, and then headed down to the Aquarium.
Oregon Coast Aquarium, exploring and examining every inch of every exhibit for over five hours. Not missing a beat. The sea lions and seals were probably my favorite though. I've seen them out in the wild many times and always thought of them as "dicks" of the sea, but the ones at the aquarium were fun, playful, and enjoyable to sit and watch for about an hour. They've moved up in my book. I kind of want one now.
Heading out on Sunday, stopping at the lighthouse for one last view of the ocean before we continued up highway 101. Destination: Tillamook Cheese Factory! Which just opened back up in July after the visitor center had been closed for remodeling. Like everything else, we took our time, watched the curd get packaged, workers ignoring the gawking observers from above, sampling cheese, then waiting for ice cream downstairs.
Next stop: Vernonia
Photo Credits: Kat Wilson & Santhosh Nemmaluri
The original plan, of my friends 30+ day visit to the Pacific Northwest was to spend the first weekend at Crater Laker. Unfortunately due to the forest fires, fire ban, and air quality from the smoke in the air... I detoured our plan to Seattle. Luckily though, I think it turned out to be more of a blessing. I'm glad I was not out camping in the cold air when death came over me. I was so sick. Congested, headache, throat... you name it, it was all brewing inside me.
Seattle... the sister city of Portland. It was a really nice weekend with clear skies, full sun, warm, and way less smoke up North. We wondered around, did the normal tourist stops (ferris wheel, space needle, pike street, fish market, wharf, MoPC, etc), all while nurturing my low energy levels due to forgetting my cold meds and feeling like my head was on verge of explosion. Even with all that going on, it was still an enjoyable weekend with an amazing view.
[Its been a few years since I've been up to Seattle, outside of the airport. The weekend we went seemed to be the right time to visit as they had just recently finished remodeling the observation deck of the Space Needle. Adding a rotating glass bottom floor, which I will admit... made me really queazy and threw off my equilibrium (slow circular motion), but still really cool all the same. Very much a head trip... whats moving? the wall or the floor?]
Photo Credits: Kat Wilson & Santhosh Nemmaluri
As we were heading to Boston for purpose of attending a concert, we decided to add a few extra days for exploring the city. Although our time was too brief to really get a complete feel for it, we did manage to explore many of the sites that make Boston so appealing. From the rich history, architecture, and unique neighborhoods. I'm sure even another few extra days still wouldn't have given enough time to cover everything.
Following along The Freedom Trail, a red brick path guiding you through the city, this is an easy way to catch glimpse of all the historical landmarks without too much effort. Its a few miles, but worth sticking with till the end. Starting at The Boston Common and continuing on stopping at the Massachusetts State House, Granary Burial Ground (graves of Adams, Hancock, and Paul Revere), first public school, Benjamin Franklin Statue, Old South Meeting House, Boston Massacre site, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, and ending at Bunker Hill Monument. Winding around, but always looking down to ensure we are still following the path... except for one small detour, which was an absolute must. Cheers! The bar and set for the 80's TV show where "everybody knows your name". A little nostalgic.
As a kid I was always asked in school what I wanted to be when I grew up. Frankly, I had no idea. None. I knew I liked to draw, loved poetry, and was into the arts... but what does that make out to in a career back in the 80's? Nothing. So, I put down a fake career goal. A professional baseball player. Had I ever played? No. Had I ever been to a game? No. Did I know anything about the game? No. But who cares. That's what all my assignments were now on from 3rd till 6th grade... baseball and how I was going to be the first female professional player. My teachers weren't too pleased with my new founded career path, but I stood my ground. Why couldn't I be one? And who says girls can't play professionally?
We bought tickets for the Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park that evening. My very first game... 30 years after I started putting that as my career path. I never did pick up playing and learned nothing of the game. But none the less, I really enjoyed tonights game. I knew there were innings, but as people cheered and boo'd I couldn't tell you why. hahaha
After a day covering sites and landmarks not covered by the freedom trail, such as the location of the Tea Party where they dumped the tea into the sea. We headed back to our hotel to get ready for the whole purpose of our trip. Radiohead was playing at TD Gardens. Third time seeing them in the past three years. Each time being memorable, different, and an amazing show. I get chills each time. Always a surreal experience.
The great departure back to home. Leaving Boston and heading back to our regular scheduled lives. Knowing we barely uncovered this city. I do feel we will be back someday.
For the past couple weeks I have been trying to figure out how to start this post. On one hand, attempting Costa Rica again after a stressful visit two years ago, and on the other wanting to find a delicate way to touch on the crisis in Nicaragua but stay away from it at the same time.
Round two of this beautiful country, but again having to work and no time to play. Spending the days in a hotel, long hours, logged onto work, only to take a break in the evenings to finally find food.
Yes, I worked during the trip. Yes, I was stuck inside all day. No, I did not get to venture out much. Would I come back? Yes. Of course.
Taking a break from work, and a little hesitant, but we decided to hop over to Nicaragua for the long weekend. With an increase of crime, violence, and riots.. what could go wrong?
I've decided not to write much about the crisis. It's a touchy subject, politics, and thats not what my blog is about. Even with the riots, road blocks, angry locals, and fear... I cannot say I felt it much while we were there. It only changed a couple of our plans, but we were able to adjust fairly quickly. I will, though, write about a few things we probably should have thought twice about.
Saturday we kept it low key. Walking around the town. Getting a feel where everything was at. And stayed close to the hostel.
Sunday, we took the city bus to Laguna de Apoyo from Granada for a day trip. With no marked bus stops along the way, we somehow only had to backtrack about 1/2 mile on foot and made it down to the lagoon to spend the day kayaking and avoiding the sudden downpour that was soon to be overhead. Once the rain lifted we decided to walk back from the lake, back up the hill to the main road to catch the bus... was only a couple miles... uphill! Tired, the rain starting again, then seeing a man sitting on the side of the road and Rehan whispers to me, "pay respect to the man with the machete", as I look up and make a mumbling sound in the direction of his large machete he had in his hand and watching us walk by. Out of ear shot, laughing at not dying, we took a wrong turn. Going through a small village, off the beaten path, kids paused their game of soccer to watch us walk by. I thought to ask to play, but we kept walking. I swear the path to the lagoon was much shorter than this. We were lost. Luckily, a truck stopped and asked if we needed a ride. Why not? I hitchhiked in India, why not Nicaragua too. By this time it was a downpour again. We were drenched. We jumped in back of the pickup bed where they then drove us the rest of the way to the main road. Again, we did not die.
Next day, Monday, we made arrangements to kayak out on Lake Nicaragua to Monkey Island then drive up to Mombacho Volcano, to be back before we needed to head to the airport to catch our flight back to Costa Rica. Plenty of time. Unfortunately, there were road blocks that morning. And no traffic to/from the volcano. Change of plans, just meant more time on the water.
Monkey Island. A small piece of land where they put six monkeys to live, and now are on display for tourists. It was interesting. And our guide was very informative. We talked a lot about the crisis and how its affected him/his family. [very sad]
Walking back from the lake and passing a field of mango trees. We were being summoned by a group of men holding machete's waving us over. Again I found myself mumbling "we're going to die, this is it, we're going to die". We approach and were handed fresh mango's cut from the tree above. They weren't wanting to harm us, just wanted to share their harvest. Best mango's ever! Juicy, sweet, and were shown the best way to eat one... cut a hole in the top and slurp out the insides.
Terror and riots aside, Nicaragua was welcoming, pleasant, and peaceful. The political party and violence is not who the people are. Tourism is their livelihood. Its just sad to see the people struggle and closing their doors due to a countries dictatorship. We will return, as three days was not enough to explore a beautiful country. I wish, all the best, to those we met along the way. They're good people, trying to stay in business, and trying to do whats best for their children's future... better yet, trying to make sure their children have a future.
Prior to this trip I was feeling pretty pumped. I lost over 35 pounds, changed my eating habits, was exercising daily, and had done an overall cleanse of the mind. I thought I was ready to go on a long week jungle adventure in Peru. Why not? I was the healthiest I have been in over a year. How hard could it be? LOL. I was about to find out. No amount of planning could have prepared me for this week.
LEAVE // 04.14.2018 | 06:30 AM PDT | PORTLAND, OR
ARRIVE // 04.15.2018 | 11:19 AM CDT | CUSCO, PERU
TRANSPORTATION // ALASKA AIRLINES | LATAM | AVIANCA
LAYOVER // ORLANDO, FL | 2 HOURS // LIMA, PERU | 11 HOURS
(HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS IN LIMA, PERU (WYNDAM) | CUSCO, PERU (HOTEL TIERRA VIVA))
Day 1: Choose Your Own Adventure
As soon as we arrived in Cusco the elevation took its affect. Headache, stomach cramping, and if you moved quicker than a slug crossing a street everything around you would spin, causing you to feel lightheaded and dizzy. On a good note, no vomiting. We immediately decided to walk around the town to speed up the acclimation process, which thankfully worked. Quickly overcoming the dreaded sea sick feeling and shopping around for the best deal on the jungle trek to Machu Picchu.
We took the chance of not reserving anything prior to arriving in Cusco for the jungle trek. After doing some research online it would have run us an easy $400+ US dollar/per person, but we waited and it definitely paid off. Average price were $180+/per person depending if we also wanted to include the rafting, zip line, and any of the additional hikes at Machu Picchu (which we did). Picking out the different options and pricing it out from one tour company to the next, we finally settled on the one that left the following morning at 7:30am and was the lowest price of $510 total, which included rafting, zip line, and the Machu Picchu Mountain hike passes for two.
Day 2: Bicycling & Rafting
The van arrived at 7:30am, driving from hotel and hostel picking up other travel companions that we would get to know very well over the next few days. Driving through the Sacred Valley then up to Abra Malaga where we started the first part of our adventure; mountain biking. Surprisingly, even though the elevation was much greater than in Cusco (over 4500 meters above sea level) it did not seem to affect me as much anymore. Still with a headache, but fortunately the dizziness and stomach cramping had dissipated. Gearing up and picking out our bike of choice, trying not to think about the last time I was on a bike was at least 10 years prior. Hoping the old saying "It's like riding a bike" (meaning, its something you never forget how to do) was actually true. We set off down the mountain side.
At first a little wobbly, but once I got the feel for the brakes and shifting I was on my way. Waiting for openings between oncoming cars, I slowly leap frogged my way forward. Increasing my speed a little more after each person I passed. This was fun! After stopping for a short 20 minute break, we were off again. This time with a warning there would be a few rivers we'd have to pass through. Taking this information as there would be potential bridges we'd need to go over, reality this meant actually riding straight through water that was spilling over the top of the roadway (aka. the river actually passes over the road). Few hours pass and only one near slip when my front tire slipped into a crack and nearly took me down, we made it to the bottom. Soaked from riding through the "rivers", seat shaped bruise on my rear, and a huge smile on my face... we were headed to the river for the next adventure; white water rafting.
Class 3 rapids are definitely something that give you a good workout. Paddling through the waves, trying to stay inside the raft, and avoid obstacles. Fortunately, we were the only raft from our group that did not seem to lose a person in the water.
Day 3: Inka Trail
Staying at a hostel in Santa Maria, 5:30am wake up call, we were back on the trail. Today was going to be the long day. Over 8+ hours of walking, no bus if we opted out, just our feet to move us forward. The next few hours were about to challenge everything in me.
Making my way uphill. Trail getting steeper and starting to alternate between steps and dirt path. Looking uphill as the others in my group disappeared around the bend. Rehan following close behind them, unfortunately with our few bottles of water in his backpack. I wasn't sure I was going to make it and we were barely only a 1/2 hour in.
2 1/2 hours of continuously going up. Stopping to give my lungs a rest. Still putting another foot forward and climbing onwards. We finally made it to the "Monkey House". Giving us a chance to take a break, learn about the land, people, and their tequila, coffee, and chocolate making process. I wasn't going to complain. This was a much needed rest from that dreaded uphill battle. Only to start the trek again after an hour, uphill again. How much higher could we possibly go? Finally, we open up into a portion of the famous Inka Trail. With only a meter wide walking path and a large drop on the side, the view was breathtaking. One slip though and you would be yet another statistic lost to the jungle. The trek was still tough but it wasn't as strenuous as it had been just moments before. The path was more flat with some ups and downs, which was more my style. Hours passed, stopping for those golden photo opportunities, and taking a group photo before ascending once more to where we would be stopping for lunch.
After a two hour break, taking a power nap on a large flat rock, we were back to walking. Rested and picking up the pace. The second half of the trail had a bit more obstacles to go around. From large rocks that you needed to climb up and over, twists/turns, ups/downs, and a pitch dark tunnel. Not to mention the very creative ways the trail took you to cross the river at multiple points; balancing as you walk across a fallen log, sketchy wooden bridge, suspension bridge, and two guys pulling you across in a wooden basket on a wire. Don't look down and it's all "safe" as long as you don't lose your balance. Vertigo is definitely a thing to avoid, if you can.
The end of this long day was the relaxing soak in the thermal hot springs. Paying just s/.10 per person, this made the long day worth the pain before settling into the hostel in Santa Teresa for the night.
Something I told myself as the day went on: Physical weakness can be overcome, but mentally I needed to stay strong. These words resonated within me. Having a lot of time to think, lost in my own thoughts, encouraging myself, and rethinking my "life decisions". I did not quit. I will not quit. I kept going.
Day 3: Zip Line & Railroad Tracks
Another early wake-up, starting at 7:30am, we were going zip-lining today. This was my first time and the fear of heights was a little nerve wracking. Gearing up and then starting the hike up, again hating life as I barely made it to the top with a loss of breath and the feeling that my lungs were going to burst out of my chest. Now, looking over the edge. Waiting my turn. They hook me up and I was off soaring through the air. Oh my god this was fun. With only three zip lines, I was bummed it went so quick.
Sitting in the grass at the end of the 3rd zipline, waiting for the rest of the group to make it over, I look down and see another long tension bridge over the river. This one wasn't like the others that we came across on the hike yesterday. This was a little more intense. The boards being my leg length apart, using our zip line harness as a safety, one by one we were sent out onto it. Again, not looking down, focusing on the boards ahead, and balancing every step. I loved it. Except for the few times others on the bridge lost their footing and caused the boards to flip sideways, leaving me with some nasty bruises from the wires. Still, it was exiting. I'd definitely do this again.
The next 3 1/2 hours was something other than pleasant. Starting at the base of the railroad tracks, our guide deciding to take us through a "shortcut". Uphill again, crossing the railroad tracks as we come out of the trees for a quick opening, then darting back in and going up some more. My body was starting to hate me. Blisters on each of my toes. Two toenails taped down as they were in the process of falling off. And my hip was in a great amount of pain. I kept going up the trail. Never stopping. Still not quitting. Ultimately, though, still climbing.
The railroad tracks were a slight gradual incline as we walked along at somewhat of a brisk pace to start. Meeting at one of the bridges as a group, then parting ways for the fast to go faster and the slow to go at their own pace. I somehow faired somewhere in the middle. Only stopping a couple times. The pain in my feet were becoming somewhat unbearable. Shifting the way I step to take pressure off sore spots. Digging deep mentally and wanting to walk in silence and not be bothered.
Agus Calienta was in sight. Finally. The base of Machu Picchu was near.
Day 5: Machu Picchu
Keeping to the theme of barely having enough rest to let the muscles sync in and realize how much pain they were in. We woke at 3:30am to get into our respective lines. Me taking the bus and Rehan to the base of the 2000+ step hike, both heading up to Machu Picchu. As much as I wanted to do the hike and have that unbelievable experience, my body was giving up. At the risk of about to lose two toenails and my hip screaming, I opted for the bus to speed me to the top.
After the last few days of having clear skies, perfect temperature, and just the right amount of sun vs shade, today was less than perfect. We woke to rain, fog, and cold. Bundling up in our rain gear and hoping the clouds would burn off, we kept our hopes up and were going to enjoy this ancient beauty regardless of the weather.
As the tour came to an end, the guide leaving the group near the exit where we could enter again another two more times to roam the ruins on our own as long as we entered before Noon. Keep in mind, on entrance you start at the top and slowly you can make your way back down to the bottom. Once you pass a certain point though, there is no turning around and going back up without exiting and re-entering again from the beginning. I mention this because Rehan left for the Machu Picchu Mountain hike and I had gone down too far because I saw llamas and wanted to try to take a photo with them, not realizing I had gone past that point of no return and was unable to enter for my third time as I had missed the "enter 3 times before Noon warning". So I was stuck, waiting for him to exit for a couple hours. I was upset at first, but besides the sun gate, I had seen all of the ruins. I just didn't get a chance to really analyze all of it before I was forced out. Lesson learned! Yet again, finding myself alone with a lot of time to think and awe at what I had just accomplished the last few days.
Day 6 & 7: Huaypo Lake and Salinas De Maras
Sleeping in for the first time in almost a week back in Cusco, after taking the train from Agus Calienta the night before. Slowly taking our time to get ready for our 1pm reservation to go quading through the Sacred Valley. Unfortunately we were unable to go to Moray, but we were able to visit Huaypo Lake (which was a nice surprise) and Salinas De Maras which were both picturesque and something pictures will never do justice.
Day 8 & 9: Lima, Peru
Having just over a day and a half, wandering around Lima before our red eye flight back home. We ran into one of our trekking companions from Machu Picchu. Overall, this week went from inspiration, to soul searching, then ending in many laughs... this was a great way to end this journey.
LEAVE // 04.23.2018 | 01:05 AM CDT | LIMA, PERU
ARRIVE // 04.23.2018 | 12:19 PM PDT | PORTLAND, OR
TRANSPORTATION // ALASKA AIRLINES | LATAM
LAYOVER // LOS ANGELES | 2.5 HOURS