Posts Tagged ‘machu picchu’

Last night I went swing dancing with a friend- a hobby that I used to enjoy quite often. As Leeds spun me around, he asked the niceities: “What’s your name?” and “what do you do?”

The whole experience brought back amazing memories- one being that I would introduce myself to each new dance partner with a different name and story (because my real story bored me).

“Hello. I’m Susan. I’m a receptionist”

“Hello, I’m Mary. I work in HR.”

“Hello. I’m Kate. I’m a musician.”

None of the above got any sort of response! I WONDER WHY!? So I started going bigger.

“Howdy, I’m Jill. I’m new here- I live in Australia where I see Nemo all the time.”

“Hi! I’m Cathy. I just climbed Machu Picchu.”

“Sup? I’m Samantha. I’ve ridden an elephant. No. That’s not a euphemism.”

Confession: I was (am?) a little extreme/out of control at times. During this exercise I would spend all week thinking up different lies. Perfecting the stories that I’ve already created based on the questions that people asked me. Then I started using my own (real) name. Then I realized how stupid (sorry, Deva) I was because I lived a lie.

So a bucket list was created. And then carried out.

As Leeds and I kick up our heels to the Charleston, I think back to the last time I danced like this (at the Bogo “morale event” 10 days post-typhoon) and smile. Leeds asks me if I’ve been to Korea- and I tell him “No. But North Korea is in 2016.”

And my bucket list gets longer.

Moral of the story: As the cliche goes: “fake it until you make it”.

Advertisements

I love looking through my passport. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine- seeing the stamps and visas that I’ve collected, remembering all the boarder crossings that I’ve walked through, fruit/veg check points that I’ve lied my way past and random light-hearted (or bawling) conversations I’ve had with the customs officials.

I remember the time I was stuck at the Costa Rica boarder trying so hard to figure out what to do. The lack of signs made me think I had already gone through the line, only to be turned around at a random check point and told I had to walk back and get stamped in.

I cried a lot that day.

My Canadian work visa is a constant reminder of one of my biggest failures and hardest lessons of my life. I found a stamp for February 2008 and was transported back to leaving “short crunch” (90+hours a week) to go to NYC because my (step) grandma had died. I wasn’t so sad about her death as I was about my Grandpa. Widowed twice- both after 29 years of marriage- the first was my name-sake and I had never met her. I remember seeing him and having lunch at the deli right by his apartment. He and I didn’t have a great bond as I rarely got to spend time with just him- but sitting across from him, that day, I saw all of the familiar mannerisms that my dad uses: using humor to pass off his sadness or to try to not talk about difficult things by diverting the conversation to mundane topics like “how about dem Yankees?” . I tried so hard to have a deep and emotional with my Grandpa that day- to try to get to know him (what was he like? What did he think about? What was his favorite color? His favorite ice-cream flavor? What games did he play growing up?)

But nothing I tried worked- which just reminded me more of the big epic failure I had waiting for me back in Canada (my job).

Months of frustration and no sleep resulted in me getting fired from that job- which was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Years later, during my Grandpa’s shiva, I had this moment of clarity where I couldn’t be in that industry anymore- Working one last contract, I managed to save enough to set off on my travels.

The Vietnamese visa reminds me of trying to check into my flight in the glorious Singapore Airport for Ho Chi Minh City, only to realize that I had to pre-apply for a visa. (My hair had become more blonde during my trek through the middle of Australian Outback and the only defense I have is that it must have been a blonde moment thinking I was exempt from getting a Vietnamese visa before boarding the plane.) Luckily! I could apply online (with the expedited 50$ fee!) and receive my visa at HCMC’s airport.

The .35$ Saigon Greens made up for it in the end.

I have 3 “fake” stamps. One for the Galapagos, one for Machu Picchu and a shark stamp. The shark stamp I received at the Houston Aquarium when a little kid asked me for my passport. I have it to him and he stamped it with a shark stamp. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there was a special “shark stamp passport” that you could get that the curio shop and the stamps were to mark all the different sharks that existed in the Gulf.

Now, having a fake stamp is kinda illegal. If you meet a hard-ass-no-fun official he could decline you entry/exit and then you’re basically hosed. This fear came when I was at the Copenhagen Airport trying to leave for my flight to Dublin. He turned to the page with the shark, pointed and grunted. I sighed and started to explain the story of the little kid and the aquarium. He rolled his eyes in this “stupid Americans!” way, stamped that page and off I went!

I’ve never had another problem with it since then.

Then there was the time when the bus was told to not make any conversation with the custom officials at the Namibia boarder because they were notoriously skeptical of American foreigners and may hold up the whole group. The day before I had gone zip-lining in Vic falls and had sharpie marker symbols on my hand. The customs official asked me about it.

“Oh, I went zip-lining. They wrote this on my hand as proof of payment or something.”

“Was it fun?”

“Hell yea it was fun!”

“Weren’t you scared?”

“You know the feeling you get when you like a boy and you think he’s going to kiss you- but you aren’t sure. And then you do? You know that feeling in your stomach- we call it butterflies. That scared feeling and then the thrill of excitement? It’s like that.”

She just smiled, stamped my passport and let me go.

The rest of the bus, behind me, just shook their heads, in complete disbelief that I:
A) disobeyed orders by having an actual conversation with the official and
B) that I just compared zip-lining to kissing a boy.

I stand by my statement and regret nothing.

So, basically, my passport is my greatest souvenir that I could have. A constant reminder of how much money I’ve invested on travel and small memories of specific times in my life.

I went to a few areas in Peru: Lima, Cusco (Machu Picchu) and Arequipa (Colca Canyon). All are lovely as are the people and the food is out of this world. My whole time in Peru was based on hiking/trekking/outdoor-stuff. With that said, I will tell you briefly of Lima and then do a compare/contrast between Colca Canyon and Machu Picchu as far as places to go hiding after Z-day:

Lima is a great city. Here are the things that surprised me the most about it:

1) It looks like Europe. I guess it’s an old Spanish colony, so I shouldn’t have been TOO surprised, but the architecture did surprise me in how beautiful and ornate it (still) was.

2) The economy of selling STUFF is unbelieveable. If you wanted pencil erasers, there was a guy selling those. If you wanted small pink rulers, there was a guy selling those, too. If you wanted a blue ruler, there was a different guy selling those. If you wanted plastic made-in-china-anything, there was a whole mercado dedicated to it with alcoves upon nooks and crannies dedicated to everything and anything you could ever possibly imagine.

TL;DR: If you want to get cheap knock-offs for cheap- go to Lima.

With that said- I did have amazing Cerveche here, and Pisco sours. If you are unaware (as I was), Peru is second to France in the number of “fancy 5-star food” dishes that they have available to the public. I was skeptical, but the only “bad food” I had was while on the treks, which I’ll describe later.

Later:

I flew from Lima to Cusco (mainly because a 1-hour flight was 92$ and the bus was 74$ and took 24+ hours. I may be self-employed, but my time is still valuable!) Once I got to Cusco, I was bound and determined to not get altitude sickness like I did in Quito and went for a 6k run. It took me over an hour– and I was tired, but I felt good. This proved to be a great idea- because I wasn’t nearly as tired as I was in Quito. I think the Coca tea also helped. (Gift from the gawds, I tell you!)

The Inca Trail tour (Cost 450+$usd) was all booked up for months, so I went on the Salkatay tour (cost 230$USD) which is MORE HARD CORE and WAY BETTER, imo. 5 days, 4 nights of trekking on uneven ground which the farmers now use to get live-stock/goods across the Andes to the various villages. We camped, ate simple food, ascended to 4,650meters above sea-level, woke up to roosters, hiked about 20k a day and I made some amazing friends.

Machu Picchu (59/70)  just as amazing as you would imagine. Or maybe you don’t know much about it- so that’s why you’re here… It’s a city where the Incas lived, high in the mountains, far from everyone else. The city was beautifully built out of rocks that were carved BY OTHER ROCKS and then SANDED BY ROCKS until they were smooth. Take the time to read that sentence again. Keep in mind they had no dynamite or sand-paper, no wheel and no iron/metal tools. This was 1100AD. All they had were pissed off Gods that they had to give sacrifices to, coca, chocolate, llamas and rocks. Oh yea, they didn’t even have donkeys at this time… Those were introduced by the Spanish. All the rocks were “harvested” out of the mountain and carried by either men or weak-ass llamas (who can only carry up to 50kilos).


Ok- moving on. Waynapicchu (is another mountain that over-looks Machu Picchu. This is actually the safer of the 2 places because it’s a higher mountain and has SOME structures that are left over. It’s also kinda difficult to get up to because the rocks and trail is strenuous for people with brains, let alone those without. (In the picture below- Wayna Picchu is the mountain peaking up on the right).

 

The location of WaynaPicchu is fantastic. 10/10. It doesn’t get too cold or too hot. Machu PIcchu has all the available means to do agriculture that held a civilization there for 300+ years. (9/10) There is plenty of water that falls during the rainy season, as well as natural springs. (10/10) The lodging is rustic, but could be adapted for common-day use. You need to replace the thatched roofs every 5 years, but your house can withstand the great tests of time, including earth-quakes! (9/10) There is not a lot of civilization. Aqua Caliente (a town named after a nearby hot-spring) is super touristy, but that means goods (like some of the best damn hot-chocolate ever!). It’s down the mountain, but probably has enough “stuff” that would tide anyone over during the apocalypse. (Except guns… I didn’t see any guns. Doesn’t mean that the farmers don’t have them, though….) 7/10. Non-dead dangers would include things the ruthless mosquitos, poisonous spiders and altitude sickness. Not too shabby over-all. (7/10) The locals speak Quechua and Spanish- but most of them speak a little English (enough to communicate with tourists). Quechua is a dying language, sadly, but their customs are not. They are kind and proud people of the Inca who still weave their own cloth, sing their own folk tunes and know how to convince the land to grow crops. (7/10)

 

(picture below shows the view of Machu Picchu FROM Wayna Picchu).

Colca Canyon is also a great place to go during z-day. If you travel south (8 hours by bus) to the big city of Arequipa you can get on another bus (for 3 hours) to the Canyon.

Be careful of local buses, though, because they tend to go off the side of the cliff often.

The canyon is the deepest canyon in the western hemisphere. It’s pretty desert-like, with not a lot of natural springs (but some!) and an impressive river at the bottom. The river is full during the rainy season (Jan-March) but starts to run dry after that.

From the canyon, you can drive up to summits of 4,900 and hike up volcanos (where the Incas held most of their sacrifices to the Gods). There aren’t many permanent structures here, but they do have a great vantage point.

 

(this trek was brought to you by Troy Meat Shop)