Ah, Peru. Land of llamas, mountains, condors, Incas, and coldness. What can I say about you?
Well...a lot, actually.
Probably too much. It's been a few months since Nathaniel and I got back from Peru, so I've had sufficient time to condense the experience into something bloggable...barely. We'll hit only the highlights here, and goodness knows there are enough of those! Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I'll let them do most of the talking.
So, without further ado, here is the first of the Peru 2009 highlights...
Highlight #1 - Lares Trail: 3-day Trek through the Andes to Machu Picchu
If I could have chosen one thing to last longer on our trip, it would have been this. You can visit cities all you want, but there's something special about getting out away from the tourist-trodden path. It's like you learn what makes up the heart of the country. And the heart of Peru is indescribably breathtaking/amazing/glorious/majestic/resilient/magnificent/stunning/wonderful.
Allow me to describe what this trek was like. 'Trek' is an appropriate word for this adventure. It doesn't do it justice to call it merely a 'hike.' My friend Tanya and I prepped months in advance for this by hiking all around the Vegas valley every Monday. I was SO grateful we did that, because I think (or, rather, know) it really helped a lot.
We had the most awesome tour guide in the entire universe! His name was Isaac and he was a huge part of what made this so enjoyable. He called us "champions" the entire time and was super supportive, and hilarious to boot! This is him in the yellow shirt. Half of our group's jokes from this trip were inspired by Isaac's awesomeness. He was the best!
We had originally planned on doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. That's the really famous one that everyone and their dog goes on (and there were definitely a lot of dogs...everywhere in Peru). I read up on it online and everyone talked about how challenging it is and how you have to train months in advance to do the Inca Trail. Well, the permits for that trail were sold out by the time we decided to do a trek, so we signed up for the Lares Trek. We were eating lunch on the first day, and discovered that the Lares Trek is actually MORE difficult than the Inca Trail. Surprise! Yeah, thanks for that one Isaac... Apparently, the Inca Trail goes over only one mountain pass, and on the Lares Trail, we conquered three! And all of them were well over 14,000 feet! Just to put it in perspective, the Grand Teton's peak is at just over 13,000 feet. And these were the passes! The peaks in the Andes were much higher than that. Talk about majestic...The Lares Trail also passes through some Incan villages. Here the people still farm, herd llamas and alpacas, and live in stone huts. It was absolutely eye-opening. These people have so little and are humble and meek, yet know how to take care of what they do have. What a valuable lesson for we who have possibly too much.
A few other things about the Lares Trail:
- The food was INCREDIBLE!!! We had a few chefs that went with us and cooked gourmet meals on the trail. I don't know if it was because we were burning calories like crazy, but I don't think food has tasted so delicious to me as it did those few days. I'm salivating now just thinking about it...
- I also don't think I have ever been colder in my life than nights spent on the Lares Trek. August in South America is the end of the dry season (which is just a nice way of saying 'winter'). It. Was. Cold. Understatement of the year. I thought I would be fine the first night. I put on layers and bundled up in my mummy bag...and froze...literally. (Okay, maybe not literally. I just wanted you to feel the coldness.) Good thing I was also exhausted. I managed to get a little sleep. I learned my lesson though. The next night I had on my long johns, sweats, three pairs of socks, t-shirt, long-sleeved t-shirt, windbreaker, polar fleece, alpaca wool sweater, scarf, hat, and mittens. Yeah, that was enough...barely...
- I love the Andes. They are some of the most... (again, words fail me) ...mountains I've ever seen. It had been a dream of mine to visit the Andes ever since I was a kid watching "In Search of the Castaways" with Hayley Mills. Plus, I love Andes mints. Now that I've been there, I pray someday that I can go back and spend more time in them. It was a journey I'll never forget.
(Cheesy, I know, but whatcha gonna do?)
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