Monthly Archives: March 2015

peru part two: the amazon


Let me start off by saying that the Amazon is not a kind place. FAR from kind. It’s a hot, humid home for insects the size of your face, animals that want to eat you and muggy water infested with who-knows-what kind of parasites. With that being said, I firmly believe that every human should experience a night in the Amazon jungle. It quickly puts a lot of things into perspective…


It reminds you that comfort is a luxury that many of us take for granted. A shower (hot or freezing cold) is a blessing straight from heaven. A bed is still a bed if it’s a simple foam pad surrounded by a mosquito net. Already-purified water with ice cubes (non existent in Peru) is quite possibly a form of gold….


And last but not least, there is a lot to be learned from silence.

If you ever need time and a quiet place to sit and contemplate life for hours–uninterrupted and completely alone–I suggest making a trek to the Amazon jungle. Just bring your deet!


Let me rewind.

After our return from the Salkantay Trek Patrick and I took a night bus from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado—a little town on the border of the Amazon. *Note to self: NEVER, ever, EVER take a night bus to anywhere. We thought it was a brilliant idea. We’d leave at 9 pm, save money on a hostel for the night, and sleep our peaceful way to the Amazon. Turns out it’s pretty dang hard to sleep when a maniac driver is hauling around tight corners and windy mountain roads. Oh, and it gets better…

We dozed off. I woke up around midnight and the bus wasn’t moving. It was stuffy, stinky and it felt like it was 105 degrees inside the bus. I was surrounded by snoring, farting Latinos and it felt like we were slowly running out of air. When my claustrophobia started to get unbearable, I woke Pat up, and we left the bus. We realized we were in a line of parked buses on the side of the road. There had been a mudslide ahead, and we were stuck waiting until 6 am when someone would come clear it. This meant we had six hours of waiting in that prison of a bus…

We just couldn’t face the stink bus for six more hours. So, we got our blankets (why do they always give you blankets that barely cover your knees?) and made a little nest in the road. Yup. The ultimate test of pride—we slept in the street. (Don’t tell my mom).


I know, way flattering photo right?

You see homeless people “sleeping in the streets,” but do you ever stop to think about how it actually feels to sleep on asphalt? I’ll tell you how if feels so you don’t have to wonder anymore. Asphalt is hard and cold. Not comfortable. Not even close to comfortable. But in that exhausted moment, I was honestly just grateful to have a crappy blanket and some cold asphalt for a bed.


We finally made it. But heck, that was just the beginning of our journey. From Porto Maldonado we took an hour boat ride down a river, then hiked through ankle-deep mud for another hour and a half.





We then had to take a canoe across a giant croc-infested lake to where we’d be staying that night. The canoe ride lasted an eternity. The sun was BRUTAL. It beat down on us, frying our exposed skin, and the humidity made it almost hard to breath. But, after an hour of painfully slow progress with one wooden oar, we made it.


Home sweet home.


We were served an authentic lunch of rice, chicken and egg cooked in a leaf, then went on a (very muddy) hike through the jungle and saw some incredible wildlife. Trees that were more than 500 years old, turtles, monkeys, tarantulas, giant butterflies and even some jaguar footprints.


Ok, let’s talk about the outfit I have going here…lookin good said no one ever when talking about a $3 Hollywood shirt bought from a shop in Peru, stretchy pants, rubber boots and a Dora the Explorer hat. Mmm hmmm, the Amazon brings out my best look I think. 😉


It’s not uncommon to find anacondas swimming around in those marshes. We didn’t see any, but talk about p-a-r-a-n-o-i-d.


The inside of this butterfly is bright blue. The outside is supposed to resemble an owl’s eye on one half, and a snake head on the other. Pretty cool.


Headless turtle?


Those roots though…


Jaguar footprints. FRESH jaguar footprints.


By this point, the heat was really starting to get to me I think…


I learned a lot from our two days in the Amazon. It’s a brutal but beautiful place, and I’m incredibly grateful we had the chance to experience it.



Before we left Peru, we got to explore Cusco and the surrounding countryside a little bit. I’m so glad we did, because it’s a darling place with lots to see and lots to explore. We rented a motor scooter and spent the day cruisin through the rain.


Just look at that smokin husband of mine…

handsoutIMG_1599viewrockonviws rocks

OK hello there Hunchback of Notre Dame.

moto struggle balance jump

Thanks Peru, you’ve been good to us.

peru part one: the salkantay trail


Patrick and I recently spent two weeks in Peru.


Traveling out of the country is never easy, especially when you have a six-hour layover in the worst airport EVER for layovers…Hello Mexico City with your tile floors, permanent armrests, and custodians who don’t think any human should ever be allowed to sleep in the airport. Ever.


But it’s always worth the struggle. And this time didn’t disappoint. People, if you’ve never been to Peru, PUT IT ON YOUR MUST-VISIT LIST. Like, at the tippity tip top of your list. There is so much to do, eat, see and experience…

We knew we wanted to do a trek while we were there. We’d heard the Andes mountain range is gorgeous, and we wanted to experience it first-hand. We originally planned to do the Inca Trial, which ends in Machu Picchu. However, after some research, we realized there might be a better alternative to the $500 (each!) price of hiking the Inca, and we wouldn’t be required to go in a big group. Pat and I kind of like to do things our own way…we weren’t really feelin the whole school-group tour of the Andes. Lucky for us, we discovered the Salkantay Trail; a 5-day trek you can do for free, with no guide and it supposedly had even prettier views than the Inca. SIGN US UP.

DAY 1: We took a truck up a windy, dirt road for about two hours. And when I say we took a truck, I mean we sat in the back of a truck on some plastic chairs that weren’t very good at sitting still…


As we wound our way up and up, the landscape just got prettier. By the time we got to our base camp for the night, I was in a daze—it was amazing to actually be there, in the middle of a country that’s so incredibly beautiful.


This was home the first night.

After we dropped off our gear in the huts, we took a short (but STEEP) two hour hike to a high-altitude lake. It was SO worth the climb.




This lake was in the middle of nowhere—we were in complete solitude, and THAT WATER. Wow.

We had the perfect set up for our trek. Instead of paying a company $1,000 to guide us along with 20 other people, we stayed at huts and cabins along the way using Air BnB, which was much cheaper. The hosts fed us every meal, including packed lunches for the trail. Gotta love lunch in a tupper.




Day 2: We woke up to this view…


Within an hour, it had turned to this view…



And so we began the longest day of hiking I have every experienced. In the beginning it felt like we were hiking through the Shire from Lord of the Rings. Everything was so green and hilly. There were cows grazing and a bubbling creek had carved a winding trail through the grass. Gorgeous.




This is Patrick trying to bribe a cow with a dandelion. Sometimes I wonder…




Before long, we noticed the landscape became dusted with a light layer of snow. As we climbed up and up, things got a little soggier. Everyone we ran into on the trail seemed to be wearing those big bulky hiking boots that are supposed to survive a hurricane without getting wet. Yaaaa, we’d really planned well for the snow with our water shoes, complete with tiny holes for the freezing snow water to move freely around our toes. It was a cold few hours to say the least…


snowie snow

So it turns out altitude sickness is a real thing, people. Say what?! While we were hiking, our fingers, toes and lips kept going numb and tingly. We kept having to take “breathing breaks,”and we were hiking at the pace of 80-year-old women. By the time we got to the top of the pass, we were at 15,000 feet, and pretty light-headed. But we had conquered the Salkantay Pass, and thanks to our Diamox (altitude sickness pills) we were still alive!



As we hiked down the other side of the pass, the scenery began to change back to “green hills of the shire.” After a few more hours, somehow it had changed to Jurrasic Park land, and then to Amazon jungle. What country were we in again?? Within 10 hours of hiking, we’d gone through five different micro-climates with insanely diverse landscapes.



By the end of the day, we could barely walk. The high altitude made our muscles more sore than usual, and we were starting to feel the affects of hiking hard for 10 hours straight (with AWFUL head colds too). We fell asleep at 8 p.m. and didn’t budge for 12 hours…

Day 3: More hiking, actually I should say limping–I’ve never been so sore in my life. We got to a little town called Santa Teresa where we spent the night soaking our sore muscles in some natural hot springs.

Day 4: We hiked along a railroad all morning.


Eventually we made it to Aguas Calientes, which is basically a hub for Machu Picchu tourists. Despite it’s touristyness (ya, I questioned that word too…) it’s a cute little town nestled into the jungle. We had the afternoon to relax and recuperate, so we took FULL advantage. Another hot spring soak and an hour-long massage (for $15!) made a world of difference for our exhausted bodies.

*Bit of advice:

1) If you ever soak in the Aguas Calientes’ hot springs, go at night. We made the mistake of going during the day, and let me tell you, the water was the color of root-beer. Not to mention all the little black hairs swirling around the latino bodies in the pool. Mmm hmm. Just take my word for it…go at night when it’s real dark and try not to think about what you’re soaking in.

2) Eat at Indio Feliz. It’s the strangest, but most delicious restaurant. The best part is that it’s more Americanized, which means you can actually eat the fresh vegetables and drink the water without wondering if you’ll be puking all night. Yippee for salad when you’ve been eating fried chicken and rice for two weeks!



Day 5: Phewww. Are you bored yet? If you’ve lasted this long, congratulations to you. Our journey along the Salkantay is almost over.

We took an early bus to Machu Picchu so we could hike Wayna Pichhu before all the crowds descended. Wayna Picchu is listed as one of the world’s top 10 most dangerous hikes, and I can see why. The Incans carved a steep trail all the way up, so we climbed steep, skinny steps for an hour straight until we reached the top. Those Incans must have been in kick-butt shape to do that hike everyday.




After four days of solitude along the trail, the crowds at Machu Picchu were a little overwhelming. But it was still a mind-blowing experience–how did those people built such a massive city of stone with no power tools or giant trucks? Props to you, Incas.

machu pichu

*Pause–you can now laugh at my Dora the Explorer hat…sunburns from hiking at 15,000 feet wiped out any sense of fashion whatsoever. #priorities.


That’s real fear on my face. That llama wanted my fingers for lunch I tell you.


What an incredible adventure. From what we saw of it, Peru is a stunning country filled with amazing people and places. Lucky for us, the Salkantay Trek was just the beginning.

Our next stop: the Amazon! Eeek.