Peru: Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lima and Arequipa

I was born in Northern Chile, raised in Hawaii went to college in New England, briefly lived in the South and have settled in the North East! I’ve moved a bit and it is so hard to see my family and even harder to see my grandparents in Chile! My mom and I decided to take a trip to Chile instead of my usual vacation to Hawaii. Coming from opposite sides of the US, we decided to meet in Santiago… without any communication plan! I arrived and my phone just would not work despite getting an international plan. My mother was no where to be found! My Spanish was horrifically rusty as I begged a nearby kiosk to let me buy an international call from their landline. I tried to call my mom’s cell but simply had no idea how to even dial an international call. It was a disaster. About an hour after pacing up and down baggage claim, I finally hear my mom casually call out my name as if I hadn’t been in full panic mode!

To shake off the stress, we took a tour of Santiago by taxi before taking our next flight to my grandparent’s farm. My uncle picked us up and we were able to have a quick family dinner before getting a ride to the bus station. Here we picked up my cousin Viki and my Aunt Jaqueline and started our trip to Machu Picchu! Note: One interesting thing about Chile is the tons of stray dogs all over the place. As we sat in the bus station, about five stray dogs wandered around. They were not very dirty, not mean at all but also not super playful. They just co-existed wherever they felt like!

So onto the 8 hour bus ride! Chile has some beautiful beach towns that we drove right past! We had one transfer with my mom leading the charge to the next station and me and my cousin dragging the luggage and trying to keep up! Finally we arrived at the airport in Tacna, Peru. We stood in line at customs and immigration for a while. I had practiced my Spanish with my cousin and was slowly getting my comprehension back. Unfortunately, not quickly enough to understand that the flimsy receipt like paper they gave me was my VISA! When they handed me back my passport with said receipt… I casually crinkled it up and seeing no trashcan, let it fall to the bottom of my backpack and thought nothing of it.

We flew to Lima, Peru which was a surprise in itself. My mother again found us a taxi driver willing to give us a tour of the city and he delivered! We toured the center city and made a quick stop at a very elaborate hotel. Our taxi driver showed us to the hotel bar and recommended the Peruvian Pisco Sour and an amazing coffee/honey/alcohol drink that I just cannot remember its name! We took our drinks to go and continued on our tour seeing a beachside shopping mall, lovely cliff side gardens, and even ancient ruins. And then we got back on the plane this time to Cusco!

Lima, Peru with my mom 🙂

We took a taxi to the Plaza de Armas and walked up steep hills with heavy luggage looking for a decent deal on hotels. No such luck! I wasn’t even allowed to talk because my bad Spanish gave us away as tourists! Thankfully we found a hostel with four twin beds in one big room and bathroom. Despite how incredible Cusco looked… we fell asleep! We were just so exhausted from traveling! When we finally recovered, we went to the Plaza to buy our Machu Picchu tour and get some dinner. My mom and aunt also found us a bus tour for that night. It was way colder than I had packed for so I bought myself a nice alpaca sweater for $20. Part of our tour included a stop at an alpaca factory… where they mentioned any alpaca sweater you buy in the plaza for $20 is definitely fake. Darn.

The Plaza in Cusco

Cusco definitely had a nice nightlife but we headed back to get some sleep before our shuttle to Machu Picchu. We were picked up at our hotel at 2 am! Fortunately the van had lots of room to sleep and as soon as we left the city, it was pitch black for sleeping. Also a very windy road or very bad driver because my cousin and I were getting knocked into each other like crazy. At 3 am, we arrived at the train station and fully expected a raggedy train considering we didn’t buy a luxury tour. We got some empanadas and coffee and boarded our train which much to our surprise, was pretty outstanding! We had a table and seats facing each other. There were windows overhead and to the side giving you a way bigger view of the jungle and river. We got complimentary hot beverages and snacks. It was such a great ride!

My Aunt enjoying the scenery on our train ride

And then we arrived at the base of Machu Picchu. Here was markets and restaurants and all kinds of pretty flowers and trees. Mountains and a river circled the small town. This town was very tourist centric, but I enjoyed it. Before long, we had to take our bus up the mountains to finally reach Machu Picchu! The morning session is from 6am to 12 pm. Our tour guide gathered us together and started the hike. My cousin and I had a shared fascination with llamas… and took a few too many opportunities to take some selfies with them. One overlook was so pretty and my mom noticed people taking a side trail to what she assumed was a higher point. My cousin and I decided to take it… and ten minutes later panicked realizing this trail did not loop back to the group! It took us another 20 minutes to catch back up and people were not very happy with us!

After the tour, we returned to the town and had dinner before retracing our steps back to Cusco. The next morning we caught a flight to Arequipa, Peru and really caught some good luck. Thankfully, I found my Visa crumpled up in my backpack… my poor cousin did not! Not only that but she got violently sick in the morning. She was turning green as we waited in line to check into our flight and fortunately the airport had a clinic that was able to give her something for the flight. Once we arrived, my mom and Aunt decided to tour a beautiful church in the square… while my cousin and I opted for a more low key shopping trip around the trinket stalls. We got a light lunch at a restaurant with a balcony overlooking the square. My cousin and I encountered an Indian woman in traditional attire holding what we thought was a baby alpaca. It was a goat and we took pictures with it before realizing our error and still having to tip for the picture. Coincidentally, Lauren B from the Bachelor has the same picture with the exact same Indian family and goat!
Not a baby alpaca!
The view from our table

Our last flight from Arequipa to Tacna was chaos! We were late getting to customs which was going to make us much later to our bus to Chile AND my cousins Visa was missing. Fortunately, they were able to take care of that issue quickly and we realized that we had crossed a time zone and were actually just in time for our bus! Truly the stars aligned for us to make our complicated  travel plan work!

Finally, we returned to Chile. Over the next few days, family members would come and visit or we would go out to visit them. The beaches in Chile were stunning with white sand and clear turquoise water like in Hawaii. I rarely get to see my family in Chile and it is always such an fun time when I do. Most of my cousins have children now and probably one of my favorite moments was the little girls putting on a dance recital for me and my mom on our last day. My grandmother’s cooking is phenomenal and my extended family is so beautiful and welcoming. I could not have asked for a more incredible vacation!

My Family! This isn’t even everybody!

Here are more pictures!

Backpacks and ponchos… or turtle shells?

Stairs to a drop off

Look at those flowers!

And lastly, this depiction of altitude sickness!

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