************Edited to add pictures****************
Wow, it has been way, way, way too long since I´ve been on here. Part of it has been that I haven´t uploaded any pictures to the computer (since I don´t think the family likes it) and the other part of it has been that I have been out and about.
I am updating now because I have an hour to kill before visiting a few markets with my roommate, Silje, but I also want to write down as much of this experience as I can…before it all becomes a blur.
–Many pictures in this post are courtesy of Amber. I will be adding my own as soon as I can upload them.–
Friday June 27, 2014
So where did we leave off? Over a week ago, it was a Friday morning when I last posted and we were getting ready to go visit the local zoo.
The zoo had condores, pumas, monkeys, parrots, and other small animals, in cages that were too small and made me feel really sorry for the animals. We were also able to get incredibly close to most of them, as in…put our hands in the cages. I didn´t touch any of them (but I did hold a monkey the next day!) The zoo was the size of a large backyard, so we walked around for about 45 minutes and then got out of there. I wish I could have brought all those animals with me…
After the zoo, we walked to a market that we wanted to check out and picked up some snacks for our 4 day Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu, which we left for the next morning. I was on a money saving kick (which has since gone down the toilet) and bought a bag of peanuts and some crackers, then we took a very long bus ride home. Those parades were never ending!
After my project later that afternoon, I took a very long bus ride to Chabad services and dinner.
Welp, I ended up getting lost after already being really late, so I missed the services, but I was able to have dinner. Unfortunately, everyone at the table spoke Hebrew and only Hebrew (at least to each other) so I sat quietly, ate, and got out of there. Would I have gone back? Yes. But with friends and/or sat at a table with people that speak English or Spanish. At least the food was good.
Saturday June 28, 2014
We booked a trip to Machu Picchu called IncaJungle that would take us 4 days to complete, with hiking, mountain biking, hot springs swimming, white-water rafting, zip-lining, and of course, to Machu Picchu.
Saturday started semi-early with a bus ride to Ollantaytambo then continued on waaaaay up a mountain (with a driver that drives too fast around curves and cliffs and passes other drivers and makes girls in our van cry hysterically…). But we survived. We were given ¨mountain bikes¨ with sketchy brakes, a bright orange vest, and then rode down the mountain, on the same road as those crazy drivers.
Do I look scared??
To say I was afraid would be an understatement. I gripped the shotty brakes for dear life and had sore hands for days. At least Amber was afraid, too
But after about 45 minutes, I calmed down and gained some speed (but not too much, mom). The views were incredible…we could see miles of mountains, fog, and animals along the road. Oh, and the crosses with biker vests were comforting, too (not).
We had lunch (some people went white water rafting), saw some animals, we went to a bar called The Only Bar, we had dinner, we went back to The Only Bar. The end… The end.
Sunday June 29, 2014
I slept really well the night before, despite a kitten coming in our room and snuggling on my bed. Two of the girls in our room were trying to chase it out with a flashlight, but I slept through that entire fiasco. Haha.
Day 2 of Inca Jungle is all about hiking. So hiking, we did. For about 8 hours. It wasn´t so hard because we took breaks often and it felt like we went up for 1 hour and down for 7. But I love, love, love hiking and enjoyed all of the walk-hikes that we did. Down scares the bejeezus out of me, but up is completely fine.
At one of our stops, I was able to hold a monkey ¨that doesn´t like girls¨. Trust me, this monkey loves girls. Too much. As you can see in the pictures.
Along the way, we learned about coca leaves, their use, coffee bean harvesting and production, cocoa beans, and more. I can´t remember the name, but there was an alcohol that they drink with a dead snake in it. Yum..? Some people had their faces painted with a natural red color:
As expected, the views were amazing (as long as I was holding on to the rocks behind me, as far away from the ledge as possible…).
Going down the mountain took some time since I have a huge fear of slipping and falling, but it was really fun to walk over the various landscapes and terrains.
At one point, we had to cross the rushing river and were told to bring money for the ¨cable car¨. Hahaha…cable car. This was a cable with a basket hanging from it and two people sit inside and are pulled across.
Then you pay the nice gentleman 5 soles for allowing you to live. I thought it was hilarious and really fun.
Our 8 hour hike ended in a glorious way- at the natural hot springs. They didn´t need to tell me twice to change and go swim. I was in the hot water within minutes, and it. was. awesome. That was my second time at a hot spring and it truly is amazing how it´s natural (besides all of the tourists that flock there…).
We were given the option to take the bus to the next town, or continue hiking. I decided to hike. They said one hour, but it was more like 25 minutes of hiking up-hill, which I didn´t mind.
At the hostel, while waiting for the rest of the group, I took an ice cold shower (with no towel…I used my sweaty clothes as a towel!) and put on semi-clean clothes.
Then dinner, drinks, disco, disco, disco, drama, drama, drama, no sleep.
Monday June 30, 2014
With little sleep, I was surprisingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. After a quick breakfast, I was off with Amber and Rosh to go zip-lining. Let me just say that I have been ziplining twice. Once I did it and once I freaked out and climbed back down the tree. So I knew that this could have gone one of two ways.
When we got to the ziplining course, my stomach flipped when I saw that we would be ziplining from mountain to mountain, ABOVE the valleys. Way above the valleys. I gave myself a little pep-talk and decided to just…do it. So do it, I did, and it was amazing!
We literally flew above the valleys and river. We were each able to do 5 lines, and by the 3rd, I was ready to try it upside-down (sorry ma). It wasn´t as scary as you would think.
What was scary, however, was this wooden bridge above the trees that we crossed.
Amber and I were like, oh that looks easy! Ha. No one told us we would have to unclip our harness at certain points and clip back in WITHOUT falling, while there are certain people that think it´s funny to swing the bridge as hard as they could. Trust me, I yelled at them (and then apologized when I was safely on the ground).
I was happy to be safe and sound with our group again and vowed never to climb any bridges like that again.
That was, until after lunch. We had a 3 hour walk down the train tracks after lunch. There were certain points where the tracks crossed a small bridge and you just had to use the wood planks to cross. Of course it was nothing like earlier that morning, but I was having dejavu haha.
Finally, finally, finally, we arrived in Aguas Calientes, which is the town at the base of Machu Picchu. It was colorful and lively, and reminded me of Disney World.
We were able to take a HOT shower with GREAT water pressure, and again, put on semi-clean clothes. Then we walked around some, had dinner, bought food for the next day, and called it a night fairly early.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Machu Picchu day. We were up at 3:55 am to get up to Machu Picchu right when it opened (at 6 am). My 5:00, we were at check point numero 1, and then we walked up almost 2,000 steps to checkpoint numero 2, which was the entrance to Machu Picchu.
I decided it would be fun to get up those almost 2,000 steps as fast as possible and refused to let any other group pass me, so I ran….and was soaked in sweat at the top. But it was fun and two guys that tailed me the entire time shook my hand at the top and then took pictures with the crazy girl that ran up to Machu Picchu.
[Some basic information about Machu Picchu: The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. It was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911]
It was hot getting up there, but I was FREEZING at the top, with just a t-shirt. It was foggy, so we didn´t see the sunrise (or much of anything else). It was really, really hard for me to pay attention during our tour due to the lack of visibility, but within a few hours, the fog cleared and were were able to see everything and it was incredible.
We hiked up to the Sun ____ (something…can´t remember the name right now) thinking it was the place where everyone takes the iconic Machu-Picchu picture. Oops, an hour later and a straight-hike up, we realized it was at the BASE of the mountain. Way to go. At least the views were worth it.
We hiked back down, took our pictures, and then made our way down the almost-2000 steps. So. much. harder than going up.
After half showering in the sink at the hostel and some food, Amber and I took the train back to Cusco. Originally, we were going to take the bus, but after seeing the crosses on the side of the road, along with stories of people praying in the vans, we decided our lives are worth an additional $70 and took the train home.
I am running out of time, but I have more updates to come. I promise not to leave you all hanging for that long.
Thanks for reading!
Edited to add: The 4 day trip was a definite highlight during my time in Peru and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet everyone and have really great experiences with them. Thank you, to you all! I will never forget those 4 days