The First Month Lowdown
OK let me preface this post by saying- a few days ago, while on a 19 hour overnight bus journey, I spent around 3 hours writing a Peru/first month recap. Something went terribly wrong, and for reasons I’d rather not discuss, my post never saved.
This is a touchy subject for me- but I will try my best to rewrite this post, while staying positive.
As I write this, I sit in a fabulous “boutique” hostel in Guayaquil, Ecuador. I mean this place feels like The Ritz (if I knew what that felt like), compared to half the places I stayed in Peru. The hostel or “guesthouse” occupies 3 floors of a building in downtown Guayaquil, overlooking “Malecon,” an expansive stretch of boardwalk along a river, with lovely little parks, statues, fountains, ice cream venders and lookout towers.
My guesthouse has an incredibly chill vibe with cool tile floors, lantern lighting, hammocks, unique Galapagos themed art work, and chaise lounge chairs with throw pillows. I’m sharing a 4-person dorm room with 2 other solo female travellers (both seem very cool); we are treated with fluffy towels (Hallelujah!), free filtered drinking water (first place to offer this in a month), comfy beds and a clean and modern bathroom. The cost of all this? …just $11 🙂 thank god for cheap thrills.
After my whirlwind of a month in Peru, this place is exactly what I needed.
The day by day breakdown:
May 5- Depart Chicago
May 6- Crazy layover in Panama; followed by flight to Lima
May 6-11; explored Lima with friends I made on layover, Anna joined me on the 9th. Ate lots of excellent food.
May 11-12: Took a night bus to Nazca, Hiked and sandboarded down the largest sand dune in the world; visited a local festival, drank wine with a Peruvian family in a lively plaza; hopped the night bus to Cuzco.
May 12-17; Explored Cuzco; visited ruins by horseback, went dancing, wandered the ancient streets.
May 17-20: 5 day/4night spectacular Salkantay trek
May 21: Spent an entire day marvelling at the wonder of the world that is Machu Picchu.
May 22-23: Joined a couple Brazilians and a Norwegian I met on the trek at a quant hilltop hostel overlooking the city; recovered by cooking meals in the hostel kitchen and relaxed by camp fire on the lawn.
May 24: grabbed a 12-hour tour of the Sacred Valley, followed by 10 hour overnight bus journey to Arequipa.
May 25-27: Explored the beautiful streets, parks, and plazas of Arequipa. Ate the exceptional food (and a few of the best desserts I’ve ever consumed). Visited a hopping dance club at 3 PM in the afternoon.
May 28-29; Full day tour of Colca Canon. Saw 9 condors at one time. Incredible. Grabbed a 19-hour night bus to Lima, arriving at 5pm the following day.
May 29-30; stayed the night in Lima (one more phenomenal sandwich at La Lucha), 11 AM flight to Ecuador.
Hours spent on Buses:
Roughly 70 hours
Number of different beds slept in (over 27 days of travel):
About 20 (this is tricky, because 1-2 nights I barely slept at all, 3 nights were on buses, 4 were in a tent/sleeping bag
5 days of weird stomach/altitude problems, 4 days with head cold & cough. Nothing too depilating.
Total Cost of about 1 Month in Peru: $1467 (and this includes everything- accommodation & food, tours, treks & gear, laundry & water, Boleto de Touristicos (2 different times at about US$30 each) bus rides, and even my plane ticket to Lima). I anticipate this may be one of my most expensive countries. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Average Total Daily Cost: (excludes plane ticket) around $39
Biggest Expense: Machu Picchu, which I got at a bargain price of $260 (but took out an additional $200 to buy pre trip randoms and to spend along the way). Totally worth every penny and more.
Transportation: Considering all the overnight bus trips we took, we barely broke $100 paying for all of them.
Lodging: I didn’t keep the best track of this–but we rarely spent more than US $7-10 per night on a hostel. My most expensive room in Peru was about $12. We spent the majority of nights in hostel dorms.
Money= I got all my cash from ATMS; which most commonly dispense in amounts of 50s and more likely 100 sol bills. Almost no vender accepts anything larger than a 20, because nobody EVER has change. This made actually spending money/paying for things very challenging.
Bathroom= There seems be a national shortage of toilet seats in Peru, and a law that says toilet paper must only be available for charge. This wasn’t a huge deal as I have no problem “squatting” and I just got used to carrying around my own TP. But there were several awkward instances where I was caught in the wrong place with no TP, or no toilet at all. Yikes (see: lowest point)
I’ve also had to just squat and pee in some strange places- a woodsy area of Machu Picchu (there are NO bathrooms on the premises- what do they expect), a kitchen sink (haha, again see: lowest point), several bushes, behind a crate at a train station, etc. As they say, when you got to go- you got to go.
I couldn’t live without my:
iPod Touch- True, my travels would be more “pure and authentic” without it (i.e. I’d be more lost), but I’ve gotten so much use out of this little fellow, and it’s been the source of entertainment and resource- I’m not sure what I’d do without it. I can check my email, facebook, bank accounts/finances etc. I can take pictures or video. I can check my location on google maps and find out how far I am from hotspots or my next hostel- and get directions. I used it to use Skype to call my credit card company and tell them I was in a new country, and then to find and get the address to the high rated hostel I now find myself in. I used it to Facetime call my sister in law; in which she used it to show me her growing belly, and some miniature clothes for the baby girl that will soon emerge. I use it right now along with an amazing bluetooth keyboard to type this blog post…In fact, just two seconds ago a british girl walked by and exclaimed in a very British way, “Are you using that keyboard thingy to type on your little iPhone- WOW- Technology these days”
Exoficio Underwear- I have 4 pairs of underwear, I’ve sent out laundry for cleaning twice in nearly 30 days, yet I am never wearing dirty underwear. A miracle, you ask?? Nope- just my Exoficio underwear. Wear it, wash it in the sink, dries perfectly overnight. Rotate, repeat. These bad boys have held up flawlessly, and show no signs of wear and tear. Simply amazing. The same can be said for the 3 merino shirts I own. A miracle fabric from God. I could wear the same shirt for days on end (and I basically have) and they hold absolutely no odor and won’t lose their shape. Smart wool and Icebreaker are my golden brands.
This is difficult to chose. There have been a few. Finally reaching Machu Picchu at sunrise was tough to beat. It wasn’t just that I had endured four amazing days of walking, climbing, sleeping amongst the mountains, and finally climbing thousands of steps; but it was the realization that after months of saving, working, planning, I felt that I had accomplished something much bigger.
Arriving back at my cold, lonely hostel after my 5 day Salkantay hike. I had taken just one shower over the past week, and slept on the cold ground all but one night. I was beyond exhausted, still a little sick, freezing cold and more than a tad grumpy. It was after 1 AM when I arrived and it appeared I was the only one staying at the hostel. I planned on staying for that night and leaving first thing in the morning to meet up with others. All I wanted to do was go to bed, however first I needed to pee like crazy (I had been trying to rehydrate all day) so I headed to the bathroom. For some unknown reason the door was locked (but with no one inside). There was no way I could go to sleep without emptying my bladder first- I very quickly scanned the vicinity for unlocked doors, another bathroom, an unsuspecting plant, empty bottles, etc. I was getting desperate. I saw the dingy kitchen, and then the dingy kitchen sink. It’s not hard to guess what happens next…
Yes, as I stood on the countertop, one foot planted on each side of the sink- squatting, I literally thought to myself, “Lindsay, this is your low point.”
But really, what else was I supposed to do?
FOOD! The amount of joy I’ve received from food in Peru has been immense. I’ve tasted things I’ve never tasted before and will likely never taste again. Anna and I sat in a restaurant in the Barranco neighborhood of Lima, and spent an hour savoring our meals in near silence–I ate a local dish called Aji de Gallina, and hers was a tender beef and bean dish of which I can’t recall the name. Both were indescribably good–creamy yet light, flavorful yet delicate, comforting foods.
I’ve eaten some of the best desserts I’ve ever had–mounds of homemade gelato, impossibly decadent chocolate cakes, moist tres leches tortes, perfect cheesecakes. It’s a good thing I spend most days in constant motion.
I’ve ordered seemingly common foods such as sandwiches or pizza, only to be surprised by new techniques or flavor combinations.
Strangely, I’ve also eaten some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had–homemade crusty breads, tender meats, creamy cheeses, spicy sauces, avocado, sautéed veggies, onions marinated in lime juice–in some combination–throw them together and you’re guaranteed an out of body eating experience 😉 I’m going through a bit of a sandwich obsession.
Don’t get me started on all the fresh squeezed juices and smoothies–available all over and everywhere for dirt cheap.
At times it’s been otherworldly–scary, spectacular mountain roads, rivers and waterfalls, and babbling brooks. Lush, green jungles, impossibly deep canons, impossibly high peaks; stark, sandy desserts as far as the eye can see, ocean views; jagged rocky moon landscapes. All in one country. All in one day. My camera is getting a workout.
Wow have I met some spectacular people. Inspiring people, fun people, fascinating people, highly motivated “super people,” local people, just plain bizarre people; incredibly knowledgable, and incredibly kind people. People from all corners of the globe.
The people you meet while traveling are special. I can’t wait to see who else I stumble on.
The possibilities are endless. I know I will likely continue traveling with Anna until she departs Bogota on June 28.
So what will we do for the next month?
-An Amazon Excursion
-A stop at the lovely coastal, surfer , hippie hotspot of Montanita
-A few days in Ecuador’s adventure sports mecca- Banos.
-An afternoon at Otavalo- the largest market in South America.
-A few days in the capital city of Quito
-Overland into Columbia stopping in it’s Salsa dancing capital of Cali
-Medellin? Bogota? Cartagena?
-Tour a Columbian coffee plantation
-Relax in a Caribbean beach town
I have a feeling the next month will fly by as quickly as the last.