A Week of Firsts

Happy Monday, friends. It’s been a bit crazy over here the past few days. We were so excited to have my sister and stepdad in town visiting, although the reason they were visiting — the one-year anniversary of my mom’s passing — was less than a happy one. Still, we managed to make the most of the day, and it was so good to be together (and to have Lotte as a distraction, obviously).

We even took Lotte on her first trip to the zoo while they were here. Lotte also celebrated her first Easter and we checked out a new walking trail, Van Bibber Park. So like I said, it’s been a full couple of days, and I’m coming down from all our visitors and activities, which always makes me a little sad. We have a visit from my other sister, her husband and two boys at the end of the month, though, so that is definitely something to look forward to.

01CinnaminBuns
^^ At my sister’s suggestion, we made Mom’s traditional Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on the morning of her anniversary. I had forgotten how good they actually are 😉

02CinnamonBuns03Smores
^^ We lit the fire pit in the backyard on the eve of her anniversary as well, and made smores, something else she also loved to do with us.

04AuntStephie05StandleyLake01Zoo
^^ Ready for the zoo! You’ll notice halfway through the zoo pictures that Lotte’s adorable jumper is gone and in its place is a pair of pajamas. I realized once we got to the zoo how she was in the direct sunlight, and I started to freak out about her getting burned, so I changed her into something that would cover her arms and legs as well. Rookie mom mistake!

02Zoo
^^ Kangaroos!

03Zoo04Zoo05Zoo06Zoo07Zoo08Zoo09Zoo
^^ It was super fun checking out the zoo for the first time with my sis and stepdad!

FullSizeRender
^^ In her Easter best! (How she managed to wear these ears for the couple of pics I got is beyond me, because she absolutely hated them!)

FullSizeRender
^^ We walked to Jack’s Coffee shop on Saturday afternoon with this little one for a super early dinner, and she was amazing the entire time. Look at this face.

_DSC7736
^^ Van Bibber park on Sunday was lovely. There is a totally paved path you can follow that is 2.8 miles round-trip, or you can off-road it a bit on some rocky paths, which we did, but nothing is too difficult, and the scenery is really pretty. Plus you come across some really amazing homes, some of which had horses grazing in their backyard. It was just a really nice, easy hike for our Easter Sunday morning.

_DSC7738_DSC7739_DSC7742_DSC7754_DSC7756_DSC7757_DSC7759
^^ If you can’t tell by my 1,000 photos of them, I was kind of obsessed with these creepy-cool trees. Something about them intrigued me …

_DSC7760_DSC7761_DSC7762_DSC7769_DSC7770_DSC7771_DSC7772_DSC7773_DSC7775_DSC7776_DSC7780IMG_9437

Until next time, my friends – bis bald!

When in Peru, You Must Hike Machu Picchu

_DSC7916Oh hey there friends! Happy Thanksgiving week! To be honest, while I loved pretty much every single thing about traveling for the past four weeks, if I had to pick one week to be home, it would be this one. I welcome the fall weather, football games and eating myself silly on Thursday — here’s to the holidays!

But before all that happens, I’m hoping to get a few posts up about our South American adventure, since every day I wait is a day that more and more details slip away — and I hate that.

I thought I’d start out with some general details about our trip, in case that helps anyone who might be planning a trip to Peru in the near future, as well. For starters, we arrived two days early to allow ourselves to get acclimated to the altitude (we took the pills to alleviate altitude symptoms, too, and I’m really glad we did, since we barely had any problems at all with that), and that was something I’d highly recommend to anyone else planning a visit. We picked Hotel Torre Dorada to spend the first three nights in Peru, and it turned out to be the perfect spot to get acclimated. It was a little further from the city center, but the hotel offered a free cab service to and fro, so that really wasn’t a problem. Breakfast was included, and the rooms were super comfy.

_DSC7298^^ View from the rooftop at the hotel.

_DSC7299

Anyway, while we did spend the first two days getting acclimated, we also explored a bit of the city center and ate at some pretty tasty restaurants (Inka Grill for dinner our first night and Pacha Papa for lunch the second day were two highly notable places. Everyone who heard we were going to Cusco told us to also hit up Jack’s Cafe, which we did, and while I found the food to be good, it wasn’t a place that I particularly felt was truly authentic or anything all that amazing. If you’re looking for a good place for something easy and breezy like sandwiches or salads, though, this would be a good place to try.)

_DSC7301

_DSC7313

_DSC7319

_DSC7323

_DSC7325

_DSC7326

_DSC7329^^ Super narrow streets and alleyways chock full of people made walking an interesting proposition as it was, but add in the high altitude and suddenly walking up even a couple flights of stairs would leave us breathless!

_DSC7336

_DSC7339

_DSC7341

_DSC7347

_DSC7349

_DSC7350

_DSC7352

_DSC7353^^ There are quite a few churches in the main square in Cusco. We didn’t happen to visit any of them, but they sure were pretty to look at.

_DSC7354

_DSC7357

_DSC7364

_DSC7370^^ All of the children wear uniforms to school in Peru, whether they go to public or private school, which I thought was so interesting, and not such a bad idea.

_DSC7377

_DSC7384

_DSC7390

_DSC7397

_DSC7399^^ How funny was the balcony at this restaurant/bar? We took to lovingly referring to it as the “long skinny” bar. Still, the view was pretty unforgettable.

_DSC7401

While there’s so much I could say here about Cusco, in an effort to avoid making each destination’s blog post way too long, I’m going to go ahead and reiterate some info from an email I sent my family and some friends after we had been in Cusco for a couple of days:

–At first we thought Cusco was overrun with stray dogs, but it turns out these dogs all have owners, and there are no laws here that force them to be on leashes. Having said that, these pups all seem to be super friendly, and we are amazed by how little poop there is in the streets.

 

— The local people here drink a tea called “coca tea” made with coca leaves, which they believe helps with altitude sickness and calms the stomach. This coca leaf is the exact same leaf used to make cocaine, you just need an awful lot of it to make it even a little bit of the drug. I happen to think it’s gross, but Chris really did love him some coca tea.

 

— The average salary here is about 750 solas, per month, which is about $257, so you can see how it’s incredibly difficult for people to drag themselves out of poverty, which is so, so sad, because I don’t think I’ve ever met a more hard-working group of people. Many of the women here have taken to entrepreneurialism, however, and dress themselves and their children up in their fanciest Peruvian duds and stand near tourist hot spots with their baby llamas and alpacas and charge a solas or so for a photo with them (not a bad way to get money from a tourist, let me tell you).

 

–The Spanish seriously ruined Peru when they conquered it (something I probably should have learned in school) to include desecrating some amazing statues and artwork.

 

— The difference between a llama and an alpaca is that alpaca’s are shorter with shorter ears.

— The heaviest rock the Inca’s moved back in the day was 130 TONS. A couple years ago as an experiment the Peruvians tried to move a 30 ton rock using the traditional anchor methods the Inca’s would have used. It took 250 men and 30-40 minutes to move it 100 meters. The quaries where these rocks would have come from were four to seven miles away, across a river … so you do the math.

— After they finally evicted their corrupt president in the 1980s (who literally used to smuggle cocaine on his plane bc it wasn’t checked at the borders — although he did also eradicate national terrorism and helped set up a public education system) and put in place a new president, tourism skyrocketed. Tourism is now the biggest industry in Cusco.

— They eat guinea pigs here. And alpaca. ‘Nuff said.

— The women here carry their babies in bright bundles on their backs. It’s sort of adorable.

— The city of Cusco is actually higher elevation (10,991 ft) than Machu Picchu (7,874).

On our third day in Cusco we began our tour with Cusi Travel (which I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a Machu Picchu tour group), which included first a tour of some of the areas surrounding Cusco and Sacred Valley, as well as our Inca Trail hike and visit to Machu Picchu (we added on the Huayna Picchu hike to our tour as well, but I’m getting ahead of myself now …)

_DSC7446^^ Alpaca’s at Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “Sexy Woman”) outside of Cusco.

_DSC7457

 

_DSC7463
_DSC7473

^^ View of Cusco city from “Sexy Woman”.

_DSC7484

_DSC7506

_DSC7540

^^ We stopped at an animal rescue place on the way to Sacred Valley and got to see some pretty cool things, to include Condors taking flight.

_DSC7547
_DSC7556
_DSC7558^^ The incredibly intricate work these women do seriously puts me in awe of them.
_DSC7564
 ^^ Views of Sacred Valley from above are breathtaking.

_DSC7565

_DSC7579

 

_DSC7583

 

_DSC7585

 

_DSC7589

_DSC7595

 

_DSC7601

_DSC7650^^ A visit to Ollantaytambo would be high on my list of things to do in Cusco as well. The indentions to the right in this photo were actually the “bank” of the Inca’s, where they kept the currency of the day, which was food. It was up so high because that kept the food dry and out of the elements. In the middle you might notice what appears to be a face carved into the mountain. It’s rumored that the Inca’s actually carved this face into the side of the mountain, but not everyone today actually still believes that to be the truth — some say it’s just coincidence.

 

_DSC7658

 Okay friends, since I’ve already gone ahead and broken my promise not to make this a long blog post, I’ll make Machu Picchu and the Inca trail a post unto itself (which defeats the purpose of my headline here, but hey, I’m a maverick.)
Anyway, check back tomorrow for the next and last installment of our Peru adventure — the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and Huayanu Picchu. Bis bald, friends!