Best day of my life

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the final post in my super late Peru series. This post is dedicated to one of the best days in my entire life: the day I visited Machu Picchu.

There are physically no words to describe my time at Machu Picchu. My entire day was surreal and went by far too quickly; from waking up at 330 to returning home close to 24 hours later. I met so many people from all corners of the globe and while I would love to say something more about my time, no words can amount to the indescribable day I spent there. So, instead, please enjoy some of my favorite photos from one of the best days of my life.

The train station in Aguas Calientes

Rescue horses and rescue inhalers

Well with a title like this, what do you expect? Just this. Rainbow mountain was an experience like no other, for many reasons: the magnificent mountain itself, the amazing people I met along the way, and of course the title of this post.

Rainbow Mountain, or montaña vinicunca in Spanish, is a 3-4 hour hike from 4500m to 5200m in height to the top of a beautiful mountain of colors and many more in the distance.

To be on my way to la montaña de los colores, I had to be awake and ready to go by 330 am. At 315 I was ready and walked down to the Plaza de Armas where I waited for over an hour with another man (who waited longer as we weren’t in the same tour group) until a woman in patterned leggings yelled out my name. I shot up to meet up with her and another couple before boarding our bus to take us to Rainbow Mountain.

Catedral en Plaza de Armas at 330 AM

After stopping for breakfast, getting a talk about the history of the mountain, time limit, and random facts about the area, we were off on our hike. I met a few nice people at breakfast and the bus whom I talked and walked with for a bit. 1 was from San Francisco, 1 from London, 2 from Lima, and one from a small town in Chile. We discussed our travels and lives back home, before myself, and the ladies from Lima and Chile started not being able to breath too well. We trudged on (we were far too gone to turn around and get a horse) but all of a sudden none of could breathe at all, so we sat down. I took a few hits of my rescue inhaler as one of the guides ran to get us oxygen. The 2 guys from San Francisco and London had been all through South America and had done hikes like these frequently throughout the past 6 months. Us ladies, however, had not. Along with the oxygen came some rescue horses for our group and another group of people past the halfway mark.

 

We all mounted the horses, oxygen in hand, and continued up the mountain.

 

The horses can’t take you all the way up the mountain, so for final 200m or so we had to walk up to the top (which happens to be the steepest part of the way).

 

My new friends and I finally made it to the top and with the little breath I had left in my lungs, it had been taken away by the unbelievable sight I witnessed. The colors of the mountains were unlike anything I’d never seen. I know it’s just how the minerals formed, but it was absolutely surreal. I never had seen something so enchanting in my entire life.

 

I spent about 20 minutes up there, recovering from the rest of the hike up, taking pictures, taking other people’s photos, and just enjoying the earth’s creations.

 

I finally started my descent from the mountain and made it as far as I could with no horse until, oh yeah, I couldn’t breathe anymore, so I found a horse, and all of my other rescue horse friends, where we descended the rest of the mountain together.

When we made it back to the start of the hike, there were 10 of us in the bus. Our guide came and told us that we would be waiting a minimum of 2 hours for the rest of the people. We all figured that we would just nap until it was time to leave. Luckily, another guide said that he had an empty van ready for us if we wanted to go now. So, the 10 of us (each friend of mine I’d made that day was on the van with me which I thought was pretty ironic) and our guide started back to Cusco, stopping for lunch and then finally back on the road to Cusco, everyone napping on and off until we were each dropped off at our hostels where we had ample water, ample air, and a nice warm bed for the night.

Alicia

On to Cusco

Hi everyone, once I’d finished my time in Lima, I took a 22 hour bus ride to Cusco, Peru. Since I was there for about a week, I’ve decided to make 3 posts on my time there: 1 for Cusco in general, 1 for Rainbow Mountain, and 1 for Machu Picchu.

I would first and foremost like to say that Cusco is a magnificent city, oozing with culture and history alike. I wish I had more than one week in this magical city because my time was not nearly enough (even though I did spend an entire day in bed recovering from Rainbow Mountain and one day recovering from Machu Picchu).

My first full day in Cusco was a Sunday. I made the quick walk from my hostel to Plaza de Armas, where there was a parade. I wasn’t sure what the parade was for, since I arrived in the middle of it, but from what I saw it was very important and there were speeches and flag raising and marching.

After maneuvering past the parade and all of its viewers, I began walking the streets of Cusco. All through the streets of Cusco there are cafes, hostels, high end stores, and other smaller shops filled with homemade goodies and tourist items.

I weaved in and out of people, exploring cafes, statues, churches, and shops alike looking for gifts for my friends and family along with trips to Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu. I ended up finding a trip to Rainbow Mountain for 60 soles at an agency that had a cute cat who felt the need to sit on my lap the whole time I was there. My Machu Picchu trip ended up taking a bit longer to book. When you’re paying $20 USD for something (Rainbow Mountain) it’s a lot different than paying over $200 USD for something, so i knew I needed to compare prices.

After visiting over 12 different travel agencies, I finally booked my Machu Picchu trip. Initially I booked it for 2 days (leave on day 1, Machu Picchu and come home on Day 2) because I had already booked my hostel for the night. However, I accidentally booked my hostel in Aguas Calientes Mexico instead of Aguas Calientes Peru, so I had to do all of the traveling and Machu Picchu in 1 day. It did work out, but I was a little anxious bout it at first.

Once I booked my trips, I enjoyed a celebratory coffee and went back to bed, awaiting the next few days.

Also while in Peru, I was able to meet up with Martina (one of the girls I met while volunteering) and her boyfriend. I helped them book their tours and we explored Cusco and had a couple meals together. It was so much fun to be able to see her once more before returning home and to be able to see her being super cute with her boyfriend.

Alicia

A very bussy Easter weekend

Hi everyone, During my third weekend in Peru, it was Easter. The volunteers had a 4 day weekend, so I and most of the other volunteers had the opportunity to take a long vacation. I initially was going to go to Machu Picchu, but Marissa and Skylar got angry with me when I wanted to do my own thing, so I decided to nix Machu Picchu for that weekend and do it later (why I extended my trip a week) because I didn’t want to see one of the 7 wonders of the world being annoyed by 2 girls because I wanted to do my own thing.

So, bright and early Thursday morning I boarded the 8-hour bus up to Huaraz Peru. During that bus ride, I saw so many animals, from pigs to cows, to llamas. Not to mention the views were spectacular. As you soon as you leave Lima, the tall buildings and the hustle and bustle of the city turns to rolling plains, lush forests, and exotic birds. I stared out the window for almost the entire ride.

 

When I arrived in Huaraz, It was pretty late, so I took a taxi to my hostel, made arrangements for the rest of the weekend, and then passed out in bed.

The following morning I had to be up and ready at 7 because I was going on a bus tour of Huaraz and its surrounding area. I got into the bus we would be taking only to be told that I had to exit because there wasn’t enough room. I patiently waited for the next one to come, and then was told once again that I would have to get onto the next bus that was available because yet again, there still wasn’t enough room. At around 10 am, a man from a different tour company told my tour company that he had 8 open spaces. I, a couple, and a group of 5 jumped at that opportunity and finally were able to start our bus tour.

I was seated next to one of the people from the group of 5, whom I later learned his name was Che. He only spoke Spanish, but we were still able to communicate, with a few barriers, but we could still have a conversation or a few, which was nice.

We made a few stops during the day, the first being at a view point of a luscious mountain range. I was being a bit awkward as I didn’t know anyone yet, so I just took a few photos, walked around, and then hopped back on the bus.

Our bus next docked at a Plaza de Armas in Ancash where we enjoyed fresh sorbet, warm weather, and magnificent views. I sat in the plaza for a few minutes before hearing “AMERICAN TOURS” which was our groups signal for returning to the bus.

 

After a few more hours on the bus, we arrived at our final destination, Huascaran National Park. There we stopped for a little over an hour to look at the lakes, Llanganuco and Chinacocha, and snap a few pictures of the water, the animals, the foliage, and the waterfalls.

 

Once I’d taken my fair share of photos and touched an alpaca, I faintly heard “American TOURSS” from our tour guide, signifying the end of our time in Huascaran for the day. I trudged back to the tour bus, snapping a few photos as I exited. As I sat down in my unassigned assigned seat, Che took a seat next to me, and we discussed our time at the park.

 

Our guide, Bruce, asked if we wanted to make another stop to check out some ruins from a terremoto (earthquake) in 1970, and of course, we all obliged. Once there, Che paid my 10 sol entrance fee for me (how sweet) and we walked along all of the ruins, sharing stories of our times in school, home, and what we liked to do. I met his friends and we all talked as well until it was finally time to get back to Huaraz.

 

With sore feet, and droopy eyes, not a word was spoken on our way back to Huaraz that night.

The following morning, I was awake bright and early at 4 am, where I was picked up from my hostel, boarded another bus and made our way back to Huascaran National Park, but instead of stopping at the lakes where we’d stopped the day prior, we continued on for another hour, until we got to the start of the trek to Lagona 69.
From there, I, and my three gallons of water started trekking the mountain to Lagona 69. I met some nice girls from China, who took pictures and videos with me, and just shot the breeze until I marched a little bit ahead (I ended up meeting back with them towards the end).

 

Tired, and sweaty, I reached a lake. This lake was much less than I had expected, but it was still nice and had some snowy mountains in the background to spice it up a little bit. After taking pictures with it, and taking pictures of other people with the lake, I found out that this was not Lagona 69 and that we had another hour or 2 of hiking before reaching it. Disappointed and exhausted, I trudged on awaiting my final destination.

 

 

After another 90 or so minutes of hiking, I saw it. A lake of the bluest blue I had ever seen. A sight that made the long hike, the sunburn, and the frequent uses of my rescue inhaler worth it. I plopped down on the ground, gazed at the too good to be true lake, hydrated, fed myself, and just enjoyed my peaceful few minutes that I had.

 

I decided that even though the view and the rest were amazing, I should start making my way back down the mountain to avoid being late. I don’t remember much of the walk back down, just that I tripped a few times, and made far too many water stops, but I finally made it back to the bus, where I sat down, drank the rest of my water, and waited for the rest of my group members to pile in.

The bus ride back to Huaraz is about 3 hours from the bottom of the mountain. However, 30 or so minutes after departing, the bus broke down so the driver got out of the bus, messed with something under the bus, and we were off again. We broke down again at a small store where everyone restocked on water, Gatorade, and crackers and spoke of how our feet hurt and how we just wanted to goto bed until the bus had been fixed and we were on our way back to Huaraz.

The following morning was Pasqua (Easter). I witnessed part of a parade in Huaraz before driving back to Lima, where I watched Bridget Jones’ baby in Spanish (twice) and saw my very first bone sticking out of someone’s body (6 or 7-car car crash). All I wanted to do was return to Lima, meet all of the new people, and hit the sack.

 

Alicia

Sand sand and more sand

Hi all, as I mentioned a few posts back, I would make one post about volunteering, and then make a collection about my adventures in Peru. I already discussed my first weekend in one of the two posts I actually wrote in Peru. The first weekend we spent exploring Lima, getting acquainted with Peru, and just enjoying a bunch of free time.

During our second weekend, we (Marissa, Skylar, Tresia, and I) took a 4-hour bus ride south to the city of Ica, Peru. We then taxied to Huacachina, a small oasis surrounded by miles and miles of sand. There we checked into our hostel, the Wild Olive, booked a dune buggy tour and settled in to our room.

 

When 330 approached, we made our way to the travel agency we booked through and found our dune buggy and buggy guide, where we buckled in and waited for the rest of our group to arrive.

I’d never been on a dune buggy, and I’d never seen so much sand in my life. Dune buggying is absolutely exhilarating and sand is nice until it gets into every nook and cranny on your body. Our very attractive Peruvian driver weaved in and out of dunes, going back and forth across the sand; it was like the best roller coaster I’d ever been on.

We made a stop at the top of a dune to take photos of the oasis before piling back into the buggy to continue our ride. After a few more minutes of riding the dunes, we made another stop at the top of an even higher dune. From there, our guide pulled 10 boards from the back of the buggy and told us we were going to sandboard. I’d never done any sort of boarding before, so to say I was terrified was an understatement, however, I mounted my board, kept my legs up, arms in, and cascaded down the dune with ease (and a mouthful of sand) along with the rest of my group.

After a few more dunes we made our way to the perfect sunset spot, where we were able to bask in all that the earth has to offer. Seeing the sunset in Ica was by far one of the most breathtaking moments of my life.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, so we boarded our buggy one final time and were dropped off at our hostel, where we were able to empty our clothes and shoes of sand and hop in the shower.

The following morning we enjoyed a yummy breakfast with the oasis as our view and then laid out by the pool until we had to catch the bus back to Lima. By the time we arrived home, we were all exhausted, sandy, and I was as red as a lobster.

Until tomorrow

Alicia

Peru profiled

Hi all, as I continue with my long awaited Peru series, I wanted to discuss the house dynamic. Living in a house with up to 24 other people at one time can get a bit hectic, especially when everyone is so different, culturally, emotionally, and otherwise. I’ll start with the people who live in the house and then start with the volunteers in the order I met them. I have also decided to not put every volunteer in (it was over 4 pages long) so here are a few highlights.


Lidia- The owner of the home we stayed in. She also runs the volunteer program in Lima. We didn’t really see her too much. On our first day, last day, and whenever she left and returned to the house

Lidia’s husband- He was sort of creepy and always touched the girls in a friendly (?) way but I hate being touched so no no.

Abu- Lidia’s mother. She lived on the first floor and would open the door for people if they came home later. She loves talking to the volunteers but she only speaks Spanish so it was a struggle for some of the volunteers.

Sole- The house chef. Sole speaks only spanish and always wears fun patterns on her clothes. Was always very supportive of my vegan needs and always made sure I had enough to eat

Carla + Rudy- They took us to placement every day and they were always there to answer questions we had


Marissa- The first person I met because we had connected on facebook through the IVHQ page. We were also on the same flight from Panama to Lima (she is from New York). She was there for 6 weeks, her boyfriend came for a weekend (yes flew to Peru for literally 2 days) and she ended up being kind of a bitch. More on that later.

Martina- The one who opened the door for us when we arrived at the volunteer house, and who also became one of my favorite people I met while in Peru. She is from Italy and is one of the funniest people I had ever met. I wished I had stayed longer mainly to spend time with her. I’ve already told her that when I study abroad I will make sure to visit her for a weekend.

Clara- 18 year old Clara, from Maryland, was one of my roommates. She had been living in Nepal helping with hikers and was now volunteering in Peru. She was such a sweet girl and I obtained a Maryland sweatshirt from her that she couldn’t fit anywhere, and I actually met up with her in Cusco.

Skylar- Originally from Texas (oh yes politics were an interesting subject) she had been to 3 countries in her gap year before starting at UT Austin. She has a sweet exterior but she, just  like Marissa became pretty bitchy. But like I said, I’ll get to that later.

Annie- Annie was only here for a week, because that’s all she could get off from work. However, during her first week, Skylar, Marissa, Tresia, her and I spent most of our time together.  She is also from New York and works at a hotel. She was super sweet from the time I did get to know her.

Tresia- There is so much to say about Tresia. She is a 30 year old dietician from South Africa and is one of the sweetest, kindest, most hilarious people I have never encountered. She was by far one of my favorite people I met in Peru and I can’t wait to give her a visit.

Paola- Another one of my roommates. She is from Cancun and is like so beautiful ??? She turned 20 while in Peru so we had a cute party for her and another girl. She makes phenomenal videos of her travels, I could watch them all day.

The Canadians- Shaunna, Maxine, Kalen, Natalia, Brittney, Kelsee- The 6 of them were here for college credit during the last 2 weeks I was volunteering. Natalie annoyed the shit out of me and all she ever talked about was Brazil (she’s never been), Kalen was like very very attractive, and Kelsee was (in my opinion) the nicest of them.

Sylvia- My final roommate. Sylvia, was also from Italy, and works for Revlon. She lives in Milan and while her English isn’t tremendous, she tried so hard and really improved during her two weeks. She told me that when I study abroad, her and I can roadtrip down to visit Martina.

Kandi- One of the kindest ladies I’ve ever met. Kandi is from Jamaica and she loved her coloring books. Her and I helped Malley (next) try to get over a conflict with her roommate (Ana) and the three of us bonded because of that.

Malley- Malley is from Michigan and I literally love her. We both hate Donald Trump and conservative assholes and the education system in America. She had a lot going on medically and took like 12 pills (not an exaggeration) each day and people got mad at her for it (why ????) which caused quite a bit of unneeded conflict in the house. She is going to a school in Chicago in the fall so hopefully I can see her a few times when I’m home.

Ana- Ana was from Canada (not part of the Canadians) and all she did was bitch about Malley. I’m one who can be down to talk shit on occasion, however, when you devote all of your time talking about how much you hate one person, it gets really obnoxious.


Okay, that was still most of the people I met, but a lot of people left a mark on me and I wanted to share who they are with you all.

Alicia

Voluntaria en Peru

Buenos dias, like many of you may know I have been shitty at posting since returning home from Peru. I had gotten myself into such a routine of writing and coming up with ideas and when I came home, I had gotten out of that routine that I just didn;t write, at all. However, my 5 weeks in Peru were some of the best weeks of my life and I really do want to share what I did while I was there.

This post is going to be centered around the volunteer aspect of the trip (why I went) but since it was basically the same every day, I’m not going to make post after post about it. So, enjoy a brief intro into volunteer life in Lima

In Lima, there are 4 different volunteer programs; Child care, Teaching, Medical, Construction (summer only). I, and most of the others volunteering were part of the childcare program. I wasn’t really educated on the other 3 programs, however, within the childcare program, there are 5 different orphanages, Divinos Jesus (‘functioning’ children ages 0-9), Esperanza (special needs 0-9), San Migitas (special needs 9-18), Renacer (special needs 18-65), and Vidas (teen mothers and their babies).

At Divinos Jesus (my placement), Esperanza, and San Migitas, people are given some children to look after (at Divinos Jesus it is consistent but at the other two it can change depending on the needs that day). At Divinos Jesus, you play with the children, feed  them, put them to sleep, etc. I was in the room with babies ages 0-6 months, we were giving bottles, working on motor skills, and putting them down for naps. At Esperanza and San Migitas, there was quite a bit of physical and hydro therapies, along with feeding. At Vidas, it’s mainly talking to the mothers and then taking care of their children so they can have classes and try to be normal teenagers. And finally at Renacer; all of the childcare volunteers go there at the end of the month for a big fiesta to celebrate all of the birthdays from the month.

I love babies so being in that room was so much fun (yes even when I got thrown up all over). I loved all 6 of the babies and I give so much credit to moms of multiple children and moms in general. I definitely got too attached to the kids, one in particular, so I do miss Roberto, Fredy, Valentina, Estrella, and Galeska, but I miss Belen the most. I am not allowed to post photos of the babies or anyone at any of the orphanages because it is a government owned facility, but trust me, babies are SO CUTE.

We did that everyday from about 8-1, so most afternoons we had free. However, on Monday and Wednesday afternoons we would head out to La Punta to volunteer at a halfway house for girls from ages 12-17. We would do a daily game, english lesson, and craft. I loved seeing how the girls progressed from the time they got to La Punta to when I left and seeing the girls leave was bittersweet because I loved them and it was so nice getting to know them, but on the other hand it was amazing because they were making progress in their lives. Some of the girls were so funny, some more reserved, but all of them were genuine, sweet girls who just got mixed up in the wrong crowd. While I loved the babies, these girls were the highlight of volunteering and when I left, tears were shed from both the girls and I, and I really hope they all get out and make progress to live their best lives they can.

Alicia