Peru, Peru, Peru. I am not sure how I’m going to explain this trip. Sure, I can write out the details: the places we went, the things I saw, so on, so forth. But how do I begin to explain what it meant to me? I’ve decided to break this trip up to several parts- trying to cram it all into one post would get extremely lengthy and we would all lose focus halfway through. Somehow I’ll try to fit into words how awing this time was for me. And if in the scenario I do not fulfill that duty then I hope my photos will.

As flight attendants we normally stay in pretty okay hotels. Everything is clean, wake-ups are made, its relatively quiet (for the most part). So when Analeise and I decided to backpack I wanted nothing else than to stay in hostels with other backpackers. Honestly, for me, I needed to remember why it was that I started traveling in the first place. It wasn’t for timed layovers and having to feel rushed all the time when I’m somewhere new. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a flight attendant. I’m constantly seeing something different. However, in this job, as much as everyone knows the airline world is a chaotic mess, on layovers there is no room for error. So with eight days to explore, we made a general list of things we wanted to see, but no concrete plans so that in any unexpected scenario occurred we could just say, “No prob-llama!”

Backpacks fully packed and tickets in hand, we headed off at 11:50PM to Bogota and then on to Cusco.

Day One: Exploring Cusco, Peru

After dropping off our packs at the hostel, we made our way to the city center to begin our wandering. It is true what they say that the altitude will certainly affect everyone differently. Although I didn’t notice a difference besides a bit more heavy breathing, Analeise did feel light headed as we walked around. Later on we discovered that it is best to eat before you are hungry to combat any lightheaded feelings that may occur due to the high elevation. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the delicious and decently sized empanadas that we ate for lunch. I wish I had though, I would certainly go back for another one.

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We stayed at Pariwana Hostel for the first two nights of our trip. I was originally planning on taking photos of the entire place, but we quickly became occupied with the activities taking place in the evening. I would highly recommend this hostel to any traveler that wants to meet people. It hosts different activities every night and the staff is remarkably friendly and good at getting people involved! We ended up playing some sort of soccer-volleyball game with this great British couple, Phoebe and George. Little did we know we would end up hanging out with them a lot and running into them in another hostel in AguasCalientes later that week! After a ridiculous game (which we lost), we went up to the bar for dinner and after a beer-pong tournament (sorry, Mom!).

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The room we stayed in was an 8 female dorm. Each bed had a shelf on the wall, a light, and a locker with outlets inside (though you had to bring your own lock). Pariwana really did have it all: a yummy restaurant, activities, a movie room, a kitchen, etc. The only problem we ran into was an extremely drunk roommate that decided to have a little too much fun with someone in the shared bathroom. Though, I guess this only allows me to now have an interesting hostel travel story.

Day Two: Humantay Lake

Originally we had planned on taking it easy on the first full day in Cusco. This idea quickly disappeared as we saw that the excursion desk had a trip the next day to hike to Humantay Lake. I’m truly thankful that Analeise had heard of it before and really wanted to see it. If not then I don’t think I would have experienced the breathtaking (because that altitude really does take it out of you!) views on this day.

The Humantay Lake was originally part of the starting point of the Salkantay Hike which finishes in Machu Picchu. Up to recent only those participating in the hike would have seen it. Thankfully for those of us that aren’t able to do a multi-day hike there are excursions that now make it possible. The process begins with a 4:30AM showtime, a 2-3 hour bus ride, breakfast in a small town, and then a couple more hours of driving up extremely bumpy, slightly dangerous, winding dirt roads up to Soraypampa. Here is where it gets really fun. The hour and a half trek proved a lot harder than I would have originally thought. At first I was confident…then every few steps became a bit more challenging… Still, with views like these (photos below), it was easy to become mesmerized as the ice-capped mountain became closer and closer.

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The Vilcabamba mountain range that surround Humantay Lake were  sacred to the Incas. According to our guide, sacrifices of a young child, who was considered the most pure, would be made when grand natural disasters would occur that, at the time, could not be explained. As we sat in a circle and listened to our guide, he directed us to take three cocoa leaves and place them within the rocks that were piled high as offerings and make one heartfelt wish. Of course I can’t say what I wished for, but I sure hope someone heard me.

I cannot really describe how majestic the environment was to witness. However, I need to explain the unfortunate reality of such a beautiful landscape. Picture this remarkable lake even grander and the mountains even more snow-capped. 60% of the ice has disappeared and it only continues to vanish every year. The lake once greatly surpassed where I stood to take these photos. It is receding every single year. Climate change is real. These landscapes, ecosystems, key landmarks of cultural significance are all disappearing. It is finally time for everyone to open their eyes. I don’t know about you, but I desperately wish my grandchildren (and so on) to witness the amazing sights I’ve gotten the chance to, but that won’t happen at the rate things are going. Protect Mother Earth, y’all.

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The hike down from the lake was not as challenging, except for the cold drizzle that fell upon us. Once all the way back to where we started, we hopped on the bus, and all fell asleep until we arrived back in the same small town for a delicious small buffet of hot soup, pasta, and other much needed filling food.

I would highly recommend anyone visiting Peru to complete the hike to Humantay Lake. Take a waterproof jacket, gloves, and of course layers that you can easy strip off with the ever changing weather. The guide insisted on walking sticks and I am so glad that he did. They really did help navigate our way over the loose terrain.

Most importantly, be ready to be amazed because it truly is a miraculous, significant, and serene place. Trust me, it is worth the huffing and puffing.

Until next time, friends!

Mary AnnaIMG_4692

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