Inca Jungle Trek | Part II

Monday, February 16, 2015

A continuation from our last post. Here are more photos from the second day of the Inca Jungle Trek. It was a long day of hiking along an Inca pathway—10 miles (16km) and 9 hours, first uphill, and then a little easier toward the end when we walked along the river. Most of the hike was very hot, sweaty, and dusty. It was hard to breathe, and our guide stopped for too many breaks.

The craziest part of the day was crossing a river in a man-operated cable car. In other words, we flew across a raging river in a wooden crate and then waited for someone on the other side to reel us in by pulling on a rope. At first it was a native boy, probably around 10, who was pulling us in (we paid a small fee to cross)! After he struggled for a while, a couple of the guys in our group took over.

At the end of the hike, we arrived at a big hot springs with several steaming pools. We were so satisfied soaking our tired bodies in hot springs as the sunlight disappeared. It wouldn't have been nearly as wonderful if we hadn't traveled 10 miles by foot to get there.

After the hot springs, we piled into a bus for a short ride into the small town of Santa Theresa and spent the night in another hostel. That night we had dinner at a restaurant with our group and stayed late this time to have drinks with everyone and get to know them. I just love backpackers. Everyone was very kind, open-minded, and interesting. Our group consisted of a bunch of Chileans, a handful of French, a couple Swiss guys, one Norwegian girl, and a Dutch guy. And us, Ukrainian-Americans. Where else can you get this much diversity but a common interest in traveling and adventure? Despite the fact that we come from such different places around the world, speak different languages, we could easily be friends with any of them. Of course, the fact that everyone knows some English helps immensely.

One more day of hiking, and then Machu Picchu!

- Julia

Inca Jungle Trek | Part I

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Machu Picchu was kind of a no brainer when in Peru. The traditional Inca trail was booked out months in advance, so we had the option of just seeing the ruins on a day trip, or doing the Inca Jungle Trek, which is a 4-day hike + adventure on a different route. We went with that.

The first day, we met up in Cusco with a group. We each brought a backpack we were willing to carry on our backs for four days, and piled in a van to begin the journey. We were dropped off on the side of the road at 13,800ft (4200 m) elevation. Here we put on protective gear, hopped on mountain bikes, and barreled down the mountain for a 6500ft (2000m) descent. The view was green mountains and fog, the entire way down, with some small villages toward the bottom. I really, really wish we were able to take more photos, but we were going downhill so fast, there was no way I could pull a camera out, and we had to keep up with the group, which only stopped once for a break. The temperature was freezing and windy at the top, but at the end of the 3 hour ride, it was sub-tropical weather and foliage, and we all threw our clothes off as fast a possible.

We ended with a nap in our hostel, where our entire group was staying, then dinner at a small restaurant in the town.

The next day, we began our first long day of up-hill hiking. Again, it was freezing in the morning, but as soon as the the sun came out and we were climbing uphill, we were shedding clothes and sweating buckets in the humidity. Zhanna and I changed into summer dresses, which was surprisingly the most comfortable hiking outfit. This was the warmest we had been since arriving in Peru (remember, it's winter there at this time), because we were at a lower elevation in a more tropical environment. Being with a group was often times really frustrating because we had to stop and wait for people to catch up and take breaks when everyone else was taking a break. But being in nature and hiking trails that the Incas hiked was pretty incredible and put things in perspective.

There was a lot of excitement in the air with anticipation to see Machu Picchu, and it kept us going.

- Julia

Day Trip - Salt Terraces and Pisac Market

Monday, February 9, 2015

The elevation in Cusco is 11,200 feet (3,400 m). It's highly recommended to stay in Cusco for a couple days to get acclimated to the high elevation before doing any hiking (like Machu Picchu). We all had headaches, bloody noses, and were drinking a lot of water and coca tea. Luckily we weren't puking or incredibly sick, like some people we talked to.

We didn't have any plans in Cusco, so on one of our free days, we hired a taxi for the day to take us to a few nearby spots that looked interesting.

Our first destination was the Maras Salt Terraces in the Sacred Valley. There is a natural spring of salt water that comes from the ground. To collect the salt, the people there make small ponds or terraces in the side of a mountain. The salty water is funneled and then then sits and evaporates, leaving the sodium behind. The people of Maras use the same method as their ancestors, the Incas. It was fun to walk around the the small ponds and to taste the salt. We bought some small packets of salt herb blends to take home. We were told by our taxi guide that each of these ponds (some own more than one) belongs to a family and it could have been passed down many generations.

From there we headed to the Pisac Market; we heard that it was one of the biggest and best markets around. When we got there, they were already closing up shop so we didn't see much. Lots of alpaca knitwear and since this was just the beginning of our travels we decided to hold off on buying anything. We were hoping on doing a short hike to check out Inca ruins above Pisac but it was getting dark and our taxi guide wanted to get home. We made a stop just before getting to Cusco to take some photos of the city at dusk from a great viewpoint.

Cusco is an amazing city, although our first day here sucked (at least for me) getting used to walking up steep hills and winding stairs at 11,200 ft. with luggage, left me with a pretty bad headache. But a little Mate de Coca helped eased the pain.

Next we head on a 4 day adventure to Machu Picchu.

- Yuriy

Around Cusco, Peru

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cusco is the historical center of Peru. It's the most visited city in Peru because it's the home base for Machu Picchu and lots of other surrounding ruins.

I don't know what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting terracotta roofs and white walls, connected by steep, narrow streets of endless stairs. We spent one day soaking it in, walking around with our cameras, talking about what we wanted to do in Peru. 

When we flew in during the afternoon, we were surprised by the mild temperatures. It was winter in South America, and we were afraid it'd be colder. When we stepped outside the following morning, the freezing temperatures took our breath away. Now we understood why the locals, particularly the women, were wearing so many layers. For the rest of the trip, we couldn't shake the cold feeling. Not one of us had packed a proper winter jacket. 

The next day we hired a driver and got out of the city to see some sights. That's coming in the next post.

- Julia

Arriving in Lima

Monday, February 2, 2015

We flew into Lima to start our South America adventures. We found a neat little Airbnb with an amazing backyard garden, a roaming peacock, breakfast in the morning, and a treehouse up in a massive fiddle leaf fig tree. Winning, right?

We arrived at the place sometime between midnight and 1am after a long day of traveling and crossing international borders, and it was the sweetest welcome to see my dear friend Zhanna already situated in our room (she got in a few hours before us)! I had never traveled with friends prior to this trip, and I was so happy to have Zhanna along as our (treasured) third wheel. You'll see lots of photos of her on this trip.

I had made a list of places I wanted to go in South America, but we hadn't actually planned or booked anything yet. That night, around 2am, we realized that we wanted to head to Cusco next, and it was either a 26 hour bus ride (a detail I completely overlooked) or a 1 hour flight. So we bought tickets right there from our beds, for a flight the next afternoon, in about 10 hours. That's how most of our travel planning goes.

Here's a handful of photos from the property we stayed at for one night in Lima. The next morning we were off to Cusco, the historical capital of Peru, and that post is coming next.

- Julia

Peru Preview

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hi guys! I just had a crazy week of finals at school. Now back to blogging!

First things first:

Congrats to Aimee Siegel, our CALENDAR GIVEAWAY WINNER! Can you please contact us to tell us your mailing address and calendar of your choice? If we don't hear from you in a few days, I will have to pick another winner.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway and shared their 2015 travel plans. I loved reading through the comments and getting ideas for where to travel to next!! I graduate from school in 2015 (!!!), so we are hoping to do another extended trip next year, probably in the fall. There are so many places we haven't been yet. How do you guys pick your travel destinations?!

Here's a preview of our next set of posts in Peru! We are so excited to finally share the photos from our South America travels in Peru and Bolivia. Come back for more soon.

- Julia

Last Night | Montana

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Last night in Montana. Always bittersweet because when you realize it's the end, you don't want it to end. But you do want that shower. And a real bed.

We tried to bake chocolate chip cookies on a cast iron skillet and they burned too quickly on the bottom before cooking the top, so I tried flipping them and ended up with cookie stir fry. Still ate them. Anyone have tips? I'm thinking a lid would have helped greatly.

The next day, we spent the day at Silverwood amusement park and camped in Idaho for our last night. We were all pictured out and didn't take any photos that day. Before heading home the following day, we squeezed in one more amazing campfire shish-kabob lunch to finish off the trip on a good note. Can't wait til next summer! But now, December.

- Julia