DAY 1Jun 16 2016
FYI: That includes my personal handbag.
Our first uber denied our fare. Our next uber driver was really friendly. Mom talked most the ride about her life story. The driver was English and jokes around. I was really tired. We hit a little traffic, not too much.
Miami International Airport
The trip started with mom forgetting her passport half way to the airport in Greenville, needing to turn around to get it, then almost missing her flight to NYC. This time we had all the passports and made it to airport with plenty of time! We checked the bags (they ended up all being free) and stopped in the lounge for a snack. Then we boarded our first flight - I got upgraded and SURPRISE I have my upgrade to mom so she got the special treatment.
I read and napped some on the flight and mom did work the whole time (she says).
Flight two, mom was in the middle and I was in the aisle. We left the gate and 10 mins later were told we needed to turn around and go back because of some mechanical issue. Thankfully, we weren't in any rush to get to Lima....
The food was meh, but mom gave me her crackers and brownie and left over pasta and somehow I ate it all - I was hungry and barely ate the whole day.
We chatted some, I read some, mom did some work, and I napped again.
Before we knew it we were landing in Lima (around 12:30am).
Thankfully the bags all made it. We had to grab them from baggage claim and then made our way to check in for our next flight....which wasn't until 5:20am. So we sat on a bench for a while. The bench kept getting moved by airport security so it was a but disruptive to trying to rest. At some point we began lining up for check in. We eventually checked in and checked the bags again, and then made our way to the departure area. We sat at a cafe, mom got some hot chocolate and we split a tamale. We went through security - for domestic flights there are no restrictions on liquid items, so we were able to bring all the water.
The 5 hours went by somewhat quickly but also slowly because we didn't sleep.
Miami International Airport
Jorge Chavez International Airport
DAY 2Jun 17 2016
We showered and then got dropped into downtown Cusco for lunch before we were supposed to join a tour for the afternoon. Lunch was great, though not exactly "authentic". Mom had fish and I had braised beef. I also tried the local beer, Cusqueña, which was a lager and tasty.
We are with Janet, her husband Carlos, and her dad, Washington. Fresh fruit, bread, fried egg, cheese and coffee. They also gave us some tea made with Yerba Buena, which is like mint but more subtle and is supposed to help with acclimating to the altitude.
Then we napped...for about 3 hours.
Jorge Chavez International Airport
Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport
The flight to Cusco was a short one, and we tried to snooze a little. We landed and we're happy to see he outside world! Already we could see we were surrounded by mountains. When we got off, mom was going to call Janet, the woman who planned most of our trip and a JW "sister", to let her know we arrived - we had arranged transportation from the airport to our hotel. But something happened to her phone and it was locked out. She was a bit panicked. I wasn't so worried.....until she told me she didn't know the name of the hotel.......while she tried to find someone to fix her phone, I got the bags from baggage claim (3 for 3! Pretty successful). We waited and waited for about 15 mins, and then Janet arrived with her husband. Thankfully we were saved! Mom's phone still didn't work.
Outside it was cold! But refreshing to be off a plane and out of an airport. It turned out that we were staying at Janet's house. She and her husband were so friendly and accommodating. They have a very nice house and two dogs, one of which has two 4 month old puppies. In the house, mom and I each got our own room. We hadn't slept in basically 24 hours and really wanted to just lay down for a while. But first, breakfast.
Our tour started at la Qoricancha, an old temple that now sits in a convent. First stop of the trip and mom left her purse somewhere in the church. When she remembered and went back it was gone. Thankfully, someone returned it to the front office and we got it back in one piece.
Next we got on a bus and headed to Qénco, which means maze, and was part of an ancient burial site. There, we saw where ancient doctors did experiments on people and also mummified the dead.
Next we stopped at another temple and learned in some detail how the structures we've been seeing were built. Mom got a bit tired and went back to the bus (we were both struggling a little from altitude and lack of sleep) and I walked around for a little and found a view of all of Cusco.
The next stop was a place that was described as a mystic fountain. Mom was really not feeling well so she stayed on the bus and rested. I headed on with the group - it was about a 300 yard walk - at this point (around 5pm) I was also tired and as I was trying to catch up to the group and walking fast I felt pretty bad, so I stopped and caught my breath for a minute and felt 100% better. Then I just walked a bit slower and didn't really exert myself and I was fine. The fountain was a bit overwhelming but the sun had begun to go down, the chill felt nice and walking also felt good. I wanted to do as much of it in preparation for Sunday!
On the way home we stopped at a market that sold clothing etc made from alpaca. Mom bought some yarn to have a friend knit something for her. Then we sat in traffic trying to get back to the center of Cusco. We were both really tired and it was only around 7pm.
We met up with Janet and Carlos and walked through Plaza de Armas where there was a big festival going on. The festival was to mark the winter solstice, which is on June 24(?) For the festival, all children in school (including grown children/adults in university) dress up in local costumes or other costumes and dance. Apparently they all dance for hours and hours and days and days.
Then we made a pit stop at another store where they sold alpaca clothing etc. Janet knew one of the women at this store, so mom knew she would get "a deal" and went crazy. Actually, she didn't buy as much as I thought she would but we were there for almost an hour. She may have been tired before but she sure had energy when she was shopping!
We had a nice dinner at the sister restaurant of the place we had lunch. Janet knew someone at the restaurant, it makes sense now these are the places they sent us. We are soup and I had beef and mom had lamb chop and we had some desserts and I had a glass of wine and mom had a pisco sour with maracuya juice. It was a stiff drink. She drank the whole thing! I was so impressed, I'm just really sad there is no photo evidence.
Sidenote: Peru was playing Colombia in the Copa America. It was a close game - we didn't watch but we could hear it and it went into PKs. Peru lost.
After dinner, we got in a taxi back to the car and after more traffic we were home and immediately passed out. There is no temp control in the house, but there were a million warm blankets. Most of me was warm right away except my hands and feet and that didn't even bother me because I was so tired and so comfortable lying down! The mattress was amazing! It's branded Rosen. The right amount of form and soft. Apparently made with cotton and bamboo. Not sure it's sold in the states but I'm going to investigate.
DAY 3Jun 18 2016
First stop of the tour was a 20 min bathroom stop after 40 mins of driving. It was at a little market. Guess what mom did? 😉 she bought some more souvenirs (gifts for people, including a gift for me).
Second stop was in a region/town called Pisac. We learned about the terraced mountains and how agriculture worked. It was a beautiful clear day.
We woke up around 7 to shower and eat breakfast with our guest family again. We ran out the door and got driven to city center for our tour bus. While we waited, mom bought a hat and some coffees. The bus was going to leave without us. We were the last ones on the bus. As we pulled away, mom said she left the hat she just bought at the coffee shop.....but it turned out to be in her bag!
After visiting the archaeological site, we went into the small town, where we visited another market! We walked, used the bathroom, tasted chocolate, and Mom bought more things.
Everyone on our bus had lunch at a different place. We ate at a hotel/restaurant called the Alhambra, which I thought was fun. It was buffet - the food was fine, but again, didn't feel super authentic. We ate quinoa (which I eat all the time at home) and some guanabana pudding, that's the most authentic I think. That or Peruvian food isn't that different from the food I eat/make? This place had wifi so we checked in. The bus waited for mom again!
There were two restaurant pick ups after ours, and somehow we lost someone (thankfully it wasn't mom) and we left them. Turns out he got left at the first restaurant and walked/ran all the way to the last one hoping to catch us there. It worked! On to the next stop...
The next and last stop was another big archaeological site. After this some people were staying on the bus to go back to Cusco and some were taking a train to Aguascalientes (us!) We'd gotten pretty delayed waiting for people so some people had to go straight to the train but the rest of us got to check out another cool site. Ps. There was another market at the entrance of the site...you sense a theme here? This whole trip mom has been very concerned about phones dying and having access to Internet (reminded me very much of someone else I know...........it's Kellan). Here she is sweet talking our driver for a second or third time to charge the local phone we have.
At the base of the site, we listened to our guide explain some facts, but were a little distracted by the alpacas.
The group then slowly climbed up to the top of the site - mom made it part way and decided to hang back and rest. At the top, I caught a photo of her perusing the market...
Our guide told us more about the architecture and how thoughtful and such planners the Inca were. We learned about some of structures there and how they were built around the seasons and solstices and rituals to the various gods.
The tour ended and we were dropped off with another couple at the town's little plaza. We did a lap, stopped at another market (mom bought a walking stick) and then sat outside a little restaurant and chatted with the other couple. We ordered an app (tequeños!) and some drinks and hung out while we waited for it to be time to get to the train. Also, we found out Hugo followed us to Peru.
We got to the train station via a tuk tuk! It was mom's first!
Then walked down a cool looking road in the dark where there more stalls selling things, roadside food stops, lots of locals and lots of tourists walking to catch the train.
We are tired but excited for tomorrow!!! The main event.
We waited a little for the train and finally boarded. The car we were in was pretty nice compared to some of the other cars. It was cool being around the station in the dark, though I wish it were light so we could see the journey. Kellan assured me we'd be really happy being in the dark and waking up to a view - we'll see!
On the train I blogged and we read a book about the Incas that mom bought from someone on our bus earlier (did I mention she also bought a DVD on the bus yesterday?)
When we pulled into the station, it was madness! So many people trying to get up one set of stairs onto the main road and stopping along the way to see if their name appeared on a board that hostales were holding. We finally found our name and made our way through the crowd. The ambiance was cool. Lots of excited people with bags and it was dark and you could see outlines of mountains and flute music was playing and the station was dimly lit and there was a river flowing and small shops etc. it kind of like Harry Potter getting off at Hogwarts.
We walked for about 5 mins and got to our hotel for the night. Dropped our bags and headed a couple doors down for dinner.
For dinner I got chicken and mom got alpaca. I tried it. Tasted like steak but a lot more iron-y. The way it was prepared was on a frying pan, I think it'd be better prepared other ways. Not bad, though! We hung out at dinner for a while and realized the time so we headed back to hotel to get some shuteye before our 4:30a wake up call!
DAY 4Jun 19 2016
We woke up, left our bags at hotel (I carried a backpack with snacks and water), and headed to the buses. First bus left at 5:30a....we were not prepared for the amount of people waiting. There must have been people lining up at 4:30. It was fine, we got there right around 5:30 and cut in line somehow.
The bus ride was short, 21 mins. And very windy. It was overcast so we couldn't see much on the ride up, it felt mystical and mysterious. We didn't have a clue what was around us. When we arrived, we presented our tickets and just started walking and following signs for Waynapicchu, the big mountain we were going to climb!
The mistake was not using the bathroom before entering with our tickets...no bathrooms once you cross over.
We meandered and found our way, more quickly than we thought. We got to the Waynapicchu checkpoint with 20 mins til it opened. So we sat and waited.
You can see from the sign they estimated the round trip to be 2 hours, which normally would mean I would do it in about 1.5 but with mom meant it would be a little longer- which for me, ended up being great because I was forced to go slower and stop to look around!
The hike was mostly up switchbacks of steep stairs (once in a while there were some down steps) sometimes with a railing or cable and sometimes with not. The good news was it wasn't raining or cold or hot. The temp was comfortable. We also felt like we'd acclimated to the altitude and weren't suffering from that. The bad news, it was a bit strenuous and mom struggled a little. I kept saying we weren't in any rush and could take it slow and take as many breaks as needed. At one point a kind couple of women (we think also mother daughter) offered mom coca leaves and eucalyptus lozenges. We think these helped. We had to work for it but we did make it to the top!
We ended up doing each leg in around 1.5 hours and I'd say we explored up at the top for about 45 mins. Pretty good! Mom did amazing and was such a trooper! Proud daughter.
Views from the top were spotty depending on what the clouds were doing. We knew it's eventually burn off but didn't know when. We did stick around for a while walking and taking photos. We rested and had a snack and waited for the clouds to move aside and show us the city! Which they eventually kind of did...
After we made it down from the hike, we had an 11a tour of Machu Picchu. What we didn't know was that the entrance to Waynapicchu was on the opposite end of where the entrance to the site was. And our guide was outside the park waiting for the other people on the tour. For some reason, we were required to exit and then re-enter. Which meant, walking the length of Machu Picchu for a second time. Mom was not excited about this given she'd just completed the hardest hike of her life. When we excited, we waited a while for the tour to begin. I think this helped give us some rest, but the tour was a lot of walking. Thankfully, it had many stops where we'd sit and listen. Mom napped through some of the explanations. I admit I started to feel sleepy at one point myself. But the tour guide was great, very knowledgable. The best part was the tour ended at the entrance of Waynapicchu, which is where we were 3 hours prior. And then we had to do the exact same walk to exit again. And again, mom was not pleased. "This is just ridiculous," I think were her exact words 😊
We were both exhausted. We walked back to the hotel to get out bags and then made our way to the train station, which was packed with people.
When we finally exited, we used the bathrooms and quickly boarded a bus back. We had about 2 hours to kill before the train so we sat at a restaurant and ate some food and I had a much deserved beer.....but not before we stopped in a shop and bought more souvenirs ☺️
I had soup and more steak and mom got pork, which she ended up not eating because she had a big appetizer.
I think we slept most of the 1.5 hour ride and then we had to get a van from Ollantaytambo to Cuzco. That was a packed van, and we snoozed most that ride too. Then we still had to get picked up by Janet and Carlos to drive from center of town back to their house.
We had another early wake up call for our 7a flight back to Lima and wanted to immediately fall into bed. But we somehow found the strength to shower and pack. And I crawled into bed and fell asleep on the amazing mattress. I looked all over for some sort of label and couldn't find one. So I still need to investigate.
DAY 5Jun 20 2016
I got picked up and we started a mini tour of Lima. Our first stop was El Mirador de Chorrillos. We drove along the coast and up a dirt road to the top of a hill. From there we had a nice view of the entire city. In recent history, the city build a highway along the beach below the main street level.
I slept through my alarm and mom came and woke me at 6. Thankfully, all I had to do was change my clothes and put on some shoes. There was breakfast waiting for us, which was eggs, bread, fruit, and tamale. And a quick cup of coffee before we were out the door on the way to the airport.
With two less bags, we felt so mobile! (If I didn't say it before, two of mom's three checked bags were items to give away to some of the congregation that Janet and Carlos belonged to.)
Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport
Jorge Chavez International Airport
A JW "brother" from a congregation in Lima picked us up and was kindly our driver for the day. It was overcast and there was a decent amount of traffic. It took a while to get to where we were going.
I got dropped off at El Museo del Oro while mom did a tour of Betel. We agreed I would get pick up at the museum about 2 hours later.
The flight was quick and painless. I read a little and we spent a lot of time looking out the window and marveling at the Andes. We also talked about doing another big family vacation. We'll be polling family members on when and where!
The museum was....weird. First, it cost $10, which is a lot. Second, it was called the gold museum, but the whole first floor was nothing gold. It was army uniforms, armor, guns, knives, cowboy equipment (spurs, saddles, etc), buttons, and lots of other weapons (and each of these things had like 1,000 items on display. Three, on the first floor, there were zero labels or signs for things (with the exception of the halls/rooms being labeled). Therefore, I had no idea what things were, where they came from, what time period hey came from, why they were significant, etc. which meant I spent an hour at a museum and didn't learn anything. Four, the museum's first floor cases of things belonging to Japan, Hungarian Empire, England, Germany (there was a whole case on Nazi items) but no explanation as to why!? I didn't understand. Five, the downstairs gold section was really only like 1/4 gold. The gold items were not that impressive. Cases were full of the same kind of item but (like the upstairs) 1,000 of them. At least downstairs some of the cases had labels. Not that the labels were all that helpful. Most of them just described the item...yes, thank you, I see that for myself with my eyes. Tell me the provenance, it's use, etc. but no. There were even random mummies encased with no explanation.
After I'd spent an hour, I left and found a park a couple blocks away and read until it was time to get picked up. Pictures weren't allowed and though I don't normally follow this rule, there was a museum person lurking in every corner.
Next we went down to the water and stood and listened to the ocean for a couple minutes.
Then we stopped in a neighborhood called the Barranco. It was cute and kind of artsy. A library, a small plaza, cafes and shops, lots of trees and bright colors...there was even a Starbucks. It had a Bridge of Sighs, called that because it was known where couple would go and hang out. Apparently if it's your first time you can make a wish. There was a pedestrian road under the bridge that we think led all the way to the ocean. On a corner, mom spotted a vendor selling coconut sweets. She bought a few items to bring back home.
Then we drove through a neighborhood called Miraflores, which seems to be the main tourist and commercial district. Lots of shopping and hotels and a big mall on the water. This is where we got dropped off. We walked from the street to the mall entrance and saw a statue of Paddington Bear. Weird. Until we read the plaque and learned that Paddington mysteriously disappeared from his homeland (Peru!) and appeared in a tube station in London. That was the origination of Paddington in the book series. The U.K. had given the statue to Peru to thank them for their "contribution". We meandered for no more than 6 minutes before mom found an Apple retailer and spent the rest of our allotted time getting her phone fixed (on the flight her phone somehow got locked out again).
It was a cool mall with some views and chain restaurants, but nothing very exciting.
Then we stopped at an archaeological site in the middle of the city called Huaca Pucllama we didn't have time to take a tour but got to snap some photos and check out the one room museum. We learned about the native people that lived there called the Limas, which is where the city got its name.
Then we went to the City Center, where all the older parts of the city and municipal centers are. We walked through the main Plaza Mayor and then went looking for an early dinner (I hadn't eaten since 6am and it was 4:50).
Those who know me know I get hangry. I was getting to that point. We were walking down a pedestrian street that was all stores and shopping with no restaurants in sight (or driver had told us there would be some...there were a couple chain fast food places, which I wasn't particularly excited about). We were in search of food, but first, mom had to buy something. She wanted a cheap carry on bag to fill so her carry on purse wasn't so heavy, and to fill with more things. Mom asked the shop lady for a restaurant rec and we went searching for it. Turned out it only took cash, which we did not have enough of. The next three places we went were bar only service after 4. The next place we walked by that had food we went in. It was local and perfect. And the cheapest meal we had the whole trip ($18 for two apps, two entrees, one beer and a liter of lemonade). I got chicken, mom got beef. There were plantains and rice and fried egg. I was happy. The lady next to us even have me her tequeños. They were the last order the restaurant had. Our ride picked us up and we headed to the airport!
We checked in and I inquired about a "system wide upgrade" I had requested a few months ago when we first bought the flights. Apparently, my request hadn't gone through. They put us on the upgrade list and, the good news was, there were 12 open seats and we were the only 2 on the list. Mom overheard me talking about this and it was no longer a surprise. I told mom we had a 98% chance but to not get her hopes up because you never know with these things.
We headed to the lounge for some relax time before the plane. Some water, some internet, and for the first time in my lounge experience, a massage chair. Normally, I'm not a fan of massage chairs, but it was there and it was free and mom was going to do it so I did too. It was glorious. I was sore in places I didn't know and it made me want to get a legit massage when I get back. It was 20 mins long and we cycled through 1.5 times before we needed to leave for boarding.
After passing through the annoying secondary screening at our gate (where they made me throw out all my water - didn't fool them this time), we went to scan our boarding passes. Mom went first and we got upgrade!! (I knew in the lounge and didn't tell so as to give a little surprise). Mom's first international business class flight! Sadly, it's not the best representation (Hawaii flight was better) but it's still a lie flat seat, which we will both really enjoy after this action packed trip!
Jorge Chavez International Airport
Miami International Airport