Ukyaykusun Peru !!

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Machu Picchu Ruins @ Sunrise

Peruvian people are proud of the INCA heritage. The local language during INCA times was Quechua. Most of the Peruvians speak Quechua and Spanish. It is amazing that the language is only a spoken dialect. There is no written form. It is even more amazing that it is passed along from generations to generations without any record keeping. “Ukyaykusun” means Cheers in Quechua language. “Pachamama” – Mother Earth is the Peruvian Goddess, literal translation Mother World. Pachamama is the provider. They worship and respect everything that comes out of the Earth. At the start of a drinking session, you spill some drink on the ground: “To the Pachamama” and then Ukyaykusun (Cheers)!!

Peru is an amazing country and the People are equally amazing. “Minimalistic” is my word to define the Culture. They believe in not using more than required, and in today’s day and age, with so many options around us, it is admirable that the Peruvians are living a minimalistic life. I wonder if it is lack of exposure or if it is a matter of choice. Either way, it is hard to believe. The locals all seemed to be satisfied with what they have. They figured out ways to be happy and smiling. Everyone I remember talking to on my trip was smiling and in a  good mood and of course very helpful. We didn’t feel like we were cheated or ripped by the locals. Given that it is a poor country, it is amazing that people are so Honest. The Cab Drivers, local Guides, souvenir sellers, none of them were overwhelming. Another great thing about the people was respect of being on time. Everything runs on time. Given the not-so-modern infrastructure, it is impressive that Peruvians have a strong sense of time.

Day 1:

We reached Lima late at night. We had decided to just camp on the Airport overnight before our early morning flight to Cusco the next day. We found a relatively quiet spot and camped for the night. The Flights all run on time unless there is a bad weather warning. So, please ignore the forums that claim the flights get cancelled for less booking. It happens but is uncommon. Lima Airport is clean and big. Several places to get food (American chain Restaurants like Starbucks, McDonalds, etc.)

We reached Cusco around 9ish in the morning. The Hotel staff came to pick us up at the Airport. We stayed at Hotel Terra Andina. I highly recommend the Hotel. The staff was very courteous and the service was excellent. The Breakfast was fresh and yummy. We stayed at Terra Andina for 2 nights and came back to spend another night after our Salkantay Trek.

We met with our Guide and Driver at around 11AM and started our tour. The first day we went to: Chinchero – Maray – Maras (Salineras) – Ollantaytambo.

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Colorful Weaver’s market of Chinchero

Chinchero:

It is a small town with INCA ruins, a church and vendors selling knitted handicrafts. Some families have their shops in the front porch of their houses. We went to the Ruins and then to a House where a little girl gave us a demonstration on how they prepare the wool for Knitting. Clean, Dye (natural plant dyes), thread and Knit. After the demo, they will try and sell you goods. In our experience the market at Chinchero was the most expensive. You will find everything you see in this place everywhere else as well. WE made a mistake of buying a cap in Chinchero, only to discover that the same stuff is sold for much cheaper rates everywhere else. Don’t shop in Chinchero at all. For that matter, if you are pressed on time and have to decide on which place to drop, DROP Chinchero. Out of all the places we went to, Chinchero was my least favorite and in my opinion, least beautiful. The guides will tell you otherwise, but don’t drop anything else. Chinchero is probably a repeat of the INCA ruins that you will see plenty of in all of the INCA region.

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Corn Field of Maray

Maray:

Maray is the Corn field experimentation center of the INCA. It is beautiful. It is mind-blowing to see that centuries old culture was so calculated and scientific. Definitely go to Maray. If time permits, I would highly recommend trekking to the bottom.

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salt Fields of Maras

Maras-Salineras:

Maras are the Salt Pans called Salineras. It is one of the oldest Salt fields from the INCA times. People from the village of Maras own sections of the salt fields which they use for mining salt from the natural spring water. It is a wonderful site. Highly recommend going to Maras Salineras. You will see farmers working on their tiny field all over the place. If is a little bit of a climb down to the salt mines.

On our way, we stopped at a Potato farm. Ate baked Potatoes. The farmers dig a hole and put wood and potatoes in it and lit the wood with fire and let it burn to coal before closing the hole with mud. They wait till the potatoes are baked. The earth baked potatoes taste earthy and smoked. They also make local Farm brewed Beer using corn. It was a great experience to talk to the Farmers and click pictures.

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Street performers at Olly

Ollantaytambo:

The INCA ruins at Ollantaytambo are a famous tourist attraction. We reached late so didn’t get a chance to explore the entire place. The ruins were the most crowed with tourist out of all the other places we had been to. Ollantaytambo is a great little town with good Restaurants and some street shopping. We ate at Hearts Café. Highly recommend.

The drive back from Ollantaytambo back to Cusco in the night is not as much fun. The roads are all dirt roads and there is barely any street lights. It is not unsafe, but if it is avoidable, don’t make this drive at night time.

Day 2:

It was a Sunday and we wanted to hit the Pisac Ruins and Pisac Sunday market.

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Trek through the Pisac ruins

We hired a Taxi for a half day trip. We started around 10ish after Breakfast. One tip, make sure to eat a good breakfast. It is hard to time the rest of the day. Even if you have a list of Restaurants in different places you plan to visit, it is difficult to keep the planned times. We ended up spending more time in each place than originally planned. We went to Pisac ruins. We did not do the entire hike to the Intipinku (sun temple) due to time restrictions. We made it half way and back. I highly recommend going to the Pisac ruins.

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Colorful Pisac Sunday Market

The Pisac Sunday market is colorful and lively. It was a great to shop for local handicrafts. We roamed the market for a few hours and then ate at the Blue Llama Restaurant overlooking the Market.

Back to Cusco around 6ish. We had our orientation scheduled for the Salkantay Trek starting the next day.

We went to Map Café for Dinner, one of the most popular and highly rated Restaurants in the region. I recommend making Reservations. It is not too packed, but they are kind of sticky about making reservations. Highly recommend the Desserts.

Day 3:

Day One of the Salkantay Trek !!

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Beautiful Valley views – Salkantay Trek

We booked our 4 Days / 3 Night Salkantay Trek with www.salkantay.org

First day of Hiking was the hardest. Given that we were not at all used to the elevation. There is a steady increase in the elevation throughout the hike.

First night, camped at the base of the Salkantay Mountain. It was breathtakingly beautiful. The mountain is a tower above all the surrounding mountains and stands out. It is snow covered and glows in the Moon and the star light. The sky had numerous stars glowing and the temperature was subzero. We were freezing in the night despite of the 4 layers of clothing and the mummy sleeping bag. It was hard to be outside of the tent and harder to not be outside and miss the beauty. It was a unforgettable view.

Day 4:

Day Two of the Salkantay Trek – Summit day – 4900 meters. YAY !!

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Salkantay Trek summit. :)

The hike was the hardest of all the hikes I have been on so far. The physical fitness was one aspect and the lung capacity was another one. We chewed on the Cocoa leaves all through the hike up the elevation which worked like magic. Cocoa leaves juice apparently opens up your lungs (expands) and helps you get acclimatized and breath in the thin air. It was a wonderful feeling of achievement to summit the highest point of our Salkantay trek.

The way down was a killer. Definitely need stronger knees.

We camped at a Camp site with a real Toilet. Double YAY !!

Day 5:

Day Three of the Salkantay trek.

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With our Guide.

Took a Bus to the Santa Teresa Hot water Springs. Water/Bath/Soak after 3 Days, Awesome feeling.

The dip in the Santa Teresa Hot Spring is highly recommended. It is located near the flowing/gushing river and beautiful mountain views. Try and go midday as it gets crowded during the morning and evening hours. It is a well maintained Hot Spring. Very clean rest area, bathrooms and showers.

Day 6:

Day Four of the Salkantay trek – Machu Picchu – Wayna Picchu

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MP

We reached early in the morning before Sunrise and caught the Sunrise over the mountains surrounding MP. The first rays of sun illuminating the ruins was a scene to die for. It was amazingly beautiful. Serene and quite in the middle of the Tourist commotion. It takes your breath away. Feels like you want to itch the beauty in your memory and never forget the peace.

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view from WP

It takes about an entire day to look at the MP ruins and go up the Wayna Picchu. The panoramic views from the top of the Wayna Picchu are amazing. It is hard to not use the word “Amazing” in every other sentence to describe Machu Picchu.

We took a train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo and bus from Ollantaytambo back to Cusco – 1 Night stay at Terra Andina – Fly to Puerto Maldonado next day morning after Breakfast.

Day 7:

Wasai Eco Lodge

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Wasai Eco Lodge

We were met with the Wasai lodge guide at the airport who took us to the Lodge in Puerto Maldonado. There is a boat ride of about 30 Mins. or so to get to the Wasai Eco Lodge in the Jungle. We were booked for a 4 Days / 3 Nights tour and stay with the Wasai Lodge.

Day 8:

Day tours, relaxing, eating, night tours.

It was a fun adventure day with some relaxing.

Day 9:

We got back to Puerto Maldonado in the morning. After lunch left for the Lake Sandoval boat tour.

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Sandoval lake

The Lake has a lot of swamp areas surrounding it. The boat ride was fun thought he sun was very strong. We saw some beautiful Butterflies, tortoises, and Sea Otters.

We wanted to try the Ayuwascha. The Wasai lodge set up the session with a local Shaman. We were picked up from the lodge at late evening and we went to the Shaman’s house for the session. It was a very unusual experience. I am working on writing/describing it. :)

Day 10:

Next day morning we left Puerto Maldonado after Breakfast to get to Lima

Spend almost a Day in Lima. We deposited our luggage at the Airport holding service and took a cab to Miraflores. Ate lunch around there and then went to the Indian Market. This is the best place to shop in all of Peru.

Lima definitely needs more than a day to explore. It is a fun city with lots to do. Due to limitations of time, we were not able to go around Lima. Next time.

Took a flight to get back to Austin at night.

In summary:

4640m –> 15223 feet climb, Machu Picchu, Wayna Picchu, Amazonia, Loads of Laundry and a Cockroach (jumping out of the Suitcase) LATER…I suffered from withdrawal symptoms…I miss you Peru…And Definitely Heart You !!

Additional Pictures of Cusco!

Additional Pictures of Salkantay Trek !

Additional Pictures of MP !

Additional Pictures of Puerto Maldonado !

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